Writings by Barry D. Frisbee
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The following stories were entries into various contest that I have entered over the years.  Most were themed contests, with items, ideas, sentences or words that had to be included in the stories.  Some were genre specific, and others left it up to the writer.  There are several second place finishes and two first place prizes among the stories below.  Before each story, I have explained the contest rules and guidelines.  Enjoy.


The short story Dark Vengeance was entered into a national contest, but failed to place.  It however, remains one of my favorite.  For this short story, the first and last lines of the story had to be exactly the same and had to include the word "pants".


Dark Vengeance



"He who pants for me, shall pant no more." Her childlike, singsong voice echoed off the walls of the hollowed shell as she closed the door behind her.

Silence settled over her as the utter darkness swaddled her. Waiving her hand in front of her face, Anna tested the to see if the old cliché held true. The darkness didn’t bother her; it rapped around her like a security blanket, shielding her from harm.

No one had seen her enter or shut the airtight door behind her, she was sure of it. Who in their right mind would be watching the old ship graveyard? The locked fence served only as a barrier to keep children away from the dangerous area. There was nothing here for thieves to pilfer, and vandals could do little harm to the old steel monsters.

Outside, the beginnings of a late-summer thunderstorm filled the hull with a tattoo of music. With a crack of thunder that seemed to open the skies, the rhythm quickly escalated into a steady hum.

Like the hum of a self-induced trance, the symphony soothed her, driving away the encroaching demons, drowning their screams that she was wrong, that she had no right to do what she did . . . but they were wrong.

She moved effortlessly about the shell in the darkness. Dangers lurked at every turn, but finding her way into the belly of the vessel had become a game, a somewhat suicidal game. Through a veil as black as tar, shards of torn metal jutted out at her, but she knew every step, turn, and duck along the way. She turned a corner and stopped to gather her thoughts before taking three quick steps and leaping. With a bit of disappointment, she landed with a solid thud on the other-side of the broken catwalk. Death’s bullying hold no longer frightened her. It would come with no less than a welcome release, but as long as breath filled her body, she would have her revenge.

Finally, she reached her nest and pulled a light stick from her pocket. Snapping it, followed by a quick shake brought a dim, green glow to the surroundings. Moving through the tight confines, she lit three oil lanterns, illuminating the entire area. She stopped as she passed a splintered mirror, noticing her blood-spattered face. Raising her hand to wipe the blood away, she found them bloodstained as well.

Staring into the dirty shards of the mirror, her mind drifted back to another bloody night. Anna’s tears turned the color of her strawberry hair as they mingled with the blood and fell from her jaw line. Through tear-filled eyes, the mirror blurred. She released a long ragged sigh, and abruptly, she was there.

She turned to the left, smiled at John and took his hand that rested on the center consol. He smiled, but reluctantly, and in an instant, she knew something was wrong. His eyes darted lovingly from her, back to a look of concern in the rearview mirror.

"What is it, John?" she asked.

He glanced back at his two daughters, busy in the backseat, then answered quietly, "Someone is following us, has been since we left the house."

"You sure?"


She reached for her cell-phone and found no signal.

"About another three miles," he said, "we’ll be out of these hills and should get a signal."

"My gun," Anna whispered, "it’s in the lockbox in the back. I can reach it over the back seat."

"Okay," he said with pause, "but act casually about what you’re going after incase they see you."

She turned as if talking to the children then lifted herself out of the bucket seat and over the consol. Kissing Jill and Eve on the tops of their heads as she passed between the two captain chairs, she leaned over the rear bench seat to locate the gun box. Not daring to turn on a light, she rummaged through a pile of toys before her hand found the cold steel box in the dark. Just as she rose, the headlights of the fast approaching vehicle blinded her.

"John!" she screamed as the rear of the van was brutally impacted by the large SUV.

The jolt sent her reeling headfirst over the back seat. Another hard hit sent safety glass pellets showering down on her. The van erupted in one continuous scream. John drove erratically to keep ahead and not allow the attackers to gain a position beside them on the narrow mountainous road.

She fumbled madly with the combination on the box and nearly had it when the rain of bullets began. She struggled to get up. She had to shield her children from the barrage of automatic fire, but each time she managed to regain her balance, another sudden shift in direction sent her back to the floor.

With a tremendous thud, the gunfire suddenly stopped, and the van felt as if it rode on air. To her horror, she quickly realized that she was right. The van had left the road and was falling, falling to a certain death for them all. With another thud, the smooth ride came to an abrupt end as the van hit ground and began to tumble down the mountainside. Tossed around the inside of the van like a lifeless doll, she was finally ejected through the broken rear window.

Two hours later, she awoke, bruised and dazed, but alive. Standing a little too quickly, she felt as if the world was shifting beneath her feet, fought the dizzy spell and vomited onto the ground. Struggling to regain her composure, she tried to focus her blurry eyes and searched the dark, misty valley for the van.

Several hundred feet below her, on the edge of a rocky stream, she spotted it, lying on its side, offering up no sign of life. This time, she was quite certain that the world shifted.

A sudden fast-forward of the memory, and she cradled the lifeless bodies of her children, while begging God to take her instead. But God didn’t listen . . . or didn’t care.

They had taken everything from her, her husband, her two beautiful daughters, her sanity. Filling their van with hundreds of bullets and forcing them down a steep embankment into a flooding river, the henchmen had left them all for dead. They were right . . . for everything she was, had died that day as well. Though her heart still kept a steady beat, the person she had been was forever gone.

Surrounded by the bloody bodies of the three people she loved most in the world, she raised her head to scream, but the scream died in her throat as she realized she was back in the hull of the ship.

She was quite aware that she teetered on a razor-thin line between the truth and a hate-blurred fantasy world, but she preferred the illusion to the harsh truths of reality. The fantasy became more real with each passing day as the two, truth and fantasy blended together in a foggy line indistinguishable one from the other.

Anna had been a top Bureau investigator, working mostly undercover and within the lines of the law, fighting with staunch determination to make the system work. Yet, she had watched millionaire thugs with millionaire lawyers walk, one after another. When a major break threatened to bring down one of the largest crime families on the east coast, the Barmochi family fought back by going after her. Her family had merely been in the way, collateral damage.

Research was easy enough, the Agency was lax in its efforts to clear retired and especially dead agents passwords from the system. When her body wasn’t found, it was assumed it had been swept away in the flooded stream. At any local library, or internet café, she could move silently through the mainframes at Quantico, completely undetected. She thought at times that maybe they did know she was there. Maybe they didn’t care. Maybe they were tired of the guilty going free as well.

The Agency had been after the Barmochi family for fifteen years without so much as a parking ticket sticking to their Teflon coating. Since the death of her family however, seven blood-members of the Barmochi family, thirteen of their henchmen, a couple dozen of their known associates, and yes, their lawyers had found themselves undesirably at the end of her scorn.

Having a well-publicized reputation for liking cheap hookers, the eldest son of "The Family" had tonight picked up the wrong one and found himself gutted in a cheap motel room and missing his ring finger. Tomorrow, the ring finger adorned with a gold nugget ring bearing the Barmochi family crest would be delivered via currier to the father. Above his body, in his own blood, as she had done with all the other, she wrote the initial of her lost husband and two daughters, J J E.

The press had quickly assumed the initials had meant Judge, Jury, and Executioner, which she found a bit ironic and did nothing to correct them. The initials afterall, were for her own benefit, a memorial to those she’d lost, and if no one else ever truly understood them, it made no difference to her.

She opened a valve from a rain-filled bladder and the cool water washed the blood of another lowlife from her hands and face. With a little more effort and a washcloth, she erased the heavy makeup she’d applied to attract the young man. It was too simple, she thought. With a pretty face and the promises of great pleasure, he, like all the others, followed her willingly to his death.

Reclining on an old bunk, she plotted her next move. She’d contemplated the funeral, and though it would contain a target rich environment, but the FBI, local police and probably several other agencies’ surveillance would be too thick. Her moves had to be planned carefully. She couldn’t get caught when there was work yet to be done.

Rolling away from the light to the wall, she grimaced at the etching of a crucifix on the rusted divider between the bunks. Drawn probably by some merchant marine, many years prior, yet it haunted her, as shame still crawled deep inside her. Turning back to the front of the bunk, she doused the last of the lanterns and spoke through clenched teeth into the darkness, "No! Vengeance is mine."

Satisfying her hunger and having silenced the demons for another day, she lulled herself to sleep with her mantra. "He who pants for me, shall pant no more."



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The short story, Collin's Quest had a 1500 word limit and had to start with the starter sentence -- He packed everything, giving one last glance at the reason he was leaving.   It placed 2nd in a national contest with over 400 entries.



Colin's Quest


He packed everything, giving one last glance at the reason he was leaving.  Knowing he would never again see this place alive, Colin said a silent prayer, hoping God would be pleased and allow him to see it in his death.  The journey would be treacherous.  Many would die, but his home, his family and many like his depended on it.

            Kneeling beside the stream, he filled his leather wineskin bag from the trickle of icy, clean water and remembered a time when young men dared one another to swim the breadth of the mighty river that fed their valley.  Now a toddler could bridge its flow with only a step.

            When Fallon, the great Barbarian king of the North, found his conquests thwarted by this simple, but unwavering people of the valley, he turned to destroying their livestock, burning their fields and lastly, blockading their water supply.  The people of the valley didn't fight as he was accustomed to.  They didn't meet him on the battlefield, might against might.  They hid in the dense forest, striking in the dead of night, ambushing small parties, picking their battles.  What he could not defeat on the field of battle, he figured to drive out by any means possible.

Fallon and his hordes had no true use for the land.  They had no intention of farming, raising livestock, or even families.  Domination was his only goal.  He'd left a trail of blood across the continent, defeating well-trained and well-equipped armies, and defiance, no matter how small, could lead to downfall.  The slightest appearance of a chink in his armor could bring conquered armies together and defeated leaders out of exile.  It could give the people the one thing he couldn't afford for them to possess . . . hope.

Colin sent messengers to every village, manner, township and parish within a three-day ride.  There was no time to wait on the responses, he and three others must move before the winter snows arrived.  In their packs, they carried dried beef, enough for a week, sleeping rolls, a few personal belongings and the wondrous new black powder, brought to the village from a far-away land known as China.  Whether the armies of rival clans showed or not, the dam holding siege to the valley's water supply and stealing the life from it, must be destroyed.

From a group of volunteers, Colin carefully selected each accomplice, with a special purpose in mind.  He would not ask any man to sacrifice what he himself would not, and as leader of the clan, he claimed the first slot for himself.  He next selected William, the hunter, no man knew the land better, or had mastered the bow as he.  Then Olson, the horse trader, though long in years, he spoke several languages, giving him the ability to intermingle with almost any group.  Lastly, and with a heavy heart, he chose Danny, his fourteen-year-old son.  Danny, a mischievous but brilliant boy, had first hand knowledge of the powder, and Fallon would never suspect someone so young.

Each man would carry enough powder to blow a small hole in the dam, hopefully creating a chain reaction, destroying it in its entirety.  Each would travel alone, allowing for four separate chances for the job to be accomplished.

Two men on the East bank and two on the West, they took a moment for one last look.  No words were spoken, nor were any needed.  They turned toward the North and began to fan out.

Before nightfall on the third day, Colin, still a day's walk away, caught his first sight of the massive dam and marveled in the accomplishment of his enemy.  The water had been diverted to another tributary by an massive wall.  The enormity of it made him feel small and insignificant.

Lacking the warmth of a fire, sleep came sparingly and without the promise of rest.  His mind found refuge in the thoughts of family, home and his three companions on this suicide mission.  He wondered if the three had made similar progress and if they might be sleeping nearby, cold and lonely as he, afraid a spark of fire would draw unwanted attention.

Tomorrow he'd move closer, within striking distance of the great wall.  When darkness came, he'd move into the dry riverbed and set the charges.  And when the light of day next shone on his valley home, the riverbanks would be full . . . and he'd surely be dead.

When sleep finally arrived, its solace was littered with nightmares.  Waking with a flinch to the morning sun upon his face, he wondered if the dreams had been just that, dreams, or if they'd been premonitions of things to come.

"No time to worry about such things," he said.  Rolling off his back, he stopped momentarily on his knees.  "Lord, I know we don't talk much these days, and I'll not be asking you to spare me life, for I know that I walk this day unto death's door, but I ask that you help me to walk it well.  I go to take many a man's life, but I take them not without cause, or caring.  What I do, I do because I've been compelled and left no other choice.  I'd rather die standing, than live on knees bent before Fallon.  Watch over me family, especially Danny boy, and bring him home safe to his mother.  Amen."

The day's progress was slower and more arduous than the previous ones had been.  No more walking in clear sight, every move had to be calculated.  Much of the ground being covered on his belly, he slithered along like a snake.  By late afternoon, he found himself huddled beneath a mulberry bush, within a stone's throw of the wall.  Nothing more could be done before dark, so he pulled the limbs down around him and rested.

Closing his eyes for what seemed like only a second, he was startled to open them, greeted by darkness.  He looked for the moon to estimate the time, but found none.  Remembering the night had been chosen for that very reason, he placed his pack on the ground and dug the flint, the coated twine, and the container of powder from inside.

The trip into the riverbed went much smoother than he'd expected, and within minutes, he stood at the base of the great wall.  The drainage from several small holes surrounded him in a cloak of mist.  A good thing, he thought, until he tried to light the coated twine fuse and found it damp and unmanageable.  The powder contained securely in the dried bladder of an ox, at least remained dry.

To the east, the sun encroached upon the horizon, painting the sky a deep orange, announcing its arrival.  Knowing daylight would soon be upon him, Colin worked to find several flat rocks, laying the largest atop the others and he atop it, he made a dry haven for his charge.  After one last moment of introspection, he struck the flint against the stone.  Sparks flew, but nothing happened.  Again, he struck it, nothing.  As he raised his arms for the third blow, he heard a vast commotion in the distance.  Suddenly, like ants from a disturbed mound, Fallon's army came flooding down the banks toward him.  Closely behind, flying the colors of many clans, a united militia drove them like cattle.

Colin raised the flint for the final blow.  With a swift downward stroke, the stones collided, sending a brilliant blue spark to the powder.

From the bank where he and the large flat stone had been thrown, he felt dazed, confused, but sadly not wet.  It didn't work, was the next clear thought from his mind. 

Pushing the slate off his chest, he raised to see the masses bearing down on him.  He turned and as he'd assumed, the wall stood unwavering.  Staggering to his feet, he picked up a shard of stone and prepared to defend himself the best he could.  Half-dead already, surely not intimidating, he was mystified when they drew to a halt just before reaching him.  The sudden sound of splintering wood behind him enlightened him to the puzzle.  He turned just in time to get the full blast of the water as the wall crumbled.

Death grappled at him, dragging him with the current, not allowing him to surface for air.  When the last bit of hope had left him, he felt a sudden and determined tug at the hair atop his head.

Pulling him within the grasp of air and life, Danny lifted his father to the bank. "Don't be thinking you're leaving us so soon, old man," he said with a laugh.  "There's still harvesting to do, and I'll not do your share."





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Sayanora Sid was written for a contest judged by renowned Young Adult anthologist, Don Galo.  The requitements for the contest was a word limit of 2000 words, it had to include a ribbon, and it had to be of a young adult genre.  It placed second in the contest.


Sayanora Sid


“They have Mom,” was my only explanation as I raised my father’s pistol.

It felt heavy and cold in my hands as I pulled the trigger and it shuddered violently.  The sound of the 9mm round exploding from its casing, the sick thud it made tearing through flesh and bone, and my grandfather’s last words will be forever trapped inside my head.

“I understand,” was all he said to me.  I didn’t believe it, but still his last unselfish act was to try to make me feel better.

Shame crawled inside me.  If Dante was alive today, he would surely consign me to the lowest circle of hell . . . but they did have Mom; I had no choice.  So, I pulled the trigger again, making sure the task was completed.

“Well done, Amelia,” Sid said, pleased with the outcome.

Sid has been my one true friend and companion for the past six years.  I’m not exactly sure where he came from, but his voice showed up shortly after having inner ear surgery when I was eight, and he’s been with me twenty-four-seven, ever since.  No one else can hear him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not there.

 “Check to make sure.”  Sid prodded me.

Since a botched suicide attempt four years ago, I haven’t had much feeling in my fingertips.  So, I leaned my ear against his chest.  The heart that had sustained the Senator, my grandfather, for nearly ninety years had pumped its last ounce of stubborn blood.

Those that had my mother captive, didn’t care for Grandfather’s political view or his unwillingness to compromise.  He’d been a powerful force on Capital Hill for more than forty years, and those who opposed him grew weary of waiting for him to die.

Because Grandfather’s security was so tight, it had to be someone close to him, someone he’d meet in a secluded place.  So, I called under the pretense of needing help, he came running, and now I’ve killed him.  But like Sid had said, it was Grandfather or my mom, and Grandfather had led a long, happy life.

How they’d won over Sid, I’ll never know.  He is persistent and persuasive and can usually talk me into most anything, but had never asked me to do anything like this.  I had eavesdropped on a conversation now and then, or read him some of Dad’s papers, just out of curiosity, of course, but nothing close to this.  When his power of persuasion failed to gain my support in the latest venture, they resorted to kidnapping my mother.  I’ve asked Sid who They, were, but he would not say.  He seemed to fear them though, and that scared me, because Sid feared no one.

“It’s done,” I said aloud.

“Excellent.  Let’s go home.”

Sid was silent for the entire trip home, and with each turn of my bike’s wheels I felt more and more sure that I’d been used.  I saw them, just as I rounded the corner to my house.  Several unmarked cars filled the driveway and the curb outside.  Two men in dark suits and dark glasses, Secret Service, I guessed, stood by the front door.  They were easy enough to spot.  They all had the same look about them.  I swear sometimes I believed they cloned one agent a million times over.

Did they know?  Was Mom home?

“What’s going on?”  I asked with forced nonchalance as I approached the door.

“They will speak to you inside, Miss Wayne.”  I hated the way the Secret Service always called me that.  I’m just a teenager!  I wanted to scream at them.

I had grown use to it though.  The Secret Service had been my babysitters for the better part of my life.  Other than my grandfather, there were my father, three uncles, two aunts, and even a cousin in Congress, some with higher expectations.  It was sort of the family tradition.  Me, on the other hand, would never be anything.  I had seen one too many visits to the loony-bin to be considered State Department material.  One look at the tic-tac-toe razor tracks up the inside of my arms, and the press would have a field day.

I opened the door, and Mom sat crying on the sofa.  The two Secret Service agents followed me inside and closed the door behind me.  She was upset, but didn’t seem harmed in any way.

She raised her head, and her steel-blue eyes stared straight through me.  “How could you?” she screamed.

“You’re caught,” Sid said.

I bolted for the back door, but another Secret Service clone blocked my escape.

“But, Mom . . . they had you.  I had no choice!”  I cried out.

“Who had me?  No one had me.  I took the car to the shop this morning and I’ve been here the rest of the day.”

“But, but, you weren’t here when I woke up this morning and Sid said---.”   I knew immediately that I had screwed up.  I hadn’t mentioned Sid’s name in over four years, not since the last time I was sent away.  He had never left of course, but unless I wanted to spend my life in a padded room, I had to pretend that he was gone.

“Sid?  Did you say Sid?” she yelled.

I suddenly felt off kilter, as if the world had shifted beneath my feet.  My God, what had I done?


*   *   *


Two weeks now, I’ve been locked away.  Locked away in this asylum for the rich, the famous, and those who want to keep their mental stability a private matter.  I’m only too familiar with the drill.  There will be no trial of course; the family name could not withstand it.

“This is all your fault, Sid.”

No response.  Even he appeared to have deserted me.

“Sid,” I said through gritted teeth, “answer me, or I swear, I’ll kill myself and we will both be silenced forever.

“How was I supposed to know?” he finally whispered.  “Who’d have suspected a reporter sneaking around in the woods, catching it all on video?”

“They’ll never let me out of here now, Sid.  Before, I could convince them that all was right, but now, now I’m screwed for good.”

The buzzer sounded and the lights went out for the night.  Only the hallways remained dimly lit.

I lay my head back onto the lumpy pillow and waited for it to start.

“Mommy?” the familiar wailing cry from down the hall came.  It was the same every night. 

“Moooommyyyy, someone killed my mommy.”

“Yeah, it was you.  You freak!” another voice yelled out.

“Gonna be another long night, Sid.”



The buzzer sounded again, signaling wake-up call.  If I’d been asleep at all, I couldn’t tell.  It seemed like I had just closed my eyes.  Knowing what came next, I buried my head beneath the pillow.

CLANK, step, step, step, CLANK, step, step, step, CLANK came Nurse Honey’s usual trek down the long hallway, her heels clicking the floor, her stick banging against the metal doors to our rooms.  Nurse Honey was taller than my father, who was six feet, and she could be a starting front lineman for any NFL franchise.  And don’t let the name, Honey, fool you, she was anything but sweet.

I waited for the CLANK, but it didn’t come.  The door eased open instead and she nudged me with her stick.

“Up and at-em, Princess,” she mocked.  “Dr. Grossman has plans for you today.”

I rolled over, and the blunt end of her stick caught me in the soft spot just below the ribcage.  She knew just where to hit to cause the most pain with little chance of bruising.

“Bitch,” I said at the breath left my body.

Suddenly I was off the bed, but my feet did not touch the floor as the massive woman pinned me against the wall by my pajamas and the hair of my head.

“You’re lucky the doc wants to see you,” she said through clenched yellow teeth, “else you’d be having to see a different kind of doctor for that remark.”  She threw me back to the bed.  “Now, you have fifteen minutes to get dress and get breakfast before your group session with Dr. Grossman.”

“Grossman,” I mumbled to myself as the door slammed shut.  “Now, there is a name that fits.”


I walked into the meeting room, still munching on breakfast.  Five other kids around my age and Dr. Grossman were already there.  “Sorry,” I said through a half-chewed bite of bagel.

The good doctor paced nervously as the three girls and two boys filled five of the six chairs arranged in a circle.

“Sit,” Dr. Grossman motioned toward the open seat.

When I didn’t immediately move he said again, “Sit, please.”

I wondered how such a person could ever become a psychiatrist.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t smart or didn’t have the heart for it, he was basically a kind man, but was severely lacking in the people skills department.  His nervous twitches were enough to make some visitors mistake him for a patient.  His face was old beyond his years and creased with fissures.  What hair he had left, he greased and slicked to the thinning areas of his shiny scalp.  No matter how much he persisted, his glasses would not stay positioned on the bridge of his nose and seemed to migrate to the tip.  And if all that weren’t enough, he liked to touch people . . . not in a bad way, but he felt a constant need to have his arm around me or holding my hand as we talked.  It was a caring gesture, but it freaked me out.

He moved toward me and I quickly sat to avoid his touch.

“Amelia, this is a new group we are forming.  All of you are about the same age, have had similar psychological backgrounds and strangely enough, all are somehow related to very powerful people in the U.S. Government.”

Everyone said hi, I nodded.  “Good,” Sid said.  “You don’t need these people, and if you open up, they’ll just use it against you.”

“Charlotte, why don’t you start,” Dr. Grossman prompted a thin, nervous girl to my right.

“Well,” she paused and chewed nails that weren’t there.  “I haven’t heard him in quite sometime, but I get the feeling that he is still there, waiting for an opportunity.  I think he just used me until they no longer needed me.  I mean . . . I did what he wanted; I got the files from my father’s desk and read them aloud.  They were just a bunch of names, I thought, but they turned out to be undercover agents.  I killed those people.  I didn’t pull the trigger, but I killed them just the same, all for him, for Sid.”

My head immediately snapped up.  “That’s a lie!” I screamed.  The frightened girl immediately lowered her stare, and her attention went frantically back to the phantom nails.

 “You. You told her to say that.”  I turned and scowled at Grossman. 

“Calm down, Amelia.”  Dr. Grossman attempted to regain order.  “No one told Charlotte to say anything.  That is not the way it works here.” 

“Amelia,” he continued in a low silky voice that turned my stomach, “does the voice you hear read your mind or must you talk to him aloud?”

“I talk to him,” I said reluctantly.

“Can he see through your eyes?”

“No, but he hears.  He hears what goes on around me and sometimes comments on it.”

“Don’t you think if he’s part of a psychotic delusion, he would be inside your head, not needing you to see for him or to speak aloud?”

“I don’t know.”

I was astounded and confused.  I had never met anyone who’d come close to believing that Sid was real.  Half the time, I wasn’t sure I believed in him myself, but if others kids are hearing him too, then it has to be real.

“Get out of here!”  Sid snapped.  “I’m all you’ve got left.  Do you want to lose me too?  If you tell them, they’ll keep you locked up here forever.”

“Shut up, Sid!  Shut up!”  I fisted two handfuls of my own hair and tried frantically to shake him free from me.  I wanted him gone.

After the outburst, I expected the usual scorn and pity, but lifted my head to find no accusing eyes, but ones of understanding and sympathy.  Dr. Grossman stood, held his forefinger to his lips in a don’t talk gesture and handed me a slip of paper.  He asked the class to take a few moments of quiet time to collect their thoughts, before we would begin again.


At the top of the paper, in bold letters it read:





There is a terrorist organization that calls themselves, The Chosen.  This group has no allegiance to any country or cause, other than wealth and power and has repeatedly sold their services to the highest bidder.  Known associates include al-Qa’ida, Hamas, the Palestine Liberation Front abroad, as well as the SS Action Group, the Arian Nation, and the Citizens-Militia Group within the United States.  Some years ago, this group managed to get loyal members appointed into key positions within the department that overseas healthcare for members of congress as well as several other government agencies.


When you were eight, you were told that you needed surgery.  This was the first of many lies to follow.  During the surgery, a small implant was inserted into your inner ear that allows The Chosen to transmit messages directly into your inner ear, as well as hear what you hear.  This experimental but highly effective technique is an advanced form of brainwashing.  If they can make you feel that you are losing your mind, then your defense systems are severely weakened, giving them total access to a highly suggestible, totally vulnerable mind, and weapon.


You and others like you have been unwillingly used as weapons against the United States of America.  What has happened to you is not your fault.  It is a crime of circumstance.


We have spoken to your parents and received their consent to remove the device through a surgical procedure.  However, noting the danger of this procedure, we will not do so without your written permission as well.  Along with the normal dangers of any surgery, you should be aware, that this device has a built-in self-destruct mechanism.  It is normally not enough to kill the patient, but could cause brain damage and permanent hearing loss.  So, think this over carefully before making a decision.


If you decide that this is the route you wish to take, we must make The Chosen believe that nothing has changed.  In the past, The Chosen have taken as long as six months to deactivate devices in subjects they no longer see as useful.  However, we feel it is necessary to move promptly on this matter.  If they become suspicious, they will, and have in the past, set off the self-destruct mechanism.


Lastly, under the authority of The Patriot Act and The Department of Homeland Security, if this device is not removed, a release from Federal custody will never be an option.




At the end of the group session, Dr. Grossman met with me and scheduled our next meeting in three days.  He scribbled on a pad that the surgery would take place the day before that meeting.

The next two days were the longest of my life.  I tried my best to act as if nothing had changed, but Sid knew me too well and wasn’t buying it.  No matter how he persisted, I stood my ground and was adamant that nothing was wrong.  I expected my head to explode at any minute, but I had to go through with this.  I would no longer be their lab rat, their weapon.

As they prepped me for surgery, Dr. Grossman opened the door to my room and said in a voice a bit too loud and rehearsed, “Good morning, Amelia.  Your mom sent you some CDs, you want me to put one on for you?”  He looked strangely at the CD, “You like this stuff?”

“Yeah.  My Grandfather got me hooked on it.  Weird huh?”  I replied, feeling the pang or regret.  “Turn it up loud.”

He did just as he was instructed, then gave me a thumbs-up as he left the makeshift operating room.


 Take the ribbon from my hair,

Shake it loose and let it fall.


The melodious sounds of Lynn Anderson, Conway Twitty and other country gold artist flooded the room as prep continued.

Though it soothed me, the music was not for my benefit.  Its purpose was to drown out the noise of respirators, heart monitors and such.

Someone dressed in scrubs held up a small dry erase board with a one-word question.  Ready?

I replied with a nod, the flow was opened on an IV tube and the music faded away.

I was still humming a Charlie Rich tune when I came to in the clinic.  Mom, Dad and Dr. Grossman all stood around my bed.  I was momentarily disoriented, and started to speak, but instinctively stopped, the words dying in my throat.

“It’s okay,” Dr. Grossman said.  “Say goodbye to Sid.  This time for good.”  He held a small shiny object about the size of a pea in the palm of his hand.  It was distorted and blown out on one end.

“I assume, since I can still hear, that that happened after it was removed.”

“Yes.  We’ve attempted several ways to keep them from blowing after they have been removed, but we think they are somehow uniquely linked to the patient, possibly through heart rhythm, brainwaves or even DNA.  Anyway, once they are removed, they pop like popcorn.”  He laughed.  “The most important thing is . . . it’s out.”

“Can I see it?” I asked and took it from his hand.  “So, Sid was real all this time, and it wasn’t just me that he used.”

“Well, the voice inside your head was very real, but we doubt that his name was Sid or that the same person was speaking to each of you at the same time.  It would have been physically impossible.  We think Sid is only and acronym for Surgically Implanted Device.”

I inspected the charred remains of what for years had been my tormentor, but also my friend and companion.  The shape of things to come was truly uncertain, but what ever the future brought, it would be up to me and me alone.  I shed a tear of relief and one for loss, gave the capsule back to the doctor and began the long journey of piecing my shattered life back together again.

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  The contest theme for Faith was - The Incredible Homecoming  The person coming home had to bring some sort of gift and it had to be something that was hard for the person to give up.  The word limit on this story was 1850 words and it placed second in the contest.


Barely forty, yet a lifetime of heartaches showed heavily in her tired eyes.  Clutching Jesse's hand, she watched through the glass of the observation area.  Her three-year-old daughter laid motionless, drugged into a careless slumber, as one test after another was being performed on her frail body.

          "It'll be all right, honey . . . it has to be," Jesse said, trying to assure himself as much as her.

          Audrey turned and buried her face in the shoulder where countless tears had fallen in their sixteen years of marriage, and once again found comfort in his strength.  He'd been the rock that she leaned on and her whipping-post when she needed to vent anger.  Knowing that she was dangerously close to breaking, his tears had all been shed in the solace of his own spaces.  If he were not strong, this last straw she was asked to carry, could very well be the one to break her back.

          "Why is He doing this to us, Jesse?  Why?" she begged for an answer.

          He wiped the tears as they crested on her jaw line.  He knew of whom she spoke, but did not answer.  He had no answers.  After losing one child without any show of mercy from above, now she feared for another, and had for many years blamed God as their tormentor. 

          Justin had been gone now for seven years, nearly as many years gone, as he had been theirs to love and hold.  Unlike Anna, he had not fallen unexpectedly ill.  His body had not been riddled with cancerous tumors that tore at his life day by day.  He had merely disappeared, disappeared from the front yard of his middle-class suburban home in broad daylight.  Playing hide-and-seek one moment, gone the next.

          In the years following his disappearance, Audrey had daily made her pilgrimage to St. Josephs Church, where she prayed for her sons return, pleading with God to bring him home to those who loved and cared for him.  After three anguishing years, she no longer asked God for his safe return, but for answers to squelch the torment that plagued her mind. Hope was lost, but she felt a desperate need to know anything that would put a sense of finality to her suffering.  Was he alive?  Was he okay, or was he . . . dead?  When these questions also went unanswered, she began to turn away from the God that she had once loved and depended so upon.  Her heart turned bitter and she felt that He had forsaken her.

It was only at the moment that she first saw Anna's angelic face that she began to believe in life and possibly God again.  Though Justin was never far away in her thoughts, through Anna's love, she was able to go on living.

          Kneeling in the hospital chapel, she felt awkward and out of place.  She had turned her back on God, and yet, here she knelt to beg his intervention again.

          "Father," she said as she lifted her eyes to the crucifix and began to softly weep.  "I have sinned and lost faith in you.  I would not blame you for turning a deaf ear to me, because I know I am deserving of this, but, please, Father, please do not turn away from Anna, and Jesse.  They have suffered enough because of my lack of faith.  Do what you will with me, Lord, but help Anna.  She does not deserve this.  She is so little.  I put her in your care, Father.  Please send her help."  She stood, signed the cross and left the chapel.

          Still groggy from the medication, Anna dozed on and off in her car seat.  The talk was minimal as they made their way down I-75, southward from Atlanta.

          "I asked him," she quietly said.

          "I know," he said, needing no explanation.  "I saw you in the chapel . . . I asked him too."

          She smiled and grasped his hand, this time more in compassion than in a need of support.  "He's going to send help," she said, "I just know it."

          He leaned to kiss her, but stopped suddenly as they passed a young hitchhiker on the shoulder of the road.

The stunned look on Jesses face concerned her and she asked, "What is it, Jesse?  Whats wrong?"

He swerved onto the shoulder without an answer.  His head snapped around, as the young man ran to catch the offered ride.

 "What are you doing?  We cant pick up a hitchhiker," she said frantically, "especially with Anna in the car."

"It was him, Audrey.  It was him."

"It's who?  What are you talking about?"

He continued to stare at the approaching teen and absently said, "it's Justin, Audrey.  Its Justin."

Her head spun abruptly in the boys direction.  He was close to the right age, she thought, but could it possibly be?  His hair was long and partly covered his face, making a good look at him nearly impossible.

She impatiently watched his every move as he approached.  He wrestled with a heavy backpack, trying to keep it steady on his thin frame. Nearing the van he brushed the hair from his face with his hand, giving Audrey her first clear look at him.  Her breath caught in her throat and only a small indistinguishable sound escaped.

"Oh my God," she finally said in astonishment.  How?"

Confused, but overjoyed, she reached for the door handle, but Jesse took her arm and held it firmly.

"What is it?" she demanded.  "Let me go to him."

"Wait," he pleaded.  "Wait, you may scare him.  He might not remember."

"Of course he will remember."  He wasnt a baby when he was taken."

"You don't know what he's been through, Audrey.  Let him get in and well take it from there."

He trotted alongside where Jesse had opened the sliding door.  "Thanks," he said as he threw his backpack behind the seat.

"Where you headed?" Jesse asked.

"Uh . . . south, Florida," he said, being purposely vague.  "How far you folks going?"

Audrey couldn't speak.  "Just as far as Macon, I'm afraid," Jesse answered.

"Hey, no problem," he said lightly, "that's a good seventy miles I wont have to walk today." 

Audrey looked anxiously at Jesse before turning to him.  "Anna is the little snoozing one," she said nervously, "this is my husband Jesse and I'm Audrey, Audrey Wade."  She watched carefully for some indication of recognition, but there wasn't any there, not even a glimmer.

"Great," he said.  "I'm Christopher, or Chris if you like."

"Kind of young to be out here on your own, aren't you, Christopher?"

"Uh . . . no ma'am.  I just turned eighteen," an obvious lie.  "I've always looked young, everybody says so."

"What about you, guys?" he asked, changing the subject.  "What're you doing up this way?"

"Well," Audrey said, "Anna is sick, and we take her to Atlanta for her tests and treatments."

"Sorry," he said, and offered nothing more.

The conversation tapered off and Jesse could see the tension building in Audrey with each passing mile marker.  The sun was starting to crest on the horizon and with the encroaching darkness the temperature began to plummet.  Looking at the outside temperature gauge, Jesse mouthed forty-two to Audrey as they pulled off the exit to their home.

"Where you staying tonight, Christopher?" Audrey asked.

"Oh, don't worry about me, ma'am.  I'll get me a room or . . . something."

"No," she said in a tone indicating no sense of choice.  "Bad weather is coming.  You will stay with us.  We have lots of room."

At home, while Audrey made dinner, Jesse and Christopher played with Anna.  They played as if they had spent a lifetime together.  She watched as Anna busily explained her entire toy animal collection to him and as he intently listened to every detailed story.  With a slight but sudden glance, the sound of his voice resonated inside her head.  I've come to help her.

       The shock weakened her knees and she nearly dropped the dish she was holding.  She steadied herself on the countertop; he smiled at her, and went back to playing.

      Dinner was quick and without much conversation.  To their questions, Christopher was at best short and vague with his answers.  He needed to be on his way south was the overriding theme it seemed, but with the threat of bad weather setting in, they convinced him to wait a day before moving on.

     "We can't let him leave," she whispered to Jesse in the hallway.  "I'll not go through this again."

     "He's not leaving.  I promise you.  He'll remember, just give him time."

     Agreeing not to press him any further and hoping his memory of them would return, they began preparing for bed.  Audrey showed him to what had once been his room.  It still remained as it had the day he left it to play with friends.

     Hesitating at the door, he took in the full panoramic view.  "Wow," he said looking at the shelves covered in action figures, "I used to love these things."

    "What?" Audrey asked.  "You remember these things?"

     "Well, not these, but the X-men and Batman figures.  I loved those things, when I was younger."

     "Oh," she said a bit despondent.

     Making sure he was comfortable, she resisted the urge to kiss him goodnight.  Sleep was not easy coming that night, but it finally came, and the long wearisome day drifted away as images of family and peace of mind soothed her.

     But suddenly, in the depth of the night Audrey was startled awake by an unknown source.  Not quite sure what had awakened her frightened her even further.  She tried to quiet her breathing and listened for a clue that would explain her wide-awake state and her racing heart.

     The sound, as quiet as an angels whisper, lured her to the hallway.  The hallway was dark except for a meager glow from underneath Anna's door.  It should have startled her, but for an unknown reason, did not.  Easing the bedroom door open, she discovered her two children, Anna sleeping quietly and Justin standing above her, his hands moving inches above her tiny body.  Each time his hands passed a tumor-laden area her ailing body would glow, softly casting shadows over the room.

     "Justin?" Audrey whispered.

     "Yes," he replied softly.  "You believed he would send help and he did."

     She began to sob, as he continued to move his hands over Anna.

     "Because of your faith, I was sent to help her, but . . . I can stay only until it is done."

     "But, shes doing fine, the Doctors, they all said she is in remission.  Couldn't you wait for just a little while, stay with us . . . just until she needs you?"

     "All I've ever wanted was to be with you again, and I'd give anything to stay one more day, but---" his moving hands stopped over Annas forehead.  "There," he said, "a large one, they haven't found.  She can't wait."

     A small whine was all that was audible from Audrey.  Buckling in the doorway she questioned, could she lose one to save the other?

    "It's okay, Mom.  I love you," he said, as he lightly touched Anna's brow.  "I wish I could stay, but I'll be all right . . . and so will she."     

     He kissed Anna's tiny forehead, stepped back into the shadows and was gone."

     Kneeling by Anna's bed, she watched her as she slept and counted her breaths as well as her blessings.  Lifting her head to the star-filled window above her daughter's head, she knew for the first time in years, that both her children were okay.




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The contest theme for the short story  Itty-Bitty was 'The Lighter Theme'.  It had to include a lighter, but no smoking, a balloon, but not birthday balloons and be of a comical or light nature story.  It was my first attempt at a childrens type story.  The word limit on it was 1850 words and placed second in the contest.
Itty-Bitty City

The name of the small island town had long been disputed.  In the town lived two prominent families, and depending upon whom you asked, you would most certainly receive two distinctly different stories of the towns name and its true founders.  The Itty family would proudly relate to those willing to listen, the bravery of their forebear Red Itty, and how he'd led the group to the paradise they now called the Itty-Bitty City.

The Bitty family, on the other hand would adamantly disagree, sighting that the facts told by the unreliable Itty family were somewhat skewed and the true leader of the group had been none other than the renowned explorer Little Sam Bitty.  Thus the name of their fair province was not the Itty-Bitty City at all, but was the City of Bitty-Itty.

On one fact though, they did however agree.  The group fleeing the mainland in search of freedom, had founded this community nearly a hundred years ago.  Leaving the big city, each in their homemade crafts, they searched for a land that they could live free, a place where they had no one to fear, and on the shores of this tiny island they found such a place.

Life in the big city had reduced their proud race to nothing more than scavengers, relying on the Colossal's ignorance of them for their very survival.  By scavenging at night and acquiring only what they needed for survival, they had cleverly managed to stay clear of the Colossals for centuries.  As long as the nightly haul wasn't noticeably large, the Colossals would think that they had merely misplaced the objects that could no longer be found.  But the onslaught of the overpopulated cities was making the task of staying out of sight more and more difficult.

Though life on the Island was not without its danger, the Itty's and the Bitty's could live free, with no reason to hide other than the occasional snake or seagull in search of its daily meal.  The island would be nothing short of paradise if not for the constant squabbling among the two clans.  Talks between the elders had broken down and the two families decided to live their lives as separatists and do everything possible to ignore the other.  They each established their own government, elected their own officials, chartered their own schools, and did the many other day to day things within their own circle, never daring to cross the line.

     The separatist movement kept the peace for a time, but faltered when both families laid claim to the bell that adorned the lead ship in their expedition, the same bell that passionately rang as the scout shouted, "land ho!"  Each group wanted the bell for their newly constructed Town Halls, and was ready to fight for their inherent rights to it.


Jason Itty and Minnie Bitty, the two littlest of the litl'ns played among the sand dunes, chasing hermit crabs, and occasionally catching one for the wild ride.  They didn't care that their last names were not the same.  They didn't care about any feuds or stupid old bell.  What they did care about was adventure and having fun with their bestest friend in the whole wide world.

"What do you suppose all the fuss is over this ding-dang bell, Minnie?"

She giggled.  "That's funny Jasonthe ding-dang bell.  You get itthe ding-dang bell, like the sound."

"Yeah, Minnie," he said with a bit of concern.  "But what are we gonna do about it?"

"Whatcha mean, Jason?  We're just litl'ns, too small to do much of anything about anything.  Besides, those crazy biggins will get over it.  It's just a dumb old bell."

"I don't knowI heard rumors, rumors that their may be a war."

"War?  What's a war, Jason?"

"Uncle Thaddeus said it was when folks couldn't agree on something, and they'd fight to see who got to be right."

"Well, me and Sissy fight all the time, it aint so bad, really."

"Not that sort of fighting, Minnie.  It's where the biggins fight each other and some of them might get hurt or even die."

A look of concern swept over her young face.  "You mean they would actually kill over that stupidding-dang bell?" she asked, with no amusement this time.

"That's what Uncle Thaddeus said.  He said there were wars all the time back on the mainland."

"Then we have to do something, Jason.  We just gotta."

"I got an idea, but it'll get us in tons of trouble, I'm sure of it."

"Heck, I don't care," she said.  "Momma says trouble is my middle name."


Back in town at opposing town halls, tempers began to flare.  "They have no right to keep us from the bell," someone yelled from the crowd.  "It's part of our heritage, our history."

"Yeah!" someone else yelled.  "I say we take it, and if they get in the way, thenthey'll just have to pay the consequences."

A loud overpowering cheer erupted from the crowd as Petty Bitty, Mayor of Bitty-Itty, pounded his gavel on the wooden tabletop, trying to restore order to the unruly crowd.  "Order!  Order!" he yelled.  "We must have order!  We've lived peaceably here for nearly a century.  We can't allow something like this turn us into warmongers.  We'd be no better than those we came here to escape."

"This is different," a feisty young Bitty yelled.  "We have the right and obligation to defend what is rightfully ours."

The crowd roared again.  "Wait," Mayor Bitty begged.  "Wait!  You must give me time to negotiate.  I'm sure we can come to a peaceful agreement."

"You can't negotiate with an Itty," the young Bitty protested.  "We've tried that before.  They don't understand reason."


Jason and Minnie watched, as on each end of town the crowds grew angrier.  "We have to work quick," he said.  "They won't wait much longer."

"What're we gonna do, Jason?  We can't let them fight."

"Don't worry, Minnie.  Just get Sissy, Tommy and Chester, and meet me at your Uncle Albert's house as quick as you can."

"Uncle Albert's house?"

"Just go, Minnie.  We don't have time, just go."


As the groups of biggins began their separate marches toward the resting place of the historic craft that had led the way to their independence, the litl'ns met at Uncle Albert's house.  Professor Albert Bitty was the island's number one scientist, inventor and all around quack.

"So, genius, what's this great plan of yours?" Sissy Bitty asked sarcastically.

"Chester," Jason said, "I need you to go to the front door and keep the professor occupied."

"How am I supposed to do that?"

"I don't know, Chester.  Have one of those sneezing fits you have, or something.  Just keep him busy.  The rest of us," he said as he looked around, "are gonna borrow his flying machine."

"Count me out," Sissy said.  "That aint borrowing, that's stealing."

"Please, Sissy, please," Minnie whined.  "We've gotta stop them."

Sissy paused.  "Okay," she finally said, "but you're gonna take the blame if we get caught."

"Deal," Jason said.

The machine turned out to be heavier than it looked and it was all they could do to move it.  The sides were smooth with no clear place to get a handhold, but with a great deal of effort they managed to get it out of the workshop.  Once outside, however, they found that the smooth body of the heavy cylinder slid easily along the grass, allowing them to make quick progress.

Chester rejoined the group once he saw they were clear of the professor's house.  "What's this on the side?" he asked.  "BIC, he spelled out."

"Don't know," Jason said.  "Maybe it stands for Big Idiot Colossals," he added with a giggle.

They managed to reach the beach only minutes ahead of the two angry mobs.  "So, what next?" Sissy asked.

"Tommy, you're the best climber," Jason said, continuing to ignore Sissy.  "We need you to climb the mast and tie this rope to the bell."

Jason quickly attached the other rope end to the bottom of the cylinder, while the other three smoothed out the linen ball-shaped canopy with the open end facing the cylinder.

Jason studied the cylinder, and turned the large wheel several times causing sparks to fly, but no flame.  "Anybody got an idea of how this thing works?" he asked.

"Sure," Minnie said.  "The cylinder is filled with a synthetically enhanced gaseous hydrocarbon C4H10 butane, which is released by this simple see-saw lever release system, allowing the fuel to be propelled through the modified high-pressure valve.  When ignited by the wheel spinning over the spark-producing pyrophoric alloy, it creates a jet effect, producing a large amount of forced air heat and thus inflating the balloon, causing it to rise."

Everyone looked at the youngest litl'n with astonishment.

"What?" she asked, shrugging and holding her palms upward.  "That's what Uncle Albert says anyway."

The group chuckle was quickly washed away by the sound of the approaching mobs, and they busily went to work.  They tied the valve open, releasing a loud hiss of gas, and with a group effort the wheel was spun, igniting the flame.

As the mobs simultaneously appeared on different ends of the beach, the balloon broke free from the ground and began to loft upward, pulling the slack from the rope.  Everyone including the five litl'n watched in awe as the balloon made its way skyward.  No one gave notice to the rope entwined around Minnie's ankle, until the loud shrill escaped when it pulled her feet from under her and lifted her upward.

     Portions of each group ran to rescue the little girl, others still bent on greed raced to save the bell that was being lifted from its perch.  As the roaring flame continued to force the balloon higher the group slowly began to lose its hold on the rope and little Minnie Bitty, bit-by-bit slipped away.  The group desperate to save the bell turned its attention to the hopeless efforts of the others, and at that moment life on the island changed forever, as they gave up on the bell to save one of their own.  With a joint effort, enough control of the flying craft was gained to release Minnie from her entanglement.

     Kitty Bitty held her daughter tightly as the balloon caught the winds aloft, quickly moved out to sea with the bell in tow and disappeared over the horizon, never to be seen again.

That night at the celebration of peace, the two towns joined as one and was renamed The No-bell City.  For their part in bringing peace to the island, the five litl'ns were honored and awarded the No-bell Peace Prize.

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Hillmans and Strawberry Jell-O was written for a personal essay contest and won first place.



Hillmans and Strawberry Jell-O


Life is somewhat like a sculptor chipping away at a large block of granite.  With every hammer swing a chip falls, defining the rough stone until it is a work of art.  In the span of our lives, many major events shape us.  However, I feel in many ways, it is the accumulation of a lifetime of smaller events that make us truly what we are.  Here are a few of my less than life shattering, but definitely life building events:


Most of my earliest memories include my brother, who is fourteen months my senior.  We raced our trikes on our wraparound front-porch, threw rocks from our driveway, slid in cardboard boxes down our stairs, and ran, boy did we ever run.  It wasn’t  Play Station, but it was fun.


First grade, getting ready for school, the only heat in our house came from an old standup oil heater in the main living area.  Because of the cold, I decided to get dressed behind the heater.  I learned very quickly, when you bend over to pull up your underwear, you point your bottom away from the hot surface.  I sat on a pillow for a week.  At the same house, through a chain-link fence, I kissed my first girl, Patti Bishop, she was six I was seven.  I must have ruined her for life, last I heard, she was in prison.


A little later, with the same brother, we found a box of funny shaped balloons and blew them all up.  We had no idea what a condom was.  We climbed every tree in sight, even though mom told us not to. We’d ride in my sister Donna’s Hillman, (that’s a car), and sing “Dinah want you blow your horn” until she would toot.  Of course, we changed Dinah to Donna.  Who needs hi-fi?


 We’d get up before dawn to go fishing with my dad.  His secret carp-bait ingredient was strawberry Jell-O, forgive me dad.  We once caught pollywogs in a coke bottle while fishing, and my brother learned to make sure you have the correct bottle when you reach for something to drink.


Times were lean, but we were blessed with ignorance and didn’t know any other way.  We never went hungry, we had what we needed and most of all, we had fun.  Mom, dad and us five kids would all pile into whatever broken-down car we had at-the-moment and go to the drive-in, where we brought our own snacks.  Or we’d ride to the park and wait for the sunset.  The water fountain there shot a hundred feet in the air and changed colors assisted by tinted lights.


Mom mixed powdered milk with regular to make it last longer and made Christmas decorations out of cotton-mill cones.  Somehow, though, she still managed to make the best banana pudding you ever ate.  Dad once painted a car with a paint-roller and brush.  He worked two jobs most of his life.  I remember going in with him on holidays at the cotton-mill where he’d volunteer to work the security, because it paid triple-time.  Dad wasn’t an educated man, but that was not to say he wasn’t smart.  He could fix most anything from cars, to boat motors, to CB radios.  He worked, didn’t complain and was a good father.  He’s been gone now seven years.  I miss him.


We vacationed in Florida, where relatives put us up and the beach was free.  I can remember a dozen or more fourteen-hour trips, all culminating when we crossed this one certain bridge, where we’d get our first glimpse of the ocean.


On summer nights, us and a dozen other neighborhood kids would play kick-the-can.  It’s kind of like hide-and-seek, but with a can and kicking involved.  As teenagers, we took the game to a new level and played kick-the-can in mixed pairs.  It slowed the game, but I was hiding in the bushes with a cute teenage girl, heck, I didn’t care if the game ever picked up.


I now have a great job, a secure future, and a family of my own.  But is life better?  I don’t honestly know.  Will my children be able to look back and find such moments that helped form them, or will they be defined by the latest video game or pop-star?


Life’s sculptor continues to chip away at my life, creating the figure that is to be my legacy.  While the birth of my children, the love and support of my beautiful wife, the day I joined the Army, the first time I made love, and the day my father died, were all enormous chunks from my granite, the other chips . . . the million little ones that litter the floor, I think are more defining by far.

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I entered this contest shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001.  The contest theme for the short story Tribute was 'A Short Surprise'.  It had to be less than 750 words and have an unexpected ending.




The collapse of the first tower had nearly cost him his life.  Not yet sure how he'd escaped death's grip as the structure toppled around him, he bravely climbed the stairs of the second tower as it teetered on weakening steel girders.  He had no choice, there were innocent lives at stake and it was his duty to rescue them.

His legs cramped and his lungs fought for oxygen as he continued his trek upwards, fighting the steady stream of bodies trying desperately to make there way down.  Some were injured and burned, but they were moving and for now that was what mattered, moving, moving away from the building and away from death.

Images of his wife, his two young sons, and his brother that had also been in the first collapsed tower tore at his concentration.  Selflessly, he shoved the thoughts away and trudged forward toward the helpless, toward the ones that wouldn't make it without him.

His radio crackled with chatter, some frantic, but most determined and resolute.  He listened intently for the sound of his brother's voice or the others in his unit, but didn't recognize any.  Chiefs barked commands, units checked in as the reached each floor, and calls for help came from all channels.

"They need help in there," a young woman shouted and pointed toward the door leading onto the 67th floor.

"Fireman Burgos, floor 67, reports of multiple injuries, request further assistance."

No answer.

He repeated his transmission, still no reply.

A crashing ceiling support sent the already frantic crowd rushing out of control downward.  "Stay calm!" he screamed.  "You'll be okay.  Move quickly, but stay calm."

With help, he moved the steel support off of several that were trapped.  He paired each injured with acquisitioned civilian help and sent them on their way.  "I'm Martin Burgos, of the twenty-third," he told each.  "Remember my name, and tell my family that I love them."

He continued his quest, helping those he could and saying a quick prayer for those he couldn't.  He was seconds from moving on to the next floor, when he heard a cry for help.

"Please, don't leave me," it begged  "Please."

The building cried out in loud shrieking moans, as the inner support system struggled to keep it upright.  Windows popped like firecrackers, showering him with glass as he searched for the voice.

Then he saw her.  Legs pinned beneath an enormous slice of concrete.  "Please help me," she said.  "Don't let me die."

"Stay calm ma'am.  My name is Martin.  I'm gonna help you."

"Thank you," she said.

"Fireman Burgos of the twenty-third," he yelled into his radio.  "I need immediate assistance on the 67th floor.  Female trapped, over."

His call went unanswered.  Others continued to check in and get immediate responses, yet no one seemed to hear him.  Figuring it was his radio, he set forth to do what he could alone.

"What's your name, ma'am?"

"Beatrice," she strained.  "Friends call me Bea."

"Okay, Bea, can you move you legs?"

"I can't feel them . . . I don't think so."

He searched the room but could find nothing to use for leverage to move the heavy piece.  "I've got to leave the room," he told her calmly, "but I promise I'll not leave this floor without you."

She nodded.

He returned with a long portion of plumbing pipe.  "I'm gonna lift this, you pull your legs free.  No matter how much it hurts . . . you pull and you pull hard."

She took a deep breath and nodded again.

Several attempts proved hopeless, the weight was just too much.

The ceiling above them began to smoke then ignited.  "Go," she said.

"Sorry," he said.  "I can't do that."

"You've done all you can.  Please go."

"You know any good prayers?" he asked.

"A few," she forced a smile.

He looked at the ceiling, signed the cross and covered her exposed body with his own.

* * *


 "Today," the Mayor spoke, "we honor those who have sacrificed all.  I am comforted and my faith strengthened by one courageous story.  More than one-hundred confirmed accounts have chronicled the heroism of Firefighter Martin Burgos and those he helped escape the second collapsing building.  We know this could've only been a miracle from a much higher power, for we have confirmed that Firefighter Burgos along with his entire company died in the first collapse, never making it to building two.








Horizontal Divider 19

 El Diablo is to date, one of two first place finishes for me- The contest theme was 'The Cell Call'  and had to include a cell phone call to a doctor, forcing the doctor to make life altering decision.



El Diablo


            He kissed the tears away one-by-one as they fell.  "I'm sorry," he said.  "I know I let you down.  I promised to come home."

          She searched his eyes for answers, but found none there.  "How? she asked.  “I buried you. Dan.  How?” she asked again, unable to form any other questions in her mind.


          He offered no response.  Pushing the haggard hair away from her eyes, he kissed her deeply, cradling the base of her neck in his right hand.  The fingertips of his left hand caressed the contours of her jaw line, sensually feeling its curvature.  Migrating slowly down the front of her throat, he stopped only to feel the thunder of her pulse racing through her.  Softly he traced the outline of her collarbone, and then followed the breastbone to the fleshy soft area of her upper breast.      

          Sarah's breath became labored and more rapid.  With each soft touch like feathers being drawn across her body, her heart raced.  Every nerve in her body ached with pleasure.

          Her hands began to move in much the same fashion as his.  Taking in the tender and sensitive portions of his body. 

          His hand moved down the crevice of her soft cotton gown and cupped her breast, gently kneading it.  Her moans amplified as his lips traced the same route that his hands had taken.


          The distant sound of chirping invaded the solace of her dream.  With the ferocity of a gladiator, she fought the intrusion, struggling to hold her peaceful fantasy world.

          "No!"  She threw her pillow at the bureau holding her cell phone and screamed in a frisson of anger, "it's . . . my . . . day . . . off!"

She buried her head in the pillows from the vacant side of the bed and counted each agonizing ring as they approached the magic number six, the point where voice mail would take over.

"Thank you, Jesus," she said as the phone fell silent, then "Jesus Christ!" when it immediately started again.

Throwing her legs over the side of the bed, she landed squarely on top of Diablo, the meanest cat this side of Hades.

Friend or foe, Diablo usually didn't care.  Most who dared close enough, ended up scratched, bit, or both.  But stepping on his tail almost guaranteed a permanent limp.

After shaking the killer cat from her feet, she hobbled across the room to where the phone once again fell silent.

Diablo leapt onto the bed, declaring it conquered territory. With no hint of remorse, he dared her to reclaim it.  With his one good eye, he glared at her, the other, punctured in the jaws of a German Shepherd, sat milky and lifeless. 

She pointed a gaunt finger at the tattered cat.  "You think just because I promised my dying mother that I'd look after you, that you run the show around here, but I'll take one of these bloody stumps I used to call feet and kick your butt from here to next week."

She stepped toward the bed.

Diablo stood.

She stopped.

"Okay!  I didn't want to go back to bed anyway.  You just wait, hairball.  Your day is coming.  There's a family of Dobermans down the street that’ll kill anything that moves, and I'm sure they would love a fat boy like you."

She retrieved the cell phone and inspected the numbers of the missed call.  There were none she recognized and they didn't leave a voice mail, so she shoved the phone into her pajama pocket and left the room.

The state of the living room came as no surprise to her.  Her once pristine linen drapes, now hung off kilter and in shreds.  The arms of her designer couch had been reduced to scratching posts.  Her potted palm tree, the only plant in her fifteen years of trying that seemed to ignore the absence of a green thumb, now held onto life by a thread, it's roots bare and scarred.  Its dirt, what wasn't thrown out onto the white carpet, had been transformed into a litter box.

Her end tables, coffee table, and shelves all sat barren.  What keepsakes and family heirlooms that hadn't been broken, had been put away until the blessed day that Diablo would take his celestial dirt nap.

"Why do I put up with this?" she spoke aloud.

The answer came in a tiny voice, "Mommy, I'm hungry."

She turned to see her sleepy-eyed, five-year-old daughter, Aubrey.  "Okay, Honey.  How 'bout some waffles?"

"Yeah!" Aubrey quickly perked up.  It'd been one of their favorite breakfasts, before her father had left for Iraq, only to return sealed in a box and draped with a flag.

The sound of Aubrey's voice brought Diablo running.  For whatever reason, she was the one person the cat liked.  Aubrey bent and lifted the cat with two handfuls of matted hair.  Diablo purred with no sign of protest.

She sighed and moved into the kitchen to start breakfast, realizing a half second too late, as her feet slipped from beneath her, that Diablo had spilled his water dish again.  Crashing to the tile floor with a deadening thud, she landed in a mixture of water and kibbles; Diablo would only eat the bits.

Brass gnats began to dance a ballet around her head, teasing her consciousness.  The ringing in her ears was replaced with the chirping of the phone again.  Digging it from her pocket, she paused to gather her senses, pushed the talk key and managed a quiet, "hello."

"Doctor Tanner?" the voice asked.

"It's my day off."

"Excuse me?" the voice questioned.

"It's my day off.  I'm not coming to work."

"Ma'am, this is Margaret, from the ASPCA."


"The animal shelter, Ma'am.  You asked us several weeks ago to find a home for your . . . shall we say troubled cat."

"Yes, Margaret.  I remember now."

"Well, we have a placement for Diablo, if you're still interested."

She shook her head, trying to chase away the brass gnats, felt the growing knot on the back of her head, and looked at her scratched feet."

"Doctor Tanner, did you hear me?"

She looked at her curtains, her furniture, her bare shelves and ruined carpet.

"Are you still there, Doctor Tanner?  Is everything all right?"

Then she looked at the much-needed joy in Aubrey's face as she held the butt-ugly, disfigured cat.  How would she ever explain it to her?  Lastly, she looked at Diablo, and could swear that he winked at her with his bad eye.

"Yes, Margaret," she finally said.  "Everything is fine . . . but I guess we won't be needing your help after all.