The Iron Writer Challenge #147

dance hall

The Iron Writer Challenge #147

2016 Winter Solstice Challenge #5

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Richard Russell, D Lee Cox, Tina Biscuit, Ellen Attar, Laura Roberts

The Elements:

A Dance Hall

The first line of any song

The sound of the ocean in a Sea Shell

A Bet

It’s Not Dark Yet

Ellen Howard Attar

“The girl standing under the Norse Dance Hall sign”.

“She looks interesting. Have you met her before?”

“Yeah, I have. I’m going to see if she’ll still talk to me.”

She looked up and her smile slowly spread. “Shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day, it’s too hot to sleep, time’s running away”.

“Let me buy you a drink, or something to eat. It’s been far too long”.

She nodded and we took off down the street.

As we neared my place, I suggested we go in. She just smiled and asked if I still had my big brass bed.

I said I do, and I’m sorry she ever left it. I’ve had other women, but no one else ever compared.

The room was hot, but at least it was clean. She sat by the window with the conch shell to her ear. “Listening to the ocean reminds me of our place in the Keys. I thought we’d be there forever, living a perfect dream. You playing in our little shack, me cooking. I’ve never since found happiness or peace quite like that.”

I smiled at the memories she called forth, said I wished she’d never left. Told her I was hard to live with. Too young to understand the transcendent beauty of what we had. I said I believed we could get back there, if she’d just give me another chance.

She didn’t believe it was possible to return to the past. I said “why not”? If she’d just give me a chance, I’d prove her wrong. We placed a bet on it. If we could spend a night as good as our best, capturing the magic of our past, she would stay with me. I even promised we’d move back to the Keys.

She said she hoped there was something I could do or say, because she’d love to stop running away. She’d love me tonight, like she has every other. For her too, there was never another.

The pizza was delivered, we sat on the floor listening to Dylan, and drinking red wine. It was as if the years had never come between us, and I believed it could last forever. I swore I’d never leave her, and knew it was the truth. She just smiled and said her soul had turned to steel. She had scars that the sun had never healed. Then she smiled and said don’t worry, we’ve got some memories to relive.

I woke up with a smile, so happy to have my love by my side. I kissed the back of her neck and rushed out for beignets, ecstatic, believing in second chances and getting it right.

I got home thirty minutes later. She wrote me a letter and wrote it so kind. She put down in writing what was in her mind. We couldn’t go back there, not alone nor together.

I notice that the shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day. It’s too hot to sleep, time’s running away. The empty bottle falls from my hand, rolls under the bed, it’s not dark yet but it’s getting there.

A Little Ditty

Tina Biscuit

Jack slung his rucksack over one shoulder.

‘Come on, we’ll ask this guy.’

Diane followed him down the grassy slope to the harbour. There were two fishing boats tied to the sea wall. Jack was heading towards a small creel-boat. A man was repairing the outboard motor.

‘Nice morning, are you going out?’

The man wiped a greasy hand over his brow and turned.

‘Hoping to, once I’ve fixed this.’

‘What’s the problem?’

‘Oh, she’s been leaking petrol, had to come in to fix her.’

‘Have you room for a couple of passengers down to Mingulay?’

‘I’m not a tourist boat, I’ve got pots to check.’

‘Could you just drop us off for a few hours. We can help. We can pay you.’

Jack held out a twenty.

‘If she’s got one of those as well, you’ve got a deal.’

Diane nodded.

‘Come back in an hour, I’ll be ready then’, he said, turning back to his task.

By mid-day they were afloat. The sea was choppy, with a swell coming off the Atlantic. The boat stopped frequently. They watched as he hauled creels, checked them, and threw them back, leaving a trail of orange buoys. Diane was mesmerised; she started to sing:

‘I wish I was a fisherman, tumblin’ on the seas.’

‘Do you know any songs, Dave?’

‘Some’, he glanced at the tattoos on his arm, ‘you pull up the next one.’

Diane tugged at the rope. Jack watched. Dave sung:

‘Heel ya ho, boys, let her go, boys

Heave her head round to the weather

Heel ya ho, boys, let her go, boys

Sailing homeward to Mingulay.’

Soon, all three were singing while they hauled in the pots, to the rhythm of the shanty – all of them were empty.

After a few hours, steep cliffs loomed above them. They rounded the island, and a horseshoe beach beckoned. Dave dropped them off, agreeing to return in four hours.

‘How do we know he’ll come back?’

Jack held up a twenty-pound-note, ‘I bet you this that he will.’

‘He’ll probably need that to fix that leak.’

‘Still quite a smell of petrol.’

Jack pinched his nose.

She picked up a shell, and cradled it to her ear.

‘I can hear the ocean.’

‘That’s the sea’, Jack said, dryly.

‘Let’s go up to the cliffs, I want to see the ocean.’

The cliffs were over 1000 feet high. Jack crawled to the edge and looked out. Diane strolled up beside him, and spread her arms, imitating the fulmars flying – hovering in the up-draughts.

‘Look up here, I’m in heaven’, she shouted down at the world.

‘I can see Norway.’

‘It must be St. Kilda.’

‘Where’s Norway?’

‘200 miles that way’, Jack pointed.

‘How do you know?’

‘I’ve been there: I went clubbing, all night, at a place called “The Norse Hall”, traditional danc…’

An explosion echoed around the cliffs; the fulmars scattered. Diane squeezed his hand as they watched the tiny boat flare up, then sink, leaving only a puff of smoke. In seconds there was nothing. Orange buoys bobbed up to the surface; they hoped one would be Dave.

None was.

Lurleen – A Scene from Marie ClemLee Cox

D. Lee. Cox

William “Bill” Rogers Murray looked to his left to see nowhere, to his right to see nowhere in particular. There was nothing outside his window but dirt and there was never going to be anything but dirt. He’d bet against the odds and lost. The land was dead, his marriage was dead, and his will to still his spirit from spirits was gone. He had a single dollar, a can of peas, and a pig.

He spent the dollar on a bottle of whiskey. Listening to the wind whistle through the long gone chinking in the walls like an ocean from a seashell he gave up his sobriety and half the can of peas to the pig. He sang sea shanties to the pig. He cussed the pig. He went to kick the pig at one point then slipped on what was left of the peas, landing on the floor on his back looking up at the rafters. He watched as the light of the full moon cast on one particular rafter, flickering as a bit of the tin roof waved in the cool night’s dusty wind. He decided he’d sell the pig and buy a ticket to somewhere. Somewhere else.

In town Bill Murray sat in the shade of the general store porch. He desperately wanted a soda, and had the money to buy one, but his fear of not being able to leave this one horse town – the rest were sold at auction or died of thirst in cracked pastures, eyes caked with the only kind of mud to be found for thousands of miles – blood and dirt – the fear of not being able to leave got the better of him.

Tin music floated down the porch from The Norse Hall – a two-bit whore house posing as a dance hall.

“Heaven, I’m in heaven

And the cares that hung around me through the week

Seem to vanish like a gambler’s lucky streak

When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek”

Out the door tripped a thin bald man, buckling the belt over his slacks. Black suspenders on a black shirt, pastors collar flailing about in the man’s quick jesters to get his pants straight in a moot effort to save dignity.

“Melissa, please, you must listen to me,” the man implored, “there’s a place called Lurleen, we can go there! There’s honest work there. You won’t have to be a whore any more…”

She pushed him to the ground.

“Listen here, PASTOR Goodhope, you been comin’ here for two years and aint paid but a handful of times. I caint pay my debts with SALVATION…” – she said the word “salvation” with a combination growl and a powerful sarcasm – “… and I’m certain what you’ve paid me with is what we all threw in the hat on the occasional Sunday we attended, you little rat bastard weasel of a no-good…”

But her diatribe trailed off behind Bill Murray as he made his way to the train station.

Lurleen. What would it cost for him to make it to Lurleen?

Pain ReliefRichard Russell

Richard Russell 

Dave parked his car along the beach, turned off the engine, and sat looking out over the sand toward the sound of waves washing over the beach. It was another Saturday night, and he didn’t have nobody. Oh, he had some money ’cause he’d just got paid, but oh, how he wished he had someone to talk to. He was in an awful way. It had been five years since Maggie left. She wanted to live in the city and he preferred the country. He could still remember the argument they had that night on the beach. He poured his heart out describing how green acres was the place to be, and that farm living was the life for him. He loved to see the land spreading out so far and wide. Then he said it, “Maggie, “keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.” She had taken a step back and adopted this look of horror as she retorted, “New York is where I’d rather stay. I get allergic smelling hay.   I just adore a penthouse view.” Then she drew her line in the sand, “Darling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue.” Then she turned and walked away.

Dave got out of his car and walked out onto the beach. It was getting dark and the wind had a chill to it, but this was where he would come when he missed her. Staring out into the ocean he spoke, “Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk to you again.” Then he reached down and picked up a seashell. Pretending it was a phone he dialed Maggie’s number. “Wake up, Maggie, I think I got something to say to you.” He paused for a second then started again, “I heard you’re settled down; that you found a man, and you’re married now.” but the only response he heard was the vacant mimicking of the ocean waves. He turned and walked down the beach to the Norse Hall, where there was a dance tonight. In his pitiful loneliness, Dave knew he should be dancing, but the energy in him was drained. He sat on a bench outside the hall enjoying the party vicariously when a young woman approached him, “Once I was a boogie singer playing in a rock-n-roll band. I never had no problems running down the one-night-stands.” She touched his shoulder, “If you got a problem I don’t care what it is. If you need a hand I can assure you this, I can help.” Dave replied, “Have I a hope or half a chance to even ask if I could dance with you?” She smiled, “Any way you want it that’s the way you get it. Anyway you want it that’s the way you need it.” He smiled, “You make me feel like dancing.” She smiled, “I bet you want to dance the night away.”

Then she took his hand and they went into the hall and danced through the night as they held each other tight, and Dave didn’t think about Maggie once during all that time.

Love is a Burning ThingLaura Roberts

Laura Roberts

I heard Johnny Cash’s voice echoing down the street before I set foot inside the Norse Hall. Tonight it felt more like a curse than a blessing, despite the upbeat tempo. The kind of baptism you might receive from a demon, right before he plunged you headfirst into the River Styx.

My ears were ringing with the sound of the ocean hissing in the background, like pressing a seashell against my aching head. I paused on the threshold, watching the neon sign blinking in rhythm with the tune. Was I really going to do this?

I closed my eyes and breathed deep.

“Nervous?” came a female voice, just to my right.

“What?”

“I always get a little jittery before I go into one of these dances, myself,” she said. “I’m a big ‘fraidy-cat.”

The gorgeous creature confessing her fears to me was poetry in motion. Green eyes, softly curling red hair, and a body that I could easily picture on the dance floor… or somewhere a little more private.

“All you’ve got to do is move to the music, though, right?” she followed up.

I smiled and nodded.

“What’s your name, cowboy?” She’d noticed my scuffed boots.

“Shane.”

“Fitting,” she said, her face slipping into a crooked grin.

“Mind if I buy you a drink?” I asked, recovering my voice.

“Kate. I’d be much obliged,” she replied, tipping an imaginary hat.

I offered her my arm, and when she looped her thin limb around my elbow I had to suppress a shiver. It was the damndest thing. Whoever really believed in love at first sight, anyway?

We beelined for the bar, where a mustachioed bartender was flipping bottles like an extra from Cocktail.

“What’ll it be?”

I looked toward my companion, who bit her red lip, pondering for a moment, then announced “Whiskey. Neat.”

“I hadn’t pegged you for a whiskey gal,” I said, as the bartender poured the drink. I signaled for him to make it a double.

“I like to guess what the people I’m with would order,” she says with another crooked grin. “How’d I do?”

I hold up my glass and clink it against hers. “Skål.”

“Sláinte.”

I raised an eyebrow. “I thought this was the Norse Hall?”

“It’s Irish dancing tonight, cowboy.” She gave me a wink.

So much for my plan.

“Any advice?”

“Keep your hands to yourself, and try to keep up.” She threw back the whiskey, slammed the glass onto the bar, and disappeared into the crowd.

I drank my own shot of liquid courage, thinking.

“You know this bet don’t count unless you make physical contact, cowboy,” a male voice mocked from my left.

I dove into the crowd, ready to make the devil on my shoulder eat his words. Technically she’d already touched my arm. But I wasn’t one for technicalities.

I spotted her bouncing in time with a older man in a kilt, and immediately cut in on them. The older man looked surprised, but took in stride, grabbing the next young girl in the lineup.

She placed my hand on her waist as we turned to face one another. “It’s the Military Two Step, cowboy, not Riverdance.”

I followed her lead and did my best not to step on her toes. Her hand on my shoulder was lighter than a hummingbird, but still I knew I had this one in the bag. Even my clumsy dancing couldn’t stop me now.

When the music finally wound down and the dancing line of couples broke into applause, she leaned in and whispered “See you outside in five minutes.”

She exited the dance floor, and I headed to the bar for one last shot.

“Pay up,” I whispered to the shadow on my left.

#TIWC members, please vote here.

The Iron Writer Challenge #107

The Iron Writer Challenge #107

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements 

Challenge 106 Champion

Tina Biscuit

The Authors:

Kara Kahnke, Mamie Pound, Vance Rowe, Daniel J. Sanz, Ellen Howard Attar

Judging:

Each story is scored by a panel of Iron Writers

based on three categories:

(Grammar/Spelling, Use of Elements, Story Arc/Plot)

The popular vote is the tie breaker (SO VOTE!).

The Elements:

'Challenge 107 March 19, 2015<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
First Challenge for the 2015 Summer Open</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Writers please note: As I will be on vacation when the submissions need posting, please use Facebook to send your stories to me. I suspect it will be easier than trying to access my email on the road (long story, but accessing my email on my iPad is tortuous). </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Also, please comment or like this post so I know you have received the elements and will be participating. Thanks</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Writers: @[1375160699:2048:Kara Ann], @[1619662900:2048:Mamie Willoughby Pound], @[1370498536:2048:Vance Rowe] (again? Okay by me but two in a row?), @[697063044:2048:Daniel J. Sanz] and  @[1605463911:2048:Ellen Howard Attar].</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>@[100000792336166:2048:Ian] is handling the judges henceforth.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The elements:</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The Tiger Next Monastery (see image)<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
An imponderable question (such as, but not this one: Can God make a object too heavy for him to lift?)<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
A debutante<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
The person who cleans public restrooms'
The Tiger Next Monastery
An imponderable question (such as, but not this one:
Can God make a object too heavy for him to lift?)
A débutante
The person who cleans public restrooms

Go DeeperKara Ann

Kara Kahnke

Feed the mosquitoes with me,” he said.

Excuse me?” she said. “What do you mean?”

I mean I’m Buddhist. I believe even the tiniest creatures deserve love and attention, even the ones people find annoying. I don’t kill mosquitoes. I feed them.”

You’re crazy.”

What? Do you think you’re some kind of spoiled débutante parading around waiting for the world to adore her? You don’t have the time for someone or something worse off than yourself?”

Hey! That’s not fair. Yesterday, I gave a homeless guy money to buy a sandwich.”

I’m sorry. That true. I did see you do that. I’m just saying you can always go deeper with things. Buddhists believe there’s nothing too demeaning if it’s in the name of helping others. Didn’t I ever tell you that I had to take a job as a janitor to make ends meet once? Plunging a public toilet isn’t a classy job, but I did it. Come on. Go deeper with me.”

There was something intriguing about him. She had spent time watching his patient eyes in their Philosophy class, getting a mild headache trying to keep up with all of his deep thoughts. He was the type of guy who said things like, “If God were a piece of music, what would he sound like?” She didn’t even know how to begin with a question like that, but that’s why she liked him. Because he was deep. So, she agreed to go deeper.

#

It was a hot, sticky July day in Minnesota. He rented a row boat and took her to the lake at sunset. The mosquitoes descended immediately. A black cloud of hungry mouths pricked their soft, delicate skin with the precision of acupuncture needles. She put her arms around his neck to stop her natural impulse to swat them away. She paid attention to the ridge of his shoulder blades and ignored the pain.

They stayed until the last flash of sunlight faded from the clear water.

We should be getting back,” he said. It’s getting dark.”

Wait. Go deeper with me.” And she kissed him. It was just like she thought it would be. The way he kissed her made her feel like she was the most important living thing on the planet.

#

Now, he was gone. She had misheard him at first. “Tiger Next Monastery? Where’s that?”

No, Tiger Nest Monastery. It’s in Bhutan in South Asia. I’ve been studying more and more about Buddhism. I have to continue my path toward enlightenment. I want to live with the monks. I love you, but can you go deeper?

I can’t leave my family.”

I’m so sorry. I have to go.”

When will you be back?”

I have no idea.”

Please don’t leave me.”

I have to. I’m sorry.”

#

She went to the lake at sunset when she missed him. She sat in a boat without his shoulder blades to protect her, and she never swatted the mosquitoes away.

Skin of the Tiger

Ellen Howard Attar

As Gloria handed me a towel to dab my lipstick, I asked “why do you work here? These people are horrid and condescending. Don’t my parents pay you enough for cleaning their house each week to keep you from scrubbing toilets at the country club?”

“I’m doin’ a little extra, saving up money to help Jason go to medical school.”

“Gloria, you know he wants to be a writer.”

“Your dad sent that boy to Harvard because he’s brilliant. I ain’t gonna waste his money by letting him wait tables an’ write stories. “

At the table, Tommy asked “why are all the waiters black?”

Father explained, “it’s just another of life’s imponderable questions. It’s impossible to know what motivates people. Some become bankers, some wash dishes. Wouldn’t it be presumptuous for us to question such life decisions? ”

I ordered another Sazerac by simply raising my left eyebrow towards Jason, who was waiting tables.

“I’m going to the Himalayan Mountains next week”.

Mother choked on her chardonnay. “You’ve only been through three months of your debut; the season lasts all year. We’ve got hundreds of parties lined up; we’ve had all those dresses made.

“I’ve had enough conversations about fishing, hunting and football to last a life time. Sorry, mother, but I’m done. “

“We know you broke your trust three years ago. Living in New York undoubtedly decimated the last of your funds. You won’t get another cent from us until your wedding day!”

“World economics and marketplace analytics are still fascinating. After one semester, I had the sense to use my own money, and quadrupled my investment. I continue to invest and don’t foresee any financial difficulties in my lifetime.”

“As he came closer, I could hear his loud purring and the thudding of my own heart. He gently took the meat from my hand, and when finished, he lay in the warm sunlight cleaning his paws. ’Take me away’ I whispered. He looked into my eyes, asking ‘where do you want to go’. I answered ‘far, far, away, where no one can find me; where I can be free to live my own life; to think my own thoughts; to speak my mind freely’. He nudged me gently. I rubbed his head and scratched his ears. I slowly crept onto his back. He got up and stretched. I wrapped my arms around his neck. He started running. Faster and faster he went, until the trees were blurring by, the wind was roaring past my ears, water running from my eyes. I felt free, unafraid. I nestled my head into his soft fur as he leapt into the air, and we flew far away. “

Tommy rolled towards me, “where did the tiger take you Emmy?”

“A beautiful monastery perched on the side of a mountain. Soon, I will go back. When you’re older you can visit me. Don’t forget the Tiger Nest Monastery. Now go to bed, sweet darling.”

The next morning, Emmy and Jason were both gone. No one listened to Tommy as he explained that they were in the Tiger Next Monastery.

Tootsie-Roll Pops and AzaleasMamie Pound

Mamie Pound

The woman dunked the mop in a plastic bucket.

In wide swoops, she moved the suds from one corner of the bathroom to the other, stopping short of the stalls.

“Is there a wedding here today?” A woman opened the bathroom door and asked, breathless.

“Down in the Big Top,” the cleaning lady replied.

“Thanks!” The woman yelled and ran down the hall, sandals clacking.

Dirty water squeezed from the mop. She shook her head,“Who would’ve guessed, a circus in the old Monastery, and now a wedding?”

The Strong Man and the Ballerina were to be married under the Big Top. The bride rode in on an African elephant, wearing a spangled pink leotard and white tights, carrying a bouquet of Tootsie Roll Pops and watermelon-pink azaleas. An enormous plume of white Ostrich feathers crowned her crayon-yellow curls.

The groom walked the tightrope. After an impressive summersault, he landed just to her left, a red plastic boutonniere stuck in the button hole of his lapel.

He lifted a hand to the tiny, beautiful dancer. She slid off the elephant’s trunk and joined him center stage. A pair of clowns and the Shortest Man on Earth played ukulele, classical guitar and harmonica, first performing a Beatles melody, then the wedding march, then another tune by Leonard Cohen.

“Larry!” A woman’s voice yelled from outside the tent. The musicians paused mid-song.

The lion raised his fur. The bride looked at her groom and Larry shrugged his shoulders, nodded for the band to carry on.

A gunshot pinged against something metal. “I’m warning you, Larry,” the woman yelled.

Larry, who was now called Steven the Amazing, unhooked his bride’s arm from his own and held up a finger to say, “I’ll be right back.” He strode out of the tent into the late afternoon sun. His red tuxedo jacket flapped behind him, creating a wake of ruffling faux-silk and dust.

The crowd was silent.

The bride shifted her weight from one ballet slipper to the other. Her silver sequins catching the spotlight with every movement, flashing like a million tiny polaroids, welding-torch, burn-out-your-retinas bright. But the crowd could not look away.

She was after all, a star.

Loretta knew who was out there. The thought of the debutante ex-girlfriend in the parking lot, crying to her almost-husband, made her bite into one of her petal pink fingernails.

People started to whisper.

Larry was shouting now. The debutante yelled back.

The lion paced.

But Loretta wasn’t scared. She had known it was dangerous, leaving her job at the bookstore to join the circus, then stealing another woman’s man.

It hadn’t been her intention.

The circus just happened to be there. And so did Larry.

It wasn’t her fault about the flat tire, or the fact that he’d wanted to help, offered to show her the way to Arab, Alabama, to the old Monastery. He’d laughed when she’d told him she was joining the circus.

But somewhere between the flat tire and the Alabama state line, Larry fell in love.

The JudgeDaniel J. Sanz

Daniel J. Sanz

The gunshot echoed, shattering the night as the weapon discharged. Derek was upon the attacker, redirecting the firearm and shoving him back against the graffiti choked wall. Behind the obscurity of the dumpster, tucked neatly between concrete and glass giants, the struggle continued.

The man fought for control of the weapon but a crack across the jaw impeded the effort. Derek disarmed him and flung him to the pavement.

Derek looked down at the young woman, scantily clad and shaken from the ambush. So naïve. These young, upper-class girls were so preoccupied with social statuses that these “débutantes” often neglected their own safety. Walking alone in this city they were prey among predators.

Next door, bass percussion of Club Tiger Nest rattled the alley. Constructed in the likeness of a Himalayan Buddhist Monastery, laced with neon and cheesy retro motifs, this establishment was no doubt the source of the young woman’s misadventures.

The thug charged again. Derek greeted him with a knee to the manhood and cast him down again. Brushing off his black overcoat and adjusting his flat cap to keep the shadow over his eyes, Derek peered down disdainfully. Trash.

Derek spent thankless days sweeping garbage and scraping away filth in the public bathrooms down at Festival Square. However, hitting the streets after work was where he would find the real dirt.

He offered a hand to the fallen maiden but her sudden white complexion told him the thug had recovered quicker than expected. He whirled around in time to divert the barrel away from his face. In an array of sparks and thunder the bullet exploded against the dumpster. Derek delivered a boot thrust to the knee, buckling it sideways and stripping the handgun away. He brought the metal grip down upon his attacker’s exploding nose. The man collapsed with hands up, choking on blood.

Derek coldly pointed the weapon at panicked eyes. What difference could I make here? The scum was no different than the crap he chiseled every day. Getting rid of it only to have it return again.

This man is a seasoned criminal, he justified to himself. She is probably not his first victim, but I can make her his last. Derek stepped over his bulk and pressed the barrel into his forehead, prompting a futile protest of coughs and sputters.

Perhaps by killing him, I save five others? Ten?

He tightened his grasp on the weapon. Do I have a right to judge this man and condemn him in an unspeakable act? Is permanent justice worth the cost of morality?

His hand trembled and the thought became too impossible to ponder. Snapping himself from his trance he chucked the gun into the dumpster as red and blue danced down the avenue. He turned away from the defeated man. I’m not you.

Sirens wailed as they approached and Derek scaled the wall at the rear of the alley. The question burned inside him but he knew his answer. He’d do what he always did. I’ll just come back and clean it up again tomorrow.

An Imponderable Bathroom

Vance Rowe

Jim works in a large hotel as a janitor. It is usually his job to make sure that the floors are swept and mopped, carpeted areas are vacuumed and all of the public rest rooms are cleaned. Today was especially important as there is going to be a débutante ball in one of the ballrooms tonight so he was purposefully assigned to make sure the rest rooms are all kept clean before, during and after the event. Other janitors were assigned to floors details and trash details as well. Jim hated cleaning the rest rooms because they were usually nasty and filthy but it was quieter in the rest rooms and this meant that he could think. While Jim was cleaning a rest room, he thought about the débutante ball tonight and how it would be nice if he could marry a débutante because they come from “upper society” and upper society means money. If he could marry into money, then he would no longer have to clean rest rooms. During the cotillion that night, Jim was in awe of all the beautiful young ladies that were there dressed in all their finery and each one looked like a princess to him. He watched them being paraded around the ballroom and then watched them dance with potential beaus and he grew jealous. He was thinking of the grandeur of it all, as he cleaned a ladies’ rest room. Then one of the débutante’s walked in and was surprised to see him in there. They struck up a conversation and after a few minutes, Jim asked her if she would date him. She wanted nothing to do with him but gave him one chance, “If you can answer this question, then I will date you.” Jim replied, “Okay, lay it on me.” The young lady smiled and asked, “Why is a delivery by car called a shipment and a delivery by ship called cargo?” “Oh no, not an imponderable question,” he thought to himself, The young lady wrote down her phone number and handed it to him and said, “Call me when you have the answer.” Jim knew he would not easily find the answer and didn’t really know about how to find it out and then it hit him. He knew where to find the answer. The next morning, he grabbed a flight to Bhutan and then proceeded the trek up to the Tiger Nest monastery. He knew the Buddhist monks would have the answer. He was excited because he was done cleaning rest rooms now. Nothing but a life of luxury and leisure was ahead of him. Jim entered one of the temples and found a monk and asked him the question. The monk seemed puzzled and finally he told Jim to follow him. They walked to the main shrine where the head Lama resides and was told to ask him the question. When Jim asked him the question, the head Lama thought about it for a minute and left the room. Soon he returned with a mop and said, “Clean our restrooms and the answer will come to you.”