Tag Archives: short story

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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Do you like scary stuff?

My first piece of original fiction to be accepted by a literary magazine is finally out in print!

The story, Bloody Neighbors, was accepted almost a year ago and Issue #14 of Bete Noire just came out this last week. Go buy a copy and read mine and other scary stories.

Bete-Noire


A Spider Web to the Face

I had a bad day today. This is my response to it.

Spider web to the face

There are a million and one opinions on almost anything you could name, but one thing most everyone can agree on is that walking suddenly and forcefully into a web of sticky filaments, filled with mummified insect carapaces (and if you are truly unlucky, the furious, eight-legged occupant) is a perfect way to start a Bad Day.

Such was the case for Francesca Guinevere Dubois IV, who went by the refreshingly plain name of Pat. Pat began the day in a comfortable, caffeine-supported middle ground of routine. She got ready for work and left the house, cutting through the idyllic little wooded area to get to the bus stop.

Whap! Something soft and clinging hit her in the face. A second later, she was clawing frantically at the spider web, trying to wipe it off her face and pull it out of her hair. Dead bugs dangled next to her earrings in filthy parody.

At least there was no spider, she thought. Her hair was messed up and her makeup smeared and she had no choice but to go back to the house and get herself back together. She had almost reached it when she felt a tickling on her neck as the spider that had been sitting quietly on her shoulder decided to look around a little more.

In the ensuing terror-induced flailing to get the uninvited passenger off her neck, Pat whacked her arm into a light pole, bruising her elbow badly. For the first time, it occurred to her that this might be the beginning of a Bad Day.

This little guy just arrived from someone's nightmare.

This little guy just arrived from someone’s nightmare.

There was no time to ice her elbow but she cleaned off her clothes and redid her hair and makeup. She did not dare go back through the woods and so had missed the bus by the time she got to the stop. Finally, 20 minutes late, she stumbled into work.

“Where have you been?” John, her supervisor, asked.

“I got a spider web in the face,” she replied.

He gave her a suspicious look. “Was the spider poisonous?”

“No.”

“So it didn’t bite you?”

“No.”

“Doesn’t seem like a good excuse then.” He walked away, looking disappointed with the world in general.

Typing was painful with her bruised elbow and Pat worked very slowly. Things did not improve when she spilled coffee on her keyboard and had to go down to maintenance and request a new one, as well as explain the whole situation several times over. She was far behind on her work when lunchtime arrived and was now thoroughly convinced that this was a Bad Day.

They were out of her favorite food at the cafeteria and a woman at her table complained about being cold (in August) and wouldn’t let them use the air conditioning. The icing on the cake came when she got back to her desk and John informed her that the director had asked to see her.

“I think it’s about your low productivity,” he said and then walked away with an expression that lamented that a phrase like “low productivity” even existed.

Pat crammed herself into the elevator with ten large men who had just gotten back from a long run. The elevator stopped at every floor until she finally got off on the 20th floor. She waited outside the director’s office for ten minutes before she was escorted in.

“Please, sit down,” he said. “So, can you guess why I called you in here?”

“Yes, I think so, sir,” Pat said. She wiped her hands on her pants and found them already damp. That was the point when she realized they were wet with the transferred sweat of one of the large men she had been squeezed up against. Suddenly and completely, the terrible, horrible Bad Day won. She broke down in tears.

The director blinked in surprise. “It’s nothing bad,” he said. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said. “I’m not like this usually. It’s just that this morning I took a spider web to the face.” She told him the whole story.

The director’s expression turned to shock. “And you still came in to work? You are an uncommonly strong person. I’ve seen grown men curl up in a fetal position for hours after walking into a spider web. I think you should go home for the rest of the day. Also, go get your elbow treated. You were coming to work so we’ll cover it under our health plan. Take tomorrow off too, just to be sure. Did you drive to work?”

“I took the bus.”

“Do you have a license? You do? Okay, take one of the company cars home. We just bought a Ferrari under our new Corporate Excess program. You can test it out for us.”

“Thank you so much,” was all Pat could say. She stood up and started to leave.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you the reason I called you in here,” the director said. “I wanted to let you know that you won the company charity raffle. Talk to my secretary and she’ll give you the $2000.”

As Pat drove home early in a brand-new Ferrari, $2000 in cash in her purse, she took a deep breath and smiled. It was a Good Day. She might have to go find that spider and say thank you.

Spider web


“Giselle” is almost here

Riddle: what does belly dancing have to do with time travel?

You will find out when my new short story, “Giselle”, comes out, hopefully next week.

I first started working on this story in February. It all started as an Invitational Prompts story. I have only done three of these, but they are where I ask one person to give me some prompts and I write a story around them. The first was “The Circle of Unbeing” which I did for Sharmishtha Basu. “Giselle” is actually the second one, which I did for Amy at The Bumble Files. The original prompts were: a sci-fi/time travel genre, a professor, a belly dancer, a message in a bottle, and an empty warehouse.

I quickly had an idea for the story, but it was slow going and I restarted it several times. Time travel stories are also quite complicated and necessarily non-linear, so it also took a while to root out all the pesky plot holes. As well, the story kept growing until I knew that I could not do it justice by simply breaking it up into installment like I did with The Circle of Unbeing. So, I will be releasing it on Smashwords as an e-book.

Incidentally, do you know Sorina M? If you are a blogger, do you follow her blog at Chosen Voice? If not, go check it out right now. I’ll wait. I have been a blogging friend of hers for a long time now and her work is absolutely amazing. Here is one of my favorites of her recent work, called Wearing a Nebula.

You can understand how honored I felt when she agreed to make the cover for my story. Here it is:

copyright Sorina M.

copyright Sorina M.

I’m currently putting the last touches on the story and getting ready to upload to Smashwords. I’ll post again when it is available.


The Tyromancer

He was setting up across the street as I was leaving work: a card table filled with blocks of cheese and a hotplate. A sign hanging off the front read: Fortunes Told!

“Excuse me, sir! Can I tell your fortune?” he called as I tried to hurry past. I was the only one on the street, so it was hard to be inconspicuous.

“I don’t need my fortune told,” I said. Still, the cheese was making me curious. “So, how does it work?”

“With cheese. I’m a tyromancer,” he said, quite proudly.

“Uh, okay, how much is it?”

“It depends on how detailed you want it. $5 for regular, $10 for an extra detailed fortune. It takes more cheese that way,” he added.

I was intrigued and the cheese was making me hungry. “Okay, I’ll take a fiver. Can I eat the cheese afterwards?”

He seemed shocked at the idea. “Eat the cheese? Eat the cheese? Do you eat the X-ray film when the doctor is finished? Or the mechanics tools when he’s finished fixing your car?”

“What do you have to do with the cheese?”

“I just melt it. I’m a progressive tyromancer. Now, what kind do you want? I’ve got cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, gorgonzola—”

“Is there a difference?” I asked, as he looked prepared to list off his entire stock. “Surely if it’s a fortune, it’ll be the same either way.”

He shrugged. “Different cheeses emphasis different things. It’s like when you go to the doctor: different doctors will tell you slightly different things, although your condition will be the same. So, which one do you want?”

cheese

“I’ll take the Swiss, I guess,” I said. I knew immediately by his face that this was the wrong choice.

“I’d stay away from the Swiss at first,” he said. “We in the business call that the Widowmaker. The best fortune I’ve ever seen come out of a piece of Swiss was a divorce.”

“What was the worst?”

“Double decapitation,” he said. “Don’t ask—it’s not pretty.

“Fine . . . I’ll take the Gorgonzola. Is that okay?” He was looking at me with a small smile.

“Yeah, that’s fine. Perfectly. Let me just add a slice of Edam, just because I like you.”

He cut off slices of the cheese and put it in a frying pan on the hotplate. Then we both got close and peered at it.

“What’s that mean?” I asked.

“That’s just grease on top. That doesn’t mean anything.” The cheese started to melt and bubble.

“Ah ha!” the tyromancer said suddenly. “Do you know anyone by the name of . . . Bob?”

“No.”

“Really? I’m pretty sure you do.”

“Well, I have a second cousin named Bob, but—”

“I knew it! Never lie to the cheese. Bob is going to call you in the next five minutes.”

“Oh come on!” I said. “I only met him once when I was ten. He doesn’t even have my phone number.”

“The cheese doesn’t lie.” The tyromancer was staring at the bubbling cheese closely. “It looks like he has a business venture opportunity for you. It’s going to fail horribly in less than six months. You’re going to lose a lot of money.”

“Well, I guess that’s good to know. I’ll be sure to turn down any business ideas my cousin Bob gives me.”

Sarcasm was obviously not the tyromancer’s strong point. “Oh, you have to though,” he said. “It’s your future; you don’t have a choice.”

My phone rang and his eyes lit up like Christmas morning. “Ha, there’s Bob now. What did I tell you?”

I took the phone out and showed him the caller ID. “It’s my mom.” I put it up to my ear. “Hey, what’s up?”

“Hi, you probably don’t remember me, but I’m your cousin Bob. I’m over at your mom’s house right now; she gave me your number. Listen, I got this great idea I think you might interested in: Chia Cars. It’s like the Chia Pets, but with cars. All I need is a bit of start-up cash—”

I ended the call and pulled out a $10 bill. “Okay, give me a sharp cheddar with a sprinkling of gouda. Let’s see what else you got.”

Harry Potter Tyromancy


Story Premise Challenge: And the Winners are…

Last Tuesday, I posted a challenge where I put up three pictures, with random words below them and asked people to come up with story premises based on them. I got 16 premises and picked out my favorite one for each picture. They are:

1.  “Mermaid/Jerk”

Winner: nightlake – “Mermaid sighted in disputed waters sparks territorial fight between warring neighbours.”

Flash premises 1

2. “Car/Peacock”

Winner: Michelle Proulx – “Reginald Hammersworth, secret agent extraordinaire, is ready for his next big mission … until Z gives him his new ride: a cute little red car with a sassy AI named Mrs. Peacock.”

Flash premises 2

3. “Kneeling Man in Woods/Violin”

Winner: Jilanne Hoffmann – “Please Mom, if you help me find my way out of this jungle, I promise I’ll practice the violin every day for the rest of my life.”

Young Man Kneeling in Forest Clearing

I promised prizes for the winners, but since everyone is different, I’ll let them decide what they want. So, Nightlake, Michelle, and Jilanne, read carefully and let me know which one you would like to receive.

  1. I will write a story and dedicate it to you. You would suggest a few key story elements (theme, genre, characters, plot elements, etc.) and I would use them to write a story. I call this Invitational Prompts and I’ve done it twice before. The first was the story The Circle of Unbeing, which I wrote for Sharmishtha Basu. The second is a story I have been writing for some time for Amy of The Bumble Files, which should be out soon. If you choose this one, email me at greenwalledtower@gmail.com and we’ll talk about it.
  2. I will email you a picture of a word or phrase of your choosing (e.g. your name, your blog address, etc.) spelled out creatively (e.g. with jelly beans, in Korean, spray-painted on the side of a police car…)
  3. I will mail you a small souvenir from Korea, which is where I live (you will need to email me your mailing address because I suck at guessing mailing addresses).
  4. I will give you one (1) piece of advice. (Note: NOT RECOMMENDED. My only piece of advice is “shape up and fly right”)
  5. I will make a video in which I will read a short story of your choosing in a creative location (i.e. not in front of my computer). It could be either one of mine or yours or one that I won’t get sued for using. I’ll give a shout-out to your blog on it.

Let me know which you’d like, and if you didn’t win, there’s always next time.


Story Premise Challenge: Ready, Set, Go!

A couple days ago I posted a quote on Facebook that said, “Original ideas appear at the nexus of dissimilar concepts.” I didn’t get a lot of comments on it, but what I meant by it was that I sometimes come up with novel idea by sticking two very different things together. For example, I might put the picture of cogs below with the word “chocolate” and come up with the premise: “A chocolate factory in Switzerland is sabotaged by the Jelly Bean Army, sparking the first of the Candy Wars.” cogs

Okay, I just made that up on the spot. They’re not always very good, but it’s a good way of getting the creative juices flowing and thinking of things from a different angle.

So, now it’s your turn. Below there are three pictures with random words attached to them. The words were provided by my wife, who didn’t see the pictures and wasn’t sure why I was asking her to give me random words, as evidenced by the first one.

Your challenge is to give a one-sentence story premise based on one of the picture-word combinations (do as many as you want, of course). Multiple entries are encouraged. I’ll let this go for a week and then pick the best one and give them some sort of prize. I’ll let them pick from some choices and although it won’t be money, I’ll try to make the choices cool. So, here are the three pictures:

1.  “Mermaid/Jerk”Flash premises 1

2. “Car/Peacock”

Flash premises 2

3. “Kneeling Man in Woods/Violin”

Young Man Kneeling in Forest Clearing

Ready, set, go!


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