Short Stories

Intelligent Life
Short Stories

Intelligent Life

Neil was coloring around the coffee stains on a worn manila folder when Harold shouted his name.

“Anderson. Get in here.”

Dropping the pen, Neil sighed and rose from his chair, not yet warm at 8:15 AM. He counted the floor tiles en route to the corner office. The number never changed, but the walk seemed longer each time he made it.

“Morning, Harold,” Neil said as he walked in.

“Where are we on P732?” a lanky man asked with a growl honed by years of cigarettes and chronic post-nasal drip. “Bill in Environmental just told me they finished their work on it two weeks ago.”

“I know,” Neil said. “I have their numbers.”

“So, what’s the problem?” Harold sneezed into a handkerchief, which he folded and drug across his nose once more before placing it back in his pocket. “I mean, it’s a simple assessment, Neil. I’m not asking you to cure syphilis.” He stood abruptly and began to pace.

The way Harold buried his hands in his pockets as he walked around the room, Neil wondered if his boss might actually need that cure. Eradicating an STD was probably easier than delivering that report. There was nothing simple about it.

Read the full story on Reesdy.

Road Trip
Short Stories

Road Trip

“Rerouting,” Siri said for the third time.

“Honey, why don’t you just do what she says?”

Rick glared at his wife. “No. I’m not getting us lost because some nerd in Cupertino thinks he knows the backroads of Escambia County better than I do.”

“But we are lost,” Patti said.

“We are not lost.” Rick turned off the GPS. He had listened to the persistent droning of female voices since Nashville and was tired of it. At least he could put Siri in silent mode. “Once we drop Uncle Glenn in Brewton, it’s a straight shot to your sister’s house.” He pointed to the digital clock in the dash. “See? It’s not even midnight. We’re making great time. We just need to find some gas soon. That’s all.”

Read the full story on Lit Up.

Falling
Short Stories

Falling

The old man sat alone on the bench and watched the family from a distance. Four of them picnicked in the center of the park, beneath a massive oak near a playground and a pond. The father’s tie hung loosely around his neck. His leather loafers and dress socks sat discarded on a nearby quilt. A shirttail escaped the back of his slacks as he ran barefoot through the grass and tackled a boy holding a football. A toddler in a princess dress cheered them on, her red curls bouncing as she jumped up and down.

Clouds were coming. Maybe rain. The old man felt it in his hands and knees. Across the lawn, the father chased his children, unaware of the weather ahead. In the shadow of the oak, the mother looked on and laughed, at least on the outside. The old man imagined her hidden tears as she wondered how on earth she would tell them about the tumor and the treatment and the time she might have left . . .

Read the full story at Literally Literary.

Catch a Falling Star
Short Stories

Catch a Falling Star

“How long did he lay there before they found him?”

Wynn surveyed the shelves on aisle three and listened to the excited chatter at the front of the store. He found the potted meat and scooped three cans into his basket.

“About a week,” one of them said.

“Guess it was the smell that gave him away?”

“I imagine so. That poor man started wasting away three years ago, though. Don’t have to be dead to decompose . . .”

Read the full story at Reedsy.

Rose
Short Stories

Rose

“Did you get it?” Loraine asked. “You did bring it, didn’t you?”

Before Donald could lock the car, his wife walked three steps ahead. For a seventy-year old woman with lumbago, she was moving. “Yes, I brought the rose, dear.” He tried not to ruin the moment by sounding exasperated. “You only reminded me three times before we left.” Maybe he should try a little harder, he thought. “Honey, do you even know where you’re going?”

“Well,” she said, looking around. “I thought we’d follow the crowd.”

“I don’t see any crowd. Just that man over there in the booth.”

“And we both know you’re not going to ask him for directions.” Loraine approached a man in a faded blue uniform. “Excuse me, sir. Do you know where we could find –”

“In the back,” the man said, before she could finish.

“But you don’t even know what I — ,”

“Sure I do,” the guard interrupted again, his words muffled by the Louis L’Amour paperback that hid half his face like an outlaw bandana. “Same as everybody else.” He looked up and pointed a fat finger past the gate. “She’s at the end of this row. Just around the corner.” He resumed reading, officially ending the conversation.

“Thank you very much,” Loraine said without a hint of irritation. She called back to her husband. “This way, Donald.” After a few steps, she stopped and allowed him to catch up. “Well, he was nice . . .”

Read the full story at Reedsy.

Burning the Midnight Oil
Short Stories

Burning the Midnight Oil

This was a contest entry where the entire story is from the villain’s point of view. This is darker than other stories I’ve written. Readers beware.

The man lifted the bottle to his lips, but all he drank was disappointment. It was full when he brought it home. So was the light in the front window. Now, he held an empty bottle and looked out at the darkness.

His bones ached. The day was done, but the toll it took on his body lasted all night. The air around him reeked, a fetid stench of struggle and futility. Nothing stunk like a man’s sweat mixed with dirt he didn’t own. That’s how he knew he wasn’t drunk enough. He could still smell himself over the whiskey . . .

Read the whole story at The Creative Cafe.

Altar Ego
Short Stories

Altar Ego

Behind every joke a preacher tells is a story he’s trying to forget. This is that story.


“So you’re not going to tell her?” Bentley asked.

Vernon studied himself in the mirror, tilting his head from side to side. “Bentley,” he said. “I’m tired of talking. I mean to do it this time.” He looked away from the mirror and into the eyes of his co-conspirator. A thick index finger emphasized his point. “And she can’t stop me.”

Bentley sighed. “Okay. When?”

“First thing Friday morning, when she leaves for her sister’s house. My appointment is at ten.”

“How long will she be gone?”

“Till sometime on Tuesday, plenty of time.”

“And you’re sure you want to go through with this?” Bentley asked, not for the first time. “Is it really necessary?”

Without answering, Reverend Vernon Vanderwalker returned his attention to the mirror. Not bad for fifty-four. Sure, he was a little beefy around the edges. But that wasn’t what bothered him. His biggest problem, the proverbial thorn in his side, was the desolate plain where his hair once dwelled. Maybe it was from age or stress. Maybe it was a tragic case of heredity. Regardless, Vernon’s head was both naked and ashamed. He thought of the Old Testament and how the sins of the fathers visited themselves upon the future generations and wondered. What kind of mess did my Daddy get himself into?

“It’s necessary,” he said.

Read the whole story at Lit Up.

A Shot in the Dark
Short Stories

A Shot in the Dark

“Hey, Johnie,” Karma said as her boss walked through the door. She tried to act innocent.

“Get out of my way,” Johnie replied. “I’ve got to pee.” Hunched over, he walked like a penguin toward the back of the salon.

“Well, good morning to you, too.” She preoccupied herself with her clipper attachments and pretended to pout.

Johnie sighed and turned around. “Karma, don’t go all Sylvia Plath on me.” He tapped his foot involuntarily. “We can be besties in a minute. But right now I’ve got a venti Hazelnut Latte springing holes in my bladder.”

He turned and hurried to the restroom. “Good grief, who put all this crap in front of the door.” He started throwing brooms and mops and boxes of toilet paper.

“Yikes,” Karma said. She ran over to help. “Sorry, Johnie. We were cleaning out the storage closet last night. I came in early to put it all up. I just hadn’t got there yet.”

“It’s fine.” Johnie was breathing heavy. “Just move this stuff. I’m dying here.”

Karma shoved the last box out of the way then stepped back and waited.

Johnie threw open the bathroom door, flipped on the light, and screamed at the man staring back at him. “Oh, mercy.”

Read the whole story.

Death and Taxes
Short Stories

Death and Taxes

Josh stumbled to the bathroom and turned on the shower. For a good five minutes, he stood with his eyes closed, willing the hot water to wash away the restless night. He felt blindly for the soap, expecting to knock over one of the fifteen or so bottles that usually surrounded it. When his hand found nothing but a bar of Irish Spring, he opened his eyes. Something was seriously wrong.

Last week, Josh started shaving his head to save money on haircuts and shampoo. His wife, however, insisted on maintaining a strict beauty regiment of conditioners, shampoos, body washes, and lotions. Now, all of it was gone. Reality dawned on Josh. Ellen had left him.

Read the whole story at The Creative Cafe.

A Close Shave
Short Stories

A Close Shave

Red licked his lips and eyed the aces in his hand. Peering over his cards, he watched the grimy gamblers around the table. Each of them returned his stare, keeping one eye on Red and one eye on the mound of money in the middle. Cigar haze danced with the dingy light of saloon chandeliers and played with Red’s imagination. The pot assumed a heavenly glow that whispered to him, tempted him. 

Go all in, it said. This is your ticket out of Widow’s Rest. No more watching over your shoulder. No more living under the rich man’s thumb.

The rich man watched him now, flipping his own cards with that same oppressive thumb. Jasper Tate owned the saloon and half the men at the table, including Red. But not for long.

Read the whole story at Frontier Tales.