Monthly Archives: March 2014

Storytime – another Writing Exercise, aka *really* short story – Mystery Package

The prompt:

Lunchtime, the usual rush to the elevators, the rush out onto the street, deciding at the last minute, which restaurant. You decide to check out the new place. You grab a small booth, place your order, and before your food even arrives, someone else shows up, wanting to share the booth. You motion them in, and exchange pleasantries. The other person, a young bearded guy, seems ill at ease about something, his eyes keep shifting about, and he is generally nervous. All at once he sees something through one of the windows to the street and jumps up, shouts, “Here, this is for Tomas!”, tossing a small package at you across the table as he runs toward the back. As he flees, there is a commotion at the front of the restaurant when several uniformed policemen come in, arrive at your booth, then run toward the back when you gesture that way. You glance down at the small package in your hands, and see that is is stamped, “RUSH – Medical Supplies”.
What’s going on? Why are the police chasing this guy? Who’s Tomas? What could be in the package?

My take on the story:

I continue to sit in the booth, stunned into immobility. Everything has happened so quickly I’ve hardly had time to process it. The waitress has brought my banh mi, and I absentmindedly munch on the sandwich, hardly tasting it. She brings around a refill for my hot tea, and as she leaves, a young woman slips into the booth, opposite me. She whispers, “Do you have the package? I know I’m late, but this is the right booth, I know it. Do you have it?”
I’m starting to add all this up, and so far, I’m getting “2+2=7”. Very puzzling.
She seems agitated, says, “Tomas is very sick, getting weaker. Why do you delay? We paid the money, now we need the serum!”
I looked around, checking the other patrons, but no one seemed to be interested in us. I leaned forward, asking, “What is wrong with Tomas? How do I know he’s supposed to get this stuff?” I was trying to pry loose a few facts here – was this for a rare, contagious ebola-like disease, or did Tomas just have the mumps? Should I quickly leave, or should I turn over the package?
She looked at me, quizzically. “Hey, are you trying to change the deal? It’s done, all taken care of, so hand it over, now!” Her purse was in front of her on the table, and she quickly slipped her hand inside, but just paused there, waiting to see what I’d do.
I slowly spread my hands wide, to either side of me, indicating (hopefully) that I was no threat, ,and to just take it easy. She relaxed, just a bit, but kept her hand inside the purse.
“I didn’t get the whole story, so I was just wondering about the background here.”
She hissed, “You don’t need ‘background’, Bozo, just”, she was speaking forcefully now, “give me what I came for!” Again with the hand movements inside the purse, but more nervously now.
“Surely you can see my side of this, “ I argued, reasonably, I hoped, “this could be a sucker deal. I hand it over and eighteen cops rush to the table. Maybe you’re wired, and maybe there’s a big van out there with guys wearing headphones and doodling pictures of me behind bars.”

I don’t know why I was being hesitant, really. I should just hand over the package, just as she said. Why was I even doing this? Maybe I’d seen too many detective shows on tv, too many drug deals played out, too many gunfights. Was I crazy? Surely I knew the possible consequences. I guess, because I’m a writer, I just wanted to know more.
I couldn’t believe myself as I said, probably risking at least a smash in the face, “Hey, how about I come along, see what’s going down here? Then I can be sure that there really is a sick person at the center of this, and you’re not just another junkie needing this rocket fuel for another trip.”
I had unthinkingly placed the package on the table in front of me as I talked, and her eyes locked onto it as she drew the little gun out of the purse. She pointed the gun at me, but concealed it behind the napkin holder so no one else could see what was going on. She gestured that I should slide the package over to her.
I was about to slide it over, as she was demanding, but then I had another thought. I said, “Maybe I could just…”
She stood up, grabbed the package and shot me in the chest, three times quick. She ran out toward the back, just as he had done.
I slumped over, feeling my world drifting away, wondering, “What’s going on? Why are the police chasing this guy? Who’s Tomas? What could be in the package?”


Six Word Story Challenge: Daredevil

#6WSC Daredevil

Flauting physics

Beyond Fear

Soaring beyond

Storytime – another Writing Exercise “Off to War”


Writing prompt:

You are now into genealogy, and so you’re in Savannah, Georgia, looking at old headstones in historic Bonaventure Cemetery. You have a ‘hit list’ of names you hope to find, and since all the names did not appear on the official list, it’s time for footwork. Where could Eli Thomas be hiding? He died at Vicksburg, but they buried him here, with the rest of the family. Finally, back in the shade of the Spanish moss-covered trees, you find the family grouping: Eli Thomas, wife Ruth, sons Jebediah and Malachi. As you lean in for a photograph of Eli’s headstone you see something unusual. Below his name, there is a faded, scratched notation, “Mattie is here, too”. Who was Mattie? Was she really related? There was no ‘Mattie’ listed in the family Bible of the time. Was she buried in the late 1800’s, or did someone sneak a body here in more ‘modern’ times?


Off to War

Eli Thomas had gone away to war.  His family waved goodbye, with tears streaming down all their faces.  Ruth and Eli had been married for only four years, but they had settled in together as if it had been preordained; they truly were meant to be together. Their boys, Jebediah and Malachi, had come along to enrich their lives, and the future looked bright. They planned that Eli would work the land, Ruth would raise the boys, and in their turn the boys would learn to plow and harvest.

Then came the dreadful news that there was to be war, and their world was in peril.  Eli could not in good conscience refuse when they came to ask him to march away.  Mr. Jefferson Davis had put out the call, and all good men were going in their thousands to answer that call.

Eli had been gone hardly a year when Ruth came down with the consumption and was unable to care for the boys.  The little boys went frequently to her door, but she sent them away most times, trying to protect them from contagion.  Taking care of Ruth was Aunt Mattie, as they called her, the old black woman from down by the river.

“Mattie,” Ruth called, “please bring me some more damp cloths, I’m burnin up!”  She started coughing again, just with the effort of talking.

“Yes, Miz Thomas, I’m a-comin.”

Mattie hurried into the sick room and placed some more cloths by Ruth’s bedside, then took away the red-stained ones, colored from Ruth’s horrible coughing.  She sat for awhile, holding Ruth’s hand and wiping her fevered forehead.  “Now, now,” she said, soothingly, “try to close your eyes and get some rest.  You’ll feel better, I just knows it.”

Jeb and Malachi were at the door again, peering inside. Aunt Mattie got up and shepherded them away as she quietly closed the door behind her.  “Now, you boys go outside and play, and try not to make a ruckus.  Your mother has the poorlies today, and needs her sleep.”

Jeb, the oldest, couldn’t hold back his tears, “But, when will she get better?  We want momma!”

She leaned down and gave him a little hug, saying, “We’re a-hopin she’ll be up and around in no time, but for today, we gots to let her sleep, ok?”

Jeb calmed down some, and stolid little Malachi put his arms around Jeb, which seemed to help.  Malachi asked, in a whisper, “Will she play with us tomorrow?  I want to run and play with my ball.”  Aunt Mattie leaned over to him, kissed him on his rosy cheek, then patted him on the head.  “We’ll see,” she said, “now you run along like good little boys, ok?”  They trudged down the hall toward the front door, then went outside.

She sighed, listened a bit at Ruth’s door, then went into the kitchen to make some soup.

Ruth only lasted another month, and by then both boys were sick, too.  Over several trips, the old men from town had come to dig fresh graves, three in all.

Time had passed, the war had ended, and now Aunt Mattie stood over the graves, feeling her age. She was remembering when word had come that Eli had been wounded, then put in the hospital at Vicksburg, but had died there.  Sadly, he came home in a box. Mattie sighed again, knowing that her time was coming soon.  She looked at the four headstones, grouped inside the little fence in the big graveyard.  She hoped they would allow her to rest there, in her turn.

She hoped the old men in the town wouldn’t forget their promise.

Ramblin’ thoughts…..again.

So, we live in Corydon, Indiana, which is (stretching your imagination a little) sort of a bedroom community for Louisville, KY, about 30 miles east of here.  Accordingly, I read the Louisville Courier-Journal, in addition to the Corydon Democrat.  And, periodically (pardon the pun) there will be found something newsworthy, or at least “comment worthy” in one of these papers.  No, I’m not talking about earthquakes, cities burned to the ground, possible war with Russia over the little misunderstanding in the Ukraine – you call that stuff NEWS?

I learned just this morning that the powers-that-be are planning to put a PEDESTRIAN CROSSWALK over Interstate 71. Well, now, just think of all the ancillary expenses involved with that enterprise!  We’re talking land, lots of land, to begin with.  We’re talking parking lots on both sides, some type of access roads or exchanges will have to be constructed, both sides, steel, concrete, fuel for all those concrete trucks, lotsa union labor…. really piles up, doesn’t it? Of course, a simple crosswalk won’t do.  We know for a fact that there are terrorists just waiting to hurl heavy objects down onto unsuspecting motorists sailing down the Interstate.  So, we’re talking a TALL fence on the sides of the crosswalk, or a tubular fence of some sort.  Wanna pay for that?  I thought not. And the delay, my goodness, we’re talking at least a YEAR of construction, I’d think.  If only SOMEONE could come up with a better plan.  Someone.


Catapult, trebuchet… potato, poTATOH, whatever


Ok, here’s my idea.  They should put in a PEDESTRIAN CATAPULT instead.  Admit it, you like it already from just hearing the name,  don’t you?  The numerous benefits should be obvious to the most casual (casualty?) observer.  Firstly, forget parking lots, we’re talking PEDESTRIANS here, people!  And, regarding materials, I’m thinking that with a small investment in 2 by 4’s and some plywood, a few garage door springs, maybe an air compressor or two, and we’ve got a launcher.  Sure, we’d have a launcher on both sides, just in case a pedestrian (read:survivor) needs to come back this way later.  No matter, we’re still talking chump change here. For the receiving end, just some telephone poles and some cargo netting will work fine. Gettin’ the picture?  Bodies flying through the air, briefcases going all different directions, purses, artificial limbs…. oh, the fun!  Delays in construction? I think not!  We could put the job out on Craigslist for bids, and after we go through the 3 or so bids we get, a coupla good ole boys could put this all together in two weeks, I’m thinkin. Expense? Hogwash! My estimate is $258, tops!  Of course, this includes air compressors from Harbor Freight – I mean, there’s your savings!  Do we really need top-of-the-line (read:safety approved, expensive) compressors?  Maybe $30 each for the construction experts, what could be simpler?

OK, now we’re needing a GROUNDSWELL of opinion here, and a few volunteers, too.  Note to volunteers: be sure to fill out that ‘next of kin’ form and include it with your application, k?