Short Story Friday–Monday Edition ☠️

Behind the Scenes at the Theater

by

Johi Jenkins

September 20, 2019

Words: loneliness, applaud, beg, jogging, memorize, admit, solitude, converse, eternity, marsh

October is just around the corner and all the coffee shops have already busted out all the fall flavors. Outside the air stirs, still warm but with the occasional chilly draft. The fall equinox is only a few days away. Alex is excited for the change and ready to let go of this dreadful summer haze.

The summer had been awful. Loneliness had been his constant companion; he’d been unemployed; a small-town wannabe actor freshly moved to the big city looking for acting work. He’d had a hell of a rough time, unable to join in with the rest of the city as everyone cherished those precious few weeks of perfect weather.

But then, right at the end of summer, last week, things finally improved: he got a job. Not just any job. He was finally invited to join one the most successful theater companies in the city, Elysium Theatre, and a role in their current award-winning production, The Last Victim.

Today is his first day. During his interview he already decided he loved the company. He’d met most of the actors and the stage crew, although of course he didn’t even lay eyes on the main actors. The big shots were just way too important and busy to ever hang out with the main company. They hardly come out to rehearsals, Alex learned to his disappointment, although he wasn’t surprised. He had especially wanted to meet Ben Morgan, the lead actor in the play, who had been Alex’s inspiration to become an actor, and his motivation to join this particular theater company. But Alex is thrilled nonetheless—he might not even see him, but he’s going to be in a freaking play with his hero!

Alex is the first one in. He came jogging from his studio apartment; he was too excited to sit still. He didn’t know what time everyone comes in to the rehearsals, so he chose to arrive an hour early, to be safe. Inside the designated auditorium, some lights are on but there’s no one around. He sits on a chair in the front row.

“Hello,” he hears a voice above him.

He looks up and sees—Ben Morgan? Holy crap!

“Hi, Mr. Morgan,” he stammers.

“Please, dude. Call me Ben.” Ben descends a metal ladder that’s propped against the lighting platform above the stage where he had apparently been, doing who knows what in solitude. About halfway down he jumps off and lands with uncanny grace on the stage. He sits on the ledge, right across from Alex’s chair.

“Right. Ben. I’m Alex. I’m new. I’m playing the banker, the smallest part, I know, barely two lines, but just the fact that I’m in this company, wow, I’m so excited and humbled. And to have my one scene be with you—well, the young version of Caleb, that’s, well, just, incredible.” Wow. Halfway through that logorrhea Alex knew he should stop talking, but he was so nervous that he just kept babbling on. He takes a breath to steady himself because he feels like he wants to talk some more to apologize, or to explain himself, or just to fill the silence, but he decides it might just be best to never speak again.

Ben is looking at him strangely. In his eyes there is a mixture of pity and humor. “Well, Alex, nice to meet you. But let me correct you, so you don’t go around spreading false statements.”

“Huh? What do y—”

“The banker. He’s not the smallest part. He may have only two lines, but he’s one of the most important characters in the story. He’s the pivotal person in Caleb’s life; the one who changes the course of Caleb’s whole life, when he says those two lines.”

Speechless, Alex can’t reply with words other than reciting the lines he’d already memorized, in a half whisper. “ ‘Young man, I’ve been watching you. I believe I know someone who might be quite excited to meet you.’ ”

“Aha.” Ben holds his index finger up and displays a dazzling smile. “And who did the banker mean by someone?”

“The benefactor. Mr. Lawrence.”

“Yes. And Lawrence changed Caleb’s life,” Ben reminds him. “Had it not been for the banker, Caleb wouldn’t have met Lawrence, and he wouldn’t have risen to where he did.”

“I guess,” Alex stammers.

Ben cocks his head to the side as if considering the young nobody before him. “Did you know that The Last Victim is based on a real-life story?”

“No, I didn’t,” Alex has to admit.

“My character, Caleb, is based on a young man who lived in the 50’s. His name was Charles, and he was an orphan. Just like in the play, Charles struggled in life, had many afflictions; and on one particularly bad day, having almost given up hope, he met the banker. The banker saw past the unfortunate circumstances that plagued Charles and saw only his beauty. He introduced him to his wealthy acquaintance, believing this acquaintance would be interested in Charles. And he was right. The wealthy friend took an instant liking to Charles and became his benefactor. We all know what happens next.” Ben pauses for effect, then he narrows his eyes and smiles that knowing smile of his. “But here is where the play differs drastically from the real story. In the play, Caleb goes back to his hometown as a wealthy man, and he purges the men who spurned him as an orphan, right? But in real life, Charles went back to his hometown, alright… but he killed those men.”

“What?” Alex’s face puckers in disbelief. “Just for mocking him?” In the play, one of the things young Caleb struggles with is being bullied by a few older boys that he works with. Later after he’s rich, he has them convicted and put in jail.

“They did more than mock him,” Ben explains. “They beat him up so bad, he couldn’t defend himself. He couldn’t even beg for his life. They left him for dead in the marsh where they worked. But he lived, he healed, and he persisted. He quit that job, went to a bank to borrow money to start a business. He met the banker. His life changed. And later when he was powerful, he went back and got his revenge.”

“Is that true?” Alex asks, unease creeping up his spine. “And he killed them?”

“Yes,” is Ben’s smart reply.

“But how did he do it?” Alex doesn’t really want to believe the supposed real version of the story, so his words are partially laced with disbelief. He doesn’t know where Ben is going with this, but it sounds like the guy wants to tell this story, so might as well ask him.

“I mean, how did he manage it? There were three of them and one of him.”

“There were eight of them and one of him.” Ben drops that in a deadpan voice. “In real life,” he adds.

Alex begins to get a weird vibe. Is Ben messing with him, or what? “So he paid people to do it, or…?”

“Alex, what the popular version of the story which we act out every night fails to mention is… the so-called benefactor, Lawrence, who in real life was named Lehmann, was actually a powerful vampire who fell in love with his intended victim, the little orphan boy that his banker friend brought to him as a gift. The vampire bestowed the gift of immortality on the young Charles. Not right away. Lehmann saw young Charles as a little pet; well, a pet that you have an intimate relationship with. But after some time he turned him into a vampire. And just like Caleb returns to his hometown as an adult in the play, Charles returned as an adult, albeit a vampire one, and had fun getting his revenge.”

Alex realizes his mouth is hanging open and quickly closes it. Ben is obviously joking, but he sounds so serious, Alex doesn’t know how best to reply. He looks at Ben expecting the face to reveal the butt end of the joke, or some clue as to why he’s hearing this fictional story from one of the most renowned actors in modern theater, but the man remains as serious as if he was retelling a news story from last week. Alex decides to play along. He never dreamed he’d converse like this with Ben Morgan on his first day; might as well roll with it.

“Wow, um. So, how do you know all this?”

“I play Caleb. It’s my job to know his character well, inside and out; what is written in the play, and what is not written.”

“Okay,” Alex says, frustrated with the lack of answers and not exactly knowing how he should react to Ben’s story. “Well, if Charles was a vampire, did he even die, like Caleb?”

The Last Victim is named so in reference to the main character, Caleb. After becoming rich and using his power and influence to get his revenge, his decisions gradually cross into the gray area of questionable judgment. Not being particularly trained in morality or ethics, and being quite young, he chooses to bestow assistance to people or deal punishment as his whims dictate. In the end, one particular bad decision puts the life of another young boy in peril; and Caleb, finally seeing his folly, dies tragically in a fire to save the boy, who reminds him of his former innocent self, in a gallant attempt to redeem himself. Thus, he is his own “last victim”.

“A vampire would’ve survived that fire,” Alex challenges. “He would’ve been fast enough to save the boy and save himself.”

Ben’s expression changes and his voice fills with sorrow. “He did perish in the fire. He started it, and both him and the innocent boy died in it. The boy never made it out. Charles didn’t save him. He watched as the smoke claimed the boy and had no remorse. It was Lehmann who killed Charles, finally realizing he had lost control of his little pet. So you see, Charles didn’t die in the fire like Caleb did in the play, but he equally died because of it.”

Alex, temporarily forgetting this story can’t possibly be real, feels awful for the little boy who didn’t make it out of the fire. The play, despite being a tragedy, is generally liked because this one sweet innocent unnamed kid is saved.

“So it was all a lie?” he demands. “Saving the boy, Caleb’s sacrifice?”

Ben shrugs dejectedly. “The writer didn’t like the ending, so he wrote a different one.”

“Well, he shouldn’t have,” Alex says a bit angrily. “Everyone thinks Caleb was this great tragic hero. They all applaud him, and he was an asshole.”

“He was an asshole, but Lehmann loved him. He had turned Charles into a vampire because he wanted to spend an eternity with him. Lehmann felt guilty, thinking he should’ve taught Charles better, guided him better.” He sighs. “It was Lehmann who wrote the story.”

“Wait, what? Lehmann—Lawrence? He’s the author?” Alex tries to remember the writer’s name. He can think of the playwright, but not the original author.

“Yes.”

“Wait.” The author of a real play and the vampire in a fictional story clashing in his confused brain is too much for Alex at the moment. He covers his eyes with a hand, trying to reassess. Of all the things that don’t make sense, the one question that comes out is, “How do you know all this?”

He asked the same question earlier, but in a whole different frame of mind. Disbelief back then, mostly. This time, he wants to know. This time is different.

This time, Ben replies honestly.

“I’m Lehmann.”

He looks into Alex’s eyes, deep into his soul, it feels like. And Alex immediately knows. It’s all true.

“Would you like to know … more?” Ben Morgan hops off the stage and extends his hand down to Alex.

Alex takes the offered hand.

“I would love to.”

***
The END

 

Find and Follow Johi Jenkins

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Johi Jenkins Amazon

Short Story Friday!

Circus Folks Are People Too

by
Christian Terry

 

” They don’t pay to see you, Chuck! No one who comes to the circus pays to see some rinky dink clown!” Paul said as saliva flew from his lips nearly landing on Chuck’s face paint. “It’s all about the danger, getting their hearts pumping, not some sad freak spraying with a seltzer water at people.” He continued.

Lauren, the featured trapeze artist stepped in between the two men to end the confrontation. “Leave Chuck alone!” She barked. “If only you knew what it took to make an entire arena laugh and to keep them entertained.”

“If it isn’t little Lauren, the professional tumbler no one asked for. I wish I had the time to tell you how much you weren’t needed, but the show is starting.” With that, Paul brushed passed them both exiting the curtain tightening the grip on his leather whip.

“Don’t worry about him, babe. The people love you, you’re naturally clumsy so that helps. The show needs you.”

“Thanks for that coach. I’ll see you after the show.” Chuck said, his voice low from the encounter.

Lauren, sensing that her boyfriend was upset, tugged him by his checkered handkerchief scarf, pulling him toward her face, planting a deep, intense kiss across Chuck’s red colored lips. “Hey, is that my lipstick you’re wearing?” Lauren asked.

“Would you look at the time , I have to go on stage now. ” Chuck said while running through the curtain.

The show had started like it had done a million times before. Chuck mingling with the crowd, soaking some poor kids with his bottle of seltzer water. Lauren performed her high wire act to an standing ovation. The elephants marched in a circle dancing around the center ring of the three ring circus. To the left of the elephants the jugglers were flinging flaming torches at one another in a frenzy.

A thunderous roar shortly accompanied by sharp cries halted all of the action. Chuck glanced to the third ring and saw Paul lying on his back as the giant lion had him pinned to the ground. Chuck zoomed to the third ring clutching his seltzer bottle. Paul eyed the clown while wrestling with the lion, the lion’s teeth inches from his face. Chuck was afraid, but he couldn’t let Paul die.

“Hey, Mister lion didn’t you know that eating coworkers is bad for digestion, I’m going to write a stern letter to human resources about this.” Chuck said nervously. He sprayed his bottle, nearly emptying it unto the beasts back causing the mighty feline to remove himself from on top of Paul and rest his sights on the clown that wet him. Chuck dashed on to the platform behind him as the lion gave chase. Near the edge of the ring Chuck saw familiar highlighted marks in shape of a large rectangle on the ground near his feet which were inside of it.

He then turned to see the lion several feet away. Chuck raised both of his hands. That was the cue. As he raised his arms, the lion launched towards Chuck as he rolled out of the way. What the animal didn’t see was an iron cage falling from above him lining up with the highlighted marks on the floor. The beast was captured. Paul glared at the bewildered clown for a moment before starting the slow clap. The entire arena joined in. Chuck took a well deserved bow.

♦♦♦

Find and Follow 

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Christian Terry

The Weaver & Interview With Author Heather Kindt!

Happy Release Day to

The Weaver!

 

Most writers choose the endings to their stories . . . most writers are not Weavers.
Laney Holden is a freshman at Madison College whose life goes from normal to paranormal in a matter of seconds. When the antagonist in the book she’s writing shoves her down the stairs at the subway station, she learns she is a Weaver. Weavers bridge the narrow gap between fantasy and reality, bringing their words to life.

Laney soon meets William whom she also suspects is a character from her book—one she’s had a mad crush on since her pen hit the paper. But he’s in danger as her antagonist reveals a whole different ending planned for Laney’s book that involves killing William. Laney must use her writing to save the people closest to her by weaving the most difficult words she will ever write.

THE WEAVER is the first installment of The Weaver trilogy. It is an NA paranormal romance set in a small town on the north shore of Boston. It will leave you wanting more…

Read The Weaver Now!

⇑⇑⇑

Getting to know Heather Kindt…

What inspired you to write your latest work?

The Weaver was the first book I wrote. I put my heart and soul into it. I had just finished my Master’s degree in Education and realized I must be a pretty good writer because I’d do really well on the projects I had due every week. At the same time, I was reading the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers. The books had me hooked. I was up well into the night reading. I’ve since to find a book that has hooked me as much as those. She inspired me to create my own world. I wasn’t interested in writing about vampires, but about real people. I completed the Weaver in 2008.

Tell us about your latest work? What is special about it?

Like I said above, it has my heart and soul. The Weaver is about a college student named Laney Holden who loves to write about history because she’s been around antiques her whole life in her parents’ antique store. She finds out in the course of the book that her characters, the good and the bad, come out of the book and into her world. It is the first book in a trilogy that will be published through Parliament House Press. The first book introduces the reader to the world of the Weavers and starts the world building. I’m super excited about the places the trilogy takes the reader in the second two books.

How long have you been writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was in sixth grade, I was asked by my teacher to be in the writer’s club. It’s funny because I still have the book we created at Derry Village School. My writing is terrible! I’m a fourth grade teacher, so I love reading my writing to my students so they can see how far I’ve come. As far as writing books, I started in 2008. In the course of two years, I wrote The Weaver and Ruby Slips and Poker Chips. I worked a little on The Watcher, the second book in the trilogy, but I didn’t get serious until I published Ruby Slips. Now, I have three more books ready for editing and to be published after The Weaver.

Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to a published piece?

When I think of an idea, I start a folder inside my writing folder on my computer. That way, if I think of things related to that idea, I can add them. Right now, I’m working on a series that I thought would be a children’s book series, but I decided to go YA/NA with it. That folder was sitting there for a while. Beyond that series, I have at least three other ideas waiting to be written.
When I start my writing, I think about who the main characters are going to be and their personalities, but these also develop over the course of the book. My husband would love for me to plot out my entire book before I write, but I don’t. Sometimes, I take a step back and ask myself, “Heather, where are you going with this?” But for the most part, I let my characters drive my story and hope they don’t lead me too far off track.
After the drafting is done, I send it to my editor and I check over it many times as well.

Where do you do your writing?

About two years ago, my husband surprised me for Christmas by renovating the office area in our house. Before, it was kind of the catch all room. Now, it is gorgeous. A year ago, he bought me one of those standing desks to put in there. The sad thing is, I’m more comfortable writing in bed, on the couch, on the back porch, and in the comfy chair in the office. I think if I wrote full time, I’d have to be more official about it.

Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?

YES! I want to do this full time. I’m part of a Facebook group called 20 books to 50k. The inspiration I get from that group is mind blowing. I know to get to the point that some self-published authors have attained. I have to publish more books. So, right now my goal is to write, write, and write.

What helps you most when it comes to writing?

Quiet. Some authors like to listen to music, but it distracts me. Sometimes, I’ll take a personal day from work to write so I can have the house to myself all day.

What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on a YA fantasy series called The Green Door. It’s a cross between the Hunger Games and the Chronicles of Narnia. The fun part about the series is that each book is a whole different world with the common thread of the main characters interacting within that new world. The first book is complete and I’m currently working on the second book The Red Door. I’m hoping to publish in early 2020.

Who, or what inspired you to be a writer?

I wanted to write a story. I’ve always loved books … Narnia, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games. I get lost in the worlds. I wanted to do that for others—give people a world to get lost in. So, I guess you’d say that my future readers inspired me to be a writer.

How do you feel about critiques? Eh, or bring them on!

I like critiques with backbone. If you are going to give me one star, tell me why so I can get better. I had one person say that Ruby Slips had too many plot holes. That confused me, so I asked her what she meant. She said that the term was the wrong one to use. Her husband was a teacher and she couldn’t imagine a principal acting that way. Well, she hasn’t been part of my life. So, yes, critiques with backbone I will definitely take.

Which character in your book are you most like? Unlike?

I am most like Laney from The Weaver. She’s an introvert and unsure of herself around others. She’s also loyal and stands up for the people she loves. I am least like Dottie from Ruby Slips and Poker Chips, other than we’re both teachers. Unlike, Laney she’s an extrovert and not afraid to speak her mind. I could also never wear heels!

How often do you write? Do you have another job besides being a writer?

I try to write everyday. Right now it’s the summer, so I’m not teaching. I’ve been trying to write at least 1,000 words a day. During the school year, I shoot for 10,000 words every twelve or so days.

Do you plot out your entire story, or have the characters drive it?

My characters rule my stories. Once in a while to please my husband, I’ll stop and write out a few things I think might happen in the story, but if a character takes me a different direction, then that’s where I’ll go.

Which book that you have read has had the most impact on you? Why?

I have to say the Twilight series. It has had the most impact because it started my writing career. Other than that the Bible. My faith is very important to me and is the foundation for everything I do in my life.

What’s the best piece of writing advice that someone has given you?

Don’t stop writing. I think authors get discouraged when they receive rejection letters or don’t sell a lot of books. They give up. I know, because I did ten years ago. Both of my books sat on my computer for a lot of years. It was funny because I had to update them with things like cell phones. I finally entered a contest and won. My book was indie published with help. After that, I found a publisher for my other book and since that time (2017), I’ve written three more books and have another one in the works.

Do you have a favorite review of your book? Can you share why you liked it?

My favorite review said that Ruby Slips and Poker Chips is worth more than five stars, but that’s just my ego talking. I love that a lot of the reviews talk about my no-holds barred characters and how funny and twisted they can be.

What else do you like to do besides writing?

I love to travel with my family. One of our favorite places is Disney World. We’ve also been to Europe a couple of times and traveled in our car around the United States. I also love to read, hike, and play with our golden retriever puppy, Maggie.

 Who is your favorite “secondary” character to write?

In Ruby Slips and Poker Chips I enjoyed writing all the secondary characters – the witch, the scarecrow, the tin woman, and the lion. It was so much fun thinking about how their character traits could play out in real life. Out of them, I think the lion was my favorite. He literally shows up at the door with dishwashing gloves on because he’s afraid of germs—think Howie Mandel.
In the Weaver, my favorite secondary character is Missy. She reminds me a lot of my roommate in college and she’s just plain fun.

What is you most interesting writing quirk?

Hmm … I’m not sure if I have one of these. There’s a twenty-one year old avid reader in the basement who I hash out ideas with. We’ll sit and talk for an hour or so about where the books might go. He REALLY wanted me to kill off a character, and it may or may not happen.

What common pitfalls trip up aspiring writers?

Don’t go cheap on your cover. Make sure it is genre specific and eye-catching at thumbnail view. Hire an editor. If you are not publishing traditionally, make sure you have multiple eyes on your manuscript. You can’t catch everything, and you might glance over things since you know the story so well. Keep growing. You are never an expert. I’ve learned this in teaching, if you’re not growing, you’re stagnant.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading a fiction book called The Fall of Lilith by Vashti Quiroz Vega. It’s about the angels Lilith and Lucifer and their fall from grace. I’m also reading Write to Market by Chris Fox. Even though I love weaving tales, I’m not the best at marketing them to others. It’s an area I’m trying to improve.

Find and Follow Heather Kindt!

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Website/blog: www.heatherkindt.com

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Heather Kindt grew up in Derry, New Hampshire, but now resides in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and two children. She loves writing YA fantasy and humorous fiction. Her debut novel, Ruby Slips and Poker Chips, won the Dan Alatorre Word Weaver Writing Contest. The first book in her NA paranormal romance trilogy, The Weaver will be released in August. To learn more about her and the great things that are coming in her writing world, visit her website at

http://heatherkindt.com


 

 

 

Short Story Friday

The Love of Each Other’s Lives

By

Arbor Barrow

 

Rudy is literally a fish. Rudy wants people to know that because when he implies that he is a metaphorical fish, most people are confused. Rudy is a fish and lives in a saltwater tank at a fancy restaurant on the west side of a big city. He only knows this because he can see a sign outside the tank that says “Welcome to the West Side” and beyond that he can see the tall and pointy skyscrapers of a huge city. In his tank is a miniature version of the city with little cubby holes he can pop out of. Before his time in the tank the little miniature had the name of the city printed on the side, but the salt water of the tank had long since worn it away all that was left were the letters R U D and Y. His name.

Rudy is literally in love with the owner of the restaurant. Rudy wants people to know that because metaphorical love is meant for poetry and Rudy is not a poet. The restaurant owner is a man named Finny. Finny is a part time chef, part time sea captain, and full time love of Rudy’s life. Finny comes to Rudy’s tank and feeds him every morning before the restaurant opens and every evening before the nighttime rush. But most importantly of all Finny tells Rudy stories about the outside world. The last story Finny told Rudy was about the time he was thrown into the “drink” (this is a term that Rudy has come to understand as a place called the ocean which from what he can gather is a very large fish tank somewhere out there in the world) and had to swim back to shore with nothing but his wits and the clothes on his back.

Rudy was born in a tank in a pet store on some other end of the city, the only thing he remembers about the pet store is the ceiling fan above the tank clacking noisily, he doens’t remember his siblings, they all looked the same honestly, and he doesn’t really remember his parents. What he does remember is the moment Finny’s face appeared before his tank and he said to the shop owner, “I want that one.”

Rudy was in love the moment he was lifted out of the tank and his second sight of Finny literally took his breath away. Though, if Rudy was being totally honest with himself, fish can’t breathe out of water so it might have just been a coincidence.

On a particular Tuesday morning, and Rudy only knows it’s Tuesday because his tank is right next to the flip calendar the wait staff use to mark special requests from customers, Finny came with a gift at the same time he came with breakfast. Finny reached down halfway into the tank, where Rudy took great fun in swimming back and forth through Finny’s very long arm hair, and dropped something in an open space in the tank.

The little ceramic piano settled to the bottom and Rudy thought his whole world was about to change again. He loved music. The piano player at the fancy restaurant could always play the most delightful tunes and now he had one of his very own. Rudy swam a couple circles around the tiny piano.

“Oh Finny!” Rudy sang enthusiastically. “You make my world so spinny!”
Fish can’t sing, but don’t tell Rudy that.

Finny grinned down into the tank. The tattoos on his very wrinkled neck stretched happily as he smiled. “Lookie here Rudy, happy birthday! It’s been a year since I got you!”

A year? A year was like forever! Had it really been that long? Rudy desperately wanted to give Finny a hug but was again irritated that he didn’t have legs.

“Alright, Rudy. Behave yourself!” Finny said as the last bit of fish kibble floated down from the surface of the water.

Rudy didn’t know how he could possibly misbehave, he was a fish!

Other than apparently being his birthday, Rudy didn’t expect a Tuesday to be anything more than a normal day, but Rudy and Finny, and most of the city that Rudy had pulled his name from was about to get a very interesting surprise.

+++

Rudy is a small fish, a yellow tang about three inches long, so it should come as no surprise that it was small thing that changed Rudy’s life. It wasn’t the new piano, it wasn’t the little kid who found his tank halfway through the day and decided that a fun game was letting Rudy follow his finger across the surface of the glass (as fun as that was), but instead it was the arrival of a magician. Not one of those run of the mill illusionists, but an actual wand and magic word magician. The guy showed up outside the restaurant and stared at Rudy through the glass. He looked more like a hobo than a magician but when he waved his hand across the glass Rudy was captivated. The man came inside, requested a glass of water and then stood above the tank looking down at Rudy with a thoughtful look on his face. There was glitter coming off his fingers and his wand was a bent metal straw. When the maitre d’ gave the man a cup of water the magician dropped his wand into it and sucked loudly at the straw. His eyes never left Rudy and Rudy didn’t look away either.

“You’ll do,” the magician said and when his cup of water was drained he tapped the metal straw on the glass tank. It was a small event in the scheme of things, a tiny tap on the glass, a little glitter magic falling to the floor beneath his tank. But that’s all it was. The magician left, the restaurant went about its business, and when the restaurant closed for the night Rudy felt the change begin. He started to grow, and at first he didn’t notice but when he was as big as the miniature city in his tank he knew something was wrong. WHen he was so big that the tank broke under him he knew he was in trouble.

Or so he thought. Instead, he found himself on the floor, and he had HANDS. Rudy stared at the hands like they were tumors. They were tumors, fish don’t have hands!
More than that, he was breathing IN THE AIR. Rudy stood up and stared around the closed restaurant. He was as big as a human person now.

There was something wiggling at the back of his mind. An urge to walk out into the street and just destroy everything around him. But that didn’t make sense to him. He was very fond of all the sights and things around him. He didn’t want to destroy anything, especially not this restaurant. It belonged to Finny, the love of his life… FINNY! Rudy looked around the restaurant and tried to get a sense of where Finny might be. He usually only saw Finny in the restaurant but he knew Finny had a home somewhere with his wife and three children.

Rudy didn’t want to break anything more so he found a seat in the restaurant and waited. He would wait for Finny to arrive.

+++

Finny, short for Finnegan, had worked really hard to building his restaurant, his brand, and his life. And he didn’t realize just how lucky he was that a tiny fish named Rudy, his favorite yellow tang, loved him as much as anyone could. When he arrived at his restaurant to open up that Wednesday morning he was startled and shocked to find Rudy’s tank demolished and a tall yellow man sitting in a booth drawing on the back of a menu with some crayons. When the man saw him, he stood and grinned crookedly.

“Finny!” The young man yelled.

“Uh… Who’re you?”

“Rudy,” the man said.

“Rudy,” Finny said, and stared at the man. He was as yellow as his Tang, but he was a MAN. He looked between the destroyed tank and the yellow man. It was impossible. But there was no way he could have gotten in here without breaking anything and the only thing broken was Rudy’s tank.

Finny blinked a few times, then wandered to the back where the security cameras could tell him the real story. And the real story was just as the yellow man said. In the camera he could see Rudy growing and bursting open the tank and slowly transforming into a human-like creature. He turned to see that Rudy the former fish was standing behind him, naked as a jaybird.

Finny sighed and wondered what he had done to deserve this oddity. He pulled out the lost and found and retrieved a sweatshirt and an apron from the kitchen.
“Oh! Clothes! I’ve always wanted clothes! Thank you, Finny.”

“You’re welcome Rudy.” Finny helped Rudy get sort of presentable and started to clean up the mess from the broken fish tank. A shadow crossed the window outside and Finny looked up to see the old hobo from the night before staring into the restaurant. His face was a mask of anger and confusion.

Finny poked his head out of the door. “Can I help you? Do you need another glass of water?”

The man pointed past Finny at Rudy and shook. “You! Where have you been? What have you been doing all night?”

Rudy blinked and then pointed to the table where he had sat all night. “I was drawing a picture for Finny. Who are you? Where were you all night?”

The old man balked. “What… why… I am a chaos magician! You’re supposed to be wrecking chaos!”

Rudy just stared perplexed at the magician. “But that would destroy things. I don’t want to do that. Also, Finny told me to behave, I think that falls into the territory of misbehaving.”

The magician stared at Rudy incredulously. “What is wrong with you!”

Rudy frowned at the old man. “I’m a fish that is now a human person, what isn’t wrong with me?”

The old man made an angry squeak and turned on his heel. He limped down the street and shouted nonsense into the air.

Finny glanced back at Rudy and laughed. “You know, I knew I picked well when I saw you at the pet store. You are a special fish, Rudy.”

“Oh, thank you. I’m sorry about the tank.”

“It’s alright.”

“I don’t have to go back to the pet store do I?”

“No, I don’t think they have a tank big enough for you. Besides I think you deserve to be family.”

“Can we go fishing? Can I meet your family? Your kids?”

“Of course. I think they’d love you just as much as I do.”

Rudy is a literal fish. But he has the heart of a human, and the soul of someone who loves the people who love him. Things could have been different, and for another unfortunate fish in another part of the city they were. Because not a few days later, a huge, hulking puffer fish the size of a barge wrecked up the east side of the city and shouted angrily at everyone “how about I puff you up!”

 

♦The End♦

 

Find and Follow Amber Barrow

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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

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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