The Iron Writer Challenge #193 – 2017 Spring Equinox Tournament Preliminary Round

The Iron Writer Challenge #193

2017 Spring Equinox Tournament

Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Danielle Lee Zwissler, Richard Russell, Keith Badowski, Malissa Greenwood,

Dani J. Caile, Michael Cottle, Tina Biscuit, Vance Rowe, E. Chris Garrison,

Josh Flores, David Jobe, Steven L. Bergeron, Amy Kasim, Bethany Totten,

Geoff Gore, Maureen Larter, Emma Crowley, Mamie Pound, Matt Henderson

Note: This year, the tournament submissions will be blind, hence the author’s name will not be shown until after a champion has been chosen.

The Elements:

A Lady in a clothes dryer

Menstrual Cramps

A Hairbrush without bristles

A Wooden Hanger

Put Out to Dry

Maureen Larter

Maria stood in front of her wardrobe and gazed at the contents. Lifting her arm limply she moved the wooden hangers from one side to the other, looking at each dress as she did so.

Nothing appealed.

She stopped again and stared into space. How could she have ever imagined she would have ended up in this weird situation?

She silently shook her head.

She had been arrested, then freed on bail and now she needed to ready herself for the trial. It was all surreal – beyond belief.

To make matters worse, she couldn’t remember that night. Found unconscious, covered in blood and stuffed into the local laundry’s clothes drier was bad enough, but the body of her husband, stabbed to death on the floor of the same laundry was worse.

She sighed as she once more tried to make a decision on her appearance. As she reached for the little black dress that everyone said was always a correct fashion statement, she felt the cramp. She rubbed her stomach as she realized, once more, she would get her monthlies. Not pregnant! She had so hoped to be, but now Ed was dead, there would be no hope of a reminder of her marriage to him.

She picked out the dress and turned to place it on the bed, catching a glimpse of her appearance in the dressing-table mirror.

Her eyes were sad and red, her face deep with wrinkles from the worry, and her hair looked like she’d brushed it with a hairbrush with no bristles. She sank down on the rumpled bedspread and put her head in her hands. How was she going to get through today – the next month – in fact, the rest of her life?

She shuddered.

The horror of the crime overwhelmed her.

The shame she felt was daunting.

After several minutes, she stood and took a deep breath. She ran her fingers through her spiky hair, wiped away the tears that had slipped down her cheeks without her realizing it, and picked up the dress to get ready.

She had to face the trial whatever the outcome, but she knew her brother would be in prison for a very long time.

Laundry and Lattes

Malissa Greenwood

Dani pulled into a parking spot along Elm and quickly checked her reflection. She dug through the glovebox, her hand finally grasping the paddle of her brush. She pulled it out and found there were no bristles left on the old piece of plastic.

“Piece of shit.” She muttered and threw it on the floor, opting instead to pull her messy hair into a clip.

She rubbed on some chap stick, sighed at the new reflection and lifted the visor before exiting her unmarked sedan.

It had been a long, interesting morning. Dani had been called in to investigate a murder scene at a south side laundromat. A woman had been found stuffed into a dryer, brutally beaten beforehand.

The scene was gruesome. Signs of an obvious struggle. Wooden hangers scattered around a pool of blood and black stilettos.

Dani shook the images out of her head as she stopped on her way up the steps and bent down, briefly struck by the usual, uncomfortable pangs of PMS. She didn’t want coffee – she wanted to be home, laying down with an ice pack on her abdomen and a double scoop of Ben and Jerry’s.

But instead she was walking up the steps towards the small coffee shop to meet her on-again off-again boyfriend, Rick. He’d texted her with an urgent request to meet him and when she tried to brush him off he only became more insistent.

She knew what this would be about and she was certain it could have been handled over the phone. They’d been trying to be ‘on-again’ for a while now, but they both knew it wasn’t working. And they both knew it was her fault.

He was sitting by the far window looking at his phone, but he put it away when he saw her approach.

“Hey.” It was more of a sigh than a greeting. “I got you a latte.”

“Thanks.” She flashed him an exhausted smile, and took the warm cup.

“So… How are you? I haven’t been able to catch you alone for a while.”

“Yeah, I know. Just a string of rough cases. We got a new one this morning, too. Jane Doe…” she trailed off – she could tell he was tired of her excuses.

“Listen Dani… There’s someone else.”

“Cutting right to the chase, huh? Well I can’t say I’m surprised.”

“I’m sorry. I really wanted things to work this time. But I’m just not cut out for your lifestyle. It’s too much. I’m not…”

“Yeah.” She cut him off; He wasn’t the only one tired of excuses. “Who is she?”

He hesitated, then said “Her name is Kim. You don’t know her. She’s not a cop. She’s… boring. And normal. And… I just think that’s what I need right now.”

“Yeah… I get it, Rick.” She did get it. Sometimes she wished her life was a little more boring.

He pulled out his phone and frowned. “Look I gotta go. I’m sorry.”

“Off to meet Kim, now that you’re a free man?” she tried smiling, hoping it came off more friendly than bitchy.

He nodded. “Yeah. We’re gonna go do laundry.”

Warmth

Josh Flores

“Push out now Judith!”

Judy found herself again in this awkward situation.  Her curse of small stature and slight build gave her no end to troubles. Her eighty pound, four foot four inch body fit nice and comfy in the industrial-size, front-loaded, dual-rotation, three-speed, apartment-complex laundromat clothes-dryer. A woman of routine, she’d do her washing and drying on Sunday after midnight.  It helped relieve some of the embarrassment of having to wrestle with the big machines. This way, it wasn’t in front of her neighbors.

She swore the dryer was out to get her.  It never failed to keep one of her intimate articles way in the back of its drum, forcing her to climb in to retrieve it. No doubt about it, the machine had some reason for doing this regularly.  Getting in was easy enough: pull a chair over, stand on it, and crawl inside the gaping mouth waiting to swallow her.  Steamy, moist air would greet her, envelope her in welcomed warmth. Her body would curl up as she fought to control the spin of the cylinder her every move created.

The churning brought to mind menstrual cramps.  How her womb use to churn to and fro, twist and spin, causing huge pains.  She hadn’t had the experience in the few months since conceiving. “Guess that’s one good thing about it.”  Judy groped in the dusk, until her hand found the panty and bra victims. In her blouse they went for safe-keeping. Now came the hard part: getting out.

After weeks of struggling, Judy thought long and came up with a plan. She came prepared this time with a pouch tied to her waist. Judith opened the pouch and pulled out a wooden clothes hanger with a wire neck and a wooden brush with its bristles removed. She returned the brush – that was for the final phase of escape. She looked up to find the air holes in the drum. Judy worked with practiced ease as she slipped the wire neck of the hanger through one hole and out the one directly behind it. With small hands made strong by years of compensating for her lack of build, Judy grabbed the hanger turned herself around slowly.  She then removed the hanger, found another pair of holes a few inches away and repeated the anchoring. Using the hanger as support she inched herself towards the opening.

Reaching the doorway, Judith pulled out the bristleless brush. She rammed the handle in between the drum and right side of the opening to stabilize and to create another hand grip.  With one hand gripping the wood of the hanger and the other on the brush she gathered her strength.  “Push out now Judith!” With one mighty pull of her arms she swung her legs out the door and let herself dangle for a moment – then she released her grip, letting herself land on the chair.

Judy turned to close the dryer. The hushed rush of air escaping, to her mind’s ear, sounded like a resigned sigh.

PMS (Potential Murder Suspect)

Geoff Gore

Detective O’Malley wearily pushed open the door to the laundromat. Between the Midtown homicide and the divorce with his ex, he hadn’t slept much the past three days. Both had been messy. As for the murder, it must’ve been one hell of a frenzied attack, the victim a male in his mid-forties, was almost unrecognisable. There was blood all over the apartment, but not a shred of evidence of the attacker. No prints, no stray hair, no sign of forced entry. Nothing. It was as if whoever’d done this had been through that apartment with a fine tooth comb, painstakingly scrubbing away any trace they’d been there. And yet, so much blood everywhere.  Now on top of it all his ex-wife was threatening to bleed him dry. Hence here he was, at the end of the fourth day of a homicide enquiry, reduced to doing his own laundry at a cheap laundromat on the lower side of town.

He sat in front of one of the big machines and saw he wasn’t alone. A woman leaned into one of the oversized dryers retrieving her laundry. A copy of the morning’s newspaper lay on the seat next to her. The front page headline screamed MURDER! The article critical that Police had no leads in a case O’Malley was all too familiar with.

The woman emerged from the dryer. She looked up, and jumped, startled when she saw O’Malley standing there in his uniform.

“Sorry Ma’am. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“You should be more careful,” she snapped, “creeping up on people like that.”

“Sorry Ma’am, I’m just here for my laundry.”

“Sorry,” she replied, “I didn’t mean to snap, “It’s just…” she placed a hand lightly on her abdomen. “You know…some months the cramps that make me a little…tetchy.”

“Tetchy?” He glanced at the open newspaper on the seat between them. “I understand. You reading about the case?” “No.” She said curtly. She retrieved the newspaper, folded it and tucked it on top of her basket of clothes. “Though the no good sonofabitch probably deserved it.” She turned, leaning all the way into the dryer to retrieve something else.

“Let me help.”

“I can manage.” She emerged holding a white men’s shirt.

He grabbed a wooden hangar from the rack. “At least let me help you hang it up.”

“I said, I’m FINE!” She barked.

“Okay,” he held up his hands.

As she hung the shirt over the hangar he couldn’t help noticing a small red blemish which hadn’t quite washed out from the fabric and the faint stain beneath her fingernails.

She blushed and hurried to pack the remainder of her things into the basket. On top she placed an old hair brush, so worn that all the bristles had fallen out, and headed for the door.

“Not so fast, Ma’am,” said a voice behind her.

She stopped and turned.

Detective O’Malley held out a lonely sock that had fallen to the floor. “There’s always one,” he said.

Down in Little India, Southall, London

Dani J. Caile

“Mrs Hatherwaite! What in hell’s name are you doing?” said Darshit, walking into his laundromat to see legs dangling from his largest clothes dryer. He knew they were hers from the bulging blue varicose veins. And no one else did their laundry at this time of night, either.

“I’m keeping warm, it’s lovely and cosy in here,” giggled Mrs Hatherwaite.

“Get out of there this insta… oh my!” The sight froze his blood. Thankfully, not much light could penetrate into the contraption, but from what he saw in the second before he closed his eyes, he could only describe her as completely naked. “Mrs Hatherwaite, why are you not wearing anything?”

“Well, the sign does say ‘When finished washing, please remove all clothes’,” laughed Mrs Hatherwaite.

With some brief glimpses, he saw she was drinking from a wine bottle.

“Mrs Hatherwaite! Not only are you naked in one of my clothes dryers, but you are also drinking!”

“Oh, this? Drinking? It’s only my third! Fancy some?” She offered the bottle but Darshit refused.

“Mrs Hatherwaite, you can’t get… ‘drunk naked’ in one of my clothes dryers!” What was he to do?

“I’ve got my menstrual cramps, red wine always helps… hey, ‘Darshit’! Come on in, I’ll take you for a spin,” laughed Mrs Hatherwaite. She reached out and took his collar, pulling him closer.

“Mrs Hatherwaite! Please!” Fighting back, his right hand found something on the top of the machine and he brought it down to use against the insane woman. It was a hairbrush… without bristles. He made a mental note to take some time out of his busy schedule to clean the place up a little. An unexpected kick made him drop the useless item and he blindly searched for something else as he struggled on. His hand found a wooden hanger.

“Come on, ‘Darshit’, take a spin with me!” She was strong for her age and Darshit couldn’t resist for much longer. In a momentary flash of inspiration, he put the wooden hanger into the back of his coat, thus stopping her from taking his shoulders in. She persisted for a few more minutes, but he’d won the battle and she let go. “Oh, you’re no fun!”

At that moment, Darshit’s wife walked in. As usual, her phone was clasped to her ear while she rabbited on with her sister, so she didn’t notice him pushing Mrs Hatherwaite’s blue veined legs into the dryer and closing the door.

“Hello dear,” said Darshit, trying to look ‘normal’. His wife put her phone down for a second. Before she spoke, a noise came from the dryer.

“You spin me right round, baby right round…”

“What is that?” asked Darshit’s wife.

“Err, nothing, dear. Just the radio… in the back room,” said Darshit, resting his elbow on the dryer’s door.

“Oh. Well, don’t hang around here all night, I want you back home in ten minutes,” she ordered, leaving the way she came, with her phone to her ear.

Darshit knew it would be one crazy ten minutes.

Snipe Hunting

David Jobe

“It’s obvious. Isn’t it? Double homicide involving a vampire.”

“Hold on. What?” Officer Jimmy Timms stopped tapping a wooden hanger that he had been playing with. “Vampire?”

“What do you see sticking out of the man’s chest, Jimmy?”

Jimmy knelt down beside the corpse. “All I see is a hair brush that someone has plucked out all the bristles.”

Officer Monty Lanton chuckled. “Way to see the forest for the trees, Jimmy. It’s a stake. You know, wooden spike through the heart? Hand-made. Obviously. Look at his pants. Tweed. Sooo last century.”

“Vampire? You get that a lot around here.” Jimmy crossed his arms across his chest. He glanced around at the rest of the team.

They looked back at him with silent and serious faces.

Lanton shrugged. “It doesn’t happen that often, no. I think I’ve seen maybe two, three, times since I started the late shift.” He looked to the coroner, Carrie-Anne who held up three fingers. “Three. Now, sure. Could be this is just a case of mistaken identity? Maybe. But with things like these, you have to be careful.”

Jimmy shook his head. “Not buying it. You’re messing with me.”

Lanton frowned. “Are you suggesting we staged a murder scene?”

Jimmy looked to each, eyes narrowing. “Fine. I’ll play along. What do we do next? Call Van Helsing?”

“That kind of stuff will get you killed, Jimmy. You can’t believe all the stuff you see on television, man. The first step is to have Carrie-Anne get the deceased male into the van and down to the morgue. Best to just burn him tonight to be safe. It will mean we spend all night tomorrow filing paperwork for the screw-up, but we can’t just risk him coming back. Plus, there is the woman to contend with. Could be she might turn soon. Problem is she probably has family. Can’t just burn her.”

“Wait. Wait! This is crazy! Why would you think she’d turn? She not even bitten.”

“Not on the neck, Jimmy. Again. Television. Do you see the inside of her thigh? The leg not hanging out of the dryer?”

Jimmy leaned in to expect the body of the woman stuffed in an industrial clothes dryer. “I thought. Well, you know.” He looked at Carrie-Anne and blushed.

“That it’s her time of the month? She died of cramps? You’ve never had a live-in girlfriend, have you, Jimmy? That’s way too much blood for that. Go with Carrie-Anne to get the gurney.”

“Fine.”

After Jimmy had moved out of earshot, Lanton leaned down near the opening of the dryer. “You ready?”

Elanor Millie opened her eyes and offered a smile that revealed fake fangs. “You swap out his gun?”

“Isn’t my first time, Elanor.” Lanton cast a glance over his shoulder. “It’s a prop. Tasers drained and the night-stick is gorilla glued in its holster. Don’t trip over Grimm. He’s sensitive.”

On the ground, the staked man muttered profanities.

“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” she said. “Next time, just dinner and a movie.”

“Your fault for asking what I do for fun.”

Two Loads Washin’

Michael Cottle

I’ve lived a long time- almost 84 years now. I’ve seen many things in those years. I’ve seen beautiful things. I’ve seen sad things. And, I’ve seen folks do downright crazy things. But never anything like I did in 94’.

It was Saturday, the 19th of February, and I was headed to the laundromat. I could’ve just bought a washer, but truth is I liked the company. You see, my wife passed in the fall of 93’, and sometimes I needed to get out of the house.

Now most folks at the laundromat weren’t there to do no socializing. I understood this, but while their clothes were a washing, most of ‘em didn’t mind passing the time with an old fool like me.

This Saturday morning was not good visiting for I hadn’t seen a soul all morning. My two loads were almost dry and I had my wooden hangers out on the folding table just about ready to go. That’s when Miss Mary showed up.

You might think it odd, but this ain’t who I felt like socializing with. That woman hated me since the time she first laid eyes on me. Now I hadn’t done a thing in the world to the crazy ole bitty.

Anyways, she was slinging clothes and washing powders around like she was too good to wash clothes or something. I think she was born with the menstrual cramps, but Lord knows I didn’t do nothing to her I tell you. Now listen awhile and I might tell you again.

She messed around and got a fancy looking blouse hung in the coin slot of the washing machine. I heard the biggest ruckus that you could imagine as she started saying things that would make an oil field worker blush!

The next thing I know, she gave that blouse a snatch and buttons went flying. She fell backwards over a hamper of her own dirty clothes and straight into the dryer basket behind her! There was nothing but high heels sticking out of that machine.

Being a gentleman and all, there was nothing for me to do, but go help the crazy lady out of that thing. I asked her if she wanted permanent press or high cotton as I gave her my hand. I thought I was fixing to get eaten alive! First look, there was a bit of anger, and then she started laughing a little. But before it was over and by the time she was out, she started to cry. My heart just melted. You see, like me, she had just lost her husband too. In no time at all, we were in that laundromat laughing like kids. Turns out, she wasn’t near crazy as I thought she was.

You see, I’ve seen some downright crazy things in my time. But I’ll never forget how I met my second and last wife. We got our own washer and dryer these days. I don’t know how much more time we got left, but I’ll tell you one thing. If I hadn’t met Miss Mary, I’d be a hairbrush without the bristles.

Claustrophobic Cloud Nine

Emma Crowley

The bristles of the brush tinkled against the steel lining of the clothes dryer as she brushed them off of her stomach, the distorted handle of the now toothless brush clutched tightly in her fist. She sighs as she turns the brush over between her fingers, watching the sharp edges of the plastic draw thin white lines against her skin. The ridges of the machines tumbler shove back against her spine, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the deep throbbing in her abdomen, so she ignores it.

“Did you get it yet?” A voice floats into the laundry room, tossed back and forth by the noise of the vibrations of the washing machine hard at work to the right of the dryer in which the girl had found refuge. She twists her neck painfully to look down at the wooden hanger wedged between the rotating tumbler and the metal at the back of the machine, speckled with soapy residue. If she were to actually try, she would be able to free the hanger in a minute or so, but that would mean that she would have to leave the dryer.

“Not yet,” she calls back, wincing slightly as the volume of her shout echoes loudly around the interior of the dryer. “It really seems to be stuck in there.”

She had no way of explaining it, but somehow contorting her body into the claustrophobic tumbler of the dryer calmed the persistent pain in her abdomen. It worked, that’s all that mattered.

“Well hurry up,” the voice replies, exasperated. The girl rolls her eyes, pressing the palms of both hands against her lower stomach. Something about the dryer, knees scrunched up to her chest, made her feel safe, almost like returning to the womb. Ironic, she chuckles into the darkness of the machine, when her own womb was the reason for her cramming herself into such a tiny space.

Maybe her uterus had fallen asleep in the relaxing calm of the dryer, postponing its scheduled torture for a quick nap. That was something the girl could understand, her own eyes struggled to stay open. Maybe for a moment, she and her body could work as one to reach the dimensions of rest.

“What are you even doing?” The girl’s eyes snap open as a figure storms into the laundry room, a basket of dirty clothes tucked under one arm. The figure wears a scowl across her face as she glares down at the figure curled in the machine. “Didn’t you hear me say I had laundry to do? Go lounge in your own bed.”

Almost. The girl had almost found a moment of peace. She lets out a disappointed sigh as she yanks the wooden hanger roughly out of it’s trap, tossing it out onto the laundry room floor. The sound of wood against tile almost sounded like the shattering of paradise as the girl wanders from the room, footsteps in sync with the painful throbbing now jumping back to life in her abdomen.Now, when the machine turns on, now filled with wet jeans, it seems to call to her. Next time…next time.

Ghostly Memories

Bethany Totten

The room seemed frozen in time.  The bed was neatly made; the various trinkets were still on the dresser.  Even the house coat elegantly draped over the chair was untouched by time.

Although the room was empty, a young woman glided in, looking around the room in sadness.  It seemed like only yesterday that the blonde haired female was in the room preparing to meet her secret lover. They had planned to run away and elope but, well, things hadn’t quite worked out.

She couldn’t recall very much from that night.  She had been applying her makeup when she suddenly had a nasty coughing spell.  The maid had heard her and the last thing the young women remembered was fainting.  She heard voices but could never see who was talking.  It was an experience unlike any she had ever had before. She had then awoken in her room, alone and unaware of the time or day.  She had been walking around the house for what seemed like days, but no one seemed to be home.  It was very odd. A dress hung from the hanger on the door like a ghost, the fabric swaying in the gentle breeze from the open window.  The young maiden walked over and ran her fingers over the fabric.  It was as soft as she remembered.

She suddenly heard the familiar sound of her father’s Sun Touring pulling up to the front of the house.  She eagerly ran down the stairs to the front to greet her family, descending the marble stairs to the foyer.  Her family entered.

“Mother!” the young lady exclaimed.  “Father!  Where on earth did you go?  I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

Her parents silently walked past her.  The young woman was confused.

“The house seems so quiet with her gone,” her mother mused to seemingly no one.

The elderly woman’s husband hugged her.  “I know, my dear,” he replied.  “At least she didn’t suffer.”

“But Father, I’m right here!” the lady replied.  She reached out to touch her mother’s arm.  The matron shuddered.

“Oh, Walt, it still feels like my beloved Margot’s still here!” she wailed.  “Why did that damn tuberculosis have to take her?  Why?”

Margot’s mother broke down as she stared at her parents in confusion.  Tuberculosis?  What was she talking about?  She didn’t have that.  And she most certainly wasn’t dead.

She followed her parents to their room, calling after them, begging them to answer her.

In anger, she grabbed a wooden hanger from the back of the door and threw it against the wall.  “I’m right here!” she exclaimed,

Her parents screamed as the hanger splintered against the wall.

“Dear God!  It’s a poltergeist!” her mother exclaimed and fainted.

Margot stood in shock.  It was true.  They really couldn’t see her.  She sank to her knees, her worst fears realized.  She was a ghost.  And she was trapped here, never to see her true love again.

A Fish Out of Water

Richard Russell

We pulled up to the laundromat and sat in the car for a few moments while my wife, Melissa, went over the instructions again.  “… And don’t put anything red in the wash with anything white.  Keep colors separate.”

Nodding, I smiled, took the three page instructions, unloaded six baskets of laundry onto the sidewalk, and kissed Melissa goodbye.

She smiled, “I’ll be back as soon as the dentist is through, Love!”

“Bye, Sweetie.  Have a nice … dental … visit.”

Melissa drove away; I picked up a basket and went inside.

The place was deserted.  Feeling like a fish out of water — an interloper in someone else’s world  — I   picked a washer and dryer set near the coffee machine, I intended to fully avail myself of that amenity before doing anything else.

After getting a load of whites into the washer and setting the first wash cycle in motion, I sipped my coffee and remembered that five more baskets of laundry sat out on the sidewalk.  With some sense of urgency, I headed for the door.  About to go out, I noticed a pair of female legs hanging out of a dryer.

Being the good Samaritan, I approached gingerly to see if I could help in any way. “Um, are you all right?” I queried.

“Do I look all right?” she snapped, and went back to moaning.

“Is there anything I can do?”  I asked sheepishly.

Desperately, the woman asserted, “Yes! Yes! Press your hand into the small of my back and push hard!”

Overcoming my conservative upbringing, I attempted to comply, but it proved difficult to apply enough pressure to her specifications with her in the dryer and me outside.  I moved halfway inside the dryer, and before I knew it, I was lying in the dryer with her, pressing my palm into the small of her back with considerable pressure.

She moaned in satisfaction and relief as she explained normally she would apply a heating pad to relieve her menstrual cramps, but the best she could come up with here was climbing into the hot dryer.

Just then, Melissa’s face showed up outside the dryer. “Howard!?”

I jumped.”

“Melissa!?  I’m … uh … this is … uh …”

“Jenny.”

“Jenny! She’s … uh … and …”

Melissa frowned.  “Howard … would you bring in the rest of the laundry, please … now.”

With great difficulty, I slithered obediently out of the dryer.

Shaking her head, Melissa just starred at me in disbelief as I wandered off.”

Then she turned her attention to the woman in the dryer.  Handing her some extra-strength ibuprofen, the two were soon commiserating about mysterious women’s things … and men … in general.

“…And I told him, ‘Throw that dang hairbrush away; it hasn’t any bristles left anyway!’”

and  “ …I’ve told him at least a dozen times, ‘Don’t hang that coat on a wire hanger. Use the wooden one!’”

“Men!”

“Yeah, from a whole different planet.”

“Yeah.”

I sipped my warm coffee and kept quiet over by the washer.

Time Won’t Always Heal

Amy Kasim

“Ooh Esi you need to see this! It would blow you up!” Macbeth rushed into his sister’s room with the Native Heirloom, their town’s local newspaper, in his hand.

“What is it this time?” Esi snapped at her sister, rushing past him to her wardrobe whiles smoothening her hair with a hairbrush without bristles. “I hope it is not one of those funny stories you bring to me every morning to read about menstrual cramps or women in clothe dryers? I am not in the mood for any of that today.”

Macbeth rolled her eyes at his sister.  “What has gotten into your pants this morning to make you all grumpy?”

“I am not grumpy. It is just that I can’t seem to find my yellow dress.”

“The flowery one?” Macbeth asked, looking around the room

“Yes; that very one! I need it for my presentation this morning and I am already running late!”

“Esi Appiah, do you ever take your time to look for things? The dress is hanging right behind you”

“Where?” Esi turned quickly to look in her brother’s direction. Macbeth held the dress in one hand and a wooden hanger in the other with a smug look on his face.

Esi ignored his looks and snatched the dress. “So, what were you saying about the Heirloom? She asked, whiles checking out herself in the mirror.

“Oh that; it is just an article by your enemy journalist, Kofi Quayson about…”

“Let me see it!” Esi snatched the newspaper and sat to read; her eyebrows creasing as she read line after line, muttering to herself. Macbeth stood still, watching his sister in awe. With the way Esi disliked the guy, it was obvious they had a bone to pick.

“Bloody hell!” she yelled.

“No curse words allowed in this house” Macbeth chided his sister

“Who cares about curse words when that chauvinist with absolutely no brains is here spewing rubbish? A woman leaves her abusive marriage because she cannot take it anymore and he says it’s her fault? She was being abused because she refused to be submissive? Unbelievable! Ooh so is it because no one has exposed his evil deeds that he has the guts to say this kind of nonsense?”

“Chauvinist with no brains? Why are you like this Esi? Unless there is more to this outburst than you are letting on, which is obvious, I think this is just an article.”

“Just an article you say? Why are people always quick to come to the aid of the abuser and never the abused? Why have we allowed our culture render us ignorant? I will be damned to let this issue die.”

Esi snatched her car keys from the table

“Don’t you have a presentation to get to? Where are you going Esi?” Macbeth asked, stunned at his sister’s behaviour.

“To do something I should have done a long time ago.”

Plight of the Homeless

Vance Rowe

A reporter was doing an exposé on the homeless people. While interviewing some of the indigent camped under a highway overpass, he noticed an older woman sitting in a clothes dryer. He made a beeline over to her and asked, “What are you doing in there, ma’am?”

“Mind your own beeswax,” she replied angrily.

“Can I talk with you for a few minutes please?”

“Go away, Copper. I ain’t see’d nothin’.’”

“Copper? I am a reporter writing an article about homeless people.”

“So, what’s that got to do with me? I ain’t homeless, Copper.”

“You aren’t? Then where do you live?”

“Right here, Dummy.”

“Oh, this one is priceless,” he thought to himself.

He turned on his little recorder and held it close to the dryer door.

She noticed it and suddenly got frightened and asked, “What is that?”

“It is a recording device so I can write about our conversation in the newspaper.”

“Since when do coppers write newspaper stories?”

Ma’am, I am not a policeman. Will you please come out of there so I can talk with you? I will pay you ten dollars for your time.”

“All right Copper but you will have to wait until they go away.”

“They? They who?”

“My menstrual cramps?”

“Excuse me?” the surprised reporter asked.

“Why? Did you just fart or something?”

“No, Ma’am. What about menstrual cramps?”

“The dryer is the only thing that helps them.”

“Right. Silly me,” the reporter said, slowly shaking his head. He figured the woman to be well into her sixties and she shouldn’t be having menstrual cramps.

A couple of minutes later she climbed out of the dryer and sat down on the ground. Her salt and pepper colored hair was dirty and matted. She had two different color wool socks on her feet. A torn dress covered by a threadbare housecoat. Her B.O. tested his gag reflexes.

“Can we talk for a couple of minutes?”

“We been talking, Copper,” she replied.

“Right. Sorry.”

He handed the woman a ten dollar bill. She licked it and stuck it on her forehead.

“Hand me my mirror there, will ya?” she asked as she pointed to a wooden hangar on the ground. She held it up by the hook and peered through it as if it really is a mirror. She then picked up a hair brush that had no bristles and combed her hair with it.

“Why are you doing that?”

“I’m gettin’ all gussied up for my picture. Ain’t you holding a camera?”

“No, ma’am. It’s a record…oh never mind.”

Suddenly she covered her abdomen and said, “Oh no.”

Then she got up and climbed back into the dryer.

“Menstrual cramps?”

“Of course. Why else would I be in a dryer, Copper?”

“That’s the only reason I can think of. I will see you later,” he said, as he stood up shaking his head.

As he walked around, the reporter spotted a man climbing into a refrigerator. Someone yelled and asked where he was going this time. The man in the refrigerator yelled, “General Washington needs me. I’ll be back.”

The reporter made a beeline over to him.

The Laundromat

Steven L. Bergeron

“Car 22. A  469 has been reported at 228 Jarvis street. Acknowledge you ETA?”

“Our ETA is ten minutes over and out.” I glanced over to my partner, who was scanning through the code book.

“No need for that son, you are about to get your first dose of what goes on around here when the sun goes down.”

Passing through the downtown area, at this time of the night, can be scary. Rule number one, not making any eye contact with the ladies of the night.

WE arrived at our destination with ten minutes to spare. My new partner simply looked at me with a dumb fond look on his face.

“ I can believe it, we are simply going to walk in here, and do nothing about what we just seen?”

“My dear partner, it is what we call survival . Sure what they are doing is illegal, but until we can get solid evidence our hands are pretty well tied.”

Entering my thirty second scan of Pete’s Laundromat proved to be unproductive. No evidence of any foul play to be spotted. A few machines were running, along with a few wooden hangers set up drying what appeared to be a few dresses. One surely not worn, by our ladies of the night. Once we paraded around to the second row of dryers our call had some merit.  A pair of unwaxed  legs, hanging out of the far dryer.

There she was Andrea Spagnoli our assistant DA in  a predicament she never planned for. As far as it goes she looked better than any lingerie model on the red carpet.

“Isn’t it a shame, a body so young as who could have done quite a thing? To think she never got the enjoyment to help her daughter thru her menstrual cramps, on her road to womanhood.”

“That is a very good question. For instinct see these bruises all over her left thigh, the question to ask for here would be what could have cause theses egg shaped form.”

“Hum they look like the same kind of bruises I endured in my younger days. Living with three sisters you are bound to get a few brush slaps every now and then.”

“True ,but there would also see marks inside the bruises, from the bristles now would there be?”

“Well unless it was done with the unbristled backside. I seen a purse on my way in, should I go check it for a brush?”

“There you go my partner good synopsis of the situation.”

“Sorry  inspector no brushes here, which is odd. Growing up with females you get to learn no woman leaves there home without one.”

A search of the outside area proved successful. One block down, in a alley dumpster a wooden hand brush we did find. To our surprise the backside had evidence of blood soaked trauma.

The Heroine

Keith Badowski

I could see you inside my womb since conception, but only this morning I’m sure. You were either Bruce or Diana, and I had hoped against hope for Bruce. Not for any traditional reasons, little Diana, but because the women in our family are physically stronger than any man who has ever walked the earth, and that isn’t easy. We’re invulnerable too, which causes all sorts of inconveniences. Our “hair of steel” racks up bristleless brushes galore. Thankfully atomic power holds promise for shaving legs.

Other abilities, like my own x-ray vision, may be inherited. I can see through clothes, skin, walls, automobiles, and even buildings. What I wish I could see, but can’t, is the future. If I did, I might have prevented you, but I shouldn’t imagine my remorseful past as your future, even though that’s all I have to go on, and all I have to tell.

 For years I’ve worked with Henry, investigative reporter for the Daily Bullhorn and “genius” at stumbling into peril. It’s been my mission to be there in the guise of his pretty cub photographer. The trick is how to rescue him without divulging my secret. I’ve tripped power breakers, blinded Henry with cigarette ashes, and made humiliating, bladder-related excuses to disappear just as situations reached a crisis.

The difference that fateful day was we weren’t a duo. Henry brought along his fiancée Janie. He’d gotten a tip that a ring was meeting late one night, posing as bachelors doing wash, to divvy up their recent booty. Henry proposed a charade of our own—a laundromat photoshoot with Janie as the model.

Henry boosted Janie inside the top porthole of a stacked dryer unit, and from there she dangled her attractive legs for my camera. While I snapped shots Henry would likely treasure for years, I scanned for our suspects. Two known crooks were headed our way—Johnny “Iron Knuckles” Wilson on foot with a holstered gun under his coat and Lex “The Brains” Thorndike in a chauffeured hearse, his well-manicured hand gripping a laundry sack stuffed with diamonds.

Henry, flustered by my excuse of menstrual cramps, took possession of my camera. I dashed behind the laundromat and changed into my suit, complete with rubber skullcap and oversized goggles. Once the diamonds came inside, I sabotaged the power and broke in the back door.

In his ineptly valiant way, Henry picked up a wooden coat hanger to defend Janie. He never got the chance to use it. Wilson sensed my silhouette enter the laundromat and started firing. The first bullet splintered Henry’s coat hanger. The second bullet ricocheted off me and into Janie, ripping through her womb and her lower spine.

The rest happened in slow motion. I shoved Henry to floor, crushed Wilson’s hand around his gun, and then with one strong tug toppled a bank of dryers onto Thorndike, the diamonds, and two accomplices. I called for an ambulance, but Janie bled out before they arrived.

In the following months, Henry turned to his photographer pal for a shoulder to cry on. And you, Diana, are the result of one of those nights of comforting.

Elementary

Tina Biscuit

‘First impressions of the crime scene, Watson.’

‘Coin-operated laundrette, Holmes: six industrial dryers, one with a shoe protruding from the drum; twelve washing machines, two dented; linoleum flooring, worn at centre; six tubular steel chairs, with plastic seats; one toughened-glass door, slightly ajar.’

‘ADT, Watson – attention to detail.’

Watson grimaced.

‘OK, Holmes: one hairbrush, worn; one coat hanger, wooden; one sock, discarded; one newspaper, crumpled; one shoe, black.’

‘A black, leather shoe, Watson; a hairbrush, without bristles, Watson’, he picked up the hanger, and sniffed, ‘beech’. Holmes withdrew a dark fibre, flicked his lighter, and burnt it.

‘Synthetic fibre, Watson.’

He used the hanger to lift the sock, and raised the lighter to repeat the test. It smoked, but did not light. Watson covered his nose. The pungent fumes filled the air. Holmes placed the smouldering items on a seat, and turned to inspect the newspaper.

‘It’s yesterday’s’, he announced.

‘If it was tomorrow’s, I could guess the headline’, said Watson.

‘Go on’, said Holmes.

‘Famous detective burns down laundrette.’

‘Very droll, Watson.’

A curl of smoke rose to the ceiling, and the smoke detector triggered the alarm. Watson fanned the newspaper. Holmes went to open the door, just as a policewoman was entering.

‘Ah, Mr. Holmes’, she brushed past him, ‘and you must be the famous Dr. Watson.’ She removed a glove, and shook hands with Watson. Holmes looked on, and raised a finger to his temple.

‘Jill Fletcher’, said Holmes, ‘we worked on the Temple Road case, together.’

She opened a panel in the wall, and flicked a switch: the alarm stopped.

‘It’s DC Fletcher, now, Holmes, and I think you mean you walked on that case, trampling evidence as you went. Please tell me you haven’t contaminated our murder scene this time.’

‘Murder seems hyperbolic at this stage, Jill, sorry, DC Fletcher. We don’t have a body, yet.’

‘So what gems of deduction can you share, before you leave us, Holmes?’

Holmes picked up the brush, and took a deep breath.

‘Your victim is a bald man, late thirties, black synthetic coat, missing a sock, a fetish for stiletto heels, a penchant for old newspapers, and was probably blackmailing his nemesis.’

She raised an eyebrow, and almost smiled, before her mouth contorted in pain: her hands clenched at her stomach, and she bent forward as if about to fall. Watson caught her, and guided her on to one of the plastic seats, where she remained hunched over.

Watson turned to Holmes.

‘Appendicitis’, he whispered.

‘It’s poisoning, Watson. It occurred just after she removed her glove. The alarm control box must have been coated with a fast-acting poison.’

DC Jill Fletcher stood up, stifling a groan, ‘It’s what women call menstrual cramps: half the world’s population suffers them, and the other half doesn’t seem to notice.’ She raised an arm, and pointed across the room.

‘Talking of noticing…’

‘Ah, I forgot to mention the shoe, said Holmes, ‘ADT’.

‘You also neglected to mention the woman’s body, curled up in the clothes dryer, but I’m sure you were getting around to that detail, Mr. Holmes.’

‘A. T. D. Sherlock, ATD.’

Clothes Dryer One, Hanger Zero

Danielle Lee Zwissler

Jack looked at the facts and tried to piece together a reason for a killer to throw the woman in the clothes dryer, but he couldn’t find one logical answer.

“The woman was only 34,” Jack muttered, shaking his head.

“Yeah, but 34 and hot,” the other detective, Lassiter, said, looking at the same stack of evidence. “Look at picture 2. All that hair…and picture 7, did you see it?”

“Yeah, I saw it,” Jack said and sighed.

“Her hair was a tangled mess. Looks as if the brush on the table was taken out by the hair. Not one bristle.”

There was a wooden hanger, too. Nothing about this case made a lick of sense. “Do you suppose it was an accident?”

Lassiter laughed. “Yeah, sure… What, did the woman just climb into the dryer to fetch a sock or something, and somehow will the thing to turn on on its own?”

Jack rolled his eyes. “As strange as this all seems, she could have been just a little off and climbed in to see if she could fit. Some dryers turn on after the door is shut.”

Lassiter shook his head. “Some, but how the hell did she close the door on her own? It’s not like they have a handle from the inside.”

“What does the autopsy report say? Have we gotten it back yet?” Jack questioned.

“Should have it this afternoon. Marjorie said she’d get it to us before lunch.”

Jack leaned back in his chair. “Did you check up on that guy that she was seeing?”

“Yeah, he’s clear. He was at work all night. And, she called him that evening, too.”

“Could have been him using her phone,” Jack said, and Lassiter picked up a sheet of paper.

“Nope, one of the boyfriend’s friends at work witnessed the phone call.”

Jack huffed. “All we’ve done is move in circles.”

The phone rang just then, and it was Marjorie.

“What did you find out?” Lassiter asked.

“Nothing much. Death by heat, oh and she was on her period.”

“Her period?”

“You know that thing that happens once a month; it’s a bitch,” Marjorie joked.

“Yeah, I know what it is, I just don’t know why that’s important.”

“I’m not the detective, you are,” Marjorie commented. “See you tonight?”

Lassiter laughed. “Yep.”

Lassiter looked at Jack. “So, the dryer was the cause. There’s no other information, other than the lady must have been having some pretty bad menstrual cramps.”

“Menstrual cramps?”

“Marjorie thinks it may be important,” Lassiter commented.

“You and Marjorie going out yet?”

Lassiter smiled. “Yep.”

“So, you think she’s on to something with the cramps?”

“How the hell should I know?”

“Think like the murderer on this one, Lassiter. Would you throw a woman in a clothes dryer?”

“Well, I sure as hell wooden’ hanger,” Lassiter said with a wink and a grin.

“What?!”

“Get it, wooden’ hanger?”

Jack shook his head. “I think we both need to get some sleep and come back to this case fresh in the morning.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more,” Lassiter said and grabbed his coat.

A Tale of Two Laundries

E. Chris Garrison

The life of a mad scientist is often glamorized. But believe me, it’s not all bringing patchwork corpses to life, or building the ultimate death ray. Especially for those of us on a budget, there are simply days when you’ve got to do mundane things. Like my laundry. Which is how I found myself alone at the Laundromat one Saturday night.

Mad science pays a lot less than you’d think it would.

There are laundries closer to my apartment, but I like Ike’s Laundry and Tan’s 1950s atmosphere. Wooden clothes hangers, copper embossed ceiling tiles, and all chrome décor. Cell reception was terrible, since it formed a Faraday cage of sorts, but that suited me fine.

That is, until she happened.

As I watched my laundry tumble in the massive quarter-driven dryer, I had a thought: what better way to clean clothes than to swap them with their as-yet-unused counterparts in alternate dimensions? It’d work through entanglement, and could remove any stain by way of literally never having happened. Of course, some alternate me would have unexplained stains appearing on his clothes. But that’s not my problem. Heck, the same principal could restore the bristles on an old favorite hairbrush, or instantly fix a flat tire…

A flash of light and a booming noise startled me from my daydreaming. It came from my dryer. A jump-suited woman peered out of the machine at me, grinning. She slapped at the glass door with the palm of her hand, and I helped her out.

She stood a little shorter than me, with auburn hair like mine, only longer. Her eyes could have been mine, except for the merry twinkle in them.

“I did it!” she cried, hugging me. Toasty warm, she smelled of my dryer sheets.

“So, you admit it!” I said, shoving her away from me.

A frown clouded her freckled face. “And why shouldn’t I?”

“It’s criminal,” I said. “And dangerous. You are me, aren’t you?”

She nodded. Her smile restored, “Looks like I’m a man in this universe?”

I shrugged. “What’s that got to do with it? You’re just like the others. All evil. Like that me from Atlantis, who stole my marine biologist girlfriend! Or the other me who fried my equipment with an EMP burst to stop my death ray experiments. Or—”

She grinned. “See? It’s meant to be, we’re dimension hoppers! All of us discover quantum tunneling!”

“And you stole my idea. And my laundry! It’s criminal!”

Time for my secret weapon.

In a fury, I pulled out an electronic patch made of pink flexible metal, its surface etched with a crossed-out Venus symbol. I slapped it onto her bare forearm. “Ha! I stole that from the last me – feel the Femmeliminator! Ah ha ha!”

She closed her eyes and her face went slack, followed by a blissful smile. “Dude, we’re about to become filthy stinking rich! That doodad just cured my cramps!”

Sales of Femmeliminators have funded our joint mad science ventures quite nicely.

The Magpies’ Song

Mamie Pound

The clouds drifted farther and farther away, until only a half-moon and bits of stars shone against the blue-velvet sky.

The entire world slept, except the noisy magpies, huddled and waiting in the trees along the water. Their garbled sing-song quickened her heartbeat.

The wooden sash creaked a little as she pushed up the window, then tiptoed along the roof, to the River Birch at the corner of the house.

She threw down her flip flops first and descended, limb by limb, until the soft, wet zoysia met her bare feet. A perfume of roses’ blooms was caught in the wind.

The dirt trail to the river twisted through waist-high reeds in an empty lot and crossed a two-lane highway before she was close enough to hear the lapping water.

He waited on makeshift raft, timber held together with nylon rope, floating on empty plastic barrels.

He smiled.

She took a deep breath.

“Ready?” he said.

“Yeah,” she said and he helped her step onto the rocking floor.

“I have to be back before daybreak,” she said, balancing each step before sinking down, indian-style.

“I know.”

They caught the swift current and at once, were out in the middle, sailing under the stars.

“I always thought it’d be fun, to raft all the way to Apalachicola,” she said. “Catch a freighter to Mexico.”

He dug the post down into the water and guided them along. “Or even South America.”

“Yeah,” she agreed.

She lay on her back on the raft, face up to the stars.

“You know any of the constellations?’ she asked. Warm June air rustled the leaves overhanging the bank, were a counterpoint to the Magpie wings, fluttering overhead.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Which one?”

“Let’s see,” he began, and she knew it was going to turn to a long, winding story that would probably last until morning.

“There once was a couple, Vega and Altair,” he began.

She laughed, dipped her hand into the river and sprayed him with water.

“Alright, then. I bet you’ve never heard of the Coat Hanger Constellation?”

“Of course I have,” she said, stretching out until both her hands trailed behind her in the wake of the raft. “But tell me again.”

“It’s not as bright as it will be in July, but imagine a line from “Altair” toward the even brighter star, “Vega”. Coathanger is in the darkest part of the sky, about a third of the way between them…” he watched as her eyes searched the sky, then met his own.

“You can’t see it without a telescope, can you?” she smiled.

“Of course you can,” he said. “But not with your eyes.” He lay down beside her, and looked up at the stars.

“That one is Cassiopeia and there’s Orion,” he said.

The moon rose higher still. The dominoed birds swooped alongside their vessel, skittering owls from the trees. And they floated along, all the way down the Chattahoochee, until finally, the craft beached itself on a sand bar just north of Eufaula.

The waves were perfect and dark, one after the other.

And the Magpies cloaked them in song.

The Iron Writer Challenge #182 – 2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #3

The Iron Writer Challenge #182

2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #3

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

E. Chris Garrison, Bobby Salomons, M. D. Pitman, Vance Rowe, Josh Flores

The Elements:

A lying national media cable TV anchorman (real or fictional)

Global warming

A crystal ball

A small snowblower

Doing Something About the Weather

E. Chris Garrison

Sally’s elderly Prius barreled along the breakdown lane of the freeway. The thermometer and the speedometer both read 75.

Other drivers, stuck in a jam, blared their horns at Sally. Some made rude gestures. Did she hear cars backfiring or shots being fired by hotheads? 

Sally didn’t care. She wouldn’t be denied the truth.

From the bracket on her windshield, her smartphone streamed news of the Weather Emergency. Bundled up in a parka, the cable news anchor mimed shivering cold while talking with a bespectacled woman in a puffy coat. White flakes swirled around them on the New York City streets.

“So, this wave of cold will continue until the end of January, Dr. Fahrenheit?”

The woman stared at the camera. Her eyes panned from right to left as she said, “Yes, that is correct. The polar vortex is sweeping across the plains, through the Midwest, and on to the East Coast.”

Sally exited the freeway, upsetting more drivers as she whizzed past them on the shoulder. The side of her car struck sparks from the concrete barricades along the right. Sally laughed as she passed a supermarket, its lot full of cars. The news told her that stores had all the French Toast ingredients depleted due to the Weather Emergency, since citizens had been warned that they’d have to stay off the streets after dark, so that plows could clear the streets for the morning commute.

Sally turned up her air conditioning as she skidded onto Broadway, the back end of her car fishtailing.

A great glass orb, very much like a giant snowglobe, blocked the roadway. Inside, Sally made out the figures of Blaine Roberts and Dr. Fahrenheit, their gestures slightly leading the broadcast. Sally resisted the urge to speed up as their faces registered terror as her car burst through flasher barricades and hired guards flung themselves out of her way.

The nose of her Prius met the enormous glass enclosure, which cracked like an egg. Sally hit the brakes even as the airbag deployed and shoved her back in her seat.

She flung open the car door and stumbled into the space between the camera and the other two. She picked up handfuls of white flakes and rubbed them all over her face. “It’s a lie! Global warming is real! They’re lying to you! This is just styrofoam!”

The low drone of a small snowblower’s electric motor quit. So did the camera’s red light.

Many rough hands seized Sally at once.

Blaine Roberts stood before her. “Ma’am, you’re in a lot of trouble. Vehicular assault, sure, but also the Weather Normalization Act, which makes discussing Global… Discussing that topic, a federal offense.”

“You’re not fooling anyone! They’re pretending, just like you! This is stupid! Why doesn’t anyone wake up?”

“Look, if you people win the election next time, then you can write the news.” Blaine flicked a piece of glass off his parka as Sally was dragged away. “Could someone get that poor woman a coat?”

Cold Lies, Burning Truth

Josh Flores

Why do I keep trusting Jimenti Roso after he made up stories to improve ratings? No one caught on when he lied about a magic cure to cancer being tested or how the perfect weight loss drug was found. Then he decided to make up a kidnapping. That made the Were-Police begin sniffing around. He had to admit he lied. The scandal lasted a while. 

He was fired. He was interviewed. He wrote a book. He became more famous. He did the talk shows. He was re-hired. Ratings went up. Job accomplished. 

I watch his plastic-like mouth stretch out on my cable-ready crystal ball. Canines sharp and white belied the words barking past them.  

“Global warming, the world’s leading sorcerers have confirmed, is a human urban myth! It is simply not happening. There is no danger of the Earth’s climate changing. The Warlock Coven has released an official statement today. They have looked at the mortals’ scientific data and consulted their charts, familiars, crystal balls, the stars, and the bones; and have determined global warming to be a hoax, created by some of the human corporations and political groups to control others and make money.”

I’m hoping he isn’t lying. Winter business has been bad for a few years now. I look at my inventory: snow plows, shovels, salt, scrapers, dragon’s fire-spit, heaters, and of course, snow blowers. I stock from small to heavy duty ones. But the last few winters have been mild and if it wasn’t for the other stuff selling at a reasonable rate, I would be bankrupt. 

My attention goes back to Roso. 

“In other news, sightings of dragons, chimeras, phoenixes, and other fire creatures have increased. These beasts have been captured and handled by the Defense Mystics, who have put out a national alert asking anyone who notices unusual steam, flames, or heat to report it immediately. When asked as to why these pests are populating rapidly, the spokesman said, 

‘No comment. Man, it is getting warm in here.’” 

I wonder if I can sell Roso a snow blower or two. I fantasize about it for a bit when my doorbell rings. A customer! Finally.  

I look up to see a brown-skinned lanky man, with salt and pepper hair and beard.  

“Hablas Espanol?” 

“No.”

He lifts his hand in a stop motion and reaches into his pocket to pull out his wand.  

“Parli Ingles!” He incants. “Me understand you?” 

My face said no.

“Parli Ingles ni google!” He pauses. “Do you understand me?” 

“Yes. How may I help you?” 

“I want to buy all this. How much?” 

“Why?”  

“This year a lot of snow in my country. I sell these and all others I find, no?” 

“Sure, we can come up with a price fair to both.” 

I look at my crystal ball TV. “So no such thing as global warming, Mr. Roso?”

“Jimenti Roso?”

“Yes.” 

“His name in Spanish sounds like He mentiroso — ummm — He Liar.” 

 Blasted Snow

 Vance Rowe

“There will be little to no snow at all this year due to global warming in the upper portion of North America and Canada, so you can all sell your snowblowers and keep your shovels in the shed. You won’t even need winter clothes this year as it will never be colder than 72 degrees Fahrenheit,”said Smiling Chet Armstrong, America’s favorite newscaster.

“Hot Damn. No snow this year,” Eustis said, looking outside. Eustis lives on a hill and his driveway is long. He tires of walking it with a snowblower. “Now I can sell that blasted thing.”

“Wait a minute, you cannot trust that liar. Before you do anything, let me consult with my crystal ball. Spirit has never led us astray yet,” his wife said. 

“Bah, you and that damn crystal ball. You consult your glass ball and I will put a sign up down by the road.” 

After Eustis put the sign up, he walked back up the long driveway to his house, his wife greeted him at the door and said, “Spirit says we are in store for a lot of snow this year, Eustis.”

“Grenadine, I want to hear no more about it. I will believe Smiling Chet over your stupid ball.”

“You’re a fool, Eustis. What happens if we get a lot of snow this year?”

“We won’t, Grenadine. Smiling Chet said so.”

Two days later, the snowblower sold and Chet was a thrilled man. Regrettably, two weeks later, Chet stopped being a thrilled man when the snow fell. It fell for two days straight.

“You blamed fool. I told you not to believe that son-of-an-unnamed-goat. Now what are you going to do?”

“I will just go buy another snowblower, Grenadine.”

Eustis found a place that sold only small snowblowers.

He purchased a small snowblowers, and it only just made a path up his driveway after hours of use. 

“Face it, Eustis. It will be easier just to shovel.” Grenadine yelled to him.

Seething, Eustis responded with, “I ain’t shoveling jack.”

Eustis grabbed his shotgun off of the rack above the fireplace, went out to his truck and drove to the news studio where Smiling Chet broadcasts at. He walked inside and grabbed the newscaster by the scruff of his neck and dragged him out to the truck.

“What happened to not being any snow, Smiling Chet? What do you call this? I sold my big snowblower because of your stinking lies.”

“I-I-I don’t know what happened,” Chet replied, stuttering.

“Shut up and shovel before your new nickname is Toothless Chet.”

A police car soon pulled up in front of Eustis’s house and the county sheriff stepped out of the vehicle.

“Oh, thank God. This man kidnapped me and is forcing me to shovel his driveway.”

“Is this true, Eustis?”

“Sure is, Sheriff. This lyin’ so and so said we wouldn’t be getting any snow this year and I sold my snowblower.”

“Sheriff, don’t just stand there. Arrest him and let me go.”

“Nope, I sold my snowblower too because of you. Bring him by my place when you are done, Eustis.”

“Sure will, Sheriff. I sure will.”

Papa

Bobby Salomons

The director and live studio are blabbering through each other like drunk sonority girls on Mardi Gras. I know – I was one.

“So, why the crystal ball again?” I say to the expert next to me. “I don’t think I caught on the first time.”

“’Global Warming’ is pure ‘fortune-telling’. A hoax.”

Across from the parking lot, an elderly, black man is clearing his lawn with a small snowblower. His red ski jacket and white snow hat remind me of my grandfather. ‘Papa’ was a Norwegian immigrant, loved snow and ice. Never used a snowblower, maybe a snow shovel but not before we’d play and build a snowman. I miss him.
“We’re about to go live.” Terry, my cameraman, says. “Maybe more cleavage?”

“Cleavage!? It’s freaking 23F!” I bark.
“It was a joke, Melissa.”

“A cold day for Global Warming!” My colleague Nancy in the studio chuckles, I hate her. “And my colleague is outside! In a blizzard! With an expert! Melissa, how is it out there?”

“Hi, Nancy! It sure is cold! They theorize the Earth is warming but it sure doesn’t feel that way out here! Oh! Is that a polar bear!?” I say, pointing at a white Husky passing by. Fake laughter in the studio.

“I’m here with Simon DeWitt! Expert from the Independent Ecological Research Institute.”

“That’s right!” He grins, “No associations with other research groups, no government grants!”

“So, tell us about this ‘Global Warming’-theory in the middle of a blizzard!”

He begins his story of disinformation. I zone out, looking across the street. The man’s still there, blowing snow, his back to me. For a moment, I believe it really is my ‘papa’. He turns around. I gasp. It is.

“I know!” The expert says smug, crystal ball in hand, believing it’s about him.

I choke. Seconds pass. Terry’s making a face at me.

“I-I can’t do this.” I say, thinking of ‘papa’, “This is all a lie. This man isn’t a real expert, he’s an economist paid by Exxon Mobil!”

“We have no asso-”

“-Oh, please! You’re wearing one of their key chains right now!”

Terry zooms in, the expert breaks sweat.

“I’m sorry, global warming is real. Pass the world on to our children the way it was left to us, so they too can see a REAL polar bear, not just a dog pointed out by a lying anchorwoman! Just Google it, dammit!” I yell emotional.

“Um, thanks, Melissa. We’re back in the studio, it appears our colleague is having some… technical problems…” Nancy says.

“Why don’t you go suck a dick, Nancy! Maybe it’ll warm your cold heart!”

“That’s it! You’re fired!” The director barks over the headset.

“Good! I’ll go work for the Home Shopping Network!”

I push my microphone into the ‘expert’s’ hands, head for my car and drive off passed the house. The man’s stopped the snowblower. He’s himself again, waves and smiles. I blow a kiss his way.

One Lie Too Many

M.D. Pitman

Jacob Scott’s jaw hung open for a good fifteen seconds before he realized he wasn’t saying anything and asked the ZNN’s president, “You want me to say what?”

“I don’t think I stuttered,” said Louis Copeland, who founded the news network 40 years ago as a way to report the news how he saw fit.

ZNN has developed into the go-to echo chamber for those of a certain political persuasion, which is the same persuasion of those currently in power. That made ZNN the most powerful and popular news networks, and Louis Copeland the most powerful political figure.

It also is the most despised because of the sensationalized and often inaccurate news. But Louis did not care because he’s making more money than ever before even though his rhetoric has transformed from fringe to flat out falsehoods.

Jacob’s been told to say many things over the years, who started out as a 38-year-old anchor with idealistic fervor. A half-decade later he’s developed into a jaded cynic because of the B.S. he’s been ordered to “report.” 

He compares Louis Copeland to a charlatan clairvoyant gazing into an oversized crystal ball. But the only thing oversized was Louis’ ego … and Jacob’s dependency on his seven-figure salary. That’s been enough to compensate his conscious as he’s become America’s most unreliable news anchor

“I’m to say global warming is a hoax because of Stihl? The power tool company?” Jacob’s jaw has yet to shut.

“Specifically their lawnmowers and snow blowers,” Louis added.

Jacob could usually spin what Louis wanted to be said on the news, but he’s been able to spin it into something that didn’t sound like it was a mandated from a senile fool. “That doesn’t sound a bid … um, odd?”

“No. Not at all,” said the octogenarian news magnate.

Jacob ran his fingers through his perfectly sculpted hair. He closed his eyes as he inhaled a deep breath, held it for a second, and slowly released it. He opened his eyes, looked Louis into the eyes and said, “It’ll be an unforgettable report.”

Louis Copeland slyly smiled as he nodded. “That’s by boy.”

*****

“Hey, Linda,” said Frank as he cracked open his second beer from the cooler next to his recliner. “Check this out. I think that Jacob Scott guy you like on ZNN is having a nervous breakdown.”

Dressed in an apron and wiping her hands with a kitchen towel, Linda walked into the living room staring at the television. All that appeared were the color bars with the words “Please Stand By” appearing. “What did he do?”

Frank tapped rewind on the DVR to the start of the newscast the pressed play. “Watch this craziness.”

“Good evening and welcome to ZNN,” Jacob Scott started before pausing. He took out his earpiece. “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve been told to repot” – and he made quote marks around that word – “and because I wanted to keep my job I did. But I can’t anymore.”

Before Jacob Scott could say another word, a producers rushes on set and the color bars appear.

The Iron Writer Challenge #129 – 2015 Autumn Equinox Open, Homer Bracket

The Iron Writer Challenge #129

The 2015 Autumn Equinox Challenge

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Homer Bracket

Homer_British_Museum

The Authors:

Dani J. Caile, Moria McArthur, E. Chris Garrison, Bill Prins

The Elements:

vest

A worldwide holiday celebrating a fictional character ( you must name the character)

Testing the first bullet-proof vest

The first mosquito of the season

Pancake batter

Miramar AwaitsBill Prins

Bill Prins

Susan recognized Cal waiting for her by the plane in the predawn darkness.

“Pleased to meet you,” said Cal. “Thanks for joining our adventure on Snoopy.”

“The pleasure’s mine,” said Susan. “This is somewhat different than the Sky Harbor I’m used to.”

“We’ll be ready to go at sunrise, in about, oh, ten minutes,” said Cal, looking at his watch.

“Can I ask you a few quest…?” Susan was checked by a look from Cal.

“There’ll be time for questions once we’re in the air,” said Cal. “Time to go aboard.”

Cal helped Susan climb the fold-down steps and through the ridiculously narrow side door. In the dark interior she stumbled onto a sleeping figure and recoiled.

“Don’t mind him,” said Cal behind her. “Through the door on the right, then sit on the right.”

In minutes they were stowed and strapped-in, the sun rising over Lake Superior. Susan realized the plane was painted a bright yellow, and the cockpit had that new car smell. Propellers turned and the plane vibrated as the engines came to life, first the left, then the right. She watched Cal turn knobs and flick switches while talking over his headset, his eyes and hands synched with the dialog.

“Thank you, tower,” said Cal. “We’re rolling.”

As the plane started Cal’s left hand went to his headset, and he turned to her, smiling.

“Ready?”

She didn’t answer; the plane rolled faster and faster with their shadow stretched out before them; Cal pulled back the yoke and they lifted smoothly into the air.

“You can ask me a question now,” said Cal, after several minutes.

“Well,” Susan collected herself, “GA Magazine would like to know what inspired Lazarus Duke to recreate World War Two aircraft?”

“Not any aircraft,” said Cal. “The DeHavilland Mosquito was one of the most successful aircraft ever created. It served as a bomber, a fighter, a torpedo plane, and for photo-reconnaissance; it was made almost entirely of wood and glue so it was light and fast, faster than a Spitfire. And it was almost invisible to German radar: the first stealth aircraft.”

“And what about Mr. Calvin McRaven, test pilot?” asked Susan. “With your history, you’re like the guy testing bulletproof vests.”

“Not really,” said Cal. “You know they test bulletproof vests on adolescent pigs. By the time they point a gun at a guy in a vest, it’s more like a demonstration.”

“So why the name Snoopy?” asked Susan.

“Production of Mosquitos ended in 1950,” said Cal. “Snoopy was created October 4, 1950, by Charles Schwartz, which is now International Snoopy Day. Snoopy is the first Mosquito Mr. Duke built. We have two more coming out in November and early December.”

“I was hoping to meet Mr. Duke,” said Susan.

“If you’d joined us for breakfast you would have,” said Cal. “He came down to the guesthouse and cooked for us: corned beef hash patties in maple syrup, dipped in pancake batter and deep fried.”

“Will I meet him?” asked Susan.

“When we get to the Miramar Airshow, I expect,” said Cal. “Or whenever he wakes up.”

Marty McFly Must Die!Eric Garrison

E. Chris Garrison

“Here we are, Jen, October 21st, 2015 at last! International Marty McFly day!” cried Calvin, as we arrived on the scene at Hill Valley, California.

Well, there’s no real Hill Valley, but Calvin and I had worked things out using clues from the movie, which led us to Inyo County, California.

I squeezed his hand and said, “Wow, looks like we’re not the only ones who figured this out. Just look at all of the DeLoreans! Did they even make that many?”

There had to be at least a couple dozen of the retro-futuristic stainless steel gull-winged cars scattered across the field, a few giving off vapor, encrusted in frost. Dozens of Marty McFly cosplayers milled around, quoting catchphrases. There were plenty of puffy orange vests, some iridescent ball caps, ridiculous cowboy duds, and even a few leather jackets and walkie talkies.

“I think we’re underdressed,” I said, looking over our outfits. I’d attempted a genderswapped suspendered 1985 Marty, with a replica pink Mattel hoverboard for a prop. Calvin had cheaped out and wore a Mexican serape, bowler hat, and cowboy boots.

Just as we passed under the banner that welcomed us to the makeshift camp site, Doc Brown leaped in front of us and grabbed us by the shoulders. His eyes wild, his white hair singed on the tips, he said, “You kids! You’re from this timeline! Which one’s the real Marty?”

Calvin laughed. “Awesome!”

I smiled at him. “All of them?”

The Doc’s eyes squinted at me. “Aren’t you a clever girl. If you’re so smart, how can a movie character come to life?”

“Well, you just said, ‘this timeline’. Maybe this is 2015A, where Marty never existed, only movies about him.”

Calvin said, “This guy’s creepin’ me out, let’s book it.”

Doc pushed him aside and stared into my eyes. “Good, good. What if I told you one of them, the original, carries a mutant form of West Nile Virus from 2015 prime that would wipe out all of mankind if even the first mosquito of the season bit him?”

Calvin shoved back. “It’s November!”

I said, “I guess you’d have to pick the right one and do something drastic to save the future.”

“Precisely!” cried the Doc. “Now, which one?”

“This is stupid,” said Calvin as I scanned the field.

“Well, we first see Marty in the Doc’s lab in 1985, with the breakfast machine.”

Doc Brown slapped his forehead. “Of course!” He pulled a long rifle from under his lab coat. He aimed at a puffy-vested Marty, carrying a jug of instant pancake batter. The look-a-like raised his hands and screamed.

All the Martys screamed.

“That’s heavy,” said Calvin.

The Doc swung around and aimed at my boyfriend’s chest. “The machine didn’t make pancakes.” Doc Brown fired. Calvin fell down.

The time travel paradox resolved, I stood over Calvin’s body in an empty field.

He cracked an eye open. “Are they gone?”

“Yes! I guess he never saw Back to the Future III!”

Calvin threw back his serape to reveal his makeshift vintage 1885 cast iron bulletproof vest. “Who’s chicken now?”

Sighting SherlockMoira McAtrthur

Moira McArthur

The day they celebrated Sherlock Holmes, was a world wide affair. Major cities like New York, Beijing, Moscow, would have theatres and cinemas showing Sherlock Holmes plays and films. Their streets, bunting overhead, were filled with stalls selling cheap but badly made deer stalkers, curly pipes, and fake whiskers. Photo booths, where you could dress in period. From my perch on the roof, facing 221B Baker Street, most of the world, seemed to arrive en masse on such days. 

Crowds of tourists milling around, the visit to 221B, as a pilgrimage they must all make. Excited tourist chatter was the norm, most days, on that otherwise quiet street. On Sherlock Holmes Day, the chatter became a thunderous roar. It suited my purpose. All eyes on 221B Baker Street, Marylebone, London W1U 3BW. 

The year in question, the Sherlock Holmes Society had arranged that one of their own, should portray that illustrious gent. To be seen at the window, walking between the rooms. Occasionally, if the crowds died down a little, he would open the front door and reach out to tap his pipe on the wall, before rapidly retiring from the throng that threatened to rush him. So great was their joy at seeing ‘him’ in person. Back inside that ordinary but elegant door, society members clicked the locks fast. I waited. I had time enough. 

Nearing lunchtime, I knew a most delicious smell would emanate from the kitchen. Freshly squeezed lemon indicated the mixing of pancake batter. A nod to Conan Doyle’s mastery

Aficionados will recall Sherlock using a crêpe to lift a shoe print. The Society’s chap would think  more longingly of lunch. I planned to act before that meal was served. 

I pressed the trigger while looking through the telescopic sight. The chink of glass falling and a buzz at his ear, would have him turn in puzzlement.  First mosquito of the season? Another second, and he would feel the hit of a bullet on his chest. As he fell backward, the thought came to me. ‘Challenge Accomplished.’ I broke the gun, threw it in the air, then happily watched as it fell behind bushes in the gardens below. 

The sirens grew near and I settled myself for discovery. As police boots thundered up to my roof perch, my self congratulation took a hit. Through 221B’s window, I stared, as the man, with not a mark on him, was being helped to his feet by a police constable.

Heavy hands on my shoulder, I succumbed to handcuffing and being taken back downstairs. Not a bit puzzled, I climbed into the police van. 

The Evening News was full of the attempt on Sherlock Holmes. This time, no Moriarty. This time, a disgruntled writer wanting notoriety. To be forever linked with murder on a Sherlock Holmes Day. The article going on to quote the chap hit by the bullet. ‘Thank goodness I decided to try on Sherlock’s first bullet proof vest.” 

Losers United!Dani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

I opened door number twenty-three and there he was, Dave, lying in a hospital bed, bloated up like a balloon. Every part of him visible was red and inflammed, the poor sod. When he saw me, he sat up.

“Bob! Good to see you! Come on in!”

After some hesitation, I took a chair next to the bed. “Dave, you look… you look… what the hell happened, Dave?”

“I tried out my new thing, Bob, my anti-mosquito t-shirt. Look!” He pointed over to the bedside cupboard and I saw a colourful promotional flyer with Dave splashed all over it wearing some strange t-shirt. Was this his latest ’get-rich-quick’ scheme?

“What’s that on the t-shirt, Dave?”

“That? That’s my own secret concoction of chemicals designed to repel and kill all mosquitos! It’s stuck together with pancake batter, which is both an excellent base and glue. And if I mix food dye in it, I can also get different coloured t-shirts! Ingenious, huh?”

I guess I didn’t jump up and down enough, because the next thing I knew, I was watching a video on his flashy new android phone. The camera was a bit shaky but there he was, standing next to a river. “Is that the Tisza, Dave?”

“Yep.”

People were walking by him quickly, holding their noses, basically running away.

“What are you doing?”

“Waiting for the first mosquito of the season. The Tisza’s always the first place they appear. I’ve got to start production of these t-shirts as soon as possible. I’m telling you, once they hit the shops, sales will be immense!” A baby in a pram started crying as it was pushed past briskly. “Oh, Bob, how did your thing go?”

Thing? The Winnie-the-Pooh Appreciation Society just had Pooh Day, celebrated across the world, and I was nominated as head of the county’s, yes, county’s happenings. I had the great idea of re-enacting ’The Heffalump’, seeing as Mavis the treasurer looked so good in the elephant costume. Of course, Hundred Acre Wood wasn’t available, so we had to find somewhere suitable. Getting permission didn’t work out, so we did a ’Flash Mob’ performance at the local garden centre. There wasn’t much of a turnout but it was great. And to Dave it was ‘a thing’?

“Well…”

“Listen!” There was a close up in the video.

“Remember this day, remember it well!” said the Dave in the video. “Wow, I feel like that guy, you know… Zepplin, testing the first bullet-proof vest.”

“Err, Dave, it was Zeglen, I think.”

“Whatever.”

Then the Dave in the video moved like he’d been hit, falling to the ground. The camera view dropped, showing only grass.

“Who… who is that woman screaming, Dave?”

“That’s me.”

“Oh.” I didn’t understand. Why was he in a good mood if it had failed? “What happened, the t-shirt didn’t work?”

“Of course it works!”

“So… what happened?”

“I got bitten by a tiny 3mm white crab spider. That’s what happened!”