I’m entering the following three short stories in this years Writer’s Digest short story competition. Read and enjoy and please tell me what you think because comments are welcome.
The first is called “A Meeting.” A man meets a woman. Or does he?
Ross G. Homer
I sat staring at the light blue turkey baking bag and the small tank of nitrogen. I had heard this was a painless and quick way to end your life and at this point, I felt mine was pretty much at an end.
My wife of thirty years died two years ago. Our three kids were grown and gone. I picked up the bag. Should I or shouldn’t I? Shrugging, I attached the rubber hose to the tank and continued to toy with the bag.
I attached the hose to the side of the bag. Now all I had to do was pull it over my head and zip it as closed as I could. Then…reach over and turn the valve. Four or five deep breaths and bye-bye, see you later, adios.
I put the bag down and went over to my desk. Everything was good. I neatly stacked the papers in front of my monitor, signed places where I needed to sign and listed all my passwords. There was nothing on the hard drive anyone shouldn’t see.
I powered off the PC then went back to my favorite recliner. Taking a deep breath, I sat.
As if the Universe was watching me, the phone rang. Checking caller ID, I saw it was from my lawyer.
I didn’t want to answer but something told me it might be important. It was. “This is Hal. What’s up, Simon?”
“Hey! Glad I caught you.” If he only knew. “Hal, I need an original signature on a form before I can finalize your rights to the game. Sorry man.”
I looked at the bag and my set-up and knew it made no difference if I did this now or later today. Kids’ll still get the royalties from the game sales.
“Okay Simon, I’ll be there in an hour or so. Is that good for you?”
“Sure Hal. Take your time. It’s not like we don’t have plenty of it. See you when you get here. I’ll have Nancy show you in so you won’t have to wait.”
“Thanks. See you in a while.” I hung up.
Later, after talking with Simon for a few minutes and signing the form, I shook hands and turned to leave. But before I could he looked at me funny.
“Hal? Are you okay? You look, I don’t know, depressed, I guess. I don’t normally say this to people but as I’ve known you since the sixth grade, I think I can. You need to see somebody about losing Sally. It’s tearing you apart and has since she passed. Man, I can see it in your face.”
“C’mon Simon, I’m fine. It’s been a down kind of day.”
“Listen. Do yourself a favor. Why don’t you wander down to Evangeline’s and have a cup of coffee. I want you to consider whatever it is you’re thinking about. Really think about it. Why don’t you go somewhere different for a while? Head over to the coast. San Francisco? Seattle? Someplace green. I guarantee the change of scenery will do you good.”
I nodded and left the building and decided Simon was right. I really wanted a cup of coffee…a last cup. Evangeline’s was on the corner. As I passed the newspaper box I glimpsed a bold headline:
Search Continues For Missing Bicyclist
I shrugged. Didn’t need to read the rest. People were forever getting lost in the mountains here. But I hoped they would find whoever it was.
I held the door open for a lovely young woman in blue jeans and a white shirt, ordered my usual cup and waited. As I looked up at the ceiling, I felt this strange wave of acceptance wash over me.
Maybe I really did need a change. Every place I went here brought her back. I was overwhelmed with memories and I couldn’t seem to shake the despair.
When I returned home, I took my suicide apparatus apart and stored the parts in different places in the garage. I realized that my biggest problem was that I retired after Sally died and mostly floated in my depression. As the day progressed I found I was feeling better. I took out a couple of suitcases and started tossing in mostly casual clothes. Before closing the suitcases, I took one last look around.
Feeling a little light-headed, as if I’d climbed too many steps at once, I opened her lingerie drawer. A whiff of her fading perfume floated gently up. Wiping a tear, I slammed it shut. I didn’t need this. Not now.
By the time it took to pack suitcases, I decided that yes, I wanted to live. Standing in the drive, I took a last look at the old place, then got into the car and backed out.
In the street I headed west.
But eventually, all roads lead to home. Sedona. Talk about a lovely town. With all the red rocks and rock formations around, it was a beautiful place. I desperately needed to move into something much smaller…mostly to escape memories.
Over the next two weeks I looked at a number of places. Some so expensive as to make my eyes bug out at the price. Just about to give up and go to Phoenix, a place opened on the west end out against the hills.
It was perfect and I took it. And then I crashed. Hard.
Major depression engulfed me like a thick, gray fog. For the first time in over a month I was ready to die. I bought a bottle of scotch. I sat in my living room looking out over the town with the unopened bottle in one hand, a gun in the other.
I couldn’t do it. I found the nearest AA meeting and went. After I left, I felt relieved and back on track.
The next day, I looked at my mountain bike hanging in the garage. I hadn’t ridden at all in a couple of years. I realized that hauling the bike around was going to be easier with a pickup than my Mercedes.
I went up to Flagstaff and bought a small pickup. Had my Mercedes for going nice places, the truck for off road biking.
This is where my new life started.
I loaded the bike in the back of the truck the next morning. My destination was some of the trails to the west.
As far as perfect Arizona days go, this had to be one of the best. Low 70’s, dry, brilliant blue sky. The trail I followed wasn’t too technical to start with as it meandered gently around boulders and cacti although it climbed continually upward. I was having the time of my life…no worries, no concerns, and I was alive.
I was beginning a steep descent when I noticed tire tracks going off the trail down into a deep ravine. It was right in the curve and I hoped whoever biffed it was okay. I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. A flash of blue? Something. At the bottom of the descent, I stopped for water and looked back up the way I’d come. It was a steep sucker and I’d done well negotiating it. I thought I saw a flash of blue again up in some large rocks but then I decided I was wrong. I was still looking up there when I saw that blue flash again.
I pulled the bike off the trail for the safety of anyone else coming down and started climbing up the ravine. I rounded a boulder and there, thirty feet further up was a girl, her leg caught between two large rocks. She wasn’t moving. Her lower right leg, just below her knee, was wedged between two rocks.
The girl or woman, I couldn’t tell yet, was upside down, facing me. Her arms hung toward the ground, her helmet was crushed on one side. What I’d seen was her blue jacket fluttering in the slight breeze. Quickly but carefully so I didn’t twist something myself, I climbed to her. I was afraid I was far too late to be any good.
I felt her throat to see if she had a pulse. It was slow and steady. I was going to have to lift her upper body higher than the leg to extract her and it from the rocks. Thankfully, I was still in pretty good shape.
I ducked below her so that her neck pressed against my chest. Gently and slowly I pushed up, raising her. She popped loose, causing me to fall backwards. I caught her in my arms as we fell to protect her from further injury as we crashed to the ground. I got her situated and took a quick look at the leg. It was definitely broken.
The girl moaned and her eyes flickered open. They were gray and beautiful.
“Here,” I said, “take a sip of water.” I put the bite spout between her lips.
“Uhh…” she said as she bit down the tip. She swallowed a couple of times. Letting go of the spout, she gasped, “Thanks. How bad am I, doc?”
“Looks like your right leg is broken. And I’m not a doctor.” I had to smile. She was certainly pretty, in an ‘injured female biker’ kind of way.
“Uhh, hurts like a mutha. My bike?”
“I haven’t looked for it. That’s secondary right now. There’s no service in this hole so I need to go up to the top. Will you be okay while I’m gone?”
“Yeah, sure. Can…can I get more water?” I gave her the backpack and hiked back to the top of the trail. The climb up made for shortness of breath but I did it and made the call.
In fifteen minutes I heard the chopper. In another ten minutes, quiet and solitude settled in again.
I enjoyed the rest of the ride back to where I parked. What a day, I thought, loading my bike in the truck. Great ride. I rescued a damsel in distress and felt better now than I had since before Sally died. I also realized I could think about her being gone without my heart flying up into my throat.
I drove back to my new condo and thought about the woman in the rocks for a few minutes and then put her out of my mind.
Over the next several days I began trying to write, something I’d wanted to do for years. I’d had a couple of dystopian young adult/new adult ideas kicking around since I’d read the ‘Hunger Games’ books. But sitting inside wasn’t cutting it.
I took my laptop and went down to the pool. I was deep into pounding the keys when a shadow crossed my table. Looking up I faced a good-looking woman, possibly in her mid-thirties. She had short, deep auburn hair, amazing gray eyes and a wide, beautiful smile. The woman was definitely curvaceous and about five-six or seven. She wore a dark blue bikini that was perfect on her. The only word that came to mind was ‘hot.’ As in very.
“Hi!” she said.
“Uhh, hi yourself.” I didn’t know what else to say.
She looked carefully at me. “You don’t remember me, do you?”
I shook my head. “Should I?” She was on crutches. “I’m sorry. Have a seat.” I pointed at the chair next to me. Sometimes, as Sally used to say, I could be thick as a brick.
“Thanks.” She sat and stretched her right leg across the empty chair next to her. I saw the cast below her knee. An impish smile danced on her lips and her eyes sparkled. She set her bag on the table and leaned her crutches against another chair.
“Look closely,” she said again. Trust me, I did. “Recognize me yet?” Her voice was like liquid smoke. Throaty and sexy as could be.
Shaking my head, I said, “Well, no. I’m Hal Williams, by the way. Hal.” I reached out my hand.
“Nice to meet you, again, Hal Williams. I’m Sabrina Delgado.” We shook. I felt like a fool. I hadn’t been anywhere in ages where I could have met someone as beautiful as this woman and forgotten her. Just wasn’t possible.
“Think back Hal…about four days?” She was having far too much fun at my expense and I found myself getting a little peeved.
“Okay, Ms. Delgado, I really don’t remember you. Did I bump into your car at Safeway or something? If I did I’m sorry and I’ll pay for the damage.”
She laughed again. “I saw you sitting here and at least I recognized you. I live over there,” she pointed about two doors down from my place. “I really can’t believe that the man who saved my life can’t remember doing it. I’m the one with the,” she pointed at her right leg, “broken leg who no doubt would have died had you not come along. Now do you remember?”
Thick as a brick. Yep. That’s me. “That was you? I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you. I couldn’t see much of your face. The rest of you, well, I was busy trying to get you out of those rocks.”
“My apologies. I guess maybe you didn’t recognize me.”
“No need to apologize, Ms. Delgado. How are you? I see you’re ambulatory.”
“Please, call me Sabrina.” She smiled brightly. “Other than my leg, I had some scrapes and bruises on my back and butt and a slight concussion. My leg has a simple break which is why I’m now moving around. I hate hospitals which is a complete oxymoron. I’m an orthopedic surgeon.” She laughed. “And you? What do you do?”
“I’m a retired programmer.”
“Retired? You don’t look old enough to be retired.”
“I’m not but I wrote a couple of things, games and some software that made my late wife and me comfortable.” A momentary pang blew through me.
“I’m sorry for your loss. I know it sucks to not have someone to share your good fortune with.”
I nodded. I didn’t see a ring on her hand so I had no idea of her marital or partnership status.
“And you, Sabrina?” I pointed at her left hand. “You’re single?”
“Yeah, widow. Three years ago my husband found out he had testicular cancer. He walked out in the desert and killed himself because he couldn’t live with it.” She paused. “Sorry. I realize that was too much information. On the other hand, he left me pretty well set and my practice is bustling.”
Trying to lighten the mood, she laughed and added, “Mountain bikers who crash are my major source of income.”
I laughed at the irony too.
We spent an hour getting to know one another before she had to go back to her place and rest. We decided to meet later. I’d buy some food so she wouldn’t have to shop.
“What did you bring?” she asked later when I came in. She’d changed into a translucently pale blue caftan. Made her look…ethereal, I guess, like some kind of an angel. As I sat the groceries down on her kitchen counter, she crossed between me and the setting sun, momentarily turning her caftan invisible. I honestly thought my heart would stop.
She set dinnerware out on her deck table as I cooked steaks. While I was busy with the grill, she asked, “What would you like to drink? I have wine, beer, Pepsi.”
I looked at her, still enthralled by her ghostly beauty. “I’m a recovering alcoholic so Pepsi is just fine.”
She nodded, went back in and returned with a wine glass of something red for her and a tall glass filled with ice, a Pepsi and sliced lemon for me.
We toasted to ‘building friendships’ while she tossed the salad and the bread warmed in the oven.
As we ate she asked, “Programmer, eh? Programmed anything I might know?”
“Ever heard of The Mystery of Aba Nam? The computer game?”
“Yeah, actually I have. I’m a gamer when I have time and it’s one of my favorites. Why?”
“I hate to brag but it’s mine. I wrote the original concepts and programming, and then sold it, keeping many of the rights.”
“That’s your game? The one with the movies and novels? The one that’s one of my all time favorites? You wrote that?”
Now I was embarrassed. “Uhh, yes, I did. I’m glad you like it.”
She sat back. “Wow! Here I sit with a bonafied Internet hero. When’s another DLC coming?”
Laughing, I said, “Oh God. Stop that! Everybody wants to know when the next downloadable content is coming.” I winked. “Soon.”
“But I’m not telling all the story. It’s not been a bed of roses. A little over two years ago, I was attending an AA meeting. My wife and a friend of hers were t-boned by a woman running a stop sign at about seventy miles per hour.” I suddenly found myself choking up and took a deep drink to gather my wits.
“I’m so sorry to hear that. How long were you married?”
“Thirty years only a month before.” I wiped my eyes with my napkin.
We finished eating quietly, the mood somber. Other than a comment about the game or biking, we didn’t say much more to each other. After dinner, I cleaned up while she sat on the deck.
I could see the wine was hitting her pretty hard. “Sabrina, why don’t I leave and let you go to bed?”
She yawned. “That’s probably best. I didn’t think this wine would wipe me out but it has. Thanks for the wonderful evening.” I bent and kissed her cheek and left.
The next afternoon, my cellphone rang.
“Hi Hal. This is Sabrina. How are you today?”
I was speechless for a moment. I thought after last night all bets were off. “I’m good. And yourself?”
“Me too. Sorry about last night. I’d taken a pain pill, no doubt a huge mistake. The wine finished me. Can I make it up to you tonight? I’ve had no alcohol and my leg’s tolerable today.”
I almost yelled ‘yes!’ but reined myself in. “Well, if you’re up to it. How about I take you somewhere for dinner, if you haven’t eaten?”
“No, my treat this time. Do you like Mexican?”
“Yes, love it. What time should I come over?”
“Well, I’m actually ready now.”
“Then I’ll be there in a moment. I was just headed out myself.”
I went up to her unit and before I could ring the bell, she opened the door.
She smiled widely. “Hi!” Is it possible for a woman to become even more beautiful? She managed it. Tonight she wore a soft, pale blue blouse and dark blue designer jeans.
After dinner we drove up Oak Creek Canyon and enjoyed the crystal-clear desert air. The beautiful blue skies of the day faded to the black of night. At one point we stopped and looked the brilliant stars above.
It was a wonderful night and I got a light kiss before sending her inside.
She called me before eight the next morning. “Good morning Hal. I trust you slept well?”
“Best night in a while. You?”
“Never better. Listen, my bike’s going to be ready to pick up today. Can I prevail upon you to help me with that?”
“I’d be more than happy to. What time?”
“Around ten. Say…I’ve some excellent coffee here and I’m made some fresh sopapillas. Care to join me for a light breakfast?”
“See you in a moment.”
Sabrina made me feel like I was seventeen again, going nuts trying to get to Sally’s house while her parents were gone.
Her sopapillas were delightful and filling. Our conversation hinted at things moving forward between us. She definitely looked good in her snug white short shorts and blue t-shirt.
I hoped I wasn’t going over the line when I commented, “I’m not blind, you know, and I’ve gotta say you look, umm, delicious.”
She cocked her hip and teased, “Why Hal Williams, I thought you were a gentleman.” Laughing at my perplexed look, she said, “You are! And thank you for noticing.”
Shortly I discovered that she looked every bit as good out of the shirt and shorts as she did in them. An hour later and back at the deck table, both of us less than completely dressed, we sat and had warmed-over coffee.
Sabrina spoke first. “That was very nice. It’s been too long since…”
“Thanks. I learned from my late wife to take things slowly. Let you have what you want first.”
“You were a good student. Ron, my ex, was all about him.” She blushed. “All he cared about was he’d scored me, the college hottie.”
I nodded, understanding.
“As a poor kid, I needed all the help I could get although I had a couple of partial scholarships.” She stopped and stared out into the distance. “I guess what I did with him makes me a whore. I had sex for money…his…and would do almost anything he suggested if it would keep me in school. I did things for him I am not proud of.”
“That’s kind of harsh, isn’t it? Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“No, I’ve discussed this with my shrink, the one I needed after Ron’s suicide. I thought it was my fault he did it and, of course, it wasn’t. I’m still dealing with it.”
“I don’t care what you did before. You are here with me, right this second. And from right this second onward, that other Sabrina doesn’t exist.” Someone splashed into the cool, blue water of the pool below us.
“Thank you.” She wiped her eyes angrily.
“Sabrina, please stop. I don’t care about any of that. Dry your eyes. To me you’re the incredible woman I pulled out of a ravine the other day.”
She turned those huge gray eyes on me and gave me the million candle-watt smile too. “If you don’t watch out Hal Williams, I may have to fall in love with you.”
My heart stopped dead in my chest. I know it did. I’ve known this woman less than a week and she says that. Funny thing is that I was already feeling that way too. I offered her my hand. I never thought I’d find another woman in a million years that could compare with Sally. I’d done it in a week.
Later, I was stirring my spaghetti sauce for dinner. She was wearing that pale blue caftan again, the one that made her look ghostly. My back was turned when she whispered, “Hal?” Her voice sounded strange, breathless, I guess.
I turned around but she wasn’t there. I figured she must have gone to the bathroom or something. But the room looked odd, too.
I suddenly felt as if I had climbed a steep hill again. My chest constricted. I was short of breath. I…I couldn’t breathe…something was wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.
“…And finally, in local news tonight, the city of Sedona was stunned to hear that two of her citizens have been found dead. Noted software and game developer Hal Williams was found dead earlier today from an apparent suicide. And after a month of intense searching in and around the area, the body of noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Sabrina Delgado was found this morning by hikers. They said it looked like she went off a trail while biking. Stay tuned for these developing stories.”
Next is “One Hundred Yards.” A woman falls out of a hayloft with unintentional consequences. This was inspired by an actual event.
One Hundred Yards
Ross G. Homer
“Luke! I’m your fa…”
My Dad yelled at me, “Luke! Get up!”
“Luke! Use the for…”
Those movie clips banged around in my mind as I climbed up through the gray fog of returning consciousness. My head swam. I vomited.
Then the pain hit. Something was wrong.
Slowly I opened my eyes. I was lying on something hard and cold and no, it wasn’t my ex-husband. It was worse, if such a thing was possible.
When I could focus, I saw white. I was surrounded by white. My confused mind tried to make sense of it. It couldn’t be my bed. I had blue striped sheets and it definitely wasn’t hard. It was cold, too. So, I wasn’t in my bed and I was not in a hospital bed, where was I?
I was on my right side, outside. It was snowing. Hard.
I realized that I was the victim of a bad case of stupid. I had been up in the hayloft taking bales of hay off a trailer. I was in a hurry to get the hay in before this winter storm got worse and wearing the wrong shoes. Snow had blown into the open hayloft door and melted. The sill of the opening was wet and slick and I had slipped on the wet hay and fallen. How did I miss the trailer? Didn’t know. I did know that I was a hundred yards from the house and I was in a whole world of trouble.
Then I tried to stand.
The pain shot through me like a lightning bolt. I tried to push up with my right arm to see if I could figure out how bad off I was. It wasn’t a good idea.
My right wrist was broken. As I tried not to pass out I realized that my hand was bent entirely the wrong way. Fighting for consciousness, I looked farther down my body.
Right leg. Definitely broken mid-calf. I took a deep breath. I raised my left arm. It was good. Left leg? Not so good. I’d landed on a garden rake, one I should have put away last fall. My left calf was firmly impaled on several of the hard steel tines.
I fell back, staring straight up into a blanket of white. Was this going to be my shroud? Dead because of stupidity? I remembered laughing with others on Facebook about people doing the stupid things people did. Karma had caught up with me. I wondered through my fog if other people were going to laugh at me for exactly the same thing.
My Dad yelled, “Luke! Get your lazy butt in gear and go in the house! Now, girl, before it’s too late.”
My name is Lucretia DiBartolo. ‘Luke’ for short. My Dad had a terrible sense of humor and hung me with the name of a killer. Thanks Dad.
Wait! Why was he yelling at me? Dad had been dead for ten years. Was I that close to joining both him and Mom?
“Lucretia Ann, get your butt up! Move it!”
But I couldn’t move. I could feel warmth where blood was puddling around my left leg and knew this wasn’t a good thing. Freeze or bleed to death. Great choice.
“Move it kid! Don’t disappoint me.”
I moaned out, “Gee, thanks Dad.” I knew it was useless to yell because there was no one on the ranch today but me. My daughter was in town with her fiancé, picking up her wedding gown. My son was overseas. The wedding was tomorrow. Shit. Mom in a cast. Wonderful. I wondered if I could get a cast to match my peach dress.
My mind takes weird turns in dire situations. Who gave a crap if my dress matched my cast? I needed to make that hundred yards first or it wouldn’t make any difference.
Snow was coming down harder now at a three-inch an hour rate. Whiteout conditions. Luckily, I could find the house blindfolded.
Phone! Of course. Gritting my teeth, I used my left hand to snake it out of my right back pocket. It was worthless. Now I’m not a big girl at all but still, a fall from the hayloft onto an aluminum and glass phone wasn’t good and this phone was toast. Another mistake. I had been trying to make it a habit to put it in one of my breast pockets and close the button. What was the saying? ‘There is no try, only do?’ Well I didn’t.
Screen had shattered, case bent. My butt, amongst other things, was going to hurt from landing on the phone. Great.
I raised my head and tried to see through the whiteout. One hundred yards. Is that my epitaph? One hundred yards but she wimped out? I certainly hoped not.
I had to take Dad’s advice, dead or not. I had to get to the house. I felt it getting colder and my jeans and barn jacket, warm as they were, weren’t going to cut it much longer.
Groaning out loud, I reached down and moved my right hand across my stomach. Now came the fun part. Getting that rake out of my leg.
Slowly, I curled up, thanking God for all the crunchies I did, raised my left leg and smacked the rake handle. It fell out of my leg. I watched and waited a moment. I was bleeding but not gushing. A small miracle. I didn’t think I’d bleed to death.
Here came the next hard bit. I had to roll onto my left side and, using my left elbow and knee, work my way across the yard.
One hundred yards.
I tried it the first time. Yeah. This is gonna suck. Four inches? God, was that all?
I was starting to get cold. Great. Luckily, if there was such a thing, the cold was keeping the pain away.
“Luke, use your strength. Dammit girl, you can do this. Your Mom knows you can do it too.”
“Right Dad. You ain’t out here. You died in a plane crash. In summer. So shut th’ fu…” I caught myself… “Just shut up.” To add to everything else, I was talking to a dead guy.
Another elbow and knee combination. Repeat. I giggled. Like washing my graying hair; wash, rinse, repeat. Elbow, knee, repeat. I told you I was losing it.
A few more hard inches. Then a root. A ragged edge snagged my belt, stopping me dead. I screamed, or I thought I did, “Why is this tree here?” Oh. I’d planted it with my Dad when I was in the first grade. I felt myself beginning to lose it.
Dad didn’t help. “I’m gonna come whup your butt Lucretia girl. Get up and get moving. Now!”
“Go away, Dad,” I mumbled to the vision of him standing a few feet away. Interesting effect that, my father standing there with snow blowing through him.
But I managed to move off the snag, then pulled with my left elbow and pushed with my left knee.
The pain was coming back. I tried to push it away. It was the only way I was going to do it. The only way.
My gloves were soaked. Was I going to lose fingers? I worried about my right wrist and leg. How bad was it going to be? I rested for a moment.
After what seemed like days but was only minutes, I hoped, I looked back. The snow blocked my vision and I couldn’t see how far I’d come. Damn. Somewhere out there ahead of me was the house, hidden in blowing snow. Well, I’ve never been considered a sissy, so I pushed on. Pull with my elbow, push with my knee. I couldn’t feel my right arm now.
You know? No one ever tells you just how rough a yard can be. I thought mine was fairly smooth. Boy, was I wrong. There were sticks and rocks and more of those stupid roots. I was sure that I hit every single one of them. I made a promise to myself that if I survived this, I was going to haul in dirt and cover everything to putting green smoothness.
If I survived.
I glanced back. I saw a short bloody trail that disappeared into the white. I think I’d ripped my left hip open on something too. The snow thickened to the point that I couldn’t see beyond the end of my leg. Probably a good thing.
Pull, push. Pull, push.
There was a momentary pause in the blowing snow. I saw the driveway! Almost there. Pull, push. Pull, push. I could see the steps leading to the kitchen. Thank God.
Driving back from town, it was a good thing that I loved my girlfriend. The drive into town to pick up her wedding dress had been tough enough in the early part of the storm. Jeeze…we could have put the wedding off until next week after this storm passed. Besides her mom, it was just Linda, some mutual friends and me. Her brother was overseas and couldn’t get home. All my family was back east. They weren’t wild about me marrying some girl who lived on a ranch out in the middle of Nowhere, Idaho. At the moment, I was wondering why I was, too.
This was one hell of a storm, the worst I’d ever seen. Pure whiteout.
We crept along, not more than about seven or eight miles an hour. Linda saw her mailbox.
“There! Ron, see it?”
I nodded. Two long hours on the road to drive five miles. Linda and her mom had the absolute best scotch and by god I was going to avail myself to some about three seconds after I got through the door. I might even take the time to pour a couple of fingers instead of slugging it down straight from the bottle.
“Yeah, Linda. I see it.” I turned slowly in the drive, glad they had put reflective markers on both sides.
“Linda,” I looked at her, “I can see the driveway. Now, let me concentrate. Why you have this curve in it is a mystery.”
“Because it’s neat.”
She crossed her arms because she was getting huffy. Tension had been building between us. Both pre-marriage jitters and this seemingly never-ending, white-knuckle drive from town.
Through a tiny break in the snow I saw the end of the drive up ahead then the white engulfed us again. I knew it was about another thirty feet.
I bumped over something. “Linda? Did you see what I hit?”
She shook her head. I’d been up this drive a thousand times and there was nothing, nothing at all, to run over.
And last is “Nobody Here is Actually Real” This was inspired by a conversation I had a week ago with a friend.
Nobody Here is Actually Real
Ross G. Homer
Friend Request Accepted: Post comments on Henry Robert’s timeline.
He looked interesting so why not give it a try? Henry Roberts looked to be in his mid-forties, tall with a good build. His profile photos showed him on a beach wearing baggy, multi-colored trunks and a nice tan. Additional pictures showed him standing in the snow with cross-country skis and wearing a bright red knit hat. His shoulder length, sandy blonde hair spilled out from under that hat. He had sexy curls, too. I kinda liked that.
I hadn’t had a date in ages, although I’d been told I was fairly attractive. I tried the on-line dating scene once, after my divorce a number of years ago. I found it a total waste of my time. Maybe on YourPlace I could meet someone in an entirely different setting; get to know him and who knows? I’d heard of people meeting like this and actually getting married.
I told him that I worked as a store manager for a chic boutique and loved biking and canoeing. Turned out he lived in the next town up the valley where he taught music at their local high school. He skied, hiked and kayaked.
I wasn’t in a hurry to start dating, though, having been burned a couple of times before. When he suggested coffee, my children, well two of them, were excited for me. My twin daughters, fifteen, loved the idea of me dating again. My son, seventeen, was busy skateboarding and sort of dismissed mom dating as a waste of his time.
We were going to meet at an Evangeline’s Bistro on the north end of my town. All day long I found myself more excited than I’d been in a couple of years. As soon as I closed the store, I drove out to the coffee shop.
I was a few minutes early so I went in and found a table by the window. The view was spectacular with spring in full force. The days were getting warmer and the nights were still a little chilly. It was one of my favorite times of year. I waited and did a little YourPlacing, chatting with my close friends around the country. After awhile I realized I was still alone. I checked my watch again and realized that my ‘date’ was now thirty minutes late. This was not a good way to start a relationship.
I messaged him and got no answer. I gave him another thirty minutes and if he was still a no-show, then screw him. Figuratively, of course. He didn’t and I left angry.
When I got home, I kicked off my shoes, poured a glass of red wine, and then plopped on the couch. I hadn’t been stood-up since high school and it really pissed me off. Because of my red hair, or so I’m told, I have a pretty good temper and at the moment it was running close to full tilt. I jumped up and got my laptop with the intention of unfriending this asshole.
As I glanced at the mirror in the living room, a stranger looked back at me. That stopped me in my tracks. That woman had honey blonde hair and it was long! What? That certainly wasn’t possible. I’m a blazing red head.
Well, I was angry and tired and had been stood-up. Not a great combination to start with and maybe something from part of misspent youth was flashing back on me. Wouldn’t be the first time.
I got my laptop, opened it, and went to my page. Strange, I thought, he wasn’t there. Not even in the Search YourPlace section. I worried. I was only thirty-seven and as far as I knew, too young for dementia or something.
I returned to the couch and had a long swallow of my wine. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that maybe I was being played for some reason. Now I was really pissed. Why would anyone want to mess around with my mind like this?
I posted a couple of scathing comments about people who did that sort of thing, signed off, and had another glass of wine. I fed the kids, took a shower, and crashed. This was just too weird and maybe sleep would help.
Next morning I found out that sleep had not helped. Something wasn’t right. I’m busty, have a nice butt and excellent legs. Lord knows I work on them enough. To my immense surprise, my bras, all of them, were too small! At least a full cup too small. I know my cycles and know that my breasts can go up half a cup once a month. It wasn’t that time yet. But my hair was red. Well, I was pushing forty so maybe hormonal changes were causing me to imagine things?
I held that thought until I pulled on my designer panties. They were too big! What? That definitely wasn’t right. The last time I wore them, exactly a week ago, they fit me perfectly. Now it was like they’d jumped up about two sizes. So I pinned up the excess, growled at the kids, traffic, and life in general, and then went to work. I tried not to think about it.
At lunch I received a message from Henry on my phone app asking if I wanted to try again. I am willing to give most people another chance so I replied with ‘sure.’ Same place, same time.
Same result. Knowing about kids trying to act grown up or men pretending to be women or women pretending to be men, I carefully scanned the cafe. The place was practically empty and nobody was paying the least bit of attention to me. Then I thought about trolls and stalkers. I checked the parking lot. Other than my car in front, the rest of the lot was empty. Everything was closed in the little mall but this Evangeline’s.
I was being jacked around. When I got home, his account was there and a message apologizing for not meeting. Something had come up. Right. His wife, for instance?
Next morning, my bras were now too big! My breasts had gotten smaller. No way. My pants were snug but…too short?
I shouted, “What the fu…!” I never swore but this time I couldn’t control it. My daughter, Holly, came running in.
“Mom! What’s the matter?”
She hugged me and didn’t make any comments about the fact I was two inches taller. I was six feet. My god. To think I’d bitched since the eighth grade about being five-ten. But Holly didn’t say a thing. And my damn hair was now brunette. She didn’t say anything about that, either. Somebody was messing with me and I didn’t like it. Or maybe I was dreaming. Mushroom pizza before bed was always a bad idea.
But I dressed anyway and wondered how it was being done.
Work went fine and there were no messages from Henry. Interesting.
That night, as I sipped my whiskey neat, I wondered why someone would be doing anything with me. As far as I knew, I was honest and nice to the store’s customers, I tipped well, and had a smile and kind word for everyone.
I took another sip. Then it hit me. Whiskey? I hated whiskey. What? The. Hell?
I took a shower and felt better but was still worried. I considered talking with Holly and Lorraine, her sister, about future care for me. Bob was with friends that night.
I decided to pass on discussing this with the twins just now. I felt better after the shower so why scare them when it was obviously something else? What, I hadn’t a clue. All kinds of terrible things went through my mind as I tried to sleep.
Dressing for work the next morning, everything fit. My underwear was the right size, my blue denim skirt fit exactly right and I was back to five-ten. Maybe I’d had some kind of weird reaction to something I’d eaten after all. As my kids would say, I tended to keep things in the refrigerator until they developed intelligence. Dismissing it, I drove to the shop and went in; the smell of all those flowers hit me hard.
I puttered around and then I froze! I sold expensive clothes. To rich women! Not flowers.
I worried about it all day but had no problems at all making floral arrangements as if I’d been doing it for years.
That night I sipped my rum and wondered about it. I hadn’t fallen at all most of my life. Well, once, and that was out of a tree when I was twelve. I’d broken my arm but hadn’t hit my head. I’d never been in a car accident and never had a bike crash. Besides, I always wore a helmet.
Rum? I looked at the glass and carefully set it down. I got up and realized my house wasn’t right. Where was that nifty little wine rack I’d had for several years? The one I’d painted brick red? My pot rack that hung over the island…that wasn’t there, either.
Now I was becoming very frightened. I ran to the bathroom, just making the toilet…avocado? Seriously? And vomited hard until I was into dry heaves. Lorraine ran in and comforted me until I could stand and get into the shower. She helped me undress…all my underwear today was blue. Blue? I distinctly remembered wearing pink to work. This stuff was see-through too. I don’t have anything that transparent because while I may look pretty hot, my underwear was always somewhat conservative. Hell, I was wearing a blue thong!
When I was done with the shower, she wrapped me in a towel and led me, like a sick old lady, to the bed.
I looked strange. My body was doing strange things. Was I being manipulated by some cosmic force?
Turning, Lorraine stood there and looked at me, crying. There was intense sadness in her face as if facing some impending loss. I could suddenly see through her eyes. Wait! Her body shimmered and faded. No! The mirror above my dresser reflected…nothing. There was no reflection of me standing there, no reflection of me on the bed. Nothing.
“Henry, you asshole. Would you please stop screwing around with my characters.”
“Bite me Harold,” he said as he looked at the screen. “Mom and Dad won’t let me mess with programs like this at home. Besides, I liked her better tall with the big boobs.”
“You perv,” Harold replied. “She looked good like she was. Well, I thought she was nice. You didn’t even make her ass look right. Let’s just delete all of it and start over.”
“Sounds like a plan to me. I could never get her right anyway.”