Tag Archives: short story

End Transmission

There are people who walk among us, special people.  They could be a neighbour, a stranger, a brother, a friend.  They could be white or black, yellow or beige. These people walk the streets of the city and the fields of the country. They are there in the right place, at the right time, to do the right thing.  You might call them Facilitators.

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

Abigail was picking up the last few items on her list: bottled water, low fat cookies and of course tissues.  One should always have lots of tissues on a long trip. As she was paying for the few items in her basket, she spied a small, one shot, fire extinguisher.  Without thinking she added the cylinder to her pile.  Now she was ready.

Fire.  She could see the car just ahead.  A woman was standing beside the vehicle looking lost.  She wasn’t screaming or panicking, just quietly standing and staring.  Abigail pulled her car over and stopped.  Quickly she grabbed her newly purchased fire extinguisher and raced to the burning vehicle.  It didn’t take much to put out the fire, it was still quite small.  If the gas tank or the engine oil had caught fire . . .  Everything was under control.  The woman hadn’t moved the entire time.  She just stood and stared.  Thank all that is holy that Abigail had come by at just the right time. She wondered what it was that had made her pick up a fire extinguisher at the last moment. It wasn’t something she had ever had in her car before. It was exactly what she had needed today, but how had she known ahead of time?

 

David enjoyed his early morning drives.  It gave him time to decompress, to relax. There was no one pestering him, no one concerned about what he had to say, no responsibilities, no life and death decisions. He relished this time alone.

He chuckled. He was also a creature of habit so everyone knew where he would be at any given moment. Even on his well known drives. And then, without thinking, he turned right instead of left. This was not his usual route but he didn’t change direction. Perhaps he was curious. Perhaps it was an error.  Perhaps he was guided by another’s hand.

There was a bump in the road ahead so David slowed down. As he grew closer, he realized it was a body, no, it was a man and he was alive. David had spent the last 20 years as an emergency room doctor. He had never had to use his skills outside a sterile room but now he was glad he had made a wrong turn.

The man lived. His children kept their father. His wife kept her husband. And their lives continued. All because one man looking for a little peace and quiet made a wrong turn. But did he?

 

Ahmed looked at his paper. He knew he was right. But how to get the others to understand that something was going on. The students in his writing class just thought that he liked Science Fiction. But his Physics teacher was starting to understand.  There were too many incidents.  Documented occurrences.  There was a correlation. There’s something pushing us, perhaps making us better? There was definitely something going on.  Something . . .

 

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

 

Begin transmission.

Director, we may have a problem. I am getting a red light on Facilitator 439122 at grid 19, section 4.  We have been having problems with this particular model.  It appears that they have a more superior capacity for problem solving than we were initially led to believe. This particular Facilitator is beginning to question the regularity of the designed incidents.  It is important for the validity of our tests and our test subjects, that any and all management be undisclosed.  Otherwise all the results will be useless.  Director, please advise.

End transmission.

Begin transmission.

Administrator, the subjects were chosen for your research based on their innate ability to adapt to unfamiliar situations.  I would suggest that you amend your data to accommodate this unforeseen propensity for disentanglement.  If you feel that your research will be unduly compromised then I suggest you terminate that particular line of research.

End transmission.

 

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

It was not an easy decision.  A great deal of time had been spent cultivating the necessary specimens.  But the research had become contaminated.  They were starting to understand. There was no other alternative.   End transmission.

 

 

The end

The Gate

This image is borrowed from Dan Anton’s blog: nofacilities.com with his permission.

It had stood as a barrier for so many years that people forgot why it was there in the first place.  And then, there was no one left to remember.

It stood proudly for many years.  Shiny and strong. It was a barrier yes, for a while but it was also an acknowledgment: This is my place. You may be welcome. The gate did open.

Over the years, lovers traded stolen kisses across that gate.  Recipes were exchanged and broken hearts mended.  Friends passed through the fence a thousand times and arguments ended with a slammed gate, a thousand times more. But everything moves on, inexorably. Children become parents and grandparents become ancestors.  Generations.  Families. Years become decades.  Everything dies.

Alone. The once shiny posts turned brown with rust and there was no one left to scrape it clean. Hinges broke and the fence fell. In time it was absorbed by the forest.  A forest that once was kept at bay by the shiny new fence. All that was left was the gate.

There was a sense of pride, a sense of a job well done. You see, the gate was not inanimate.  It may have been created by the hands of people but spirits are alive in places that we do not know and cannot understand. But it was time.

The Spirit from within the gate felt the life force beginning it’s final journey and it remembered.  Laughter and tears, wild eyed curiosity and astonishment.  Life was a strange and wonderful experience.  For a time.  Now, sleep.

A Stranger Calls

Bbrrrrrrrnnnnnggggggg

Bbbbbbrrrrrrnnnnnnggggg

“Oh! Shut up!  I’m working!”

bbrrrrnnnnnnnggggg

“Ok, ok, I know it may be important. Who ever invented the telephone should be shot!  Tomorrow I am definitely buying an answering machine! Hello!”

“Thank heavens you’re home Evangelic, I only have a minute, but listen, this is important.”

“Excus . . . “

“The diagnosis was wrong Evangelic; you don’t have cancer!  It’s true!  Some technician messed up the samples.  Don’t give all your possessions away!  Hahaha I’m so happy.  But I have to run, they are about to call for the plane and I have to be in St. Louis by 3. Benson and Hardwick don’t like tardiness.  Evie if this job interview is successful, we will never have to worry about money again.”

“Listen I’m not . . .”

“It’s ok, my love, everything is ok.  You can reach me at the Mayfair and I’ll be home in three days. We can start to make plans now.  Love ya babe!  Bye.”

Lilly held the receiver in her hand for a moment and listened to the single tone that indicated the party on the other end had hung up. She shook her head and then replaced her handset.

“Well, as wrong numbers go, that was a beaut.” She chuckled and return to her computer. After all she had responsibilities too:  the next four chapters of her latest book were due in her publisher’s hands by the end of the week. Except, something was nagging at her:  she couldn’t stop thinking about the strange phone call.  Obviously, the call was from a man who had misdialed.  What’s interesting is he didn’t check to make sure he was speaking to the right person before he imparted his information. Who did that? He was certainly excited; except he was telling someone he loved that she didn’t have cancer.  Which means the party he thought he was talking to didn’t know she didn’t have cancer.  And now she wouldn’t know for at least a couple of days.  He seemed concerned that she find out right away. Well there was nothing Lilly could do about it.  She didn’t know his name and while she knew the woman’s name, it didn’t help her find her.

Lilly couldn’t stop thinking.  It’s what writers did, they thought.  And Lilly thought that maybe she could figure out who the man was.  She knew he was calling from the Toronto Airport, she knew the phone number, and she knew where he was going to be later on that day so maybe the people at the hotel could help her find him.  This is going to be fun!  The writing wasn’t going very well anyway.

So, Lilly made herself a cup of her favourite tea and sat down in front of her computer.  She had a string to unravel and it started in St. Louis.  Stalking was way too easy in the modern age.

With a flick of a few keys Lilly expected all the information she required to be boldly displayed in front of her, it was not. There was no Mayfair in St Louis.  Not deterred she kept at it, something was not right, something didn’t make sense.  Lilly was sure he said Mayfair and St Louis.  She had good hearing and . . .   Then she read: “Built in 1924 . . . The hotel was sold in 2003 to . . .” The mystery deepened. Lilly kept reading. “ . . .  reopened it in 2014 as the Magnolia Hotel St. Louis.That explained one part of the puzzle.

Lilly had a thought.  She looked up how long it would take to get to St. Louis . . . anywhere from 4 hours and a bit to almost seven hours.  Plus time to collect luggage and book into the hotel.  She didn’t have to rush.  But her mind couldn’t get over the urgency in his voice.  She had to do something.  Maybe the Mayfair/Magnolia manager could help. It wouldn’t hurt to ask. So, she looked up the phone number and placed her call.

Now when someone takes the time to make a phone call there are certain expectations. A pleasant voice picks up the phone and an answer to your question is nearly instantaneous, on a good day.  This wasn’t one of those.

“The Magnolia Hotel, how may I assist you?”

“um, may I speak to your manager?  I am calling from Toronto, Canada and I think, there is a matter that concerns one of your guests.”  Lilly could hear the confusion in her voice.  She could only imagine what the young man on the other side of the phone was thinking.

Evidently they train their staff well.  There was no hesitation. “If you will hold the line for just a moment, I will connect you with Mr. Gordon.”

Lilly barely had time to sip her now cold tea when a very cultured voice spoke on the line.

“Vincent Gordon speaking, how may I be of assistance.”

Lilly took a deep breath and explained to a complete stranger how her morning was going. The call, the anxiety in his voice, the concern that someone needed to know that she didn’t have cancer.  Lilly spoke at breakneck speed afraid she was going to be dismissed and, and, and . . .

“Miss Lilly, are you sitting down?

Not the question she expected.

“Yes.  Um, do you think I’m crazy?”

“You are not crazy, just a few years late.”  There was a quiet sigh on the line and a chair squeaked as if someone had settled back into it.  “This may be a bit difficult to understand but we get this call, or one like it, every few years.”

Lilly shook her head, “It was a prank call?!” The quiet inflection in her voice mirrored her feelings.  Lilly was confused.

“It wasn’t a prank. It was . . . It is said that some hotels have ghosts, spirits, leftover energy. I don’t know.  I only know about Elward Harrison and his wife Evangelic.

And then Mr. Vincent Gordon told Lilly a story. It was about a man whose love for a woman survived his death.   ‘April 17, 1972 a man suffered a major heart attack and died while a guest at the Mayfair Hotel in St. Louis.  He is survived by his wife Evangelic.’

Mr. Gordon went on to explain that Mrs. Harrison had received incorrect medical information but the doctor had called and assured her, she was fine.  Mr. Harrison had called the office and acquired the information but did not stay on the line long enough to know that his wife had also been informed.  Evangelic died in 2002.

“I don’t know why he calls.  I don’t know how he calls. But the staff all expect a call on this day.

Lilly’s eyes grew wide. “The date today?”

“April 17.”

Lilly exchanged her cold tea for something stronger. She shivered. Who knows what lives just beyond our ability to understand . . .

 

 

The end

“He’s Dead!”

The picture used for this post is from Dan Antion’s Thursday Doors over at nofacilities.com.  When I saw it, I felt a shiver go up my spine.  This was the house in my head when I wrote this story several years ago.

Two young men stared at each other, mouths open.   The erudite individuals in question were loitering outside the home of an elderly man who had recently died. Perhaps they were remembering the life so recently passed. Or perhaps . . .

“Cool!  What the fu. ., .sh . Aw man, I promised my girlfriend I’d stop swearing!”

“Wait, Boondog, you got a girlfriend? When?  You didn’t have none yesterday!”

“Yeah, man.  We’re in looove.  She just ain’t met me yet.”

The two erupted in gales of laughter.

Boondog was actually Alfonse.  He was a high school drop out who fervently believed that he would one day be a multi millionaire.  He just needed the rest of the world to recognize his genius.

His companion was Edgeley. No one knew his real name, probably not even Edgeley himself.  He didn’t seem to live anywhere in particular.  He just kept showing up.

The two young men gravitated to this spot most days.  Each day they would spend time smoking a particular illegal substance.  This was the perfect spot.  They were hidden from the road but were still quite close to the house.  Ah, yes, the house.  It had been built in the early 1900’s.  It was three stories tall and had a veranda that encircled the main floor. It was an imposing abode that had seen better days.  More than a hundred years had wandered through the rooms of that house. What had been said and done on those solid wood floors?

Our intrepid adventurers were deep in a metaphysical discussion.

“This Burrito is the bomb!’

“Hey, you got burritos?  I like Mexican food!”

“No, man, the Ganga is good!”

“Huh?”

“Dope, weed, pot, grass! Boondog, don’t you know noth’n?

“Aw.”

For the next few moments they said nothing. The smoke whirled above their heads as they inhaled the noxious weed.  Oblivious to the medical consequences of the drug on their brains, they breathed in even deeper.

Time seemed to stop.

Edgeley was the first to speak.

“Do you think his cats ate him?”

“Did he have cats?” asked Boondog with something akin to excitement on his face.

“I dunno.”

Silence.  Time barely seemed to pass.

“They said he was rich.  I bet he’s got cash stashed all over.”

“Cool.”

Our two geniuses continued to stare at the once opulent house. After some time they both managed to stand (after a few mishaps).  Then came the giggles.  Two grown men trying to keep each other from falling and fumbling up the decrepit steps might have been funny to watch but no one saw them enter the house.  Almost no one.

As Boondog reached for the front door knob, the door opened.  He didn’t seem to notice.

“Hello . . “  He shouted, as if he had just returned from a long day at work.

Edgeley slapped the back of his head.  “Shhh!  You wanna wake the dead?”

“Is he here?”  Boondog’s panic was very apparent.

“Nah, man. I’m just messing with ya.”

The front door opened into a huge foyer with an even larger room off to one side.  They headed there. The two men started to wander around the room. Edgeley immediately started to open drawers in the cabinets, methodically working his way from one side of the room to the other. Boondog couldn’t take his eyes off a painting of an old woman. There was a name at the bottom, his lips moved as he read what was there:  Daniela Winslow, died 1893.

As he stepped back, he looked directly into the eyes of Daniela Winslow . . . . . only to see Daniela looking back. Boondog gasped!

The front door closed, violently, the bolts thrown. The shutters on the windows slammed shut. Within seconds the air became cold, too cold. Edgeley stopped what he was doing and looked up. A mist started to rise from the floorboards. It seemed to caress Boondog, who was frozen in place. It then moved on.  Gently, oh so gently it touched the furniture, stroking the wood of the cabinets.

Edgeley looked at Boondog.  All the effects at the previously smoked marijuana were gone. Neither man was at all unaware of their predicament. Any thoughts of looking for stray cash had gone.  All they wanted now was to leave, quickly.

Almost as if it was choreographed, both moved as one towards the front door. Grasping the handle Boondog tried desperately to open it.  The door wouldn’t budge.

“Hello boys. . . “

The voice was low, soft and ominous. They couldn’t tell if it was a man’s voice or a woman’s. Or even where it had come from. The two boys turned back from the door, fear emanating from every pore.  Boondog started towards the steps to the second floor. He just wanted to get away from the voice. Before he could reach them, the mist descended and formed a barrier. There was no going upstairs.  He returned to stand beside his friend.  This couldn’t be happening!

Edgeley hadn’t moved. Sweat started to soak through his clothes. The sweat of fear has an acrid, pungent smell, it smelled of death.

A fireplace they hadn’t noticed before, burst into flame. The cackling sound of the flames seemed to break the spell and they moved.

They huddled next to the fireplace as if for comfort. There was no warmth from the flames.  They seem to mock them, rising and dancing as if to music.  There was no music, then, no sounds. It became oppressive, the silence. The men, so brave and bold mere minutes ago, reverted to their childhood fears.  They were terrified.  And then . . . she screamed.

“I am hungry!”

Edgeley started to whimper.  “I’m sorry . . . I’m so sorry . . .

Alfonse started to mutter unintelligibly. He raised his head. His eyes had changed. He grew larger.  Then he smiled.  “No one will miss you Edgeley.  And we will all feed!”

 

 

The end

 

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 we’re 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.

 

the end

Dear Diary;

It is been 68 days.  Sixty. Eight. Days. I am a prisoner. There’s been no ransom demand, he hasn’t tried to assault me, still, I’m a prisoner in this hovel, this shack. I am going to die here. I’m going to die alone. I don’t think my friends and family know where I am. I haven’t been to work and yet no one has tried to find me. I have been forgotten.

I’m hiding this diary from him because I think when I’m dead, perhaps someone will find this Journal. My last testament. Proof I was here. He feeds me. I have water. I’m even allowed to shower and sleep in a real bed. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t know what matters anymore.

I’ve begun to question my sanity. Was the life I led before, a dream? Are my memories wrong? I remember large groups of people laughing. I remember crowded sidewalks and arguments with strangers. I remember the smell of cars and cheap perfume. I miss those smells. How did I get here?

I can hear him, my jailer. He’s moving around. Is he the reason I’m being kept here against my will? Have I done something to wrong him? Dear Diary I don’t know what’s real anymore. When I’m able to look out the windows, all I see are trees. There are no people, there are no cars, no buildings. Where am I? He’s coming! Oh, dear God! He’s coming!

“Hey hon? I’m just about to hop in for a quick swim. How about after that I toss a few steaks on the barbecue? The cottage is a great place to sit out the pandemic!”

 

 

The Waterfall #writephoto

 

“What do you think! Teddy used to bring me here. He said it was a spot nobody knew about and it was all ours.”

Two women stood at the edge of a small grotto flanked by a diminutive waterfall. It was an idyllic setting. One woman was bubbling with excitement, the other seemed thoughtful, pensive.

As the first woman started to make her way down to the water, the second woman hesitated. She watched her friend pick her way slowly through the vegetation and wondered if she ever questioned the absence of her old boyfriend. He should not have hurt her. He would never hurt anyone ever again.

“I wonder if Teddy ever came back here?” An innocent question.

Libby smiled. “Oh, I’m sure he’s all tied up somewhere.”

Scrambled Eggs

It was a bright early Monday morning.  The diners were quietly enjoying their morning repast, or perhaps it was the first coffee of the day.  Either way everyone was jolted out of their personal reverie by the door been thrown violently open.

“Yo, Coraline where are you hiding the bodies?  I know you are poisoning people here every day!”  The loud words spoken were at odds with the scholarly looking older gentleman.  The grin on his face was hard to miss and quite confusing.

Some people looked up in horror, some people shook their heads and went back to their breakfast, and some people chuckled and waited for the response.

“Well Adam, the day is young and I’m looking for my first victim.  Please have a seat.  Coffee?” As the well seasoned waitress approached the newcomer, she too had a smile on her face and her coffee pot was already pouring his first cup. Adam took his usual seat at the counter.

It seems that these two were well matched with their witticisms and they had been good friends for many years.  The diner where they met almost every morning had been a going concern for more than seven decades.  In the late 30s it had been a speakeasy and there were stories that could be told about that time but never were.  It had been passed down over the years from father to son to grandson until it was the well attended diner of today.  People came for their morning cup of coffee and a tasty breakfast.  They also came for the entertainment.  Coraline had been working at the diner for at least three decades that people could be sure of.  Adam had been coming to the diner for almost the same length of time.  The two fit together like oil and water, ham and eggs, gasoline and a lit match.  They did honestly respect one another and everyone enjoyed their arguments immensely.

“How is your grandson doing Adam?  It was just an infection wasn’t it?  The concern in Coraline’s voice was apparent.

“Yep, it was just a dang’d bug in his ear.  He’s a tough kid.  He is already out playing with his baseball.”  Adam shook his head and smiled.  He was obviously proud of the young boy.

Coraline grinned as she wiped down the counter.  “Must take after his late grandmother.”

“Excuse me miss? Can I get a refill?” A young college student had watched the discourse between the two and waited for a lull in the conversation.  But the need for coffee outweighed the need for civility.  Coraline was starting to pour his coffee almost before he finished speaking.  She was efficient.

“Miss . . .” once again Coraline was there before the sentence was finished.

“Would you like anything else dear or just the bill?”

“The bill please.” The young woman speaking was new to the diner and she was one of the ones who had looked up in horror when Adam and Coraline had first spoken.  She looked sad.  She was sitting at a table alone and it looked suspiciously like she had been waiting for someone.  She was near tears.

Coraline ripped off the bill and handed it to the young woman. “Never you mind dear, no man is worth any tears.” The young woman in question looked surprised. “Honey just you remember, if it’s a ‘man’s’ world, then they get the blame for screwing it up! They are really only good for opening tight jars.  You go on and have a good day.”

Coraline moved on to the next table and the young woman started to chuckle.  She was feeling better and she would enjoy this day.

The other diners were not in need of her so Coraline returned to the front counter and to Adam.

“You have been studying that menu for ten minutes why do you bother?  You are going to have the same thing that you had yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.”

“Well I might try something new if this menu ever changed.” Adam settled back in his chair, he was waiting for her reply.

“If we changed any of the words on the menu you wouldn’t be able to read them.” Coraline never missed a beat.

“You know your coffee should be on a banned substance list.  Tastes like cheap drugs.”

“And yet you keep coming back for it.  I guess you’re addicted.  Does that make you a drug user?  I knew you were a criminal at heart!”

Adam opened his mouth to respond but was cut off when Coraline raised her hand. “Sorry Adam I would love to continue this conversation but real people require my attention.”

As she moved off to deal with the other diners Adam shook his head and smiled, “she got me with that one!”

With her usual efficiency Coraline dealt with the few customers that were left. Some needed bills, some needed refills and one just wanted information about the way the eggs were cooked.  But no one was dissatisfied with the food or with the service.  That made it a good day. Eventually there was just Adam nursing his coffee at the counter and a beautiful young woman in the corner drinking an ice tea.  She had exotic features and was certainly one that people would notice.

“Well?”

“Well?”

“Adam have you made a decision?  Are you going to have the Eggs Benedict’s like you usually do?”

“Well… yes.”

Coraline chuckled, “Coming right up.  Harold should have it done by now. I already ordered it.”

Harold was the grandson of the original owner of the diner.  One day the diner would belong to him outright.  But for now, he had to pay his dues and that meant cooking to a standard that was acceptable to his parents, to his customers and to Coraline.  So far, he was doing just fine.

“So, what’s her story?”  Adam was curious about the one patron left.  Plus, he was always looking to trip Coraline up.  She thought she knew everything.

“According to my information,” Coraline was loving this! “She is the registered nurse out at the old Wilkinson house.  Old man Wilkinson is 104 years old and he is still trying to pinch the bottoms of the aid workers.  They are really just young girls with no experience.  So, the family decided to bring in a professional. Her name is Nirmal and she was born in . . .”

“Stop it!  Just stop it! She has only been at the Wilkinson’s place for two days how do you get this information? I know because the cook there is a cousin.” Adam was flabbergasted that she had one upped him again.

“Well now, I can’t reveal my sources.  But you know Adam I know lots of things.  I know that you have a new lady friend, it’s about time by the way.  And that she likes pink roses and white hyacinths.”

“What the!  How the? You!  Where!”

“Here you go Adam.  Enjoy your breakfast.” As the Eggs Benedict were placed in front of him Coraline turned to go.

With a noticeable spring in her step she knew that she had stunned him once again and was quite proud of herself.

In time Adam left, grumbling good-naturedly.  Nirmal also left but first she smiled and thanked the waitress.  Finally, thought Coraline, someone with manners in this joint. When the diner was finally empty, she began to prepare the tables for the luncheon crowd.

Several minutes later the door chimes sounded. When she turned around Coraline was speechless, but only for a moment.  What she saw was not what she was expecting but rather a young man with dirty hair, dirty jeans and a gun.

Without thinking she responded in the only way she knew how.

“So young man, what can I get you?  Coffee?”

The individual in question was nervous.

“Give me all your money, I want your money, and I want it now!”

“Don’t be silly,” answered Coraline, “that isn’t on the menu.  And stop waving that gun you might hurt someone.  Now sit down and I’ll see if we have any muffins left.” She kept chattering away mostly to keep her courage up.  She placed utensils and a coffee cup in front of the young man motioning for him to sit.

The poor man didn’t know what to do, so he sat.  Coraline put a muffin in front of him and poured the coffee.

“Oh, we have some lovely preserves that would go well on your muffin, let me get them.”  Caroline moved to get the preserves and the strange kid stood up.

“Lady I’m robbing you!  Pay attention!”

“Well kid you blew it!” She returned with the preserves and placed the jar beside his plate.  Her hands firmly on her hips, she responded, “Harold left this morning with the receipts and all I’ve got is a couple of bucks for the bus and you can’t have that.  Now sit down and eat.  You look awful.  Do you do this for a living?  You don’t look very successful.”

The kid licked his lips and sat.  He was confused and hungry.  He put the gun down and picked up the muffin.  Coraline scooped up the gun and stepped back.

“So, is this a police special or a 45, maybe a 9 mm?  Do you have names for guns?  Like the Buster Special?  Silly things.” She put the gun under the counter and looked at the kid. He was totally frozen.

“Lady are you nuts?”

“So, you want eggs over easy or maybe eggs Benedict?  Harold makes a great eggs Benedict.”

“I thought you said he left?”

“I lied. Do you want more coffee? Oh, and we have great pecan pie left.”

“Lady you are crazy!”

“Perhaps, but I’ve got the gun.”

 

 

The end

 

 

 

 

The Overlords

“Jerry you cannot do this!  You shouldn’t even think it!”

One man gripped tightly on to another’s arm trying to keep him away from the building ahead.  He was whispering through clenched teeth. At the same time his head swivelled back and forth desperately hoping no one was aware of them.

But they were observed.

The building in question was not imposing.  It was a century old structure with faded bricks and a sagging porch.  But if you looked very closely you would see incongruities. The lights above the front door were shiny and bright.  They also seemed a bit large for the task.  Were they more than just lights? There was no handle on the beautiful wooden door that guarded the entrance to the building.  And if you managed to get close to the windows you would realize they weren’t real.

What was real was the panic on Edward’s face.

“Please stop Jerry, we can’t do this without you!”

Something got through to Jerry.  He stopped.  For a moment he paused.  He appeared confused, unsure.  Then he quickly turned to his friend and dragged him away from the frightening building.  After some distance and out of sight of everyone, he spoke.

“Edward I am so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.  I don’t know what would have happened if I had made it to the door. Thanks to all that is good, you stopped me.”  Jerry was quiet but his face spoke volumes, he was afraid.

He stood beside his friend but Eddie was also afraid.  They had been seen.

With one understanding look between the two friends, they stood and without a glance towards the source of their fear, they moved further away.

In time they rested but still they didn’t speak.  Occasionally they grew wary as official looking vehicles passed by.  But the streets were quiet, too quiet.  People were staying indoors, away from Their notice.

In time the two men approached a small wooden building.  This one had a handle on the front door and its windows were real.  Several people could be seen through the glass, a few were crying.

With the front door safely closed and the blinds drawn, there was a collective sigh.  They were safe. Were they?

Jerry sat down and placed his head in his hands.  His shoulders shook as he silently wept.  The others stood by, uncomfortable.  People shifted their feet, clenched and unclenched their fists.  No one would look at another.  They waited.  Edward too sat down and he too waited.

“We did this.”  The voice that spoke was muffled, strained.  It was Jerry.  With a sigh he sat back in his chair, his hands dropped to his side.  He was defeated. He repeated his statement:

“We did this.”

He didn’t shout or throw his arms in the air.  It was a simple statement, delivered succinctly.

“We did this.  We wanted self-driving cars and smart homes.  We wanted computers to anticipate all our needs and fulfill them. Cash-less grocery stores and automated gas pumps.  We didn’t want to speak to each other.  We wanted to have control of everything through our phones.  But we didn’t want to actually do anything.  We didn’t need to think anymore, there’s an APP for that!

Jerry’s voice started to reflect his concerns.  As his voice grew louder, people moved further back from him.  Except for Eddie. He never moved.

“We put ‘chips’ in all out appliances.  Microchips are in our coffee makers, our watches, our door bells.  All those cameras we have to catch the bad guys are watching all of us and not by human beings!

Spittle formed at the corner of his mouth.  His eyes were manic.

“Planes and trains, banks, the stock-market.  The AI has control of it all and we created it.  The Artificial Intelligence is watching and listening. We are not alone.  We did this!  AI is in everything!”

There was a sudden silence.  No one spoke, no one moved.

Edward moved.  He stood; his shoulders still bowed.  As he raised his head a smile formed on his lips.

“Even me.”

 

 

The end

 

 

 

 

Lovers’ Lane

Adeline sat quietly, enjoying the warm sun on her face. It was one of those rare moments when she could sit on her porch with no interruptions and reminisce quietly.

“Grandma, grandma!”

“Gran!”

“Oh wait me!  Not fair!  Grandma I coming!”

The silence of a few moments ago was shattered by the arrival of three tow haired children of varying ages and variable vocal capabilities.  They had several things in common: hair colour, freckles, parents and an innate ability to force the world to focus on them.

Adeline may have been jolted out of her reverie but she looked with fondness on the three grandchildren approaching her at a run.  They arrived windblown and excited.  Once all three had wrapped themselves around their grandmother and kissed her at least a dozen times each, they settle down and with one voice asked one question: “Story Gran?”

The three children were not the only ones out of breath. Adeline smoothed her tousled hair and sat back with a grin.  She knew exactly where this was headed.

“Well now I don’t know if I should tell you a story.  I’m quite sure it would be beneficial to have an in-depth political discussion on what is happening in the world today.”  She looked at the puzzled faces in front of her.

“No Gran we want you to tell us the story of how you met grandpa.”

Adeline looked at the eldest of the three children.  She wondered how she had thought to ask that question.  Elizabeth was intelligent and very sure of herself.  It was an odd trait to have in a child that was only twelve years old.  Her sister Anne and brother Stuart were ten and five respectively.  And both of them were looking on eagerly waiting for their grandmother’s reply.

“Well now I don’t know . . .” started Adeline.

“Daddy said it was one for the books.  Did he mean you should write about it and let everybody know?”

Adeline eyes opened wide, “I’m sure that’s not what he meant!”  She whispered to herself.  To the children she spoke clearly, deftly ignoring the question.

“Well, I’ll tell you a story about your grandfather and me.  It’s about how we met, umm, but you know I can’t tell you everything.  Your grandfather and I have to keep some secrets from you three.  At least until you’re older.”  Adeline was smiling; she hoped the children didn’t notice that she was also blushing.

” Well, it all started when your grandfather arrested me.”  Before she could utter another word, the children erupted.

“Oh, Gran you were a criminal!”

“I’ll bet you robbed a bank!  Mama says they’re the criminals!”

“Grandma were you a prostate…, a prosta, a Protestant!”

Adeline smiled and calmed the children. She thought it best that she not tell Stuart the word he was looking for was a prostitute.

“Absolutely not!  It wasn’t that kind of arrest. Now if you want me to continue you must be very quiet.”

Three fair heads nodded vigorously.

“Your grandfather was a Ranger. It’s like a policeman.  He worked the local parks and made sure there were no criminals or any criminal activity.  He also made sure that those who came to enjoy the parks were not harassed.  Unfortunately, I was in the park to harass someone.”

It was at this point that Adeline stopped to think.  Should she tell the three rapt faces the complete truth or should she perhaps edit the circumstances to fit her audience’s age group?  Edit, it was the adult thing to do.

“I had recently broken up with my boyfriend.  Actually, I was about to break up with my boyfriend.  You see he was at the park with another girl.  She was supposed to be my best friend but she had stolen my boyfriend.  It was my intent to catch them together and embarrass them.  You see the particular spot they had gone to was known as Lover’s Lane.  It’s where everybody went when they were dating.  It was secluded and quiet.  Aaahhhh, it was a great spot to watch the stars.”

Adeline paused for a moment to remember the circumstances.  She had left out the bit about the can of black paint she had planned to pour on her boyfriend’s car.  That would definitely have been illegal so she really didn’t think it was a good idea to tell the children that part.

“Grandpa Oliver stopped me from making a very terrible mistake.  It was wrong of me to try and get revenge for my hurt feelings.”

“So, is that when he arrested you?”  Elizabeth always got to the point quickly.

“He really didn’t arrest me.  He just threatened to.  He let me tell my story and he let me cry and rant.  He bought me a soda and we had a wonderful evening just talking. We’ve been together ever since.”

Adeline sat back and wondered if she could get away with that being the end of the story.  The children’s reactions were typical for their age and sex: Elizabeth pretended to swoon, Anne made a declaration, “Boys are not to be trusted!” And Stuart was all curled up in a ball with his thumb firmly embedded between his lips.  He made the cutest little sucking noises that for a moment everyone concentrated on.

The moment was shattered when the front door was opened by the one person they had all been thinking about.  His booming voice roused even sleeping Stuart.

“And what are you all doing out here?”  His smile belied his apparently harsh words.

Stuart merely sat up and rubbed his eyes but the two girls attached themselves to their Grandfather’s open arms.

“Oh, Grandpa, you arrested Grandma!  Did you frisk her?”

“Did you throw her in the clink Grandpa?  Does she have an arrest record?”

Oliver looked at Adeline over the top of children’s heads.  He raised an eyebrow.  She quickly shook her head, blushed and looked down.  Oliver nodded his head and heaved a sigh of relief.

“I think it’s time all three of you were in washing your hands for dinner.  Otherwise I’m going to have to arrest you and put you in the shed without your supper!” Oliver smiled as he said the words.  No one believed his threats but all three immediately jumped up and ran into the house.

“You didn’t tell the whole truth did you my love?”

“Oliver there are some things that are no one else’s business.  Besides I think I would like to be arrested tonight. Are you up for it? I could meet you later in the shed?”

The two old friends sat side-by-side holding hands.  Forty-three years of marriage had not dulled their sense of fun and mischief.

 

The end