The Iron Writer Challenge #199 – 2017 Summer Equinox Challenge #5

The Iron Writer Challenge #199

 2017 Summer Equinox Challenge #5

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Vance Rowe, Elaine Johnson, Emma Crowley and Bethany Totten, Bertram  Allan Mullin

(Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.)

The Elements:

Gov’t processed cheese.

Coffee Grounds

Ice cream

Wealth

Think It

She dipped into her banana split, tapped the spoon so the hot fudge wouldn’t drip, flicked the tiniest bit of dazzling white whipped cream over the nuts, and paused with the spoon mid-air. “Did you know that the government issued cheese for those in need?”

He sniffed the coffee beans, nodded, set the machine to fine, and started the noise. After a moment, he dumped the grounds into the coffee maker and got the thing started. “You mean now or back in the day?”

“I’m sure they do it now, but in 1954,” she was quoting her cell phone, “government cheese was issued in a brown wrapper.”

He sat back from the granite counter in their new McMansion and studied the pool reflecting just inside their backyard, right next to the cabana and hot tub. “Cheese is cheese, if you get hungry enough.”

She finished the last of the delicacy and settled the glass container in the sink. The party would start in an hour or so, so she added some Brie and Gouda and Provolone to the groaning platter of fruits and muffins, and stuck in back in the cooler. “Hard to argue with that. It stinks to be poor.“

The coffee maker was just about done. He pulled his favorite mug, the one that said, “Wealth Starts Here”, added just the right amount of hazelnut flavoring, and moved back to his office. She hardly saw him anymore, and after this contract was signed, he had two more clients waiting.  She stared at the pristine granite counter, at the caterer scurrying around, and strolled through the place one more time to check that the decor matched the image she’d tried so hard to cultivate.

They went to that conference last year, the one that permeated all their plans. It was why they were in this house in this part of town.  “You have to imagine your goals if you want to achieve them.” That was one motto from the first speaker. “If you think it, you can have it” was another.  They needed to cultivate the Right Mindset, so the last speaker insisted.  So here they were, in a magnificent house with vaulted ceilings, far from their friends and family, but in the right side of town, with just the right decor. Their first party would be a magnificent celebration of what they were; of where they were going.  She’d eaten a minimal breakfast and lunch to splurge on that banana split so she’d be happy and sated during the party. She wasn’t sure who half the people were, but they certainly expected to eat well. She studied the groaning covered plates on the serving table. That website kept haunting her.  Imagine eating government issued cheese.  Imagine being that poor.  She shook her head.  What you think might come true. She needed to think prosperity and wealth. She studied the pristine golf course and smiled.  Just think it to make it happen.  Wealth was coming. She knew.

WARNING: THIS STORY HAS RACIAL SLURS AND OTHER “COLORFUL” LANGUAGE!

Monopoly in the Hood

“You ‘bout to be bankrupt Tariq,” Big T said to his friend with a laugh.

“She-e-e-e-t nigga, you talkin’ crazy. I’m gettin’ mines. I got dem houses on the BW, man.”

“Yeah but you fittin’ to lose that shit too though.”

“Big T, man, you smokin’ that rock? I’m ‘bout to get my wealth on. As soon as you niggas start landing on that shit, you all done. It will be back to eating dat gov’ment cheese for alla y’all. Yo Luke, roll the damn dice man. It’s your turn, nigga.”

Luke rolled. Landing on a Chance card spot, he picked it up and read it, “Advance token to…shit.”

“Yeah, bitch. I tol’ you. Put that shit right on thereon Boardwalk and gimme my fo’teen hunnit dollars.”

Luke counted out the money and handed it to Tariq and Tariq said, “Now Imma put a hotel on that bitch and alla y’all goin’ to pay me.”

“Tariq, dat’s about all da money you gots. You better not be blowing that cheddar so soon.”

“Yo Cheezy, tell your moms that and mind yo’ bidness. You goin’ to be turnin’ dat corner up there on your next roll and will be comin’ down here to pay me too. Only you will forking over 2 G’s when you do,” Tariq laughed and picked up the dice. He landed on the “Go to Jail” spot.

“Here are some words you will be getting’ used to, Tariq. Go to jail, bitch,” Big T said with a laugh.

“Yo T, you want me to say hi to your pops while I’m there?” Tariq laughed in reply.

The three boys laughed at Big T’s expense and he said, “Dat’s okay. You all goin’ to be bankrupt soon and will have to use dem old coffee grounds over and over.”

Big T’s grandmother called out to him and asked, “Tulane? Do you and your friends want some ice cream?”

The three other boys looked at each other and in unison asked, “Tulane?”

They laughed and T pointed at them with an angry look on his face. Then he shouted, “No Gramma. Nobody wants ice cream.”

“I want some ice cream,” Tariq said with a smile.

“Nigga shut up. We ain’t got no ice cream. Gramma’s a little crazy in her old age. And alla y’all keep on calling me T. If I hear my name being mentioned by any y’all, I will bust a cap in yo’ asses. You feel me? Now, someone roll the damn dice.”

“It’s your turn Tul…er…T,” Tariq said with a chuckle.

T growled a bit, picked up the dice and rolled them.

“Boardwalk, bitch. Pay me.” Tariq said with a laugh.

Angered by being picked on a little too much, Big T said, “Know what? Alla y’all niggas need to get up from my crib. Take ya narra asses home.”

T flipped the game board and stormed out of his room.

“Geez, what’s eatin’ him?” Luke asked.

“He’s mad because he lost his money and has to wait for the truck to deliver his gov’ment cheese now,” Tariq said.

The three boys laughed and left Big T’s house.

The Barrel

No one wanted to approach the barrel now. Instead they leave it alone in the center of the darkened bunker, watching with bated breath as a cloudy white liquid began to creep across the ground. My heart still pounds as I kneel next to Meecah. In the crowded room, he was the only one npt watching the barrel; instead he stared down at his shaking fingers.

He had been the only person brave enough to approach the barrel after the search team had brought it underground. We had been waiting eagerly; every so often they’d return with arms full of food, but today, they dragged in a metal barrel, something that they had proudly stolen from a rebel convoy. The rest of the underground colony did not see the barrel as a sign of wealth as the search team did; to us it was nothing more than another three days of eating only government processed cheese. Nothing more than a disappointment

Until they opened it, that is.

Few brave souls dared to approach it after the lid was removed; Meecah one of them. He traded his swagger for cautions steps as he neared the barrel, hand pressed over his mouth and nose.

“It’s filled with white stuff,” his shout echoed around the packed bunker. Slowly he reaches a hand out over the open barrel, drawing a collective gasp from the room.

“Don’t touch it Meecah! It’s not worth it!”

Voices filled the air as Meecah’s hand begins to shake over the barrel. I pushed my way to the front of the crowd, getting a glimpse of the fear in his face. He lowered his hand into the barrel.

He let out a blood curdling scream as soon as his skin touched the white substance inside. Meecah dropped to the ground before me, letting out a wail as he curled his body around his hand. Screams echoed in my ears as the room erupts into chaos.

I force Meecah’s hand open and squint down at his shaking fingers.

“It burned me,” he whimpers, “I just brushed against it, and it burned me!”

I turn his hand over. His fingers are pristine. There’s no sign of a bruise, a burn, anything–

“What is going on here?” The whole room turns as Janice, the bunker’s oldest survivor, wanders into the room.

“Nothing, Janice, just a strange find from the search team,” I reach up to grab the sleeve of her nightdress, but somehow she slips away, leaving only the bitter scent of coffee grounds behind her.

Twist around, I stare into the crowd. Why is nobody stopping her?

A shout startles me, but it’s not full of pain–

Janice is laughing.

“It’s ice cream! I haven’t felt anything this cold in decades!” She scoops it from the barrel onto her shaking fingers. “Hurry, before it melts!”

Soon it’s my turn to scoop from the barrel, the feeling is incredible. The strange liquid fills my body with the most delightful chills.

Janice laughs as she watches us eat..

“One would think you have never been cold before!”

I glance at Meecah; as children of the apocalypse, we hadn’t.

Two Differences from Japan and America

Before moving to Japan, I noticed a problem with wealth in America. Not to say everyone’s rich. There were poor snobs. This created a big problem in the service industry: employees believed because they got paid little they could say whatever they wanted and get away with their behavior because rich owners were afraid to fire and get sued.

I had lived with my dad, who was sick with diabetes. He needed someone around. I’d spend several hours at night working on my novels and helping him. Sometimes I spent days without sleep. Often this would take me to Starbucks.

Better than sugary ice cream.

Obviously sleep wasn’t an option during the daytime because I had good ideas to be written and deleted during edits. Plus, there was no point in sleeping throughout the day.

An afternoon like any other, I walked into Starbucks nearby. The smell of the coffee grounds alone were enough to give me a slight jolt. Yet, I was pretty much a zombie to the world.

The girl at the counter asked for my order outright, not very welcoming.

No big deal.

Figured she was living off government processed cheese and whatnot. Decided to be nice and feigned my best smile to cheer her up, which was actually an exhausted line.

She grimaced. “What would you like to order, sir?”

“Caramel macchiato. Large.”

“Um, did you mean venti?” she asked with a judgmental undertone. I understood. Grande meant large and the former equaled twenty ounces in Italian. She likely assumed I didn’t see that movie too.

Venti.”

She sighed to imply I did something wrong. “Anything else, sir?”

“That’s all.” I could have said, “Thank you.”

Nope.

People should earn such words. I still felt bad for her. She had to deal with tired assholes such as myself all day and I’d bet worked a double-shift tonight. So I tossed my change in the tip jar.

While I walked out, she yelled, “Good luck with that attitude—” in Texas, the equivalent of: “Go fuck yourself.”

I almost turned, said something.

My decision was to leave with my beverage in hand, pretend to not hear. What bothered me most was I tipped. 

The situation could have ended there. Instead, the thought of whether to call her boss and district manager juggled in my mind for the day. My concern was the stuck up employee would speak this way to another customer. “Do you realize baristas like her hurt your business?” Had to be said.

To my reluctance the district manager convinced me to have them send two free drinks my way. I received a formal apology from the company. Gave the freebies to my dad before moving to Japan.

When I walked into a Starbucks there tired out of my mind, the cashier’s joyful smile makes me forget any of my troubles each time. Moreover, there’s usually a happy face, and “Thank you,” with a cute cartoon drawn on my cup. I love the customer service where I live now. Another difference is Japan uses real cheese, not government processed junk.

Trash

The house had certainly seen better days.  The paint was chipping and starting to peel, the shingles were starting to fall off the roof, and the plants were over grown and dying.

Of course the inside was far worse.  Piles of old newspapers and unwashed clothes were piled ceiling-high in nearly every room of the small three bedroom house, leaving only enough room for a tiny walkway throughout.  Old food wrappers, some several years old, take out containers, unopened mail, and various books and magazines dotted the area as well.  To be blunt, it looked like a landfill.  No sane person would ever dare go inside let alone live there.

Yet, it was someone’s home, least it had been.  The former inhabitant was now sadly deceased; years of smoking coupled with undiagnosed cancer had taken their toll and unfortunately caused their end.  While the death was expected, the details weren’t as easy to deal with.  The bulk of it was finished yet the worse remained, cleaning out the house.  The one thing the family was dreading.

“I can’t believe she lived like this,” Margo commented as she walked through the house followed by her husband Craig and her nephew, Daniel.

Craig grimly nodded in agreement.

The trio made their way into the kitchen.  Suddenly, the smell of rotting food hit them.  Margo and Craig covered their noses while Daniel hurried out of the house.  He sat down on the front steps and rested his head in his hands.  He was beside himself that his mother lived like that.  Hells, he was beside himself anyone could live like that.

He had hoped that his mother would have tried to get her hoard somewhat under control years ago when Daniel went to live with his aunt and uncle but she seemed to get worse, especially mentally.  She had started to get paranoid and was convinced she was being spied on by the government, first by them going through her garbage then with her food.

“I don’t want that darn government food,” Janet, Daniel’s mother, used to say.  “They spy on you with that processed cheese.  That’s how they know what you’re thinking.”
Daniel had been beside himself with what to do with her the last years of her life.  He had tried to get her house cleaned up somewhat before he went off to college but she fought him every step of the way.  He eventually gave up, secretly hoping she would do it on her own but she got sick before that happened and now, well, she was gone.

Margo came out and sat next to Daniel, placing her hand on his shoulder.  “You want to come back tomorrow and try again?” she asked.

Daniel shook his head.  “No, let’s just get it over with.”

He stood up and went back inside.  Before long, they had managed to get one room somewhat cleaned, throwing out a pile of trash.  Including some darn government processed cheese.

Beer and Cheese

Bud Hankins sat down at the bar with a heavy sigh and ordered a beer. “Hey, Dave! Lager!” Dave smiled and replied, “Bud, you already owe me. I told you you don’t get served here until you pay your tab!” Bud’s shoulders dropped as a frown spread across his face. “Aw, come on, Dave, you know I’m good for it.” Dave rolled his eyes, “Yeah, right. I know your game. Now pay up, or shut up. You can sit here as long as you like. I ain’t gonna throw you out, but all you’re gonna get to drink is water; all you want.” Bud looked down at the floor to avoid eye contact and seemed to retreat into a little pity party. Without looking up he moaned, “Dang it! I wish I were rich. Dave, how come I ain’t rich? I meet all kinds of rich people. I know there’s plenty of money out there. How come I ain’t got any of it?”

Dave smiled as he wiped the counter with a damp cloth. “Bud, you ain’t got any money ‘cuz you come in here and drink it all. You ain’t looking far enough down the road.”

Bud looked confused. “What?”

Dave went on, “Besides, you don’t wanna be rich, Bud. You wanna be wealthy.”

Bud looked puzzled.

Dave continued, “ See, rich people have money, but they have expenses, too. They can’t stop working because all that money they have will get used up too soon, and they’ll be broke. But if you were wealthy, you could live a long time on the money that comes in without you working.”

Bud squinted in confusion.

“Let’s say you owned a $1000 of ice cream. Would you think you were wealthy?” “Yeah, I could sell it all and make a lot of money.”

“But could you sell it all before it melted?”

“Well, no.”

“Okay, then you’d have to go right back to work, so that’s not wealth. What if you owned $1000 of Coffee grounds? That stuff is useful to a lot of people.”

Bud smiled, “And it doesn’t go bad nearly as fast as ice cream.”

“Yes, Bud, but you’d still have to keep going out to collect more, and the supply could become short.” “So … that’s not wealth either?”

“No, you’re still having to work in order to keep up your standard of living. But what if you owned all the surplus government processed cheese in the world? That stuff lasts forever.”

“I’d get old and die before I sold all of it.”

“And you’d get someone else to sell it for you, so you don’t have to work. Now that’s wealth.”

“But, Dave, I still wouldn’t have piles of cash sitting around, just piles of cheese.”

“Probably not. You wouldn’t be rich, but you’d be wealthy; you could live pretty well and not have to work.”

Bud smiled, “Hey, Dave?”

“Yeah.”

“Where can I find me some of that cheese?”

“Not in here, Bud. Not in here.”

The Iron Writer Challenge #198 – 2017 Summer Equinox Challenge #4

The Iron Writer Challenge #198

 2017 Summer Equinox Challenge #4

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.

The Elements:

A Studebaker

A near miss fatal accident a character missed

Begins with “My real name is _____ and I am here to _______.”

End with: “How can I live without you?”

Untitled

Elaine Johnson

“My real name is Sarah Smith and I’m a federal agent.   I’m here to get you and your family out.   We have to hurry.”  

Marianna pushed past Hannah’s gaping face and strode into the room.    “They’re on to you.  If you agree to testify, we can get you into the Witness Protection program.   It’s your only chance.  We have about half an hour to get your family packed up and out of here.”   

Hannah was saved from having to answer by her cell phone.     

“Babe, you’ll never guess what?”   Jon’s voice crackled, “I found a Studebaker!   It’s for sale.”  He rushed on, “We only get one chance at life, Babe.  What are the odds?  I can’t believe I was just telling you that this was my dream car and here it is!   We have to get this.”   

She pressed her pounding forehead and croaked, “I thought you were taking the children to the doctor.”    

“Well, I did.   Both kids have the same flu as you.”   His voice got quieter, “We got side-swiped on the way to the pharmacy.”   

“What?”   Behind, her, Marianna, or whatever the agent’s name was, was making frantic gestures.    Hannah turned her back, “Are you OK?”  

“It was a near miss.  They were coming straight at us.  It was a head-on collision or going off the side of a bridge.   I’ve never seen anyone drive like that.  ”     

The thumping in her head was getting louder and louder, “What did you do?”   

“I slammed on brakes.   We skidded into the next lane and just missed a semi.”   

“Are you OK?    Are the kids hurt?”   

He must be shoving his hand through his hair, “We’re fine.    The car though.  It’s going to be expensive to get it fixed.   You know, the jerks who caused this didn’t even offer to help.”  He was getting angry, “There were three of them.  Big tough guys. They got out of their Benz and came towards us, but they stopped when everyone got out to help.”      

Hannah’s heart went cold.     

Jon went on, “They didn’t trade insurance information or wait for the police or anything. They just left.”   

“Where are you?”

He came back to life, “We’re at the automotive place.”  His voice changed, “And guess what?  They have a Studebaker!  It’s a sign, right?  We almost died on that bridge and here’s my dream car, fully restored.  We’ve got to get this.  It’s meant to be.” 

She fumbled for the mute button.   The agent was hissing something.   “Hannah, we’ve got to evacuate you.  Now!”    

“Listen Jon.  Umm.  I’ll be there in just a minute.”  

The agent snatched the phone from her hand, “This isn’t a secure line.”    She made a visible effort to relax, “Hannah, you’re the danger.  Nobody’s after them.  They’re better off if you just leave.” 

“Hello?  Hannah?  Did we get cut off?”   

She stared at the phone, “Jon, I love you.”  

“Well, me too.  Is that a yes?”

“How can I live without you?”

The Iron Writer Challenge #196 2017 Summer Equinox Challenge #2

The Iron Writer Challenge #196

 2017 Summer Equinox Challenge #2

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.

The Elements:

Remember by Nilsson

A scorched map

A white lace handkerchief

Jasmine

Picture Perfect

Lady Eleanor seemed faintly amused at my tirade of angry words and curses. 

We were five weeks into our expedition, five weeks of hacking and slicing our way through dense tropical jungle. I had discovered the map quite by accident, while researching the location of ancient Atlantis. Beyond any doubt the artifact was authentic. It pointed the way to a hidden valley that contained the tombs of many Aztec kings and holy men.

Despite my better judgement, I had agreed to allow her ladyship to accompany me on my quest. I had little choice. After all, she was providing the finances for the journey up the Amazon, first by dugout canoe and then on foot through the rain forest.

Now I  was paying for my foolishness. Not five minutes ago Lady Eleanor had held the precious parchment in her delicate, white lace gloved hands. moment’s later it was aflame in the camp fire. I tried in vain to rescue it, burning both of my hands in the process. Now I held all that remained, a scorched, ruined, illegible piece of scrap.

I was beyond angry. I was incensed. Despite my cursing and roaring, Lady Eleanor just smiled, as if her carelessness was of no consequence.

“My dear James, whatever’s the matter? she said. “It’s only a piece of parchment, after all. It’s of no real value.”

Despite the sweet, calming scent of wild jasmine growing all around the camp, her words only acted to increase my rage.

“No value… No value? Ma’am, without it, we are lost. All is for nothing. We may decamp and begin the long trek home.”

She responded to my outburst with an even wider smile.

“Remember is a place from long ago. Remember, filled with everything you know” she said, with a mischievous glint in her dark eyes. “Remember, I have a picture perfect memory, James. Tomorrow, I promise you, I will lead you to your long lost valley.”

Lady Eleanor’s words did little to calm me. After a restless night twisting and turning in my cot, I awoke to the smell of fresh coffee mingling with the scent of the jungle and the sounds of wildlife all around. Monkeys screeched and birds chirped in response to the roar of some wild cat. 

My mind told me to pack up and return to civilisation. My gut told me to follow the instincts of my beautiful companion. My gut won the argument. Soon, I was once again hacking my way through steaming jungle, swatting away voracious insects, determined to have me for breakfast.

We followed an incline, that grew steeper with every step, until after several hours we climbed onto the summit of a majestic peak. Through breaks in the low cloud that swirled around us, I cast my eyes down to a lush valley, nestled between mountain ranges.

My Lady had been true to her word. The valley was home to terrace after terrace of striking pyramids, resplendent palaces and mighty ramparts. An entire city lay below my feet. Undisturbed for centuries, it now beckoned to me. Remember, remember, life is but a dream.

Memory

Brakes squealed in protest as the big rig rattled and jerked to a stop. The headlights cascaded flares across her vision. She took the white laced handkerchief she had used to flag the vessel down and cupped it over her mouth, gagging from the diesel exhaust. The door opened and she was greeted by the beaming smile of a scruffy 60-something year old man with yellow teeth. 

She stepped back, eyeing the monstrous vehicle. She looked down the winding road that curved and disappeared into the gullet of the night.

“I’m sorry,” she squeaked, “I’ll take the next one.”

The man bellowed heartily. “Ain’t no one going to be coming down this road till morning sweetheart. It wouldn’t be right to leave you out here. I ain’t gonna hurt you.”

She hesitated at the door of the rumbling rig. Her gut told her he was telling the truth, but it didn’t really matter if he wasn’t.

She climbed onto the torn vinyl seat and she almost preferred the diesel to the smoke-laced musky scent of the cab.  He extinguished another cigarette against the roadmap on the dashboard and turned on the radio. Remember by Harry Nilson played softly.

“Martin.” He offered.

“J….Jasmine,” She responded.

“Where to Jasmine?”

“Hamilton Station,” she whispered.

His lips pursed. “Only cause people have to go to Hamilton Station is fer the train or to toss ‘emselves off the bridge. And the train stopped running an hour ago.”

She sat and fidgeted with her handkerchief. 

After a moment of awkward silence, Martin turned the radio up and sang along.

Remember, life is just a memory…” 

“You don’t know how hard I’ve had it,” She said

“I ain’t judging, though I’d be happy to drop ya anywhere else Miss.”

“No.”

The rest of the drive was silent until they reached Hamilton station. The station itself dark except for one porchlight. Across from it, the steel bridge that crossed the river. The truck hissed to a stop, and she tried to open the rusty door. Martin hobbled out of his seat, bones crackling and his frame swaying as he came around and opened her door. He watched her step out and walk over to the railing.

He hobbled over to her. “Train’ll be by in a few hours if you change yer mind.”

She didn’t answer.

“No? Ok. Just be sure to veer left. There’s a buncha rocks straight below. You’ll shatter yer legs and lay there a day before you die. Trust me.”

Appalled, she looked up. He took his fist and knocked on his knee, which crackled and rocked as if there was no weight on it. Martin bellowed out a laugh and vanished into the air. Stunned, Jasmine turned to find the truck gone as well. She gasped, released her handkerchief and watched it drift down into the belly of the darkness below.

She trembled, and stood motionless in the silent night for a moment, before running over to the station. Martin’s voice rang out into the night “Remember… close your eyes and you can see, 

Remember, think of all that life can be…”

Map in a Bottle

“Jasmine for Jasmine! It’s definitely meant for me!” she chuckled, before noticing the paper protruding from the fragrance-cap. “That’s a funny thing to be inside a perfume bottle.” 

The rustling of paper unfolding, got his attention.

“We have to follow it!” she said, without looking up. 

“No way,” he said, moving beside her, glancing at the opened map. “Some things are better left alone!” He pointed to the warning inscription: Follow at your own risk. One never knows what one may find…

“Don’t be silly, scaredy-cat, don’t you wanna know what treasures lie in wait?”

“Give it a rest,” Drake said, “we’re not going on another adventure, Jasmine.”

She was always getting into some sort of trouble whenever she ventured out to satisfy her curiosity, and she usually took him with her. He wasn’t falling for it again.

Hours later, they were packed and ready to leave on the new mission. Her glowing face was all it took for him to give-in to the madness, and he secretly thrived on the thrills of their little escapades, but he wasn’t going to tell her that. However, this time things seemed a little weird. He thought back to the warning on the withered map and how convenient it was, that Jasmine had been the one to purchase the Jasmine-scented bottle. Was it really meant for her? And what of the shopkeeper? 

“Ah Jasmine!” he had exclaimed as they entered the shop. They were startled as he handed her the fragrance from the shelf. “For you,” he said. 

Shrugging of any doubts, Drake grinned as he climbed into the running cab.
“About time!” she teased.

*****

He couldn’t bring himself to mourn at the funeral. Because, she was still alive and well in his heart. He would not accept her death. Not yet.

They said it had been a hydraulic-oil leak. But Drake had known otherwise and he knew that she had seen it too – an exact replica of Jasmine herself, standing in a bloodied dress, on that highway and reaching out towards the car!

Jasmine tried to stop the car then, slamming on the brakes but something was wrong – it would not stop. Instead, it veered into the oncoming lane, even while Jasmine tried to steer away. Her side of the car had collided into a truck which knocked them over, causing the tumultuous accident. Everything happened so fast and in an instant, they were tumbling into the air. The car landed back onto its wheels after flipping over. Drake tasted dirt in his mouth, bewildered he took hold of Jasmine, trying to calm her. Crushed beneath the metal – she breathed her last then, in his arms.

*****

As he stared into the roaring fire, hot tears rolled down his cheeks. The radio bounced off Harry Nilsson’s, Remember. The melody echoed his somber mood. His eyes danced watching the wisps of smoke that hovered from the remnants of the scorched map. He covered his face with a white, lace handkerchief. Her tears had long since dried up from it, but he took comfort in knowing that they had become one with the fabric now.

Remember

We sat by his bedside in the hospice, and I couldn’t bring myself to hold his hand. Laura did it for me, though I don’t think he noticed.

“Your dad looks stormy,” she said.

“Stormy? He’s in a coma.” My words came out more acidic than I intended.

Her soft look told me she understood. “Like he’s upset. Or trying to remember something.”

“Remember,” said my father, the word a papery whisper.

My wife and I drew in breath together. I pushed past Laura to be near his face. “What is it, Dad?”

His eyelids still closed, his lips twitched. “A place from long ago.”

Laura and I exchanged a glance. She asked, “Where is it, where are you?”

He let out a breath, deflating. I thought it was his last, but he filled his lungs with a deep breath and said, “Remember that pirate movie I took you to when you were a teen, kiddo?”

I smiled at the old endearment he’d called me for over forty years. “Yes, dad. Our favorite. The Goonies.”

He wheezed and barked a cough, and his eyes cracked open, though he stared unseeing at the ceiling. “Know how they found the treasure cave?”

Laura handed me her lace handkerchief. I wiped at tears I didn’t realize I’d shed, and said, “That old map, from the attic.”

A smile crinkled the corners of his eyes. “Wish I had that for you. Your ship come in, taken care of for life, kiddo.”

I still could not bring myself to reach out and touch him. The old man never was touchy-feely. “It isn’t like in the movies. I’ve made my own ship, I have my own treasure,” I said with a glance at my wife. “You taught me how, dad.”

Now his eyes fixed on Laura. “Yes. Yes, you have, kiddo. You’re both so pretty, you’re your own treasure.” He took in another breath, through his nose and breathed, “Jasmine. Like your mother used to wear.”

Laura laughed. “I know it’s her favorite. And yours.”

His eyes met mine, the soft light of the room gathered to two sharp infinitely brilliant points, and memories of those eyes looking at me in all emotions in all parts of my life came flooding through me, and I did reach out to touch his face with the tips of my fingers.

“Remember,” he said, arching an eyebrow.

The laugh, at his Trek reference at a time like this, escaped me, even as I dissolved into blubbery tears. “Really, dad?”

He nodded and waited.

“Of course I’ll remember, dad.”

He held my eyes with his, and the light went out of them, and the body on the bed wasn’t him anymore.

Laura held me, the scent of jasmine filling my world, bound to those memories welling up with the tears.

“I should have told him I love him,” I wailed into her soft shoulder.

Her fingers twined in my hair and she whispered in my ear, “You did, love. You did.”

Remember the Still

“What are you doing? Idiot!” Will grabbed the map from Robbie’s hand and shook the flames out.

“I thought fire might reveal something. You know, like in the movies.” Robbie was a little surprised that the idea didn’t really work.

Will frowned and simply shook his head. They had been searching for the whiskey still for hours. The woods were heavy and thick. The smell of it was tangled up in a big mess of smoke, stinkweed and jasmine.

“I ain’t got time for your dumb skull, numbskull!” Will took out his white handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his forehead. He took the moist cloth and then wiped the charred edges from the corner of the map. The ashes scattered in the underbrush.

“Well, we ain’t havin’ much luck no other way yet” Robbie said.

“You ain’t looking in the right place. You think Daddy used to make that shine from nothing at all? You numbskull. No, there was a still back here alright, and that sum-gun ain’t never been found by no one- ever.”

“It looks like we ain’t gonna’ find it either Will” Robbie said.

“We gonna’ find it now. We got the doggone map that you nearly burned up for no good reason. That’s something.”

“I don’t even know if we can make it back to the house” Robbie said. “The dark is coming up mighty fast.”

“Well, I’m findin’ it, even if I got to stay out here all night” Will said.

“What you goin’ do with it when you find it? You don’t know nothing about stilling no whiskey” Robbie said. “I seen you try to boil a hot dog before.”

“Makin’ whiskey’s different you numbskull. Daddy used to home make it, and we can too. It’s in the blood. You either are born to make whiskey or you ain’t born to make no whiskey. You understand that?”

“You ain’t never made no whiskey. Do you even have a recipe? You got a formulization for it?”

Will was a little taken back by Robbie’s fifty cent word. “You look that word up or something?”

“Maybe we ain’t found no still cause we wouldn’t even know what the heck it is if we did find it” Robbie frowned.

“Everybody’s got to start somewheres, Robbie, and I’m startin’ today. You think Colonel Sanders knew how to fry a chicken when he was a youngin’?”

“Chicken he knew. He had to figure out how to do that franchizing deal? That’s what took him so long to figure out.”

“Well, we ain’t gonna’ do no franchizing, I just want to make some whiskey dammit.”

It was about that time when Will fell over a spool of copper tubing nearly completely covered in pine straw. There was a nasty bruise on his shin, but he was too excited to pay any mind to it.

“Well I’ll be” Robbie said. “We actually found it!”

“Remember Robbie, life is just a memory.”

“We actually found it” Robbie said it again in disbelief.

“Remember Robbie, think of all that life can be.”

“Stop singing that stupid song and give me a hand, will ya?”