The Iron Writer Challenge #6

vampire hunting kit 1880

The Iron Writer Challenge #6

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #6

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

B R SnowBernice AgyekwenaDon CorcoranMoira McArthur

The Elements:

An 1880 Vampire Hunting Kit

A Nudist Colony

A Cell Phone Charger

A Carp

Eyes UpBernie Snow

B R Snow

“The things I do for this show. My ass has frozen off.”

“No, it’s there. I mean…I’m not…it’s…just…there in the moonlight.”

“Eyes up. Had you pegged asexual. Now focus. We’re scouting this location for a show.”

“We’re naked.”

“We’re blending in.”

“Why would a vampire hang around a nudist colony?”

“Maybe it likes to take a good look before dining. Japanese restaurants hang pictures of their food in the window. And don’t say nudist colony. Permanent residents; it’s a community. Temporary visitors; it’s a campColony evokes overtones of servitude and oppression.”

“So what’s this place called?”

“This place? It’s a bunch of naked people on ten acres. What the fuck do I care what it’s called? I’m starving.”

“It’s late.”

“I like eating late. Check out the pond. Nice soft lighting.”

“The Koi are pretty.”

“Fancy name for carp. They’re bottom feeders that eat anything. I hate bottom feeders.”

“Bottom…yes.”

“Eyes up. I was talking about carp.”

“A lot of people eat carp.”

“So what? A lot of people watch the Kardashians. Doesn’t make it a good idea. Damn, my nipples are like granite. So what’s your deal?”

“What?”

“Eyes up. Your deal. If I’m forced to have a co-host, I need to know your deal.”

“Well, like I told your producer, I’m a vampire hunter who uses ancient techniques.”

“Uh-huh. What’s in the box?”

“It’s my great-grandfather’s 1880 vampire hunting kit. I hunt vampires the way others might use bow and arrow for game. I have a Bible, flint-lock pistol, silver bullets, mahogany spike, special serum-”

“Special?”

“Holy water, garlic, honey, and salt.”

“You killing vampires or making salad dressing, Freddie?”

“It’s powerful.”

“Somewhere vampires and lettuce heads are cowering in fear. You into low-tech?”

“Only for vampire hunting. I love technology. See? An Apple. Well, it’s a cellphone, but made by Apple.”

“Got it.”

“I need to call my Mom. I don’t want her to worry.”

“Living with your mother?”

“Yeah…I’m gonna get my own place soon.”

“Sure.”

“Honest. Darn. My phone’s dead.”

“I’d lend you mine but I didn’t have any place to put it.”

“No problem. See? Battery-operated charger.”

“Wow. It’s tiny.”

“Only one inch long.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s cold.”

“What?”

“Nothing…bad joke. Let me see it. The charger, not the frightened turtle. Damn. Dropped it right in the pond.”

“And swallowed by a Koi.”

“Told you they’d eat anything. Christ, I’m starving.”

“How long will we be here? She worries.”

“Not long. I’ve seen all there is to see.”

“Seen what? We’ve barely moved.”

“Japanese restaurants, Freddie.”

“What? Are those…?”

“Yes. The same ones I used on your garlic-infested, great-grandfather. Gave me wicked indigestion. Forget the box, Freddie.”

“How…why…?”

“Questions?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t worry. I’m 200 years in and still don’t have all the answers.”

“Please…”

“Look on the bright side. You’re going to die staring into the eyes of a beautiful, naked woman. Damn, I need to grow some hair. My cooter has frostbite.”

“What?”

“Eyes up, Freddie.”

Trapping the Vampires at BongoBernice

Bernice Agyekwena

Sergeant Ali snorted as he sat at the wheel of the police jeep with Jacob Herman in the passenger seat. He hated waiting. Corporal Atinga, the best marks man and the only one who knew the route to where the vampires that had been preying on Bongo were hiding out was late. The vampires were said to reside 600 miles away, beyond a primitive nudist community that wanted nothing to do with modern civilization.

Vampires in the twenty- first century? They were supposed to have died out! Yet the 230 deaths that had taken place within the last three months at Bongo all bore the tell-tale marks of a vampire attack. The deaths had sent inhabitants fleeing to other parts of the country. The Police had been under pressure to track the killers, whether man, animal or spiritual being and put an end to the horrific deaths.

Atinga arrived with the excuse that his phone charger had failed to function so he had to borrow one to charge his phone. The trio took off.

Not all his training and experience tracking armed robbers, drug traffickers and ritual killers had prepared Ali for the task on his hands now. How do you hunt down something that is not human, can disappear and has supernatural powers? When it had become clear to the Police Force that the killers besieging Bongo could not be defeated by machine guns and grenades, it had sought the assistance of spiritualists, juju men, fetish priests, pastors and priests but still the mystery killers had eluded them. An intensive research on the subject had led them to a website advertising the Herman family, a famed German family with a track record for hunting and killing vampires.

At the request of the Police, Jacob had arrived at Bongo, armed with an 1880 vampire hunting kit. Now Jacob, together with Atinga and Ali were making the trip to the rugged mountains to trap and kill the vampires.  Several hours of travelling and they chanced upon a nude couple.  They had arrived at the nudist community. An hour later and the rugged mountains loomed before them. They left the vehicle and skirted around a stream to the mountain which was inundated with caves. Moving from cave to cave, they looked for the clues of the vampires with the help of the kit. The instrument showed a red flashing light in a very large cave; a vampire was close. They hid in a corner and waited. At midnight a vampire appeared and amidst a lot of struggle, they trapped and killed it. But then came a second, a third, a fourth, and suddenly dozens of vampires. They fled!  “Run for the stream”. Jacob screamed to his companions. “Vampires cannot survive in running water.” They run and jumped into the stream.  Atinga grabbed something in the water. It was a fish. Was it a vampire fish, a trophy for his adventure? He held on to it until morning and took a good look at it. It was a carp!

Picture ShowDon Corcoran

Don Corcoran

He was handsome enough.

“Hope you’re enjoying the party,” he said.

Claudia smiled, her head nodding to the monotonous bass-line.

“You don’t come to these often, do you?” he asked.

Her eyes widened and her smile grew tighter. “That obvious?”

“Nipples are a weird thing… in our society, I mean.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Aside from not moving from that spot since you got here, I think your drink has gone untouched. Mostly because you don’t want to expose nipple.”

Claudia blushed.  Not so much because of the nudity.  She liked her body and, as thirty Illustration 101 students could attest to every week, she wasn’t shy about exposing herself to strangers.  He was right.  She felt foolish standing there without a lick of clothing while taking the obligatory stance of a woman whose breasts were getting too much attention.

“Hey, not everyone here is from the colony.  Some are friends of friends.”

“And you?”

“I let them use my backyard.”

They looked out at the dozen writhing bodies dancing to the rhythms the DJ spun.  His body caught her eye. His exhibitionism was apparent.  It was obvious he worked out, and his tattoo – two koi swimming in a circle across his left buttock – wouldn’t be seen by just anyone.

Claudia shook her head, bringing herself back to the moment, “What? This is yours?”

He nodded, trying not to be smug.

It all came together for her.  “I’ve been looking for you all night.”

He did a double-take seeing the look she gave him as if he were all she’d ever wanted, all she ever needed.  He flashed a broad grin.

“What?”

Excitedly she dug into her purse and pulled out a black cord.  A hunk of lifeless glass and plastic dangled from the end.

Dubious, she smirked, “Um, do you think I could charge my phone?”

His head dropped as he chuckled, “Sure. Follow me.”

Inside was a museum: hundreds of DVDs, a massive television, and framed posters depicted vintage films. Her eyes wandered over the walls.

In an apologetic tone he confessed, “I’m a bit of a horror nut.”

“I’ve seen most of these.  My dad raised me on creature double features,” she beamed. “But I’ve never seen some of these posters.”

“They’re mostly signed imports.  Vincent Price, Peter Cushing.”

She took a closer look at the Dracula poster.  While Christopher Lee got top billing as Dracula, the poster showed Van Helsing removing a cross from a wooden suitcase filled with eldritch vials, stakes and silver bullets.

He stood closer to her.  She turned and he could feel her breath on his chest.

“Um, the outlet’s over there.” he smiled down at her.

She blushed.  “Thanks.”

They were suddenly aware of their nudity.

As he made his way back to the party, she gathered her courage to ask, “Why?”

“Pardon?”

“Why didn’t you try anything?”

“I dunno. Seemed obvious. Inappropriate.”

She brushed by him with a grin, “Well, it’ll be charged soon.”

FishingMoira McAtrthur

Moira McArthur

She looked at her dwindling stock from the 1880 Vampire Hunting Kit, withdrew the knife and stabbed him through the heart.

Monday nights. Going out with friends. A habit. Together in the local run down pub. No-one else in on a Monday. Every year they all booked a long weekend in some equally crumbling destination. Full of old folk, rubbish entertainment and free bar. A way of making money in the empty months before the Xmas trade began. All near a fishing lake.

Last outing, a small seaside town where it poured with rain the entire weekend. The hotel, separated from the town by a good mile of deep rutted puddles. Sheila, tired of hearing John and Allan going on and on about fishing carp, had stood up and announced she was going for a walk. Her husband, never a fisherman, was pointedly reading a book on his i-Phone. She noticed he’d brought his cell phone charger. The fishing talk could go on for ever. The ladies of the party, deciding it was much too cold to venture out, had brought down their knitting. Sheila said, “Bye, then” and went for her raincoat and boots.

Stomping along, she went over the other holidays they’d had. Never again, she thought. No matter what, never again.

The town had a closed appearance as if it too was giving up. Another cloudburst and Sheila stepped into a shop doorway to shelter. The door opened behind her. She turned to see an old man saying ‘Come in, come in’. Needing no second bidding, Sheila went inside.

She looked around. Shelves of curios.

The man motioned her to take a seat and went through the back. Reappearing moments later with two mugs of coffee. They sat looking out at the rain. Sheila suddenly found herself talking about the holiday and how, please, she could not think of going on another. The old man got up and went to a shelf in the corner. He brought out a small leather case. “This will help. Don’t open it now. Wait until you are back at the hotel.” Sheila reached into her purse but the man laid a hand on her arm. “Take it”, he said. “A souvenir of your holiday.”

Back at the hotel, Sheila went up to her room and opened the case. Dried garlic cloves, a small pistol, jars of unidentifiable objects. A sheet of paper, tucked in at the back, said ‘1830 Vampire Hunting Kit’.

Over the course of the year, the Vampire Hunting Kit did indeed become useful. Garlic cloves kept moles from digging in the garden. An iron cross went over the grave of her daughter’s hamster.

The time for discussing the next year’s outing came around. They all sat open mouthed at John announcing the venue, a nudist colony with an amazing fishing lake, Sheila took the only route possible then calmly sat back and waited for the police. Whatever happened next was vastly preferable to crumbly holidays and fishing talk.

The Iron Writer Challenge #5

vacuum tube

The Iron Writer Challenge #5

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #5

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Rodney WitherspoonEdison McDanielsSteve HarzRobin Harding

The Elements:

A 1935 Vacuum Tube Radio

A coconut

A wheel from a covered wagon

A Komodo Dragon

Seducing Reptilesrobin harding

Robin Harding

“I reckon Indonesia just skipped from the nineteenth century to the twenty first bypassing the twentieth entirely. These people went from storytelling around the campfire to iPhones without ever having landlines or television.” Lisa made this observation as she sat with her husband Dan in a café in Candi Dasa in Bali and watched the fishing boats cross the reef. She felt rather pleased with this insight.

Dan did not acknowledge the cleverness of the comment. He argued back. “Why shouldn’t they? It’s like you resent the idea that Indonesians didn’t invent the use of electricity and that they don’t have landfills full of 1935 vacuum tube radios and broken black and white TVs.  The fact that each house lacked its own video player and telephone is a matter of economics only. Now thanks to tourists like us, they can afford these essentials.”

“I’m not saying that every person has to figure out how to make fire and how to go from covered wagons with wheels to Bullet trains. After all I am a lecturer; I do appreciate the concept of sharing knowledge.” Lisa stirred her coconut shrimp and rice.  “I was just observing that as a nation, they seem to have skipped over several forms of technology.”

Lisa had just arrived from Rinca where by courtesy of a grant from her university in Melbourne she was analyzing Komodo dragon behaviour. After three weeks in the bush, she flew to Denpasar and taxied to the hotel to meet Dan. They were going to have a perfect week here. They were staying at the Dewa Bharata guest house and they had a sea view.

Lisa sipped her white wine. “Sometimes going through the development of inventions gives your society an understanding of how the mechanisms work, how they can be maintained and how they can be improved. You’ve seen the roads in those instantly wealthy oil rich nations lined with broken refrigerators that so many could suddenly afford but no one can repair.”

Dan shook his head, “you sound like a primary school girl bitter because someone copied your work.”

This was not going well. Lisa recalled Selima saying to her, “tidak apa apa, no what what – keep it light.” We can salvage this evening thought Lisa. “Anyway, this new technology is certainly going to help me keep in touch with the Reserve.”

“So now that it will benefit you personally, you think it might be alright for this nation to use digital devices. Very generous of you.”

“It’s good for the lizards. You seem to be deliberately missing the point.”

Dan finished his beer and signaled the waitress for another one. “You had a point?”

Would the satisfaction of murdering Dan be worth life in an Indonesian prison? Could  romance be rekindled?

Dan burped. When the waitress brought his new beer he gave her a warm smile.

“Komodo Dragons are monogamous and mate for life, you know,” Lisa shrieked and stomped out of the nearly empty restaurant.

Bounty from the SeaRodney Witherspoon

Rodney Witherspoon

Frank felt as if he’d been on the island for months, but his sailboat sank in the storm only last week.  It went down so fast that Frank was only able to grab a lighter and a crowbar before hitting the water.  He was lucky to find the island, though; the charts said it didn’t exist.  Of course, that meant no one would be looking for him here, so Frank prepared for a long wait for rescue.

As usual in the morning, Frank awoke from his bed of palm fronds under a short palm tree and walked across the island looking for food.  For the last week, he’d only found coconuts and bananas.  This morning was no exception, and, by the time he’d reached the other side of the island, he was loaded down with a bunch of green bananas and four coconuts.  He broke through the tree line and was about to return to his camp when he saw something bobbing in the shallow water.  Approaching the objects, he discovered three old and worn wooden crates resting on the sandy bottom being tossed by the waves.

Excited, Frank rushed back to his camp, dropped the fruit he collected, and grabbed the crowbar before tearing across the island to the crates.  There were no labels or any markings on them.  It was as if they had just appeared with no point of origin.  Frank shoved the crates onto the beach and drew a deep breath.  He might find food, or a tent, or something else that would be helpful in his struggle to survive.

In the first crate, he found wagon wheels that wouldn’t be out of place in the Old West on a covered wagon.

“Museum pieces,” Frank muttered to himself before moving to the second crate.  His eyes widened as he took in the device at the bottom.  It was also a museum piece, but this one had the possibility of being useful.  It was an old vacuum tube radio that looked to be in good shape.  The label on the back said that it had been built in 1935.  Excitement filled Frank before he remembered that these old radios needed an external power source.  Obviously, there wasn’t one on his little island.

With a sigh, Frank opened the last crate.  A hiss erupted from inside, and a creature jumped at him.  Frank let out a high pitched scream and pushed himself away from the crate.  Sitting on the sand on the discarded lid was an adult Komodo dragon.  Rather than fight the creature, Frank decided to run.  The dragon followed forcing Frank to climb a nearby coconut tree.  As the dragon waited patiently at the bottom, Frank pulled a coconut from the tree, aimed it, and flung it at the lizard.  The dragon was no longer a problem.

Frank returned to the last crate and carefully looked inside.  “I’m going to get off of this island,” he said staring at the hand cranked generator at the bottom.

The QueaseEdison McDaniel

Edison McDaniels

“Is it salvageable?”

He pursed his lips, blowing the dust out of the innerds of the cabinet. He squinted his eyes, missing his glasses for the hundredth time. “I dunno,” he said, then “Yeah, I think mostly the tubes are okay. A few might be cracked. I’d guess this radio is circa 1935, maybe even a little before that.”

“Thing’s a relic,” she said, adding soto voce “thank god.”

“Whole damn planet’s a relic,” the man said.

She nodded, pulling at the hair on one side of her head. She felt the queaze again, had been feeling the queaze for some days now. She looked out the window at the covered wagon and its wheels. All they owned, which wasn’t much, lay under its canvas.

The pulse, ten plus years in the past, had destroyed everything. Nobody knew what it had been, not for certain. Probably not a nuke though. A meteor maybe. Whatever, the worst of it had been the charge of static that came with it. Anything electronic had fried. Vacuum tubes had become like gold in the years since. They couldn’t be made anymore. Had to be found. The likely places had been scoured clean, which meant scavengers like them had to go farther and farther afield. Which meant…

“We can’t get back tonight,” the man said.

“No,” she said, “I don’t suppose. We’re at least a whole day out from the colony.”

The sun was falling and there was no question of traveling at night. “The dragons will be out soon.”

“This place’ll be alright,” he said, looking around. Like most buildings, its upper floors had been leveled by the pulse, but it had a good foundation. “The walls will keep ‘em out.” It had a good basement too, but they didn’t dare go there, not if they wanted to live. The dragons—the entire So Cal desert had been over run with Komodo dragons after the pulse, probably from the LA zoo but who really knew—sought the cool basements in the day and came out at night. Not especially fast, but they were numerous. Their bite, even just their touch, might be lethal.

They found a small room—four good walls and a large credenza that did for a door. Surprisingly cozy, mostly because it was clean and dry and out of the weather, which was sour and cold and wet. A perfect night for the dragons, a perfect night to curl up inside beside a fire. They burned a small library and roasted dog meat.

The queaze came and went again. She had to tell him. She had planned for it, had bought the only delicacy she could both find and afford back at the colony. He had shared a coconut the night before the pulse, a last—now legendary—moment with his mother. He spoke of it—of her—often.

She pulled the coconut from her bag.

“Where did you—”

“I’m pregnant,” she said, “thought we’d celebrate.”

“With my mom?”

“Who better?”

Steve Harz

Gas Station Road Map

Steve Harz

Your history had been

written in pencil

on bathroom walls

by inaccurate historians

bent on cruel conquest

rather than mutual capture

and while we had been told

history is written by the victor

I do not subscribe to that theory

because in actuality history

is written by those who

survive the longest and

since you are here with me

and they have disappeared

I have taken an eraser and

eliminated your past

allowing us to rediscover

the world together using

a bottom drawer broken compass

and aiming the frozen needle

anywhere we need true north

or due south to be

we do not discover with a plan

like Lewis and Clark and their

covered wagon wheel ruts

and Chinook canoe wakes

but rather meander with a purpose

taking clues from junkyard road signs and

Howard Johnson 50 state placemats

and along the way we are comforted by

mismatched borrowed rocking chairs

and the distant big band signal

coming from a friendly front porch

1935 Detrola Cathedral vacuum tube radio

with its map of the world station dial

that helps us avoid the fault line

that runs from your lips to my chest

and one twist of the radio’s dial to the right

points us towards Komodo Island and its

dragon discovered by the Dutch

and to the left the West Indies where

ancient history is broadcast on

the coconut telegraph

and each step forward is a

quicksand leap toward comfort

and we walk the extra mile

barefoot down median strips

holding hands with a posture suggesting

a mix of love for each other and

protection from the world

and when we reach our destination

we will rewrite history

yours mine and ours

with permanent ink

in the margins of a public library atlas

and will compose our future

word for word

along the rural routes of a

gas station road map

The Iron Writer Challenge #4

giraffe

The Iron Writer Challenge #4

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #4

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Rick SheltonCynthia CollinsJackie JonesGenevieve Dewey

The Elements:

A giraffe

A microwave

An elevator

A kumquat

Fen’s Safari

Jackie Jones

Fen wrinkled her nose in disgust. Her brother Darco had lied, giraffe meat was not tasty and coated her tongue with a bitter aftertaste each time she swallowed. This wasn’t the time to complain though, they’d had nothing but dried kumquats and nuts for days and the promise of meat, any kind of meat, had been welcomed by the people.

She looked around at the contented faces, wondering how they could continue to pretend that this cave, the only light a burning fire and nothing to sleep on but assorted leaves and twigs, could somehow be a new home. Fen, her brother, and the Arubi tribe, had been on the run for months trying to evade the men, who weren’t really men, that had come from the sky. They’d come with no warning or mercy, their aim to destroy everything.

When it had started, Fen had been in Africa with her family on safari. The clouds had been the first to change, slowly discarding their pristine white, for a darker, more ominous appearance. Their tour guide had assured them it was merely bad weather coming, but he’d been wrong. Just an hour later, the sky had seemingly opened up and from it, came these metal contraptions that none of them had ever seen.

Fen remembered her first foolish thought — silver, oversized microwaves, falling towards the ground at incredible speed. This thought had lasted mere half seconds and had given way to the screaming, blood and death that was all around her as they were hunted.

“The chief wants to see you,” Darco broke her reverie. She looked up at him, his dark eyes clouded with sadness, as they had been since losing their parents. Despite this, she liked looking at him; he’d always been the splitting image of their father. She nodded, standing and making her way further into the cave, to Chief Yudan’s quarters.

Fen bowed respectfully as she entered, a gesture that in the early days, she’d learnt was always expected. The chief, bedecked in bone jewellery that hung from his neck and wrists, motioned her to sit. His painted face told stories that Fen would never know and she stared, intrigued as always.

He pointed at a wooden bowl of more giraffe meat and Fen tried her best not to grimace. The tribe had taken her and Darco in when they didn’t have to, and had showed them great kindness since then. She had no intention of offending the Arubi’s leader over culinary dislikes. She made an action with her hands against her stomach, explaining without words, that she was already full. The chief nodded approvingly.

He pointed upwards now, then pulled his bone dagger from its sheath at his side. Fen jumped momentarily, but was calmed as he jabbed the air viciously with the weapon. Fen understood what he meant, but didn’t see how he was going to do it, unless of course there was an elevator to the sky.

Soft As VelvetRick Shelton

Rick Shelton

Velvet Anderson hurried to arrange the little African carvings that dominated the breakfast table in the bright eat-in kitchen at the back of the suburban ranch she and her husband, Frank Anderson, had lived in for twenty-three years. The early morning sun cast long shadows from the palm plant and the grouping of three tall giraffe carvings Frank had purchased during a port call while he was in the Navy.  She could hear the groan of the wood floor as he came down the hall.

“I hope you got my breakfast ready, dumbass,” he growled as he crossed the squeaky floor toward his seat at the table.  The chair creaked when he sat.  His eyes never left Velvet’s face until he looked down to his plate, already set and arranged.

“What the hell is this shit?”  His eyes bulged.

“They’re kumquats, sweetheart. I think you’ll like ‘em.

“What kinda idiot are you? Kumquats? I’m not eatin’ this. I want bacon, you stupid cow! Now nuke me some in that there microwave before I shove that brainless head of yours into that ‘frigerator door! And close those damned blinds. Can’t you see that sun is blindin’ me?  Do something right for change. Jesus H.”

Standing between the large palm and the grouping of giraffe carvings, her hands clasped in front of her apron, Velvet stared out the window for a moment to soak in the morning sunlight—it was bright, and seemed to clarify her thoughts. “CLOSE ‘EM,” she heard him bellow. In an instant, she made a decision that she thought could not be avoided any longer.

Velvet sat still on the ottomon in front of the living room fireplace, and cradled the phone receiver to her ear with both hands. One softly cupped the mouthpiece. As she counted the rings coming from the other end, she pressed her eyes closed and soaked in the warmth from growing fire.

Finally, a click, and a woman’s gravelly voice through the earpiece. “What the hell are you calling me at work for, Vel? I’m kinda busy here, ya know!” In the background, Velvet could hear the screeching of machinery. Her sister’s voice nearly blended with the noise coming through the phone.

“Dixie? Where are you?” Her eyes darted around the room.

“I’m in a got-damned freight elevator with about a hundert pieces’a Sears shit to unload. Now tell me whatcha want before I hang up.”

“I need your help, Dix. Can you come over? Now?”

“What? No. What the hell? I’m workin’, Vel. What’s so important?”

“You have to, Sis. You’re the only one. I can’t do this alone.”

“Velvet? What are you saying?”

“I need you, Dix. I killed him, and now I need you.”

The squeaks and growns of the freight elevator stopped, and her sister’s voice soon broke the resulting silence. “Well, okay. I’ll be right there. Just stay put.”

While she waited for her sister, Velvet stared motionlessly at the broken and bloody pieces of the middle-sized giraffe carving as they burned. The set looks better with two, anyway, she thought.

The Kumquat QuandaryCynthia Collins

Cynthia Collins

Beep, beep, beep. Sally, still half asleep, fumbled around to shut off her alarm. At last, quiet. She’d get up pretty soon. Beep, beep. She slapped her hand on the off button and sat on the edge of the bed.

 “All right! I heard you. I’m up.”

She showered and dressed, changed clothes at least three times before deciding on pants and a sweater that were casual enough for her interview at the zoo, but not so casual as to give the impression that she didn’t care if she got the job or not. She put a frozen breakfast sandwich in the microwave, pushed start, and poured some orange juice. After she finished eating, she checked the papers she was supposed to take with her.

“Let’s see,” she said talking to herself, “I’ve got my resume and letters of reference.” She looked one more time to make sure. “I guess I’m ready.”

She locked the door of her apartment and got on the elevator. Once on the ground floor, she rushed outside and hailed a taxi. She arrived at the zoo in plenty of time. In fact, she was an hour early so she stopped at a fruit stand and bought a bag of kumquats. A sign said Giraffes – straight ahead. Good. She liked giraffes. Their big, brown eyes and long eyelashes made them look so understanding.

A man wearing a uniform that looked official was busy refilling a feed dispenser. She asked if it was all right to stand there.

“Sure, help yourself. I’ve got to get these refilled before all the school kids get here. They love to feed the giraffes. Well, you have a nice day.” He nodded and went on his way.

Sally reached in the bag, pulled out a kumquat, and ate it. One of the giraffes looked at her. He took a few steps forward, his eyes focused on her. She got another kumquat and ate that one. The giraffe took a few more steps. After the third time, he was bending over the fence and his face was practically in the bag. She put a kumquat in the palm of her hand and let him eat it. As soon as he tasted it he spit it out, turned around, and walked away from her.

“Well, so much for that.” She tossed the bag in the trash and walked to her job interview.

The next day, she went back to the zoo and stopped to see the giraffes. “I just wanted you to know that I got a job here so you’ll be seeing me a lot.”

She had kumquats with her but they were in a bag stuffed in her jacket. The same giraffe from the previous day approached her again. His long neck lowered until his eyes were even with hers. He sniffed and nuzzled her pocket. She laughed. “You don’t like these, remember?” She patted him and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Waiting For GiraffeGenevieve Dewey Heaston

Genevieve Dewey

Sal nodded at the pleasantly dumpy, middle-aged woman he passed in the corridor to the break room. She never met his eyes; people in these cubicle farms never did, which is what made it perfect for drop offs. A quick scan of the room told him all was clear so he headed straight for the microwave and opened the door.

Nothing.

Sal picked the microwave up and saw a note taped with duct tape to the bottom.

Elevator. 2pm. Giraffe. 50 pizzas. PERSONAL DELIVERY

He gave himself time for two read-throughs then took out his lighter and burned it. Fifty, he thought to himself. Boss must want this real bad. The all caps and underline were pretty redundant after that. He stopped at the door of the room. Which elevator? Here? He looked at his watch. Fifteen shy of two. He rode each of the elevators in the building once, and was going to wait in the first one when a wiry, twitchy and tall man with orange-brown hair entered it. As soon as the doors shut the man spoke.

“I like anchovies on my pizza.”

“And kumquats for dessert,” Sal answered, his shoulders relaxing a bit in relief.

The man nodded, took out a tiny orange from his pocket and waved it a bit before putting it back in. He shook his head in disgust as he stopped the elevator. “You know, not for nothing, but I wish the Boss would think of somethin’ else. Kumquats ain’t dessert, they’re fruit. More like a side dish, ya know? And you know how hard it is to find a kumquat in the Midwest?”

Sal raised his eyebrows but said nothing.

“I’m Giraffe,” the man continued.

“Giraffe?”

“Real name’s Bryce, but who’s gonna take a guy named Bryce seriously when he comes collecting? So I started calling myself the Giraffe.”

“They take Giraffe seriously?”

Giraffe shrugged. “I’m known for my second story jewel heists. Seemed fitting.”

“Everyone calls me Sally. They take me seriously.”

“Sure, and why not? Two seconds later they’re dead, ain’t they?”

“What’s your orders?” Sal asked. His eyelid was twitching in irritation from the babbling.

“I get you in the Zoo, you steal the animal, and we both deliver the head to the Boss.”

“The head?”

“Yeah, like in The Godfather.”

“Except the horsehead was a warning. Why would the Boss threaten himself?”

“You ask a lot of questions, Sally. I’m in too much Dutch with the Boss to say nothin’. He says pick your nose and stand on one foot, and I’m diggin’ for gold. Know wha’m sayin’? This is my last chance.”

Sal stared at him. In Dutch with the boss, huh? He thought. “What animal?”

“He didn’t say. Said he’d tell you which one.”

Sal stared ahead at the blinking warning light. “How’d you piss him off?”

“Slept wit’ his daughter.”

Sal grunted, slapped the stop elevator button and patted Giraffe on the shoulder as the doors opened.