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Monday, June 26

The Letter

"The Letter"
Short Fiction - Literary
by Kelli Pliner

She wondered if he had gotten it yet. It seemed so long since it was sent. Sophie kneeled on the couch and gazed out into the rainy day. These were the days that her mother called “frumpy.” Sophie wasn’t sure it was a real word or not. She would have to ask Miss Staley tomorrow. She was sure that Miss Staley would know; she knows everything.

Sophie pushed her nose onto the glass more, watching for the mail truck. Maybe Miss Staley will know how long it takes mail to get there. Hundreds of questions filled Sophie’s head. Where did the mail go when it left her mail box? Did her own mailman take it to her Daddy? If so, could she go with him? Was there a special place at the post office for letters that little girls wrote to their Daddies when they were far away?

Sophie sighed.

Sophie knew that her Daddy had been sent far away for work, but three weeks was such a long time, it might as well be forever!

It had been seven whole days since she ever-so-carefully made the gift and sent it to Daddy. It had been Mommy’s idea. When Sophie’s Daddy said he had to go away, she thought her little world had ended. In whose lap would she curl up in to watch M*A*S*H at night? Who would come to her tea parties? Who would tuck her in at night in the special scruffy way Daddy did? Daddy had never gone one single day without his good night kiss, who would give it to him so far away?

That is when Mommy had the idea.

“It’s something that I did for my Daddy when he had to go away to the war. We can do it for your Daddy while he is gone to summer camp with the other soldiers.”

Mommy reached into the drawer and pulled out an envelope and turned back to Sophie.

“I missed my Daddy more than anything else, but there is one thing we can do to help your Daddy to smile and a way for him to get his good night kisses.”

Sophie’s eyes grew large and glistened with what Miss Staley called “happy tears” as she watched her Mommy open the envelope.

“We can fill this envelope with as many goodnight kisses as we can, and then we will send them to Daddy.”

A quizzical look crossed Sophie’s face.

“How will Daddy know what it inside the envelope? He might open it up and drop them all out by accident!”

Mommy took a marker from the counter and wrote some letters on the envelope.

“What do they say Mommy?”

“It says, ‘Handle with Care. Package contains Goodnight Kisses.’”

Sophie spent the next five minutes blowing as many kisses into the envelope as she could. When done, Sophie quickly licked the envelope closed so nothing would fall out. Mommy helped her to write Daddy’s war address on it and placed a stamp in the corner.

“Go, put it in the mailbox and turn the flag up so the mailman knows a letter is in there.”

The three days following that, Sophie would go down and sit next to the mailbox, waiting for the mailman to come and bring her a letter from her Daddy.

On the fourth day, Mommy told her she needed to find something else to do.

“It will make the time go faster if you are playing.”

Sophie didn’t believe her. So, instead of waiting at the curb, Sophie now waited at the window. Then a strange brown truck entered their driveway. Puzzled, Sophie called for her mother. Sophie watched as Mommy went out to talk to the brown truck man. He gave her a big envelope. Sophie watched curiously as Mommy came back into the house and handed her the envelope.

Sophie couldn’t read yet, but she knew what some words were. She could read, Buddy (their dog), Sophie, Mommy and…Daddy! The big envelope was from Daddy!

Sophie carefully opened the envelope (she didn’t want anything to accidentally fall out) and pulled out hundreds of paper kisses.

Note: This story is a combination of my past memories, and the present events of a little student of mine whose father is deployed in Iraq. It is dedicated to them as she gave me the idea to write it as a story in the first place.

Monday, June 19

Shadows in the Night

"Shadows in the Night"
Flash Fiction
by Kelly Parra

The bedroom is dark. Outside the street is quiet. Not even a car passes by. I look at the glow of the digital clock. 1:33 AM.

I'm restless. I turn on my side, sliding my hand under my pillow. I try not to stare into the dark, but I can't help it. I know what is there.

The shadows.

One begins to form. Tiny specks of nothing blur before my eyes, shaping. I blink, but it won't stop forming.

My mouth goes dry. It's difficult to swallow. Before I know it, the shape is tall, human. My pulse flickers.

The dark form gestures towards me. I jackknife up on the bed, swing my hand towards my lamp. It crashes to the floor.

"Shit."

Tingles travel up from my neck to prickle against my face. The base of my gut is as tight as a fist. I stumble to the floor. The shadow is behind me.

It's coming.

I make it to the wall, and flick on the switch, slamming my back against the wall. My chest is heaving.

There's nothing. No shadows. But I know it's not gone. The shadow is just hidden within the light. If I stare in one place too long, I'll see it again. But the light is comforting, makes me feel a little calmer.

I slide down to the carpeted floor. The coolness behind me felt threw my cotton pajamas.

Each night the shadows come to my room. Surround me. Some say I can tell them to go away. But when they're here, I can't speak. I only taste the sour taste in the back of my throat.

A brush of pressure on my shoulder. I shiver and swipe a hand there.

Some say it's a gift. A gift...to feel the fear clawing at my scalp and stomach. To see the shadows I don't want to see. To be touched, even so slightly, when it makes my skin crawl.

No, it's not a gift. It's my living nightmare.

I sit for a long time, until my eyelids begin to close, and I feel my head wobble. I crawl to my bed, pull myself up and bury myself beneath the covers.

I fall asleep with the light above me keeping away the shadows for the last few hours of the night.

Monday, June 5

I Remember

"I Remember"
Flash Fiction
by William Dollear

We sat in the waiting room. The magazines were all in Portuguese. This added to my wife’s anger.

“You are still against this, aren’t you?” I asked.

“Yes,” Alice, my wife, said, “You don’t need a change. And you did not have to come to Brazil for this.”

But I did. The doctor claimed he could create a new me, minus 30 years.

We were called in and the doctor looked older than I expected. Experienced, I told myself.

“Doctor, there are days I feel like I’m 80 years old. Can you help me?”

“Yes,” he said. “No problem.”

I was sedated and slept knowing I would wake up younger, stronger, better.

The waking was actually difficult. In the distance I heard weeping.

“No problem,” the doctor said.

The ceiling light hurt my eyes. I lifted my hand and was shocked to see it was wrinkled, covered with liver spots, and shaking uncontrollably. I touched my hair and felt a lined, completely baldhead.

My throat ached. I could not speak. It must be post-operative effects. I turned to Alice.

“No problem,” the doctor said.

“No problem?” Alice shouted. “Look at what you did!”

There was a scuffling.

A nurse held Alice back. The doctor put something in front of my face. I stared into the eyes of a sad old man. His pitiful portrait kept going in and out of focus. A mirror?

“What have you done?” Alice sobbed.

“You husband. He say he want 80 years. I give him 80. No problem.”

Thursday, June 1

Doris and Dexter

"Doris and Dexter"
Short Fiction - Humor
By DZ Allen


"Well if you could accuse anybody of being downright evil, it would be him."

"What the hell are you talking about, Doris?" Dexter peeked over the top of his Wall Street Journal. His wife of forty-three years sat nervously knitting a scarf or socks or some damn thing.

"I mean the boy is wrong. I think he may have hit his head or something."

The click, click tempo of her knitting needles increased. She shook her head and bit her lower lip.

Dexter considered going back to his paper then thought better of it. He carefully folded it in half and set it on his lap. He took a deep breath and removed his reading glasses. "What do you mean he hit his head?"

Doris let out an exasperated sigh. "I mean he's dopey. I think the boy fell down the stairs or fell out of bed. Maybe one of his friends hit him in the head with a rake."

"The kind with the hard metal teeth or the flimsy flexible ones."

"--or a hoe maybe. He mighta‚ just got clapped up side the skull with a shovel."

"Maybe his friends beat him with a garden hose."

"Now you're being silly, Dex."

"I'm being silly? You think our grandson has anything to do with any type of gardening tool?" He slipped his readers back on and moved to re-open his paper. "The boy never leaves his bedroom."

Doris abruptly put down her knitting. "That's what I'm talking about."

"Dexter raised his paper and tried to use it as a shield. Maybe she'd drop this silly rant if she thought he'd gone back to reading."

"Dexter!"

Maybe not. He set the paper back on his lap and took off his glasses again.

"The boy is perfectly normal. All the kids spend their time indoors these days."

Doris considered this. "Playing those--games."

Dexter rolled his eyes. "There's nothing wrong with his games."

"They've turned him into a zombie. They've stolen our grandbaby's soul, Dex."

"Oh, for goodness‚ sake, Doris."

"It's true. I'll bet he's got a box full of Barbie doll heads in his closet or something. All that killing and violence, it‚s ruining him and it‚s ruining our country."

"I thought it was a rake across the head that ruined him."

"Stop making fun of me."

"You think it's video game violence that's ruining our country?"

"That and the hippies."

"What?" Dexter set his glasses on the lamp table next to his easy chair. "Are there even any hippies anymore?"

"They're all having babies. And those babies are addicted to--Mary Jane."

"Dexter frowned and considered calling an ambulance for his wife. "Are you forgetting we used to hit the hash pipe pretty hard when we were young and foolish?"

"Doris covered her heart with her palms. "I never did any such thing!"

"Old woman--you're the one who stole the buds from your brother. You came to my dorm room and hauled me away from a mid-term cram session. You dragged me to the old North Shore drive in, rolled a giant fatty, and we smoked it all down on the swings by the big screen. Got sick on drive-in-movie pizza and popcorn afterwards, as I recall."

Doris let her hands drop to her lap. "Well...we were stupid. But we grew up smart and respectable. Today it's all death and violence and taking the easy way out."

"Well I guess you got me there! War and serial killers and racism were all invented in the last ten years."

Doris said, "You know what I mean."

"The boy plays games. He's got great hand eye coordination. I don't think he's killed anybody in real life. He gets good grades and eats his veggies. He's a good boy, Doris. He'll be fine. The future is in good hands."

"Our daughter and that man she's married to are too lenient with him. His brain is turning to mush."

Dexter tossed his paper on the coffee table and worked his body out of his lounger. His knees popped and his back cracked as he attained a standing position.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"I'm going to call our grandson. Then I'm going to have that man our daughter's married to come and pick my wrinkled butt up and drive me over there. Then I'm going to have our grandson show me how to blast the heck out of some aliens or whatever it is they do."

"You're going to encourage his descent into the abyss of violence and death?"

"I'm too old to sit around here predicting the end of civilization. I'm going to spend some time playing with my grandboy. I‚m going to have him show me what makes him happy. And I'm going to show him I think he's a great kid and that I give a crap."

Doris sat frozen for a moment. She glanced at her knitting and then looked up at Dexter.

"Well?" Dexter said. "You gonna go too and cheer us on?"

She stood up and hurried to the bedroom. "Just give me a minute to put on my face."

Dexter picked up the phone and dialed. "I don't want you mentioning anything about brains turning to mush, video games destroying the fabric of society, or descents into any kind of an abyss, evil or otherwise, while we're over there. Save the insane old folks routine for our private time."

"Oh, fine," Doris said.

"You mention any of that stuff and I'll tell your daughter her mother was a big pot head!"