Vote for the best Short Story!

Poll closed Mar 17, 2013.
  1. mbinks89 - Love Is Blind

    0 vote(s)
  2. Sanjuricus - Hero?

    1 vote(s)
  3. davidheath23 - A Shot From Down Town

    0 vote(s)
  4. Hambone - The Circus Parade

    1 vote(s)
  5. Pauly Pen Feathers Colleagues - Colleagues

    3 vote(s)
  6. Shannonpeel - Does it Matter

    0 vote(s)
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  1. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England

    Voting Short Story Contest (129) Theme: Downtown

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Lemex, Mar 3, 2013.

    Voting Short Story Contest (129) Theme: Downtown

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

    Voting will end Saturday 17th of March 2013 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. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    Love Is Blind

    The man walked along the street. Blackness had settled over it, like dust over long-forgotten furniture relegated to a cobwebby attic, and it was illuminated only by the yellow glow from streetlights and storefronts. Cars passed by every now and again, evanescing streaks of chrome and glass, gliding sleekly and smoothly over the level black tarmac, throwing yellow beams from their headlights onto the surrounding environment, capturing in brief detail scurrying raccoons and ambling pedestrians. Overhead the sky was utterly dark, save for a fat white moon, the stars hidden behind clouds, the clouds themselves unseen behind the mild glare of light pollution.
    He was a little tipsy. Plastered on his face was a goofy smile, his mouth having been transformed into a squiggly semicircle. His eyebrows had perked up and furrowed as he attempted to focus his eyes and overcome the drunken blurriness warping his vision. He looked bemused and puzzled, stupid and happy.
    He was wearing a pair of scuffed brown loafers, a brown leather jacket, khaki pants, and sitting on top his upper lip like the world’s biggest black caterpillar, was a moustache.
    Nestled in his earholes were two earbuds. As he walked, torso shifting back and forth rhythmically, sidestepping at random when the clumsiness pushed him, music could faintly be heard leaking from his headphones.
    He passed bars with neon signs that glowed and flickered dully. Checkered yellow and black taxis sped along the street beside him, slowing down briefly so squinty-eyed, middle-aged cabbies could discern if he wanted a ride, before speeding back up. A man, looking bored, watched him from behind a hotdog kiosk counter. The sidewalk was littered with trash; signs had been torn or blown off the streetlights and lay scattered about. He stepped on a piece of paper that had on it a cartoon dog riding a magic carpet and thinking about LSD.
    He was listening to jazz; he’d always been a jazz guy. Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis -- especially when he veered towards the psychedelic or emulated the sultry, passionate bravado and flare of Spanish culture -- were golden in his books.
    Right now he was listening to Watermelon Man by Herbie Hancock. The guitar came into the song, and he started strumming the air. He passed by a loud bar, its soundtrack a raucous mishmash of drunken rowdy shouts, laughter, and grimy dixieland jazz. It stank of cigarettes and beer. A group of smokers had clustered outside. They saw his fingers plucking the air guitar, his eyes shut with concentration, his head dipping and swaying to the music, and they cheered him on. He neither heard nor saw them. He was in his own world.
    He kept walking, and then switched up the music. Now, Tupac.
    “Maybe it’s the thug in me, maybe it’s the thug --”
    He scrolled through the songs. He wasn’t feeling Tupac. Not now. He needed something more light-hearted.
    Ah yes, of course. His thumb came down on the luminous iPod screen.
    Sweet, gentle music washed in, a quiet bass guitar walking up and down on soft percussion that sounded like a rhythmically hissing snake, one that was not venomous or feisty, but that liked only to slither its linear body according to the whims of its musical genius. A happy, calm snake, one that lived under the influence of funk and soul. Then, the piano, angelic, silky, like a twinkling star, bringing euphoria and melody that flooded the tangled networks and labyrinthine alleyways of his brain.
    “Spending all my nights, all my money going out on the town. Doing anything just to get you off of my mind. But when the morning comes, I'm right back where I started again. Trying to forget you is just a waste of time. Baby come back, any kind of fool could see . . .”
    Awww yeah.
    He started grooving to the music, his body swaying and swishing like bubbles in fizzy beer.
    He looked up. There was a beautiful young woman in front of him, looking at him, trying to speak to him. She had long ink-black hair, and rosy cheeks. Her eyes were black as well, and as he took out his headphones, her shy smile broke into a giggle.
    “Hi, I was just wondering if you could help me, I’m a bit lost.”
    He smiled. “What is it?”
    “I’m not where I should be.”
    He faltered a bit, raising an eyebrow. What? “Well where should you be?”
    She smiled, biting down softly on her lower lip. Her eyes suddenly became sultry, like heated wax. “You tell me.” She stepped towards him.
    He smiled again, this time more widely. His eyes lowered as well, and his jaw became more prominent. His lips puckered and curled back as a carnal smile swept over his face. Beside him, wind wove through trees, making them sway and blow behind a rusty iron fence.
    He stepped towards her and kissed her. Her lips were soft, smooth, supple, glossy with lipstick. He took her hand. “Well in that case, follow me.”
    He walked her back to his apartment. He couldn’t believe it, it was as if he’d just won the lottery. She was giggling at everything he said, but not in a mindless or nervous way. She thought what he had to say was genuinely funny, and she was quick to ask him what he meant when he said certain things that she disagreed with, something he found respectful and independent. Soon, the ice between them had completely melted away, what little of it there had been, and they were having a wonderful conversation. The only problem was that his tipsy, aroused mind would sometimes have trouble keeping up with what they were talking about, especially since they had begun to delve beyond the superficial getting-to-know-someone chit chat. He had a hard time becoming totally engaged in a thought-provoking conversation revolving around life and religion, and she noticed, but didn’t seem to mind. She’d laugh it off, and then aggressively pull him towards her and kiss him, biting and breathing hot, panting breath down onto his mouth, driving him crazy. Then she’d straighten up, grab his hand, and keep talking, diving into discourses about the world, religion, family, money, society, human behaviour. It was nothing like any other one night stand, which typically involved him drunkenly walking a dazed slut back to his apartment, knowing only her name, and then banging her brains out before falling asleep beside her, sweaty and exhausted. She was equal parts intelligent and hot, and with the seductive lower-lip biting smile, and a wild flicker in her eyes, he could only wait excitedly for what came when they got into bed. He was like a kid on Christmas eve, eyes wide and ecstatic, big smile puffing up his cheeks. He was clutching her hand tightly, but not to the degree where it would cause her pain, talking nearly as fast as she was, even though his mind kept drifting away, becoming snagged and sidetracked on her smooth skin and big, firm breasts and slim, sloping, hourglass figure. She was a goddess.
    They walked, hand in hand, conversation bubbling from their mouths, that is, when their lips weren’t busy sliding over the other’s.
    They arrived at his apartment, a squat, red-brick building. He groped in his pocket and brought his keys up in a jangling whoosh. “Almost there, baby, almost,” he said to her, grinning widely. He unlocked the front door and walked into the lobby, a small rectangular room with a dull green carpet, yellow walls and a bank of elevators, a turquoise patina. A young Arabic man was waiting for the elevators, looking sleepy. He perked up a bit when he saw them walk through the front door.
    They were still deep in conversation, staring into each other’s eyes, lips moving and words flying out without sentences being formulated in their minds. The words just spilled out, eloquent and insightful, like long chains of jewelry.
    The young Arabic man watched them, his formerly puffy eyes now alert. They seemed vigilant, and nervous. The man, Nick, noticed this as he was talking to the woman, catching a glimpse of the eavesdropper in his peripheral vision. It confused him. Why be nervous?
    He didn’t see the young man back up slowly, step by step, before turning and bolting up the staircase.
    The elevator dinged and its doors slid open. They stepped inside. The floor was covered in red shag carpeting, and each wall was mirrored, creating an infinite sequence of the couple, who had begun making out. It was five minutes before Nick realized he hadn’t pushed the button. He did. It glowed yellow as they slowly rose up towards his room.
    They arrived. They almost didn’t make it into his room; they had collapsed against one of the butter-yellow walls, Nick pressing against her, flexing his muscles, running his hands up and down her body, cupping her breasts, exploring the slippery cave of her mouth with his tongue. She reached down and started rubbing his groin. That’s when they went inside.
    Ecstasy. The sounds of sheets rippling, moans, grunts. The feeling of nails clawing against Nick’s back, the sweaty union of two fleshes, the genital thrusting that lit up every nerve in Nick’s penis like extravagant fireworks on the fourth of July.
    When it was over, he lay beside her, panting, her scent and sweat the only odors he could smell. He was panting. She leaned over and started twirling the hair on his chest with her finger. He tilted his head over and kissed her.
    Is this love?
    He slowly woke.
    It was a slow process, like any unrushed and natural awakening. He became dimly conscious, aware that he was in bed, and had just been asleep, his thoughts slowly returning from those of the dreamworld to the realm of confused early morning stupor. He yawned, eyes little black cracks, rolled over, stretched, and then sat up.
    That’s when the smell hit him.
    His nose wrinkled and he felt as if he might gag. He pinched his nose, and then immediately withdrew his hand. It was caked in dirt, and even more disgustingly, what looked like yellow pus.
    He leapt out of bed. What the fuck?” He said as he spun around.
    Then he froze.
    On the bed, before him, was the girl from last night.
    Then he vomited, blowing hot soupy chunks of last night’s dinner all over the floor.
    Sprawled out on the bed, a mottled and mouldering corpse, grey and a bruised purple-black, with long, brittle hair. Its eyes had rotted away, and it stared blankly ahead with two empty sockets. Its jaw hung slackly, like a released drawbridge of an abandoned and haunted chateau, revealing yellowed teeth. The skin sat on the bones underneath like a large tarp over thin wooden branches, cascading and rippling, folding in on itself.
    He staggered back, and realized that his whole body was covered with the yellow pus and flaps of torn skin. He tried to scream, but no sound escaped his mouth.
    Of course it had been to good to be true. Girlfriends don’t just walk into your arms. He must have . . . have . . .
    Where had he been last night? Out with Frank, Jacob, Kyle. But where, which bar? The Squatting Heron. But wasn’t the Squatting Heron by . . . the, well . . .
    And hadn’t he been near a black iron gate when he “picked her up” (perhaps literally)?
    The cemetery gates.
    He started to swoon, and he felt his legs wobble, as if they had turned to jelly.
    Then he blinked, and there she was, young and pretty, her skin a glowing pale white. She was asleep, smiling even as she slept, looking beautiful by just lying down. Her muscles were toned and firm. He sniffed. Only the smells of sweat, sex, and her perfume.
    He shook his head. She was still there, still alive. He held his hands up. They were spotless.
    And why wouldn’t they be? It had been nothing, surely, just the remnants of a forgotten nightmare. He smiled, and let out a shaky sigh of relief. He climbed back into bed, and put his arm around her, pulling her close.
    He went back to sleep, spooning her.
  3. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
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    Northeast England
    Hero? (650 words)


    He only just managed to rasp the word I wanted to hear but I suppose the cuban heel of my boot pressed into his trachea wasn't helping matters much. I lifted the pressure slightly on the off chance that he had a little more to offer. He gasped and took in a precious gulp of air as I looked down on him, a mocking look of expectation on my face.

    "Downtown, they took him downtown. 46th."

    That was all I needed to know. I ended him, a clean shot dead centre on his forehead. Cop didn't see it coming, I at least owed him that. 46th was a rough area so I needed to get tooled up first. That precinct would be like a fortress but it would still fall to me, they had no idea who they were messing with and they had even less idea who they were holding. He was mine and no-one would keep me from squeezing the life out of his body.

    I figured the best place to tool up would be the interstate, plenty of high speed traffic there, plenty of juice for me, maybe even enough to rip the precinct open as easy as overripe fruit. I walked calmly out of the derelict building the unfortunate beat cop had been assigned to. The building where he ended her life, where he took away the only thing keeping me sane, where he killed himself. He was dead, and just like the cliché goes, he didn’t know it yet.

    I could hear the faint noise of traffic in the distance, no-one came out here, this was where mobsters made people disappear and where junkies came to wish they had disappeared. I needed a car, heading toward the traffic seemed like a no-brainer so I set off at a brisk jog. It wasn’t long before I found what I needed, shame it was triads. They would slow me down a little while I dealt with them but it would be worth it.

    The black BMW 3 series sped towards me, I stepped out into the road in front of them. This almost guaranteed they would speed up for a nice game if chicken. I needed all the speed they had to give so I fired off a few shots, killing the poor fool in the passenger seat.

    The engine roared as the driver put pedal to metal.

    I drained every last bit of kinetic energy from the vehicle, ducking as its occupants flew past me, hurled out by the vehicles sudden deceleration to what was likely a sticky, miserable end. I didn’t stick around to find out, the interstate was calling.

    It’s quite a strange sensation, I never did get use to it. Running at 130mph is indescribable, I feel the elation of that first few metres on a bicycle as a four year old every single time I do it. It’s like a drug, the ultimate buzz. It’s like a hundred metre sprint through a cloud of cocaine.

    I was at the interstate within a few minutes and set off at full speed against the traffic. Every single car I passed I stripped of all momentum, storing it up for later. I don’t know how many died that day but I’ll wager it was well into the hundreds. Soon enough I was no longer able to add any more momentum. Dozens more poor souls piled into the suddenly stationary vehicles in front of them, they were collateral damage. I could live with that.
    As I walked calmly off the interstate, I got my phone out to get my bearings, the direction I had travelled up the interstate should have taken me somewhere near the 46th. The GPS on my phone showed that I had been uncannily accurate in my estimation.

    Justice, Vengeance and Death were mere seconds away.

    Time to meet my maker.
  4. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    [A Shot From Down Town : 551 words]

    I’m standing right in the center of it all. Sweat dripping down my face, burning my eyes and obscuring the shot I need to make. The bright lights bore deep into my skull and I’m squinting to try and see. You tell yourself to focus and to keep it simple, but it’s not so easy. This matters. It’s always do-or-die. I take the shot.

    Every night that you’re out here, it feels like you’ve been training for that particular moment from the start. The way people look at you; you’re the villain. You always were. A certain amount of infamy comes associated with my business, so you’re used to it. Still, though, it nags at you. Doubts in your skills can manifest themselves into performance, and if it tops you, you’re done. Washed up and in the alley and long forgotten.

    I wear my nickname like a badge of pride. I’m ‘The Assassin’. My employers can always count on me to hit my target, regardless of the circumstances. I can shoot under pressure, even when all the odds are stacked up against me. Five big guys coming at you, intent on putting your ass in the ground? Not a problem. I slip in, slip out and the deed is done. Take ‘em out and collect a paycheck. There’s no glory in it, no big end game, no pride; it’s just business.

    I can already see the headlines for the next day in my head. ‘The Assassin strikes again!’ ‘Massacre From Down Town!’ and other such nonsense. They make a big deal out of what I do and glamorize it so everyone can have their morning coffee and discuss their hatred or love for me (depending on where their personal politics lie). The news agencies are just as bad as I am; except instead of exploiting vulnerable defenses like I do, they exploit the emotions of their readers.

    So, this night was maybe the most intense yet. An injured knee from the week prior is keeping my pace slow, and the guys intent on seeing me fail are closing in for the kill. All I can think is that I need to find a hole and penetrate, to make that one shot when it counts. My legs are pulsing and shaking with every step I take, and the guards smell blood. The bad news is that this may be my last tango. The good news (for my employers, anyways) is that I never quit before a job is done. I grit my teeth and I’m in the zone. Once I make a decision to do something, you can consider it done.

    Here it is. The moment of truth. It feels like the whole world around me is frozen, and for just a minute everything is pure silence. Time has stopped, and we reach the conclusion of this whole charade. I take one quick swipe across my eyes with my arm to clear the sweat, and hold my breath to steady the shot.


    “He shoots from down town! He scores! Swish!” I can hear the announcers screaming.

    We win the championship 103 – 102 in overtime right at the buzzer. The crowd goes wild, but I maintain my composure and play it cool. It’s the only fitting reaction for ‘The Assassin’.
  5. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    The Circus Parade (653 words)

    The morning sun peeked between the downtown buildings as Paul Clavinger and his young son waited on the bench. Timmy slept, leaning against his father. People were making their way into town, the circus train had arrived only a few hours before.

    With the first sign of the parade, Paul woke his 4 year old son, “They’re coming now, buddy.”

    Timmy rubbed his eyes and looked down the street. Minutes later, clowns were greeting the crowd and handing out candy. Timmy waved to the clowns, but none of them acknowledged him. Elephants plodded on the pavement one after the other, trunks and tails connected. Big rolling cages held lions and tigers. At one point, Timmy exclaimed, “Daddy, look at the monkey riding a horse!”

    The animals kept coming, and Timmy jumped up and down on the bench when he saw a bear riding a bicycle. Acrobats tumbled and waved, and a beautiful woman worked twenty hula hoops at the same time. People filled the sidewalks in front of small stores and cafes. The entire time, nobody even looked at the pair sitting on the bench.

    It was early afternoon when the parade ended. Timmy said, “Daddy look! I don’t have a shadow today!” He waved his hand in the air and looked at the ground around him. Sunlight beat down on the sidewalk beside him, and although nearby trees provided shade, there was not a sign of a shadow at the boy’s feet.

    Paul knew, and he also knew that Timmy was too young to understand. The night had been a long one. They had walked ten miles from the bridge where the wreck had occurred. The accident itself happened quickly. An oncoming truck, traveling very fast over the bridge, blew a tire and spun out in front of Paul’s car. The two vehicles collided, the car went off the bridge and into the river.

    The window had broken in the collision, so the car filled with water quickly. Paul scrambled to find his son in the confusion as the vehicle submerged and began its descent to the bottom of the river. He found Timmy unconscious, grabbed him by the shirt, and pulled him out of the car window through the murky water. Without being able to hold his breath any longer, his lungs filled with water. As he lost consciousness, his son drifted out of his grasp, and their lives slipped away.

    They sat on the shore and watched the commotion and police lights on the bridge. “What happened, Daddy?” Timmy asked in the pale moonlight.

    “There was a wreck up on the bridge.” Paul said as he looked up. Flashlights shined down onto the surface of the water where their car had disappeared. In the spotlight, a light fog drifted slowly over the river’s surface.

    “Where’s our car, Daddy?” Timmy tugged on his father’s shirt.

    Paul sat quietly without answering. He wondered when his wife would begin to worry that her husband and only child hadn’t come home from a quick trip to the mini-mart for a gallon of milk and a six pack of beer; and perhaps a bag of Skittles for the little guy. After a few hours on the shoreline, he decided to fulfill the promise he had made to his son six months before. They would go see the circus in the morning.

    The shadows downtown grew taller as the afternoon wore on. All the spectators had left hours ago, most of them following the parade to the Big Top. Timmy raced up and down the sidewalk, still wondering why he didn’t have a shadow. He tried to smash ants with his shoes to no avail. Once boredom took over, Timmy leaned against his father on the bench. They sat for hours, and when the first stars came out, Timmy asked, “When are we going home, Daddy?”

    “Soon, Timmy.” The man hugged his son a little closer, “Soon.”
  6. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
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    Northeast England
    Pauly Pen Feathers
    Colleagues [2005 words]

    “Well you see, Doc, I seem to have developed a love/hate relationship with the downtown area.”

    “Okay, why don’t you lie down on the couch and tell me all about it?”

    “First of all, I really am filled with a sense of awe every time I take a trip downtown. The view of the skyline from the expressway coming into the city is breathtaking. Skyscrapers seem to rise up higher and higher as I drive in closer and closer, until at last I’m in there midst. They tower above me like other-worldly giants holding me captive as I gaze upon their majestic beauty. It doesn’t seem fair that we should be called the ‘Second City’.

    “Do you ever feel like we should be called the first city?”

    “It’s not about being first, Doc. We’re called the Second City because we’re second to New York in population. Actually, I think L.A. is second now, but it doesn’t’ matter. All I know is I just can’t stand it when a New Yorker calls us ‘second’. It seems to roll out of their mouths as a slur, as if they think they’re better than us, when in reality we’re only second in the number of rats that roam our streets and infest our sewers; and have you ever seen the size of a New York City rat?”

    “No, I can’t say that I have.”

    “They’re the size of Doberman Pinchers, Doc. And I’ve heard if you’re not carful, they’ll run up on you in Central Park and snatch your little dog right off its leash. Geez.”

    “By the way, we’re certainly not second when it comes to food. Have you ever seen a New Yorker eat a pizza? They have these thin little ‘things’ they call pizza they fold over like Tacos, or roll up like Burritos, and they eat while running down the street on their way to who knows where.“

    “When we go downtown for a pizza we go to a restaurant, and relax at a table with a red and white checkered table cloth and a candle in the center. We take our time enjoying a Chicago Style Deep Dish pizza with a nice bottle of red wine, eating with knives and forks and cloth napkins on our laps. You know, like civilized folk.”

    “Uh huh, go on.”

    “Well we are second in terms of traffic, I’ll give ’em that. But don’t get me wrong; our rush-hour is no piece of cake. That’s why I love to take the train when I go downtown, no traffic – no mess, and the people on the train are just so nice.”

    “Let’s continue with that for a moment.”

    “Well, there’s the young college kids taking the train to school, their lap-tops open, or a book in their hands, and they’re all caught up in their own little world. Their ears are packed full of ‘buds’ blasting music into their cute little heads. I love the young college kids.”

    “The conductors are nice, too. They’re mostly ladies now, and they’re quite pretty. No more grumpy old conductors. They quietly come by looking sharp in their clean and neatly pressed uniforms, punching tickets one by one, then they go on their merry way just as fast as they came.”

    “Is there anything specific about clean and neatly pressed uniforms you might like to elaborate on?”

    “No, not really, just that they’re … nice, that’s all.”

    “I see, please continue.”

    “Sometimes coming downtown reminds me of my when I was a kid back in the sixty’s and my dad used to take us all for a Sunday drive. He used to say ‘come on, everyone, let’s take a ride downtown and look at the barefoot hippies’.

    “I see.”

    “It took us about thirty minutes to get down here and when we did, man, the barefoot hippies were everywhere. They were so colorful with their tie-dyed tee shirts, beads around their necks, and hair flying in all directions. I loved the barefoot hippies. It’s really too bad they’re not around anymore.”

    “Did you ever wish you could become one of these barefoot hippies?”

    “Oh yeah, in fact in High School I let my hair grow out and I bought a purple suede fringe jacked with little white beads tied to the ends of the fringes. It was sharp.”

    “You said Purple?”

    “Yeah, Doc. Purple. Why?”

    “Umm, never mind. Please continue.”

    “Well, one thing I really hate is coming downtown for jury duty. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve been summoned for jury duty, and they never pick me. I have to get up early and shuffle over to the train station to catch the 7:38, and then walk eight long blocks to the Thompson Center. They make me miss work, and I have to sit around waiting to see if I’ll be needed as an alternate on some stupid jury. I mean, I just hate jury duty.”

    “Do you ever experience feelings of aggression when you’re summoned for jury duty?

    “No. Why do you ask?”

    “I ask because you said you hate jury duty several times. You’re repeating yourself.”

    “Ah, yes. I’ve been told I have a tendency to repeat myself, especially in writing.”

    “Do you like to write?”

    “Yeah, I do.”

    “Well then, I would tend to agree with your critics. Redundancy in writing is definitely a no-no.

    “Got it Doc, I’m working on it.”

    “Do you ever experience feelings of aggression because you have to walk eight blocks to the Thompson Center? Couldn’t you take a cab, or a bus?”

    “I guess the walk’s not so bad, really, especially on a nice hot summer day. The sidewalks are loaded with pretty girls walking quickly to wherever they’re going. Everyone walks fast downtown; everyone except me, that is. I love to stroll and take my time watching the pretty girls walk by.”

    “And what do you think about when you see these pretty girls?

    “I wonder where they go, what they do. Some go work, others to school. Some may be meeting a boyfriend for breakfast or a girlfriend for shopping. I don’t really care where they’re going; it’s just a passing thought.”

    “Do you notice anything specific about these pretty girls?”

    “Doc, all I know is, there’s nothing finer than a Midwestern beauty in a short tight skirt flashing long silky legs pumping up and down the sidewalk; lovely thighs lightly quivering with each and every step, teasing as they approach; conducting the rhythm of my heart with the sound of their high-heel shoes ‘clip-clopping’ against the pavement. Geez Doc, I love this city.”

    “Hmm, you like the quivering thighs, do you?”

    “Oh yes, Doc, I like the quivering thighs very much.”

    “Then there are the ladies wearing short fluffy dresses. I like them, too, especially when the wind kicks up, and the wind is always kicking up, downtown. I love the wind.

    “Okay, let’s move on.”

    “Like I was saying, there were several times I came downtown for jury duty. One of those days there was a guy putting a sign up on the Thompson Center Plaza that read ‘The Joe Clark Big Band today at noon’. It was a beautiful day to have lunch outside and listen to some good Jazz music. I love Jazz music on the Plaza. So I figured that’s the ticket. I’d run over to MacDonald’s, grab a lunch and come back to see the show.”

    “Then I thought I’d probably run into Old Man Billy while I’m at MacDonald’s. Old Man Billy is an institution around here. You know who I’m talking about, right, Doc?”

    “I don’t think so. Please continue.”

    “Well, Old Man Billy sits on the corner in front of MacDonald’s with a tin cup in his hand wearing his blind man sunglasses begging for coins. Funny thing about Billy, he’s got perfect vision. I know this because one day I snuck up on him all quiet like, and inched my hand towards his cup as if I were going to take his money, just kidding of course. I just wanted to test my theory. Sure enough, he snapped his cup away from me with such a jerk his coins went flying everywhere. Then he got up and chased me half way down the street. “Damn Bastard” he yelled at me. Ha, I love Old Man Billy.”

    “But then I got to thinking, if I don’t get picked for jury duty perhaps I’d forget about having lunch on the Plaza and take a boat ride up the river. The Architectural tour is always a treat. Maybe I’d relax in the back of a boat with a Vodka Screwdriver listening to the pretty young tour guide as she explained the history of all of these great buildings while slowly winding our way around the river under a canopy of beautiful city skyline.”

    “You know Doc, I feel sad for people I see walking down the street so fast with their faces all scrunched up into their Smart Phones. They don’t seem to appreciate the art built into this city. They seem to miss the beauty of downtown, and it really is such a wonderful place. Don’t you feel that way, Doc?”

    “Let’s just continue talking about how you feel, shall we?”

    “You know, sometimes I wonder about the river.”

    “The river?”

    “Yeah. I wonder why every Saint Patrick’s Day the mayor spends so much money having the river dyed green. He has his fire boats loaded full of green dye they spray out of their water canons into the river. Funny thing is, the river’s always green, every day of the year. Sometimes I wonder about this mayor. I hate it when he dyes the river green.”

    “Anyway, I was thinking about the river being dyed green, and all, and it made me a little depressed. So I thought if I don’t get picked for jury duty maybe I’d take a train ride up north and catch a Cubs game. St. Louis was in town that day. Then I figured, nah, that’s a bad idea. The Cardinals always beat us. Gawd I hate the Cardinals. Although I have to admin they’re a pretty darn good baseball team. Why couldn’t we have a team like them? I mean, heck, we have all the money in the world. The Cubs are one of the wealthiest teams on the planet, and every single year they just ... ah, never mind.”

    “Alright, try to calm down. Tell me more.”

    “Okay Doc, thanks. Just give me a second.”

    “Take your time.”

    “Okay, so I figured instead of going to the Cubs game I’d take a walk over to Michigan Avenue and park myself in front of the Art Institute. I’d sit next to one of the Lion Statues perched up there at the top of the steps and watch the pretty girls walk by. I love watching the pretty girls walk by.”

    “I’m starting to sense a pattern in this love/hate relationship you say you have with downtown. Do you sense a pattern?”

    “Well, what do you mean, Doc?”

    “It seems to me you’re feeling that all the girls you see downtown are pretty girls. Does it seem that way to you?”

    “Maybe there’s just something about Downtown that makes everyone seem so much lovelier, and so much more alive. The air smells a little cleaner here; it’s cool, and refreshing. Perhaps it’s the lake. I just love Lake Michigan. Don’t you feel that way, Doc.?”

    “What do you say we stop for now and save this conversation for the next time?”

    “Sure, okay. Are you alright, Doc? You look a little pale.”

    “To tell you the truth, I’m feeling a little stressed right now.”

    Well, would you like to trade places and talk about it?”


    “Alright then, come over here, and lie down on the couch and tell me all about it.”

    “Well you see, Doctor, I seem to have developed a love/hate relationship with analyzing other psychiatrists.”

    “I see, go on.”
  7. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    Does it Matter (1373 words)

    The wind picked up speed as it funneled between the tall buildings. Thin fingers stretched from it picking up dead leaves, dirt, liter and carrying it all up high above the streets. A gust fills a white plastic bag lifting it from where someone carelessly dropped it after walking out of a trendy store. It rises, falls, and somersaults through the air as if dancing to a song only it can hear. One minute it moves quickly the next it slowly starts to fall until another gust lifts it up over a traffic light.

    I sit waiting for the light to change watching the bag dance. I’m late again and if not for the peaceful dance of the bag I would be agitated. Somehow it calms my nerves and I’m so mesmerized I miss the light change. Horns honk

    “AHHHH I’m going, stop honking already!!” I reactively scream at the impatient drivers behind me but they cannot hear me. Frustration takes over my senses and suddenly I am hyper sensitive to every noise, every itch, every discomfort my old car possesses. I make my way forward only to be stopped again in a long line at the next light. Damn honkers in such a hurry to go two feet, the jokes on them.

    Finally, I turn into the parking garage and every spot is taken except one very narrow one in the far corner. I almost scrap the wall so I’ll have room to open my door and squeeze myself out. The wind bites at me with its teeth of ice freezing my nose causing a thin stream to run from it. My nose itches, I rub it and only make it itchier. Winter is coming.

    The wind pushes me along the sidewalk toward my destination. I step over what I hope is puke from someone partying too much last night but more than likely it's urine from the bundle lying against the concrete wall trying to find warmth in a doorway. I quicken my pace before he realizes I am there and asks for change. They always ask for change for their drug habits. I rush pass without another thought for the person freezing at my feet.

    Coffee, my favorite coffee house, I’m almost there. The wind isn’t done with me yet though, it blows around me whipping my hair into my face. My nerves already on edge fill me with sudden rage and I scream in frustration at everything, at nothing, at me, it doesn’t help.

    I open the door and the warm welcoming aroma of brewing coffee and roasted beans envelopes me calming my nerves. I close my eyes to fully inhale the earthy thick smells in the room. Someone pushes me and my feet automatically move to keep from falling on my face. I turn to say something but only see the back of the individual as he leaves the store. The wind’s fingers push their way inside cooling me to the core. Coffee, I need warm coffee. The line is long and everyone is ordering some fancy concoction using ingredients that only mask the coffee’s wonderful flavor.

    I shouldn’t but I do, I look at my watch and I know I should leave and go straight to work but I need a good cup of coffee not the swill Sylvie makes and calls coffee, so I wait. However, my body does not, it fidgets and feels like its moving over itself trying to get me to move. One step closer but it hardly matters my nerves are on fire, panic is setting in. I’m late.

    I drink in the smell and sip the liquid from the cup warming my hands. Emmmm so good. I want to enjoy more then a sip but I have to go, I rush out the door and am slapped by the cold hand of winter’s wind. Another homeless person sits outside, this one has a sign and is holding out a cup. I don’t read the sign or empty my pockets into the cup, I’m late I rush right by sipping my hot cup of coffee.

    Finally I make it to the building, open the door and canned hot air hits me in the face drying out my eyes. I make my way past security without a word, a look, or a thought. I beeline for the elevator and squeeze in with 10 other bodies I don’t know. I look at my shoes and sip my coffee.

    The doors open on my floor and I push through the remaining bodies into the lobby of the company I work for. I love this lobby. The view of the city and the ocean beyond it is so picturesque through the floor to ceiling windows. The floor is earthy brown slate tile and there is a large oak spiral staircase leading to the second floor. Gorgeous greenery grows from large pots and a large water wall fountain provides calming ambient noise. The receptionist, Sylvie, sits behind a large oak desk, which I fly by on my way into the back where my desk is waiting with a pile of work on it.

    “’Bout time you got here.” Gerry from the cubical beside me always notices when I come and leave. He’s probably keeping a log for our manager. He’s always pointing out my mistakes and making sure everyone knows his successes, small as they may be. I worry that he’ll be promoted before me and I’ll have to report to him. A knot forms in my stomach from stress. I’ve got to get more done then he does, I have to start outshining him.

    “Traffic.” I leave it at that and sit at my desk. I take a sip of coffee and gag because it’s cold. I drop the half full cup in the garbage under my desk. I methodically go through the database, getting my daily reports and start working through them. Performance reviews are next week and I have my eye on the prize, a district management position. I am working through a difficult issue with a client who is never happy with anything when the phone rings. I pick it up but am still focused on trying to figure out why the account's problem occurred.

    “There are some men here to see you.” Sylvie’s bubbly voice always irritates me because no one should always be that happy. I’m not expecting anyone so I don’t rush out immediately. They can wait, this issue can’t. I need to fix this issue and make this client happy. If I do then I’ll be a star. Sylvie calls me again.

    “They are still here and they say it is important, very important.”

    “Ok I’m on my way.” I snap at her from shear irritation and really I don’t care.

    Two men in RCMP uniforms are standing in the lobby by the waterwall looking very official and before I can ask Sylvie who is here for me they introduce themselves and ask if there is somewhere private to talk. A nervous light feeling invades every inch of me as I lead them to a conference room. My stomach has tied itself into a large heavy knot and is setting up shop deep down in my guts. I sit across from them feeling as though I’m about to be interrogated.

    “There was an accident this morning, a truck ran a red light and crashed into your husband’s car. Your husband and daughter were both in the car when it was hit and they both died on the scene.”

    I can only hear blood rushing through my ears. For the first time today I feel hot, very hot and my throat is burning. I can’t take a breath. Time has stopped and nothing seems real. I see only a stain on the wall that I focus on, everything else is a blur. I feel pain and numbness at the same time throughout my body. I can't breath.

    I sit there for what feels like forever and yet it is just an instant in time. The RCMP officers are still there saying something I cannot hear. I have to get back to work, I have that client's problem to fix, yet I know it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters anymore.

    **RCMP stands for Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Canada's national police force.
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