6/27/16

How to Lose a Fortune - A Flash Fiction

To Margaret, the funeral went by like a slide show. Frederick’s body lay motionless in a gold-trimmed box. Everything else, all the well wishes and condolences, evaporated against that one feature of the room. Next, a faceless line of acquaintances and business partners stood to speak, but all Margret could remember was a chip in the lectern's dark-stained wood. She kept her focus on that one spot to avoid having to look at her dead husband’s face any longer.

She remembered sitting beside her driver, Steven, in the limo, and sitting in a seat just next to the casket for the internment. She sat in her chair long after the others left, eyes on the handful of earth she was made to throw on his final resting place.




“Ma’am, should I ready the car for the reception?”

“Steven, take me home,” she said, grabbing his arm for support as she pulled to a stand. Her final memory of that day was sitting in an overstuffed chaise in Frederick’s study. She simply stared at the desk chair he’d had as long as she’d known him. He’d found it on the side of the road when he was in college, patched with Duct Tape and making all manner of unpleasant noises. Frederick said he’d always keep it, “to remind me I built a whole business with nothing but a second hand chair.”

The memories of that day stood still in her mind, absent of any commotion or movement, words or feelings. In all her memories, and the memories of those astute enough to notice, she never once cried.

The next day, Mr. Haroldson stood in the same study with his wire frame glasses pushed up until they almost touched his eyes. This is the image Margaret imagined she’d remember from this part of the death ritual: her sitting straight as a nail at the reading of her husband’s will.

She first noticed the lawyer’s hands shaking, then his voice. “Mrs. Privley, please remember I am the lawyer for Frederick’s estate at this point. Are you certain you don’t want your own representation?”

“Mr. Haroldson...Gregory, you’ve been the family lawyer since Frederick filed his first corporation. I trust you to read his will,” Margret said.

Gregory opened his briefcase and pulled out a file folder. Inside was a one page document. “This is the last will and testament of Frederick David Privley, being of sound mind and body of this twentieth of June, two-thousand sixteen.”

Margaret interrupted. “Are you telling me he updated his will last week?”

“Yes ma’am. Do you want me to continue?”

“Go on,” she said

“I leave, with no restrictions, any asset I still personally own, minus all debts, to my wife, Margaret Wilma Privley nee Anderson.” He paused for a moment. “After that is his signature and notary public endorsements.”

Margaret let out a sigh. “You had me worried, Mr. Haroldson. Shame on you.”

“Mrs. Privley, I feel I should let you know that you husband has recently incurred a substantial debt. It is possible it will take most or all of his assets to satisfy the amount.”

Margret’s body slumped.

“Gregory. Mr. Henderson, I...I believe I will want my own representation after all.”

(Note from the author: This story is actually in the same "universe" as a previous flash fiction: The Consultant. The connection is between the two stories has not yet been made, but in my head these two stories belong together.)

6/19/16

The Consultant

Samantha stared across the table at a crying woman. Samantha knew it was her own words that had made her cry. She made many people cry, but only one at a time. This crier finally took a deep breath, eked out a weak, “Thank you,” and rummaged in her purse for whatever money she could find. A wad of crumpled bills ended up on the table next to a clean crystal ball.



Samantha’s keen eye counted up the cash she could see without touching it and noted it was more than her fee. “I’m sorry, Gloria. I’m sorry you had to find out like this. He still loves you, you know, his eye just wanders.”

The crying resumed, most of the sound soaked up by the drapes, which covered only bare walls. Gloria got up and left the incense-filled shop to go confront her husband. Samantha grabbed the cash and counted almost two hundred dollars, over double her normal fee.

She used to feel bad manipulating her clients, used to cry with them when they got upset. After twenty years of this business, her empathy had turned to numbness and her concern for others had been overwhelmed by covering her bills. Rent was past due, and when her clients had overwhelming feelings, they overpaid.

Here’s the first lesson you learn as a psychic: predicting happiness is met with skepticism, while sad news is never questioned. It’s like people were built expecting the worst; all she had to do was affirm it. The worst part is that most of the time she was right.

Samantha slipped the cash into a hole in her safe and flipped a switch under her table to make the light in the storefront window show she was available for readings, predictions, and matchmaking.

She checked her phone for the time, nearly ten-thirty on a Friday night. She’d have more business, drunken business, before the night was over. As if she really were psychic, the bell attached to her door rang with someone coming in. She hit her switch under the table and stood to greet the client.

This one was not her demographic. Middle-aged male in a perfectly tailored suit. A smile was on his face. One thing Samantha was good at, that all psychics were good at, was reading people. This one wanted something, but she couldn’t tell what it was.

“Are you Samantha?” the man asked.

“Of course, sir. Please have a seat.” She gave a practiced flourish at the chair he was to take as she sat down on her own. She thought he was trying too hard to look reputable, carrying himself perfectly, but unable to shake that he was hiding something underneath. She needed some thread to follow if she were to get him to pay up by the end of the session.

“What brings you to Madame Samantha today?” She was constantly horse from a lifelong smoking habit, but the grit played perfectly into her personal.

“Actually, I came here to see what I can do for you.” His face broadened into a wider smile that only confirmed to the psychic he was up to something.

“Madame Samantha can tell you your future right now.” Her tenor had changed from inviting to matter-of-fact. “You’re going to offer me protection, then I’m going to tell you about my old friend Colt that is pointed at you right now. After that, you’ll leave and I’ll never see you again.”

The man’s smile didn’t fade in the least at the threat. He reached into his suit, and Samantha reached under her chair to feel for her gun. Just as she found the metal beast, he pulled his hand out with only a single business card between his first two fingers.

I think there’s been a misunderstanding,” he said. She grabbed the card. It was silver with shiny blue lettering.

WISH, INC.
Kevin Sanders
Fulfillment Consultant

“Samantha, I’m here to grant you a wish.”

6/15/16

In Space, No One Can Hear Your Story

I've been busy this week, plus I'm about to start on a new short story. Today, you get the art I worked up for a story I ended up not writing. 


6/9/16

What Tony Knew - A Flash Fiction

Barry’s grandparents owned and lived on a peach farm in North Carolina exactly one thousand eight hundred and thirty two miles from where Barry’s home. Once a year, Barry got to visit his grandparents for six days by himself. Needless to say, when a grandchild is visiting only one week a year, he gets to do all manner of new and exciting things. Barry was excited to see what was in store for him this year.

“What am I going to do? What am I going to do?” Barry, only eleven years old, couldn’t wait to find out what he’d get this time around. He didn’t yet realize these trips were more about spending time with his grandparents and less about getting to do stuff.

Grandma Jo told him, “I thought we’d go see a movie tomorrow--”

“Super Robot Extreme Action!” Barry shouted.

“I don’t think your parents would like us taking you to a violent film, Barry,” Jo said.

“They won’t care, I can handle it.” Barry pleaded.

Grandfather Tony cut into the conversation. “What’s he visiting us for if we can’t let him get away with an indiscretion or two?”

“Alright,” Jo said.

“Yesssss!” Barry whispered.

The boy woke up the next morning, pulled on a new red “I can’t spel but I’m still awsome” shirt and went to the kitchen with his head thinking about the summer blockbuster he was going to see today. He was about to ask when they were going to leave, but his grandfather said. “Come on, I need to teach you how to trap game.”

“But what about the movie, gramps?”

“Not today. You need a life skill.” His usually steady hands seems to be shaking.

“But-”

“No buts; we are going trapping.” He said it with an air of finality Barry recognized.

Tony took them both to his shed and started shoving survival gear into a backpack: ropes, zip ties, matches, survival books, and the like. He took a crowbar and popped the metal lid off a black barrel full of emergency supplies. He grabbed water and food and shoved it in any empty pocket of the backpack.

“Grampa, what do we need all that for?” Barry asked.

“You can never be prepared enough out there. What do you know about animals at night?” he asked.

Barry stuttered for a moment. “Th.th..the owls are out at night?”

His grandfather turned to him, lowered his body so they were face to face and grabbed both Barry’s shoulders. “The creatures at night are terrifying and will not hesitate to rip you to shreds given a chance. Fire can keep them back, but sleeping in the trees keeps them away too. Even they are superstitious.”

“You know you’re being kind of creepy, right grampa?”

“Here, I’m giving you this. When you have a chance you should read through it.” The old man threw a worn out leather bound journal in the pack and then motioned for Barry to turn around. The kid almost tottered over from the densely packed bag before regaining his balance.

The two traipsed through the peach orchard, then the outlying woods Barry was too weirded out from the conversation at the shed to start talking and his grandfather didn’t initiate either. Finally, they stopped at an ancient tree. He reached down and pulled on a metal cord that had been tied around the tree. The cord had been there so long, the tree had grown around the connection. Tony lifted the cable up to his chest and dropped it limp to the ground.

Barry followed the cord with his eyes. It exited the tree, angled up to Tony’s hand, then arced back to the ground, eventually weaving into the terrain on the ground. Tony let out a sigh of relief when the cord fell from his hand. He turned back to Barry. “I’m sorry for scaring you, I thought--”

“What was that?” Barry yelled out. The cord had suddenly gone taught. No longer lying on the ground, it shot out straight out from the three at knee height for as far as Barry could see.

When he looked back to his grandfather, Tony looked tense and sad. “Better go check it out, kid. I’ll wait here.”

Barry grabbed the cable and gave it a tug, it wouldn’t budge. He walked through the woods for at least half a mile. The cable led into a cave. He could see light coming from the other side, so decided he could keep walking through. Inside the cave, the air grew cold and his shoes began to soak through from moisture and puddles.

As he came to the center of the cave, the light was so low, he leaned over and grabbed the cable every few steps to make sure he was staying on the path. Finally, he exited the cave into another part of the woods. “Must be on the Turner’s land by now.”

He walked a few steps forward and saw a boy about his own age with long fire-red hair and ragged clothes frantically coming toward him. Barry put his arms up and shut his eyes, not knowing what to do if he was attacked. The red-haired boy ran straight past him. Barry didn’t open his eyes again until he could no longer here the boy running.

“Grampa can follow this thing himself, I’m going back,” Barry said. He reached down to grab the cable and make his way back, but the cable wasn’t there. He looked down and saw it limp on the ground, like it had been at the tree where it started before things went strange. “Definitely going home now,” he reiterated.

He turned to go through the cave, but their was only a wall of rock where he thought the cave opening had been a moment ago. Barry grabbed the cord once again and followed it back, knowing it would eventually lead him back where he started.

The metal cord lead him on a very short trip, ending at the rock wall. The cord was stuck, at knee height, in the smooth rock itself.


6/6/16

Greg's Fascinating Life - A Flash Fiction

Think about seven billion things. Er, let me make this more concrete for you. Think about seven billion of one item, maybe seven billion marbles, or biscuits, or plungers. Doesn’t really matter what it is, whatever works for you.

If you thought of websites as your item then please realize there are only a tad over one billion websites, so multiply the Internet by seven and you’ll be on track with the rest of us (and please try to keep up, this is only the introduction and those thinking of marbles are tired of waiting for you to get with the program).

If you thought about days, you need to know that you’re looking at about 20 thousand millennia there. You know what? Marbles. Just go with marbles and we can move past the whole website/days fiasco and get on with the story.

OK. I think we’re all on the same page with seven billion marbles in our mind. Now, that’s a big number so I want you to think about how you would sort those marbles. By size? By color? By personality? (I don’t recommend sorting marbles by personality type--it is no easy task, let me tell you.)

Point is, you will be able to sort them. Actually, you wouldn’t because there are so many you’d find you are dead long before you even got all the marbles home from the marble store. I guess if you were an OCD vampire, you could swing it with the whole not dying thing you have going on, but vampires don’t read my blog anymore since I did the tell-all about Dracula (I had to take it down after Dracula’s estate sued me, but whatever).

OK, of those seven billion marbles, what are the chances that any of them are exactly alike? Seven billion is a mind-blowingly big number so, yeah, there will be lots of them so similar as to be the same.

Now I’ve got you where I want you. Are there any people who are so similar as to be indistinguishable from one another? No there’s not.

Why’d you have to go and bring up identical twins? You really don’t want to hear this story do you? No, no, I’ll play along with your little game here. Have you ever known twins? Sure, they look the same, they speak a secret twin-cult language, and they can read each other’s minds, but they have distinct personalities. Plus, go back to your high school days and go to a twin’s house to ask the father to date his daughter (or son), but say it doesn’t matter which twin you go out with. Yeah, that will go well for you.

There are seven point four billion people on planet Earth. All distinct in a way seven million marbles can only be jealous of. (Well, not all marbles get jealous, but if you went with sorting by personality type, I’d keep my eye on those marbles that got EFSJ on the Myers Briggs Personality inventory).

We are moving on from the marbles now, so you can roll those out of your mind. This story was never about marbles anyway, they were just an analogy.

This story is mainly about 0.000000015 percent of the Earth’s population. That is, this story is primarily about one Greg Cunningham.

One, distinctly unlike-anyone-else Greg Cunningham.

During the 70’s he discovered a number of things about himself. This was not a uniquely Greg thing as it was in fashion to discover things about yourself in the 1970’s. However, the things Greg discovered were not the things one thinks of someone discovering about oneself in the 70’s.

Greg discovered that he was not particularly attractive, nor did he care to be because he was not attracted to anyone else. He discovered that most everything made him anxious, but it did not matter because he could avoid most everything.

One thing Greg could not avoid was work (don’t we all know how that is--or is that what I am doing right now?) What do people do when they want to work, but they hate being around people? They learn to program computers. So, our friend Greg learned to program computers. (Mind you, he’s not really our friend, I’m just trying to make the guy more personable you so you will be engaged in the story. Sorry if you thought you had a new friend you could call up and have over for biscuits and a rousing game of marbles.)

Now, Greg liked computer programming not only for the social isolation it afforded him. In fact, he loved the diametric way computers think. Switches were on or off. Cards were punched or not punched (whoa, if you don’t know about punched cards that’s like saying you don’t know about AOL disks...dude, I’m old). Basically, things are pretty black and white in the old programming world, and Greg adopted this as his life philosophy.

If Greg found something that worked for him, that is how he always did it. He bought a Honda Civic when he began working, has had its oil changed religiously at the dealership every three months, and he still drives it today.

Sometimes, Greg did have turmoil in his life. For example, he drank exactly one Coca-Cola every day with his lunch. New Coke was released in 1985 (yes, kids, Coca-Cola tried to change its taste to something drinkable, but the populace demanded the old swill back and eventually got their way. And, frankly, I’m tired of having to tell you this stuff, don’t they teach this in school?) So, New Coke comes out and this puts Greg off so bad he changes to Pepsi. Pretty soon Coca-Cola realizes its mistake and brings back the old taste. Good for Greg, right? Nope. He couldn’t risk Coke changing flavors on him again so he stuck with Pepsi. (Really, he should have gone with the superior RC Cola, but I’m only telling you what happened and I have no personal control over this story or we could have avoided all those marbles at the beginning.)

I wish there was time to tell you more about Greg, living your life by seeing only “yes” and “no” as the answer to everything can lead to finding oneself in some very peculiar circumstances. I mean, think what would happen if someone were a one issue voter, or couldn’t cross party lines because they made a decision fifty years ago when they registered to vote. Luckily, nothing like that happens in real life (and this is just a story after all).

Anyway, I wish there was more time because Greg does find himself a bit perturbed being a digital person in an analog world. But, I can’t tell you more because you used up all your time trying to think about marbles with no regard to the great story you were going to miss out on because of it. You're still doing it, aren’t you? You're still having trouble picturing seven billion marbles at the same time.

It’s OK, not all of us have all our marbles.