Monthly Archives: October 2012

No. 220

“What do you want me to do? Chew through it?”
“Have you got any better ideas?”
“No,” admitted Pete Conway as he examined the heavy steel door.
“So your plan was to show up, and then figure out a way past?” questioned Harvey Yearling.
“We didn’t have a lot of time beforehand, did we?” Pete tossed back.
“Nope.”
Conway spat on the ground, his mind racing, trying to work his way around the problem. He traced the outline of the door with his finger. “I think—.”
He didn’t get a chance to finish. Yearling shoved him aside and then walked out through the rainy parking lot to the car.
Pete’s phone rang and he answered it.
It was Harvey from inside the vehicle. “I’m waiting here, where it’s warm, until you sort this out. It’s your problem, anyway, not mine.”
He hung up abruptly.
Conway sighed and cracked his knuckles. It was going to be a long night. If he didn’t get through that door, it was going to be a very long week.  

Around Gray Halloween Mini-Story Candidates 2012

Number One

No. 213
October 5, 2012
Craig Hansen examined his pumpkin intently, searching the mottled orange surface for clues or inspiration as to what he should carve into the gourd.
He cast a sideways glance at his friends, all happily hacking away at their jack-o-lanterns. He didn’t see anything terribly impressive. They were all doing the standard smiley-faces with jagged teeth and triangle eyes.  Craig wanted his to be different.
“Forty-five minutes left,” somebody at the end of the row announced. If Craig didn’t have something soon, he’d be forced to turn to the cliché just to have something to enter in the contest.
“Come on,” he whispered at his mute vegetable canvas. “Give me something.”
The pumpkin, being an inanimate object, did nothing to add to Craig’s creative energy.
Time ticked by far too quickly, and though Craig didn’t wear a watch, he could feel the deadline approaching. Usually, he was better at this, but this year he’d been busy in the lead-up to the Halloween season. He contemplated recycling one of his previous designs, but he knew there was a good chance somebody would remember and disqualify him.
With diminishing opportunities, he made the call that would have been unthinkable just an hour before. He raised his knife and began to thrust the blade down to begin the traditional spooky face.
The point met flesh with a satisfying resistance, but Craig felt something inside himself dim as he began to saw the first eye-hole. He stopped and closed his eyes, hoping for a last-minute flash of an idea.
“What’s yours going to be?” asked Lindsay Ross, interrupting his process.
Craig started to tell her that it wasn’t going to be anything special, but the spark he’d been waiting for hit mid-way through his sentence.
“It’s going to be awesome,” he told her with a smile on his face and one careful eye on the clock. “You’ll see in about half an hour.”
Number Two

No. 215
October 10, 2012
I’m shy by nature, so tourist season is always a bit of an ordeal. I can’t stand strangers out tramping around on the lawn, asking ignorant questions, getting in the way and yelling all the time. It used to be only one or two kids wearing old bed sheets coming by to ring the doorbell and run away. Now, everyone’s got their spectrometers and their infrared cameras and their fancy tape recorders.
I understand that Halloween’s going to be busy around here. I know that. I live in a haunted house. I’m a ghost. I have to grin and bear it. But sometimes I find myself wishing I wasn’t tethered to this place and that maybe just once I could get away for the holidays to avoid the hype. This year, if everything goes to plan, I might get that chance.
I hope so. I’m not sure I can handle another TV special filming in my living room.
Number Three

No. 216
October 11, 2012
“I don’t want to wear it,” said Riley
His mom turned from the bowl of candy she was preparing. “You don’t want to wear the dinosaur costume I made for you?”
“Nope,” said Riley with his arms crossed firmly.
Mom sighed. “I spent a month on this. Why didn’t you tell me that you didn’t like it before?”
Riley shrugged. “Dunno.”
“What do you want, then?”
Riley didn’t hesitate to answer. “I want to be a pirate raccoon,” he said with a decided finality.
“What?”
“A pirate raccoon.”
Mom’s perplexed look turned into something more annoyed. “You’ve already got a costume and I don’t even know what a pirate raccoon is.” She picked up the unwanted suit and examined it. Perhaps she could solve this problem.
She softened her stance. “I guess I can turn it into a lizard, or if I work really fast, maybe a turtle.”
“Pirate raccoon,” Riley demanded, stamping his feet for emphasis.
This was when Mom made her stand. “That’s just not going to happen. Come on, if we’re going to go out tonight you’re going to have to choose something I can make. Or be a tyrannosaurus. You’ve got two minutes to make up your mind or nobody goes trick-or-treating.”
Number Four

No. 217
October 12, 2012
“Whatcha got there? Anything to declare?” asked the stone-faced customs agent at the border.
“Um. I don’t think so,” said recently arrived traveller Robert Ogden. “This is all kinda new to me.”
“Can’t be too careful,” said the guard. “We all have to follow the rules,” he finished, pointing at the long list of regulations on the wall behind him.
The sign was a stern warning against smuggling. Huge red letters spelled everything out in minute detail. Ogden was more concerned about the title.
The banner proclaimed a grim message. “Ordinances for Travel to the Afterlife V. 17. Violations Not Tolerated!”
Ogden swallowed hard. “Does this mean I’m dead?”
The guard answered him with a bored shrug. “This isn’t Disneyland.”
An alarm began to blare. Ogden ducked reflexively. The agent was instantly on his walkie-talkie. Ogden could hear the frenzied announcements blasting out of the speakers.
“Breach in Sector Nine. All personnel to Sector Nine.”
Number Five

No. 218
October 13, 2012
Andrew Star watched the trick-or-treaters approach his door, and then looked at his dog, Ace. “What are you going to tell them when they get here?” he asked the sulking canine.
An empty bowl on the floor beside the shoe rack betrayed Ace’s actions. The dog put his tail between his legs and tried to slink off toward the living room.
“Oh no, you don’t,” said Andrew, grabbing Ace’s collar to haul him back. “You’re going to be right here as evidence when those poor kids ring the bell and find out there’s no more candy.”
The doorbell rang and Andrew greeted the children. There was a ghost, a ninja, and a princess.
“Trick or treat!” they all yelled in unison.
“Hey, guys. I’m sorry, but there isn’t any treats left. My dog, here, ate them all just before you arrived.”
The little shoulders of the ninja and the princess fell, but the ghost took the bad news in stride. “That’s ok, I guess. Your dog is really cute, though.”
“You can pet him,” said Andrew. “His name is Ace. He won’t bite.”
This ghost reached out her hand to pet the friendly hound.
Ace took the opportunity to regurgitate most of the pilfered sweets onto the porch.
All the humans leapt back.
“Ewww!” shrieked the children.
Andrew covered his eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. That was gross. My wife is on her way home, and if you come back later we’ll have some chocolate bars or something for you.”
The costumed visitors all agreed that this was a good idea and then left to canvas the rest of the neighborhood.
Andrew returned to Ace, who was now trying to revisit the burgled candy dish. “You just wait until Heidi gets home and I tell her about this.”
Ace stared back and pretended not to understand English.
Number Six

No. 219
October 14, 2012
“’Unpredictable sharply biting is made’,” said Nicole, reading the label. “That’s a sort of garbled warning, don’t you thing?
Her friend Tom took the plastic vampire teeth to examine the confusing printing. “Probably made in China. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Tom tossed the prop back to Nicole, who rinsed it and put it in her mouth.  
“How does it look?” she asked, while spinning to present the full effect of the costume.
“The teeth are kinda cheesy, but overall, not too shabby,” he confirmed with an approving nod.
“Get the rest of your stuff on, then let’s hit the party early,” said Nicole. “Before all the good stuff is gone.”
“Ok. Give me one sec, here. I just need to grab some stuff down from my closet.”
Nicole sat on the bed and watched Tom stretch up to the top shelf. She began to wonder if maybe his neck was looking more delicious than usual.

No. 219

“’Unpredictable sharply biting is made’,” said Nicole, reading the label. “That’s a sort of garbled warning, don’t you thing?
Her friend Tom took the plastic vampire teeth to examine the confusing printing. “Probably made in China. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Tom tossed the prop back to Nicole, who rinsed it and put it in her mouth.  
“How does it look?” she asked, while spinning to present the full effect of the costume.
“The teeth are kinda cheesy, but overall, not too shabby,” he confirmed with an approving nod.
“Get the rest of your stuff on, then let’s hit the party early,” said Nicole. “Before all the good stuff is gone.”
“Ok. Give me one sec, here. I just need to grab some stuff down from my closet.”
Nicole sat on the bed and watched Tom stretch up to the top shelf. She began to wonder if maybe his neck was looking more delicious than usual.

No. 218

Andrew Star watched the trick-or-treaters approach his door, and then looked at his dog, Ace. “What are you going to tell them when they get here?” he asked the sulking canine.
An empty bowl on the floor beside the shoe rack betrayed Ace’s actions. The dog put his tail between his legs and tried to slink off toward the living room.
“Oh no, you don’t,” said Andrew, grabbing Ace’s collar to haul him back. “You’re going to be right here as evidence when those poor kids ring the bell and find out there’s no more candy.”
The doorbell rang and Andrew greeted the children. There was a ghost, a ninja, and a princess.
“Trick or treat!” they all yelled in unison.
“Hey, guys. I’m sorry, but there isn’t any treats left. My dog, here, ate them all just before you arrived.”
The little shoulders of the ninja and the princess fell, but the ghost took the bad news in stride. “That’s ok, I guess. Your dog is really cute, though.”
“You can pet him,” said Andrew. “His name is Ace. He won’t bite.”
This ghost reached out her hand to pet the friendly hound.
Ace took the opportunity to regurgitate most of the pilfered sweets onto the porch.
All the humans leapt back.
“Ewww!” shrieked the children.
Andrew covered his eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. That was gross. My wife is on her way home, and if you come back later we’ll have some chocolate bars or something for you.”
The costumed visitors all agreed that this was a good idea and then left to canvas the rest of the neighborhood.
Andrew returned to Ace, who was now trying to revisit the burgled candy dish. “You just wait until Heidi gets home and I tell her about this.”
Ace stared back and pretended not to understand English.

No. 217

“Whatcha got there? Anything to declare?” asked the stone-faced customs agent at the border.
“Um. I don’t think so,” said recently arrived traveller Robert Ogden. “This is all kinda new to me.”
“Can’t be too careful,” said the guard. “We all have to follow the rules,” he finished, pointing at the long list of regulations on the wall behind him.
The sign was a stern warning against smuggling. Huge red letters spelled everything out in minute detail. Ogden was more concerned about the title.
The banner proclaimed a grim message. “Ordinances for Travel to the Afterlife V. 17. Violations Not Tolerated!”
Ogden swallowed hard. “Does this mean I’m dead?”
The guard answered him with a bored shrug. “This isn’t Disneyland.”
An alarm began to blare. Ogden ducked reflexively. The agent was instantly on his walkie-talkie. Ogden could hear the frenzied announcements blasting out of the speakers.
“Breach in Sector Nine. All personnel to Sector Nine.”

No. 216 – A Pirate Raccoon Part 1

“I don’t want to wear it,” said Riley
His mom turned from the bowl of candy she was preparing. “You don’t want to wear the dinosaur costume I made for you?”
“Nope,” said Riley with his arms crossed firmly.
Mom sighed. “I spent a month on this. Why didn’t you tell me that you didn’t like it before?”
Riley shrugged. “Dunno.”
“What do you want, then?”
Riley didn’t hesitate to answer. “I want to be a pirate raccoon,” he said with a decided finality.
“What?”
“A pirate raccoon.”
Mom’s perplexed look turned into something more annoyed. “You’ve already got a costume and I don’t even know what a pirate raccoon is.” She picked up the unwanted suit and examined it. Perhaps she could solve this problem.
She softened her stance. “I guess I can turn it into a lizard, or if I work really fast, maybe a turtle.”
“Pirate raccoon,” Riley demanded, stamping his feet for emphasis.
This was when Mom made her stand. “That’s just not going to happen. Come on, if we’re going to go out tonight you’re going to have to choose something I can make. Or be a tyrannosaurus. You’ve got two minutes to make up your mind or nobody goes trick-or-treating.”

No. 215

I’m shy by nature, so tourist season is always a bit of an ordeal. I can’t stand strangers out tramping around on the lawn, asking ignorant questions, getting in the way and yelling all the time. It used to be only one or two kids wearing old bed sheets coming by to ring the doorbell and run away. Now, everyone’s got their spectrometers and their infrared cameras and their fancy tape recorders.
I understand that Halloween’s going to be busy around here. I know that. I live in a haunted house. I’m a ghost. I have to grin and bear it. But sometimes I find myself wishing I wasn’t tethered to this place and that maybe just once I could get away for the holidays to avoid the hype. This year, if everything goes to plan, I might get that chance.
I hope so. I’m not sure I can handle another TV special filming in my living room.

No. 214

The midday buzz of the busy coffee shop usually helped Jamie concentrate on her work, but today she couldn’t settle in.
She sat in her usual chair in the corner, her back to the wall, a caramel latte just to her right, and stared at the empty screen on her laptop. Unsure where to start her story, she typed a random letter.
“k”.
She sighed and deleted it. There was a large group at the other end of the store, and their noisy chatter was distracting her. She grimaced a little and took her frustration out on her keyboard.
“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” she pounded out.
They did. Jamie looked up at them and tilted her head to one side. “Well that was odd,” she told herself. Then her face reddened and she looked behind her to see if there was some reflection they’d seen. There was only empty wall.  She shrugged and returned to her work, once again deleting the words she’d typed.
The annoying group began their banter again just as the words disappeared.
Jamie blinked. Did that just happen? Slowly, she touched eight keys.
“Shut up!”
And there was silence.
She decided to continue the experiment. She typed another message. “Man with the red hat, take off your hat with your left hand.”
It worked. The man at the end of the table raised his left arm and removed his cap.
Jamie looked around, trying to see if anybody recognized what she was doing. All the other people in the store seemed to be going about their business as usual.  
She sat back and took a deep breath. How strong was this power? How long would it last? Questions spun through her head. Suddenly a darker thought occurred to her. “What if…,” she whispered. Then she hunched over the keys and typed out something that didn’t sound like her at all.
“Cashier, empty the till and bring me the money.”

No. 213

Craig Hansen examined his pumpkin intently, searching the mottled orange surface for clues or inspiration as to what he should carve into the gourd.
He cast a sideways glance at his friends, all happily hacking away at their jack-o-lanterns. He didn’t see anything terribly impressive. They were all doing the standard smiley-faces with jagged teeth and triangle eyes.  Craig wanted his to be different.
“Forty-five minutes left,” somebody at the end of the row announced. If Craig didn’t have something soon, he’d be forced to turn to the cliché just to have something to enter in the contest.
“Come on,” he whispered at his mute vegetable canvas. “Give me something.”
The pumpkin, being an inanimate object, did nothing to add to Craig’s creative energy.
Time ticked by far too quickly, and though Craig didn’t wear a watch, he could feel the deadline approaching. Usually, he was better at this, but this year he’d been busy in the lead-up to the Halloween season. He contemplated recycling one of his previous designs, but he knew there was a good chance somebody would remember and disqualify him.
With diminishing opportunities, he made the call that would have been unthinkable just an hour before. He raised his knife and began to thrust the blade down to begin the traditional spooky face.
The point met flesh with a satisfying resistance, but Craig felt something inside himself dim as he began to saw the first eye-hole. He stopped and closed his eyes, hoping for a last-minute flash of an idea.
“What’s yours going to be?” asked Lindsay Ross, interrupting his process.
Craig started to tell her that it wasn’t going to be anything special, but the spark he’d been waiting for hit mid-way through his sentence.
“It’s going to be awesome,” he told her with a smile on his face and one careful eye on the clock. “You’ll see in about half an hour.”