The soft click and whirling of the disk let him know it’s working. The screen flashes white then crescendos to a glaring baby blue. When did he become like this? Staring at the screen, hunched forward, hands folded in his lap. Sometimes he forgets to blink, sometimes he forgets to take the suggested breaks. Bathing in blue, he feels and thinks nothing: never aging, never growing. One day he forgets to close the curtains, and the sunshine blots out the screen. He is annoyed, and gets up to shut the curtains on the rainbow hues outside. He returns to the desk and loses himself in the ocean. He feels nothing, and does not grow.
“Urg, I’m not getting anywhere fast enough!”
Sunshine ruffled the long white curtains at Uncle’s house. Joseph sat at the dining room table with books and papers spread like a buffet, head in hands. He was writing a paper, amongst a hundred other things, but it was the paper in this moment that really drove him up the walls.
“What seems to be the trouble?” Uncle walked from the kitchen with two mugs of tea, setting one down next to his nephew, reserving the other for himself.
“I have a paper to write and it’s not writing, but I also have twenty other things to do, and nothing is getting over with and I feel like I’m losing my mind and─”
“Calm down, calm down,” Uncle petted the air. “Take a break and sip some tea.”
“I don’t have time!” Joseph pulled at his hair. “How can I stop when I feel like I haven’t even started?”
Uncle sipped his tea. “Why do you have so much to do?
“I don’t know,” Joseph said with a sigh. “Maybe because there is so much I want to do?”
“Do you really want to do all these things? They seem to only stress you out.” Joseph seemed at a loss for words, though he claimed, “Yes. I’m sure I want to do all these things. If I wasn’t why would I lose sleep over them?”
“You are equally dedicated to each?” Uncle continued.
“I can’t sit and philosophize with you all day.” Joseph leaned back into his work. “Look, five minutes have passed and I have yet to accomplish a thing.”
“Why do you think the turtle is so slow?” Uncle asked.
“What?” Joseph furrowed his eyebrows in frustration, keeping his eyes on his work.
“Why do you think the turtle is so slow?” Uncle repeated. “He exerts so much time and effort and energy into going… anywhere. Into doing anything. Why does he bother at all if it takes so long?”
Rolling his eyes Joseph cracked a smile. “I don’t know. Tell me quick so I can get back to work.”
“Ey, you should really listen to me! One day you’ll wish you had.” Clearing his throat Uncle continued. “To decide what is actually worth getting to. That is why a turtle moves slowly. It may seem like he’s wasting his time, but really he’s not. You must take up your time, look at it, hold it, feel it beating alive in your palms, to know it’s true worth. Only once you’ve spent enough time with time itself can you know what it’s good for and what to do with it. What direction to aim in and say “Fire away!” To know what is really worth getting to is going to take time. Until then, spend your time will all the things, and don’t worry about the act itself too much.”
“So I should enjoy the process and value my many interests, right?” Joseph summed.
“If you don’t mind being a turtle.” Uncle shrugged. Joseph took up his cup of tea, smelled the beautiful aromas drifting from the liquid, and took a drink.
“Where’s Timmothy?” Miss Brown asked.
“Timmothy’s not here.” Lucy answered.
“Are we finally going to have an exorcism?” She asked eagerly.
“Oh, you’re out of luck,” Lucy leaned against the wall opposite the bed, thick sunglass concealing her eyes. Around the room stood Mr Greensly, Mr Pringleberry and Lizzy. A somber, resigned feeling filled the air. “The church called me this morning. Your exorcism has been denied.” Mr Greensly moved next to the bed and brought an axe into view.
“What’s that?” Miss Brown’s face grew troubled.
“You’re execution.” Lucy said gravely. “It’s the next best thing.” On queue Mr Greensly raised the ax above his head.
“Are you serious?” Miss Brown’s eyes widened.
“We have no other options. Either we kill Miss Brown or you do. I think I know which she would prefer.”
Looking up at the man poised to kill, the demon laughed. “Look at you!” He howled. “You can barely lift that ax. Don’t get any sweat on your suit!”
“Shut up and get what’s coming to you.” Mr Greensly said through clenched teeth.
“Oooooo,” the demon smiled. “You’re the one they choose? Or did you volunteer? You’re too much of a pansy to do it, and do it right. You,” the demon motioned with his one working hand, the other still broken. “You think by moving away and getting a nice government job no one would see? No one would guess?”
“Shut up.” Mr Greenlsy whispered.
“Why don’t you tell everyone about Tubby Timmy?” The demon said. “Tell everyone how they stripped you in the locker room and tied you up? Paraded the poor boy all around the school. It was ten minutes before any teacher noticed, but it felt like a lifetime to Timmy here,”
“I bet Pringleberry over there would have loved to see it. He gets awful lonely most nights. The only reason he owns this shit-hole of a motel is because his family drove him out when they found out who he really is.” Mr Pringlberry stiffened in the corner he huddled in. “But don’t let little Miss Lizzy in on it. She can’t seem to find it within herself to like men after being raped by one. And sweet little Lucy the priest. I don’t think anyone here would find it surprising to find out you are not really a priest. Even if you were a man you still wouldn’t be. You’re not good enough. So go ahead, kill me. It will only prove your worthlessness to save this woman’s soul.”
The demon laughed as Mr Greensly slowly lowered the ax. “What do you want?” Mr Greensly asked, desperation for logic thick in his voice.
“This.” The demon said. “I want this. Misery, shame, sadness.”
Lucy’s tall figure deftly moved from one end of the room to the other. Pulling the pillow courteously left under Miss Brown’s head for support she held it tightly and thrust it over the demon’s face.
Everyone started forward. “What are you doing?” Lizzy hissed as the demon’s muffled laugh leaked out.
“We have to kill her,” she said. “It’s the only way.”
No one said a word. At first the demon did not respond to what he thought was a hollow threat. But as time passed and oxygen grew thin he began to worry with his one good hand, pulling lightly as the ropes binding it. Quickly the worry gave way to frantic tugging, the legs kicking out in an attempt to knock Lucy away. She moved out of reach of the flailing but firmly held the pillow in place.
“Lucy,” Mr Greensly warned. “You need to stop. She’s really suffocating.” Lucy did not respond. “I’m serious.” He took a step forward.
“Stay back!” Lucy warned. “I was serious about what I said.”
“Lucy!” Lizzy stepped forward. “We didn’t agree to this. We were just supposed to scare it!”
“We’ll burn the body,” Lucy calmed. “No one will ever know.” Miss Brown’s broken arm became animated and slipped through the ties, grabbing at the pillow and arms, trying in vain to gain leverage to force the attacker off. In the struggle Lucy’s glasses fell to the floor. Mr Pringleberry gasped at the sight. Lucy’s eyes held no love, no redemption, no sign of God. Only unrecognizable, murderous intent.
Finally, the body fell limp and the silence grew cold.
“I met a man.”
“Really? Tell me everything.”
“Well… It was Saturday night,”
“Oh my God! You were at a club, weren’t you?”
“Oh, I can see it now. The lights are dim, the strobes are high, and there he is. Shirt unbuttoned, sweat dripping, skin glistening. He slowly makes his way across the dance floor, bedroom eyes in full effect, hips─”
“We weren’t at a club.”
“So a coffee shop, right? I can see it now. You’re sitting by the window, the night life outside dewy with rain. Did it rain Saturday night? He walks in, white shirt soaked so every muscular detail shines through. He looks at you, you look at him. He approached your table, hips swaying─”
“Why are you going on about hips so much?”
“It’s been awhile…”
“No hips. None whatsoever.”
“Is there at least a puppy involved? He was walking his new puppy and it got off the leash and ran to you sort of thing?”
“Actually we met through work.”
“Oh, so some secret broom-closet action huh?”
“Not at all?”
“It was a business dinner. He’s from the next department over. We sat next to each other and really hit it off. Nothing more happened, but we’re meeting next week for lunch.”
“Can you do me a favor and pay attention to his hips this time, please?”
“I’ll make sure to request he wears a white shirt too.”
I sat on quite possibly the ugliest couch I’d ever had the unfortunate experience of sitting on, next to a beaming bearded man I wasn’t sure I felt comfortable with.
“Hello!” A voice sung. The waitress from the diner twirled out of the kitchen of the quaint house at the end of a block the bearded man brought me to, holding a tray of cookies. Setting the plate before us I leaned in and took a whiff. Yup, freshly baked all right.
“I’m sorry,” I began.
“Don’t be!” The old man slapped me on the back. “It’s not your fault you have such lousy taste in women. You can never tell the difference between the normal ones and the ones carrying an AK-47 in their back pocket, if you know what I mean.” He elbowed me roughly.
“Actually,” I said. “I was going to say I’m sorry I don’t know your names.”
The two looked at each other in surprise. “That’s true,” the waitress said. “We don’t know your name either.”
“Santa is the brand,” the old man reached over and gripped my hand, giving it a good manly squeeze.
“I’m Jezebel, but you can call me Bonnie.” The waitress smiled.
“Mike.” I stated lamely. Taking a bite of a cookie I found it to be delicious. I suddenly became painfully aware I’d missed breakfast and grabbed another. “I didn’t expect to see you two still together.” I said between bites.
“Why wouldn’t we be together?” The waitress asked, sitting in a chair across from us.
“Why are you still together?” I looked between the two with that odd feeling growing in my stomach.
They looked at one another with smiles. They went back and forth in hushed tones. No, you tell him sort of lines. Finally a voice, I can’t remember who it came from, spit it out. “We got married!”
“… What?” The waitress held up her left and, sure enough, a small silver ring glinted on her finger. “It’s been a day,” I managed to get out. “It’s literally been a day.”
“Young love,” Santa smiled. “You know how it goes bub,”
“You’re, like, a hundred years old…”
“We thought it was about time.” The waitress nodded.
“It’s been a day!” I exclaimed.
“A lot has happened,” Santa reasoned.
“You got married!”
“We did,” they cooed in unison, sending each other googly-eyes. I gagged. Santa courteously patted me on the back. “We wanted to thank you for introducing us.” Bonnie continued.
“But enough about us,” he said. “What have you done with yourself all this time?” I raise an eyebrow and ate another cookie, not sure what to say. “Come on,” Santa prodded me.
Sighing, I told the whole story from beginning to end. The chase after the diner blowup, wandering around the city, Shorty catching me, the other Mike wanted for bank robbery, the bounty, and Annette. Silence hung in the air.
“Wow,” Bonnie rested her head in her hands. “That’s so… unfortunate.”
“That reminds me of a story,” Santa chimed in.
“Not now dear, can’t you see Mike needs help?” Santa drew back sullen. Bonnie thought hard. “Why don’t you just catching this man yourself? You don’t have a job; you could become a bounty hunter!” She sat back, awful proud of herself. I thought and thought and thought about it, staring at the floor in concentration. Santa and Bonnie slowly leaned forward in anticipation. I blinked and looked up.
The front window to Santa and Bonnie’s house exploded in a shower of glass. Through the hail a figure leapt through the opening. A flash of floral yellow gave way to caramel skin. The woman, Annett, hung midair, suspended in time as I gazed up at her. She drew her arm back and slugged me with brass knuckles, knocking me out cold.
Once upon a time there was a little girl in a red cape. She visited her grandmother regularly, who lived in the woods and stubbornly refused to move to town, bringing her various food stuffs her mother had baked. One morning she found a trip was called for and the little girl set out through the woods carrying a heavy basket over her shoulder, stamping over the ground in the early morning light.
“Hey,” a voice came from a nearby cluster of leaves. The sudden noise startled the girl and she dropped the basket, spilling the food over the ground. “Hey, little girl,” the same voice came from over her shoulder. Spinning on her heels the girl came face to face with a man, great in stature and presence. Grinning, his sharp teeth filled her vision and caused a shiver to run up her spine.
“Who are you?” She asked, clutching her red cape around her shoulders against the sudden chill.
“Just a guy looking for some fun…” he trailed his eyes up and down her figure. “Where are you heading?”
“To my grandmother’s house,” setting her jaw the girl bent down to pick up the dropped food. The man knelt next to her.
“To grandma’s?” He said, following her every move. “That sounds promising.”
The girl huffed. “If you don’t mind I’d like it if you moved on.”
“Move on to where? I’m a bit of a loner you see,” he said in a sorrowful tone. “So I’d like to keep you as company.” Watching the girl pick up a block of cheese he reached out and took it from her, swallowing it whole.
Huffing again the girl stood, taking the basket with what food she’d gathered. Trudging on it wasn’t long before she heard the heavy footfalls of the man catching up to her. “Was it something I said?” He smile as he put his arm around her shoulder.
“Please don’t touch me.” Out of fear to have, the girl now simply found the man annoying. He chatted the rest of the walk until, standing before her grandmother’s front door, she turned to him. “Leave me alone,” she shouted. Stomping her foot she shoved him away.
“Aww, don’t say that. I’m sure your grandma will love me.”
“Where did you even come from?” Sighing, she rang the door bell.
“Over the river. I’m glad I found you.”
“Just please don’t eat my grandma; she’s quite old and doesn’t have much meat on her bones.”
“I won’t eat your grandma, but I can’t say the same for you. You’re so cute!” He reached out and pinched her cheeks as the front door opened, revealing an elderly woman dressed as a tablecloth.
“Grandma,” the girl sounded less than enthused.
“Who is this?” The elderly woman looked up at the tall man standing next to her granddaughter with wide eyes.
“I don’t know.”
“I found her in the woods.” He grinned. “She was lost.”
“I was not.”
The woman looked between the two and smiled. “You finally have a boyfriend!” She exclaimed. Inviting the two inside she set out milk and cookies, expecting to hear all about their first meeting and future plans together.
Another family story. My grandpa died when I was very young but from the way my mom talked I always imagined him to be a strong man who carried responsibilities well. So when my grandma told me this story I was floored because not only did it undo what I thought of him but also because I had to face the fact I was related to that sort of tomfoolery. We all like to think our parents and grandparents were always grownup and mature, but it’s quite obvious to me now that’s just not the case; which in the long run is alright because it gives me an endless resource of the quirky things people do. Enjoy!
Donald ate supper quietly with his grandparents, their home his home. “Going out tonight?” His grandmother asked out of habitual need for small-talk.
“No, I worked really hard today. I’ll probably hit the sack early.” Donald said, compliantly eating the fourth plate of meatloaf and vegetable soup served that week.
“Hmm, I agree. An early night sounds good.” She said, glancing for a moment to her husband to see him nose-deep in the newspaper of the day, read five times through since the morning. Dinner concluded easily and the three bade each other a good night.
An hour later Donald heard a tap on his bedroom window. Rising from his bed, still fully dressed, he crept over and pushed the glass pane up. Looking out into the backyard he saw two slim figures, ushering him to join them. No further provocation needed Donald slipped through the window, dropping to the ground with a soft thud. Jogging to the edge of the yard he smiled at his two best friends, already heading around towards the front of the house. Like a well-oiled machine the operation clicked along; approaching his grandfather’s truck, his much beloved truck, he opened the driver’s door and climbed in. Shifting the gear to neutral Donald motioned to the others. They pushing, he steering, they moved the truck down the driveway and up the road. A safe distance away from his grandfather’s ever primed ears Donald started the truck and motioned to the others to hop in.
Driving down one country road after another the boys rowdily chatted and listened to the radio. “Hey, let’s go tipping.” One friend suggested.
“Yeah,” Donald immediately agreed, turning down another road.
“Didn’t Leona learn about your bad habits?” The other friend piped up, snickering. “She wouldn’t like it.”
“Eh, don’t worry about her. She’s my girlfriend, not yours, remember?”
Living in the country there were only so many things to keep a teenage boy entertained. Stealing onto private property to tip over outhouses was Donald’s favorite. The boys would chose at random, taking opportunities when opportune, but above all else stood on man in particular. An older bachelor, Mr. Road lived at the end of one particularly long stretched of land, far away from any other houses. It might of been his unyielding orneriness towards everything moving or their inability to let sleeping dogs lie, but for whatever reason the boys always paid him a visit when looking for trouble.
Stopping at driveway of said man Donald parked the truck and turned it off, staring down the long dark pathway. Without a word the boys jumped from their seats and crept along the fence, keeping as quiet as possible. Reaching the backyard they found what they sought; knowing it was always more fun to tip an outhouse when it was occupied the boys hid behind a cluster of bushes and waited.
A few minutes later they heard the back screen door to the house swing open and closed. Watching the dark figure of Mr. Road sleepily stumble his way to the small structure the boys waited until he firmly shut himself in before they joyfully skipped their way across the yard. Silently mouthing a countdown three pairs of hands pushed with all their might. Jumping back to see their handy-work the boys were dismayed when the house sprung right back into place, failing to tip over. Donald looked closer and saw thin bungee cords anchoring the outhouse to a nearby tree. So the old fart was learning, he thought in an awed sort of way. A moment later the outhouse door swung open and out stepped Mr. Road, shotgun in hand.
A sound like thunder echoed over the many surrounding fields as he shot a warning into the air. Donald and his gang ducked to the ground; the sound of Mr. Road’s anger all too familiar and close. “Schomberg!” Mr. Road’s voice rang out. “You little bastard, come on out!” Turning, he spotted the three boys on the ground and raised his gun.
Taking off in a scattered line the boys ran through the yard and jumped the fence, chased by another gunshot and loud curses. Kicking up dirt the boys pealed down the gravel driveway until reaching the truck, sitting patiently where they left it. Jumping into the cab Donald fumbled with the keys while the two others kindly encouraged him. The truck roared to life and the young men drove away, limbs and life intact.
The boys leaned against the cool glass windows to catch their breaths as they drove back to Donald’s grandparents’ house. Stopping the agreed distance away from the property they turned the engine off and once again pushed it down the driveway into the yard, careful to leave it right where the ground was worn from the wear of tires.
“Same time next week?” Donald looked at his cronies. They agreed, having already forgotten the fear of buckshot. Slipping back into the house through his window Donald collapsed into bed and fell straight asleep, content with life and all it held.