Minion Central

good fiction is the path of greatest resistance

Category: Short Story (Page 1 of 2)

King Solomon today

Two young women who lived in the same house and who both had an infant son came to Solomon for a judgment.

One of the women claimed that the other, after accidentally smothering her own son while sleeping, had exchanged the two children to make it appear that the living child was hers. The other woman denied this and so both women claimed to be the mother of the living son and said that the dead boy belonged to the other.

After some deliberation, King Solomon called for a sword to be brought before him. He declared that there was only one fair solution: the live son must be split in two, each woman receiving half of the child.

Upon hearing this terrible verdict, the boy’s true mother cried out, “Oh Lord, give the baby to her, just don’t kill him!” The liar, in her bitter jealousy, exclaimed, “It shall be neither mine nor yours—divide it!”

The king declared the first mother as the true mother, as a true, loving mother would rather surrender her baby to another than hurt him, and gave her the baby. King Solomon’s judgment became known throughout all of Israel and was considered an example of profound wisdom.

Fast forward 3000 years:

Having a child means the mother collects $550/month from ‘welfare’. Both moms say, cut the baby up because:

“Ill at least get $275…”

Lexicon of terms in my books

You may find that I use quite a few made up words or words based on cultures that are non-European. Here are a few off the top of my head:

The term “Apogee” refers to the point of apsis (or apoapsis) Terra (Gaia) related. Aphelion is the same with the frame of reference being solar (Helios). Technically I can’t use apogee or aphelion as (in A.S.) this is a massive asteroid belt over 500 ly from Sol.
====
The verses are not from our modern Bible or Koran, but from a new Galactic Standard Edition (reconciled). I create each of these verses using the Koran and normalizing them to the NKJV. This one is Psalm 23:3,4 – “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
====
Curses: I worked on the curses using ironic Japanese – Fushigi literally means “miracle, mystery or wonder”. Additionally, “shiki” literally means “corpse demon” which, re-translated means zombie. “Foo-shiki”, “Shiki-foo” means miracle corpse in galactic standard. Astrid’s cursing is a derivative of the holos she watches.
====
Yacho = Gordita in a lechuga leaf instead of a tortilla. Fish or Chicken. It’s damn near impossible to farm beef in space.
Lechuga (also – chuga) = Spanish for lettuce
Reet = Muslim Leaders
Holo = Hollographic Video (3D tv)
Kaffe = Coffee
====
Mobius field generator: An electromagnetic device that has no “inside” only a continuous “outside” (based on magnetic monopole concepts found in string theory) that has either a positive or negative effect that either “pulls” or “pushes” gravity.
====
Term: Shield (disambiguation): Shield (police badge), shield (a portable piece of armor, “riot shield”), dust/ore/rock shield (permanently affixed armor on transportation), force shield (a heavy magnetic field used on very large transportation to redirect objects – see “mobius field generator”).
In this instance, the term ‘shield’ is used to mean a metal grating mounted between the large rocks and the ship to protect the engines and fuel cells.

Lexicon of terms in my books

You may find that I use quite a few made up words or words based on cultures that are non-European. Here are a few off the top of my head:

The term “Apogee” refers to the point of apsis (or apoapsis) Terra (Gaia) related. Aphelion is the same with the frame of reference being solar (Helios). Technically I can’t use apogee or aphelion as (in A.S.) this is a massive asteroid belt over 500 ly from Sol.
====
The verses are not from our modern Bible or Koran, but from a new Galactic Standard Edition (reconciled). I create each of these verses using the Koran and normalizing them to the NKJV. This one is Psalm 23:3,4 – “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
====
Curses: I worked on the curses using ironic Japanese – Fushigi literally means “miracle, mystery or wonder”. Additionally, “shiki” literally means “corpse demon” which, re-translated means zombie. “Foo-shiki”, “Shiki-foo” means miracle corpse in galactic standard. Astrid’s cursing is a derivative of the holos she watches.
====
Yacho = Gordita in a lechuga leaf instead of a tortilla. Fish or Chicken. It’s damn near impossible to farm beef in space.
Lechuga (also – chuga) = Spanish for lettuce
Reet = Muslim Leaders
Holo = Hollographic Video (3D tv)
Kaffe = Coffee
====
Mobius field generator: An electromagnetic device that has no “inside” only a continuous “outside” (based on magnetic monopole concepts found in string theory) that has either a positive or negative effect that either “pulls” or “pushes” gravity.
====
Term: Shield (disambiguation): Shield (police badge), shield (a portable piece of armor, “riot shield”), dust/ore/rock shield (permanently affixed armor on transportation), force shield (a heavy magnetic field used on very large transportation to redirect objects – see “mobius field generator”).
In this instance, the term ‘shield’ is used to mean a metal grating mounted between the large rocks and the ship to protect the engines and fuel cells.

Beware – ‘anthology’ contest – check out the copyrights


Not sure I’d want to enter this one. It looks a lot like I’m giving up all my rights to the work. Their statements about the submission:

“By submitting your story, you acknowledge that your entry becomes the property of Biff Bam Pop! and will not be returned or acknowledged”

Ownership/Use Rights
Entrants retain the copyright to their stories. However, by submitting, you hereby grant Biff Bam Pop! a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to print, publish, use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, and display your full name (or pseudonym), biography, short story and photograph in connection with Biff Bam Pop! (and its successors’) business, including without limitation in any media formats and through any media channels.”

Above excerpts from – http://biffbampop.com/biff-bam-pop-premiere-short-story-anthology-submission-guidelines/

Story Flow

1. Motivating Event. Begin with an event (either recently past or just happening at the opening. Get the story (and the protagonist) moving. This is what will lead to the main conflict.

2. Increasing Tension. Build tension with a series of events either stemming from the first event or from the protagonist attempting to resolve a problem.

3. Major Conflict Comes to a Head. The tension comes to a head in a clash of some sort. This represents a change in the outcome based either on someone changing or not changing to effect a resolution.

4. Continuing through the crisis. The differences in changing or not changing result in a new direction which shows the change. In a tragedy, everything goes wrong; in a comedy, everything starts to go right.

5. The story ends with a Catastrophe (in the case of a tragedy) or some other Resolution (such as a happy ending) which shows the protagonist’s downfall or triumph.

What’s the point?

While I usually write in third person limited POV, with ‘actual’ thoughts in italics, I have toyed with omniscient from time to time. It’s difficult to keep straight as Linda has posted on her blog:

What’s the point?. by

Linda makes a good point on POV confusion. I would add that omniscient POV seems weird to me. I think, though I may be wrong, that much of my hero’s (Harry Stephen Keeler) writing is first person with insertions of omniscient (‘little did he know that…’).

“Third person omniscient is a method of storytelling in which the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters in the story, as opposed to third person limited, which adheres closely to one character’s perspective.” –

Short Story – Tammi’s Secret – Final Installment

Previous:   Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five

Her phone rang. Tammi answered it on the first ring. “Doctor?”

No. Sorry, it’s me.”

Oh hi, Dave. How are you?”

The real question is, how are you?”

The doctor says there’s no permanent damage, just a nasty concussion. The MRI was clear.” She reached up to touch the bandage. “I’m hoping for a call from the vet.”

Yeah. I’m sorry about that. I didn’t…”

Don’t blame yourself, Dave. It was just what happened.”

I thought that, since I wrecked your car, maybe you could use my truck. You know…”

That’s very nice, but…”

…to get around.”

Could you pick up Berry?”

I don’t have a driver’s license. I have two DUIs.”

Oh. Gee, I’m sorry I asked you to go find Berry. I guess I was out of my head.”

It’s okay. Sergeant Cooper let me go. He said it was a case of extreme circumstances and really too confusing to be sure of anything.”

He seems very sure about that man.”

Malewski.” He supplied. “He’s not talking.”

But he had our film.”

Oh, yeah. He’s guilty. Even Berry ID’d him.”

Hah ha. Very funny. I’m worried about him. I want to go to the vet.”

He’ll be fine, it passed right through and it was a little gun. A .380 ACP. It was a cute little gun, gold plated with ivory handles that had scrimshawed roses.”

Ugh. He really pointed it at you?”

Yes. It was very unfunny. I’ll come get you and we can go to the vet for Berry.”

You can’t drive.”

I can drive, I’m just not supposed to. I’ll take a chance on it for you.”

That’s sweet, but…”

I’m on my way. Don’t bother telling me not to. See you soon.”

Well…” The line went dead. Tammi looked at the phone which informed her the call had ended. “Oh hell.”

#

With an old neck-cone behind the seat of his Mazda, they made their way to the Animal Hospital. Dave drove the truck carefully, using his signal and making sure he followed every rule. A smallish hole in the exhaust rumbled, threatening to blow wide open, beneath the floorboard.

The vet explained how the gunshot had passed through Berry’s abdomen without piercing any vital organs or arteries. It was really a very minor wound but he had to be restrained from licking it. They checked out the cone and determined it was suitable for the purpose.

When he awoke, Berry was very happy to see them and kissed Dave repeatedly, smearing his hot saliva all over his face. With the amount of painkillers in him, they were assured he was feeling substantially more fit than he actually was.

Yuk. I love you too, Berry.”

With the admonition to keep him quiet and resting Tammi was allowed to take him home to recuperate. This time she drove while Berry sprawled across Dave, the majority of the bench seat and her lap. Dave carried him into the house and placed him on the old Laze-e-Boy. They attached the cone and made some coffee.

Tammi decided Dave was a good addition to the modest ranch home. He was very comfortable and not at all out of place. She brought the laptop over to the couch and started catching up on her sales. Each sale item was printed and Dave packaged them up, laughing about teamwork and joking that she would need the truck just to tote it all down to the Post Office.

Dave said he was considering selling the Photohut to a woman who ran two other coffee stands. She had once made an offer of a few thousand dollars. He could fix the truck and pay to have his license reinstated. Tammi volunteered to sell off any remaining film and cameras in her store and eBay.

I guess it would be cool if you stayed here for a while.” She mused aloud. She moved to set the laptop aside and her finger brushed the CD eject button. There was the disc. It sat there reflecting the overhead light. “Look at this.”

Wow. I thought he took it.”

I guess he just got the sleeve.”

Lets copy just the twenty photos to another disc and give it to the old lady where you got it. We can get rid of the original.”

Good idea. I don’t know her number.”

They discussed the location of the house while the CD was burning. Dave volunteered to take it over when he took the packages to the Post Office. He also needed gas and some air in the low front driver’s side tire. “I found your extra clicker, so I can take this all out through the garage.”

I don’t have an extra remote. Where’d you find it?”

On the table.”

I don’t remember it. It wasn’t there before.”

He brought it to her after depositing the last US Priority Mail package on the table. “Here. See? It’s just like the one in your car.”

Mine isn’t blue, it’s grey.” She clicked it experimentally, listening for the door. All she heard was a faint scratching sound behind the packages on the table. “Whups. Sounds like we picked up some roaches in the cardboard.”

Berry was suddenly wide awake and struggled to a sitting position, ears pointing like radar at the sound. Dave also turned to the source and pulled off his sneaker. He walked over and looked around for the offending bug. “Whoa.”

What?”

Wasn’t this lamp a solid piece?”

Yeah, What’s the problem?”

It’s just strips of copper now. Like a cage.”

Tammi got up and came over to see what he meant. Sure enough the trumpet-like central bells were open strips of metal alternating between top and bottom like a checkerboard. “What the hell?”

More scratching, scuttling noise came from under the table. As they bent to look, the sound moved quickly to the sliding glass door. When they stood to look, each gasped in astonishment. There sat a copper spider, feeling the door jamb with its two front legs.

Tammi reached over to the remote in Dave’s hand and clicked the button. The spider froze. “Oh my God.”

What the hell is that?”

It’s the spider from the blueprints.”

What spider?”

It’s called an ATOM or something like that. I read them when you were in the shower.”

They called Cooper and then ATK. Cooper had found a rental car two blocks from the house registered to a William Boeker. ATK sent a representative who arrived a few hours later by car from their headquarters far to the South. He brought a reward check for ten thousand dollars, more than enough to cover the damage to the Toyota and the hospital bill. He offered little explanation and took the spider, disc and remote with him.

It’s your money, you found it.”

It’s our money. You can get your life back and I can fix my car. We’ll split it.”

Only if I put my business in the pot. I can sell it and get out of your hair.”

You still need a job.”

I’ll find something.”

Come run the store for me.”

Really?”

Yeah. I think we can make it work. Together.”

Together. I like that.”

FIN

Short Story – Tammi’s Secret – part five

Previous:   Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four

Okay okay. I’ll tell you again.” Dave said to Sergeant Cooper. “I heard a noise around two-thirty, Tammi wasn’t in bed so I got up to see if she was okay. Berry followed me out here.”

And Barry is the dog?” Cooper added a note on his pad.

Berry like a fruit. The dog, yes.” He snapped in irritation. “When I got to the kitchen, I found her on the floor. Berry took off like he’d seen a squirrel through the open door.

I tried to get her up, but she was out cold with a big-ass bruise on her forehead. I called for the ambulance and I asked them if I should be talking to the cops too.”

We received the call at two thirty-eight. Is anything missing that you know of?”

The pictures I developed for her yesterday are gone. They were sitting on the counter – right there.”

Just pictures. From a roll of film? How many pictures?”

Two sets of a twenty-four roll. Fujifilm.”

So, forty-eight photos?”

No, there was a bonus picture. Sometimes there are twenty-five pictures on a twenty-four roll.”

Seems strange to me that having a whole room full of valuable items, he would take only the photos. There’s a laptop right there. Unsecured. It just doesn’t make much sense.”

Maybe he was after the blueprints.”

What blueprints are those?”

The last five pix were of blueprints and a letter.”

What were they? Like pictures spies take in the movies?”

Yes. From a company…” Dave scratched his head trying to remember. “ATK. I can’t remember… It’s a Defense Department outfit.”

Ok. I’ll assume those were valuable and follow-up on them. Let me see your ID.”

I lost my drivers license for my second DUI about a year ago.”

Do you live here?”

No. I live in my business.”

The Photohut?”

Yes. Dave’s Cameras.”

In the old Photohut?”

Yes, that’s it.” Dave saw the gurney being rolled out the front. “Where are they taking her?”

Altru.”

I gotta go with them…”

No. You have to explain why you were here with no ID when you sleep in the Photohut.”

Please. We were just sleeping with each other, that’s all.”

So you were having sex? How long has this gone on?”

Three or four hours.”

I mean how many months or years.”

Just last night. The first time.”

If we run a rape kit, what are we going to find?”

That we had sex a couple times last night. Other than that I don’t know.”

Allright. You can go, just stay around where I can find you. Here or the Photohut. Just stay in town for now.”

Am I a suspect?”

Everyone is a suspect. I always say.”

#

Where’s Berry?” Tammi sat up, dislodging the cold compress on her aching forehead. “Is he okay?”

I don’t know. He ran out the door. I think he was after the guy that hit you.”

She tried to swing her legs over the side of the gurney, but lacked the strength. “Help me, Dave.”

You’ll have to stay here. I’m sorry I didn’t get up with you. If I had…”

You were asleep. Probably the first time you’d been in a real bed for a year.”

I’m so sorry.” He offered her the old leather patchwork purse. “I grabbed your purse.”

Oh, thank you. Really you didn’t do anything wrong.” Oh my God. The first time I do something a little wild… Berry. She started sobbing which made her head hurt. Which made her cry harder. “I did.”

What?”

Oh my head! Oh God, it hurts so bad.”

Dave pulled the curtain aside to see the ER desk. “Nurse could we get some help over here?”

Just a minute, sir.”

Please! She’s got a lot of pain in her head.”

The stiff, gray-haired nurse signaled the orderly, who came over to check on her. He brought her a plastic cup of water and two Tylenol and helped her swallow them with the water. “Lie back now. We’ll get you down to Radiology in a little bit. Get some x-rays and the doctor can look at them. Okay?”

I want my dog!”

I understand.”

No. You don’t. We haven’t been apart since I found him.”

He couldn’t come in anyway, hon. There’s no animals in the ER.”

Dave, please go find him. He’ll be cold and wet.” She took her keys from the purse and handed them to him. “Go,”

#

He trudged out of the ER, feeling useless. He’d just had sex for the first time in years, slept in a real bed… and here I am, a bum with nothing but a photo booth to my name. How can I find a dog when I don’t even have a car? The street was slick with the previous rain, now almost frozen, twinkling in the street light. A police cruiser was sitting just outside the entry awning over the ER.

Hey! Hey officer?” Dave dashed over, skidding slightly where the concrete apron gave way to asphalt. “Can I ask you a favor?”

The cop rolled his window the rest of the way open and flicked a cigarette butt into the night; an orange sparkling arc. “What’s the problem, sir?”

I rode in the ambulance here with Tammi Bresson. I think the cops are still there. I need to get back and lock up for her. Her dog is outside too.”

Gee, buddy, that’s a real mess there, eh?” He stepped out of the cruiser and motioned Dave to step back while he keyed the mic on his shoulder. “GF23 to dispatch.”

A few minutes later, after verifying that Dave had no ID with Sergeant Cooper and that it was okay, they drove back across to East Grand Forks. Dave sat in the back, thankfully not hand-cuffed, and considered where Berry would have gone, who would attack Tammi just for the photos and whether it would be alright to stay at Tammi’s. Just until she comes home.

#

The tracks go off that way, don’t step on them or mess them up. I’ve got an officer tracking the prints in the mud. It’ll be dry soon and I don’t want to lose him. The dog’s tracks are right there too. The last radio check had them out at Demers.

Berry! Berry!” Dave shouted out the window of the old Toyota, glad that Cooper either didn’t see him take the car or didn’t care. He was idling Northeast on Demers when he thought he saw a dog behind the Burger King and pulled in. The restaurant was closed, but the outline of the animal was visible against the lights on Tenth.

Berry!” The dog prowled back and forth as if holding something at bay. As Dave rolled closer, he could see the rough shape of a man holding a weapon overhead.

Good boy, you got him!” He spun the wheel and let the clutch out slow so the headlights illuminated the scene. As the lights swept in, the unknown mongrel flinched and dashed off to leave Dave confronting the Burger King in all his cardboard glory, burger held high. “Damn.”

Dave mentally kicked himself, both glad to be off the hook and embarrassed that he mistook a seven foot promo for the perpetrator. He laughed, barking at first, rising up the scale hysterically into silent shudders. “Just… just a…”

Wracked with paroxysms of laughter, he didn’t see a figure approaching in the rear-view until the passenger door opened and a very tired-looking man stepped in and took Berry’s place. “Drive.”

Hah hah… huh?” Dave looked at the sudden passenger with surprise. “Where’d you come from?”

Never mind, just drive.” The stranger waggled a small pistol. Dave fell silent immediately as he studied the gold-plated semi-automatic. It was a ladies’ gun, he thought, the pearl grips and gold-plate ludicrous in the hands of a grown man. He estimated it was larger than .22 caliber, but much smaller than a .45, a still deadly handgun. He slipped the clutch in surprise, stalling the engine and irritating the gunman.

Can’t you drive?” He tapped the shift knob. “You have to let it out slow.”

Uh.. m.. sorry.” Dave restarted the car and put it in first. “Where am I going?”

North. Whichever way that is. I got turned around running from a dog.”

The dependable Toyota purred its four-cylinder tune as Dave swung out onto Tenth, Central and Gateway in quick succession around the bright lights of the twenty-four hour Holiday convenience store. The highway was deserted at this hour and the light at Fifth was flashing yellow. Dave slowed anyway in caution, hoping a police car might be nearby.

Suddenly there was a flash as something furry slammed through the passenger window into the gunman’s face. Dave took the car out of gear and let it coast as he searched in the twisting, snarling mass of Berry and the man for the gun. Just as he felt the metal object, it went off with a deafening roar. Berry whined from the impact of the slug but didn’t pause in his furious attack.

Dave gripped the gun tightly, holding the slide open with a ferocity he had never known himself to possess. It came free in his hand as the passenger seat suddenly reclined under the pressure of two bodies. Berry’s deep growling and barking bites were eliciting grunts of pain and an occasional “Damnit.”

The world turned upside down, creaking and groaning. There was much howling from men and beast alike as the Toyota’s front wheel dug into the soft shoulder and rolled on its side into the ditch. Dave wound up sitting on his assailant’s lap while Berry, who had a death-grip on his shoulder continued to growl through a mouthful of sweatshirt and bone.

Oh my God. I’m alive.” He reversed the pistol, letting it snap shut, chambering a round. “Stop! I have the gun you son-of-a-bitch.”

Short Story – Tammi’s Secret – part four

Previous:   Part One   Part Two   Part Three

Tammi joined Dave to view the strange photos. “Four blueprints and a sheet of paper on letterhead?”

Yeah.” He zoomed the last one in on the header. “I wonder what ‘ATK’ is?”

Google it.”

The results of an Internet search revealed that it was a supplier of high tech weapons and aerospace products to NASA. Most of the catalog was taken up with ammunition and firearms but there was a raft of satellite-related items including solar panels and space launch parts. “What the hell is this?”

Tammi retrieved the prints and negatives to sort the questionable five pictures and their negatives on the old Formica counter. She quickly had twelve items in a stack, ten prints and two negative strips. “Well, here’s the stuff. Maybe we should just mail it to them. It’s no use to us, eh?”

Yeah. I don’t know about mailing them.” He popped the disc out and replaced it in the paper sleeve before adding it to the shortest pile. “Maybe it’d be better to just shred them.”

Hmmm. What do you think, Berry?”

…” He just raised his head high enough to see over the arm of his Laze-e-Boy and snuffed his laughter.

Yeah. You’re right. It’s kind of silly.”

Hey, Tammi? I don’t want to impose, but could I use your shower?” He scratched behind his ear above his scruffy beard. “I’m kind of grungy.”

Sure. If you put your clothes in the hall, I’ll run them through the washer.”

Thanks.” He headed into the hall in search of hot water and soap. Shortly thereafter a small pile of clothing appeared outside the bathroom door which Tammi whisked into the Speed Queen washer. She poured in a half cap of Gain and started it.

She turned the oven down to three seventy-five and set the timer for two hours. “That about right?” This time there was no response from the snoring Berry, his limbs twitching in a dream of squirrels and trees.

Taken with a sudden thought, she popped the disc back in the drive and scrolled quickly to the twenty-first image. Besides the loafers, it was a good picture of a blueprint. Exploded views of multiple bits and pieces that appeared to be assembled in threes. Sixteen different parts, one of them a ball-shape were laid out meticulously with drawings of tiny cylinders that appeared to fit into holes and slots in the other, flat metal bits.

It was a confusing array of items, as was the next image and the third. In these was a set of instructions and assemblies showing six-segmented claws of some sort. The ball shapes were really two hemisphere pieces that were to contain tiny motors and arms with a trailing wire. Lengthy assembly numbers ran down the left edge, indented as appropriate for each assembled part.

What the hell is this for?” There was still no answer from Berry, who was yipping quietly with snorted punctuation.

Specifications showed a close-up of the claw tip that ended in a conical diamond and a flexible band with completely nonsensical numbers and the ominous −273.15 °C. Tammi knew that two seventy-four was absolute zero. “This number must be more accurate zero.”

She heard the washer switch to the rinse-cycle at the same time the shower cut off. The next blueprint showed the method of assembly for four assembled claws, mirrored to make a total of eight, attached to an unknown tertiary assembly. It looked vaguely spider-like.

The final blueprint captured to film was full of electrical specifications and diagrams of printed circuit boards. She couldn’t make heads nor tails of this and clicked forward to the fifth image of the letter. The letter outlined ‘Current Status’, ‘Ongoing Testing’, and the promise of ‘Project Timeline’ apparently continued on a missing second page. The project was titled “Automated Tile Epoxy Aerospace Application ‘Bot – ATEAAB”

Dave came out of the bathroom, “Can I use that vaccum?”

She absently waved at the little silver machine without looking up as the familiar color of pink terrycloth wafted by, smelling of soap and clean. The ghostly figure moved back, past her peripheral vision, down the hall. A moment later the sound of vacuuming began in the bathroom. She didn’t spare it a thought.

Her email icon was flashing with new messages. Three of her auctions finished with successful buyers. She sent the detailed paid items to her printer along with shipping labels from Stamps.com. She also used PayPal to send thirty-eight dollars for her winning bid on “Steampunk gears and gadgets – 4 pounds – free ship”.

She heard Dave walk up behind her, followed by his freshly scrubbed hands placed gently over her eyes. “Guess who?”

Brad Pitt.”

No.” He sounded disappointed. “Dave Mason.”

She turned to face him and gasped, “Oh my God. You shaved.”

Yeah, but I vacuumed it all up. I owe you two disposable razors.”

Don’t worry about it. Oh your poor face.” She examined the little cuts, still oozing slightly on his damp pasty flesh. “How long had you been growing that?”

About a year. I haven’t had my apartment for that long.”

Did you lose all your stuff?” She decided he looked better than she remembered and, on impulse, kissed him gently. Tentatively. His kissed her back, warm and toothpastey. It sent a little shiver down in her lumbar and she pulled away not unkindly.

His hands rested comfortably on her waist. “No. It’s packed in the truck. The topper is locked.”

Lemme put you clothes in the dryer.” She disengaged thinking, What are you thinking? The first man you let in the house since Bradley and you’re kissing him? It must be the cute-boots. Yeah, that’s it. “Did you use my toothbrush? Yuk.”

No. I have mine. I just used your Aquafresh.” She heard the clank of copper on the tabletop. “You didn’t scrub off the green stuff.”

It’s worth more with the patina.” She came back in to see what he was doing with her treasure. He had only stood it up, no harm done. Berry was watching him with interest from the back of his throne.

She brushed Dave’s shoulder lightly with a little thrill as she walked around to take a seat. It felt funny sitting in a different place at the table and her attention was drawn to a previously unnoticed spiderweb in the corner between the suspended walnut cabinets and the drywall where the big crack ran down the repeatedly spackled corner.

Berry, remote.” She big rottweiler picked up the desired device and brought it to her. She scrubbed his head in exchange. It made him happy to be useful and wagged his tail with force while he panted, grinning.

Ow.” Dave rubbed his injured leg and lightly pushed Berry’s rump away. “Big bruiser.”

Berry raised his paw, requesting to go outside with his staccato hi-five. She reached over to unlock and slide the door open to allow him to exit. He romped through to terrorize the squirrels and take command of his domain in the resumed drizzle.

I think we should put the pictures in the mail.”

Ok.” He agreed as he used the toothbrush to dislodge a missed scrap of mung from the lamp. He looked so funny in her pink bathrobe, she couldn’t help put reach out and adjust the collar. He turned to her and they embraced again. They made love twice before the lasagna was done and again after absentmindedly watching Sunday Night Football.

Tammi awoke in fright with a gasp and checked the time. Two thirty-three. The clock clicked two thirty-four, it’s rightmost little tile flopping over in the silence. Dave snorted and snuggled deeper under the sheets and vintage hand-sewn quilt. The house was dead silent, but for Dave and Berry’s snoring.

She got up from the wrong side of the bed, dislodging her abandoned jeans and the bathrobe and went to check the living room. The parquet floor was icy cold and reminded her to pee. Everything was still and familiar in the darkness, the outline of the lamp visible in front of the partially open sliding glass door.

Oh crap.” She flipped the kitchen light switch. And just caught a glimpse of something swinging at her before she lost consciousness in a blinding display of fireworks.

Short Story – Tammi’s Secret – part three

Previous:   Part One   Part Two

The next morning Berry jumped on the bed, apparently invigorated from the previous outing, licking and wagging so hard the bed shook like the Magic Fingers she knew infested cheap motels and dilapidated inner city hotels. He jumped down, pleased that she was going to let him out and when he came in there would be food in his dish. Before she changed from her oversized t-shirt, the made coffee, put down Berry’s food and water, turned on the news, and checked her eBay auctions. She was close to winning one lot of one hundred childrens’ unbreakable sunglasses for the store and “Steampunk gears and gadgets – 4 pounds – free ship”.

The weather had turned nasty, precluding any possibility of garage-saling. She opted for the winter boots she found last year for two dollars. The fur edging was a tad bedraggled, but they still looked good. After checking her plaid and denim outfit in the full length mirror, just eight bucks a few years ago, she let Berry in and prepared a stainless steel travel mug of sweetened hazelnut coffee.

What are we going to do today, Berry?”

…” He cocked his head and gave her the lop-sided ear signal that he was up for anything as long as it was with her, his tail thumping vigorously on the Kitchenaid under counter dishwasher.

She was in no hurry to go out on a damp Sunday; so busied herself with cleaning her most recent finds. The first, and by far the easiest, was the bag-less Electrolux. She pulled a likely bag from her vacuum bag and belt stash, collected over the years, which took up most of her former coat closet. She found it fit properly and added another spare bag in a Ziploc baggie to make it appealing to an aficionado of vintage items.

That’s gonna look great in the front window, eh?”

Berry resigned himself to staying in and took up his post on the Berry Command Center Laze-e-Boy to await his Animal Channel shows. He examined his privates for any sign of hitchhikers and gave his left ear a good scratch before he yawned and laid down.

Tammi then spread out her trophies on the dining room table for appraisal. The iron pots and pans, including a dutch-oven with a missing lid, would sell well in her little downtown shop. She put those in the bead-blasting tank to remove the rust and turned it on. She dusted off the Fall centerpiece with canned air and set it in a corrugated paper box of approximately the correct size. It would join the vacuum downtown. Ditto the rabbit-ears and the Atari console.

Then she unpacked the mystery box of electrical doo-dads and loose lampwork beads that had once graced the lower edge of the shade. Eleven little boxes of, according to the neatly hand printed labels, connectors (forked and round), silver solder, flux, splices, fuses (Edison, bar, and modern), switches and a coiled piece of wire. The box also seemed to contain a few odd items under an enormous amount of grey dust from origins unknown.

The lamp was indeed sixteen gauge copper with a green felt base cover nestled snugly between the four baroque claw feet. As she started scrubbing with a nasty old toothbrush, the owners of the feet became visible. Four gryphons, rampant, from the left side; left foot down, right foot threatening an invisible opponent.

From there the copper rose in twenty inches of glory, trumpet-shaped, covered with tracery with an octagonal bell at the top. From the bell, a much shorter inverted-taper trumpet added an additional five inches to its height where a four-pointed crown held a modern light bulb receptacle in place of what she assumed had been a natural gas lamp. The modern harp rose, past two bent crown points, upward to meet the shade ring.

She pulled out her trusty needle-nose pliers and adjusted the harp top so that the shade was level, disturbing decades of dust and cobwebs. The topper appeared to be original as was the shade itself. She disassembled the entire lamp one bit at a time, cleaning all the while, and laying it out carefully as if it were an exploded view in an illustration.

After refreshing her coffee and changing channels for Berry, she counted the probable locations for the amber colored beads and polished the matching glass topper under the magnifying lamp clamped to her right. Some more canned air applied just outside the sliding back door, removed the majority of the remaining detritus on the shade. She pulled out her tiny hand-held Shark vacuum and finished a thorough cleaning the shade.

For lunch she and Berry had a few corn chips and salsa while they checked eBay sales, bids and feedback. They also located and ordered a replacement mantle so that the lamp could be returned to its former employment. The modern bits and pieces she relegated to her neatly organized shelves in the garage. To her shopping list she appended, ‘that verdigris acid stuff’ and ‘bathtub caulk’.

They packed up all the items for the store and disposed of packing materials in the appropriate recycling containers. A quick check of the weather showed clearing skies, cooler with twenty percent chance of precipitation overnight. They took off on the road to make drop-offs and pick-ups around town. Around two she pulled up at Dave’s Cameras and was happily surprised to find him present. “Hey Dave.”

He muted the nineteen inch HD television which was showing a rerun of a Sportscenter opinion show. He pushed back his battered Twins cap and opened the window. “Hey. I got your pictures back this morning. You got free double prints for six-fifty.” He picked up the envelope and handed to her in exchange for a five and two ones. He returned two quarters in change.

Thanks. Are you open every day now?”

I’m actually living here. I can’t afford rent anymore.”

Business that bad?”

Basically. It’s okay. I have a space heater, cot and tv.”

How do you cook dinner?”

Subway.”

Sheesh.” She considered his situation and decided she could breach her rules of solitude. “I could cook dinner for two tonight if you’d wanna come over.”

He brightened considerably. “That would be great. I could bring a six-pack. Well, five, I had one last night.”

You can bring it. You still have the address?”

Um. No. I don’t actually write it down on the envelopes, just your phone number.”

It’s on…”

I’d be walking.”

Really?” She glanced at his rusty Mazda pick-up. “Doesn’t it run?”

Not really.”

Gee Dave. I had no idea things were so bad.”

It’s the digital shit. I’m done. You’re the first customer I had in four days.”

If business is so slow, why haven’t you just looked for work?”

I can’t really work for Mickey Dee’s or whatever. I just can’t do it. I’m almost forty.”

That’s still young, eh? Just close up now and come along for the ride.”

She checked the prints while waiting for the congested corner onto Columbia. Mostly just pictures of a couple and their family of five. In a few shots the seller was recognizable. A light honk alerted her to a breach of driving etiquette on the green arrow. Fortunately everyone made the light successfully.

Coulda had some bad karma there, eh?”

…” Berry licked her shoulder and Dave said nothing at all as he kept a death-grip on the ‘Jesus-handle’ just above the passenger door. Tammi noticed he looked a little green.

You gonna be okay?”

If I get out of this car alive, it will be a miracle. Where did you learn to drive?”

St. Paul. Why?”

Mario Andretti got nothing on you.”

Don’t be silly.” She slowed a little in consideration for her rider. “If you’re gonna get sick, open the door. I don’t want Berry crawlin’ all over you tryin’ to clean up.”

Yuk.”

Back at her two-bedroom ranch Dave carried her purchases in through the garage, following her into the kitchen and dropping the bags on the table. He was careful not to disturb the disassembled lamp, which she appreciated. He then pulled a Keystone Light from the plastic ring and put the rest in her fridge. “Nice lamp.”

Thanks. I’ll just pop this lasagna in the oven.” She unwrapped the foil pan and placed it on the center rack, set the thermostat to four-fifty and retrieved a bottle of water instead of the available beer. Dave had located the remote and was surfing her basic cable channels with Berry’s approval. Flick. Flick. Flick. The strobe-like effect was vaguely soothing.

She joined him on the sofa and flipped through the rest of her pictures. The last five had pictures of some sort of papers. The print count seemed wrong, she counted again, there were fifty. “Hey do most people get twenty-five pix on a twenty-four roll?”

Sometimes. We call it the ‘bonus’.” He accepted the offered exchange of photos for remote. “These last ones are all of some sort of blueprints. His feet are in the frame. Penny loafers.”

What are they?”

“Buster Brown. I dunno, I can’t really see it.”

There’s a magnifying light over there.”

They included a digital copy. Where’s your computer?”

The laptop is next to the coffeemaker.”

You recycle?” He rose, crumpling the empty beer-can and headed the direction of her nod to the garage. After getting another from the fridge, he loaded the disc in her old HP laptop. She heard him clicking through the frames, then –

Holy crap. You gotta see this!”

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