No. 595

“I know you’re checking out my ass, Dan,” said Alice as she wrapped a scarf around the snowman.

“I’m appreciating it,” clarified Dan, from his chair on the front porch.

Alice laughed. “Since just about forever.”

“That was the camera’s fault and you knew it!”

“Well, the camera certainly had things figured out,” said Alice as she crossed the yard to snuggle up to her fiancé.

“You’re right. I fell in love with an ass,” said Dan. “What can I say?”

“Hey!” Alice scooped a handful of snow off of the railing and tried to cram it into Dan’s coat.

“That was a terrible plan,” Dan said with a smile as he rose from the chair.

Alice was too busy giggling to make a proper escape, and they tumbled into the pile of snow that had been cleared from the deck.

“This is my boot,” said Dan, as he stole hers. “This is my sock,” he continued. “And these are your icy-cold toes!” he finished, as he heaped snow over Alice’s foot.

Alice wriggled herself free and hopped on one leg just out of range of Dan’s gloves. They both lay in the snow until they’d caught their breath from laughing.

“Do you think the neighbors think we’re weird?” asked Alice.

“Most definitely,” said Dan. “But I don’t think they’re having as much fun.”

No. 594

The aftermath of the storm left clear skies and the roads covered with a perfect sheet of ice.

 

Alice, overjoyed that school was cancelled, stepped out of her house and exhaled to watch her breath. The sun flashed off of the street, drawing her eye to the unbroken rink. She smiled and lost no time putting on her skates.

She glided to Danny’s house and arrived with a pointed stop. “Come out, loser!” she yelled from the edge of the driveway.

Danny put his head out and frowned. “Cold,” he declared.

“What took you so long?” Alice accused.

Danny laughed. “There’s lots of losers on this block. How was I supposed to know you meant me?”

“Hurry up,” said Alice, with a graceful spin for emphasis. “And bring your camera.”

 

They skated for miles, past the Miller’s farm, and over Deer Creek Bridge.

“Hold up,” said Danny. “The light here is good.” He lifted his camera to take a picture.

“Let me help,” said Alice. She used one gloved hand to lift the edge of Danny’s toque away from his eye.

“There,” she said. “Now you can see.”

Danny blushed. “Remember what I said about cold?” he managed, trying to distract from his reddening face. He pushed his toque back down roughly. “Why don’t you skate down towards that tree, then come back this way?” he pointed with the camera. “I think it would make a good shot.”

Alice did.

Danny took two pictures on her way out, and six on the return trip.

“Here, look at these. They look nice.” He said, tilting the camera display toward Alice to scroll through the photos.

“Ha!” she said at the first one. “You focused on my butt!”

“No I didn’t!” Danny protested. He looked closer, then fell very quiet. She was very right.

“You totally did!” teased Alice. “Admit it! You like my butt. You always have.” She gave him a quick hip-check for good measure.

Danny almost fell into the snowbank from shock.

Alice grabbed his free hand and pulled him back to a stable footing.

“Come on, silly,” she said. “I’m joking.”

“Right,” said Danny.

“Let’s see the other ones,” she said, leading him on.

Danny became very aware of how close they were, as she leaned in to see the screen.

He advanced the frames. He was quite talented, and the photos showed it. “You do look very-” he hesitated, trying to think of the right word. “Pretty,” he decided.

“Thank you, Danny, that’s awfully kind of you,” said Alice.

But now the tension was too much, and neither knew how to handle it.  Snowflakes began to float down from the surrounding trees, and Alice had to make her move.

She punched Danny in the arm, and took off at a breakneck pace. “Come on, loser! Last one back over the bridge owes me a Coke!” she called over her shoulder.

“That won’t even make sense when I win!” replied Danny as he raced to catch up.

No. 593

Jessica Williams saw Travis Sanders sitting at the corner table that he’d specified for the meeting. She approached and sat down.

Sanders was excited to see her. “I’m glad you could make it,” he said, perhaps overly enthusiastically.

Jessica considered leaving, but she’d known Travis for too long to walk out immediately.

“It’s been, what? Ten years?” Sanders continued, oblivious to Jessica’s discomfort.

“Something like that, sure,” said Jessica.

“Time flies,” said Sanders. “I’m so glad you could make it,” he repeated, adding “so” for emphasis. “I bet you’re wondering why I tracked you down.”

“That’s true.”

Travis was nervous, too. He almost spilled his coffee as he reached down for his laptop bag. “Look at this,” he said, turning the laptop toward Jessica. “Do you remember him?”

“Jeremy Hoskins,” said Jessica, reading the screen.

“He went to our high school,” said Sanders.

“I know.”

“You were friends with him, right?” Sanders pressed.

Jessica shifted in her seat. “I’ve mostly tried to forget.”

“No, you were. You spent lunchtimes with him in the English room. I remember.”

“I’ve mostly tried to forget.”

“Oh, hey,” interrupted Sanders. “I forgot to buy you a drink? What do you want?”

Jessica looked toward the counter. There was a line. “I’m fine. I can wait. What is it you want?”

“Right. Oh. Right. Yes,” Sanders stammered. “I just started following Hoskins on Twitter.”

“Twitter? Really?” said Jessica. She checked her phone, now wishing she hadn’t agreed to meet her former classmate. It had been a terrible idea, she decided.

“Turns out, he’s super rich, now,” Sanders whispered.

“I know. And?”

“You were friends. He’s rich. Maybe you can re-connect.”

“What do you mean re-connect?” Jessica said with revulsion.

“It could be like Ocean’s 11, but with two.”

Jessica leaned back in her seat. “You want to rob him?” she said, louder than she’d expected.

“Shh! Quiet!” said Sanders. “You’ll blow the plan.”

“Rob him. With you?” said Jessica.

“I’ve got it all worked out,” said Sanders. “Much classier than a smash-grab job.”

“I’m not sure I can do that,” Jessica said.

Travis leaned forward. He looked Jessica in the eyes. “Remember science class?” he said quietly. “Please help me.”

Jessica swallowed. She’d tried especially hard to forget science class.

“You were there. Third row,” said Travis. “You know what happened.”

“I know.”

So, will you help me?” Travis asked.

Jessica thought back to the day, many years ago, when she’d done nothing. “Classier than a smash-grab job, you say?” she asked.

“I do.”

“Alright, then,” Jessica decided. “I’m in.”

 

No. 592

“The man at the counter answers his phone”

Chuck Gordon typed the words carefully and looked over his laptop screen towards the till. The man ordering the strawberry frap pulled the phone from his back pocket and spoke loudly. “Hello? No. I don’t have time right now.”

Gordon glanced around to see if anyone else had noticed what he was doing yet. He hesitated before writing the next sentence.

“The barista spills the drink.”

“Shit! Dammit!” Gordon heard, even before he had a chance to look up. The barista was now wearing the pink frap.

“Is this really happening?” Chuck whispered to himself. He stared alternately at his hands and computer, not sure which was responsible for this strange new power. He decided that he may as well go big, or go home. He began to type again.

“The girl in the corner notices me.”

No. 591

“Stay here,” Sam Cozak told Evalynn. “I’ll check it out first.” He got out of the car and approached the building.

Cozak was a lot of things, but nervous was not typically one of them. He drew his hand across the goosebumps on his arm and unlocked the old, rusted door. It swung open without resistance. A hazy cloud of dust floated out of the darkness.

“Sam,” Evalynn called. “Are you sure?”

Cozak didn’t say anything. He stepped forward, beyond the threshold.

Evalynn waited a long time.

 

“This is it,” Cozack whispered, the words diffusing into the vast space.

He found the breaker and pulled it. One by one, the overhead lights snapped on. Rats dove for cover, and there was a clatter from somewhere in the back as something larger took its leave.

Cozak shivered as he surveyed the factory floor. “Evalynn,” he shouted. “It’s everything we wanted it to be.”

“This is where we make our first million.”

No. 590

 

How much apple is left? It will be a while until dinner. Why don’t you give her some more?

Tiny Human, I can help you eat your food!

The dog is mooching for a snack. Hey, that’s not your apple!

Tiny Human is giving me food!

She just threw it on the ground. Now the dog is eating it.

Today is the best day ever!

I think she’s done. We can save the rest for tomorrow. At least we don’t have to wash the floor.

Tiny Human is my favorite human!

No. 589

After Danny Campbell won his seventh grade class presidency on an ambitious campaign platform of double recess, he scheduled a meeting with the principal to enact his vision.

 

“No.” said Principal Branch.

“I’m the class president. You need to do what I say,” Danny explained.

Principal Branch leaned back in her chair. “I’m sorry. That’s not how class president works,” she told Danny.

“How come the grade nines get free snacks at the vending machines?” Danny asked. “Didn’t the president do that?”

“Danny, do you know what an urban legend is?” said Principal Branch.

Danny scratched his head. “I don’t think so.”

“It means a story that a lot of people tell, but it’s not true.”

“But the grade nines do get free snacks, though!” Danny argued.

“Who told you?”

“Jenny Chan. In my class.”

“And how does Jenny know?”

“Her brother’s friend told her.”

“Have you met her brother, or his friend?” Principal Branch asked.

Danny was tiring of the questions, and beginning to suspect that Principal Branch knew something that he didn’t. Still, he owed it to his classmates to try his hardest to get them what he’d promised. He tried a new tactic.

“What about an extra five minutes of recess?” he proposed.

Principal Branch sighed. “I appreciate your effort, but when you get back to class, ask Ms. Harper what a ‘figurehead’ is.”

 

Danny returned to his home room, unsuccessful in his attempts to gain any extra recreational time. The rest of the seventh graders soon forgot that he’d made any commitments, at all. However, his persistence served him well, and he was elected to his grade’s highest office twice more. In grade eight, he promised every student an unlimited hall pass, and in grade nine, he was swept to power on a pledge to distribute free candy from the vending machines.

He never met Jenny Chan’s brother’s friend.

 

No. 588

Sally and Jack always played in the stream that ran through their neighbourhood. During the summer, the water was low, making access into the culvert that ran underneath the street possible.

Jack stood on the bank and threw a rock toward the tunnel. It disappeared with a splash into the deepest part of the stream. “Don’t go in there,” he told Sally. “That’s where the big crayfish is. I saw him last week. He could take your hand off if he got you.”

Sally looked at her hand, flexing her fingers experimentally. “He must be huge,” she said.

“For sure,” Jack agreed. “Even the older kids won’t go after him.”

“Afraid?” asked Sally.

“Aren’t you?” Jack replied.

Sally searched through the bushes on the bank beside the stream and found a large stick. “I bet I can catch him,” she declared.

Jack stepped away from the water as Sally went in up to her ankles. “What’s the matter?” she asked him. “Scared?”

“No.” said Jack, unconvincingly. “I’m giving you space.”

“Ha!” said Sally, as she disappeared into the dark passageway.

Jack was scared, and watched nervously for his friend. He heard splashing from the tunnel. “He’s got her,” he whispered to himself, and considered running home.

Moments later, Sally emerged, without her stick, but carrying a medium-sized crayfish. “Is this what they were worried about?” she said as she held the crustacean toward Jack.

“I thought it would be bigger,” said Jack, who had not moved closer to the water. “Much bigger.”

“Maybe the older kids didn’t know what they were talking about,” said Sally. “I looked around. There weren’t any other crayfish in there. I’m pretty sure this is the ‘monster’ one.”

“Good for us. I mean, you,” said Jack.

Sally had reached the land. She waved the crayfish at Jack. “Look out,” she teased, “I bet he could take your hand off!”

 

No. 587

If you somehow find this, I need you to know what’s going to happen.

I built this time machine in secret. It was my life’s work and, before I announced it, I needed to make the first flight. On August 29, 2017, I chose to go forward by one week, to see how my invention would be received.

As it turned out, we humans did not have that much time left. The radiation from the first bombs shattered the time-field, and trapped me in a stasis from which there is no escape.

I was forced to watch the end of the world from inside a pocket dimension, completely unable to return to my own, or any other time.

I’ve lost count of the decades, now. They’re irrelevant, anyway. The only things left alive in the ruins are roaches. Sometimes, I tell myself that they can see me, and I don’t feel so alone.

No. 586

I took the pill just before her wedding.

The dealer called it “Geronimo”, and promised two hours with absolutely no fear.

As it turned out, I should have waited just a little while longer. Instead of telling her that I loved her and that she should marry me, instead, I ended up fighting her enormous cousin in the parking lot.

Evidently, he and I have very different political opinions.