The Iron Writer Challenge #19

Boomerang

The Iron Writer Challenge #19

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #19

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

A Francis RaymondKaylee HamelinkTom McCannTony Jaeger

The Elements:

A casket
Graffitti
A sugar glider
A boomerang

Consequences SchmonsequencesA Francis Raymond

A Francis Raymond

“Gliders of the colony! Mark this day!” proclaimed Magog. He stood on a branch of the colony’s primary home tree, arms outstretched, membrane of fur draping down to his feet.

In front of the sugar glider, perched steadily on the wide tree branch was an open casket. Inside, another glider, similarly marked as Magog, lay still.

“My father,” Magog announced, “former King of the Colony, champion of the High Races, rests in peace. Now that I am King, I declare the dangers of the High Race too great. We are retiring the Boom-Ay-Rang and terminating the races.”

Buried in the crowd, Loda listened. And fumed. His tail twitched. His claws dug into the tree limb he stood on. The crowd cheered. He watched as several gliders mounted the Boom-Ay-Rang to the tree trunk above the casket.

More cheers. Everyone knew the danger of the races and a growing movement tried to stop them. Not Loda. His life was devoted to Boom-Ay-Rang study and the High Race. He knew its origins, beginning when the Boom-Ay-Rang was left by the visitors. Tall creatures with fur only on their heads who visited in Loda’s father’s father’s time and left it behind.

Loda watched every race. Winning was rare. Racers launched off a cliff instead of safely gliding from tree to tree. The goal was to fly further than the Boom-Ay-Rang, and glide back before the Boom-Ay-Rang returned. Losing often meant a long and deadly fall.

Winning required skill in the air and knowledge of flight. Loda spent his youth learning to feel the pressure difference between the under and upper sides of the airfoil created by the membranes connecting his hands and feet. HHe studied the Boom-Ay-Rang. He could reliably predict its flight path based on the air at the moment of launch.

Loda kicked the creature next to him, a smaller version of himself.

“Rint, this isn’t happening! I’ve spent too long studying. I must have my race!”

Rint stared at him and blinked. No one else heard Loda’s blasphemy.

“Did you not hear Magog? There’s new law. They’ll banish you from the colony!”

Rint’s warning was ignored. Loda was already planning how they would get the Boom-Ay-Rang, load it in the launcher, and race. He’d add his mark to the graffiti of past winners covering the Boom-A-Rang. Rint would go along. He never said no to Loda.

On the fourth night after the funeral, with only a single moon in the sky providing light and most of the colony in torpor, Loda and Rint maneuvered the Boom-Ay-Rang to the launch pad overlooking Death Canyon. Loda took his place in the launching spot next to it. He shivered. This was his first time this close to the ledge of the Canyon.

“I’m ready” he said, looking straight ahead. Rint held up his arm, his own arm flaps hanging down.

“Three. Two. One,” he shouted, lowered his arm, and launched the Boom-Ay-Rang.

Loda pushed off the cliff and glided into the moonlit night.

The WoodsKaylee Hamelink

Kaylee Hamelink

It was the first week of summer and Kate was already tired of playing Barbie’s with her little sister, Callie. One more time of hearing how Barbie wasn’t dressed right or “that’s not something she would wear to this occasion” and she was going to scream. Thankfully, Kate had been digging around in the attic and found an old boomerang. She hadn’t played with one since she was a little kid and thought that it would be fun to teach Callie.

They decided to go out to the open field close to the woods, that way they wouldn’t break anything if lessons went bad. Kate threw it a couple of times and then walked Callie through it; she was ready for her first try.

Of course! Callie threw it straight into the woods…well if you called throwing it 10 feet behind you straight. They had to go find it, so they set off to find it in the dark, uninviting woods…at least it was daylight outside.

Kate had to keep telling herself that there was nothing to be scared of, that everything was going to be fine. They would find that boomerang and get out. Well, all of those thoughts just stopped when she saw Callie running up to a casket that lay covered in graffiti under an old, dead oak tree. How ironic, Kate thought.

Why was there a casket in the middle of the woods? That was just too weird for Kate to even think of an answer. She wanted to get out but Callie wouldn’t have it. Callie was already opening up the casket before Kate could stop her. To her surprise the only thing that was in it was an oversized sugar glider. This keeps getting weirder. They watched as the sugar glider flew deeper into the woods. That’s it for me, Kate told herself, and Dad can just ground me for losing that dang boomerang. With that final thought Kate grabbed Callie’s arm and turned to leave.

All of the sudden there was a rustling sound right behind them, where the casket lay, open. Kate was too scared to turn around and see what it was so she tried to keep walking; however Callie had no fears what so ever. She turned then let out a gasp and clung on the Kate’s leg. Just keep walking and whatever it is won’t bother you. Don’t acknowledge it. Kate had to tell herself something logical or she was defiantly going to lose it.

Since walking away wasn’t an option with Callie gripping her like she was, Kate turned around and was surprised to find a boy about her age standing two feet away.

He was tall with dark brown hair and a pair of eyes that looked like shinning emeralds and in his hands he held their boomerang. Kate stood there just staring at the handsome guy in front of her, with her jaw dropped and everything. She was awakened from her stupor when he said,

“I believe this is yours.”

 An Epitaph for MickeyTom McCann

Tom McCann
 
Sombre faces were surrounded by an ever more sombre mood, and although a few tears found themselves falling floor-bound, most of the congregation managed to compose themselves. Dan glanced sideways, his eyes catching those of his daughter, sparkling with fresh grief and her first experience of loss.
 
Lowering his hand downwards onto her shoulder, it struck him how fast his little girl was growing up. What his father had said at her birth was true. ‘They grow up so fast, and we won’t be here to protect her forever Dan. I want to make the most of this time with her, so stop hogging her and take my photo.’ His eyes threatened to join in with the chorus of tears, and with those of his daughter but he decided he needed to hold it together for Lily’s sake if not his own.
 
‘Suits look like penguins Daddy!’ Lily piped up, the graveness of the situation temporarily lost on her once again. Dan pondered how children were able to detach themselves from the moment, to take in the minute details that no one else would afford a second glance. He missed that, the innocence only children know how to possess.
‘What a shame we forget about all that.’ Realising he had muttered out loud by the look of anger etched on Lily’s face, he apologised profusely.
 
‘Sorry.’ Lily’s eyes softened, but only slightly. Dan had managed to find himself in trouble again. At times like this he wasnt sure who out of the two of them was really the parent.
 
The voice overseeing the whole thing droned on and on about favourite foods, how loved he was by all the family, but Dan found it hard to keep his mind from wandering away. He didn’t feel bad about this in the slightest, not given the situation he found himself in. ‘Being a bad person is like throwing a boomerang made of crap. It always covers you in shit in the end.’ One of Dad’s favourites. Dan missed his father more than he had realised.
 
Bringing himself back to the moment, and wanting to avoid looking as bored as he was, Dan look downwards as if looking at his feet which were shuffling slowly, showing his anxious desire for the whole thing to end. In reality he was squinting, trying to decipher 5 year old Lily’s graffiti-like writing on the casket and make-do headstone.
 
The voice of authority finished it’s speech. The talk of trips out and naughty things he had done when young replaced by an uncomfortable silence, it’s absence filling the room awkwardly.
 
Once a moment or two had passed, he pointed. ‘What does that say darling?’, a genuine air of curiosity in his voice. Dan’s wife removed her vicar’s robe and folded it gently, the towel no longer serving as a robe.
 
‘Duh.’ Lily’s hands firmly met with her hips and her foot with the floor. ‘Here lies Mickey, the bestest Sugar Glider ever and my bestest friend. RIP Mickey.’
 

A Eulogy For AngTony Jaeger

Tony Jaeger

“The thug life didn’t choose Ang, leader of the Boomer Gang, he chose it. He chose it ‘cos it was what he had to do. He rallied us together under his cause – our cause – making us stronger ‘n we would’ve been elsewise. Since then, the Boomers have thrived, have grown to rule the streets.” The speaker stood tall behind the podium, delivering his speech. A gathering of this size was dangerous, and already, bloodthirsty men and women pounded at the doors and plate-glass windows, shrieking their protests. Those who had braved the savage streets to sit at the broken pews shifted nervously, but respect had to be paid to their former fearless leader.

A black and grey rodent, Ang’s pet and unofficial mascot of the Boomers, sat atop the casket left of the podium. Its big, black eyes stared sadly up at the speaker as he continued. “Across the city, Ang has been a bringer of ‘ope, clearing out safe ‘ouses for the Gang in new areas previously out of reach. He led us into an age of prosperi’y, setting up fronts and expanding our interests further ‘n we had ever imagined. But that was before the Rotters moved in.”

Some of the gathered mourners hissed or murmured their hatred. One spat on the wooden floor. “A war broke out, right on our doorstep, but Ang din’t flinch. He showed us what we was made of, and led us out into the streets to protect our turf. We fought, and many of us died, but Ang kept us strong. Even when we thought we was lost, Ang kept us looking t’ward that distant light of ‘ope. He was only nineteen, but I believed in him because he saw more in us ‘n we saw ourselves. He showed us the strength in our hearts.”

The speaker wiped at the corners of his eyes and looked around at the ragged mourners while he composed himself. “Even when the walls were pain’ed with Boomer blood, Ang never lost ‘ope. Erry time we did, he’d just flash a smile, ‘n tell a joke, an’ we was right back up again, fresh for a fight.”

The protesters had grown in number, undoubtedly Rotters looking to deliver a decisive blow to the Boomers. Their pounding on the building shook it to its foundation. Many of the Boomers readied their guns. Some near the back took up positions flanking the doors in case of a successful break in.

“I offer a final toast for Boomer Ang.” The speaker raised a beer and a Colt 45. “May he never come back.” He put the gun against Ang’s head and fired, ensuring that he wouldn’t. “Awright, let’s honor him the best we can, by showin’ these Zombie bastards the kind of men we are.”

The Iron Writer Challenge #18

kerosene-lamp

The Iron Writer Challenge #18

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #18

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Adam KirbyAnne Mason SmithAzure EwingGeoff Gore

The Elements:

A Kerosene Lamp

Pickled Pigs Feet

Driftwood

Reference Librarians

Challenging PerceptionsAdam Kirby

Adam Kirby

“What’s the kerosene level, boy?”

“Enough to see us home, Cap’n.” Rui sat dangling his long teenage legs over the bow of his father’s scow.

“I didn’t ask for your estimation of its longevity. How much?!! And you can get those flat feet up here and show me some respect. And bring the stern and bow lamps with you!… At the double, boy!”

Jack scrambled to his feet and a few minutes later presented himself on the bridge, arms extended, a lantern swinging from each hand. “There’s five litres in the can and each lamp is full, Sir!” He grinned.

His father made no movement of recognition. “Put them under the table. Now, about the dinner for the governor, pickled pigs feet is no substitute for chili fried chicken’s feet and when we get home you’ll have to check with the imperial court etiquette reference librarians regarding appropriate attire. We mustn’t get it wrong.”

“Yes, Father, and I’ll try the mainland for chicken’s feet. Isn’t it exciting, the governor coming to our little island.”

“Mme, I hope it’s just a courtesy call.”

“What could go wrong? You have the Emperor’s ear, the sun shines on all you survey and we will be home by dawn.”

Xi Ge Xing’s eyes narrowed, peering into the distance. Nothing must be left to chance. He turned dismissing his son with a flick of his head. The boy was ignorant … worthless now, but he would learn.  He returned his gaze to the horizon. The tranquillity of the sea troubled him.

The wheel tugged slightly. He hardly felt it, but it was there. He stared again. The light was dancing on the water, nearer now. He freed the wheel and it rolled gently to starboard. It was the current. The wind was to port. He pulled it back and tried to hold his course, but the helm was shifting. He’d heard of this. The spirits of the deep playing games.

“All hands on deck!!” he bellowed. “Set all sail to windward. Get to the oars and row for your lives. Bowswain! Don’t spare the whip.”

Before the sails were set or the men were in their places, the sea had become a churning firmament, planks of driftwood beating against the hull, impeding the rowing of the crew. The wheel was heaved to port and bound in place.

The scow dipped and yawed, huge spinning waves swamping the bow. Yet gradually, imperceptibly, she began to turn. Inch by painful inch, the crew’s bloodied backs brought her round, until the shimmering petulant waters were but a horrifying memory and the men sat in exhausted agony, becalmed in a sun drenched daze.

No-body saw the towering wave which enveloped the ship.

Xi Ge Xing, his son and crew were never found and the governor expropriated the family’s lands without setting a foot on the island.

“Captain to Bridge from Hollodeck Four. What is our status?”

“Coming out of Warp speed into standard orbit, Sir.”

“Survey quadrant beta-delta-9 for all dark matter disturbance. I am on my way to the bridge.”

The Glowing NightAnne Mason Smith

Anne Mason Smith

The night was dark.  The only light was cast by the full moon, shrouded by the thick, dark clouds covering the sky.  A voice echoed through the forest, high and shrill with fear.

“Turn the dang lantern on!” Lucille screamed at Parker, stomping her foot on the hard ground.

“What? Is Lucille scared of the dark?” Parker taunted, but turned the kerosene lantern’s light up.

Lucille huffed but didn’t argue, turning around and trudging through the dense undergrowth.  As she bumped into something, she let out a shriek that sent chills up Parker’s arms. He rushed forward, ready to battle the monster that dare hurt his sister, but all he found was a piece of driftwood, resting beside the lake.  He sighed and pushed it away with his foot.

“Dang, Lucille, get a grip,” he sighed.

“Me get a grip?  You’re the one that barreled through those trees like King Kong was chasing you!” Lucille argued, placing a hand on her hip.

“I thought you were being attacked!” Parker quickly defended himself, drawing a steady breath, trying to keep his temper at bay.

“Whatever.  I want to go home,” Lucille grumbled and continued forward, where she knew they had parked their truck just half an hour ago.

Parker rolled his eyes, but followed his sister.  He glanced back at the driftwood, and suddenly a funny prank came to mind.  He grinned, and ran back to get the driftwood, dragging the wood up to the truck.  He quickly glanced in to make sure Lucille wasn’t looking.  Luckily she wasn’t; her eyes were glued to a phone.

He chuckled and started to lift the wood into the bed of the truck, but as he laid it in the back, he spotted an eerie, bright glow on it, looking out of place in the darkness.  Terror gripped Parker, and he yelled and threw the driftwood out of the truck, diving around the side of the car and jumping into the driver’s seat. More quickly than he ever had before, he yanked the car into drive and zoomed off down the highway.

“Hey!” Lucille screamed, clicking in her seatbelt.

“There was—there was a thing in the back of the truck!” Parker replied, his voice shaky.

The truck’s wheels squealed, drowning out Lucille’s reply as they hurtled into the Library’s parking lot.  Lucille grit her teeth and crossed her arms, staying seated as Parker ran into the library.  He rushed to the nearest librarian.

“Hello, hi there.  There was an animal in the back of my truck.  We were in the forest.  It glowed,” Parker quickly told his situation.

The librarian seemed to take an awfully slow time as she typed in her computer.  Finally, she looked up at Parker.  “Come with me,” she coughed, heading into the library, her eyes scanning the many shelves of books.  Finally, she pulled out one.  “Oh, sweetie.  It was just a glow worm,” she remarked, showing Parker the picture.  Sure enough, it was the same creature that had been on the driftwood.

He breathed out a sigh of relief and thanked the librarian, walking out to the car.  He spotted Lucille eating his precious jar of pickled pigs feet.  She licked her fingers and looked up innocently at Parker.

“Hey, I deserved it, sitting through your screaming,” Lucille quickly made up an excuse.

“Whatever,” Parker sighed.

The LighthouseAzure Ewing

Azure Ewing

I strode hastily down the beach, cursing the fog that prevented the glow of my old kerosene lantern from casting light more than a meter around me. The eerie sound of the waves crashing into the shore, combined with the pieces of driftwood that had to be circumvented every few strides or so made it a harrowing journey to the old lighthouse. I hoped to find answers to the questions that had plagued my mind since finding an ancient piece of parchment, covered with alien characters, many months ago. I had written one Professor O’Hara weeks before, asking him if he could help me decipher this old text, being the foremost authority on ancient texts and ciphers in Crimean Gothic. I had explained to him my countless visits to university libraries, asking the reference librarians where the relevant texts were, and inevitably take home a mountain of tomes that would only lead me to false translations (as I was certain the text wouldn’t contain the phrase “the gateway to darkness is opened by the whisper of a pastry”). I had received only a brief response from the Professor; a map of the Yorkshire coast, and a written note telling me to come to the marked lighthouse in 5 days time, wherein my questions would be answered.

Presently, I was wrenching open the old lighthouse door, warped by ages of harsh sea air. I stepped inside, forced shut the door behind me, and held up my lantern to provide illumination throughout the chamber. The room was large, but hauntingly empty. I called out, “Professor, are you here?”, but received no response. I hastily made my way up the stairs which bordered the room, and discovered the trapdoor which opened upwards was locked. I descended the stairs in the opposite direction, and the door at the base of the stairwell lead me to a basement chamber, resembling the first room, only this was lined with shelves, packed with jars of pickled things of every variety. Pigs feet, fish heads, and innumerable other unidentifiable things. My stomach twisted with the scent of formaldehyde, but I pressed on down the next flight of stairs, towards a faint sound of music. The door was locked tight, and I pounded on it with my free hand. “Professor?” I called again, shouting into the closed  door. Suddenly, the door was  ripped open! A flash of cruel blue eyes, a sharp pain on the side of my head and I was plunged into sudden blackness.

I know not what is to become of me. I live off of the food that is carried up to me nightly, and always, the repetition of that same, mad phrase, “Not long now, Mr. Edmunds. You’ll have your answers soon,” accompanied by phantom images of alien characters scrawled on old parchment, and those leering, cruel blue eyes, fogged with insanity.

I wonder if those questions are what drove Professor O’Hara mad, and if I shall live long enough to hear the answers.

The KissGeoff Gore

Geoff Gore

Alex glanced up from his notes.  There were scant few people around.  It was quiet, even for the library.  It would be closing soon.  Nevertheless, this assignment wasn’t going to write itself.   He looked beyond the rows of shelves neatly stacked with ordered volumes, none of which had thus far proven useful.  He sighed, then, his eyes wandering, rested on one of the young reference librarians, cataloguing the day’s returns.  Now she was well stacked,he thought.  He gathered his notes and approached the desk, sliding the book across the counter.

“Just the one?”

He nodded, but said nothing.

The young woman took the book from his hand and rubbed it vigorously back and forth across a metal plate on the counter.   There was something erotic in the way she did so.  He reluctantly pushed the thought from his mind.  She had soft pale skin and wore a crisp tailored blouse that made the most of her curves.  As she pushed the book back to him she leaned forward and Alex’s gaze was drawn to a simple cross with a loop at its head that hovered from a silver chain against her white décolletage.

“Is there something else you’d like to check out?” She enquired, perhaps noticing his eyes lingering a moment too long.

“Not unless you know anything about Byron”.

“There from thy daughter, sister wife, at midnight drain the stream of life.”

“You do know Byron?”

“Not personally, but I’m familiar with his work.”

“This may be presumptuous, but would you help me?”

She looked around the foyer.  Only the two of them remained. “Okay.”

She moved to the entrance and locked the door for the night.  Then she gestured to a small alcove behind the counter.  “Follow me”

Alex nodded. “Okay.”

Through the door she picked up an old kerosene lantern that sat atop a stairwell.  “You’ll need this”, she said and led him down a steep staircase.  She walked briskly, almost silently, and Alex had to hurry not to be left in the darkness.  Eventually the stairwell opened into a large underground hall.  Here, like the library above, rows of old books sat neatly ordered in the gloom, gathering dust.

Alex noticed other things.  Preserving jars with what looked like pickled pigs feet rested on a shelf at head height.  As they went further there were other specimens.  Things that looked like rats, except, as they got larger Alex realised they weren’t rats at all, but preserved human organs.

“What is this stuff?”

“These are my private collections.”

“Collections?”

“Yes.  Everyone needs a pursuit Alex.  Without one we are mere driftwood, hollow and without purpose.”

“How do you know my name?  I never…”

“Your library card.”

“Oh…so what is it you collect?”

“Things I like.” She faced him.  “Do you like me Alex?”

He nodded.

“I like you too.”

Then, she leaned forward guiding his hands around her hips into a passionate embrace.

Alex scarcely felt her teeth as they pierced the flesh of his neck.

The Iron Writer Challenge #17

grizzly-bear

The Iron Writer Challenge #17

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #17

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Hannelore MooreKate JonuskaM S LemayMaureen Larter

The Elements:

A Town Hall

A Grizzly Bear

A Root Canal

Almonds

Lava RockHannelore Moore

Hannelore Moore

Henry and Ed used to hang out all the time, hiking for hours to collect lava rock, trading music files, eating chocolate. Man, they loved their chocolate – Henry especially. It was a huge deal when the supply planes delivered more to Avugiak’s Store. But then, Ed started hurting. Holding his hand to the side of his face. Staying home sick. On the last day of seventh grade, one of the almonds in a Hershey bar, the first decent candy they’d eaten in weeks, sent him reeling.

Via Skype, the dentist decided on a root canal. Ed worried about it: the flight to Bethel, the sedation. Henry had always wanted to trade places with him, but never more than now. He would’ve suffered anything to escape the deadening monotony of the village, to distract Grandpa Panruk from trying so hard, too hard, after the judge had sent Dad to Fairbanks.

The day before the big appointment, as they wandered through the tundra, Ed, usually so self-assured, so cool, started crying, his face twisted up, his sobs dry and violent. Henry touched his shoulder but jumped back when he yelled, “Leave me alone, you fat pig!” After shuffling the long distance home, Henry to Grandpa’s trailer, Ed to his house, they never spoke again.

The summer passed. Hours of clear light allowed Henry amazing views of the old volcano. He even spotted a grizzly and stood painfully still, a thrilling panic causing colors to vibrate around him, until the bear lumbered off. He couldn’t enjoy any of these discoveries completely, though. Not alone.

For once, he was relieved to return to school. At least, until he saw Ed, who, since an uneasy July encounter at Avugiak’s, had not only grown taller but acquired an entourage.

Henry’s weekends seemed even lonelier after that. He spent most of them with Grandpa at the Town Hall, playing Bingo. He never won, always one mark away in every direction when another old vet would shout out victory in a reedy voice.

Tonight, he’d had enough of breathing in the hall’s citrusy-sweet cleanser. It made his eyes burn. He felt Grandpa watching as he stepped outside for a cigarette, a habit acquired over the summer to kill time. Not good, he knew. Dad started smoking at thirteen, too.

And then, Ed’s entourage wandered down the street. Unavoidable in this claustrophobic place, especially on a Friday night. The popular kids and their easy laughter. Henry had trouble swallowing when they got closer. He’d never look like them, never fit in. He wanted to hide in the shadows, but his bulk prevented that.

A girl whose mother and sisters were all former homecoming queens clutched onto Ed. “Is that a grizzly bear?” she asked in a squeak.

Ed started a little in recognition. “No,” he said, recovering. “Nothing nearly that exciting.”

Henry let them pass, accepting his place and his destiny. Both were inevitable, like lava cooling into the pitted rocks he used to collect with his best friend. 

The Bear BurglarKate Jonuska

Kate Jonuska

“What is this?” asked the county policewoman, holding up a disposable container with a thin blue lid. Inside sloshed what looked like white, jellied meatballs floating in egg-drop soup. “Eye of newt and toe of frog?”

The 12-year-old girl sat with her arms crossed in the flimsy chair across the table. “Something like that.” Blonde and a few pounds chubby, the hem of her black skirt was cut deliberately ragged, and the black hood of her sweatshirt hung limp down her back.

“And this is all she had on her?” asked the male officer, surveying the strewn contents of the girl’s backpack on the table. The backpack itself, which seemed held together with safety pins, lay deflated to one side. He grabbed her pliers and held them up to the fluorescent lights.

The woman gestured to the tool. “I caught her red-handed, using those to give old Boris a root canal. She’d climbed up and was straddling his shoulder, yanking on one of his teeth.”

“Why would she want the tooth of a stuffed grizzly bear?”

“An ursine canine,” the girl specified, rolling her eyes.

“Poor Boris. It’s disrespectful.” The policewoman shook her head and its tidy ponytail. “He’s lorded over town hall since 1896.”

“And you say no signs of forced entry?”

“None. That alarm system is airtight. I checked it myself when I clocked in.”

“Hrm.” He handled the girl’s belongings like they might be infected.

Cell phone. A bundle of keys. A beat-up spiral notebook. Winter gloves. Latex gloves. A turkey baster and a full canister of salt. Four candles. A white business envelope full of brown hair.

“Jesus,” he said, wrinkling his lip. He picked up a Ziploc bag containing handful of almonds from the table and held it between pinched fingers. “And you even brought a snack?”

“High in protein, almonds,” said the girl, no cracks in her facial expression.

“We still haven’t been able to reach her parents, and she hasn’t said anything useful.”

He leaned back and crossed his legs at the ankle. “I guess we should settle in then and see if she likes spending the night at the police station as much as breaking and entering. Good thing she packed us snacks.” He poured some almonds into his palm.

“Don’t—”

“Hush now, girl.”

“Really, I wouldn’t,” the girl insisted.

He tossed a nut into his mouth. A split second later, his uniform was empty, draped flat on the chair. His hat hit the linoleum with a thwack.

“What the—” The other officer’s hand flew to the butt of her gun. “Jim?”

“Here!” came a tiny squeak. The pants moved. A Barbie-sized cop climbed out of the tangle of fabric, naked.

“What did you do to him?!”

The girl sighed. “I told him not to.”

“Hey… hey!” yelped the tiny cop.

“Calm down,” said the girl. “In my experience, it wears off in, like, five minutes. Tops.” She leaned back and crossed her legs at the ankle.

Speed Dating in Montanam-s-lemay

M.S. Lemay

In a candlelit room full of batting eyes and coy smiles, one couldn’t help but notice Larry. He sat stiffly upright in his father’s 1970’s fringed-leather leisure suit, still donning his nametag from work:

“Larry Seigel

Large Mammal Endodonsist

Big Horn County”

His shifting eyes made the other Speed Daters uncomfortable. They were dull brown, thin, and wrinkled like unwanted almonds in a bag of trail mix. He yearned for his mother’s help that night, but she had been dead for four months now.

Date six of six walked across the room and plunked down in the chair across from him.

 “Hey, so you’re, uh, Larry?” she said, squinting through her purple horn-rims at his nametag.

She wore pink streaks in her hair to distract from the lazy eye. Larry found this endearing.

“Maggie Marsh, Avian Ophthalmologist for Rosebud County. I’m totally into birds- love ‘em! Have you ever looked into a birds eye? Really close? Windows to the soul, I tell ya.”

Larry’s heart swelled. His breath escaped, and it was suddenly difficult to take another one. His narrow eyes widened.

“So, you like animals?” Larry managed to squeak.

“Oh, yeah! Well, birds anyway.”

“Me, too. In fact, I recently landed a contract for Mayor Poole’s horses’ biannual dental care!” Larry said a bit louder, a bit prouder. His heart raced.

“That’s nothing! I was hired to get all those blind swans out of the town hall basement last year!”

“I didn’t hear about that,” Larry said.

“Really? It was wild! See the trick is, you have to come at a visually-impaired swan from the side, not the back!” Maggie jumped up, reenacting the scene, using Larry and his surrounding daters as the birds, shooing and squawking at them.

The other daters were horrified, mouths agape. Larry was exhilarated.

“Oh, yeah? Well, have you ever had your hand in a grizzly’s mouth?” He asked, grinning.

Maggie turned back to the table, intrigued.

“Remember that old bear found gnawing at the Johnson’s gazebo? He just had a toothache. I took care of it for him. The first documented root canal in an Ursus arctos horribilis! It was in all the papers.”

 “No way!” she gasped, leaning forward with her hands straddling the table.

“I kept him, you know. Jerry. Lives in my garage.”

“Oh. Oh wow! Could I? Do  ya… think I could meet him?” she asked.

Larry inhaled sharply. His mother always told him to jump for love when he found it, so he did.

“Let’s go.” He grabbed Maggie by her tattooed arm, and they ran out the door.

 They shared a breathless glance on the way to his car and smiled.

He imagined his mother waiting proudly at home to meet his date. It really was a shame that Jerry mauled her to death. Should he tell Maggie about that? No, that could probably wait until the third date…if she lived that long.

Vacation PainMaureen Larter

Maureen Larter

I hate dentists.
If they were the last people on earth, I’d still avoid them. And going to see one when you’re on vacation would be the furthest thing from my mind.
All I was doing was sitting watching a movie, munching on some nuts. When I bit down on that miserable almond, the pain shot up through my jaw and just wouldn’t stop.
I had to finally surrender and go and see a dentist. But in this strange town, where did I look?
The motel manager was unfriendly, the local information centre was closed, and the motley collection of buildings gave no clues.
I mumbled my query to the guy behind the cash register at the beach kiosk, as I held my face to ease the ache.
“Hey, man,” he grinned devilishly. “Find the Town Hall over there,” and he waved his arm vaguely in the direction of the only service station. “The dentist is in the white building next door.”
I stumbled away, the structures in front of me blurred by my ever-increasing pain.
When I finally got into the dentist’s room, I sat staring up into a light so bright my eyes began to water. I had my mouth open so far I thought my head would split in two.
The dentist loomed over me with a diabolical instrument clenched in his paw. He was dark, huge and menacing. He looked like a grizzly bear.
The pain in my jaw intensified and the instrument descended with electrifying force through my saliva.
Then things got even worse.
“Ah aah,” said the Grizzly Bear. “I’m afraid you’ll need a root canal.”
I told you I hated dentists!