“I’m going out!” he called. Robert was wearing his blue pinstripe suit, red tie, and fedora. He stepped outside into the cold night air. His mood improved with each step to the street. He walked between two parked cars and looked left.
Richard rolled up in his black 1941 Ford convertible coupe and stopped. Robert hopped in, then Richard hit the gas. “Hideho! What a night! I got a feeling about tonight, Dick.”
“Your wife not joining us?” Richard blew through a stop sign and passed a bottle of hooch to Robert.
“That dead hoofer? Not tonight. You don’t bring a wet blanket to a picnic.” He clapped his hands. “I’ll show ‘em how to cut a rug.”
Robert tossed the empty bottle out the window. It shattered on the ground just before they pulled up to the dance hall. They stepped out and Richard tossed the keys to the valet. Music could be heard on the street.
Inside was alive with swinging music and a crowded dance floor. Ladies lined the walls waiting for someone to dance with them. The bartender filled glasses three deep at the bar. Robert flitted to a trio of ladies who stood swaying with the music. To the prettiest one he said, “Aren’t you the eager beaver? C’mon, let’s dance!”
And dance they did! They lit up the dance floor from the very first song. By the third, other patrons were clapping and cheering them on as they spun and hopped, the perfect dance for every song. Finally, Richard pulled them from the dance floor. “Quit grandstanding! Everybody knows how good you are.”
“I can’t help it, Dick. It’s the perfect night!”
Just then someone spun him around and grabbed his lapels. “It’s time you left,” he said, and launched a haymaker at him.
Robert ducked under the punch and clocked the guy. Richard walloped his wingman. “No spoiling my fun tonight. Nobody likes a bad cat! Ha ha!” He turned to his dance partner, dipped her, and kissed her.
They stood up together in each other’s embrace. “What do you say we take a powder?”
“I’m game, dame!”
They stepped outside as the band began a rendition of “Suzy Snowflake.” Perfect timing, too. Delicate flakes fell and floated around them. They walked to a bench, hand in hand, and sat to cool off. Robert leaned in for a kiss, but the girl looked past him. He followed her gaze.
Robert’s wife walked up to the bench. Robert’s eyes went wide and his hands went to his lap. “Betty?”
“Hello, Robert. Are you feeling alright, my eager beaver?”
He turned to look at his dance partner but she was gone. A light dusting of snow covered the bench. He turned back and said, “I’m fine.”
“I brought your cane. Would you like to come home?”
Robert saw the empty park, snow-covered ground, and then saw his wife, a seventy year young woman reaching her hand out to him. He took it in his and said, “I’d like that.” His eyes welled with tears. Together they walked back to their car.
’til Death do we Part
It was Gilda and Efraim’s 50th anniversary and Gilda was excited. Efraim had promised they would go dancing after dinner so Gilda dressed appropriately. Gliding from the bedroom in her favorite evening gown, Gilda grinned from ear to ear. “Oh, Darling, how do I look? I’ve worn my white chiffon for the occasion. How do I look, Dear?” Efraim lifted his eyes to look at his wife. “Darling, you look divine this evening.” Gilda sashayed across the room wafting her gown so it billowed and fluttered. “I love white,” she said batting her eyes at Efraim. “It’s so …. elegant, and these shoes match this dress so well. What do you think, Darling?” Efraim lifted his eyes again and smiled this time. “I think those shoes are the perfect match for your evening attire, my dear.” Rising from his seat, Efraim took her by the hand and the two waltzed around the room a few times until Efraim suggested they have a bite to eat before they went out. Gilda’s eyes sparkled at the thought of dining with the man she loved so dearly.
Efraim pulled Gilda’s chair and seated her at the table. He filled her glass. Gilda swished it, and sniffed. She took a dainty sip and ran it over her tongue. “It’s delightful!” she announced with satisfaction, so Efraim topped up her glass, and then his own. “A toast!” Efraim insisted, “A toast to 50 wonderful years with the most beautiful wife the world has ever seen.” “And to the most handsome and loving husband a woman could dare to dream for.” Lifting their glasses, each took a sip from the others as their arms entwined. They drew closer to kiss. “Happy anniversary, Sweetheart.” “Happy anniversary, Darling.”
Gilda looked at her plate of food and cheered, “Oh, Efraim, you’ve prepared steak!” After the couple finished their meal, Gilda held out a scrap, and called the kitty, but it didn’t come. Efraim suggested, “Never mind, Dear, Kitty can get it later.”
Seeing a snowflake at the window sill, Gilda exclaimed, “Look, Efraim, it’s snowing.” and she began to sing. “Here comes Susie Snowflake dressed in a snow white gown; tap, tap, tapping on your window pane to tell you she’s in town …”
With a tear in his eye, Efraim announced, “It’s time to leave for the party now, Love.” . Holding her in his arms to keep her warm, the two went outside. A butler invited Gilda to join the line of women. Efraim encouraged her, “Go with them, Sweetheart. Some of the other women need help preparing for the dance.” Gilda could see this was true so she agreed. Efraim kissed her again, “I’ll see you at the party, my dearest,” and he went with a line of men.
Once inside the large rooms, heavy steel doors clanged shut on the Auschwitz gas chambers.
Left behind in the empty barracks sat a plank of wood with two cans of muddy water, and some scraps of spoiled cat meat.
Note: Authors names will be added after the judges have decided on the winner.
From the Journal of Daniel Brian O’Rogers
Mathew W. Weaver
22nd April, 2011
Pukwudgie – noun; creature, mythical. Known abilities: teleportation, transmutation, and (undetermined) sparse magic.
It is a creature of Native American lore (Wampanoag, precisely) that I turned my pursuits to upon this fresh endeavor. A strange being; said to measure no taller than three feet, with grossly exaggerated human features, it has a range of abilities bordering on the bizarre.
As with most specimens I have tracked, these, too, exist only as lore; nonetheless, I have yet to fail in uncovering a species. Like the Sasquatch and others before, I vowed to unearth these creatures, and as promised, I now have. To protect their habitat from man, I will not divulge this location until I can ascertain their safety.
It was after three months that I fell upon the trail I sought. Hidden in the undergrowth, I perceived a group pass within reach of where I lay. I was content to observe and record, but unfortunately, this was when my assistant Arnold’s cellular device rang.
It is to be noted that the creatures seemed quite taken with the ludicrous tone; one Arnold explained to me was, “The Three Stooges Birthday Song.”
Droll, I admit, but the incident did allow us to examine the creatures within closer proximity. The leader, a manure covered individual with prominent crimson eyes, took to the device very much; indeed, it… or dare I say ‘he’… went so far as to buff it against his genitals quite vigorously, much to Arnold’s ill-fated dismay.
It should also be noted that the Pukwudgie does not take kindly to having things grabbed from it, and will respond violently. The poor boy’s fate was his own doing, and I am afraid he paid his price.
However, by baring my hands and humbling myself before them, I have earned their trust, and am now privy to the locality of their hidden village. I now believe that my hosts are quite intelligent; even capable of conversation among themselves. It was with delight I observed the hollow rods at their belts; blow darts, tainted with the venom of the nefarious poison dart frog, rare in these parts yet lethal in their potency.
I have attempted conversation with the scarlet eyed chief, but thus far it has proven futile. I am confident, however, that a few days will be all I need to learn their ways. For now, these observations will have to suffice.
I write this as I lounge within the primitive yet spacious wooden room they constructed on my behalf. With an ingenious system of ropes, it hovers high above ground; doubtless, they are arboreal and wish to protect their guest from the dangers below. It is an impressive sentiment, given their treatment of my former assistant.
A large fire burns below, warming me against the chilling winds, and the populace dance and chant all around. I acknowledge their welcome, even though the box strains alarmingly, and the heat has grown rather oppressive.
I close with a final thought; since I have arrived, I have yet to see them feed. With trepidation, I eagerly look forward to determining their dietary habits, among all else, in the days ahead.
Now I Believe
I heard the stories growing up, but if I believed them, I might have reached Hartford that day. I was in my Ford F-150, driving 75 miles an hour down I-91. The morning sun climbed the eastern sky, but I was already tired. I checked my eyes in the rear-view. They were red, as they have been since birth, but they were bloodshot, too.
When I looked back at the road, I was bearing down on some unfortunate blur of a creature. A porcupine? I had the vague notion of hoping it wouldn’t pop my tires. I expected to hear the impact any moment. Instead I was plunged into darkness and quiet. I rubbed my eyes and felt cold, worn stone instead of the warm, comfortable seats of my F-150.
The high-pitched, sing-song voice echoed around me. I opened my eyes in time to catch motion to one side. I turned to see a little human figure with faintly glowing gray skin. He stood next to a table, on which was the small birthday cake he sang about.
“Iiiif yoooou geeeet aaaa tummmmmmmy aaaaaaache…”
The song went on in that high, childlike voice as he pushed narrow sticks into the cake. With the ring of sticks in place, he lifted the cake from the table and carried it toward me. Without even the slightest gesture, the tip of each stick sparked into candle flame.
My eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. He was close now, but only three feet tall, proportioned like a man, not a dwarf. He held the cake in front of me. The candles ringed a colorful black and yellow frog, a poisonous dart, its back glistening in the flickering candlelight.
The frog hopped away leaving a vacant, frog-butt-shaped space in the icing. The little man stared into my eyes over the burning candle sticks. As I watched, his eyes went from a menacing black to the same red color of mine, standing out against the gray of his skin.
“Maaake aaa wiiiish, deeeear, aaaand blooooow ooooout the caaaandlesssssss.”
The sibilant final word caught me up in the strange moment. I took in a deep breath to blow out the candles and was flooded with a memory from childhood. I had heard this song before! It was from an old Three Stooges routine, when television was black and white.
I released my held breath, blowing across the sticks, and everything changed. I was back in my truck. My eyes were filled with the bright light of morning; my ears heard shattering glass and crunching metal all around. The cake was suddenly my truck’s airbag exploding in my face. I was launching forward into it as my truck’s hood crumpled into the back of a tractor-trailer!
I told the State Trooper I was texting and driving, but this was one of many accidents along this stretch of highway the locals attributed to the Pukwudgie. Each year more knew of, and believed in, these dangerous tricksters. I didn’t believe before, but I do now!
I Am the Hunter
A poison dart frog hopped along a well-worn forest path while a human armed with a smartphone lumbered in its wake. Enrapt in wonder as the frog changed its color every few hops, the pursuer failed to notice a dark presence in the greenery ahead.
Behind pine-scented branches, an ancient creature watched and smiled. It had almost been too easy. If Nitka was patient, this hunter would undoubtedly meet his end. Though her large fingers twitched, Nitka remained stationary, refusing to arm her bow prematurely.
She’d watched him for days, this man who approached the Wampanoag community in a dusty Jeep, claiming to be an anthropologist interested in the tribe’s history. Nitka sensed his presence the moment his Oxfords hit hallowed ground. She scampered to the village, invisible, and took in the man called Remy. He smelled of oranges, spoke with a fake Southern lilt, and his irises shone red in sunlight. That’s when Nitka knew.
Red eyes had long been a genetic trait of Hunters. Modern day predators usually wore colored contacts as a disguise. Remy did not, and he spent much of his time on the outskirts of the village, peering into the woods, a hungry quality on his lips. He needed to be extinguished. Quickly.
In studying Remy’s dreams, Nitka learned the Hunter had a passion for three things other than slaughter: booze, magic, and amphibians. Nitka could pique two of those interests to summon him to her.
When Remy awoke earlier that morning, a poison dart frog sat on his nightstand, croaking a morning hymn and secreting a luring spell. Elated by the discovery and drunk on magic, Remy nearly forgot his pants in his rush to follow the frog into the surrounding forest, his smartphone in hand to capture the displaced amphibian on film.
Now, five more steps and Remy would be at his mark. Nitka strung her bow with a poison arrow, aimed, and let it fly. The arrowhead entered Remy through his back at an upward angle, tearing through tissue and glancing his spine. The frog disappeared in a swirl of color as Remy’s body hitched forward and fell into an open grave.
Nitka took a breath through her oversized nose and detected the scent of Remy’s blood boiling, a symptom of the poison. Then a strange noise overtook the forest, a chorus of voices. Nitka frowned and approached the open grave.
Remy lay face down, blood pooling around the arrow’s entry point. His smartphone was clutched in his hand and black and white images danced on its screen beneath a logo that read YouTube. Onscreen, three men pushed a cart with a cake on it and sang an odd song: “…Don’t forget we told you so.” Nitka’s frown deepened. She’d never understand humans, regardless of their tribe.
As Nitka summoned dirt over Remy’s corpse, a boom sounded from the phone and then a deathly quiet blanketed the forest.
You can’t hunt the hunter, Nitka thought and retreated into the waiting forest brush.