Sixth and latest book published on Amazon.

Whoooo Wants Short Shorts

Sixth and latest book published on Amazon.  I am offering it free for two days, Nov. 10th and 11th.  Grab a copy and please review it on Amazon when you have a minute.  This is a collection of short stories that will appeal to most everyone.  Hope you enjoy.  I took the cover picture on a photo jaunt a few years ago.

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Swaying Porch Swing

Photo by Shirley Dilley
Photo by Shirley Dilley

Not A breath of breeze in the air, and yet the porch swing swayed, signaling a recent inhabitant. The front door remained closed and unanswered.

Something isn’t right here.

After checking the back yard and dreading what may lie inside the house, Janet used her key to enter. She imagined horrific scenarios as she quietly and hesitantly searched each room. From the kitchen, she paused, prior to opening the door to the garage.

He didn’t take the car. Where is he? Surely, he’s close by. The porch swing was still moving, for God’s sake.

She hurried out the front door and headed down the sidewalk. Questioning the neighbors provided no answers, but all promised to keep their eyes on the lookout for her father and notify her when he showed up.

Should I call the police? Where are you, Dad?

Only last week, Janet spoke on the phone with her brother to ask his advice concerning their father.

“He shouldn’t be living alone, anymore, Ted. The doctor said his dementia is going to get worse and I can’t leave work to be checking on him every minute. I’m really worried about him.”

Their conversation ended with a plan. Both would meet with their father and encourage him to move to an assisted living facility. There he would have constant monitoring and be cared for with proper meds and food.

We should have done this months ago. Oh, Dad, where are you? Please be alright. When I get you safely home, I need to confiscate your car keys and start the process to get you moved.

Janet headed for her car with the intent of driving slowly around the neighborhood to search.

He couldn’t have gone far. The porch swing was still swaying. I must have just missed him.

Thirty minutes passed. Frustration and panic increased when she found no sign of her father. As she rounded the corner, headed back toward his house, her phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Janet? Ted. I got to thinking about what we talked about this past week and drove down this morning. I’m at the Shady Oaks Assisted Living Center right now. Can you come over? We need to sign some papers to get Dad admitted.”

“Ted, wait. I can’t find him. Dad’s missing….”

“Calm down, Janet. He’s with me right now. He really likes the place; says he’s ready to move so we won’t be worrying about him anymore. You should see the smile on his face.”

They should see the smile on MY face right now, too.

Shattered Silence

Jogging down by the river, he slowed the pace of his late afternoon run. Stretches on the park bench overlooking the river completed his daily routine. The sun began its evening by slowly hiding behind the skyscrapers that pierced the evening’s horizon. Autumn’s harvest of multi-colored leaves blanketed the ground surrounding the bench. He sat to savor the colors and lights reflecting on the river’s surface when the silence was shattered by tortured screams.

Jake did a 360 degree turn, trying to zero in on the direction of this jarring intrusion to his joyful solitude.

What the hell is that? It sounds like a woman’s scream. An animal in distress?

Hearing nothing more, he convinced himself it was nothing to worry about and headed for his vehicle. As he opened the car door, the sound again scratched its nails on the night’s heavenly chalkboard.

Dashing toward the sound, he closed in on the location. Coming from the abandoned warehouse, he could hear a woman’s voice begging for help in between the screams. Slowing his pace to approach silently, he decided to assess the situation prior to going to her aid.

My god, that sounds like…

“Gloria,” he shouted frantically as he ran into the building.

*

Who’s doing that moaning? Where am I? My head feels like it’s going to explode. Oh my god. It’s me. It’s me doing the moaning.

Jake tried to reach up to touch his forehead, but his arms wouldn’t move.

“What the hell? Hey, somebody help.”

He pulled and twisted, trying to release his arms. Slowly, his eyes opened and attempted to focus. He remained still when the ‘brain fog’ cleared and he recognized the smiling face.

“Gloria? What’s going on? Why am I tied down? Help me, honey. Cut me loose, okay? I thought I heard you screaming. Come on, hurry up. Cut me loose.”

Gloria placed both hands on her hips, stepped across her husband, and stood with legs straddling his waistline. The satisfied smile never left her lips.

“Yes, I was screaming, my precious husband. Screaming to lure you here so I could make you pay. Does your head hurt, my love? It was just a little bop on the noggin. How’s that for turn-around justice, you prick.”

Jake renewed his struggle to get loose, attempting to kick his legs, but found they were tied down securely.

“What’s the matter with you? Are you crazy? What’re you talking about? What justice?”

“Sweetheart, you ask too many questions. Which one do you want me to answer?”

“All of them, dammit. Let me outta here.”

“Why are you in such a hurry, darling? Are you late for another secret appointment with your lawyer aka financial planner? Amazing that you never revealed you were meeting with ‘Allison’ Barker, just ‘Barker.’ I’m sure it was only an oversight on your part, right?”

“Of course, I did. I told you. You probably just weren’t listening. Untie me. Now. Do you hear me?”

“Yes, I certainly do hear you, but unfortunately, for you, no one else can. Did you honestly think I was so stupid I didn’t know you were embezzling from your employer? You were never very careful about leaving notes around or open emails on your laptop. Obviously, you felt there was no one at home looking over your shoulder.”

“Gloria, I was doing it for us. Now we can head for the Virgin Islands where no one can find us and be set for life with what I’ve transferred there. Don’t you see, we’ll have it all. Now, get me loose and we’ll be on our way. Come on, baby.”

She stared at her husband lying on the floor tied up like a Thanksgiving turkey and started to laugh.

“What’s so funny? Why’re you laughing?”

“Well, your Baby has a financial planner, too. Imagine that, you son-of-a-bitch. All of the embezzled funds have been transferred out of your offshore accounts to a new account in a different bank and in an unknown part of the world. Unknown to you, that is. MY financial planner thinks this is hilarious. That’s what I’m laughing at.”

“You won’t get away with this, Gloria. Untie me. Now. We can work something out, I promise.”

“Trust YOU? Surely you jest, Romeo. You and Miss Allison Barker were planning to take off together and leave me with nothing and I’m supposed to trust YOU? And as for getting away with this, I think we have it all worked out. My partner and I leave for our new destination in just two hours. We’ll be long gone while you lay here to ponder on that ‘trust’ word you just discovered might be a good addition to your vocabulary.”

“Wait. You can’t just leave me here tied up? What if no one finds me? I could die and then you’d be a murderer.”

Jake’s face was turning bright red from the emotional combination of fear and anger.

“Oh, no worry, darling. We’ve got that covered, too. Just before we board our plane, we’ll make an anonymous phone call to your boss advising him to call the police to rescue you. We’ll tell him where you are,of course. Oh and, by the way, when the police arrive, be sure to inform them of the missing funds. I’m positive they’ll be anxious to learn of your part in that, too. Enjoy your stay here. It should only be a couple hours. Ta-ta, darling. My ride will be here in just a minute.”

At that moment, a loud squeaking noise announced the door’s opening. Gloria began to walk in that direction.

“Ah, here’s my partner now.”

Jake turned his head to see who entered the building.

“Allison?……”

Gear Grinding

This gogyshoi prompt on a writing site was the inspiration of the following tale when my father needed to teach me to drive a stick shift car. The prompt was for a five line free verse gogyshoi poem at the beginning and end of the short story. The gogyshoi poems were to contain only a total of 20 syllables in each verse.

His daughter
Daddy, the teacher
Stick-shift to master
Closes his eyes
Oh, Gypsy

Gypsy was late learning to drive. During high school, boyfriends gave her a ride to activities or her dad tossed the family car keys to girlfriends with driver’s licenses. This must have been a precursor to today’s habits. Driving continues to be a necessary evil for her.

A chauffeur would be her first choice of a prize if she won the lottery. Difficult to win, however, since she never buys a ticket.

Back to the lesson of learning to drive a stick-shift vehicle.

Gypsy graduated from high school in June and planned to start her classes at the local junior college in the fall. The school was located on the other side of town so she required transportation.

Mother and Daddy found an ancient (in Gypsy’s eyes) car for her, a light blue English Austin. Compared to today’s miniature SMART car, this Austin looked like an old baby unwilling to grow up. Gypsy felt sure she’d seen this very car in a circus last year when twenty or more clowns erupted from it.

Driving a stick-shift car had not yet been added to her current bag of knowledge, so Mother nominated Daddy to be the professor. He was confident his girl would master the skill within the quarter-hour.

The car was parked in the single lane driveway outside the garage. Behind the car, a shell-paved side street waited anxiously for the driving lesson to begin. On the other side of the narrow street was a shallow drainage ditch, currently without water. Already, you’re wondering why this bit of information is necessary, aren’t you?

Daddy folded into the passenger seat with Gypsy at the controls. She started the engine and listened while he gave a speedy run-through of the ‘H’ configuration of the gears. He finished his lesson with the stick in the upper right position of the ‘H’, the reverse gear.

“Okay, Squirt, back out of the driveway.”

She lifted her foot from the brake and stepped on the gas. Flying backwards down the short driveway and across the street, the small vehicle landed with both back wheels in the drainage ditch before she transfered her foot back to the brake.

Daddy said a couple words he rarely used and quite loudly, I might add.

“Step on the gas, get out of the ditch and back up on the road.”

She followed directions perfectly, but remained in the ditch with rear wheels spinning.

“Change gears first.”

“Oh, okay. You didn’t tell me to do that.”

After changing gears with her father’s tutelage, once again she transferred her foot from the brake to the accelerator and began the speedy flight out of the ditch, across the street, up the driveway, stopping just short of removing the garage door before the brake came into play.

“Get out.” He reached over for the key and turned the motor off.

Daddy got out of the passenger side of the midget car, walked around to the driver’s side and waited while she exited. He sat down in the driver’s side and proceeded to back the car slowly into the street, turning to position it facing down the street. He turned off the motor, got out of the car, and flipped the keys to Gypsy who was watching from the driveway.

Shaking his head, but with a grin on his face, he said, “Just go practice, Squirt.”

And that’s how she learned to drive the stick-shift transmission. Practice never made perfect, by the way.

New driver
Never quite learning
Grinding the gears
Could hear her coming
Oh, Gypsy.

Showtime

“Is anyone here a doctor?

I think I ate something that just exited from the south end of roadkill.  Jeez, that tasted terrible.  Is this really a restaurant or a test facility for toilet cleaner? I feel like I’m dying.”

He hollered even louder. “Hey, is anyone here a doctor?”

Janet tried to shrivel up as small as her body would allow to become invisible, or at least be  inconspicuous, to the surrounding diners and wait staff.

“Quiet down, Bart. Lord, I’m the one dying. This is so embarrassing.  Everyone’s looking at us.”

I’m sick and tired of him pulling this stunt every time we go out to eat so the manager will  void the bill just to shut him up.  If I wasn’t so afraid of him, I’d leave the monster. His threat to kill me is not an idle one, though.  

“What seems to be the problem, sir?”

This poison you serve here, that’s what ‘seems to be the problem.’  I’ll probably end up in Intensive Care and die before the night’s over.

“Can I offer you another entree, something more suited to your taste?

“Listen to me, el stupido.  This food is killing me.  Why in hell would I want something else from your most-likely rat-infested kitchen? Or is this fried rat I’m eating? Where’s the manager? Get me the manager.”

Janet stood up and hurried to the restroom to do her usual ‘hide-and-cry-until-it’s-all-over’ routine. It never got any easier. Each time Bart insisted they go out to dinner, he promised there would be no “Is anyone here a doctor” performance.   But, whenever his plate was nearly empty, her actor husband started the show. She knew he wouldn’t keep that promise, but was compliant with whatever he asked or demanded because of fear.

She dried her eyes and combed her long, amber tresses over the side of her face., trying to hide from any curious onlookers when she left the restroom. Once outside, she hurried to the car, desperately hoping to avoid further embarrassment.  Bart was leaning on the front of their black Chevy Impala, face pointed toward the sky, deeply inhaling his Cuban cigar. When he heard Janet approaching, he turned and headed for the driver’s door.  Once inside, he started to laugh, and was still laughing maniacally, when she slid onto the passenger seat.

“Wow, got a good one this time, old girl.  That dinner bill would have been over seventy dollars.”

“How can you keep doing this?  It’s dishonest and so embarrassing.  I feel like wherever I go, people are staring at me, remembering  some restaurant scene they observed.”

Continuing his annoying laughter, “They’re probably just jealous they didn’t think of it.”

Silence was the sound she craved for the remainder of the trip home, but Bart continued to laugh and reward himself with endless “attaboys.” She reached into her sweater pocket to locate the card given to her by a co-worker. The woman found her crying in a hospital restroom just that afternoon. She rubbed her thumb continuously along the edge of the business card formulating a picture in her head of the words it contained. The co-worker made an attempt to press the card into Janet’s hand, but when she resisted, the woman placed it in her sweater pocket.

When they arrived home from the restaurant fiasco, Bart headed for the den, flipped to the sports channel on TV, plopped into the recliner, and loosened his belt.

“Hey, babe. Bring me a beer.”

Oh, how I’d love to just shove it up his…….

“Right now, bitch.  Hurry up.”

Another night brought another day where she wished she never met Bart Fenton.

What did I ever see in him? Why did I marry him?  Why am I too afraid to walk out and leave him?

She pulled the card from her sweater pocket and read the information.

 COUNTY WOMEN’S SHELTER

Where Your Safety and Privacy is our Primary Concern

783-804-3357

She daydreamed most of the day, puzzling over what to do with the rest of her life.  She knew Bart would hunt her down and kill her if she left, but she hated his cruelty and the dishonest games he played for his own amusement.

She found it difficult to concentrate on her patients during the shift, so she was happy when the new staff arrived at three o’clock to relieve her.

Every day for the week’s remainder, Janet planned and mentally packed to make her escape, but the dark of the night triggered her fear and, by morning, she was unsure. Again.

In the past, she always loved working with her patients. It was therapy for her soul and balm for her bruised sanity. But, lately, work became routine and a distraction to her own disturbing thoughts.  She wandered through her day as if a record was stuck on the turntable playing the same three notes over and over again. Give meds to the patients, feed the patients, bathe the patients, more meds to the patients, and feed the patients once more. When she left at the end of each day, she worried she may have omitted a necessary treatment, given the wrong medicine, or forgotten to chart an important change or symptom.

Janet dreaded the return home at the end of each workday. She squared her shoulders and entered the front door, attempting to look comfortable and unafraid.  She hollered out, “I’m home,” and headed for the kitchen to prepare dinner.

Bart walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table.

“Don’t fix anything. We’re going out.  I want to go to that steakhouse over in Falls Cliff again.  It’s about an hour’s drive but we haven’t been there in over a year or more.  Bet my little “Doctor, doctor” game is gonna get me a great big t-bone.”

Janet shuddered and closed her eyes.  She dreaded the coming evening.

When they entered the restaurant, she kept her eyes roving around the room. She was ready for a quick exit, with or without Bart, if she recognized any of the servers or if they started whispering when they spotted her husband.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary when they were led to their table. After a glass of wine, their meals arrived. Bart ate with gusto, chomping on huge chunks, enjoying the juicy steak.  Janet, strangely calm, picked at her food, knowing the stunt that would soon evolve.

Bart looked at her with wide eyes, his face the red of an Arizona sunset and dripping wet as a late afternoon shower. He appeared to be gagging and couldn’t speak. As he grabbed at his throat, she leaned toward him and said, “Wow, Bart. You’re playing the scene a little different  this time, aren’t you? When are you going to call for the doctor? Think I’ll go to the restroom while you entertain the crowd.”

When Janet returned to her table, Bart lay unconscious on the floor with two waiters applying CPR, other waiters and diners crowding around watching.

“Oh my God. Is anyone here a doctor? She hollered loud and continued to race from one diner to another. Appearing frantic and distraught, many tried to calm and comfort her.

The  ambulance arrived and, shortly, pronounced Bart dead.  The ‘outwardly-grieving’ widow could only think of her unbelievable stroke of luck.

He must have lodged a huge chunk of steak in his windpipe. Of course, I knew he  needed the Heimlich maneuver, but  I really DID have to go to the bathroom.”

Janet smiled as she drove home that evening. She pulled  the County Women’s Shelter business card from her purse and tossed it out the window.

And Bart, you even got your meal free tonight.  Son of a gun.