The Iron Writer Challenge #180 – 2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #1

The Iron Writer Challenge #180

2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #1

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Danielle Lee Zwissler, Paul Arden Lidberg, Matt Henderson, Mamie Pound

The Elements:

Monkey bars on a school playground

Working through a cold

No sleep for days

Carrying a baby

 

One and Only

Danielle Lee Zwissler

I sat in my living room, in the dark, remote control in hand, and my face was fallen. I haven’t had much sleep; it’s been days and now, through a haze of NetFlix and Hulu, I’d caught up with all the programming I’d ever wanted to watch or needed to finish. My throat hurt, my head was congested, my head felt like a playground, with little brown monkeys swinging to and fro through my wiring, causing me to twitch, and to be irritable. 

I wanted to die. 

“Joseph,” I heard my wife calling. “Joseph, it’s time to get ready.” 

I don’t want to, I thought about saying, but it was no use. I had to go. I took a deep breath, coughed, then stood, feeling dizzy again. 

“It’s going to be okay, you know?” my wife said, then gave me that irritating smile that said she was being hopeful. I hated that smile. I hated everything about it. She was carrying our son in her arms, and offered for me to hold him just then. 

“Sure it is,” I replied, then walked toward our bedroom, and then to our closet. I pulled out my black suit that I wore for weddings, and now funerals. I walked into the adjoining bath, took a quick shower, and tried to wipe away the sickness or depression or both. It didn’t work. 

Then, I walked out into the living room where my wife stood, already ready, for the first time in her life she was done before me, and wearing that same godamned smile. 

“Everything okay?” she asked. 

“Just peachy,” I replied. 

She smirked, and we walked out the door.

Fifteen minutes later I was standing before my brother’s casket. He was an amazing dad, a good husband, and a wonderful brother. I thought of the many times he’d tie me up in the back yard while we played cowboys and Indians, or when he sat on me in the living room, and tickled me until I gave up the remote control. I thought of the fun times when we went on vacation with our parents, and when he had parties at our house without them knowing. 

Now I didn’t have him. I didn’t have a sister, either. I was alone. I had a wife, a few kids, and my parents still, but soon my parents would die, and I would be the one left to bury them. I would be the one to give the eulogy, the one to deal with all the legalities, the one to put flowers on their graves. 

In my head, I pulled out my gun, put it up to my mouth, and brought back the trigger, smearing blood all over the sea of black.  But, in reality, I talked about him, about the things we did, and would have done, the regrets I had, and what life would be like without him. Nobody understands the death of a sibling until it happens to them. Nobody understand the effects.

The Call

© 2016 Paul Arden Lidberg

No one knows when they will get The Call. They just know they must be ready for it when it comes. At that moment, the world needs a Hero, and he cannot say “No”…

*****

Tommy pulled the stroller along behind him, attempting to maintain his balance while holding the very baby who should be in said stroller. The other kid had already run ahead to the monkey bars, blithely ignoring anything he said in his quest for climb-induced excitement. Stupid job!

All he wanted was an easy job where he could keep going to school and study while he was being paid. After the rude shock of discovering no one would pay a stranger to house sit, he managed to find this one only to experience a second shock when he found they actually expected him to work for the money! Between keeping track of these two hellions and studying, he’d not gotten any real sleep in days!

Finally arriving at the bench, he dragged the cursed stroller up and plopped the child down in it. The little boy, startled by the sudden change in venue, then immediately started bawling. That triggered Tommy’s now well-ingrained reflex, and a binky hit the kid’s mouth almost before he’d finished his first breath. “I gotta find another job….” he said to no one in particular for the 10th time that morning.

Suddenly, there was a loud flash and a bang, quickly followed by a colorful string of loud cursing. A man in a deep blue robe and pointed hat (all covered with weird embroidered symbols), a long grey and white beard and long hair was quickly patting at himself and muttering about being on fire.

Looking up, the obviously ancient man realized he had an audience. Locking eyes with Tommy, he raised his gnarled old hand holding some kind of stick and announced “the time has come!” He looked menacing, then suddenly sneezed…”Achoo! Damn cold…”

Casting about, Tommy nervously replied “…for what??”

As a crowd formed around the two, the wizened old man said “It is time for you to return, Arthur!” The voice was deeper and more certain than one would have expected from someone that old, and this further confused the young man. All eyes shifted back to Tommy.

“My name isn’t Arthur.”

“Wait…what?”

“I’m not Arthur.”

The old man seemed non-plussed. He grasped at some amulet hanging from his neck and said “But the ‘Eye’ said you were here…damn, cheap magic trinkets…Merlin, you’re getting old…” as he trailed off to muttering…”he’s supposed to be here!”

“He is. There.” Tommy pointed at the stroller. 

“The baby?” Merlin looked down. “Him? But he’s not even out of diapers!” He crouched down and looked into the child’s eyes. “You’re right, it’s him. Damn watch is wrong.” He stood back up.

“Stand back” said Merlin as he used his wand to cast a spell on the toddler. Before everyone’s eyes, the baby grew into a powerful, robust, handsome man. 

“Merlin, some clothes?” His deeply resonating voice was one that commanded respect.

“Oh, right.” Poof.

“Excellent, so tell me, what is so important?” He walked over to Merlin and they started to head out of the playground.

“Wait, what will I tell his mother?”

Postponed Due to Overexposure to the Elements
Matt Henderson

“I think I am getting a cold,” Megan sniffed and shivered, as she slid each of her hands inside the opposite sleeves of her jacket. Her nose was bright pink, and her eyes were watery. I slipped the hood of her jacket over her head, but before I could get it in place she shook her head back and forth and then snapped her head backward to fling it off. “You know I don’t like that,” she glared.
“You’re cute like that,” I said, “even with a red nose. You need to wear that, Meg. Let’s get you home. We’ll cut through the school yard by the drugstore, and get some vitamin C. You need mega doses before this cold sets in”
“Bite me,” she pouted, and gave a half smile. “You are a doctor now, huh?”
“Nope…never even played one on television, but I know what you need, “I said smugly.
You know what I need?” she trailed off…”interesting.”
“You need some vitamin C, a warm bath, some chicken soup…and a lot of rest. I will walk you home and make some soup. Get you tucked in.”
“That’s what I need?” she said, with a straight face, as if she were really asking…and then she laughed. “Nope, not what I need.”
“Well, maybe you are the doctor, Meg. What do you think you need?” I asked boldly; knowing I was walking on thin ice. She was my best friend, but…she was Megan. I liked her way more than friendly but I kept my mouth shut…most of the time.
“I do need to get home. If you make the soup, I will eat it. Then I have to get some work done. You have things to do, too,” she said sternly.
“It’s not worth getting pneumonia over,” I suggested.
“We won’t get pneumonia, man. I probably have some vitamin C at home. I will find it while you make the soup. You look like you need some too.”
“I do.” I said, with an incorrect and emphatic inflection. “I mean, I do?” this time with a tone suggesting surprised inquiry.
She laughed. “You are so silly sometimes! How old are you now…twelve?” She winked. “Yes! You do! You’re catching the cold, too. You’re flushed. You’re getting hoarse. That could be from talking too much.”
I didn’t feel good. I felt like I had a fever; I ached to the bone. I had a throbbing headache.
As we crossed the schoolyard, we spotted a woman leaning against the monkey bars with a baby in her arms. She looked unkempt–like she hadn’t slept for days. Megan approached her. Meg always had a smooth, graceful glide, but her stride was suddenly that of a concerned mother. She walked quickly toward the woman.
My phone buzzed. “Brian is calling me? He never calls.” I puzzled to myself…
“Everyone, huh? Jack? Arden? Oh yeah?… Even Richard?  Danielle, too? Yes, I will tell her. Nope. Both of us are fine. No problems here! I hope everyone feels better soon. Later Brian,” I almost sang into the phone.
“Megan…Stop!  We have an extension! Everyone is sick with this cold.” Damn elements… 

Trickster Smoke

Mamie Pound 

The sight of him, his profile against the setting sun, washed over her like a first drink, made her forget his danger and the things she’d done.

She watched him park and enter the diner. He chose a booth in the corner.

From the wad of bills, she fished a one-hundred, stuffed it in her purse and slammed the dented car door. The bell on the glass clanged as she entered.

“Hey,” she said and slid in across from him. 

He looked like he hadn’t slept in days. It suited him, somehow. The lines in his face had come to define his beauty. His eyes seemed bluer. 

“Where’ve you been?” he asked.

“Big snowstorm in Asheville,” she turned the empty coffee cup over and the waitress appeared, like magic. 

“You know what you want, Honey?” the cotton-candy-haired woman asked him, poured their coffee. 

“Not yet,” he said.  An embarrassing smile lit the waitress’s face. She lingered a beat too long and disappeared again. 

“Where is it?” he whispered. 

Lorelai smiled, poured a stream of white sugar into her drink.

“Ever notice how cold it is up in the mountains?” she blew into her coffee, set it on the Formica table and stirred, clanking the sides of the ceramic cup like a dull school bell. 

“Where’d you get the fur?” he asked. 

“Joey,” she said. 

“What a loser.”

She grinned.“Why do you care?’ 

“You know why.” He looked at her, shook his head. Outside the window, a young boy dropped from a set of monkey bars. 

“Ever regret it?” She asked. His eyes flashed back to her, then away. “I mean, the things you missed out on?” 

“Sometimes.” He signaled the waitress. “But then again, painful things remind me that I’m still alive.” His eyes darted at hers, like a dare. The waitress slipped the ticket on the table. 

Lorelai adjusted the white rabbit skin, to cover her bare shoulder. 

His truck was almost hidden at the back of the parking lot. They climbed in.

He cranked the engine and the glass fogged.

She handed him the money.

“You’re a hundred short,” he said.

“You’ll get it in Memphis,” she lit a cigarette. 

“That’s not the way it works.” 

She blew a long stream of blue smoke, cracked the window just enough for it to find a way out and crossed her arms.“There’s not a whole lot you can do about it now, is there?” 

He adjusted the radio and leaned close to her. The last wisps of clouds were black arrows, pointing toward the interstate. 

He slipped a hand between her knees, pressed his lips to the nape of her neck. 

A pregnant woman crossed in front of the truck. Lorelai watched as the man with her held the door for her, put his hand on the small of her back, ushered her into the warmth of the restaurant. 

She pushed him away.

“Lorelai…,” he pulled her closer. 

“I want to stay at the fancy place in Memphis,” she whispered, her watering eyes fixed on the impermeable windshield, clouded by  trickster smoke and the promises of a long-ago conversation.

Surprising Results

Richard Russell

Sitting alone in her high school parenting class, Sally Pritchard accepted the life-like baby doll from the parenting class teacher. With smirk of sarcasm, she thought, “Oh great! All I need is this baby doll to tote around all day everywhere I go.” Half the girls in class were assigned baby dolls to care for over the next month; the other half comprised a control group in this experimental “lesson” to curb teen pregnancies.

Sally struggled to carry her books, the baby, and all the baby accoutrements through the halls to and from classes, to her locker and everywhere else she went. She was surprised to find several girls boldly approached her with a keen interest in “the baby project”. They even offered to help her carry some of the baby doll’s things. In fact, many of the other kids in school began to talk to Sally more often. Other school girls would sit with her through lunch and they offered to help her “feed” the baby doll as they bombarded her with questions. What it was like to have to care for a baby 24/7? Sally basked in their rapt attention as she described all the demanding responsibilities of “motherhood”. She told them what it was like to be “tied-to” another person at all hours, day and night, everywhere she went, never any time to herself. She described getting no sleep for days when the baby cried all night, how the baby still had to be cared for even when she was fighting off a cold, and how she and her family pulled together to work around a schedule of the demanding responsibilities a baby brought with it. Changing diapers, feeding the baby on schedule, and laying it down for naps — it all took on a new perspective of enormous proportions.

When the month was over, all the baby dolls were returned. Sally’s life returned to “normal”. Once again, she was left to eat lunch by herself, drift aimlessly through the halls on swirling currents of social interactions, ride the noisy school bus home in a cocoon of silent solitude, and hover around the house ignored as if she was an invisible ghost.

Months went by; Sally was rarely seen around school. She had stopped eating lunch in the lunch room. She walked home alone, by herself, instead of riding the bus, and she stayed in the house most of the time. However, no one seemed to miss her.

Months later, some of the high school girls were hanging around the familiar old monkey bars on the kids’ playground near the high school when Sally walked up. They all went quiet for a moment once they saw her standing there. She was showing a definite “stomach” pressing against her blouse. In shock and amazement, they gathered around to fawn and dote over her, the way “friends” do. Sally smiled and basked in their attentiveness as they all wanted to touch her baby belly.

She had made the right decision … hadn’t she?

The Iron Writer Challenge #149

lap giraffe

The Iron Writer Challenge #149

2016 Winter Solstice Challenge #7

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Wesley Kirk, Moira McArthur, Dami Lare, Danielle Lee Zwissler

The Elements:

A magical lap giraffe

Written in the form of an obituary. So the reader is reading an obit.

A despised relative (explain why)

An original Matisse painting

Sammy HawnsMoira McAtrthur

Moira McArthur

(15th February 1950 – 12 January 2010)

Sammy Hawns was born in the little village of Glenadrookit. Descended from a long line of wool gatherers, Sammy spent his time dogging school while keeping a wary eye out for the dominie. His  school books survive to this day. Pristine, untouched and no inky fingerprints in the margin. 

Sammy left school as uneducated in formal lessons as the farm dog, but his lessons in nature, the real world, were legendary. He would guddle a fish, clear a field of seed stealing crows and make daisy chains for the lassies.

No use for politics, it was a bad day when the local conservative candidate, a distant relative and thus despised the more, chapped on his door to enquire whether he could count on Sammy’s vote. We think the whole village heard Sammy bellow, ’Politics? Its all nonsensical self grandizing bollockology’.  The candidate was last seen beating a hasty retreat.

Sammy though, could be quite poetic in words. Describing a sunset as looking like a Matisse painting, let us into his favourite pastime. Visiting an Art Gallery. He’d stand and look at the paintings then go home and try to recreate in straw and mosaic-chipped wood. Several of his works are on display in Glenadrookit’s Museum of Rural Life.

His favourite work being the painting of the miniature giraffe of Frankelstide. To convey its apparent magical powers in cuts of straw and chips of wood, was a marvel they said.
It was this, more than anything else, that brought him to the wider audience of the art world. HIs tinkering in the woodshed, was seized upon as the next best artist and magazines ran articles, newspapers tried to get an interview and tv crews waited around for a glimpse of this man, Sammy. The single track road into the village was hilly and thus provided the means of spotting a vehicle approaching, at which, the bush telegraph would spring into action, to give Sammy and his family, enough warning to grab a couple of things and hare off up the hills out of reach, until the fuss died down and the ‘visitors’  departed.

Thus it is Sammy’s sense of the ridiculousness of humankind, that is left to us. HIs phrase to the conservative candidate will ring in our ears forever. RIP Sammy Hawns.

James Weatherby, 73Bello Oluwadamilare

Dami Lare

December 19, 1933 – March 9, 2016

Odoyanta.

Being a shrewd man would save you from a few losses: one of which is having to lie still in an Italian casket carved from the finest of oak, listening, if the dead actually can, to a prosaic connivance of untruths summed up as an Obit by someone like Uncle Sam, who ordinarily wouldn’t care jack about you until you’re well past forty and receiving fat sums as pension. That was the thought of my father until I discourage him from writing his own Obituary. Who does that?

James Weatherby, shrewd, introverted, foodie and a showman passed on to glory March 9, 2013, in Ababio’s Hospital, after sustaining terrible burns in a fire he entered to save Pedifree.

James, unlike most of his forebears, who believed the more the merrier, is survived by a single wife, Yasmine, and three children Fua’d, Nasir and me, Kasim. He was a staunch supporter of monogamy, who, yet, was accommodating enough to keep a circle of polygamists and the unmarried as friends. He would always say to me, underneath a starry sky, that friends are like stars: we are bland without them.

But unlike said friends, he preferred the daring call of peace keeping missions – although at a much late time of his life – to the simple life of retirement. A selfless service to which he lost a lot too – as if he cared less about himself than others – a kidney, a limb and an eye, and somehow had the fortuity to wish he could continue the campaign. James was that crazy.

Much wouldn’t be said about my father because he really a lover of it. But he would tell you over laughs, should you be fortunate enough, about his ordeal with “The Woman with the Hat”. He would confess he was naive, and distrusting, when Fola his art agent told him the artwork was both ugly, receiving terrible condemnations upon display, and a bad investment. But being the shrewd man he was, he would purchase it and be stunned at how particularly unattractive its ugliness was, as if ugliness somehow wielded the character of being attractive. He would laugh and tap the painting with an affectionate pat, and in that moment I realised James was one whose love for things surpassed the conventional fondness for aesthetics or quality. He looked beyond those things and saw the beauty hidden within.

The day he found Pedifree, the miniature giraffe that somehow completed him; I wasn’t at all shocked, or thought him crazy because I knew he was capable of love than the rest of us. And he was right to do so, for it brought the joy thousands of dollars couldn’t. Although it might not seem that way now, I think no other cause can one die that is nobler than love.

I think James Weatherby died for a good cause, and would want us to show love to those who need it.

James “Slim Jim” JohnsonWes Kirk

Wes Kirk

December 24, 1955 – March 6, 2016

Indianapolis

James “Slim Jim” Johnson, gardener, capsaicin worshiper, and connoisseur of puns and dad jokes, died Sunday March 7, 2016.

Slim Jim was growing his own peppers and tending gardens long before “knowing where your food came from” became mainstream. He was proud of that fact, and elated when others actually began caring about the environment. Though he had many battles with the Board of Health and Zoning Commission over his massive gardens, the fruits of his labor were could never be questioned. Even if his sanity had been. Especially consider he sold his mother’s Matisse painting of fish to buy his greenhouse.

He met the love of his life, Margery (deceased), at a Marion County Fair chili cook off. He was the only one who could handle what she produced from her cauldron. They both routinely giggled about how he proposed to her on the spot, after eating half the pot, and through the spice induced coughing fits. The two shared a home on the south side of Indy to the end of their days. Their life was full of compromise, as she had domain over the house, and he was exiled to the garden, and green house (which he swore was tended to by a tiny magical giraffe), where most other humans found it hard to breathe through the pepper fumes.

Their two children, Harry and Jill, survive their parents. Surprising given Slim Jim’s love of bad puns and “dad jokes.” He delighted in making groups of people groan, or slam the palms of their hands across their faces. His crowning achievement, which he boasted about regularly, was making and entire room of his classmates groan in disbelief at one of his “dad joke level puns.” Out of courtesy, general public well-being, and in accordance with local legal action, the pun shall not be reprinted here.

His only regret in life was never being able to produce a world record contending spicy pepper. Which he always swore was because of his horrible cousin Larry constantly throwing cigarette butts over the fence.

His trademarked fashion look by designer “why-would-anyone-care-about-that-foolisness” will be missed around the local farmers markets. No longer will his worn yellow boater hat, with its collection of pepper eating trophy pins, float above the heads of visitors as he makes his way through the crowds. No more will police wonder if a Beverly Hillbilly’s relative got lost in the metro area while watching Slim Jim stand there brushing off the dust from his depression era ‘vintage’ overalls and combat boots.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to the Indiana Chapter of Future Farmers of America. He spent many years teaching youth, and evangelizing the gospel of tending a good garden, and the family would like to have his passion carry on for as long as possible.

Also, James “Slim Jim” Johnson’s final wish was for the gag order be removed from his memoirs of bad jokes, to allow them to finally be published. His family ask that you disregard the request for the betterment of mankind.

Author Writes Her Own Final Chapter

Danielle Lee ZwisslerDanielle Lee Zwissler

Author, Danielle Lee Zwissler of Mogadore, Ohio, died on March 3rd, 2016 from complications due to an over-active imagination, and large amounts of caffeine. Born in October of 1978, Danielle was the second child of the family, despised by many, including her own grandmother, whom has been dead for years now, and who, consequently, accused her of being too stuck-up and un-family-like for her taste, and an uncle that is currently serving a prison term for grand theft larceny. Danielle leaves behind her parents, her brother and his family, her husband, and two children, along with four pets, five if you count the magical lap giraffe that she always talked to at night just before putting her children to bed.

Throughout the years, Danielle has had many jobs as a teacher, tutor, a musician, a waitress, a barn rat, a nursing home worker, and she even had a paper route. Up until recently, Danielle wasn’t happy with her life. She felt sad about not sticking with her original idea of becoming a band director for a famous band, and was depressed for most of her twenties. She was also upset that she didn’t become famous overnight as many indie authors believe will happen. She figured out a tough lesson. She wasn’t special.

She leaves behind a legacy of boring romance novels, an original Matisse painting, and several love letters from her numerous teenage relationships. Calling hours will be held at the First United Methodist Church in Mogadore, Ohio, on March 10th, 2016 at 7 PM. Since Danielle’s family usually doesn’t accept birthday party invites, the ceremony will probably be less than twenty minutes long.

Also, Danielle wanted to let you all know that if you don’t show up to her funeral, she will haunt every last one of you for eternity.

to read, and a connoisseur of the arts. She owned several noteworthy works of art, notwithstanding an original of Henri Matisse. She wasn’t loved by many, but merely tolerated, had several relatives that despised her, including her own grandmother that often called her a miserable Mother … well, you get the drift. She also had an exemplary imagination. Several times she claimed to own a miniature magical giraffe, but under full disclosure, she only made those claims after getting the occasional high at the campground with her 80-year-old glaucoma suffering friends.
All in all, Danielle was creative, nuts, and couldn’t keep a job, but she leaves behind a legacy of barely opened first editions of her own novels (many of which will be used as kindling for Earl’s nightly fires) and several items that make absolutely no sense but gave her comfort from purchases at the local Goodwill.
Donations accepted in lieu of flowers as the Zwissler family can barely keep their gas and electricity turned on.
NO calling hours as Danielle preferred to be cremated, and spread around all sorts of different memorable places just in case she could split her soul in pieces, much like her favorite author’s villain, Lord Voldemort. In her own words, “I want to haunt the f*** out of people when I’m gone.”

#TIWC members, please vote here.

The Iron Writer Challenge #142, 2015 Winter Open Championship

boy watching television

The Iron Writer Challenge #142

2015 Winter Solstice Open Championship Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Danielle Lee Zwissler, Richard Russell, Dani J. Caile

A boy watching television (see image)
“Come here, she said. Where are we going? The darkness, she replied.” (must be anywhere in the story)
A “magic” pill
A terrible mistake

Time to go Home…Danielle Lee Zwissler

Danielle Lee Zwissler

Jesse was watching the picture tube again, keeping his eyes rapt on the ad for the magic pills. His mother was watching from the kitchen doorway, careful not to disturb. She watched for what seemed like hours, but was only probably minutes. It always seemed that way. Jesse kept his eyes ahead, unflappable.

“Come here,” she said.

Jesse turned fast, eyes wide. “Momma?”

His mother nodded, and a tear slipped down her cheek.

“Where are we going?”

“The darkness,” she replied. She held out her hand and Jesse started toward it, tripping over a small container on the floor.

“You’re here,” Jesse cried.

“Always.”

A smile crept across Jesse’s face. “It worked,” Jesse said, smiling softly.

“It did.”

Jesse took his mother’s hand and they walked down the hallway and then out the back door of the house. They walked toward the darkness, and didn’t stop until no light was visible. Jesse was scared, but since he was with his mother, everything was all right. “Momma?”

“Yes, honey?”

“I’m scared.”

“It’s okay; I’m here.”

Jesse nodded, and then leaned in to his momma. “Where are we?”

“Your new room,” she said quietly.

“It’s cold here,” Jesse muttered.

“Yes.”

“It’s dark.”

“Yes.”

“Will you be here with me?” Jesse asked, hopeful.

“Right beside you.”

Jesse felt immeasurably better. “What do we do now, Momma?”

“We rest,” she replied.

“And then?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do we do after we rest?” Jesse asked.

“We wait.”

Jesse nodded, somewhat relaxed, and then spoke, “What do we wait for?”

“People.”

“Who?”

“Who do you want to see?” his mother asked.

Jesse’s eyes lit up and then he grinned. “Daddy?”

His mother smiled. “Then we’ll wait for him.”

“Here?” Jesse asked. He crossed his arms one over the other and rubbed. Goosepimples pricked his flesh.

“Yes.”

“Okay, Momma.”

***

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Jackson Evers said to the psychiatrist. He put his hands up to his face and cried into his palms. “I’m an absolute mess. All I see is him, and those pills, the ones from the TV ad, they were scattered all over the floor.”

The psychiatrist nodded. “It’ll take some time, Jackson. I’m sure he didn’t understand.”

Jackson wiped a tear from his eyes and nodded. His throat felt clogged. “I… I know. I should have… I shouldn’t have encouraged him. I didn’t know he’d… I…” Jackson’s shoulders shook and the tears kept coming.

“It’s not your fault, Jackson.”

“But it is. I left him alone most days… I had to work, but I should have had someone there with him. I knew how upset he was over his mother’s death. I shouldn’t have…”

“Nobody would have believed he’d have been able to get the pills himself, Jackson. It was a terrible mistake.”

Jackson heard the same thing over and over from all of his doctors, and friends, even his own parents. It didn’t matter. He was still gone. His little boy was dead.

***

“Momma, do you think daddy’s okay?” the boy whispered.

“He will be.”

*Bang*

To Brighten Up Your Day

Richard Russell

Seven-year-old Danny Staffer stood alone behind the big front doors of the primary school and peered out at the dreary, cold, rainy evening.   He pulled his coat together and scrunched his shoulders as he stepped outside wondering, all the way home, why the school uniform had to be short trousers?

Pressing his way through the heavy doors to the flats, Danny sighed and began plodding his way up four flights of stairs; the same dark, boring stairs that lead up to the same dark, boring flat.   He lifted the doormat and retrieved a key. With a heavy clunk the lock opened and Danny stepped into the quiet, empty flat. His father had left them several years ago so his mother worked late in the evenings now. No one was ever home much. As he walked through the unlit hallway past his brother’s room, Danny realized his big brother was in there with some friends. Danny paused to listen as his brother was talking.

“Yeah, Man, I have several kinds. You can drift in a purple haze, bask in an orange sunshine, do amazing needlepoint, or gaze through a crystal window pane. What’ll it be?”

“What’s this like?”

“ Oh wow, one of these micro-dots will brighten up your whole day.”

Danny moved on to the living room, switched on the lights, opened the window and put a few coins in the telly. He grabbed some slices of bread and a glass of milk then sat down to “Watch with Mother” as “Andy Pandy” was coming on. He seemed to identify with Looby Loo. She never came to life until she was alone.

About then, Danny’s brother and his friends left the flat without a word. Danny smelled some weird smoke in his brother’s room and went to investigate. He turned on the light and looked around briefly. That’s when he spied the pills his brother had left on his bed. He wondered if these were the pills his brother had mentioned. Danny took one and swallowed it. He could use a little brightness today. He turned off the light and closed the door before returning to his perch in front of the telly.

After several minutes Danny began to feel … different. The images on the telly were now in color and the telly looked as if it was melting. He reached out to touch it and saw a trail of ten hands follow shortly behind his own. About the time the walls started swimming in paisley patterns of purple and he could hear the bamboo leaves of the wallpaper growing larger, he spied the porcelain cat at his feet, smiling and whipping her tail back and forth.

The cat strolled over to the window and hopped up onto the sill.

“Come here.”she said.

“Where are we going?”

“Into the darkness.” she said.

Then she turned and sprang out the window.

“Wait for me!” he cried, and into the darkness he went.

On Standby

Dani J Caile

Tommy was a nice boy, attentive, happy, plopped on his little stool next to her. He occasionally laughed at the musings of her mind, listening, watching. He’d been there since as far as she could remember and had never left her side. He gave her purpose and she was glad to have his company. The others she’d seen before Tommy ignored her, sitting far away, reading or talking with each other. Tommy was different, captivated by her presence. He was there for her, and now they were alone, together.
She felt it again, a yawning gap deep inside, an emptiness which would not cease, an itch through her entire form. It was growing more profound than ever. Was this the end? Tommy, dear Tommy, had given her medicine to stop this black shadow from closing in many times before, but now he did nothing, looking on, watching her every move. She had to speak to him, otherwise the blackness would take over, and she would be no more.
“Tommy,” she called over the constant murmur. She noticed at first he wasn’t sure, turning to see whether someone else had called his name. “Tommy,” she called once again. Now he surely realised it was her who had mentioned him. He was not afraid, this fine boy.
“Yes?” he asked back, touching her tentatively.
“Tommy, please, another magic pill. Please, I need another,” she whispered through the interlude.
“Magic pill?” he asked. “What magic pill?”
She had seen them, held in his hands like precious jewels as he sat there accompanying her in her ramblings, the sweet child. But now there were no more.
“Please, Tommy, help me. I can feel it, an abyss of blackness filling my soul.”
She saw him looking over to her side, presumably examining her condition. Could her state be seen? Was it that bad?
“Oh, THOSE ‘magic’ pills. I don’t have any more, I’m sorry,” he said. A tear ran down his face. “Are you going? So soon? Mother isn’t back.”
“I don’t want to go.” She felt time slowly ticking away, parts of her numb with fear, foreboding her end.
“I know! Maybe Mother has some more in the kitchen!” Tommy jumped up from his stool, the gas mask in his shouldered box rattling as he ran away. She watched his image diminish and her life drain away, the warmth dissipating.
“Quick, Tommy, my end is near,” she whimpered. She was close now and needed him, needed his company. With her last effort she spoke again. Without him, she was nothing. “Tommy, we are together now, perhaps for the last time. Our moment is short, we are going. Come, come here,” she said.
“Where are we going?” asked Tommy, running back over to her.
“The darkness,” she replied, feeling remorse. “Oh Tommy, it’s… it’s all such a mistake, a terrible, terrible mistake…” The blackness took her over as she heard Tommy’s cries of sorrow and felt his little fists beating against her cooling 15″ screen.

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