1. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Short Story Contest 133: Tradition - Submissions and Details Thread

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Lemex, Apr 22, 2013.

    Short Story Contest 133
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Tradition"


    This contest is open to all wf.org members, newbies and the established alike. Please post your entries as replies to this post. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a separate thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. Unfortunately, there is no prize but pride on offer for this contest. As always, the winner may also PM/VM me to request the theme of a subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Themes: "Tradition" (courtesy of AVCortez). Any interpretation is valid. Entries do not have to follow the themes explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.
    Wordlimit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Sunday 12th of May 2013 10:00 am (us pacific time)

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. As below, any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    There is a maximum of 25 entries to any contest. If there are more than 25 entries to any one contest I will decide which are entered into voting based on adherence to the suggested word limit and relevance to the theme, not on a first-come-first served basis.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece manner to decide its legitamacy for the contest.

    A story entered into the contest may not be one that has been posted anywhere on the internet, not just anywhere on this site. A story be posted for review until voting has closed. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permissable. Members may also not repost a story anywhere, or bring attention to the contest in any way, until the voting has closed

    Please try to refrain from itallicising, bolding, colouring or indenting any text to help avoid disappointment. These stylistics do not reproduce when I copy-paste them into the voting thread. You may use visible noparse BB code to preserve style if you wish by placing [ noparse ] and [ /noparse ] (without the spaces) around the entire text.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please leave me a visitor message or PM me. Please do not clog up this, or any other thread, with your questions.

    Please note that only current members are eligible to win.





    Thanks, and good luck!
     
  2. CanadianBoson
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    CanadianBoson Member

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    A Lethal Ski Accident On A Dry Winter Morning
    (1945 Words)

    Jacques started coughing again. He turned off the welding machine, pulling off his fluffy earmuffs to keep the noise out. Two pills were the doctor's recommendation, to take every few hours, but he'd be lenient with the schedule if the coughing got really bad. Especially when Jacques was working. He currently had a long wooden shaft held in place by iron wedges, where he was welding sharp teeth into the cane, like ski poles. Actually, exactly ski poles. There was a knock on the glass that let light in his home workshop - Jacques waved Fred in, coughing into his plaid elbow of his other arm.

    Fred wiped his hands down his jeans and it left a whitish mark on both sides. "I've packed all the tables you've built this month in my truck. Another thing, Jack. You said you were gonna kick the bucket in a few days. You still want me to pay you for the wares?" Fred gave a toothy grin while reaching in his front pocket for a cigarette. Jacques tried clearing his throat but it came out with a little blood instead, which he wiped from the table with a nearby dishcloth. "I don't want to live anymore. I'm carrying on the family legacy." His stare focused on the cane as he rubbed it horizontally with the tips of his fingers. Fred was lit up, and he had his hand on the table as he leaned in to look at the pole, before blowing a puff on the welding gun. "That's not a real tradition, Jacques. My Mum and I used to go to Mass every Easter for a few hours even though we weren't Catholic, by faith at least." He burned the butt into Jacques' worktable and they both looked at it. "Killing yourself the same way your Pop died isn't a tradition, Jackie. It's just stupid."

    Jacques took the washcloth and pressed hard to wipe away the burn left by the cigarette. He repeated the line he'd been saying for weeks, sometimes between those nasty coughs. "I don't want to live anymore. I'm carrying on the family legacy." Fred shook his head in disbelief before patting Jacques' shoulder. "Maybe they need to give you some pills for up here" pointing to his wrinkled forehead and chuckling. He paced out the door before looking at Jacques, crestfallen and twiddling his thumbs. "I say this as a friend Jackie boy so listen closely. This workshop has every half-baked idea you've ever tried to carry out. My gut says this is another one. Got it? Anyway if you need anything you've got my number" and he pointed to a sticky on a nail where Jacques kept wrenches and screwdrivers. "See you next week" he said, his voice broken by the closing door.

    ###

    Jacques pulled into the parking lot of the ski lift, taking up two spaces by going in diagonally, almost rubbing up against an ugly Yellow Volvo with the occupants still inside. A tall lanky man in a puffy blue jacket stepped out and tapped on Jacques' window. Jacques gave him the look of absolute death, although he had it before he was diagnosed. Something about solitary confinement in a wood-shop does that to a man. He knelt down to crank his window open, and as soon as there was a small gap he coughed and gasped for air profusely, moving his hands to his face and his emotion to his coughing. The puffy man took a step back, feeling his health at risk, and shuffled back into his car, driving off. No one was going to get in Jacques' way on this dry and gloomy winter morning.

    He received a lot of glances coming into the lodge to get his ski pass. Held under his right armpit were two polished wood skies he finished making the day before, along with the intricately fashioned poles Fred said he wouldn't finish. He did, with some extra carvings that made it look natural and wild. Jacques also looked natural and wild, with his hair sprouting from under his tuque, and a shaggy winter coat far too big for him. Maybe even too big for the bear it was shed from. His boots equaled the furriness of his warm coat, only with splotches of brown like a cow. Jacques walked up to the counter when his turn came, throwing a 50 down with his right hand, the other hand covering his mouth when it spewed a violent cough. He wiped the blood on his fur coat and held his eyes closed. "Sir?" He reluctantly opened them back up. "The total cost is 60 for the full day." Jacques held his eyes closed while he shuffled through his fur coat. He pulled a paper out, the first his hand found, and slammed it on the counter, eyes still closed. He didn't care about money at this point. "Sir I'm still going to need another 10. Sir?" Jacques stared down at the counter to see a picture of his Pop in skis, smiling up at him. His wrinkly hand quickly snatched it, put it back in his pocket, and put down a new piece of paper, a convenient 10. He tumbled away when she gave him his pass; she was also afraid of what disease he might have.

    The hippie-looking lift attendant muttered that Jacques needed a partner to go up the lift for his suicide. Jacques pleaded with his droopy eyes he wanted to go alone, but he felt a tap on his hip, padded by the furry abomination he wore to stay toasty. He turned to see a pile of wrinkles that put his age to shame, wearing a green bonnet, with a furrowed look. "You're holding up the lift. Let's go" in a sweet grandmotherly tone with a hint of condescension. Jacques gulped, nodded, then moved to the left seat on the lift, her on the right. The steel machine picked them up, heading toward the double black diamond mountain that hugged the top of this lift.

    "I'm Molly, what's your name?" she sweetly asked Jacques. He immediately shook his head around in disarray, and decided to just start coughing copiously. Or his body did. He pulled his tuque further down his forehead over his few gray hairs, as if to cut off his peripheral vision of the old woman, still coughing. He reached in his coat for his pills, pulled them out and unscrewed the pill. "What do you need those for?" Jacques gave her his death glare, before setting the pillbox on the edge of his seat, then pushing it off with a flick of a finger. "Now you listen here young man! I came here to have one last good hill before I have to go and you are unbelievably rude." She tried poking her bony finger into Jacques shaggy jacket, which covered his whole body. "Ugh. Why did you come up this lift?" She sounded out of place with her soft cadence but hard words and Jacques felt compelled to answer: "I don't want to live anymore. I'm carrying on the family legacy." He expected compassion and consolation. Instead Fate paused the lift three-quarters of the way through so he could get an earful from the brittle bag of flesh to his right.

    "Legacy? Don't get me started on it. You're doing this out of tradition? You must be the stupidest ninny I've ever met! You make me sick. Oh don't try and hide behind your coughs." Jacques was hoping she would stop soon, that the coughs would continue until the lift dropped them off. She kept ranting. "If you do this you're doing nothing but being a big, selfish baby!" She was pausing more, running out of the right words that matched her fury like puzzle pieces. The lift started again after some more rants, and Jacques' cheeks became red with embarrassment. He was being bullied by a woman older than his grandmother. He felt a tug on his ear, her frail fingers pinching them down to her mouth. "You listen here. You're going to stop this little game right now or I'm calling your parents."

    She thought she got through to him when he let a tear go, then two. She was surprised that her words worked so well. Jacques pulled his furry mitten off and reached in his pocket. He felt the crumpled picture between his fingers and passed it to the hag, while he was looking west at the snow-covered pine trees, very beautiful this time of year, he thought. "Tradition." she muttered. Again he expected sympathy and compassion. Again he was wrong, as she gave him one last piece of grandmotherly advice before they touched down from the lift. "If your Dad died on the hill and you do then you're a big dummy-head." She nodded, confident that yes, this would definitely talk him out of it.

    They descended from the lift platform together and they slowly skied toward the edge of the mountain. Jacques gulped looking down at it - he'd only ever been on the bunny hill, the easiest one. He'd very likely die going down this. Dying never really occurred to him when he thought about suicide. He gulped again, the spit feeling heavy down his throat. He just thought a lot about his Pop, how he was named after one of those famous downhillers way back. Jacques closed his eyes and hunched forward reminiscing, looking like a giant yeti on wood planks. He started to slip forward a little, and, frightened, toppled over to his side to avoid plummeting down. His face was white, and he got up very carefully. He felt a frail hand grasp the edge of his pole, and he let her have it. She replaced it with the photo of his Pop smiling up at him, and he smiled back. "I'll find a new tradition" Jacques muttered.

    "Chip-chap news." Molly exclaimed. "Now that that's settled, give me a push." Jacques pushed his thumb into his forehead to elevate his tuque, to show the woman his eyebrows were very much raised. "You heard me, you ninny. I want to get this over with!" Jacques stood dumbfounded as she waited, expecting a push down the steep escarpment. She held one of her own poles and then Jacques' beautiful polished wood one. "Fine. I'll go myself. I'm glad I could help one more person before the end." and with that she let herself go, speeding down the hill and gaining speed. Jacques wiped his forehead and pulled off his red tuque out of respect for the hag, and he watched her disappear into the abyss. He picked up her pole, headed down the lift and walked to his car. There was a big commotion near the bottom of the hill. Apparently his car took up the space the ambulances would use to escort patients out. In his defense, he didn't think he'd be coming back.

    ###

    Fred didn't bother knocking this time, barging into the workshop. "I should have bet on your life. It would have made me a slightly richer man." He held his belly while he chortled. "What are you doing with the poles now?" Jacques squeaked his polish cloth over what he just finished and motioned Fred's eyes over it. 'Tradition is stupid - ODH'. "Old Dead Hag" Jacques laughed. The coughs were becoming far and few in between, and the new pillbox by his work station was almost untouched. "It's in memory of this crazy person who decided to go down the black diamond yesterday." Fred tapped his shoulder, letting a burp out of Jacques, and they both laughed. "Better her than you, right?" Jacques smiled.
     
  3. BorgholRantipole
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    BorgholRantipole New Member

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    Deviant - 2274 words

    It had started at age eight, with a green lollipop and a pair of superman underpants. Both were far enough outside the status quo to make an impression. The underpants were seldom worn because secretly he feared one of the other kids catching a glimpse when he bent over to reach for something or stretched his arms above his head. At eight years old he already had a broad sense of paranoia and an almost disabling fear of judgment. The superman underpants were doubly shameful because of his insistence that they be bought for him. The superman underpants were triply shameful because he knew for a fact that superman himself could wear them without the slightest fear of judgment. They simultaneously associated him and pushed him further and further away.

    Green lollipops were his favourite. Not the best, he acknowledged, because the other kids avoided them. That was why he never got them. When offered the usual basket on friday just before recess, he'd look across the table at the reds and yellows and oranges in the others' hands, the warm and inviting colours he told himself he had to like more and he'd take yellow, lemon, safe and sour in so many ways and he'd put it in his mouth and try not to make a face. He'd never picked green at school. Another kid had, once, and been taunted for it. It had been brief and superficial but in his mind the punishment for his own deviation would be exponentially worse. It would be rocks thrown at recess. It would be a desperate chase and his face in the mud. This had never happened, not to him or anyone else, but it would. The fear of punishment wasn't even the crux, it was the agony of choice. Being pulled simultaneously by desire and decorum felt like being torn in half. He wanted an answer, not an option. He wanted a solution, not a suggestion.

    On the day in question his mother hadn't gotten to his laundry yet and so the superman underpants were the only choice he had left. He would rather have worn another pair for a second time but they sat in a soapy bath in the basement. He knew because he'd checked. He would have worn nothing under his pants but that would then, unquestionably, be the day his pants split. His pants had never split.

    He wore the underpants as low as he could and all morning he would uncomfortably shove a finger or two down the side of his pants at the waist and tuck the elastic lower and lower. When recess rolled around he had never been more acutely aware of his self-imposed other-ness.

    The teacher made no announcement. There was no suggestion that today would be any different from yesterday. The basket came out from behind the desk as usual. She started to make her rounds but – for whatever reason – she was removing the problem of choice. A yellow here, a red there, she doled them out casually, totally unaware of the weight behind each swing of her arm. There were green ones interspersed as well, taken up with secretive looks of disgust but taken and just as he scolded himself not to dare hope there was one at his own desk and he knew exactly what to do. He took it and he gave his neighbours that same dissatisfied sneer and they shrugged apologetically back and trying not to betray his true feelings he jammed the lollipop in his mouth and the taboo flavour of it transcended taste buds and, he would insist to this very day, washed over him in a tongue-to-toe wave of absolute certainty.

    Because no one laughed or pointed. No rocks were thrown. His face stayed out of the mud. It was the tipping point. Correlation was causation. As of now and forever.

    --It was so urgent now. He had to determine what had been omitted or added. He had to affix the cause--

    The underpants entered regular rotation, but only on fridays. The next time the teacher let them pick again and he picked green without fear. Precedent had been set. A few fridays later he was doubly rewarded with a green lollipop and an A on a pop quiz. The morning's routine was analyzed. He'd worn a striped shirt he liked so much it was usually worn monday, but clearly that had been a mistake. This was a friday shirt now.

    As he grew older and his allowance of freedom expanded he was afforded new possibility for routine. Once he could buy his own clothes, for example (which he only did on Saturdays between the hours of eleven and two). He began to take detailed notes day by day on what had gone right and wrong and he drew spiderwebs of connection which quickly became inscrutable to anyone but him. With a week's data he could mentally overlay the spiderwebs and see the lines bolded by repetition and something would be added or subtracted. He'd had his coffee black on monday and wednesday and both times he'd rated his mood on returning home a two. Clearly not black coffee days.

    He was ruthless in his specificity. In the case of the coffee, the distinction couldn't simply be made between 'black' and 'not', there was a unplumbed spectrum of possible good fortune between cream, 1%, 2%, sugar, artificial sweetener. Each day was attacked with the thrill of experimentation. It didn't make him happy but it drove him into an optimistic pattern; bad luck was still good data.

    Certain results were so strong they became set in stone. He found a twenty dollar bill laying on the street the day he'd boiled his eggs a minute longer than usual. This was now the correct amount of time to boil eggs, full stop. Bad luck on a correctly boiled egg day had to be attributed elsewhere. This created a necessary measure of progress. With each fixed point he believed he was coming closer to something. It went bad and good. Just like he always boiled the eggs the same amount of time, he never stepped on the sidewalk crack. Things fell microscopically but increasingly into place. When it came time to boil an egg, the feeling of being torn in two was finally gone. It made him attack every loose possibility in his days with vicious purpose. There was so much to galvanize but the thought of unknown territory suddenly under his feet was almost paralyzing. He couldn't shake the idea of some untethered situation thrusting itself upon him and of being frozen in place, mentally and physically as whatever this last inexplicable choice was devoured him.

    --The eggs were fine this morning, just right, so was the toast and – the keys? No. The coat didn't need to be switched for three days, he'd checked, in fact he'd checked three times because that was how many he was supposed to, yes, so it wasn't the coat and it wasn't the checking about the coat--

    He tried to condense as much ritual as he could into a half hour period before he left for work. He stayed remarkably practical about it, all things considered. He was aware that this kind of neurosis could be self-defeating if he allowed it to be. The purpose of it all was, he assumed, to improve his life and it would do no good if the ritual itself prevented living well. If he took an extremely long lunch and the weather was perfect coming home the lunch might have been the culprit but would have been impractical on a day to day basis. In cases like this he'd hit the lunch problem hardest, trying wild options out of the blue, new restaurants or new recipes or chopsticks until something else hit that good weather sync and remained practical.

    Which is not to say, of course, that he was able to live a normal life in the throes of experimentation. He remained alone, notably, and it was his primary frustration. There were moments, hours, verging on days when he wouldn't feel alone but he'd never been able to reliably induce them. It was frustrating because he lacked the raw material – someone else – to test the most obvious hypotheses. Attempts to acquire it had to be swept aside shamefully and eventually were all added to the 'don't' list. It was frustrating because he truly believed that this was the last of the major areas he needed to fix before he was down to cleanup. Everything else was falling into place. He had an answer to every question. As easy as 'which lollipop?' had been to answer with 'green', now he rarely encountered a situation without a through-line clear as day. When a stranger said hello to him, the mental checklist neared instantaneous – hat? No. Beard? Yes. Glasses? No. Age range? 40-50. Smiling? Yes. Time range? 9am-10am. That meant 'hi there', not 'hey', 'hello', 'hi', 'good morning', etc. But it was nearly subconscious now, that's how good he was getting at identifying the invisible pitfalls of every moment. Which didn't actually make his current situation frustrating, but maybe only because something overrode frustration, the thing that had overridden everything for years, the question, the solution...

    --He had been thinking about the loneliness today, could that have been it? No, that was becoming common and hadn't upset the other variables in any quantifiable way. He could have miscounted the number of times he ran his comb through his hair but that would have meant also miscounting the number of times he twisted the faucet slightly back and forth because that was of course a separate but concurrent count and the idea that he had miscounted both in the same way was unthinkable he was too good at it--

    It was always, he assumed, about improving his life. Every time something happened that brought him objective happiness he considered it a victory on the road to the ultimate goal. For him, still in some fundamental way the eight year old kid afraid of getting his face in the mud, that goal was the absolute certainty of an answer to every question. No more being buffeted by a basket of colours, urges tugging one way and precedent another. Eliminating choice was freedom from hardship and attribution of every problem to a flaw in routine was omnipotence. He was the self-defined master of his own existence. Bad things, terrible things, unspeakable things glanced off of him because it simply made no sense to attack the symptom. By assuming all fault he negated tragedy. But that fault needed to be specific. He constantly walked well-trodden ground, the only fear left was still of some sudden unknown, something unexplored. He wouldn't let the thought linger but sometimes it leapt up violent and unavoidable for moments of panic. He didn't know how to cut it at the source. So long as he was just one person and the world remained as complex, he knew that there might be things out there unaccounted for. Big, big things. The kind of thing that he might not have an answer for. The kind of thing that had just happened.

    --the morning, it would have happened in the morning, he was sure of it. Something like this, it had to be fundamental. He didn't know if he'd have time to go through everything but he started anyway, hitting the actions one at a time. Brushing teeth – 20 vertical, 18 horizontal... deodorant – four swipes each arm... front steps – skip #2... sidewalk – crack.
    Sidewalk crack. As soon as it had entered his head it was as though he could feel it under his shoe. That terrible wrong feeling of the eighty-seventh step not being smooth. How could he possibly – he was thinking of the loneliness again. It had taken over as it had been more and more. He forced it under but it must have reared in the same moment as that fateful, misplaced footfall. Maybe he had noticed, at the time, but forced it down as well because he had no recorded solution for stepping on that sidewalk crack. There was nothing to be done, he'd made the mistake. It would have required weeks of experimentation to come up with a reliable counter to stepping on that crack and he was unwilling to put in that time because it had already been made clear, you did not step on that sidewalk crack.
    He laughed and then sighed at the irony of it. “That fucking sidewalk crack” he muttered to himself with a genuine smile. He had to stop himself from continuing to laugh because laughing hurt. He closed his eyes and pictured it, the step and all that came before it. You idiot, he scolded himself playfully, shaking his head.
    Painfully, he folded his arms over his chest and couldn't help from beaming. “I stepped on it” he said, unable to force down a little chuckle. “With these feet and under my own power and faculties intact I went and I stepped on it. I did. Me. Stupid old me.”
    Relief flooded in that same wave the green lollipop had hit him with. There were no more questions left. He'd answered the last one. The sirens screamed closer but faded from his hearing. The world and all its complexity blurred soft and warm. Maybe he'd just been so preoccupied he hadn't even seen that stupid crack coming.
    Maybe he had.
     
  4. GHarrison
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    GHarrison Senior Member

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    Blessing on a Bus
    [1000 words]

    The bus rolled up to the corner of Augusta and Western about 15 minutes late on that exceptional Monday afternoon in Chicago.

    The driver was cool and inattentive. I dropped a handful of change into the fare-box and made my way down the center aisle to a seat in the back. He swiftly pulled the handle slamming the door behind me, and accelerated before I had a fair chance to sit.

    Only one other person was on the bus when I got on. She was sleeping soundly with her face pressed against the bus' window with her shawl pulled up around her head and chin.

    An empty bus is a pleasant bus, if you ask me.

    We rumbled past several bus stops along the route without stopping at all. Farther along the way a group of older women boarded and filled the reserved seats near the front. Farter yet, a young man in a leather jacket got on and took the seat in the row across the aisle from me in the back. The bus continued to stop and go and most of the seats in the middle eventually filled with riders. At Belmont Street, another young man, this one in a dark suit with a red tie, stepped in and paid his fare, and walked back and sat in the empty seat next to me.

    A rough patch of pavement riddled with potholes sent the bus bounding on its suspension. The heads of the people sitting ahead of us bobbed around in unison with the bumps.

    Just then the leather clad man let out a blatantly loud open mouthed sneeze, shocking the woman sleeping in front of him awake.

    “God bless you.” The man in the suit next to me cheerily said across the bus to him.

    The leather clad man turned a disgusted look back at him. “Fuck that.” He wiped his hand past his lips.

    “All I said was God bless yo-“

    “I heard what you said.” The leather clad man snapped. “I can’t go anywhere without someone throwing their God into my face.”

    The bus lurched forward after bouncing violently out of another deep pothole. The heads of the people on the bus flopped about comically on their springy necks.

    “He’s not my God. He’s just God.” The suited man reasoned, looking stoically toward the front of the bus. “If you want to deny him then I guess you will just be going to hell.” He smirked at that and glanced at me for confirmation. My discomfort manifested in a closed lipped half-smile in return.

    The man in the leather jacket slid over to the aisle seat, so there was only the short distance of the bus’ central path between them. “So that’s it is it?" The leather clad man leaned over and spoke into suit and tie guy's ear. "I’m going to hell for you, God man?”

    “Not for me. I have no control over whether God sends you to hell.” He finally looked into the face of the leather clad man. “But if that’s what He chooses, that’s fine by me.”

    Now, I didn’t see him do it because the back of the suit and tie man’s head was in the way, but I could hear the spit leave the leather clad man’s mouth. And I felt the spatter of it hit the back of my hand. I wiped it off on the seat in front of me.

    Suit and tie turned his face back toward the front of the bus. A glob of bubbly clear liquid hung by a long wet string from the end of his nose, and swung a few times from his disgusted face. He raised a cupped hand to gather it, and wipe it away.

    All along the woman sitting in front of the leather clad man clutched the top of the seat behind her watching the entire incident unfold, her mouth frozen wide in astonishment.

    “Do you mind?” I said to suit and tie, gesturing to the aisle.

    “What!?” He jerked.

    “It’s my stop.”

    He stood up with his back to the leather clad man. He stared off through the bus’ window behind me and let me out of my seat. I stepped to the side door and pulled the string that rings the bell, indicating to the driver that I was ready to exit. As we closed in on the bus stop, I watched him sit back down, and shift to the window seat that I had just given up. The woman in front of the leather clad man turned forward in her seat. She adjusted her shawl over the back of her hair again. The leather clad man sat smugly and upright, one knee bent into the aisleway, his arms folded high across his chest.

    The bus stopped at the side of the park. The door swung aside and I stepped out into the open air. Murray was sitting on a bench with a huge grin on his face. He stood up as I placed my foot down on the sidewalk.

    “You finally made it!” He shouted. I extended my fist and he reached out his, and our knuckles touched. We walked together alongside the park. Murray produced a joint from inside his coat and presented it before us jokingly, like a carrot on a stick. He placed it in his mouth and pulled out a lighter and lit the end.

    “How was the ride?” He asked between puffs of smoke.

    “I suppose it depends on who you ask doesn't it?” I replied with a shrug. "I thought the potholes were funny."

    He nodded, then looked a bit confused, and passed me the dube.
     
  5. WritingWolf
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    WritingWolf New Member

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    The Storm of the Gods
    (2,022 words)

    There's a rule in our land that complies with girls sixteen and under. That rule tells us to stay indoors - perferrably at home - during any Storm of the Gods. My family lost my older sister because she didn't comply with the rule when she was fifteen. And I almost followed. Or perhaps I did without knowing...

    It was lunch time. Daddy was at the dinning table, scoofing down hot dogs and washing those down with brandy. Rosealine, my baby sister, was sitting on the windowsill gazing out dreamily. And I was sitting in the arm chair in the corner, concerntrating on my sewing.

    We were in silence listening to the storm raging on outside. It was Rosealine who brought the subject to our attention.

    "Daddy, there's a person flying in the sky."

    Daddy pushed the chair back, the legs making a screeching noise on the bare floor, and went to join Rosealine by the window.

    One glance and he said "stupid" and went to sit back down again.

    I paused in my work and eyed Daddy. He continued to eat the hot dogs. When I turned to Rosealing, I saw her starring at me in a hopeful way. I sighed deeply and put my work down on the arm of the chair and went to the window. My hand went to Rosealine's blond hair and I started to stroke it.

    "Where is he?" I asked

    "There." Rosealine answered and pointed aimlessly out the window.

    It was hard to tell if it was a male or female but I could see they were in trouble. The parachute had a big tear in it and it looked like they were heading into - or at least towards - the office tower building.

    "We have to do something Daddy." I stated.

    "Well you can't do anything can ya?" Daddy stated between mouthfuls.

    "But Daddy!" I whined.

    "Just forget about it and eat before it all goes."

    Rosealine waved at the window and joined Daddy at the table. My mind wasn't on food, it was on the person out there in the storm. To be a good girl I needed to stay indoors until the storm passes. I wasn't a good girl. Therefore I don't get noticed when I slipped out of the room.

    *

    To make Daddy believe I was in my room like a good girl, I left my shoes and coat behind. I didn't realise how heavy the rain was until I was out in it. Several seconds later I was soaked through. And the street was littered with men seeking stupid girls. Thankfully I only needed to run across the street to the other side. Men searching in this direction would easily see me and notice my see-through blouse. I put my head down and ran.

    I only slowed down to a walk when I was in the shade of the trees. From there I walked on towards a small running stream. Across the bridge and I stopped in my tracks. The rain's gotten harder and I could feel the magnetic charge under my feet. And there lay the one Rosealine had pointed out.

    I couldn't run nor could I walk fast because of the magnetic charge but I got to the person in the end. I hesitated when I saw the face. It was a teenage boy, not so much older than me. Slowly I knelt down and rested my palm on his heart. I listened for a while and pitched my heart beat and breathing with his.

    There was a flapping noise coming from above me and when I looked up I saw the parachute had caught itself in the branches.

    "Damnit." I muttered to myself as thunder was heard and lightening was seen a littler way in the distance.

    I knew I had to work fast. By guessing, I had about ten minutes to get us both out of here. Ignoring the handsome face of the boy, I put my arms underneath him and lifted him up. I had no time to realise how heavy he was, I had to go as quickly as I could. But to where? My feet answered for me, making me run as fast as I could manage. It was only when we passed a small cottage that I realised where my feet was taking me.

    You've got be kidding me, I thought.

    But there was no time to ask questions. There was only time for running. And ran I did.

    *

    Exhausted, I fell to the ground. The boy's limp body rolling out of my arms. He stopped on his stomach, his arms by his side. I looked at him while I caught my breath back.

    Had he endangered his life with the parachute flight to impress a girl? I wondered, or was it a dare amongst friends?

    It seemed to me he wouldn't have trouble finding a date. I'm sure he's the one boy in shcool that every girl wanted. To me it seems it would be harder for him to win the heart of the girl whome he likes, so he'll settle for the captain of the cheerleaders. He just had that look.

    Shame, I thought.

    The storm was still going on when the boy finally came round. He used his arms to roll himself onto his back, sighed heavily and then looked around him. Soon his searching eyes rested on me.

    "Who are you?" He asked.

    "Katie." I answered

    "And where are we?"

    "In the woods that said to be protected."

    "Good call." He said with a pointed finger waving up and down at me as he used his other hand to push himself into a sitting poistion. "But stupid on your behalf."

    "Don't give me that lecture.I hear it every time there's a storm." I said in annoyance.

    "So why don't you listen?"

    "Because I couldn't let you die after my baby sister pointed you out to me. Daddy wasn't going to do anything."

    He considered my answer before saying "thank you. Even if you are being stupid."
    That comment threw me back some how. Then I said "You're the one who's being stupid! A parachute duing a storm? I mean come on! Where's the commen sense? Friends?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

    He smiled, making my sudden outburst melt away. "No, tradition in the family." He answered calmly.

    "Tradition? Still stupid."

    He laughed a short musical laugh, "true, but still tradition."

    "In what way? And what's your name?"

    "When a boy reaches a certain age - in this case eighteen - he is it to be tested against the Gods. In this case we're tested with a parachute flight during a storm. If he makes it through then he's worthy of a girls' hand. I have to admit we lost my older brother doing that and he was to become a father. And I'm Luke."

    He was saying it like it was an old tale that everybody should know that I was lost in his words. It took me a few seconds to realise he was looking at me, waiting for some response.

    "Still stupid." I muttered and looked away from him.

    But my eyes couldn't stray for long. They wondered back and saw he was smiling gently at me. I smiled back, the action feeling alien to me. And soon it felt like we've known each other for most of lives and not two strangers who have just met.

    There was something in the air that brought us closer. Close enough for our bodies to be touching. And something in the air sparked between us.

    Luke was trying to go along with it "the storm won't be finished for a while yet and that blouse must be clinging to your skin by now."

    I wasn't so easy going, more aware of the atmosphere around us. "We shouldn't be in the woods Luke. Besides, I'd better get home."

    I staretd to stand but Luke took my hand in his and I settled back on the ground, my mind racing. "The charm of the wood is effecting you. We've only just met." I tried, sounding false even to myself.

    " 'A man or God can claim any girl who's out in the storm. Claim by a kiss.' " Luke quoted.

    I starred at hime unsure of what to do or what to say. His hand found my chin and his head very slowlu tilted towards me. I tried to pull away but the gentle hand under my chin sqeezed the the flesh making it impossible to move my head. Then our lips touched. I refused to give in but in the end I had no choice. We were eager to explore each others body and when Luke began to peel of my blouse, I didn't stop him.

    *

    "Storm's over." Observed Luke

    "So it is." I mumbled into Luke's chest.

    Neither of us wanted the moment to end. Actually the storm had stopped a while ago, a few seconds after we came up exhuasted from our love making. We were quite content just laying on the ground wrapped in each others arms, my head against his chest and his chin resting on the top of my head. We just didn't want to move.

    "We both should head home now. Both sets of parents will be wondering where we are. If I don't leave now, they'll begin to think I haven't survived and will start looking."

    Then I remembered "Oh crap! Daddy doesn't know I'm out here. If he finds us out here like this, I'm dead meat!"

    I pushed my palm onto his skin to help me stand up. Then I rushed around collecting my pieces of clothing and Luke did the same. We concentrated on ourselves as we got dressed but I wanted to turn round and watch Luke, and I knew he wanted to do the same.

    “Ready?” He called

    “Yes.” I answered

    In a flash he was behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist and pulling my body close to his. His lips found my neck and he started to kiss the skin.

    “Luke, I need to go.” I whispered with no sound of urgency to leave. In fact, I rested against him.

    “Then let’s go before we loose track of more time.” He mumbled against the skin.

    His hands slipped down to my hips and the fingers hid under my blouse.

    “Luke.” I whispered contently.

    “Alright.”

    With reluctance, he slowly pulled away from the embrace and his hand held mine. He began to walk, briging me with him but both our minds were not really taking the movement in. So it was a surprise to us when we were back at the running stream.

    “Time to part.” Said Luke sadly.

    “We may live near each other.” I said hopefully.

    “I thought you said you don’t want your dad to see us together?”

    “Oh… Right. Good Point.”

    He smiled his sweet smile and then kissed me. It was supposed to be a quick kiss but we were eager to stay with each other longer and the kiss became more passionate. Eventually he stopped and without another word he turned right and walked away. My eyes watched him until they could no longer see him. Then I had to admit defeat and headed home.

    *

    The street was strangly quiet when I got to the path. There was no one in sight and it was still day time. I hate a deserted street, it makes me wreary, so I ran across the street and up the stairs.

    Before I picked up the spare key from under the spare mat, I looked up to the sky. There I saw two large eyes starring down at me with a hint of a smaile. I swallowed hard, picked up the key and hurried inside.

    *

    Even when I stayed inside for the rest of the day, and when I went to bed, I could still feel those eyes on me. And though I was fully clothed, I felt naked.

    The end
     
  6. Markowen
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    Markowen New Member

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    Still a baby

    Still a baby
    (529 words)

    I just told you, that's only an old old story. Are you really interested in listening it?
    Well. It happened when our quartier was still a dangerous place, its people went about only under the light of the sun and the police cars didn't dare get in it. It was the time in which King Bill ruled the quartier. If you came from there too, you'd have known him, I suppose.
    I was in front of him that day. I was there and I shook waiting he started to speak — there were stories about persons killed just for a wrong word. I was meeting him for the first time, totally unprepared for such a lot event, and I couldn't guess the reason I was there for.
    But I'm beating about the bush, and — I presume — you have few time.
    Picture the scene: I was right in front of him, in a large room filled with worn sofas and shabby fornitures that stank of dust; I was there, and in his face missed everything made him the terrible King, and neverthless I was frightened.
    I wasn't alone. She stood up in an adjacent room, hardly visible in the darkness. She was so slight I figured out she was twelve or thirteen.
    King Bill glanced at me, then at her. Suddenly she hid herself. At that moment I caught the boss's blue eyes, and perceived their tiredness. Now, the one who looked at me like a marble temple, appeared like an old palace in ruins.
    Eventually he spoke.
    Take this gun, go inside with her and if someone try to enter, you shoot, he said.
    When I reached her, she didn't utter a word. She embraced me in silence, in the darkness. I touched her mellow shapes and smelled her sweat. Her hands were so frigile that I was quite scared to break out them, even though her grip was strong like a snake's bite. We waited at that way for a long time and by the end of the day my gun fired, for the first time.
    It was like falling in a dark hole. We let dozens of bullets behind our roads. We had to escape and travel up to here, in this place hidden by the mountains and the trees, where we live with fear, and nobody ever asked me her story.
    Actually, I don't know much more than this about her. I ignore wheter she was his daughter, his lover, or what else. I ignore why she was so important for so many people — I barely can say why she's so important to me. To be honest, I ignore a lot of other things about her.
    What I understand very well is that today someone arrived out of nowhere and asked me about a story that likely he knows better than me.
    You arrived, with your cutting-edge shirt, now that my gun has been unloaded for a long time.
    You arrived, with your stupid laugh in your firm mouth, and I perfectly know you are going to shoot.
    Well, go ahead.
    But take care of her.
    Untill you'll be able to do it.
     
  7. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    Location:
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    The Light Festival
    (1957 Words)




    “Five thousand four hundred and twenty two sky lanterns. Think that might be enough for the festival this year?”
    “Yes that should suffice,” he told the lamp maker, who sat bent over the little wooden table mixing powders and crushed herbs into a thick paste with thin pale hands as the mayor watched.
    “Too be honest,” the mayor said. “That is more than I had expected you to deliver. The town vault is hard pressed as it is these days. With the trade routes to the grasslands blocked and the north in rebellion, we are forced to trade with the east at twice the price for grain.”
    The lamp maker looked up at the mayor and put a long bony finger to his spectacles, adjusting them slightly. “You do realize I have been working at this for a full year? I need to be paid what we agreed or I will be out of business.”
    The mayor's lips twitched ever so slightly at what he perceived to be an insult. “The town vault can pay you twenty thousand silver pieces, no more.”
    “We agreed thirty.” The lamp maker had put down the powders, and was now looking sharply up at the mayor and his secretary.
    “And I already told you,” said the mayor. “The people got to eat.”
    “You would not be the only one,” the lamp maker mumbled under his breath, making sure the mayor did not catch the words. The mayor pulled his fur coat tighter around his body and adjusted the little hat on top of his head, pulling the flaps down over his ears.
    “Then we will have nothing more to discuss,” he said. “If you come to your senses there will be twenty thousand silver coins waiting in the town hall.” And with that he left the lamp makers shack.


    “Are you sure that was wise?” William asked the mayor as they were wading through the ankle deep snow that had covered the little road back down to the town. “The light festival is the single highpoint of our existence. If the people of this town think you have compromised it they will never re-elect you.”
    The mayor laughed, and lit himself a cigarette.
    “The people..” he began. “..will believe whatever I want them to believe. And if I want them to believe that the lamp maker refused to provide lamps for the festival, they will simply chase him out of the town like a rabid hound. What I will not do, is to let him rob this town of its hard earned gold and silver, especially at times like these.”
    “But sir,” Bill protested. “We spent a thousand silver on table decorations alone for the gallery opening last month. Surely we could spare the coin for that old man that have dedicated his entire life to making lamps for this town?”
    The mayor had another hit on his cigarette before turning to his secretary. “You have a lot to learn Bill,” he said. “There are only two types of people in the world. The ones who are too weak to carve out a place for themselves, and the rest. Don't be weak. You watch out for yourself and your family, and the rest of the herd can keep on bleating.” Bill gave his boss a nod, and pretended to agree. Nothing more was said until they were back.


    There had been five days since the mayors visit to the lamp maker. As assured as he was that the old hermit would come to his senses eventually, the mayor began to worry when there had been no life signs from the lamp makers shack for several days. With only two days remaining until the festival, most of the city would hopefully be too busy with preparations to notice there were no horse carts loaded with sky lanterns. But although no single citizen had noticed yet, the mayor had no illusions what would happen once they eventually did find out there would be no lamps. No, if the old man did not come by in time, the mayor decided; He would have to take action. He could take the lamps by force. He had enough men loyal to him that would never speak up about such a thing, but there were other, smarter, options. The best one might simply be to ignore it all. If the lamp maker did not show, he could simply blame the old man for failing to deliver on time. After all, who would believe the words of a crude creature such as the lamp maker? Mayor Anthony Smith smiled a sly smile as he poured himself a glass of whiskey, and lit a cigar.


    The day before the festival, the lamp maker called on his apprentice Garred. The short round boy of fifteen had been laboring hard this past year, trying to get all the lamps ready for the festival, and thus the lamp maker's plan was an easy sell. The two men worked through the night. Hardly eating, and relying on stimulants and herbs to stay awake.
    “They piss on the little guy,” said the lamp maker loudly as he was hammering nails into the wooden box. “It is we do all the work, and them collecting the profits. Tell me if that is fair.”
    “Very little is fair about life,” said Garred. Despite being only fifteen, he had experienced the full cruelty of the world when his entire family burned to death before his eyes at the age of six. The little scared boy had been taken in by a man, who at the time had been master of treasury, Anthony Smith. In his mansion on the west side of the valley, the little boy had learned to be invisible. He had not known better at the time of course, so for the four years the had stayed with the Smith family, he had learned to serve tea, clean carpets and do gardening work. When he had discovered at the age of twelve that it had been Anthony Smith who had cut back on funding for the fire department; Garred had left the then newly elected mayor, and had begun to apprentice for the old lamp maker up in the hills instead. A man he had found kind and caring, despite having very few possessions and an odd lack of interest in gold and wealth.
    “Well I am done on my end,” said Garred, wiping sweat off his face and throwing down his wrench. “We just built the biggest piñata this town has ever seen.”


    At the day of the festival, everyone were gathered at the town square. Braziers burned on every corner, and above the streets between the buildings, hundreds of lanterns were suspended from thick ropes that had been put up the day before. The streets themselves were flooded with women, men and children, all dressed in the flaming red cloaks that would only be seen during this one day of the year. Among the food stands and ale kegs and performers breathing fire and juggling torches, people mingled and talked and danced. Yet the atmosphere had a damp feel to it. Word had it the map maker had demanded an outrageous sum of money for the lamps this year, and when the mayor had tried talking sense into him, the little man had apparently fled the town with all the lamps, taking his apprentice with him, and leaving nothing for the festival. There had been an outcry when the mayor told them from the balcony of the town hall, but he assured them that the festival would go on as planned, and that next year would see a lamp show the people would never forget.


    An hour before midnight, the lamp maker and his apprentice rolled into town through the old masons gate. Their disguise consisted of a simple linen robe that had been pulled over their heads, relying on the cover of darkness to do the rest. At the gate stood a single guard, a boy of no more than twenty, clearly miserably from having drawn the shortest straw at the days assignments. “We bring food for the festival,” the lamp maker said cheerfully as they approached, handing over a small basket filled with sweet rolls and beer. The guard accepted it happily before letting them pass through the barrier.


    Ten minutes to midnight, mayor Anthony Smith retired to the town hall where a private party to the most successful business owners were gathered. Men and women in expensive clothing mingled together, discussing business deals, investments and ongoing projects that would bring wealth and prosperity to themselves. Mayor Anthony Smith was in the center of it all. Dressed in his peacock colored silk robe, he was the center of attention. The owner of the mine especially, was interested in the prospect of taking over the lamp production using minerals from his own mine, and was busy cutting deals with Laura Tessecks of the forester association when Anthony ascended to the makeshift stage in the middle of the room. He tapped twice on the microphone, making the speakers buzz and crackle.

    “One, two, three,” he began, while adjusting the volume. “Ok, great. I am delighted you all could make it to this years light festival, a tradition that can be traced as far back as the first settlers of this valley. But in addition to this fine day of celebration, a second tradition has grown from the original one. It is the tradition of those gathered here to support each others.”
    The mayor raised a glass of champagne before his face and bid the rest to do the same.
    “Let us stand up for each others. Let us share the wealth and bathe in the riches. Let our family names go down in the history books as the ones who put the town of Valleybreach on the world map.”
    There came a cheer from the group, and everyone raised their glasses once more to sip the champagne.
    “Let me make one thing clear though,” the mayor continued. “If you are not with us, you are with the rest of the cattle standing outside this very town hall this very moment. We do not sink down to their level and standard of living. We take what we want. We are strong, they are the weak, and the weak deserve to slave away at the whims of the strong.” The mayor raised his hand and curled it into a fist. “And just as with the lamp maker, we will not hesitate to squeeze this town for everything its got. To bleed it until it's dry.”
    A cheer went up from the room. “To mayor Anthony!” a woman called out, and the rest followed, “To mayor Anthony.”


    Outside the town hall, the so far peaceful celebration had turned into a frenzy. Men and women armed themselves with bottles and wooden sticks, and banded together to march on the town hall. From the stage near the well, Garred sat, clutching the cable that fed the audio input from the town hall's microphone system into the town square speakers. The fury of the angry mob drowned out Anthony Smith's speech as they smashed every shop window in town.


    It was midnight by the time it happened. A huge explosion, unlike anything the people of the little town had ever seen washed across the sky. It came from the bank district, and was followed by a thundering boom that could easily be mistaken for a volcanic eruption. Through this fountain of fire, the people watched in awe, as five thousand lamps rose above the city like a flock of freed doves, turning the sky into an ocean of light.
     
  8. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    Location:
    NYC
    Halloween (1155 Words)

    Ali hid under the table and sat on the kitchen floor. She stared at the open doorway that led to the living room, waiting for the sun to creep down and settle the day. The guests began to show up, appearing out of thin air and materializing from head to toe. Their bodies were translucent like vapor and glowed amber against the radiant dusk. Ali looked at the new arrivals and searched for a face she trusted. When a teenage boy made eye contact with her, Ali turned away.

    "Ali, come out of there," said her mother Olivia. Ali pushed herself to the base of the table and grabbed the front legs of the chair in front of her, using it as a shield from anyone who dared to disturb her.

    "No!" said Ali.

    "I hope she's not scared of us," said Grand Aunt Colleen who appeared next to Olivia.

    "No, she’s just shy.”

    “That is so cute,” said Grand Aunt Colleen. She stooped down to look at Ali. “Hi Ali, don’t you remember me?”

    Ali struggled to identify Grand Aunt Colleen; it was hard to identify someone with a see-through face. When Ali recognized the dragonfly hairclip and the plump physique, Ali remembered. Last year, Colleen was the loudest and the rowdiest of the dead relatives. Colleen had consumed a bottle of wine, a bottle of Jack Daniels, three bottles of Guinness and a glass of Long Island Iced Tea. Ali could never forget the smell of Grand Aunt Colleen’s breath. Ali raised an arm and waved at her to say hi.

    Olivia walked over to the stovetop oven and checked the turkey inside. When Olivia opened the door to take a peek, the aroma escaped and wafted through the kitchen. Mrs. Carmine, who was good friends with Olivia, cooked her potatoes on the stove, frying it with garlic oil and sprinkling it with spices and seasoning. Mrs. Carmine was alive and breathing, and she could see the ghosts too, just like Olivia and Ali.

    "You make them potatoes really good Mrs. Carmine," said Grand Aunt Lisette, hovering between the kitchen table and the stovetop oven. "If only I can smell them right now."

    “You will dearie,” said Mrs. Carmine, “You will soon enough.”

    Ali stayed under the table, scanning the guests as they came through the front door and as they appeared out of thin air. The living room was getting crowded, and the living and the dead mingled with one another, catching up with their loved ones and sharing stories about their travels to the country side and the nether planes. The ghosts talked about their adventures as well.

    "I was in Anne Hathaway’s body when she accepted her Academy award," said Grand Aunt Colleen. "I felt so alive and it was electric with all the lights and all the celebrities looking at you. Well, I mean, her." The living room burst into laughter.

    When moonlight entered through the kitchen window, Olivia went back to Ali. She knelt down, looked Ali in the eye and reached for her daughter.

    "Come on Ali, the ritual is about to start."

    “Where’s daddy?”

    “He’ll be here. Don’t worry sweetie, daddy will be home soon.”

    Ali grabbed her mother’s hand and pulled herself from under the table. She immediately clung to her mother’s waist, which made the walk from the kitchen to the living room a balancing act for Olivia. When they crossed the threshold, Ali searched for her father, scanning the room filled with strangers and relatives. When Ali didn’t see him, Ali buried her face in Olivia’s dress.

    "Happy Halloween everybody! Family, friends and welcomed guests, we are gathered here tonight for this special occasion," said Olivia. "Please enjoy your brief stay in the living plane. Have fun and stay safe."

    The ghosts cheered and whistled while the living clapped with their hands. The newly dead turned to the veteran ghosts and asked what was to come.

    “Wait and see kid,” said Great Aunt Lisette to the teenage boy.

    "Come on sweetie, mommy needs to sing," said a voice behind Ali and Olivia. Ali turned around and immediately recognized her father. She loosened her arms around her mother and scampered towards him. She wanted to grab him and hug him and drag him to the kitchen for tea, but Ali remembered what her mother had said about touching a ghost and interfering with their space. Ali made that mistake last year when she passed through a crowd of ghosts – she had nightmares for weeks. Like a good girl, Ali placed her hands behind her back and stood next to her father.

    Olivia smiled to her husband and turned to her audience. She took a deep breath and sang. The words were not in English nor were they in Latin. No one knew what was said or knew what it was about. But Olivia sang. The high notes were perfect, and she sustained them flawlessly like a professional. She belted the low notes that came out strong and vicious. Ali listened and felt the energies emanating from her father and from the ghosts that filled the room. The hairs on her nape stood. The living listened, mesmerized by the song as if the melody touched their souls.

    The ghosts slowly transformed into flesh, beginning from the head and down to their toes. The clothes they had worn before their deaths materialized with their temporary bodies. As soon as they inhaled the aroma from the kitchen, they dropped from the air and landed on the floor. Olivia finished her song, and everyone applauded until their palms were red. Olivia smiled and curtsied to her audience. She turned around and embraced her husband, kissing him in the lips and sharing a tear to his warm cheek.

    “I missed you so much, Ray.” said Olivia to his ear.

    “I missed you too, ‘Liv.” said Ray.

    “Daddy, daddy, let’s have tea!” said Ali. Ray looked down to his daughter and gave her a smile. He carried Ali up to his face and kissed her and kissed her and ruffled her hair.

    “Come on guys, food is ready,” said Mrs. Carmine from the kitchen. Everyone in the living room proceeded to the kitchen. The guests helped themselves with servings of oven-roasted turkey, garlic potatoes, scallops wrapped in bacon, fried chicken, steamed fish and more food that could feed a whole graveyard.

    "Tea time, daddy," said Ali to her dad, pointing at the Little Princess Tea Table at the corner of the kitchen.

    “Ali, let daddy eat first!” said Olivia.

    “It’s alright ‘Liv,” said Ray. Ray walked over to the small table that had pink teacups, toy teaspoons and a plastic sugar bowl on its surface. Ray placed Ali on her seat, and he sat on the floor, fearing that the tiny chair might not hold his weight.

    "Sugar?"

    "Why yes please,” said Ray, reaching his empty cup to his daughter.
     
  9. byjordanmarie
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    byjordanmarie Member

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    Happy Birthday to Me

    Short Story Contest 133
    Theme: "Tradition"

    Title: Happy Birthday to Me
    Word Count: 618

    My mother lit the candles upon my cake as my friends sang me “Happy Birthday”. I had a smile on my face, but within I was in more pain than I could possibly comprehend. Two minutes before, I was hurrying out of the bathroom, rubbing my wet hands on my pants, because the towel had gone missing, and out of the corner of my eye and through the frosted window, I saw them. I saw my best friend, Rebecca, and my father making out.

    My mother was calling my name, and my legs carried me down the hall, and into the dining room. Rebecca had walked through the front door with a present hanging at her left elbow as my father had walked in from the kitchen opening a can of Sprite. I looked from one to the other, and they were oblivious to me knowing. My dad was at my mother’s hip, with his goofy grin plastered to his face. I always thought it was his “I’m in love” grin. What irony.

    Everything I knew about love, I had learn from watching my parents. They were picture perfect. My mother was your typical soccer mom, and just like all the other middle class men on our street, my dad held an “eight to five” at the local Stanley tool factory.

    “Make a wish.” My mother and father chimed.

    “A wish.” I quietly and unintentionally thought aloud. I couldn’t get my mind off of what I had just seen. But I closed my eyes and blew.


    The rest of the party went by in a blur. My mom pulling the candles out of the cake, Rebecca licking them clean of icing, me almost gagging, my father and mother gifting me the instant Polaroid camera I had been begging for since Christmas and everyone finally leaving.

    I wanted to be alone, but my mother needed me. She needed me more than she even knew. She sent dad to the video store to pick up some movies and popcorn, our birthday tradition, and I helped her clean the kitchen.

    I was scrubbing the cake pan, and the next moment, I found myself hugging her tightly and kissing her on the cheek. “Thank you mom, for such a fun evening.”

    “Oh sweetie, you’re welcome.” My mother had the most beautiful smile I had even seen, but I could tell she was tired from the party prep.

    She had always been my rock, and I shared more with her than any of my friends. But now, when I had so much to say, and so much on my mind, I couldn’t turn to her.

    With the kitchen now put back together, and the rest of the house decent, Mom went to shower, and I told her I was going to go for a quick run.
    I ran upstairs to change into jogging clothes, and three minutes later, found myself feet to pavement and tears flowing uncontrollably down my face. As I rounded the corner I had rounded countless times before over the past fourteen years, and crossed the the street over, bright lights came into view and I heard it. Tires screeched and metal twisted.

    I pulled my shirt to my face and tried to dry my eyes. There was a silver Honda wrapped around a telephone phone. The same model my dad just left the house in, thirty minutes before.

    People, lights and sirens emerged. I stood at the corner as I tried to imagine this were a dream. At some point my mother joined my side. She was hysterical, and I just stood there, as six firemen worked to pull my father’s lifeless body out of his 1999 Honda Accord.
     

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