Monthly Archives: August 2012

No. 171

“His name is Andrew,” she said, pointing at the fuzzy gray cat that was currently attempting to ignore all of its bones to become one with the sunny spot on the couch.
I tried to suppress the urge to laugh. “You named the cat ‘Andrew’?”
“Why?”
She was not impressed with my name-judging.
“He doesn’t look like people to me,” I told her.
The cat may or may not have understood me. It raised its head and gave me the stink-eye. It’s possible that’s just how cats look, though. I’m not an expert.
There was no misreading her expression, though.
It was clear that I was not going to change her mind about the whole “animals-with-human-names” issue. I tried my best to recover.
“He certainly seems—,” I stalled, frantically searching for the right word. “Cuddly.”
“Great,” I thought. “I’m doing well. Make it seem like you could be its friend.”
“Hey, buddy,” I called it. I bent down and made the “come-here-small-furry-animal” noise.
The cat ignored me.
She watched it watching me. She did nothing to help.
I stood, and went to the animal. I tried to pat it.
It bit me.
The evening went downhill from there.
I highly doubt that Andrew and I will ever be friends.

No. 170

The beach stretched on around the peninsula with no end in sight. Desmond Crest had forgotten his sunglasses and had to squint to follow the arc of glaring white sand to his destination.
To get here he’d had to rent a kayak, a kayak he’d stupidly abandoned about twenty minutes ago. The rough map and shoddy description of his route from the man at the bar had both conspired to lead him well off the proper path. Nonetheless, Desmond was determined to get to the end. It was his first vacation in six years, and the first time he’d been anywhere tropical.
Up ahead, a stream cut a wide trench in the spotless beach. Desmond quickened his pace. This was the last landmark in the directions. He reached the fresh water and turned inland, taking one last look at the perfect white-capped waves that were washing the shore.
He felt an abrupt temperature change as he entered the shaded forest. He picked his way carefully upriver, trying to stay mostly on the larger rocks that dotted the waterway. The bartender had said it would be another ten minutes from the edge of the beach so Desmond estimated at least a half an hour, based on the margin of error thus far.
It had been closer to forty minutes by the time Desmond reached the falls. He came on them suddenly, rounding a bend to a scene more appropriate for a postcard or Hollywood blockbuster. Great torrents of sparkling green water swept over the edge, pounding dark boulders in the pool below. Ferns and palm trees lined the edges of the oasis.
Desmond was struggling to open his camera bag when he heard somebody yell from close by. He looked up just in time to see a tiny figure leap over the edge of the falls. He froze, unsure whether to run forward and help the person, or to stay put and avoid looking foolish when the popped back up.
His indecision ended up being the right decision, as he hadn’t moved before the jumper surfaced and swam with easy strokes towards him.
Desmond saw it was a girl.
“Hi,” she called from the water. “Are you here for a swim?”

No. 169 – The Last Train Part 1

Stephen Miller leaned into the glass divider at the edge of his seat as the train pulled away from the platform. He watched out the window as somebody arrived at the bottom of the stairs, too late to get on board. Then Stephen’s car reached the end of the station and the tunnel walls cut off the light. Now he could only see his reflection.
He used the dark window to subtly examine the few other passengers who shared his car. It was not busy. The last train of the night never was. He could even see several empty seats, up near the front.
Beside him was a middle-aged man in a rumpled suit. Stephen could only guess what he was doing up so late. The man clutched a briefcase close and was pretending to sleep. Stephen knew he wasn’t, because every time the train jostled, the man would open his eyes and stare lustily and the young lady on the opposite side.
The girl was oblivious, or seemingly so. She had large red headphones on and was softly air-drumming on her thighs.
Beside the girl was another man about Stephen’s age. He was bigger than Stephen. He had short hair and a goatee that he’d clearly spent more time on than was necessary. Stephen noticed that, while the man was dressed in worn and slightly dated clothes, his shoes were new and of the latest fashion. Some sort of fancy, shiny, sporting ones.
Stephen was just about to shift his focus past the empty seat to the old lady with the bag that kept moving when the overhead lights flickered once, and then went dark. The train shuddered to a halt with a hideous squeal from the brakes.
Dim emergency lights snapped on and a nervous murmur began amongst the commuters.
The intercom hissed and the conductor’s voice cut through the alarmed banter.
“The train has been delayed. We are stopping in the tunnel while crews are sent to clear the station ahead. There has been a disturbance. Thank you for your patience. We should be able to continue shortly.”
The car was silent as the passengers digested the news.
“It would have to be the last train,” said Shoe Man with forced humor.
Then mobile phones began to ring. First one, then everybody’s.  
Somebody at the back began screaming.

No. 168

It was a picture that finally did it.
Jack Rushton was a terrible student. He had very little use for school until the day the physics teacher brought in the example of aerodynamics.
 Jack was captivated.
He waited until everyone else had left the classroom, then he surreptitiously removed the clipping from the whiteboard. He folded it carefully and put it in his wallet between Mila Kunis and Alexander Hamilton.
The next day, after the lesson, the teacher called Jack’s name.
“Yes?” answered the boy.
The teacher was a large man, with one long hair that the razor had missed. The hair jumped as the teacher spoke.
“I see you’ve taken an interest in British machinery.”
Jack was surprised. He hadn’t thought that anybody had seen him. He tried to reply but no words came out.
The teacher noticed.
“That’s ok. The picture’s nothing special,” he assured the lad.
Jack removed the evidence from his pocket and placed it on the edge of the table.
“What is it?” he asked.
“That is an Aston Martin. It’s beautiful, but very expensive. You’d have to work very hard to have one someday.”
Jack heard what the teacher was saying. He nodded silently.
Many years later, Jack ran into his teacher.
“Mr. Rushton! It’s good to see you,” said the older man. “Any closer to that Aston?”
Jack grinned from ear to ear.
The teacher’s eyes widened.
“No,” said Jack. “I don’t own one. I was never that good at school.”
The teacher shook his head. “Well, there’s still time to get on the right track.”
“Funny you should say that,” said Jack. “I don’t own one, I race them. I figured that I probably wasn’t ever going to get straight As, so I concentrated on driving. My next event is in three weeks. Want to come by for a ride-along?”

No. 167 – Secret Song Six

Lucas Foley wrote down the numbers one to fifteen.
He quickly filled most of the spots with song titles.
Spot six he left open.
Then he gathered the paper and pen and placed them both in a drawer, where they lay for about a week. He hadn’t forgotten, though. After some time had passed, he returned to the note. This time, he put lines through seven and nine, replacing those entries with new ideas.
Six was still empty.
He sat back in his chair and closed his eyes. Six would have to be perfect. Secret song six.
He read back again and again, the tunes seared into his mind. Still, something was missing.
He played every album he owned.
A month passed, then two. Three changed. Then seven, again.
Lucas was walking to school behind her when he realized.
He couldn’t get it out of his head for the rest of the day. He ran home and pulled the drawer open. He found the pen and scrawled the title into place.

No. 166

Dauntless didn’t flinch as the first blow landed.  
Instead, he kept moving, feeling no pain, as he advanced toward the ringleader of the gang as they pummeled him from all sides.
He grabbed his target without pausing and quickly subdued the shocked villain. The rest of the scoundrels, without their leader, and now facing a seemingly invincible foe, all turned and ran into the night.
The first thing Jeff Anson, Dauntless, did when he returned home was peel off his mask and toss it on the couch. He was still jittery from the adrenaline of his evening’s adventure. He had just completed his first week with the Hero’s Alliance.
He picked up his phone to call his twin sister, Alison.
“Hey,” she answered. “How’s it going?”
Jeff couldn’t contain himself. “It was awesome. This was the best idea ever.”
Alison was quiet for a second.
“I’m glad you could finally do something with your power,” she told him.
“What are you up to?” he asked. “You want to come by for a barbeque or something? We can celebrate.”
There was another pause.
“Sis?” asked Jeff.
“Oh, yeah, sorry,” she answered. “I’ll be swamped with work for the next little while.”
“No problem. Soon, though.”
“Sure,” she said. “Hey, I’m glad you called but I have to get going here.”
“Alright,” said Jeff. “Goodnight Ali.”
Alison hung up the phone gently. She grimaced as she re-applied the icepack to her battered body.
It was difficult to avoid her brother, but she knew if he found out the reason he felt no pain he would quit and never wear the Dauntless costume again.

No. 165 – Backyard Olympics

Jack Howard crossed the line in record time.
“That’s a two-fifty-six,” called his friend Kelly. She was the official timekeeper.
Ross Scott was second.
He fell against the tree with the fort in it and wheezed.
“You cut through the Swindon’s yard,” he accused Jack.
“The race is called ‘the around-the-block’. We never agreed you had to stay on the sidewalks.”
Kelly nodded her head. “That’s true.”
Ross was unimpressed. He picked up a stick and swished it vigorously. “Fine,” he said. “But the next event is sword-fighting.”