Please vote for the piece you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Jun 24, 2012.
  1. Luna13 - Wish

    1 vote(s)
  2. mootz - Rid Breeze

    3 vote(s)
  3. P R Crawford - Why There Are Happy Endings (from "Tales of Wufl, An Incompetent God")

    4 vote(s)
  4. mbhammer07 - Johnny's

    6 vote(s)
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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England

    Voting Short Story Contest 116: Happy Ending

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Jun 11, 2012.

    Voting Short Story Contest (116) Theme: Underground

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned. No more entries are allowed in this contest.

    Voting will end Sunday 24th June to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under or over the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone
  2. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Luna13 - Wish

    I Wish [1,702 words]

    I wish… thought Madeline longingly, then stopped herself. No. I shouldn’t be thinking like that. She pulled her head away from the window and slumped into her desk chair, which creaked loudly. Madeline’s small desk was strewn with paper: newspaper clippings, pages torn out of books, lists, and above all, poems she had written. Madeline picked up one certain poem and examined it.

    The door banged open quite suddenly, and Madeline jumped. “Madeline, dear?”

    “Yes, Mother?” said Madeline, shoving the poem into an open desk drawer.

    Mrs. Van Leheral frowned, eyes narrowing in suspicion. Madeline turned red, realizing too late that she shouldn’t have acted so guilty. “I was only wondering if you could come downstairs and watch Elijah so I can go and get some work done at the office.”

    Madeline did not like having to hide her poetry from her mother, who didn’t approve of it, but she had no choice if she wanted to keep writing. So more to avoid trouble than anything else, she said, “I’ll keep an eye on Elijah. Where is he?”

    “In the living room,” said Mrs. Van Leheral. “He’s playing with his trains.” She left the room, leaving behind a strong scent of lavender.

    Once her mother was safely out of earshot, Madeline muttered to herself, “God. I can’t get anything done around here, not with Elijah and Mother’s so-called business.” She went downstairs, thinking, At least I can use the computer without having to worry about Mother seeing what I’m up to.

    Madeline found Elijah sitting on the living room floor, pushing around his toy trains on the thick carpet. “Maddie! Come play with my trains!”

    “Sorry, buddy,” said Madeline, faking cheerfulness for her little cousin’s sake. “I gotta do some work.”

    “Work, work, work,” grumbled the four-year-old as he crashed two trains together. “That’s all you and Auntie Isabelle ever do.”

    My thoughts exactly, thought Madeline as she turned on the computer. Except Mother’s work isn’t even good work, just some stupid business she set up herself. To Elijah, she said, “I know. When you get older, you’ll have to work, too.”

    “But you’re not that older,” protested Elijah. “You’re only fifteen, and you work all the time! I thought people who are fifteen didn’t have to work.”

    “They don’t,” said Madeline. “Not always. I just choose to work.”

    That got the little boy’s attention. “You want to work?” he asked incredulously.

    “Yeah,” said Madeline. “If I’m ever gonna be a real poet, I gotta start sometime.”

    “Poet?” asked Elijah, abandoning his trains to peer over Madeline’s shoulder at the computer screen.

    “Yeah. You know, someone who writes poems.”

    “Oh. What kind of pomes?”

    “Not pomes, silly, poems. And I write fictional poems.”


    Madeline sighed; she had forgotten how hard it was trying to talk to a four-year-old. “It means it’s made up.”

    “Oh.” Elijah had lost interest. He went back to his trains.

    Madeline opened up a blank Word document and typed, The Ice in Your Eyes by Madeline Van Leheral. Then she stared. And stared. And stared. The plot of this poem had been in her mind for days, but no words came to her. “Ah, forget it,” she muttered. “Elijah, you want a snack?”

    This is how it always is, Madeline speculated as she cut up some celery for her cousin. Mom goes away to her stupid office to do her stupid fake job and I’m left at home to look after Elijah. I wish… Unlike before, Madeline failed to stop these bitter thoughts, and they consumed her as she gave Elijah his snack and returned to the computer to stare blankly at the page. I wish Auntie Jane and Uncle Dave were still alive so Elijah wouldn’t have to live with us. I wish Dad hadn’t cheated on Mother and then moved out. I wish Mother had gotten a good job when the money started running out instead of starting her own stupid business that hasn’t even earned her a hundred dollars. I wish Mother approved of me being a poet so I wouldn’t have to write in secret. I wish… Madeline heaved a great sigh and pushed back her chair. I wish there could be a happy ending in my life.

    Madeline heard the low grumble of the garage door being opened and quickly shut down the computer, so when her mother walked into the room, she appeared to be happily playing trains with Elijah. “You two okay?” asked her mother. “Nothing went wrong?”

    “You weren’t even gone half an hour,” said Madeline. “There wasn’t time for anything to go wrong.”

    Mrs. Van Leheral smiled slightly. “I suppose you’re right.”

    Madeline followed her mother as she went into the kitchen, leaving Elijah to play with his trains. “Mother? Can I talk to you?”

    “Of course, honey, what is it?” Madeline’s mother sat down at the table.

    “It’s about your job.”

    Instantly the atmosphere in the room changed. “What about my job?” Mrs. Van Leheral asked tensely.

    “We need money, Mother, and your job certainly isn’t earning any. It’s just a waste of –”

    “Madeline,” snapped Mrs. Van Leheral. “My financial matters are my own business.”

    “Maybe so, but your poor financial choices are going to make things very hard for me and Elijah. Maybe you’re the one earning the money, but it affects Elijah and me just as much as it affects you.”

    “Madeline,” said her mother, and this time her voice was more soft than sharp. “You know I am only in the early stages of business, and things are bound to speed up once it gets going –”

    “Early stages! Mother, you’ve been working on this for a year. Isn’t it time you’ve found a real job?”

    “Madeline!” shouted Mrs. Van Leheral. “Why are you berating me about this? It is no concern of yours! I will provide for you and Elijah, I always have!”

    “Yeah, well,” said Madeline as she left the room, “you haven’t been doing that great of a job lately.”

    Ignoring her mother’s repeated yells of “Madeline Van Leheral! Come back here now! We are not done with this conversation! You are in a lot of trouble right now, young lady,” Madeline went upstairs and locked herself in her room.

    All I want is a happy ending, she thought again. And the way things are going right now, that doesn’t seem to likely to happen.

    Hours passed. Madeline stayed up in her room, writing furiously. She was sick of hiding her poetry from her mother. It wasn’t fair that her mother could keep at this useless business of hers, but Madeline couldn’t even write without getting told she was wasting time. She was going to show her mother her poems. Make her read them. Force her to accept that Madeline was a poet.


    That was the only thing Madeline felt as the she wrote page after page, determined to fill her whole notebook by nightfall.


    Even the smell of stew cooking on the stove could not coax Madeline from her room. Three-quarters of the way there.


    The room grew dark, so Madeline just turned on her desk lamp and continued. So close. She was so close to the end.


    By now Mrs. Van Leheral was pounding on the door. “Madeline Van Leheral! Dinner is ready! Eat now or don’t eat at all!” Madeline ignored her. Just another page…

    “Madeline Van Leheral! Are you listening? Eat now or don’t eat at –”

    Madeline yanked open the door, and for a few moments there was silence, punctuated only by the bang of the door bouncing repeatedly against the wall. Then Madeline thrust the full notebook at her mother. “Here.”

    Her mother took the notebook, and very, very, slowly turned the pages. At first she was angry. Then her face grew soft and she said quietly, “You wrote this? All of this?”

    Madeline could only nod. Her heart was pounding so loudly she thought her mother could hear it.

    Mrs. Van Leheral turned a few more pages. “When?”

    “Some of it was already done,” said Madeline. “But most of it I did tonight.”

    Disbelief flickered across her mother’s face as she said, “You wrote almost seventy pages of poetry… in five hours?”

    Madeline nodded again. “I just… had to prove… that I’m not useless. That my poems aren’t just a waste of time.”

    Mrs. Van Leheral said nothing and just continued looking at the words. The last page was titled Happy Ending.

    Elijah came up behind his aunt. “What is that? What does it say?”

    So Madeline read it to him.

    Sometimes when I am wandering
    Not knowing what I’m looking for
    I shed tears of longing
    As I fight a hidden war

    The days of being good are long
    And the freedom of night is sweet
    Inside I sing myself a song
    And promise I won’t admit defeat

    Often I wonder when this will end
    When the time of lies will be through
    In vain attempts to find a friend
    I fail to see what really is true

    And if I do not ever succeed
    In making things alright
    Then know that I have done my deed
    Now it’s your turn to fight the fight

    Dreams do not come true on their own
    So there’s no use in pretending
    That without help I can make this my home
    And give my life a happy ending

    “Wow,” said Elijah, awestruck.

    Madeline gave him a slight smile, then looked uncertainly at her mother. “All I want is a happy ending,” she said quietly.

    Mrs. Van Leheral closed her eyes briefly, then said, “I’m sorry, Madeline, If you ever felt… not at home here. And you’re right.”

    “About what?”

    “Everything – well, most things. You… are a wonderful writer.”

    That probably wasn’t actually true – chances were, Mrs. Van Leheral was simply being nice – but as Madeline looked at her small family, the two people who had caused her so much pain and so much joy, who she hated and yet she would die for, she felt a small amount of happiness rise up in her. Maybe… she thought. Maybe things will be okay after all.

    Maybe I will have a happy ending.
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    mootz - Rid Breeze

    “Magic is an extension of the self,” Hurtle said, frowning. “It's not just actions that shape the soul of a spirit, it's intentions as well. If you think of violence it will color you, if you think of taking something that isn't yours, it will affect you in profound ways. I've taught you magic to use appropriately, one mistake can ruin you forever.”

    “Father, I understand,” Rid said pleading. Hurtle liked to hammer his points into the ground, making his lectures two part torture for every one part lesson. It was his political backgroung. Rid placed his hands into the opposite, long sleeves of his arms and held them in front of him. His inherited sky-blue robes had just begun to elevate before the floor, and his body was slowly morphing into that of one his age suggested.

    “I don't want you using your magic for the flesh, or against it,” Hurtle added.

    “Father,” Rid said, sternly this time. He tried to lower his tone of voice to sound older. It nearly worked.

    “Alright,” Hurtle said as he rubbed his hand into the un-combed, tightly-braided hair of his son. Rid took his hand from his sleeves and pushed away his father with a half-annoyed, half-amused chuckle. “Just be careful in the light.”

    “I'm always careful, Senator Breeze, it's my middle name,” Rid said smiling and hovering off the clouds beneath his feet. Rid's arms separated from his body forming a 'T' shape with his torso. His loose robes caught wind and energy, fluttering about him even as he hovered in place. Rid saw a smile on the face of his father as his body warmed up.

    “Your middle name is Chauncey, Private Breeze,” Hurtle said with a wicked chuckle. Rid hated that name and scowled as his body took flight from his home in the clouds.

    The small-framed, wind spirit zig-zagged between homes and traffic, clouds and wind-currents. He danced in the bright colors of the spirit world—an ever-changing rainbow of various intensities—as he flirted with the wind. Rid rode it like a leaf determined. It flowed through him just as he did with it. It wasn't necessarily control that allowed the young, brown-skinned spirit to fly, it was more understanding.

    How am I going to get Para to love me, let alone like me without magic? He thought.

    A frown became a smile and his musings vanished when the arc caught Rid's eyes. Golden, ornate, massive, intimidating and ever so alluring—this was the transport would take him to the world of the living. The yellow arc, the light transferer.

    Light only transferred one way naturally. It brought the living from the physical world and into the world of the beyond where Rid was born. Rid was a second generation, as was Para and the bulk of those who would be making the journey. It meant he was born of the union of once-living turned spirits, and had never seen the physical plane, today he would.

    “Rid,” a sweet, feminine voice called. The boy smiled, it was Para's.

    “It's the wind suffer,” Trunk said, “how's it going, bub?”

    “Hi, Trunk,” Rid said, annoyed. Trunk's seen the physical world a few times on account of being older. He was only going now to watch over his girlfriend, Para.

    “It's so exciting to see the living, finally,” Para said, oblivious to the males' angst between them.

    “It's not so great,” Trunk said.

    “Whatever, bub, why even go? I'm sure it will be great, Para. You and I will have some fun, at least.”

    “Yeah, he is just so used to it. We'll have fun, Rid.”

    “You're not having fun with him, you're having fun with me. Let's go, Para.”

    “I'm sorry,” Para said, waving and walking away. “See you when we get back.”

    One lousy bolt of magic, Rid thought. The idiot can't talk to me then—he thinks just because my father is a senator I won't fight him.

    A loud whistle interrupted Rid's thoughts. It came from the golden arc. The spirit reached into his tunic to find his ticket, then floated over to the gates of entry. Those brief seconds flirted on terribly mischievous as Rid's mind played around with images imagining the form behind Para's white and pink robes with black trimming. He imagined her bare against him, them together on puffy, white clouds of the tropic valley. He pictured removing her hanging, raven hair from her face with his hands and placing a kiss innocent and sweet.

    Innocent thoughts wondered and became truly devious.

    “Ticket, Mr. Breeze,” the guard said. Rid nearly forgot he was in line.

    “Private Breeze,” he corrected as he handed the ticket.

    “Not until you actually finish training with the spirit-mages,” the guard said, “unless you want to call me captain.”

    Rid snorted as he took the ticket. He nearly upturned his nose as he made his way past the guard onto the golden deck of the arc. On board, Rid found some odd three dozen youth his age waiting to finally see the world of the living alongside others. There were older people as well, some couples of mid age, and some elders.

    He scowled in disgust as he saw the odd fetishist peppered in the crowd. Known for obsession with trying to be reincarnated into the world of the living, they were nervous types, sweaty with clothing near like the living, though still robes technically. They would surely try to jump into the light from the arc, but the captain of the vessel would have everyone inside during the transfer to prevent unpredicted physical births in the world of the living. Worse than that, there was a reason why they were denied reincarnation through other means—they were not the best of the spirit world to begin with.

    His first instinct was to find Para or anyone else he knew, so Rid's eyes started to scan the deck for familiar faces. Only at the last second did he catch a round item coming his way.

    The ball hit his face with enough force to send him tumbling backward.

    “Nerds are only worth five points,” someone said.

    “It was worth more for me,” Trunk said. Rid glowered behind stinging eyes at the wood-spirit. Fury collected in his finger tips and a clenched fist changed into a pointed weapon, a funnel of magic and energy. He pointed his index finger like the barrel of a gun, only for his vision to clear in time for him to see Para standing before him.

    “What are you doing?” she asked.

    “What am I doing?” Rid questioned, furious.

    “We get it, Rid. You're good enough to join the spirit-mages, you're really strong. You can't use magic like that against spirits like Trunk and his friends. They'll be reincarnated, or worse, erased from the stream of life.”

    “Where was your compassion when they hit me?”

    “I told them to stop!”

    “I didn't hear that!” Rid said standing. “I heard how many points I am to them, that's it.”

    “Why are you mad at me?”

    “Because I love you and I can't think of how I'm going to go on without you. Especially when you are dating the biggest jerk in these clouds. No. I can't. Me or him, Para. Me or him.”

    “Him,” Para said. It was almost like a question, but it wasn't. He could see she was confused. It took Rid a moment of silence and stares to realize she didn't understand how anything between him and her was an option, and that was the reason for her questioning voice.

    “Whatever, bitch,” Rid said, and a slap to his face was her reply.

    “Who you calling a bitch?” Trunk said with his cronies at his side.

    “Let's go, Trunk,” Para said. This time, Rid heard her.

    The senator's son stood there, eyes glazed to glass. He could feel every pair of eyes burning through him. His shoulder's slumped forward even as he felt his mind and soul retreat. He turned his eyes and thoughts to his home and his family—and he tried to think of other girls.

    Still, in his thoughts, Para was there. And he was with her always in everything.

    He replayed the incident in his head, feeling the fury again in his hands while remembering the warnings of his father. Even intentions color the soul. But, wasn't he intending well? It was love he sought and love he planned to give. Para was meant for him, he for her. There was but one obstacle, one blinder. Trunk had to get out of the way.

    “Excuse me,” a voice interrupted. Rid's face twitched in marked annoyance. “Sorry. It's just, well, you're a spirit-mage, right?”

    Rid's eyes found the voice, it was a fetishist. His skin crawled at the thought of someone cheating the system that his father protected... his own devious intentions justified behind love and blind to his accusations.

    “What do you want?” Rid hissed out.

    “To enter the light.”

    “The damned lig--” Rid caught himself. His mind turned on its axis, pieces and ideas moving and shifting to fit into a grand scheme. Underneath him he could feel the arc moving away from the harbor of clouds. Guards were escorting passengers inside to keep them from jumping overboard. Rid smiled. “You'll have to help me,” he said as the fetishist nodded.


    Rid had communicated his plan and joined the passengers inside the body of the arc. Through the observation lenses, the spirits present could observe the arc move through the dimensions of spirituality after leaving the world of clouds.

    First, Rid saw the dimension of love with its pink hearts and warm fireplaces. Formless clouds became holding hands and tender feelings. There was physical sight of such images, though most was felt in the heart itself. It was warming and tender, a perfect bowl of chicken soup on a winter cloud. He thought of Para.

    The arc then whistled through the land of knowledge, accelerating and gaining speed. The images came faster, but were still clear to the young spirit. Columns and rows of books piled on top of each other. The smell of old tomes and freshly dried ink played in his nose alongside chalk and blackboards in his eyes. In his heart, Rid swore he heard the voice of his father's lectures.

    Images whirled even faster leaving the land of knowledge. Rid could no longer see anything but he felt plenty. War, disease, fighting, aggression, pain, loss, stupidity, death and destruction all clouded the heart of Rid like murky water. No images of the dimension caught his eye, and yet, inside him he saw the face of Trunk, the damned wood-spirit.

    His feelings burned intently reminding him of his goal. Dimensions faded in and out of his consciousness and a numbness took over his spirit form. Then, blinding light took from him his vision. Rid turned from the lenses to the general area and saw that the fetishist kept his word.

    The creepy man fell to the floor and began writhing in fake pain. Guards circled him to see what the matter was as Rid aimed his index finger—hidden in the folds of his robe's sleeves—at the door's leading to the deck of the arc. With a simple chant, the wind-spirit blew the hinges of the door.

    As he had hoped, light flooded the room like water into a pool. The other fetishist and some of the passengers ran out onto the deck to see and feel the light at its alluring fullest. Rid's eyes found Trunk.

    “Outside,” he whispered in the confusion and chaos. Rid had his index finger against the back of Trunk. The wood-spirit must have felt the resonance of just-used magic because he followed the order immediately. Rid grabbed the larger spirit by his robe's neck and led him out.

    “What are you doing, Rid?” Para questioned.

    “Babe, he's going to shoot me, back away,” Trunk said.

    “Why don't you just fight us without magic,” one of Trunks friends said as Rid and his hostage walked back towards the exit.

    “That sounds fair, stupid,” Rid said firing a blast of death in his direction. Rid missed on purpose, but the rebounding energy singed the robes of the boy. Para cried in fear and Rid felt guilty just as he felt proud and hungry for more destruction.

    Behind him, Rid heard wailing and cries and he realized that they were for people jumping into the light from the side of the arc. His lips curled, wondering who would wail for Trunk.

    Rid continued his march for the rails of the arc, cognoscente of the fact the guards were starting to restore order. Only Para followed the pair.

    “What are you doing, Rid?” Para asked.

    “Why don't you tell me to stop like you made him stop from hitting me?” Rid said.

    “Go back inside, babe,” Trunk pleaded.

    “Shut up!” Rid exploded into the ear of Trunk. “She's not a 'babe'. She's the most beautiful spirit I've ever seen. She deserves the best and you're just a bully jerk.”

    “You're crazy,” Trunk said, lower body leaning against the rail, Rid pressed against him.

    “At least I am not dumb enough to make fun of wind surfers when I can't fly,” Rid said, pushing Trunk over the edge. The second his body left the deck and the protection of the arc, Trunk's spirit faded into light, stretching like a shadow that went on forever. There was no sound from Trunk, the wailing came from Para.

    “What's wrong?” Rid asked. He looked at her tears with confusion coursing through him like the blood lust and magic he felt. She had both hands over her mouth. “We can be together now, Para. We can have our happy ending.”

    Para stood in silence. She shook her head and then closed her eyes. Rid stood next to her, trying to place his arms lovingly over her shoulders and kiss her forehead, but she bucked away from his embrace.

    “You monster,” she whispered finally.

    “What?” Rid said, furious. “This, I did it for us.”

    Para brought her hand up to slap Rid again but the boy saw it coming and grabbed her wrist. He didn't see the knee rising for his groin. Rid shut his eyes in pain, cursing. When he opened him, all he saw was a brief image of a long shadow fading into light. Para was gone.

    Rid rose, forgetting his physical pain. His hands clasped the railing and he screamed, howling into the light that surrounded him. They can't both be reincarnated, they could end up together. He knew then he had to chase her.

    The wind spirit lifted a leg to jump over the rail when he was caught from behind and dragged down. He felt the heavy bodies of guards keeping him down. His eyes looked past his blight while he tried to free himself. Slowly, the light faded away to reveal the dimensions of the living and physical.

    Rid saw clocks, beds and elderly—the dimension of time. He saw mountains and smelled plants and he thought of space and knew it was the dimension of physical existence. The images came faster and blurred together, and before he knew it, the arc was in the land of the living, his arms tied down behind him.

    It was a strange place. Concrete boxes towering for the skies, pointing at clouds above. Metal boxes screeched, beeped and speed around him and the arc. There were people every where but none of them danced or sung or seemed happy. They all seemed in a hurry, quick to get from where they were and furious about how long it took. No one wore robes.

    This is where Para was, with Trunk.

    “Private Breeze,” a voice said behind him on the arc. Rid looked over his shoulder and saw the guard that took his ticket.

    “You've learned your manners,” Rid said hysterically and behind tears. “My father is on the senate after all.”

    “With a son who leads a group of hidden fetishist?” the guard asked, “I don't think so. You're responsible for a half a dozen spirits being reborn into the world of the living. And we'll never find them either, there are about seven billion souls in this plane of existence.”

    “They won't all come out together?” Rid asked.

    “Naw, too big a place for coincidences like that,” he admitted.

    “Oh, happy day,” Rid mumbled to himself. The guard dragged him to towards the inners of the arc to hold him until the trip was done and the arc could leave back for the spirit world. Rid smiled the whole way. Para and Trunk would forget about each other in the world of the living, eventually they would both die and return to the world of spirits. Rid would be out of jail to greet her by then—probably. Rid could practice magic revolved around love and kindness and happy thoughts and his soul would be colored with it, she'd like that. She'd like him.

    Rid giggled in a locked room of the arc until his father came to get him back in the world of clouds days later.
  4. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    P R Crawford - Why There Are Happy Endings (from "Tales of Wufl, An Incompetent God")

    No doubt you’re wondering why there’s such a thing as Happy Endings. It’s clearly an unnatural state of affairs which no doubt you’ve long ago realized for yourself.

    Well it so happens that before there were Happy Endings, there lived a young man named Brog. He was known widely as a fool, and yet in truth he was simply a naturally happy man who needed nothing to make him so. If the sun rose, he was happy. If it didn’t he was just fine. When he walked north, he was as happy as when he walked south. Uphill was no different to him than downhill. He was all around simply a happy man.

    Now a happy soul is an oblivious soul, oblivious especially to his bounden duties to Wufl. Indeed, Brog rarely did his Five Oblations, and even more rarely did he Turn the Dot. That’s because he was as happy doing them as not, so why bother doing them since they took more trouble to do than not to do?

    You can imagine this bothered Wufl to no end.

    “What am I to do with this fellow?” he asked Maima, his principal consort, as he glowered down upon Brog from his throne one day.

    “Oh, he’s just a fool,” Maima replied, “And everyone knows him as such. Don’t worry yourself about him. I have more important tasks lined up for you to do today.”

    “But it irks me to no end, and you remember what happened the last time I was sorely irked.”

    “Oh yes, don’t we all.” And Maima looked around nervously to make sure no buckets were in sight.

    Wishing to avoid that scene again, Maima thought upon the problem and finally said, “I’d say a good whipping should solve it. Every hour he fails to do his Five Oblations and every Quarterday he fails to Turn the Dot, go down and whip him. I guarantee he’ll learn fast.”

    “You’re suggesting I go down and whip him as many as 28 times per day?” Wufl scoffed. “Who am I, the whipping boy?”

    “Well, you asked for a solution, so I gave you one.”

    “That’s not a solution, that’s a whole other problem. And besides, is not one of my 749 names ‘He Who Does Not Whip’”?

    “Yes, well, and who would you rather listen to, your brown-nosing little subjects who are always looking for another nice name to flatter you with or someone like yours truly who just gives it to you straight?”

    Wufl waved his hand as if batting away an annoying bee and walked away down the Hallways of Silence.

    In the meantime, another hour had passed, another one in which Brog had not done his Five Oblations. The Quarterday was fast approaching, and now that Wufl had broached the subject, he felt himself desperate for a solution.

    “If I can’t get this Brog to do his Five Oblations of his own accord, perhaps at least I can convince him to Turn the Dot. It’s really all I ask: Turn the Dot four times a day.” Wufl chewed a fingernail. “Even twice a day. Yes. No, even once a day would be fine. I would feel myself satisfied and unirked if Brog would Turn the Dot but once a day.”

    He continued walking down the Hallways of Silence, feeling a growing sense of worry. He tried to calm himself by listening to the soft pattering of the fountains that line the inner courtyard around which the Hallways of Silence are wrapped. But it did no good. The worry was ever growing and it looked like it might soon rain. Indeed, there was a flash of lightening in the eastern skies as he stopped, feeling a sudden panic in his chest.

    “But that can work only if no-one else knows of my leniency in Brog’s case. It would have to be a specific covenant between myself and Brog - between Brog and myself alone.”

    One of the fish who was swimming in the fountains popped its head above the water and burped up a few words.

    “Indeed!” Wufl replied. “It’s true. My 461st name is He Who Treats All The Same And Expects The Same Of All.” And he began shaking his head. “No, so that won’t do then, it won’t do at all.”

    After much worried contemplation, Wufl decided to go down and talk to Brog himself. Perhaps some solution would present itself were he to conduct an interview at the very source of his agitation.

    Brog was at that time sitting upon his doorstep idly whittling and whistling happily to himself. As Wufl approached Brog in the guise of a toad, he thought, “The fool does look rather happy, does he not? I wonder what his secret is…?”

    And so, jumping up upon on the young man’s shoulder, he began gently croaking into his ear, crooning sadly about the worries of the world and wondering why they had no hold on Brog.

    “Ah, poor little toad,” Brog replied. “You’re just looking at it wrong. There is no such thing as time, it’s all an illusion of the mind. So why should I be unhappy since I’m already eternal, being eternally in the here and the now?”

    This answer gave Wufl some serious pause. Brog was right, after all. The way Wufl had things set up now, any fool could see through time’s illusion and since Brog was so clearly a fool, unlike all the smart people of the world, it had taken him little time to figure it out.
    So Wufl went to talk to Time who he found sitting beneath a cypress tree smoking his pipe and making smoke rings within rings within rings.

    “I think there’s a few things we need to talk about,” Wufl said having cleared his throat to make himself noticed. Time looked up startled from his musings.

    “Not now, not now, I don’t have the…”

    “Time, I know. But really, you’re going to have to make it for me, just this one…”

    “Time? Fine,” and he snapped his fingers. “Sorry, time’s up.” And he returned to blowing smoke rings, one within the other.

    Wufl felt himself becoming sorely irked and looked around nervously to see whether any buckets were in sight. Thankfully there weren’t.

    “Time, my boy. Please, I really do need more…”

    “Time than that? Fine,” and with another snap of his fingers, he added, “Too late. Goodbye now.” And out came another smoke ring.
    Wufl thought for a moment. Yes, he needed more time to make Time do his bidding. And why was it he could not have more of it? What was lacking?

    His gaze fell upon the smoke rings as he pondered upon these things. Each ring, expanding, and then another filling the expanding place, forever expanding, one within the other, outwardly growing, replacing, being and becoming.

    A flash of insight somewhere behind Wufl’s knotted brow made the sun go suddenly dim. Smart people everywhere called it an eclipse and began to wring their hands in despair. Brog looked up from his whittling, smiled and returned to his work.

    “We need a past and a future,” Wufl said and slapped his hand on his head.

    “Oh woah wait there Wufl, slow down now,” Time said. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I really don’t think it would be a good idea…”

    But he never finished his sentence. For in that instant, Wufl had already created the past and the future.

    Time was so surprised by this turn of events he forgot to blow his next smoke ring. Then with a look that could be described as forlorn disgust, he said, “Oh yeah, great now. Now it’s not only going to be ‘Hey Time, do this, hey Time, do that’. It’s also going to be ‘Hey Time, why didn’t you do that? Hey Time, when are you going to do this?’”

    And indeed, both he and Wufl could hear, like a mounting chorus of birds greeting a new day, the voices of all the smart people rising in unison, asking of Time a kaleidoscope of very specific and personal demands.

    “Oh yeah, oh great now. Look at what you’ve done.”

    And they both listened as the chorus grew louder, and louder, and soon began rolling across the land like thunder before a storm.

    “And it’s only going to get worse,” Time said. “I could have told you, but no. No, you had to go off and do your thing again. And now it’s completely messed up. I mean, sometimes I have to ask myself how you could have ever thought yourself…”

    But Wufl was on a roll. You know how sometimes an idea will pop into your head and then another one pops in there right after, and then another one, so it’s all just popping along and there’s nothing you have to do but just sit back and let it pop away?

    Well that’s the state old Wufl was in right then. Because he had another bang of insight, and the sun dimmed for the second time that same day. Smart people everywhere were wringing their hands like sopping wet mops, and Brog was looking up, smiling and then going back to his work.

    And the next thing that popped out of Wufl’s mouth was, “Happy Endings. We just need Happy Endings. And that will shut them all up forever.”

    “Happy what-ings?” Time asked.

    But even as the words came from his mouth, Wufl had already created Happy Endings.

    Now everyone had something to look forward to. All the smart people suddenly had a perfectly rational reason to exist. And everyone made doubly sure to do their Five Oblations upon the strike of every hour and they all made triply sure to Turn the Dot upon the arrival of each Quarterday.

    Even fools like Brog began to look forward to the time when they, too, might be happy having achieved that one thing, or ten scores of things, that gave them a continuing reason to relish being alive.

    And that, I think you will agree, is actually rather sad.
  5. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    mbhammer07 - Johnny's

    “Johnny, what have you done?”

    “What? I did what I always do, I saw money and I took it.”

    “Do you realize the implications of your actions? Do you have one inclination about the gravity of this situation?”

    Johnny shrugged. Johnny and Dan had been friends since they were seven years old. In the 25 years since then, Dan had never been this mad. Not even the time Johnny ‘borrowed’ Dan’s car and crashed it in a drag race when they were 17.

    “Danny, it’s okay. Trust me. I’ve done this trick a hundred times across this country. This time is no different.”

    Dan shook his head, “No John, this isn’t another one of your quick cons with a smooth getaway. You stole money from the one person that you do not take money from. That cash belonged to Tito.”

    Johnny walked across the shabby hotel room, one of a thousand he and Dan had shared during their careers as professional grifters. He poured some Jack Daniels into a small Dixie cup label ‘El Paso Inn’ and took a drink, “Who is Tito?”

    “Who is Tito? Are you serious? Who is Tito? Tito-freaking-Sanchez, drug lord, gun lord, murder enthusiast, Tito Sanchez.” Dan grabbed the bottle from Johnny and guzzled.

    Johnny scratched his chin. “Tito Sanchez, yeah, the name sounds familiar. Do you think he’ll care?”

    Dan plopped down on one of the twin beds in the room, “Yes, I think he’ll care. There’s stories about Tito. The most famous being the time some small-timer stole 150 dollars from one a delivery trucks for Tito’s front business down in Mexico. The robber’s wife got an ear in the mail three days later. Tito holds grudges.”

    “Danny, Danny, Danny. Mr. Tito will never be able to trace this to me, I took precautions.” At that moment, a knock sounded at the door.

    “Precautions, huh? We’re dead.”

    Johnny sauntered to the door and opened it. The last thing he saw was the butt of a shotgun.


    Johnny sat on a patio chair drinking a beer while Dan manned a grill. Dan’s kids giggled as they swam and played in a pool. The smell of fresh cut grass and Dan’s steak lingered in the breeze. Johnny walked over to the grill, “Danny boy, I’ve got something cooking this week. A contact has informed me of a deal going down in El Paso. Mucho dinero amigo, and we are going to separate them from said dinero. What do you think?”

    Dan nodded, “Sounds good, who’s the contact?”

    “Don’t worry about that. Our flight is the day after tomorrow. We’ll get the particulars sorted out when we’re in Texas.”

    Johnny walked over to the edge of the patio and watched the kids play, “Danny, I’ve always admired what you’ve done here. You and Sally marrying, having these two angels, I couldn’t be prouder for you. I never had much family, but you’ve been a brother to me. I can’t pay you back for all the things you’ve done for me, but one of these days I will try. I promise.”

    Dan laughed, “What are you talking about Johnny? Are you okay?”

    Johnny turned his back to Dan, “Yeah man, I’m fine. This job is wearing on me. This El Paso thing might be my last score, at least for a while. Why don’t we both layout, huh? You could finally open up your restaurant you always wanted”

    “I can’t quit this now. I can’t start up a restaurant now. I have to support this family.”

    “Danny, just answer me this, if you had the money, would you start the diner?”

    “I’m not big on hypotheticals.”

    “Just tell me, if you had the money, would you quit conning and start a restaurant.”

    Dan stared into Johnny’s eyes. Johnny was rarely serious, but this time his eyes burned a hole through Dan.

    “Yes, if I magically got enough cash I would start up a restaurant.”

    “You swear?”


    “Okay, let’s eat then.”


    Johnny woke up and began to look around, but a burlap sack covered his head. He could feel the steel handcuffs dig into his wrist behind his back. The smell of rubber and gasoline lingered in the air. The sound of footsteps and men speaking spanish echoed off metal walls. Someone jerked off the burlap sack from Johnny’s head and he cringed at the rug burn on his nose and cheeks. They were in a warehouse, but there was no way to know the location of the building. A spotlight blinded Johnny for a moment then went dark. A man in a business suit holding a machete walked up from behind the men and joined four armed men. The man in the business suit spoke in a thick Spanish accent, “Hello Johnny, you finally join us. I would introduce myself to both of you, but I believe you already know who I am.”

    Johnny looked to his right to see Dan, handcuffed in a folding chair as well. Then he looked forward to see Tito Sanchez.

    Tito checked the sharpness of the machete with his thumb, “You see gentlemen, you have taken something from me. And although 100,000 dollars is a small drop in my bucket, it is still my drop from my bucket. I cannot tolerate any leaks. I have found the best way to stop my bucket from leaking is to brutally murder anyone who puts their fingers near my bucket. Now normally I would just murder you without this explanation, but you needed to hear your entire punishment. You will both die quickly, do not worry about that. However, Mr. Daniel Bishop of 1352 Spruce Lane, Sally, Christy, and Dan Jr. will also pay for your sins.” Tito looked over to Johnny and grinned, “I guess you should consider yourself lucky that you had no family.”

    Danny hung his head, then looked over to Johnny who was staring at him. Johnny’s face showed no signs of fear, only a slight grin.

    Johnny slowly turned to Tito, “Tito, do you have any idea who I am. No? Do you remember what you did to me on August 21, 1986? Still No. It was the day you killed my father and mailed his ear to my mother. Over 125 dollars! You destroyed my ma’s life…you destroyed my whole life over 125 dollars. You are the reason I have no family. But I am the reason you are going to die tonight. HELP!”

    Tito laughed, “Help? Do not worry, no one can hear you. I assure you, your friend, his family, and you are the only one’s who will be dying tonight.”

    Johnny quickly glanced at the doors of the warehouse and shouted once more. “HELP!”

    At that moment, a side door to the warehouse behind Johnny and Dan blew open with a crash. Men dressed fully in black riot gear flooded into the building from the door shouting inaudible commands to the occupants. Tito’s armed assistants instantly opened fire on the incoming men, who then returned a hail of gunfire. Dan attempted to shrink himself down in his chair as the bullets whizzed by his head. Johnny stood from his chair and jumped over on top of Dan, trying to cover Dan up as much as he could. On the floor, Dan looked around Johnny to see the four armed men and Tito all fall to the ground.

    The room fell silent except for the footsteps of the intruders. Four of them surrounded Johnny and Dan and shouted, “HANDS UP! NOW! PUT YOUR HANDS UP NOW!”

    Dan yelled, “We are not with them! They kidnapped us.”

    A voice came from behind the four soldiers, “Stand down men, these two are with us.”
    One of the agents walked up and moved Johnny away from Dan, “Sir, it appears one them is dead.”

    A clean cut man with a bullet proof vest labeled DEA in yellow walked up to Johnny and checked for a pulse against Johnny’s neck. The DEA agent stared at Johnny for moment, then slowly shut his eyes as his head dropped slowly. Dan yelled, “What is it? Help him! Please, help Johnny.” The agent looked over to Dan, “He is gone. Please go with this agent and I will come talk to you in a moment.” One of the four soldiers helped Dan up from the floor. Tito Sanchez and his men were each riddled with gunshot wounds, and the blood had slowly began to seep from the bodies out into the surrounding concrete floor. Johnny lay on his back on top of his hands, which were still handcuffed together, but the hint of a grin was still present on his lips.

    Outside of the warehouse, an agent led Dan across a dusty yard to a van. Dan leaned on the bumper of the van with his head buried in his hands as the clean cut agent walked over to him.

    “Dan Bishop?”

    Dan looked up and nodded.

    “I am Special Agent Streeter with the DEA.”

    “Are Sally and the kids okay?”

    “Yes, we had them moved into custody yesterday. They are fine.”

    “Am I under arrest?”

    “No, you are not. Johnny negotiated your freedom with his compliance in the capture of Tito Sanchez. Johnny was arrested on fraud charges about three weeks ago. When his identity was confirmed Johnny, and you, faced the possibility an awful lot of jail time. However, with the information Johnny had compiled on Sanchez over the years he was able to parlay that into all charges being dropped against both of you in exchange for Sanchez, dead or alive. When the drug deal earlier this week came to light we hoped that Sanchez would come out of hiding to do what he has done for the past 30 some odd years, exact revenge. Luckily he played into our hands and you get your part of the deal. Your friend has given you a second chance at life, I hope you use it well.”

    Dan was speechless. He leaned back against the van and stared into space.

    “Oh, by the way, Johnny wanted me to give you this.” Special Agent Streeter handed Dan an envelope. Dan opened the envelope to find a handwritten letter inside.

    Dear Danny,

    If you have received this letter then I am probably dead. Hopefully I went out in a good way, if there is such a thing. The old story about Tito Sanchez killing a thief and mailing the ear to his wife is true. I know this because the robber was my father. Soon after that my mom died, and I was left alone in foster care. I vowed then to find that man and kill him. I was getting closer to pinpointing him in Mexico, but I got dinged on some silly fraud charge. After they figured out who I was I was deep into it. But, I had an ace in my pocket, which I was able to play for the DEA. Me and you were both given a clean slate and the reward for Tito’s head, about five million dollars, as long as I could keep up my end of the bargain and deliver Sanchez. Well, while I am writing this letter we have stolen Tito’s money, we are just waiting for our eventual delivery to Sanchez.

    I want you to know that you have been a true brother to me. Just know that if this is the end of the line for me, helping you break free from this life will be worth it. Now you just need to hold up your part of the bargain.



    “Now, if you will just sign here and here, this building will be yours Mr. Bishop.”

    Dan signed the papers and handed them to the lawyer. Dan’s wife and kids clapped and cheered as the lawyer handed Dan the keys to the building. The lawyer said, “So Mr. Bishop, you are entering the restaurant business, huh? That can be difficult.”

    “Yeah, I made a promise to my brother that I would try.”

    “Do you have any ideas on the name yet?”

    “Yeah.” Dan, with tears in his eyes, replied,

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