Posted in Writings

We’re All Equal

High Tower

Could it be the bent cardboard package backing? How the plastic is so slightly yellowed with age, how the dried glue’s seal is slightly broken but not enough to lend credibility to the possibility of tampering? Maybe it’s all those qualities. Maybe it’s none of them. Maybe it’s because there are exactly six beer coasters in the set, no more and no less, and that number called to him. He didn’t know he was looking for these coasters until he looked at them, but once he found them, he knew his days of wandering were over.

Certain events were set into motion just a short time ago with the goal of reaching a certain outcome. For that outcome to be reached, certain signals will be broadcasted through reality; certain coincidences will line up and convenient events will occur that help guide reality towards that certain outcome. Partner, this is one of those events.

“How much you got on this ah, this pack’a Coors beer coasters, here?” George asks the clerk, who is standing behind him, by addressing the coasters themselves.

“Oh, y-you can just have them, Sir. There’s no need–”

“No,” as he turns around to face the clerk. They’re the only two in the secondhand shop, George walked in just after the last customers walked out. The guy was about to close, such impeccable timing. “Anybody else would pay. C’mon now, how much?”

“Oh, oh uh, um…” He shakes his head in disbelief. “Five bucks?”

George smiles and offers a hand. “Make it ten and you have a deal.”

The clerk takes it for a shake. “Gee, thanks Mister President!”

George W. Bush’s smile doubles in size a bit too quickly. “I sure am the President. Say, I like this little town y’all have here back in the woods. What do you call it?”

The clerk actually blushes. “Wuester!” he inadvertently shouts. Then, in a calmer voice, “Wuester, it–… it’s called Wuester. And thank you! It’s a beautiful town for sure, we’re pretty far out here though. Not much to do, nothing more than trees to see. There’s Atacama Lake out west a ways, but that’s, you know…” He kicks at the dust. “A lake.”

“It sure is!” George beams. “Well listen bud, I like your little town here. It’s perty, you know? Got some charm to it. I think I’d like to build my headquarters here.”

The clerk stares at George W. as if he’s following along with everything the man is saying for a few seconds after George W. stops talking, then the confusion seeps out of his brain and into his face. “Your headquarters?”

“Yeah, bud. For The Advisorate.”

Another few seconds of silence, but the clerk is no longer following along, whether pretend or not. “The… The Advisorate, Mister President? Am I–”

“Yeah, the seven of us. Six plus me. I’m in control, they don’t really know it though. They think we’re all equal.” He shrugs. “Doesn’t matter.”

“Seven of you…? Who are you?”

George W. Bush’s face noisily morphs into a mirror image of the clerk’s face. “Who are you, bud?” The clerk shrieks and closes his eyes; when he opens them again, George has his own face back. “As it turns out, most folks don’t know how reality works. There are a few Earths out there, Mister Clerk. Quite a few. This one’s called High Tower, but I have a feeling in my gut that’ll change soon. A good ol’ feelin’ in the gut.”

“High Tower… huh, I can see why you’re changing it. Why High Tower?”

George sneers at the clerk. “I’m the one in control here, see. I don’t need to explain why I say things. It don’t matter, I have my coasters. I will raise my headquarters over this town and preserve it. You folk’ll be left here, but you’ll likely run out of food and water before you’re found by anybody. Or I could just put you all in the cells.”

The clerk is down on his knees now, one eye pouring cold tears of fear, the other hot tears of excitement. “The cells, Sir?”

“The cells,” agrees George W. Bush before claping his hands together twice. All the planet becomes a prison, every structure a cell, all the living locked away. The town of Wuester, Atacama Lake, and the surrounding uncivilized northern Jersey woodlands are encased in an opaque dome and buried beneath the ground. From the disturbed soil rises a slim gray tower which resembles a mushroom capped with a grand observatory. It is here The Advisorate shall meet, just as soon as George W. Bush sees it fit.

The Advisorate

The seven members of The Advisorate sit around a silver heptagonal table in a lighted room shrouded in shadowy darkness. Everyone has a cold cocktail of THC-infused gin and everyone has a coaster to rest that cocktail on. Everyone but John Kerry, that is, damned to hold his drink until it’s empty, lest he drip condensation on the table.

“So who’s going first?”

Howard Dean and Wesley Clark both stand up. “We’re happy to report that Bionic Earth has successfully linked with Spectral Earth. A living spirit has been transferred.”

“It’s not quite living,” Wesley Clark cuts in. “They think it’s basically potential life, it just lacks a body to reach that potential. It exists perpetually, as far as the humans know. It’s really such fun to watch them develop.”

“Indeed it is,” agrees George W. Bush. “Great work, gentlemen. Who’s next?”

The gentlemen sit down. Al Sharpton rises. “I’ll go – the humans of Cosmic Earth have successfully been introduced to extraterrestrial lifeforms. There’s even been some interspecies mingling going on. I’m seeing amazing results, Sir.”

“Exceptional!” shouts George W.

“Now that is the truth,” from the end of the table. Everyone looks. It’s John Kerry.

“You have something to say, Mister Kerry?” offers George W. Bush.

“I do,” John says, putting his glass directly on the table. He waits for George’s eyes to come back up from the glass to continue. “In no misleading terms, I have discovered the truth about who we are, brothers and sister. The truth lies on True Earth.”

Carol Braun puts her hand over her mouth. Everyone else stands and whispers to one another, aside from George W. and Richard. George W. is staring without emotion at Kerry, and Richard? Richard is smiling, smiling brightly and loudly.

“I saw True Earth today, John. I believe you’re trying to cover something up.”

“Ex–” is all that comes out of John’s mouth before a wave of hot air hits him from behind. A large portal’s opened up, it seems; on the other side is Armageddon. Buildings crumbled into rocks and boulders, dust afloat on the air, streets ashen and shattered. Entire forests burned to charcoal. The last stand of civilization is a small backwoods town in north Jersey. The inhabitants are few in number.

“I move to rename True Earth to Fallen Earth, and secondly to rename High Tower to True Earth. Thirdly, I move to strip John of that which makes him like us and banish him to the wasteland he’s allowed to fester under his rule. All in favor?”

All but John. The motion passes without fuss. John simply fades away. The table consumes John’s drink and smoothly converts itself into a hexagon. After everyone else has sat back down, George W. Bush sits down as well.

“So,” he says, slapping his palms flat on the table. “Who’s next?”


Hello Commons, this has been We’re All Equal, the flash fiction story attached to the Coors coasters from rePurpp, the official store of The Hillside Commons. Click here to go to the store and check it out for yourself.

I also write fiction books, all of which you can read for free on my website. Click here to see the list.

Be well Commons~

Posted in Writings

The Secret Room

A Ghost

“A’ight boys, you know where we are. Let’s case this place quick and get the fuck out. Josey, you hit the upstairs. Rambo, this floor. I’ll take basement.”

Josey and Rambo share a look that’s hard to see through the shadows cast in the darkness, but Duncan catches it all the same. “You boys got somethin’ to say?”

“You sure we need to hit the basement, Boss?” asks Rambo guiltily.

“And the attic too?” adds Josey, following with, “Lis’en, I don’t mind goin’ up there, but the basement… there’s plen’y on this floor alone, you follow me Boss?”

“I swear to Christ, if you two numbnuts are trying to speak on the rumor about the ghost I’m going to lose my shit. Now if you got somethin’ to say, say it.”

Neither of the boys say a single word.

“All right. Away ya go, then.”

Duncan watches Rambo walk off into the shadows. Josey starts climbing up the stairs, and if it wasn’t for those stairs a’squeakin’ like they are, he’d think Josey just walked up through the air. Don’t matter, though; this house is stacked from shingle to septic tank, and all the really good stuff is down in the basement. A ghost, yeah, okay boys. How about a rumor to keep the meek away? Sounds more like it.

The Basement

A chilled gust blows into Duncan’s face as he opens the door that leads down into the basement. The hinges are silent, so they must have been oiled recently. That means somebody lives here, there is no ghost. That settles it. That settles it once and for all.

Each step Duncan takes squeaks louder and louder. Halfway down they start to bend beneath his weight, and the railing breaks off before reaching the bottom of the stairs. There’s at least a ten-degree difference in temperature down here, and Duncan can’t hear a single air conditioner running… but would he? This house is old, ancient old, and the basement’s underground. Sure, it’s cold down here. It should be cold down here. Don’t mean there’s a damned ghost.

Duncan clicks on his flashlight and sweeps across the room. Lots of furniture, lots of artwork, lots of random things dispersed throughout. There appears to be a bar off on one side and it appears to be covered in bottles; appears, that is, because it’s covered by a white sheet caked with at least half an inch of dust, just like everything else down here. Everything but the massive pencil sketch of Marilyn Monroe in a cheesy golden frame hanging on the back wall. Hanging crooked on the back wall.

Silence for seven full seconds, then Duncan allows himself to laugh. “Maybe, heh, maybe that’ll summon the ghost. Yeah, know what? Fuck it, I ain’t scared’a no ghost, I’m’a straighten it just to be spiteful.”

And so he does. And so he jumps high enough to clock his head on the low ceiling when he hears the framed sketch click.

“That wasn’t… hold on, did the wall come out a little bit here?”

Duncan’s semi-clever hands find a lip running from the floor up to the ceiling. He grips it and pulls, and a three-foot wide section of the wall swings out. Speechless, his jaw hanging open, his chin scruff mingling with his neck scruff, Duncan steps around and peers into the secret room behind the sketch. The walls, floor, ceiling, all painted black. There’s a spotlight shining on an old woman in a nightgown sitting in a rocking chair. She’s holding a box in her lap, both her hands are on it. Her eyes are glued to it.

“Uhm… uh, Miss?” Duncan tries as the air leaks from his lungs. “Ah-uh… are you, eh… are you the ghost of this house?

The old woman cackles but doesn’t look up. “No, honey, I’m no ghost. I live here, I hid while you were at my door. I was hoping you wouldn’t find me, but here you are.”

The old woman looks up. Duncan damn near soils his garments.

“You won the prize, young man. The most valuable thing in this whole house is in this box, right here in my lap. Come to me, come take it.”

Everything in Duncan’s being tells him not to, but… he must. Each step takes eons. He’s before her in seconds. Duncan gets down on his knees, takes off his gloves, puts his hands on the box. It feels like it’s made of scales. He almost draws his hands back, but he cannot. It’s too late, he’s touched it, he must know what’s inside, he mus–

The box is open. Standing on a red velvet pillow is a sizeable carved wooden turtle.

“What… what is this?” Duncan sneers as he leaps to his feet hastily and begins to back away. “What… what are you, woman? What’s going on?”

“Open the shell, Duncan,” says the old woman. She hasn’t blinked once.

“Wh…” ‘Did she just say my name?!’ “… what?”

“Beneath the wooden turtle’s shell is the most valuable thing in this house, young man. You opened the box, now open the turtle. Come now, it’s all for you.”

“It’s all for me,” comes pouring out of Duncan’s mouth, but he doesn’t mean to say the words. He doesn’t mean to walk to the old woman, he doesn’t mean to take the shell off the wooden turtle, but what he sees beneath the turtle’s shell? The glorious singing wonder of what spirals beneath the wooden turtle’s glorious shell… Duncan’s entire life led to this moment. It was all meant to happen, every high and low, every made friend and earned enemy, every life taken, every death dealt… it was all meant to happen.

“What… is it?” Duncan is back on his knees, his mouth overflowing with drool.

“It’s our Universe, young man. Isn’t She beautiful?”

The stars, the planets, the harmony of the spheres, the ethereal song and dance! Beauty is an insult, it doesn’t compare!  “I…” Duncan is beginning to weep. “I see Her…”

“And She sees you, young Duncan. She sees you.” The old woman reaches out and takes Duncan by the wrist. “Touch Her.”

Duncan wants to look up, but he can’t take his eyes away. “Touch…”

“Touch the Universe, young Duncan, so She may know She has touched you.”

Duncan’s hand hovers closer and closer to the Universe, he feels Her light and Her warmth, he begins to hear the whispers of all those who reside within Her. He can see his family, friends, ancestors, his genetic progenitors, the offspring of his offspring’s offspring… and the closer he gets, the more of them disappear. He tries to pull away but he can’t stop, he’s too close, the Universe is right there Duncan I’m right here, please Duncan, I wish to see into your mind, to hear your thoughts, to feel your touch! Please Duncan, please! Do not fight me, I am you, Duncan! Please! Touch me Duncan, please!

Duncan gives in and makes contact with the Universe. Every last cell in his body spontaneously combusts into blinding white light, then he is gone. The shell is back on the turtle. The old woman is alone in her secret room.

Bethany closes the box and puts it on the floor. She then gets up, creeps over to the secret door, and gently shuts it. It’s a shame he had to find her, but the other two won’t. The other two will run away scared, just like all the robbers do. And if they do find the secret room in the basement? Well… then Bethany will give them the prize.


Hello Commons, this has been The Secret Room, the flash fiction story attached to the wooden turtle bowl from rePurpp, the official store of The Hillside Commons. Click here to go to the store and check it out for yourself.

I also write fiction books, all of which you can read for free on my website. Click here to see the list.

Be well Commons~

Posted in Writings

Bargain Hunters

A Folding Knife

“What the hell is that thing?”

The vendor, whose attention was held by little more than the dead leaves floating by on the chilly autumn wind, turns to face a chunky young manboy with a confused twinkle in his eyes. The chunky young manboy looks to be no more than thirteen years old; he wears a snapback hat but backwards so the snap is in the front, what was once a perfectly good white tee until he chopped the sleeves off with dull scissors and split the sides about a lighter’s length from the bottom hem, a raggedy pair of gray jorts with cigarette boxes stuffed into the front pockets, and black flip flops with bands that dip between his first and second toes.

“I’m not sure,” the vendor mumbles, “but I believe it’s attempting to communicate.”

“What?” growls the boy, a miserable chap known to himself as Chester the Jester and to others as the smelly kid. “How can a knife communicate? Are you yankin’ me here, Mister?”

The vendor blinks once, then looks around. The parking lot is stark empty, utterly devoid of objects animate and inanimate alike. When he arrived earlier in the day there were vendors everywhere, food trucks were being scheduled, a live band was setting up on a portastage that came in on a flatbed, bustling bargain hunters and bumbling flea market folk alike were tossing themselves from moving cars to get a head start on the communal shopping event not one hour ago, but now? Nothing. No various objects of questionable worth and unknowable origin, no frenzied rabid humans tearing at one another’s necks with their four-inch press on nails, no veritable maze of plastic tables draped in stained white tablecloths and sliced black plastic bags. Just the vendor and the smelly kid, and oh how he is smelly.

Even the vendor’s table is empty, he notices now that he’s looking down at it. He packed his nephew’s SUV that he borrowed without consent with all the shit left over from the good ol’ days back when their family had the lakehouse before the vendor’s sister sold the lakehouse because her newly acquired sociopath of a husband heard tell of its value and the vendor’s sister had kids with her sociopath of a husband and the kids turned out to be little pricks who think it’s funny to put their uncle’s hand in hot water so he pisses himself when he sleeps four nights out of the week for the past three years and the vendor’s sister doesn’t believe him, she just thinks he’s getting old and has a prostate issue but the issue isn’t his prostate, it’s not my prostate Veronica I swear to you, it’s your horrible kids but nobody listens and he needs to make money so he can leave. So, he stole his sister’s children’s belongings and tried to sell them and they were selling surprisingly well, but now they’re gone. Everything is gone except the table and that atrocious knife the boy bought from a sandy man living beneath a boardwalk.

“What… what have you done?” begs the vendor, but the smelly kid has no eyes for his face, no ears for his words. “The knife? It’s, I mean, it, it’s,” he stammers, then pauses and closes his eyes. “I am not yanking you, regardless of what you might mean by that, you filthy little mistake. It’s a folding knife.”

The smelly kid looks up at the vendor. That wasn’t good enough, and the vendor knows it. By the dampness of his feet he knows it all too well.

“IT-it eh, it’s got rainbow metal bits. The blade is engraved with fire. The belt clip has a skull on it, you see Sir? It’s a rainbow fireblade skullclip folding knife, you see?

The vendor drops to his knees and takes the knife in his hands as if it were a pool of water. Though the ridiculous knife is raised to the smelly kid’s jagged eyes, he makes no indication that he sees it. Disappointment pours from the wide pores of his nose.

“Please Sir, I… I had no idea it was you, I–”

The smelly kid shushes the vendor with a single sticky finger. “How much?”

“Twenty-five!” flies from the vendor’s lips when the finger is removed.

“I’ll have the knife, and perhaps a conversation with Veronica… if you’ll do fifteen.”

“Twenty.”

“Ten.”

At last they settle upon fifteen. Darkness encroaches from the endless pupils of the smelly kid’s eyes. The vendor is lost, swallowed by the redolent entropy of it all.

Empty Bins

The vendor blinks once, then looks around. A flock of concerningly emaciated dollar-toting ethnic humans draped in blue jeans and black hoodies are approaching from the south. To his right is an ethnic human selling giftwrapping by the roll and the square; to his left is an ethnic human selling sparkling giftbags pre-stuffed with colorful tissue paper. The vendor, also an ethnic human, stands before a gray table dreadfully devoid of wares, and behind him is a stack of empty bins. He’s sold out, it seems, even that stupid knife is gone, and all he has is fifteen dollars.

“How is that possible?” he says to himself. “I should have made at least forty…”

“Forty?!” shouts the slinger of giftwrapping. “I’d be happy to dirty my palms with pocket change, who’s pullin’ forty out here?”

“I need to go,” the vendor bleats softly. “This was a gigantic mistake.”

The other vendors shout, but our vendor doesn’t hear them. The wind is blowing too loud, the greenbacks are too smooth in his hands. He doesn’t even take the table. He kicks the stack of bins over on his way to the SUV to distract the vultric vendors come flapping in for the scraps. He doesn’t look back, not even once.

The Drive

The drive was supposed to be short, but then the vendor got back to Veronica’s house. That’s when the drive expanded. That’s when the drive became long.

Chester the Jester

The vendor and his niece and nephew travel across the land in the nephew’s beat SUV. The visit thirty states, two countries, and a District of Columbia before selling the SUV and buying a boat. One day the sun rises and their boat is gone from the docks, as if it was never there.

Some say they’re still out there, the vendor and his sister’s offspring, sailing the seven seas in search of that which they seek, but they’ll never find Chester the Jester. Veronica and I moved inland right off the bat. They never suspected a thing.

In the end, all is well. I got my knife for fifteen dollars.


Hello Commons, this has been Bargain Hunters, the flash fiction story attached to the rainbow fireblade skullclip folding knife from rePurpp, the official store of The Hillside Commons. Click here to go to the store and check it out for yourself.

I also write fiction books, all of which you can read for free on my website. Click here to see the list.

Be well Commons~

Posted in Writings

You Know the Story

Detritus

A warm summery afternoon finds Benjy out on Atacama Lake for a fishing trip with his pop. The sun is blazing and they brought towels and bathing suits, but there are too many other fishermen out on the lake to go swimming. Someone might report them to the park police, that would be a whole ordeal. It could be done, but it might be risky. It’s a risk Benjy and his pop have taken many and many’a, but a risk is a risk nonetheless.

However, it doesn’t seem like they’re going to take the risk on this particular day. Benjy’s pop is holding something in both of his hands, something he dredged up when his hook got snagged on the bottom a little bit ago and he had to jerk it free, and even through Benjy’s sunglasses the resplendent thing is painful to look at. What’s more, the boat is leaning to one side because of where Benjy’s pop is standing, and he seems to be muttering to himself. The man is so entranced by his shiny little piece of Wuester detritus that he doesn’t even notice he’s about to flip the boat.

“Pop, what is it?” Benjy asks for the third time.

As far as his pop is aware, this is the first time Benjy’s said a word since he started reeling. “It’s uh… you know the story about the first time I came out here, right Benj’?”

“Sure, Pop,” Benjy says, nodding with haste.

“Well this is one of the glasses. The one they gave me, amazingly enough.” Benjy’s pop sits down and the boat wobbles back into balance. “Never did find out what really happened that night. They said it was a meteor, but…”

“But what, Pop?”

Benjy’s pop shakes his head. “But nothin’, I suppose that’s just what it was. Y’know boy, sometimes I wonder why I got to survive when all them other boys had to die. Had the littlest thing changed… like, say I brought a sweater with me. The lake gets chilly at night, it’s something I could have done. It would have gotten soaked when I fell into the water, would’ve weighed me down easy. I wouldn’t have been able to swim back to shore. I’d be in the ground today, in the ground right next to my friends.”

Knowing better than to look at his pop when the man is crying, Benjy averts his gaze and grabs one of the six identical fishing poles lying about the boat. The one he takes has a funny reel on it, it’s much wider than the reels on the other poles. It looks like a spool of fishing line you’d pick up at Fred’s Tackle down on the county road for a buck’ninety-nine, fill yer pockets, boi.

Benjy tries casting a line but it doesn’t go well. He tries again. And again. And then again a few more times, Benjy loses count, but at some point he feels his pop’s hand fall on his shoulder.

“That there’s a fly reel, boy. It don’t work like the other ones.”

Benjy does his best to reel the line in quickly. “How’s it work, Pop?”

“Tell you the truth, Benj’, I don’t really know.” Benjy hands the pole over when he has the line all reeled in. “It was my Pop’s, he had a big collection of fishin’ stuff and he gave me this one day, around the time you were born. It has a whole little kit that goes with it. I like to take it out here as a good luck charm, I don’t never use it’r nothin’.”

“Oh,” Benjy says with some reverence.

The two are silent for a moment. Then, Benjy’s pop gets two different poles lured up and hands one to Benjy. “You never know what lives in a lake like this, boy. It’s near three hundred feet deep out thur by that buoy in the middle. Why don’t we mosey over yonder and see if we cain’t catch a monster today?”

Gills

‘You have five minutes, and be discreet. If you get caught, we–

‘We both get caught, I know,’ she insists. ‘I know what I’m doing, don’t worry.’

Strangely enough, this doesn’t stop the guard from worrying. Venturing outside The Compound is risky business for everyone involved, a fool’s gamble if ever there was one, and none else but the daughter of a very powerful Dali warlord wants to play the wager. No matter what he does his life is on the line, has been ever since she came up here and made eye contact with him, but there’s a chance she’ll get away with it. If he refuses her and she says as much to her father he’s dead no matter what happens, and she’d probably still try to go for a swim afterwards. So why not help the girl?

‘Are you pressing the button or not?’

The guard shakes his head a bit and comes back to reality. He can see her through the window of the air lock, her gills are showing. They’re beautiful, like the leaves of a scarlet strain of coontail… if only he could join her out there and reveal his own gills, feel the water flowing through them… no. He knows the consequences of abandoning his post.

The guard nods at Castilla and presses the big release button. The chamber on the other side of the window fills with water, then the lights go out. A dampened sound of metal sliding against metal announces the opening of the outside door – nothing left to do now but wait and hope she returns without being followed.

A Real Trooper

The deeper he swims the colder the water gets. The icy, murky depths seem to swallow him with every strained stroke he makes, like he’s working himself down the gullet of the massive monster who lives at the bottom of this lake. Allegedly lives at the bottom of this lake; Jembi’s never seen the creature himself and he swims here all the time. There’s probably not any creatures; it would be hard for something like that to live in Atacama Lake anyway, what with everything going on beneath it.

“Folks never used to be allowed to swim here, y’know,” says the staticky voice of Jembi’s pop through the wireless earbud. “There were a lot of things folks couldn’t do before… well, you know the story. I tell you at least a hundred times a day.”

‘You sure do, Pop,’ Jembi sends up through the water and into his pop’s mind.

“We changed things, our family,” prides Jembi’s pop. “Changed ‘em in a big way. And it all started here… kinda funny, your grandpoppa lived in Wuester near all his life and never once came out here, and the night he finally did… well, you know the story. Say, how deep are you now, Jemb’? You near the bottom yet?”

Jembi hits a button on his watch, sending a beam of artificial sunlight swimming through the darkness until it collides with the mucky, litter-clad bottom of Atacama Lake. ‘Yeah Pop, I’m gettin’ close. You said they’d be shiny, right?’

“Yeah,” says the gravely voice of Jembi’s pop. “There should be five of ‘em, maybe near some pieces of a boat. If we can find ‘em, your grandpoppa’s going to be thrilled, Jembi.” A short pause. “You, I mean. If you can find ‘em. Hell, I’m just up here sittin’ in this boat, I ain’t divin’ down sixty some odd feet. You’re a trooper, boy. A real trooper.”


Hello Commons, this has been You Know the Story, the flash fiction story attached to the PFleuger Supreme No. 577 Fly Reel Kit from rePurpp, the official store of The Hillside Commons. Click here to go to the store and check it out for yourself.

I also write fiction books, all of which you can read for free on my website. Click here to see the list.

Be well Commons~

Posted in Writings

Twenty Minutes

Little Benny

A cool night breeze sweeps across the lake as the soothing sound of waves colliding against the hull of the old wooden boat slowly drowns out the motor’s dying rumble. This is the first time Benny’s ever been out on the water and he didn’t think to bring a sweater. ‘It’s the middle of summer,’ is what he told himself while he was waiting to be picked up by the other guys, ‘I’ll be soaked if I wear this thing.’ Well you got soaked anyway, little Benny. You sure could use that sweater now.

All the other guys have sweaters, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask one of them if he could borrow one. If Benny pulled some gay shit like that back in high school his head would have been dunked into a used urinal and then washed with a flushing. Yes, some time has passed since then, but things don’t just change randomly as time passes. They evolve. The punishment can only have matured along with The Punishers.

Believe it or not, tonight Little Benny Bronson is out fishing with The Punishers, a troupe of five boys who would reliably and unceasingly torment him all throughout his tepid, unstirred high school career. Chip Bradley, Bradley Peterson, Peter Taylor, Taylor Williamson, and of course Billy Bradley, the crew who singlehandedly handed Benny his success in track by chasing him around after the bell rang and forcing him to sprint for his dignity, although it felt more like he was running for his life. If they caught him they’d play all sorts of clever tricks on little Benny; they’d hang him on a tall fence by an arbitrary article of clothing, they’d strip him to his skivvies and toss his clothes on the roof of the school so he’d have to climb up there like a monkey in a zoo, they’d pick him up and see how far they could throw him; it was all exquisitely traumatic. But in the end it wasn’t all bad: Benny was the captain of the sprinting team because of them, and that’s just what he told them when he group messaged them on Facebook earlier. Lately Benny’s been contacting all of his past tormentors and thanking them for the role they played in his life as part of a thankfulness exercise he learned about through a cute Latter-Day Saints missionary who messages him about the Lord on Facebook. Chip and the boys were so taken aback by Benny’s confidence in his message that they invited him out nightfishing with them. They even offered to pick him up, as they were heading out their doors when he messaged them anyway. Bam, easy as that.

It took a total of twenty minutes for Benny’s social life to finally bloom after being stunted during the years when all his neighbors were off at college. Twenty minutes. A lot can happen in twenty minutes, that’s a whole boatload of time… yet in all that time, Benny didn’t think it a good idea to bring a sweater. Because he’s dumb, because he’s weak, you’re weak Benny, you’re a stupid little unattractive beta male who smells like bad cheese and I couldn’t even think to bring a Goddamned swea–’

Beefeater

“Yo, Benny!”

From the silvery blackness of the moon-soaked lake, Benny’s face flows into form. At first he sees leaky red acne covering him from chin to receded hairline, crooked and jagged teeth falling out of his mouth like bricks when a chimney is hit with a wrecking ball, patches of unruly black facial hair reaching out from his cheeks like the legs of sickly spiders; then he blinks and sees his current face. Fair skin, clean shaven, short blonde hair that complements his green eyes. Benny’s matured right along with The Punishers, and they’ve recognized him for it. Perhaps it’s time he does the same.

Benny leans back into the boat and is greeted by five smiling faces. Everyone’s holding a shot glass in their hands. Chip has two.

“You feeling any better?” Taylor asks, smiling honestly.

“Yeah,” Benny says, then wipes his already clean lip. “I’m not out on the water very much, I just got a little nauseous.” He’s kind of chilly too, but he doesn’t mention this.

“No worries, lil’ buddy!” Taylor assures him, then doubles down with a pat on the shoulder. “Maybe a little drink will get you feeling right.”

Chip takes this as a chance to pass Benny a shot glass. It’s tall, fits in his hand like the grip of one of his pop’s fishing rods. It’s hard to make out in the moonlight, but there appears to be something of a man printed on the glass, too.

“What does this… Beefeater? What’s a Beefeater?”

“You are, numbnuts!” teases Billy. Always the jokester, that Billy. “Nah, just playin’. It’s a brand of gin. They all have different alcohols on them, we’ve never had anybody to drink out of the Beefeater one before.” Billy raises his glass. Everyone does the same, bringing them together for a group cheers. Almost reluctantly, Benny joins in. A glassy tink echoes across the surface of Atacama Lake. “Welcome to the crew, Benny boy.”

Everyone downs their shots. Everyone grimaces. Benny leans over the side of the boat again and everyone laughs, even Benny. Then a star twinkles a little too brightly it the night sky above and it all goes to hell.

A Sweater

There was a splash, but it wasn’t Benny’s splash. Benny’s splash was smaller, and the big splash came before Benny’s splash. He heard some muffled commotion before he broke the surface, but even after he comes up for air everything seems muddled up, like time had wandered into a bramble and got stuck. There’s some yelling, three voices. He can’t make out what they’re saying. There’s a lot of splashing, a light… no, a fire.

As his vision clears, Benny can see the boat is done for. Broken into many pieces, and not evenly. One of the pieces is on fire, another is floating. Most are sinking. The water is jelly, thick and glumpy and full of weedy pulp. Benny is beginning to struggle, but his hearing is fading back in.

“Chip’s gone and Brad’s startin’ to sink, I need to go after him!”

Benny tastes the lake water and begins to get nauseous again. Not twenty minutes ago they were launching the boat. Not twenty minutes.

“Wait for Taylor to come up, he already went down! Pete, n– PETE!”

Benny is starting to float away, the voices are becoming more distant. Quieter. The splashing is calming down.

“Fine, fuckin’ go then, I’ll… shit, BENNY! BENNY BEEFEATER, WHERE ARE YOU?!”

Benny can’t feel the heat from the burning boat anymore. The light on the buoy in the center of the lake is brighter than the fire is now. It’s almost as bright as the moon.

“BENNY! I’m, I… fuck man, what the fuck even happened?! I’M COMING, BENNY!”

The rhythmic splashing of waves against the buoy slowly drowns out the beating of Benny’s heart. He’s cold, so very cold, too cold, but he’s glad he didn’t bring a sweater. Benny’s not a very strong swimmer. A sweater just would have weighed him down.


Hello Commons, this has been Twenty Minutes, the flash fiction story attached to the hard liquor shot glasses from rePurpp, the official store of The Hillside Commons. Click here to go to the store and check it out for yourself.

I also write fiction books, all of which you can read for free on my website. Click here to see the list.

Be well Commons~

Posted in Writings

Worrisome

Dead House

Rick is beginning to worry about Brittney. She’s always been quirky, uniquely quirky amongst the quirky ones as she’d shamelessly tell you if you had the bananas to ask her, but her behavior over the course of the last hour has given Rick ample reason to be worried. It usually doesn’t start out bad, just a little odd. Like that – she was attaching a miniature tripod to the digital camera a moment ago. Why? To hold it by the tripod? Fine. A little odd, but fine. But now she’s splayed the legs of the tripod apart like it was an old television antenna, now the camera is upside down, now she’s turning it on to use it. See? It starts out a little odd, then it gets strange. It gets downright worrisome. Rick doesn’t like it one bit.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Brittney told Rick what the plan was in the first place… if there even is a plan. Hey Rick, let’s go for a drive turned into Rick, grab my laptop for me which then morphed into Open the door for me, I’m a lady, and now they’re just standing here in the middle of the foyer of the Dead House and Rick hardly even knows what time it is, let alone the day of the week.

Oh yeah, they’re in the foyer of the infamous Dead House of Wuester, New Jersey. Legends tell of a tractorload of partygoers whom took a haunted hay ride deep into the woods of Wuester one Halloween night way back before such events could be recorded and broadcasted to the world to be ignored in favor of videos of either cats or porn. The driver of the tractor, a local yokel who spent his time looking for the wild mushrooms that didn’t give him seizures when he ate them, snuck into the party, killed the family’s gardener (who had fallen asleep in the shed out back with an empty jar of moonshine in his hand), hotwired the old tractor, and took all the party-goers out to the unfinished house he’d been squatting at recently to hold them as hostages. The thing is though, the partygoers had no idea, and they were so intoxicated that they turned the entire thing into a big intervention for the town drunk. He wound up blowing his brains out to escape the situation, and his ghost has been haunting the Dead House ever since.

“And tonight, you’re going to see that ghost, Ricky.”

Normal. Well, definitely a little quirky, but normal for Brittney.

“You’re going to see it when I capture it with this device.”

See? “That camera, you mean?”

“If it was just a simple camera I wouldn’t be holding it upside-down like a momo. No, Ricky, I meant device. Did you set up my laptop like I asked?”

Rick looks to the floor. Sitting on a pile of broken pieces of plywood is Brittney’s computer. It’s powered on and the desktop is showing, no programs or anything of the sort are running. “I mean, it’s on.”

“Perfect!” Brittney, putting the miniature tripod in her mouth like the handle of a dagger, plunges into the camera case and pulls out a charger for the camera’s battery, what looks like a USB/SD adapter, and an extra battery for the camera. She pockets the battery, drops the case, and lobs the rest at Rick. He surprises himself by catching it.

“So you’re going to take a picture of a ghost? Is that what’s going on here?”

Brittney offers Rick a look that makes him feel inferior to her even though they spent nine months in the womb together, then looks away and starts playing with the camera. “No, dingbat. I’m going to capture the ghost’s spirit in this ghostzapper device and then use my computer to send it through a transdimensional internet of sorts to an alternate reality’s Earth, which is where the ghostzapper device came from by the way, I have connections, thanks a bundle. The fate of the Multiverse literally hangs in the balance, Ricky, so just pipe down and let me do my work.”

Worrisome. Downright worrisome.

At least it would be, but the moment Brittney turned away, Rick’s consciousness was shoved into the deepest, darkest recess of his publicly educated mind and he lost the ability to worry. He appeared to stand up on his tippy toes, then he left the ground altogether. His left hand tightened around the USB/SD adapter to the point where the thing’s shell began to crack, and his right hand ejected the charger’s electrical prongs and plunged them into his left arm, which is probably why the left hand is clenched so tightly. Brittney turns around and sees this nonsense after her tirade is complete, but only because she heard Rick’s blood pooling up on the floor. If the ghost of Wuester’s late town drunk wasn’t such a sadistic bastard he probably could have put some miles on Rick, used the boy’s body to drink himself to death again like a proper ghost drunk, but no, he had to be egregious in his death, he had to try to scare the living who dared disturb him. Speaking frankly, if he wasn’t already disturbed then his spirit wouldn’t be stuck on Earth, that’s just what it is. And Brittney knows this. She ain’t afraid of no disturbed, perverted ghosts.

A blinding green light brings tears to both Brittney and Rick’s eyes. The legs of the tripod are all curled as if wilted, the camera’s battery cover is popped open, and a bit of the battery is sticking out. It glows blue and lets rip hot plumes of thick white steam.

And the battery charger is still plugged into Rick’s arm.

Trying to rush to the hospital would be pointless, apparently, because the old dirt road is going to be a slow drive anyway. Sending the ghost across the Multiverse will only take a few minutes, it’s not a big deal. This place creeps Rick out, especially after what happened to him a moment ago, but he can just go wait in the car.

“Oh, but give me the battery charger first, I need it. Yes, I know that’s how Steve Irwin died, but the charger isn’t plugged into your heart and a stingray doesn’t hold the fate of the Multiverse in its gills. Whatever, you know what I mean. Give it.”

She doesn’t start off bad, just a little odd. Then she gets downright worrisome, but Rick is no longer worrying about Brittney.

Rick is beginning to worry about Rick.

An Explanation of That Nonsense That Went Down at Dead House

“I refuse to give you an explanation of that nonsense that went down at Dead House.”

“Why? Because I already told you, I sent a ghost to an Earth in another dimension to save the entire Multiverse. Reality is saved, woohoo… not much else to explain, bro.”

“The ghostzapper device and all the accessories and stuff were made of nanotech, it went back to the alternate Earth. Don’t ask me how.”

Brittney sighs. “Well the same way it got here, it… I don’t know dude, I just saw the stuff melt into living dust and fly into my computer. Poof, gone. Now the Dead House is exorcised of demons and you’re gonna have a badass scar. Everybody wins.”

“No, it doesn’t look like you got bit by a defective vampire. Look, I can see the line of cars, we’re almost at the garage sale. It’s the only one on the map in this part of town, so you know it’s ‘bout’a be big. Get your game face on brothah, we got dips to flip!”

“Fine, I promise not to buy another camera. Now smile, say cheese or something.”


Hello Commons, this has been Worrisome, the flash fiction story attached to the Canon digital camera & accessories from rePurpp, the official store of The Hillside Commons. Click here to go to the store and check it out for yourself.

I also write fiction books, all of which you can read for free on my website. Click here to see the list.

Be well Commons~

Posted in Writings

A Simple Brown Bag

Alleyways

‘She gave me a purse.’

Tonya, clutching that very purse between her left arm and her ribcage, is walking fairly quickly down the Atlantic City boardwalk. It’s not late, but the day is getting on; the drinks are poured, the smoke is clouding the air, the cards are dealt. The gamblers are sloshed and ready to see the money fly.

‘She gave me a purse and told me to find an alley. What the fuck?’

Coming to AC for a solo vacation was, admittedly, not the greatest idea. The beach is free and it’s respectably clean, but it’s probably the cleanest part of this city, and you know what? Dogs and cats shit on that beach. That beach has shit in it and it’s still the cleanest part of this city. And you know what else? Sometimes the dogs come off the beach. Sometimes the dogs catch a scent and follow that scent, sometimes they follow that scent until the damned sun goes down, and once the sun goes down, the dogs stop following. Once the sun goes down, the dogs start hunting.

‘I saw her read the message and she gave me a purse and told me to find an alley and open the zipper. What the fuck?!’

Welp. The Universe has evidently spoken, this is the end of the road for Tonya. It’s not like the idea of ending it all never crossed her mind… that’s part of why she came down here all by herself, isn’t it? Get nice and numb, maybe show some skin and score whatever she can score, get a shitty motel room somewhere, go to sleep and just don’t wake up. Jesus Christ, how did I get here? What brought me back to rock bottom?’

“It doesn’t matter,” as she looks up from her feet for the first time since she got the handbag. She doesn’t have to look long, there are plenty of alleyways connected to the AC boardwalk. “I asked for help and was told to find an alley where nobody can see me, so fuck it. If he doesn’t end it for me, I will later tonight.” All said in whisper.

Tonya trades wood for asphalt and walks into the alley. She picked a good one, too – the buildings are massive, the shadows are thick and murky, the rats are the size of footballs and their claws are noisy scraping against the pavement. She walks halfway down the alley before giving up and falling to her knees. Tears are pouring down her cheeks, all she can hear is her heart pounding in her head. And the footsteps. The slow, heavy, purposeful footsteps. He knows what he’s walking towards, he knows what’s going to go down as soon as his footsteps stop. He’s probably excited about it, too, the horrible bastard.

Or maybe Tonya’s got it wrong, maybe the guy is just a mugger. Maybe she didn’t see him staring at her while she was eating at that first restaurant… and at the second restaurant… maybe he wasn’t standing next to the door when Tonya walked out of the bathroom earlier, maybe… maybe he just… maybe he just wants whatever the purse lady had in this purse before she handed it off and basically told Tonya to go get raped.

To disassociate away from the sick reality that’s engulfed her, Tonya finally takes a good look at the purse the woman gave her. It’s a simple brown bag, two pockets. One with a zipper, one without. A tan strap. Some repetitive leaf pattern on the front. A little black patch that says Madison Handbags. A tear falls on that patch and soaks in like it’s nothing.

“Fine, Miss Madison. I found an alleyway. I’m in the alley now, and so is he. So I guess I just have to open the zipper.”

And so Tonya does. And so she spins around, holding the purse as widely open as her eyes are tightly shut. And so the footsteps stop. And so Tonya opens her eyes.

The man is there, he’s… he’s just standing there. Tonya’s eyes slowly roam up his form, from his grimy work boots to his tattered jeans to the wife beater splattered with mustard stains that went green, then to his face, but… but there is no face, there’s just darkness. The darkness is emanating from him in a solid pillar, it’s going… it’s coming from the purse.

Tonya drops her hands and starts to crawl backwards, but the purse doesn’t fall. The purse stays suspended in the air, held there by whatever lives within it, whatever that shadowy arm belongs to. Tonya watches with unbelieving horror as the shadow living within the purse begins to expand, begins to creep its way across the man’s face, down his neck, over his muscular arms and his stained torso, over his grody jeans and ruined work boots, it’s all over him, it’s taken him.

Then, he is gone, and the handbag falls down to the ground. Tonya is alone in the alley. Tonya is staring at the bag, and she swears she sees it move. Tonya gets to her feet and runs so fast her flip-flops fly off behind her, but she doesn’t care. Fuck the flip-flops, fuck Atlantic City, fuck ending it all, and fuck that fucking brown handbag. It’s about time Tonya goes back home, nuts up, and never speaks of this again.

Oh, and one more thing: fuck that fucking brown handbag.

Miss Madison

Ah, half past six in the morning on the Atlantic City boardwalk. Kendall has never been the biggest fan of Atlantic City’s specific flavor of humans, but she does have a soft spot for the early morning crowd here. Half of them are octogenarians who’ve walked these boards so many times they can’t walk straight without a drink in their hands, and the other half are still so twisted from last night they couldn’t walk straight if they wanted to. What they have in common: a love for giving cash to attractive young women who get out here and break their butts trying to make a solid living for themselves; women like Kendall, in other words. Lots of folks originally told her that opening a handbag store on the boardwalk was a terrible idea, but uh, her permanent hotel room is nicer than the basement room their parents let them stay in, so it’s whatever. We’re all on our own journeys out here, ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it.

Speaking of journeys, guess who’s leaned against the security gate taking herself a little nap?

“Well good morning, Miss Madison.”

The handbag doesn’t make a sound, doesn’t make a move. It just sits there against the security gate of Kendall’s little handbag shop.

“Wow, you’re quiet this morning. Must have eaten well last night.”

Kendall bends low and snags Madison by the tan strap, then slings her around her shoulder. As one hand goes about searching for the key to the security gate, the other dives into Madison’s front pocket and finds the money she hid there yesterday. “Hell yeah, that girl didn’t take it! Today’s going to be a good day, Madison. I can feel it.”

Madison doesn’t say a thing, as she’s very tired. She had to come all the way here from that alley last night, and with a full belly, no less.

Kendall walks through the shop and stashes Madison beneath the front counter so she can rest. Yes, today is certainly going to be a good day. A very good day indeed.


Hello Commons, this has been A Simple Brown Bag, the flash fiction story attached to the Madison handbag from rePurpp, the official store of The Hillside Commons. Click here to go to the store and check it out for yourself.

I also write fiction books, all of which you can read for free on my website. Click here to see the list.

Be well Commons~

Posted in Writings

The Horseshoes

Handlebar’s Ghost

“Well regardless of what happened, it all went down a long, long time ago. These days the ol’ town’s deserted, not even the rats live down there.” Marty Sloyce commands the mucus lining his throat into his mouth with a horrific guttural huac and spits it off to the side. It splatters on the floor of the interrogation room before being consumed and recycled. “I’m an old man, gentlemen, and I don’t have much time left. I’d prefer not to waste it, if it’s all the same with y’all.”

The Dali kidnappers look at one another for a few moments, as if communicating telepathically. Marty bites his tongue to prevent himself from laughing aloud at how ridiculous their Dali ‘Staches look. The Dali may hold reign over The Compound, but that doesn’t mean they deserve respect. They’re a dirty cult; violent, psychotic, they think they’re royalty based on the cut of their ‘Stache, and even all that isn’t enough for them. Now they want what was on Ground Zero.

“Then do not waste it. You know we’re looking for the device, and we know you were there that night in Ground Zero. The ball’s in your court, Mister Sloyce.”

“Fine,” he spits in disgust. “It happened in the saloon… it was his little home away from home. They say you can hear him walkin’ around in there on quiet nights. I’ve got to imagine most nights are quiet down in Ground Zero, wouldn’t you, gentlemen?”

The Dali to the right slams the cheap table with a fist, leaving a visible dent. “You’d better be going somewhere with this horseshit.”

Marty smirks with the left corner of his mouth. “Yes, I’ll be going home, and you’ll be going somewhere too, gentlemen. You’ll be going to Ground Zero on a quiet night, you’re going to listen for footsteps, and when you hear them? You’re going to go inside the saloon and ask Handlebar’s ghost himself what happened to the device, because as far as I saw it, he was the last one to use it.” The metal legs of the chair screech against the floor, dislodging nanobots in showers of white sparks. Marty stands, dusts himself off, and walks himself out of the interrogation room. The Dali boys do nothing. There’s nothing they can do. The Unity Device will remain lost, The Compound divided forever.

Oh how the mighty have fallen so; woe is the Dali, woe is Ground Zero, woe is The Compound ‘neath Atacama.

The Saloon

Marty slides his pudgy fingers between two dusty metal flaps and pulls down. The vent opens silently, giving him a clear view of the saloon’s back office. Jess’s back is to him, but Marty can see that he’s meeting with two men. Old men. Hard men, Walruses.

“What are you gettin’ into, Jess?”

Jess doesn’t answer. He doesn’t even hear Marty’s words. Neither do the Walruses, fortunately for the boy – they carry heavy metal on their calves and seven-shooters on their hips. Rumor has it they got the new energic ammo rigs, they wouldn’t even have to reload… and even if they had to, it wouldn’t take seven shots to take Marty down. They’re the gunsmiths down here, directors of the way of the hand cannon.

“I like to imagine you folks keep the peace around here – would you agree?”

The Walruses look at each other. One of them raises his hand to his hip.

“You didn’t call us here to find out what we do, did you, Jess?”

“He couldn’t have,” chuckles the other. “He knows what such would mean. What we’d have to show him.”

“Trust me,” Jess Handlebar assures them with a low wave of his hand, “I know full well what you gentlemen are about. What I have for you is quite possibly the next great innovative leap The Compound requires to take things to the next level.”

Jess turns and picks up a black box, holds it out with one hand. The other presses a button on the top of the box. The top and sides of the black box fold into the bottom, revealing what appears to be a large white coffee mug scrawled with wild thick black hieroglyphics. Rather than speaking further, Jess Handlebar raises the big mug to his mouth and allows his chin to slip in, pressing the top of the mouth against the bottom of his nostrils. He raises his free hand and taps the mug, or at least that’s what it looks like. Marty can’t see very well from up here in the dusty air ducts, but it’s better than not seeing at all. Folk have been talking about the return of The Horseshoes for years now, and Jess Handlebar is allegedly at the middle of the big conspiracy. Jess babysat Marty when he was a youngling, they’re as close as hairs in a ‘Stache for the love of the Twelve, and still he promised Marty the talk was just that – talk. But this…

The Walruses leap two feet backwards when Jess lowers the mug from his face. One draws his shooter, the other draws a length of dull, blunt metal. Heavy metal.

“It’s not possible! Explain yourself, Handlebar, before we waste you proper.”

“This is the Unity Device, gentlemen,” Jess Handlebar explains through his newly bustling Walrus moustache. “I acquired some nanobot technology from the Chevrons – real, legitimate nanotech! The bots weave into your facial hair, anyone can wear any of the Twelve Great ‘Staches! We can use this to reunite The Compound! No more cults, no more division! We–”

“Can bring back The Horseshoes, is that where you’re going with this?” sneers the Walrus wielding the heavy metal. “I have to say, Handlebar, I didn’t think the talk was true. I can’t tell if I’m happy or disappointed.”

“The rumors are shit, I’m not bringing back The Horseshoes.” Jess sighs. “Maybe at one point I wanted to – a whole lot of wrong happens down here, gentlemen. I’m not the only man who wants to see justice served, and I doubt I’m the only one who would be willing to go the distance to serve it, but…” He shakes his head. “No. No, there’s no point, it would only serve to further divide the citizens of The Compound. I propose we all meet, we vote on which ‘Stache we’d like to keep, and we all join forces. Who knows, mayhap we could even esca–”

Thunder sings in the key of gunpowder.

Marty’s hands clap to his face, but the sound of Jess’s body landing covers it like Jess’s blood begins to cover the floor. The Walrus holsters his seven-shooter and turns to leave the office. The other one bends down and takes up the Unity Device, then spits in Jess’s face. As he stands back up he stares at the vent, and Marty swears the man looks directly in his eyes. A few minutes after the men leave, Marty kicks the vent out and climbs down into the room. Jess is holding something in his hand, but he doesn’t seem to have the strength to lift his arm off the ground.

“Marty…” Jess whispers. He tries to take a breath and struggles until he gives up.

Marty, his eyes leaking salty rivers, his face red with anguish, leans in close.

“Take this button, Marty, this button will… this will disintegrate my device. Like it was never there, Marty. I made it because I knew… I knew it would fall into the wrong hands. It’s up to you now, Marty, it’s up…”

Jess’s fingers relax, allowing the button to tumble to the floor.

“It’s up… up to… you…”


Hello Commons, this has been The Horseshoes, the flash fiction story attached to the moustache mug from rePurpp, the official store of The Hillside Commons. Click here to go to the store and check it out for yourself.

I also write fiction books, all of which you can read for free on my website. Click here to see the list.

Be well Commons~

Posted in Writings

Aw-Tea-Matic

Monday

Lester springs out of bed and prances in a way best described as manic across the layer of dirty clothes which act as a carpet over the wooden floor of his bedroom. He glides through the living room, glimmers in the light shining in through the window in the front door, sings along with the squeak of the hinges as the door opens, then his energy drops like wooden pins when they’re struck by a bowling ball.

“Well…” Lester says to himself, then swallows nervously. He can feel his Adam’s apple dance a little jig. “I suppose they wouldn’t deliver it first thing in the morning, even though it’s the deluxe model with the mugs…” He takes a deep, measured breath. “Fine, it’s… it’s fine. You know, I actually feel pretty good this morning. Maybe I don’t need the tea to set myself free, maybe I just had to get off the DoperMe. Maybe… maybe everything I need is all on the inside.”

A moment passes, then, “Yeah. Maybe it’s all on the inside.”

Lester closes his front door, gets ready to sling filthy bowling shoes to even filthier little maggots and the horrific flies who cart them to the Q-Bowl on a daily basis, then opens his front door again and heads out.

Tuesday

Lester gets out of bed and gathers himself. Though he can’t quite touch his toes, he still does a bit of stretching, and it feels nice. He was so wired after working overtime last night that he cleaned all the clothing off his bedroom floor and put it through the wash. He hasn’t done his laundry in weeks, you believe that? The load is sitting in the dryer now, and it’ll stay there until after work today.

Speaking of which, Lester has to get to work soon… but he’s so tired. The Aw-Tea-Matic dispensed some chamomile lavender tea after Lester dealt with his laundry last night and it knocked him out so fast he didn’t get a chance to brush his teeth, and he’s still feeling it a bit now. ‘Well, at least it’s not the depression making me feel so slow. I’m free now; that means I’m free to choose my attitude.’ Attaboy.

After getting dressed, Lester places the Aw-Tea-Matic’s sensors into his ears like they were earbuds. The Aw-Tea-Matic, sensing that Lester needs a little pick-me-up this morning, pours a concentrated gulp of steaming black tea into the little Tuesday mug. Lester drains it, replaces the mug, then heads out the door.

Wednesday

Lester crawls out of bed, throws his unwashed uniform on, ‘Shit, the dryer is still full,’ then heads into the living room to doze on the couch for a few many minutes. Usually overtime is a rare find at the Q-Bowl – well, rare enough that Lester’s single coworker usually claims it before Lester has the chance, and more power to her; the girl’s got a daughter and a senile mother to take care of, she needs the cash – but it’s been flowing like water this week, and today will surely be no different. At least he’s getting paid well. Time and a half ain’t too shitty when time itself is eleven and a quarter.

Lester’s eyes burst open. Small misty tears fly off the ends of his lashes. “I have to be there in an hour, I can’t be falling asleep now!” He stands and slaps himself across the face, but very softly. “C’mon Lester, let’s get into the game!”

When he said game he meant kitchen, evidently. The Aw-Tea-Matic, sensing that Lester needs a big pick-me-up this morning, pours a concentrated gulp of double-caff black tea spiked with rum into the little Wednesday mug. Lester drains it, replaces the mug, then heads out the door.

Thursday

Lester rolls out of bed, forcing his feet to catch him. His eyes are burning and his head aches like nobody’s business. Jenny didn’t even show up yesterday, Lester had to work the Q-Bowl all by himself for twelve hours straight. He was so tired when he finally escaped that he didn’t even fold his days-dry laundry.

“It’s funny,” Lester mumbles as he drags his feet into the kitchen. “I wanted to set myself free, and I’m free from the DoperMe now, but… oh never mind, nobody can hear me. Here’s Lester talking to himself first thing in the morning, sheesh. Today’s going to be interesting… well, as interesting as it can be. I work in a Goddamned bowling alley, for fuck’s sake.”

The Aw-Tea-Matic, having read Lester’s deepest brainwaves, senses that he needs a change in perspective, a key to the mental door he’s locked himself behind. It pours a concentrated gulp of simmering psilocybin mushroom tea into the little Thursday mug, and Lester drains it in one quick shot. He replaces the mug in the machine so it may clean it, then heads out the door.

Friday

She quit. She wasn’t getting paid enough, so she decided to leave and get paid nothing. Why bother giving yourself all that free time, Jenny? It’s not like it’s going to help you. We need  to work. When we don’t work, that’s when the bad things happen, and besides, how are you going to be free if you don’t work?

How is Lester ever going to be free if he stays working at the bowling alley?

How is the bowling alley going to stay open if Lester, its only remaining employee, decides to quit too?

How is Lester going to get to work if he stays in bed all morning?

Lester falls out of bed and hits his head on the floor. He doesn’t want to do it – hell, he’d rather put a gun in his mouth and… well… anyway, he puts on his grimy bowling alley uniform and goes to the kitchen to use his Aw-Tea-Matic, his savior, the only thing that gets him through the day. He puts the earbud sensors in and slumps over a bit, not caring what the machine pours out.

The Aw-Tea-Matic, sensing that Lester feels existentially trapped and that there is no way out for him aside from the big way out – sensing that Lester wants nothing more than to set himself free – pours a concentrated gulp of hemlock tea into the little black Friday mug. Lester drains it, replaces the mug, then heads out the door.


Hello Commons, this has been Aw-Tea-Matic, the flash fiction story attached to the weekday mini-mugs from rePurpp, the official store of The Hillside Commons. Click here to go to the store and check it out for yourself.

I also write fiction books, all of which you can read for free on my website. Click here to see the list.

Be well Commons~

Posted in Writings

Meat and Poultry

Resale Shmucks

“Listen lady, nobody knows better than me that we’re livin’ during strange times, but that don’t mean I’m ‘bout’a let that thur old-school vintage nineteen’seventies souvenir illustrated Metropolitan Museum of Art blank recipe pad go for a shabby eight bucks. That sucker’s worth fifteen at least, ain’t nobody’s goin’ back in time just to get another one. Plus, you kn-you know, I’m not naïve. You’re gonna buy it from me and just double your money, just like the rest of the resale shmucks out here.”

Vallory doesn’t know what to say.

“Yeah, yeah that’s what’s going down. I know your type, lady. I know y’alls all too well because I used to be you. Do you know how much I made in a year slingin’ wares through Craigslist? Well? Do ya?!”

She’s not going to cry, she’s not letting this mean man get one over on her. Vallory is not going to cry.

“I made three-fifty! In profit!

Silence hangs heavily on the air. Vallory is currently the only shopper at this furry man’s garage sale; she was the only shopper when she parked her car and she’ll likely be the only shopper when she inevitably gets back into that car and gets herself home. It’s just her and him, just these two human beings standing on a lawn of chopped grass as the wind blows breezily and the rain threatens to pour and pour. If she speaks she’s going to cry and if she cries then the mean furry man will win, and that cannot happen. Vallory stands her ground, keeps her mouth shut, her eyes dry, her chin up.

Four minutes pass like this.

“Fine, you know what? Just fine,” concedes the furry man. “You win, you can take it… for ten. Do we have a deal?”

As it turns out, they do. Vallory takes her somewhat new old-school vintage 1970s souvenir illustrated Metropolitan Museum of Art blank recipe pad, shamelessly sprints to her car, hops in, hits the push-button start, and races towards the horizon.

Vallory Does Dinner

Sweet, savory barbecue sauce. Molten cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Buttery, grilled corn cobs. Cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese tossed into a vat of pasta shells and hit with a blowtorch to char. When Vallory does dinner, Vallory does not mess around.

“Val’,” gushes Manja as she attempts to work down a mouthful of this phenomenal pulled pork banquet Vallory threw together for them, “this food is phenomenal.”

A smile stretches for miles across Vallory’s face. “Well there’s plen’y more where that came from, butterbuns. Eat up!”

And to think, Manja almost didn’t come over tonight. She almost let the strange world she’s living on scare her out of spending a lovely evening with her best friend – her best friend since conception, mind you – eating delicious food and catching up after three months of not seeing each other. That’s just how Manja gets sometimes though, the state of the world troubles her very much. It wouldn’t if she didn’t spend so much time watching mainstream media and scrolling the social medias and waging full-on flame wars against random human beings who she’s never met over topics which she knows nothing about, but she does do all that toxic shit, and most folk begrudge her for it. But not Vallory. Vallory still makes time to see Manja. Vallory invites Manja over for dinner. Honestly, Manja doesn’t know what she’d do without Vallory. Manja likes to spend her waking hours watching disgusting horror films like Human Centipede, like Green Inferno and A Serbian Film and other pieces of art like them, and that practically covers the route of her standard train of thought right there. Most folk don’t like that in another human, most folk think that’s creepy. But not Vallory.

Honestly, Manja doesn’t know what she would do without Vallory. And tonight, Vallory is lucky Manja is here, too. After tonight, Vallory won’t know what she would be doing without Manja in her life, and it all starts when Manja finishes working down that mouthful of the phenomenal pulled pork.

“Good Christ, Vallory! This pork! It’s, it’s just… I’ve never had anything like it!” She engulfs another handful – the dinner started with forks, but, you know, that’s how it started – of pulled pork and then, as drupelets of thick brown barbecue sauce dribble down her stuffed, rosy cheeks, Manja asks, “What did you do to it?”

“Not a whole lot, Manj’!” Vallory raves as she follows a handful of pulled pork with a spoonful of barbecue sauce. “The guy who mailed it to me sent me all the fixin’s, I just followed the instructions!”

Manja, suddenly holding a fork in her saucy hand, stabs herself a wad and starts chewin’. “A guy mailed it to you?! Oh honey, you tell me more about that right now!”

“Well, sure!” Vallory squeals, hardly able to contain herself. This pork is so tasty-fine it’s driving her stark mad. “I was at this big garage sale the weekend before last, I don’t even remember what town it was in, and I bought an old recipe pad from the Met! It was all blank, so I could fill it in myself, and ooooohit has all different sections and illustrations, oh Manja it is to die for I love it so much!”

“So the pork?” as Manja dips a straw into the bottle of barbecue sauce.

“The pork ! Yes! So in the back of the Meat and Poultry section there was this little message. This little ad, it said Want that long belly? Call this number and get yerself some longpork. Fill you up right, you hear? It even said yer-self, like whY-Eee-aRe. It was so clever I just had to call. Any normal human being would. Wouldn’t you?!”

Manja wants to answer, but she can’t at first. Her stomach, her esophagus, her mouth, her fork, and before she grabbed that fork, her hands, it’s all full of Vallory’s pork. The longpork, to get that long belly. Fill you up right, you hear?

See, Manja isn’t a normal human being. Manja likes to spend her time watching disgusting horror movies like Human Centipede, like Green Inferno and A Serbian Film, they’re practically all she ever thinks about, and most folk begrudge her for it. Most folk think she’s creepy, but not Vallory. Vallory makes time to see Manja. Vallory invites Manja over for dinner. Manja doesn’t know what she’d do without Vallory, and in just a moment, Vallory will feel the same way about Manja. Vallory will have no idea what she would do without Manja because she will refuse to have that idea. She’ll picture it in her head, but she’ll refuse to look at the picture because the picture is all around her. Vallory is little more than the stroke of a paintbrush dipped in homemade barbecue sauce, and without Manja, she would be none the wiser.

“Vallory…” Manja trembles, letting the thoroughly chewed longpork fall out of her mouth and onto the plate. “Val’, longpork is… longpork is human meat…”


Hello Commons, this has been Meat and Poultry, the flash fiction story attached to the old-school vintage 1970s souvenir illustrated Metropolitan Museum of Art blank recipe pad from rePurpp, the official store of The Hillside Commons. Click here to go to the store and check it out for yourself.

I also write fiction books, all of which you can read for free on my website. Click here to see the list.

Be well Commons~