Monthly Archives: April 2015

Close Call

Sam wore a plum skull cap and a wool sweater but no jacket, standing out in the snow by the fir trees. The moon was up with a “fox tail” around it, predicting worse weather. She knelt and washed the blood off her hands with snow. Then she cleaned the kitchen knife with snow, drying it on her thigh.

When the station wagon rolled to a stop on the gentle slope below her she was all cleaned up. Without turning off the lights Marble got out. You ready? he asked. From the shadows she stepped into the headlight spotlight. Her knife glinted. Here I am, she said with a strange, weak voice and kind of smiled.

Well, get in the car then, Marble said. Go on, get in. She floated over to where he was standing and then moved swiftly with the blade.

Soon she was driving sixty down the icy dirt road back towards town. She inspected her nails as she drove and saw a little blood still, even after a second washing with snow. No one will see that, she said, even though she was alone in the car.

On the highway she worked to overpower an invisible force that wanted her hands to spin the wheel violently. The force would pull at her and pull at her, drawing the car toward the curb but she’d always correct it before she got to the white line.

But after hours of fighting this battle she finally lost strength and her hands jerked the wheel, causing the station wagon to spin and flip, leaving other cars to swerve and crash around it.

She came to in a ravine, barely able to extricate herself from the collapsed steel and shards of blue glass. Dazed and bloody, she walked back across the highway, now a mess of twisted and crushed vehicles, across another ravine and on to a service station and rest stop. She went into the restroom and carefully took some headphones out of her pocket. She was staring deeply into her own eyes in the mirror and listening to music on her smart phone when Marjorie found her. Police are here, Marjorie said. Just wanted to warn you, sugar. Sam ignored her, bobbing her head to some heavy metal on her phone. Marjorie gently took the knife out of Sam’s hand. You don’t want them to see that, said Marjorie. They might think you did it. Marjorie slid one of the floor tiles and dropped the knife into a little hole beneath. Then Sam hit the pause button on her phone and stared at Marjorie. Why are you helping me, Marjorie? she asked, reading the name off the woman’s nametag. But Marjorie disappeared out the door and Sam was alone again in the ladies’ room, wondering if she’d imagined her.

When the adrenaline began to ebb, Sam’s consciousness was flooded with the myriad consequences of her actions. She started to sweat and her skin got clammy. If I get out of this, I will begin a totally vegan diet, she told herself. I will quit drinking coffee and I will meditate every day. If I get out of this I will wake up every morning with a huge smile. I’ll call my mother. And I’ll get a tattoo on the back of my hand that reads, CLOSE CALL, to remind me of this day.



The Reeds

You’re lucky, said Sherman. You’re luckier than any other kid. Here you are out in the reeds waiting for ducks, with your DAD! And your Dad gave you a GUN. Most kids would do anything to be holding a rifle like you are now.

I’m not holding it. It’s down there.

Well, pick it up, son! You can’t shoot a duck with it down there! In the mud! Treat it with respect. When his son didn’t do anything Sherman picked up the rifle and put it into the boy’s hands. Now sit quietly. We need full quiet now.

I am.

The sky began to lose light. Sherman glanced at the boy, who was staring down at the reeds. What are you looking at? He whispered. Ducks ain’t comin’ from down there. Be lookin’ above so you see them take off. Then- POW! Sherman grinned.

There’s someone down there, the boy said.

What? Where? He looked down to try to see what the boy was looking at. There’s no one out here.

The boy extended his gloved finger, pointing into the reeds sticking out of the water a few yards away.

What are you seein’? No one comes out here. I’ve never once seen someone out here. He took out a pair of mini-binoculars and scanned the marsh. I see reeds, water, trees, and sky. Here. He handed the binoculars to the boy. But just then a figure rose up out of the water among the reeds before them.


When the boy awoke he was lying in the mud and his father was gone. It was now night and a full moon lit up the marsh. He got to his feet and looked around but their guns were gone. In the shallow water he found the mini binoculars and some bullet shells that could have been theirs or maybe not. He felt his pockets and confirmed he still had his knife and wallet. When he went to climb the dark path back to the tent his knees buckled. They felt like rubber. But he made his legs work. As he ascended the hill he took out his knife and gripped the handle tightly.

The tent was shredded and bloody.

He didn’t investigate too closely, instead he continued up the path to where he remembered they left the car. Where the car had been was a melted slab of metal and glass with some busted rubber tires smooshed at the bottom. The plants around the slab were charred.

The boy studied the destruction, feeling sick to his stomach. It looked like someone has sliced the car in half with a giant torch. Then he climbed the nailed planks into their tree stand, hugging the tree so he wouldn’t slip. Up top he sat with his knife ready, and waited. He took out the mini-binoculars and scanned the ground below but the moon had gone and it was almost black.

Then he thought he was seeing figures moving around at ground level but it was too dark to make out their features. With his knife stuck in his belt he hoisted himself up onto the roof of the tree stand and when that didn’t seem high enough he climbed further up the tree til he was on one of the top branches, hugging the trunk.

Soon he could hear them directly below, in the tree stand. Hoarse whispers. Tuneless whistles. He wished the moon would come back so he could see something. He wished he was back in the cafeteria where he’d spent most of the earlier part of the day. He’d hated the cafeteria with its stench of ground beef and soggy buns but now it seemed like paradise.

A few minutes later the entire forest lit up. A huge insect-like spacecraft appeared and the dark figures all moved toward it. There were round porthole windows in the shell of the craft and he saw Sherman looking out at him. Dad! DAD! DAD! he shouted. His father continued staring out with a concerned expression, but oblivious, vacant eyes. The spaceships’ landing gear retracted into its segmented body. The craft rose above the trees and then shot up, up, up into the starry sky.


When the sun rose the boy was still up in the tree hugging the trunk. Some firemen forced him to loosen his grip before they carried him down a ladder to an emergency vehicle below.


A few days later he was back in the cafeteria, not speaking. Just sitting by himself at one of the tables, latching and unlatching his lunchbox. He had small notebooks that he scribbled in with a ballpoint pen. When the page was almost completely black with ink, he’s turn the page and scribble more.

In about a week his father showed up at the cafeteria, pretending that nothing happened. He was missing his left arm. The boy heard him telling the lunch ladies it was a hunting accident.

When they got home Sherman had a strange look in his eye. He tossed a few suitcases on the bed. Pack up everything, he told the boy. We’re going back out duck hunting. Only this time we ain’t coming back. The boy stood and stared. Then he slowly complied, folding shirts and socks and laying them into the suitcases. Soon they were in the truck, heading back out to the marsh. They drove with windows down and the wind was unseasonably warm. Say goodbye to Maple Creek, said Sherman, grinning. But the boy couldn’t bring himself to say it. He just stared out at the trees going by and daydreamed about sitting in the cafeteria under bright fluorescent lights.




The four of them were having tea in a raindrop as it plummeted down toward a dirty city street. The first was Shuvamy Toawshuly, a professor of psychobiology at Hammersworth-Smithe but dressed as though ready for a 1980’s aerobic workout- neon spandex stretched taut over her curvaceous physique. Next was Felmore Snowcamp, a giant tortoise seated uncomfortably on a pink leather ottoman and using both fore-claws to raise a tiny teacup to his beak. Continuing clockwise we meet Snorvath Dumppe, an average-looking office manager in a white button-down shirt and stained slacks. Dropping three too many sugar cubes into his teacup he turned to the fourth member of the raindrop teaparty, Yankfestle Toawshuly, younger brother to Shuvamy, himself a hairy man clad just in board shorts and sporting an anchor tattoo and a long and unruly beard. Facing Yanfestle, Snorvath raised his teacup. I propose a toast, Snorvath began. To all those living and dead who know the simple struggle of daily existence. To the sometimes insurmountable struggle to tie your own shoes in the morning. I toast to those who choose to pass though life without really paying attention.

Yanfestle grabbed hold of his own beard and pulled at it violently before proclaiming, Here here, and raising his own tea goblet.

Meanwhile Shumavy had turned her attention to her smartphone and her thumb moved erratically across the screen.

Felmore the tortoise had very carefully set his tiny teacup on the table beside the golden tea service and turned his scaly head to no one in particular. Now that’s good tea, he said.

Just then Shumavy lifted her doe eyes from the screen of her phone. We have three seconds, she said. Three seconds? Until what? Asked Snorvath, looking unhappily at the empty sugar bowl.

Until this raindrop hits the street, honey, Shuvamy said. Ridiculous, said Snorvath.

My sister ain’t never wrong, said Yankfestle, after a sip of tea. She’s a PROFESSOR. She knows more about what yer thinkin’ right now than you do.

I’m not thinking right now, I’m emoting! shouted Snorvath. DEATH!

We may not all die instantly, said Felmore.

What do you mean? We’ve been dropping from a twenty thousand foot high cloud to a very hard surface- Avenue D!!! exclaimed Snorvath. INSTANT DEATH!

Well, some of us have shells, the tortoise said.

Snorvath emptied six artificial sweeteners into a new cup of tea. His hands shook and the cup clattered against its saucer and spilled some on the way to his quivering lips.

Shumavy batted her eyelashes. We’re more than half-way, she said.

Well, what do you propose, sis? said Yanfestle, raising his voice. You’re the smart one in the family. We’re having tea in a raindrop and we’re about to make contact with cement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. What should we do now? I’m serious!

Shumavy got up from her chair and said, Okay everyone stand with your legs apart and rotate your arms in small circles like this: one, two, three, four! Now back two, three, four! Yanfestle and Snorvath set down their tea and followed suit. Snorvath kept up with the workout, wide-eyed and frantic.

And two, and three, and four, continued Shumavy.

The tortoise Felmore had managed to pour himself another tea and raised this one for a sip. He looked down through the watery curve of the raindrop floor and saw the ground approaching way too rapidly. Then he looked back at the others and their synchronized aerobics. He took one last drink before withdrawing into his shell, hoping for the best.