Story-a-Day May Day 1

May 1, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Posted in Short Stories | Leave a comment
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Claire walked up to the window, looking around furtively. She didn’t realize that her attempts to go unnoticed were making her more conspicuous.

“What can I do for you, ma’am?” The ticket seller asked.

“What time does the next bus leave?”

Impatient, the man snapped “In 20 minutes. Can’t you read the sign?”

Unwilling to admit that no, she couldn’t, she asked for a ticket for the bus.

“That will be $72.”

She winced at the price, but pushed four twenty-dollar bills across the counter. He pushed her ticket across the counter, and said curtly “Gate B4.”

She took her ticket and moved quickly away from the window and the man’s hostile stare. Heading out the door, she turned to the right and squinted at the gate numbers posted on the lamp posts. Those were all As with numbers. Looking to the left, she found the B lamp posts, and walked to the fourth one. There were some other people milling around and sitting on the broken down bench.

“Excuse me, is this gate B4?” She asked a nice-looking older woman. The woman nodded, looking tired.

Claire sat down next to her to wait the next few minutes. She pulled the money out of her pocket and counted through it again. The twenties added up to $220 now that she had bought the bus ticket. A cell phone ran and she jumped, then remembered she had left the cell phone in the cramped apartment she had shared with Luis.

A man approached the bus, opened the gate and boarded with the key in hand. Claire watched as all the other riders held their tickets out for him to check. She hauled her backpack higher up on her shoulder and held her ticket out for his perusal. He nodded her through.

Soon the bus was pulling away from the station and Claire felt some of the tension seep from her shoulders. She watched until she saw the lights of San Fransisco fade from view, then dozed off leaning against the window. It was an uneasy sleep, punctuated with nightmares.

She jolted awake when the driver announced that they had arrived in Portland. She stumbled off the bus with the rest of the passengers and stretched the kinks out. She noticed a coffee shop nearby and made her way there.

“What can I getcha, honey?” The waitress asked after she had seated herself.

“Just a coffee, thanks.”

“You sure, sweetie? You’re looking pretty thin there.”

“No, that’s all,” Claire smiled.

As she looked away from the waitress, she caught the eye of a handsome man across the restaurant. He grinned back and her and picked up his coffee cup to walk over to her table.

“Hi, I’m Jordan. What’s your name?” He asked.

“I’m C-Caitlyn.” She stumbled over the new name she’d chosen for herself.

“Nice to meet you, Caitlyn. Are you new to our fair city?”

She nodded shyly, then excused herself to go to the bathroom. When she finished, the waitress was waiting for her outside the door.

“Honey, you stay away from that one. He used to come into the shop with a cute little girl all the time. She started showing up with bruises and then wearing sunglasses and long-sleeved shirts. We called the cops, and they stopped by to check on her, but she never did want to press charges. She’s been in and out of that apartment with him for the last 6 months.”

Claire felt tears well up in her eyes and she threw her arms around the surprised waitress. “Thank you,” she whispered in the woman’s ear.

“I’ll get that coffee to go for you,” the waitress said. “There’s a door out the back way here, too.”

“Thank you,” was all Claire could think of to say.

She waited anxiously at the end of the hallway while the woman put her coffee in a styrofoam cup for her. She slipped quietly out of the shop into the alley and away from the coffee shop.

As she looked for somewhere to ask about a shelter, she realized how lucky she was to have avoided an encounter with an abusive man while she was trying to get away from another.

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The Airport

December 15, 2009 at 11:37 am | Posted in challenge, Short Stories | 2 Comments
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This piece was written as part of the Steve Weddle Memorial Airport Flash Fiction Challenge. Find the other entries here.

Jim sat slumped in the hard faux leather seat. The P.A. system crackled and spat out something incomprehensible.

    “Did you hear that?” he asked the woman next to him with a tiny, trembling dog peeking over the edge of her enormous bag. She pulled out a tiny cell phone and started chatting, her conversation heavily laden with phrases like “OMG!” and “seriously?!”

    Disgusted, Jim muttered “Bitch!” under his breath and turned to his left. Maybe he’d have more luck with the man to his le4ft.

    “Did you hear that last announcement?” He asked the man, who was dressed in a suit and had a laptop open. The man started typing rapdily.

    Jim repeated himself a little louder, but received no response. Angry, he yelled at the man. “Can you fucking hear me? Are you deaf?”

    The man kept tapping away at his keyboard.
    Frustrated and appalled by the rudeness of his fellow travelers, Jim stomped up to the desk. They were paid to answer questions. They would tell him when his flight would be called.

    Unwilling to abandon his manners like the others had, Jim waited patiently in front of the desk. The attendant picked up the intercom to announce a flight. Jim checked his ticket, but it wasn’t his flight. He waited until the passengers had filed past. The attendant turned back to the computer and began tapping at it.

    All the tapping was about to drive Jim mad. He felt a slight breeze and turned to see a man in a polo shirt brush past him.

    “How much is it for me to upgrade to first class?” He asked.

    Jim tried to interrupt.

    “Excuse me! I was here first.”

    The attendant clicked the mouse twice and told him that it would be $97 for the privilege. The man pulled out his wallet and offered her his credit card. A few more clicks of the mouse, a swipe of the credit card, and new tickets were being printed out fo the antique dot matrix printer that all airports seemed to cling to despite the availability of much more modern equipment.

    The rage that had been building in Jim’s mind finally exploded.

    “I’ve been standing her for twenty minutes! All I need to know is when my flight to Chicago will take off! It’s been delayed, and I can’t understand the P.A. system! The flight isn’t showing up on any of the screens! I’ve been here forever, and I need to get to Chicago for a business meeting! Are you people blind or deaf or just idiots?” He screamed.

    Breathless, he waited for the attendant’s response. None came, and Jim felt his face turn first red, then purple.

    Another attendant walked up to the first.

    “Hey, how are you doing?” He asked, resting a hand on the woman’s arm.

    “I’m doing ok. I’m adjusting. It was hard to be at home and just have time to think about it. I would rather have been here, working. I can’t believe it happened just a week ago.”

    Jim turned away to try to calm his racing heart. He knew he needed to watch his blood pressure. The attendants’ words blurred together, but something caught his attention.

    “…Flight 2533…”

    He looked down at his ticket. That was his flight number. He turned back and focused on their conversation, moving closer.

    “I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way that explosion looked for the rest of my life,” one of the attendants commented.

    Explosion?

    “What explosion?” He asked them. Neither attendant looked at him or appeared to have heard. He jumped up and down, waved his hands in their faces and yelled as loud as he could.

    Nothing. He looked at the date on his boarding pass, then ran to the monitors. His ticket was dated a week ago. He rushed back to the counter to listen to the attendants’ conversation again. After a few minutes, he’d heard enough. He sank into a nearby seat again. His flight had been called a week ago. He’d gotten on the plane a week ago. His plane had exploded a week ago with him on it. He’d died a week ago.

    Now he would never leave the airport.

The Kiva

December 14, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Short Stories | Leave a comment
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    Derek jogged down the path toward Spruce Tree House ahead of his parents. He hadn’t been enthusiastic about visiting Mesa Verde National Park at first, but once he saw the half standing houses gouged into the cliffs, his mind sparked into action. He could see the people in his mind moving through the stonework, going about their daily activities. He wondered what it had been like so many years ago.
    “Derek!” His mother called after him. He looked back, realizing that his parents were out of sight.
    “I’ll meet you there!” He called back at her.
    He rounded a bend and could see tan stone walls, wooden ladders, and buildings that looked like they were half-built. He knew they had fallen down over the years since they had been inhabited, though. There was a park ranger standing next to the thick branches of a ladder poking out through a hole in the ground.
    “What’s that?” he asked the ranger.
    “There’s a ladder down into a kiva.”
    “What’s a kiva?”
    “The archaeologists don’t really know what kivas were used for. They believe that they were used for religious rituals. Kind of like we use a church or a temple today.” She told him.
    “Cool. Can I go down there?”
    “Sure. Wait for your mom and dad to get here to make sure they know where you are, though.”
    “They’re right there.” He turned and pointed. He could see his parents coming around the bend.
    “OK, just hold your horses. They’ll be here in just a second. The kiva’s not going anywhere.” The park ranger grinned at him.
    Derek barely waited for his parents to make it to him before he blurted “I’m going down in the kiva,” and pointed toward the ladder.
    “Fine. We’ll be looking around the site. Don’t be down there too long, okay? There’s plenty more to see.” His mother told him.
    He walked over to the ladder and turned around to back down the ladder. He started carefully, a little unsteady at first. The logs the ladder was made out of were as thick around as his ankles, and he quickly grew confident. Moments later, he arrived at the bottom and turned around to see what the kiva looked like.
    It was a round inside. There was a bench carved out of the stone behind the ladder, and what looked like a fire pit in front of it. It was dark except for the square of light coming from the ladder opening. Derek sat on the bench and closed his eyes to imagine what a ceremony in the kiva might have been like. He could hear and smell the fire burning. He thought that there might be some chanting, so he imagined that, too.
    He opened his eyes and it was there just like he’d imagined. There was an older man with deep wrinkles and a small scrap of cloth around his waist sitting next to the fire. There were two other guys about his age sitting next to him on the bench. His mouth dropped open. The old man opened his eyes and looked straight into Derek’s eyes.
    “Running Deer.”
    Derek jumped. He knew the man was talking to him, and he knew that he wasn’t speaking in English, but he could understand every word the man was saying.
    “Yes, sir.” He said quietly, wondering if the man would understand him.
    “I see you have finished your vision quest. It is for you to find meaning within yourself. Go quietly and meditate on what you have seen.” The man told him.
    Derek scrambled up the ladder as quickly as he could. He hoped that he’d find his parents, the park ranger, and the crumbling buildings when he got to the top of the kiva. He was startled to see several people walking around with barely any clothes on. He looked down at himself and noticed that he had on only a rope around his waist with a strip of cloth fastened from the front to the back.
    Children ran through the village, daring each other to run as close to the edge of the cliff as they could. One or two called to him, but Derek ignored them. The men were lounging about, working on their arrowheads and spear tips. There were some older boys fitting their hands and feet into the steps carved into the side of the cliff. They looked like monkeys clinging with fingertips and toes to the stone.
    Derek wondered what had happened and how he was going to get back to where he was supposed to be. He let his feet take him up another ladder and into the buildings towards the back of the cave. He wandered and gawked a little bit at the things he saw. Most of the rooms had very little in them. A woven mat, a pottery jar, some tools or a spear leaning against a wall. When he tired of that, he found his way back out of the maze of rooms and down the ladder.
    He went over to where he had seen the older boys climbing up the side of the cliff. He fit his hands and feet to the niches he could see. He let his hands move without thinking about it. It was like his body remembered how to climb the cliff. When he finally stood at the top of the cliff, he turned to look back at the valley below and grinned. He didn’t want to stay in this time forever, but his parents would never have let him climb up that cliff!
    It was starting to get dark when he finally figured out how to get back down the cliff. People were gathering around the fires to eat.
    “Running Deer!” A woman called to him. He drifted over to the fire, thinking that she was somehow related to the him he was now, in this time. There was corn and some meat that he didn’t recognize. It was tough, but not bad.
    After everyone had finished eating, the women took the little children off to bed. The older girls sat near the fires and giggled to each other, watching the boys. The men took out what looked like dice and started playing a game. Most of the older boys crowded around to watch the game.
    Derek was tired, and wanted to get back to his own time to a real bed. Surprised, he realized that he missed his parents, too. He walked toward the kiva he’d come out of earlier that afternoon and climbed down the ladder once again. He settled on the bench at the back and closed his eyes. Maybe if he concentrated hard enough, he’d be able to get back to his own time. Time dragged by and he kept opening his eyes to check, to see if anything had changed. He was just starting to drift off to sleep when he heard his mother’s voice.
    “Derek! Derek, are you still down in that kiva? Don’t you want to see anything else?”
    His heart jumped in his chest, and he scrambled up the ladder once again. Outside, the sun was still shining. His parents were standing by the ladder, peering down at him.
    “What time is it, mom?” He asked.
    “It’s 3:30. You’ve been down there for at least 20 minutes. Come see the mosaic in this building over here.” She pointed.
    Derek blinked at the sunlight. Confused, he followed his mother over to the building and looked at the mosaic. It was much duller than it had been in his vision. He looked down at his clothes and was thankful that he was wearing more than just a loincloth. He pulled his sunglasses off his head and thought about how nice it was to have those. He didn’t think he’d ever take his mom’s cooking for granted again, either.
    “Hey, mom, can you make meatloaf for dinner tonight?” He asked.

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