Loose Ends

The woman donned in colorful scrubs behind the counter at the nurses station stiffens a bit when I approach her. She doesn’t know my face, but she recognizes the authority of my lab coat.

“Good morning, Doctor…?” It’s clear she’s waiting for a name. I give her none. I am not accustomed to explaining myself.

“I’m looking for a patient. Mr. Toomis. What room is he in?”

My abruptness delivers the required response. She pauses momentarily and then, “Uh, he’s down the hall in 234.” She points. “The one with the police officer sitting outside.”

I nod my thanks.

The cop tries to impede me from entering the room. He’s only slightly more challenging to convince. After a quick exchange, I step into the dark room where a fat, balding man lies in bed, hooked to machines.

Removing the syringe from my coat pocket, I inject the contents into his IV. I’ll have less than a minute.

As I push open the doors to the stairwell, a heart monitor beeps it’s sorrowful tone. For one man, the end. For another, a fatter bank account. I leave the lab coat and the empty syringe in the dumpster behind the hospital.

Word Count: 198

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V

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Family Planning

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The pain from the contraction was intense and Gloria groaned loudly.

“Ahh! Michael, it’s time!”

Gloria’s husband scurried about, grabbing the bag they’d packed for the hospital. He spied one of his sons.

“Herbert, come here!”

“My name is Leonard.”

“What?”

“I’m Leonard, dad.”

“Where’s Herbert?”

“Mom ate him when he was an infant, remember?”

“Oh. Right,” said his father. “Well anyway, I have to get your mother to the hospital. She’s about to give birth again. You’re in charge of your brothers and sisters.”

“Again?” asked Leonard.

“We’re mice, son. We don’t use contraception.”

“But there are so many of us now,” said Leonard. “There’s never enough food, we all sleep in a big mound. It takes hours to get into the bathroom. Couldn’t she just, you know…” he pantomimed intense chewing.

“Hey now, she was under stress when that happened,” said his father.

“She gets stressed a lot,” muttered Leonard. “Remember Angie and Rebecca and Larry?”

“No, not really.”

“Exactly!” said Leonard.

“Well if I don’t get her to the hospital soon, she might eat me,”

“Fine,” sighed Leonard. “So what are you naming this one?”

His father paused, scratching his head. Then, “I know. How about Herbert?”

Word Count: 200

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.

I know, this story is kind of weird. I was in a strange state of mind when I wrote it. Too much coffee, perhaps. Or too little. I’m not sure which.]

~V

The Rendezvous

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The full moon cast a pale glow on the asphalt. He checked his watch again. 7:14. Andre was late. A knot formed in his belly. Andre was never late. With a final glance around, he turned and retreated to his car. The risk of being caught in the open was too great to give Andre any more time.

A cool breeze made him clench his coat tighter to his throat. If Andre was compromised he’d have to try for the border before dawn. It may already be too late. He grimaced. It wasn’t losing his life he feared most. The mission was more important. Failing to obtain the computer virus that would shut down the defense systems meant the rebellion attack was doomed. There would be no way to stop The Order from launching the nukes.

Keys in hand, he unlocked his car door. It wasn’t until it swung open that he saw Andre’s dead eyes staring at him from the drivers seat. Blood from the severed head stained the fabric. From behind he heard a voice.

“Oh, I”m afraid our systems will be quite operational when your rebellious friends arrive,” Sheila said.

A single shot from her pistol. Game over.

Word Count: 200

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V

Recycling

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When they finally discovered her body, animals and the elements had reduced it to nothing more than a collection of bones loosely held together by sinewy strands of ligaments. It would take them weeks to identify her.

I knew.

It wasn’t the first time one of my girls had been found, but the cops hadn’t yet realized the bodies were connected. They’d figure it out.

The first one was a surprise: a neighbor girl selling some kind of cookies for a school trip. I invited her in and showed her my playroom. I hadn’t planned on actually trying out my toys on a person, but there she was so I decided it was time to take things to the next level.

After that it was easy. Their delicious screams filled my sound-proof room. Their blood was sweet and warm. And when I was done, I was responsible. I am an environmentalist, you know, so I made sure to return them back to nature.

I didn’t count on that last one though. How she got loose I’ll never know. She showed me how much my toys really hurt. I hope they dispose of my body properly. I am, after all, biodegradable.

Word Count: 200

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V

 

Tails From the Swamp

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“Tony! Hey Tony!”

“What?”

“You shouldn’t lay out in the sun like that. It’s bad for you. It’ll give you alligator skin!”

Vinnie guffawed loudly at his own joke.

“Oh, you’re hilarious,” said Tony.

“So did ya hear about Bobby?” asked Vinnie.

“Bobby Knuckles? No, what about him?”

“Choked on an egret last night. The bill got stuck sideways in his throat.” said Vinnie.

“No kidding?” asked Tony. “Geez, I just saw him last week.”

“Yeah, I guess he’s floating belly up over by Cypress Log,”

“You know, that happened to me once. Had this pipsqueak youngster gator giving me lip, so I thought, ‘I’ll show you, ya bastard’. I clamped down on his head but started clawing me in the throat.”

“Whadya do?”

“It was instinct. I just let go of him.”

“You let him live? That don’t sound like you.” said Vinnie.

“Yeah well, he don’t come around here no more so… you know.”

“Hehe… nobody messes with Longtooth Tony, that’s for sure,” laughed Vinnie.

For a moment, the two were silent.

“Well, I gotta get back to the nest. Catch you tomorrow?” asked Vinnie.

“Sure thing,”

“See ya later, alligator,” said Vinnie.

He swam away laughing wildly.

Word Count: 200

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V

There’s Always a Vacancy

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Brenda stopped outside the office door.

“I am not staying here, honey.”

“You heard the mechanic. The car won’t be fixed until tomorrow. And this is the only motel in town. Where else are we going to stay?” asked Calvin.

Brenda frowned but opened the door.

The clean cut man behind the desk smiled.

“Welcome! Will you be staying with us tonight?”

Calvin glanced at the man’s name tag. “Yes… Norman. Just one night please.”

“Wonderful,” replied Norman. “It’s so nice to have guests. We’re a bit off the beaten path and mother and I don’t get too many visitors.”

“Mother?” asked Brenda.

“Oh, my mother owns the motel. But she’s elderly and I run it now.”

Brenda gave an angry glance at her husband. He returned a sheepish smile.

As they exited the small office, Norman called to them.

“Feel free to shower as long as you like. We have lots of hot water.”

Later that night as they prepared for bed, Brenda complained again.

“Seriously? Norman? Mother owns the motel?” This is not good.”

Calvin laughed. “You watch way too many horror movies. Now come to bed. You’ll feel better in the morning.”

Norman fidgeted nervously with the long knife. Mother would be upset. He was about to be naughty again.

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less. I went over this week, so my apologies.]

~V

 

Play It Again, Sam

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“No, no Sam, that’s an F sharp, not an F,” Mrs. Dickinson scolded. “Check the key.”

Sam’s fingers ached and he was tired of Mrs. Dickinson always pointing out his mistakes. Only when he played a particular piece flawlessly did he hear a hint of praise.

That’s acceptable, she would say. Or… Finally!

He looked up from the keys of the piano and stole a glance out her large picture window. It offered a view of the empty lot across the street, where all the neighborhood kids played. His heart sank a bit when he spotted Johnny and Alex playing catch. Sam guessed his hands would not be too tired to throw a ball around for a bit.

“Lets try again,” came the voice from his left. “It’s not that hard.”

* * *

The last notes of the concerto echoed through the auditorium. The stunned crowd was silent for a moment before erupting in thunderous applause. Sam had been selling out every concert for months.

As he exited the stage, he saw a young man standing next to an elderly woman in a wheelchair in the wing. He instantly recognized his old piano teacher.

“Mrs. Dickinson!” he exclaimed. “You finally made it. I’m so happy to see you!”

Sam reached down to hug the fragile old woman. As he embraced her she whispered into his ear.

“You missed the F sharp in the third movement. Remember to check the key.”

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less. I went over this week, so my apologies.]

~V

Simple Math

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Gerald pointed towards the ground.

“Now, start digging.”

“Didn’t you bring a shovel too?” asked Andrew, gripping his.

“I brought the map, you dimwit!”

“Fine,” grumbled Andrew, scooping up dirt.

For several hours one man dug a deep hole, while another kept watch with the lantern.

Andrew breathed heavily, resting against the shovel. “Are you sure it’s buried here?”

“The maps says this is the spot. Old man Horvath was very specific about it. The old coot buried millions down there. Didn’t trust banks after the crash of ’29.”

Andrew sighed and resumed excavating. Within moments there was a distinctive thud. Both men froze.

“I think this is it!” shouted Andrew. He cleared away more dirt and uncovered the top of a large metal trunk.

Ten minutes later, the two giddy thieves were sifting through stacks of cash, gold and bearer bonds.

“We’re rich!” cried Andrew. “I’m gonna use my half to buy a house on an island somewhere and sit on a beach all day!”

“Yeah… half,” muttered Gerald, picking up the shovel. “You know what’s nice about buried treasure?”

“What?” asked his partner, turning his head upwards.

“The holes make great unmarked graves!” said Gerald, swinging the shovel hard.

Word Count: 200

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V

 

 

Lost and Found

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“They’re bringing it up now, sir,” cried Donny.

Richard Charles had waited years for this day. Since he was a kid, the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle had captivated and perplexed him. Now, standing aboard his salvage vessel, “Berlitz”, he waited anxiously to see the fruit of seven years of hard work and research.

The huge winch rolled the cable up, foot by foot. Thirty minutes later, the coral encrusted plane rested on deck.

“Check the numbers,” he called to Donny as he climbed onto the wing. The cockpit cover was still closed. He wiped away the slime and algae and peered inside. Empty and still locked from within. How could that be?

“This is it!” cried Donny. “One of the Avengers from Flight 19!”

Finally! The Triangle had given up one of its long held prizes.

“Sir, unusual weather approaching fast.”

Looking up, Richard Charles saw the strange green lights in the fog, flashing like ghosts. It swept in faster than a front should move.

“Captain, get us out of here!” Richard yelled to the bridge as the fog enveloped the ship.

Richard Charles spent his life investigating the Bermuda Triangle. On March 4, 1994 he became a part of its history.

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V

 

Road Signs

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“Richard, did you see that?” asked Marilyn.

“See what?” asked Richard, who was still getting used to driving “on the wrong side of the road”.

“I’m sure that the little girl in that back seat was signing us,” said Marilyn.

Richard sighed. “You know, ever since you took that class on signing, you think everyone who waves a hand in the air is trying to communicate with you.”

“No, I mean it. I think I recognize a few of the gestures. Perhaps she’s been kidnapped. Do you think she’s been kidnapped?” asked Marilyn, her voice rising in pitch.

“Why don’t you translate her message and figure it out, miss Know-It-All,” grumbled Richard.

“Right, of course. Get closer,” she said.

Another sigh escaped from her husband as he gently accelerated towards the Volkswagen in front of them. After several minutes Marilyn frowned.

“That makes no sense,” she said.

“Why, what did she say?” asked Richard.

“The blue fish flies over the silence. Oh dear, I’m afraid I can’t understand her. She must be using British Sign Language,” replied Marilyn.

“What’s the difference? We’re American. We both speak English.” exclaimed Richard.

“It’s totally different in sign. But I know she’s in trouble. We have to keep following that car.”

“Our exit is in a mile. Who knows where they’re going?” argued her exasperated husband.

“Her LIFE could be at stake. Just follow them!” yelled Marilyn.

Mareesa watched with great amusement as the couple in the car behind hers seemed to argue. She found it much more entertaining than the book she brought. She decided to keep signing to them until they reached her grandmother’s house in Bath, over an hour away.

This trip is usually so boring, she thought.

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less. I’ve gone over again so I’ll issue my usual apologies.

As a point of interest, in writing this story, I discovered that there are a number of different sign languages and they do actually differ greatly. For example, American Sign Language and British Sign Language are almost mutually unitelligible. From Wikipedia

“In 1815, an American Protestant minister, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, travelled to Europe to research teaching of the deaf. He was rebuffed by both the Braidwood schools who refused to teach him their methods. Gallaudet then travelled to Paris and learned the educational methods of the French Royal Institution for the Deaf, a combination of Old French Sign Language and the signs developed by Abbé de l’Épée. As a consequence American Sign Language today has a 60% similarity to modern French Sign Language and is almost unintelligible to users of British Sign Language.”

So as odd as it may seem, the fact that Marilyn couldn’t understand Mareesa’s signing is actually plausible.]

~V

Anachronism

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Emily Porter was a tomboy. Her mother knew it. She spent her days outside with her best friend Sammy Watkins getting dirt-covered, scratched and scraped and would always return home with some strange wriggling thing in her pocket.

“You’re just a force to be reckoned with,” her father would always say.

Emily’s favorite place to play was by the oddly shaped rock formations in the field next to the Thompson farm. She and Sammy spent afternoons gathering special tokens for their “Injun Medicine Bags”.

“Look, Sammy. A piece of a hawk’s feather,” exclaimed Emily brightly as she popped it into her bag.

“Spirit of the Hawk!” laughed Sammy. “Now let’s hide them in the secret hole. We have to promise to ONLY take them out if we really need their magic,”

“Cross my heart,” promised Emily.

* * *

“What are you doing, dear?”

“Playing Minecraft on my iPad, gramma Em. Wanna play?” replied Julia.

“No thank you dear. I’m not good with those electronic things,” said Emily.

She hoped they’d arrive soon. At 94, her body couldn’t take car rides like it once did.

“Are you sure this is it?” asked Roger, as he steered the sedan onto a dirt road.

“Those are the directions,” replied Maggie, holding up her phone.

“I think we’re here, grandma!” said Trevor. “You should have Instagram, so you could post about this,” he said to Emily. “Heh… Insta… GRAM! Get it?” He chuckled.

Emily smiled, pretending to understand the joke.

Roger wheeled her across the bumpy field of grass to the odd looking rock formations. Memories of better days came back to her. The images were clearer to her than what her failing sight often revealed these days.

“Help me up, please, will you Roger?” she asked.

When she got close to a particular section of rock, she reached her gnarled arthritic hand inside a hole the size of a grapefruit. Her fingers found the soft leather bag inside.

“What’s that gramma Em?” asked Julia.

“Just something I’ve been wanting for quite some time now. It’s magic.”

“Wow, ya hear that dad. Gramma has a magic bag!”

Roger smiled and gently shook his head at his daughter as if to say “Not really”. Despite her cataracts, Emily caught his  gesture out of the corner of her eye.

That night as she lay in bed, waiting for her pain meds to kick in so she could fall asleep, she clutched the bag to her heart and closed her eyes.

“Spirit of the Hawk.” she whispered.

In her minds eye, she was carried aloft by a large, majestic bird. Her tired earthly body left behind.

She was free.

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.

I went generously over the word limit today. I felt as though cutting back the story to meet the word constraint would have crippled the spirit of the tale and my first loyalty is always to the story. My apologies.

I dedicate this story to my grandmother, Helen Dickinson. May the Spirit of the Hawk always watch over her.]

~V

Can’t We All Get Along?

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“Lars, what’s that peculiar smell?”

Oh, that’s my new musk I’m trying on for my date tonight with Lenora,” replied Lars. “Nice, isn’t it?”

“Well uh,” said Sven, blinking rapidly to ease the burning in his eyes.

“Yeah, she’ll love it!” grinned Lars splashing on the pungent liquid.

“Are you sure that it’s wise for you to go out on a date with her?” asked Sven. “I mean after all, she’s a…”

“Leo?” asked Lars. “And I’m a Pices. Yeah, I know, not the best mix.”

I was going to say ‘lion’,” replied Sven. “And you’re a meerkat. I think that’s a worse mix.”

Lars turned to his roommate. “I can’t believe it,” he replied. “I never had you pegged as a bigot.”

“Bigot? Seriously?”

“You need to learn tolerance, my friend. Embrace diversity.” huffed Lars indignantly.

“Lars, she’s a lion! A carnivore!”

“Oh, so now carnivores aren’t people, is that what you’re saying? Where is this hate coming from?” asked Lars.

“Lars… she’ll eat you! Haven’t you seen how she looks at you when you walk by her cage?” shouted Sven.

“She’s hot for me alright,” grinned Lars. “Well, be seeing you.”

But Sven didn’t see Lars. Ever again.

Word Count: 200

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V

Surf, Sand and The Lion King

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Harvey watched Anna splashing gleefully in the surf, discovering the salt water and sand in a way only toddlers can. He leaned back and slowly allowed the tension of the long trip to Sarasota melt off of him.

Turning to his wife, he wondered if the beach was affecting her as well. Kim Robertson lie stretched out on the powdery sand, eyes hidden behind large, owl-like sunglasses.

Their marriage had suffered a number of painful bruises in the two and a half years since Anna was born. Harvey had hoped a trip to the Sunshine State would help mend the growing rift. The unsigned divorce papers still sat on the kitchen table.

Harvey was torn between wanting to take this moment to talk and giving her space. He chose the latter.

Kim broke the silence, “Please stop singing ‘The Circle of Life’. Don’t we hear that enough already?”

Harvey hadn’t even realized he was vocalizing that catchy tune.

“Sure,” he grinned. “Would you prefer ‘Hakuna Matata’?”

Kim laughed and playfully swatted him. She lifted her sunglasses and regarded him in a way he hadn’t seen in years. He smiled. Their own story might still have a happy ending after all.

Word Count: 200

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V

 

Hair of the Dog

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A blinding light assaulted his eyes as Grady regained consciousness. A shriek of tires on asphalt nearly deafened him as the oncoming car swerved at the last moment. Leaping to his left, he slammed into the cold guard rail along the side of the freeway and rolled over hard metal onto the gravel covered ground. Lying there, Grady become aware of his nakedness.

His last memory was of sitting at home, fixing himself his first cocktail of the night. That’s the last time I drink that cheap Irish Whiskey, thought Grady.

* * *

High above the Earth, in invisible orbit hovered the Xakturian science vessel. Zignat the teleporter technician fumbled frantically with the controls of the equipment in front of him. His captain’s face appeared on the large communications screen.

“Ensign, the coordinates from the tracking beacon we secured on that last human subject is 17 bartrots from his designated return location. What happened?” barked his captain.

“Teleporter error, sir. I’m working on it now.” he lied, trying to sound confident.

“Make sure the equipment is fixed before returning the next one,” growled the captain.

“Aye sir,”

That’s the last time I drink that cheap Alterian whiskey before starting my shift, thought Zignat.

Word Count: 200

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V

One Park Place

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“They’re really trying,” I thought, staring at the newly erected sign in the park. I had no idea what the message meant, but it was colorful.

City officials had been listening to residents complain for years that Hamsford Park had become both an embarrassment and a danger to the community. Kids rarely played here anymore and it was widely known that this was the place to score an assortment of recreational party favors.

Or at least, it was. Being an election year, the incumbent Mayor yielded to constituent pressure and initiated a campaign to restore the park. Now there are regular police patrols, a local trash patrol, a vendor that sells copious amounts of hot dogs and ice cream and a monthly free concert in the ball field.

The drug dealers have been replaced by children and families. Even the residentially impaired folks like me that called the park home were put up in small, one room shelters. One Park Place, we call it. We’re safe, dry and best of all we get mail. Yesterday the postman handed me a letter. It was the first time I ever had to sign for a letter addressed to “Occupant”.

Gotta love progress.

Word Count: 200

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V