Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Silent Moments

After 40 years, the Whispering Oaks Cemetery still looked the same, despite the few additions. The caretaker was always kept busy, pulling weeds, nursing flowers, trimming the grass, pruning bushes, raking, and dusting off each and every headstone, so it looked more like a garden than a graveyard.
It was late April, and the daisies were in full bloom, adding life among the dead.
Morris Parrot, so old he could now no longer remember his age, stood at the cemetery gate with one hand brushing the iron bars. In the other, he held a single sunflower. He visited every day. But this morning, he had an instinct to arrive hours before the usual visiting time.
The caretaker met Morris at the gate, holding a bulging garbage bag full of wilted bouquets and battered objects left at the headstones.
“Morning,” said the caretaker, Dan. He was middle-aged and usually a bright, friendly man. “You’re earlier than you’ve been in 40 years. What’s the occasion?”
Morris ran his hand against the bars that had never before withheld him.
“You’ve been a good man these past few years, Dan, and I have a feeling this will be my last visit..”
“Your last? What do you mean?” Dan asked blankly.
Once Morris was let through the gate, he put a feeble arm on Dan’s shoulder and steered him to the headstone that Morris visited daily.
Wilma Faux Parrot
1921– 1951
Dan knew this headstone well. Every week he threw away seven wilted flowers, all different, that had been left there.
Dan shifted his feet. “I don’t understand, Mr. Parrot, why this is your last visit? Was Wilma your wife?”
“Is my wife,” Morris corrected. “although you’re right to not understand my ways. Sometimes my instincts turn out to be correct.” Morris knelt down, not without help, and lay the sunflower on the ground. The first rays of sun in the east were peeking out over the mountains, illuminating the leaves in the trees.
Dan nodded and wondered if he should leave Morris in peace, but the old man was still taking advantage of his company.
“Would you like to know why I come here every day, Daniel?”
Dan eagerly agreed, threw down his garbage bag, and sat next to Morris.
Morris began, “When I was 28, during the war, I was seriously injured on our bomber ship.” He traced long scars on his neck and on his arms for Dan’s benefit. “I spent weeks in the hospital recovering, and it was there that I first met my Wilma.”
“So, she was injured–” Dan interrupted. Morris shook his head. “No, no. Wilma was 22. She was a nurse, of course. Quite a beauty, too. I declare! Nearly every soldier under her care fell in love with her!” he chuckled. “And I did too, of course. After the war ended, I sought her out and we courted for years.”
“Years?” Dan asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Three years. She was 25 when we married, I remember. She was the most beautiful bride... I can still see her auburn hair in her permanent and her rosy cheeks. She had blue eyes, too.”
Dan agreed. “I’m sure she was very beautiful.” He waited for Morris to continue, but there was a moment’s silence before he did.
“Yes...very beautiful. And very kind. She died 5 years later. We had only been married for a few short years, happy as they were.”
Dan ducked his head and mumbled an apology. Morris waved it away. “Yes, I too am sorry. She was pregnant with our first child and died after giving birth.”
Several silent, painful moments passed, and then Dan asked, “But Mr. Parrot, you never mentioned why you visit her every day.”
Morris looked up in surprise, but then remembered. “Oh, yes. On the night she died, I was trying to nurse my Wilma back to health. She was very weak, pale, and sick with the fever. She had lost a lot of blood from the birthing. She began to drift off, and, afraid I was losing her, I tried to revive her. She began mumbling loads of nonsense...but her last words to me were, ‘Don’t leave me, Morris.’”
“Was that nonsense?” said Dan, “She was the one leaving you, after all.”
Morris shrugged. “Whether nonsense or not, I promised I would never leave her. And until I die, I will never break that promise. I haven’t missed a single day here in forty years.” And then Morris lay down next to his wife’s headstone and stroked it.
Touched, Dan left Morris and his wife in peace.
An hour later, after he had finished his cleaning duties, he noticed that Morris was still lying on the grass. Approaching him, Dan realized that Morris was right–it was indeed his last visit. With tears in his eyes, Dan called the Funeral Home.
Still laying at his wife’s grave, Morris Parrot had kept his promise until his last breath.

Friday, March 12, 2010


The small man stepped into the building, feeling the gentle, cool air drying his sweat from the heat of the day. His skin was pale, and his ashen hair was balding. He wore an everyday office suit; Washington Black, with a plain burgundy tie and a clean white shirt. He had evidently primped himself up for the occasion he had arrived for.
The man, Randall, had his face wiped of expression. His movements implied peace and impassiveness. Randall looked around the organized room until his eyes fell on the mortician bent over his desk, scribbling casually. The mortician was hefty, with rosy cheeks and pudgy hands, but his eyes had grown accustomed to looking on in sympathy – which was the exact affection he showed when he looked up. He smiled understandingly and motioned for Randall to sit in the folding chair facing him.
“Who is the deceased?” he asked, rifling through a paper or two. Randall shrugged. “My wife,”
The mortician paused, turning the pen over in his hands. “What’s her name?” he urged.
Randall shifted in his seat. “Odette… Macintosh,” As the mortician wrote these things down, Randall mumbled to himself, “…she is so beautiful. Everyone loved her. She is so young and beautiful.”
The mortician nodded. “I’m sure,” he said. Randall sat up straighter.
“She needs to have the best.” He started, “She deserves the best of everything you have. The cost doesn’t matter.”
The mortician nodded amiably. “Of course,” The mortician began questioning on important material.
Randall lowered his voice. “…She’s so young. She’s so beautiful. She deserves the best of everything you have.”

The mortician stood up and shook Randall’s hand, assuring him of the best funeral arrangements they could provide. “We’ll be by within the hour.”
The mortician walked Randall to the door. Randall was still expressionless, and ignored the blast of heat he felt as he pushed open the door. As he made his way to his sleek red Chevrolet Corvette, the paunchy mortician inquired from behind, “When did your wife die?”
Randall seemed to evade the question, but really he fell into a reflective silence. Only after opening the door to his car and putting one foot inside did he answer.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Cure

The sun was high overhead, baking the dry earth with an abundance of calidity. My bonnet was soaked with perspiration, and my stay and petticoat were also drenched.
I wondered when my next bath would be. Mother said I could upgrade my bathing days, but I asked myself if that meant I would only get three per month.
I shook my head and continued on with my work with stiff, sensitive limbs. My knuckles were dry and cracked; dried blood coating my blisters. I still had not developed those calluses that Mother promised.
Weed after weed I pulled, digging into the hot, rocky soil with my uneven fingernails. I daydreamed of jumping into the well of cool, clean water. I ached for rain or snowflakes to replace this preposterous heat. But I knew that I had to clean up the abandoned garden before Mother and I would officially move into this coffee house. She was in ‘aberration’ over this garden. So I wiped away the sweat trickling into eyes and kept digging.
It was early evening before I finally finished. I collapsed on the ground, rather melodramatically, and nursed my aching fingers. All seventeen woven baskets were stuffed with perennial, aggravating weeds.
My stomach clenched painfully. I had eaten a small breakfast of leathery green beans and one overripe potato. I couldn’t stop myself from imagining a table loaded with roast duck, gravy, curried eggs, apricot stew, pheasant with mushrooms, sweet corn, and warm apple cider. For a moment I hoped it was beginning November, but I reminded myself that I was stuck in pestering mid-July. No Thanksgiving for several more months.
A sigh escaped me right as Mother came out onto the back porch and spotted me sprawled on the dirt and debris. “Luscinda!” she scolded in a brusque voice. I scrambled to my feet and gathered up all my baskets. Mother examined my hands as well as the back of my dress, then pursed her lips. She gathered up my baskets into her arms and went back inside, leaving me standing there, grimy and exhausted.
I went to the well and hauled a bucketful of drinking water. It was tepid rather than cold, but I didn’t mind. I gulped some down with a ladle then dumped the rest over my head. Dripping, I went back to my spot on the dirt to allow myself to dry in the sun. My apron, undergarments, gown, and stay were filthy, anyways. Maybe Mother would do the washing sometime tomorrow. Meanwhile I could borrow some extra clothing from her.
I stared out over our new, weed-free land. Only the soil and rocks remained. Except—
I squinted. A stick, perhaps as long as my arm and as wide, was poking out at an unrefined angle. I groaned and crawled over to it. It was carved and polished like a Mayan staff, with minuscule pictures and foreign inscriptions. I tried to remember if I had ever noticed it, but my memory was blank. How had I not noticed it while I was working?
I grasped the end of the staff and pulled with all my remaining strength. I could sense the earth loosening up around it. I yanked it again and again, twisting it and pushing it forward until, finally, it was freed and shot into the air. I caught it, awkwardly, and analyzed it. The bottom surface had a rusted latch. I bit my lip and dug my fingernail into the cracks, trying to open it. It didn’t take long for the lid to come off in my hands. The staff must have been hollow.
I shook the staff, holding my hand under it. A skinny, tinted vial settled in my palm. I threw the hollow staff aside and twisted off the lid as easily as if it had just been oiled. I tipped the vial and watched the drops of blood fall onto my fingers. Blood?
I swallowed painfully and put the lid back on. What was this? I turned the vial over in my hands and caught the scrawled note pasted at the bottom.

Cure - 2012

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Lurid Cave

The flaming rocks seemed to glow when the sun rose so harmoniously, casting light shadows stretching to the west. It was a barren valley, with only the rough, red sand and few lean weeds to fill it.
It was beautiful, but eerie as well. The absence of life made me feel isolated and disconsolate.
I fingered my canteen, ignoring how light it felt, and lifted it to my cracked lips. The water was warm and tasted like plastic– an aftertaste I had grown used to. I guessed I had a few gulps left. That was definitely not enough. If I didn’t get mauled to death before I reached civilization, then I would be sure to die of dehydration or hunger. But that unnerving thought didn’t slow me. I continued to limp and stumble across the rocks, occasionally tripping and sprawling across the sand and pulling myself up once again. I didn’t know where I was going, only that I had to keep in that direction.
Only when I plummeted over a small, flat cliff did I notice the fissure in the wall of unbreakable rock. I inhaled sharply–something felt broken; but I was irrepressible. I got to my feet and ran my hands over the narrow opening. It was roughly wide enough to slip my arm through, and long enough for a tall man to step through without stooping. There was a chilly draft flowing inside, soothing my blistered skin. I pressed my face against the rock, peering inside. My eyes were not accustomed to that darkness, but when I called inside, my cracked voice echoed around me. I guessed it was a small cave—if not, a big one. It was useless to me, but unless it had an unlimited supply of water, I had to move on. And then I heard it.
Drip, drip, drip. I came closer to the opening and listened for that scarce sound. There it was again; drip, drip, drip. Was it water? I doubted it... but what else could it be? I would soon be delirious with thirst. I could drink anything.
I began beating at the crumbly rock with my bruised hands, trying to crush it, to shatter it. When I made no luck, I took the switchblade from my belt and stabbed the rock, wanting desperately to make the opening big enough to crawl through. I needed shelter. I needed rest. And I needed water.
When the hole was nearly wide enough to put my head through, a low, admonishing voice spoke to me. “You don’t want to come in here.” Horripilation rose on my arms, like other times when my adrenaline began to rush. Did the voice come from inside this cave? Who was he? Did he have water? The only explanation I could give myself was that someone had water and he didn’t want to share. Wiping the sweat from my eyes, I ignored his warning and continued to break the rock. After several minutes’ work, I could easily climb into it. Yet, when I slid my legs through, the deep voice spoke once again–irritable this time.
“If you come in here, sonny, you’ll be regretting it.”
Drip, drip, drip. The sound of liquid kept me from hesitating. I lowered myself into that dark, lurid room and followed my ears. I kept my hands stretched out blindly in front of me as I felt my way around the cold, damp cave. The walls felt like ragged granite—if I beat it too hard, my hands would surely bleed. The ground was of the same texture, and it was hard to keep myself from tripping.
I relied heavily on where the source of the dripping came from, and it eventually led me to a corner. The liquid was dripping down the wall into a little puddle. I got down on my hands and knees and lapped it up…but it didn’t taste like water. It was thick, and tasted of salt. Maybe it had picked up the taste from the minerals in the rock...? Behind me, the stranger omitted a low chuckle. His laughter bounced off the rock and stayed with me. What was so funny? Why was he laughing?
And then I recognized that flavor. I’d tasted it before, inside my mouth when my gums bled or a tooth was knocked out.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Edited version of A VISITOR AT DAWN

The sanguine sun was just rising up over the hills, bathing the frosted earth in soft sunlight. I found this rather aggravating. How could nature continue its course, oblivious to the harm that was about to come to it? But then I paused, and realized that I would not be as confident as I was now if it were not for the faith that the earth had in me.
My fingers tightened around the frozen, splintered wood fence. I would have liked to feel the roughness beneath my fingers. But, as it was, I still could not feel. My breath was just a cloud as I breathed out, and I was trying to restrain from shivering in the chilly, early morning. What was taking him so long? Surely when a sovereign lord commands you to meet him in an isolated cattle field interspersed with beds of weeds, you would assume he would be there waiting for you, not the other way around.
Just then, my thoughts were cut off as that familiar, ominous, thick fog began to unfold upon the summit. I felt completely inert now. My heartbeat began to hammer like the rapid pulse of a metronome.
The sun passed behind a dark cloud threatening to storm, and abruptly I was washed of all my audacity and poise. My last effort to save Diya was going to be a failure because of the omens that I believed in. Sunlight gone, warmth gone, fog approaching, confidence lost. I no longer felt displeased with my weakness. If I were to die, I wanted Diya to come with me.
And then, so swiftly, a ray of sunlight broke through the gray barrier and blinded me for half a second before retreating. This was a good omen. I knew it was.
Fortitude regained just as quickly as it had been lost, I stood up a little straighter and shoved my hands in my pockets.
That was when I realized that the tip was missing. I buried my hands deeper into the wool, searching for that (what I would have guessed it to be, since I could not feel) acute, cold metal tip. But it was not there. Goosebumps shot straight up on my arms, replacing the minuscule ones.
Did it fall out of my pocket when I was running? There was no other explanation. I solemnly remembered placing it in that pocket. There was no other place to put it. If the people of Caradoc glimpsed it in my hands, they would be sure to scratch my eyes out next. Having the inability to feel was bad enough, even if I had lost that sense doing something I regretted.
What would I tell Lord Cevero? I couldn't bear to imagine what he would do to me if he saw that I had lost the last piece of Curtana. The most powerful blade in all the world was blunt and useless for drawing blood of enemies without its tip. I had never questioned why he wanted the weapon. It was apparent that all men, whether righteous or evil-spirited, that this sword had its own execrable personality – a personality that drew matter over the mind and want over common sense. A personality that aroused a hungry desire for blood in the bearer.
No, there was no question why Lord Cevero wanted it. And I was impotent and timorous enough to agree to bring a malicious man to power to save Diya.
He was wearing a long, hooded traveling cloak that shadowed his piercing eyes. The fog swirled around him like snakes as he sauntered towards me, the trembling, cowardly man trying to save a woman who seemed unimportant in this situation. I would have given it to him. I would have. Was this another omen? Did a seraph from heaven rescue me from a life of guilt and remorse?

------This is not over. There is still more that I will post if you like it.---------

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Envelope

The street lamps were the only source of light glowing off the uneven streets. Each dreary-looking suburban house had the curtains pulled or the shutters closed.
It was an unusually warm night, and the breeze could not be felt; although the leaves on the trees twitched and the grass shuddered quietly. The silence was almost unnatural. Even the steady chirp of the crickets was absent.
The eery, peaceful scene was interrupted by a pair of headlights peering down the street. A red Mazda crawled slowly toward a house at the end of the road; whose sprinklers had just started up. The Mazda slowed to an inaudible stop in front of the house, but the engine kept running. The passenger door opened, and a young girl with lanky, dirty-blonde hair and nervous eyes climbed out, taking caution to shut the door with as little sound as possible. She crept around the car, up the driveway, and to the front door in seconds, then grasped the doorknob. Before turning it, she glanced back fleetingly at the dark form watching her from the driver’s seat.
The door was locked, as the girl suspected it to be; but she simply removed the smallest stone on the wall and took the spare key, then turned it in the lock. Breathing shallowly, the girl slid inside and made her way through the darkness into the living room, and then the office down the hall. The door was wide open; a lamp dimly illuminated the cold steel file cabinets, the cluttered desk against the wall, and the rows of bookshelves that held stiff and dusty books that had never been opened.
Breathing an inward sigh of relief that the room was unoccupied, the girl approached the file cabinet marked B-C3. She slid the drawer open, thumbed the dividers anxiously, then paused as her finger touched the one she was looking for. She pulled out a thin manila envelope that was unmarked- except for the great amount of scotch tape that was wrapped around it.
Now that she had found what she was looking for, the girl stuffed it inside her shirt and tiptoed out of the office at a run. In the hurry, she had forgotten to close the cabinet.
Briskly, but deliberately, the girl locked the door behind her and flew across the lawn - through the sprinklers - and settled back into the passenger seat, letting out a shaky sigh and retrieved the envelope.
“È così?” asked the low voice of the dark figure next to her. The girl looked at it and replied, “Yes. This is it.”
The car stayed parked in front of the house - the engine still running - as the two passengers eyed the taped up envelope.
After a moment of disquiet, the man asked- “Pensi che se ne accorgeranno?”
And his question was answered. As soon as the porch light flicked on.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Untitled - by Kassi Baird

I've been thinking - if YOU are a writer and like to write, I'll actually be happy to post your stories on my blog. This story is by my friend Kassi. I still can't think of a title. (sorry!)
Enjoy and tell Kassi what you think! (By commenting on this story)

"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is what we start from."
~T. S Eliot.

Step, step, step, step, step ,step. I was so focused on running that I had almost forgot to breathe. The cold air surrounding me was the only thing keeping me from stopping to rest. I looked down at my watch. 4:37 - if I hurried, I could make it.
People stared at me as I ran by. I couldn’t help but pity them, for they didn’t know the fate that would befall them in a mere twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes.
The thought started my pulse of and I felt a new surge of adrenaline. I was so close I could almost smell the old house, feel the touch of his skin on mine. I smiled in excitement, then remembered the reason for this rendevous and my heart sank. I glanced back down at my watch, 4:45. I could feel the beads of sweat on my forehead expand and drip down the side of my face. I knew he wouldn’t care what I looked like.
Tension started to fill the air and I knew it wouldn’t be long until chaos erupted, and the people started screaming. I could see the old house on the corner, and my pace quickened. Soon, I reached the door. I knocked, then realized the formality was pointless, he wouldn’t care. I opened the door, and stepped in, my heart bounding, and my breath coming out in heavy, prolonged pants. I saw him turn the corner, and I could feel the corner of my lips turn up, surrendering to a full-on smile. He smiled back and my breathing quickened. He held out his arms and I ran into them without hesitation. My paranoia kicked in and I looked at my watch. 5:00- seven minutes left.
I could hear the few people outside sensing something, and soon whispering began to fill the normal bustle of a few minutes ago. I looked up into his eyes and watched as they changed from caramel, to a stormy blue-gray. My eyes once again darted to my watch, 5:05, I looked back at him and his eyes were filled with humor. He knew my paranoia was my weakness. Outside I could hear people screaming. Soon in the far countries, the screaming cut off, ending with a low strangling sound. I didn’t even have to look out my watch to know the dreaded time had come. Soon even the noise outside gurgled, and I gathered the energy around me and bottled it up. 5...4...3...2...1...I let it out. The last thing I remember was a brilliant flash of white light, and the noise outside reduced to silence. Then the world was black.