Tag Archives: short story


Daily Prompt: Viral.

Chester was first at everything. He got to school first. He was the first person people picked for dodge ball. He got first place in the spelling bee. He even managed to be first in the lunch line, on the first day of school, in the first grade.

Rena had never been first at anything. She’d watched Chester lead the class all through Kindergarten last year. Rena was often the last off the bus. She didn’t like dodge ball so she didn’t care when she was picked. Spelling was confusing so she was always out early in the spelling bee. She never got to the cafeteria in time to be first in the lunch line.

“Chester doesn’t even see what a jerk he is,” Rena thought. Rena couldn’t handle it anymore so she decided she’d be the first to knock Chester down a peg or two.

Rena got up early one morning, brushed her teeth, combed her hair, pulled on her boots and waited at the door. She said goodbye to her Mom and pinched her little brother and strutted out the door. Instead of waiting at her normal stop, she walked a stop ahead. As the bus pulled up and Rena stepped on, she saw Chester running for the door. “Too late!” she thought. “I’m already in the front seat.”

“Good morning, Rena!” beamed Chester. Rena cracked a self-assured smile.

As the bus pulled into the school, Rena ran down the steps and darted to her classroom. She shot into her seat, first to class.

“Good morning, Rena!” said Mrs. Owens. “You’re here early!”

P.E. time arrived and Rena ran to the gym. “Coach K, Coach K! Can I be a dodge ball captain today?” “Well, you’re the first to ask, so why not?” said Coach K.

The other children filed in and lined up. Rena got to pick first but she didn’t pick Chester. “Stewart!” she said, never taking her eyes off Chester. Chester stood smiling, seemingly unaffected.

The game commenced and Rena threw the ball at Chester, hitting him square in the chest. She grinned and yelled, “Chester, you’re out!” “Nice throw, Rena!” Chester replied.

After P.E., Rena ran back to the classroom and grabbed her vocabulary book before shooting back out of the room to the cafeteria. By the time the rest of the class filed in, she already had her tray and she was heading for the line. Chester moved in behind her. “Wow, Rena. You got here fast!” Rena didn’t say a word. She just smirked and collected her chicken fingers and spinach.

Rena sat down and opened her vocabulary book, practicing her spelling words over and over as she munched down her chicken fingers and picked at her spinach.

Back in class, spelling bee practice began and Rena got every word. Before long, she and Chester were the only two left.

“Motor. M-O-T-O-R. Motor.” Rena spelled.

“Friend. F-R-E-I-N-D. Friend.” said Chester.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Chester. That’s incorrect,” said Mrs. Owens.

Rena couldn’t hold it in. She laughed and blurted out, “Now I’m first, Chester! I win!”

Chester’s eyes began to burn. “Good job, Rena. That was great.”

“See, you’re not first at everything!” Rena taunted.

Chester let out a sob and buried his face in his hands. Rena sat down at her desk, reveling in the satisfaction of finally having knocked Chester off his high horse. She beamed and chuckled…until she looked around the room. All Rena’s classmates were aghast –their faces sad and shocked. Mrs. Owens had moved to Chester’s side, her hand on his back.

Chester rubbed his eyes and looked up at Rena –her expression now befuddled. Rena didn’t feel so good anymore. “I just wanted to be first for once,” she said. “Somehow you’re always first.”

Chester reached into his desk and pulled out a single sheet of paper. Drawn on it were stars and a trophy and smiley faces. He’d spent his whole lunch working on it, barely making it through a single chicken finger, his spinach untouched. Chester handed it to Rita.

to my coolest freind

Rena read the handmade certificate and her eyes started to burn. Chester said, “Rena, I was never trying to be better than anyone. My Mommy just always makes me promise to do my best. I thought you were so cool today, I was doing my best to be a good friend.”

Rena took her finger and wiped off a tear that had fallen on the certificate. “I thought you thought you were better than me. I wanted to prove to everyone that I could beat you. I guess I did my best at being a real jerk.”

Rena stood up and walked over to Chester, sticking out her hand.

“I’m sorry, Chester. Will you forgive me?”

“Sure, Rena. I’m not mad. Race you to the bus?!” Chester high-fived Rena’s outstretched hand and darted past.

Now Rena had a real first –her first best friend.



Mid-Week Blues-Buster Week 27.

“You could say I’m a bodyguard. People hire me to make sure they’re safe.”
People hire you? You mean women work for you.”
“I’d take on a man. I’ve just never met one in need of my services.”
“And what other services do you offer?”
“I’m a coach, a motivator. I give my clients the drive to earn money.”
“What happens if they don’t earn enough?”
“That’s not my concern.”
“Well, what happens if you don’t get paid?”
“Listen, I do contract work. My clients know how much my services cost. They’re contractually obligated to pay me. Same as you, I imagine.”
“Yeah, but if I don’t get a paycheck, I don’t beat the hell out of my boss.”

“Objection! Counsel is testifying, Your Honor.” Shelton’s attorney was on edge.
“Sustained. John, get back on track. Let’s keep it to questions.”

State Attorney John Sebastian grew tired of the wordplay. Shelton was a pimp and the jury knew it. The State had failed time and time again to bring him up on prostitution charges. But now Stag had murdered Billy Lyons and Sebastian wanted his pound of flesh.

“Fine. What happens if you don’t get paid?”
“Well, I have to get paid. I have a contract.”
“So, you’ve never had a situation where one of your clients failed to pay you?”
“Is that a question?”
“HAVE you ever had a situation where one of your clients failed to pay you?”
“Nah. I’ve had a couple of late payments, but we work it out.”
“How do you work it out, Mr. Shelton?”
“Like I said, I’m a motivator. I encourage them to get out and earn. If they don’t earn, I can’t protect them. They usually realize pretty quickly they’re much safer when I’m paid on schedule.”
“Have you ever physically coerced a client into paying you?”

Sebastian knew this was going nowhere. Shelton wasn’t going to admit to anything. The charge was first degree murder. He might have to settle for second degree if he couldn’t prove Shelton was a pimp –Lyons a disgruntled customer.

“Mr. Shelton, where were you the night of December 25, last year?”
“I was at the bar.”
“Which bar?”
“The Bucket of Blood.”
“And while at The Bucket of Blood, did you see Billy Lyons?”
“I did.”
“And how do you know Billy Lyons?”
“Aw, he was a loudmouth. Seemed like every time I went in for a drink, he was in there running his mouth about how he’d bedded one woman or another.”
“Had you ever had a conversation with Billy Lyons?”
“Not outside of telling him to shut up.”
“Did you have a conversation with Billy Lyons that night? The 25th?”
“So how did it come about that you were moved to take out a pistol and shoot Billy Lyons in the chest no less than nine times?!”
“I didn’t do that.”
“Then who did?! You admit you were there. You were there when the police arrived. Bill Curtis says you shot him twice before shooting Billy!”

“MR. SEBASTIAN. I won’t warn you again. Questions only!”

“Mr. Shelton, who shot Billy Lyons?”
“How am I supposed to know? The lights were out. I didn’t see anything.”
“No further questions.” Sebastian was going to have to rely on the previous testimony of the other witnesses to make the case. “State rests.”

“Defense? Cross?”
“No, your honor. Defense calls Lovie Austin.”

Sebastian riffled through his file. “Objection, your honor! She’s not on the list.”
“Honor, she’s on the discovery list: Austin, Lovinia.”
“There were dozens of clients on the discovery list, your honor. We deposed her. Her testimony was inconsequential.” Sebastian was confused. What was Shelton trying to do?
“I’m going to allow it. It’s incumbent on counsel to depose thoroughly.”

Lovie Austin was clearly nervous, her forehead beaded with sweat, eyes bloodshot. A high-necked blouse covered all but a dime-sized part of a dark blue bruise. She was sworn in. Stag winked at his attorney, smirking.

“Miss Austin, were you at the Bucket of Blood December 25 of last year?”
“Yes. And that motherfucker will never touch me again.”


Daily Prompt: Life Line.

Of course this happens to me. I stopped believing in the divine a few years ago. Maybe it was growing up with a spiritualnotreligious¬†mother. She thought¬†the universe somehow had its own power one week and rattled on about a god the next. Maybe it’s that old adage, “someday you’ll see/experience something that makes you believe.” These people must ignore the tragedy, despair, and general randomness of the world around them right now –screw someday.

What’s the one thing you want on a red eye to SeaTac? It’s sleep. I wouldn’t want to imagine the person who picks a red eye flight so she can chat someone’s ear off. But apparently I’m sitting next to her. “What’s your sign?” she asks, some nonhuman combination of a goofy grin and genuine concern on her face. You’ve got to be kidding me. What’s my sign? “Quiet, please.” But I didn’t say that. I’m that unique sort of asshole who engages in friendly conversation while my patience silently stews.

“Oh,” I feign interest, “Cancer.”
“Ah. A carer!” She couldn’t be more wrong on this one.
“Yeah, definitely.”
“I’m a palmist.” It’s really taking everything in my power not to roll my eyes. What the hell is a palmist? Just say palm reader. This sounds like you’re good at gripping basketballs with one hand or something.
“Oh, interesting.” I’m doing it again. Every time I end up in one of these conversations, I try to say things like this to be dismissive. Instead, my responses invariably sound open-ended and welcoming of further discussion.
“Give me your hand. I’ll give you a reading, no charge.” Did she think I was going to offer payment?
“Uh, I’d rather not. They’re quite clammy. Takeoffs make me nervous.” This is utter bullshit. I’ve been flying since before I can even remember. I’ve landed at airports where the crosswinds seemingly turned the plane 90 degrees and the only thing that’s ever crossed my mind is, “WHEEEEE!”
“Oh we’re going to be just fine. Trust me. I know. Come on. Give me your hand. I’m telling you: In my line of work, I’ve held much dirtier hands.”
“OK, OK.”

She takes my hand and starts tracing the lines with her long, garishly painted fingernails. Here comes the life line bullshit. “This is your life line.” Yeah, I know. I was in middle school once too. If this lady thinks she’s going to send me to the Alamo to find my bicycle, she’s lost her mind.

“It’s very long. You should be around for a while.”
“And this is your marriage line. It’s also nice and long but it’s very feathered. You’ve had a lot of loves in your life, right?” Not really. I’ve had plenty of relationships but I’ve only really loved a few women.
“Hmm, I guess.”
“OH. Your head line is split nearly in two. You see both sides of issues. You’re both creative and logical.” P.T. Barnum over here. She’s got something for everybody.
“Your fate line is very faint. It’s hard to read anything from it.” She hit the nail on the head this time. Fate is bullshit.
“So, it looks to me like you have a very long life filled with love ahead of you. You’ll be successful because you can approach problems from many angles. Your fate is the only thing you need to be on the lookout for.” To be on the lookout for? I’ll remember that next time I’m unicorn hunting.
“Well, thank you.” It feels like she’s had my hand for an hour.
“You’re welcome. Thank you for letting me give you a reading!”

I pull my hand back and excuse myself to the restroom. I wonder if she knows I’m going just to wash my hands –a nearly obsessive habit I’ve had for most of my life. I return to my seat, grabbing a pillow and blanket from the overhead bin. I don’t need them to sleep. I just want to make it clear I’m done chatting.

The palm reader looks at me and grins knowingly, opening a book: ‘Keys to the Universe’ or some such nonsense.

The plane shudders as my eyes close.

I dream. I’m standing at the top of a plateau, my back to the valley. My feet begin to slip and I slide backwards. I grab and come up with handfuls of loose dirt. I’m sliding so slowly but I know I’ll eventually free fall. Finally I feel a rock. I grab it with all my remaining strength. The sharp stone digs into the middle of my hand as I continue to slide. It tears at my flesh and I finally lose all grip as it slides loose between my middle and ring finger.

I’m falling. As the ground nears, time stretches into oblivion.

I’m falling.

My hand burns.

I’m falling.