Category Archives: Short Story

JOY

Something strange happened to me the other day.

I was in the airport bathroom en route to Phoenix when two Latino ladies approached me. One was older with lines of age marking her face and hints of grey about her forehead. She was dressed in some heavy clothing for August and had a work apron on top of it all.

The other was younger, her wide black eyes more pronounced by the smoothness of her skin. A loose patterned sweatshirt hung about her over black leggings.

They spoke quickly in Spanish to one another as they approached me with some hesitation. The young woman said, “She would like for you to leave a comment.”

I scrunched my brow, unsure of what she meant. “You want what?” I asked.

“Senora, Senora, ” the older one said. She raced back over to a janitorial cart and brought back a stack of napkins. On one of them, someone had written some words in Spanish in a lovely, cursive font.

“See, see.” The woman pushed the napkin closer to me, keeping an expectant gaze. I stood dumbfounded, unable to read it. My one year of language class was not paying off.

“She wants you to write a comment,” the younger one spoke again, “of this place.” She held out her hands. “Of her work.”

“Oh, okay,” I said, finally grasping the meaning. The older woman laid down a new napkin eagerly, placing the previous one close by for an example.

“Olga,” she said, pointing to herself. Her smile brightened as I uncapped the pen and started to write.

When I handed it back, she thanked me repeatedly and then went right back to work, wiping all the counters down to even though they were already clean.

I’ve thought back on this interaction in several passing moments now. And what I always circle back to is the woman’s sheer joy for the comment. She had no idea whether i would write something good or bad. But yet she seeked it all the same – language barrier or not.

And I could see her dedication to the job, too. Cleaning bathrooms is not a pleasant job – and the ones at the airport are nowhere near the top of the easy lit. But here she was, so motivated and happy. Utterly happy.

And then I think about my own job and how a day with an emotion like that is nonexistent. I would never ask for a comment card for the feat of making the day that much worse. But why is it like that? Why shouldn’t I seek the same joy?

 

 

 

 

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CAPTAIN OF THE CLOUD SEA

Clouds fly
in the ocean of sky.

“What do you see?”
asks little Lee.

“Oh me, oh my.
I do think I spy
a ship
with it sails spread wide.”

“Pirates!” he squealed,
unable to keep even-keeled.

“Aye.”
I replied.
“The captain is looking at me
with a stern eye,
bright and white,
through a telescope he peers,
determining
if we are enemies to fear.”

Lee raised his fists
and gave a snarl.
And hollered:
“Don’t you run from me,
Captain of the Cloud Sea!
For I am Little Lee!”

From my lips
broke a smile
and after only a while,
Lee tugged at my sleeve,
and asked,
“What answer did you recieve?”

“He says he has come prepared.
He knows your name
for it is regarded
everywhere.
He calls at his crew,
Full speed ahead!
Look at how they move!
They are coming, Little Lee.
What shall we do?”

A devious grin spread across his face
and his youthful eyes began to sparkle.
“I have waited days
for his ship to come,
we will stand our place!”

At the sound of Lee’s defiance,
darker clouds began to roll in in waves.
The Cloud Sea Captain pushed forward
with no second to waste.

From her great, light hull
barrel guns protruded,
packed and ready,
the crew waited for the captain.
There would be no refusal!

Fire!” he commanded,
standing tall and proud.
And just like that
streaks of light
dashed through the clouds.

The air groaned
with the echo of thunder.
Little Lee stood
knowing that we did not have much longer.

Quickly, he ran across
the field of grass,
letting no obstacle prevent him
from his task.
He jumped and skipped across
every hidden rock.
He was headed for the pavilion,
that is where he would stop.

Behind him came
fleets of rain,
soaking the ground in
an endless daze.

I was not so lucky as Little Lee,
running in after him,
I found myself drenched
from the Cloud Sea.

“Don’t worry my father.”
He smiled ferventely.
“The Cloud Sea Captain
did not even get a drop on me.”

I nodded and knelt
to give him a hug
and said:
“My brave, brave son.”

He gave another look to the sky,
as things began to dry.
He pointed and gasped
for what was left of the pirate’s ship
had become just a single wisp.

He turned back to me
his eyes wide and said:
“Father, do you see?
The sun has already avenged thee.”

PAIGE ANDERS CHRONICLES – 5

That’s when Janet walked into my life, like some god-damned guardian angel. She had apparently been watching me since I had moved in across the hall and wasn’t a fan of the people who I kept dragging through the door. Trash I believe was the proper term she used.

And she really didn’t like the smell of schnapps that radiated off of my presence.

“Everyday,” she complained at my door, her face infused with rage, “you walk out this door waddling like a fucking duck. Stumbling into things. You like my wall a lot–particularly when it’s fucking three am and I’m sleeping.”

She screamed at me for what felt like hours that morning. The next time I pulled any of that crap, specially bringing around the trash because she knows who they really are–she lowered her eyes–she was calling the cops.

Now that last bit finally got my attention. Jail had been fun and all, but I certainly didn’t want to go back. Cops were not what I wanted to see when probation was still hung around your neck.

And then, as she just kept on yammering, I realized something. The person she was describing….the woman she was so pissed about….was my mother. I had become just like my disgusting, delusional mother.

In my shock, I started crying. I think at one point it got so out of control I had to sit on the ground, clutching my knees to my chest as a strange source of comfort.

I didn’t know Janet and it had become apparent that she hated me with the list of complaints she just presented. But even as I went into this fit of hysterics, she didn’t leave. She stayed right there with me. A little astonished and taken a back at first, but for whatever reason she understood. She sat with me and held me, not saying a word.

For the first time in my life, someone cared. She stayed.

PAIGE ANDERS CHRONICLES – 4

Five years is the sentence I had to pay, thanks to my age (“She obviously didn’t know better! People of the jury, just look at her mother!”) and my resentful cooperation.

The cooperation part was what egged me the most. I had no idea I was helping bring in the biggest drug king in south Ohio. Truth be told, I would have never talked had I known what really lied behind Trevor’s thin, white skin. I loved my job. More importantly – I loved my life, even if it was funded by some magic dust. Everyone has to have some fun. Right?

The icing on the cake is that’s how they told it to Rodney, too. ‘The little tramp turned you in you son of a bitch. You weren’t worth nothing to her but a Get Out of Jail Free card.’ I can imagine his face, twisted. His lower lip protruding out from those awful buckteeth. His eyes would have been still, concentrating on the cold metal table and how he would have liked to seen me there on top of it with a bullet through my head, just like my brother.

I imagine he was erratic on the inside. Every word the investigators served him, he swallowed and let it settle in his stomach. I’m sure by the time his verdict was in and he was marched down the pale hallways of his future, his insides had begun to boil and become hungry. Revenge is one nasty pill.

But time passes. I did my time, making a few new friends and enemies along the way. Then six years ago at the bright age of twenty, I walked back out of the gates with only a set of clothes, a toothbrush, and a notice that I would remain on probation for a year.

No one was there to greet me. My mother had long since died, finally seeing herself to a deadly concoction of antidepressants and vodka. My brother was by now a skeleton. And there was no one from school that had even dared to see me through the whole fiasco – so much for being popular. I was alone. I was poor. And I was desperate.

I started at a shelter. It was grungy and sad. Canned goods for meals everyday and material that felt like it had been woven from burlap for sheets. The threat of lice and runny noses were a brutal daily reality along with hoards of mold growing in the bathroom shower stalls. But it was a starting point.

I got a job at a local grocery store, stocking shelves in the midnight hours and eventually I was able to move into a comfortable apartment of my own. Actually eating real food was the best part about that whole thing. The job was tedious and had me feeling like I owned bricks for feet and like I always do – I got bored.

It only took me four months to find my way back to the streets, pedaling the latest trend – ecstasy and adderall. College kids were my new favorite customers. They would pay you any amount of daddy’s money to have a good time.

Life was starting to get good again. The money was easy – the hours even easier. I was in business with this guy who called himself Buster. Besides a glass eye he would never talk about, he was a chatty guy who knew the game well. He was always ready to meet the demand and his stuff was good. Really good – I personally tested it myself a few times a week chased with a little rum along the way. Buster would always snap at me for that, wasting product was never a good thing in his sight. Even if it was for a short trip out of your own life.

PAIGE ANDERS CHRONICLES – 3

I mean, come on? It can’t be that hard. Pull the trigger. Slide the knife. Drop a forty ton cement truck on his head.

Okay, maybe the last one is a little eccentric, but…

Before you judge me just like everyone else – Tommy included – you should probably know the story first. Like actually take the time to understand. Don’t dismiss me or write me off for a stereotype. There is a lot more to me than that.

When I was ten, a bucking blonde brat that didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quiet,’ my single, trailer-loving mother met a man. Rodney.

His sudden presence in mine and my younger brother’s life was surprising. You see, my mother had always worked hard. She pulled two jobs and rarely ever took time off throughout the year. And the time she did have was filled with her collapsed on the sofa watching soap operas and filling her veins with booze. And I can’t forget the constant slurred shouting at us about her feet that felt like jello and the endless exhaustion she had felt since the day of my birth. It was, of course, our fault that she had to work so hard. Nevermind the fact that she chose risky sex in the back of sedans as a highschool past time.

With all this work my mother did, I was stunned in how she found the time to meet a man. And more stunned that any man took the time to notice her. Rodney was okay looking if you go for the tight wife-beater and pot-belly types. But what my mother really liked was his money.

He bought her things. Lots of things. Flowers, clothes, jewelry, cars. Yes, cars plural.  My mother even go to go to one part-time job with him around. She was in heaven.

So you’re thinking much like my twelve-year-old mind was one day after fixing me and Jake our third box of mac and cheese. Where does this guy get this money? And why on earth my mother? I mean, I heard the screaming and bed bumping game they loved to play at night, but was that enough?

It didn’t take me long once he found me old enough to start taking on responsibility. That’s really what he said. “You are now old enough to start taking on responsibility.” With that he shoved three pounds of cocaine into my Hello Kitty backpack and told me to stop at fifth and Lewis on my way to class. The guy there would know what to do. Just say Rodney sent you. I still remember seeing my mother standing behind him, smirking with white powder crusted around her nose. Now her kids may finally start knowing what working hard is all about.

And that was my first drug run.

I made out with a whole single chocolate bar from the ordeal. With each visit that continued after, the reward got sweeter.

By the time I was sixteen, I was running the system with Rodney and we worked well together. Really well. I handled the clients and delivery. He handled the cash and product. He was never late in meeting my customers demands, and I was never late in bringing in the profits. My own brother even became my top runner. (It’s hard to believe those sweet kids could do any harm.) It became the family business. Sure, mom had a little concern every now and then but a new bottle of Captain Jack would always shut her up.

The money was amazing. True it was hard to leave and take a vacation on it, but it could still get you what you wanted to make home that much more comfortable.

Everything was smooth sailing. I even became popular at school. “Paging Paige,” they would say. Highschoolers were constantly in need of a fix. Something had to transcend them out of their boring, suburban lives. And they would pay you close to anything to make it happen.

At one of those parties is where I met Trevor – this red head, geeky kid with dad jean’s and a plaid button up. He looked so out of place in the crowd, just standing with his hands tucked neatly in his pockets. Everyone around him drunk or high and shouting to speak. But his voice was calm and smooth – he had everything under control for a teenager. Or so it seemed.

Trevor was unlike the other boys I had met before. That usually started with a nod and ended with a quickie on the bathroom counter. But Trevor was shy and was actually more interested in me. You have to understand that was a total shock. Everyone else just wanted to know what I could do for them. Never would they ever ask about what they could do for me. Or even about me for that matter.

And so we started dating – me and Trevor. I told him a lot about myself. Rodney, Jake, my mother. Everything from age one to present day. And he just soaked it up. Nodding, smiling, offering advice. Listening – it was a new part of human life for me.

He would park his bike in the drive at five sharp and we would take off for our daily walks. Down and back my street, stopping sometimes at a small park; enjoying a streak of normal in my otherwise strange life. I learned a little about him and he learned a lot about me. For months this continued, just me and him.

Funny thing is, Trevor never forgot a word of our conversations. No, it was near possible for him to. Oh and he just played it so well on the witness stand, spilling our secret words and amusements to every fucking reporter, judge, attorney, and god-forsaken juror in the courthouse. You see, every time we met he wore a special little wire that fed our magnificent lovebird voices to a DEA van a few blocks away. For him the whole thing was just another undercover job.  I was the mouse and he was the cat, tenderly waiting to sink in his teeth. And sink them he did.

All said and done, our operation was raided and picked bone dry. I missed out on the action, being cuffed and sitting in a cell at the time, but word has it that Rodney fought back, firing all the AK’s that we kept lying around. He didn’t win, but did manage to accidentally nail my brother in the back of the head during the commotion. They say he died instantly with my bereaving mother dwindling between tears and vomit beside him. I have always felt regret for my brother – it should have been me beside him instead of the trainwreck called mother. His thirteen years were short and ugly.

Since that day, I never trusted anyone again.

 

 

 

PAIGE ANDERS CHRONICLES – 2

Fuck!” I exclaimed loudly, almost dropping the burger flat to the floor.

Tommy looked at me with searing eyes. The old grump crossed his arms and gave me a smirk, clearly proud of what he had just accomplished. My other customer just stared from the booth, eyes wide.

Tommy turned back to the grump and whispered something while giving him a quick pat on the back. His turned his attention back on me, closing the distance with a restrained walk while grinding his teeth.

I gathered my composure and then tossed the burger to the man in the booth. He looked at it warily. Onions had fallen off the patty to the plate during the whole scene.

I gave him a curteous smile and said, “Sorry about that. We can make another if you’d–” but the man brushed me off and gather edhis coat.

No thanks,” he muttered. “That old man was right about this place.”

Sir, would you like….” Tommy’s wirey voice stated from behind me, but the man waved him off and continued out the door.

I watched him go then casually slid into the booth, pretending that Tommy’s eyes weren’t trying to bore through my skull. I took the basket and started eating some of the fries, balancing a bit of greasy onion on a few.

Tommy sighed loudly and slid in across from me. I sighed back, waiting for a reaction but he just stared through those ridiculous round glasses. I gave him a once over, secrectly glad he at least decided to not wear his fedora today. The skinny jeans with suspenders was enough. Sometimes I thought he dressed that way to make up for his lack of hair.

Paige, Paige, Paige, “ his voice dwindled. “What are we to do with you.”

Jane made it wrong, “ I snapped. “You can’t blame me for that.”

Tommy cocked his head. “True, true. But what about serving the coffee or that little offensive blurb you let out a bit ago? Hmm?” He pushed his glasses up his nose. I hate that habit.

I finished off the fries, giving no reply.

And the woman yesterday that complained about your attitude? Or the man last week that said you spat in his food because he said he liked Coldplay?”

I chuckled. That guy needed a wake up call.

Tommy let out a long sigh. “See that’s just the problem with you. You don’t care about anyone but yourself.”

I kept my eyes trained on the vinyl booth behind him, not daring to look up. I had heard this one too many times before. You would think at some point I might actually listen, but there was just something wrong in the way everybody said it. What was so wrong in being selfish sometimes? So what that I cared a little more about myself than others.

Tommy snapped his fingers in my face. “Hey, Paige. I’m trying to talk to you – to understand – but you’re not helping me here.” He bit his lower lip. “I think I’m going to have to fire you.”

I finally turned to him, more amused by his choice of words than the true weight of them. I think, that is how Tommy would phrase such a thing. He squirmed in his seat, moving his hands from the table to his face. I watched as the discomfort rose in the form of small bumps radiating on his neck.

Jesus Christ, Tommy. Are you getting hives from this?” I said, suddenly alarmed.

Maybe,” he mumbled and began scratching furiously at his neck. Clearly half firing someone was even too stressful. Tommy might really be the delicate man I had ever known. How had this guy ever come to run a restaurant?

Okay.” I stood up and began taking off my apron. I ran my fingers across the border then tossed it to him. “I will save you the trouble. I quit.”

Tommy gave a slight nod, as if he considered this option and began folding the apron. “I’ll have your last paycheck tomorrow. Just come by around one.”

I grinned and squeezed him on the shoulder. He gave one last somber look as I walked towards the door. I saw Jane standing in the kitchen door way shaking her head. I waved, knowing we would talk later.

I could not have asked for better timing. Not having a job would only lend itself to more time to plan. In some strange way I owed the grump a thank you. Easy stuff, I repeated the phrase in my head. That’s all I had to keep telling myself. Killing a man could be easy, right?

MESA VERDE CAMPFIRE STORY

(This was for a hitrecord.org challenge to write a campfire story in regards to our National Park system.)

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a bill creating Mesa Verde National Park. Situated in Southwestern Colorado, the park houses handfuls of canyons that cut the through the dry mesa revealing the ancient clay cliff dwellings that are built into its sides. Although varying in size, none of the structures come short of extraordinary. The limits of construction and accessibility to create these hidden Ancestral Puebloan palaces is wonder of its own to observe.

Guided by park officials, you can walk through the abandoned abodes, manageable only through a series of ladders and steep canyon ledges. And yet, as you pass through the key-holed doorways and circle the ceremonial Kivas, one tends to get the feeling that another may be watching, hidden within the dark caverns that you don’t explore.

There are many theories as to why Ancestral Puebloans left their skillful and strategic homes. Though it is called Mesa Verde, green is far from the color you see when exploring this park. Overrun with mountain shrubs, junipers, and pinyon pines, the mesa appears to thirst for water. Is that what drove the people away?

Or is there another reason? Evidence shows that many of the “spiritual doorway” of the dwellings had been sealed shut and even Kivas burned. Was there something these people sought to destroy or escape from but found the only way out was to leave? Perhaps fear drove them out of these magnificent homes? And if that’s true, could this dark spirit still remain among the ruins?

Some say to never stay close to the canyon’s edge on a full moon’s night. For when the moonlight crosses the doorways left unsealed, something shadowy rises from beneath it. Upwards, it climbs the vertical walls, clinging to the gasping roots that sprout from the clay. They say it seeks the living to partake in a drink of the soul.

The unsuspecting are always the first to be caught in its murky haze. Left paralyzed by the darkness, they surrender to the spirit, joining it to forever dwell in maze of caverns below the solid ground. Never again to look upon the face of the sun.