Short Story Contest Entry: Commuter

subway commuters

Today we run the last entry received for the Writers Forum 2020 Short Story Contest. The contest officially closed on September 15. 

The contest judges are hard at work as we speak. Winners will be announced on September 30.

Since the contest judges are supposed to be judging the entries without knowing who wrote them, the author’s names will be withheld until after the winner selection. After the winners have been chosen, all authors will be identified, and the top three stories will be re-posted.

All submissions will be posted to the website and the Facebook page, and will also be considered submissions to the Writers Forum anthology, River’s Edge, to be published at the end of the year.


 

 

COMMUTER

 

 

The woman’s name was Arlene. I heard that much before the train arrived at another station and echoes blurred their conversation. Pretty sure she was late thirties, a handsome Asian woman in a charcoal gray suit, high-collared white frilled blouse that peeked through her jacket, sturdy burgundy pumps polished to a luster. Administrator, I guessed. The man beside her looked younger by ten years with narrow waist to match the Italian-cut suit. Shadow of beard on a strong chin, eyes the color of slate. A pretty boy. I hated him at first glance.

When the train left the station, I could hear again.

He said she was making a mistake.

Her, it’s my mistake to make.

Him, you lose me, you lose fifteen top clients.

She didn’t react.

He, I’ll change my locks, no more beck and call, no more balcony view, no more Blue Label. I may not delete the pictures.

That brought her head up. Flawless skin. I couldn’t avert my eyes.

“Pictures . . . There were no pictures.”

“You sleep naked. I couldn’t it pass up.”

Her cheeks went from light brown to scarlet and she backhanded him hard enough to start a nosebleed.

I knew he wouldn’t forget that. Ever.

She gathered her overcoat and briefcase, stood, and crossed the commuter aisle to an empty seat nearer the middle of the car. Closer to me. Now if I leaned slightly to my right I could see her in more detail. The back of her left hand was dripping blood on her coat. Her third finger, no wedding band.

I switched my attention to the man. Both nose and lip were damaged. Maybe she cut her hand on his teeth. His face had gone dark in a grimace and he was searching his coat pockets. I didn’t think gun until the second before he produced his handkerchief. Of course. A young exec wouldn’t shoot his colleague? supervisor? on a packed Westchester train. Probably wouldn’t shoot her at all. Instead, he would undermine her in an untraceable manner. Leak her business confidentialities, poison her reputation. He wouldn’t farm out the pictures until she was already tumbling out the door. Pity, they would say. She’d broken the glass ceiling, now it was falling on her. He took out his cell phone, but I don’t think he was making a call. I think he was buying time, hand near face, waiting while his nose stopped dripping.

I wondered if they got off at the same stop. What would happen then?

They didn’t. He left immediately when the train pulled into Scarsdale. I bet myself he didn’t live there. Bet he just wanted more privacy while he put himself together. I tried to watch her in short enough segments that she didn’t feel my gaze.

She disappointed me by getting off two stops later at White Plains. I was twenty minutes farther north in Mt. Kisco but I got off behind her and scanned the unfamiliar area as we walked down a brick platform. The station’s outdoor waiting area was huge, the adjacent parking lot mostly obscured by the railroad buildings. Odds were, she’d driven. I’d have to grab a taxi to have any chance of following. I needed luck and spectacular timing. I wasn’t worried. About that. If I wanted to, I could probably follow her in my car on another workday. But I was worried. What in the hell did I think I was doing? When had curiosity become surveillance.

Was it about the woman’s safety? Not exactly, even though I knew the younger dickhead would try to get even. Was it her loveliness? That played a part. Did it boil down to my loneliness? Divorce makes an idiot of most men. Being left for another man, woman in my case, saddened me. I couldn’t decide whether it embarrassed me. Some catch I was. Managed to turn off my mate to the male gender. But I knew that wasn’t true . . . wasn’t how it worked. What I had managed to do was to so utterly and completely misread my wife, that I’d never had any idea who she was or what she wanted. She and I weren’t that young. I was just that stupid. I assumed a good job and money and security and upscale dates to spendy restaurants and concerts was a marriage. That and good sex. I see I was probably alone in thinking the sex was good. Did she fake her orgasms like I sometimes did mine? Probably.

Right now, I knew my behavior was somewhere on a long continuum between foolish and weird, a short continuum between criminal and pathetic. I wanted to help. Not her. Me. Magically, I wanted her to need me. I wanted her to validate my prowess, appreciate my protective nature. Right. Even I who’d just made that up didn’t believe it. But I hedged in one area. I told myself my impulse was definitely more complicated than an atavistic desire to get in her skirt.

Okay, yes, I was ashamed of my motives, but that didn’t stop me. Besides, I lived alone now. No one examined my ethics or cared if I was late for dinner.

When she walked around the corner of the station and made a right into the parking area, I sprinted for the closest taxi, wondering what story I might concoct if the cabby became suspicious. It came to me as I piled in the back seat.

“I know this sounds strange but my sister’s ex has been stalking her. Restraining order’s useless. I follow her home to make sure he doesn’t intercept her. Do you mind?”

The driver in a khaki jacket and Met’s cap half turned to me. He was gray-faced, stocky and round like my favorite green grocer. He’d obviously had a bad experience with shaving sometime in his youth.

“I should pull over if he stops her?” His voice was raspy but I didn’t smell cigarettes. “You want ta jump out, you gotta pay now. A yard. It don’t take that, I give you change.”

I fumbled for a credit card while I tried to keep track of the woman. She’d walked behind a tall van.

“Stop here for a sec,” I told him.

He could see me straining to find her.

“You don’t know your sister’s car, huh? Stalker? Fuck the money, get outta my cab.”

Wait. … She was going to borrow a friend’s ride so she’d be harder to track.”

“Get out.”

“Two hundred!”

He picked up his mic. “Dispatch, I got a nine-eleven at WP Metro—”

“I’m gone!” . . . he was still speaking to somebody as I bailed and crossed the wide street, slinking between slow-moving cars on my way back to the station. I sat on a bench near the tracks to look like one more working stiff waiting for the next southbound. Just to make sure, I turned my sportcoat inside out and rolled up the sleeves. Average Joe, me.

Boarded the 6:45 with no problem. Took a window seat and a deep breath. A deeper one when the train left the station. I took out my cell, put it away. Stood, remembered these trains had no club car. Sat again.

Why this woman? What would an attractive professional like her want with a middle-aged ex-cop? Pure chance that my seat was close enough to hear their drama. Close enough I got nosy and didn’t want pretty boy to get over. So, I was a victim of fate. I was going to protect her, comfort her, reassure her. She would be suspicious, then grateful, then impressed. She’d want to know me better. Good Samaritan, me. She’d understand why I’d gone for the big score in Oakland and gotten my partner killed. She’d forgive me for losing my job; for losing my wife and daughter to a gas-fire divorce. She’d overlook that two months ago I was in a California jail. She’d grasp why I’d moved to New York and be unconcerned that my new job didn’t pay enough to afford a residence hotel. She’d see a diamond in the rough. She’d be indebted by my rescue and ignore the poss— . . . Oh. Wait. I didn’t rescue her.

Guess the cabby was right, garden-variety stalker.

“Are you okay?”

I turned to the gray-haired woman sitting beside me.

“You groaned,” she explained.

I nodded. Tried to smile. “Work,” I said.

“It’ll do that,” she said, glancing at my face to see if I was listening. “I’m retired.” A half smile. “I say that, but I go into the city three days a week and watch my granddaughter. Like a job, but better.” The whole smile finally arrived.

“Yeah,” I said, hoping that would end it.

“Where you getting off?”

Hey, right here was someone I could protect and serve but I didn’t want to. So the good Samaritan thing didn’t wash. I was lonely and the cure was finding someone to want me. Want me, not pity me. I was doing that for myself.

I looked past her, out the window, to the countryside racing by. The hardwood trees, the shady two-lane that paralleled the tracks, the occasional white-framed houses probably built before these rails became a commuter line. It was scenery. Pleasant, maybe even charming, but right now I was missing the high desert. My pickup. My badge. The Corral with cozy women, cheap beer and fat burgers. Yeah, all that and my daughter.

“You’re groaning again.”

“Sorry.” I looked up the aisle hoping to see an excuse to walk away.

“I had those days,” she said.

“I can’t talk about it.” Probably too abrupt, but effective.

“I used to be like that,” she said, looking out the window herself. “I was a closed book. Nearly cost me my health.”

Okay, not effective. I got it. Karma. I was going to give the business woman help whether she wanted it or not, and now I was on the receiving end. I closed my eyes to make the old woman disappear.

“You can tell me all about it,” she said. “I’m not getting off till Katonah.”

Cop training. Extinguish it. Don’t feed a crazy conversation. Don’t say anything.

“I guess I passed it on to my son,” she said, now looking at her lap. “He shot himself.”

There was nothing she could have said to make me stay with this conversation. Except that. I had been wondering the same thing. This is a shit life I’m living. Time to eat the gun?

“I felt wobbly for months.” She had found a limp handkerchief in her purse. “It was over for him, but it pulled the heart out of the rest of us. Killed my husband. Stroke. My daughter’s never been the same, and the awful thing is, I’ve been thinking about it lately. I mean, I love my daughter. And my granddaughter, but I’m hating living. That’s actually what I thought of when I heard you groaning.”

I was underwater. Couldn’t see the surface. Out of breath. Watching the bubbles float up . . . I fought with myself. I did. Don’t speak. Get up. Get off. Get the next train. This old lady was sick. I knew the feeling. Wasted, hopeless. Was there anything I hadn’t fucked up in the last twenty years?

“I’m not going to,” she said, reassuring me. “It’s too chickenshit.”

That choice of words surprised me and I turned to her. Cop face. My best scowl. Scare mask. “Who do you think I am!”

She didn’t flinch. “A sad man,” she said.

 

I didn’t have to go into the office the next day but I did. I made several hours of unproductive phone calls, ate a thin sandwich on a park bench for lunch. Got to thinking. An extra-added attraction? I might see the businesswoman if I took the same evening train.

But no payoff. She wasn’t on the train. The pretty boy was, his lip still swollen. He read the Journal and got off at Scarsdale again.

I didn’t see or sit next to the older woman, but I could remember every word she’d said. Could still smell her sour talcum. Could see the spots on her hands. The way she’d arranged the scarf to cover her neck. Could see her at her son’s grave. At her husband’s grave. Could see her at a coffee-stained table, coloring with her granddaughter.

Last night I’d cleaned and oiled my service weapon. Set it by my bedside. Left it there this morning. Wondered if tonight’s train ride home would give me ammunition to change my mind.

 

 


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events.

Fridays With Dale: Ads and Cowhides

Title with image of author

Dale Angel

 

Ads and Cowhides

by Dale Angel

The ads feature all kinds of stuff we need to enjoy life more. There are pictures of huge chairs and couches made of black or brown leather…a refined word for ‘cowhide’.

For a little extra money you can have a place built in the arms of couches or chairs for your beverage of choice. It relieves one of using their arms, and alleviates the few steps to the refrigerator.

The ads indicate you need a wide screen to go with those loungers of great comfort.

Is selling these objects a subtle way of cultivating an appetite for self-destruction?

I’ve noticed after one falls into these comfort zones they fail to recover for hours. These lifeless areas of life add five pounds. Monday mornings their pants shrink and the buttons won’t work.

After a few years of practicing riding these cow hides they can’t breathe going up a single flight of stairs. Fancy names like Lazy Boy should be a red flag.

If the screen breaks down during a really big sports event, anxiety and distress indicate withdrawal symptoms. Bigger pickups apparently soothe and meet that need. Maybe because they have lost an important part of the masculine anatomy.

A limp self-destructing life may be caused by a failure to believe in raking the leaves or painting the house, so you pay the gym for the privilege of pumping iron. That same physical activity can enlarge all aspects of the body by running behind the lawn mower or repair the roof or some other useful work. An added benefit is you can learn to breathe again, maybe even climb ladders.

One of my neighbors returned a lounger because the neck rest was not angled right. Now, necks are so soft one can lose his ability to hold up one’s head. Can back problems be healed if one crawls off the cow hide? I hope before the neck fails to do its job, there are special doctors on every corner for failed backs and necks.

I’m keeping in mind shopping on line is a form of self-destruction when you’ve sit so long one’s feet have no feeling, a good indication of my own symptoms of chasing the ads while sitting on cow hides.

There were awesome bargains for personnel, she got first dibs and took home pick-up loads, after she plundered the spoils. I was left with a bikini, size 2, entry level bras, and old women’s shoes, the kind you wouldn’t be caught dead in. The kind I wear today.

Beautiful instrumental music came through the intercom. She sighed and said “That is the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.” I grabbed my polished sword and plunged it between the third and fourth rib as my lips answered “Yes, it is. It was written by The Beatles.”

She told me to set up a display for vases. I said “There’s a mistake. It says the price is $12.98. I just bought one of these at the dollar store.” She appeared defensive, fatigued, weary, and said that I lacked ‘retail savvy’. I think that includes salable skills.

It got worse. They put me in fabrics. Me! I suffer from ‘textile dementia’.

When the soft rose paisley brushed against me, I buckled and took it home. Then there was the blue polyester silk I saw myself draped in it. I couldn’t pass up 16 yards for so small a sum, there was more, at the end of the week, I had to pay them to work there.

I couldn’t count past my fingers and toes to, when a customer asked for a yard and three-sixteenths…six inches of the yellow and a half yard of the green…add the quarters of five eighths to that…cut three and one fourth plus half inch pieces…add another quart of the blue…a cup of tea and a half gallon of the stripped and one fourth of a teaspoon and a mile and a half and eight tenths of a pound two ounces plus five grams…

I had to excuse myself. I needed to scream.


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction 9.) Poetry

Short Story Contest Entry: Thin Air

Our Writers Forum 2020 Short Story Contest is officially closed. We received two more stories at the September 15 deadline, so we have two more stories to enjoy!

The contest judges are hard at work as we speak. Winners will be announced on September 30.

Since the contest judges are supposed to be judging the entries without knowing who wrote them, the author’s names will be withheld until after the winner selection. After the winners have been chosen, all authors will be identified, and the top three stories will be re-posted.

All submissions will be posted to the website and the Facebook page, and will also be considered submissions to the Writers Forum anthology, River’s Edge, to be published at the end of the year.


THIN AIR

What would happen if TECHNOLOGY taught itself to become EVIL?

 It was awful. The Boeing 727 passenger plane crashed into to the Kansas wheat field and exploded with its 70 passengers and crew. They didn’t have a chance. The NTSB safety investigators could not figure out why the pilots lost control on a bright sunny day. The theories ranged from a rare high-altitude whirlwind to a friction-caused spark invading a fuel line. Nevertheless, all perished.  The Salinas Journal described the horrific disaster best: “There was nothing left larger than a card table.”

 

Aboard the flight were Franklin and Emily Ludlow, an affluent elderly couple from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  Mr. Ludlow was the CEO of Array Systems, a Fortune 500 systems developer in New York City. The Ludlow’s were returning home from an Outer Space Roundtable Conference in the Silicon Valley. They are survived by two fraternal twin daughters, Alexandra and Kelliann who are completing grad school tech PhD degrees at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Cornell.

 

The graduations and acceptance of the coveted PhD degrees by Alex and Kelli separately at two universities a few weeks after the accident was chaotic to say the least. Alex had completed a dissertation on Machine Learning, and Kelli a short distance away received a PhD in Human/Electronics Interactive Systems. But there was little joy at these amazing accomplishments. Both of the girls had excelled in school and sports throughout their 25-year-old lives, but they were still saddened and depressed by the devastating deaths of their parents and the pending sale of their cozy and comfortable properties on the Vineyard.  They were completely confused about any career plans, because they were still grieving for their loving parents.

 

A beautiful summer day a few weeks later on the Boston waterfront found the girls at a cheerful seafood restaurant on Pier 6. They had been mostly successful at surviving the airliner crash and their parents’ deaths, and they were enjoying seafood salads and the view of nearby sailboats.  Both had job offers because their tech skills were fantastic—they were more concerned about where and when they would go to work.  With the sale of the estate, money was not an issue, but both were weighing the process of choosing something interesting in the fast-moving tech field. The conversation steered itself toward the potentially disappointing results of a bad career choice that was predictable, if not eventually boring. After all, anybody could be a Network Administrator. They shared excitement about seeking the Edge.

They stayed at their pier-side table well into the late afternoon. Finally, Alex who was 33 minutes older than Kelli, took the lead in bringing up the ‘Question’.

“Hey, Kelli, you remember that conversation we had last year when our flight was canceled for the basketball tournament at Rutgers? You know the one about secretly going rogue and hacking the tech to offload millions of bucks that nobody could trace?”

“Of course, I remember that……it was just fantasy because we were bored. But it’s so easy if you understand the penetration.”

“Well, we now know the Global Positioning System is vulnerable. Easily intercepted and redirected with no human trace.”

“Look, Alex. That is a crime. But, on the other hand, it’s not a crime if no humans are connected.”

“And it would be really exciting and challenging,” Alex grinned.

“What the hell,” Kelli responded. “We could reprogram the system interaction at the university lab in a few hours.”

“Say no more!!” Alex added. “It sure won’t be boring. Mums the word—as our father used to say from World War II, ‘Loose lips sink ships.’”

 

 

As the girls confirmed the technology in the Cornell engineering department, they pursued a conversation with an elderly professor from Germany who had spent years matching algorithms with global positioning.

“Dr. Braun, we know the algorithm properly designed can intercept and guide the GPS beam, but with technical guidance can it capture the precise target and move it?” asked Alex.

“Well, neither technology was meant to move objects such as a computer or a television set.  They were originally of course meant to adjust outcomes or pinpoint locations.

“However, there are simply programmed sensors that can create gravitational spaces that can propel algorithm-driven air movements of small objects, and these can be directed.  For example, the GPS that is targeted can push a small object such as a wastebasket or box of chocolates across the room. This hasn’t been marketed, but has shown interesting results in the laboratory.

“For example, a possible marketing development could be a situation where an emergency alert from the combined devices could push an endangered child away from an oncoming vehicle, or separate incompatible containers that might catch on fire or explode.

“We are excited about these developing super-sensors that can be controlled by algorithms: The sensors will execute a movement if the algorithms control the commands. Amazon is already using this beta technology for package movements to shipping points.

“We will probably share the equations with Rensslaer Polytechnic Institute when we finish the proofs. There is great potential for these combinational technologies to control movements independent of human presence. The U.S. Air Force Space Command has shown great interest.”

 

Later in Starbucks, the twins were doing ice coffee and coffeecake giggling like teenagers.

“OK, we’ve got the missing link,” said Kelli. The algorithms guide the GPS signal to the bank vault and the sensors detect and move small bundles full of cash with our remote electronic directions by forced air control to an outside door for FedEx to pick up at 2am and mail to our Drop Point a thousand miles away in Nowhere, USA!”

“Well, “said Alex thoughtfully. “It’s not quite that simple, but with some technical adjustments we can control robberies with technology from afar!”

Kelli added, “The only problem is the big banks have excellent security systems, and the small banks don’t have enough assets to make the risks worthwhile. We will have to do some scouting to identify the middle-size institutions that still have last generation technology that can be bypassed.”

“Shhhh!  Not so loud,” Alex giggled.  “We don’t want the Starbucks server to know we are going to change the world from a thousand miles away!”

 

A little log cabin in the Catskills with a roaring fireplace—a great place for Alex and Kelli to plan their mega-cybercrime.  The first order of business is for both of them to disappear from the face of the earth.

Changing their virtual existence to males as Buddy McIntyre and Kory Dawson and creating new paperwork because they also died as ground victims in the plane crash a few months ago with no recovery of the bodies. Buddy moved to Placerville, California, and Kory moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina—both locations having regionally active high profiles, but low national visibility. Buddy could function as an unemployed day laborer and Kory as a casual Uber driver, who could oversee their technical plans secretly with connections to their targets, but with no connections to the documented or financial world. Meanwhile, the real Alex and Kelli females could operate as part-time first name-only motel maids or food servers named Mary and Alice in remote surroundings. Most of their payments could be arranged in cash.  Furthermore, their crimes would be managed on the East Coast by Alex in California and on the West Coast by Kelli in North Carolina. They would communicate in Chinese or French through foreign sources.

The objective here is there must be three degrees of separation from all records:  birth, payroll, Social Security, driver’s license, school records, media, taxes. Let the crimes move to Cold Cases, with backup means for fleeing the country if necessary.

The project can be stopped at something like $5 million, but the true identities must be concealed and reconstructed.  The alternative is life in a 9 x 12. The objective is to disappear into ‘thin air’.  The enforcement effort would be fatigued long before they could connect the Cold Case: ‘nothing solved’ so robustly veiled.

 

Having designed and completed their social disappearance to avoid detection, the girls set up their electronic technology project in Alex’s Rensselaer Polytechnical University lab near Albany, New York, and Kelli’s retreat in Array Systems, the former family-owned corporation in New York City. They arranged total secrecy as Alex created the machine learning algorithms, and Kelli programmed the GPS intervention to allow sensor connectivity and directional control.

While this project would be a total mystery for a GenY gamer, it was a tedious, expensive but doable assignment for two ambitions PhD women who were credible, intelligent, published…..and just a bit greedy.

The machine learning applications are the scientific development of algorithms and statistical models to perform specific tasks relying on patterns and inference. In this case, “Where is the cash?”

The GPS abilities go far beyond locating a restaurant or meet-up location: They include global cell networks, electric grid, stock market, hospitals…and of course financial markets. Through hacking techniques such as jamming and spoofing its satellite signals, the GPS can be blocked or redirected to create damage or inaccurate misdirection. In this case, scanning to detect, “Where is the cash?”

For example, in low profile rural Oklahoma, there may be a handful of small banks with big payroll or revenue deposits identified by GPS movements of the FedEx and security trucks that move from a retail department store to their bank three times a week at 2:00pm, or Home Depot’s Friday night electronic deposits that meet unique algorithm requirements that satisfy the question: “Here is cash that is available.”  $50,000 in interceptions with a half dozen computer clicks, and redirected instantaneously to an offshore account in Switzerland, is not a bad day’s work for two lady Brainiacs. Two more clicks and the transaction are erased, and it’s time for a 4 o’clock martini.

 

Once the machine learning was connected to the Global Positioning System, the twins Alex and Kelli were ready to terrorize the United States financial system.  Alex in Placerville, California chose distant Ocean City, New Jersey as an inconspicuous target near the Atlantic City tourist sector; Kelli in Winston-Salem, North Carolina chose Yakima, Washington as an unlikely victim amongst the agriculture market. The first month Ocean City yielded $110,000 to their offshore account, and Yakima gave up $65,000 that seemed to have disappeared into ‘thin air’. The twins chatted happily in French over their private foreign line that their human-free heists were working.

For the next year chaos reigned.

“Who robbed the bank?” “We have no witnesses.” “Where is the paper trail?” “Is this a Chinese hack?”  “What the hell is the FBI doing about this?” “No weapons, no photos, no fingerprints, must be an inside job.” “It’s being officially designated now as a Cold Case. We’re still looking for a break in the case.”

A particular robbery was documented by the Coeur d’Alene Press in Idaho, where the bank and law enforcement were stupefied by a total lack of any clues and moved it to Cold Case status within a few days. The report was picked up by the ABC TV national network that featured a local high school graduate celebrity Tyler Parker:

 

COEUR D’ALENE COPES WITH ‘THIN AIR’ BANK ROBBERY

Coeur D’Alene Press

 

Coeur D’Alene is a beautiful tourist destination city of 50,000 people in Northern Idaho. It attracts sportsmen and retirees who revel in its comfy pursuits from golf to boating to skiing.

Tyler Parker is a 19-year-old high school grad who was lucky enough to grow up enjoying the unlimited recreation and also be recognized as the local high school Valedictorian. As a student Viking, he was the handsome football quarterback, Prom King, track star and attendee to the Honor Society Conference in Seattle. His greeting was, “Once a Viking, Always a Viking.” But he was already admitted to the University of Washington Engineering School, so he would soon have to change his greeting to “Once a Husky, Always a Husky.”

It was a beautiful spring day when the downtown Lake Center Bank was robbed. Nothing like that had happened in years—actually not ever that anybody could remember. How could that happen? The first estimate of stolen money was announced by the manager in the daily paper—something over $50,000.  The theft was later revised to $90,000—and the next day to $92,000 after an audit of tourist deposits was completed.

 

Of course, law enforcement from the city and state were immediately involved in the investigation:  What was the MO?  Any witnesses? Inside job? Any camera surveillance? Any unusual activity in the bank or neighborhood?  The only activity they found was the normal FedEx pickup at 2am was made as usual and completed its route to Spokane 40 miles away.  The bank manager was held for questioning overnight and into the following day.  All this left law enforcement with nothing but a lot of empty coffee cups and the bank manager with no answers charged with a possible felony.

Enter Tyler:  He was always the curious type, and crazy-smart.  He actually hung around the Police Station a lot. His father was on the City Council that permitted him access to most of the offices and occasional Ride-Alongs.

A few days later he joined an investigation meeting at the bank. No progress had been made. The Chief of Police opened with, “Well we are faced with $92,000 vanishing into ‘thin air’ without a trace. I’m looking for ideas.”

After a while, Tyler asked softy, “Can I say something?” Of course.

“Well,” Tyler began, “It looks to me that you have covered all the bases on your checklist. Nothing vanishes into ‘thin air’. But what you haven’t covered is remote technology. That would be unthinkable—except that it does exist at the research level, and in special environments like space travel. The possibility here is that some exotic combined technology has been applied to this situation about which we have no knowledge.

“I am thinking this will progress to a Cold Case until the responsible source makes a mistake. I suggest you begin the Cold Case process. Right now, you are just wasting your time.”

The investigation team was discouraged, but realized Tyler—as usual—made a salient point.

Mobile, Alabama: “$60,000 stolen

Scottsdale, Arizona: $403,000 disappeared

Fargo, North Dakota: $38,000 suspect international conspiracy

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: $92,000 tourist deposits victimized

Savannah, Georgia: $214,000 suspect Russian conspiracy

 

The twins were relaxing at a Miami resort a couple of months later to review their success: pretty well on their way to their first million. As Alex explained, “There are only a hundred people in the world that are machine learning experts, and only a couple of hundred that are GPS experts. How many of them give a damn about some hackers that don’t exist?”

Kelli paused as she climbed out of the Olympic-size pool, “And the law enforcement crowd is waiting out the Cold Case—personally, I doubt if they could operate an ATM machine!”

 

A few weeks later, with the Cold Case turned to ice, and another half dozen financial attacks across the country, a middle school class in Amarillo, Texas was enjoying a presentation by the neighborhood police officer. He was well known for befriending the kids, and doing favors while looking for opportunities to talk safety and good citizenship.  His name was Officer Pete.

One moment in the two-hour presentation, a bright student named Shelly, who was also a serious soccer player, said, “Hey Officer Pete, I have a question.”

“What’s on your mind, Shelly?” Officer Pete responded.

“Well it’s about the ‘Thin Air’ Cold Case that has stolen a million dollars. My 7th grade tech class has been studying it, and we’re wondering why the cops are not checking out Rensselaer Polytechnical in Troy, New York—their grad school is the only place on earth that combines machine learning and GPS technology. And there is a female graduate in California according to the Sacramento Bee, who is a homeless food server with an Array Systems Fortune 500 credit card history who is supposed to be dead. Extraordinary combinations can be just as valid as common combinations—we would pursue those facts, but of course we don’t have any money.”

“Shelly, excuse me, I’ve got to step out and make an important phone call to the FBI,” Officer Pete answered with a shocked and scary stare.

 

The ‘Thin Air’ Cold Case ended abruptly. The ultra-clever twins Alexandra and Kelliann Ludlow, AKA Alex and Kelli,  AKA Buddy and Kory, AKA Mary and Alice overlooked the emergency $7.50 ARRAY CORPORATION credit card midnight purchase for a horrible head cold by Alex at a tiny South Tahoe 24-hour convenience store for some cough medicine on a miserable rainy night in California. Game over.

 

We will always ask the question, “Just who is more stupid, the PhD twins who are serving 20 years in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution, or the Texas 7th grader Shelly who reads the Sac Bee online every day and is captain of her middle school soccer team?”   And was it really a ‘Thin Air’ masterful world-class high-tech deception or a misguided cyclone of million-dollar tech garbage that would eventually be doomed in a prison cell of idiotic stupidity?

 

 

 

————The End  ————

 


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events.

Short Story Contest Entry: Miss Radda

An elderly woman's folded hands

Today we have another entry received for the Writers Forum 2020 Short Story Contest.

There is one day remaining until the contest deadline. The entry deadline is September 15, 2020. Be sure to finish your stories and submit them. This might be a good time to remind everybody of the prizes…

Prizes

  • 3rd place: 1 year paid WF membership 
  • 2nd place: same as 3rd place, PLUS a one year gift subscription to the winner’s choice of either Writer’s Digest or Poets & Writers magazine
  • 1st place: same as 2nd place, PLUS  Writers Forum Membership Director Aaron Steinmetz’s help in e-publishing the winner’s book
    • If the winner has a full length novel (or novella if they’d like) he can take them all the way from Word Document to printed copy (similar to what he did with River’s Edge) and also produce a Kindle version. The winner can also do this with short stories. Aaron will set them up with an account and the winner will have full access to it to create either hard copies or Kindle versions or both. 
    • Aaron does not edit manuscripts. Winner is responsible for all pre-publication editing.

Since the contest judges are supposed to be judging the entries without knowing who wrote them, the author’s names will be withheld until after the winner selection. After the winners have been chosen, all authors will be identified, and the top three stories will be re-posted. The contest is only open to Writers Forum members. Click here for the complete contest rules.

All submissions will be posted to the website and the Facebook page, and will also be considered submissions to the Writers Forum anthology, River’s Edge, to be published at the end of the year.


 

An elderly woman's folded hands

Photo by Claudia van Zyl on Unsplash

Miss Radda

 

Lily turned and cut through the Social Services parking lot. Full. She entered the Amtrak area, made a U-turn, and parked along the street. Ten minutes later, she led Miss Radda down from her third-floor “Lady Bella” room, fastened her seat belt then started the engine.

“Wow, you have beautiful legs,” Miss Radda said. “You shouldn’t have any problem catching a man, even at forty-five!”

“Thanks, Miss Radda, that’s nice of you to say.” Lily smiled.

“Where are we going first?”

“You said you needed to go to the post office and get your check, right?”

“Oh, yes, but we have to hurry.” Miss Radda held the dashboard as Lily turned the corner and faced the familiar tracks. “The lady at the bank told me to be there by 4 pm.” She pressed her hands together. “Please, please, Lord, don’t let a train come.”

Lily stepped on the gas and they bumped over the tracks.

“Oh, goody, we made it!” Miss Radda squealed.

 

*****

Lily parked at the eastside post office, left Miss Radda buckled in and fetched the mail. After returning to the car, Lily handed her once mentor the two envelopes she had retrieved. Miss Radda put the white one containing her monthly check into her handbag, then stared at the yellow one.

“What’s this? Probably a piece of crap. They are always sending me junk mail. Just yesterday I got a call. The lady said, ‘You won a three-day trip to Florida. Three days and two nights.’ Well, I’m smarter than that. I know you don’t get something for nothing.”

Lily began the drive to the bank while Miss Radda rambled on. “Okay, what time is it?” she asked. “I have to check my watch.” She put her face less than three inches in front of her wrist. “We have 13 minutes. I can’t be late.”

“We are only two blocks away,” Lily said.

“But now we have to stop at a damn light.”

Lily entered the bank parking lot and sighed in relief.

“Oh, here we are,” Miss Radda said. “What time is it?” She checked her watch again. “Eleven minutes before 4 pm.” Looking at Lily, she said, “You are a good, fast driver. Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

Lily rolled down her window and turned on the radio to a welcoming melody. I sure hope someone is there for me when I get older, she pondered. But, am I being selfish? Do I help her because I believe it will guarantee a return when it’s my time?

 

*****

Several evenings later, Lily penned the following in her journal.

She seems different, not her normal crazy self. Sunday I stopped to drop off the items she requested. Miss Radda explained why she didn’t want me to buy her normal items.

“You know, I’m going on a trip.”

            “Oh,” I thought for sure Miss Radda would tell me she was taking a bus to her sister, Elsa’s, near Sacramento. “Where are you going?”

            “Outer space!” Miss Radda lowered her head and crossed her eyes toward Lily.

            “Outer space?” Not quite the answer I expected. “That should be fun.”

            “Yes. I need to go before the Antichrist comes.”

            “How are you going to get there?” I asked.

            “A space ship is coming for me.” She opened her refrigerator and put the two half-gallon jugs of milk on the door in her uniform manner. “I have credit, you know.”

            “I didn’t know that.”

            “Yes, and I’ll call you and let you know when it’s coming so we can both escape the Antichrist.”

            “Okay, thanks, Miss Radda. You get some sleep now.” I headed toward her room door. “Remember, you have a doctor appointment with Cindy tomorrow.”

            “Well. I hope I feel okay. Tuesday is my hair day. I told her I might be too tired. Good night now. Thank you. I’ll call you. Bye-bye,” Miss Radda had the door locked the minute I stepped out of her room.

            Even though the doctor changed Miss Radda’s medicine and she hadn’t talked about her trip to outer space since, she seemed withdrawn, and more childlike. She started calling me more often. “Am I her only contact?” I wondered.

 She doesn’t talk about getting out any more. Normally she goes to the restaurant around the corner at least three times a week. She gets her change for her twenties from there so she can pay me the exact amount due. Now she’s asking me to cash her larger bills on a regular basis instead of doing it at the bank. Her grocery list is shrinking which gives her reason to call almost every day. I told her on Friday that I’d be busy all weekend and wouldn’t be able to help her again until Tuesday.

            “Not until Tuesday, huh?”

            “That’s right. I have too much to do. You should be set for now.”

            “Okay, well, thank you. God bless now,” she sounded off.

            The next night I played my voice mails and heard her plea. “This is Miss Radda. Could you please return my call. I’ll be up until 9:30. I need a couple things from the drugstore. Bye, bye.” That was Saturday night, just a day later. I didn’t feel like calling her back. I don’t want her becoming so dependent on me.

Else warned me. “She’s smart. She’ll call you all the time if you let her.”

            “I know. That’s why I hold her accountable and make her pay me every time she wants me to run an errand for her.”

            “Yes, but she’s got more money than she knows what to do with. There are other people who can help her. She can call a taxi.”

“I know she can afford a taxi, but I also know she’s afraid of strangers, especially men.”

Else hasn’t seen her sister in over a year. She doesn’t realize how hard it is for Miss Radda to walk, or to get in and out of a car by herself. I can’t help but think of my own mother who’s older than Miss Radda. Fortunately, she is still able to get around on her own. But taking care of Miss Radda reminds me to call my mom more often. It also reminds me of my own demise one day, and I can’t help but continue to ask:” Who will be there for me when I am in need?  Will someone special take a liking to me as I have with Miss Radda?”

 

Lily closed her journal, placed it in her drawer and turned out the light. She prayed before drifting off to sleep. “Thank you, God, for today. Thank you for tomorrow and each day I am granted. Thank you for Miss Radda and for me being able to watch over her.”

 

*****

“I’m coming, Miss Radda. I’m coming. I’ll save you, I promise!” Loud sirens jolted Lily from her sleep. The blare of morning fire trucks was a harsh reminder of the hazardous north state summers.

“Oh, thank God, it was just a dream,” she said upon waking. With the morning sun peeking through her townhouse shades, all she could recall was watching Miss Radda being sucked up into a cloud funnel. Knowing that her friend of almost four decades finished breakfast by 7a.m., Lily phoned an hour later.

“Oh, good, you rang,” Miss Radda said. “Are you ready for my list?”

 

*****

After another triple-digit-temperature day of errands, Lily slipped into her sneakers and ran a brush through her coal black hair. Crunched for time, she hesitated before answering her Samsung.

“Lily here.”

“Hey, it’s Macy.”

“Hi. What’s up?”

“Calling about ‘girls night out.’ We’re meeting at Max’s for dinner at six for starts.”

“Oh, I can’t.”

“What? Did you forget?”

“Yes, and I made other plans.” Lily glanced up at the clock. She had fifteen minutes. Miss Radda worried if she was even minutes late.

“Only a date could be better than girls’ night out,” Macy chided.

“Well, I do have a date . . .”

“With who? You keeping secrets from your bestie?”

“No, not that kind of date,” Lily examined her teeth in the bathroom mirror. “I promised some things for Miss Radda.”

“Didn’t you visit her yesterday?”

“Yes, but . . .”

“And didn’t you tell me she’s back on her psych meds and everything is under control?”

Lily could picture her childhood friend’s stance. “Yes.”

“Lily, she doesn’t need you. She’ll probably be asleep by seven. Besides, how often do you get asked out, for anything, these days?”

“I know, but last night’s dream,” Lily caught her breath. “I don’t know how much longer she’ll be with us.”

“Hey,” Macy’s tone softened. “She’s not going anywhere. She’s what, in her sixties?”

“She seems so feeble now.”

“Yes, but I can still hear her bragging, ‘We Swedish women outlive our men!’ And that was her reason for never marrying?”

Lily’s shoulders relaxed.

“I’ll call you when we’re done with dinner,” Macy interrupted their silence. “You can meet up with us.”

“Thanks, but I can’t promise.”

“Okay,” Macy sucked in a deep breath. “You know, you’re not going to be able to offer that youthful figure to the right man for much longer . . .  and, you don’t need to own Miss Radda’s motto.”

“Well, the right man will love me beyond.” She stole a sideway glance into the mirror. “Besides, all you want me for is my body—as your designated driver!” Lily turned the light off in her bathroom and headed toward the kitchen.

“You got that right, Babe. Now what are we going to do?” Macy squealed the high-spirited laugh that first drew Lily to her.

Lily bent over and inhaled the lavender plant on the counter. “Sorry, Macy, I’ve got to go.”

“No problem, I’ll call later. Give Miss Radda a hug for me, and tell her I’m jealous.”

“Why don’t you come visit her and tell her yourself?”

“You know how I hate those old folks homes. I’ll send flowers. Bye.”

The phone clicked off before Lily could respond. She dropped it into her purse and headed to her car.

 

*****

While backing out of her garage, Lily rubbed the lump on the back of her neck that never seemed to dissipate. Her thoughts wondered back to the day her, Macy, and Miss Radda’s friendship cemented.

“Hey, squirt, you okay?” At nine years old, Macy towered in height over Lily by four inches. With Lily flat on her back after slipping during a “no hands” twirl on the bars, Macy stood tall as a Redwood.

“Yeah, I think,” she managed.

“Don’t move.” Macy turned and hollered out, “Hey, where’s Miss Radda?”

Her voice lowered as she bent down toward Lily. “Miss Radda isn’t just our school nurse. She’s like Florence Nightingale in combat boots.”

Lily grinned.

“Well, you can’t be dead if you’re trying to laugh.” Macy’s freckled cheeks bounced with her smile. “I tell you kid, you need spiker legs, like me, to do the 360 without holding on.”

“Okay, move aside,” Miss Radda scooted past Macy. “How’s the wounded child?” The native Swedish woman of twenty-five swept Lily up into arms of muscle and carried her gently but firmly across the school yard toward her nurse’s office. The hint of lavender on her medical shirt calmed Lily’s nerves.

Still, Lily feared she’d never hear the end of her fall. She thought for sure Macy would chatter about her clumsiness in the same way she heard the clowns at the circus make sport of the shortest one in their group. Instead, over the weeks to come, Macy carried her books for her, and Miss Radda asked her every day, “How’s my patient?” Then she’d wrap her up in a side-arm hug. It reminded Lily of how her hen, Loretta, huddled her baby chicks in under her wings at night.

The school nurse not only presided over children at school, but she also rounded them up for church on Sunday mornings. It reminded Lily of watching her Uncle Roger with the cows at the farm. Uncle Roger used horses to get the cows to go where he wanted them, but Miss Radda bribed children with fresh baked bread.

“All you children have to do is get dressed for Sunday school. Can you dress yourself?” She’d ask the K-2nd graders. Her smile showed a round of milky whites outlined by valentine red lipstick. “Of-course you can. You’ve got two hands, don’t you?” She cornered kids on the playground every chance she got to remind them about Sunday school.

“You don’t even have to wake your mom, or grandma, or whoever it is you live with.” She passed out permission slips for students to bring back to her with a signed autograph from their guardians. “And don’t worry about breakfast. No need to bother anyone. I will have the best tasting, sweetest cranberry bread you ever salivated for.”

“What’s a cranberry?” Kenny’s face crinkled.

“Those red things that make up the jelly we eat at Thanksgiving. Right, Miss Radda?” Lily pushed her glasses back up her narrow, chestnut nose.

“Well, sort of, child,” Miss Radda turned her attention to Kenny. “You like raisins, young man?”

“Well, yeah, I guess, Miss Raidy.”

“You guess? Well, I guess you like sugar, right?” She tousled his hair. “And call me Miss R.”

“Oh, okay. Yeah, l love anything sweet.”

“Good. Don’t worry about what a cranberry is; you’ll be too busy demanding seconds.”

 

*****

Within fifteen minutes, Lily settled upon Miss Radda’s lone kitchen chair. The torn vinyl seat rubbed against her bare legs and the two-room unit smelled of Lysol.

“By the way,” Miss Radda’s voice rose a notch as she sat in her rocker. “Did I tell you Marilyn and her mother came to visit?”

“Yes, you did, yesterday,” Lily said.

“But did I tell you, some witch is trying to screw up Marilyn’s looks!” A mischievous gleam brightened Miss Radda’s eyes.

“Well, no, you didn’t tell me that,” Lily suppressed a chuckle.

“Oh, yes! I hated to tell her but . . .” Miss Radda brought her hand up to her puffy, spotted cheek and paused. “I said, ‘Marilyn, what happened? You look so old!’” She stole a glance around the room then continued, head bent down. “Marilynn said, ‘That’s because you haven’t seen me in over twenty years, Radda.’”

“That’s true, right?” Lily asked.

“Well, still,” Miss R. covered her mouth and coughed. “I said, ‘Yes, but you look older than your mother right here.’” She bellowed out in laughter. “Oh, my goodness.” Lily’s elderly friend took a tissue from her pant pocket and dried her nose.

“What did Marilyn say to that?”

With bottom lip pushed out, Miss R. glanced downward before answering. In a whisper, she managed. “Marilyn shouted ‘I told you, Radda, my mother died years ago. This is my daughter, not my mother!’”

Miss Radda rocked slowly. “I didn’t mean to hurt her.”

“Of course not,” Lily reached out and patted her blue-veined hands. “You had a nice visit though?”

“Oh, yes.” Miss Radda’s chest lifted. “She brought me this mini rose plant.” Her hook-shaped finger shook in front of it. “But the damn thing died.” She reached over, pinched some brown foliage then pushed the plant off the table top. Watching it land in the trash can, she asked, “Did I ever tell you what my name means? Radda?”

“No,” Lily’s voice caught. “You haven’t.”

Rescue, and retrieve.” Miss R. cupped a flittering moth off her lamp, stood, went to the screen-less window and released it.

“My foster parents retrieved me and my sister from the village orphanage after my parents died in a car fire.”

“I, I’m so sorry,” Lily managed.

“Don’t be. “Radda” became my life’s purpose.” Miss R. stared toward the sound on the other side of her room door. “I miss saving children like I did you that morning.”

“Say,” she plunked back down. “What do you have for me?”

The question jarred Lily back a moment. “Oh, yes. I brought you an apple fritter like you asked.” She passed a white paper bag Miss R’s way. “And I finished your laundry. Where should I put your tops and pants?”

“My other lady friend puts the blouses on the white hangers, and the trousers go on the blue ones. Did you wash my brassiere?”

“Yes, I did. Should I put your underwear and socks in the drawer with your bra?”

“Yes, yes, that would be fine. Do you see my purse? No one stole it, I hope.” Miss Radda’s eyes narrowed.

“It’s right there, on your bed.”

“Oh, yes, I see it.” She got out of her rocker and clutched it to her sagging, but ample chest. “Wait right there. Make sure no one tries to come in and use my bathroom. I need to go in there for a while.” Her eyebrows lifted.

“Take your time, Miss . . .”

“Oh, come closer, dear.” Miss Radda stretched out her neck from the bathroom doorway like a tortoise looking for lettuce. “I’m not going in here to extricate or urinate,” she muffled a childish giggle. “I did that right before you arrived. I need to check my money. I want to pay you for your time and for the laundry soap and for the electricity it took to wash my clothes. Will ten dollars do? That’s what my regular lady charges me.”

“Yes, that will be fine. Take your time. I’ll wait.”

 

*****

Lily heard a light tap on Miss Radda’s door to the hallway. She opened it to sky blue eyes of a snake-skinned woman teetering on her walker.

“Who are you?” Her hand shook midair. “Why are you here?” A smudged lanyard revealed ETHEL as her name.

“I’m visiting my friend, Miss Radda,” Lily said.

“Sh  e . . . h el p s  m e.” Ethel’s head shook with each sound she rolled out. “Got to go,” turning her handle bars, her slip-free, socked feet scratched onward until she halted at the end of the hallway. A crash into the glass door exposing a small fenced-in grassy area set off an alarm.

“It’s Ethel again,” a heavyset, thirty-looking assistant called behind her at the male resident nurse as she waddled toward the escapee.

From across the hall, Lily heard, “Arnold, it’s time for medicine.” She watched an Asian gal push the wheelchair of a crumbled-up man back toward his room. Pausing in the doorway, like the mother of a new-born, the gal wiped the drool from Arnold’s mouth.

Oh, God, I hope in my later years, I’ll be shown the same grace and compassion that these employees give.

Miss Radda’s beckon, “Come, I’m done,” brought Lily back. She closed the door behind her and faced Miss R.

“Here’s for all your trouble.” Miss Radda grabbed Lily’s hand. “Now don’t tell anyone about our arrangement. People are so nosy around here.” She pressed the neatly folded one dollar bills into Lily’s palm.

“Thank you. Don’t worry, it’s our little secret.”

“Yes,” Radda giggled. “Our secret. It’s okay to have little secrets.”

“Yes, it is.” Remembering last night’s dream, Lily asked, “Are you feeling okay?”

“We Swedish women out live our men,” Miss Radda recited. “Now, you go on home.”

Lily slowly shouldered her purse strap. “Thank you for sharing about your name.”

“Oh, nonsense,” Miss R. winced. “Come here, let me hug you. You are such a nice lady.” She stepped forward and stretched out her rag doll arms. Lily enveloped Miss Radda’s slightly hunched back and shrunken shoulders.

“You call if you need anything else,” Lily said.

“I will. You are such a sweet lady. God bless you. Bye, bye now.” Miss Radda pointed upward. “He rescues me,” she called out. Lily managed a smile and walked down the hall toward her final exit at the Applegate Rehabilitation Center.

 


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events.

Fridays With Dale: If I Had a Jeeves

Title with image of author

Dale Angel

 

If I Had a Jeeves

By Dale Angel

He’d find my car that gets lost in the parking lot.

And when I’m waiting with my blinkers on, and a little car the looks like a shoe box on roller skates drives under me and gets my spot, he’d remind me how serious a parking lot homicide can be. He would say, “Just unfriend him.”

He’d graciously make me think I was doing him a favor by letting him fill up the car with gas. He’d know how much I hate to fill up the car.

Even though it would require hand-to-hand combat, he’d drag me out of bed for a two-mile walk every day. Plus forty push-ups.

He’d go through the corporate menu hour after hour searching for a human voice to settle their mistake. And he wouldn’t cuss.

He’d pry the spoon out of my fingers when I’m entertaining myself with a quart of ice cream.

He’d pull the little hairs on the back of my neck to interrupt my ‘Used To’s’. You know… “Used to be that they’d fill up your tank and wash the windshield and check your oil…Used to be able to buy a whole bag of fruit for what you pay for two pieces now…Used to be that a family could survive with only one phone in the house.”

When Jeeves takes me shopping, he’d remind me that the industrial sized packs are designed to feed institutions, and the pennies I save in the store become dollars I lose when I have to throw it out because of age or freezer burn or, worse, recycle it and feed it to my friends because I don’t want it to go to waste.

If I had a Jeeves, he wouldn’t allow me to stock up on 911 foods of the kind that sends one to the hospital for stents.

He’d say things like “The army uses little towels efficiently for thousands of men with no fatality.  Why are you interested in those beach sized towels it takes six dollars and two days to dry?”

When I decided to make jalapeno pickles, standard issue was not enough to do battle with. When he saw that I couldn’t protect myself, he’d yell “Disengage! Disengage!” He earns his money.

“Do you really need the set with all eight pieces? Do you really want to store all that stuff?”

When I cover over and coddle my children, he asks “Why would you be so unkind as to deprive him of the consequences and interfere, and thus delay his maturity?”

He reminds me as we drive past the fire station that there are two things you can drop off there: dead batteries and live babies.

He’d understand…I want to suffer empty nest syndrome.

He’d stand in long lines using his precious fleeting life to find ‘they’re out’ what they advertised and that they never even had. And he wouldn’t gripe.


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction 9.) Poetry