Tag Archives: short story

Casino – A Short Story

“Can I get you a drink, hon?”

Green eyes framed in ochre eyeshadow that look like they’ve seen a thousand wars look beyond and through me. Her hair precariously towers in silver and gold ringlets with no apparent supports. It sways with her collecting motions, a sign language of gathering other people’s dreams glass by empty glass.

It is silent on the game floor. The table areas climb in slow terraces into the never-ending distance, arcing around the corner and out of sight. This place feels haunted.

“Double Jack and Coke, please.”

She vanishes as efficiently as she appeared.

The croupier taps the table insistently with his rake, “Place your bets, sir, place your bets.”

He wears a pencil-thin mustache, black and waxed with hair to match, severely parted down the middle and pomaded. In his uniform, he looks like a cartoon villain who’s lost his cape and top hat.

The stocky pit boss perches on his stool and compulsively tics. Fingers at his tied and collared neck, then a wrist shake with watch adjustment. Pull and flick, pull and flick, over and over, like a wild beast walking a cage in pinstripes. He stares at the table unsmiling, his personal rhythm only interrupted for the business rhythm of counting money splashed onto the table.

“New roller coming out!” is the bark.

Chips are placed and Newton’s benediction is sought while the dice are being raised and thrown to Schr√∂dinger.

“Seven, seven, lucky seven! Winnahs!”

Clackety-clack-clack-clack the chips say to each other in their endless dances across the tables between dead wood and greasy palms. The winnings are scooped and pocketed in favor of a search for sustenance.

The arc is followed in and is chambered like a nautilus; slots in this section, roulette in another, and so on. All are silent, empty.

At the core is an arcade and bathrooms. A red-lit EXIT sign hovers above a nondescript door. It leads to a parking garage ramp that shares the same arc-radius as the floor. Pac Man is left behind in the maze to forever eat. A tangential journey into the desert beckons.

Beat – A Short Story

“Stop fucking crying! I’ll give you something to cry about, you sissy!”

I don’t know where I’ve been hit, but I can’t stop crying, and his knees dig painfully into my shoulders. I want to stop crying because I want this ordeal to end. It feels like it’s been going on forever.

The linoleum is hard against my shoulder blades from his weight and I can hardly see through my tears. I don’t want to look at him, because to look at him invites more.

“Stop fucking crying!”

I must have been hit again because I am racked by sobs, and my vision swims through tears. I blink to clear my eyes and I look past and above him. I see the popcorn ceiling and I imagine gravity is reversed, and I can walk on the ceiling. What would it be like to have to step through the doors like that? Where would I go to the bathroom? Would it be safe to go outside?

“Shut the fuck up!”

What time is it? When will mom get home? Will she believe me this time? I wish he was dead. I wish I was dead.

I heave and strain and writhe and try to wiggle away. It’s no use. I’m pinned.

He laughs.

“You need to learn to not cry. To not be weak.”

I wish the dog would bite him.

I turn my head away and look at the rug. I wish I was on it. My shoulder blades wouldn’t hurt so badly then.

“Leave me alone!” I shout, shrilly.

He just laughs and leans back, crushing my stomach up into my chest.

Now I can’t breathe and my racking sobs move like air in a squeezed balloon, back and forth, back and forth with no way out.The pressure on my arms is lessened enough for me to wriggle one arm free and begin to flail it uselessly against him. He just laughs harder.

“That’s it! Fight me!”

As my breath goes stale, I start to buck and I’m able to gulp a teaspoonful of air. I think about poisoning his food, stabbing him or lighting the house on fire when he’s asleep, bashing his head in with a hammer. I just want him dead.

The dog whines. She’s upset and scared, too. She’s afraid to come within his range. I forgive her.

“Come on, you little fuck! That all you got?”

He slaps my face. The salt from my tears stings my eyes and I’m drowning, going down, and I don’t want that. I want to live to be able to see him die.

I’m able to just catch his pinky with my free hand and I bend it back as hard as I can.

“Oooooooowwwwww!!!” he screams as he rises off of me.

I gulp huge breaths of air through my sobs.

“Motherfucker! You little motherfucker! You broke it!” he shouts as he kicks me in the side, each blow an explosion of pain. I think I hear something crack.

“Fucker, fucker, fucker!” he rages at me, now landing a fist with each expletive.

Through all the pain and all the hurt and all the tears and all the sobs, a quiet part of me whispers soothingly, “It’s time to go.”

I nod to myself and let go. His voice and the pain start to recede. I feel like I’m sinking down into warm velvet as muffled sound and light float away like the green ballon I lost at the zoo, and they eventually vanish into the void.

Gravity – A Short Story

I am unable to climb the ladder to the window, because a small Chinese woman is right above me, and she has stopped to remove her shoes. She is moving so slowly and tentatively, I become exasperated. She inches up onto the windowsill and turns to retrieve her shoes, which she has set beside her. I move up next to her, and she is taking an interminable time to transit to the ladder on the exterior of the building. My normal rhythm of climbing up, going out, then down and across is broken, and I cannot fathom how to do it slowly.

A few rungs below me is a Chinese man, urging her on. She either does not hear him or his directions do not help. Her pace remains glacial.

About ten feet beneath me, the retaurant inside is raucous. Outside, the parking lot is quiet and cars are parked five deep in some spots. It would be a hard place to retrive a body from.

Finally, she is on the up ladder and I attempt to do my maneuver to the down ladder, but I cannot. I don’t know how to do it. I’ve done it so many times without thinking, that I’ve forgotten how to do it. Now that I try and think about it, terror of falling fills me. I consider going down and starting over in order to execute the moves quickly, but the man below me starts to chide me and I see that a line has formed for the ladder. Any chances for a swift retry are dashed.

Suddenly angry, I decide to bag it for the day. I didn’t want to go to work today anyway.

I climb down past the now angry man. Now I’m the one slowing everyone down.

Reaching the floor, I adjust my backpack and head for the door but it’s slow going. The place is packed. It’s jammed with college kids drinking, eating, shouting, laughing, high-fiving, ignorning, and flirting.

I have to push my way through a phalanx of them perched on tall stools. Dirty looks rain down upon me and it enrages me. I just want out! It’s so loud in here, I can’t think. I must get out. I begin to shove my way through and the girls yelp and the boys begin to puff up.

I laugh, thinking about one of them coming down from their perches to confront an angry, determined, old man, and I smile a wicked smile to each that threatens me. None come down.

At last, freedom!

The sun is shining and the streets quickly swallow the sound of the crowd behind me until an almost desolate stillness settles in. I head vaguely uphill, thinking I might meander my way to work the long way about until I chance upon a vegetated alleyway with brick steps leading upwards.

Guarded by slowly crumbling brick buildings I see the pathway switchback, and near the top, dozens of yards away, what looks like scree. Some sort of optical illusion makes the rock look like a running river of avalanche as I pass by, but when I stop, it stops. I take a few steps back and the flow moves uphill.

Intrigued, I take my phone from my pocket to film this strange phenomena. I stand still and pan my camera back and forth across the scene and on the screen watch the rock tumble down the hill and then reverse course over and over. It reminds of a composite 3-D picture.

Intrigued, I put my phone away and head up.

It’s quiet here. I hear the crunching of small stones beneath my feet, the wind rustling through the bushes, and my breathing. But no birdsong. No buzzing insects.

The last switchback takes me up and around a building that is more a mass of tumbled brick and bramble than a man-made object. Coming round into a grassy clearing above, there is a large rock wall maybe ten feet tall that looks hewn away. A planked, wooden door is set in the middle of it, and irregular flagstones lead to the door.

The closer I move to it, the further it seems to receede into a stone alcove. I could have sworn the door was in sunlight back when I stood where the trail ended, but now it’s in cool shade. Shrugging, I open the rusty latch and push it open with a creak.

On the other side of the threshold is a rock ledge, maybe fifty feet deep, that I walk out onto. To my left is a chasm, but looming in the distance is some sort of plateau. To my right is a sheer cliff rising hundreds of feet. The ledge ends in a point next to the cliff. At the end is an intricate carved stone railing at a dais or altar.

Suddenly afraid of the height and exposure, I cautiously shuffle my way up, looking at my feet the whole way. Tentatively grasping for the railing, I observe that it’s dark marble. A piece of the handrail comes off in my hand. I stare at it, broken and crumbled, in my hand. The whole place feels of rotting decay.

Glancing up, I see that the plateau is not a plateau. It is a double-stacked, cantilevered, hanging ossuary. The bottom level displays a haphazard, crooked line of deeply crowded tombstones in soil, many resting at an angle of dangling repose over the abyss below. There are only inches between the tops of the tombstones and the level above it. It looks like a dark line of marching death.

The edge of the top level is similar in jumble, but it contains a mobbed menagerie of statues and symbology too tall for the lower level. It’s riotous horizon line casts crazy, jagged shadows on the wall behind me.

Looking down, there’s a black plain littered with an ages worth of tumbled stone and soil. Nothing is growing down there. I fling the marble in my hand over the edge, and I see it sail down, down, down and eventually lose its shape amongst the others.

I never hear it land.

Light catches the corner of my left eye and I turn around in wonderment. A huge glass window is embedded in the rock wall and behind it is a long living room, looking neatly appointed from the mid-1960’s. The walls are rock. Above the window is a rock overhang of maybe twenty feet.

It looks like a glassed-in rock burrow.

Is this is the sexton’s quarters? From where I stand, it appears to be a collossal diorama. The window must be thrity feet tall. Does a giant live there?

Light on the window ripples like water. There must be a pool below.

I walk back down and towards the edge. I see the door I came through. It looks very far away.

Coming to the spot where I expect to be able to see the pool, I look down. There is only the lifeless charnel field.

I’m having a hard time breathing. The light ripples more brightly. I notice gigantic bubbles, large as cars, forming at the top edge of the window and then slowly rolling up the ledge like through molasses.

What the? I can’t breathe. I’m drowning, hundreds of feet underwater.

Light rainbows through the bubbles, and I’m swimming and drowning in prismatic color. I thrash towards the door. I fear the ocean behind me will launch me like a hydraulic rocket once it’s open but it’s my only hope.

I manage to yank it open and stumble out onto a warm, dry flagstone in a sun-dappled alleyway.

I blink in the sunlight.

A woman in a sundress and floppy hat is just coming around the corner of a building and spies me and the door. Stunned, I stagger down. She looks at me with concern.

“You don’t want to go in there,” I tell her as I pass by on my way home.

Crane Accident Sinks Ship, Spills Cargo Containers Into Puget Sound

SEATTLE (AP) – A cargo crane accident this afternoon at Seattle’s Pier 46 sank a ship and filled Puget Sound’s Elliot Bay with over 300 floating cargo containers, disrupting shipping and other maritime traffic indefinitely and releasing toxic materials into Puget Sound. Air traffic into Seattle was briefly disrupted.

No injuries were reported, but it could be days or weeks before large vessel traffic resumes on Elliot Bay. Governor Jay Inslee declared the area a disaster zone.

Hanjin Shipping, which operates the terminal, reported that a structural support beam failed on the crane while offloading a container from the SC Tianjin, causing the approximately 100′ arm to tumble down onto the ship and then overboard. Still connected by the crane’s cable, the force pulled the remaining crane superstructure down on top of the vessel, pushing it below the waterline.

Mike Wicklund, the crane’s operator, scrambled to safety as the crane was tipping over and was visible shaken. “I heard a loud boom and saw the arm go. The crane vibrated like it was an earthquake and I ran for the ladder. As I was climbing down, the whole thing fell over and I was crawling sideways before I jumped down onto the pier. I can’t believe I got out alive.”

The SC Tianjin quickly took on water and sank in about ten minutes, causing its cargo containers to float away. The ship carried a crew of 15 and all safely scrambled off the boat before it sank. According to ship manifests, the SC Tianjin was carrying a mixture of industrial chemicals, consumer electronics and a wide variety of cargo from Asia.

The US Coast Guard has established an exclusion zone from Smith Cove to Alki Point for all vessels not a part of cleanup operations.

“There are hundreds of containers floating above and below the waterline, many with hazardous materials, and we do not want to add search and rescue due to a collision with one of them on top of an already complex and challenging cleanup operation,” said Captain Arthur Griffin, who is coordinating the cleanup efforts.

The initial response to the accident was slowed as disaster plans were focused on singular oil spills, not dozens. Multiple oil slicks and areas of discolored water were visible around several containers.

Local agencies are scrambling to find spill containment booms that could be linked together.

“Our goal is to get a boom across the entire bay to prevent oil from entering the shipping lanes, but we’re having some challenges with that at this time,” Captain Griffin said. When asked how long cleanup might take, Griffin responded that it depended on how fast the containers were removed from the water and the extent of contamination.

“This could be a few days or it could be weeks. We’re still assessing,” he said.

Cargo and private air traffic into Boeing Field, directly south of Seattle, flies over Elliot Bay and was disrupted as air space above the area was briefly closed as Coast Guard helicopters converged on the cleanup area to assist in container spotting.

“We’re using the helicopters to guide container recovery around submerged containers,” Captain Griffin said.

Container recovery will be a slow process until floating cranes can arrive on the scene. Angela Earls, Director of the Washington State Maritime Cooperative, which coordinates spill response in Puget Sound said, “Right now we’re hampered by only being able to use dockside cranes to pull these containers out of the water. Tugboats are being used to tow them dockside, and this disperses and mixes spilled material.”

Jill Martinez of the Puget Sound Partnership, a local environmental group, expressed concern about the long-term effects of the disaster. “Until we see the shipping manifests, we just don’t know what’s in the water, but it doesn’t look good now, and we’re expecting that the Elliot Bay area will require significant, long-term cleanup.”

As cleanup operations continued, people could be seen fishing from nearby piers. The Seattle Aquarium, which uses filtered water from Puget Sound for many of its displays, is closely monitoring the situation.

“We’re not quite sure what we’re going to do if the water quality drops,” said employee Jack Anderson. Looking out over the scene, he expressed concern about the endangered local whale population. “I hope that the resident Orca pods hear all the noise and stay away.”

The Port of Seattle is the nation’s 6th busiest port and an important shipping hub to Asia for the Pacific Northwest and beyond, and processes over 250,000 cargo containers a year.

War Crimes – A Short Story – Part 1

A Memphis summer dripped outside. Inside, a dusty, yellowed glowpatch affixed to the ceiling provided light. The windowless room had grimy, flattened cardboard boxes that covered most of the dirt floor. A spade rested in a pile next to a hole in the corner.

Four leather wallets, caked in long-dried mud, rested on a card table awaiting dissection. As was the style of the times for their profession, each had their owners’ names affixed to them in small, raised metal lettering.

Francis Xavier. Douglass Sawyer. Phillip Hakes. Nathaniel Torpson.

All killers. All cops.

“You were right. Here they are.” Wendall said flatly.

Jake felt a delicious anticipation. Years of research had brought him to this time.

“I once heard of a cop that was running a shakedown from behind bars. Were these guys like that?”

“Sort of,” Jake replied quietly.

Wendall was immediately disinterested and unrolled his leaf to browse.

Before Wendall had arrived to open the gate, Jake had sought out the very spot in the exterior stucco walls where the Third Civil War had begun.

He had run his hand over the concave divot left behind from the bullet that had started it all. The mark was in one of the hundreds of niches that were in the archival complex’s walls. Few knew that this was the place and fewer still knew where to look for the telltale sign. Successive additions over the years to the structure had obfuscated the spot and short memories had hidden it further.

Jake hoped that the wallets on the table were about to explain how those four came to be here and which one of them had fired the fateful shot.

He carefully removed an antique scanner from his leather satchel, took it from its case, and powered it on. Holding it close to the wallets, the telemetry data embedded in the metal letters began to flow.