F.F.F. Stories – Saturday 11/28/20

5. One Day in a Cafe, by Graci Cheney

As you sit in a cafe enjoying your morning and doing some work on a computer, someone sits at your table across from you.

How odd, you thought. There are plenty of other seats around here.

They suddenly slip you a note that says, “What a cute jacket. Do you come here often?”

Also odd, you thought again. Can’t they just talk to me?

“Thank you, and yes.” I responded on the paper.

8 years later

“Mom, how did you meet Dad?”

“Well one day I was sitting in a cafe, enjoying my morning … ”

4. The Girl Who Lived on Thursday, by Ran Walker

Before going to bed each night, five-year-old Sarah Ball would listen to her father read the book she’d long ago memorized, hug him afterwards with all her might, and, as he kissed her forehead and left the room, crawl under her covers and wind back her magic clock twenty-four hours.

Tomorrow would be the exact same thing, and she feared she would tire of the routine–but then she thought about what would happen the following day, how her father would be gunned down in the line of duty during a random traffic stop.

No. She’d keep using the clock.

3. Hal the Hippie, by Mark Tulin

One summer morning of my youth, I heard a commotion in the back of my neighbor’s house. It was Hal the Hippy loading all of his belongings into the back of a VW van.

I opened my bedroom window and shouted: “Where are you going, Hal?”

“To California,” he said. “It’s time for me to follow my dreams.”

“I wish I could go with you,” I shouted, thinking about all the cool adventures we might have.

He gave me a sad face, and I knew exactly why.

It wasn’t my time yet.

2. Let Me In, by Jo Weir

In separate rooms, each faced the door. One stepped backwards. The other reached forwards. Horrified, the first grabbed the turning handle. The other frowned and twisted harder. The first pushed against the door and begged it to hold. Gripping the handle at its furthest rotation, the other barged the door open.

Trembling on the floor, the first looked up at her own smiling face in the doorway, then kicked out with her foot to slam the door shut. She retreated to a corner and covered her ears while her other self knocked and knocked and knocked.

1. Elsie’s Dog, by Matthew Roy Davey

There were raised eyebrows when Elsie bought Carlos. Did she really have the energy for a puppy at her age?

When Elsie had a stroke her sons resisted the urge to say ‘Told you so’, but also resisted her pleas to take Carlos.

A solution was found: a son’s friend agreed to have Carlos. He sent photographs of the dog to Elsie in the old folk’s home. His kids loved Carlos. The pictures brought Elsie great peace of mind.

Carlos was also pleased to move in with the new family.

He hated Elsie.

She smelled of death.

F.F.F. Stories – Sunday 11/22/20 (B)

5. A Haunting Question, by Sankar Chatterjee

It has been her sparkling twinkle in both dark eyes and a charming hidden smile overflowing tightly-closed lips that haunt the most Ms. Sumita Desai, the investigative lawyer for U.N. Human Rights Commission.

Only twelve years old, she was gang-raped by a violent mob in the ethnic conflict plaguing Myanmar. Left to die, she was rescued by Red Cross volunteers. Doctors treated her mangled body and flew her to Delhi to testify before the world body.

Well-composed, she recounted her ordeal in minute details. Then she turned to Ms. Desai and inquired, “Big sister, why do men everywhere torture little sisters?”

4. Are We Lost? by Ronald Larsen

I’d taken Danny, my 8-year-old son, to a street festival in downtown Alexandria. We’d had a good day, but it was getting dark and he was tired–time to go home.

I decided to try a new route to Arlington. As I drove west, I said absentmindedly, “I wonder where we are?”

“Are we lost?” Danny asked worriedly.

“No,” I replied. I know that King Street is kind of north of us, Duke Street is to the south, and the freeway is to the west. I just don’t know exactly where we are right now.

“That’s lost!!” he exclaimed.

3. True Love, by Marjan Sierhuis

I watch my husband limp off the tennis court, bend over at the waist and take a few deep breaths. “You are no spring chicken,” I shout. “You need to look after yourself.”

He says goodbye to his tennis partner, walks over and kisses me on both cheeks. “You worry too much,” he says and laughs.

I frame his face with both my hands, kiss him on the mouth and tell him that after thirty years of marriage I have earned that right.

“Don’t ever change,” he says, as he grabs hold of my hand and gives me a smile.

2. The Case is Never Closed, by Nicky Johnson

Can a true professional ever step away when told it’s time? Does a teacher actually stop teaching … a doctor stop diagnosing? It’s too deep within.

Maggie’s once toned arms now shook under duress. Eight years of retirement had turned them soft. Between gasps, she stammered out, “It … was … you … that … girl.”

Finally, pinned into submission, he pleaded, “Maggie, please … you know me. We’ve been married three years now.”

“I’ve always known you. I just needed to get closer. You really think I was a stewardess?” The hand not pointing the gun flashed her expired badge.

A detective never stops hunting.

1. Birthday Girl, by Jude Hayland

A bevy of small girls in smart dresses … petticoats taut under skirts of pale pastel.

“Look at my party shoes. They sparkle!” Birthday Girl says to the newcomer who clutches her mother’s hand, unequal to the task of letting go, leaving that familiar smell of face powder and perfume and lipstick.

“Look at the cake!” Birthday Girl says. “Five candles. Count them!”

And she does, still holding fast to that hand, but enchanted by sugar flowers, iced rosettes.

Her first party. First friend.

She lets go, little knowing that the bond of friendship thus flickered will flourish, endure.

Span decades.

F.F.F. Stories – Sunday 11/22/20 (A)

5. No Windows, by Lisa Miller

Turning onto my street, I noticed the Lopez’s vehicle blocking my driveway. I’d met the family of four ten years ago when we moved across the street. Friendly and hardworking, they ran a landscape business.

I kept knocking, hearing footsteps inside. “It’s your neighbor!” I finally said, when a child slowly opened the door. Behind her at least twenty-five young children sat silently, staring. I froze. Then, I saw Mr. Lopez.

He moved the extended white van with no windows; it was an odd-looking vehicle seen sporadically lately. But I never hear the children, I thought, looking the other way.

4. Good Night Susie, by Fliss Zakaszewska

I was critically ill but determined I would make it without ‘chemical medication’, to lead a normal, side-effects-free life – or die in the attempt. Susie supported me.

“No, you’re right, Flissy,” she said, “and if that’s your belief, then you’ve got to follow your instinct, whatever anyone thinks.”

She herself had fought cancer homeopathical and kicked it into touch. Six months to live without conventional treatment, doctors said. She had nine glorious years but last night something else took her from us. At least it wasn’t the ugly ‘C-word’.

A star, a trooper, an amazing friend. Good night, Susie M.

3. Alone, by John Cooper

He gathered she was gone when the door slammed. At first he didn’t move; then the sound of her car engine made him rise from his bed and go through to the kitchen to investigate.

The back door was firmly shut, but through the glass panel he could just make out the shape of her reversing car.

He listened for a moment and then let out a derisive snort.

Alone again; perhaps she really was angry with him after all. Realising he was alone, he resigned himself to this state and returned to his bed and his dog’s life.

2. Last Cup of Coffee, by David Erdey

I wanted it to be somewhere special and you picked a Wendy’s by the highway. Our last cup together, ever.

Instead of furniture we discuss ownership of memories. I wanna keep all of mine.

You’d like to keep one or two:

When you told me that gruesome secret only I will ever know,

When we decided to marry after everything that had happened.

This is the last minute. After this cup anything bad may happen to you. Life can get hollow, childless; you may opt out. Desperately I try thinking of some last words; like magic, they’ll protect you, forever.

1. Seagull on the Pole, by Mark Tulin

Henry tried everything to get the seagull off the utility pole in his backyard.

He shouted, made threats, banged on the pole with a mallet, and placed a fake owl on the top of the storage locker.

The seagull looked down at Henry and gave a mocking squawk as if to say, “You’re wasting your time.”

Each day the seagull droppings continued to fall.

Eventually, Henry realized that the seagull wasn’t going anywhere. Henry stopped making threats, ceased banging the pole, and took down the fake owl.

The seagull grew bored and left.

F.F.F. Stories – Saturday 11/21/20

5. The Barker, by Don Tassone

Everyone knew what he was. He was the carnival barker, the man who shouted and raved about what lay in store for those discerning enough to appreciate the wondrous world just inside. For only five dollars, he promised, each of them could witness things few had ever seen. In previous times, most had simply walked by him, dismissing him as a fraud or even a clown. But now many of them had grown tired of the smallness of their world, and they handed him their money and, smiling, he took it and said they were in for a “tremendous experience.”

4. Playtime, by Gordon Lawrie

An adult might have spoken to him, tried to offer a sense of perspective, but the supervisors were too busy in other areas. Instead, Liam was left in one corner, alone, desolate, with no one to play with. He’d no idea why, simply that none of his classmates wanted to do what he wanted to do. Liam wanted to pretend, to imagine, to be in his own world; he didn’t want to play football or tig or chasing or any of those shouty games that everyone else seemed to enjoy. But at least he managed not to be seen crying.

3. Stylish Flat-Top Cut, by Lisa Miller

“Weird … the light’s flickering,” Mandy tells Lynne, climbing out of the hairstylist’s chair.

“Let’s go, Mandy. Something’s wrong.”

Down the escalator and through the automatic doors they went. “Follow the crowd,” Lynne yells, walking faster.

Once outside … darkness. Seemingly, a war zone with flashes of light illuminating the sky. The girls’ throats and eyes burned as the ash rained down on them. They’re unaware a mountain’s erupting just sixty miles north of them.

Decades later the majestic mountain proudly sports a stylish flat-top cut. With the sun highlighting its silky, soft shine. Perfectly trimmed, restyled by something more powerful than ourselves.

2, A Gift, by Jeffrey Paolano

“Miss Sade: What’ve you wrapped in that rag?” the attendant questions the nonagenarian.

Miss Sade tightly grips the wadded, soiled bandana with palsied fingers. Miss Sade’s unfocused eyes moisten as the attendant incessantly banters while freshening the bed.

No one on staff remembers the rag’s appearance.

*

Upon first rounds, the washed, damp rag lay folded on the bed tray. A ten dollar bill lay across it with “Kathy” scrawled in shaky script across Hamilton’s face.

*

Kathy wept seeing it, lacking explanation.

“Well, you must’a done somethin’,” says the attendant preparing the corpse for removal.

“How’d she do it?”

1. Route 66 Killer, by David Erdey

(Published as an image to a PAGE on the F.F.F. website.)

F.F.F. Stories – Wednesday 11/18/20

5. Seeking Freedom, by Russell Conover

(Published, with picture, to a PAGE on the F.F.F. website.)

4. A Moment in Time, by Sankar Chatterjee

It was a gorgeous autumn day with cotton-ball clouds freely roaming, birds chirping, leaves turning yellow/orange, when a somber crowd slowly lowered the simple wooden coffin of late Gerry Charnoff in his final resting place. Born to a migrant Jewish family in New York, he excelled in legal profession. But, it was his lifelong justice-for-all, humanity, and charity that made him memorable to lives he touched.

Standing under a nearby tree, Dr. Dipankar Mitra, an expatriate Indian scientist, suddenly remembered his Far-East teaching:

“At birth you’re crying,” the rest rejoiced. “On leaving you should rejoice while others cry.”

Finally, he understood the inherent wisdom.

3. Spoiled Rotten, by Bobby Warner

“Where is she this time?” I asked, lighting a cigarette.

“Where do you think?”

“Marley’s, probably,” answered my brother.

“You’re probably right.”

“Your turn to go.”

“Oh, crap. I wanted to watch a TV program, too.”

“We could flip to see who goes.”

“That’s okay. I don’t really mind going.”

“Thanks! I owe you one.”

“Forget it.”

“We gotta fix that door so she can’t get out so easily.”

“You go get her tonight. I’ll fix the door tomorrow.”

“This is the second time this has happened this week. I think we’ve spoiled our cat rotten.”

“I think you’re right.”

2. The Rabbit, by Charles Boorman

It was an almost idyllic scene: the courtyard was bathed in warm sunshine; the branches of the gnarled willow hung over the ornamental pond.

Plump carp and sleek goldfish glided through the water in search of food or shelter, while big dragonflies hovered around like glittering miniature helicopters. The sound of children’s happy voices drifted across from the nearby school playground.

But if an animal fell into the pond, the overhanging edges allowed no escape. No kind soul had put in a helpful plank, either. Would the rabbit paddling desperately for its life let me rescue it from drowning?

1. One Step Too Far, by Fliss Zakaszewska

“Oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit!” Davy dashes into the local mini-mart. “D’you have any flowers, love? Forgot the wife’s anniversary!”

She looks at him oddly. “Isn’t it your anniversary, too?”

“What? Oh, yeah!” He grabs the least bedraggled bunch, shoves £3.00 in her hand and rushes off. “Keep the change,” he calls. “Damned, should’ve bought a card! Too late,” he adds, scrambling for the bus.

“Happy anniversary, sweet-cheeks,” he gushes as he lets himself in. “What’s for tea?”

“Whatever you’re cooking. I’m out clubbing with the girls. Bye.”

And that’s when he knew he’d gone one step too far down the road to neglect.

F.F.F. Stories – Sunday 11/15/20

5. To the Victor, by Gordon Lawrie

The two armies lined up nervously in serried ranks: footsoldiers at the front, while their generals plotted tactics safely out of harm’s way.

Bands began to beat out the sound of war.

Suddenly all hell broke loose! Long-range missiles were launched to soften up opposition troops! There were screams as innocent civilian onlookers were felled by stray shells! Then it was on to close combat as the two sides dueled with flashing swords.

Then … as abruptly as it had begun, the battle ended. To the victor, the spoils. To the loser, the promise of another Ryder Cup two years later.

4. September 28th – Wedding Day, by Jude Hayland

Broad, brazen smiles for the photographer – there you are in your borrowed bridal dress, your enormous bouquet, on a day of late September sunlight, a gift from mid-summer.

And on your arm, in a smart suit that swallowed months of clothes coupons, your groom, handsome, protective, his hand cautiously covering yours.

Your youth, the two of you, shocks. So vulnerable, so unprepared, innocence loosed on a damaged world, weeping for its sins.

But you survive: you prosper.

And it is love that reaches out from the well-thumbed photo, your legacy bestowed on the next generation.

And the next …

3. An Author Disappears, by Sankar Chatterjee

Author’s imaginative action-fiction, displaying a jar of chili-pickle, entertained global readers immensely. Todd, an American personal injury lawyer (lovingly, “ambulance-chaser”), however, couldn’t find the customary disclaimer “Don’t try in your backyards, folks”. He immediately filed a “Willful negligence to cause public harm”-charge in U.S. federal court, asking millions of dollar punitive damage.

The label also indicated its Indian origin. Todd contacted Nigel in their London branch to file a billion-dollar defamatory lawsuit claiming “Shame, pain, and suffering to 1.2bn Indians, worldwide”. Now, combined two cases headed to the International Court (The Hague).

Remembering “religious fatwa” on Salman Rushdie, the author disappeared, leaving Scotland Yard in dark.

2. Poker Face, by Marjan Sierhuis

While she felt the blood drain from her face, Maggie forced herself to take a few deep breaths and count to ten. When she tried to swallow, her mouth was too dry to produce any saliva.

Clenching her fists, she kept her eyes focused on her husband’s poker face as he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet.

He returned her stare with dark, malevolent eyes and grinned.

Maggie didn’t know what he found so funny but she didn’t plan to find out.

As she jumped out of the airplane, she prayed that her parachute would open.

1. Believe, by Don Tassone

“I’ve got to say that’s a pretty wild story,” he said.

“Well, it’s true,” she said.

“You’re sure?”

“What do you mean? Why would I lie about something like this?”

“I don’t know. It’s just that it happened so long ago. Memories get fuzzy.”

“There’s nothing unclear in my mind.”

“Was anybody else there when it happened?”

“No.”

“Did you tell anybody?”

“No. I felt ashamed.”

He sighed.

“You know if you talk about this, people are going to attack you.”

“I know.”

“It’s bound to get ugly.”

She closed her eyes and nodded.

“But I believe you,” he said.

F.F.F. Stories – Saturday 11/14/20

5. Missing, by David Erdey

“I saw him. I’m sure!” she yells.

​Tired, he looks at her as she walks in litter, searching a seventh time around that road sign.

“Can we go back to the car?”

“So you think I’m crazy?”

“No. Could’ve been a homeless who … “

“Wasn’t a look alike – was him!”

She interrupts, screaming. He tries ignoring it, spit hitting his cheeks as she screams, the tantrum hell. He takes a deep breath.

“WHY would he hang around a highway! HE HATED TRAFFIC ALMOST AS MUCH AS HE HATED US,” he shouts, holding her lightly.

“He’s gone! Be happy,” he says, squeaking.

4. The Big One, by Eric Smith

I was ten when Mom died after several increasingly severe heart attacks. She refused to participate in her own care—chain-smoking, ignoring her diet, and continuously drinking Kahlua and coffee. The fatal attack seized her as she retrieved mail from our box. Clancy, the neighbor, found Mom lying on the shoulder of the road; the E.M.T.s arrived an hour late. She was thirty-four and two months’ pregnant, which remains a mystery. I pictured Mom’s panic as she died alone: the lifelong wound this scene sliced in me clotted since she’s never suffered disappointment at the kind of man I became.

3. Carla Loved Frank, by Riham Adly

“How will I live without you, Frank?” Carla planted a kiss on the spongy elastomer skin of her F-26MXI humanoid prototype.

The lab felt colder than it should. Carla shivered. She knew kinetic energy was the answer. She swiveled one merry round after another in her spinning chair. In her mind they were both rolling over in the Toyota before they hit the cement boulder.

Undecided, she turned around to stare at their shared project.

“He’ll never grow a beard, or fix the thermostat, but he’ll have your heart.”

Un-gloved hands, now blood-stained, reached for the organ in the ice-box.

2. A World Record Gets Broken, by Sankar Chatterjee

From the beginning, she would feel the difference. Initially, she floated like a beautiful butterfly. Next several kilometers, she became a hummingbird speeding between flowers, extracting elixir, utilizing long narrow beak.

Finally, a hungry cheetah chasing a fearful gazelle took over. She burned her running shoes from blistering pace in final ten kilometers. In the process, Kenyan teenager Naomi Odette lowered the prevailing world record by two minutes in London Marathon, an unthinkable achievement in track world.

On victory stand, she cried uncontrollably, not only from her achievement, also realizing that hunger from poverty of past few years wouldn’t play the same magic trick again.

1. If At First You Don’t Succeed … , by John Cooper

People shifted nervously in their seats, looking away from each other; no one wanting to catch anyone else’s eye.

All the weeks of strident language, opinions dressed as certainties, all the raised voices and the pointing fingers; and here we were yet again, trying to sort it all out.

The chair tried to bring everyone to order.

“So we seem to be at a bit of an impasse,” she said, stating the obvious. “Has anyone any ideas?”

People remained frozen in their seats, waiting for someone … anyone … to speak.

“Well,” came a small voice.

“We could all just choose again.”

F.F.F. Stories – Friday 11/6/20

5. Where Dust Settles, by Krystyna Fedosejevs

Flat tire. Desert surroundings. Sun torments my thinking. As does his last phone call. Another request for help. I oblige knowing he won’t thank me, again. Beads of sweat string across my forehead. Why does he argue? Twilight leads the way. The road stretches farther when one walks along its shoulder. Cacti appear more formidable up close. Their needles longer, sharper than the darning variety I use to mend his socks. A car goes by without slowing down. Dust coats my sunglasses, chokes my air. A lizard slithers, skirting my footsteps. Service station in sight. Father will need to wait.

4. The Garbage Bag, by Mark Tulin

The homeless man who wanders the beach every morning spotted a garbage bag that was partially buried in the sand. Curious, he dug it up. Excited about the prospect of finding something valuable, he pulled out two items—a Bible and a Penthouse magazine.

The homeless man thought for a while. He only had room in his backpack for one.

He believed in God but had encountered plenty of unscrupulous preachers.

Thinking that the magazine would be more useful to him on his lonely journey, he put the Bible back into the sand.

3. Grasshopper Junction, by Leroy B. Vaughn

His name was Leroy also. We were shooting pool at this little cafe/gas station in the desert.

The game wasn’t going well for the him and he said, “Let’s take a short break. I’ll be right back.”

He came back five minutes later, picked up his cue stick and said, “Okay. Let’s try this again. I think my luck is about to change.”

I looked at him and then glanced at my two buddies, as if to ask if they saw anything different.

“Didn’t you have a moustache a few minutes ago?”

“Yeah. I shaved it off for good luck.”

2. Leave-Taking, by Steven Holding

It couldn’t be denied. It had been a good life. So many seasons seen; a long and fruitful existence. Even now, slowly growing weary, each diseased limb wracked with pain, it was impossible to view age as a curse. Better to simply embrace the changes that came with it … then accept the blessing for what it was. Wisdom bequeathed by the passing of time. Beautiful beginnings, a magnificent middle and now, like all others, a time to bring things to an end. The final thought as it all came crashing down: with no one around, would it still make a sound?

1. Elucidation, by Jeffrey Paolano

“You realize various animals are fed to carnivores in labs everywhere,” allows Carl Vinzen, Science Chairperson of the Litwel School District.
“Rats … not puppies. People like puppies. They’re cute,” retorts Joseph Protento, District Superintendent.
“Turtles naturally eat puppies or rats.”
“The turtle’s an invasive species here; it must be eliminated.”
“I can relocate it far away.”
“No. The turtle must be destroyed.”
“You realize how backward educated people consider our community?”
“Maybe, but we look avenging, in the eyes of the God-fearing. That’s who votes for this Board.”
“Don’t we have an obligation to educate?”
“Not if we’re voted out.”

F.F.F. Stories – Friday 10/30/20

5. The Creep Plumber, by David Erdey

I started peeking at women taking showers after showering became something I did alone. When she left me, I talked to women but they never talked back. At the job were single female clients. Leaking sinks, erupting toilets. It happened at my lowest: I installed spy-cams. I watched everyday, as shameful as lustful. Boyfriends soon came into the picture but I still couldn’t stop myself from watching. I observed the relationships flourish and on days with strong self-hatred, remembered how I before laughed when people like me were in the news, belly hurting, pointing my finger:

“Look, baby. What a creep!”

4. The Perfect Aliens, by Russell Conover

Jacob was struggling to make the aliens in his story perfect. He pictured the most terrifying invaders he could imagine: green with numerous eyes, sharp teeth, and no mercy on Earthlings.

“Something’s still missing,” he groaned. “Too generic.”

“Meow!”

Jacob looked up, and saw his cat Fluffy entering. Fluffy carried the lifeless body of a mouse, proud of her conquest.

“Bad Fluffy!” The cat skedaddled.

A light bulb went off in Jacob’s mind. He resumed writing. “The invader was terrifying enough. But then it grew whiskers and fangs, and stabbed its prey lifeless, with an innocent ‘Meow’.”

He grinned. “Perfect.”

3. Marathon Man, by Guy Fletcher

Jack was tired but he had made it. He “hit the wall” after 18 miles or so but now the finish was in sight, a view as enticing as water in a desert.

His wife was shouting encouragement and was so proud about how much he had raised for charity.

“You’re emotional. How sweet,” she said and hugged him as if she would never let go.

A few metres behind the “loving couple” his mistress waved but there was poison in her eyes.

“No amount of running can purge me from this guilt,” Jack said to himself.

2. At the Cafe, by Jude Hayland

Thin, blanched face, eyes pale and staring, legs ungainly sprawled across the floor as if redundant, loosed from purpose, he talks.

And his voice is loud, lacks nuance, variation, ill-adapted to the space. The place. The other tables busy themselves. People resort to newspapers, books, screens, phones. Each other. Attempts to diffuse a situation they find faintly embarrassing. Resorting to distractions from something they are ashamed to confront.

Not the young man with the insistent, strident voice, the body of late adolescence, the understanding of a very young child.

But their own discomfort.

1. Hot Chilli Pickle, by Gordon Lawrie

(Published, with picture, to a PAGE on the F.F.F. website.)

F.F.F. Stories – Sunday 10/25/20 (B)

5. Back to Front, by Fliss Zakaszewska

The potential customer looked her straight in the eye. “But, why not?”

“I’m sorry. It’s not quite what I’m looking for.”

“But, I’D BE YOUR CUSTOMER! You would take money from me – effectively.”

“I know. I’m sorry, but no.”

Jim shrugged and sighed. “OK. Well, thank you for considering me to be your client.”

He walked out and went to the café across the road. As he sat down, Jim stirred his tea and read through his manuscript. “I know it’s a great book! Are literary agents the only class of business-people who choose or dismiss their ‘customers’?”

4. Rocky, by Marjan Sierhuis

(Published, with picture, to a PAGE on the F.F.F. website.)

3. Our Bucket List, by Lisa Miller

Nice country wedding. We were happy. You had a look; you talked the talk. I admired your air of sophistication.

We grew apart the night you didn’t come home. I cooked a turkey and gathered eggs. You drank too much at the Bridge City Pub. By the way, I knew about your affair.

“Let’s write our bucket list,” you announced one day. Then you told me I was stupid, rolling your eyes. I decided on skydiving and purchased life insurance (just in case). I need to make sure I pack her parachute myself, he thought, wondering when he’d hatch his plan.

2. Charley, by Don Tassone

I wrapped you in your favorite blanket and laid you in the ground as gently as I could. We said a prayer and threw in handfuls of dirt. I covered you with earth and placed a heart-shaped stone over you.

I know it was time, but letting you go was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I know it was right, but it sure doesn’t feel right.

For 14 years, you were always there for me, always happy to see me. I want you to know I love you. I beg your forgiveness. I hope to see you again.

1. Just Hanging Around, by Mark Reynolds

There was a moment when he thought things would be different.

The rope around his neck was tight and suffocating.

It perturbed him, swinging above the turned-over chair, feeling actual dizziness while twisting in circles.

He felt his bladder go, the heat of his urine drenching his jeans. An unceremonious passage of gas erupted from his rear. Now he was mad.

Where was the dark blanket of death? The Grim Reaper with his scythe? How long was he supposed to hang here, a mockery of death?

​Having no answer, he yawned. This was going to be one hell of a morning.