Will Any Of Them Ever Wake Up?

I sat in a chair at the table in the corner of the room, and watched everyone else. Every now and then, I watched my hands. Sometimes, they shook, telling me, “Breathe, stupid. Just breathe.” I had a way of sometimes forgetting to breath properly. Started taking little, short, shallow breaths. One of the first steps along the path to a panic attack. At least I’d finally learned to recognize what was going on, and for the most part, I’d learned to respond appropriately. I seldom had an attack. Maybe one or two a year. Much better than the one or two a week I had at my worst.

After a few deep breaths, I found myself again, and smiled. Seems I was always right there. Just a breath or two away.

Once more, I watched everyone else.

It was sad, really. To watch them. Oh, I didn’t cry about it. There was a time I did. But that’s behind me now. I’ve faced the truth I found. I’ve accepted it. I know there’s nothing I can do about it. Except watch. At one time, I would have tried to intervene. And I would have been psychologically assaulted for having tried. I had been. What does it mean when you can’t count the number of times something’s happened? Hope springs eternal my ass. Hope keeps you beating your head against a concrete lined, cinder block wall in the mistaken belief you can eventually punch through it, as you slowly pound your noggin into a bloody pulp.

I’d learned. I could stop the oceans tides before I could stop them. So, I went into my observation mode. Like a scientist. Observing the behavior of others, and cold bloodedly recording it for future generations. I watched.

The group ten feet away. Mary, Helen, Wendy, Doug, Fred, Scott and Ted. Always friends. Always socializing as a group. Always telling stories about their kids, their work, their church. And always, at these holiday parties, acting like sponges trying to sop up all the alcoholic beverages they could get their hands on. I knew. If you asked them why, they’d all say the same thing. “Because we’re just blowing off steam, and having some fun!”

It was a lie. Every one of them knew it. They weren’t blowing off steam. They weren’t having fun. They were escaping. Running as fast, and as hard as they could to escape the traps their lives had turned into. Anyone could figure that out.

If you asked any of them how they felt at work, they’d tell you the same thing. “Fine.”

“How are you, this Monday morning, Mary?”

“Fine.” Then she’d smile, “And you?”

Fred’s son totaled the car one Sunday night. Fred showed up at work the next day. “How are you, Fred?”

“Fine.”

“How’s your son?”

“I haven’t killed him yet.”

“He didn’t get hurt, did he?”

“No. He’s fine. They checked him out at the hospital. He came home last night, a few hours after the wreck. He’s fine.”

And all the while, you know what he wanted to say. “I’m gonna turn that idiot’s butt black and blue, and he ain’t gonna be able to sit down for a month!”

Lies. Lies, and more lies. It’s what people did. They lied. About everything. To everyone. Even to themselves.

I looked at the dance floor. The usual couples were there. Mike and his wife. Jill and her husband. Tommy and his fiancé. Dancing their legs off. Ever watch people do that? “Play another song! Play another song!” They’d dance until they couldn’t breathe, and sweat was pouring off them. Then, they’d go sit down, have a drink (usually wine, or beer, sometimes something with a little more kick to it), and after a few minutes, they’d march back out there. “Play another song!” And the cycle would repeat endlessly.

Ask, “Why do you dance so much?”

They all answer the same. “We’re just having some fun! It’s fun! We’re blowing off steam. We’re relaxing. Try it!”

It’s the same lie. Again. I sat there, in the corner, at the table, watching them dance themselves to exhaustion. Knowing they couldn’t dance themselves to oblivion. Knowing they’d wake up the next day, and tell themselves how stupid they’d been.

Hell, Tommy would be so dead on his feet, even if he wanted to he wouldn’t be able to screw his girl. They’d probably pass out fully dressed, and wake up the next morning, and go, “Oh, God! Why did you turn on the sun!”

Because they never faced the truth. They all knew the truth. But they never spoke of it.

Every one of them hated their jobs. Hated their lives. Hated the same schedule every week. The same work every day. Ted said it once, trying to explain things to me. “I hate it. I’d rather be anywhere else. But, it’s got to be done.”

No, Ted. It doesn’t. The world will not end if you don’t edit that fucking document. You might get fired. You might have to look for another job. But the world will not end. So, it does NOT have to be done.

He never spoke the truth. “If I don’t edit the document. If I don’t do the work. I’ll lose my job. And I don’t want to lose my job. It would be a bitch of a problem for me. It would cause my family a lot of problems. The wife would be angry with me. We’d have to eat in a lot while I hunted another job. I’d lose my medical benefits. My insurance. Everything.”

That was the truth.

“I’m an economic slave. An indentured servant. I’ll do what I’m told to do, so the world doesn’t beat me senseless, and make my life a living hell.”

That was the truth.

And that was why they were all at the party that night. And why they were drinking everything in sight. And dancing until they collapsed. And telling stories about their kids. They were escaping. Running. Fleeing the truth.

That not one of them was happy.

I sat. In the corner. At the table. And watched.

It was sad. Really. There was a time it would have broken my heart. But, after seeing it happen every day. After living with that truth, every day. My heart’s gone numb. And I don’t care any more. I just watch. And shake my head. And wonder.

Will any of them ever wake up?

Angels And Demons : Shoot It!

Mitchell pulled his gun, pointed it at Greg, and shot him. He pulled the trigger twice, and Greg fell. Then, Mitchell walked up to Greg, where he laid, bleeding on the asphalt parking lot, pointed his gun at Greg’s head, and pulled the trigger eight more times, emptying his G26’s cartridge.

Greg was dead.

Mitchell pulled the spent clip from his gun, shoved it in one of his big pants pockets, reached into another pocket, and pulled out another clip, fully loaded with another ten rounds. He didn’t behave like he’d killed another human being. He behaved like he’d made the world a safer place.

Fear and Hatred lurked in the shadows cast by parked cars to either side of Mitchell. Both smiled, delighted with the progress they’d made with Mitchell. Such strong emotions. Fear spoke to Hatred, “We could use many more like him.”

“Indeed.” Hatred relished every drop of hatred pouring off Mitchell. “I like the way he never questions what he’s done.”

“Indeed.” Fear laughed. “He’s so afraid of anything he doesn’t understand.”

“Living in a little box of life.” Hatred took another moment to drink in more of Mitchell’s rage. More of his raw hatred. “It’s so easy to get them to kill each other, isn’t it?”

“That’s what makes it so fun.” Fear poked Hatred in the ribs. “Whisper the things they want to hear in their ears, and they’ll do anything you want them too.”

Mitchell held his gun at the ready, and waited. The other one would be arriving soon. He’d kill it too. Making the world another touch safer. Another step cleaner. Another step more Holy. Bringing everyone another step closer to God.

He didn’t like being in the parking lot at Wal-Mart. But, that’s where these evil creatures were. And as long as they existed, no one was safe.

Fear inhaled the fear and hatred filling the air. “Can’t wait to see him off the other one.”

Hatred stepped behind Mitchell’s ear, “It’ll be here any minute now. Another homo. Another fag. Another of those creatures contaminating the human race.”

Mitchell paced in little circles, always watching the door, waiting for the other half of the evil couple to appear, so he could kill it too. Shoot it, and then go up to it, and make sure it was dead.

With the two homos gone, the world would be a better place.

“To think,” Fear took his place behind Mitchell, “All it took was a little whisper in his ear.” Fear leaned forward and whispered in Mitchell’s ear, “Perhaps you should shoot this ones balls off. I mean. it’s not like it needs them.”

Mitchell nodded his head, slowly. “I know. I’ll shot this ones nuts off. It’s doesn’t deserve to have them.”

Greg’s partner came out of the store, carrying a bag of groceries in each hand. He had eggs, pancake mix, sausage, and milk in one bag. Breakfast for the next few days for the two of them. The other bag had sliced ham, turkey, cheese (two kinds), and a loaf of wheat bread. Sandwiches for lunch. He always packed a lunch for Greg. A sandwich, a diet soda, and a bag of chips.

Greg loved ham and swiss.

As he got closer to the car, he noticed a strange man standing beside it. He wondered who the man could be. He’d left Greg in the car, so it was likely the man was talking with Greg. He picked up his pace, to go rescue his love from the stranger.

He didn’t see Greg until he got to the car. He dropped his groceries. Greg was dead. His head all but destroyed. His blood all over the pavement. He gasped, his hands pressing against his cheeks, “Greg!” he cried out.

Mitchell shot him. Twice. In the chest. When he fell, Mitchell walked up to him, stood over him, and shot him two more time, in the head. Then, he for the man’s crotch, and emptied the last six rounds of the cartridge into it.

Hatred gleefully bounced up and down, “Oh, that was a good twist!”

“Yes, it was! Yes it was!”

The demons bathed in the hatred and fear gushing from Mitchells heart and soul. The man hated things like those two had been. He hated them passionately. “We should just kill them all.”

He never batted an eye as he walked away. And that night, he slept peacefully, and soundly. Without a worry in the world.

Fear whispered in his ear all night, “There are more things like them out there. Perhaps you should hunt them all down.”

Hatred whispered in his other ear. “Faggots. Homos. They’ll destroy us all. Unless we kill them first.”

#MWBB 40 : The Ballad Of Cable Hogue

As the song finished playing, she belted out, “Thank God that’s over!”

I had to laugh. Her remark was so like her. “I take it you did not like the music?”

Ever had pretty blue eyes drill holes through you? I swear that’s what hers did to me. “You know damn well I don’t like that type of music.”

To be honest, I knew she didn’t like any type of music other than the few artists she listened to. And I wasn’t sure if artists was the right word. “You don’t like much of anything.”

She gave me this little “Hm!” as she turned her nose, and looked anywhere else.

“No! It’s true! You don’t like much of anything.” I wasn’t really trying to pick a fight. But I didn’t see any way to avoid one.

She punched the station 1 button on the car radio, tuning it back to her radio station. Beyonce’s voice filled the car. I think it was “Single Ladies”. Again. She sang right along with it. “All the single ladies…”

Every hear that saying, “Put up or shut up”? That’s the option I had on this. Sit there, silently, not daring to say a word, or sing along with her.

That’s why I was leaving her.

“You know, you’re boring.” Well, she was.

“I’m not boring!”

“You listen to the same, what, ten songs, over and over again.”

“I do not!”

“You watch the same TV shows every week.”

“I do not!”

“You eat at the same five restaurants every week.”

“No, I don’t!”

“You shop at the same three stores. You never, ever read a book of any kind. You own everything Apple ever made.”

She laughed. “I do what makes me happy!”

It was time for the fight. “You do what makes you safe, and comfortable.”

“So?”

I knew she’d have no idea what I was trying to say. How do you tell someone they live in a box, and to them, nothing outside that box exists? I punched the “tune” button, and set the radio to a random station again. I almost laughed. The station was playing a Calexico tune. And I knew she’d hate it.

“Hell, they aren’t even singing!”

“They’re singing.” I laughed, spitefully. “You just have too narrow a mind to see it, or hear it.” Oh, hell, you should have seen the look she gave me. “They’re just different. And that scares you.”

I kept driving, and started singing along with the song. “I should’ve stayed way out yonder better off with the scorpions and snakes.” Yeah. I should have.

She huffed and looked out the window. And didn’t say a single word until I pulled up to the curb by her apartment. “Don’t call me anymore,” she declared, spitefully I might add, as she opened the door.

“Don’t worry, darlin’. I won’t. It’d be a waste of time.”

As least the window didn’t shatter when she slammed the door.

490 words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for week 40 of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other stories in the challenge.

#BadSanta 2013

Mrs. Clause shook her head. “Dear. You know you’re not supposed to give them what you want them to get.” She looked at Twitter again, displaying the thread #BadSanta. The screen overflowed with tweets about how bad Santa had been this year. The #BadSanta hashtag was the hottest on Twitter, followed closely by #NaughtySanta.

“I know, Dear. I know.” Santa sighed. “But after all these hundreds of years, I just had to have some fun!”

Fun indeed. Santa had worked with his elves and re-decorated Christmas from the ground up. Instead of getting people what they said they wanted, he gave them what he wanted them to have.

He gave Tommy the police, serving an arrest warrant on his dad, for domestic violence. OK. That wasn’t so bad. It counted as interference in human affairs, but at least it was good interference.

He gave Betty a certificate to the local cosmetic surgery center, for a paid in full boob job. “Dear! She was a size A! No wonder she couldn’t get a man!” All Mrs. Clause could do was shake her head.

He gave George a blindfold, handcuffs, leather underwear, a whip, and a full dominatrix outfit, so he could dress his wife up properly, and do what he’d always wanted to do. “He kept having these dreams about her whipping his ass, and making him do things.”

“Do things? Really, Dear? Do things?”

Santa could only grin.

Then she noticed the tweet from @PestDestroyer. “Woke up this morning to find my kitchen an inch deep in roaches. #BadSanta”

“Roaches? Really!”

“What can I say? They wanted revenge.”

There was the tweet from @UnfortunateHousewife. “Oh, the hubs is happy. Got an 80 core supercomputer. My life sucks. #BadSanta”

And the one from @SpeedDemon. “He put my GPS tracking records online! Had 4 speeding tickets already today! #BadSanta”

@INeedAMan tweeted, “I need a man, not another vibrator! #BadSanta”

@WannaBeAStar tweeted, “Really? A 3 film contract with Vivid Entertainment? What? #BadSanta”

Santa just grinned. “With a body like that, she’d be good at it, and fun to watch!” Mrs. Clause shook her head and sighed.

@BigBoss got a pink slip. @RichBitch got hit by the IRS for tax evasion. @BetterThanYou’s house burned to the ground. @ILoveMyCar woke up to find his car replaced by a Hot Pink Yugo. @GrammarNazi spoke about the Gangsta Rap that wouldn’t stop playing on her TV and Radio. “If I hear another ima, ima kill someone! #BadSanta” @IHaveRichParents received legal paperwork indicating he’d been cut out of the family’s will. @LonelyHeart woke up to a naked football running back tied to her bed, with a note stuck on his crotch that said, “It’s all yours!” @LazyBoy got a 10 year membership to Gold’s Gym.

The list went on, and on.

Santa tried to explain to Mrs. Clause. “I just wanted to do something a little different this year, Dear. Instead of the same old thing.”

490 Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Ruth Long‘s annual Bad Santa Blog Hop. It was fun to write. Now, go read all the other entries in the hop. You can find them here.

http://www.bullishink.com/2013/12/09/bad-santa-blog-hop-2013/

#MWBB 39 : Heavy In Your Arms

“It used to matter.”

“What?”

“What I wanted.”

Doc just gave me the look that said, “keep going.”

“It used to matter.” I took a long, slow, deep breath, held it in a few moments, and let it leak out slowly. I did that again. “What I wanted. It used to matter.”

He gave me that look again.

“I used to want to be happy.”

“Oh?” Sometimes, the man reminded me of Mr. Spock. ‘Cept he didn’t have pointed ears.

“Yeah. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to want? To be happy?”

“You know the answer to that.”

“Well. It used to matter. It doesn’t anymore.”

“Why?”

Damn, but that man could be so nosey! That was the trouble with meeting with the Doc every week. And him being good at what he did didn’t help any. I had to take another long breath. I kept thinking to myself, “It’s only anger, dude. Only anger. Just a feeling. Nothing more. Feelings can’t hurt you. Or control you.”

“Because of her!” Yeah. I practically screamed that. “Because of her.” Sometimes, all I really wanted to do was stand up, and go stare out the window at the park behind his office. Or just pace around the room.

I never did.

And I knew what he was going to ask before he asked, “Why?”

Because what she felt mattered to me. Because I wanted to make her happy. Because I hated all the things she loved to do, and all the times I went with her, and did those things. Because I couldn’t ask her to do anything I liked to do.

Because I needed the job I hated to make enough money to do the things she wanted to do. Because I had to burn through every hour of vacation I earned taking care of all the things she couldn’t get off of work to take care of. Because I only got time off by calling in sick to work once in a while, and taking a sanity maintenance day.

“Do you really love her?”

Yeah. That was the worst part of it. I did. I loved her. Maybe even too much. I couldn’t say no to her. I’d do whatever I had to, whatever I could, to give her everything she wanted. Because what she wanted mattered to me. What she felt mattered. What she dreamed of mattered.

And to help her have her dreams, I had to give up mine.

Don’t people do that for love?

When my session was over for the week, I left Doc’s office. But I didn’t go straight home. I stopped. At a Dairy Queen. Bought myself an ice cream cone. Sat in my car, and ate it. Listing to my music. Enjoying a moment without her.

Before I got home.

And I didn’t matter anymore.

471 Words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for week 39 of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other entries in the challenge.

#ThursThreads Week 99 : But I Won’t Go Alone

My ship was listing to port. I had to hold the rudder to starboard to hold a steady course. Her sails, tattered remnants of the black sailcloth they’d been. Her deck, littered with the bodies or her crew.

She was dying. So was I.

I yanked the wheel, guiding her toward the closest British warship. They would not ask for a surrender. They would keep the cannons aimed, putting more holes in my ship. Each shot bringing her a step closer to the end.

We never stood a chance. Three small ships, three small crews, and our bitty cannons against a host of British warships. We’d been outnumbered, three to one. We’d been outgunned, five to one. We had no chance.

We’d run, our sails filled with the wind, knowing our only chance was flight. We’d failed. Our first ship struck by British cannon fire, her main mast falling, splintered wood striking down members of her crew.

The British called us pirates. If we were pirates, we’d have left one ship to die, and continued to flee. We didn’t. We were free men. We turned, and fought to protect our wounded comrades.

Only my ship was left. Wounded. Dying. I screamed at the British. “I will die a free man! But I won’t go alone!” I turned my ship toward the closest British vessel. She knew what I wanted. And she granted me one last wish. With her dying breath, she speared the side of one of her British killers.

250 words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Siobhan Muir‘s #ThursThreads, Week 99. I’m experimenting with imagination. Hope you like it. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are good reading.

Another Lie

I have grown tired of trying to understand people sitting in judgement of those around them. People declaring, “You are evil. You are a spawn of Satan. You are going to burn in eternity with him.”

My psychologist told me, “Don’t touch religion, Marcus. For religion is irrational, nonsensical, and something people only see the way they want to see it. They don’t understand anything else about it.”

But I am angry. I am angry from having lived within a lie for over 40 years. The lie that religion, the church, is tolerant, and forgiving, and welcomes all. The lie that religion seeks to save people from Satan, and themselves.

Religion destroys families. It drives children away from their parents. It drives husbands and wives apart. It drives brother and sister apart. Oh, I know. I know. I can hear people screaming the words now. “Jesus said those who follow him will have to leave behind their families!”

You know. I don’t even care where it says that in the four Gospels of the Holy Bible, King James Version anymore. Because it’s been taken out of context so long it has no meaning anymore. It has become an excuse. A reason. Something people use to justify being unforgiving, intolerant, and judgmental.

Too many parts of the Bible have become the same thing. An excuse.

What about the part of the Gospel where Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan? Remember that story? The story every child learns in church. About the Samaritan that helped the man by the roadside, when the Jewish people, including the pharisees, and priests, ignored him, and walked by. Because he wasn’t one of them. Remember that story?

What about the parts of the Gospel where Jesus worked on the Sabbath. Picking grain in the fields, so he and his disciples could eat. Remember that story?

What about Jesus eating with the evil, heartless tax collector, hated by everyone. Remember that story?

Why am I wasting my breath? Why am I beating my head against the concrete wall again? Why am I pointing out things, stories, and tales, everyone knows, and many can recite by heart? I already know no one that needs to hear, no one that needs to listen, no one that needs to read, will.

Every word I say will fall on two types of ears. Ears that already know. That already understand. That already see how things are. How the church has become. And those that won’t hear. Those that will declare me a demon, trying to divide God’s people. Trying to separate them from God. They will not accept, in any way, the words of a heathen sinner such as me.

This is why I have walked away from the church.

This is why I shall never return to the church.

To me, the church has lost its way. It has become what it was in the time of Jesus, and his disciples. So wrapped up in its traditions, its own ways, its own beliefs, it no longer functions. It has become a club for those with the same beliefs. The same understanding of the words of the Bible. It has become isolated from the world, because the people of the church have decided it must isolate itself from the world.

The church no longer functions at God intended.

So, I have walked away. I have sought people who understand how the church no longer functions. That see it, and its people, for the judgemental, isolated, frightened, biased, and closed-minded people they are.

And I find it hilarious how the people of the church believe they are the victims of prosecution at the hands of the people they declare are Satan’s children. How they cry “We are persecuted!” when they persecute everyone not belonging to their religion. How they scream, “We are not allowed to follow our beliefs publicly!” when they raise their hands, and scream, “They’re practicing their religion in public! And it’s infringing my rights!”

I have grown tired of the double standards the religion of my youth has embraced.

I would say I feel disappointed and saddened, that I have had to walk away. But the reality is I’m angry. For I see this same double standard embraced by every religion. Every social group. Every cultural group. I see the same hatred everywhere I look. The Christians hate the Gays. The Gays return the favor. The Republicans hate the Democrats. The Democrats, in turn, hate the Republicans. Men declare there is no war on women, and women declare there is no war on men. And vice versa. It never ends.

So I have walked away from the church. Not because I have given up on God. Not because I don’t believe Jesus died to forgive me for the sins I have committed in this life. No. I have walked away from the church to find the truth. A truth I know is no longer in the church.

I seek the path of Jesus. Not the path of the church. Not the path of politics. Not the path of money. Not the path of success. Not the path of fame, or glory. I see the path of Jesus.

And I can no longer find that in the church.

I have to find that by walking alone. Seeking the guidance of The Father, The Son, and the Holy Ghost. And finding others who have learned the same thing I have learned. That we have all forgotten the truth. That we are all lost. And need to find the grace, and forgiveness of God.

#FTT 23 : This, To Me, Represents Love

“This, to me, represents love.” I held up a dozen cut roses. They had been Valerie’s favorite kind. Yellow in the middle, with red along the edges. I will never forget the day she left. She didn’t say where she was going. She just left a note, explaining she was leaving to find herself.

“Roses?” Helen laughed. “The ancient symbol of love, and beauty.” She looked at the roses. “And they are beautiful.”

Helen was a good friend. I sometimes dreamed of falling for her. But it was always just a dream. I knew it couldn’t happen. She was my friend. And love? Well. All I had to do was remember Valerie.

And remembering Valerie always caused me to hear Dan McCafferty’s voice, screaming in my mind.

“Love hurts,
Love scars,
Love wounds,
And mars,
Any heart
Not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain,
Take a lot of pain.”

I knew I’d never fall in love again. I knew I’d never survive that kind of pain again. I could still see holes in my heart where pieces had been. Pieces gone since Valerie left.

“You think they’re beautiful?” I had to ask.

“Yes,” she smiled, and grabbed my hand, slipping her fingers between mine. “But, fleeting.”

“How so?”

“They’re cut. They’re pretty enough now. But in a few days, they’re whither. Their petals will turn brown, and black, and fall off. And they’ll become slimy where they’re in the water in the vase.” She squeezed my hand. It felt good. I squeezed back, enjoying the simple physical contact. Just being able to touch her. Feel her hand in mine. I always found my smile when we held hands.

“Yep. Just like love.”

She frowned, but didn’t let go of my hand. “I know. You’re still wounded from her.”

I had to stare at the roses. I couldn’t look at Helen. Not right then. I couldn’t let her see the parts of me missing. I couldn’t.

I was too afraid. Afraid of what she’d see. Afraid of what I’d feel. Afraid of how I felt about her. Afraid of so many things.

“It’s OK. The roses always grow back.” She smiled again. “Every year, they bloom again.” She put her hand under my chin, and gently lifted it up, looking into my eyes. “Just like love blooms again.”

I handed her the roses. “For you.” I whispered those words.

She squeezed my hand again. “I love them.” She smiled. “And I’m not going anywhere.” She kept looking into my eyes. “I’ve got plenty of time. I intend to wait for spring, when love blooms again.” She let me look away, but kept holding my hand.

“I’ll wait for the roses to bloom again.”

456 words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Week 23 of Alissa Leonard‘s Finish That Thought. Please, go read all the creatively shared stories in this week’s challenge.

#MWBB 38 : Dirty Boulevard

“So, you think you got it bad, do ya.” Dad shook his head. “Tell you what I’m gonna do.” He grabbed me by the arm, drug me outside and tossed me into the bed of his truck. The old bastard got in, and floored it.

Never gave me a chance to complain, whine, or anything. He just took off driving. Hell, I wasn’t jumping out of the truck. Not even at stop lights, or signs. All I could do was wonder what in hell he was up to.

Son-of-a-bitch drove west. Took 22 to 78. We left Union behind. He stayed on 78 all the way into Manhattan. Then, he went north. West Street. 11th. 12th. Then the Lincoln Highway. He stopped on the corner of 42nd and 9th. Right smack in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen. Bastard got out, pulled me out of the truck bed, dumped me on that corner, and said, “If you’re alive, I’ll pick you up in the morning.”

Yeah. That’s right. 16 years old, and the bastard dumps me in Hell’s Kitchen.

Hell, I did what anyone would have done. I hid. You don’t get proud there. You find a dumpster, and you climb in. That’s just what I did. Hid in a dumpster. All night long.

You ever see anyone get shot? I did. That night. Big Mexican lookin’ dude and his buddies had a fight with a guy that looked like 50 Cent and his buddies. These guys had knives, man! Real ones. Not the pretty ones from the movies. These were black. ‘Cept for the silver strip right on the edge. Dude. They cut right through coat sleeves. Jackets. Whatever. One of the Mexican’s pulled out a gun, and shot Mr. 50 Cent. Not one of those pretty things like you see in movies. Hell no. Shot him right in the chest.

Shit. I didn’t know people had that much blood in ‘em.

I’m sitting there in the dumpster thinking, “Jesus! Don’t let me puke! Don’t let me cry! Don’t let me breathe! I don’t wanna make a sound!”

After Mr 50 Cent went down, everybody ran. In all directions. I can still hear ‘em screaming at each other. The Mexicans saying, “Yeah! Take that! Don’t fuck with us!” and the Black dudes screaming, “This ain’t the end of it!”

Hell. The cops didn’t show up for hours. Nobody came out to find out what had happened. I can understand that, you know. Go check on him, see if he’s dead. Watch the cops show up and arrest you. Or maybe someone’s watching. And they shoot whoever shows up, you know. In case you’re a friend of the dead guy.

It got worse. This car pulled up to the curb, about a block from the dead guy. Some white dude got out. Had on a suit. I mean, a good one. Not something from K-Mart. Looked rich. He was an old guy. Bald on top, you know. Head shined. Pulled a girl out of the back seat. Took her right past the dumpster I was in. I watched. He walked her into the alley. It was dark. He handed her some money. She got on her knees and stuck her head in his crotch. Old dude never said a word. Just tensed up, and then relaxed. He went back to the car, and the car drove off. She came out of the alley, and walked a couple blocks north. Handed her money to a dude in a sweatshirt, old jeans, and a Yankees cap. He handed her back a sandwich bag with some kind of powder in it. “You want more, you know how to get it.”

I hid in that friggin’ dumpster. And waited for the sun to come up.

You know. Livin’ in Union ain’t bad at all.

632 Words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for week 38 of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other entries in the challenge.

#FTT 22 : There Was Only One Thing Left To Do

There was only one thing left to do. That was laugh. So laugh I did. I’m sure the neighbors thought I’d gone insane. And I probably had. At least for a little while.

It was frickin’ cold. Snowing, too. The day before Christmas. December 24th. And I was standing outside my house, in my pajamas, my fuzzy house shoes, and my bathrobe. Watching the house burn to the ground.

Stupid cats. It was all their fault. I’d been watching the NORAD Santa Claus report. You know. The radar tracking of Santa NORAD does every year. I know. I’m all grown up. I know there’s not really a Santa. But I started watching the NORAD feed on the ‘Net when I was a kid. Dad was so proud of it. “See, Son! We can track Santa! You can get an idea of when he’ll reach our neighborhood!” He patiently explained how Santa never came when children were awake, so we could use the NORAD radar tracking system to figure out when we all needed to go to bed, so Santa could visit us.

Yeah. I fell for it. Hell, I was only 5. Santa was God back then. “Dear Santa, I want a new table computer. And a smart phone. And a Playstation 4.” And it was like God heard, and granted wishes.

Took me several years to figure out it was Mom and Dad, and not Santa. But I still watched the NORAD feed every year. And I still felt that same tingle of excitement I felt when I was five.

Of course, the cats watched the lights on the tree. I don’t know which one of them found the cord and managed to short it out, causing the spark that set the tree on fire. I just heard a crashing noise, and smelled smoke. “Jesus, what have you idiots done now!” I got up to find out what they’d done, expecting to see the tree pulled over, and lots of the glass ornaments on it broken, booby trapping the carpet.

I sure didn’t expect to see the tree glowing orange, red, yellow. But it was. I remember my words when I saw it. “Holy shit!” Yeah. I know. Original.

I grabbed my phone, dialed 911, and screamed, “Fire! The damn tree’s on fire!”

Have you ever tried to speak rationally about where you are, and what’s going on, when you’re watching your Living Room go up in smoke? “Get everyone out of the house. The fire department is on its way.”

Everyone was me, and my three cats. They were waiting patiently by the front door. We all made it outside, and stood there, in the snow, waiting for the fire department.

Like I said. There was only one thing left to do. Decide if I wanted to laugh, or cry. So, I laughed. Like an insane maniac. As I watched my home go up in smoke.

Damn cats.

490 Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Week 22 of Alissa Leonard‘s Finish That Thought. Please, go read all the creatively shared stories in this week’s challenge.