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JennaGlatzer
04-27-2005, 12:31 PM
Congrats on surviving round 2, finalists!

Your next challenge has arrived.

This round, you have two options for first sentences...

"Only one person in the world knew what I had done, and I intended to keep it that way."

or

"People say you always find what you're looking for when you stop looking."

Choose either one. You have up to 1500 words to finish the story.

Deadline: Wednesday, May 4, 11:59 ET.

Good luck!

pepperlandgirl
04-29-2005, 07:31 AM
Title: Via Los Vegas
Word Count--1499
Notes:--Written for Absolute Write Idol round 3

People say you always find what you’re looking for when you stop looking. I wasn’t even aware I was looking for anything in particular.
It started when I boarded a bus in Los Angeles bound for Las Vegas. I wasn’t trying to find anything, just wanted to escape. I had a few grand in cash, a carton of Camels, a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and a map of Yellowstone National Park—just in case. An argument against my fathers, I headed east to start a new life instead of west. I knew I needed to get out of L.A. One evening, while sitting on the 10, smoking my sixth cigarette, and ruminating on the rash of freeway killings the Ten O’clock News was so hyped about, I thought, “Yeah, I totally get that.”

I was the only person on the bus. I guess not many people travel to Las Vegas at 6:16am on Tuesdays. The driver didn’t even look at me. I’ve never been to New York, but I hear people there will sooner give you the finger than give you a hand. I don’t know about NYC, but it’s true in LA. So, I chose a seat in the back of the modern-day covered wagon and waited.

I do want to be clear on one thing. I never planned to stay in Vegas. I never really believed it would be the Promised Land. Is it anybody’s?

The bus rolled out of the station just before 7:00. I watched the tangled ribbons of the freeways unfold before me and my stomach clenched. I had never been outside of southern California in my life. I wondered what would happen if I ran to the front of the bus and begged the driver to stop. Would he ignore me? I mean, it’s not like it would inconvenience the other passengers. But I didn’t move.

We stopped in Barstow.

Let me tell you about Barstow.

No, you know what? You don’t want to know about Barstow. I don’t want to know about Barstow. Suffice it to say, gas is over $3.50 a gallon, and there are always buzzards circling overhead. It’s also the last place to get a hamburger and take a leak before you hit Death Valley.

I decided to do both, despite the undeniable fear that the driver would leave me stranded there. I crossed the empty parking lot to the empty Jack in the Box. When I returned, the bus driver glared at me with fuzzy blue eyes and I decided to call him George. I smiled as the bus rumbled to life. And I noticed that somebody was sitting in my seat. An attractive woman with a large sun hat, fat sunglasses, a straw purse, and a rather pleasant smile sat with my bag in her lap and waited for me to join her. I tried not to gawk at her svelte body, but her light sundress really accentuated her curves.

“Have you found Jesus?” She asked, tilting her head my direction.

I looked over my shoulder, but George was no help. He pointed the bus like a bullet. “Um…I haven’t really been looking.”

“So that’s a no?”

I liked her voice. It was whimsical. I don’t know how a person can have a whimsical voice. I braced myself and told her the truth. “It’s a no.”

“Well, that’s a relief.” She handed me my bag. “I always get stuck on buses with the Jesus freaks.”

“Oh?” I sat down next to her as George accelerated onto the 15. I’ve never met a “Jesus freak.”

“Oh yes. I take this line to Las Vegas regularly, you know, and no matter the time or day, they always find me.” She leaned close to me and I could smell a hint of gardenias. “So I learned to ask them first.”

“Jesus freaks on the way to Vegas?” I asked.

“I don’t understand it either. For awhile, I thought they were targeting me specifically. You know, maybe Mrs. Milhausen put them up to it.” She looked around and lowered her voice. “It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.”

I nodded.

“Have you ever been to Vegas? Lost Wages, my husband used to call it.” She chuckled, and I felt out of the loop.

“No, this is my first time.” I wondered if I needed to count my money. She seemed nice enough, but I kicked myself for being such a fool. Anybody born and bred in Los Angeles should know better than leaving any amount of money unguarded.

“Oh, you’ll love it. A young guy like you. You’ll never want to go home.”

“That’s the plan,” I said under my breath.

She removed her glasses and looked at me with bright green eyes. She looked older than I first suspected. Maybe old enough to be my mother. Or a really hot math teacher. I liked the second option better.

“I understand. My name is Lilah, by the way.”

She held out her hand. I shook it awkwardly.

“Ben.”

“I’ve been going to Vegas once or twice a month for the past three years.” The desert flew by, brown and endless. I watched it over her shoulder. “Every time, I think, ‘Ok, this is it. I’m going to find a nice apartment and just stay.’” She shook her head. “And every time, I find myself on the Monday night bus.”

“I wanted to take a semi-automatic weapon and annihilate everybody on the 10,” I explained. “I’m hoping a change of scenery will do me some good.”

“You’ll need to go further than Vegas. You may even need to get to the other side of the Rockies.”

“What’s on the other side of the Rockies?”

She shrugged. “Denver, I guess. Then the plains.”

“Like in Little House on the Prairie.”

“Yeah, like that. You remember that show?”

“I caught it on Nick at Nite. But I don’t think I want to go to the plains. Doesn’t seem like a place I’d enjoy.”

“Fair enough. I’d love to be anywhere besides the desert. It doesn’t seem like a place I’d enjoy.”

Lilah took off her wide-brim hat, casually tossed it over her shoulder to the seat behind us, and ran her manicured nails through her bright red hair. I thought I saw a few patches of gray at her temples.

“Where are you staying?” I asked. I wished I had a hat to toss over my shoulder.

“I always stay at the Bellagio. Kids aren’t allowed.”

“Oh…me too…”

“It’s a beautiful hotel. The gambling isn’t bad and the buffet is good.”

“Decent shrimp?”

“Usually. Were you really going to massacre everybody on the 10?”

“No. It’s not like I had a gun on me or anything. I didn’t even really consider it. I just, sorta, empathized with the people who’d lost their shit.” I hoped I wasn’t turning into a monster. I figured it was the air. It messes with your brain.

“I left Los Angeles after my husband died.”

I blinked. How do you respond to that? The polite thing to do is offer condolences, but I’ve never been good at social interaction. So, I waited for her to continue.

“He was involved in a high speed chase.”

“Oh god.” I couldn’t help but wonder if I had seen the fatal chase. The answer was probably yes. I had seen almost all the high-speed chases in the Southland, thanks to KCAL 9 News at Noon, One, and Two.

“He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. So I sold the house and ran.”

“To Barstow?” See above paragraph about Barstow.

“I didn’t mean to stop.” She offered a rueful smile and replaced her sunglasses. “Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn.”

I couldn’t imagine a life that would take an unexpected turn into Barstow. Not a decent one, anyway. I checked my watch. “How much longer?”

“Probably about an hour or so.”

“An hour?” We were climbing a steep mountain, and left the corpses of dead cars in our wake. They littered the break down lane, hoods up, surrounded by baffled and sweaty golfers. I thought it would be nice of George to stop and offer them a ride at least. I felt selfish, having the whole bus nearly entirely to myself.

“Ben?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re not in trouble, are you?”

“Not at all.”

“Good…I just feel like…Oh, this sounds silly…”

I worked in IT support for three years. I assured her she didn’t know the meaning of silly.

“I feel like I’ve known you for years.”

“Yeah…” I nodded.

“Look…if you don’t have a place…I always get a suite.”

“Lilah…”

She smiled at me again.

I didn’t even have a goal in mind when I left LA. Besides leaving LA, that is. Suddenly, it was all very clear to me. Oddly clear. “You know, Lilah, that sounds nice.” And a buffet with good shrimp? “Perfect even.”

It’s been years, and I still marvel that I found her.

jdkiggins
04-29-2005, 08:18 AM
Silly Man

by Joanne D. Kiggins



People say you always find what you’re looking for when you stop looking.

Dolores noticed everything about customers of her convenience store with one quick glance. A man appeared in the doorway. He had thick, dyed black hair, high cheekbones. His shirt stretched over broad shoulders and chest. Biceps bulged in short sleeves, and his forearms flexed as he leaned on the doorframe. She noticed the smile that was slow to form.

She read people to help pass the time and to determine if the contents might be more worthy than the cover. His reading filled her with contempt. She continued to sweep the floor.

“How can I help you?”

She knew his type; sweet words would pour from his mouth when he found his tongue.

“Would you like to go for coffee when you get off work?” he asked, lifting a picnic basket.

“Sure. My employee will be here in a few minutes. Where should I meet you?”

The corners of her mouth rose slightly. His eyes met hers after taking inventory of her with embarrassing detail.

“North Park by the big willow at the lake. No one goes there. Six o’clock.”

“Sure.”

He slipped out the door before she could ask his intentions. Didn’t matter, really.

The park was empty at dinner hour. She passed no joggers or bikers. Dolores parked near the willow precisely at six. She ambled to the blanket, knelt near him, and pulled the clip from her graying auburn hair allowing it to flow over her shoulders.

“Would you like pie to go with your coffee?” he asked.

She opened her purse, pulled out a small vial and dropped two tiny tablets in her coffee. “No thank you. I’m watching my weight. Would you like sweetener?”

“Yes. You don’t need to lose weight. I think you’re perfect the way you are.”

Here it comes. Fill me full of lies, tell me everything I want to hear, and sound like you mean every word. She dropped three tablets in his cup.

“Believe me, I’m far from perfect.” She bumped her cup and coffee spilled onto the blanket and pie. Dolores dabbed the coffee with napkins and poured a fresh cup.

He reached and ran his finger from her elbow to her wrist. His eyes wandered. “Your skin is so soft. Your smile is beautiful, and your eyes; you could kill with those eyes.”

“Sometimes I wish I could. I’d never get caught then, would I? That would be perfect, wouldn’t it?” Dolores laughed.

“Tell me, why did you accept my invitation?” He swallowed and filled his cup again.

Her eyes met his. She dropped three more tablets in his cup.

“Because you asked. Why did you ask?”

“I thought you looked the type of person I’d like to get to know.”

“What type is that?”

“Friendly, beautiful inside and out, nice smile, intelligent.”

“What makes you think I’m friendly and intelligent?”

“Well. You came for coffee. I’d say that’s smart.”

“What do you consider 'beautiful inside and out'?”

“Someone like you, who isn’t afraid to trust people, who smiles a beautiful smile regardless of what happens in her life.”

“What makes you think I trust people?”

“You trusted me enough to meet me for coffee in a park, didn’t you?”

“Trust had nothing to do with it.”

“Then why did you agree to meet me?”

“I wanted to see if you’d changed.”

“Huh? Changed? Have we met?”

Dolores forced a smile. She grew tired of his silly game. Her eyes took in every inch of his body. What a waste.

“Of course we’ve met. I’m the woman you asked out for coffee. Remember? All you men are alike. Say you adore us, love our eyes, our smile, our soft skin, and work your way down our bodies until we give in to your desires. Then as quick as you’ve led us to believe we’re everything you want and need, you tell us we’re different, we’re moody, and we’re changed. And we have changed; changed into the person you expect us to be. Then you leave.”

“Wait a minute. I didn’t come here for this!”

“No. Of course, you didn’t. I forgot. You like to be in control. After all, you want to spend time with someone you’d like to get to know. You didn’t get to know me; you made me what I am. You twisted me into whatever being you thought I should be. And when I was exactly as you wanted me to be, you forgot what lured you to desire me from the start.”

“I don’t know you. Why are you doing this?”

She ran her finger from his elbow to his wrist. “Of course you don’t, dear. You never knew me. I’m not the same person I was before. Remember? I’m that perfect woman, with the soft skin, beautiful smile and eyes that could kill. I’m everything you molded me to be. But you were mistaken.”

She smiled.

His eyes locked on hers.

“What’s wrong with you? I thought you’d appreciate this. You look so lonely every time I come in the store. What do you mean I was‘mistaken’?” Sweat beaded on his forehead.

Dolores knew his only concern would be that she told him he was wrong.

“It’s not important. You’re right. I should appreciate this. I’ll change. I’ll be fine. Honestly.”

“Are you all right?” He touched her hand. Chills marched over her entire body.

“I’ll be myself again, soon. Now finish your coffee before you get cold.”

“Excuse me?”

His hand jerked. Pain shot up his arm. He dropped his cup and grabbed his chest. He looked confused and disoriented, gasping for air as he slumped to his side and fell onto the ground. His eyes widened with panic, locked on her. “You bitch! I had you all wrong.”

She stood just inches from his reach, looked down, and frowned. It wasn’t surprising that he’d not recognized her. Thirty-five years was a long time. Hell, she barely recognized him.

Dolores shoved everything into his basket and tossed it into her car. She wiped the vial of Digitoxin and stuffed it in his shirt pocket. As she walked away, she said, “You did have me all wrong. Silly man! It isn’t my eyes that could kill.”

BlueTexas
04-29-2005, 06:39 PM
People say you always find what you’re looking for when you stop looking. Maybe they’re right. I’ll know for sure in a couple of hours. Maybe a little longer, or a little sooner. And perhaps there won’t be any more maybes.

DJP
04-30-2005, 11:41 PM
NOW WHAT?



"Only one person in the world knew what I had done, and I intended to keep it that way,” she said. The note had been neatly folded, yellowing on the corners. She reread it silently. That was the only sentence it held. “What the hell…?”

“What’d you say, hon?” Mike called from the hallway.

“Nothing, just talking to myself.” Sandy said. She quickly stowed the note in her pocket, and returned to packing.

“Hey, thanks again for letting me move in on such short notice.” Mike squeezed her shoulder on his way by.

“No problem.”

“What a prick that guy is, kicking me out for nothing.”

Yeah, for nothing, Sandy thought. I wonder… She’d only known Mike for a month. The dates they’d been on were fantastic; he was such a sweet guy. But people didn’t usually get kicked out of their apartment for nothing. He’d surprised her by asking to move in, but he knew she was looking for a roommate. What could she say?

“Good thing you needed a roomie.” He winked at her, and picked up another box.

“Just don’t forget, we’re roommates. You in your room, me in mine.” She’d set the rules. If this was going to work, they needed boundaries. Dates were still dates, and they could go home to their separate rooms.

“Whatever you say, boss.” He kissed gently, and then headed for the car. “Let’s get outta this dump!” His kiss gave her tingles, but this time she couldn’t tell if they were nice ones, or not.

Driving to her place, Sandy thought about the note. Who wrote it? Was it Mike? The stationary was simple, no girlie clues. Is it from a journal? An assignment for school? She was wondering about the possibilities, when a day-mare hit her like an electric shock, flashing through her mind.

Mike staring down at her. Mike looking breathless, sweating. Mike with so much anger in his eyes, anger creasing his forehead. Screaming at her, spittle flying at her face. Mike raising the hammer again. The dripping, bloody hammer, raised above his head.

“Holy sh*t!” she snapped away from the vision, and pulled over to the side of the road. She was shaking, and gasping for breath. Calm down, breathe. It was just your imagination. “Damn!” Sandy cussed, smacking the steering wheel. She had day-mares once in a while, but nothing as vivid as that one.

TAP TAP! Sandy jumped at the noise from her window. Mike had pulled his Jeep in behind her car. He looked concerned.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah, I just… yeah, I’m fine.” Sandy said.

“Meet you at home then.” He went back to his Jeep, and pulled into traffic.

“Home.” She whispered. I wonder how homey it will feel now?




* * *



“Can I ask you something?”

“What?”

“What happened to your last girlfriend?” Sandy was flipping through a photo album she’d just unpacked. Half the photos were gone.

“You don’t want to talk about her.” Mike said.

“Hey, I don’t want any private details. I just want to know why you guys broke up.” She noticed his shoulders tense, and his voice deepened.

“Let’s just say it was a difference of opinion.”

“About what?”

“Does it matter?” he spun towards her so fast, she flinched. “She was just a b*tch, okay?”

“Okay.”

“I’m sorry,” he sighed, “it’s just… I really trusted her, and she ended up hurting me.” He looked up at her, his chocolate brown eyes moist with emotion.

“It’s okay. I’ve been hurt before, too.” Sandy reached for his hands, smirking. “That’s why we need to take this slow. We’re not ‘living together’, we’re just roommates, okay? Let’s see if we can be friends.”

“I already consider you my friend.”

“Good, that’s a start.” Sandy pulled away. “So where do you want this?” She grabbed a framed print from the box. Mike took it, and held it up to the wall.

“What about here?”

“Looks good. Hey, where’s your hammer?” she turned away so he couldn’t see the look on her face. She felt like her heart paused to hear his response. Don’t be silly, it was your imagination, she scolded herself.

“I think that’s one of the things my ex took with her when she left.”

“That’s okay. Why don’t we leave that and finish unpacking first? I’ll go get another box.” Sandy couldn’t stop herself from sprinting out the door.

“Just get the ones from your car. I put all the heavy stuff in my Jeep. I’ll get those later.”

Cut it out, girl, you’re gonna drive yourself nuts! Sandy forced herself to take the stairs one at a time. Her inner voice wouldn’t shut up. Did you see the look on his face when he’d called her a b*tch? Wonder what she did to hurt him? Sweat trickled down her spine. Maybe she was the one person he intended to keep quiet?

“Shut up!” she yelled. Sandy pushed through the door, and ran to her car. Realizing there were no boxes left in there, she turned to go back inside, but stopped. Mike’s Jeep was only a few feet away. Sandy glance up at the apartment building. There were no windows on this side from her suite. Moving quickly, she climbed in the drivers’ side. Shutting the door behind her, Sandy tried to still her shaking hands.

“Pull it together,” she said.

None of your day-mares have ever been true, why would this one be?

Because none of them ever felt so real.

Sandy climbed into the back seat and reached for the boxes in the hatch. Rifling through the first one, sweat dripped off her nose. She didn’t let herself think about what she was doing or why, she just searched.

Books, old magazines, sandals, a denim jacket. The next one had bathroom stuff, kiwi shampoo, Gillette shaving foam, and half a bottle of Buckley’s.

“Sh*t!” she pulled her hand away and sucked on her finger. The metallic taste of blood filled her mouth. She peered into the box at his razor, a shiny red streak across the blade. Tears filled her eyes.

What am I doing? She turned around. Her foot caught on a bag under the passenger seat. Forgetting her finger, Sandy pulled the heavy bag out. With trembling hands, she opened it. She found a gray cotton sweatshirt, with something wrapped inside. Unrolling it, she discovered a hammer. The claws were stained with dried blood.

“Sh*t” she said again, quieter. Now what? She turned to the window, and stifled a scream. There was Mike, staring down at her. He tapped on the glass. TAP… TAP… TAP.

firehorse
05-03-2005, 04:27 AM
Only one person in the world knew what I had done, and I intended to keep it that way.

Rosalie, this swell dish of a dame, she could be the end of all that. She was engaged to my pal George – he’s the fella who knew what I’d done.

George and I hadn’t talked much lately. He was sore on account of how his girl had been giving me the eye when she thought he wasn’t looking. Jealousy does strange things to a fella, and I was worried he’d tell her, and then sure as sugar, she’d tell her pops.

Her pops owned the Boston Evening Ledger where George was city editor and I was a reporter – course, he made editor after their engagement, while I was still stuck in the bullpen – anyhow, if she told her pops, well, I’d be out of a job, a career and looking at a long vacation in a cement motel.

There was only one way out.

So when I saw Rosalie in the elevator one morning, I told her that I thought her life might be in danger. “From who?” She looked up at me from under auburn bangs, those big green eyes of hers wide with fear.

“Can’t tell you here.” I looked at the numbers above the door; we still had three floors to go. “We have to go somewhere and talk,” I said real quiet-like, “somewhere nobody will see us.” She nodded and ran her hands down her thighs, smoothing the skirt of her tailored tweed suit. I said she should tell George she was going shopping in Weston and then meet me at a run-down joint off Route 128.

When I arrived, I saw her Studebaker parked in the lot, freshly waxed and getting an even fresher rinse from the spring thunderstorm we were having. Rosalie was already sitting at a booth. A bolt of lightning lit up the joint for a moment, and her slender back was in the spotlight; her hair fell straight to her shoulders and then curled neatly under. Took off my raincoat and hat and hung ’em on the stand by the door.

The dive stank of burning grease, but it was empty, just like I’d hoped. The only other folks were a big blonde waitress in a pale blue dress and a short, pudgy cook with a greasy apron. He had a radio by his grease pit, and I heard Doris Day singing Sentimental Journey: “Gonna set my heart at ease…”

I slid in opposite Rosalie just as she was removing a cigarette from her purse. I pulled out my lighter and lit her smoke. She batted her eyes at me – oh, those long eyelashes. I lit a Lucky Strike of my own with the same flame.

“That’s a spiffy car you’ve got out there,” I said.

She gazed me up and down. “What’re you driving?”

“Buick.”

“They say Buicks sometimes…” She paused and raised one eyebrow. “…Rev up too fast.”

“Not if you know how to warm ’em up right.” I winked.

“Are you inviting me for a ride?”

“Well, frankly, I’d rather be inside the Studebaker.”

“Well, maybe the Studebaker wants you inside, but you’ll just have to wait and see.” She exhaled, and a thin line of blue smoke came from between her half-parted lips.

I hated to cut the chit-chat short, but my life and liberty – not to mention the pursuits of several types of happiness – were at stake.

I left the cigarette dangling from the corner of my mouth as I started. “Rosie, there’s something you don’t know about George.” I motioned the big blonde to bring me a cup of joe. “Back when we were both cub reporters, George used to sometimes hit this joint called the Pussycat Palace.”

“That sounds like a strip bar.”

“Yeah.” Her lower lip quivered. “So one night, he stays a little late, has a few too many drinks, meets a dippy chippy who’s had a few of her own – ”

“You’re saying he left with a stripper?!”

“Aw, Rosie.” I wrapped my hands around hers. “They were fooling around out back – I guess it was late and everyone else had gone – and, well, somehow she fell down the stairs to the cellar.”

Rosalie gasped.

“He told me must’ve been 20 of them concrete steps, and she just went down boompty-boomp-boomp-boom.” I paused for effect. “And she didn’t move.”

She drew both her hands over her mouth, but not before a tiny shriek escaped. “No!” The waitress and cook looked over; I just glared at ’em. I stubbed out my smoke in the tin ashtray.

“Oh my God,” she said.

“George, he didn’t even call an ambulance. Nothing. Just dusted outta there like nothing had happened.”

She furrowed her brow – damned if she wasn’t even cuter frowning – “How do you know all this?”

“We used to drink out of the same bottle, Rosie. We were that tight. He told me the next day, and I made sure I was the guy who got sent to cover the story. Wasn’t much of a story, really – dead, drunk hooker and all – but I made sure George’s name never came up.”

Everything I’d told her was true. I’d just switched my name and George’s.

“Why? Why would he do such a horrible thing?”

I shrugged. “Puzzlement of character.”

“Says you,” Rosalie said, slouching down and searching for a cigarette in her purse.

“Says me and the morgue.” I looked her dead in the eye. “You wanna go snooping around, asking about some hooker that died? And when they ask, what are you going to say? ‘Oh, my fiancé did it’?” That made her cry. I felt bad, but a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. “Rosalie, you ever known me to talk fancy?”

“No, Jack.”

“I’m on the square, I swear.”

“Why didn’t you turn him in?”

“Friends don’t rat each other out.”

I gotta say, I was relieved. He hadn’t told her, or she'd have said something like, “But George told me it was you who let that poor girl bleed to death.” If he’d told her, I would’ve had two of ’em to get rid of. She didn’t even look shocked – just sad, with tears welling up in her eyes. I lit her cigarette; she took a deep drag, and then let it out with a long sigh that ended with a whimper. “He’s always so adamant about avoiding that part of town,” she said. “I thought he found those places reprehensible.” I put my hand on hers; her long, elegant fingers brushed my palm, and our eyes locked.

“Here’s the thing, Rosalie.” I leaned back as a thunderclap signaled a new downpour outside. “You’re going to Rio for your honeymoon, right?”

She sat up straight. “How’d you know that?”

“It’s my job to know things. I know something else, too. He’s planning to kill you as soon as you’re in Brazil.”

She recoiled, like I’d stung her. “What – no – you must be mistaken.” The look in her eyes was a mixture of panic and sorrow. “He could never do that to me.”

“I’m sorry, sweetheart.” I cupped her chin in my hand and looked straight into her eyes. “He was on the horn yesterday, talking to some lawyer, asking what happens if you die on your honeymoon, whether he still gets half your money.”

“George never wanted my money,” she said. “He loves me. He’s told me that a thousand times.”

I squeezed her hand. “Of course he’s gonna tell you that. But listen, Rosie, he’s way off the track, baby; he’s wrong in the head.”

“But what am I going to do? I can’t cancel the wedding. He’d want to know why, and – ” she choked back a sob, “ – I just can’t face him, knowing this.”

“I’ll fix it, okay?” Her eyes widened again. “But you can’t tell anyone. I’m doing this just for you.”

“But I love him!” She sniffled, and I offered her my handkerchief.

“I know you do, doll. Think about it, Rosie.” She dabbed at her eyes and nose. “It’s you or him. I know you don’t like it, but it’s gonna happen. You or him.”

She nodded, and I knew I was home free. Good thing, too, because at that very moment, George Patterson was lying tail over teakettle at the bottom of a cliff. Brakes wouldn’t work. Funny thing, that. His fancy La Salle was destroyed by the fire, and the cops never did find out that the brake line had been cut.

Three months later, Rosalie and I got married, and I became the Ledger’s new city editor.

Once again, only one person in the world knew what I had done, and I intended to keep it that way.

Rhush
05-03-2005, 04:30 AM
BLACK WEDDING



Only one person in the world knew what I had done, and I intended to keep it that way. And she never spoke a word, suffering her silent vow, just as she had promised.

“And we kept our holy secret, didn’t we Sweetheart?” Horace whispered with a loving smile, looking up from his journal to cast a warm gaze over his blushing bride who lay dead on the table. The decayed woman, who existed more as a waxy shell of bones with soulless, blank glass eyes, laid without reply on the same bed of dead roses that Horace had positioned her on over five years before. She was always silent to the ear’s of the others. Those who would venture out to the homestead to offer the young widower a day of company. He never let them in. He had all the companionship he needed. The whispers of his bride soothed his ears daily. They had ever since that black day in 1863.

Years of wedded bliss have passed and I realize that when I am done the people of Plemons Town will be fretful. Many of you will not understand. Most of you will not. Some may say I’ve preformed an abomination under the eyes of God. So in my last entry of this journal, I wish to explain the undying love I carry for Stella, so that those who do not understand a love so profound, may experience the opening of their hearts.


April 13, 1863



The spring wedding flaunted a sunny afternoon, ripe with the fragrance of plump Gardenias as they dotted the lush meadow in full bloom. Warm breezes tickled through the tangle of Baby’s Breath in Stella’s dark curls as she stood hand in hand with Horace, promising to always love, honor, and cherish. The beloved couple stood nervous before the preacher and his Plemons congregation, with the feel of green grass soft beneath their shoes.

Horace was a successful mortician of twenty-five and Stella a bashful bride of only seventeen. The vows were given and the cake cut, and as laughter brimmed the grove Horace knew he had never been so happy.

That evening, he swept Stella up in his arms, whisking her over the thresh-hold. The newlyweds sped through a candlelit dinner, anxious to taste the once forbidden fruits discovered on the night of a honeymoon. After sharing her most precious of gifts with her husband, Stella pulled from his tender embrace, wrapping her nude body in the warmth of a white shawl.

“I’ve got one last surprise for you.” Stella cooed.

“Don’t be long, my love.” Horace smiled, leaning back into the pillow. “I think I can abide no more than a few minutes without my new bride.” Stella’s blue eyes danced as she giggled.

“And I can not bear to be without my new husband.” With that, she stepped out, her girlish giggles following her into the hallway.

And then came a shrieked clatter. A loud and terrible noise that shook shivers through Horace’s very soul. Like lightning, he jolted from the bed, scampering into the hallway. Clasping the banister, he glanced down.

“Oh God, no!” He gasped, his fearful lips trembling. Racing down the stairs and nearly slipping in the smeared blood, he rushed to Stella’s side. Dropping to his knees, he swooped her up into his arms. At the touch of her, his stomach dropped like a stone plunging a deep pond. She felt as lifeless as a tattered doll.

“Stella!” He bounced her about, desperate for her blue eyes to spark back to life. “Sweetheart!” He shook her again, this time jiggling her head to the side. What stared up at him in that moment shattered his heart into a thousand sharp and screaming pieces. Blood stained over the mesh of her shawl, tainting the white with a bright red that throttled his breath. A neck bone jutted up, protruding her throat under a flow of warm, pulsing blood. Shaking, Horace fumbled his fingers over the bone, making a desperate attempt to somehow pop it back into her flesh. But he knew, and knowing, he dropped his head to her, sobbing warm tears into her lifeless chest.

After spending the rest of his honeymoon night naked on the drafty floor with his bride, a knock at the door lifted Horace‘s swollen eyes.



Looking back, I can’t remember much. Just a blur of my mother hastening through the door, screaming, trying to pull me away from Stella. What I remember vividly, is the night after my blushing bride was laid to rest. I couldn’t bare to think of her in that cemetery. Buried. In the pitiless earth. How could she breathe? Wouldn’t she get cold? And her pristine, white wedding dress… it would get dirty, and I knew she wouldn’t want that. She had taken so much concern to be certain it was perfect. Mostly, I knew she would be missing me. Wondering where I was. I couldn’t carry on without her either. We were too young for such a fate. We needed more time! So I made her a promise….


April 15, 1863




The night air perfumed with the heady scent of approaching rain as Horace crept through the house blowing out lantern flames. Opening the front door, he peered out into the dark trees that surrounded his lonely homestead. A cool breeze hissed through the sea of leaves like a whisper. Satisfied, he pulled the door shut and crept across the porch in route to the shed. Grabbing his shovel, he began the hour long track out to get his wife. Ushered in by a clap of thunder, cold raindrops began to streak down over his sweaty brow, but his hurried pace never slowed.

Arriving at the cemetery, he went to the fresh mound of dirt, looking down through a blur of rain.

“Stella!” He whispered over the howl of wind, sinking his shovel deep. “It’s Horace! Hang on, Sweetheart! I’m get you out of there!” He dug and dug as the rain poured down, flooding the cemetery in a wash of gritty mud beneath his boots. Thunder boomed, lighting up the night sky like a bruise, exposing the clutter of gravestones crowding in on him.

Gritting his teeth, Horace burned his muscles into his work, grunting with the feel of splinters itching into his palms. But through the sting of down-pouring rain, he paused, certain he heard something. Standing as still as a statue in the dark cemetery, he listened. The muffled shrieks of his bride were misting up through the mud.

Charging back into his work, he stabbed the shovel deep, feeling the hard thump of metal against pine. His eyes went wide, dropping him to his knees in a frantic plunge to scoop handfuls of mud off of the coffin. Once the wood came into view, Horace dug angry fingers around the side, prying and splintering the boards up.




April 15, 1868

Ever since that night, I’ve shared my life with Stella. Certainly we’ve had our problems, as couples do. Like in the days following when her skin began to stink and eat away. Keeping the maggots from her required the vigilant attention of a dedicated husband, indeed! I would wake up next to her in the middle of the night with the little varmints trying to squiggle up my nose! We lived and we learned and finally I figured out to coat her in the wax. I didn’t replace her eyes until they themselves had finally rotted hollow, being certain I couldn’t live without her blue and loving gaze. But I did as I could with the glass eyes when the time came. I promised to love and cherish, and a vow is a vow. So now this night of our five year wedding anniversary, I am going to surprise her with one last wedding gift.

Putting down his quill, Horace traced a thumb and forefinger down the course, handlebar mustache lining his lip. Taking a deep breath, he slid up from his chair, and went to Stella. She waited for him on the table, still wearing her pristine, white wedding dress. The dry rose petals crackled beneath his palms, fuming up the spoiled scent of long-dead flowers as he leaned down to offer her his kiss. Pulling back, he directed his gaze to the rope hanging from the rafters. Dusting off the sleeves of his wedding day suit, he straightened his crisp collar and smeared a palm over the grease slicking back his hair. Sliding his chair across the floor in a squeal, he stepped up. As he slipped the noose around his throat, he cast a devoted gaze back to his wife.

“In honor of the surprise you were never able to give me our honeymoon night.” At the end of his words, he kicked the chair out from under his feet, all the while listening to the sweet voice of his young bride inviting him into death.

William Haskins
05-05-2005, 07:56 AM
Philosophy of the Flesh



by
William Haskins




"People say you always find what you're looking for when you stop looking," she whispered, her voice floating through the darkness like ethereal music.

“Who says that?” I asked, peering up from between her thighs. The corners of her mouth curled into a wicked grin as my fingers explored her quivering flesh.

“You know... people.”

“People are idiots,” I replied, kissing my way back down her stomach.

She giggled, guiding my head lower with the palm of her hand. “Then why didn’t I meet you before?”

“Before what?” I asked.

She pitched her head back and released a slow breath. “Before I decided I was going to be alone for the rest of my life.”

“We were never in the same place,” I said.

She looked down at me and smiled—backlit by the moon, which hovered like a voyeur in the window. “You make everything sound so random.”

I slid my hand slowly up her ribcage, across her breasts, and then inserted a single finger into the moisture of her mouth. She bit down on it gently.

“And you make everything sound like destiny,” I said.

She closed her eyes and raised her hips to meet the motion of my tongue, a low moan escaping her painted lips. The scent of her juices intermingled with perfume and sweat as her breath froze in a muted scream.

“Why couldn’t it have been destiny?” she asked.

“Because destiny doesn’t exist," I said. "All that exists is circumstance.”

I rolled over on my back beside her and kissed her neck. She melted into me, our limbs entangled. I could feel her pulse in every part of her body.

She climbed on top of me, her hair cascading down her shoulders, in turn obscuring—then revealing—her eyes in a slow smolder of intoxication. I kissed her deeply as I slid inside her.

Our symbiotic motion, slow and delicate at first, intensified to a frenzy of carnal hypnosis, her blood-red fingernails digging into my chest until there was no turning back, and our bodies were wholly consumed by lust.


*****


A soft veil of silence descended between us. She sat across the room in a bay window twisting her hair, her naked skin awash in moonlight. Even as I lay back on the pillow, staring at the blank canvas of the shadowed ceiling, I could feel her looking at me.

“So basically, nothing means anything,” she said, almost rhetorically, as she brought a cigarette to her lips.

“Only the meaning we attach to it.” I replied.

“That’s a cold way of looking at the world.”

“It’s a cold world.”

A flame snapped from her lighter, kissing the tip of her cigarette with a whispered singe.

“I’ll never love you,” she said.

I smiled and sat up on the side of the bed. “I’ll never ask you to.”

She moved across the room and folded herself into my arms. We fell back into bed, and sleep came much sooner for her than for me.


*****


We were married for nearly thirty years when she died.

All the times I told her it was going to be okay, all the times I reassured her that the treatments were state of the art, all the times I stood in the darkness howling at the sky in anger… none of it meant anything.

All that existed was circumstance.

She had given me everything. A life. A home. Three beautiful children, raised to be strong and honest. She stood by me when the world lapped at our heels like hellfire, and she laughed with me when the universe seemed as if it had been created only for us.

Losing her crippled my soul. It washed the color from my vision and replaced in my mind the soothing tide of hope with the stinging echo of bittersweet memories.

And yet when I looked down on her face, those beautiful eyes closed to me forever, I couldn’t help but smile.

In all those years, true to her word, she never said she loved me.

And I never told her that she was my destiny.

trumancoyote
05-05-2005, 07:57 AM
Only one person in the world knew what I had done, and I intended to keep it that way.

Oh, but what a silly, careless way to start a story. For one, it’s so vague—not much excitement. Will you keep reading in spite of it?...

To tell the truth, I don’t intend to keep it that way; I’m not OK with her knowing that I killed her goat. If she knows, after all, she’ll be able to provide some sort of Karmic witness, so that when I go to Heaven and God Almighty asks me about the goat as I’m standing before his golden throne—I can’t tell him: there was no goat. I haven’t killed anything. You’ve no proof, God.

Let me explain: I’m in an awful smelling cab, heading toward her house to kill her. I’ve got a crowbar in my hand and my skull is prickling with goat-sounds that—No, no. That’s not nearly far enough back, is it? Let’s see, we’ll start at the grocery store and work from there.

Ok. Grocery store. That was yesterday: Petey’s, down the street from my apartment. I was walking through the produce section—well, it was more of an amble, really. I was born an amblin’ man. So I was ambling through the produce looking for a nice tomato. (You know, it’s hard to find a good tomato. You see one that’s nice and plump, shiny, then pick it up and notice a bruise on its hind side from the careless thumb of some horticidal prick who figured he could hide what he’d done by turning it over.) Anyway, my hand was balled around a winner when this sickly man hobbled by and coughed all over it.

What’s one to do? I was angry, for sure; the tomato’s juice and seeds were spewing over my whitened fingernails. I turned to pitch it at my assailant’s head—then stopped. His ill-timed cough smacked of something… something about its smell. Yesyes! It was definitely the smell, but we’ll get back to that.

What’s important now is that you understand this: I was thirteen and ambling (yes, ambling again) down the old dirt road to my house. The sun was nasty, one of those white kinds that makes your scalp itch. And as averse as I was to the heat, I was a smuggish sort of happy: for there, pinched tightly between my thumb and forefinger, shaking but an inch before my sweaty nose, was a Mesmer Card.

Don’t laugh at me! All boys have their hobbies, whether it’s flying kites or sticking boogers in girls’ hair. Mine just happened to be the Headpeeper series of collecting cards. And this Mesmer Card was a smoking deal.

“Hey, Kip. I’ll give you this Holographic Freud for your Mesmer.”

“Don’t be like that. You know Mesmer trumps Freud—holographic or not. No deal. No way.”

“This one’s special, though.”

He quirked an eyebrow: “How so?”

“Well, look.” I brandished the card. The sun in his backyard glinted on Freud’s aluminum suit. “See where his cigar should be?”

“Yeah, it’s not there.”

“Exactly. It’s a misprint. Ever hear about those dollar bills that are half-printed? Those are worth millions.” I’ll tell you this, but shh: half an hour earlier I had rubbed out Freud’s cigar with an eraser, then filled in its absence with a dab of my sister’s awful metallic nail polish. It was sloppy at best, but Kip was a moron.

“Why would you want to trade it for a Mesmer, then? He’s rare, but not that rare…” he said, his bulging, avaricious eyes belying his concern.

“I guess I just like Mesmer better. So you sure you don’t want this?” I held the card close to his face at a jaunty angle.

And there I was an hour later, greedily reading the back of my Mesmer card as I walked home.

Franz Anton Mesmer ‘discovered’ animal magnetism in 1774. He would make his patients close their eyes and tell them to imagine the liquid tide he was sending through their bodies with a series of erratic hand-movements. His subjects would often—

My toe jabbed into a wayward rock, which sent the card fluttering like a dainty butterfly over a splintery white-washed fence to the side of the road. It appeared to have landed in a copse of weeds that circumvented a tilted doghouse. A flank of wood nailed questionably to its façade read “Katrine” in yellow paint. I was quick to clear the fence and retrieve my elusive treasure.

A bony sort of crunchiness underfoot, however, had warned that beast Katrine I was coming. It emerged from its wooden house and I saw, of all things, it was a goat! A mangy she-goat named Katrine. I laughed. And even now I deign to think that she knew I was laughing at her, because she replied by spitting out a goaty Myee-ah, then stepping one foot closer.

The card was between us amid a dry, yellow tangle of weeds. I looked Katrine in her eyes and she looked back at me, absently chewing at something deep in her mouth. It was then that I made my mistake: my eyes momentarily broke from our trance: flicked to the card and back. And that was all she needed. As quick as Death, and just as casual, Katrine dipped down her head and gobbled up the card. She then twitched her little beard twice in my direction and, bored of the situation, trotted back to her slanty shack.

How I surprised myself when I leaped for her throat! And oh, how empty and awful I felt upon Katrine’s final bloody gurgle of a bleat: Bii-ihah-uh—grg.

I shook her to make sure the deed was done and then, as if led by some other instinct, I looked up to the window of the house whose guard-goat I’d just wrung.

And it was there—there, I tell you!—there whence the smell came. That smell I mentioned, yes? The one at the grocery store—the sneeze and the tomato? Have I lost you altogether, reader? No, no… of course not. You remember perfectly the smell of ginger and cough syrup. It’s a clinical smell, somewhat sickly—something you’d expect to find floating in the hallways of a hospital or madhouse. But you would inevitably be disappointed when you found it wasn’t there. Hospitals smell like bleach and clicking, if you can indeed smell clicking as I can.

But where has my mind gone? Oh yes, ginger and cough syrup. I looked up at the house and beheld an open window. In its frame was the old lady of the house. To say ‘old lady,’ though, implies a complete form; it would be more accurate to say that I beheld a pair of cavernous nostrils bored deep into her warship of a nose, with a mouth below, full of twisted teeth that erupted with laughter the second I laid eyes on them. That laughter was heavy with the smell I’ve shared with you today.

That awful laughter. It was the so-mad madness in her voice that used to shake me from sleep for many years. And it wasn’t the fear of punishment that haunted me. It was the guilt—why hadn’t she told anyone? I used to think that she wanted me to see her there, watching me; that in itself was punishment enough. I was driven mad! It took me a decade to forget, and oh was it necessary to forget, because it’s the only sort of time-travel that we as people possess. Forget it, pretend it never happened. I did! And have slept well until that fateful yesterday when I once again smelled her laugh on my tomato at the grocery store.

Speak of the devil, My cab has just pulled in front of her house. It looks the same in the dark as it did so many years ago when it was sunny. I begin to sing—call it an urge, I guess—as I walk past her fence, the crowbar swinging from the arm by my hips.

No one to talk with
All by myself
No one to walk with
But I’m happy on the shelf

I pass by Katrine’s shabby goat-house.

Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for youuuuu…

A new stanza: what a perfect time to arrive at her door! I breathe in and then knock with my free hand, continuing to hum the song:

Hm-hmm hm-hm-hmmm
(I know for certain)

Hm-hmm Doo-doo
(The one I love)

Dodoo doodooo-hmm—Oh! A twist of the latch and the door cracks open. That monstrous nose emerges from the dark beneath the door-chain and exhales at me. Pluh. Otherwise, she’s silent.

“Hi. Uh, I… you don’t remember me, probably—hopefully—but uh… you had a goat once—”

The nostrils flared and: “I’ve never owned a goat.”

A beat of silence.

“Oh, nevermind then. I must have been mistaken—there was no goat.”

Nope. No goat. Never was.
No goat at all….