Short Story Friday Night

Tension in Suburbia

by

Victoria Clapton

 

Recorded church bells sounded at the end of the gated community, muffled by the siren sounds from an emergency medical team approaching the street. Animals, pets and wild alike, cried out into the cacophony of noise, announcing that the reign of Amanduwilla had come to an end.

Refuse and one lone shirt were all that remained of it’s subpar existence. It’d even snatched the lone orchid straight from its neighbor’s kitchen. Amanduwilla had gone, leaving terror in its wake.

Throughout the tree-lined streets of suburbia, the remaining residents grinned in silent cheers, happily emancipated from Amanduwilla’s nasty sneers.

 

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Short Story Friday–Birthday Edition

Trash Talk

by

Anne Marie Andrus

 

Gentle wisps of September breeze swirled through The Beach Haunt reminding Ajay of summer’s magic at the Jersey Shore. A single sharp gust warned him of the season to come. Flicking his eyes from the empty inbox on his smart phone to the televisions and back again, he zipped the collar of his sweatshirt up to his chin. Outside, his part-time cameraman wandered the abandoned boardwalk, puffing an electronic cigarette.

“What can I get the master of local turmoil tonight?” A lady with blue hair and an enormous dolphin tattoo slapped the bar in front of him. “Earth to Ajay!”

“Sorry, Gilda. I applied for a ton of newsroom jobs—they’re all playing possum. I’ll have ice water with a slice of lemon, please.”

“Freakin’ boring.” The bartender flashed a frown that rippled into a smile. “What’s really got you so distracted?”

Ajay stared at the screens surrounding the bar. Dressed in a navy pinstriped suit, the global affairs correspondent flashed her perfect teeth and plunging cleavage.

“You know her?” Gilda sopped mystery liquid off the bar and squeezed the rag over a rubber mat. “Oooo…you do. How well?”

“I went to journalism school with her, that’s all.” Ajay chuckled. “Pretty much.”

“She’s living the life, that’s for sure.”

“Chasing the dream.” Ajay pointed to the television and then to himself. “Eeeking out an existence.”

“Come on, you’ve turned YouTube tabloid commentary into a distinguished art form.” Gilda tapped her nails on a tequila bottle. She flashed the lace of her bra and leaned forward. “I’m sure your classmate had surgery. I’m just dying to know how much.”

“I’ll never tell. No swill.” Ajay pushed the cheap tequila away and winked. “Or l might…what else do you have?”

Gilda jingled her keyring and fumbled through a hidden cabinet until she found a green and gold bottle. She puffed dust off the cap, poured a shot for each of them and then filled a third.
Ajay waved the cloud of sand and ash away. “I’m not drinking all that again.”

“Just think about the parade of drunks you’re about to interview.”

“Sinking to new depths of stupidity every Sunday night, yet I still need to speak in coherent sentences.” Ajay grabbed the salt shaker and fished the lemon from his water. He licked the back of his hand before tapping out a healthy dash of salt.

“One for me, one for you, plus the emergency ration.” Gilda grabbed a fresh lemon. “Here we go. Lick, slam, suck.”

Ajay followed her instructions, gagged and groaned. Outside, a bus boy dumped three huge bags of garbage on the corner, turned around and flashed him a thumbs-up.

“My stage awaits.” Ajay closed his eyes and drained the back-up shot. “I’ll make those network execs sorry.”

“Enough of this crap.” Gilda snagged the television remote and hit mute. “Go out and smash it.”

♦♦♦

 

AnneMarieAndrus.com

 

Short Story Friday–The Tuesday Edition

On The Campaign Trail

by

Christian Terry

 

The ringing of the phone echoed throughout the entire oval office. President Hunter rocked back and forth in his chair. His thumbs fidgeted as he twirled his campaign pencil in his hand. “Mr. President, sir?” His secretary called out to him. “You need to answer the call sir.” She said sternly. President Hunter had been thinking about this call since he made his decision to press the button earlier.

The decision that he made when word eventually got out to the public about it, would leave a lasting impression on the minds of millions of his supporters. The president began to tremble at the thought as the phone continued to ring. His mind dove into the potential backlash of executing the order. Images of this fateful day in various news columns. There would be riots and protest in the street.

His opponents would milk this in every debate. He would probably need to wear body armor at all times. The country would never be united when they found out what he had done. “Mister President?” Jocelyn the secretary asked.

“I’m answering.” President Hunter assured her as he fumbled with the phone. He then took a deep breath. ” Hello?” He answered and he was met with silence. “Hel…hello?” He said again, this time he was met with a young squeaky male voice.

“Um hi, uh we received your order but I’m sorry we’re out of pineapples for your pizza.”

Oh thank goodness, Hunter thought to himself, the pizza place didn’t have pineapples. America would never know about this. “That’s fine, my finger must’ve slipped on the order button on your site, I actually wanted cheese. Pineapple on pizza, that’s pretty ridiculous. You might as well put chicken noodle soup on there, am I right?” He chuckled nervously.

There was a long pause before the pizza guy replied. “Um…so yeah, that’ll be twenty bucks even.”

“That’s fine, have a great day. ” Hunter said slamming the phone down on its base. He was relieved but couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if his pizza had pineapples.

 

♦♦♦

 

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Short Story Friday

Political Machinations

by Vicky Holt

appointment, dangerous, cost, empire, kitten, mug, converter, essence, tennis, poke

 

“Come here, kitten,” the Senator said with a glint in his eye. “I need your help with this spreadsheet converter.”

Uh huh. I knew exactly what he needed help with, and it had nothing to do with my customized software application. But it was the price I had to pay. For now.

“What is it, Senator Blake?” I sashayed to his desk and leaned over his shoulder, staring at his laptop screen. “Blinking out on you again?”

There was nothing wrong with his software. He poked a thick finger at the touchscreen, blurring the liquid display where he pointed. I noted the numbers on the spreadsheet, just a jumble of inconsequential figures, but his hand up the back of my thigh demanded my focus.

I swallowed the razor in my throat and licked my lips.

“You’re treading dangerous waters, Senator,” I said. I leaned closer, so the essence of my perfume penetrated his nose. “These numbers don’t make any sense.”

He squeezed my thigh under my skirt and rumbled in his throat.
I continued. “Would you like me to refill your mug?”

I was a software developer intern, not a damned secretary, but I was so close to winning this tennis match.

“I’m not thirsty, kitten,” he said. “Just hungry.”

I stood up, letting my arm brush against his shoulder. “That’s too bad, because I brewed some coffee just for you.”

I presented my mug to him, the press of my red lipstick forming a crescent on the rim. “Taste it.”

His wolfish grin sent acid straight to my gut. I grinned in spite of it. He kept eye contact while placing his flappy lips on my lipstick mark.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2…the mug dropped, bonking off Senator Blake’s fat thigh, and spilling black coffee all over his trousers and office chair. It rolled until the handle stopped its inertia.

“Senator Blake!” I screamed. I dialed the emergency number and shouted again, all while moving his body to the floor so that I could perform CPR.

That’s how the paramedics found me, and they took over.

“I don’t know what happened,” I cried. “He has an appointment in fifteen minutes!” My emotional blather continued until I was ushered into the HR offices.

“We’re so sorry,” the HR person told me from her desk. “We’ll move you to a different department. Do you need to take the rest of the day off?”

I sniffled and took her offered tissue. “That’s probably for the best,” I said. She told me to come back the next day and which department to report to. “Thanks.”

It could have been any department; it wasn’t important. The computer virus had already been planted, and my empire was about to triumph.

***

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Short Story Friday

OFFICE INTRIGUE IN THE FUTURE

a short story by Elizabeth Lemons

5 JULY 2019

WORDS TO USE:
time travel, trousers, supervise, identity,
mustard, kitchen, successfully, law, fly, tooth

Picture, if you will, a futuristic hub of legal counseling and representation. It is the year 2050, and our scene begins in a very posh, upscale law office that is located in the Plutonian Upper Galaxy, inside the central super dome which holds inside the prestigious legal firm known as DEWEY, SCREWEM, and HOWE.

If you are equipped with just a bit of imagination and I-GGPS (inter-galactic GPS) for precise time travel expedience, perhaps you can imagine true masters of the Universe as they daily gather around the water cooler-tablet dispenser, wearing the latest in expensive spacesuits, trendily colored in purples, cobalt blues, or mustard golds. They are complete boring-ass clones of one another, there is no speck of personal identity amongst their entire gathering.

The notion of doing one’s own individual “thing” unfortunately died tragically over thirty years ago in an Earthly city called New Orleans when a priestly dude called Dr. John exited human existence and vacated the great Blue Ball, taking with him all his mystical and voodoo-y powers of human exclusiveness. Since earth is no more, he and all other musicians, artists of all types, chefs, and writers (now eternally converted to their astral mo-jo selves) have been sent to daily rule in the Misfit Realm on Planet Funky. Untouched, unbothered and still unaccountable, these artistic Uniques, to this very day, continue to create amongst mellow hippie vibes, bathed forever in the scents of patchouli, surrounded by fresh icedrop sky flowers, and are forever content in a secreted place located remotely far from the Galactic Daily Grind.

So, the unspoken rule of the Undulating Universe these days is to simply fit it and make no intrusive waves of any kind. Unseen and unheard is the accepted best policy. Aloft here in the Galaxy, making fortunes off the misfortunes of others, are each of our attorneys, who dress and accessorize his or her own ensembles with prerequisite “men-in-black” sunglasses which hide emotion and permit planetary apperation. Heartless, blood-sucking attorneys, just the same in today’s time, as in days of old. Only concerned with the bottom line and filling their pockets. These lawful gods and goddesses of destruction daily wake inside their personal pristine monotone and meteoric dwelling pods, and stare into stardust mirrors, purchased illegally, (they “know” someone) on the bootleg market, completely enthralled with how their own “personal flare for justice” will surely successfully save the solar system from foreboding doom that is sure to come. Then, just before they fly from home dome back to another work day, they usually flash a fake smile at themselves as a gold tooth sparkles back at them from the looking glass. “Ding!”

They have forgotten what happened on Earth when their precedents attempted to do the same.

Between the dull-roar hours of 10am and 11am SST (Stardust Standard Time), a daily work meeting convenes in the Conference Room/Kitchen at this place of prestige on weekdays other than Friday. On this particular morning, a Tuesday, several of the lawyers have grabbed a bagel tablet or two, cream cheese tablets, with coffee pastilles, and some of the younger suits chose Taco tablets because Taco Tuesday still remains a thing, even in modern times. It is more than fine to consume a couple of jumbo Margarita tablets for the purpose of washing down the combo pills of chips and salsa. Alcoholism and DUI’s are a thing of the long-ago past, and now a person can consume anything without fear of disease, weight-gain or other stigma. They sit in an oval circle, around a pellucid table, with an actual live view of the Aurora Borealis surrounding them through the crystal-clear outer wall. Many an intended thought has been forever lost in that kaleidoscopic abyss of starry gas and neon colour.

A particular tall attorney whose job it is to supervise the group (some think he resembles the earthly actor known as Will Smith) calls the work meeting to order. Beside him sits his assistant, Atreya. He clears his throat and begins, “Good morning, team. Glad you all found some nourishment. I know you all have a busy day ahead, so we will jump right into things on our agenda.” Felbar gestures towards the pad of notation known by today’s techies as a Warrior Z that lay on the floating invisible table before him.

“Atreya has just completed our evidence room inventory and she has reported back to me that a sensitive object is missing from its secure housing. Is there any reason that one of you might have relocated the evidence ID’ed as item # ERTH-69-VMP for an ongoing case? I can’t imagine what that might be.”

Not a sound can be heard in the room. Felbar continues with a smirk. “OK, alright…or possibly maybe one of you has borrowed it for your own personal naughty role-playing use (he winks) and are now afraid of reprimand should you get caught returning this item?” Non-response continues to prevail, except for the shuffling of one of the attorneys boots on the floor. Each of the legal eagles who sit gathered around the stardeck table begin to look everywhere but at their leader, Felbar. Some fidget, some pretend to be thinking, some look from one lawyer to the next or at their fingernails, desperately trying to guess who is to blame.

After what seems like light years of uncomfortable silence, one of the younger and newest attorneys (normally they ignore her at all cost) raises her left hand up in an acknowledgment wave. “Look, I know I am new here and I admit, I have just begun to take my “better-than-human” conversion meds which I agreed to do upon hiring, and so you may or may not believe me when I tell you about something that I have witnessed. But, I swear, it is absolutely true.” Felbar casts his intense gaze onto the woman who looks both eager and simultaneously scared.

“Do tell”, Felbar encourages her.

“Well, a few weeks ago, I was assigned a pro-bono case with one of the FUNKS, from Planet Funky, the artsy types. It was not a greatly desired case, you know, but I agreed to listen, due, naturally to my inexperience, and also, you know, with being expected to learn and work my way up (you know, without standard pay, as all entry-levels do who are learning the legal ropes),” she stammers.

Felbar interjects, “yes, yes, we know.”

“Well, yes,” Aurora continues, “and so I spent some time one afternoon discussing this rather weak case which, to me, sounded like something unfounded, as if it were from a long-lost memory from Earth. A middle-aged couple came to me, wanting me to somehow help their daughter. They claimed she had been kidnapped, been violated and then, subsequently had a child. Because of this vicious accosting. I know we are to forward any of these old-school crime cases down to Legal Aid for Ancient Grieviances. Rape, kidnapping and children being born outside of ideal two-partner marriages are forbidden here in our modern world, I know this, but, well…as I said, they came here from Planet Funk. And, well, ugh, you know, they still have IDEAS about ways and means from older times on that planet. You know what I am speaking of… Basically, I just listened, recorded their concerns, and told them I would investigate and get back with them.” Aurora is practically out of breath after venting her tale.

Felbar holds his face with the fingers of his right hand as he thoughtfully responds. “And this has to do exactly WHAT with the missing evidence?”

Aurora sighs. “I don’t exactly know.”

Felbar rolls his eyes. “Please don’t waste our time, Aurora.”

“Look, all I can say is they came, and they said they thought a..,um…well, sir, they actually believed that a vampire had taken their daughter, the father was absolutely convinced that this was true. He thought someone had to be protecting this vampire and any others, and was vehement in that he would do whatever he could to stop this from ever happening again to any other young woman, or man, I guess. I suppose, under these horrific circumstances, that any father would. I am not saying this so-called vampire-person took the evidence for sure, but doesn’t it seem like it’s possible he might be the one who did?”

“Alright, Aurora.”, Feldar says soothingly. “Thank you for your …,” he smiled, “insight.” “Since we have no actual proof at this time, let’s table this for now, and move onto the next item on our agen—”

Actual giggles are heard around the table. No one believes that any of the past-known supposed fictional “mythical monsters” have outlived the downfall of Earth. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, even mermaids have not been seen nor heard of in over half a century and are now, by most intelligent beings, deemed extinct. There have been absolutely no sightings, nor reportings or any reason at all to believe that they have somehow followed humans into the future, into space. It is believed that they all remained and consequently perished long ago on the vast, empty, lifeless, dry and brown tundra…Earth.

A lawyer called Taurean speaks with a bemused tone. “Where would they be hiding, the bloodsuckers? Here we have no cemeteries, certainly no coffins! We have no haunted houses, we have no blood banks any more. This is laughable, just so archaic!” No sympathy appears from anyone towards the possibility of Aurora’s sincere supposition.

“But, wait! Please listen, Sir! Even I know what # ERTH-69-VMP is! It is a vampire hunting box, a kit complete with holy water and stakes! Who else would want it, for that matter, how in the world would this client who came to see me even KNOW about this kit’s survival? If these and other creatures don’t exist, sir, then why in the stars would we have retained such an exhibit as evidence? Sir, why are you not taking this seriously? We need to call in experts, we need to try to find this father, before he snaps! He might remove his monitoring collar and attempt to capture this violator all on his own! What if he IS right? And what if he has decided to take things into his own hands, to hunt and kill? Sir, what if there really IS a vampire situation in the current Plutonian Galaxy?” Aurora practically shouts in her enthusiasm to help solve the case of the missing evidence.

Feldar, always the fearless leader, looks at Aurora, He slowly makes visual eye contact with each of his look-alike attorneys still sitting around the floating table. They express nothing, reveal nothing, and basically are just drones of protocol, now filled up and sanctified with salsa and coffee. Feldar turns to his ever-by-his-side assistant Atreya and he asks, “tell us, Atreya, exactly why do you think the missing item that was contained in this forever hidden-away trove has our Aurora so unhinged with fear?”

He looks at Atreya, then he turns his eyes towards the room full of attorneys, whose eyes were now like lasers, glowing a bright red. Feldar charmingly smiles. It is at that precise moment two very prominent, sharp fangs are revealed from inside Feldar’s mouth. You can hear the clicking..first from Atreya’s mouth, then from each lawyer as each of their fangs dropped and popped and who now hungrily stare at this tender young solicitor.

Aurora faints.

And thus, another daily gathering of the Inter-Galactic Plutonian Upper Galaxy law firm known as DEWEY, SCREWEM and HOWE dismisses their morning legal duties and proceeds to convene into their favorite activity of the day. What some people might call a Power Lunch.

THE END

 

Short Story Friday

First Love

by Braden Davis

Seth was just slipping through Tucson, the borrowed Dodge pickup purring smoothly through the light traffic, when the horse on the Marlboro billboard winked at him. The Texas Tornadoes were waltzing through the stereo, the winter night just cool enough for the heater, and the moon round and bright behind the sparse Tucson skyline. The billboard sat tall on the right side of a slow bend in on I-10 and Seth had time to look at it for several seconds. About three hundred yards away the horse blinked his only visible eye and Seth opened both of his a bit wider while he smiled and said to himself, “looked like that horse just winked at me.” He watched the chestnut horse with the wild, flared nostrils, as he kept the Dodge humming between white lines and just as he was passing the billboard, the horse seemed to wink again.

“What the,” Seth began. His foot eased off the gas and he checked his rearview, seeing only the dark back of the big sign.

The Dodge moved on its own into the slow lane. Seth corrected with a slight jerk and kept the vehicle from moving onto the shoulder. He turned down the stereo. He always turned down the stereo when he needed to think. Tori hated that.

He looked at digital clock on the stereo, still flashing 12:00. Broken or just needing to be reset, he didn’t know, but it couldn’t be much past 10. Seth let the pickup continue its rightward pull and eased into the upcoming exit. “What the hell,” he thought. “Could use some caffeine anyway.”

A flashing white rectangle begged his attention to the right. El Conejo Lounge. Seth revised his plan and immediately visualized the next several hours. Soda, Beer, then tequila, in that order. It had been almost three years. He’d quit for Tori. Now Tori was in Houston. What the hell was the point? Somewhere down deep inside himself he felt he’d break down this trip. He’d thought he’d get farther than Tucson. Las Cruces, maybe, or somewhere in Texas. He imagined a little dive bar in a dusty Texas town. Somewhere close enough so that when he showed up at her mom’s she’d be able to still smell the booze. Give her an excuse not to come back. Here’s your damned truck.

But the winking horse beckoned a quick exit, not ninety-nine miles into the long trip. And the Dodge idled in park outside the painted brick building that alternatively glowed violet, white, then back to black, as the flashing sign did its work. Two young Mexican men stood talking outside, propped against a short wooden fence. The Texas Tornadoes dissonant with the heavy bass thumping from the walls of the tavern. Seth turned down the stereo again so the music from the bar would make sense. It didn’t. Loud and out of tune. The kind of bar band that sounded worse the closer you got. Seth put the Dodge in reverse. Bad music gave him a headache. He couldn’t start old bad habits with bad music. He hated bad music. He hated Tori’s music—thumps and frightful whistles, monotonic words he couldn’t understand. It all sounded the same.

He pulled the Dodge back onto the frontage road, intending to climb back onto the freeway. Construction detours confused him a little, and forced him farther down the line. He saw the unlit eastbound entrance sign too late and found himself crawling under the freeway and coming out on a frontage road on the opposite side from where he started. He headed east on the road, figuring to catch the next freeway onramp and get out of the construction mire. The frontage road ended and emptied into a dirt parking lot that sat under the florescent flush of a huge Motel 6 billboard, giving the smattering of cars, trucks and semis a yellowy glow. A square, grey, slump-block building sat on the other end of the lot, the words “Elmer’s Pub” painted blood red on the side. Once again, Seth put the Dodge in park and turned down the stereo. The muffled sound of a bass guitar walked a twelve-bar blues that seemed to bleed through the walls of the bar. It looked much like the other place, but the music was different. Seth’s music. He turned off the engine.

The place seemed more crowded than he could observe from the cars outside. Seth found an empty stool at the end of the long bar, not far from the door and felt his eyes burn as he squinted through the hazy din. That’s something he didn’t miss. A burly, bald man with a salt-and-pepper beard nodded at him and continued filling a handful of mugs with beer from the tap. Across the bar, in the corner, the band finished the blues song. A three-piece, and wow, was the guitar player good. He charged off on a song-ending stinger, wild, intricate and entertaining. Seth tried to watch the guy’s fingers, but he was too far away. Why bother anyway; Seth was just mediocre enough to recognize the people who were really good. The guy finally let go a last note that whined out at the end of a long bend. A few patrons clapped lightly. Oh, what they didn’t know.

A large knuckled hand was suddenly in his face and a deep voice behind it, “Elmer,” the bartender said.

Seth looked up into the man’s coffee eyes and absently offered his hand and they shook. “Seth,” he said.

“Whadya need?” Elmer asked.

Seth squinted, still getting used to the air of his past. Need? A good woman who could stand him, maybe? A good strong drink to make him forget, if only for an evening, the love of his life who did stand him, if only for three years?

Elmer waited, his hairless brows raised.

“Just a Coke.” Seth fished in his front jeans pocket for cash. He put two twenties on the bar. More than he’d need for a soda. He knew that and now Elmer knew that.

The band started again. The guitar guy started it with a whiney bend that sounded like a good steel guitar. How’s he doing that? Seth looked but couldn’t tell. The bass and drum then came in with a slow country shuffle and then the guitar guy was singing “I fall to pieces.” Patsy Cline he’s not. A rough, whiskey voice. Not particularly pleasant but Seth liked the song. At least the guy stayed in tune.

Seth looked around the bar. Locals mostly, it seemed, despite being a stone’s throw from one of the busiest interstates in the country. An older crowd, mostly couples. No one looked under 40 in this place. It felt comfortable even though Seth was a graze under 40 himself, though Tori always said that his tall thin frame made him look older. The place looked old—peeling pale green paint along one cement wall, the other too far away to see in the dark smoky din. The lacquered bar glazed smooth like an old river rock, pitted in places from scattered coins, glasses, and maze of yesterday’s memories. Seth ran his hand across the glassy surface, feeling the imperfections before he could see them, until every finger found a depression to rest within. It had taken Tori three years to find his imperfections. Less time than that, probably, but three years to dig at them until she was sure no amount of digging was going to get them out. The digging just made them deeper and more pronounced. Potholes that you know are there, but still jar you unexpectedly in the worst moments. Tori’s only blemishes, in Seth’s opinion, were her poor taste in music and her damnable ability to find his faults—laser lightening focus. She didn’t even cheat, as beautiful as she was and as many opportunities that probably came her way selling those Scottsdale houses. Seth had asked her if she cheated enough times that she finally said she wished she had. Seth imagined her with that guitar player, dancing near the front of the stage, watching his fingers. No, that didn’t fit Tori. She doesn’t like guitar players.

Elmer worked his way back to the end of the bar, sliding a cold glass of Coke into Seth’s hand and nodding, leaving the money on the bar.

“First one on me,” Elmer said, moving to fill a shot.

“Now you tell me.” Seth smiled. “I should have ordered champagne.”

Elmer grinned back, an eye tooth missing. “Then I wouldn’t have told ya.”

The band finished the Patsy Cline and moved right into “Six Days on the Road” without more than a hiccup of dead air. Several patrons whooped and the small dance floor filled quickly. Clearly, a crowd favorite.

Elmer moved back to Seth’s end of the bar, leaning on his elbows as if to take advantage of the brief respite. “Where you from?” he asked Seth without looking at him.

“I’m coming from the Phoenix area. Just driving through,” Seth answered, watching a stout, stiff legged man whirl a freckled blonde in a short denim skirt through a jitterbug, thinking the girl looked a little bit like Tori. A little bit.

“What made you stop here? Our reputation for free soda pop?”

Seth chuckled, “Yeah, that and the horse.” He took a long drink of the cold soda, still watching the girl move. Nice legs, curvy, a good dancer.

“What horse?”

Seth lost the denim skirt in the crowd. “The Marlboro horse.” That still seemed pretty weird when he let himself think about it, which he hadn’t. “The horse on the billboard just before the exit. It looked like it winked at me.”

“Sounds like you got a head start on your night before you even got here.” Elmer seemed to eye him a little closer.

Seth stopped looking for the blonde to dance back into his view and looked directly at the bartender. “Elmer, I haven’t had a drink in exactly two years, ten months and fifteen days.”

Elmer took the two twenties on the bar in front of Seth, folded them twice then stuffed them into the one front pocket of Ed’s white oxford shirt. “Then Cokes are on me until you leave.” He took Seth’s half-filled glass and topped it. “Where you headed?”

The blonde and her partner were back in view now and the guitar player was singing about how it’s been about a week since he’d kissed his baby goodbye. “I’m going to Texas.” He hadn’t kissed Tori in at least a month.

“Why you wanna go to Texas?” Elmer asked.

“Ah, my wife,” Seth answered. Maybe she was still his wife. He wasn’t sure.

“Then you don’t need to flirt with that gal you’ve had your eye on.”

“What?” The blonde twirled and kicked up one leg and he found himself watching again. “She looks a little like my wife, that’s all.”

Elmer grunted.

The guitar player launched into his second solo of the song—a spectacular frenetic fall that started high on the neck and brought the band back down to one last chorus. “Who IS this guy?” Seth asked.

Elmer looked toward the band and scratched at his graying beard. “That’s Guitar George.”

“He knows all the chords?” Seth asked, chuckling as he finishing the classic Dire Straits line.

“He’s my therapist and savior,” Elmer said.

“What do you mean by that?” Seth asked.

Elmer smiled and spread his long arms out as the song ended to loud applause and the crowd milled back with renewed thirsts. “You should meet him. Tell him about your horse.”

“Thanks folks,” George muttered into the microphone. “We’re gonna take a little pause for the cause. Back in a few.” He unstrapped the lime green Fender and leaned it against his amp.

Music started up through the band’s P.A., but it was too soft for Seth to make out clearly. The bar filled quickly and Elmer poured drinks and filled mugs, moving like a large cat. He filled up a large glass of what looked like orange juice and slid it toward the end of the bar in Seth’s direction.

“Thanks, amigo” George said as slipped beside Seth and collected his drink.

Seth turned to look at the guitar player, watching him guzzle the orange drink, noticing his thin, dry, talented, fingers, a cigarette burning between two of them, fitting in like an extra digit.

“I sure enjoyed your playing,” Seth said.

George stopped drinking and squinted toward Seth. “Thanks, man. Glad you like it.”

“I used to play a little myself, nothing like you. But enough to know that you’re something special.”

“Thanks, man.” George finished the drink, took a long drag on his cigarette, and slid the glass back toward Elmer who caught it with his right hand as he continued to fill tap beers with his left and nod at a older woman in a pony-tail leaning across the bar giving drink orders. Elmer pulled a carton of orange juice from under the bar, refilled George’s glass and slid it back his way.

George caught the glass again and tipped it toward Seth. “What kind of axe you got, man?”

“Me? Well, I used to have a Strat, pre-CBS, American made.”

“Used ta?” George asked. “What happened to it?”

Seth went into his familiar line, “Ah, the wife made me sell all my good toys.”

George shook his head as he squinted through the smoke around his face. “Crying shame, man.”

Crying shame that the fifteen hundred dollars he got for it—probably half the true value—was mostly used to pay Tori’s little sister to house sit and take care of her King Charles Spaniel while they took that stupid trip to San Francisco. A thousand bucks for a dog walker.

“That’s a ’68 Strat up there I’m banging on,” George said. “You wanna play it?”

Seth chuckled into his Coke. “What?”

George took another drink of his orange juice. “You don’t lose a guitar like that and not lose something inside you, man.” He took another drag from his cigarette and offered his hand. “I’m George.”

“Seth.” George’s hand felt rough, dry, and prickly like tree bark. “But, I can’t play your guitar.”

“Man, it’s like swimming.” George made a motion with both hands in front of his face, one holding the glass of juice, the other holding the cigarette. “The bike will move, man, you just have to jump in the stream.”

Seth chuckled at the mixed metaphors as Elmer put another Coke in front of him and nodded.

“Tell him about your horse,” Elmer said, before moving away to fill more orders.

George swung the cigarette hand in a wide arc, bumping Seth’s arm and dropping ash on his shirtsleeve. “Music is inside you, man. Just gotta jump back in and see where the river takes you.”

Most rivers he’s been in lead downhill, Seth thought. Fast, like waterfalls. He wondered what kind of rapids and rocks were waiting in Texas. Seth brushed at the fallen ash on his shirt and watched it disintegrate and disappear, leaving a freckled pale gray stain that would probably never go away.

George wrapped an arm around Seth’s shoulder and pulled him away from the bar and away from his thoughts of Tori. “Let’s go swimming, man.”

Seth protested as George led him through the crowd; most seemed oblivious, but two guys stood up from a small round table near the bandstand as they approached. The tall, dark-haired one looked like the bass player he’d seen earlier, though he seemed much younger than Seth would have guessed from a distance. The shorter, stockier man moved behind the drums.

“Really, George. I’m just a hack. I can’t play your guitar,” Seth said.

“Then let it play you, man.” George nodded at his band mates as he stepped up on the short stage, picked up his lime-green Fender Stratocaster and handed it to Seth. George reached behind his amp and retrieved a bright orange Fender Telecaster. “I’ll play the Tele.”

Seth held the Strat in his hands. It felt warm and alive, but the green paint on the body looked odd, uneven, and out of place, like a saguaro cactus in Houston.

“Painted it myself,” George said. “The Tele too.” He seemed proud of this? Probably lowered the value by half, in Seth’s opinion. He knew he was thinking like Tori. Practical. Purposeful. What did she call it? Pragmatic.

The bass player clucked his lips as he picked up a shiny, black Peavey five-string. “You should see what he did to his Martin acoustic.”

“Hot pink?” Seth asked.

The bass player and drummer laughed aloud. “Where’d you get this guy?” the drummer asked.

George threw the leather strap around his shoulder and hooked it to the Tele’s body in one seamless, smooth motion. Guitar George. He turned his ear toward the hollow body of the Telecaster and checked the tuning, adjusting the B-string slightly. He nodded to Seth. “You’re wireless, man, so jump in.”

Seth had the strap around his shoulders and his fingers on the buttery, rosewood fret board before he realized what he was doing. He couldn’t sit in with these guys. This was crazy. But he made the short step up to the bandstand and slipped between George and the bass man, feeling the hum of the amp tingle his skin as he held the lost friend in his hands. He felt fuzzy and happy, the foreboding Texas doom fading in the smoky haze of the bar.

George turned a knob and the music through the speakers disappeared. Another knob and the electricity of the stage heightened. Seth could see several bar patrons look toward the stage. George looked at the bass player and held up four fingers. He turned to the drummer and said, “a little 12-bar boogie.”

Seth looked at the bass player and whispered, “what are you playing?”

“I don’t know which song,” the bass man replied, “but four fingers up means it’s in E. Four sharps. Fingers up are sharps, down are flats.”
Seth felt confused, but he knew E. His fingers formed an open E chord on the Strat, waiting. Waiting for what? The next three minutes of his life held as much uncertainty as the last three years.

George leaned into his microphone as it crackled to life. “Like to introduce my friend, Ed.” A few people clapped lightly. “Just another cowboy the horse dragged in.”

“It’s Seth,” Seth whispered, but figured nobody cared anyway.

The drummer counted off, “One, two, three…”

The snare drum popped twice at four and then the bass started walking through the E chord as George stamped through a blues riff that sounded a little like Stevie Ray. Seth found a hollow place in their river of sound and strummed through the chord, remembering to dampen the strings with the heel of his right hand so they wouldn’t ring too loud and drown the lead. It seemed to work. It didn’t sound bad. George’s lime green guitar felt fluid and alive, the strings pulsing under Seth’s fingertips, sending a stream of syncopated infatuation through his body. It had been too long.

People shuffled toward the dance floor. They couldn’t resist either.

“Why do I need a woman,” George sang. He really didn’t sing very well, but his rough voice was soulful, more whiskey than orange juice.

“Tell me, why do I need a woman” he sang again, his guitar answering in a bluesy whine.

“Yeah, tell me why why I need a woman,” George grabbed the mic with his right hand, leaving his left to hold and hammer the Tele’s neck. He looked at Seth and winked. “When I got this old guitar.”

***

 

Monsters & Angels: The Series

Halloween is in the Air!

 

A lone soldier on night watch. A single bullet through the heart. Every light in Paris flickers—the city’s thundering silent scream.
When Commander Raimond Banitierre was assassinated, French Revolutionaries lost their gallant leader. After a villain’s offer of eternal life condemned him to slavery, Raimond rebelled again, driving his vampire comrades to freedom.
Raimond escapes to Savannah, Georgia where his dream of becoming a doctor comes true. During his trial-by-fire residency on the Civil War’s battlefields, he discovers his true calling—the power to preserve memories and dignity in the face of death. His chance meeting with a beguiling mortal nurse ignites passionate nights and a long overdue crack in the door to paradise.
Vicious flames and an unholy miscalculation deliver Raimond back to the depths of hell. Being arrested for treason makes him wish for death and the arrival of Prince Draven Norman appears to be the final nail in Raimond’s coffin. Will the prince’s eccentric judgement grant Raimond a true reprieve? Is Draven’s invitation to join New Orleans mystical royalty an extension of his own treachery, or the next step in Raimond’s miraculous journey?
Has the legendary Crescent City found a spirit noble enough to protect her future?

♦♦♦♦♦

 

Fledgling nurse Sorcha Alden knew she had the skills to save lives, but she never dreamed that her own life would be the one in danger.

Driven by tragedy to honor her family name, Sorcha embarks on a journey that takes her from the bleak but familiar streets of New York, through the sultry and seductive city of New Orleans, and into the brutal jungles of Nepal. Forging friendships and carrying on her mother’s mission of healing was her dream. Plunging into a love affair with the mysterious Dr. Ashayle, could have been a fairytale.

Being murdered and waking up as a blood-thirsty monster—became her living nightmare.

Torn away from a life that had just begun, Sorcha returns to New Orleans as a newborn vampire, forced to start over in a cutthroat underworld of devilry and decadence. Complicated politics, bitter rivals and jealous ancestors stand between her and the promises she’s still determined to keep.

In a realm where the boundary between good and evil is as murky as the Mississippi River and immortal does not mean invincible, will Sorcha ever risk her shattered heart and love again? Can the magical harmony of the Crescent City give her enough courage to fulfill her eternal destiny?

Sorcha’s final word will make your jaw drop!

 

AnneMarieAndrus.com

 

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