Thursday, June 26, 2014

Greetings From Toadsuck: Part 4 #FridayFlash #serial

For the beginning of the story, click here

      Everybody's got a starting point, be it as a child or even a grownup;  that moment when life starts to unspool like a line with a whale on it.  You either spend your life trying to reel in something impossible, or the line breaks and you stand there empty-handed with nothing but a story.  Some folks even get pulled overboard and drown. I know that's a funny way of thinking for someone raised a thousand miles from the sea, but there you have it.  Our whole family's peculiar in one way or another and I'm no exception.
     I'd like to say that I was thinking these thoughts when I was dangling fifty feet in the air, but I wasn't.  I was fixed on getting Bird down from the Hendricks' windmill without my falling and splattering in the dirt. No need to worry about Bird;  he was a champion climber.  Trellises, barn roofs, silos - you name it, he'd end up on top, hooting and waving his skinny arms around like Tarzan in the movies.  
     I was already queasy from the candy that Pop had bought us on his last trip to town.  It was supposed to last at least a week, but the Valomilks I had settled on had starting melting into goo the minute we left the store. I was in charge of my brother's licorice drops too, but was far better at managing his supply than my own.  It was a lucky stroke, too, because I still had some left in my pocket and it proved to be the only thing that got his attention.
     Hollering sure didn't make any difference.  You'd think he was deaf.  We'd stopped on the way home from school to get a drink and scrounge our usual biscuit at the Hendricks place, but there wasn't a soul around.  I cracked the door and called a few times, even checked the stove.  Cold. I was just helping myself to the scraps of pie left in a tin when I heard Zeke start up like he'd fallen in a pit of snakes.  I could say that my mouth went dry from fear but that was probably just the pie.  My stomach was sure enough up in my mouth though.
     I made my own little dust storm charging out the door and round the corner to where we'd left Zeke by the windmill.  He was making a God-awful sound, but I couldn't see anything wrong with him.  Finally I grabbed an ear and yelled into the hairy depths.
     "You HUSH!"
    Unexpectedly, he fell silent.  I was just congratulating myself when it dawned on me that Bird was nowhere in sight.
     "Bird.  You there Bird.  Come here.  Olly olly oxen free. Peek-a-boo.  Durn it, Charles Barrymore Dunner! You come here now!"  The sickening realization that he might have fallen down a hole or been dragged off and eaten by coyotes (the latter was a constant specter in my dreams)  made my voice squeakier than I liked.
     I was just wishing that I had my tin whistle with me when I remembered the licorice in my pocket.
     "I'm gonna eat up your candy!"
     From up above me came a howl.  There was my brother, dangling by two hands and swinging his legs to catch the next girder.  I held up a licorice drop and slowly moved it toward my mouth.  He stopped for a second, and then resumed climbing.  I was going to have to go up and get him.
     And that's how I ended up 50 feet off the ground and wishing my brother had never been born.  Climbing was never my strong suit;  I hated the woozy feeling I got in my head, the way my muscles went weak and the sensation that I was going to pee myself any minute.  But I kept on going until I was close enough for him to get a good eyeful of that licorice.
     "Look Bird! Licorice.  Got a whole bag full in my pocket.  You gotta come down to get it."
     He moved close enough to reach for the piece I held, and I broke a bit off.  Sucking on it, he closed his eyes and for a moment I thought for sure he'd fall.  But then he opened them and smiled, reaching out for another.  I slowly backed down the structure, one leg at a time, keeping each sweet bit just out of reach so he'd follow me.  About every 10 feet I'd let him grab a piece and eat it to keep his interest.  We were almost to the ground when he got fed up with the whole thing and grabbed my hand, digging his nails in.
     I let go.
     Hitting the ground felt like dying, or at least what I imagined dying might feel like.  I was flat out;  the breath had been sucked from me and I couldn't draw another for what seemed like forever.  The sky was a blue tablecloth above and everything was silent.  A gentle peace was settling over me when I felt a finger go up my nostril.
     With a whoop my lungs started up again and I had enough strength to smack Bird right upside the head.
     "Get your dirty finger outta my nose.  What's wrong with you?"  I grabbed him by the collar and pinned him in the dirt.  "You get up and quit causing me trouble." Yanking him up, I hustled him over to Zeke.  "We gotta get home.  Pop will be mad as a hornet if we don't get there in time for chores."
     He was all set to fight me on it, and I rummaged in my pocket for more licorice.  Dang.  Nothing left but the Valomilk wrapper.  But, Bird being Bird, he was as happy as a dog with two tails.  Carefully licking the wrapper, he climbed up on Zeke and settled in, crinkling the shiny wrapper and turning it this way and that, over and over again.  
     Of course, we hadn't gone more than five minutes when he dropped that wrapper and set up a ruckus.  I had to stop, get down and retrieve it - nothing but a tiny bit of trash no good to anyone. Looking back, it meant as much to him as a nickel would have meant to me, but at the time I just felt like Job of the Bible suffering through his trials.  I wished that Bird would just go away for a while and give me some breathing room.
     Somewhere along the way home I felt his arm creep around me and the heavy weight of his head between my shoulder blades.  We rode like that, mortared together with sweat and dust.  The land rolled out around us, nothing but acres of brown dirt under an angry sun.  
     For a while it felt like maybe we were the only two people left in a world of empty tomorrows. 

Continue reading - Part 5 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Greetings From Toadsuck: Part 3 #FridayFlash #serial

For beginning of the story, click here.
     Death was dust, dust was death, and both were everywhere, from the tender hollows of our necks to the windmill gallows upon which farmers' hopes once hung.We ate it, breathed it, wore it and slept in it.  Ma used to wet sheets and put them over our beds and in the morning they'd be brown and gritty.  For a time I remembered when things were good, the fields were green and there was meat for dinner and penny candy when we went to town.  But the older I got, the more it seemed like something I'd just dreamt about.
     I used to be able to walk to school, catching little snakes and turtles in the fields.  But when the dust storms started to roll,  Pop made me ride Ezekiel.  That meant no stopping, because Zeke was the stubbornest mule that ever lived.  You had to always walk up on his left because he was almost blind in the right eye and if you scared him he'd snatch at you with those big yellow teeth and bray like you'd stuck him.  I'd climb on, Pop would tell him "school" and he'd head down the road on his own.  I couldn't turn him or stop him; and he moved at one speed, unless I kicked him in the ribs.  He'd trot along just enough to rattle every bone in my body before settling back into his usual I'm-fixin-to-die-any-minute pace.  Soon as we hit the schoolyard he'd dig in his feet and wait till I got off.  Then he'd turn around and head back home, reappearing at school in the afternoon to take me home.
     That was till my brother came along.  The first time Bird toddled into the barn he went straight over to Zeke.  On the right side.  I expected him to get eaten right off the bat, but that old mule spun halfway around, fixed him with his good eye, and let out a snort.  You don't think of a mule looking surprised, but he did.  Maybe he'd never seen a miniature human before.  Anyway, they were friends after that.  Pop says that animals know enough to protect babies of any kind, and that mules are so smart they know bad people from good.  Bird was sort of that way too;  he knew that George Miller was a mean kid and bit him on the leg the first time George showed up at school.
     For a while Bird went to school with me, and that was nice.  He could get Zeke to do most anything, including stopping at the Hendricks farm on the way home to get a drink of water or maybe a biscuit from the Missus.  Bird didn't do so well at school;  he couldn't sit still, climbed out the window, ate the chalk and pinched anyone who interfered with him.  The one thing he could do was take things apart and put them back together.  Miss Ellie, the teacher, started bringing in bits and pieces from her brother's junk yard, and pretty soon he was dismantling carburetors like nobody's business.  That kept the peace until George Miller took some parts from him and that's when Bird bit him on the leg, and Miss Ellie sent a note home saying she was very sorry but Charles Barrymore Dunner could no longer come to school.
     "Pop, what's it mean when people say Bird's touched?"  I'd been turning that over in my head the whole way home from school.  Folks pointed to their heads and I was pretty sure that they were saying that Bird was crazy, but I wanted to be sure before I started kicking them in the shins.
     I remember him studying me for a minute, and that look meant that he was pondering whether I was grown up enough to understand something.
     "It means that God has laid his hands on that person and made them special.  Reached right down from heaven and touched them.  That's what makes them special, and different. Some folks are afraid of anything different. Just like old Ezekial, if they're scared they're liable to kick or bite. Some of 'em even bray like jackasses. Most of the evil in this world doesn't come from anger;  it comes from fear. Anger generally wears off over time.  It's the fearful person that you need to watch."
     "Zeke ain't afraid of Bird."  I secretly wondered if Bird was special enough to talk to animals.
     "That mule's got more sense than half the town put together.  Now suppose you go out and give him a little extra  bran mash tonight.  He's feeling under the weather this evening."
     I couldn't help but gape.  "How'd do you know that?"
     He winked.  "A little bird told me." 
Next Chapter 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Reblog From Sulci Collective: Cover Reveal - "28 Far Cries" (Flash Fiction Collection)

As you know, I love reading and writing flash fiction.  One of my favorite authors happens to be Marc Nash, who is coming out with another collection.  Marc is a master of the genre, creating memorable characters, exploring culture and society, and using language in imaginative and innovative ways.  Stop by his blog and sample some of his Friday Flash posts!   

From fellow writer Marc Nash's website:

Sulci Collective: Cover Reveal - "28 Far Cries": "Really excited that my fourth collection of flash fiction is imminent. This is my first that will be in both print and kindle, through the auspices of Gumbo Press who are publishing it.

Stories of warlords, pole dancers, alien invasions, synesthesia, incubi, railway viaducts, graffiti artists, dying superheroes, living statues, cyanide pills, vultures, toxic relationships, the first language, beheadings...

Out next week hopefully!" 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Blame It On the Dog - Drabble - #Friday Flash

Even though they'd been married for 30 years, she had difficulty recognizing the body as his.

The nanobot scrubbers had seemed like a miracle cure, busily clearing out fatty deposits in her husband's heart and arteries. A miracle until they'd learned to communicate, multiply, seek out more sustenance, consumed him from the inside out.

She waited for the scientists from the University to pick him up. The family dog whined, raising his skeletal head; apparently old age was creeping up on him, although he was only 8. Angrily scratching her increasingly itchy legs, she blamed the infestation on the dog.