First of all let me address one problem that we had over the last batch. One of the stories had more than 500 (something like 700) and some readers were wondering and complaining about it.
It was my fault and not planned. Basically I was trying to stream line the process of uploading the stories to the blog, and this one slipped though my word count process. When I realized it, the story was already online and people were voting on it.
To avoid creating further problems I decided just to let it be, and should it end up winning its round I would just disqualify it and bring the next one with the highest number of votes.
Sorry for that guys; it won’t happen again.
Now to the fifth batch with 10 more stories. Check them out and vote on your favorite!
1. The Napper by J’Dai Voisin
She and I had argued days before, knowing full well that both of us were right. Her visit came at a busy time, but we had planned it well before my company’s acquisition was announced. I really needed the time away, to be honest, but it wasn’t going to happen that way. Monday and Tuesday were spent at the office, a cesspool of stress and anger bubbling under the surface while the corporate big-wigs made their visits to the troops. My goal was to try and work from home for the remainder of the week but I had yet to pitch that to my corporate masters.
The conversation between us was not heated but we each spoke directly; we had known each other too long for anything less. I *was* the host, after all, and thoroughly expected to have the final say. But I was unable to finagle an entire week off from work, she reminded me, and I needed my rest if I was going to face the awfulness at the office. The stand-off was front and center and, knowing her stubborn streak, I finally acquiesced and permitted her viewpoint to rule. I spent the nights in my bed and she slept on the couch.
I did win, however, when it came to any naps. Since I wasn’t resting per se, I created the rule that the ‘napper’ got the bed. My cats saw to that as well, acting as enforcers. No one dared to cross a napping cat or so I was convinced. She reluctantly agreed and the issue passed between us. I knew that the decision was a volatile one, so it was with some trepidation that I entered the bedroom and gazed upon her napping form later the next day.
She laid across the bed with a lock of her hair in her hand.
I looked to her and saw a body stopped in time, as if she had committed some action and was held in motion for anyone to behold. Legs and arms took independent directions and covered the better part of the bed. Her hair was strewn about her head, save for the single lock that she held. Had she fondled that one prior to slumber or had it landed there by chance? I wondered but I didn’t wonder, knowing that the answer was not all that important.
Still, curiosity compelled me. I wanted to touch her hair, to know the bend and the turn of every lock. Unsurprisingly, I wanted to start with the one that she held. I fought the urge for a moment before succumbing. On its own my arm moved forward and reached out. I knew that I risked waking her but my inquisitiveness overwhelmed me.
I failed despite my caution. Brushing her hand so slightly, she grasped my fingers. I held my breath and stood motionless as the minutes ticked by and the moment passed.
2. The Battle by Meghna
It was a habitual war. A callous battlefield acclimatized with a multitude of completely fortified warriors all ready to shield. With much zest and fortitude I geared up to take my position. The only thought that occurred in my vigorous mind was that I had to win, and win at all costs!
Effusively equipped, I went to the battlefield, persuading my timorous self and embedding it with the essential resilience and valor required. Reconstructing the winning techniques in my mind once again, I was determined and looking forward to my triumph.
As soon as I arrived at the gory battleground, I saw that there were a multitude of people like me, with twinkling eyes, all glimmering with the light of gallantry and boldness while faces sneered at one another. They too, like me, were occupied with ammunition and ready for the war to begin. With cold-blooded eyes, we stared at each other….until the war began…..
The scene at the battleground changed as soon as the fight began in the swirl of a moment. I was taken aback by the swiftness and alacrity of all the warriors. Like me, they were all experienced too, I realized. It was going to be a remarkable struggle today then…..
All vigilant warriors were ready at the precise moment, the war had begun! It was a never before sight. All others sneered and aimed. I looked for my target and finally caught sight of it. I ran as if there were wings on my legs and gained momentum with every step. As soon as I reached my prey, someone else caught hold of it. Nooooo……I cried in dismay but my poise and self-assurance did not fortunately, leave me. I took hold of it as soon as I could. The other one pushed and pulled but certainly, I was mightier and much more indomitable.
I knew I had won, and then I felt it in my senses too, just like any other experienced professional, and I also understood that I was on war with an immature. I locked eyes with her and finally saw her strength wavering. Then….she let go…the victim was for me to keep! I victoriously waved it in the air and gave the poor loser a mocking smile, while the warrior looked down embarrassed.
I carefully handed over my victory trophy at the billing corner. “Your bill ma’am!”, a voice announced. I smiled and handed down the note. I knew the battle at the latest and promising branded fashion store was over and I had won. I carried home another new embellishing dress and victoriously declared that I had won the fight at the Summer Discount Bonanza, once again!
This, if you realize is an unwavering fight you need to go through during every shopping spree you have a good shopping mall offering the Summer Discount!…..a gory ordeal or battle, for the first one to lay your hand upon the best clothes being sold at a low rate, eh?
3. The Funeral by Christopher Mentzer
“Hey Bob! I just got your message. How did this happen?”
“Hey Jerry,” said Bob, “I’m not really sure. I know that Maggie was there when it happened.”
“What do you know about it?” asked Jerry.
“It happened last night about 11: 30 a mile from the house,” replied Bob.
“Oh man! Isn’t it always that way?”
“Hi guys,” said Maggie.
“Maggie! Good to see you,” said Jerry.
“Yeah, I was trying to tell Jerry about the accident,” said Bob.
“Yeah,” said Jerry. “What exactly happened?”
“I don’t know all the details because I got there after it happened but I do know it was a Hit and Run,” said Maggie.
“Man that’s rough. What a way to go,” said Jerry.
“Yeah, it’s rare that they find out who did it in those kind of cases,” said Bob.
“Donna was struck down in her prime,” commented Maggie.
“Uh, Donna?” asked Jerry.
“Oh that’s right,” said Bob. “You’ve only been here a couple weeks. Her name was Donna.”
“I see,” said Jerry.
“Just like Steve’s mother,” said Maggie.
“Oh, so it was one of THOSE relationships?” asked Jerry.
Bob laughed. “No, not like that. See Donna has, or rather had, similar qualities to Steve’s mother. Both smoked a lot and had trouble with leakage.”
“Leakage?” inquired Jerry.
“Steve’s mom had a bladder problem and would, you know, occasionally leak.”
“Was Steve with Donna last night then?” asked Jerry.
“No,” replied Bob. “Actually he’s been out of town on business for the last few days. They got a hold of him around 1 am and he caught a Red Eye out of Baltimore.”
“He got in about four,” added Maggie. “He’s supposed to be here soon.”
“Then who was with Donna?” asked Jerry.
“Shirley,” replied Bob. “Steve asked her to look after Donna while he was out of town.”
“And is she—?” asked Jerry not wanting to finish the question.
“Oh she’s fine,” replied Maggie. “A little banged up but, I heard, but nothing compared to what happened to Donna.
“How long has Steve and Donna been together?” asked Jerry.
“Fifteen years!” Bob proclaimed proudly.
“Wow!” remarked Jerry. “That’s a long time, even for today’s standards.”
“I agree,” said Maggie. “Most stay together for maybe three years and then move on to one who’s usually younger.”
“But not Steve,” added Bob. “Boy, when he first laid eyes on Donna it was love at first sight. I knew they would be together for a good while. Steve wasn’t going to let her go for anything!”
“Fifteen years,” murmured Jerry.
“She was always there him. Actually for all of us really,” said Maggie. “Very reliable even though she smoked.”
“Of course we all overlooked that one little imperfection because she was part of our group,” said Bob.
Just then the Steve and the tow truck pulled up and hauled his car away.
“Bye Donna,” said the group.
4. Lefty’s Disappearance by Andrew Rambo
The name’s Jack. I’m a writer, not necessarily a great one, just one who knows how to put words to paper and blow some essence into them. Sure I get pieced into a few pulp rags here and there, but just enough to keep the lights on. My publicist said I might even swing a book deal soon, but right now that doesn’t matter, not since I’d lost one of my favorite socks. Without those socks I’m as useless as a zebra on a bicycle.
Two days ago I had a pair of thick brown socks that made you feel like you were walking on fuzzy springs. The kind of softness you might get if you turned a puppy inside out and wore it. Yeah, that soft. I loved those socks and always donned them before working on my Dirk Studmann stories. The Ex bought them for me to keep my feet warm when I first started writing. The old apartment was drafty, and she was caring. A lot of things have changed since then, but not the socks. I got published with those socks, and inspiration seemed sewn into the toes. They were the only thing she hadn’t taken when she left. So when it was time to get back to the grind a couple of days ago I knew for a fact that they were finishing up their current stint in the dryer.
Ah, the dryer. Few things in life make a person happier than slipping on warm clothes onto naked skin. Some might say it feels better than sex—and I’d be one to agree with them. But when I went to retrieve them from the dryer I discovered my anticipated ménage à trois was reduced by one. I knew as well as I knew my own name I’d put both of them in there along with some towels, but now one of them wasn’t there.
I’d worn those socks more times than I’d been thrown out of bars, so I knew I was holding the right one. Lefty was missing. Which meant only one thing: the damn dryer must’ve eaten it.
A crowbar, flashlight, and perseverance proved to be futile thirty minutes later: no Lefty. My muse had seemingly vanished into stagnant, basement air—but I know that’s not possible, I don’t buy into the sci-fi angle. He’s gone because she took him. Last night she phoned to say she was coming over for a few more things. Apparently that meant my career. I don’t know how she did it—must’ve snuck in while I showered—but she definitely took Lefty.
So now I wait, here in the basement with the roaches. I called her an hour ago, told her it was about a book deal. The thought of money will make her come running like a dog to a pork chop. Then, one way or another, I’ll get Lefty back. Or she’ll die trying.
Either way, I’ll have something to write about.
5. Picking Through The Bones by Femme De Mots
Marty remembers that day so vividly that just to think about it hurts like a sharp knife slicing her skin.
“Come on you guys, stop futzing around. Let’s get going or all the good stuff will be gone by the time the two of you decide which damn shirt to wear.” I should know better than to ask two flaming queens to get up early Saturday morning so we can be the first to hit all the best garage sales.
Chris looked at Steven and rolled his eyes and said “God, I can never decide if I love or hate bossy, butch women.”
“I adore them” said Steven. “I love to do their hair, and when they are not looking, put little curls in back.”
“SDD, Miss Thing has to look good, even if it is before noon.” Shrieked Steven. “What do you mean you don’t know what SDD means? I have told you what it means at least a thousand times.” said Steven as he yelled “Settle Down Doris”.
“My name is not Doris” screamed Marty. “ And I am not kidding, either get out here or I am leaving.”
“Ta Da” sang out Chris and Steven as they pranced into the living room dressed as if they were going to watch a tennis match at Wimbledon.
“What did I ever do to deserve the two of you?” mumbled Marty as she followed the guys, prancing like show horses, out the door.
“I love garage sales in the Castro” said Marty. “Gay men have such good taste, and they redecorate from the ground up every two weeks.”
Steven was the first to leave. Chris and Marty just caught sight of him as he was rushing out the door. Chris looked at Marty, and without saying a word, they both knew they had to get out of there too – now. On the way out, Marty tossed $5 on the table.
Another sale put on by parents from the Midwest who came to bury their Son and dispose of his things, leaving nothing behind to say he had been there. Sometimes, stumbling into a garage sale in the Castro during the height of the AIDS crisis was just more than any of them could bear.
Marty sometimes caresses and talks to the little, black, wire strainer. “I won’t forget you, I am taking good care of your fancy, little black strainer.”
6. School Night by Laura Hardenbrook
Moonlight trickled between the smiling Bumbles and Brooches stamped on the blue curtains that draped the window. It flowed through the room and pooled among the embroidered Sleeches and Slodgers (in breeches and jodhpurs) dancing across the frilled canopy of a small bed. A little girl slept soundly beneath them, snoring slightly. On the bedside table, a Professor Plotz Storytime Clock ticked away next to a pile of the writer’s well-worn books.
When the grinning Professor Plotz pointed at 12 and 3, a sound erupted from the closet. It was high –and loud! As the crescendo rose, the girl stirred. She huddled under the blanket for a moment, clenching the coverlet in her small fists before finally bursting out with a growl.
The piercing scream was joined by other voices, reaching an impossible harmonic that defied any normal musical scale to claim it. The girl glared and covered her ears until the sound dissolved into a raucous sing-along.
Never taking her eyes off of the closet, the girl dropped to the floor, rolled up the sleeves of her blue fleece footed jammies, and slid the aluminum bat from under her bed. She crossed to the closet, flung it open, and addressed the darkness: “Stop wailing.”
A tiny green-haired creature in a red and white striped jumpsuit and blue boots bounded into the room. “Sleeches don’t wail – why goodness me, no!”
A nearly identical creature followed it. “We sleeches are screechers, as everyone knows!”
The girl squeezed the bat. “I’m gonna count to three. One.”
“We sleep through the day in our stripey-striped breeches,” sang Sleech One.
Sleech Two chimed in: “Dreaming of cherries and cumquats and pea-“
She brought the bat down on the green mop of hair with a wet and satisfying splutch. “Three.”
A nerve twitched on the girl’s temple as Sleech One’s eyes bugged from its head. “You killed Sleech Two – sniff sniff and boo hoo–”
The bat swung up and hovered over the girl’s head. A drop of blue goop oozed off of the barrel and splatted among the freckles on her nose.
“…And…er…Sleech One…Sleech One…” The creature fiddled with the button of its breeches.
“What did Sleech One do?” The girl’s lips barely moved.
“Sleech one…” It glanced at the pulpy mass of Sleech Two and felt blue goop soak through its jumpsuit and between its toes. “Sleech one…learned to whisper and gave up its screeches.” It gulped.
The girl stared for a moment at the creature, smiled, and slowly lowered the bat. She stepped forward and put her hand on the closet’s knob. In one quick motion, she stomped on Sleech One and ground her heel until the gurgling stopped. She turned, and to the room in general said “Anyone else not understand ‘school night?’”
7. The Kiss by Jim Falba
The sky was cloudless and filled with thousands of stars. A person could see into eternity on a night like this. He slowly raised his hand up and pretended to grab at the diamonds in the heavens, but of course could not.
“What are you doing out here?” a voice asked from behind him. He turned around and saw the young woman who had questioned him standing with her arms folded. She was shivering and the breath coming from her nose formed clouds of ice crystals when it came into contact with the air. He quickly took off his jacket and tossed it to her.
“Here, you’re going to get sick,” he said quietly. She threw the coat around herself and smiled.
“You didn’t answer my question. Why are you out here alone? Aren’t you having fun at the party?” She walked closer and he turned away from her to look at the stars.
“I don’t really care for any of the people in there,” he replied. “And besides, the stars are better company.” She moved next to him and looked up at the heavens as well.
“You don’t have to be so defensive around me,” she said, her breath hanging in the air as ice. “We’ve been through a lot together.”
“This will be the last time we see each other,” he announced. She was taken aback, but tried to conceal her surprise. Her lips formed the word, “Why?” but no sound came out.
He nodded towards the star-speckled darkness. “Look to the sky, and what do you see?” She turned her face and looked at the realm of the gods. Thousands of stars returned her gaze. Her puzzled look prompted him to answer. “One of those stars above is Vega, and the other is Regulus. Like those two stars, our futures lie on different paths. Because of this, it would be pointless to continue going on as we have been.”
She looked at the ground, dejected. “So you would just throw away everything we’ve been through because of what the future may or may not hold? Fool…” As he opened his mouth to respond, the sharp sting of a slap forced him to stop speaking and look into her eyes. “So you would be willing to forget the past, just like that?”
He smiled feebly and rubbed his right cheek. “The further we progress into the future, the more irrelevant the past becomes. Because of this…” He was cut off by a finger to his lips.
“The past is what shapes the future! In a year, who knows where we will be, but for now, just for a little while, let’s take pleasure in the moment.” She grabbed his waist and embraced him warmly. He was surprised at first, but then returned her hug. She spoke once more, “For a little while, let’s just enjoy the present.”
They shared a quiet kiss beneath the stars, and time marched on again.
8. Cold Blooded by James Keck
A single pop sounded out in the darkness. It could have been a light bulb hitting the ground or maybe somebody had set off a firecracker or something. Anybody that heard it would have thought so too, except for the man that made the sound with his .38 and the other guy that took the bullet. For that guy, it was the last sound he ever heard.
The alley where the shooting took place was just off Big Mike’s Billiards. They’d already closed shop, so no one was there to hear the shot or see Joey Carsone dumping the body of Mitch Freeman into the dumpster. Even if they had, nobody would rat out Joey Carsone. If they did, they’d be joining Mitch in the landfill.
Funny thing about the whole deal, it wasn’t over money or drugs or even a woman. In fact, Mitch and Joey grew up together and some would have considered them to be best friends. So why did he do it? Simple enough, Joey killed Mitch because his boss told him to. No other reason, no justifiable homicide whatsoever.
For Joey, it was his chance to prove to his boss that he would do what he was told no matter what it cost him. The boss liked it that way and if he didn’t get things done the way he wanted them, well, he didn’t need you. And by needing I mean he’d get somebody else to take care of the business in question and you too. Joey couldn’t have that happen to him. He had plans.
Ever since he was little, Joey had seen all the crooks in their day to day business. He saw his first shooting when he was seven and had been transfixed ever since. Death was just another thing to him like whiskey or a cheap woman, once you’d had one the rest aren’t all that special.
At fifteen, he was already working for the boss, and by sixteen he had already killed two guys that had cheated his boss out of some horse money. Joey hated cheaters so he was happy to take care of that one. Now, at the age of twenty, he’d killed his best friend because his boss told him to and he did it without any hesitation whatsoever.
He looked down in the dumpster one last time before lowering the lid. Turning toward the street, Joey wiped his hands and then straightened his jacket. He pulled a smoke from the crumpled pack in his inside pocket and lit it up with the gold lighter Mitch gave him for Christmas last year and then he turned up ninth street, headed for home.
9. The Back-up Man by Ekta Valecha
As he came out of the manager’s cabin, he heaved a sigh of relief. No, that would be an understatement, not relief, maybe enormous relief? The interview had gone excellently. Images rushed through his head, images of seeing Mother so happy, of seeing little Priya’s beautiful features giving way to that radiant smile…Participating in his happiness with the readiness that was exclusive only for him…
He shook himself a little, his heart was still beating fast; he still hadn’t gotten over the nervous excitement of the interview. Only if that other guy hadn’t nearly beaten him in the group discussion he’d be sure, for once! He tried not to let that old frustration take over again…He had a better chance this time than anywhere before. He knew he was brilliant, he knew he had what it takes, but like a vicious shadow all his miseries kept following him. But this interview had gone as smoothly as it could ever go, for a second he even thought that the manager’s secretary was flirting with him…him! The other guy had also had the interview just before him, he tried to get the anticipation down, maybe the other guy’s interview went as good as his. His heart beat loudly; anxiousness overtook all his senses. Just then, there was a loud crash somewhere from the floors below. He quickened his pace, his thoughts interrupted by curiosity. Two-three people were looking down the elevator shaft as more people came out of their offices to investigate the source of the crash. He asked a peon who was leaning on the grill and craning his neck to look down. The peon said the elevator had crashed. He asked how many people were in there. He said some four-five people.
He started going down the stairs, wishing to hurry up and tell the news to his mother as soon as he could. As he climbed down, he started imagining his mother’s and sister’s faces all over again, unable to bear the excitement that was again building up…
As he reached the ground floor, he saw a two-three men leaning inside the shaft, and helping people out. There were already two people lying there. His heart skipped a beat. One of those was the guy who had his interview before him…The guy who had almost beaten him…He was sprawled on the floor, his left leg was stuck at an odd angle from the knee, and he was crying out in pain. He surveyed the whole scene in disbelief and again looked at that guy. Before he could make sense of what he was doing, he started walking away from the scene, his heart feeling unbelievably happy and relieved.
10. Always the Protector by Katie Wernz
Powerful gusts of wind shrieked in Anna’s ears like sirens, while her tangled hair lashed against her face like maniacal flame-colored bullwhips. In the distance, a trashcan thumped rhythmically against something solid, or was that just her heart crashing against the walls of her rib cage? She stood there, trembling, in her sister’s front yard, scrutinizing Roy, the behemoth of a man who filled the doorway before her. His cold, dull eyes were full of fear, as were her green, tear-filled ones. The reason: he was the aim of her gun.
In his shadow cowered her baby sister, Daisy. Left eye peeking through its bruises, bottom lip displaying a bloody lightning bolt gash, lavender cotton sundress shredded like a windsock. Her precious porcelain face was tear-soaked and terror-stricken. Anna’s attention was stolen from her predator-turned-prey by sudden movement to her left. Her cousin Delilah was racing toward the tricycle-littered and Lego-strewn lawn screaming, “No! Anna, no! You ain’t gonna do this!”
Eyes back on her target, Anna shakily said, “He’s done it again. I won’t let him hurt her anymore. The police won’t help her, so I have to!”
Delilah, always the voice of reason in the family, stopped running and began inching carefully towards Anna, as if approaching a rabbit she didn’t want to spook and slowly said, “Darlin’, you can’t. Course the bastard deserves it, but they’ll put you away for years. Now put the gun down. We’ll find another way to protect her.”
Without hesitation, Anna spat, “No! We’ve tried so many times and he keeps getting to her. I’m out of options.”
“Well, honey,” Delilah started cautiously, “Maybe she don’t want help.”
At this, Anna whipped her head around, complete with mouth agape and eyes wide with disbelief. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Her cousin gave a heavy sigh and answered, “Remember that time when we was kids, playing hide and seek with Tommy Everett? You saw Tommy grabbing Daisy’s ass behind the Robinson’s garage. I’d never seen you so furious. You chased him down and whooped him good.”
“Yeah, he got what he had coming and so will Roy,” Anna declared boldly.
“Did you know Daisy kissed him first? She put his hand on her ass. She said he’d been too nervous.”
It wasn’t until Anna looked at her sister, who guiltily turned her battered face to the ground, did she finally lower the gun to her side in defeat. Wordlessly and full of sorrow, she turned back to Delilah.
“Baby,” deduced her cousin, “She don’t want you to fix this either. The minute you’re locked away for killing that man, she’ll find another one who’ll treat her the same and then who’s gonna help her?”
“You’re wrong,” she sobbed as she lifted the gun back up towards Roy’s chest, “She needs me now, like she always did.” And she punctuated her last statement as a free woman with a deafening shot.