STORY THREAD; Mar 17 – Mar 30, 2016 Flash Fiction Writing Contest: “3 of 4 Required Elements”

The LinkedIn Comment Thread can be found here.

This post is for STORIES related to this week’s Writing Prompt.

Required Elements – must include 3 of the 4 – singular or plural in any combination: 

  • A Gate
  • A Lock
  • A Map
  • A Railroad Track

Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

The point of these friendly contests is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.

Please Note: comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:

One story per author. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be under 1000 words.

Voting

You will need to vote for the following:

  1. Your top 5 votes in order.
  2. Story with your favorite character.
  3. Story with the best use of dialogue.
  4. Story with the best pacing.
  5. Story with the best structure.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

A link to the voting page will be posted at that time.

Winner will be announced in the Comment and Story thread.

  • You may vote only once and cannot vote for yourself.
  • In order for your story to qualify you must vote.

The winner shall name the next week’s writing prompt.
In case of ties, co-winners may be announced and the moderator shall select a winner to name the theme.
The winner has three days after the announcement to contact either Alice Nelson or Carrie Zylka via LIFlashFiction(at)gmail.com with the next theme/items of their choosing.


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13 thoughts on “STORY THREAD; Mar 17 – Mar 30, 2016 Flash Fiction Writing Contest: “3 of 4 Required Elements”

  • March 17, 2016 at 3:43 pm
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    Sinner

    By Dean Hardage © 2016

    His fingers nervously turned the card over and over, the painted image rotating between upright and reversed. Jeff examined the colorful picture framed by his hand. The Magician, the card of discovery and power. He turned it, the image reversed again. Hidden knowledge, seeking to be found. Was it just coincidence that had caused him to pick this card out of a pile of waste about to be recycled? Maybe.

    Jeff looked up from the colorful illustration, seeing that dawn had broken. He had only another hour or so before they would want to take him to the Center for his Release Ceremony. They knew he didn’t want to go and had tried to shame him into accepting his fate but it hadn’t worked. Was it gluttony to want to live more than his two score and five allotted years? Was it vain to believe that he had worth even though the blush of youth was off his cheeks? If so he was indeed a sinner and reveled in his sin.

    He glanced at the card, reversed again in his palm. Hidden knowledge. Yes, that had been the key. Like most, he was not a student of history. The past was not a subject of any real study, having been deemed too primitive to be relevant in this age of youth. It was something vaguely obscene to even mention it, let alone refer to it for wisdom. Another sin, finding a way to access the old records stored on primitive silicon microcircuits. Sin, perhaps, but not deadly. Rather, a possible path to continued life.

    Jeff took the next minutes to complete his preparations. By the time he was finished the sun was fully up and figures could be seen coming up the street. Out the back door, vaulting lightly over the fence that separated his space from public lands, and then a steady jog through the well-manicured woods took him to where better transport waited.

    He’d stolen the flyer from a museum, knowing that it had no GPS system they could use to find him. Another sin. He removed the brush he’d used to conceal it, strapped his pack onto the cargo pad, and stepped onto the operator’s platform. Strapped in, he switched on the power to the motors that silently drove the ducted fans on either side of the platform. A quick test of the controls and a twist of the old-fashioned manual throttle took him aloft.

    The batteries were almost depleted by the time he arrived. It didn’t look like much. There was a deteriorated set of railroad tracks leading to a tunnel blocked by a securely locked and surprisingly unblemished gate. There was no visible mechanism on the outside and no apparent way to open them. The pack came off of his shoulders, a small, thin rectangle extracted, and an ancient memory module inserted. The screen came to life and he tapped it a few times. He studied the image that was displayed and walked up to the gate.

    “Alpha Sunrise, Omega Eclipse”

    The gate swung open ponderously, still in good repair after all this time. Yes, hidden knowledge, the migration project, the war that decimated the adult population, the twisted “Plan” to repopulate that had covered it all up and left it buried for what it assumed was all time. Jeff stepped inside with his pack, repeated the phrase and watched the gate close. Down the track lay a squat, heavy structure that took up most of the space in the cave.

    Another solid metal door with no apparent locks barred his entry into this structure as well but another key phrase opened it as easily as the main gate. Jeff entered and locked that door behind him as well. Across the hard floor was a control panel and a platform, a gateway to somewhere else.

    Consulting the pad he once more repeated what felt like random words. The system activated, indicators flashing silently until they all lit, telling him that the door had found another. Jeff took a small, heavy object from his pack and laid it atop the control panel. Hefting his pack, he swallowed hard and stepped onto the platform. He didn’t know if what lay on the other side was Paradise, Perdition, or something in between. He just knew that nothing lay here.

    When they finally found the missing flyer they found only wreckage and the singed but still brightly colored card with The Magician looking knowingly out at them.

    Word Count 754

  • March 21, 2016 at 4:06 pm
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    Fantasy.

    “Go for her, she fancies you!” Monty egged Ajit on after Rose moved away to the other employees to leave instructions on the day’s workload. Rose looked up and smiled at Ajit before she went into her private space.

    —-

    Ajit did not bat his eyelids as he marvelled at Victorian engineering. The boats were anchored and jammed in the narrow strip of the river. The staff on land busied themselves on the platform as they operated the mechanics of the lock. A massive and oak panelled pair of gates with a footbridge on top, cranked as it closed slowly behind them, encasing all the boats for a few minutes. Facing them, a similar pair of gates creaked and drizzled the water from the river upstream before gradually opening fully to fill and level the water. The boats bobbed up and down, knocked at each other as they rose up with the flow of the lock filling up. Finally, the boats revved up and the traffic spilled out on the wider river.

    Ajit ran his fingers along the map that he was given at the tourist office.
    “Two more locks before I reach the village.” He perused over the drawn streets to find the road he was meant to take. He folded the map and put it in his briefcase.

    When he reached the third lock, he and some other passengers hopped off board and stood on the platform to watch the scenes as they revealed to them. The boats made their way upstream. Most were modern pleasure family run boats and one business boat which started life as a merchandise carrier to London, now converted into a tourist’s carrier. He looked around him to take in the beauty of the place. A swarm of ducks and swans quacked and followed him as he walked along the footpath. He stopped by a board to read the village street map before continuing.

    He reached the bridge just as the barriers went down to allow the morning train to run on the railtracks on the road. He crossed the road when the barriers lifted up to allow pedestrians and vehicles through. He turned to his right onto Mill Way and located Butt House at the end of the cul-de-sac, after a row of similar old beamed properties with names and no numbers. Ajit did not expect the lady of the house to be living in such a posh area. He double checked the name of the house from the card that Monty and he picked from the telephone box.

    The door swung open and Busty broadened her smile. “Come in lovey. Welcome to my dungeon.” She curtsied with her gloved hand and stepped back on her high heels to allow Ajit into the house. She was dressed in black from top to bottom. Her mini dress was more like a belt over her body. Ajit shifted his gaze to the floor from her bust where her bare flesh heaved as she breathed.

    “How I am going to handle this hot number?” The heat gathered under his collar. He regretted taking Monty’s advice as the doubts crept in his thoughts. “This call girl is too hot.” He bit his nails and followed her into a dark room with red curtains drawn in. Once his eyes got used to the darkness he noticed the fancy gears in that treasured room. Busty cracked a leather strap and pushed him over the bed and lodged one knee on his chest. She grabbed and dangled a pair of handcuffs.
    “Please! I’m scared? I’m a virgin!” Ajit spluttered almost out of breath.

    Busty screwed her heavily made up face and fluttered her long lashes. “Is this your first time? Are you sure you desire bondage sex? Did you read and understand my advertisement.” She asked not amused and noted Ajit’s ethnicity.

    “ My colleague sent me here and said you will introduce me to good sex.” Ajit rose from the bed when Busty moved off him. He glanced at the door. His pulse was racing in his temples. “In my country we don’t have sex or any touchy or feely before marriage and I thought I’ll experiment before I go back home. I’m new here and working on a year’s contract.” Ajit clasped his hands together and slid off the bed in an almost knelt position and asked for mercy.

    “I’m not interested in your life. I offer a business here.” Busty snapped her whip by her side and made Ajit jump.

    “I’ll pay you. Please release me. Let me go!” Ajit shot out of the room and ransacked his briefcase His fingers trembled as he pulled out the notes. Not bothering to count them, he handed the batch to Busty before shooting out of the premises.

    He hovered around in the village, feeling all broken, hungry with a dry throat. His body ached as he waited for the second evening train that passed in the village.

    “Enjoyed yourself!” Monty chuckled at the sight of Ajit. Ajit blushed shifting his eyes and evading Monty’s.

    “Yes. It was mindblowing. I enjoyed myself so much. I can’t wait for my next session.” Ajit did not want to appear as a coward and admit how frightened he was with the whole experience. “Never over my dead body.” He thought to himself.

    “What?” Rose caught the end of the conversation. “Bly me. Appearance is deceptive. I never guessed you were in that sort of thing.” She threw the day’s worksheet on the desk. “And there I was mad at Monty for setting you up and playing this disgusting game. I thought he was horrible to send you out in the unknown. I was wrong.” She bent her head and walked away, slamming the door behind her.

    Monty played with his pen and stared at the screen of his desktop. His mind was not in his work.

  • March 22, 2016 at 9:45 pm
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    Hollow Grove: Jane
    From the “Hell is for Puppies” Anthology Series
    By Alice Nelson ©2016 (883 Words)

    Jane Meadows had finally arrived at her destination, with Max the cat asleep in her lap. Max had been her constant companion ever since her husband Carl, parked his truck on the railroad tracks and killed himself the year before.

    After his death, Jane noticed people in her small Oregon town, whispering and pointing at her. Friends who mourned with Jane just a few short months before, began to avoid her, as if what happened was somehow contagious.

    Jane decided to pack up and leave; the only place she thought to go, was back home to Hollow Grove, Idaho. Nestled in a lush valley about 25 miles West of Boise, Hollow Grove was an isolated community, where the only way in or out was a long, winding road called King’s Lane; named after the town’s founder Mercury King.

    If you looked at historical maps of the town, Hollow Grove was once as much as 100 acres larger. If Jane asked what happened to all that land, her father would say, “That’s ancient history, Jane.” Shutting down any further discussion on the matter.

    Jane learned early on that some things were never talked about in her family; like the night Jane’s parents woke her and her brother, packed only necessities, and drove out of Hollow Grove, never looking back. Others fled with them, and for a while they all kept in touch, sometimes having secret meetings in the guise of a barbecue or dinner party. Then one day it all stopped, and Jane dared not ask why.

    She didn’t think there would be anyone left who remembered her, and that was fine, after what happened with Carl, all Jane wanted was a place where she could be anonymous.

    Sitting high in her 1998 Chevy Minivan, Jane drove at a snail’s pace, looking for the house. Max lifted his head and let out two clipped yelps, letting Jane know he didn’t care for the slow speed. Then Jane saw it —her childhood home. She couldn’t believe it was vacant; it was as if she were meant to come back.

    The small farm house on 42 Wicker Road sat on 2 acres, most of which was nothing more than dry fields full of cheatgrass that she and her brother played in for hours when they were young. The house itself stood on ½ an acre of deep green grass, and the pale-blue color of the house from her childhood, was now white, with a dark green trim.

    The one thing that didn’t change however, was the ornate iron gate that surrounded the house. Jane’s mother once told her that it was handmade by Mercury King himself. Jane never knew if it were true, but she loved when her mother told that story. Seeing it, reminded Jane of the happy parts of her childhood, of the closeness she once shared with Chris, as well as her parents. Today, she rarely saw them.

    Jane and Max sat out front, and waited for the realtor. She thought about Carl. Even after a year, Jane still vacillated between hating him and hating God. Both, she thought were responsible for her wrecked life, and Jane wasn’t sure if she could ever forgive either of them.

    Max showed up the day after Carl died. He was this scrawny little kitten that looked as if he were starving to death. Carl’s parents, Les and Anita were in town then, staying at the house. Carl’s mother didn’t like animals, or Jane for that matter, “Can’t replace a husband with a cat,” she said. Then the woman stomped upstairs and fell asleep in a collection of Carl’s belongings.

    The realtor arrived, and Jane left Max in the van while she did a walk through. The cat hissed his opposition to that decision, Jane just smiled and patted him on the head, which earned her another hiss.

    “Hello, Mrs. Meadows.” Realtor, Tina Brooks was a large woman, with an easy smile and a warm personality. Jane knew the house inside and out, and it transported her back to a time, when she was a much different Jane.

    The memories, good and bad, came flooding back to her all at once, and she began to cry.

    “Are you alright Mrs. Meadows?”

    “I’m fine,” Jane waved her off, “It’s been a tough year, guess I’m just happy to have finally found a place to call home.”

    Tina Brooks smiled, relieved that Jane wasn’t having second thoughts.

    Jane planned to stay in the house that night. The power was turned on, and she had a sleeping bag she could use until the movers brought her things.

    Jane was lugging the last suitcase inside, when she saw a familiar face. She was instantly gripped by an innate fear that ruined her homecoming.

    Edward Price stood across the road, Jane met his stern gaze. Ed’s family fled the same night hers did; he and Jane were even married at one point, but like everything else during that time, it ended badly.

    Jane knew it was time to deal with the past, just not today; today was for reminiscing about the good times. And Edward Price was a memory Jane wished she could forget forever.

  • March 23, 2016 at 1:11 am
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    A Technological Advantage.

    We sat on the couch, clutching each other tightly. Several officers, and a couple of detectives stole sympathetic glances at us. One of them came over and offered to get us something, anything we wanted.

    Then Agent Blake entered the room and introduced himself. “Sir? Ma’am? Trust me, this is not my first rodeo. We’ve dealt with this kind of thing before.”

    He sat down on the couch next to us, his soft voice and confident manner exuded competence. “We’ve got this neighborhood buttoned up so tight, a fruit fly couldn’t squeeze through our perimeter.” He winked. “Don’t you worry, Mr. Sinclair. This guy’s an amateur. He has no idea who he’s dealing with, or what kind of resources we have at our disposal.”

    My wife and I remained stoic. We were just victims after all. It was our son who’d been kidnapped, our money that was paying the ransom. We weren’t sure if Special Agent Blake really understood how frightened we were. It wasn’t his kid that had been taken. We didn’t really even care about the money; we just wanted our son back.

    He beckoned us to follow him and ushered us into an adjacent room that looked like a command center. A table with a map of the neighborhood dominated the middle of the room. Laptops, computer monitors, cables and closed circuit TV’s were arranged in clusters around the room. Several technicians flitted to and fro, making fine adjustments to the equipment while young, smart looking agents watched the monitors in advance of the impending FBI operation.

    Agent Blake surveyed the room proudly. “Not only will we nab this prick, but we’ll get your kid back, and your money.”

    “H-how can you be so sure, Mr. Blake?”

    He waved us over to the table. “Look here.” He put his index finger at a specific point on the map. “See this spot right here?”

    We nodded dumbly.

    “This is where he wants us to make the drop.”

    “Okay,” I managed to say.

    “Right, well this is a parking lot that’s surrounded on three sides by buildings.”

    “Uh-huh.” I was frowning with the effort to stay focused on what he was saying and why he was so confident.

    “Directly across from this lot here, are the railroad tracks, giving us a perfect spot to observe the entire drop point.” He turned to my wife and said, “That’s where we’ll leave the money, ma’am.”

    “Okay,” I said, studying the map. “What about this?” It was an alley between one of the three buildings.

    “Oh yeah,” he permitted himself a disdainful laugh. “There’s a locked gate across that alley, it’s rusted shut and hasn’t been used in 50 years.”

    “Well, couldn’t he climb over it?”

    “Oh sure,” the agent said, “but I’ve got two men stationed at both ends of that alley. Believe me, he won’t get halfway over that gate before we put the cuffs on him.”

    I rubbed my chin nervously. “But how’s that going to get our boy back?”

    Agent Blake’s face turned hard and unreadable. “Don’t you worry about that, Mr. Sinclair. As soon as I get my hands on this prick, I guarantee you, he’ll talk.”

    I was somewhat mollified by his confidence, the number of agents, and of course, all the technology. “Okay, you’re the boss. We’re counting on you.”

    “I’ll tell you what.” He leaned in towards me and whispered, “I don’t normally do this, but I’m going to make an exception and let you sit in the control room while we conduct the operation. You’ll get a ringside seat.” He beamed with confidence. “I can’t wait to see the look on this shit-head’s face when the floodlights come on.”

    “What floodlights?”

    “We’ve got floodlights mounted on two of these buildings around the parking lot. As soon as something moves down there, it’ll look like high noon.”

    And so it was all set. There were agents and police officers scattered around the vicinity. Me, Agent Blake and a half a dozen other agents were all huddled in the control room. My wife was in the other room, a female officer holding her hand. We all waited, and watched the monitors for the tell-tale sign of movement.

    “Agent Blake!” It was one of the men watching the monitors. “I think we’ve got something.”

    Blake went over and squatted down beside him. “Where?”

    “I don’t know, I thought I saw some—there! There it is.”

    “What the hell? What is that?”

    I didn’t like the sound of that, and decided to go over to have a look, but several other agents had already beat me to it. Four or five men stood huddled around one of the monitors. “Hit the lights!” One of them said.

    “Alert the mobile units,” said another.

    “What is it?” I said, pushing my way through. Agent Blake was swearing under his breath and running his fingers through his hair. “What’s going on?” I said. My voice was edgy and high-pitched, but no one responded. I pushed my way through until I was staring at the monitor, seeing it with my own eyes.

    It was hard to gauge its exact size, but a small drone had latched onto the ransom money, and as I watched, it hovered in the air above the ground for just a second, then flew straight up, down the alley and out of sight.

  • March 26, 2016 at 10:13 am
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    THE CASTLE

    “It’s down here.”

    “No, it’s along there.”

    “You’re both wrong. It’s over yonder.”

    Nina was always right, so Emma (she of the “down here”) and Zoe (of the “along there”) bowed to their big sister’s superior sense of direction. And she had the map.

    However, Zoe, the youngest of the three but also the boldest, wanted to be doubly sure.

    “You have got the map the right way up, though, haven’t you?”

    Nina gave her a withering look.

    “I should think so. After all, I drew it!”

    There was no arguing with that kind of logic, and Emma nodded to mark the fact.

    “Yes, if we just go round this bush here.”

    Nina led, Emma followed closely and Zoe brought up the rear, dawdling slightly to show that she was a little put-out by Nina’s put-down.

    Just past the bush – a splendid rhododendron in full bloom – they halted in a row, Zoe almost bumping into the back of Emma because she’d been distracted by a ladybird on her arm.

    Stretching before them was the main part of the garden – vast in their 5, 7 and 8-year-old eyes. At the bottom, five miles away by Nina’s map, stood the castle: their Uncle Stanley’s shed, its pale blue standing out from the surrounding greenery.

    “There it is!” gasped Emma, in awe.

    “There it is,” confirmed Nina, proud that her map-reading skills had got them this far.

    “I’ll race you to it!” shrieked Zoe, starting off at a run. Nina grabbed her pony-tail.

    “Ow!”

    “Not so fast!” said their leader. “We have to follow the map. And go on horseback.”

    Emma and Zoe stared at their sister, a little bemused.

    “Follow me!” Nina set off at a canter, holding an imaginary rein and making clip-clop noises with her tongue. Emma and Zoe looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and followed suit.

    They cantered, then galloped, across the lawn to the rose bushes on the right, followed the flower beds to the cherry tree, then cut back across the lawn as far as the oak tree just yards – or half a mile – from the castle. Nina held up her hand.

    “Dis-MOUNT!”

    Emma and Zoe followed her orders and they all tied their horses up on a fence behind the oak. They peeked around the tree to observe the castle, in all its glory. The roof could have done with some work, it was true, but this was the magical objective they’d set for themselves when they started out: The Castle Of Sir Stanley The Great.

    “Let’s go and look inside,” said Zoe, excited now.

    “Ssshh!” Nina put her finger to her lips. “Remember – there’s an ogre.”

    Zoe didn’t remember, but Emma was nodding again, so she assumed Nina must have told them.

    “We have to go very carefully and quietly from here. No shouting at the top of your voice … Zoe!”

    Zoe was too wound up in the excitement of the adventure now to protest her innocence, and she followed Nina and Emma as they crept along a little dirt path.

    They reached the corner of the castle and edged their way towards the main gate, keeping their backs to the pale blue wood of the wall. Nina stopped and held up her hand again.

    “Listen,” she whispered.

    “What is it?” asked Zoe, rather too loudly.

    “Ssshh!” hissed Emma. “You’ll wake the ogre!”

    They all remained quiet, straining their ears. Sure enough, from within the castle came a kind of whirring sound. They edged nearer and nearer to the gate. Nina’s hand again.

    “There’s a lock. That’s torn it!”

    “I can use my hairpin,” suggested Zoe.

    Nina looked at Emma, who nodded.

    “All right, but be careful.”

    Zoe passed her two sisters, took a hairpin out of her hair and started twiddling it in the lock.

    “I think I’ve go– AAARGH!”

    The gate swung open and the ogre emerged, scattering the shrieking girls. Only it wasn’t the ogre but Sir Stanley himself.

    “Hello, you lot!” laughed Uncle Stanley, filling the doorway of the shed with his large frame. “I was expecting you. Your mum brought some sandwiches and juice down here for you. Come on in out of the sun.”

    The girls, recovering from the shock, reassembled at the gate of the castle and entered in single file, Nina leading the way, as always.

    They spent the rest of the afternoon watching Sir Stanley operating the castle’s own internal train service, which travelled around its grounds on a convoluted system of tracks, stopping at stations, picking up cargo, dropping off passengers. All three sisters got a chance to operate the service, too.

    When they returned to their own kingdom, just as the sun was going down, they were tired but filled with a sense of achievement; they’d reached Sir Stanley’s Castle using their own means and initiative, and had returned unscathed.

    And ready for a new adventure the next day.

  • March 27, 2016 at 11:16 pm
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    The Vagaries of Fate (Revision)

    I have been married to Shimbukwa for the last 7 years. She is loyal, pretty and highly educated. Whenever I kiss her, she feels the urge to drink two large glasses of water and if it is a lingering kiss then she must drink a jug of sweetened buttermilk. Sugar is exorbitantly costly in our island; you can buy a buffalo for a few packs of sugar. And if I embrace her, she feels damn hungry and must eat. She just can’t help it. A light kiss on the cheeks has no side effects; some consolation. I consulted many doctors, but none could cure her. Some doctors even made fun of me and prescribed aphrodisiacs for me. The bastards! There is no law in our country where they can be charged or fined for their incapability. We remained childless for the obvious reasons. As I had no other complaint against her, I could never think of divorcing her.

    I met this young petite girl at a fair, who lived alone with her widowed mother on the other side of the rail tracks, we were instantly drawn to eachother. One day, she met me and informed me that her mother would be at her work all night and asked me to spend the evening until dawn with her. My conscience pricked me somewhat, but I thought it better to agree. She gave me a map to reach her home.

    When I reached the spot, I found a huge gate with a ten inches rusted lock hanging on it. It was guarded by 7 German Sheep-herd dogs, a cross breed of sheep and belldor. I was not worried, I had my map. I lit my cigarette and to my dismay, it was the map which got burnt. The area was covered by a 5 mile long wall. I tried to bribe the dogs by offering them biscuits, they did not touch them, perhaps, they were already over-fed. On the board, it was written that if you cross the marked line, they will tear you apart. Still, I went ahead and when I was near the marked line, they stood on their hind legs and howled threateningly. I took two steps back and they yodeled together musically, which looked like a Mozart symphony, in appreciation for me for not flouting the rules. I felt honored.

    I kick-started my bike and after a few yards it went dead. There was no gas in it and the nearest gas station was 3 miles away. I found a donkey and plucked grass from a nearby park. After eating it, it just slept and refused to budge. I found an abandoned horse some distance away and hurriedly bought hey from a nearby grocery shop and fed him. He allowed me riding on him and then I stood on his back and reached the wall-top and then jumped to the other side. She was there waiting for me on the other side of the railway tracks, though I was late by 3 hours. We went to her home which was 2 miles away. I wrapped my hand around her back and she clung to me.

    Her house showed that they were pretty well-off. She offered me coffee and delicious snacks, before that she changed into a skimpy nightie and looked sensuous. It pleased me. We discussed our plan to elope. She seemed to be impressed with my ideas, which I immediately changed whenever she yawned. Just when I had almost finalized it to my satisfaction, there was a knock at the door.
    “It’s mom.”
    “Oh, no!”
    She brashly pushed me out of her house through the back door.
    “When should we meat again?”
    “Not in this life! You wasted my time you are too old for me. And a big bore!”

    Flummoxed and dejected, I dragged my feet to the railway tracks. There, I spotted my horse galloping toward me. The way he neighed in pleasure, it reminded me of the Beatles. Instantly, I named him, Buddy. For days, I roamed purposelessly with no sense of direction. I lost sense of date and time. It was a dog’s life. But for Buddy, I might have ended my life.

    Finally, when I was left with hardly any money, I decided to go to my home, as I could not bear Buddy to remain hungry.

    Shimbukwa greeted me with tears of joy in her eyes and asked no questions,”I knew you will come back to me.”
    Then she rushed to the kitchen, she could sense that I was feeling very hungry and prepared the food of my choice, I relished the home-cooked food and after so many days.

    Just before retiring, I kissed her lips lightly on her cheek, as I knew it won’t create any problems. She hugged me and responded with a lingering kiss which astonished me as it did not create the urge in her for water, food etc. That night, we hardly slept and had a great time in the bed.

    In the morning, I asked her,” Your ailment I mean your malady all gone, how?”
    She smirked and her eyes danced, “Kid, you just don’t know the determination and willpower of a woman in love.”
    I became pensive,” And I ran away from you.”
    “Don’t feel guilty, my lord. That was fate.”
    My eyes became wet, “But….”
    She sealed my lips with her fingers and cuddled me, “Kushu, my love, let’s not make our today bad by thinking about the past.”
    I sobbed uncontrollably and she mothered me.

    A man is incomplete without a caring and loving woman in his life.

  • March 28, 2016 at 12:04 am
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    The Specialist

    Brenda pulled over by the road to check if she progressed in the right direction. Having driven several miles upon the deserted road she wanted to stretch and stepped out of the car. The heat from the scorching sun and a hot breeze sweeping dust from nearby sent her back in the car. She lit a cigarette and pulled the map out of her purse and observed she should hit the railroad track in a few miles.

    Brenda had seen several ups and downs in life. She was in her teens when mum and dad underwent a disturbing separation. Her dad remarried and moved away never to return and mom became alcoholic.
    In her high school years, a lonely Brenda met the handsome and caring Mario and fell in love. She moved with him. It was not until she gave birth to Joshua that she found Mario was a drug peddler. Behind his sunburned skin, black eyes, and rolled hair concealed a ruthless man who converted her into an addict and forced her to trade herself for money.

    How she put up in that insulting relation for a year she didn’t recollect. She learned one night the cops picked her up on the road, unconscious with bruises all over her and admitted her to the hospital. After spending a challenging year in the rehab shelter she came out a reformed person.

    With the guidance of social help, she found a job and studied to finish school. She had no craving for any men but deep in her heart, she aspired to find Joshua and keep him away from Mario. She searched every nook and corner of the city but could not find them.

    Years passed by Brenda changed jobs and found work in a large estate. Her curly blonde hair, curvy figure and deep blue eyes attracted many men including the middle-aged estate man Nick. Brenda perceived wedding Nick would give her prosperity and security in life but refrained from dating him before observing him closely.

    One night as she walked to her condo and was about to open the gate she heard agile footsteps from behind.
    She turned back shocked, Mario was standing behind her. He has changed little but seemed troubled.
    “What are you doing here? Where is Joshua?”
    “I need help. Not for me it’s for Joshua.”
    “What has happened to him? Where is he?”
    “He is sick and needs treatment. I have no job. Can you give money for his treatment?”
    “Sure! Take me to him.”
    “Not now. I promise to bring him here when he gets better.”
    Brenda did not hesitate to hand all the money in her purse. Mario grabbed the money and disappeared into the darkness.

    That night Brenda could not sleep and only prayed for Joshua’s health. She heard nothing from Mario in the next few days.
    Mario returned a week later with the news that Joshua’s condition worsened and needed more money for his expensive medicines. A helpless Brenda handed Mario whatever cash she had.

    Brenda could not reach Mario as he did not disclose where he lived. Mario said, “the doctors have warned exciting Joshua in his fragile health could prove fatal, for now, you can support his treatment and let him get well.”

    *****

    After a few weeks of agony and frustration, Brenda secretly hired a detective to find out about Joshua’s illness. The reports she got were most astonishing. Joshua was not ill, Mario used the eight-year-old for his profession and didn’t send him to school. He and his girlfriend abused Joshua randomly. That night Brenda stared at Joshua’s photo, the detective gave, and cried countless times.
    Brenda wanted revenge and decided Mario and her girlfriend have no right to live after all the mean things they have done to Joshua. First, she thought to buy a gun and shoot them herself, then considered she may leave traces that may put her behind bars.
    After weeks of search, she located a specialist who agreed to meet her in a crowded bar.
    She was surprised to see a skinny old woman walk up to her, “Brenda?”
    “Yes and you?”
    She neglected her question, “Give me their photos and the cash.”
    Brenda handed her the photos and the cash.
    “There should be no proof, it should look like a burglary.”
    “We are specialists, you will get a mail stating where to meet with the remaining money.”
    “Will you call me once the work is done?”
    “We don’t leave evidence.”
    She stood up and within seconds dissolved into the crowd.

    ******
    After one week, Brenda got a map in the mail that guided her to an old house beside the railroad track. Its rusted gate has not been closed in years. As she was about to knock, the door opened and it was the skinny old lady again.
    Brenda handed her the remaining money.
    She said, “They have been put to sleep. Without any pieces of evidence. A little boy suddenly came in and discovered everything. He too has been silenced forever.”
    It took a second for Brenda to react. She grabbed the old woman’s throat screeching, “Why did you kill my Joshua?”
    She felt a heavy punch on her jaw and before passing out she heard a harsh male voice, “Bitch! it’s how we work.”

  • March 28, 2016 at 6:08 am
    Permalink

    Best Laid Plans

    Catching his reflection in the glass Andrei pauses momentarily, runs a gloved hand over his week of facial growth, reassured that he blends well with the group of backpacker youth milling and haggling for cheapest rides to the border.
    He pats the breast pocket of the well worn Mountain Design down jacket feeling for the flat package shoved deep within its recesses. Taking a deep breath and exhaling air that is immediately chilled into a little white cloud, he returns to his search for a suitable driver. He is expected to be at the designated border point by dusk.

    Approaching the man leaning against the most reliable looking car among the motley collection of vehicles, Andrei extends a fistful of notes.
    ‘150 to the border.’
    Even though it is a generous offer the man blinks both eyes and turns away.
    Immediately other drivers surge forward hoping to haggle a price with this uncharacteristically well off backpacker.
    ‘Typical!’ Andrei perseveres with his man.
    ‘200; final deal.’
    Hands reach forward, grasping for the money, voices rising and tempers flaring as men shove and jostle.
    To avoid the risk of raising too much attention Andrei steps forward, hands the cash to his man of choice, offloads his worn back pack onto the back seat, and raises his hand to halt the affray.

    A small group of backpackers turn and call across to Andrei, ‘Hey dude, too good to travel with us?’
    Andrei smiles and gives them a dismissive wave. Satisfied that he has fended off any unwelcome attention he feels optimistic about choosing a solo ride to the border.
    It may have appeared less conspicuous to travel in a group with other backpackers, but being jammed up close and personal in a jeep all day would guarantee questions he didn’t care to answer.

    Across the other side of the square a man in dark glasses has been tracking Andrei since his arrival. Now he makes a phone call to his headquarters confirming that their man has arrived and is making a move.
    ‘He is dressed in backpacker style, entering a silver Skoda and travelling alone with one driver.’
    A welcoming party will be arranged at the other end.

    Batu, the driver, can speak enough basic Russian to convey that he knows his way to the border. ‘I know the way. My friends have told me.’
    As the car eases forward and heads south, the dirt road out of town quickly becomes a ghostly track that seemingly disappears into nothingness.
    With no map to follow and not much idea of the terrain between here and the border, Andrei hopes his driver will prove reliable. The railroad track that stretches from north to south will be Andrei’s best assurance that they are headed in the right direction.

    Batu is a quiet type, not uttering a word for hours.
    The sun eventually peaks in a vividly blue sky. A lone eagle soars on the current and occasionally several camels dot an otherwise empty land.
    Andrei silently revises the details crucial to a successful border crossing. The plan is to reach the staff gate undetected, work the combination lock, slip through and hand over the highly sensitive coded document in exchange for political protection.
    Protection demands a high price; separation being part of it.
    His beautiful Natalya awaits his return.
    ‘Be careful Andrei.’
    That is all she ever says when he leaves on his missions; no lectures and no questions. She has the good sense to distance herself from any knowledge of his activities.

    He turns his thoughts away from Natalya before burning desire can become a fatal distraction.
    Again, he repeats the lock code embedded into his brain; E731948. It has to be correct the first time. There will be no second chances.
    Discreetly he eyes his driver as he stares straight ahead peering through the dust encrusted windshield.
    No immediate threat detected in this fellow. Still he remains alert.

    The railroad track remains to their left, earmarked by the single telegraph wire clinging crookedly alongside as though its life depends on it – just as his does. The gate is located within the border control zone manned every few metres by armed soldiers. There is no going back and there is peril in going forward.

    As morning turns to afternoon and the sun drops lower in the west, casting long shadows over the empty land it is time to scan for signs of his destination.
    Andrei stiffens as he suddenly sees the driver sit up straighter, eyeing his rear view mirror and scanning the horizon. Andrei peers discreetly through the side mirror.
    Maybe a kilometre behind them is the unmistakable plume of dust that indicates a vehicle.
    Without alerting Batu to the fact he is aware, he keeps a discreet watch.
    The plume grows larger and he knows that whoever it is they are in a hurry and gaining ground.

    Imperceptible at first, just a slight deviation to the right, but in time all deviations become obvious no matter how slight the shift.
    He scans to his left. The telegraph line is getting further away them and taking the railroad track with it. Batu and the fast approaching vehicle begin to merge.
    Covertly Andrei draws out his mobile phone. No reception. He eyes the driver. Batu shows no emotion but, yes, there is a slight twitching of the corner of his mouth.
    Andrei considers overpowering him.
    Effecting calm but feeling moisture gathering in the palms of his hands, Andrei’s mind whirls.
    He sits tight, tense, alert; and afraid.

    The driver edges his car closer to the checkpoint. A line up of young soldiers, guns pointed – at him!
    His plan is a brilliant one until he is double crossed. He bites down on the cyanide pill. ‘They’ve got me, but never my secrets.’
    Batu turns his head in time to hear a faint ‘Goodbye Natalya.’ burble from Andrei’s blue lips.

    985 words

  • March 28, 2016 at 4:41 pm
    Permalink

    Wrestling with a Riddle
    By: Randall Lemon
    (996 words)

    “It has to be in this direction, Izzy.”

    Izzy’s older brother, Chaim sounded much more confident than he actually felt. The two teens had found the map quite by accident. They had been wrestling in their shared bedroom when Izzy kicked a hole in the wall.

    As they explored the hole, wondering if there was anyway to fix it before their father, Rabbi Engel returned home, they saw the old paper just inside the wall. Curious, they carefully manipulated the paper out of the wall.

    “Why would someone stick a piece of paper here and then cover over it?”

    They wanted to look at the paper but had to be careful not to make the hole even bigger than it already was. Father was understanding, but even his patience had limits. When they had finally extricated the paper, the two boys saw that it was a map. It wasn’t the kind of map found in books that showed the location of Essen from which they had emigrated to the US just prior to the war. It was a handwritten map which reminded Chaim of an illustration that he had seen in a copy of the book, “Treasure Island.

    The dusty old map was covered with spider webs. When they cleaned it off, they could see the map started at their house and indicated a path which was dotted with reference points like “the old hollowed out oak” and “the large boulder shaped like a horse.” The eventual finishing point of the map was indicated by a scrawled letter “X.”

    Hoping to find riches, the boys decided to follow the map. All of the people of the local Jewish community had been forced to leave behind most of their wealth and possessions when they fled from Hitler. What little money they had left had been spent booking passage on the ship and then traveling to their new community in Morgantown, West Virginia. The Rabbi’s family had moved into an old clapboard home that had been there since just after the founding of Morgantown in 1785.

    Izzy and Chaim grabbed a shovel and started following the map. They moved from landmark to landmark getting more excited with each passing minute. Suddenly Izzy stopped in his tracks, literally.

    “Chaim, these are the Eastern Allegheny railroad tracks. I don’t remember seeing any train tracks on the map. Have we gone the wrong way?”

    Chaim thought it over.

    “I’m not sure Izzy. I feel like we are headed in the right direction, at least I think so. Maybe the map was written before the train tracks came through here. Let’s just keep following the map and see where it takes us.”

    The boys followed the map for almost a half hour as it started to take them further up into the rolling hills and deeper into the woods. Just as they thought they were getting closer to where the “X” was indicated, they came to an old stone wall. It was so covered in ivy and weeds that they almost didn’t realize it for what it was. Izzy wanted to climb it right away.

    “Hold on Izzy. Let’s follow the wall for a while and see if we can find an opening in it before trying to climb it.”

    The boys followed the wall and shortly found an old wrought iron gate with a huge rusty padlock on it. The padlock posed no real problem as the gate was barely hanging by its rusted hinges. Chaim used the shovel as a lever to pry the gate free from its decrepit hinges. It made an awful noise and for just a moment, the boys froze wondering if some old mountain man with a shotgun would come to chase them off his property. But after a few moments of silence, they pushed their way through the gate.

    It became apparent to the boys that they were seeing the foundation of an old house, one which had long ago succumbed to fire and some natural disaster. The final landmark on the map indicated a well. And after some searching, the boys found the spot where the well had once stood but it had been destroyed as thoroughly as the old shack. The map said to walk 10 paces easterly from the well. This actually presented a dilemma to the boys. They assumed whoever had drawn the map had been an adult. Both teens were small for their ages. How many paces would they have to walk to equal ten adult paces?

    They measured out eleven paces and started to dig. They dug down almost five feet and were rewarded with a loud “thunking” sound as their shovel hit something wooden. Digging around to find the edges, they finally found it to be a large wooden box.

    “Chaim, I don’t like the looks of this. That box is the right size and shape to be a coffin. What if we open it up and release a ghost or something? Maybe we should go home and get Father?”

    “We’ve come all this way, Izzy. Don’t you at least want to see what’s in it?”

    They tried to lift the box, but it would budge so they pried away at the lid and finally wedged enough of an opening to expose the long hidden contents to the sunlight. There were no jewels or sacks of gold, but the contents of the box excited the boys nonetheless. Inside, they found a cache of old weapons: muskets, flintlock pistols and knives with antler grips. They also found bags of powder and shot.

    When they brought the Rabbi and some of the other adults out to see their find, it was finally determined that these weapons had probably been hidden here from the British during the War of 1812. While the boys hadn’t found untold riches, they at least ended up immortalized with a brass plaque commemorating their find at the local museum where the weapons were put on display.

  • March 29, 2016 at 12:12 am
    Permalink

    Writers hang out march 21

    Three of the four elements: A gate, A lock, A map, A rail road track.
    Extra: a switch blade, a banana peel. a bull whip. spandex pants

    Something was a miss, Darko’s growl was deep and low.
    Officer Morgan took note, Then ordered Dark o to stand down.

    “Mam’ May I see your license and registration.”

    “It’s in my purse in the trunk.”

    “Do you have any weapons in the vehicle?” Dark o gives another warning growl.

    “Mam, I am going to have to ask you to step out of the car.”

    Officer Jamison arrives as one black covered leg emerges. Dark o gave a deep throaty bark. Officer Morgan stood at the ready as the lady in her black spandex pants and sports top emerged. Dark o was released to inspect the auto.

    “Mam, we are going to have to look in your trunk.”
    Taking the keys from the ignition officer Jamison pops the lid open. The boy lay there with a switchblade thrust between his ribs, he had been badly beaten and tortured. The lady grumbled in a heap. Officer Morgan calls for more back up. Dark o lay down, bowing his head with a wine, like he was paying homage to the boy.

    “Mam, Mam are you okay? I need to ask you a few questions.” Officer Morgan gently prods her awake.

    “State your name Please.”

    “Madeline, Madeline Garmmy.”

    “Who is the boy?”

    “I have no idea,” shakes head in dismay, “I went to Gaskel Park for a run at sunrise. Parked out side the gates, they were still chained and locked. I threw my purse in the back for safety. Ran along the river for about an hour. Was headed home. Guess I didn’t see that stop sign. Didn’t know anything about that… That body until now.”

    “Mam, this is Officer Bentley she will take you to the station to sort this all out.” Officer Jamison helped her stand and walk with officer Bentley.

    ~~~

    Sheriff Mettscer spread his map across the hood of his car, “We have reports of gang activity in the area. Two large gangs went at it last night, we need to find any and all evidence. Officers Morgan, Jamison and Dark o you will take the south section along the railroad tracks. Officers Tyler, Hoggen, Diesel you will be along the river and North. Officers Jefferson, Lane, Flex east to the feed lots and Officers Gibson, Stevens, Bandit the west section. Give three whistles if you find any thing.”

    The dogs are released to search. Dark o pushes through the weeds into the center of a grove of trees, letting out several loud barks. Officers Morgan and Jamison right on his heels, stopped in shock at the sight before them. A pool of blood, a ring of thorns, A bull whip and some ripped cloth scattered around a circle. Someone, like the boy had been severely beaten here. There was a cruel cross erected. It looked as though someone had been hung upon it as you could see the raw flesh and blood left behind. A crud sign read; King of Kings.

    The sound of loud barking could be heard through out the park. The other groups must have found something as well.

    Officers Jefferson, Lane and Flex had come across a knocked over garbage can, trash and banana peels scattered about. Not far from there was a small shack in the underbrush inside they found eleven frightened young men.

    “What happened here? What did you see?”

    The one called Pieter said, “We were here eating when a group ambushed us, had us draw lots to see who would pay this years price for peace. I was chosen but he said he would pay for us all once and for all. We watched as the stripped him, whipped him, Shoved thorns upon his head and mocked him. If we tried to stop them he would tell us to back off. This was something he had to do.”

    “Who was he?”

    “We met him three years ago, he said he would lead a new gang, a gang that would bring peace. He was like a genius, he knew so much about all of us and even strangers. He could make lame people walk, the sick well. He was a marvel to us all. His name was Emmanuel.”

    ~~~

    Sheriff Mettscer went to the coroners to see the boy for himself and was in formed he was missing.
    “The gangs must have stolen his body, Where could they have taken him?”

    Walking down the road to his car Sheriff Mettscer, saw a boy and began talking with him. He asked if he had seen anything of any of the gangs around. The boy told him,”
    not to worry things were as they should be and he would guide him to the answers, if he would just trust in him.”

    Something in the way he spoke made the Sheriff look a little closer. He was sure it was the boy in the trunk they had pictures of, he thought he could even see the signs of the wounds.

    Way back in his mind he thought he remembered an event. Maybe this could be a reenactment of something from long ago. But why?

    The boy said, To remind you of my love for you and to help you remember what I did for you.

  • March 29, 2016 at 11:54 pm
    Permalink

    Dead End

    From the distance the gate had appeared much larger, even huge. Now that she stood right at it it seemed disappointingly small. It also had a two-dimensional feel to it – as if painted, drawn. A painted gate? Painted on what?

    She also could have sworn that during her approach iron fences had extended from both sides all the way to the horizon. Or had it been walls?

    Whatever, they must have turned into rock somehow, something like rock – flat, featureless stone. Well… a gate couldn’t be just drawn on thin air.

    She reached for the lock. It didn’t look much like a lock but it was in the place where a lock would be. So this must be a lock, right?

    Her fingers touched metal, as one would expect. It felt cold.

    For a moment she felt relieved. “It’s not a drawing after all then.” A moment of pause. An icy cold now began to creep up.

    She pushed the lock. The gate gave a squeaky, metallic sound, retreated a bit but stood its ground. And then there was silence – no sound at all, not anywhere.

    In her left hand: the map. She had almost forgotten. A crumpled piece of paper, some lines on it – a path, forked twice – her path… past roads not taken, suggested but not traveled, invitations ignored.

    This had been her credo throughout her short, violent life – take the road not traveled, freedom over happiness, a semblance of existence over lifelong death. A wise choice, so she had thought. Did she have a choice? No.

    On the map, one line started at what she had determined to be the end of it, the end of a life given by no one, a life whose length she had every right to determine.

    And throughout it, as far as she could remember, she had taken whatever she wanted while life had taken its own toll, every single day. Nothing is for free but nothing lasts forever. Such she had determined.

    The day in the mall, three days past her thirtieth birthday, was supposed to be her grand finale, the great showdown, the final curtain. A curtain that, as it fell on the chaotic labyrinth of a meaningless existence, was being ripped apart by a fiery explosion while her body, in the ecstatic embrace of crystal meth, was sizzled not by hellfire but by a massive load of explosives – a noble murder suicide, unreligious, unceremonious, just like that. The end.

    The bill, if any – return to sender.

    And then this.

    Her hand could barely hold on to the map so much did the cold now penetrate her body – a cold that now seemed to emanate from the bones, the very marrow.

    The map’s beginning required no explanation. The map itself was the problem, the life it represented – a life unwanted, not hoped for.

    Near the beginning: a fork to ‘Inferno’ “Not for me,” she had thought though intuitively she had known that that’s where she was headed. ‘You always have a choice if you don’t care’ had been another rule of hers back in that life that was no more.

    At the very end, the end of the path she had chosen in this unexpected extension, which by unavoidable logic could only be eternal existence, a circle had now appeared and three words, scribbled: ‘you are here.’

    “That’s ridiculous.” No smile came to her lips, no laugh – all expression frozen in the icy cold.

    “You shouldn’t be here.” Though human, the voice, matter-of-factly, reflected no concern.

    She whirled around. Behind her lay only the tracks, extending back toward the bridge and across a barren divide, a deluge of jagged rocks devoid of life. The bridge had been in decent shape – as if the winds of time had never touched it but it appeared alien, unbelonging, as if drawn, painted as an afterthought.

    “Painted.” She shivered uncontrollably. “The gate…”

    Weaker now than before: “You shouldn’t be here.”

    She knew that now. Her eyes, searching, turned to the sky – a grey, darkish void. But– as a matter of fact… there was no sky.

    “You should not have come.”

    In the distance, the bridge began to disintegrate. Beam by beam it dissolved, faded, bars silently tumbling into the depth.

    Cringing of the cold, hunkering down, she noticed a faint, yet happy tune, almost inaudible, like a wind chime miles away: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”

    And then also that faded.

    (750 words – give or take a few.)

    Copyright © 2016. Ralph Jensen. All rights reserved.

  • March 30, 2016 at 4:01 am
    Permalink

    Winds of change
    Revised

    Lorraine looked into the distance through the hazy mists and saw the railroad track. Weak and hungry, she felt could eat a horse. She stomped her feet in anger. How dare her dad leave her and go. She conveniently forgot that it was she who went in search of adventure and strayed away from the family’s trail. She shivered in the freezing winter weather.

    Weak and hungry, she felt she could eat a horse. Angry, she stomped her feet. How dare her dad leave her behind?
    Conveniently she forgot that it was she, not her family, who went in search of adventure and strayed from the trail. They hadn’t realised that silent Lorraine was missing.

    As she walked with difficulty, she came across a shanty and decided to check if anyone was there Her feet were killing her. She needed a hot bath and a massage. The Jimmy Choos were hardly for a winter trail hike. But don’t ask her to accept she had committed a mistake!

    Lorraine was a spoilt, rich girl.

    Gawd! The shanty was locked. Still she pulled at it.

    She heard footsteps and turned back; her eyes widening as she took in the sight of a strapping man boasting muscles.He was bare chested and wore the tightest shorts. His arms were full with firewood. He stopped, seeing her and his eyes narrowed. Not a FEMALE! He would allow bears, squirrels, raccoons, even a snake into his spartan space, but never a woman, however beautiful, she maybe.

    As he approached her, she fainted and fell to the ground. Darrel dropped the wood. For a moment he felt like picking the wood first. Then from somewhere empathy aroused for the woman softened his stony heart. He put the key in the lock and carried her inside. She felt light as a feather. He laid her gently onto the bed. He stood and studied her. Suddenly her eyelids fluttered. He guessed those were her natural.. His experience in women had soured him, but his knowledge remained intact..

    He recognised this one as a beauty – the kind he hated the most

    She began to moan, “Bring the food, I’m hungry, Nina you stupid girl, get the food now.”

    So this unwanted guest was hoity-toity. Well, she hadn’t met him, yet.

    “Here is soup if you want it,” he told the girl, woman, whatever!

    “What…? Where am I? Who are you?”

    “So many questions, why not eat something first?”

    “Soup; I hate soup.” she crinkled her nose.

    “Okay then, you can have some water,” and dumped a glass on the side table.

    He didn’t suffer fools for sure.

    “How did you reach here?”

    “Walking!!!” she said as if it was something she never did. “it was a terrible climb,” she pouted.
    “In those shoes, how foolish!”

    Then he pointed to the soup bowl and gestured asking whether she wanted it or not. Lorraine grabbed the bowl quickly, and gulped it as fast as she could. It was just warm. That was good. “Delicious she told him.
    Now she was fit and stood up to go, but fell back, fainting for the second time that day.

    Oh damn, she is going to be here for a while – maybe a week. He touched her forehead, it was burning. He would have to nurse her back to health. The noise of the railroad traffic troubled her and she kept moaning and turning and twisting. He put some saltwater and sponged her with a soft cloth to lower the fever.

    Three days later she woke up and found herself alone.

    Home; this place wasn’t worth her servant, but she must thank the guy for looking after her. She knew it was days, since she awoke, from her fever and in between stretches of fevered sleep; she cursed all the time.

    She grimaced. Here she was stuck with this boor of a man and all she wanted was to go home She didn’t accept she was a handful with her threshing and pushing him even in her weakened state.

    He returned and smiled, seeing her well. Finally he got rid of her.

    “What’s for food?”

    “Oh you’ll love the food. I caught two rabbits.”

    “The poor things!”

    “Okay, you can have veg soup,” he teased her.

    Once more she grabbed her plate and relished the meal. He cooked well for a jungle man. Why would he stay here in the wilderness?

    It began to snow heavily.

    He looked out and said, “Goddam, effing, HELL AND DAMNATION” A week more, he guessed and cursed his luck. He hadn’t been able to work nursing, Madame, and now tolerate her some more.

    “I have to go. You don’t expect me to stay here? Can’t you do something arrange for a helicopter. My father will reward you handsomely.”

    He laughed uproariously, and dimples formed on his cheeks and chin. He was extremely handsome.
    Lorraine blushed, was she falling for his charms? Irritated she asked, “What’s so funny?”

    “You rich girls, and their fathers!!”

    “What’s wrong with them?”

    “Nothing,” he chuckled to a private joke then again his eyes went grey and cold as he said, “Madame, you…!”
    “My name is Lorraine.”

    “Yeah okay, if you want shelter here, you have to help out with the house work.”

    “ME! I’ve never worked in my life. I’ll leave. Are there any other shelters around here?”

    “Of course – a 100 miles away.”

    “What? Why do you stay here, don’t you crave company.”

    “I don’t, I’m researching for my thesis and don’t want any interference, especially from females. Got it.”

    “On Rabbits, huh”

    For the first time, he laughed and she couldn’t laughing with him.

    “What’s your name? I can hardly call you, hey or Mister.”

    It’s Darrel”, he said. I’m French. The way he moved his tongue when he rolled the cusswords, it sounded like an endearment. It was most engaging. Was falling for him?

    He was in the same dilemma. He imagined him kissing her and then tearing her clothes, kissing her till she screamed for release. He hurried outside and began chopping wood.

    She followed him and asked “Why did you step out in this snow?”

    “Why don’t you just do your job?” he said.

    She reached and touched his dimple.

    “Don’t do that.”

    “Why, why are you resisting me? Was SHE very beautiful?”

    “Yes, and she was a bitch. She left me for my brother.”

    “Oh that’s sad.”
    “I don’t need your pity.”

    Suddenly there was the sound of a helicopter.

    “I have to leave, that’s my dad.”

    He asked her if she was desperate to meet her family.

    “I want to tell them to expect a guest in the near future, YOU!” She hugged him, handed her card and asked, “Will you come?”

    “Don’t think so.”

    She kissed him, while he stood there awed at her gumption. He smiled and touched his lips.
    “I will.” And kissed her thoroughly, unwilling to part.

    “Lorraine!”
    “We’ll meet soon, won’t we?” she asked.
    “Hmmm”

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