Category: Short Stories


I itch between my shoulder blades, the unreachable itch of watchful eyes cast my way. I don’t dare turn to look as the pointless gesture only makes me look guilty, of something… of anything worth watching. Instead I slowly roll my shoulders and stretch my back, even pull a yawn. It is better to appear bored, or better yet tired, tired people aren’t a threat. It’s hard to mobilize when you are beat down by life and lack of sleep. The gaze slips from me to the truely tired business man slumped against the hand rail beside me. He startles noticibly before faining indifference. I keep my smile small and smother the laugh threatening to bubble out, nothing attracts unwanted attention like laughter at tense moments. The urge completely abates with the soft gasp and hushed rustle of fabric that means someone is being “helped” off the train for questioning. 

A heavy silence follows those sounds; filled with dred and inactivity. I cannot blame them the fear we are all mainlining these days, compliments of our government for our own good I’m sure, is a potent drug. 

I check my watch, like I always do, stand and walk towards the back of the train, per usual, shift my bag to the center of my back, in a perfectly normal manner. I am just a commuter. I am just tired. I am “sheepole”. The thoughts drive through me like a steel rod, straightening my back and my resolve, like bolts of lightning, energizing and wild, like the truth which frees.

Impatiently, I wait for the train to stop and the doors to open. I tap my toes, check my watch, and adjust my bag. In an exaggerated motion I crane my neck looking for the conductor who will stand near the open the door waiting to help myself and the pair in front of me disboard. I mumble and “swear to god” under my breath. Everyone has backed away from the door except us three. Our mixed bag of emotions, as repellent as noxious gas, acts as a shield. No one wants to see the fear in the eyes of the man being taken for questioning or the joy in the young recruit’s. I remain impatient and agitated. I shift my bag to my side just as the train lurches to a stop. My perfectly timed fall is unavoidable and undignified. As the locked doors spring open the young recruit, I grabbed for stability, and I fall down the steps in a tangle.

The fearful man, selected for questioning, freezes for only an instant.

We lock eyes.

He nods once, then is gone.

The itchy feeling is back, but at least I no longer have to suffer the dreadful inactive silence. What comes next will have been worth it.

I am civil disobedience, and I will not be ignored.

 

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“She just… kind of broke,” the little boy sounded surprised. 

“Well what happened,” his grandfather asked him. “Did you wind her up too tight? Did you press her buttons too many times?”

The perplexed look never left his eyes even as he shook his head no vigorously.

“Maybe you neglected her then,” the grandfather offered. “Is she still in one piece? Was she nurtured? Did you protect her from the muck of the world?”

The boy turned her over in his hands more gently with each revolution. “I think so papa!”

“Then what do you think it could be kiddo?” 

The boy’s eyes squinted and his brow worked up into a furrowed ridge before a lightbulb went off behind his eyes. “I don’t know, but I’m going to try and make it right.”

All rights to owner

Today I came undone. It was an interesting feeling akin to screaming from a dream, pointless and jarring. My words were nothing more than pathetic echoes reverberating out of me, attached to nothing, devoid of meaning. Scales fell from my eyes, liquid fire, blinding me to the light. As I stood in the maelstrom, begging it to strike harder, I paid willingly in pounds of flesh. Eased by the warm rush of blood. Calmed by the whiring in my ears.

My masks lay at my feet strewn like flowers, representations of things I dare not name. They are my most and least honest appendage in one. The masks repel and call to me with the same voice. It’s familiar, and my fingers itch to pull them up, obedient as always.

An acrid taste upon my tongue sours my stomach. Perhaps this pill wasn’t meant for swallowing, but the hour is late and I’ve already decided. So while Fate looms chill and shadowy behind me, a shark, keen in bloody water, I drop my arms, stand firm, and adjust my posture. I am ready to continue because continue is what I do.

​”This is the single greatest witch hunt!” His voice caught somewhere between a whine and a yell carried on the heavy air out into the night. As the inky darkness accepted the words rolling them over and over in fading echos it gained a chill edge, causing those whose shoulders it brushed to shiver. Developing a weightiness the wind filled with shadows and percieved threats. Shreiking across the miles it tore at sanity shreading peace no regard for the distraction left in its wake. Ringing with the sound of history repeated the bluster rages on, but fear not for it is followed by the winds of change.

 As seen in the Atlantic – Andrew Kelly

All rights to owner whom I thank

Magnificent Intentions Circus was trying to work its way out of a dry spell. The ticket sales the fire eater had been brining in were slowing down so now the MIC was as dusty as Oklahoma, and just as downtrodden.

With unavoidable hard times on the horizon the troupe started dividing itself into factions. The ones who had been with the circus the longest were the first to draw a line in the sand. The menagerie keeper, clowns, strong man, and the peep show considering themselves the greatest of performers began disparaging the newer acts in an attempt to safeguard their own positions at Magnificent Intentions. This left the other acts to fend for themselves. 

Tired of feeling left out and unwanted the newer acts decided they to would form their own diverse network of carnies. Now all the freeks, geeks, and oddity acts that had not been with MIC long enough to be considered eligible for the greatest of performers had the sense of community they had been lacking. 

Wanting to revive interest in the circus once more both groups decided to sugest a new act for Magnificent Intentions in the hopes of cementing their positions in the troupe. The diverse network of carnies made the first move recommending  Mademoiselle Merry to the owners. It seemed all too perfect a fit. The alliteration alone making her inclusion in the circus seem preordained. So the fortune teller came down from New York City. Immediately interest in MIC grew as word spread about the Mademoiselle and her mystical knowledge of all secrets and hidden truths. Unfortunately, times which were already hard were only made harder when mixed with her cold hard facts. So Madem’ Merry’s brand of entertainment proved ineffective at sparking the renewed interest Magnificent Intentions badly needed.

Having watched the fortune teller’s popularity wax and wane the greatest of performers sifted through many options before deciding which act to set before the owners. They all agreed that the act should be fantastical, as far removed from the mundane as possible, and entertaining enough to necessitate multiple viewings. However, a decision seems nearly impossible till the menagerie man made his suggestion. An orange elephant. He argued that such a massive wild beast would be awe inspiring, and that people would come again and again needing to be assured the creature truely existed. Many thought the menagerie man could not produce such a beast, with coloration as vivid and outrageous as orange, but finally the owners were swayed by the novality of it. After all… no other show could boast such an impossible act. 

So the circus made its preparations. 

On the day the orange elephant was to arrive the other beautiful animals in the menagerie were pinned and stabbled in the back. Out of sight. An orange elephant, being so superior, could not be expected to get along with the black Arabian stallions, brightly feathered peacocks, or aging jaguars after all. The next change was in staffing. Maintaining an orange elephant required more work hours devoted to feeding and cleaning so the owners of Magnificent Intentions asked all the women in the troupe to stop performing and focus on care related tasks instead. Finally, additional strong men were hired to help train the orange elephant while those with talents deemed “nolonger necessary” were asked to leave.

The orange elephant was exactly what had been promised. It was iminse, dwarfing all the other animals at the circus. It was an unbelievable shade of orange. Fantastic to behold. The orange elephant made the other acts seem dull and quickly became the Big Top performance everyone wanted to see. The day the orange elephant joined the circus ticket sales went through the roof but the Magnificent Intentions Circus changed. 

The greatest of performers only saw the good changes. Their jobs were secure, the seats were filled, and money was flowing like a river. The drought was over. However, the other carnies saw it differently. The fence erected around the circus to protect the orange elephant felt more like a cage than a barrier from harm. The once equally revered performances from both long running and newer members could now be easily separated into favorite acts, from the greatest of performers, and forgotten acts, from the diverse network of carnies. 

But the people cheered when the orange elephant appeared. Clapped when the Dancing Donkeys were scattered as the orange elephant charged. Laughed as the Acrobatic Annabelles were swatted away by swinging trunk and flapping ears. Even begged for more as the Big Top tent shivered and shook when the orange elephant stomped around.

The Magnificent Intentions Circus loved the new interest and the major up swing in ticket sales, but soon even the owners could see the orange elephant was more trouble than it was worth. The damage however was done; the money spent and the banners painted. The orange elephant would have to stay till a better act came to town.


S.A.N.T.A.

Let’s get one thing straight, I might need you but you need me too. So let me just start with a what the hell! You have got to be kidding me … right? This cannot be real. I mean, are you serious?!? What more do you want!?! Okay now that that is out of the way let’s try for full disclosure.

I am a Nisse and my very existence is now threatened, once again I might add, because so many of you with your oh so fact driven mindsets do not believe in Santa. This is getting old folks. We dealt with this issue way back in the 1500s, originally that is, and then again in the 1800s. I mean really;

Is there a Santa Claus? Does Santa really deliver all those presents? How does Santa visit all the good boys and girls?

Your incesent disbelief has become like a school yard taunt, unoriginal and repetitive. We have heard these questions with increasing frequency over the last 50 years, and I, for one, am tired of having to watch adults stumble through explinations. However, and perhaps more troubling, the questions have now reached critical mass. They have become a threat to our lives.

Before you dismiss me out of hand allow me to explain how you and your questions are slowing killing me. See Nisse are actually lesser fairies, by which I mean we walk not fly, and like our sparkling June-bug sized kin we require your belief. It sustains us like water to a flower; without it we slowly wilt and fade. 

I know that outside of Scandinavia few know our true names therefore it might be hard to imagine that enough people believe in us at all for us to still exist. You’re not wrong. We first faced this issue back in the 1500s when fairy lore was slipping into mythology. We transitioned from doing helpful deeds to delivering gifts. It still was not enough. The population was growing but sadly belief in us was not. Around this time we heard tell of Father Christmas a genial and jolly man keeping the works of Saint Nicolas alive in England. We immediately saw him as the answer to all of our problems. You see here was another population who already believed in a gift giver who even had his own holiday. So we fashioned ourselves after him going door to door handing out gifts of food requesting only that the recipients hold on to these yuletide feelings year long.

We spent years toiling away spreading Father Christmas’s brand of cheer but all it did was build his fame. Gift giving by a magical being on Christmas was happening all over Europe, thanks to us, but everyone was forgetting the ground work we were putting in. So in the 1800s when Father Christmas was busy becoming Santa Claus, thanks to the up and coming Americans, we made an executive decision to unify the two endeavors. We, the Nisse, would be the work force helping to make the gifts, now small toys, and the deliveries, now done secretively via chimnies, and Santa Claus would be the face of the operation.

And what a hype man, I mean everyone knows about Santa Claus and his hard working elves. His involvement has been key to our continued survival, but it’s a two-way street. His noteriety lends us the credability we need, even if you use the wrong term, what’s in a name anyway. Without us he would have been a failure, no man is an island including the jolly Mr. Claus.

So I would like to take this moment to make an official statement. 

Yes, S.A.N.T.A. exists, and yes, S.A.N.T.A. delivers all the presents in one night. The Secret Aggregrate of Nisse for Toy Aqusition makes sure of that. So save your cookies and milk what we want as a thank you is a little faith and a little gratitude, you know if you’re feeling generous, or you will be stuffing your own stockings. Warning to the wise.

All rights to the owner whom I thank

What do you remember?

As seen on wikimedia all rights to the owner

The night was sharp. I have no better way to describe it. It looked like it had been cutaway from the daylight by a painter’s knife with short sure motions. 

I could focus on little else.

Driven to distraction it wasn’t till my fingers started to burn from the icy wind that I looked away from the heavenly Bob Ross. Summer sunsets are beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but there is some kind of eery otherworldliness in crisp winter night skies. 

Once inside I turned off the TV and put a kettle on to boil, the image had me in the mood for strong tea and dark silence. So I watched the red-orange flames lick out alive waiting for the hiss of steam.

I held the mug with both hands soaking up the minty warmth, but the tension in my shoulders refussed to drain away. Something in the night nagging at the periphery of my attention. The house was quite, the door was locked, I closed my eyes willing the edges of my frayed nerves to lie flat…

I startle at the sound of a man clearing his throat sloshing piping hot tea onto my right hand.

“Ma’am can you tell me what happened,” he asks a look somewhere between pity and suspicion in his eyes.

“Happened? What happened?”

He checks a notepad while I look around the small uncomfortable room. It has dingy short pile carpet, a table with coffee cup rings, and hard molded plastic chairs. The man makes direct eye contact, only suspicion this time, “What do you remember?”

“It was sharp,” his eyebrows shoot towards the ceiling, “the night was sharp.” I elaborate, “the sky had this look like it was painted, you know what I mean? Too many straight edges…sharp-like.”

“That’s what you remember?” 

He’s incredulous.

“What about the fire? Do you not remember the fire?” The man is very nearly yelling at me.

I consider what he has said, thinking back, trying to remember. Like a reflex I take a sip of tea, “I made tea.” I offer holding up the mug.

He stands and walks to the door. Quick quiet words are exchanged with someone I cannot see. “I just handed you that tea ma’am,” he says while walking back to the table, “you don’t remember anything.” This time it’s a statement not a question.

“The night was sharp and otherworldly.”

He looks at me so hard he looks through me. The pity is back in his eyes.

When I’m gone let me go, but carve my name upon a stone. 

Such a silly thing to pop into a persons head, especially a healthy person, but there it was. An unshakeable truth that once thought could not be set aside. All of a sudden the graveyard I was passing looked even more beautiful and tranquil. And selfish. And prideful. 

What makes us want to inscribe our name in stone after we pass on to what is next? Could it be our very human desire to be eternal and more than just existed? To be remembered requires no such monuments so the reason must be much more personal and deeply dark.

Are we naive to carve into the very earth our names? If even the names of young lovers inscribed in passion is eventually lost to growth; then surely with time even a name writ in pain will wear away. We are but yelling into a void hoping the echo might be heard by someone… by anyone. 

Oddly the thought made me smile. I want a stone; on a hill, near a tree, overlooking a pond. I want the wind and rain to slowly wash my name away. I want to be lost to time like all those who came before me, but first I want the taste of imortality. So till time has had its way with me let that stone stand as proof I lived and loved. 

For as the deep set lines wear away my need for them shall surely fade.

By Megatruth as seen on DeviantArt


I shiver chafing my hands together on the bus. Even sitting uncomfortably close to a stranger my fingers and toes ache with cold. Standing on curbs waiting for late public transportation has that effect on even the most weather worn new englanders I imagine.

Staring out the window I feel myself begin to thaw in the sunlight. Now I can see it. The riot of color, the light frost turning to dew on the grass… Then I can see it. There under a blanket on the cold stone footer of the decorative bridge lays a person covered with a blanket a shopping cart at their feet. 

The shiver comes again. This time it is the cold creeping under my skin and into my soul. 

How dare I complain. 

The image whips past me as the light changes, no matter it is burned into my mind. 

All rights to the owner of the image whom I thank

Looking

If I had to describe it I would have said that she had her sea legs. She swayed from toe to heel in the ebb and flow her hand resting gently on the rail in front of her like an after thought. Her ease was all the more evident as the man with nervous eyes directly to her left gripped the rail like a life line. Was she adrift? Certainly, but she wasn’t casting about for rescue like the man. Her eyes swung over the throng pausing to read this or that sign, to stare out the windows where brief and eerie light would often break the gloom, and when anyone met her gaze head on she smiled before looking away. If the though that I shouldn’t be watching this sure-footed woman had actually crossed my mind I would have dimissed it, the T was a dull dredge of a task only made better by people watching, but it didn’t. So I waited to see if she would notice me also a veteran of the halting jerking MBTA holding a book in one hand and the rail in the other. Till then I would continue to make sailing analogies. She even wore nautical navy trousers and linen all she needed was sun and surf and the look would have been complete. The slow moving green line surfaced, whale-like, she  adjusted her bag freeing a pair of sunglasses and caught me looking. Her eyes dropped and heat raced around my collar. No smile for me then, but she looked back up quickly and smiled before putting on her bright green frames. I watched as she pressed the call button and waited for the doors to open. As the doors slid to a close I walked over to the window to watch her disappear as the T sank back underground. She waved once and fell out of sight. Maybe she was more like a mirage … or a fever dream…

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