Thursday, September 12, 2019

11 ~ Airborne

1 ~ Completely Opposite ...; 2 ~ Blazing; 3 ~ Kendall; 4 ~ Two Birds; 5 ~ Fox in the Trees; 6 ~ Peppermint; 7 ~ An Unmasked Truth; 8 ~ Defiance; 9 ~ Tin Lizzie; 10 ~ A Fall From Grace
     Horatio exited the black limo carrying a silver briefcase and walked into the hangar where two Learjets Challenger 650s were parked.  The driver of the limo opened the trunk and pulled out two large suitcases and placed them in front of one of the jets.  Horatio stood next to them, waiting as a man approached him from the rear of the hangar.

     "Is everything taken care of?"
     "Yes, sir.  Just as you instructed.  Are you traveling alone?  We were told that there would be one other person traveling with you."
     "No, there will be no one else boarding.  How soon can we take off?"
     "As soon as you have boarded, sir."
     "You are certain that no one knows of my plans?"
     "Yes, sir.  I made sure of it myself."

      Opening the briefcase, Horatio took out a thick envelope of cash and handed it to the man before boarding one of the jets.  The man pocketed the envelope, then took out his cell phone.

     "Está aquí."
     "¿Ya está hecho?"
     "Quiero estar seguro de que mi familia está a salvo.  Prometiste liberarlos si hacía esto.  Déjame hablar con mi esposa primero."
     
     The twin Learjets took off within minutes of each other from a private airport north of New York City.  Only one of them, however, had filed a flight plan with the FAA to Saint Helena Island, stopping to refuel in Miami and Rio de Janeiro.  Shortly after takeoff, the two jets stacked up in the sky so that any radar that happened to catch them would see only one blip on the screen, not two.  Thirty minutes after crossing into international airspace, the pilot and lone occupant of one of them set the jet's autopilot, pulled on a parachute, opened the cabin door and jumped out.  Diving through the night sky, like a peregrine falcon hunting prey, he pulled the ripcord at the last moment and gently floated down to a waiting yacht.

     The captain of the yacht watched as the pilot took off the parachute harness, then handed him a thick envelope of cash.  As the pilot turned to throw his parachute overboard, the yacht captain nodded to one of the crew members who pulled out a gun and shot the pilot in the back of the head.  Taking the envelope of money from the pilot's inside pocket, the captain waved his hand and the crew members began wrapping the body up in the parachute before it was lifted it up and dropped in the middle of a frenzy of sharks.  The sharks, drawn to the boat by bloody chum that had been tossed overboard just before the pilot landed on the deck, barely realized they were ripping apart something more than just squid and grouper.

     Now miles away in the sky, the two Challenger 650s on autopilot continued to shadow each other until one of them, carrying just a quarter of the fuel necessary for the distance needed, sensed a change in the fuel level and sounded an alarm that could barely be heard over the wind from the open door in the cabin.  Slowly it began to fall back, and sensing a slight change in altitude, the autopilot switched itself off and the jet began to fall towards the Atlantic Ocean.  

     As it dropped, the remaining Learjet continued to shadow it until both were below the radar.   Watching the other jet hit the water, the remaining jet changed course and began to head north to Tenerife Island off the coast of Spain.  Suddenly, the jet exploded and debris began to fall into the Atlantic.  A silver briefcase, now dented and blackened in places, hit the water hard.  It was filled with almost two million dollars cash, and half a million dollars worth of cocaine.

     Body parts, not incinerated in the blast, began to fall.  Horatio's head, slightly charred, his eyes and mouth wide open in surprise rolled end over end before it caught the attention of a shark.  Opening its mouth wide, it swallowed the head without even slowing down as it moved through the water, dodging pieces of aircraft sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

10 ~ A Fall From Grace

In September, the prompts will be found on Delores' blog: Mumblings. Delores was the original host of Words on Wednesday for several years. Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some, all, or none of the prompts.  1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same  2 ~ Blazing  3 ~ Kendall  4 ~ Two Birds  5 ~ Fox in the Trees  6 ~ Peppermint  7 ~ An Unmasked Truth  8 ~ Defiance  9 ~ Tin Lizzie

     Blaze sat in the boat considering what Kendall had just told him.  He had met some pretty rough people when he lived on the streets, but none of them compared to what the cartel had done to Muñoz.

     "Why are you telling me all this now?  Is that why you insisted we come out on the boat?  So no one could hear us?  Are there people listening to us now, at the cabin?"

     Kendall looked around the lake at the changing colors of the trees.  This had always been the season that spoke to his heart.  It made him contemplate life, the beauty of it, and how short it could be at times.  In the spring he watched the trees burst forth with life, new leaves, and branches that reached toward the sun.  The whole forest came alive.  

     In the fall, the trees began to change, as if they were trying to catch his attention by shouting out in bright yellows, oranges, and reds.  "Life is short, cherish it!" they called to him.  "See how beautiful it is, how beautiful we are!  Don't forget this time when things are dark and winter comes.  Spring will return, and we will do this dance around the sun once again."

     "I'm telling you this because you need to know Horatio is using us as his exit strategy.  He agreed to the foundation because something went bad and the cartel was angry.  They found out he had been stealing from them, both money and product.  He was using the coke he stole as "appetizers" at parties he threw to get young women, and men, to sleep with him and his friends.  When his party stash got low between the cartel shipments, he would cut it with other drugs.  He didn't know what he was doing and relied on some guy he met to do the cut for him.  He didn't question anything, like what he was cutting it with or where he got it."

     "Holy cow."

     "You remember meeting his secretary, Adelia?"  Blaze nodded.  

     "Adelia would bring her girls, Gloria and Samantha, to the company holiday parties, and I would hang out with them while the adults did their thing.   Easter picnics.  Memorial Day & 4th of July BBQs.  Labor Day pool parties.  Halloween costume parties.  Thanksgivings.  Christmases.  New Years.  Sam was my first kiss on New Year's Eve one year.   She was beautiful, really beautiful.  I had the hugest crush on her for the longest time.  The parties were Horatio's way of flashing his money and trying to get new clients.  As we got older, I think we all stopped going to them and I just lost touch with Sam.
     "A few years ago I heard she got in with the wrong crowd and somehow wound up at one of Horatio's private parties.  She got the attention of someone there and he slipped something into her drink when she wasn't looking.  I think he thought it would make it easier for him to seduce her or take advantage of her.  But he didn't know that Horatio's cut guy had used fentanyl to cut the coke with for that party and she had an allergic reaction and died."

     Blaze shook his head.  "Oh man.  I bet Adelia was devastated."

     "When Horatio saw who it was, he freaked out and made everyone leave.  Then he had one of his guys take her and dump her behind a bar in a bad part of town.  They made an anonymous 9-1-1 call, and at first, no one really knew what had happened to her.  They ruled it an overdose, and everyone thought it was over.  But Gloria wouldn't just let it go.  She knew her sister would never have done any hard drugs, and she started investigating it on her own.  Sam had her faults.  She drank a lot and loved to party, but never did anything more than smoke a little weed.  She'd had a bad reaction one time when she got her wisdom teeth taken out and it had scared her pretty bad, so she wouldn't do anything more than just smoke a joint occasionally.  Eventually, Gloria found out about the party at Horatio's."

     "Did she tell the cops?"

     "No.  She told Adelia, and Adelia told the feds.  She's been turning evidence over to the feds for the past year.  Somehow the cartel found out that there was someone inside Horatio's company that was giving information to the feds, so they started looking closer at what he was doing and found out about the money and product he was stealing.  He got wind that they were onto him and so started trying to figure out how he could get out of it.  That's when we showed up with the idea for the foundation, and he decided that he would dump everything on us and bail.  He's been putting money in a bank on an island somewhere and planning to fake his death in a plane crash in the Atlantic.  Horatio had his will changed to leave everything to me, no trust, no conditions, just the whole shebang so the cartel would come after me for their money.  All while he was living it up in the sun drinking Mai Tai's on a beach somewhere."

     "No way!  How did you find out about all this?"

     "I started seeing some strange entries in the books not long after he started letting me work for him and did my own digging.  I didn't like what I saw, so made some changes that would protect me if what I thought was happening was really happening.  I made sure that my salary was coming from one of the corporation's companies that weren't involved in his drug cartel business, and even then I had it go through a foundation that isn't even related to Horatio.  You know I sit on the board of a few different charitable organizations, right?  So I had my salary from Horatio split between all of them as ongoing contributions to their operating expenses.  In turn, they pay me a nominal salary for being on their boards.  It's all done legally and reported to the IRS, so I'm completely clean from what he does."

     "Geez, man.  I wish I was just one-tenth as smart as you are.  That was brilliant!"

     "Adelia came to me a week ago and told me about Horatio changing his will and trust, and that she was turning evidence for the feds.  She was worried that Horatio was setting me up.  The next day, the feds reached out to me and told me they had been watching me for a while to see if I was involved in what Horatio was doing.  They had actually been bugging the cabin for the last few months."

     "Say what?!?!?  Oh wow.  I'm so glad I never brought anyone home!  That would have been so embarrassing."  The two men laughed lightly.

     "They asked if I would be willing to testify against Horatio.  Adelia had already agreed to testify under the condition that she and Gloria go into WITSEC to protect them from the cartel.  They offered me the same thing, but I told them I needed to think about it for a week, and that I wouldn't even consider it unless they could guarantee that you would be protected also.  See, Horatio told them that all their money was going to start going through the foundation and that you would be overseeing it all.  The cartel has already started putting feelers out to find out more about you.  If Horatio disappears with all their money, the cartel is going to start looking for you to find out where it is."

     "Un-freakin-believable."

     "Yeah.  Get this, Adelia told me that Horatio insisted she put a message specifically for me in his new will.  He said, 'Tell him that there are so many ways to say 'I'm sorry' but you know I wouldn't be sincere if I said it, so I'll just say 'Best of luck to you' instead.'"

     "That's so wrong.  So cold and just so wrong.  Would I have to go into WITSEC also?"

     "If you wanted to stay alive you would."

     "Would we go together, or would we have to go separately?"

     "The feds think it would be best if we went separately.  The cartel knows that you and I are friends and that I stay up here on the weekends and during the summer.  If we go together, it might be easier for them to find us because they will be expecting that.  Separately, they think we have a better chance of really disappearing into our new WITSEC lives."

     There was silence between the two men as they contemplated what that would mean to both of them.  They were more than just friends.  They were brothers.  Family.  Neither of them had anyone they were closer to, and the thought of starting new lives without that bond between them was something almost inconceivable.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

9 ~ Tin Lizzie

In September, the prompts will be found on Delores' blog: Mumblings. Delores was the original host of Words on Wednesday for several years. Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some, all, or none of the prompts.
1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall
4 ~ Two Birds
5 ~ Fox in the Trees
6 ~ Peppermint
7 ~ An Unmasked Truth
8 ~ Defiance
     Adelia sat in the ladies room stall and typed a text in all caps on her cell phone.  "SOMETHING IS HAPPENING TONIGHT."
~*~
     Kendall and Blaze were in a boat at the far end of the lake.  As far away from from the cabin and the blue van as they could get.  Blaze cast a lure with his fishing pole and glanced back over his shoulder at the storm clouds beginning to form behind them.

     "So what's going on?  We can't stay out here forever."
     "The FBI is investigating Horatio's company, and they want me to testify against him."
     "Are you serious?  Testify about what?"

     Kendall took a deep breath and cast his line.  He had been avoiding this conversation with Blaze for years in order to protect him, only now Horatio's actions had forced his hand.

     "It started about ten years ago, right before Horatio approached me about getting my act together to take over the company.  I always thought that he was up to something because he never does anything without having an ulterior motive.  I was going to be more than just his successor.  He was setting me up to be his scapegoat."
      "What do you mean?"
      "Horatio had gone to Willow Springs, California to watch his newest toy, a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 racing a Ferrari F430 Scuderia.  He was betting that the Bugatti would be so fast it would leave ripples in the blacktop.  The Ferrari was owned by a man who had been competing against Horatio for their entire professional careers, and the bet was a large one.  All or nothing."
     "All or nothing?"
     "Their companies, their reputations, their bank accounts.  Everything."
     "Oh.  Wow."
     "Horatio saw it just as an opportunity to eliminate the competition and increase his bottom line.  Everything for him was always about the bottom line.  What he didn't realize was that the other guy, Renaldo Muñoz, was setting him up to be his exit strategy.  See, Muñoz had gotten in over his head with his partners and a business he had never wanted to be in.  Laundering money for the South American drug cartels."
     "How was he going to use Horatio as an exit strategy?"
     "The cartel wanted to move more money than Muñoz was able to do without drawing the attention of the IRS, FCC, Homeland, and the FBI.  And they wanted him to start moving product too.  So he came up with the idea of moving it all through Horatio.  The cartel bought into the idea, but Muñoz said he would only do it with the condition that he could walk away free and clear.  He knew that there was a good chance that the cartel would go back on their promise and kill him, but if there was even the smallest chance that he would be able to just disappear and life the rest of his life in peace, he had to take it."
     "So he rigged the race."
     "He let the cartel rig it so he could have plausible deniability.  They rigged the Ferrari so that when it hit a certain speed, a small device blasted the line for the accelerator and it would lose speed, allowing the Bugatti to win.  On the surface, it looked like just an unfortunate break in the line.  Only someone who knew what they were looking for would see the sabotage."

     Blaze felt a hit on his line and started reeling it in.  A large bass rolled on the surface of the water, and Kendall reached for the net.  Just as he was about to get him in, the bass jumped and spit out the lure.

     "After the race, Horatio's people went scurrying around trying to close the deal and get all the paperwork signed.  Not one of them bothered to look closely at the details of what they were really getting.... hell in a handbasket.  Those first few months were intense ones, especially when the cartel paid a visit to Horatio and explained the terms of his acquisition, and how they would define his success.  To make sure he understood, they sent him a gift the following week."
     "A gift?"
     "The card on the outside of the box had a photo of a Model T Ford on it, and the note inside said 'Do what is expected of you, and you won't have to go the way of the Tin Lizzie.'"
     "And inside?"
     "Muñoz's head.  It had been dipped in molten tin.  While he was alive."

Thursday, August 29, 2019

8 ~ Defiance

River at Drifting Through Life hosted Words on Wednesday for the month of August.  In September, the prompts will be found on Delores' blog: Mumblings.  Delores was the original host of Words on Wednesday for several years.
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some, all, or none of the prompts.
1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall
4 ~ Two Birds
5 ~ Fox in the Trees
6 ~ Peppermint

7 ~ An Unmasked Truth

     Kendall sat watching the papers curl with blue flames from the ink.  He had read the contract over and over again, then in anger, he had thrown it into the fireplace.  The words ran like an endless loop in his mind as he tried to comprehend what was going on.

     That his father was involved in somehow defrauding investors had not yet crossed his mind, but it was creeping in along the edges.  What he did know for sure was that the contract did nothing to protect himself or Blaze, and everything to protect his father.  In fact, nowhere in the contract was his father's company even mentioned.

     A knock at the door signaled that Horatio's assistant had returned for the contract, expecting it to be signed by Blaze.  Kendall raised his crystal lo-ball glass with a shot of Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey in it to watch the flames glittering through it like a crystal kaleidoscope.

     Anton entered the living room with anger in his steps.  He was wearing a pair of ridiculously bright aqua, patent leather shoes that perfectly matched his suit.  His pale pink shirt was topped by a buttercup colored bow tie that almost glowed with the absurdity of it all.  Anton wore rings on almost every finger, diamonds, and small pearls in each earlobe.  It was all Kendall could do to keep from laughing out loud at how much he resembled an Easter egg.

     "What does he mean he didn't sign it, Kendall?  Your father is expecting me back at the office in an hour, and he expects that contract to be signed.  Now, where is it?"

     Kendall tipped his glass towards the fireplace, and Anton's face turned bright red.  "You have got to be kidding me!?!?!  That was the original contract!  What am I supposed to tell your father?"
     "You can tell him I said he could go to hell."
     "I think you are forgetting who butters your bread, Kendall.  You might want to rethink whatever course of action you're taking right now."

     Kendall stood slowly and turned towards Anton, causing the small man to stumble backward.  "Are you threatening me, Anton?  Because I don't fill my wallet with my father's money.  My money is my own.  I may work at my father's company, but I've made very sure to keep my nose clean from his side business.  You, on the other hand, have a lot to worry about.  So I'd be careful about threatening me.  I know more about his business than he thinks I do, and I've made sure to cover my assets."
~*~
     On the other side of the lake, a half a mile away, two men were wearing headphones in a navy blue van.  One of them made a note of the date and time on a pad of paper and jotted two words:  Turn Kendall.  The other took a stapled sheaf of paper with the word Directory printed on the top of it off a shelf, pulled out a cellphone and dialed.
~*~
     Adelia was busy adding figures on a calculator when Horatio opened the door to his office.  "Delia, do you have a few minutes?"
     "Yes, of course, sir.  I'll be right there.  Would you like me to bring you a cappuccino also?"
     Horatio nodded and closed his door.  Adelia finished tallying the figures and made a note on a piece of paper.  She turned to the cappuccino machine on the credenza behind her and set a mug under the spout.  Glancing over her shoulder to see if there was anyone near, she reached into her jacket pocket and switched a mini recorder to sound activated.
     She walked into the office and set the cappuccino next to Horatio, who was staring at a crossword puzzle in the Wall Street Journal.  He had a few rows filled but was stumped on one of the columns.  Adelia looked over his shoulder.  "Brother powder.  Five letters."
     Horatio looked up at her.  "Do you know it?"
     "Of course.  Every good secretary knows that one.  It's a toner.  Brother makes toner powders for copiers and printers."
     "How long have you been with me, Delia?"
     "Fifteen years, sir.  Not counting the two years I took off for my girls."
     "How many do you have?"
     "Just one now, sir, Gloria.  Samantha died two years ago from an accidental overdose."
     "Accidental?'
     "Yes.  She was at a rave party and her boyfriend put it in her drink.  He thought it would be funny."
     "Hmm. What does he think now?"
     "I don't know, sir.  He's in prison."
     "And Gloria?  How is she?"
     "She's doing well, sir.  Was there something else you needed me to do, sir?"
     "I'd like to update my will and trust.  Do you have a copy of them?"

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

a woman of a certain age...

Yes, yes, yes ... affiliate links abound!
 I have no qualms in admitting my age, especially since it caught me by surprise.  I turned 57 this year.  I hadn't expected to live past 40, especially when I was 16 and calculating how ancient wise I would be when the year 2000 rolled around.

But if I had been wise at the age of 16, and not ignorant of the damage that roasting my skin in the sun on Florida beaches would cause, I probably would have put sunscreen on.  I am of European ancestry, with honesttogoodnessreal red hair (once upon a time anyway), and my skin has always been prone to freckle burn blister peel repeat.

Now the perfect tan made up of freckles that I had once strived to achieve is marred with scars from where sun damage, cancerous and pre-cancerous spots have been frozen and cut from my face, arms and chest.  My turkey neck is was dry and wrinkled.  What's that you say?  Past tense?  Why yes!  

I've been dabbling with essential oils for the past couple of years to help heal and improve my skin, especially with the long, dry, and freezing winters here that sap all the moisture out of my already damaged skin.  Especially oils that hint at being the same ones Cleopatra used.

I've found two Jade Bloom blends recently that have made such a remarkable difference, I wish I'd taken before and after photos.


CLEAR
The first blend, CLEAR Daily Skin Blend for Women, I use in the morning after cleaning my face from the night grunge of snuggling with my dog Charlie and drooling in my sleep.  Total transparency here.

I've been using it mostly to help reduce the visibility of the scar on my face from my most recent surgery, and it has really helped it to fade.  It is also good for preventing wrinkles and keeping skin soft.

TONE
After applying it to my face, I massage the excess into the backs of my hands and my upper chest and neck area.

At night I use TONE Skincare Concentrate mixed with the carrier Rosehip Seed Oil Virgin.  After washing my face, I apply it on my face, neck, upper chest, and the backs of my hands.
"Rosehip seed oil towers over all other oils as the queen of skincare oils. The seeds are replete with Vitamin A. Rosehip oil greatly diminishes stretch marks and helps to remove wrinkles from the previously damaged skin. It combats inflammation and reduces the visibility of scars and blemishes. With regular use it will increase collagen levels, allowing for greater elasticity. It is a non-greasy oil which absorbs easily. Jade Bloom recommends placing this oil on at night -- you will wake up glowing like a Queen or King!"
Regardless of your own age, it's never too late to start treating your skin with a little TLC...

Update:  I managed to find some old photos to share to follow up on my post ...
These are some before photos:
 the one above is from 2017 and shows the fine lines and wrinkles on my neck and upper chest
below is the scar on my face after having some skin cancer removed.  this was taken a few days after I took my stitches out in April 2019.

and here is an after picture that I took just this morning
while not as easy to see, the skin on my neck and upper chest has improved dramatically from 2017

Thursday, August 22, 2019

WEP Red Wheelbarrow

Write Edit Publish!
It was dark when I finished. The sun had set hours ago, and if you wanted to survive you didn't dare even light a candle once that happened.  But I had to finish what I was doing and I couldn't wait until morning.  Still, I wasn’t quite done yet. I still needed to dispose of … it.

It.

I was surprised at how odd it was that I no longer was able to even think of it as something that was once human. But then again, this wasn't really a very humane time for any of us, was it?

Perhaps there was something here, in the garage.  I reached out blindly and took a few steps to what I thought was the rear of the garage.  I hadn't planned for it to happen here, but sometimes an opportunity arises and you just have to grab it.

My knee hit something hard in the pitch black and I reached my hand down cautiously.  Metal.  Cold as ice in this weather.  Rounded.  Was that a handle?  I shuffle walked around the edge and stubbed my bare toe on something.  Damn that hurt.  Bending even further down now, I felt a tire.  What was this?  A wheelbarrow?  Perfect.

I had come in here looking for something.  What, I couldn't even remember now.  Shock must be setting in.  Adrenaline.  The killing could do that to someone.  Killing?  Is that even what it was?  Weren't they already dead?  Well, maybe not.  I didn't know the science behind it all.  There wasn't enough time in the day to waste it trying to understand what had happened.  Once the sun went down and the electricity was shut off everywhere, all you could do was hunker down and wait for sunrise.  Try to sleep if you could through the noise they made.

It was the noise that would really make you crazy.  The last bit of humanity that they had, and you almost wished they didn't.  It was like listening to a wounded animal.  That deep guttural moaning of something not quite dead yet, but very aware and terrified that it was soon going to be.  It was the sound of fear.  You could even smell it on them when they came close to you.

No one knew how or where it started.  Almost overnight it just "happened."  Newspaper reports said that it was something from space that came down with a dead satellite.  Television newscasters said that it was a biological weapon experiment gone wrong.  The vegans said it was from chemicals in the meat.  The meat industry said it was pesticides on the plants.  Bible thumpers said it was "The Enemy" or "Satan."  Satanists said it was God.  The Left said it was The Right, and The Right said it was the Conservatives.   I really didn't care anymore.  I just wanted to survive.

I rolled the wheelbarrow back to where I thought it was on the floor.  That's odd.  Maybe it is over there just a bit?  I stretched my foot out, not wanting to really touch it again, but knowing I had to find it to get it into the wheelbarrow.

With all the fingerpointing, we still didn't know how it was transmitted from person to person, or if it was airborne, in the water, or just a sudden mutation of everyone's DNA.  You could go to bed with your significant other and wake up with ... something else entirely.  Only you wouldn't even know it until after the sun went down.  For some reason, the artificial light showed you what it really was.  Like it reflected the light differently, even candlelight.

Where is it?  I could have sworn it was ... ah, found it.  Thank God.  I was starting to freak out a little.  Ugh, what a smell.  Deep breath, hold, get it in the wheelbarrow, turn, breathe, again.  Watch out for the shovel that I used to kill it, don't stub ... ouch!  Damn it!  Why didn't I put shoes on before I came in here?  Oh, yeah, now I remember why I came in here.  Shoes.  I'd left my shoes in here because they were muddy after the rain, so I took them off before I shut the garage door.

The thing about it all was that it wasn't even really considered dangerous.  I mean, no one had been killed by one that I knew of.  But we didn't waste any time killing them.  Because ... I don't know why.  If they weren't dangerous, what were they?  Different?  They didn't look different in the daylight.  It was just after dark when you knew they were.  Because of the sound.  And that smell.  Wait, is that sunlight under the garage door?  Finally!

I opened the garage door and turned to see what it looked like.  The wheelbarrow was red with all the blood and gore.  I'd grabbed the shovel when I heard it and smelled it after I flipped the light on in the closed garage.  Swinging wildly, I'd hit the bulb and plunged the garage back into darkness, but I could hear it screaming in fear and pain as I struck it again and again.  I must have hit it a thousand times trying to make sure it was really dead, not knowing where I was hitting, just hearing the blade of the shovel hit flesh and bone again and again.  Splatter had hit my face and hands, and I'd almost slipped once in the blood on the floor.

In the daylight, I could see that it was not as large as I had thought it was, and wait ... is that blond hair?  Those pajamas, they look just like ... oh no no no no no no no NO NO NO NO NO NO NO ... DJ! My son my baby boy my DJ!  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

~*~
Word Count: 972:FCA
This is my first time writing with "Write...Edit...Publish" and I welcome your comments!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

7 ~ An Unmasked Truth

River at Drifting Through Life will be hosting Words on Wednesday for the month of August. This rotating party of words was started by Delores a long time ago. Computer issues led her to bow out for a while. The party was too much fun to let go, and now Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some or all of the prompts.

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall
4 ~ Two Birds
5 ~ Fox in the Trees

“So it is more useful to watch a man in times of peril, and in adversity to discern what kind of man he is; for then at last words of truth are drawn from the depths of his heart, and the mask is torn off, reality remains.”
― Lucretius
     Kendall's father, Horatio Alexander Creek, was called Horatio by all who worked with him, but Alex by his close friends and family.  His father had held an avid interest in war history and especially Lord Nelson whom he named his firstborn son after.  He actually hated the name Horatio but felt that it gave him an air of regality and commanded respect in the business world.  It also helped him to distinguish the people within his trusted circle and his enemies rather quickly.   If the truth were to be told, which Alex seldom did anyway, there were fewer than a handful of people who even knew what his middle name was.  Alex trusted no one.  He hadn't made it as far as he had in business by trusting people.

     He stood before the full-length mirror in a walk-in closet that was larger than some New York apartments, adjusting a coral-colored tie.  Taking matching colored endangered coral cufflinks out of a box, he slipped them onto his handmade white linen French cuff shirt.  He glanced over at the wall-mounted television to his left and called out "Weather."  Instantly the channel changed from the stock exchange to The Weather Channel.  Noting that the evening temperature was once again going to be cooler than expected for August, he walked across the room and pulled down a black vicuña wool suit.

     Normally he would conduct all of his business meetings at Masa, where he expected his clients to pay for the entire meal, a bill that could sometimes be several thousand dollars depending on how many were dining with him.  Dining at Masa served to let him know how serious the client was in investing with him, and it also gave him free publicity as the paparazzi delighted in selling photos of the elite clientele to New York's Page Six.

     But some business meetings demanded the utmost discretion, and for those, he held them in Central Park where two men casually walking and talking along one of the many random paths would draw little attention, and even more important, be less likely to be overheard or photographed.

     As he adjusted another piece of endangered coral, this time a black coral tie-tack, there was a knock at the door of the closet.

     "I wasn't aware you were going out tonight, Father.  I was hoping we could have dinner tonight and go over some of the details for Blaze's foundation."
     "Um, yes, well I've got a business meeting tonight with a potential investor and it will have to wait for another night."
     "Perhaps I could join you?  I haven't eaten at Masa's in quite a while, and I would like to learn more about this side of things.  Excuse me for saying so, Father, but there has been talk that you will be stepping down sooner than you anticipated?"

     The color left his face and Alex turned quickly looking at Kendall in surprise, "Talk?  What do you mean?  Who has been talking?  What have they said?"

     Kendall was caught off-guard by his father's apparent shock at what he had said, "I'm sure it is nothing more than watercooler gossip, sir.  You know how you strike fear in everyone.  Perhaps it was just an associate's wishful thinking?"
     "Umph.  Perhaps you should be spending less time around the watercooler and more time learning how to be a little more professional looking?  Who makes your clothes?  Make an appointment to meet with my secretary tomorrow and have her give you my tailor's information.  You look like you shop at Goodwill.  Now leave me.  I need to finish getting prepared for my meeting."

     Two hours later, just as Alex passed a rocky outcrop for the second time, a man stepped out of the shadows and walked alongside him.  Alex said nothing until the man had chosen an alternate path for them to walk that would take them deeper into the park and the dark.

     "Are you certain you weren't followed?"
     "No less than you are.  How certain are you that the money we are cleaning through the foundation won't be traced back to us?"
     "I'm positive.  My son is too stupid to know the difference between his ass and a hole in the ground, and his friend is even more of an idiot.  How certain are you that the drugs you are smuggling can't be traced to me or my company?"
     "I'm not sure my boss would appreciate what you are insinuating."
     "Which is?"
     "That your son is smarter than he is."

     Blaze sat in the living room reading through the stack of paperwork that Horatio had given him to sign.  He'd read through it three times already, but there was still something that seemed off about it.  As the daylight in the room began to fade, he reached up to the table lamp beside him and switched the light on.  If he had turned to look, he would have seen the small black microphone that had been placed just inside of the lampshade.  It might have made him curious enough to check all the lampshades in the room, but just as he started to turn his head the sound of a key in the front door lock caused him to look in that direction instead.

     "Kendall, come look at this."
     "What is it?"
     "The paragraph here about how the foundation will be funded.  I've read it four times now, and it just isn't making any sense to me.  It's like circular logic."
     "Didn't the corporate attorney go over it with you?"
     "No, your dad's assistant came by and dropped it off earlier.  He said to just sign where indicated and he would be back to pick it up in two hours.  He's going to be here in about 20 minutes, but I'm not signing anything I don't understand.  I'm not a rocket scientist, but it looks to me like the foundation is funding itself.  I just can't figure out where the money is coming from.  It also looks like both you and I would accept full responsibility and liability for any failure of the foundation to perform as promised."
     "Let me see that."

     Kendall sat down at the dining room table and read through the document slowly.  The more he read, the more he felt furious immobility begin to overcome him.  Why would his father have drawn up a contract like this?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

6 ~ Peppermint

     River at Drifting Through Life will be hosting Words on Wednesday for the month of August. This rotating party of words was started by Delores a long time ago. Computer issues led her to bow out for a while. The party was too much fun to let go, and now Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.
     Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some or all of the prompts.

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall
4 ~ Two Birds
5 ~ Fox in the Trees


     Blaze scratched his neck where his collar rubbed from the tie he was wearing.  He felt like a fish out of water and wondered if this was all a mistake.  Kendall had insisted that he present the idea to his father and the board of directors.  They had argued over it for two days.  Blaze felt that his lack of education would give the board reason to treat him with derision, but Kendall felt that it was Blaze's personal experience that would make the presentation believable.

     "Hey, the secretary over there thinks that you look like Keanu Reeves and wants to know if you'd like her phone number?"

     Blaze looked where Kendall indicated, and then back again to see Kendall crying with a stifled laugh.  The secretary was probably as old as his grandmother might have been, and had thick glasses on.  She was busy filing papers while answering the phone headset she had balancing on her hair bun.

     "Yeah, right.  She needs to get her eyes checked.  Pretty funny Mr. Mendacious."
     "Oh, a big word there!  Have you been watching Wheel of Fortune again?"
     "No, Jeopardy.  It has given me a plethora of names for you."

     The two men laughed, breaking the tension that they both felt.  The board meeting had gone well, and surprisingly Blaze's presentation was well received.  Each of the twenty board members and Kendall's father had been given detailed manuscripts of the proposal for their review.  Now the two friends were waiting to find out whether or not they had voted in favor of establishing the foundation.

     "Look, I know all of this stuff is a little unfamiliar to you, but have you thought at all what you want to call the foundation if they approve it?"
     "I hadn't really thought about it.  I mean, the last few weeks have been just a blur with trying to get everything ready for today's meeting.  I just never even imagined that it would get this far."
     "And now?"

     Blaze looked out the window at the city below and remembered someone he met once on the street.  A girl he had liked, and thought that maybe if their lives had been different they might have had something.  He spoke her name so gently that at first, Kendall thought he was vaguely mistaken.  But the expression on Blaze's face told him that there was something more.

     "Tell me about her."
     "She was a runaway, like me, but a few years younger.  When I first saw her, she was hiding in the same dumpster I was.  I'd almost jumped in on top of her.  It was right after the holidays, and she had covered herself in some kind of ornamental garland.  I didn't even realize she was there until she moved."

     Blaze thought back to that night.  It was freezing, and the sides of the dumpster were so cold that he thought for sure he was going to freeze right to them.  He moved to get more trash between him and the metal, and as he did, she moved to the corner farthest from him, startling him in the process.  Neither of them spoke that night, nor did they sleep, unsure of what the other might do if they did.  In the morning he watched her slip out of the dumpster, a piece of peppermint candy stuck in her hair.

     She was beautiful in a way he had never seen before in a girl.  Her eyes had been blue, like the cornflowers that grew in the field where he liked to sit when he needed to get away from the city.  Strawberry blond hair that fell below her shoulders, and a sprinkling of freckles across her nose and cheeks.  He'd only heard her laugh one time when she was playing with a stray puppy, but other than that time he'd never heard her speak. 

     He saw her only a few more times after that before he heard that she'd been killed.  No one really knew how.  Some said she'd been trapped and crushed in a garbage compactor truck.  Others said she'd killed herself when she'd been raped and forced into prostitution.  The saddest thing about her death, however, was the fact that no one knew her name or where she had come from.  Somewhere there were parents missing a child, who would never know that her laughter had been silenced forever.

     If he spent too much time thinking about all the what-ifs, his thoughts would lead him down a dark tunnel, spinning out of control.  What if he had said something to her that first night in the dumpster?  What if he had protected her?  What if, what if, what if?  His eyes narrowed as he tried to fight back unexpected tears.

     Kendall put a hand on his shoulder just as the door of the boardroom opened.

     "They're ready for you."
~*~
     The man watched from a dark SUV across the street, waiting for Kendall and Blaze to exit the building.  It was his job to signal that they were on their way back to the cabin, alerting the men who were searching it, planting bugs and cameras.
~*~
     The fire sparked as Kendall moved the logs around to burn evenly.  Blaze sat silently watching the flames dance.

     "What are you thinking?"

     Blaze shook his head.  "So many things, and nothing at all.  I was trying to think of a name for it, but then I was going to bed, where I planned to stay until Christmas.  I know who I want to name it after, but I just don't have a clue what her name was.  I can't call it The Peppermint Foundation.  People will think Charlie Brown is running it."

     "Why can't you name it The Peppermint Foundation?  Her story is everything the foundation is about.  It's about finding the lost and giving them names.  Maybe in the process, we could try to find out who she was.  I'm sure the police have pictures of her, don't they?

     "I really don't know.  It's been so long, there were so many stories about how she died, I don't even know what the truth is.  All I know is that one day she was there, and the next day she was gone.  It was a crazy time back then, always struggling to find food, trying to find a warm, dry place to sleep at night, running from the gangs and the cops.  Even when I calmly said I'm always careful, I'd step straight into a puddle.  I don't even know if I ever gave anyone my real name, and I'm sure if she ever told anyone, it probably wasn't her real name.  Sometimes people went to the streets to disappear.  It wasn't always involuntary."

     They sat silently after that.  Watching the flames.  Listening to the distant howl of a wolf, and dismissing the sound of branches breaking in the woods as just being deer moving in the underbrush.  Neither of them suspected the storm that was coming.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

5 ~ Fox in the Trees

     The Wise Web Woman at The Other Side of Sixty has been hosting Words on Wednesday for the month of July 2019. This rotating party of words was started by Delores a long time ago. Computer issues led her to bow out for a while. The party was too much fun to let go, and now Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.
     Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some or all of the prompts.

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall
4 ~ Two Birds


     Blaze's ingenious idea involved purchasing vacant and abandoned shopping centers that were a blight on communities and repurposing them in a way that made them living centers for the homeless, especially those that spent time living in the subway during the winter months.  The large anchor chain store (most often grocery stores) would be transformed into two levels of one-room "studio" apartments, each with a small shower stall bathroom and kitchenette.  What had previously been a refrigerated section in the rear of the store would become a common laundry facility for the residents.

     The smaller stores that had formed the shopping center would become a variety of different business, health, and educational offices designed to train the residents in an employable skill so that they could reenter society.  Residents would receive health care (physical and mental) to ensure that they would be in better health, and without question, assist in helping them maintain sobriety if necessary.  

     Once trained, residents would be employed at one of the businesses that made up the center in order to get actual work experience that could then be put on a resume or used for reference.  They would be given money management classes and savings accounts at a small bank branch that would make up one of the smaller stores.  Residents would also be trained in how to use a computer and provided with library cards to access public use terminals to assist in educational assignments.

     Residents (in a step up from sleeping on a bench) would be given one-year rent-free apartments as long as they were making efforts and progress towards becoming self-sufficient, fully functional, contributing members of society.  At the end of the year, they could remain at the facility, however, would be responsible for paying rent and "utility payments" for up to another two years.  These funds would be set aside in an investment account in the resident's name.  

     At the end of the two years, these funds would be used to assist in purchasing a home through Habitat for Humanity, which they would also be required to help build, and establishing new utility services for the person.  They could also be used to purchase a used vehicle to assist them in getting to and from work.  Residents would be helped to find work outside of the center, and since many of the homeless are disabled and/or veterans, many employers were willing to hire them for the tax breaks they would receive or the Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Plan points they would receive.
     
     By making the centers non-profit and designed to assist the communities in revitalizing neighborhoods and helping people get back on their feet, the foundation would be able to utilize tax breaks in purchasing the properties.  They would also be able to apply for and receive federal and state grants for education, health care, and employment opportunities for the residents.

     Residents of the centers would be given a voice in their communities and encouraged to vote, and contribute to public meetings that had an impact on how future centers were created, organized, and run.  Their experiences, both in and out of the centers, would be crucial in making sure that the foundation met the needs of all involved.

     Blaze knew that the first center purchased would need to be the model for all others, and it was from his experience of living on the streets that made him certain this was something every large city would benefit from.  He wondered how different his life might have been if he'd had access to such a facility when he was 15 and sleeping in the fishmongers' dumpsters to hide him from some of the homeless he'd met on the streets.

     Homeless shelters that just provided a cot and a meal did nothing to help educate him on how to be self-sufficient.  If anything, they taught him how to be comfortable sleeping in everything he owned, how to be satisfied with just one small meal a day, and how to fight for his life when attacked in the dark.  

     Runaway teens, such as he had been, would not only have a safe environment to live, but they would be given simple life skills that he hadn't learned until he met Kendall.  Things like opening a bank account, writing a check, establishing utilities in his name, filling out a job application or writing a resume.  They would be taught how to cook simple meals for themselves, do laundry, and the chore Blaze still hated the most ... how to fold a fitted sheet.

     Kendall had sat quietly while Blaze presented his idea to him, occasionally nodding his head in agreement, or shaking his head in sad disbelief at some of the things Blaze had endured on the streets.  He had been blown away by Blaze's conviction and enthusiasm for the concept of being able to help other homeless teens.

     "You can't even conceive how many young girls I met who had left an abusive situation at home only to be pulled in by a pimp promising protection who just got them hooked on a needle and turned them out for tricks.  Girls who believed that was all they would ever be worth because of what had happened to them at home, and then brainwashed by the pimps to believe they still deserved to be treated that way.

     "Or the vets who couldn't cope with their PTSD and thought it would be easier to just disappear on the streets rather than put their families through their nightmares.  Only to find out that life on the streets only made the PTSD worse because they were now constantly living in fear of getting busted, or trying to find a meal.  I mean, it was just a new demon on their back that was joining forces with the other demons to make them even more paranoid.  I met some who were so out of touch with reality that they thought they were still in Iraq."

     Kendall stood and watched the sun come up over the horizon.  The two men had been talking all night, yet neither of them seemed exhausted.  In fact, Kendall had never felt more alive and with a purpose than he did at this moment.  What Blaze had proposed was not just brilliant, but something that made him feel like their meeting all those years ago was more than just a coincidence.  It was fate.  He couldn't wait for the opportunity to share the idea with his father.

     "Pretty stupid idea, huh?"

     "What?  No!  Not at all!  In fact, I think it is incredible.  Monday morning I want us to sit down in my office with one of my assistants and start getting it all in writing and doing all the research on what it would entail to make it happen.  I don't want my father to find any loophole or glitch that will keep it from coming to fruition."

     "Seriously?"

    "Dead seriously.  We've got a lot of work to do.  The board meets again in three weeks, and I want to have a flawless proposal to present to them at that meeting."  Kendall grinned at Blaze, and the two men laughed again.

     Sitting back in the trees in the shadows, the fox nodded and turned to go back to his den and family.

     He didn't see the man standing behind a tree a few yards away, silently watching Kendall and Blaze.

Friday, July 26, 2019

4 ~ Two Birds

The WiseWebWoman is hosting Words on Wednesday for the month of July 2019.  This rotating party of words was started by Delores a long time ago. Computer issues led her to bow out for a while. The party was too much fun to let go, and now Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some or all of the prompts.


1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall

     Kendall had finished at the last resort boarding school his father had sent him.  To his father's surprise, he had then gone on to pursue a Master's degree in Business Administration at Harvard.   What his father didn't know was that Kendall had more interest in delegating work than actually doing it, and he knew an MBA degree would give him the knowledge to be able to do that.

     He met Blaze in the mountains two years after he graduated from Harvard, and almost five years before he would assume control of his father's billion-dollar company.  In that time, the two young men became inseparable friends.

     Kendall asked his father if he could purchase the house on the lake where he had met Blaze, and it became the first real home that Blaze had ever lived in.  During the week, Kendall worked for his father, learning every aspect of the business.  He spent weekends, holidays, and one month each season at the lake. 

     For his part, Blaze kept the woodpiles stocked, and freezers full of fresh fish, venison, and fowl.  During the week, he worked part-time at a small lakeside bait, tackle, and grocery store, helping locals and tourists.  It was the first time he'd ever held a job for more than a few months, and the first time someone ever trusted him with money.  After two years, he started working full-time at the store, and when the owner decided it was time to retire and do a little fishing of his own, Blaze bought it.

     Blaze taught Kendall what it meant to struggle on the streets, how to fight for what you want, and how to survive anything that life, or man, would throw at him.  His hunger and pain took Kendall to places he'd never experienced, and through his eyes, he learned how to have compassion and empathy for those who had nothing.

     Over late-night games of Scrabble, Kendall shared his knowledge with Blaze.  Music, art, history, culture.  His words took Blaze to places he'd never even heard of, and through his eyes, he saw the world as a limitless place to explore instead of as a cold, heartless city on a sphere floating in nothingness.

     One winter night as the two sat by a warm fire pit, they'd been surprised to see a red fox sitting on the opposite side of the fire warming himself in the glow.

     "You know what I don't miss when I'm up here, Blaze?"
     "No, what?"
     "Traffic lights, and all the crazy, insane drivers on the highways.  The noise of gunfire, sirens, screams, and just all the chaos of the city.  It's so quiet up here, you can hear the snow falling."
     Blaze nodded in agreement, "So what's going on with the company?  Anything new on announcing your arrival in the President's office?"
     Laughing, Kendall shook his head.  "No.  Father still wants me to be able to lasso the moon with a new idea on where I can take the company after he steps down.  Until I can present him with something that knocks him off his feet, I think he's planning on holding that office until they find him mummified at his desk with his phone to his ear."
     "Hmmm, I wonder...."
     "Wonder what?"
     "Is he expecting you to come up with a new gadget that will power your car out of dandelions or is he looking for something that will kill two birds with one stone?"
     "What do you have in mind?"
     "Remember earlier this year when you said your father was complaining about having to pay so much in taxes?  What if you came up with an idea for a non-profit foundation that he could use to offset some of the taxes he paid?  And in the process, it created jobs and homes to help get people off the street?"
     "I'm intrigued.  How'd you like a job on my board one day?"

      The two men laughed and the fox turned his head to look at them quizzically, causing both of them to roar with laughter as the fox shook its head and disappeared into the darkness.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

3 ~ Kendall

The WiseWebWoman is hosting Words on Wednesday for the month of July 2019. (altho my contributions often come much later in the week!)
The rotating party of words was started by Delores a long time ago. Computer issues led her to bow out for a while. The party was too much fun to let go, and now Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some or all of the prompts.

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing

     "I'm disappointed in you, Kendall.  That was the third boarding school you've been expelled from in less than two years.  What do you have to say for yourself?"
     "Father, I'm bored at school.  Why can't I just stay home with you and mother?"
     "Impossible.  You know your mother is busy with her charitable foundations, and I'm busy at the office.  Neither one of us has the time for you."
     "Gee, thanks."
     "Your sarcasm is noted, but doesn't help you at all.  You've given me no alternative but to send you to the last school that will accept someone with your attitude.  You can consider this the end of the highway for you, Kendall.  You either succeed at this school or you will be cut off completely."
     "And if I succeed?"
     "You will be given a car of your choosing and the funds and resources to live your life as you choose.  However, you will be expected to one day assume the responsibilities of managing my companies and your mother's foundations, so choose your life wisely."

     There was a brief knock at Kendall's bedroom door as it opened, and a tall redheaded woman in a neon green bikini that barely covered her stepped in.

     "Jimmy, honey, are you coming back downstairs?  We miss you and we're running out of champagne and caviar."

     Kendall's father turned without another word and walked out of the bedroom, closing the door firmly behind him.
~*~
     Blaze sat in the woods on the edge of town, watching a crow pick at a piece of yarn that glittered with silver and gold.  He was hungry and tired of living on the streets, but he refused to go back to either one of his parents and continue to be the pawn in their hatred of each other.
     He watched a spider crawl across the top of his boot, and taking his knife he flipped it off and into the dirt.  Reaching for a brown paper bag on the ground next to him, he took a swig of the beer he had convinced an old man to buy for him.  It was hot, and nasty tasting, but it dulled the ache in his stomach.
~*~
     It was still more than a year away from when their lives would collide in a way that would change both of them.  But already they were becoming men to be reckoned with. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

i won! i won!

[jumping up and down!]

I entered a fun little writing contest last week, and I won!
The objective was to write a short 200-word story about the picture below.
It was sponsored by a coffee company: The Write Coffee, that I had received a sample bag of in my latest Scribbler box.
Their coffee is soooooooo smooth!  OMG it was amazing!
When I got a newsletter about the contest to win a bag of their coffee, I was all in!
My entry is below, and here is a link to the blog it appears in:  [click here].
As a child, Samuel Langhorne Clemens often pondered the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg.  

It was a perplexing dilemma since fried chicken was one of his absolute favorite meals. He couldn’t imagine the early residents of Missouri having to wait for an egg to hatch and then become a full grown chicken before they could enjoy the delicious morsels of fried chicken.  Especially since his second favorite meal was his momma’s biscuits and sausage gravy served with eggs over easy, cheese grits, and fresh brewed Writer’s Block coffee.  

For that matter, he didn’t even know how any chickens survived to be full grown southeast of the Mississippi River.  But he was deeply grateful that there had been at least a few so that the world, and his momma, could discover the culinary delight known as fried chicken.  

While not widely known, especially in the literary world, it was Samuel who passed along his momma’s recipe to Margaret Ann Sanders during a chance meeting while on vacation with his family in Indiana.  She, in turn, passed it down to her oldest boy, Harland Sanders, who later moved to Kentucky and the rest, they say, is history. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

2 ~ Blazing

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same

     Blaze wasn't his real name.

     His father, Edward Johnson, was a history professor, and his mother, Catherine, a chronic romantic.  They had met at a lecture and display of items recovered from the Titanic.  They married six months later on a replica of the Titanic's grand staircase and the entire wedding party wore gowns and tuxedos from the early 1900's.

     Within a year it became apparent that their marriage had hit an iceberg and was quickly sinking.  Hoping to save their marriage, Catherine stopped taking her birth control.  A year later, Edward John Smith Johnson was born.  Named after the captain of the Titanic, he was teased and bullied mercilessly when he reached middle school.

     One particularly painful day when he was being tormented by a much older boy at school, Edward skipped his lunch period to go to a corner station near the school.  Taking an empty soda can from the trash, he took the nozzle from each gas pump and squeezed the handle over the can, trying to get any residual gas left in the hose from when it was last used.

     Knowing that the older boys liked to hid out to smoke in a stairwell going down to an unused maintenance cellar, Edward planned on scaring them with a homemade bomb.  Tearing the collar of his t-shirt that one of the boys had already torn in a beating that morning, be stuffed it in the small opening on the soda can and lit it with a lighter he had found in the station's parking lot.  Opening the door to the stairwell, he heard the boys laughing as he tossed the can in and slammed the door shut.

     Edward had never done anything like that before, but he had seen something similar done on TV in the past.  As he hid around the corner of the maintenance building, waiting for the explosion, he heard the door slam open and the boys spilling to the ground coughing and laughing.

     [Boy 1] "What the blazes was that?"
     [Boy 2] "I don't know, man, some kind blazing Coke can.  It stunk like gasoline!"
     [Boy 3] "Are you sure that wasn't one of your farts man?  Good thing it wasn't glass or we'd have gone up in smoke.  Did your flip flop melt when you stomped it out?"
   
     A fourth boy came up the stairs with the can in his hands, laughing.

     [Boy 4] "Holy molotov!  That idiot just barely put in enough gas to light the t-shirt, and look at this!  His name is on the piece of t-shirt he used!"

     All of the boys were laughing now, too hard to hear the school's maintenance man come up behind them.

     "What in blue blazes is going on here?  Is that cigarette smoke I smell on you boys?  What's that you have in your hands?  Is that a molotov cocktail?  Give me that!  Get up to the principal's office right now, and don't even think about taking a detour to the parking lot.  I know who you hellions are!  I've seen you 'round here plenty."

     From that day forward, the boys started calling him Blaze, and as word of his failed bombing attempt spread around the rest of the students, the name stuck.   A bus driver had already reported seeing Edward get beat up by one of the boys that morning, and in spite of the four boys' protests, they were not only punished for the beating, and smoking on school grounds, but also for attempting to bomb the maintenance building.  The four of them were suspended for two weeks, and when they returned they were in detention for the remainder of the school year, a sentence to be served working with the maintenance man painting over graffiti on the school buildings.
~*~
     Kendall sat watching the professor write on the blackboard, barely able to keep his eyes open.  He hated school, especially boarding school.  But his father had dangled a carrot in the shape of a new sports car if he would just stay out of trouble long enough to finish his education at the last school that was willing to accept him.

     It wasn't his fault he got kicked out of all those other schools.  Kendall was so desperate for his father's attention that he purposely sought out troublemakers to befriend, hoping that rather than continuing to send him away to boarding schools, his father might actually let him go home to live with him.

     The last time he had gotten expelled, he'd been given a one-way bus ticket home and taxi fare.  When he had finally arrived, he'd been surprised to find that his house key didn't work.  Ringing the doorbell, he worried for a moment that his father wouldn't let him in.  When ten minutes passed with no answer, he rang the bell again and wondered if his father was even home or if he was out of the country.   Finally he heard movement inside and the door opened.  Standing in front of him was a young woman in a bikini, with a block of cheese and a bottle of wine in one hand.

     "Who are you?  Are you lost or something?"
     "Um, is my father here?"
     "Father?  Jimmy doesn't have any kids."

     Kendall's father came up behind the woman.

     "Hello, Kendall.  I've been expecting you.  Go up to your room.  We'll talk later.  Rachel, honey, go back out to the pool.  I'll be out there shortly."