Category Archives: Short Stories

Modus Operandi

 

The Rocket watched carefully. His target was near. Once again his skill and his daring would be their undoing. A young man who went by the moniker The Rocket was feeling a need: a need to take. He watched as a slightly older than middle-aged woman stopped to root in her purse for something. With a quick glance around him he darted out from his hiding place between the buildings. He stopped only for a smile, to tip his hat and to say “thank you” as he relieved the shocked individual of her purse.

As The Rocket darted away down the street he was laughing at his daring. It never failed to amuse him that it was so easy to swipe a purse in broad daylight. His feet had carried him a mere 10 feet before they betrayed him. Without time to understand what was happening to him The Rocket watched as the pavement rose up to meet his face. He dropped the purse he had just liberated in an attempt to protect himself. Just before he reached the ground, he heard a voice.

“Once you’ve finished your fall I would suggest you stay there.” An ominous voice instructed.

“What the . . . !”

“Watch your language young man. There are ladies present.”

The Rocket tried to sit up but realized that there were something sticking in the middle of his back keeping him down and it hurt. As a matter of fact most of him hurt. Someone had tripped him!

A moment went by as The Rocket collected his thoughts.

“That’s better Richard. You might want to get up off the pavement. It is a little undignified.” That voice again!

“That’s not my name!” As he stood up, the boy known as The Rocket looked at the man who seemed to be the cause of his most recent fiasco.

“Your name is Richard Dunston. You are 14 years old and have been in and out of juvenile hall for two years. Your mother is so worried that she asked me to take you under my wing. So why don’t you sit down here and we can get to know each other a little better.”

The newly identified Richard stood staring at this old man with a cane and dog. He couldn’t think of anything to say. So he said nothing. He also wanted desperately to run away but he realized now who exactly was sitting on the park bench. This man probably had Richard’s future in his hands. So Richard, formerly known as The Rocket, sat down.

If anyone had bothered to look they would have seen an elderly gentleman of some distinction sitting quietly beside a young boy. At the feet of the gentleman was an obviously excited dog. It seemed as if everyone was waiting for something to happen.

Not a moment later the woman who had previously been relieved of her purse approach the park bench. She was smiling. She retrieved her purse from where it had fallen on the sidewalk and nodded her head at the two men.

“Good job done Superintendent, you were right. Shall I leave him in your hands?”

“Yes thank you Constable. I’ll call in my report later.”

“Good luck kid. You’ll need it.”

The now identified policewoman took her purse, straightened her back and walked purposefully away. Richard a.k.a. The Rocket stared at her retreating back with something akin to horror. He had been set up! By an old man and a girl! He would never live this down.

“How? How did you know?” He just kept repeating one word: how?

“Well son, do you know what a modus operandi is?” Richard just looked blank.

“I’ll take that as a no. I guess I should introduce myself.” So for the next few minutes Brett did just that. As Richard listened he felt more and more at a loss. His life was changing drastically.

Brett Bramwell Kirkland was a retired Police Superintendent. He had worked for 37 years with a near spotless record. The only complaint ever made against him simply reinforced his image of impartiality and of doing the right thing regardless of cost. Four years ago his wife of fifty two years had died. He kept in touch with his four children and their families but he lived alone except for Ten-four: a small West Highland Terrier. His name Ten-four, in police language means everything is fine. The dog was given to Brett by his grandson.

Nowadays Brett could be found walking his dog in this neighbourhood almost every day or lounging on this particular park bench. Which is how Richard’s mother knew where to go when she needed help.

Richard was on a path of destruction. He fought, he drank and he stole. He had been in trouble with the police and his next step would probably land him in a penitentiary. So Brett had been prevailed upon to help.

“You make a lousy criminal kid.” Brett spoke quietly. Richard balled his hands and looked as if he wanted to start a fight.

“I can keep you from jail and alive, but you have to do something for me.”

“I don’t gotta do nuthin you say!” Richard was definitely spoiling for a fight. He jumped up from the park bench and turned to face his accuser.

“Oh sit down. You give me a hard time, I call the cops, you go to jail. How long you go to jail will depend on what my mood is. So it is in your best interest to do as I say.” The quiet authority with which this man spoke caused the young criminal to re-think his situation.

Richard was starting to understand that he was stuck between a rock and hard place. So he sat down, he figured it wouldn’t hurt to listen.

First of all, you are going to return all the items still in your possession that belong to other people. Next, you are going to meet the principal of the high school and make arrangements to get back in school. Then you are going to write letters to all the people whose names I will give you, that you have stolen from. The police keep very good records. And finally, you’re going to get a job. That job is to be my assistant. Ten-four needs to be walked regularly and I’m sure I can think of a great many other activities to keep you out of trouble. I’ll pay you what you’re worth so you had better do a good job.

Poor Richard looked as if he were ready to cry. All the fight had gone out of him. He had met his match. He reached down to scratch the silly white dog’s head. Maybe things weren’t that bad. The old man had a cute dog.

“Hey mister, how’d you know I’d be here today?”

“Modus operandi. It is a Latin phrase that means method of operating. People do the same thing out of habit. It’s those habits that make criminals easy to catch. People do the same things the same way almost every time.”

Richard thought for a moment and then realized he’d just been taught a life lesson. People were predictable. It’s what made understanding them a possibility.

“So what’s your modus operandi?” Richard asked of the older man.

The retired superintendent smiled, “I catch thugs for breakfast.”

The two men sat beside each other on the park bench. Each set in their ways but ready to face the changes the world would force upon them. At their feet quietly sat a small white dog, he too was waiting for a change.

“How about a walk in the park?”

 

the end

 

 

 

 

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I have a problem . . .

I have a problem. You might call it an ‘abundance of riches’. You see I have all these great ideas roaming around in my head angling to be at the front of my consciousness. As a result, it is chaos.

A few of those ideas? Natural disasters and just how unnatural they really are. We are in many ways culpable for the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing. We have been raping this planet for far too long and these are the ramifications.    The concept of free will: just how ‘free’ is it and how much of the ‘will’ is ours?      The concept of communication: even people that speak the same language have difficulty communicating.

So you see my difficulty? Too much at the same time. I’m trying to come up with a series of paintings for a show next year and while I have the basics down I am disheartened by all the incredible paintings I see by other people. I have to find a way to make them my own.

I am also having a wee bit of a teething problem with my program that types for me. It thinks it knows better. Perhaps I should publish an entire Post without correcting the errors it makes.

Because my mind is in such chaos I thought I would just publish a short story for you. In this time of upheaval I think we all need a good laugh. And this one still makes me chuckle. I hope you enjoy . . .

 

The Bus Stop

It was a beautiful mid-summer’s day. It was early enough that most people had not gotten into their cars to start the day. But one lady was slowly approaching a local bus stop. Marcella was starting her day the way she did most every day: walking to the bus. And like every day before this one she was complaining.

“I am getting too old for this nonsense.” She mumbled to herself. “Every day I hurry to get to the bus stop just so I can wait. The bus is always late. Always! And I know if I come late then that damn bus will come early!”

Marcella wasn’t a young woman but she didn’t consider herself old just yet. Yes, she did have sore knees and her feet would swell if the day was hot, but she was not ready to be put out to pasture. There would be time enough to be old. For now she just liked to take advantage of the fact that everyone else thought she was old. She could complain all she wanted. People were so polite and considerate.

As she approached her destination she became suspicious. Something had changed. A new bench had been deposited beside the bus shelter. Marcella was uncomfortable with change so she looked at this new piece of outdoor furniture with distrust.

“Now why would someone put a pretty new bench out here where it can get all wet?” She queried, “ kids will be playing on it before you know it and it will get damaged. Now why would they do something so silly?”

“So that you can be more comfortable while you wait for your bus, you silly old woman!”

Marcella was startled! She let out a sharp cry and turned around.

“Land sakes! Beatrice you scared five years off my life! And you are late!”

Beatrice didn’t respond immediately. She simply nodded at the first woman and then proceeded to make herself comfortable on the new bench. After a moment’s hesitation Marcella followed suit. And then the conversation continued.

“I think it’s very nice of them to want us to be comfortable while we wait for their bus.” Beatrice always seemed to find the good in any situation. She was exactly the same age as Marcella but she looked 10 years younger. People thought the two of them had a strange friendship. One always saw the good and one always saw the bad.

“Well I think it’s a terrible waste of money. They should spend that money on buses so that we aren’t always waiting!” True to form Marcella saw the bad. “And think of the trees that died so that our bums could be comfortable. It is a terrible shame!”

“Oh I bet this is a green bench. No trees would have been killed. People are getting smart about that.”

“Beatrice you are going blind, this is not a green bench. It’s brown. And an ugly brown too.”

“No, no I am not referring to the colour I’m talking about the bench itself. Nowadays these things are made green.”

Marcella shifted in her seat and stared at her friend. She knew that both of them were getting older and that sooner or later their mental capacities would begin to alter. She hadn’t thought that Beatrice had gotten that old. But now she looked at her very carefully.

“Beatrice what colour is the sky?”

“Well that’s a silly question, its blue.” She turned towards her friend. “Is this a trick question?”

“What colour is the road?”

“Now I know you’re up to something. The road is grey, just like your hair. And before you ask, the grass is green. Now what’s up?”

“Last question. What colour is the bench were sitting on?”

“Well, it’s brown. What is going on?”

“Hah! You admit it! This bench is brown!”

“Well of course it’s brown woman. Are you blind?”

“A minute ago you said it was green.”

Beatrice looked at her friend dumbfounded for just a moment. And then she burst out laughing. Poor Marcella just looked on, confused.

“Marcella, when some one refers to an item as being green they are talking about how it was made. Green items are made by recycling other items. They are not necessarily referring to the colour.”

The woman in question sat without moving for just a moment. Then she turned away from her friend and sat up straight facing the road. She was processing what she had just heard and trying to understand it.

“Are you telling me that this bench my bum is residing on could have been somebody’s deck? How do you know where this wood has been? And who has been doing what on it? It could be filthy!” No sooner were the words out of her mouth then Marcella jumped up and turned around to face the offending bench.

“Oh you silly old woman! Sit down! I don’t care what this bench was in a previous life, now it is comfortable and I can get a load off my feet. That’s all I care about.”

Begrudgingly Marcella did as instructed, but gingerly. As she was settling back down on the bench she started to think.

“Do you think there’s any way we could recycle a few people I know? I can think of something useful I like to make them into: how about two gorgeous 40-year-olds for one wrinkle 80-year-old?”

As both women started to laugh they saw the bus coming.

 

 

the end

Fool’s Gold

 

“Mama, mama, it’s okay! I gots summtin mama! It’s okay! You don’t got to cry no more! I’s found gold Mama!” Ell heard the screen door slam behind him and knew that he would probably be in trouble for it. His mother hated it when the screen door slammed. But he also knew that he had found the answer to all their troubles.

“Mama, Mama I found gold! We is rich! We can move Mama! Mama!”

The little boy was in such a hurry to find his mother that he rushed into their trailer without looking where he was stepping. Within a few feet he became aware of the broken glass. He noticed the blood on his unshod feet before he felt the pain. All he could do was stand and stare. He stared at the overturned table, the broken glass, and his mama flat on her back, snoring.

Repeating something he had done many, many times in the past the little boy set about straightening the room and cleaning up the broken glass. He cleaned up the blood and he cleaned up his mama. Eventually she would awake and not remember anything. Sometime she didn’t even remember him.

The next morning the young boy stood excitedly in front of his mother. In a very soft voice he said, “It’s gold Mama, it’s gonna be alright.” He stretched his little arms as far as he could and opened his fingers to present his mother with this precious find.

The woman in question slouched over their very tiny kitchen table. She squinted at the newspaper front of her through the smoke from the cigarette . She had a pen in one hand and a chipped glass filled with a questionable liquid in the other. Her cigarette was firmly clenched between her teeth.  When young boy spoke she closed one eye and looked up.

For a long moment the woman stared at the item her son held out for her perusal. When she finally spoke the fatigue in her voice told her story of hardship and sacrifice.

“Elliott that’s fool’s gold, it has no value, it ain’t real. It’s just a pretty stone. Why don’t you go outside and play. I need to find a new job.”

The little boy everyone called Ell put his prized possession in his pocket and backed out of the trailer he shared with his mother. But’s gold mama, it’s gold. He thought to himself. Everything is going to be all right now, you’ll see.

*****************

“Mr. Bellamy sir it is a great pleasure to see you, will you be dining at your usual table?”

“Yes Andrews I will thank you.”

Very posh restaurants understand the hierarchy involved in their clientele. There are those patrons who come in once or perhaps twice and are seated according to availability. There are those patrons who while regulars, only dine there occasionally. And then there are those clients who are favoured. They frequent the establishment and have developed a rapport with the staff. As these patrons are usually wealthy, the wait staff is attentive and accommodating. After all favoured patrons are worth their weight in gold. They may spend money but they also advertise a place that they like.

When Mr. Bellamy had been seated in his usual table and had been given his usual pre-dinner glass of wine it seemed as if the evening was going to progress in its usual manner. He would dine alone as was his habit on Thursday nights. He would have one glass before dinner of Cabernet Sauvignon and one with his meal. Dinner would consist of steak medium rare, golden brown fried mushrooms, asparagus lightly sautéed, baked potato with all the trimmings and a small dish of vanilla ice cream for dessert. It wasn’t a terribly high class meal but Mr. Bellamy tipped well.

When he had finished his repast, Mr. Bellamy carefully blotted his lips with his napkin. He signed for the meal, complemented the chef and the waiters and prepared to take his leave.

“Excuse me sir, Mr. Bellamy.”

A young man had materialized out of the restaurant and had his hand on the chair opposite Mr. Bellamy.

“I am just leaving young man, you are welcome to the table.”

“Actually sir, I need to take a few moments of your time. It is rather important.”

The gentleman in question motioned for the young man to take the seat opposite him and signalled to the waiter for another glass of wine.

“Would you join me young man? It is a delightful wine.”

As the stranger seated himself at the table he nodded his assent.

Once the wine had been poured and both gentlemen had savoured the flavour Mr. Bellamy spoke.

“I am assuming that you are here to tell me you have discovered my sordid past.”

The young man sat with a stunned look on his face, his glass of wine frozen between the table and his mouth.

“Sir I, I just thought…”

“You thought that you were the first to discover my background and that it would make juicy reading for a public that relishes bad news. You thought that I would be ashamed of my past. I’m guessing for a modest sum you would be willing to withhold that information. Am I right young man?”

“Sir, information like this can be quite damaging…”

“Really? To whom?”

“Well sir you have a reputation, a position. I hardly think this information…”

Mr. Bellamy smiled, he even chuckled a little at the perplexed young man sitting across from him.

“My poor disillusioned young man. You judge everything based on a standard that does not exist. I was not born into wealth, I did not win any money, I earned my wealth based on an ideal. Unlike you who is looking for a ‘get rich quick’ scheme and thought I was fair game.”

Now the young man was starting to squirm in his seat. This was not going according to plan at all. He realized that his ploy to extort money from this wealthy man had failed miserably. He wanted desperately to leave the table and hide but was afraid to even attempt it.

“Yes I had humble beginnings: I lived in a trailer park with my mother. We were poor but we had one thing that money cannot buy: we had love. I know it sounds trite but we supported each other even during the bad times.”

At this point Mr. Bellamy’s eyes seemed to glaze over as he took a little jaunt down memory lane. He remembered his mother and her drinking. He remembered how she always tried to stay positive around him. He also remembered the very first time he saw fool’s gold. It was that shiny substance that was beginning of his journey. And this poor young man thought he was ashamed of his past. His mother had overcome her demons and was now a successful designer. He had built a large corporation that was varied and worth millions. It just goes to show you what someone can do with a little hard work and sacrifice.

“By the way young man, did you catch the name of this restaurant? It’s called FOOL’S GOLD. Now do you understand?”

 

The end

 

 

 

 

 

Five Shots for The Broken Anchor

 

Andrew heaved a sigh of relief. It had been a busy night but now the bar was empty and he was looking forward to cashing out and going home. Not bad for a summer gig but it was exhausting work. As he turned around to polish down the bar one more time he noticed a man sitting at the end.

“Hey man I didn’t see you sitting there, sorry about that. What can I get you?” Andrew looked expectantly at the man and wondered if he’d seen him somewhere before. He looked familiar.

The party in question raised his head slightly and quietly said “beer, whatever you got on tap”.

Andrew hurried to comply. The sooner this guy drank up his beer the sooner Andrew could get out of here. As the bartender turned back to his patron he noticed the man looking at the five shots of rum that were always kept at the end of the bar.

Ever a friendly sort Andrew proceeded to explain. “There’s a cool story about those shots of rum. The original owner of the bar and his four shipmates went down at sea in a storm. These are to honour them. Cool story don’t you think?” Andrew expected this patron to react the way everyone else did: to smile and then to go on to talk about something else. No one likes to talk about death too often it’s, well, depressing.

“It was’na cool, it was cold. Bitterly cold. You have’na got the story right.” The person speaking barely raised his head and he spoke so quietly that Andrew had to stop what he was doing and pay attention.

“Only four died that night. Tonight. 100 years ago tonight there was a storm. They thought they were safe. They anchored in a small bay and left one on watch to make sure everything was okay. Everything wasn’t okay. It was cold. Just one quick little sip of gin would warm you up. Problem is one little sip ended up becoming a whole bottle. It was a bugger of storm. But sailors are used to sleeping when the boat rolls. They count on their shipmate on watch to let them know if there’s any danger. But he fell asleep. Too much grog. When the big wave hit he got tossed into the drink. Saved his life. Shipmates were asleep below deck. The sea took ‘em. The sea doesn’t give back what she takes. She’s a jealous mistress.”

Andrew was stunned. “How do you know this? How do you know what happened? And what happened to the fifth guy that went overboard?”

The man looked up and Andrew could see his face and realized that he was an old man. He looked broken and sad. Andrew looked a little more closely and realized where he’d seen his face before. He took a step back and watched.

“Insurance money paid for this bar and its name tells the story of what happened that night: The Broken Anchor. One man survived and lived with the guilt of what he had done. He lived and for the next 40 years made a toast to his four shipmates every night with four tots of rum. Their ghosts can’t drink them but everybody should know how they died.”

“Cecil. His name was Cecil. I remember now. He was buried at sea. When he died he asked that the name of the bar never be changed and a measure of rum be added to the others so that there are now five. I love the history of the area and that one is definitely one for the books. Man that is so cool! You must be a relative, you look just like the picture in the office. ” Andrew was excited and turned away to grab a pen and a piece paper to write down this newfound knowledge. When he turned back the party he had been speaking to was gone. There was water pooling on the stool and the floor. There was another damp spot on the bar along with a piece of seaweed and an empty shot glass.

At first he was confused thinking he’d imagined all of this but when he looked to the end of the bar the remaining four shots of rum were also gone, emptied. A chill went up Andrew’s back and for the first time in a very long time he grew afraid of the dark.

At that precise moment he heard the local church bell ring 2 o’clock in the morning. Gusts of wind rattled the panes of glass in the front window and Andrew for just a moment was sure he heard several men singing. He couldn’t quite make out the words but was pretty sure he heard the name Cecil B. That was the name of the boat!

 

 

 

Dream Walker

Have you ever awoken from a deep sleep with your lips pulsating as if from a lover’s kiss? Have you ever been alone in the middle of the night and yet awoken gasping and wet as if from an intimate embrace? Dreams. In the middle of the night our defences are at their weakest. We cannot protect ourselves from the dreams that enter our minds when we are asleep. The experts say that we dream constantly, that our minds are solving complex problems that we cannot contend with when conscious. That would explain many dreams but not all of them. Some people do not remember their dreams. Some awaken feeling as if something wonderful has happened but they have no recollection of what. Others awaken with the dream intact.

 

Dreams are not reality. Or are they? What if they are manifestations of a different reality? What if dreams are engineered by a person or persons with more powerful minds than the average dreamer? What if . . . . .

 

***************

 

Jeremy laid his head on the pillow. He sighed. It had been an exhausting day and he needed his sleep desperately. Preferably eight blissfully uninterrupted hours of unconsciousness. Then he could start this nonsense all over again. His eyes closed, his body relaxed.

 

There was a gentle breeze wafting through the glen. That seemed to keep the temperature comfortable although he couldn’t actually feel it. He knew it was there by watching the long grasses moving as if to a gentle love ballad. Jeremy didn’t know where he was. He did know that he was at peace here; the rest of the world was far away and unimportant. And then he saw her.

 

A tall slender figure slowly materialized out of the dense forest. They say that beauty is quantifiable, that there are certain effects that are the difference between beautiful and merely attractive. They say that our visual understanding is predicated on our past experiences and that our interpretation of what we see is primal. Jeremy had no words to speak or even to think of as she walked towards him. His body betrayed him; he leaned forward as if to embrace her and she stopped. Even the words she spoke touched his heart as if a gentle kiss brushed his lips. He waited. His breath came quicker as he watched her. He wanted her. He wanted to embrace her. He wanted to rest his head on her lap like a child and feel safe. He did feel safe. He felt as if this is where he was meant to be.

 

***************

 

Anna didn’t want to fall asleep, yet she felt the strong pull of her bed. She had been up too long, working too hard on too many projects. She needed the relief of nothingness, the mindless abandonment of sleep. She turned out the lights and rolled into a more comfortable position. Anna sighed.

 

The elevator doors opened quickly, she darted inside. She had to be in time, she had to catch him. With a slight jolt the elevator began it’s decent. Ninety floors, it would take too long, she had to stop him. Anna glanced at the floor indicator, it was moving as if in a free fall. Bullet Elevator. She remembered. It was the new Bullet Elevator that moved three times faster than the fastest elevator in use. She was going to make it. Before she had finished her next thought, the elevator doors opened on the ground floor and Anna began looking for him, the man she cared for. She knew he was headed for the parking lot and it was a bit of a walk. There were two routes he could take: underground via a shopping concourse or outside across a courtyard and a street. There was a turnstile ahead and a tall, slender woman taking tickets. Tickets! Anna didn’t have a ticket. She looked down at her hand and at the necessary ticket. The slender woman smiled as she accepted the ticket. Anna moved quickly, she would catch John and everything would be all right.

 

***************

 

Car fumes, she could smell car fumes. Madelaine tried to turn over. She was lying on her side and she was painfully aware of the very hard surface beneath her. What the hell was she doing in a parking garage? That’s where she was, an underground parking garage. Sue. She was here with Sue. They were practicing with the sword. Why? Sue had purchased a very old sword of some obscure parentage and she wanted to practice with it. Her apartment held too many breakables to risk swinging a potentially deadly weapon so the garage it was. Kidnapped! She remembered, Sue has been kidnapped! She had to reach a phone, call the police, but there was still one of the kidnappers in the garage. A woman, a tall, slender woman and she had a gun. Madelaine was the target, she had tried to protect Sue and now she was in trouble. She was hiding beneath a car, she was frightened, confused. There were footsteps coming towards her, they stopped. Madelaine held her breath.

 

5:00 am came much too early in the morning to suit Madelaine but it was what her job required. It hadn’t been a restful night. She had a nagging head ache behind her eyes and she was exhausted. Madeline sighed, someone had to be at the office first and she had been nominated. Oh well, it paid the bills.

 

***************

 

Do you ever awakened from a dream and wonder about the people you have just met? You swear you have never seen them before and yet they are familiar to you. Does the same person show up in many of your dreams, sort of a recurring figure and yet you don’t know them, or do you? Is it a tall slender woman with a warm smile or perhaps a solid, stocky man with a glint in his eye? Maybe both. What actually happens in our dreams? It is almost like entertainment. Entertainment for whom? Is it for our benefit or for someone else’s, someone with the ability to insert themselves into our minds and follow or perhaps control our dreams? Interesting thought. Oh and pleasant dreams. Maybe I’ll see you there.

April’s Showers

Ok, so, yes I seemed to have posted this every year since I started posting. but . . . I like it. And I have had a rough week. I caught an infection and then bruised my . . er . . bum which makes everything hurtful! So I am wimping out and posting, again, my April story. Stay tuned for next week when I wax philosophically on Reality TV. Hee hee hee!

 

April’s Showers

She hated her name, she hated this month, and above all she hated this rain! April clutched her handbag a little tighter to her chest as well as her slightly damp newspaper. It was just a few more steps before she could get out of this relentless rain and into her nice, warm coffee shop.

With a sigh April sat down at her usual table and smiled at the waitress. She knew what April always ordered and she would bring her a coffee and a warm croissant just like yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. When her coffee arrived April wrapped her chilly hands around the cup and breathed in the hot steaming aroma of freshly brewed coffee. It was coffee, it wasn’t a Grande non-fat latte with soy milk and half fat hazelnut vanilla shavings or something else bizarre. It was just coffee: good, old, black, strong coffee. For the first time that day she sighed and allowed herself to relax.

This was the time of day April enjoy above all else. She could sit and relax over her cup of coffee, she could read the paper, and she could think about the day’s events: what she wanted to do, what she should do, and what she had done. As she was sipping her coffee and nibbling on her croissant the door opened and with it came a nasty, cold wet wind. And all April could do was think about how much she hated this month and shiver.

The person that came through the door and intruded on April’s musing was a man. Physically he was an attractive man: tall, well-built, muscular. But he had one glaring imperfection: he was smiling! The first words out of his mouth were the dreaded words that April had been hearing her whole life:

“April showers bring May flowers!” The man smiled and shook his umbrella causing more drops of cold water to infest the room. “I would like a cup of very hot, very strong, very ordinary coffee, if I may.”

April cringed, he was a happy man.

“I must admit I absolutely love the April showers.” The man positively exuded well-being. “The rain washes the world clean and leaves it smelling like spring. What could be more uplifting than a rainy day in spring?”

The waitress behind the counter chuckled to herself. She glanced over at April knowing full well that April was not a happy person in the morning and she didn’t enjoy other people being happy in the morning either. It seemed to interfere with her most comfortable state of miserable.

If the gentleman in question had simply picked up his coffee and exited the café, the day would have continued in exactly the same manner as it always had. But this gentleman decided to stay and enjoy his coffee. He looked around the room and saw only one customer. Like a predator sensing fresh meat he moved towards April’s table.

“Excuse me Miss may I join you?” He asked pleasantly enough.

Without raising her head she replied, “I prefer to be alone, thank you.” Her answer was curt but not impolite.

“Nonsense, no one should drink their coffee alone.” And the man sat.

April looked up, too shocked to actually say anything. For the first time in her life her mind was blank. There was no witty retort on the tip of her tongue to spew forth and lash at this intrusive stranger. All she could do was stare and hope that the disdain on her face was clearly visible.

“As I said no one should drink their coffee alone and certainly not a beautiful woman.” He was still smiling. “And my name is Bill.”

April couldn’t stop staring. She knew that in polite company she should smile demurely and offer him her name. But she couldn’t do it. If she told him her name he would say what a thousand other people have said to her in that same happy tone: ‘April showers bring May flowers!’ She hated her name! She did consider coming up with an alias on the spot, something like Hermione or Persephone. But she couldn’t do it. She sighed, it was her lot in life and she was honest enough to accept the consequences.

“My name is April.”

As she said her name, April looked down at her coffee, her half eaten croissant and her unopened paper. She didn’t want to see the look on his face as he said those horrible words she had grown to hate. But one second turned in to two and then three and still he said nothing. So April raised her head and looked at him.

“I know what it’s like to have a name that is used in other contexts. I get called the bill collector, or asked if I have heard the joke about the Billboard. I could use the named William but it gives people pleasure to make silly little jokes about my name and it doesn’t cost me anything. People need a little silly in their lives and I am actually quite honoured that I can put a smile on someone’s face. It does get a little tedious sometimes but it’s still a smile.

April grimaced, “I find it tedious all the time! The rain is unceasing. The damp makes my hair frizzy, my clothes get wet, my feet are constantly cold and for someone to come up to me and sing that silly song about showers and May flowers it’s horrible!”

Bill took a sip of his steaming coffee and pondered what she had said for just a moment.

“Actually I think it’s quite wonderful that you remind people of the beauty that comes about because of the rain in April. You could say you’re an icon that helps people to remember the beauty that’s out there and that will soon be all around us because it’s the beginning of spring. I would think you’d be quite pleased.”

April heaved a sigh and shook her head.

“How can you be so happy with such horrible things going on in the world? People are dying in other countries for political agendas we can’t fully understand. People are getting mugged on the street for $20 in their wallet. There are starving children in this city not just in other countries of the world and we sit here drinking our coffee as if nothing was wrong. How can you justify that?”

Bill’s smile wavered just a fraction and he shook his head. “You can never justify the horrible things that are going on in the world. You can support the agencies that help those who are most in need. And you can honour those who are fighting to protect our way of life. You can live your life to the fullest and never forget that there were those who gave up their lives so that you and I could sit here and drink a cup of coffee in relative peace and security.”

April grasped her almost empty coffee cup tighter, her croissant and paper completely forgotten. “I can’t just shut off my mind with all the horrible things that are going on outside that door.” April was exasperated that this man didn’t understand. What right did she have to be happy?

Bill stared at this obviously distraught woman. There was more wrong here than just an individual’s dislike of a song. She was so caught up in what was wrong, evil, and hateful that she was missing the most important thing of all. He couldn’t leave this woman wallowing in this state, he had to open her eyes and make her see.

“April, I have just met you. Out of the blue I chose to walk into this café to sit at this table and to speak to you. Don’t you find it interesting that I would choose to come in today? I’ve walked by this café, a hundred times and never thought twice about coming in. But today of all days, I did. Maybe it was the rain that brought me in. Maybe you and I were meant to meet. Maybe in 50 years we will be telling our grandchildren about how I picked you up in a café.” Bill’s smile was quite lopsided at this point.

At first April was too stunned to respond. But somewhere deep inside her she did respond to this very strange, very attractive man. Somewhere deep inside her a smile was trying to burst through.

“Grandchildren? Now how do I know you’ve got the right stuff?”

Bill’s smile became even bigger. He knew he had made inroads.

“Is that a smile I see creeping up the side of your mouth? If it is, it is, I know it is, April you are smiling!”

April was almost smiling. Her hands were clutched around her coffee cup as if she was holding onto an anchor, trying desperately not to give in. She took a sip, and then looked up at her table companion.

“I know I tend to see the negative side of things, but we can never forget that the negative does exists.”

For the first time since he sat down at the table Bill stopped smiling.

“You are absolutely right April, we can never forget what horrible things are going on in this world. But it’s also very important that we never forget what an incredible world we actually have. There are good people here. Everywhere you turn. We should never turn a blind eye to what is bad in the world. In the same token, we must never turn a blind eye or be afraid to acknowledge that beautiful things exist. The simple act of the sun rising in the morning and its rays reflecting off the dew on a rose petal should make us give thanks.”

April looked at this strange man, this strange intruder, and she did smile. Maybe he was right. Maybe we need to be aware of the bad things in the world and focus on the good. It was raining today and it was cold. Maybe tomorrow the sun would shine. Maybe today was not the best of all days, but tomorrow might be. Maybe the showers did bring something good, something positive. There’s another song that April thought of at that moment. She didn’t remember the name of the song or who sang it. But there was one line: “. . . accentuate the positive.” That was a good thought.

Just at that moment, the rain stopped, and a ray of sunshine poked through the clouds. The sun and the rain work hand-in-hand. Just like we all should.

Two strangers met at a table in a café on a rainy April day, but parted as friends, smiling.

Smugglers’ Cove . . .Between

Because of some SERIOUS requests I have written another chapter for Smuggler’s Cove. If you insist on another one I may comply but I will kill them . . . horribly! hee hee hee

The surface of the river was still, almost glass like. Looking deep you could see the current running swiftly down stream. Hungry birds circled overhead, looking for a meal. A small fish leapt above the safety of the river narrowly missing becoming lunch. For a moment the world was quiet.

And then chaos. . . .

“John! Help! I can’t . . .” For only a few seconds a woman’s head broke the surface before she was dragged back down into the darkness. The unforgiving depths do not like to give back.

“Oh, my God! I’m coming! Please God don’t let her drown! Anna!”

Mere seconds behind the struggling woman was a man in a canoe. The terror on his face spoke volumes. More time went by as he searched for any sign of this woman that had enchanted his heart, his soul. He had to find her!

“Anna! Anna!” He shouted loudly.

“ Please God, save her.” He whispered to the universe. “Please!”

Two gentle souls had found each other in an out-of-way park and without meaning to, had fallen in love. John could not believe they would be separated so soon after finding each other. He felt the tears at the back of his eyes welling. His shoulders ached from the desperate paddling, his eyes searching for his heart.

“Please, plea . . . Anna!”

He spied her flowing red hair glistening in the morning light. The only movement was with the water’s drift trying to tug it free from a branch.

Another foot and he could see a shoulder. It was deathly pale.

“Please . . .”

When the canoe was within reach John jumped out next to the body of his beloved. Immediately he felt the water dragging at his clothes, determined to pull him down. The canoe, caught by another branch, floated nearby. John’s hands trembled, unsure, desperate to know.

“Anna…” He barely breathed . . .

As he turned her body over an eyelid flickered. She was alive!

With that almost imperceptible movement John reacted. His training took over his actions. He checked her pulse: strong. Breathing: shallow but steady. Pupils: reactive. Small contusion on forehead. She was safe to move. She needed to be warm and monitored. He needed to check for other possible injuries.

The next few minutes became a blur. John was able to disentangle Anna and get her to shore. It may only have been a few feet but it felt like miles. He made sure she was safe and returned for the canoe. Those supplies could make the difference between living and dying.

When John and Anna made the decision to run away they left behind their lives as well as their cell phones. They were on their own now.

It took a little time but John was able to make a fire, make Anna comfortable and put water on to boil. He cleaned her wounds. They were minor and should pose no future problems. Her breathing was stronger but still she slept. John agonized over whether to leave her to find help or to stay. A little tea should help. While he busied himself with the mundane tasks of finding the tea and cups he was able to calm down. They would survive this. She would survive this.

His head was down, diligently measuring tea leaves into a strainer when he heard a sound. He quickly looked to Anna, still she slumbered. He raised his eyes to the forest a few meters away. His heart stopped. There, just beside a very full tree was the largest wolf he had ever seen. John had seen hundreds in his years in the Parks Services but never one this close and this . . .alive. He was afraid to breath! And then it moved.

Wolves have a reputation as efficient killers, vicious animals that maul the unwary for fun. Nothing could be further from the truth. Wolves are intelligent pack animals who care deeply for their young and avoid people as much as possible. And yet here was a magnificent specimen silently staring at . . .Anna? Normally an adversary keeps his eyes on an opponent but that didn’t seem to be the case here. Why? Before John had finished his thought the wolf took a step forward and then another. Then it did the strangest thing: it sat. With it’s head cocked to one side and it’s tongue hanging out it look just like a family pet.

John sat back on his heals. The movement didn’t disturb the wolf at all. It’s gaze never left Anna. It didn’t seem to be aggressive, more . . . supportive? Was John dreaming? After what seemed to be hours the wolf slowly returned to the forest. At that moment the water started boiling furiously. John was reminded of his duties and returned to them.

The hours did pass. John tried to stay awake to tend to the fire and to worry about the wolf but the inevitable did happen. The stress, fear and fatigue took hold and John slept.

He was dreaming. He felt cool water on his face, he was drowning! With a yell he force his way up, clawing for the surface!

“John!”

With blinking eyes the man in question came awake. He was confused. He quickly looked to where Anna lay and she was gone!

“Anna?”

“I’m right here John, I’m fine. Look someone’s dog has come for a visit.”

Someone’s dog? John came awake in a hurry with that comment. He looked towards the sound of his beloved’s voice and saw her with a huge wolf gently accepting her ministrations. She was petting him and tugging at his ears and he seemed to like it!

“Anna, Anna . . that’s a wolf! A wild animal! You have to get away from him!”

Anna didn’t move except to give her newfound friend a hug.

“I had such awful dreams and then I felt this warmth embrace me. I felt such love. Then I felt a wet tongue on my face and it was Samson. He sat by me while you slept. I think he was keeping an eye on us both.

“You named a wild animal Samson?”

John started to laugh. It was so abrupt that both Anna and Samson were startled. Then they both joined in. Or, at least one did, the other gave the impression he was enjoying the process.

When the laughter died down the release was apparent. Then both John and Anna started to speak at the same time …

“I’m sorry!” “I’m sorry!”

“It was an accident. We’re both ok and we seemed to have gained a companion.”

Anna smiled at their new friend who promptly rolled on his back and presented his stomach for a rub.

John grinned at the two of them. A wild animal and a beautiful writer. What could be more incongruous and more appropriate? Perhaps Anna would write about a tame wolf named Samson in their new life. He would find an out-of-the-way park in which to work and Anna would write stories for children. All would be well. They had each other.

The end

Smuggler’s Cove . . . again

img_1090

Anita sat back, she was tired but she still smiled as she remembered. Today was an anniversary of sorts. Thirty one years ago today she was reborn.   She remembered the woman she had been, fondly. Actually, if she had not been the woman she was then, she would not be the woman she was today.

With a quiet chuckle Anita stood up and approached the bed where the object of her remembrances lay sleeping. She laid a gentle hand on his brow and he stirred for just a moment. But his breathing was deep, he would not wake for some time yet. So she sat back down and once again remembered.

*******************

‘John cupped her face in his hand, her beautiful face. She wore no make-up, she didn’t need any. There was no artifice to her. Everything she felt showed on her face. Right now it showed her dismay at alarming people and something else. John wondered what she was thinking, feeling. He took her elbow and helped her to stand.’

It was at that moment that the woman, who used to be known as Anna, knew her destiny. This man was her future. She once swore that she would never allow another man to get too close to her heart. But John had sneaked in under her radar. And she was glad. John too was having an epiphany. As he helped her to stand he could feel the weight of her heart in his hands. John knew that his future rested with this woman.

Anita sighed and shook her head. It had all happened so quickly. Without a word the two had gripped hands and decided to leave together. The woman who was Anna had never considered herself spontaneous. But here in the blink of an eye she was running away from a life that she had, with a man that she barely knew. But her heart was full and her conscience was clear. John too was leaving behind nothing that meant anything to him. He was not running away from life, he was running to it and taking with him all that had meaning.

*******************

All those years ago John had already been planning his escape. He loved the park, he really did, but he could never escape who he really was. Jonathan Edward Bellamy III was a curse, an albatross that John wore around his neck. So to that end John had been preparing for his escape for many months. Money had been secreted away, a temporary hideaway had been prepared, and all that was still needed was a push. Anna provided the final reason. So the two left the park quietly in a canoe that John kept in Smugglers Cove.

******************

Anita’s eyes flew open; she had heard a noise from the bed.

“John? John?” The concern in her voice was evident, but there was no response from the object of her concern. She felt his brow and it was cool, not fevered as it had been for several days. Anita was sure the danger had now passed. She wanted to weep as a release for her pent up fears. She had been so afraid she was going to lose him: this man she had loved for thirty-one years.

***************

“Woman, you are starting to annoy me!” The voice was gruff but the eyes still twinkled with love and with humour.

“The Doctor said you were to take it . . . “

“The Doctor can take his advice and . . .”

“John! Don’t you dare finish that sentence!”

On one side of the room was a slight, red haired lady with her hands firmly planted on her hips and a scowl on her face. On the other side of the room was a tall, pale man who was still recovering from a recent illness. The battle of wills was about to be waged and there was little doubt as to the victor.

“Okay, okay, you win! I promise to avoid marathons and mountain climbing for at least a month. Just remove the scowl from that beautiful face, please?”

“John. . .” Anita spoke lowly and crossed the room to put her arms around her patient. “I was so very afraid, I can’t lose you.”

John raised his arms and encircled his beloved. “You will never lose me.”

*************

Later that night Anita once again thought through all the years they had been together.

It hadn’t always been easy but the one thing they never lost sight of was each other. That first night in the canoe had been amusing. They were acting like high school students, running away. It was a bit tricky canoeing with a cane and she would not give up her laptop computer, but they managed. They only had to go a few miles by canoe and in some ways it was quite exciting. She never regretted what she had done. She did always wondered what everyone thought about the two of them. They slept for the first night in an old rundown cottage that someone had left unlocked. Or perhaps John was just good at breaking and entering, she didn’t ask. It had taken them almost a week of traveling to finally reach their hideaway. John had planned well. There was a vehicle, there was food, and there was a place to sleep. Of course he had only planned on one person on the run not two, but they made do.

Perhaps the first month was the most difficult. They had to discover each other and had to come to terms with the lives they had left behind. Anita felt that she had not left anything important behind but she thought John had. After all he came from a family with money and position, how you give that up? But John thought about it differently. He hated who he had been and by definition the people who had forced him to be that person. But he had prepared well. They chose new identities and set about planning their life together. But there was always one thing in the back in Anita’s mind: returning to Smugglers Cove.

The money John had saved only lasted a few months but both were prepared to work to support their new lives. Perhaps it was nostalgia, perhaps it was guilt but Anita chose to write children’s stories that were quite successful. John once again took a position in an out of the way park. They had what they needed in life and they had each other. It was a good life.

*******************

‘He saw clearly in the sand the imprint of a man’s feet and right beside them a smaller pair: a woman’s. He look out into darkness, they were here . . . again.’

 

Smuggler’s Cove

 

img_1090         Jonathan Edward Bellamy III. A name destined to sit in the Supreme Court after a spotless career as a criminal lawyer, or perhaps the head of a multi-national banking conglomerate with a profit margin in the tens of millions. Well perhaps Jonathan might have gone that route but not John. John was sitting in a ten year old truck wondering if his rent cheque was going to bounce, and that truck was sitting on a mountain pass that overlooked a pristine national park which that Supreme Court judge would kill to see. John figured he was the wealthier of the two.

Being born into a wealthy and prominent family brought with it a great many obligations that John had always balked at. People who knew he came from money were either anxious to be his new best friend or hated him for his presumed privileges. It had been hard trying to fit into that world. John didn’t like the phoney debutants or their mothers trying to make ‘good’ matches for them. He just didn’t belong to that world. He belonged here, where the air was fresh, the people were real and where one worried about rent cheques. When John walked away from the privileged life he also walked away from his wealth. That was fine with him. Money should be earned not inherited.

Today John was thinking about that rent cheque but he was also thinking about the tourists. Today was the first day of summer vacation and it had always been a trial in the park. High School kids brought booze, which was banned, and College kids brought drugs, which were worse. Parents brought small children and expected the Rangers and Park Attendants to be babysitters.   Couples brought their pets and were indignant when they were turned away. They didn’t seem to understand that this was a Wild Lands Park with wild animals, animals that might mistake ‘Spot’ for lunch. It had happened. Not often fortunately. It really was amazing just how dumb some people could be.

It was almost time. The Park opened at 10 am and it was almost that now. John turned his ignition on and started for the main gates.   It wasn’t all bad; there were a lot of good, decent people who genuinely wanted to learn about the bears, the deer, and the other inhabitants of the forest. They were the ones that made everything worthwhile.

As John approached the main gates he could see the people waiting patiently for the gates to open. Not everyone was waiting patiently of course: he could see a couple of cars of what appeared to be college students. We had better flag that group. Maybe they will turn out to be biology students with a real love for the forest and it’s inhabitants, and maybe not. John heaved a quiet sigh; it could be a long summer.

He watched the cars entering the park. Movement near the lodge caught his eye. Red. Specifically: red hair, long silky, red hair. It belonged to a single woman who had booked a month at the lodge that was adjacent to the park. She was quite a looker Miss Anna Wilson. Now there was an interesting story. Young, attractive, women did not spend a month at an out of the way park alone. She didn’t seem to be meeting anyone and she wandered the forest trails quite often. Always alone.   She used a cane and carried a laptop computer. Why? Jessica at the lodge said she was a very nice, quiet woman. She seemed sad some how. What was she running from? She had been here a week and John had spoken to her often, going out of his way to do so. She was intelligent, but not forthcoming about her past. Everyone was entitled to their privacy. Except John was curious.

* * * * * * * * *

It had been a very long week. There was the two year old who had burrowed underneath the showers rather successfully. That took a couple of hours and several staff members to bring to a satisfactory conclusion. Mom wanted to go home NOW. Then there was the diamond necklace that went missing. Why anyone would bring an expensive bauble to a park went beyond dumb. It was located in the husband’s jacket pocket. He was playing a trick on his wife. As for those college students, they really were here to study the local flora and fauna. Unfortunately they were also studying the effects of some of their own personal flora, which was definitely illegal. They agreed to leave quietly, without the illegal plants. Another one for the burn pile.

********************

John stood at the top of the trail and looked down. It was steep, an awkward climb even for him. There was no way a woman with a cane could manoeuvre down to the cove. It was one of John’s favourite spots. Here, alone, he could think without any interruptions from tourists. He scanned the small beach and started to turn away. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a shape that did not belong. It was a woman. A woman with red hair and she wasn’t moving. Her hair was splayed out behind her as if she had fallen backwards. John started to run. It took him a full minute to reach her but she didn’t move. He looked for signs of an injury and softly called her name once, twice, three times. She stirred, eyes sleepy. She stretched like a cat. John sat back on his heels and pulled out his cell phone.

“Central, this is John. The package has been located and verified. All is well. Out.”

Anna sat up, confused. “What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you.” John snapped. He was angry. This blasted woman had the unmitigated gall to make him fall in love with her, to disappear for a full day and then not even have the decency to be injured or, or, whatever. He had been worried sick and she was fine.

The object of his silent tirade was completely unaware of the effect she was having on him or the situation away from her little cove. For that is how she thought of this idyllic spot, as hers.

“John, did you know about this spot? It’s wonderful! It is quiet and serene. I have been able to write here so easily, it is almost as if . . . .John? What’s wrong?”

Anna had finally noticed the look on John’s face. The anger was apparent, and something more, concern?

“Anna you have been gone for almost 7 hours. Jessica is worried sick.   Rangers have been out looking for you ever since you failed to show up at the lodge for lunch. And how the hell did you get down here anyway?” As he spoke John’s voice grew in volume until he was almost shouting and his teeth were clenched.

Anna smiled. She tried to hide her grin but failed miserably. Of course this made John even angrier. She stopped listening to his lecture on the dangers of the Park and instead watched his face. It was a good face, clean-shaven with a slight nick under his jaw line. He was probably distracted this morning, thinking about the latest batch of tourists. He was always concerned that each individual reap the most from their stay at the campgrounds. He wanted everyone to love the park as he did, just as she had come to do. Anna had come to the park to escape her life. She didn’t want to end her life she just didn’t want to live it any more. Yes John had a good face, strong, his eyes were brown, a deep inviting brown. And his body, well…. Yes he was definitely nice to look at and his voice, well he could read a phone book out loud and still enthral a crowd. At least a crowd of one. Anna stopped smiling. Was she falling in love with this paragon of manhood? She could not allow that. That was a dangerous trail she would never venture down again.

John noticed the change in Anna’s face. Had he been too hard on her? Dammit he worried about her!

“Anna?”

“I. . . I’m sorry I worried you, I lost track of time.” Her eyes were downcast, her voice cracked slightly.

John cupped her face in his hand, her beautiful face. She wore no make-up, she didn’t need any. There was no artifice to her. Everything she felt showed on her face. Right now it showed her dismay at alarming people and something else. John wondered what she was thinking, feeling. He took her elbow and helped her to stand.

Anna looked up the path. “It wasn’t so hard coming down, really, just slow. But it was definitely worth the effort.”

John looked at this woman that he had come to care for. They were both lonely people looking to escape their lives. Perhaps they were both here on this spot for a reason.

*********************

Coach Adamson wondered if he was doing the right thing bringing these boys to this park for the weekend. They didn’t know what had happened here, on this spot, thirty-eight years ago. Actually no one really knew what happened. Two people were gone. What they had found all those years ago was an abandoned truck and a sweater that had belonged to a park visitor. His father’s little sister. Had two lonely people run away together or had an accident claimed their lives? Coach looked out at the river, now shrouded in darkness. He had been warned that the currents near the centre of the river could be deadly. Had they been thirty-eight years ago?

“Hey Coach, does that Ranger want us to put out the fire?”

The Coach turned back to the bonfire and his charges, “What Ranger?”

“The Ranger you were just talking to with that hot chick. Wow I guess there are perks to working in an out of the way Park like this! The boys laughed and turned back to their fire and their questionable jokes.

The Coach turned back to look at the water’s edge. He saw clearly in the sand the imprint of a man’s feet and right beside them a smaller pair: a woman’s. He look out into darkness, they were here . . . again.

TELL ME A TALE IN 120 WORDS

I thought I would try TELL ME A TALE IN 120 WORDS.  Without the prompt, the story is 120 words.  Hey!  Me being pithy!  Go figure.  Check it out: https://rantingalong.wordpress.com

tmat120

…the dinosaur bending down to eat me, mouth open, hot saliva dripping on my bed, teeth the size of my head reaching toward me.

 

 

I tried to scream, fear had closed my throat. My mouth stretched in horror. I could feel it’s breath like a furnace licking at my eyes. I was caught. Something had gripped me tight. I couldn’t get free. Help me, please! I don’t want to die! I tried to force air into my starving lungs. It hurt so much. The tears sliding out of my eyes dried almost immediately. I couldn’t even cry. No. No! I would fight! I will not submit! I dragged hot air into my lungs and with a burst of adrenalin I lunged forward! Freedom! I wrestled that pillow and the fearsome blankets that had held prisoner, to their defeat. I was free. I would sleep.