Lad of Fortune – Short Story by Chiedozie Onyeneho

Still Shining

When needing a rest during the midday slump, I have something for you to relax and read. Check out this wonderfully written short story by Chiedozie Onyeneho! He also has initiated an inspired FB group called Pride oF mY rooT where he encourages art, respect, and equality for all.


Short story by Chiedozie Onyeneho
LAD OF FORTUNE

“She is such a bad luck. I am sure something is definitely wrong with her,” said Mrs. Elliot.
Edna had been adopted since her age three. Her foster parents Mr. and Mrs. Elliot were peasant farmers who managed a small portion of land on the outskirts of Upavon, a small town around the countryside.
Few days after her adoption, Mr. and Mrs. Elliot were evicted from their two rooms apartment home in London because, they could not afford to pay off their outstanding tax owed for three years. Mr. Elliot had been dismissed from his railway job due to false accusation by one of his colleagues at work. Whereas, Mrs. Elliot was a full time house wife.
Their seven years of marriage without a child was becoming unbearable. Both agreed to go for an adoption at a nearby orphanage home, run by the Catholic sisters of the needy.
Edna was an adorable child, but most importantly, she had a strong instinct that always signaled her each time there was a looming danger. That night, while everyone had gone to bed, she was awakened by rustling sounds around the farm house. At once, she hurried to wake her parents up, but they hushed her and told her to go back to sleep, assuring her it was just the wind. By the time they had woken up from the bed, their entire corn farm had been raised down to dust.
“Calm down Mrs. Elliot,” said Sister Philomena, the matron in-charge of the orphanage home. The loss at the farm was so much that she could not keep the innocent girl under her custody anymore. She blamed Edna for their misfortune including losing their home back then in London.
Two years later, she was adopted by another family who had lost their only daughter by accident to a careless driver while trying to cross the road on her way back from school. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers loved Edna because of her slight resemblance with their daughter Emilia. Edna settled fast because of the care she enjoyed at her new home. Her new parents were both into real estate business and they were very rich.
One Saturday evening, while they returned from a short night out with their driver, they looked very drunk. They held hands and staggered while their driver retired to the guest room. Edna ran towards the door leading to the sitting room as soon as she heard their voice and opened the door, but they made their way into their bedroom, ignoring her greetings. She shut the door behind her and went back to continue her cartoon until she dozed off.
Some hours later, she was woken up by strange footsteps. “Oh no! Someone has broken into our home,” she thought.
“Wake up Daddy, wake up mummy,” she ran quickly into her parents room. “Someone has broken into the house.” But, they would not listen because, they were very tired.
She felt helpless and was about making her way into her room, when the stranger pushed her over by the side and hurriedly shot her parents inside their room and quickly ran out.
She saw the face of the shooter, but passed out after she hit her head on the wall due to the push.
The relatives of her foster parents took care of her health at the hospital until her bruises were healed. During investigation, the police detectives went very far to dig up Edna’s past records from the narratives of one of the sisters at the orphanage home. She was taken back to the orphanage home as soon as her foster parents’ relatives learnt of it.
When she had fully recovered from the shock, she revealed the face of the shooter, and her foster parents’ driver was found guilty. During the court case, she was invited to testify against the culprit. As she entered the court room with Sister Philomena, she was shocked to see her foster parents on bandages smiling at her. She felt relieved that they survived after all. After the driver had been sentenced to prison, her foster parents went to her and gave her a big hug. They took her back as their daughter and willed some of their properties to her name.
The police detectives praised her for her courage. “We all are proud of you, I must say. You are a lad of fortune miss Edna. You did a very good job. Well done,” the police chief said while he shook her tiny hands. And there was a round of applause inside the court room, as she shyly smiled and walked outside with her foster parents, the Rogers family.


Artist:

Chiedozie Onyeneho is a creative writer and designer based in United Kingdom. He is also the initiator of a creative page on Facebook “Pride oF mY rooT,” which promotes inspirational art works and ideas from across the globe. Chiedozie Onyeneho is a graduate of Biotechnology.

Follow This Artist:
Instagram page: johnpax4u

Facebook page: Pride oF mY rooT

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After/Word – A Short Story by Richard Oyama

A Dash of Whimsy Series –

Start your day off with the amusing story by Richard Oyama! Take a look at his gripping work below!


AFTER/WORD

The Book first came into our hands as a typewritten manuscript on 20 lb. bond paper. It was composed on an IBM Selectric electric typewriter as there were occasional misspellings fixed with correction tape. The footnotes were laboriously lettered in a meticulous hand with a Cross ballpoint pen. Though the date of composition is inexact, the end date is consistent with its method. If the period is accurate, it was a serendipitous disaster, following upon Ronald Reagan’s ascendance and in the same month as John Lennon’s assassination.

The reproduction of the Mark Rothko painting at the end of the novel was cut and pasted from a catalogue of the painter’s work published by Yale University Press. A search of the 42nd Street Public Library’s holdings disclosed that an image of the painting was removed from that volume; formerly stored in a spherical reading room; the defaced book was withdrawn from circulation.

There is no official record that shows this book’s author checked out the Rothko book; however, a marginal note in the library volume reads, “Use this,” in the cut-out page that a handwriting analyst said matches the tiny lettering in the manuscript’s footnotes.

Little is known about the author. This biographical note was included at the end of the manuscript:

David Shimamura was born in Brooklyn before it was “Brooklyn.” His parents, aunts and uncles are deceased that allows him an impossible liberty. He attended neither Harvard nor Iowa Writers Workshop. His college transcript has been redacted. He prefers the company of roofers, engineers and grips to other writers. He has been a private investigator, an undertaker, confidence-man and cutlery salesman. He has walked a country mile on a moonless night and urinated on a red maple, making jagged striations like a Clyfford Still painting, and on backstreets where the shadows are thin knives. His fiction has not been published in The New Yorker or Paris Review but in Yellow Peril, Irascibles, Mumbo Jumbo, Insurrections, Sound Dada, Lonelyhearts, Red Armies, Intersectionalities and Hybridities. He knows nothing about Schrödinger’s cat or deconstruction. He notes that dogs romp and are still. It’s all in the letting go. He does not live in the academy but clings to the gutter, looking at the stars. Secrecy, exile and cunning; abstention, renunciation and withdrawal. No model no doctrine no exemplar. He would be Urashima Taro the Fisherman who rides a five-colored turtle to the Eternal Mountain on an island of jeweled palaces beneath a sea of green. The gods sing and dance like the waves. Urashima and his maiden make whoopy. He rows his boat and returns to Tsutsugawa. It’s 300 years in the future. Everything solid melts into air. He intends to save himself from drowning in the image-world. The American century ended around 1974 but in our innocence we prefer the myth of the city on the hill. This is the coda. “Birth of a Nation” established the country’s narrative practices, the black body is to be feared and happiness is, after all, a warm gun. He sees the devil’s compact of technology and capital. He has no wife, no children and no significant other. He is a monster of the imagination, a phantom, a ninja, somewhere you will not find him, nowhere and everywhere—in the subway, the park, the library, the basement, the encampment by the river as polar caps melt and the sea-level rises—waiting for a false dawn.

The book was delivered in a certified manuscript box with no return address. Rumors persist that a mimeographed, samizdat edition of the novel circulated underground among a coterie of fanatical readers in New York and San Francisco, primarily poor, neo-bohemian metropolitans—yes, such people live amongst us—and that excerpts were published in multiethnic small presses and literary anthologies like Mazes and Dark Fire in the ‘70s under the pseudonyms D. Shim or Divad M. Ashiruma, implying that the author wanted to bypass essentialist notions of race,  gender and identity, to be known simply as an American writer, Brooklyn-born, riffing jazz-like.

    “Scribes take a secret oath,” Jorge Luis Borges wrote, “to omit, interpolate, vary.”

    Three months after receipt of the manuscript, I took a phone call from an

unidentified caller. Our conversation proceeded as follows. He asked whether I had

received the book. What book is that? A Riot Goin’ On. I had. “And?” the voice said.

With whom I was speaking? “The dead author,” he said.

    Since the novel was unpublished, I asked the caller to verify specific details and incidents from the book in order to establish his authorship. He did so, citing in its particulars the water tower scene. Having identified the caller as David Shimamura, I told him our house planned to publish the novel. “Fine,” he said.

As for the novel’s composition, the voice on the phone said that it consisted of “five years of very intense work and multiple revisions—perhaps twenty or so?—and thirty years of pain, repression, psychic and linguistic blockage, incoherence, dreams of murder and suicidal ideation, magic, bridge-burning, malediction and love, duende, brainstorms, priapic convulsions, hallucinations, a tricked-up ebullience and a grim determination to amuse myself, come hell or high water. Think of the book as a graphic novel, a dimestore pulp, a cable mini-series, a critique of representations. It’s a post-revolutionary, hybrid work. It was written under extreme duress. I’m just a regular cuppa joe.”

There has been some dispute about Shimamura’s origins. A microfilm birth certificate exists at Brooklyn Hospital, but the birth name David is penciled in, whereas two other names, Cal and Stephen, were typewritten, then X’d out.

Next to the box marked RACE, “American of Japanese descent” is written on that line, although a genetic mapping based on a sample of Shimamura’s DNA obtained from a hair follicle, thick and unruly, in the manuscript box showed traces of Senegalese, Navajo, Irish, Thai, Cuban and Ashkenazi Jew. The test results also detected lineage with Otzi, The Iceman (not to be confused with soul singer Jerry Butler), a mummified, 5,000 year-old man discovered in the Italian Alps in 1991 and, further, an association with a “ghost population,” the genetic link between Europeans and Native Americans.

As for the premonitory gifts of the character “David Shimamura,” one can only speculate what in the novel is quasi-autobiographical and what fabrication, imposture and misdirection. Responding to our house’s Twitter solicitation asking for biographical facts about the author, an email from a correspondent in Tegucigalpa recounted a conversation with a Sensei Shimamura in a Nicaraguan bar. The author is said to have told him about his ability to move playing cards with his mind, read the secret emotions of animals and of his belief in Vico’s cyclical notion of history in Scienza nuova (New Science, 1725), but this testimony is suspect.

As to Shimamura’s present whereabouts, sightings have been reported by correspondents in Baltimore, Paris, Gaza, Prague, Havana, Hanoi, Tlön and Athens. These reports are sketchy and fugitive. The only known author photograph is a medium profile shot of a slim man, slightly balding, outfitted in black—black hat, black shirt, black pants—with a studded Western belt and hand-stitched cowboy boots in a hall of mirrors, but the endlessly receding images grow smaller and more indistinct as they approach the infinite. An art critic once wrote of Mark Rothko: “It is true that to enjoy [his] paintings seems less a thinking than a feeling process . . . One tends to enter into his canvases—not merely look at them.” Perhaps the same can be said for this book. As for the author himself, one may well begin to question whether the shadow-chaser David Shimamura exists at all.

—The Publisher


Artist:

Richard Oyama’s work has appeared in Premonitions: The Kaya Anthology of New Asian North American Poetry, The Nuyorasian Anthology, Breaking Silence, Dissident Song, A Gift of Tongues, Malpais Review, Mas Tequila Review and other literary journals. The Country They Know (Neuma Books 2005) is his first collection of poetry. He has a M.A. in English: Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Oyama taught at California College of Arts in Oakland, University of California at Berkeley and University of New Mexico. His first novel in a trilogy, A Riot Goin’ On, is forthcoming.

The Shot – A Whimsical Story by Mark Jabaut

A Dash of Whimsy Series-

Mark Jabaut has brought us today a story of whimsy! So, go grab your coffee, curl up in your comfy spot on the couch, and take a read!


The Shot

             My son Aaron called on Thursday to ask us out to dinner.

            “No can do, kiddo,” I said.  “Your mom and I are pinching pennies, saving money for the Shot.  Thanks for the invite.  Maybe another time, Sport.”

            I call my son Sport sometimes.

            We had been saving for what seemed like forever – but what was, in fact, just a little over eight years – not taking vacations, not eating out, renting videos instead of going to the movies.  We discontinued the newspaper and cut the cable down to basic.  Who knew you still got over a hundred channels with basic?

            The thing was, the Shot was not cheap.  It was the exact opposite of cheap.  On a scale of zero to one-hundred, where cheap was zero and expensive was one hundred, the Shot was about one-hundred-fifty.  It was a bitch saving up that much money, excuse my French.

            We had even cut down our food expenses to the bare minimum.  We bought dented cans of soup at Mack’s, the discount grocery store, and an oversized box of saltines at Costco, and ate soup and crackers for every meal.  Almost every meal.  Sometimes we had PB&J if we wanted to splurge.

            The thing about the Shot, though?  It was worth it.  It was a vaccine against all the known diseases of the world.  So if you got the Shot, you would never get sick again.  And that could add up to twenty years to your life expectancy.  So that was worth eating soup every day, three times a day, with the occasional PB&J thrown in for variety.  For eight-plus years.

            Imagine never being sick again.  What a life that would be.  What a world!  Never having to deal with having that clogged-head feeling, where your brain is in a fog, and you have to blow your nose about a thousand times every hour?  Never having to trudge down to the drug store with a sore throat, wearing your coat over your pajamas, to buy cough syrup because your wife forgot to buy some the day before?

            Not to mention all the horrible diseases that are out there, even though it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get them, since they are so rare, but still, it would be nice to know that you never have to worry about getting them.  Like Ebola!  Or that sickle-cell thing with the blood.  And cancer, or course.  Everyone worries about cancer.

            Of course, just because you couldn’t get sick didn’t mean you would live forever.  The body ages.  Cells die.  But I can tell you this – you wouldn’t be dying from malaria, or cancer, or TB if you got the Shot.  No way, Jose.

            Lots of old people, they get pneumonia and die.  But it isn’t actually the pneumonia that kills them, it’s other things that the pneumonia invites in.  The pneumonia weakens the body, and then those other things get in and kill the old folks.  Sad but true.

            So if you’ve had the Shot, you can still die.  Just not from disease!  But you can still get run over by a delivery truck, or get stabbed by a mugger, and that can kill you, so once you’ve had the Shot, it behooves you to be extra careful about crossing the street and walking in dangerous neighborhoods.  It would be ironic to die by getting hit by a truck after you had your Shot that makes you immune to all known diseases of the world.  And an ironic death is the worst kind (aside maybe from burning to death, which I’ve always thought was the worst).

            Or, how about this? – you get your Shot, and get struck by a truck as you leave the clinic and walk to your car.  Talk about irony! I have to think that a lot of people, maybe even most people, take a lot of extra precautions when they leave the clinic after their Shot.  Maybe they stand just inside the door to the street, and watch the traffic for a while, worrying about the best time to make that dash to their car and home.  Me, I’m going to hire some armed guards and an armor-plated car to get me home.

            Just kidding – we’re having a hard enough time saving the money for the Shot.  Where am I supposed to come up with enough to pay for guards and military-style vehicles?  I’m not, that’s where.

            But that’s okay.  Just being able to afford getting the Shot will be enough.  Everything will be gravy after that.
            So, the point is, the wife and I were working really hard to save the money, and we were doing pretty good.  We got out the old calculator and made some projections, and we figured out that we only had to save for two or three more months to have enough to get us both the Shot.  Which was pretty damn good, right?  Two or three months of soup and crackers.  It looked like all of the sacrifice – the lack of cable premium channels and vacations, the intermittent PB&Js, the scrimping and saving, all of it – would be paying off soon.

            Then the bad news.  Carrie, Aaron’s littlest, comes down with some auto-immune thingamabobby that makes her very tired and causes her three-year-old little nose to run endlessly, and of course, the crappy insurance that Aaron gets through his work is only going to cover part of the treatment.  And can we loan them some money, they want to know?  Well, of course we can.  I mean, what are grandparents for, right?  If we can’t step in to help out little Carrie and her auto-immune problem, then who is going to?  Who is going to make sure she grows up healthy and happy and not lacking in the immunity department but us?  Not Aaron and his wife, that’s for sure.  They’ve never saved a penny in their lives. 

            So we say, sure, no problem, and how much are we talking about to treat this suspiciously fake-sounding disease with no real symptoms except for a general feeling of tiredness and an incessant runny nose, which I contend is a normal and constant condition in children this age anyway?  And Aaron mentions a figure which, if I were to say it here, would cause my blood pressure to soar and would make me yell all the swears I could think of, so suffice it to say, the figure is almost exactly the amount the wife and I have put away for the Shot.
            And so, after a spirited and half-whispered discussion in which the wife repeatedly uses the term “stingy ass-wipe,” we tell Aaron to meet us at the bank the next day when we will get him the money he so desperately needs to help little Carrie recover from this dreaded condition.  Because that’s what love is about. 

            Despite the fact that I have agreed to loan this huge sum of money to my son and his family, and despite the fact that when I say “loan” I really mean “give” because both Aaron and I know that he will never pay it back, I am drowning in second thoughts.  I mean, I’m really wallowing, here.  I’m wallowing and drowning in regret and the knowledge that I will have to start over saving money and spend the next eight-plus years eating soup three times a day, and will probably even have to waive the infrequent reprieve of a PB&J because things aren’t getting any cheaper, you know, they never do – and this wallowing and drowning feeling is making me resent my son for asking for the money, and resent my wife for talking me into loaning the money, and even resent little Carrie who really doesn’t have any concept of what is going on or the thousands of dollars that are being spent for her benefit in order to make her less tired and slow the flow of snot from her nose.
            And it’s then, when I start resenting Carrie, my innocent, snot-nosed granddaughter, that I realize that maybe I am a stingy ass-wipe.  What is eight-plus more years of nothing but soup when compared with the health of a young girl?  What kind of heartless grandfather would begrudge his little granddaughter a hand up in the world?  What kind of jerk would want a three-year-old girl who never did anything wrong except for the time she got snot all over the new sofa when she spent the night to have a less-than-optional shot at life? 

            Not this grandfather.  Not this jerk.  At that moment, I resolve to lose all resentment.  Things happen for a reason, I tell myself.  It will work out.  I like soup.

            And at the bank, everything is all smiles and happy tears, and the bank representative kind of grudgingly hands over the bank check that I’ve had made payable to Aaron, and I hand that to Aaron and he hugs me.  And I know, right then and there, that this was the right thing to do.  And I feel a sense of calm.
            We leave the bank, and the thank-yous are still flying profusely from the mouth of Aaron as we head to our cars, and I’m nodding and picturing Carrie, healthy and dry-nosed.  I stop for a final handshake with Aaron as the wife goes to the street to unlock our ten-year-old car.  And as I’m shaking my son’s hand, there is a squealing of brakes and a dull thump, and I turn just in time to see a city bus rolling over the wife.  Aaron runs over to her, and passers-by are screaming from the sidewalk and someone is shouting into a cell-phone about an ambulance, and I take one look at the wife and I know that no ambulance is necessary.  She is not going to recover from that. 

            I stand there, still as ever, and watch the activity whirling around me.  I’m still calm.  In fact, if anything, what I feel is relief.  Because I realize that, now, it will only take me four years to save the money I need for the Shot.


Artist:

Mark Jabaut is a playwright and author who lives in Webster NY with his wife Nancy.  Mark’s play IN THE TERRITORIES, originally developed via Geva Theatre’s Regional Writers Workshop and Festival of New Theatre, premiered in May 2014 at The Sea Change Theatre in Beverly, MA.  His 2015 Rochester Key Bank Fringe Festival entry, THE BRIDGE CLUB OF DEATH, went on to be featured at an End of Life Symposium at SUNY Broome County and is listed with the National Issues Forum for those who wish to host similar events. Other plays seeing the stage in recent years include THE HATCHET MAN, DAMAGED BEASTS and COLMA!  Mark has authored many short plays performed by The Geriactors, a local acting group.   Mark’s fiction has been published in a local Rochester magazine, POST, as well as The Ozone Park Journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, Spank the Carp and Defenestration. 

Follow This Artist:

www.markjabaut.com

John Sheirer – Online Open Mic

Risk Management

The first time Bob saw the bear cub at the office was when he opened the bottom drawer of the file cabinet. The bear cub was lying on its back among the folds of a quilted blanket like an infant in a crib, looking up at him with cheerful brown eyes. The bear cub wiggled its meaty little paws at him.

“Whoa,” Bob said, quickly shutting the drawer.

Bob immediately forgot why he had opened the file cabinet. Was he getting something out or putting something in? He had no idea. By the time he walked back to his desk and sat down, he was beginning to talk himself out of the idea that a bear cub was occupying a bottom file drawer in the document storage room at his nondescript place of employment, which happened to be an insurance company specializing in fire and flood policies.

“Whatcha doin’ there, Bob?” Cindy asked from her desk next to Bob’s. She wrote the policies. Bob kept track of them. They’d been a work team for nearly a decade.

“I think I need to get a file,” Bob said.

“Okey-dokey, if you think so,” Cindy replied, her skilled fingers blurring over the computer keys.

Bob walked slowly back to document storage and stood before the file cabinet again. He studied the bottom drawer, which seemed to be moving in and out a fraction of an inch every few seconds, almost as if it were breathing. The drawer was labeled, “L – R.” Bob couldn’t think of a word for “bear cub” that started with L, M, N, O, P, Q, or R. Bob had always believed that things belonged in their appropriate places.

Bob sighed. “What the hell,” he whispered as he opened the drawer. Sure enough, the bear cub was still there, still wiggling its big bear cub toes and looking at him with what he could only interpret as affection. The bear cub was cute, no doubt, but Bob wasn’t ready to return its affection just yet. Bob knew that even cute things could be dangerous. Bob had seen many situations where being cute could be used as an excellent disguise.

Bob looked around the document storage room. He was alone with the bear cub. His twelve coworkers were in the main office only ten steps through the doorway. He couldn’t very well call out, “Hey, who left the bear cub in the file cabinet?” This wasn’t a moldy sandwich in the office mini-fridge.

Bob wasn’t angry about the bear cub. He wasn’t even quite afraid of the bear cub. The best word to describe the feelings the bear cub brought up in Bob was suspicion. He was suspicious of this bear cub. He questioned its bear cub purpose and its bear cub motives and even its bear cub existence. What right did this bear cub have to interrupt his workday? It was almost lunch, and he didn’t want to waste his lunch half-hour dealing with some random bear cub.

Bob got down on one knee suspiciously. Cautiously would also be an accurate term. This was a wild animal, after all. What if its mother happened to be in another drawer somewhere close by? Mama bears were most dangerous when someone got between them and their bear cub. Bob had read that on the internet.

The bear cub watched Bob’s kneeling approach. It seemed pleased to have company after being alone in the drawer for … for how long? Bob didn’t remember the last time he had opened this particular drawer, and he was the one who did most of the filing.

The bear cub gurgled deep in its little bear cub throat, almost as if it were trying to imitate a grown bear’s roar but didn’t know how yet. Bob had to admit that the attempted roar was the cutest thing the bear cub had done so far, but he still wasn’t ready to give the bear cub the benefit of the doubt.

“Hey, Cindy?” Bob called out, just loud enough for Cindy but not the rest of the office drones to hear. “You got a second? Something to show you back here.”

The small but insistent sound of Cindy’s fingers striking the keys stopped. “Coming,” she called out. Cindy’s heels clicked on the tile floor, and the alert little bear cub craned its neck a bit to look around Bob for the source of the sound.

Bob could see Cindy’s shadow move across the floor and touch the bear cub. She put a hand on Bob’s shoulder.

“Oh,” she said. “You found Little Honey!”

“Little Honey?” Bob asked.

“Yeah,” Cindy said. “That’s what I call him.”

Bob craned his neck to look up at Cindy. The overhead light haloed her face. Her husband was some kind of a teacher who often stopped in just to give her a random rose and a quick kiss. She was pretty, Bob knew, in a grown-up girl-next-door-at-the-next-desk kind of way. But at that moment, backlit by humming fluorescents, she looked like a literal angel right out of an art book that featured nothing but angels. Or maybe a television show about angels Bob had once seen as a child. The point is, she was glowing.

“Seriously?” Bob asked. “Little Honey Bear?”

“It’s a good name for him, don’t you think?” Cindy said, her words floating down to Bob as if from heaven.

Bob looked back at the bear cub. Little after-images from Cindy’s angel light danced around the bear cub in Bob’s field of vision. He had to admit that Little Honey Bear was a good name for the furry creature in the file drawer.

Bob started to stand, not the easiest maneuver considering his bad knee. Cindy grasped his arm and helped him up. Her grip was stronger than he would have expected. Once he was upright, Cindy kept her hand wrapped around his arm. Bob found her grip reassuring.

“How long has he been here?” Bob asked.

“Not long,” Cindy replied. “A few years.”

“A few years?” Bob marveled. “I file things here ten times a day. How have I missed seeing him?”

“Well,” Cindy explained, “he moves from drawer to drawer now and then. And not everyone can see Little Honey right away. Sometimes it takes a few tries.”

The two of them looked down at Little Honey like parents watching their first-born child.

“Who else knows about him?” Bob asked.

“Janice in HR. Phil the janitor. And LaDonna in marketing,” Cindy said. “You now Arthur from the bank? Comes for planning sessions every few months? It took him a few tries, just like you. He can be really serious sometimes, but Little Honey got him to open up a bit, relax, be himself.”

“Really?” Bob asked. “Arthur from the bank can see a bear cub in our file drawer? He seems so … sensible.”

“Yep. Last month, he stopped in just to see Little Honey with his wife and daughter,” Cindy said. “They could all see him. A family thing.”

“Arthur from the bank …” Bob repeated, mystified.

Cindy continued: “And, of course, my husband Ted can see him. Saw him the very first time I showed him. Bob even calls me his ‘little honey bear’ sometimes.”

Cindy blushed slightly. Bob stared at her.

“Here’s one that will tickle you,” Cindy mused. “My sister has a little cute little dog named Ruby. A Border Terrier. Great breed. She visited with Ruby one day last month, and that little dog went right for the file cabinet and scratched until we opened the drawer. She and Little Honey took to each other like they’d been family forever. Ruby sniffed and nuzzled and practically jumped into the drawer with that bear cub. Then she looked at us as proud as can be, like she was showing off her own big, hairy puppy. Damnedest thing I ever saw.”

“I just don’t know what to think of all of this,” Bob said.

“That’s how I felt at first, too. But now you can see Little Honey,” Cindy said. “which makes me happy.”

“Some people can’t see him?” Bob asked.

“Funny thing,” Cindy replied. “The smokers can’t see him. Dennis in IT. Eric the UPS guy. Rhonda from billing saw him the day after she quit and put on that big nicotine patch. Hasn’t taken a puff since she saw Little Honey that day.”

Bob found the information about smokers as baffling as the basic fact that Little Honey was there. But he was secretly pleased to know that the bear cub hid himself that way. Bob’s parents had died from smoking, and his last serious relationship before meeting his wife ended in large part because the woman had smoked and hid it from her children. If Bob really stopped to consider it, he might even say that his dislike of smoking was part of the reason he got into the insurance business—although he’d probably have a hard time explaining how.

“Why is Little Honey here?” Bob asked, now that he was coming to grips with the fact that Little Honey was really there and not the product of more imagination than he thought he possessed.

“No one really knows for sure, but I have a theory,” Cindy said. “I think he’s here to make us feel better about the world. It’s tough sometimes, what with work and getting old and dying and crazy people running the country. But Little Honey can take us away from that for a few moments each day. That’s his gift to us.”

Bob shook his head. He was just as amazed by what Cindy was saying as he was by the idea that there was a bear cub named Little Honey in the bottom file drawer.

The two coworkers watched the bear cub for a while, and then Cindy said, “Wait here a second.” She released her friendly grip on his arm and went to a cupboard on the far wall. From her tiptoes, she reached into the back corner of an upper shelf. She found a zip-lock bag and extracted something that looked like a doggie biscuit. As she put the biscuit in Bob’s hand and closed his fingers around it, Little Honey watched the exchange with intense interest.

“If Little Honey lets you give him a treat, he’ll be your friend,” Cindy said to Bob. Then her voice lowered to a whisper. “But if he bites you, you’ll never see him again and forget you ever knew about him in the first place.”

“Does he bite many people?” Bob asked.

“Remember that guy, Dave? He came with Arthur from the bank that one time?” Cindy asked.

“Vaguely,” Bob replied. “Kind of a jerk.”

“Now you know why he never came back,” Cindy said.

“Oh,” Bob said.

The bear cub’s eyes moved from Bob’s treat-holding hand to his face and back again. Bob drew in a deep breath and held it as he let the treat slip from his palm to a loose grip between his thumb and fingertip. Little Honey’s deep, dark eyes widened. Did he want to eat the treat? Or did he want to eat Bob’s arm? Bob had no way to know for sure.

Bob, (Robert James Mann, Jr.)—age fifty-one, married for twenty years, two teenaged kids, homeowner, the beginning of a bald spot, mows his own lawn, drives a six-year-old Honda Civic, B.S. in Business with a minor in Accounting and twelve credits toward an MBA he’ll never finish—had never been a man prone to fantasy. He filed documents by day and spent quiet evenings with his family. He slept soundly and usually didn’t remember his dreams. On weekends, he enjoyed quiet drives with his wife or going to the kids’ sports events where he cheered earnestly at half volume.

Bob wasn’t the kind of guy who took risks. But he slowly lowered the treat toward Little Honey, bending slightly at the waist, smiling, and cooing, “niiiiice bear, gooood bear,” ready for whatever might happen next.


Artist:

Bio: John Sheirer (pronounced “shy-er”) lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with his wonderful wife Betsy and happy dog Libby. He has taught writing and communications for 27 years at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut, where he also serves as editor and faculty advisor for Freshwater Literary Journal (submissions welcome). He writes a monthly column on current events for his hometown newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and his books include memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, political satire, and photography. His most recent books are a flash fiction collection, Too Wild, and a novella thriller, Uncorrected

Follow This Artist:

http://www.JohnSheirer.com

Existential Ponders – Beverly M. Collins

Candle

Beverly M. Collins

            “This old guy left a lot of stuff behind.” Jason said to his co-worker Carl just as Carl let out a loud triple sneeze due to the dust.

“The owner claims the old man returned home from a trip, then vanished and left all his things, even his wallet. No-one has been able to locate his family.” Jason added, as the two of them placed down a large box and heard some small medal items fall near the sidewalk.

“Sounds like some nails fell, just leave ‘em.” Carl said and they walked back to the 1950s style 4-unit building that was in bad need of landscaping.

This day was not unlike most late-December-Jersey City days. A frigid breeze cupped Sandra’s face as she walked the two blocks to her apartment building from the Grove Street Path station after work.

            Aware of her surroundings but lost in thought, she caught a glimpse of silver stuck in a raised crack in the sidewalk. She hoped to add to her collection of old coins and quickly picked it up and continued home.

            Suddenly, Sandra heard footsteps uncomfortably close behind her. When she glanced back, she saw no-one. Though it was dark out, there were people walking across the street and not far ahead of her. She felt nervous but tried to shrug it off by telling herself the sound was probably a strange echo. She quickened her pace and heard the steps quicken as well.

            When Sandra arrived home, her hands shook slightly as she pushed the key into the security gate and sprinted her petite, fit, 26-year-old frame up to the 3rd floor and into her apartment. Once she was home, she paused-took a deep breath in quiet relief to be inside.

Her cat began to cry loudly as she walked into her bathroom. “Momma is going to feed you in a minute.” She called out to her 5-year-old cat named Ruby. Out of habit, she closed the bathroom door behind her and in spite of the brisk weather, opened the bathroom window halfway.

While she washed her hands, she rubbed the coin under the stream of warm water which cleared it of dirt until she could see the round disk had a candle printed in the center and beautiful cuts with an unusual design around its edges.

            She turned off the faucet and was attempting to read the small writing on the back of the coin when she suddenly heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps in her living room, the wood creaked as the steps slowly moved closer to the bathroom door. Did she forget to lock the apartment door?

            “No, no, no!” she answered herself in a whisper as her heartbeat sped up so fast, she could hardly feed her lungs enough air to satisfy it. For a moment, she looked in all directions; ran her wet hands through her hair-frantic for anything she could use as a weapon, she grabbed a large heavy bottle of bubble bath in her right-hand while she still gripped the old coin in her left.

Sandra was waiting for the door to open when she noticed the doorknob slowly changed shape like metal/wax it twisted, made a high-pitched grinding noise and gave off a smell like a cigar as it formed into a knob sized head and face. She was first frozen to her spot then dropped the bottle from her hand and it burst onto the floor.

            She scrambled back, let out small gasp of air as her bladder emptied into her jeans. Sandra was terror stricken; tears streamed her face then the knob/head tried to talk. It belched out words from what sounded like a strangled throat. “My…My” it pushed the words out (through pinched lips) in a whisper that grew louder. “Mine…Mine” Its pointy medal eyes looked at the coin in Sandra’s hand. Its strange face had no chin nor a forehead.

            In one quick thrust, Sandra tossed the large coin out of the open window. The face on the doorknob vanished as if it were pulled violently from the knob by her throw. Sandra suddenly recalled a memory of her 4-year-old self in a basement when the light bulb burned out and she searched alone in pitch blackness for the staircase while she heard strange noises that came from every direction.

On this winter night, in her apartment, she shook, cried and screamed to the top of her lungs until her neighbors who knew her, broke down the door and found her crouched on the bathroom floor; her blue jeans soaked in spilled bubble bath and urine.

            A tall slender young man walked through the courtyard of Sandra’s building, noticed the large shiny coin at the very edge of the walkway near the grass. He quickly picked it up and dropped it in his jacket pocket. The young man bobbed his head to music on his earplugs, as he continued toward the bus stop, he did not hear the loud commotion from the apartment above or the quick steps that suddenly joined him on the walkway…

The End


Artist:

Beverly M. Collins

Beverly’s poems have appeared in many publications including The Nightmares Anthology, Journal of Modern Poetry, The Hidden and the Divine Female Voices in Ireland, Poetry Speaks! Year of Great Poems and Poets, The Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, The Galway Review, Spectrum, Altadena Poetry Review, The Wild Word, The Scarlet Leaf Review to name a few.