The wet kiss of the air, the possibility of rain. We huddle under a child’s umbrella in preparation, one found in the bottom of your backpack earlier, where you did not expect it to be; nor did either of us expect that it would be needed, the summer sky clear and blue all day, the chance of rain never seeming more remote. The sight of the umbrella nearly ended our stolen time just as it was beginning, the hotel room around us suddenly becoming both too big and too small. I remember watching you, seeing you frown as your hand closed around something unknown in your bag, your facial expression simultaneously falling and solidifying as you pulled it out. I felt my heart shift inside me in the moment before I saw the umbrella in your hand, concerned that you had cut yourself on something sharp, and then, seeing the umbrella, its rainbow colours, I experienced a stillness in my chest that seemed to last longer than possible. I witnessed the silent battle that was being waged throughout your entire being, before you shook yourself, a movement so slight I would have missed it if I had not been watching you so intently, and placed the umbrella back into your backpack, the hotel room expanding around us, like the world gaining previously unknown possibilities. The stillness passed from my chest, my heart regaining its beat. Continue reading A Child’s Umbrella by Edward Lee
The hiss and steady, low thumping of machines assaulted the hallway air. White uniformed men and women, occasionally one in a dark blue smock and matching pants, cruised throughout. What type of shoes do they wear? They make no noise except for an occasional squeak when they stop abruptly.
One figure stood out. The black outfit with the white collar told it all.
“We don’t often get many of our kind in here,” he said almost gleefully. Not one to push back from a table, the man in black waddled to the bedside. Continue reading Our Kind by P. A. Farrell
I will leave the building with her. We will walk together for several blocks. It will be night. Before we leave, she will say something to me, she will make some remark about the tone of my voice. When I speak to her, the tone of my voice will have a certain effect on her, and so she will make this comment. As we leave the lobby of the building, I will notice that its beige marble walls have a faint glow. This will be the effect of a street lamp shining through the glass doors of the entryway Continue reading Ineluctabilis by Peter J. Dellolio
Henry tapped his greased fingers on the steering wheel as he hummed along to a rock song that shook the speakers. He glanced at his wife, Sandra, whose gaze was fixed out the window, to the ocean below.
“Why did you go this way? You know I hate bridges,” she said.
“What?” he shouted over the music.
She jammed the radio knob in command for it to go silent. “I said, I hate bridges! I don’t know why you always go this way! Or play the music so damn loud!” she shouted.
“Because it’s the quickest way, dear,” he replied in a calm tone. “Don’t get your knickers in a wad. Your fear for bridges is just an illusion, you’ll be fine.”Continue reading Shaken by KC Hampton
Six paintings sold! Carey pumped her arms overhead and swayed to Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.” Apropos. Her gamble on an unknown artist had paid off. Humming, Carey locked the gallery and set the alarm. The mess and champagne bottles could wait. Besides, a seat at Soboba’s Casino’s poker table, and a couple of martinis, would top off her night perfectly.
Except for the smokers loitering outside the dance clubs, the street was empty. The theater wasn’t out as yet. If she’d locked up an hour ago, she could have begged a lift to her car. Carey’s footsteps echoed on the pavement. The long walk to the dirt parking lot was unappealing, but tonight finding parking at all was pure luck.
After six blocks, the arts district merged with a once-stylish neighborhood awaiting gentrification. Carey’s feet rebelled in her narrow, new boots. But there it was, right after the fire hydrant—a cobbled alley she knew was a shortcut.
Carey hesitated at the entrance. During daylight hours this was just your typical graffitied alley, but after dark it was, well, dark.
“Mommy, look! A Black baby!” bellowed my four-year-old son, Silas, in a volume characteristic of all children his age. “He’s so cuuuute!”
I felt my insides immediately freeze, unsure whether to be mortified or not. Outwardly, I kept idling my shopping cart along the grocery store aisle, being careful not to quicken or slow my pace, eyes pretending to look around for the brand of ground thyme I like but can never remember before stealing a glance at the woman wearing the tiny baby in a carrier. We couldn’t have looked more different. She was tall; I am short, not even able to reach the lone packet of Red Star yeast she effortlessly extracted from the top shelf and dropped into her cart. She had shimmering dark caramel skin; I have pasty, dull skin with freckles. She had thick African braids bundled up like a crown on her head, making her look even taller; I have thin brown hair that clings to my head like it’s afraid to go out into the world.Continue reading The Black Baby by Kelly I. Hitchcock
“What kind of dog is that?”
“Naah—they don’t come in black.”
“Well, that’s what she is. Recessive gene.”
“Huh? No, she’s a mutt, Lady. You got gypped.”
“Oh, all right—I’ll tell you the truth. She’s an Arcanian Bat Hound.”
“Wow! Really? I’ve never seen one before. Uh—where’d you get her?”
“I had to import her, got special permits and all. Arcania doesn’t export them normally.”
“I bet. Uh—where’s Arcania?”
“Eastern Europe. Tiny country. You’ve never heard of it, right?
“That’s because it’s a shadow state—keeps its existence a secret.”
A man with strange memories lived a few years ago. He may still be alive; I couldn’t say. We haven’t spoken in years and I’ve heard he doesn’t live in Belize anymore. I don’t have a current address.
He was a man who always dressed well. Always wore smart clothes. Fashionable, but not in the day’s fashion. A step to the side of whatever the current trend was.
A fastidious man, his hair was always groomed; face studiously clean-shaven when he didn’t have a beard or mustache. When he had either, it was always crisply trimmed.
Fingers manicured. Toes pedicured. Definitely fastidious.
His eyes held had a look of quiet concern. It seemed something permanent. He wore sunglasses all the time, day and night; cloud or sun. Continue reading The Strange Life He Recalls by William Wren
He was of questionable character. That was a widely acknowledged fact. Yet, many would never have suspected that he would pilfer pallets in the darkest hours of the night, from the backs of drugstores, grocery stores, liquor stores being by far his favorite. It was a crime and he was a criminal. But in the dark, he felt free. He was invisible and that gave him a power he never before considered. Continue reading The Pallet Thief by Pat Becker
I was nearly to Castle Green when the wind found its way beneath my collar. Off guard because there is never much winter here even in winter, I’d left the apartment without a scarf. No, not off guard. Daydreaming. Be honest. I flipped up the hood on my thin coat.
When I’d first spotted her that hot, bright day last summer, the light intense, rendering shadows sharp, I’d been heading for the bus, as I am now, on my way to the library to shelve books for another eight hours, to waste another day. I could have been painting in good light. No! Honesty, remember? I haven’t had the oils out in more than three years. And today is winter, it’s overcast—light is needed to paint. Head cleared now? Continue reading Passing Castle Green by Jackie Pugh Kogan
You are in a box. You’ve only a handful of inches to any side—left and right, before and behind.
The world trembles and rumbles. Every so often, it tilts inexplicably.
Faces appear in front of you. Squinting. They are four to five times the size of your own. They coo and murmur. They insert large appendages through slats in the box. Pink appendages. Brown appendages. Appendages knuckled and supple like tree branches, each trying to poke and scratch you.
Voices ask if you’re okay and you want to say, “I’m in a box! How okay can I be?” Instead, you ignore them and hope they go away. Continue reading The Move by William Wren
When it came to men and dating, Heather had a few mantras. One was, “Every woman should receive at least one piece of serious jewelry from an unserious relationship.”
Her friends knew that her proclamations were 50 percent tongue in cheek and 50 percent bravado. After all, the most serious piece of bling that Heather had ever received was a sequined tree ornament, no doubt procured at an after-Christmas sale.
But that didn’t stop her from hoping, especially after she eyed the impressive diamond collection of Candace, a co-worker with the placid beauty of Gwyneth Paltrow. Candace collected diamonds with the same casual abandon that school boys gather Pokemon cards. When Heather complemented her on a glimmering diamond tennis bracelet, she shrugged, “Oh. This thing? It’s from that stock broker I dated last year.”
When Heather remarked on a diamond necklace, she was equally blasé. “I took the diamonds in a ring from the car dealer I dated and had my jeweler remake it into this.” Continue reading Serious Jewelry by Susan Carrier
When they saw the young, dark-haired man frantically waving his hands from what looked like a small makeshift raft, Mr. and Mrs. Beaumont showed amusement rather than alarm. “Oh, it’s one of those boat people, I think,” said Georgina Beaumont. “How exciting!” Douglas Beaumont concurred, peering intently from the aft deck of the Grand Excelsior ocean liner. Only a handful of passengers occupied this deck, and most of them were busy huddled around the bar. No one else had been staring out to sea. “Ah, yes, I presume the brave soul hopes to paddle to our shores,” he said. “Guess he didn’t get the memo. Poor guy needn’t go to so much trouble.”
In celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary, the Beaumonts had been one of the first to sign up for an exclusive, luxury cruise to Cuba. This, following the U.S. government’s renewed diplomatic ties with the country. What a thrill to embark on such a momentous voyage, they thought. A somewhat safe gamble for the Beaumonts, who came from an affluent Pasadena lineage, shielded from much of society’s ills, and generally accustomed to the finer things in life. Their knowledge of the island’s history was hazy at best. “I can’t wait to light up one those great cigars,” said Douglas. “I believe Gloria Estefan has roots there,” added Georgina. And they were familiar with those ‘boat people’, who risked their lives to escape Castro’s oppressive dictatorship and seek freedom in America.
The figure in the raft drifted off, and so did the Beaumont’s attention, due to raucous shouts at the bar. “A toast! A toast! To ending the embargo!” someone shouted. The tipsy travelers hoisted drinks in the air and roared with approval.
Strolling casually towards the front of the huge liner, they basked in the comfortable ease that a ship like this has offered wealthy passengers for decades. They enjoyed the thrill that comes from a majestic, commanding rush as steel hulls churn through ocean torrents. The misty sweep of salty raw sea air tickled their noses and tingled their flesh. All within safe perimeters. It seemed to match their stature somehow, as if the Beaumonts represented an elite sector of society who samples the real world at a comfortable distance, protected by unseen forces. They drew close to each other, momentarily vulnerable to unbridled and unaccustomed sensuality.
When they reached the large pool area, with his its towering slide, a commotion interrupted the Beaumont’s alluring trance.
“The last time I saw him? I’m not sure,” said a panic-stricken woman to a deck hand. A crowd hovered around her. “All he said was ‘I’m going to grab an inner tube and go wild,” she said. “He’s bit of a daredevil, you see.” The deck hand nodded nervously.
“But he’s not here and I’ve looked everywhere. I mean everywhere!”
“Can you describe him for us,” said the deck hand. “Uh, well, he’s about 5 foot 8 inches, 160 pounds, black hair.”
Georgina faltered a bit, forcing Douglas to grab her elbow. Images of a clock, with hands moving fast, like in an old black and white movie, raced through both their heads.
© Copyright 2015 Stephen R. Wolcott. All rights reserved.
Stephen R. Wolcott is an award-winning writer/producer with over 100 television, behind-the-scenes “making of’ and documentary projects to his credit. In addition, he’s interviewed a wide range of celebrities and notable figures, including William Shatner, Richard Gere, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Gary Sinise, Robert Wagner, JPL/NASA scientists, Whoopi Goldberg, and almost every cast member from the Star Trek films and television series. In print, his work as appeared in Emmy Magazine, Now Playing and The Pasadena Weekly. He also enjoys traveling cerebrally to his former Craftsman home in Pasadena’s Bungalow Heaven.
“I don’t typically investigate cases of missing dogs.” Being polite, pleasant even, as I took information from the young woman, an art student.
“My puppy’s name was Lady,” she said through her hand, elbow on a hip. She invited me into her apartment, minimally furnished with Swedish mail-order. A somewhat older male was busy being minimal on the sofa, eyes at half-mast.
“Was Lady spayed?” I scratched at paper.
“Lady was a boy…” Interjected he from the couch. I looked at him. He was reading a newspaper upside down, eyes still to half-mast, and fixed on a location over my shoulder.
Pointing to the faker on the couch, I asked “What is your friend’s name?”
“That’s Lanny! He’s no’ my friend…he’s my lover…” The woman said, accent on ‘love,’ as she hugged herself and bit her lip. “Anyways…” she continued as I observed, “…Lady was gone, gone when I got home from work las’ night.” I decided her inability to completely pronounce words was an affectation, rather than an impediment of speech. Later I would add to this that it was a means of not discussing that which was uncomfortable, or should be hidden from conversation, rather like a writer who over-uses the ellipsis as means of concealing a hidden thesis. Continue reading A Boy Named Lady by Nils Grevillius
Red showed through the mud. Rose red. Glancing over at me, my big brother, Ben, asked, “Find one, Deb?”
That summer, for the last time, we’d tagged along with the Wallace boys to search the swamps for frogs. Back in the sixties, the swamps were within walking distance of where we lived outside Washington, D.C. We’d trap the frogs in jars and take them home until they deserted us by quickly dying. Sally Wallace, who was a couple years older than me, never came along, but that wasn’t something you’d ask her brothers about.
I shook my head no, I hadn’t found any frogs, and Ben went back to searching a patch of reeds. No one saw me salvage the scrap of cloth, with its pattern of roses, from the mud. And no one saw me wrap it in Kleenex and stuff it in the pocket of my overalls. I always kept Kleenex with me when I was in grade school and got nosebleeds a lot.
I tried to remember what was familiar about those roses as we walked home from the swamps. Only John and Tom Wallace caught any frogs. Their brother, Joey, who was even littler than me, insisted we take them to the swimming pool in my family’s back yard. Joey was crazy to see the frogs swim in it. Continue reading Muddy by Amy Allison