School Days

“Become a teacher, he said.  You’ll get summers off, he said.  Molding young minds is rewarding, he said.  Except he left out this part of the job.”

“Talking to yourself again, Tom?”  Liam stepped into the room and let out an expletive.  “I was wondering what was taking you so long.  I thought we were going out for a drink to celebrate the last day of school.  What the heck happened?”

“Those brats are possessed.”

“You’re over reacting just a bit, aren’t you?”

“Am I?”  Tom watched Liam gingerly step over a pool of vomit, before sitting on the desk facing him.

“They’re six-year-olds, little more than babies.”  Liam said.

“Except they act more like the plague.”

Liam’s eyes fell on something in the corner.  “Tom?”

“It’s poop.  I’m not sure whose.  They’re little, feral animals, every one of them.”

“Look on the bright side, you’ve two months of freedom.”

“It’s not enough.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“Today, I got kneed in the nuts.”

“An accident.”

“Maybe.  It happened while wrestling the scissors away from Peter, who was cutting Lucy’s hair.  While my back was turned, Angie spit in my drink.”

“Come on!”

“Katie added a booger for good measure.  The class sat giggling as I gulped down the contents of my water bottle.  Robert told me about it as I removed the glue stick he shoved up his nose.  I sent him to the nurse because he put another one in a different part of his body.  Then Jen bit me and threatened to say I punched her if I sent her to the principal.”

“You’re a grown man.  How could you let this happen?”

“The worst part is, this was the best day I’ve had all year.  So, are you going to untie me, or what?”

 

 

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Blood Is Life

“…become a Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“What was that, Mrs. Heks?” I was distracted by my new partner, Chen, who was vomiting as if possessed by a demon.

The wrinkly woman scowled.  “Please pay attention Officer Jill.”

I managed not to roll my eyes.

“She’s Detective Kalbag,” Chen joined us, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.  “What did I miss?”

Mrs. Heks eyed him for a moment as if trying to decide whether it was better to deal with a woman, or a detective who was still wet behind the ears.  I must have won because she turned to me. “The neighborhood has become a den of inequity.  Full of criminals.”

“Except for you,” I said sarcastically.

“Of course.”

“Did you know the victim?”

“Her name was Cookie Ruiz.”

“Did she have family?”

She shrugged.  “Who knows?  She was a forty-year-old hooker who rented the apartment over my garage.”

I raised my eyebrows.  “You rented to a prostitute?”

“She paid her rent on time, and never brought clients home.”

I left her to Chen, and joined the medical examiner.  “What’s up, doc.”

“I have to get her back to the lab to confirm, but at first glance, I’d say the crossbow bolt through her heart was the cause of death.”

“This is a high traffic area, so I’m guessing she died sometime this morning?”

“Dead since Thursday.”

“Three days?  So, she was killed somewhere else.”  The hair on my arms stood up.  “Like the other one.”

He held up a piece of paper. “Her body was drained of blood.  He left another message.”

I took the paper and glanced at the familiar writing:

Life is blood,

Blood is life

Creatures of the night

Feed on strife

“What’s it mean?”

I frowned.  “It means Warwick Falls has a serial killer.”

The Importance of Being Rudyard

“Rudyard is a stupid name,” Gus declared.

Lisa frowned.  “What about Oscar?”

“As in Oscar Wilde?  Only if you want my nephew bullied.”

“Dickens?”

He gave her the thumbs down.  Looking at his brother-in-law, he said, “Dan, don’t let her name him.”

“I’m surprised by how much I like her choices.”

“See,” Lisa smiled triumphantly.  “What’s with the eye roll?”

“To quote Wilde, ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple.’”

“The baby’s dancing on my bladder, I’ll be back.”  She kissed Dan and waddled out.

“Fess up.  You can’t want to name your son after those stuffy Victorians.”

“Wilde wasn’t stuffy.”

“Kipling was a goody-goody.  And Dickens?  Do I even need to mention why that’s not okay?”

“I enjoy their work.”

“Since when? You hate English literature, rhetoric and poetics.”

“Is Oscar better than Rudyard?”

“Anything is better than Rudyard.”  He sighed.  “Why’re you considering these names?”

“Lisa’s into poetry.”

Gus raised an eyebrow.  “She wouldn’t insist if you hated them.”

“True.”

“So?”

“I’ve been talking to parents and visiting parenting sites.”

“That’s normal.”

“Yeah, well, from what I’m read, kids aren’t just hard work.  They’re real pieces of crap.  They turn your life upside down, cost you a ton of money, and are completely ungrateful.  The teenage years are nightmares.”

“It’s too late to worry about it now.  Besides, once he’s born, you’ll love your son so much, you won’t care.”

“That’s just it.  I know I’ll love him and forgive him for all the crazy things he’ll do:  the temper tantrums, messy room, rude comments, the works!”  Dan looked him dead in the eyes.  “That’s why I want to give him the worse name I can think of.  Revenge before he’s born and I’ve grown to love him unconditionally.”

“Brilliant!”

“Just don’t tell Lisa.”

 

 

 

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To Cut a Short Story

Teresa’s Choice

“Everybody is talking about you.”  Kevin greeted her with the announcement.

“All good, I hope.”  She said, absentmindedly checking her e-mails.

“Teresa’s at it again.”

Putting down her phone, she gave him her full attention.  That explained the nasty looks she was getting around town.  “Now I know how a celebrity must feel in the middle of a scandal.”

Whenever anyone asked her about their falling out, she’d say ‘Teresa felt betrayed and disappointed by some of my life choices.’  She didn’t want to air the family laundry.  Too bad Teresa didn’t feel the same way.

“I shouldn’t have talked you into moving back here.”

“You couldn’t turn down that job.”   It was ten years since her father died, leaving her to her great-aunt’s care, and five since they parted ways.

“She marched up to me on Main Street to announce, in detail, how horrible you are – she’s worse than you described.”  He hugged her.  “I’m sorry.  I can’t imagine living with someone like her.”

Teresa was a spiteful woman, who hid her true self from strangers.  She was manipulative and knew how to play the role of the victim.

Teresa had constantly bullied her about her weight, her looks, and her friends.  She refused to let Lily date and controlled every aspect of her life.  When Lily graduated, she and Teresa had a huge row.  The older woman said some horrible things, including calling her a whore.  She disowned and disinherited her – in case there was any confusion – then kicked her out of the house.

Lily shrugged.  She’d long ago forgiven the woman, even reached out over the years to no avail.  She finally gave up.

Kevin shook his head.  “She’s no family, no friends.  We could’ve been her family.”

“There’s a reason some people are alone.”

 

 

 

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For the Love of Maggie

“Everybody is going.  You really must join me.”  Gwen was worried about him.  Ever since Maggie died, he only left the house for work.

“I was planning on putting on some sweats, and watching the game.”

She tried to entice him.  “Every local celebrity will be there.”

“So, basically the mayor, that girl who won the blue ribbon in the state fair for growing the largest pumpkin, and the guy with the goiter that looks like Elvis.  The goiter, that is, not the guy.”

“You need to get out of the house every now and then.  Your lifestyle isn’t healthy.”

“I work hard and I’m tired,” he pursed his lips.

“John, it’s been a year since Maggie died.”

He crossed his arms.  “I didn’t realize there was a time limit on grief.”

“There’s not, but you’re depressed and things haven’t changed.  Maybe you should go back to your therapist.”

“That insensitive troll said I should replace Maggie.  Can you believe it?  As if I could snap my fingers and replace someone who meant so much to me.  We were together for twelve years.”  He started sobbing.

She felt bad for him, but pressed on, “Perhaps you should find a new therapist?”

“You want me to open myself up to another charlatan?  To belittle my years with Maggie?  All I have are the memories of our long walks on the beach, our drives through the country and our shared love of action films.”

She put an arm around him, and placed her forehead against his.  “Everyone loved Maggie.  I adored the old girl.”

“She never judged me, Gwen, and she was loyal to a fault.”

“I’m not saying to forget her.  I’m just saying that she wouldn’t want you to stop living.”

“She was the best dog a man ever had.”

 

 

 

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