A Call to Action

You look across the field and see nothing, but the yips of the restless pack hidden in the tall grass make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and take notice.  Their excitement matches your fear.  Why did you insist on coming out here alone?  You wanted to show you were tough.  You were always the head of the pack in the city, but now here you were way out of your element.  You pull out your knife.  It is an impressive one, nine inches long and so sharp it could slice a sheet of paper in half, along its thickness.  This is the type of knife that someone even with a gun would get freaked out by if you are within stabbing range.  Yeah, no dog or coyote or wolf was going to be impressed by that.

Suddenly one of the dogs lets loose a howl of desire, followed by the rest of the pack replying with the Howl.  That sound deserved its capitalization for what it made your insides do to you.  You want to run, but your street smarts kick in.  Never show your fear, especially never run.  Once you run you can never go back.  You already did that once.  That’s why you’re here now.

The grass waves in the dead air, and you start to regret your decision not to run.  Maybe with enough of a head start you could have gotten up a tree.  There are plenty of them behind you.  Just like what happened to you in the city.  Plenty of places to run.  Plenty of places to leave your brothers and sisters behind to face what you couldn’t .  Plenty of ways for you to let them down by not trying at all.

You begin to run forward, aiming for where you think the first foe is.  This time you’re going to finish what you started, or you get finished by it.  Your knife sings through the air, and you begin to smile.  No matter what happens, this time you’re going to go down swinging.

A Writer’s Dilemma

Thompson looked up from his keyboard and into the soft brown eyes of his wife, Claire.  Thompson looked back down and continued to pound on the keyboard, hoping that their rattle and roll would frighten her into doing something else.  Alas, that plan, like so many others Thompson had recently, failed miserably.

“What’s the matter Honey?” Claire asked.  “You in the middle of something?”

Thompson continued to pound at the keys, but the prose was drying up quickly under the withering heat radiating from those soft brown eyes.  To be fair, the prose had never really turned on today, but Thompson was hoping a little, or a lot, of free writing might help him get over the hump.

As the staccato of the keys slowed in tempo to a larghissimo, the silence between key strikes strangled Thompson’s fingers, eventually halting what could barely be called progress anyway.  Thompson turned to face his muse and daily distraction.  “What is it Claire?” he asked.  “Can’t you see I’m working?”

Claire looked at the computer screen.  “The frog felt like even the flies were mocking him.  In that moment he wished he was a toad and could just leave this pond for good.  That and the idea of giving that little red headed boy a set of warts didn’t sound too bad either,” she quoted.  “Yep, that is some great literature right there.”

Thompson minimized the window.  “It’s a first draft,” he said.  “Once it’s done and polished it will be ready.”

“If you polish a toad, it’s still a toad,” Claire said.

Thompson stood up and began to walk out of the room.  “You never support me.  You think I’m just some hack writer.”

Claire wouldn’t let him go.  She kept up right behind him, thwarting his escape.  “You know that’s not true.  I think Gargatua is brilliant.  You know how to write Honey, you just don’t know how to finish,” she said.

Thompson stopped and spun to face her.  He was comfortable having this argument.  It was like that old friend that you never called, but always welcomed when they came over.  Thompson could barely keep the smile off his face.  “Gargatua is not finished.  It has a weak middle and the end is so loose that I marvel that nothing had fallen out of the story yet,” he said.

“Don’t hand me that crap again,” Claire said.  “I sent it to that agent and he begged you to allow him to represent you.”

“I never asked you to do that,” Thompson said.  “And that want to be writer wouldn’t know good prose if the words themselves came off the page and crushed him anaconda style.  The book is not ready.”  Thompson had to resist punctuating that with a foot stomp.

Claire firmly placed her hands on her hips and struck the pose so hard it almost made Thompson’s heart stop.  “So why don’t you work and finish your first novel and then start up another?” she asked.

Thompson decided retreat was the better part of valor when facing the pose, so he immediately headed upstairs to his bedroom, closing the door and locking it just before Claire was able to force her way in.  Thompson put his back to the door and slid to the floor amid the pounding from Claire.  “Thompson Michael Smith, open this door right now.  We are going to talk this out like adults.”

Thompson shook his head, then realized that Claire couldn’t see the motion.  “Nope,” he said.  “That’s not going to happen.  You can’t make me.”

One last thud made the door shudder.  It was higher up and more in the center.  Thompson could almost imagine it must have been Claire’s head.  He was about to say something, but like usual, Claire beat him to it.

“Thompson, I can’t take this anymore.  Honey, I want a divorce,” Claire said.  She sounded so defeated.  He heard her slump to the floor on the other side of the door.  “This just isn’t working out.  I love you.  I think you’re an awesome writer, but I can’t be the only person who believes that.  I put so much energy into that, and I’m tired.  I’m tired, and I just can’t do this anymore.”

Thompson heard her get up and walk away.  He waited and listened.  He was sure she would be back.  After ten minutes or so he got up and opened the door with his eyes mostly closed, waiting for her to rush in since this must be a trick.  It wasn’t a trick, but that left Thompson even more depressed.  Claire was in her room packing a suit case.

It had finally come to the tragic ending he had predicted when they had first married eight years ago.  Claire had always believed they could pull it off, but Thompson was more of a realist.  Nobody deserved to go through life weighed down by him.  The best he could do was help her on her way.  Maybe once free, both of them could flourish.

Thompson leaned against the doorway of her room, letting the house hold up what little he had in his life at that moment.  “Look, I’m sorry.  You’re right.  This isn’t working out, but well, is there anything I can do?“ he asked.

Claire looked up at him.  “There is one thing that will make this whole thing easier,” she said.

“Sure, anything I can do,” Thompson replied.

Thompson stared at the screen in front of him, his mouth hanging open in disbelief.  His novel was now a best seller.  It was number four on the New York Times fiction listing.  It was already optioned for a movie starring George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, and Helen Mirren.  Everything was going his way, except for one thing.  The author of record was that of his ex-wife.  That’s all she wanted from the divorce.

Thompson brought up his newest novel.  That frog was going to get his wish.  It was going to experience life, warts and all.

A Mile In My Shoes

Paris lifted Barney’s shoes off her desk with two fingers as if the offending footwear was diseased.  She twisted her hand to look at Barney’s shoes from all sides.  They were a deep mahogany colored loafer that had seen far better days.  The heel of the right foot was worn and some of the padded insert could be seen poking through right above the rubber sole.  The left shoe had its rubber sole worn quite unevenly.

Paris looked back up to Barney.  “So why again was I supposed to look at these?” she asked as she dropped the shoes to the floor of her office.

Barney padded over in his socks and picked them up.  “You can tell a lot about a man by looking at his shoes,” he said.  “You told me I don’t know what I was talking about in my essay.  You gave me an F.  Well you don’t know where I come from.  So put my shoes on.”  He paused for dramatic effect before continuing.  “You can tell even more by walking a mile in them then any essay Dr. Pritchard.”  Barney put on his biggest cheesy grin and displayed his shoes to emphasize his point.  “You see, to me they say I drive a lot and have a limp.  Want to try to walk in them and feel a bit of what I go through?”

Paris shook her head.  “Put them back on Mr. Winthrop,” she said.  “If you want to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, read a book.”

Barney jabbed one of his shoes at her.  “What do you mean by that?” he asked.

Paris reached over to her bookshelf where she kept the good stuff.  She picked up a slightly worn copy of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.  She flipped through the pages while breathing in.  It was like hugging a good friend you hadn’t seen in a while.  The scent of that particular book always brought back the summer of 78 when she had read it for the first time.

Paris held the book out to Barney.  “You want to know about African American struggles in the 1920s and 30s, you read this book.  It will give you insights you can’t get by just watching a TV,” she said and then pointed at Barney’s loafers, “or walking in someone else’s shoes.  You see you don’t get the inner emotions doing any of that other stuff, just the outside view of how the tread is uneven.  What about how you feel when you need to walk?  Can I get that from wearing your shoes?  Will I know the struggle of not wanting to go buy a new pair of shoes because money is tight?”

“I’ve got plenty of money,” Barney said.  “I just hate shopping for shoes.”

Paris smiled and slapped her desk.  “Exactly Mr. Winthrop.  I can’t get that from really walking in your shoes.  I can only get that if you tell me, or if I read it in a great work of literature.”

Barney slumped down in the chair beside Paris’ desk.  He put his shoes on and took the book out of her hand.  He looked at it, trying to comprehend the importance of such a tome.  Finally his eyes went from the book and back to hers.  “But why have me read about a black person in the 1920s?” he asked.

Paris shook her head then leaned forward to look Barney in the eyes.  “Because you were supposed to write a story about this book, not the Hitchcock film.”

Phoning It In

What do you get for the man who has everything?  That line was almost enough to get me to do this job on its own, but the fifty large put in front of me didn’t hurt.  I look out the sight and here comes the limo with its security detail.  No one is getting in or out of that five block radius.  This is damn good security. Too bad I don’t care.  I look at the wind velocity and adjust where the barrel points.  I guess where the back door would line up, but I am a little off.  I move the crosshairs quickly to line up with the rear passenger window.  The question is would the target be the second or third out of the car.  I slow my breathing out of habit and wait for my moment.  Here comes the first person, definitely security.  I am about to press the trigger, but hesitate as the second person appears.  I smile as I realize my guess was right.  As the third person begins to emerge I fire.  The man who had everything now has nothing and I shut down the remote control.  No one is getting out of a five block radius, but I was at least ten since I am using my burner phone.  I am going to lose a lot of equipment, but the second fifty large coming to me would easily make up for it.  I drop the burner into a dumpster after washing it in the acid solution and I walk away whistling happy birthday.

Brand Recognition (a 100 word story)

I wear your brands, but I am not proud of that.  As a matter of fact I feel beaten down, owned by “the man”, you.  I work for your every whim, worried that if I don’t represent you well that I will be whipped into shape.  These brands mark me in other’s eyes.  I am singled out in a crowd.  Everyone immediately knows what kind of person I am, all because of these brands that I wear.  Are you proud of what have created?  I am a human billboard; my flesh scared with your ownership, a free man no more.

100 Words of Inspiration

What do you do when the well is dry?  What do you do when the magical waters of inspiration seem to dry up in the withering heat of sleep deprivation combined with the relentless winds of work?  You could give up and let the stories inside of your wither and die in the drought, or you take out your emotions and begin drilling deeply, looking for the gusher.  You might break your story once or twice, but you keep drilling.  How long does it take till you hit that liquid gold?  I don’t know.  Maybe about one hundred of them?

Wanting to Scream

Margret meandered down the hallway, not looking at anyone in particular, but trying to memorize how each face perceived her.  Her sudden head swings tried to take it all in, documenting for her future self how others looked into her eyes.  Couldn’t they see it?  It was right in front of them, but the pity she saw in those that would look into her eyes was so shallow that they would never find the depths where she hid her soul.  Margret wished she could just scream, but she knew no words would come out.  Everyone knew that about her.  Just when it was about to get too painful to bear, Christopher came around the corner.  He placed his muscular arm around her and began to guide her back to her room.  She began to cry silently as always.  Chris leaned in close.  “It’ll be okay,” he said to everyone watching the spectacle.  Soon they were back to her room, and Chris picked Margret up and placed her on her bed.  “It’ll be all better in a bit,” he said as he closed her door, staying in her room.  Margret tried to scream, but her voice betrayed her, just like Chris.