Archive for the ‘prose’ Category

Killing Time

Posted: February 3, 2015 in prose
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There was one other party at the bar. It looked like a family. They were loud enough at least that they had to be close. Thankfully they were far enough away that the bar top itself still felt relatively secluded. She shuffled over with her eyes to the floor and sat down in front of one of the taps. In her seat, she looked up and scanned the TVs for anything interesting. Sports, nightly news, and some talk show promised her she wasn’t missing much.

“How’s it goin’ darlin’? Can I get you anything? We’ve got some food specials if you’re hungry.”

“Any appetizers?”

“Chicken fingers and onion rings are $3 ’til midnight.” The bartender glanced at his minimum-wage watch. “You’ve got about 15 minutes. The night’s still young.” He smiled.

“I’ll take the chicken if you don’t mind. And a gin and tonic. Sapphire.”

“No problem.” He gave another quick smile and disappeared into the computer.

She went over his figure in her head. He must have been at least 5’10”, maybe 5’11”. He was slender but not skinny. She could barely see beneath his tragic uniform but could tell he had put at least some effort into himself. He probably played basketball on the weekends with his buddies. Mostly though, as she could tell by his unkempt stubble, he seemed not to put much effort into most things. She hoped her gin and tonic was different. Thankfully she wasn’t looking for much more.

Glancing around the room she eyed the other patrons for a moment. One, the eldest child, was already looking her way but jolted back into the conversation once her eyes were almost at his. She chuckled to herself; his failed attempt at subtlety amused her. He looked college age, though only barely. He couldn’t have been much younger than the bartender. He was there with who she presumed were his parents, totally engrossed in their conversation and his younger brother and sister, who were trying to stay awake through it. He had on khaki shorts and a baby blue polo, the douchebag calling card she had run into one too many times during her own time at college.

The bartender set her drink down in front of her.

“So what brings you out tonight,” he asked, keeping his tone light and his eyes heavy. This must have been his best Casanova impression.

She took the glass and sipped it. It was heavy on the gin which she appreciated, but expected nonetheless. Whether he was actually trying to flirt with her or just playing his role, he looked thirsty and she could tell. Thankfully it was autumn and the sweater she was wearing didn’t show much of her chest. Otherwise she was sure he would have stolen a glance or two by now.

“Oh,” she said, setting the cold glass back down and pulling her sleeves over her wrists, “just killing time.” She thanked him for the drink and pulled an old copy of The Great Gatsby out of her jacket, which she had draped over the back of her chair. A few old yellow lights kept the bar fairly dim but the TVs added just enough light for her to read comfortably. He took the hint and found something on the other side of the bar to clean.

A few minutes passed and the bartender returned with her chicken fingers and some silverware.

“Anything else for now?”

“Another gin please,” she said. Hers was nearing its end.

“Sure thing.” He left to make another drink while she tore off a piece of chicken and dipped it in some ketchup. Just as she brought it to her mouth the old bicycle bell attached to the door jingled and three older men in suits walked in. She paused for a moment to glance over at the newcomers, then rewarded her mouth with the bite she had prepared.

They all scanned the bar themselves and wandered off to a table along the right wall past the family whose conversation had quieted significantly. Two sat on the bench against the wall and the third took a chair with his back to the room.

The bartender dropped off her gin and wiped his hands with his towel, looking over at the three newcomers.

“Thanks,” she said. “Can I get the bill too? Whenever you get a chance.”

“Sure, no problem,” he said. His eyes stayed on his new guests.

One of the men against the wall got up from the table and walked over to the bar top, stopping right next to her to look at the taps. He was balding and gray, and looked like he drank way too much fine scotch and ate way too much fine Italian food in his day. His suit was black and well-tailored with a matching plain black tie. How original, she thought. This close she could barely see the straps of his leather holster peeking out from beneath his blazer.

“How’s it goin’ buddy. Can I get three a’ these Octoberfests?” He pointed at the middle tap.

“Of course my man,” the bartender responded. He grabbed a pint glass from behind the bar and started pouring. “Did you wanna start a tab?”

“Yeah that’s fine.” The man put one hand on the bar top and the other in his pocket. He watched the TV with the news for a few moments then looked down at her as she read. “The Great Gatsby, huh? I think I had to read that in school. Bored the shit out of me.”

She stopped reading and reached one hand out for her gin. She forced a laugh out and took another sip.

“Me too. I’m trying to go back over the classics to see what I missed.”

“Hah,” the man belted. “Good luck with that, doll.” He patted her shoulder. She clenched her jaw slightly and forced out another chuckle.

The bartender finished pouring the third beer and slid them all over to the big man. His hands were large enough to hold all three. Beer in hand he stomped back over to his group and gave out the beers. The next thing she heard was the clink of glasses, and the mumble of the two other groups.

A few minutes later the bartender came back with her check and dropped it off, face-down and folded in the middle. She thanked him. She read a few more pages but stopped soon after. She just couldn’t get the stink of the big man’s cologne out of her nose. It was a strong cologne but not strong enough to cover the massive amount of natural ambiance that man must produce on a daily basis. So instead of masking his smell all it did was add to it. She shivered and looked at her bill.

As she expected, the gins and chicken were barely over $10. She took out a $50 bill and folded it up with the receipt. She downed the last of her gin and pushed the glass to the other edge of the bar top, leaving the last chicken finger. Sliding her chair back, she got up from her seat and went around behind it for her jacket. She loved that jacket. It was a great winter jacket, black leather with pockets big enough for classic literature. She put it on and adjusted the sleeves to fit comfortably over her sweater.

She placed her folded receipt under her glass and grabbed her book, depositing it into her left coat pocket. She left both her hands in her pockets and paused for a moment. It would be chilly outside.

“Have a great night,” she said to the bartender with a slight nod.

“You too,” he replied with a two-finger salute. “Be safe out there.”

She turned and walked closer to one of the TVs at the end of the bar, the one showing a soccer game. That end of the bar was close behind the table with the three suited men, who were almost done with their first round of Octoberfests. The two facing the room looked up at her with a raised eyebrow each but quickly returned their focus to the man facing the wall, who was telling them some story about a woman with whom he was apparently quite irritated. For a moment she stood and looked at the soccer game. Red and green were tied with a few minutes left. Green looked like it was trying harder, so she hoped it came out on top.

The TV went to commercials and she turned to the table with the three men. Facing the man with his back to the bar, she pulled her right hand out of her pocket and with it her black, silenced Beretta. She quickly let one shot off straight into the back of his head, then two more between the eyes of the other two. The shots were quiet compared to un-silenced shots, but still loud in the quiet bar. The man who had gotten the beers had managed to pull his own pistol out from his holster but not in time to fire it off before she had already scratched the itch in his brain with hers. Behind them the wall was covered in crimson. Behind her she heard gasps and a glass break.

She turned around.

The bartender was standing behind his post with his hands in the air. The family had their heads down with their hands over their heads and turned outward in surrender. All except one of the younger kids, the girl, who was motionless staring straight into her eyes.

With her right hand she put her gun back into her right pocket. With her left she brought one finger up to her lips and gave the girl a wink.

She stepped outside into the cool October air.

Three down. The night is young.

Shadows in the Dark

Posted: January 25, 2015 in prose
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It’s 4am. The barely rustling trees hide the traces of moonlight from the cracks in the windows. I’m jolted awake by what feels like a longing for something. But not that.

It bolts across the room just quick enough to outrun my strained gaze through the solitary light of the flickering television. An old kung-fu movie is on. On the screen a nameless kung-fu master steps onto the grounds of a massive fortress. He dusts himself off and tightens his wrist wraps. I fear we may both soon face our battles with Goliath. The volume is down, but for a dull hum that I probably won’t hear in 30 years.

My head snaps across the room trying to follow it, but lands on nothing but the blackness outside the television’s glare. I stare for a few seconds, trying not to let the darkness pull my eyes right out of my sockets.

Nothing.

I turn back to the television, let out a lion’s yawn and rub my dry eyes. Blinking furiously I scan the room again. Please let it just be my imagination. I think I see it in the corner, no wait, the other corner. No wait, it’s sitting on my chair! I can hear it laughing that maniacal laugh, staring at me through the black of night with it’s shadow-black eyes.

All the world’s wars pale in comparison to the bodies it has stacked up in its bloody wake, laughing its way to the top of the food chain. It brings not just death but oblivion; indiscriminate, this monster relentlessly kills all in its path and does it silently, leaving no trace like a true boy scout. Stories ring in my ears of being eaten from the inside and devoured in your sleep. Some it ends slowly, others with lightning speed. Visions flash across my frantic mind of stone grey children and empty bodies, stiff as boards but frail as fiberglass strewn out on cots, sweating away the last drops of their lives. Some it just teases and plays with only to haunt the darkest dreams. It laughs again and I hear the tortured souls left writhing and screaming in schizophrenia deep into the night. It is a true testament to power and veracity, savagery and skill.

I try to forget all this and close my eyes. I pull the covers up to my head and hope that it won’t see me. Or maybe it will simply forget. Maybe it will just leave. Maybe it will just slip away into the night and find a juicier piece of meat for it’s midnight snack. Maybe I’m actually an eskimo and it’s just an alien riding a polar bear. I wish. I doubt it.

I hear the laugh again, faint at first then loud as I probably was to my older siblings: painfully relentless. I shoot up and flail wildly.

Did I get it? Is it dead? Have I been the one this time to strike the killing blow?

Pipe dreams.

If God graces me lucky enough to make it out of this I promise a life equally relentless. With enough time I could hunt extinct this scourge sent straight from Satan’s doorstep. All I need is time…

There it is! It bolts across the flickering line of the television’s sight. Or did I? No, now it’s back over where it was! Like a lion playing with the broken body of a baby gazelle, it’s toying with me, teasing me with the illusion of safety. If only it would stay in the light…

I squint to try and catch a glance of the shadowed killer but the darkness is its home. I am but a visitor here.

I reach for my bottle of lukewarm water. With my eyes fixed on the shadow I unscrew the cap and take a swig. My body is weak. My mind, strained. My will is dwindling with the plausibility of this kung-fu master’s success.

I hear it laugh again and I can barely muster enough energy to look fierce in the face of this ancient, unstoppable monster. I can’t do it. I’ll never win. My arms are too slow and weak. My blind eyes are useless. My ears feel like they’ve forgotten every sound but its piercing laugh.

I fear this may be it, this may be the end of the line. I try and accept my fate. Soon I will join the innumerable others who have fallen to the same fate, if insanity doesn’t take me first.

No! There it is, coming in for the attack! With the last burst of strength left in me I swing my arm around and hit the bastard. Or did I?

Nothing.

In the flickering light of the kung-fu master’s dazzling display I spot the tiniest stroke of crimson on my palm. Hah! Not me, oh devilish winds of fate and fortune, this soul is not yet yours to whisk away. My painful vigilance has paid off this time. This time…

I turn off the television. My bottle only has a little left but I take another small swig anyway. I will save the rest for the morning. I slink back down and close my eyes. As my mind begins to melt away into kaleidoscope dreams, I hear something seemingly miles away; there it is, the faint laughter of the shadows…

Fucking mosquitos.

Z

“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.” — Betty Reese