Shame About the Roses

Edna sat in her study listening to the wind howl. She peered out at the garden with disappointment. The flowers had just started to bloom when the weather suddenly changed. She watched with dismay as the snow and sleet beat down the plants. They had just gotten the levels in the soil right, and finally solved all the problems with the CO2 saturation. Everything looked perfect for their first planned spring. Then the blizzard happened.

What a waste, she thought.

There was a nervous cough behind her.

“Well, what happened?”

“Faulty regulator in the climate system, ma’am.” The ensign replied nervously. “Engineering can get it sorted out in a day or two. Lieutenant Carlson says he will be able to roll back the cycle once that is done and we’ll be able to replant right away.”

“I hope so. I really am looking forward to eating something other than nutrient paste at some point this year. Have them send me their full report.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Edna ignored the young man until he decided to leave on his own.

She got up and walked to the window and placed her hand on the thick glass. The roses were really the biggest disappointment. The colony had plenty of seed stock for food stuffs. The roses though, she would have to requisition new bushes from command back on Earth. That was sure to be just like pulling teeth.

It was such a shame. She really thought the roses would have finally make the place feel like home.

This scene was written in response to a prompt by Today’s Author
Advertisements

The Porcelain Cat

It was recess. I was standing under the sycamore tree, feeling woozy. I’d spent too long hanging upside down on the monkey bars. I was just about sure I wasn’t going to ralph when she walked by.

New kid, I didn’t know her name. Parents just moved here from out-of-state. Seemed a friendly, girl. Today she was all sniffles and tears. I hated seeing a girl cry, it took the fun out of recess

“What’s wrong, kid?”

“I lost my cat.”

“It ran away?”

“No,” she sobbed, “not a real cat. A statue, made of porcelain. All white with a little pink bow, playing with a ball of yarn. It was my grandma’s. My parents told me I couldn’t bring it to school but I did anyway ‘cause I wanted to show someone. Only now it’s gone.”

That’s when the water works really got going. I didn’t know what to do, so I tried to sound helpful. “Hold on now… what’s your name anyway?”

“Matilda.”

“Alright Matilda, I know my way around the schoolyard. Where’d you see it last?”

“Miss Marshall’s class, she made me put it in my cubby. I was gonna get it out to bring it to recess to show it to Jenny. I told her about how cute it was and she begged me to bring it in so she could see it.” She wiped her nose with a sleeve and snorted hard trying to get a hold of herself.

“Which Jenny are you talking about?” There were three Jenny’s in our grade but I was pretty sure I knew which one she was going to say.

***

Jenny Billings. Everyone in our grade called her Miss Kitty, and she didn’t mind it either. Everything she owned had cats on it. From her Hello Kitty back pack to the homework folder printed with glossy pictures of kittens all over it. Kids said she even brought her own bandaids from home. So she didn’t have to wear the plain ones the nurse handed out when she scraped a knee. We never really got to be friends, mostly because I liked dogs.

I found her by the slide. She got all snooty when I asked he about the cat.

“Matilda told me about her kitty statue. It sounded so cute. I asked her to bring it in for me to see. She never showed it to me though. She said she couldn’t find it, that it got lost or something. I couldn’t tell she was too busy crying. I don’t even think she really brought it in. Maybe she just made it up so I’d be friends with her,. New kids are always telling lies so people will like them, but I don’t make friends with just anyone you know. They have to love kitties as much as I do.”

“C’mon Jenny, you sure you ain’t seen it. I bet you’d do anything to get your hands on a thing like that. Matilda says you begged her to bring it in.”

“I never begged.” she put her fists on her hips and huffed. “She said she’d show it to me and that’s all. Besides, I haven’t been anywhere near Miss Marshall’s class today.”

***

I could tell I wasn’t getting anywhere with Miss Kitty, so I headed off back to the shade tree where Matilda was waiting. She looked so hopeful when she saw me coming. That look went away when I told her that Jenny was a dead end. I even check with my friend Jimmy, the hall monitor. He hadn’t seen Jenny on that side of the school all morning.

“So it’s gone, forever?” The tears welled up again and she started to wail.

I never could stand to watch another kid go all rubbery. So, I made faces at her till she couldn’t help but laugh, and she slugged me in the arm to get me to stop.

“Look, Matty, it that bad yet. Think, when did you check on it last?”

“Just before reading.”

“Do you stay in Miss Marshall’s for that?”

“No, I have reading in Mrs. Dillard’s room.”

“And, that’s right before lunch right? So now all we got to do is think of someone who stays in Miss Marshall’s for reading. They might have seen if someone took it.”

“You really think someone stole my porcelain cat?”

“I doubt it walked away. Now who do you think might have seen something?”

“Jeremy,” she said excitedly, “and his desk is towards the back. You can see the cubbies from there.”

***

Jeremy Reynolds, was the type of kid that would eat just about anything if you promised him whatever you had lying around in your pocket. Especially if it meant grossing out a few of the other kids. He always drew a crowd. I waited for him to stop chewing before I walked up.

“You’ve got reading with Miss Marshall. You see anyone messing around over by the cubbies today?”

“Why should I tell you?” A smile crept across his face “I mean, what’s it worth?”

I didn’t like some schoolyard sideshow trying to get smart, so I got mean with him.

“Listen doofus, I ain’t got all recess. If you know something helpful, there’s a couple of Garbage Pail Kid cards in it. But, if you keep messin’ around the next thing this playground is gonna watch you eat is a knuckle sandwich.”

Jeremy swallowed hard. “Mickey, Mickey Donnelly. I don’t know about cubbies but, he kept getting up to sharpen his pencil, three or four times. Teacher fussed at him.”

“That’s it? That’s all you saw?” I turned to walk away, “Thanks for nothing.”

“What about those cards.”

“I said two cards if you could help, and you can’t. You’re lucky I don’t give you a wedgie for wasting my time. Tell you what here’s one for your trouble, now scram.”

***

I found Matilda over by the merry-go-round. Poor thing, she thought that if she got dizzy enough her problems would just fly away. I couldn’t blame her. We’ve all taken a few extra spins when the chips were down. I sat on the edge of it with her as it spun to a stop, and told her that Jeremy didn’t know anything.

“Maybe he took it?”

“Nah, he might be a greedy, bug-eating creep but, he’s too much of a fraidy cat to steal something.”

“So, there’s nothing else we can do?”

“We can not use the same pencils as Mickey Donnelly.”

“What?”

“Jeremy said he kept getting up to sharpen his.” That’s when it hit me. The thing that didn’t add up. “Wait a minute who needs to sharpen a pencil three times when you’re just reading?”

“My cubby is right under the pencil sharpener” Her eyes widened with hope.

“Come on Matty, Recess is almost over.”

***

We bolted across the playground. Mickey was the tallest kid in our grade, it wasn’t had to spot him at the sandpit, hanging out with his knuckle head friends. They liked to act like they owned that place. Jenny Billings was there too. The sandbox seemed a rough place for little Miss Kitty .

“Fancy seeing you here Jenny”

Jenny stuck her nose in the air and looked away. “Mickey and I are old friends.”

“Friends? Sure, you both like cats. Maybe porcelain ones?”

“Go away before I pound you runt” Mickey slammed his fist into his own open hand.

“You’re not pounding anyone. Give me the cat. We can all walk away. No one gets in trouble. You don’t want to get into trouble do you Mickey?”

Mickey lunged forward swinging. I was used to dealing with angry oafs from being punched on by older brothers. I stepped aside and stuck my foot out. Mickey tripped and fell over catching a mouthful of sand.

Something white tumbled out of his pocket, the soft ground breaking its fall.

Jenny grabbed it and started to back away..

“Give it here Jenny, we can all just go back to class.”

“No,” She screamed. “The kitty is mine now.”

I started to move towards her but Mickey had got back to his feet. He grabbed me, throwing me to the ground. I tried to roll away but he landed his knee on top of me. This is where I get clobbered, I thought, shutting my eyes.

There was a shrill sound and everything stopped. Hall monitor Jimmy came running up with Coach Davis waddling behind him tweeting on his whistle. Mickey got off me and just sat in the sand. He knew the drill. Jenny didn’t, she turned and ran.

Straight into Miss Marshall.

First they tried to blame me. When they couldn’t keep the story straight they blamed each other. It didn’t matter.

Jimmy already told the teachers what was going on, like I asked him.

When the day was over, Matty got her porcelain cat, and the two of them got a trip to the principal’s office.

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there

Not Tonight, Honey

I should be cold, he thought lying there on the pavement as the rain fell lightly around him. Instead he felt a warmth creeping along his back as blood oozed from where the bullet had gone through him. He felt that he should be scared, he was. The terror of the moment had stricken him so completely it overwhelmed him, leaving an odd stat that seemed to be a horrifying mockery of calm and clarity. He couldn’t see, not with that security guard shining his damned flashlight in his eyes. He opened his mouth to shout at him it to get it out of his face, but he couldn’t catch his breath. So instead he just laid there listening to sound of his friends footsteps running away on the wet pavement and the sirens in the distance.

He started thinking about her.

He had only met her a couple of weeks ago. They had only gone out a few times, she was always busy. He thought she had promise, though. She was smart and funny, he didn’t know if he’d call he gorgeous though. He remembered the first time he got her to smile, it was a great smile, but he couldn’t help notice her teeth were just a little bit crooked. Her nose was slightly misshapen too. She had told him once, maybe cause he was staring, that she had broken it a bunch of times dancing at shows back in her punk rock days. That she’d always wind up, later on in the night, drunk in the bathroom of some bar looking in the mirror trying to set it back into place.

He liked that image of her though. Some tough girl in a mosh pit. How it didn’t quite match up with the woman he knew. The one that had to stop and make baby talk at every dog they passed by. They always fell for it too. He had seen her walk right up to some mean ass dogs that roamed around the neighborhood and, after a minute or two they’d be on their backs getting belly rubs. Then she would say some nonsense about how they had always been a good dog, they just needed someone to come along and remind them. He wondered if she felt the same way about him.

So yeah, maybe not gorgeous but she was definitely beautiful which was a lot better.

He had known some gorgeous women in his life and somehow, after a while, the polish would wear off and there would always be this filthy, petty, mean spirited person underneath it all. Not her though, she shined all the way down to the bone. Yeah, he’d take beautiful over gorgeous any day.

He was sorry when he had to disappoint her. They were supposed to have dinner to night. She had made reservations. Someplace nice, she’d gotten that promotion she’d been chasing, and wanted to celebrate. He had just gotten off the phone with her when Nicky had shown up at the shop and told him about the job.

He didn’t want to do it. He was trying to be done with all of that stupid bullshit. He owed Nicky though, owed him big. More importantly, as Nicky was kind enough to point out, he owed someone else. The kind of person you didn’t just say no to.

So he had sat there at his workbench for a bit. Trying to figure a way around it. Until he finally called her back to cancel.

“Not tonight, honey,” he told her. “Something important came up.”

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there

Night Watching

Delores lay in bed, listening to sounds of the sleeping house. She was thinking. Thinking about all the little ways that they controlled her. How their rules and expectations seemed so unfair. She was thinking it was time to do something about it. About how she had been planning this all day. She glanced over at her clock. It was time.

Her bare feet slid down and touched the icy wooden floor. In long slow steps she padded her way down the hall, stopping at their room. She held her breath for a moment, listening at the door. Once she was sure she heard two different types of snores she slowly moved on. Down through the kitchen.

Jazz, the family dog snuffed awake and picked its head up at her approach. The old mutt wasn’t likely to start barking, but he could be such a spazz sometimes. She fished out the biscuit she had hidden in her pajama pocket before bed, and held it up. Jazz instinctively sat and waited for his treat. She patted him on the head and dropped the biscuit in his mouth. He wagged his tail expectantly as she crept away, and when he was reasonably certain that there were no more treats in his future, he cocked his head, stretched, then walked around in a circle three times and laid back down.

She was almost to the living room when a thought occurred to her. If just getting caught was going to be bad enough, why not make the most of it? She crept back into the kitchen. From the fridge she poured herself a large glass of soda. She took a small sip, smacked her lips and let out a quiet satisfied sigh. She put the bottle back and carefully and quietly she snuck out through the doorway into the living room.

She walked around the sofa and took another dainty sip from her glass before setting it on the coffee table. Thinking better of the action she lifted it back up and slid a coaster under it, one shouldn’t tempt fate. Being caught out of bed might not go particularly well but, she was fairly sure she didn’t want to go through the whole, “water rings on the furniture speech,” again. She cautiously picked up the remote and gently pressed the power button. Her hands flew to the volume control to start turning it down before the television had a chance to make a sound, she’d made that mistake before. She smiled and dropped herself on the sofa and brought feet up onto the armrest. She wiggled he shoulders against the throw pillows and settled in for a night of “grown up” TV shows.

No one was going to tell Delores when she should go to sleep. Bedtimes were for suckers.

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there

Prisoner

Gabriel paced the length of the dark cell. The same grim worry on his mind as the day he was first walked past the long hallway of doors.

They always said that the innocent have nothing to fear but, that night, when they came bursting into his apartment, he had run. Everyone in the building had run. No one seemed innocent enough to be fearless these days. He was one of the ones that they had chased after specifically. He hadn’t been fast enough. Each of those doors, he now assumed were cells like his. Each another life much like his. That first night as he glanced nervously at each closed door, was when he began to wonder. if they were here as well. Eventually they stopped him at one door, just like all the others, opened it and pushed him inside. The door shut. He began to pace, and worry.

In some hours, unable to sleep, he got to know about the cell. The walls were cinder block, and cold. The bed was a pallet on the floor in one of the back corners. A toilet, or what passed for one, and basin. There was dim light, barely enough to see by, coming from a fixture set recessed into the ceiling. That was all. Just himself, the chilly gloom and the silence.

After a time the door opened and a guard came in. He was relieved for a moment to see it was Michael. That soon faded as he looked into the hardened eyes of the man he had once known, and had spent a childhood with. Still he had to hope. Just maybe there was a chance that he knew, or cared.

“Have you any news of…”

“You must follow me.”

That was it. They walked silently through the long hall of doors. Stopping at one identical to the rest. Maybe they were here, Gabriel thought. Again his hopes fell as the door opened and instead of a cell there was a large room, with a table and with chairs on either side of it. A man in a suit was smiling at him from across the room. A small nudge from Michael urged him into the room. As he stepped in the smiling man motioned to one of the chairs.

“Please sit. I only have a few questions.”

“Please? If you…”

There was a brief flicker to the smile, but it was just long enough to show there was a second way things could be done. “I only have a few questions. With your cooperation I can have my answers. Then we can be done here very soon, and you can go home.”

The smiling man asked for the names of certain individuals, and locations where those individuals met. Gabriel did not have the answers the smiling man was looking for. The smiling man sighed and told him how very disappointing it was that he was unable to cooperate. He was brought back to the cell down the long hall of doors. When he was inside he turned again to Michael and pleaded.

“Please I’ve done nothing wrong. I just want to know if…”

“I can not help you.” Michael stared through him. “Just cooperate and all will be well.”
“Michael it is me, you know…”

The guard left the room.

The door closed.

In the darkness time stretched and dilated. Days, hours, and minutes didn’t truly exist for him here. The only punctuations to his life here were when trays of cold broth and bread were brought to him through a slot in the door, or when Michael or another guard would collect him from the darkness. And take him to the room with the smiling man and his questions. Sometimes there were other men in the room too. They didn’t smile. They didn’t ask the questions. They were the other way things could be done.

None of it seemed to happen at regular intervals. There was once an unimaginably long period where no one came. No guards, no smiling man, no tray of broth and bread. During this time he discovered his cell was one and a half steps longer than it was wide. It’s longest dimension was parallel with the door. Which itself wasn’t quite centered. It was a full third of a step closer to one wall than the other. After a while, when his hunger began to grow unbearable, he feared they had forgotten about him. That he had been left to waste away in the cool dark of this room. Then he hoped that they had. He felt for a time free of the menace of the unanswerable questions of the smiling man and his assistants. That was lost when the door finally opened, and he looked at the lighted hall beyond once again. This time it was a priest that cast his shadow into the room.

The priest entered the cell and sat chair that Michael brought in for him. He looked down at Gabriel lying weakly curled up on the floor and implored him to do the right thing. To look into his heart and see that it for the good of all. That God would forgive him his tresspasses if only he would unburden himself. Gabriel just lay there and wept quietly.

From then on the priest was added to the irregular rotation of events. There were so many days , after unkown hours, of questions and coercions, and of yelling and threats, he thought of just giving them the answers they wanted. Just giving them a name or two. He could, or so they promised, exchange his freedom for that of others. Surely, he thought, he could come forward with a name. Just a name. Someone distasteful, someone who deserved this. There were so many people he knew who had done something wrong, committed some petty offense against the state. He knew he couldn’t do it. There was too much uncertainty about who was working with them, and who, like him, they already had taken. Besides, it would only be a lie. He thought about this every time he walked back from the smiling man’s room.

Each time he made the long walk down the hall of doors, as he passed each one he wondered. Who was behind them. Which ones remained empty waiting for a name to be given. Behind which of these doors was the person who had given them his. Who, in desperation and in the false hope of freedom, betrayed him, or another innocent soul. He knew they had no intention of releasing him. No one who had ever been taken had come back. That was why he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t be part of the broken gearwork of this place, of the system of fear and hatred and lies that created it. Even if he did it. Even if he agreed to give a name. Even if that was the end of it. If they let him go, if they kept their word and released him, how could he go back? How could he look people in the eye knowing that it could have been their name that he had given in that lie, their lives he traded for his. That could hardly be considered freedom. If he gave them what they wanted he would always be their prisoner. He and his family would never be free again.

He wondered about them, all the time.

Every trip through this hall, he always wondered and worried if they were here. If they were behind one of those heavy black doors. Every time that Michael was the one walking him back he would ask. Michael had ceased to respond to the question long ago. So, he paced on in the constant doubt and worry that had been plaguing him for what must have been months.

The heavy door swung open once more. This time they all stood out there in the hallway. The priest, the smiling man and Michael. In seeing all three Gabriel knew that this would be the last time that he would be taken from the cell. The priest was the first to step in, making the final plea that he confess, that there was still time to save himself. When he had been silent for long enough for it to be acknowledged as a refusal They walked him down the hall of doors one last time. Michael and another guard behind him and the two other men leading the way. He counted the doors out of habit, noting to himself when they passed the room where the smiling man would ask his questions. They walked a longer distance than he had in all the time he was imprisoned. They stopped at yet another identical door.

The door opened and the light of the sun poured in. Gabriel’s heart pounded at the sight of it. His eyes were blinded by it for a moment as he was led outside for the first time in ages. He lifted his hand to shield his eyes, but Michael grabbed his arm and brought it behind his back. He felt his wrists being bound together. Gabriel squinted to see. In the brightness he walked past the other guards, each holding a rifle at the ready. He could hear the priest speaking something, words that he hadn’t heard since he was a small boy. His familiarity with the scriptures faded along with his church attendance in adulthood. He was led to the far wall of the courtyard. Gabriel fought against the panic and dread. He knew this was where it was ending, nothing could prevent that now. Still, as the blindfold was tied around his head he couldn’t help thinking of all the names he could of given. All of the people that could have been here in his place. Maybe there was still time. A name welled up in his throat begging to be spoken. Just one name. The name of a foul man, whom he had always suspected beat his wife. He could say his name and then maybe magically he would take his place. The name reached up behind his teeth. As it was about to escape, Michael whispered in his ear.

“There has been news. Your wife and son have made it across the border. They are safe.”

Tears welled up in the darkness of the strip of cloth covering his eyes. He swallowed deeply. He could die with at least an ounce of hope.

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there

Thursday’s Plans

“What are your plans for Thursday?”, the same phone call every year.

As if  he might not remember what day it was or forgotten their conversation about priorities, he clearly wasn’t one of hers. He had been cast aside. Left in need to satisfy the wants of other people.

Now those wretches surround her.

Each year feeling guilty, alone, and used, she called with the expectation, he would come sit at their table for scraps of feigned affection for the sake of tradition, and her absolution.

Once again he declined the invitation.

The phone would remain silent for another year.

New Kids

Some things are different on the avenue.

Big Tattoo got out a changed man. Eyes sunken and hollow, he’s thinner now too. His skin yellowed from jaundice, just hanging in bags from his frame. I don’t know what happened in there, but he hasn’t fared much better on the streets. The old, white house they operated from got sold. New owners evicted the old man and painted the damned thing sea-foam green. No one’s seen hide nor hair of Mr. Squeaky-voice since. Sounds like he ran off with the product. Someone new set up shop in a house across the street. And everyone’s mad at Big Tattoo, he was supposed to keep them all in line. You can see it in his walk. The exhaustion of an old man still playing a kid’s game, just cause they never thought to get good at anything else. It almost hurts to watch it happen.

And the new kids are learning the ropes. They’ll skip school to  stand in shifts out front of that old abandoned house the corner. The one with the plates missing from it’s jalousies, wild grape vines overrunning the yard and pulling at the fence, peeling red trim around the windows. There’s one boy there now I’ve been watching grow up for the better part of a decade. You can tell he’s there on business cause he’s sporting two phones. The business line’s a flip phone burner. I guess the other line, a low rent smart phone, is for snapchat, and for telling lies to his mother. He’s on lookout, checking for the cops.

It’s not like they don’t know why he’s out there, or who he’s working for. They look him up and down as they cruise on by with slow intimidation. They’re too busy to roust him, he ain’t bleeding in the street. Not yet at any rate. They’re all still busy looking for who that shot the baby girl four months back. She lived, but they were aiming for her dad. He wasn’t so lucky though. Inquiries are ongoing.

Down the block the neighbor’s little girl is learning to ride her bike, while her brother hands out dead leaves  to passersby from the bouquet of them he’s collected from the parking lot of the funeral home.

The autumn air is growing cold and crisp, and I’ve taken to just sleeping in most days.

The Woman Downstairs

The woman downstairs was crying again.

He was trying to nap, and she just kept crying.  Great sobbing breaths. all the time saying, “I’m sorry, I’m trying.” He tossed and turned, trying, like always, to ignore the pitiful sounds of her sadness.

Pretending, once again, to not be home as her boyfriend stomped around screaming threats and abuses. Trying not to hear the awful crack; or notice the ammonia smell of gunpowder. To not feel the awful silence that followed for ages afterward.

It had been weeks, and he could still hear her crying every time he shut his eyes.

That Face

His eyes fluttered open and then immediately slammed shut again. Screwed tight against the light that screamed at him through the window. The damned nurse must have opened the blinds again. He fumbled for the button box that controlled them but came up empty. He must have knocked it off the bed in his sleep. With the brace on his leg getting up was problematic at best. There was a low muttering sound coming from somewhere. They must have turned the television on television as well. He rolled his head away from the window. That’s where the face was.

The face, leaned close, hair neatly swept back and all smiles. It was attached to a lab coat and a blue paisley tie, with an ID on a lanyard that didn’t match that face. It was sitting on the back of a chair, with pink high topped sneakers planted on the seat cushion; bent at the knees that its elbows rested on, both hands up to let that face rest on them. The smile didn’t show teeth, but it was quite clear that teeth were an option. That face again. He knew it was going to turn up sooner or later, he had just hoped it would have stayed away a little longer

He reached again for the remote, to press the call button. But, the face reached down and lifted it by the wire that trailed from the bed, dangling it.

‘Here you go Guy, I think you dropped this,’ The face said offering it to him.

Guy took it from him and decided not to bother the nurses, He was pretty sure they weren’t qualified to deal with the likes of him, not in this ward anyway.

‘You got yourself all banged up on that last one, didn’t you? Took us a while to figure out which quackery you ended up at.’

‘I got hit by a car.’ It hadn’t been that bad, just some bruises and a torn meniscus but, he had faked a head injury to get them to keep him for a while. It would only be a few more days they’d be willing to keep him here.

‘Mama always told you to look both ways before fleeing a crime scene didn’t she?’

‘I guess she did’

‘Where is it?’

‘Safe, it should be until I get out of here.’

‘Cut the crap Guy. Where is it?’

‘I said it’s safe. It’s as safe as I am. How safe is that Jacob?’

‘You wound me my friend,’ protested the smile, ‘You know I’d never hurt you. I like you to much.’

It was probably true, for some unknown reason Jacob had some weird, psycho, guardian angel complex toward him. It was a shame that Jacob wasn’t the only one he had to worry about.

‘Look, it’s safe. Tell them that for me,’ Guy relaxed a little, ‘Tell them I can recover it as soon as I get out of here.’

Jacob’s smile flattened out on one side. It always did that when he was weighing his options. He oozed off the back of the chair and stood beside it. ‘Alright, when you get out then,’ he said finally, ‘that’s fair enough. He stood there for a few more moments and gave a short nod before turning around and walking out of the room.

The door made a quiet click when as it shut and Guy took a deep breath. Talking to Jacob had always been unsettling, the doctor’s coat didn’t help. He’d wait until after they served breakfast and then start insisting on a discharge. Hopefully he could find away to leave the hospital without being noticed. He wasn’t sure how long he had before Jacob came back.

Then it dawned on him. Jacob didn’t say goodbye. Jacob never left without saying goodbye.

He sat bolt up and started to inch himself off the bed. His foot had just touched the floor when the door flew open. In came a wheel chair being pushed by that smiling face.

‘Good news Sunshine! You’ve got a clean bill of health, time to go home.”

Trash Day

They were lined up before dawn again at that old, white house today. The desperate ones, that didn’t ration themselves out quite right and wind up milling around the street waiting for the morning delivery. The sun’s come up on the avenue. Now some old addict walks, bent near sideways, holding broken glasses tight to his face. He’s looking too casual as he searches. For the odd, stray pill dropped on the asphalt or maybe the lawn. I don’t think he notices as I pass him on my way home from the run down park where the bus picks the kids up for school.

They don’t bother me much most days, except when their memory gets fuzzy and forget that they’re not supposed to come up in my yard.

It’s more likely they’ll get violent with each other than with anyone else. Usual only ever gets as far as them yelling about who owes who what money, or who took that last dose. They all owe each other something it seems. Most days they keep it low key. They have to, or Big Tattoo will run ‘em off.

Too much noise is bad for business I guess.

The cops? They all know what’s going on here. They know about all the other houses in the neighborhood just like it. They’re not going to do a god damned thing either, not unless someone calls in a complaint. When that happens, they’ll probably just tell you that “It’s under investigation” and push some papers around the office. 

Who are they going to arrest anyway? No big busts to be had here, no feathers in a cap. None of the knuckle heads are ever have the stuff on them for too. No big stash is kept there. Operation’s supplied by a system of small timers and junkies on rusted out bikes; they do all the leg work. Some young punk with a voice like sandpaper runs the business end, and Big Tattoo keeps them all in line. Pretty sure the kids hanging out at the end of the street are lookouts. Ready to make that call, warning them every time a cruiser heads their way.

It’s not even their house. They just sling their shit off the front porch.

Place belongs to some poor old guy in his seventies. They offered him a cut at first. Social security wasn’t quite making ends meet, so why the hell not? It was just a little weed when it started. He probably should have seen it coming. Maybe he did. Hard to say, old fool is so drunk most of the time no one can really understand him. I can hear the fear though, when he mumbles at the night about how it’s his house. The sadness when he mutters about not seeing any money from them.

And they all know me and, they all know where I live. This is the nicest part of town we’ve lived in for years.

My bad knee creeks as I walk up stairs. Groaning when I realize, I have to make another trip down with the garbage.

It’s trash day, and it’s all gotta go down to the curb.