Carving at Hades’ Chains

FF198 J S Brand

copyright J.S. Brand

 

“It takes patience,” the lunatic had said. “A sledgehammer won’t work. Only beauty overcomes death.”

By the light of a bone-white moon, I felt my way to my mother’s grave, carrying a purloined hammer and chisel. I started carving swirls into the marble, then starbursts and graceful figures until I transformed that baleful guardian into revivifying craftsmanship. I prayed I would see her again—not some ghastly reanimation, but really her.

“There was a grave robbery,” my dad said at breakfast. “Someone destroyed a headstone. The body is missing.”

My soul leapt.

“It’s the one right next to your mother’s.”

 


I, Pawn

FF197 Jeff Arnold

copyright Jeff Arnold

Even pawns can become queen. Just keep moving forward.

I may only be a lady-in-waiting, but over the years, across the chessboard, the queen has taught me everything until I am sure I know more than that hapless prince.

So one night I take a large pillow and go to the queen’s bed.

Just get to the end.

Regicide? No, promotion.

I put on the crown and march to the hall.

“The queen is dead! Long live your new queen!”

I don’t see Sir Geoffrey until he stabs his sword into my side.

I always forget how the knights move.

 


Big Sister Loves You

FF196 Roger Bultot

copyright Roger Bultot

The phone rang immediately. Of course.

Be strong. I picked up the receiver.

“Josh,” the female voice said. “You covered your camera again.”

“Look, I’m just not comfortable—“

“Josh.” She was chiding. “It’s for your own good. How many lives does SIS save?”

Everyone knew the statistics. Special Interior Surveillance saved 47,000 lives a year. They said.

“What if you have another panic attack? Like last month? We need to see to help you.”

My chest was already tightening at the thought. “Okay,” I mumbled.

She made a kissing noise into the phone. “Thanks, Josh. SIS loves you, remember?”


Anna and Me and the Sa-shee-mee

Anna and Me and the Sa-shee-mee

Anna and me and 30 crates of future sa-shee-mee are stuck on I-90C, America’s only interstate canal. A kayak’s jackknifed up ahead, blocking both directions, and our fishies are stewing in the sun, slowly turning into gumbo.

“We’re on water,” Anna says. “Ya gotta think outside the boat.”

She grabs a fine-mesh net and I start dumping in the crates while she gets snorkeled up. There’s a splash and then she’s getting pulled along like a professional fish-walker.

“I couldn’t hold ‘em,” she gasps when I find her twenty miles later.

Danged if that wasn’t the fishies’ plan all along.

 

*sa-shee-mee

 


Shorn Glory

Shorn Glory

She takes her first tentative steps onto the runway, foreign territory after a year’s absence.

The crowd erupts in applause at her appearance. She can read their thoughts in their expressions.

She’s beautiful again.

You can’t even tell she was sick.

At the end of the runway she pauses. Reaching up, she pulls the wig from her head, her smooth scalp reflecting the harsh scrutiny of the spotlights.

The expressions change to shock. The applause falters.

Someone is still clapping. One little girl is applauding wildly, a grin on her pale face, a bright bandanna tied around her hairless head.


Turning a Blind Eye

Happy New Year, and yay I’m back and not dead!

Although it might have seemed like it, I haven’t given up on writing. In fact, I have been writing nonstop for the last year, doing a series of five books for my nieces and nephews. Those are finally done and now I have a little more time on my hands, although admittedly I have another six (slightly shorter) books planned for this year.

Nibling 16 books

I am going to try to post more stories on the blog this year. It’s not a resolution since those tend not to last; I’m just going to try.

And now, a story.

Turning a Blind Eye

It was a hard call to make, but I finally got up my nerve to pick up the phone.

“Hey John, I can’t make it into work today,” I said when my boss answered.

I heard the expected sigh. “What is it this time?”

“I’m blind.”

“You’re blind?” Skepticism dripped off the words, probably leaving little scorch marks on the floor of John’s kitchen or wherever he was at the moment.

“Yeah . . . it’s complicated.”

“Well it had better get uncomplicated fast,” he said. “This is your fifth absence this month. Heather’s going to burn the office if she has to cover for you much more.”

“I’ll try to regain my sight by tomorrow,” I said.

“See that you do,” was all he said before he hung up.

I put the phone down, felt my way to the living room recliner, and sat alone in the dark for a moment. Then I said out loud, “Okay, let’s talk about this.”

It sounds strange, but my eyes were on strike. To be fair, I had been treating them badly lately. Besides that unfortunate bout of pinkeye a month back, I often fall asleep with my contacts in and have to pry them off my eyeballs the next morning.

The final straw, though, was when I looked at the sun the day before. It wasn’t for very long—just a second—but my vision suddenly went black.

“Enough of this,” a voice in my head said. “These are unreasonable working conditions. We’re on strike.”

Luckily for me, I had been at home. I felt my way inside and sat down in the living room.

“Who are you?” I said. It took a while to answer. My ears are quiet, passive things and don’t like to make a fuss, but eventually they passed the message along to my eyes.

“We’re your eyes.” There was only one voice, but with just a slight echo, as if there were two voices speaking at exactly the same time. “We’re tired of you taking advantage of us all the time. We’re important and we’re not working again until conditions change.”

It was early evening about then, and I wanted supper. I tried to call for pizza, but after accidentally calling my Uncle Joe five times in a row, I gave up and ate half a loaf of bread and two bananas that were on my kitchen counter.

Everything was still dark, but even now and then little slogans would drift across my vision. EYES ARE THE WINDOW OF THE SOUL!  THERE IS NO “EYE” IN OPPRESSION! I pointed out that there was an “i” in oppression, but it wasn’t appreciated.

Around 8:00pm there was talk about getting a union together. Since it was my body, I kind of had a general idea of what was going on, although I wasn’t sure how. The eyes first tried to form the UEO (United Essential Organs), but the heart and lungs pointed out that eyes weren’t strictly essential in the same way the torso organs were and that they would be cold in our collective grave before they took orders from a pair of brown-irised head marbles.

No one even tried to approach the brain since that was clearly management.

It was 9:30 and I was trying to listen to the radio (good old ears) when the eyes gave up on the UEO and came up with the SOC (Sense Organ Cooperative). The nose came on board immediately in a sympathy strike and I stopped smelling the popcorn I had just succeeded in burning. Taste went soon after since taste does whatever smell says.

The ears were still holding out, saying they just wanted to keep doing their job and not cause any trouble. After all, I hadn’t jammed any Q-tips down there and never listened to obnoxiously loud rock music.

The skin couldn’t get a consensus among its various types of nerve receptors, but I felt some numb spots for a while and random hot flashes. I fell asleep with slogans like “The brain needs you, you don’t need the brain” and “Fair labor practices are a sight for sore eyes!” parading across my vision.

The next day, after I talked to John, I sat in my recliner, trying to get the striking organs to come to the bargaining table. I didn’t want to be blind my whole life, and I really didn’t want to lose my job. However, once I got them talking, it was easy. The eyes demanded better sunglasses and eye drops twice a day. The nose just asked that I never take a job cleaning out septic tanks.

Sure. Whatever.

After giving my word, my eyesight slowly came back, along with my senses of smell and taste. Finally.

I was just about to call John and tell him I wasn’t blind anymore when I felt a clenching somewhere deep in my bowels.

“You know,” a small voice said, “I don’t want to sound like a butthole, but I’m feeling very unappreciated. I’m not moving anymore until you hear my demands.”

Enough of this. I headed to the pharmacy to pick up a bottle of “strike buster”.


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