The Freedom Kitchen

I’m not exactly sure why I participate contest writing, but I often feel compelled to do so. Perhaps I am addicted to feeling stressed, feeling restricted, or both simultaneously. Either way, pushing myself to work within the parakeets of a competition is always exciting. Back during the September-November months, I worked on this piece for a Baltimore Review contest in which the theme was food.

Though this story did not take placement or receive awards, it is close to my heart. I enjoyed writing it. Food is an important aspect of our lives and we are often defined by it. Please, should you choose to continue reading, enjoy the journey that Katie takes through the morning on her mission to share food with those who need it most.


The instant her hands stop twirling her hair into a messy bun atop her head, Katie yanks her left hand down and checks the time on her watch.

                  5:15 A.M.

She needs to open the doors in precisely fifteen minutes, and this act is what separates her from being on time and being late. Katie has never been late to open The Freedom Kitchen, and she isn’t planning to make this a ‘first time for everything’ sort of day. An anxious huff parts her lips, and her eyes drift down check the radio clock. Without even realizing it, she adjusts her seatbelt.

                  5:16 A.M.

Eyes glistening in the lowlights of street lamps dampened by the tinted windows, Katie estimates this ride will take another six minutes if there are absolutely no delays. In all honesty, she recognizes that if she hadn’t tried begging her volunteers not to cancel their shifts, she might’ve been able to get her usual driver. Doubt over her priorities this morning creep into the edges of her mind with tendrils of cold worse than the winter laying claim to the city around her.

Guilt drives Katie to check her watch again.

                  5:18 A.M.

Simultaneously too slow and fast, the next four minutes tick by without her permission. Katie needs more time but she cannot afford to waste the time she has either. When the cab veers into the alleyway where the back entrance is located, Katie is practically shaking the entire car to gain momentum. She’ll need every bit of manufactured speed she can manage to get to that front door at five-thirty sharp.

Absently, she grabs a fistful of cash from her pocket that should be sufficient to cover fare and tip. Katie tosses it onto the passenger seat up front as she leaps free of the vehicle. She might’ve muttered something to show her gratitude but, honestly, she probably just spat out a few unintelligible words. Winter can be felt and seen in every direction. Katie hears it in the roaring winds, feels in the nipping frost, and smells it in the slush puddles of mud and newspaper along the steps she climbs.

Just as she enters the dilapidated building with red bricks weathered brown, Katie checks her watch.

                  5:24 A.M.

Wafting scents of boiling tomatoes, simmering cocoa, and freshly baked bread weave into the fabric of her clothes. Katie makes her first stop in the break room where she hangs her coat and kicks off her snow boots in favor of a pair of simple black sneakers she kept in a corner. Without pausing for a breath, she jogs back into the hallway and lunges all the way to her right.

Despite her awareness, the heat of the kitchen envelops her body unexpectedly. After volunteering here for years, Katie writes this sensation off as silly. She knows how important warmth is for their guests when they are visiting and does little to rid this section of the building of it. Once she slows down and refocuses on her surroundings, she pinpoints the dry erase board. Somehow her shortage of staff hasn’t stopped the number of servings the soup kitchen can hand out from doubling from the week prior. There must have been more donations or better time management, if not both. Katie crosses her fingers, hoping that it was a combination of both.

Several people approach her grumbling and groaning, asking a ton of questions all at the same time. She desperately wants to answer them all but she knows that these minutes are just too precious. Unless there’s a reason that she shouldn’t open the doors on time, then she figures it can wait until they shut everything down and start cleaning. She shakes her head, turns on her foot, and begins racing into the dining room. If they have enough food to serve two hundred people, then she needs to make sure both dining rooms enough seats.

As she slides into the west hall, Katie practically slams her watch against her face.

                  5:26 A.M.

She always sets a three-minute timer for the kitchen staff when she’s walking to open the doors. Time is flying at the speed of light. Katie forces her gears to shift rapidly, twisting and turning every which way to pull out the timer and avoid other volunteers as she returns to the kitchen. The magnets on the back of the timer make a clang when she drops it on the counter before turning away.

                  5:27 A.M.

It takes precisely one minute to get back to the front of the building. Lying on a bench is the plastic poncho she wears when she invites the homeless inside for their place in the soup kitchen. Katie feels herself tearing up for a split second, understanding anew just how genuinely impactful the meals can be for these individuals. When folks share food, they are sharing more than just a meal. Bonds are formed over a plate filled with food and glasses sloshing with preferred drinks. Lifelong relationships almost always begin with a drink and a dinner.

Being able to give food to someone who is suffering and struggling to survive is not unlike sharing a home with that person. They may have to sleep under brides and alleyways, or squat in an abandoned building with no heat, but their primary security comes from being able to eat. Sharing these Sundays with hundreds of individuals fighting to get back on their feet is the single most important thing she’s ever done. Katie lets a breath out, deflating and letting go of all of the stress that built up from her running around all morning. Habitually, she takes another peak at her watch…

                  5:29 A.M.

…And then she opens the doors to a line of grimy, smiling faces that are just as excited to see her, as she is to see them.

“Morning!” Katie says, the chill of the wind ripping through the thin plastic of her poncho. An elderly man gets to his feet after having been napping against the wall. He dusts himself off before offering his hand. She helps him up the last step and pulls a chunk of frozen mud from his beard.

Katie squeezes his hand, “You can’t been sleeping here at night, Charlie. You know that.”

“And miss your lovely face?” he inquires. “I wouldn’t lose my seat at The Freedom Kitchen for anything, Miss Katie.”

He looks worse for wear, and Katie wonders how many more weeks of this Charlie can handle. He’d been very sick just a few weeks ago and she tricked him into seeing a doctor for some medication. She scoured the city to find a shelter that had an extra bed, but he lost it only two days later because he wanted to be first in line at the kitchen for his Sunday meal. To hide her worry, Katie steals a glance at her watch precisely as the numbers switch over.

5:30 A.M.

“It’s time to eat, Charlie, why don’t you get our line moving, okay?” says Katie, a boisterous and confident tone passing through her grinding teeth. The icy weather is cutting straight through to her bones but she knows that it is nothing compared to what the line of people beside her must experience every single day. Charlie nods at her remark and starts making his way into the kitchen for his soup, bread, and hot chocolate.

People begin passing by in slow chunks but she stays to greet each of them before their meal. The small talk makes the winter weather more tolerable for everyone. It helps that there are quite a few familiar faces. In fact, Charlie ends up only being the first of many who came back to see Miss Katie, the nice lady who is always checking her watch to make sure everyone gets taken care of on time at The Freedom Kitchen.


We Need To Be Nice

            “Who gave you these, sweetheart?” her voice quivers at the sight of a hemp doll lying stiffly on the table. The children lower their gazes and do not reply. Fear tickles her throat, but she tries a more stern tone, “Sweetie, what house are these from?”

            Neither child even so much as blinks. Hesitantly, she lifts the doll to her face to analyze the blue dress. It is strangely familiar in a way she cannot explain. There’s also a small envelope, about four inches wide, pinned to the back of the brown doll. Locking eyes on her daughter briefly and taking a deep breath, goose bumps cover her entire body. She reads the name on the envelope aloud.

            “Denise…” she watches her daughter closely. There’s no response. She repeats herself, making it clear that she’s asking a question now, “Denise?”

            Her shaking fingers make a jagged tear in the thick paper, exposing a blood red piece of cardstock. A rotten odor erupts when she parts the envelope to remove the note. She also gags when touching the somewhat damp paper, feeling that it might’ve been wet earlier that day.

            “We were caught being naughty, Charlotte,” her daughter remarks, keeping her hands folded in her lap. Hearing this is shocking because Denise is one of the most obedient little girls at school, and she almost always wins the monthly citizenship award in her class.

            Then her son abruptly stands up and dumps his trick-or-treat bag, revealing a similar doll with a matching card. Even if she doesn’t feel the sting of tears forming, they are undoubtedly streaming from her eyes. With wet cheeks, she manipulates the angle of the card so that she can read it while still watching both children.

            As she’s starting to scan the paper, though, she scolds her daughter for not calling her by the right name. “Don’t call me by my first name unless there’s an emergency.” She waits for her daughter to apologize but Denise doesn’t make a peep.

                       This little girl was caught being naughty,

                       So here’s your chance to make her be nice.

            “Denise, you need to tell me what is happening right now,” she demands, flashing the card for both children to see the message. “I’m not asking anymore. Tell me where you got these dolls!” She glowers at her son too, hoping he might respond after being acknowledged. But he just remains standing with his trick-or-treat bag turned upside down.

This scene is frightening. What could they have possibly done naughty? Her youngest is never disobedient. Her oldest is never defiant. Something is very wrong and it worries her deeply.

            “Somebody needs to tell me what this nonsense is about now, or you’ll both be grounded for a month!” she shouts, although it probably sounds more like a shrill scream. Panic begins settling into her bones, making her tremble. Rigidly, she straightens herself back to her full height.

            “I was naughty, Charlotte,” Denise declares in an empty voice. The sound of it carves a pit in her chest. Towering above them, hands on her hips, she stares her son down instead.

            “Travis Mitchell Bowers, you better start talking. Is this a prank? If this is a prank and you tell me right now, I’ll forgive you for taking it this far, but if you keep playing around like this,” her voice cracks, “then you’ll be grounded until Christmas.”

            They both gawk at her helplessly. Tears form in their eyes but they are not clear. Blood is dripping down their faces and she nearly faints at the sight of it. As the teardrops fall, she notices the card on the table melting, spreading, and dripping on the floor in unison as they cry. A coppery flavor fills hers mouth at the sight.

            “They’re voodoo dolls,” Travis says coldly, “and you’re supposed to make us be nice, Charlotte. We were naughty.”

            Denise chimes in, her childish voice bubbling up and over her lips in an unfamiliar squeal, “We need to be nice.” Her statement quickly evolves into a chant, which Travis joins immediately.

            “We need to be nice.”

            “We need to be nice.”

            “We need to be nice.”

            Dolls and letters in hand, she races away from her children to the sink, their voices growing louder with each repetition.

            “We need to be nice.”

            Fumbling through the junk drawer just to the right of the sink, her vision begins to blur while searching for a lighter. A massive gasp of relief flies from her lungs when she finds one stuck beneath some neglected mailers. One hand traps the dolls in the sink while using the other to get a flame from the lighter.

            Once she sees a spot of fire, she pushes it against hemp dolls from her children’s bags. Unfortunately, before she turns back to talk to her kids, the same scent from the envelope returns, only it is much stronger now. Horror washes over her as she sinks to the floor, hearing their voices over the crackling of their bodies.

            “It hurts to be naughty!”

            “We need to be nice!”

A Place for Me

I wrote this story for a short story contest hosted by On The Premises recently. The theme for the entries was “community” and writing for this had been difficult for me. There ended up being 202 entries for the first round of judging. The top 10% of stories were chosen to be reviewed for the final judging round – which would have been 21 entries. The story below the line – “A Place for Me” – was one of the top 21 entries reviewed for the Top 10 submissions. Unfortunately, I just barely made the cut. That being said, I still wanted to share with you what I wrote and prove that I’m not missing just because I’ve lost my way. I’m working on original pieces. Without further adieu –


“A Place for Me”

Read & Enjoy



I know that I am breathing simply because I am not actually suffocating, even if my brain is convinced that I am doing precisely that. Each time I make another four inch drop and sink nearer to the ground floor, I feel my hear rate double. The pounding is so loud that is the only thing I can hear besides the actual slamming of it against my chest is the rushing of blood in my head. My vision blurs about halfway through my descent and I practically fall the rest of the way down.

Per the usual, my father has his arms crossed and is clicking his tongue at me. “You’re running late. The dance starts in thirty minutes,” I forgot, but only because I’ve been trying desperately to pretend that I didn’t properly make plans to go. My parents have been begging me to watch after my sister, counting on me to see if she’s up to no good, but I simply cannot. Being around people makes me uncomfortable. The way they smell, the way they talk, and the way they contort their face; it makes me physically nauseous. What are they thinking? What are they feeling? Other people might as well be foreign beasts or aliens with the way that they frighten me.

“S-sorry…” I stutter what could have been the beginning of a considerate apology, or another one of my pathetic excuses. Fortunately, my mother comes strolling around the corner with my sister, whom is dressed beautifully in her short black dress and white leather jacket. My sad attempt to show regret for not wanting to go is diminished by the gasp of concern that escapes my mother’s mouth. I hear him start scolding her but I can’t ignore my sister enough to really hear them. She grounds me.

Analise is the opposite of me in nearly every way imaginable. Where I am flat and average, she is curvy and developed. She has my father’s height and my mother’s naturally springy, curly hair. I am short, more like my grandparents, and have my dad’s stick straight brown hair, which I wear short so I don’t have to brush it often. Most days, Analise is the innocent girl next door that has good intentions and a heart big enough to share, much like a hero in any video game. In comparison, I’m just the boring non-playable character that probably has an item for a side quest that has a lame reward for accomplishing it.

I reckon that she’ll be fine at the dance by herself, and I think that’s what scares my parents most. Analise is gorgeous to boot, and not everyone around her means well. If she were my daughter I’d be worried too. My mind gets goes to static as I begin tuning back into the conversation between my parents. I am grateful to hear my mother defending me.

Shaking her head, “Gerald, I don’t think she can do it. We’re asking too much of her.” She’s always been more reasonable about how debilitating social activity can be for me. Appreciation for her fills every empty crevice inside of my chest but the only response I can manage is to cry. That’s how my brain reacts to any sort of input overload, such as an argument about my status as a recluse. Even though my mother is supporting me, my father still denounces the possibility that she’s right. He always does. It makes my crying even worse, my body trembling at the very sound of his breath.

“Mathilda!” He shouts way too sharply. My mother wrinkles her nose in the way that assures him there’ll be consequences if he doesn’t change his tone. Analise and I learned where our limits were when we were in pre-school, and it’s horrifying that he still dares to push her to that point as an adult. “She can’t keep living like this!”

My sister approaches me and then pulls me to the side, placing a hand on my shoulder as she redirects me. In a soothing tone, she coaches me the way she does every day for school. Before we get on the bus she has to hush me into silence, and once more when we get to school because I’ve begun to panic again. Analise doesn’t realize how important she is to my being able to get through school every single day. Without her comforting, I couldn’t make it. I would have quit years ago.

“Ciara is just different, Gerald, and we can’t push her into a social situation. We have to ease her into these things,” she remarks defiantly. She used to struggle with social anxiety too, so she understands why I’m having trouble. My issues are worse than hers ever were when she was my age, I guess, which has my father convinced that I’ll just get over it by the time I graduate high school in the spring. His frustration grows the closer we get to our ceremony in June.

“I don’t care if she’s different! She’ll never survive on her own if she doesn’t get involved with the community! Ciara belongs with her peers – not behind some computer monitor!” he shouts at the tops of his lungs. Rather than anger prickling the edges of his words, it is pure frustration. Though his continual complaining about my social anxiety is grating, I try to remember that he just wants me to be normal.

And he has no idea how badly I wish to be exactly that: normal.

There’s this community, this society, this whole world, full of normal people.

Then there’s me – unambiguously abnormal – and I just don’t belong.

“Dad,” my sister begins. There’s probably more that she says, but her voice becomes distant and my vision darkens. All around me the heavy world melts and solidifies in my gut. The air tastes cold; the earth feels shaky; and my brain evaporates inside of my skull. As I feel the world disintegrating around me, I hear Analise repeat herself more sternly, “Dad!”

Blacking out isn’t unusual for me, especially when I’m being forced out of the house. Any sort of gathering that would provide literally anyone else with ‘a sense of community’ and ‘a sense of togetherness’ just ends up leaving me empty. My father has criticized me constantly for years now, as if I have some control over it, but he never used to say anything in front of me. I wish he still had that discretion, honestly. I’m glad that when I come back to it is to the solitude of bedroom. My eyes adjust to the darkness effortlessly.

In the far left corner, I can see the soft glow of my computer screen, where I spend almost all of my time when I’m home. Sometimes I have nightmares about blacking out and waking to my father unplugging everything. Forget failing, dying, or being cheated on by some short-term boyfriend – being without my games is my greatest fear. I need these black curtains, dual monitors, and consoles. These things give me the motivation I need to continue living.

Logging in is second nature. I type my password and click the icon I want without even glancing at the screen. My left hand reaches out to open a shallow drawer. I keep my headphones there so I never accidentally knock them to the floor. They’re an instrumental part of my gaming experience and I would go crazy without them. The loading screen fades away when I look up to plug my chord into the appropriate port. Just as I do this, a ping erupts in the headset from the messenger program I use with my guild group. This particular tone is unique, assigned to one specific contact, and I know my best friend is online immediately. Instead of tapping a reply on the keyboard, I hit the hotkey to dial out to her automatically. When she speaks, her voice is so rich that I feel the thickness of it wash over my body, “I thought you had to go be a part of the real world tonight. What happened?”

Explaining my worries to her is not necessary. She already knows. All it requires is three simple words, “I blacked out,” and we move on from the topic. An notification message materializes over my inventory menu, a probationary invite to a campaign mission: The Mayflower Maybe. The creator, my best friend, goes by the gamer tag MaybeMay, which is a pun for her real name. I accept the request immediately, but not without harassing her, “Your best mate has to undergo the probationary period?” She laughs at me as I spawn inside of the lobby of her personal server.

Giving life to the joy that erupts from May when she laughs is impossible to accomplish with just words. Hearing her happiness through my headphones is one of the best parts of my day, every single day. I often question why anyone would ever want to be a part of the outside world. There could be someone online living on the other side of the world who could be the most perfect part of their lives.

“As a leader of the people, you must impress my people if you wish to stay,” she details in a voice that reminds me that she’s as much a leader as she is player. I do run my own campaigns, and I have plans to also get a server running so that I can host multiple guilds for my growing players’ circles. I do well in the background, generally, but she’s the ‘front-and-center’ type. MaybeMay just happens to be a more natural leader all around.

Even though I’m new to this particular campaign, many of these players recognize my handle, and they fire off their warm welcomes in the public chat. Seconds barely tick by before the private messages begin filtering to my inbox. Compliments, excitement, compliments, resources for expected behavior, upcoming events, more compliments; and I love knowing that this is my safe place. No matter that I can’t physically see them, they’re as familiar to me as my own family.

Unexpectedly, I hear a knocking at my door and I lurch forward with determination to be quiet. My fingers hurriedly shut off my monitor and hold my breath. My mother is wanting to check on me, I’m sure, and if she knows I’m on the computer she’ll end up telling my dad. If he knows I’m playing my game already, so soon after I’ve passed out, he’ll keep blaming the games for my anxiety. I know that this not true. I really am just that dysfunctional.

MaybeMay’s voice asks me if I’m okay, since I’m just running in circles, and I manage a strangled shush into the microphone. A few more knocks imprison me in this frozen pose, concealing myself from the harsh judgment. How can my father want me to go join the world and be an active member of society with my peers when I can’t even escape his disparagements for having a personal preference?

Once I know I’m in the clear, I apologize solemnly.

“Someone knocked at my door,” I huff, “and I couldn’t tell if it was Dad.”

MaybeMay is protecting my avatar when I turn my screen back on, and there are concerns in the chat that I’ve lost connection. The general tone doesn’t bother me nor does it come off as rude. She assures everyone that there was a personal matter that arose but that I’m confirmed as being back online. To verify, I teleport myself to another player whose just had a low health warning come across the team notifications banner. Usually I’m the healer when I’m not playing as the guild master, and I fall into the routine very easily.

Our campaign mission takes the team four attempts totaling nearly six hours. Weariness settled into my eyes quite a while ago but I don’t know when for sure. Once we’re all done trading our wares and treasures with the merchants, I exit the software and rummage through my emails. MaybeMay lingers online to talk me, despite the reality that it’s even later into the night for her.

Initially, she goes on about some of the small tasks that littered her day, until she hopped on to do her usual work on the server and website. She works from home for some graphic arts company, and only leaves the house a few times a week to do mandatory errands. Her idea of socializing is a LAN party, or some other mass gaming event. I admire that lifestyle and usually remind her at every opportunity that I am jealous. Today, though, I deviate from that pattern.

“Do you think I’m broken?” I shudder at acknowledging my difficulties assimilating to the normal world. More often than not, this reality gets swept beneath some metaphorical rug. Outside of the house, we spread this lie that I’m just extremely shy. Sometimes people try to give me advice – imagine everyone in their underwear, a universal nugget of wisdom, it seems – and other times they just tut their tongue at me. Every so often someone might become bold enough to blame video games or technology. Of course, my father agrees, and his face sinks in confirmation of their theories.

MaybeMay doesn’t reply at first. This startles me because she’s normally doesn’t have to pause to fully consider anything, not even a loaded question such as this one. She attributes her ability to rapidly resolve questions or issues to her gaming, and then she cracks a joke about the people who blame games for a ‘lazier’ generation. I suck in as much air as my lungs can hold just as she replies.

“Yes…” I wasn’t expecting to hear her say that and I’m dazed. I am sure this moment between heartbeats will kill me.

“…but I think we all are broken in our own unique ways. You and I, we’re the same sort of person. Your dad, well, he’s just a different type. His idea of being involved and having a sense of community is really different from yours. Maybe it’s our brains, maybe it’s not, but whatever it is – nobody can say the gaming community is fake any more than they can say that kids at a stupid school dance are fake.” I didn’t think I could ever feel so strongly about a monologue, but this one has me shedding tears of joy. Clarity settles into my mind’s eye. Being different isn’t as bad as my dad makes it seem. MaybeMay gives me the ability to see myself as complete and strong, accepted and appreciated, respected and valid. Everyone should have a friend as loving and as honest as she, but that’s what scares me about the real world beyond my door.

Not everyone is so loving.

Not everyone is so honest.

And not everyone is broken like me.

“I needed that,” my thought escapes effortlessly through my lips. My features relax, and so does my body, as I begin closing all of the windows on my screen. Remaining maximized is my messenger program, silence hanging loosely between MaybeMay and I. Discomfort dares to creep into my thoughts but more than anything I’m just happy to share this sort of moment with her. MaybeMay reminds me a lot of Analise; a sister when my sister is away.

A digital clock next to me shifts into the next hour. Without a doubt it is time for me to go to bed, and so I begin the process of saying good-bye. Once I’m whispering my departure plans, MaybeMay reveals she’s logging off too.

Yet she stops me from ending our call. She insists that there is one last thing to be said before we disconnect and carry on with our lives outside of the game. I hold my breath so that I may drink in every drip of confidence I may derive from it. “A real community is just a group of people that care about the same things together. Tell me that our virtual family isn’t real – I dare you.”

A smile spreads across my face just as the signature sound of a user switching offline dings in my headphones, ears, and body. What I did to deserve her, I may never know, but I won’t question it either. I crawl into my bed knowing that no matter what my dad thinks – what I feel is real, and he can never make it go away.

A Mother’s Help

THE SOUND OF BREAKING GLASS stopped her in her tracks. Dana promised her daughter that she could have the house all to herself this weekend while she stayed with grandma for the evening. In her old age, however, she locked herself out of the house. Sneak in – get keys – sneak out – that was the objective.

That was the objective, anyway.

But the sound of breaking glass stopped her.

There was another voice coming from the kitchen when Dana gt inside, but she couldn’t just waltz in unannounced. It would violate the trust that she’d built up with her temperamental daughter. For weeks anything would hurt her feelings and set her off into a fit of swearing or crying. Dana wrote it off at teenage hormones, a flare of aggressive independence. In just one year, after all, she would be going off to college.

So Dana agreed with her daughter, “Alaina, you can stay home alone for the weekend every so often. Grandma wouldn’t mind the extra company.” It was an arrangement that would have been made naturally anyway. Dana’s mother has been getting forgetful and disorganized. Soon she would not be able to live alone anymore. There is an in-between stage and Dana knew that it would be weekend visits. Then nightly dinners, and so on, and so on…

The second voice was familiar; too familiar. Dana was able to identify it as Alaina’s boyfriend: Roger. He was a kind enough young man, but rarely ever wanted to do anything social with her. The mother always found it a bit strange. Still, her daughter insisted that he was just a bit shy and a homebody. Most of their relationship has been spent watching movies and making food runs together. He’d never so much as invited her to a school dance.

Needless to say, Dana didn’t exactly want Roger to be a permanent fixture in her daughter’s life. The breaking glass paired with shouting only reassured her gut feeling that he was not the right person for her.

“You said you fucking ordered the food!” Dana inched around the house in a way only Alaina could share mastery in doing, and weaseled her way into the bathroom between the kitchen and bathroom. From there she heard the fight deepen and another glass shatter.

“I thought it submitted the order! Please don’t break my mother’s dishes. These were gifts from her aunt!” And they probably were, most of the dishes Dana owned were from her mother’s best friend. She’d been a better aunt than any of her real ones, and so every silly dish she sent for holidays was kept and used regularly. It made Dana’s life as a single mom a little less serious, and it was something Alaina always thought was pretty cool too.

“You’re going to make a shitty wife. You can’t cook and you can’t place a food order. No wonder nobody else wanted to date you!” Dana resisted the urge to intervene, but instead dialed 9-1-1. She whispered her anonymous complaint as she snuck back out of the house and went into the car where her mother was waiting.

A noise ‘at the neighbors,’ she’d asked Dana, whatever for – it was so quiet outside. Dana explained that Alaina was having a bit of trouble and she wanted to give her a free ticket out of the mess. The discussion about Roger would be a private one, after the police carted him away.

And so she drove her car around the block and waited at a safe distance for officers to arrive. Dana watched and waited until finally Roger was escorted off of the property, in handcuffs no less, before calling her daughter on the telephone.

“Hi mom,” her voice understandably deflated.

“Grandma locked herself out of the house. I think we’ll be crashing at home instead. Sorry to ruin your weekend alone.” Dana said in her maternal tone, the one she used to apologize and comfort simultaneously. She is surprised, just slightly, when Alaina laughed in reply.

In a quick breath, “I don’t want to be alone tonight anyway.”

Dana knew before she got back home that Alaina would reveal the truth about Roger – the dark, nasty truth – and she would never know that it was her own mother that saved her. That would be okay, though, because a mom never needs recognition. She only needs her child to be safe.

Credit to the prompt generator I used when looking for inspiration for this story.

Also, if you are ever in an abusive relationship, please consider using this website to make the change you deserve in your life. There are one-on-one chat services available and resources to assist you during this difficult time of making a positive change.

The Worst Dinner?

A dish of lies, I say!

There is little more in the world worse than being tricked. My friends had never taken my vegetarianism seriously. One friend in particular was having a big party for Thanksgiving and invited some of his friends. I rarely turned down a social invitation, and as such, I attended with enthusiasm. After all, he had assured me there would be options for “my type of diet.”

When I arrived there was a plate set for me. I questioned the source of protein, asking if it was the tofu he promised me would be available. I even offered to cook it myself when I arrived so long as it was made available. No, he insisted! He insisted that I be treated like a guest. I took the plate as he insisted that it was definitely tofu. Sometimes when prepared one cannot tell the difference between tofu and some meats just looking at it. In this case, I could not be sure due to the dressings and sides. I trusted his word to be honest and went to the extra dining room to enjoy my meal with friends.

Or people I thought were friends.

I was so hungry I didn’t even notice everyone watching with baited breath as I took my first bite of the tofu. As I breathed in the area before even getting the morsel into my mouth, I knew. This was not tofu. I thought it would be rude to spit it out so I swallowed, silently praying to my god that I wouldn’t die. Afterwards I swiftly pushed it to the side and worked very slowly through my vegetables.

As soon as the room cleared and eyes were not waiting for me to “enjoy” the “tofu” again, well, I did what any angry teenager would do! I marched to his parents in the main dining room as the schmoozed with friends-of-friends. Wine glasses clutched lazily in their hands – I announced what their son had done to me. They only seemed partially upset, but generally indifferent to the shenanigans of their forever-a-brat child. If that would not put a fire in their hearts, I could think of something else that most certainly would capture their attention.

“Oh, and did you know you son is selling meth to half of the basketball team? He brags that he has been making in the attic.” I did not wait for their response. Surely news of my friend’s punishment will be the juiciest social news for a week or two. It was immature, unquestionably, but I like to think I was able to save their son’s life that day.

Tell Me, What Could Possibly Happen?

A raindrop could fall in the eye of an old man picking dandelions from his garden. He could fall backwards and trip on the hoe he forgot to pick up (again). His leg could break in those few seconds. He would have to go the hospital by car with his nervous wife who won’t stop crying, surely.

They would take him back into a room and check his injury. They could find a mass in his leg that is concerning, something he probably had dismissed as a part of his arthritis. They would take a biopsy.

A week later, because of that single second when a raindrop startled a feeble old man, he could receive a call from his oncologist. That old man would be reassured that they caught his leukemia early and it would unlikely that these are the last of his days.

Excalibur Returns (An Original Short)

Contest Host: WOW! Women on Writing

Contest Title: 2016 Flash Fiction Contest (With Critique)

Placement: None


The ethereal world around me shames even my most whimsical dreams. I feel perfectly at home here even if I have no idea how it is I’ve even arrived. This place is so hauntingly beautiful that I can only presume that it is luck that I’ve stumbled upon this paradise.


“But why is it that I feel so lucky?” Not even the tiniest piece of me felt afraid to be somewhere with which I was unfamiliar. There were no questions as to whether I was in danger. My admiration for the scenery left me dumbfounded but put my simultaneously at ease. Why is it I would consider myself lucky instead of concerned?


“Because you are,” A divine harmony echoes throughout my mind. Surely it was the single most brilliant voice in all of time and space. Hearing it speak is distracting in the moment that I hear it but also in the seconds that tick by with slow deliberation afterwards. I nearly forget to look around for a person to whom the voice belongs but in my heart I know will not find one. Regardless, I twirl halfheartedly knowing in advance that no human could so sound divine.


When I stop my eye catches the slightest glimmer of sunshine bouncing off of a dewy patch of moss. Clouds pass overhead breaking what little light shone through the vast canopy. The moss that was just radiant green is now as dark as night, barely recognizable as any form of plant life. Something in my heart propels me forward to explore this patch of moss very specifically. The closer I get to it the harder my heart pounds behind my sternum.


Once I am hovering directly above the chameleon moss I notice that there’s a strange sort of light around it. The way it moves reminds me of a small stress on the countryside. Alas, it is not actually bright light, like what you would see from the sun, but rather palpable nothingness that casts a demanding aura. I cannot resist the urge to stare into the abyss.


Unsure what it is I am experiencing makes me curious rather than frightened. I slowly poke each hand into the void in hopes of discovering something with which I can make a deduction about this strange patch of plant life in this oasis. Why does is radiate power in such a way that is distinctly different from the rest of the forest?


At first I feel nothing more than a soft breeze. For a second I shiver due to a chill that is best described as a wind tiptoeing up my spine. Since I have no reason to believe that there is any danger I lean in further to take a deep breath. Does it smell as harmless as it looks?


“On the ground,” the voice returns only to alert me to the mistake that I’ve made. Agony washes over me as violently as the Thames. The pain is tangiblly audible to the point that I cannot even tell if I am screaming. My eyes remain clamped shut as I suffer through whatever has overcome me.


Time seems to stop so that my punishment may hold the attention of the entire universe. My palms are hitting the ground with flagrant protest. I found this paradise to be alluring and perfect but now I damn it for what it has done to me. Through the aching I force my fingers to inspect each frill, blade, and bulge in hopes of identifying an escape. The only thing that exists in me is the will to survive. It is only several cuts, bruises, and rashes later that I finally identify something that is foreign…


Something that does not belong…


And it is so very, very cold.


It is lean.

It is sleek.

And it is cold.


Without justification I bring the item to my chest, eyes still closed as the pain continues resonate through my bones. In a way, the echoes of suffering are worse than the initial inflictions. In my heart I know that this punishment is somehow instrumental to my escape. Perfect as it seems, I have no desire to continue my adventure here.


Silence begins to fall around me. Clamped eyes begin cracking open so that I can examine the trinket that I have discovered. The cool temperature that had stood out in contrast to my hot pain is wholly refreshing. I find myself absently attached to this object in a way that I find myself describing as ‘victorious.’


It is almost as though I had achieved the task for which I was brought to this place. As I suspect this presently, it is also confirmed; “What you hold now is a necklace fashioned from the shattered remains of a scabbard once known as Excalibur. For far too long I have waited for another to carry its burden once more.”


Enthralling as the voice is, as the setting is too, I cannot resist laughing at this premise. Tendrils tug in the back of my mind insisting that this is reality but in the forefront of my mind I have the slightest suspicions this is little more than a dream. The feelings, sensations, and pains that I experienced are remnants of regret and accomplishment that I feel in a real world somewhere beyond this place. I would be mad to believe that this luxurious getaway is real.


When my laughter fades, though, I find that there is a soft denial. The rhythm in my heart changes and my lungs breathe air differently. I am not independent. The voice seems to instruct me how to feel and what to think. Within seconds my mockery of the possibility twists away from that rooted doubt. As it lifts it is quickly replaced with acceptance; “And yet as much as you lack belief you are equally as easily swayed. Does your necklace not feel as icy as a winter’s night? Those are Excalibur’s remains in your very hands. Your presence in Avalon is not some innocuous hallucination. Of this I can promise you.”


I command myself to wake, or so I believe that I have done as much. The brilliant world around me is replaced with dull gray walls. Stained cream curtains billowing in the polluted wind cover a cracked window. I am instantly reminded that I live in a city plagued by crime and anarchy. Displeasure flows steadily in my veins. The largest part of me regrets leaving Avalon. Real or not, I already prefer to be there in spite of the dangers it may contain.


“You are meant for great things,” The voice asserts finally as my gaze settles on the blankets that cover me. A heavy object seems to be weighing them down. My fingers feel a breeze rolling off of a necklace that is immediately familiar to me. Excalibur is real and it is here in my lap. The peace that I felt in Avalon returns and I find myself trusting in the words of my invisible guardian.


I easily clasp Excalibur around my neck. It was much heavier in my hands. A second passes in which I consider removing the jewelry but the thought feels insidious. A soft whispering in the deepest crevices of my mind is insisting that I was meant to carry this burden. To exist without Excalibur would defy the universe.


A gunshot yanks me back into the world beneath my window. I rip the curtains back with assurance. This world must change. I must change this world.

Well, That Was Impressive.

Author’s Note: This was supposed to be a Flash Fiction entry, but once I started writing the story it became so much more than a flash fiction piece. The word count climbed quicker than I was typing, it seemed! 700, 1100, 2600, 3400, 4500, 5000! It just kept climbing up and up until when I finished I realized I had more of a short story than a flash fiction piece. Regardless of length, I hope that you find time to enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

So this week’s prompt actually came from Propmts’N’Stuff from Tumblr. You can visit the blog here!    When you see the prompt and then read the story, you will note that I did take some liberties – but the general concept is very much the same. I’m in love with the story, really. I’m such a sucker for fluffy and innocent romances.

Prompt: Person A is the quiet kid in class who never really says anything and B is the rowdy and rambunctious one.They sit next to eachother and B is constantly trying to get A to talk or say something.A mostly ignores them but one day they just suddenly turn to B and say,“I like you, you’re loud and really fucking annoying, but I like you.”

B reacts by screaming and cheering for A before being scolded and the both of them sent to the office.



Carson sits in the back of the classroom not out social anxiety – not out of lacking intelligence – and not even because of alphabetical seating arrangement. No, Carson sits in the back because it’s quieter in the back. High School is funny that way, one must suppose, because all through junior high the quiet kids are in back of the room passing notes and laughing at the teacher. As punishment, teachers moved those loud and rowdy kids to the front of the classroom.

In high school, that changes. The loud kids are in the front of the classroom participating in random conversations to keep the lesson plan very specifically off course. And, naturally, the teachers go along with it because it makes their dull job more exciting. Besides, it gives them the opportunity to give actual advice outside of their chosen subject. As such, Carson likes to sit in the back of the classroom to avoid getting caught up in the nonsense. Carson likes to think that he’s got all the answers and that he’s above needless socializing.

In contrast to obsessively quiet Carson, mapping out his entire life on the loose leaf pages of a battered binder, there’s Flynn. Flynn is star of the basketball team with mediocre grades that correlate perfectly with a booming social life. Known as the class clown, Flynn has always sat at the back of the room waiting to call people out for their silly mistakes and flubs. Every so often, a piece of wisdom falls out of his mouth. Regardless of how smart it is – it’s also presented in the form of a joke. Flynn is the sort of guy that just makes people smile on and off the court. Everyone likes Flynn.

Including Carson, actually. For a long time, too.

Carson has always had a crush on Flynn. They sat together on the bus throughout most of elementary school – and it was for only one reason. They were both shuttle bus kids. All that meant was that they had to switch busses at the high school drop off so that they could get to the elementary school of their parent’s choice. There were tons of shuttle bus kids but they were the only two from their neighborhood, so Carson and Flynn stuck together right up to junior high. That’s when they drifted away from casual bus friends to complete strangers.

That’s when Carson became a bit of a valedictorian-to-be and Flynn became an NBA-wannabe. They fit their roles perfectly today, and therefore rarely every talk to each other outside of forced interactions during class when they’re inevitably paired together… You know, because Flynn sits right next to Carson in the corner.

“Alright, time to break into your assigned pairs. I want you to complete the vocabulary exercise for the Grecian era for tomorrow.” Miss Violet dismisses the class to work freely for the remainder of the period. It’s a great way to end the school day. Naturally, things get louder instantly. Best friends are pairing up, and even grouping up so that the hard workers get the vocabulary assignment finished in one sitting together while the lazier partners gossip about the upcoming sweetheart dance.

Flynn pushes his desk directly into Carson’s with a dramatic clang! that makes everyone in the room uncomfortable; “Sorry, I guess I didn’t realize this isn’t a football class. My bad!” His voice booms so suddenly that Carson flinches. Also, the joke was really bad. The teacher waves her hand at him absently, used to his antics after nearly two months of his nonsense. Most other students forget about it instantly, others rubbing their ears for a maximum of two minutes tops. After five minutes, Carson is able to get both books onto the right page.

“So whaddaya want me to do, boss?” He always calls Carson ‘boss’ as though it’s supposed to be a comical representation of the imbalance of intelligence between them. A lot of people would probably kill to have Carson as their partner. Having a straight-A student helping on homework assignments is basically a guaranteed pass for the class, after all. Flynn plays it like he doesn’t care, though. To him it’s just another homework assignment with another person in the room.

“Do what you always do, but maybe a little quieter.” Carson remarks passively. His hands move quickly to take notes of all of the words. His preferred method is to make a word bank and then define them. It was easier than flipping back and forth between the Chapter Review section and the actual chapter itself. Even Flynn saw the logic in that process.

Flynn laughs loudly, “You’re such a joker, Carson. These dupes don’t even realize what a comic you are – can you believe it?” Soon after his hand slaps Caron’s back heavily. Once again it captures the attention of most of the people in the classroom. Miss Violet arches a brow at Flynn. It’s her warning that one more outburst could land him in detention or the office, whichever is more appealing five minutes later when he gets riled up again with all his unused energy. Carson almost believes that all athletes exhibit ADHD symptoms in the classrooms.

“Really, Flynn, I’d really appreciate if you’d either help quietly – or not care quietly.” The request doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Immediately after that, Flynn starts doodling stratagems for the basketball team in his notebook. This allows him to appear productive to the teacher without compromising Carson’s focus. Gratitude wells up very slowly, as in the past Flynn has failed his mission to remain quiet – every -single – time.

And his failure starts when he starts prodding Carson to make conversation; “What have you been up to, dude? I don’t ride the bus anymore so I have no idea what you’re doing these days.” Carson’s eyes don’t move much, but he lifts his gaze to Flynn’s book just to see how interested in the question he actually is right now. Once he deems the question to be more habitual than participatory, Carson flips the pages of both books.

Theoretically, if Carson didn’t response then the question would basically not have existed. Isn’t that what most parents teach kids? If you ignore it long enough then it goes away – which is absolutely horrible advice, by the way. So that’s what Carson does, and at first it does really work. Flynn keeps doodling away, occasionally sneaking a peak at his cell phone. The quiet lasts longer than Carson expects and everything seems to going very well.

Until, of course, Flynn nudges Carson and makes him mess up what he was writing; “Hey, you didn’t answer my question. That’s rude as hell, man.”

Carson straightens in his seat and twists so that he’s fully facing Flynn, “I don’t have any clue what it is you want from me. I’m doing the assignment. I’m getting perfect scores. What more could you need from me? A conversation? That seems pretty useless in this scenario. All I’m asking for is quiet, Flynn, some peace and quiet.”

“Bro, calm down, bro.” Flynn laughs. Everyone turns their heads again. Miss Violet stands this time and walks over to their desks mashed together in the corner – pretty well offset from the rest of the classroom.

Her arms cross as she silently assesses the situation. Caron is facing Flynn who has his shoulders pre-shrugged out of habit. Eyes sweep across the books and the pages. She scoffs at the obvious signs of Flynn’s laziness. Miss Violet expects nothing less from him, and drops only her right arm for the sole purpose of propping it onto her hip. The other eventually lifts to brush her unnaturally blonde hair away from her forehead in frustration; “Just work quietly. If I have to say anything again you’ll both be sent to the office for the rest of the day.”

Clearly she’s having a bad day. That explains the vocabulary review assignment instead of a lecture…

Flynn salutes her before she leaves but turns directly to Carson with a sideways grin adorning his thin, rebellious lips. He’s been to the office a good many times. Threatening him with a trip to the office is hardly a big deal anymore. Even detention doesn’t deter him from goofing off. Carson lets a frown etch into his features so that it matches his entire mood.

“Maybe do some work today, Flynn. Having to try at something might be a nice change of pace. Do the last line of words, yeah?” Carson repositions himself to sit at his desk properly as just assumes that Flynn is going to listen to instruction. Being on the basketball team does require him to listen the direction of his coach so the concept didn’t seem too far fetched at the moment.

Carson’s mistake was believing that Flynn would recognize him as any kind of superior academically. That’s not what happens, though, because within minutes Flynn is messing with Carson’s book. He turns pages, folds pages, makes stray pencil marks on pages – and any other number of things that he thinks of along the way just to piss off Carson.

It takes almost fifteen minutes but in the end Carson slams his hands into his thighs and turns his chin towards Flynn; “I don’t do jack shit, Flynn. I wake up. I come to school. I check my homework before class. I go home. I do my homework. I eat dinner. I check my homework. I shower. Then I go to bed just to repeat it four more times. I spend all weekend at home playing video games, and then on Sunday I go to church and pray to God I won’t punch you square in the face when you inevitably irritate me during history all week.”

Flynn appears impressed, even nodding his head with approval; “I’d love to see you try to punch me. I’m twice your size, bro.”

Carson is amazed by this response without any justifiable reason. This is exactly the kind of thing a jock says to a nerd who is elegantly proving a point. Flynn wanted to know what Carson was doing these days, but it should have been obvious simply by his academic achievements. Advanced Placement courses, honor roll every grading period, National Honors Society, and more! What else could Carson be doing if not just focusing on school and maintaining emotional clarity to handle the burden of so much homework?

The answer is literally nothing. Carson doesn’t even have a part-time job.

“Just shut your mouth, Flynn, and do your share of the damn work.” The sigh that forms into a spoken thought is a little more than exasperated. It sounds a little bit like disappointment, too. Every so often Carson wonders what it is about Flynn that sometimes leaves him gawking in the hallways or cafeteria. Luckily, he has few friends that question his apparent spaciness. Most people assume he’s thinking about an answer to a homework problem he skipped over in class. Generally speaking, that’s the sad truth. Other times, though, really he’s just staring off in Flynn’s general direction – the way all people do when affected by a crush.

“You’re a liar. You go to the basketball games. You’re always sitting in the back row of ‘B’ section.” Flynn chuckles, thinking he’s outsmarted his partner. Okay, so admittedly Carson does attend all of the basketball games. His little sister likes to go so he always offers to bring her in, even if only so he can feign a social life. Some of his other friends are at the game, too, to destress from the school week. Also, honor roll students get free popcorn. Who doesn’t like free popcorn?

Carson lets out another sigh loaded with shame and acceptance; “That would be a true statement. Congratulations. You’re not just Brawn, after all.”

Sassiness doesn’t bode well for him; “So why is Brains is in the regular history class? Don’t you take all advanced placement and college prep classes?” Flynn goes for the big guns straight away. Carson is almost taken aback by the true inquiry of his observation. Not only does his childhood bus companion actually know precisely where he sits during basketball games, but he has actively noticed that Carson opted for a regular history class when there was an honors option.

“There was not a significant difference between the honors option and the regular option except where workload was concerned. I had A.P chem and A.P lit this semester already, so  in the absence of wasting a credit opportunity on a study hall – I opted for a regular history class instead.” This sounds viable. There is no reason for Flynn to question it. Of course, there really is no reason to question it at all. Carson really did decide that a regular class was a better use of his time over study hall – and the idea of three advanced courses seemed almost overwhelming considering that he’s doing his second round of S.A.T. testing in December. It was the truth. Besides that – there was no possible way that Carson could have ever expected, let alone predicted, that he’d end up in a class with Flynn.

Time moves quicker after Flynn voluntarily sits in silence. He appears to be satisfied with the explanation. He’s gone back to sketching possible basketball plays. Miss Violet occasionally glances up to see if the pair is working quietly now. As it continues to appear that they are doing as she asked, she pays less and less attention to the corner of the classroom. Thinking that he’s made it out of the woods, Carson is able to get a lot of work done. So much, in fact, that he finishes the vocabulary assignment with ten minutes left in class.

Satisfied with his work, Carson begins to scrawl both names on the paper carefully at the top.

“If you have nothing going on in your life then I must be the best part of your week. You want to punch me in the face because I’m so exciting and it makes you jealous.” The need for this conclusion to be shared aloud is nonexistent. Flynn positions himself in a bit of an angular slouch. He does it in such a way that he can still see Carson but also conceal his cheeky little grin. Always playing the pest…

Carson weighs the options he has at that moment. Should he explain that someone needs to punch him because he is pompous as hell? Should he detail the fact that Flynn’s frequent goofing off in class are cries for attention? Should he question what Flynn is trying to accomplish by being extra annoying today? Or should Carson just lay him out – just deck him to get it over with so that Flynn never tries to piss him off again?

“Yeah, you’re the best part of my week, Flynn. I like you so much I can’t contain myself and my need to punch you is masking my secret need to kiss your goddamn face because you’re so fucking cool, bro. So fucking cool, bro!” This was not the initial plan. Carson was going for sarcastic, which he does achieve, but his whisper turns into more of a shout. It is without question that when he finishes his sentence there’ll be a slip to go to the office – so he’s packing all of his stuff before Miss Violet can even make it to her feet.

Flynn, on the other hand, is sitting in his seat completely dumbfounded – laughing only to cover his shock; “I’ll see you in the office, man!” The sentence is squeaky through his laughter. Well, it’s squeaky through all of the laughter. A lot of people are stunned by Carson’s outburst. Other’s are amused. Really, though, the approval of the room outweighs the upset. Without formal dismissal, Carson walks down to the office in a flourish of confidence and regret – an unlikely pair.

Nobody questions Carson when he enters the office, assuming he’s there to get copies or to do a mail pick up for a teacher. They’re surely suspicious when he simply takes a seat and starts nervously tapping his feet. None of the aides or administrators even piece together what might be happening when Miss Violet and Flynn walk in together. It takes a few minutes of explanation before there are nods of understanding. Before leaving the office, right before the bell rings, Miss Violet pivots on her heel and points at the boys – “You two are in detention today, as well as for the rest of the week! I expect better behavior tomorrow!”

Everyone starts bustling in the halls when the dismissal bell rings. Once things do calm down, the receptionist escorts the pair of them down to the detention classroom in the center of the building that doubles as the in-school suspension classroom as well. There are a dozen other kids that are presumably regulars. Flynn is welcomed cheerily while Carson most evokes cocked heads and rumpled brows. Even the supervising teacher asks whether or not Caron’s presence is a mistake.

The receptionist simply declares, “He had a swearing outburst in class today,” before clopping off in her clunky heels. Some of the regulars hoot and holler their approval, but the excitement is quelled by the ringing of an antique bell by the supervising teacher. Rules of detention are reviewed for the “newbie” and then the one-hour punishment begins. Carson didn’t have the opportunity to collect his belongings from his locker so he’s stuck with his finished assignment and book. With a gasp of desperation, Carson simply cracks open his history book and begins to re-read the chapter on the Grecian era.

When detention somehow ends through the time-space continuum that makes time move slower, Carson is the last to leave. His sluggish movements are clearly a side effect of his poor judgment. He didn’t need to flip out on Flynn that way. Of course, he’s not making going to make an effort to apologize to him now. Actually, he’s not sure he really needs to apologize to Flynn so much as Miss Violet.

Carson makes it to his locker on the other side of the school while trying to figure out the best way to get home. His parents are working for at least and hour or two longer, if he’s lucky. He could walk home since it’s not too cool out yet, but that would be quite the walk. He’d be tired the next day – let alone if he did that all week. Maybe one of his friends could swing back into town to give him a ride. He had some cash that he could slide them for the extra gas. If that’s the case, though, he could always call a taxi. Carson nixes the idea and runs through his friends list in his head. He believes that Charlie probably is the best option. Doubling back isn’t too much trouble and Carson’s place isn’t too far out of the way for him on the way back home. It would be the best scenario.


Carson pretends not to hear anyone. He should have stuck with this gameplay all along. Opening his locker is swift and effortless. Moving books from his back is not as easy, but he gets it done before the voice ever shouts out a second time; “HEY!”

This time the shout is aggressive. Hoping to move past whatever conversation is about to happen, Carson speed walks in the opposite direction. He does this in spite of the fact that he clearly has no actual plan in place at the present, but he has to do it confidently or it will never be convincing.

“I know you don’t have a ride, dude. You ride the bus. You’ve always rode the bus to school. Your parents go to work at, like, six in the morning. They’re both working in the hospital so I know it’s late nights too.” Unfortunately, Flynn is way more observant that Carson gave him credit for earlier. So maybe he notices more than a couple of tiny things that are also sort of obvious. This is one that everyone could know, but it is more likely only friends would pay that close attention to parents’ work schedule.

So Carson spins and waves his arms around; “Just leave me alone. Your constant nagging and screwing around landed us both in detention. This is the first disciplinary action taken on me in my entire school career. I’d rather it stop there, if you don’t mind.” His tone of voice is about as convincing as his stomping off. More than anything he just sounds tired and cranky. It’s more akin to a toddler throwing a fit about nap time than it is a teenager who is fed up with someone he is inefficiently trying to ignore.

“Then let me give you a ride home. I’ll give you a ride for the rest of the week if you want as payback for being a dick.” Flynn’s floppy hair sits in a mess but does nothing in favor of Carson turning down the offer. Not only does it make him even more handsome, but it really highlights Flynn’s apologetic expression. He genuinely wants to make up for the fact that they’re both being punished as the result of his pestering.

Carson ponders the idea of being alone in the car with Flynn. Considering what he said in the classroom, someone is going to ask questions sometime. Maybe it’ll be some other students – and maybe it’ll only be towards Flynn. At any rate, rumors about Carson being homosexual will flourish within hours and be at full force throughout the student body by tomorrow. Of course, the rumors wouldn’t completely false. Regardless, even if he nabs valedictorian for his graduating class nobody will remember it at all. He’ll only be known for his homoerotic outburst at Flynn.

“Fine.” Carson accepts the ride and the two of them head towards the parking lot. The sound of their feet fill the lacking conversation. The only thing that gets spoken is the convenience of it, anyway, since Flynn has to pass Carson’s house anyway. When Flynn stopped riding the bus in ninth grade, it had always been Carson’s belief that Flynn moved. They live on opposite sides of the subdivision so it would have been easy for Flynn to move without Carson noticing. His crush on the guy didn’t make him any more attentive than he’d ever been before their drifting.

If anything, Flynn knew more about Carson than Carson knew about Flynn.

Flynn insists that Carson throw his stuff in the trunk. He drives a silver Honda Civic that has clearly seen better days. The floor in the back is littered with trash and sports magazines – and a few too many tissues for Carson’s comfort. It’s this detail that ultimately assures him the trunk was the safest place for his belongings.

Within minutes of driving, Flynn decides that instead of listening to music the best option is talk; “I know I’m always irritating you. I’m sorry. I don’t know when enough is enough. My mom says I’ll get myself into trouble with my loud mouth.” Even admitting his flaws brings a smile to this guy’s face. He’s always been that way, though. In third grade when they first started getting actual letter grades there was this one time Carson missed one question but it was the only question that Flynn got correct on his test. Flynn smiled the whole ride home knowing he’d get his behind whacked for failing. He was proud of the fact that he knew even just one little thing that Carson didn’t know.

That’s probably when Carson first started liking him differently than he liked the other kids. Someone that could find joy in just about anything was someone worth keeping around. Carson just never was the type to fight for friendship the way he fought for grades. That’s just who he was, apparently.

“That may be true, but you’ll be a famous basketball player someday. Nobody will care was comes out of your mouth as long as you show up to play on the court.” The reply is enabling at the very least, if not even encouraging. Carson certainly isn’t feeling guilty about yelling at Flynn back at school – but he didn’t want to act as though it were as good as a prank either. It was definitely not a prank.

Flynn glances over at Carson quickly but turns his attention promptly back to the road. For the spontaneous personality he harbors he sure is a steady driver; “I don’t know that that is true. No college is going to want me if I keep getting into trouble. Being the best part of your week doesn’t negate the fact that I’m still an class-clowning-off ass hole.”

Carson can’t help but let out a throaty chuckle. He isn’t even sure if ‘throaty’ is the best way to describe the gurgle that escapes his mouth in a giggly sort of tone. If he had to define his mood he wouldn’t describe is as amused, or appeased, or even impressed. Mostly he’s just annoyed; “I was just trying to make you feel like a jerk back there.”

Needless to say, he’s not good at pretending it’s the truth.

“I don’t think you were, dude.” Flynn doesn’t react in a very Flynn way. His smirk is light and his laugh is airy. The look in his eyes as he watches the road turns from bright to glossy. Carson even detects a tiny bit of hope.

Or maybe he just wants to see hope?

“Okay, so maybe you’re loud and annoying. Maybe you’re irritating as hell and one of the laziest partners a person could have in class, but maybe you’re right. Maybe I wasn’t joking back there. As fucking obnoxious as you can be – I actually like you.” This doesn’t prove anything, really. Saying ‘I like you’ to someone doesn’t have to mean that those feelings are romantic or sexual or both – it could also be friendly. It could be an approval, even. It doesn’t have to mean anything significant.

But Flynn seems to know that it does, “That freak out seems worth it now, doesn’t it? You have your feelings off your chest and I have you in my car. It all worked out.”

“Well, that sounds kind of serial killer-y…” Carson comments as he moves a little closer to the window. Obviously, it’s just a show. Everything he’s done in the last two hours has been a play on what Flynn has already done. In some ways, he feels like a switch has been flipped. He never used to bend to Flynn’s will like this – even when they were friends. Yet at the same time, Carson knows that it is more or less that fact that he didn’t have to ever bend. He’s always complimented whatever Flynn was doing at the time.

As kids when Flynn would be loud, Carson would try to calm him down. If Flynn packed his own lunch full of candy, Carson would swap his extra sandwich out for one baggie of Tootsie Rolls and Jolly Ranchers. Their partnership always balanced itself out, whether by Carson’s intentional action or the natural bond between the two of them.

Flynn shrugs his shoulders; “I don’t mean it to sound psychotic. I just mean that you finally admitted that you like me and I finally have a chance to tell you that it’s cool.”

Carson, considering himself a progressive guy, is stunned. He isn’t so shocked he can’t speak, though; “I didn’t realize I needed your permission before having feelings for you just because you’re some high-and-mighty male. Should I submit my request in writing?”

This sets both of them off giggling half-heartedly, though. The tension in the car is a testament of the time they’ve spent apart, but the level of comfort with the awkwardness proves that they never could have been apart too long. Whatever they shared as kids never dissipated.

“It’s cool because I like you too, bro. Life started happening and we went different ways. There are some things you don’t forget completely, though. Not even if you want to…” Flynn’s implications are obviously that there had been some feelings on his end as well – perhaps the entire time. Feelings that he wanted to forget, or pushed aside because there were more important things. Feelings that he suppressed in the same way that Carson tucked his crush into a special place in the back of his head. It was something neither of them really thought would become a thing.

Everyone has a crush like that, though. It’s not like it was painful pining. It’s not like it was life-altering unrequited love. To both of them, as it seems, it was just a crush on someone who was never really there but never really gone. Carson waits to reply because he is still trying to discern what is the best way to ask whether or not this conversation will change things.

He wants to ask what’s next, then, but he can’t bring himself to do it. Instead he sits in the passenger seat just reeling on the new information. The sun rose today. Carson got his sister out of bed and made her waffles for breakfast. He packed his bag with a cereal bar in his hand and cellphone in the other – playing his favorite roleplaying game on the market. Classes went as usual and everything was as predictable as it was the day before, as the week before, as the months before, and so on. Nothing about today felt significant.

And yet, somehow it was a day that Carson knows he will never forget. It is a day filled with so many surprises that he truly is speechless. The only thing he can manage now is a smile with his head resting against the glass, just like he used to do in elementary school when Flynn insisted on the aisle seat.

When they make it to Carson’s house – a location that Flynn apparently has kept locked away in his memory – neither of the boys move quickly to get out. When Carson asks for him to pop the trunk, though, Flynn enthusiastically offers to get out and walk him to the door. It gives them a few more minutes of indecision, especially when Carson drags his feet a little more than usual to go inside.

“Thanks for the ride.” Carson manages as his land lands on the doorknob; “Guess I’ll see you same time tomorrow.”

Flynn looks around with hands stuffed in his pockets, a mocking look of surprise on his face. When his brows soften a bit, his serious side shows a bit, “I kind of thought you’d invite me to stay for dinner. We didn’t really finish our conversation.”

The pause is brief, but he makes sure there’s no way that Carson could have responded; “Plus I could probably use the help on my homework.”

Well, these things have a way of working out exactly the way they should, don’t they? Carson opens the front door and happily announces that he has company. His sister tries to question it but as smoothly as he found a way to stick around, he found a way to shut her up; “Can’t a guy have his boyfriend over without being interrogated? It’s a study date, kid.”

A study date indeed.

A Fate Worse Than Death

Disclaimer: It’s been awhile readers since I’ve been able to do a proper flash fiction entry! Too long! Today I got my inspiration from doing a random Google search on fantasy prompts. I found one on this website that I was particularly connected to – because, well, I love it when the heroes fail and/or die.

Prompt: Write a story where a chosen hero is supposed to defeat an evil overlord. Then make the hero fail.


The air is thick with the smell of death and despair. Those of her people whom haven’t been slaughtered have fled the city. Perhaps they will surrender, perhaps they won’t be extended the opportunity. Unfortunately, she knows that she won’t be alive to see the damage of her overzealous effort to rule her planet neutrally. A planet which never prepares for war is a planet that makes itself an easy target. A planet that believes involvement in intergalactic politics is self-sabotaging is a planet ruled by delusions. This is a lesson she had to learn at the cost of her people that had faith in her reign.

Instead she now stands at a statue erected in the image of her great-great-grandfather who withdrew A’gaar from the Kashi Strip’s alliance. Blood stained fingers paint the desperation that suffocates her presently on the base. She’s been standing with her back to the enemy for too long and within seconds she will surely be murdered for her dissent to align A’gaar with the Sixth Union. What seemed so small of a decision will destroy her home. It has destroyed her home.

“Ka’vaara, Monarch of A’gaar!” Struggling to rise, the frail woman stumbles into the legs of the statue before she can roll and face the commander identifying her. If she is to die then she shall do so with honor and dignity. She will stare down the consequences of her actions, right or wrong, and accept fate with the valor her people would expect. One fist pressed against a harsh wound on her leg and another holding stringy, muddied hair out of her face. The commander approaches her, battle armor covering her face. When she peels it back, revealing her golden scales – Ka’vaara knows that this is no mere commander. This is the creator of the Sixth Union. This is Anyana – a woman with no home; “Ka’vaara, it would appear you chose to die today. Your people must be ashamed.”

Anyana is wrong. They would be proud, even if disappointed in the loss. Independence is worth the risk, but it is easy to be proud when the weight is not on their shoulders. The only one to carry the burden of this disaster is Ka’vaara; “My people will live on in the stories of our resilience and resistance. Once day your worth will run out, and when it does, you will stand no taller than I while they stare you down with defeat surrounding you on all side. I have no shame because the stories of my people will turn your people against you. A’gaar will not belong to you rightfully, and you will never keep it.”

Anyana lifts her gun to Ka’vaara’s face and pushes it’s sleek and short barrel against her cheek. The warm metal softens her features. This is a gun that has been fired many times at many of her people. She revels in the fact that she will die in exactly the same way many of them did, because she is not to be held higher than the people that gave their life for her. In the end, they are all just the people of A’gaar.

“You will suffer a fate worse than the citizens of your feeble planet.” Anyana whispers through her growled laughter. Ka’vaara hears the clicking of the gun repeatedly as she tries to release the laser beam. Rapid button smashing continues to result in nothing. The gun is obviously shut down and nonoperational. Ka’vaara shrieks in rage with each click -piecing together at the sight of two guards, chains rattling in their hands, that there is only one fate worse than death; “You will be the face of my movement, Ka’vaara, and your people will bow down to kiss my heels when I walk by -” She proclaims.

“NEVER!” Never! Never! Never! Never! Ka’vaara spits at the guards approaching her, locking her arms behind her and securing the chains with a brace around her neck. The copper metal rips easily through her soft skin, allowing more blood to flow from her body. In minutes she will black out from the massive trauma; “They will never believe you!” Tears wash her cheeks as she proclaims that this plan is faithless, aimless, desperate. It could never work.

“Killing you will enrage them. I need them to swear their loyalty to me, so I require your persuasive tongue.” Anyana walks confidently towards her, forcing her to see that the war was a battle not of confidence. Growing up all the warriors said: “it is your willpower which makes your powerful!” But it was lies. Confidence does not win wars. Ka’vaara lowers her gaze to the ground feeling the world slowly blur around her. Dripping is faintly evident on her chest.

Anyana is soon leaning into Ka’vaara with hands planted firmly on her hips. For a second, the smell of loss has dissipated and is replaced with something even more foul. If she could identify it, she would, but her mind is quickly losing the internal battle to remain conscious. Anyana smiles before pressing her lips to Ka’vaara’s ear, cackling her latest proclamation; “Your tongue belongs to me and my words will become yours.”

“You lose.”

AA: Anonymous Apologies

Oh, the time that has lapsed since I was able to do a short fiction piece! It pains me to even consider counting the weeks. Regardless of my hiatus – I have finally returned to start posting my flash fiction again – (or short fiction, whichever you prefer, it technically can belong to either category).

My inspiration today comes from Alice’s Writing Tips on Tumblr. You can find the blog here, but I actually used this particular post for this fiction piece. I highly recommending clicking the second hyperlink because the inspiration was actually a picture this time. Check it out – check the blog out – and then please – without further adieu – read my story:


Dear Anonymous:


I’m sorry.

The project is, was by now, for the seniors to anonymously submit apologies for the mistakes that they had made throughout their high school career. The idea wasn’t completely idiotic – as many of the parents lamented. In spite of their efforts to end the idea – and it was ended as an official school-approved project – the senior class invested every second and dollar they had into making it and distributing it to every single graduating student.

I was the mastermind behind this project. Two or three months ago there was an online poll, because that’s the cool way to handle all things in life these days, and it was asking our senior year mementos. In the past it has just been predictable ideas: letterman jackets and class rings. Each class does something different every single year specific to them. Last year it was a disc with a copy of the senior celebration slideshow. The year before it was a graduation Christmas ornament. A few years ago when my brother graduated they did custom picture frames.

I always thought these senior mementos were cheery. Too cheery, in fact. There was something about them that didn’t feel true to the typical high school experience. When people consider their futures realistically, only a very tiny portion of the people you were close to in high school stick around. That’s a somber truth. I don’t think it or admit it maliciously – but how can we trick ourselves into believing that these high school graduation gifts will make a difference in our lives? They won’t make us remember anything of value. My father’s letterman jacket is in a box in the garage, dusty and mildewed from being a part of a flood. The flood wasn’t even at our house. My grandparents made him take the box when he wouldn’t let them throw it away.

As for my mother, her class ring literally got dropped down the toilet. She was cleaning her old jewelry that was in a nightstand drawer. It was full of unmated earrings, broken bracelets, and accessories that she’d worn once or twice for special occasions. And – you know – her class ring. It was a misfit piece of jewelry that meant nothing to her. And when she dropped it, I remember how she acted as though she didn’t care for it anyway. “Honey, do you think my class ring will wreck the plumbing,” she had called out to my dad. She couldn’t have been concerned about the loss any less. She just didn’t want to pay for a plumber to fetch it.

So when I saw this poll I made the suggestion: a magazine of apologies for mistakes we made so that when we leave we know that we leave on good terms with no unfinished business.

I haven’t the foggiest idea where my mind was when I submitted it. Although, I do remember laughing after I closed my browser. The entire thing was supposed to be a joke. Little did I know… At least I was smart enough to submit it anonymously! Two days later my suggestion was accepted almost unanimously. Everyone seemed to love it, saying that it was clearly brilliant. It was only then that I realized that there was no way this couldn’t have been adored by teenagers too desperate to let go of a life they’ve known for eighteen years – I pieced together that a lot of people had a lot of things that they regretted. They all had something they needed to apologize for after these last four years.

When things started off – everyone was encouraged to submit one letter addressed to nobody in particular but signed with their name. I suppose the idea was so that one person didn’t get a dozen apologies while others received none. Again, I suppose that makes sense. This way they don’t have to track down an apology for every single person in the senior class. Teachers immediately put a halt to it because that would have made the writers of each letter far too vulnerable. I was beyond elated that it was shut down because the last thing teenagers need it proof of who did something regrettable.

That is when the idea came that the letters would be written to an anonymous person and signed by anonymous. There was a submission box in the journalism classroom and the letters were to be submitted in print only! Nothing handwritten could be accepted – so that there was almost literally no way to trace the apologies back to anyone particular. Even though the school couldn’t participate in the creation of this magazine project, the teachers did continue help students control the situation so that it didn’t turn into a disaster.

That’s how I got here, I suppose. I am sorry that I gave anyone this idea. Not everyone can handle the truth, and not everyone can accept an apology. I am worried that apologies are going to be made on things that nobody knew were controlled incidents. I am worried that people are going to write apology letters about things that weren’t problems until the letter was written. Any number of things could go wrong from these apologies. And the thing is, we’re all going to forgive our anonymous writers for their misdeeds.

We are going to forgive someone who might not deserve to be forgiven. We are going to accept these apologies and deem it all to be “okay,” even if it might not be okay at all. I regret everything that will happen as the result of this magazine.

I hope that this is the last entry, by the way. I hope that this is placed at the back of the magazine so that after everyone reads these letters – so that after everyone gets their gossip fill – so that after tears have been shed – I hope that this is the last thing everyone reads because I have one last parting message for you.

None of these apologies matter. They weren’t for you. They were never meant to be for you. People that submitted a letter for this magazine did so only to clear their consciences. I am included in that mess. I regretted my mistakes out of my fear towards growing up and leaving home. Somewhere along the way– without warning – it put in this predicament. The lesson I had to learn – the hard way apparently – is to not regret anything. So please remember after reading each of these disturbing letters that – the only regret you should have is regretting anything at all.

Thank you for the four interesting years that we shared in high school. If we’re lucky, some of us might stay in touch. Otherwise, don’t let it bother you. Don’t linger on it. Don’t let it haunt you later in life. Just let it all go.

And maybe burn this magazine after you frame your high school diploma.