Rewind – Salmonella

This week is a post rewind.  I am working on a few other projects and prepping for a long-awaited and well-earned vacation with my family.  So this week, enjoy a story I wrote for a project called Flash Fiction Friday that my friend Krisann sponsored a couple of years back.  And speaking of Krisann, I am pleased to announce that she will be Sword & Quill’s first guest blogger.  Look for her post on March 16.


It sat before him, like an idol in some long ago temple.  The din of conversation and music was the buzzing of flies, and the sound of firecrackers no more than far off gunshots.

It was Independence Day, the middle of the hot summer.  And here he was.  While everyone else thought they were at a family bar-b-que, to him it was training for some war, not yet started; ice buckets, hot embers blown up into the air, dogs, sisters and squirt guns.  And this.  It was Agent Orange, Napalm, the Weapon of Mass Destruction they had never found: Aunt Clarice’s Egg Salad.

The red plaid table-cloth fluttered innocently in the slight breeze caused by two cousins chasing each other.  He just kept staring at it with an unblinking gaze, as if afraid that if he took his eyes off it for a second it would leap down his throat.  The picnic table was the tower built for the Trinity Bomb, and it was almost time for detonation.

He looked up to the sun.  97 degrees.  He shook his head.  Poor bastards, they’re not even going to know what hit them.  He could see them preparing plates; tri-tip, beans, salad, potatoes, fruit.  The laughter and joy mingled in his mind with thoughts of what that Egg Salad would do to these people.

Suddenly, he saw the first spoonful dip into the creamy top layer, and something snapped.  He exploded from his prone position, running full speed, as fast as his legs would take him. He zeroed in on the target, a bullseye over the glass bowl.  He hit it with the force of a rocket, and watched in fascination as it blew apart upon the ground.

He breathed a sigh of relief, a dollop of egg salad on his nose.  The threat was neutralized.  He knew there would be yelling, but he didn’t do it for the recognition.  He looked around and, for the first time, noticed that the conversation had stopped.  Everyone was looking at him.  He looked at his parents for the first time.  They looked at each other.

“There’s something not quite right with that dog…”

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That Woman: Part 4 of a Story

For Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

The Woman and Mr. Williams

The moment was palpable.

I was riding the elevator down from the 32nd floor, my mind still on the meeting I had just left.  The music was irritating in a vauge way and the person behind me was standing too uncomfortably close.

I was just thinking about what i would have for dinner, and that maybe I would have a beer with it.  Maybe I would even take John and Marie up on their offer to go listen to a friend of theirs play a club downtow…the doors opened.

The moment was palpable.

Everything was right; blonde hair cascading around her face and shoulders like a retro-chic waterfall, the blue eyes that were cold as ice and as warm as a summer pool, the high cheekbones and button nose, the business suit that fit just so.

I noticed other things while we talked; her grandmother’s ring on her right index finger, the black patent leather heels that made her feel taller, the same slightly worn Coach briefcase.  But all of that took time to see.

All I could see were her eyes.


“How long did you talk to each other?”

The question brought me back.  I had gotten lost again.  I cleared my throat.  “Not long.  Maybe five minutes.”

“What did you talk about?”

I took a deep breath.  The bastard wasn’t going to like my answer.  “Nothing.”


“Linds.”  I always called her that.

“Oh my G…Jake.”

You know how sometimes movies do that effect where they’ve mounted a camera on the guy’s chest and then do a strange time state so that the image behind him moves all jerky and weird, but the character stays perfectly center in the frame?  That’s how I felt.  Like the world was crumbling around me, but I was the calm center of it.

“Hi Linds.”  The doors started to close.  We both reached to stop them, our hands almost touching.  I hadn’t even noticed everyone filing out around me.  I’m sure they shot me dirty looks.  It was hard to care at that moment.

“Umm…how are you?”

“I’m…,” how do you even begin to answer a question asked by your ex-fiancée while running into her three years later in the lobby of an office building.  I chuckled at the ridiculousness.  “I’m fine.”

“Good.”  She didn’t seem sure.  “What are you doing here?”

“A firm is wanting to do some remodeling.”

“Oh!  We are renting some space on 14 while we wait for the Newbourne Building to finish it’s facelift.  Wish they had given it to your group.  It’s taken forever.”

“Yeah.  Look Lindsey, we don’t ha…”

“I’m sorry Jake.”  I saw tears welling up in those blue pools.

“Stop.”

“No, really.  I’ve wanted to call and…”

“Stop.  Stop it.”


“And that’s how you left it?”

“Yeah.  I told her to stop.  I told her I was fine.  She was fine.  I told her that life moves on and things get better and…  I told her to stop.”

“Have you stopped Jake?  Have you taken your own advice?”

“Of course.  Only reason I called was because I missed the view out of your window.  Thought it might be nice to come poke a needle into an infected wound that’s five days fresh.”

“Have you moved on?”  He has started ignoring my smartassedness.  Not a good sign.

“Sure!  I got a new apartment.  Started a new architecture firm.  Even started going to a new bar.  I’ve totally moved on.”

“Are things better?  Are you better?”

I turned to look out the window again.  The ferry steam out into the harbor again.  I thought about my life and how it had changed.  I thought about how I would answer.  About how much I wished he would have just let me have that drink at the beginning.

“We did a lot of good work today Jake.  But that’s all the time we have.  Let’s meet again next week.”

Bastard.


I walked down the street.  The warm day was just developing an edge of coolness that spoke of evening arriving.  A breeze was coming off the bay, and I knew soon the fog would come with it.

I was lost in my thoughts; about my feelings for Linds, about the life I thought I was heading towards and in so many ways, still clinging to.  I thought about the changes I had made and why I had made them.  Why no relationship of mine had worked in the three years since Lindsey had left.

When I finally looked up I realized I was in my old neighborhood.  I had walked nearly 2 miles in the wrong direction.  I chuckled at myself, “Typical.”

I looked at the cross-streets.  There’s a pretty nice bar about a block down there, I thought to myself.  “Let’s toast to old memories.”

I pushed the door open, and sat at the bar.  It was empty and quiet inside.  The bartender sidled over.

“What’ll you have?”

“Double Jameson, on the rocks.”

“You got it.”  He busied himself with the drink.

A sign hung behind the bar, “Time flies like a arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”  I read it as he handed me my drink.  I raised my glass to it.  “I’ll drink to that.”

The liquid burned just a little before the ice cooled my tongue.  It was time to move on.

I took a deep breath, and lowered my glass.

That Woman: Part 3 of a Story

For Part 1 and Part 2.

The Sadness and Mr. Williams

I had lied.

Not about a lot, but a couple of little ones sprinkled through.  It made the story better if I left out a couple of parts.  Like not telling Barry I had already gone to Vegas for a lost weekend, and forgotton most of it.  Or like not telling the Doc that the last time I had seen her, technically, was when i had driven past her apartment accidentally on purpose one night.

Or telling the Doc that he was up to speed.  Here’s a tip, doctors don’t want to be up to speed; they want to investigate.  They want to discover.  They want to make it hurt.

They say that’s how the healing happens.

I say they’re sadistic.


“How did it feel when you saw her?”

I watched a yellow and blue sailboat pull into it’s mooring.  I repressed the urge to be a complete smart ass.  “Time stopped.  I wanted to throw up and scream and cry and all I could do was…nothing.”

“But how did you feel?”  He hadn’t looked up.

“I felt frozen.  I felt…what?”  He was shaking his head.  He finally looked up.

“Those aren’t feelings.  Those aren’t emotions.  Those are sensations and reactions.  What did you feel?”

Tricky bastard.  “Like I needed a drink?”  Smart ass had won the battle.

“And we’re back to avoidance.”

“Buildup,” I countered.

“You pay me by the hour.”

He had a point.  I breathed deeply.  “Fear.”  He wrote in his notepad.  “Anger.”  He looked up at me over the edge of his glasses without moving his head.  “And sadness.”

“How do you feel now?”

“Just the saddness.”


Once she walked away, I kept myself composed until I walked into the lobby restroom.  Then I had let go.  There were tears, vomiting, thinking I was done.  More tears.

More vomiting.

I remember making it to the bar down the street.  I remember ordering.  I vaugely remember pouring myself into a cab a couple of hours later.  I don’t remember getting home or falling into my bed.

I knew I was sleeping when I woke up, and I knew I had been dreaming about her because I was crying.  That was all I knew or cared about.  I had seen her.  I had been in front of her.


I had imagined that moment for so long.  I had thought about how it would go.  All the things I was going to say.  How I would tell her how she hurt me.  Apologize if I had hurt her.  That I was finally going to get answers.  I was going to find the truth to what had happened.

Instead, the truth I found was that of normal conversation followed by vomiting.  So pretty much every date I had been on for the last three years.


“So, what happened?”

“When?”

“How did you see her again? How did it happen?”

It was my turn.  I couldn’t keep building it up.  “Well, Doc…”

Continue to Part 4

 

 

That Woman: Part 2 of a Story

Here’s some advice folks: Don’t go near a sick 2-year old.  They are Petri dishes and a violation of the Geneva Convention’s ban on chemical warfare.  They look all cute and cuddley, then you feel like death warmed over for days.  So, after a short delay, Part 2.
If you missed it, or need to refresh your memory, here’s Part 1.

 

The Friend and Mr. Williams

Who she is was a fairly easy question to answer.  Lindsey Walters: 32-years old, blonde hair of medium length with blue eyes of a cooler hue.  Human Resources manager at a large firm Downtown, and fiercely independent.  I loved her.  We had been together for 4 years, until, we simply weren’t anymore.

The rest of it.  Well, that was a little harder to answer.


“…-lliams, did you have anything to add?”  Oh, Mr. Barrow and his gruff bark.

I didn’t look up from my doodle.  I felt Barry’s eyes looking at me from across the table, urging me to say something.  I had nothing.

I made two more lines on my sketch before I answered.  “The supports on page…,” I glanced at the screen of my iPad, “…14A.  Are those braces going to be enough for any further expansions in the upstairs unit?”  My voice was monotone.

Mr. Barrow looked at the head engineer with a raised eyebrow.  I never even listened to the response.  I didn’t care.  The meeting wrapped up and everyone gathered their notes and laptops and iPads and headed for the door.  The meeting had gone 45 minutes longer than it was supposed to.

“So much for scheduling it right before lunch to try to keep everything on time,” Barry muttered.  I nodded in agreement.  “Nice save, by the way.  I thought Barrow had caught you napping.”

“Disinterested, yeah.  But not napping.”  Sadly I hadn’t been napping, I could use the sleep.  I hadn’t gotten a good night of sleep in three weeks.

“Well, judging by the questions Barrow was sending your way, you better get interested in a hurry.”  I acquiesced with a short exhalation of air.  “Ready for lunch, or are you meeting Lindsey?”

Knife to the heart.


“Jake?  You haven’t said anything for several minutes.”

“I was thinking.  Isn’t that what you want me to do?”  I lash out when I feel vulnerable.  I’ve learned this in therapy.

“What were you thinking about?”  This guy is still a bastard.  “All I know is roughly what,” he looked at his notes, “…Lindsey,” still hate hearing her name, “…looked like, her job and that you were together for four years, and engaged for 7 months.”

“Well Doc, you know almost what I know.”  I watched a ferry steaming towards the dock.  “I thought I knew.”


Barry and I finished our beers.

“…and that was it.  She was gone that morning.”

“Three weeks ago? Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Well, your fiance leaves you for another guy, you get a bit bashful.”

“Let’s go out this weekend.  Guy’s Weekend.  Vegas.  Strip clubs and booze.  We can just…”

“No.”  I interrupted his interruption.  “No.”  I put my hand up.  “I don’t feel the need to run to Vegas and sleep with something.”  I motioned to the bartender for another beer.  “More than that, I don’t want to go to Vegas to watch you try and sleep with something.”  Guys have an inate need to drag their heartbroken friends out to get drunk and messy with some coked up blonde when romantic disaster strikes.

“Jake, you have to do something.  You have to get this out of your system.”

“No Barry.”  I avoided eye contact.  That’s the key, always avoid eye contact.  “I didn’t want to talk about it.  That’s why I didn’t bring it up at any point in the last three weeks.  I still don’t want to talk about it.”


I still don’t.  But here I sit anyways.  “So, there you go Doc, consider yourself up to speed.”

He sucked on his upper lip as he reviewed his notes.  “How long ago did this happen?”

“It’s been a while.”  He did that pen tapping thing I loved so much.  “Since the last time I saw her?  Umm…,” I took a deep breath, and tried to act like I didn’t know exactly how long it had been.  “Three years, one month, and eighteen days.”

“And that streak was broken when?”

“Five days ago.”

The bastard nodded his head, made a note, and opened his mouth…

 

Click here for Part 3

That Woman: Part 1 of a Story

Happy 2016 everyone.  We are going to try something new on Sword & Quill this month; instead of posting seperate stories or random thoughts on here every Wednesday, over the next four weeks I will be posting one continuous story, told in four parts.  Let me know what you think in the comments.  Enjoy!

 

The Bastard and Mr. Williams

“Are we allowed to drink at these get togethers?”

“It’s frowned upon.”

I looked up. “That’s not a no.”

He made some marks in his notepad, then peered at me over his glasses. “Consider it a no.”

I shrugged. “Shame. Some of my best conversations have happened over a drink.”  He smiled with a coldness in his eyes.

“Avoidance, Mr. Williams. You promised no avoidance.”

I licked my upper lip.  It was a habit I had picked up at some point.  “Avoidance?  I would only call it that if I never got to the point.  This is just a skillful buildup.”  He ticked his pen pointedly on his notepad and stared at me with those infernal blue eyes.  I looked out the window at the activity on The Bay.  It looked peaceful.  “I’ve been having a pretty rough couple of days.”

“Is that why you called me?”  I peeled my eyes off a particularly stunning sailboat to shoot him a look.  “Ok, that’s fair.  Allow me to rephrase.  Did you call because you’ve been having a rough couple of days, or because of what started the rough couple of days?”

I thought back to five days ago.  Through the alcohol induced haze.  Past the insomnia fueled dreams.  I thought about the day the elevator doors opened, and She had been there.

That Woman.  I never really believed that She would come back into my life.  I may have secretly hoped for it, dreaded it, avoided it, but never believed that it would really happen.  Until the day it finally did.

“Mr. Williams?”

“Just a rough couple of days.”  I lied.  “Not even really sure why I called.  Just thought maybe you missed me.”

“It’s fine.  We can sit here in silence if you’d like.  I get paid by the hour.”

“An hour to sit here and watch the boats come in and out of The Bay.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.”  I shrugged.  “Be better with a bourbon and water,” I whispered under my breath.  But just loud enough.

He frowned over his glasses at me.  “You’re such a Puritan, Doc.  What, did you grow up Baptist or something?”  I was itching for a drink.

“Who is she?”

The question hit dead center.  We’ve lost the mizzenmast Captain, and taking on water on the port side.  “She?”  It came out as a croak.

The bastard waited.

“I think we’ve had enough buildup, Mr. Williams.  Don’t you?  Who is she?”

I inhaled.  I wish he would have let me have that drink.

 

Click here for Part 2.

Spirits of Relationships Passed: A Story

The door slammed shut hard.

“Dammit!”  Amy turned around, fire in her eyes.  “You’re such an asshole Steven.”

“What? I don’t know what I did!”

“That’s the third guy this month.  You can’t just keep scaring away my dates!”

“Hey if they can’t handle your roommate…”

“I don’t think it’s the roommate situation they can’t handle, Steven.  I think it’s probably the way you come floating up out of the couch we are about to sit down on.”

Steven huffed with an air of indignation.  “Well, that guy was no good anyways.”

“You barely saw him!  How could you possibly know that?”

“His grandmother told me that he stole his dad’s car in 2000,” he stated with finality, folding his arms.

“So he was, like…what, 15?!  I’m sure we’ve all done some things our grandmothers wouldn’t be proud of when we were 15.”

“Yeah, your’s was particularly surprised at the things you did with Bobby in the 10th grade…”

“STOP TALKING TO MY NANA!”  Amy closed her eyes and looked down, struggling to regain her composure.  “Look Steven, this isn’t working,” she said with closed eyes and gritted teeth.  “You can’t keep scaring off my dates.  I’m going to end up alone with 13 cats.”

“And a great roommate!”

“You are not a roommate.  You don’t pay rent.  You don’t go to the store.  You don’t dust.”

“Sounds like a roommate to me!” Steven answered with a smile.

“You’re transparent,” Amy retorted.

“That’s…a little insulting.  And highly accurate.”

Amy looked at him.  “You’ve been with me for a long time.  I’m not really sure how to live without you anymore.  But every single one of my relationships can’t be…,” Amy paused, and with a smirk, “…haunted.”

Steven made a valiant effort, but cracked a smile in spite of himself.  “So, what?  I should just let you Netflix and chill with any guy off the street?  I need to take care of you somehow.  And the physical aspect is slightly more…intangible for me.”

“Well, let’s wait and see if I can even get another date.  I’m beginning to get a reputation.”  Amy turned towards the kitchen.  “Then you can start talking to little old ladies to see if they pass your test.”  She looked at the clock.  “How about an episode of Ghost Hunters or two before I go to bed?”

“Now that’s insulting…” Steven muttered as he headed towards the remote.

Today’s post is brought to you by…

This piece was originally written for a writing exercise about two years ago. The prompt was “Fairytell – with a twist.”  I re-edited it for publication this evening mostly because I spent the day with my tumultuous two-year old and was unable to finish editing the piece I had originally planned.  Life is awesome, but unexpected.

What’ll I have? Your choice Jack. Had a hell of a day. I’m sure you hear that all the time, but I mean it. Better make it a double, and spill a little in the glass.

It started first thing this morning. I woke up when a tree sprouted in the middle of my room. Swear to God! It went straight up through my roof. Well, it’s hard to go back to sleep after that. So I went to get dressed and there is a lion, a freaking huge lion, standing in my Wardrobe! I’m not going to hang out in a room with the King of the Jungle so I got out of there and went to make some coffee.

I get into my kitchen, and there’s some old woman with her legs sticking out of my oven! I went to try and help her and see these two brats running through my garden, so I chased after them, but they took off on some bread trail that I couldn’t follow.

About 30 feet down the path there’s a little girl, this panicked look on her face. I asked her what was wrong and she says that her Grandmother just tried to eat her! Said she had this wolfish look in her eye. I sent her towards the Woodsman’s house and continued on my way.

Now, so far, this day has been pretty strange. Hey, that was pretty good, I’ll have another. So I head into town. The Butcher is outside talking to the Baker and the Candlestick Maker, all helping hang a sign announcing his sale on Three Little Pigs in a blanket. Now, everyone knows that these guys are the biggest gossips in town, so I stop by to see if anyone else is having a weird day.  They try tell me that some dish took off with the cutlery and that cows were seen jumping in fields. Well, it was obvious these guys were crazy so I left them and headed into the forest, where I see seven little guys all gathered around this girl in a glass coffin.

Now, I don’t want you to think I’m just some Pinocchio, but I almost cried wolf when I was passed by this rolling pumpkin with a blond in it. I tell you, I just don’t know anymore. This place is getting pretty weird.

Say, these are pretty good, what did you say this drink is called? Fairy-Tale, with a twist. Yeah, that sounds about right tonight, Jack.

A Love Story

Our breathing rang in my ears, and I could feel my heart beating in my stomach.  “Do you think they’ve stopped?”  I glanced behind us.  “I don’t know,” I panted.  “And I don’t really want to find out.  Come on.”  I pushed off against the brick wall, forcing myself to go a little further.

The alley ended at a green wooden fence, and I helped you over before doing it myself.  We were in the patio area of a restaurant.  The patrons stopped their meals and looked at us aghast, their faces illuminated by the candles on the tables and twinkling lights strung over them.
“Reservations here are such a bitch to get,” you said, with a smirk and rolled eyes.  I smiled at your response before taking your hand and leading you towards the front.  We are being chased and you come off with a comment like that.
“Have a good night.  It was delicious,” I state to the maître d’ as we walk casually out of the doors.  He smiles and waves, just another happy customer opening up a table as far as he is concerned.

We head to the side street where the car should be parked, keys inside.  I notice you holding your bag a little tighter to your side.  The bulge inside it a little more conspicuous than I would prefer, but it blends in the shadows of the dusky evening light.
I opened your door first, taking the opportunity to take a quick look around.  I saw him, about 300 yards behind us.  Smoking a cigarette and trying to look like he was on his phone, the furtive glances giving away his true purpose.  I walked slowly to my door, opened it, and started the car.
When I didn’t pull away immediately, you knew something was wrong.  You began to swivel in your seat, but I placed my hand on your leg to stop you.  The spark was immediate and surprising.  “Two behind us.”  I looked into your eyes.  You reached over and kissed me.  Passionately, twisting my head to the side.  You let me go, a fire in your eyes.  “Sorry, couldn’t be too conspicuous.  One more in front.”  “Hey, no argument from me.  Should we just give up now?”  I knew your answer before I asked the question.  So did you, smiling with that grin that you saved for special occasions.
I pushed the brake in and slid the car into drive, slowly pulling forward, even signaling my merge with traffic.  Another car peel away from the curb on the other side of the street.  I needed to get to the other side of the city, but I wasn’t in any hurry.  I was going to make these guys work for their daily rate.
I got on the freeway while you fiddled with the stereo, finally settling on some classic Soul.  The music played, contrasting nicely with the seriousness of the situation.  I couldn’t help myself, smiling and dancing in my seat to the music.  You laughed at my antics, before joining in.  The sight of the two of us rocking out to James Brown, and Kool and the Gang would must have begun to make the thugs following us question if they had the right car.
To confirm their suspicions one of the cars slowly sidled up to our’s.  I got a quick glance of a bald head and leather jacket, before I swung the wheel sharply to the left and back; the car jumping at the combination of the maneuver and the lane bumps.  You grabbed my leg to steady yourself, and I gripped the wheel a little tighter at the unexpected touch.
Their car had attempted to avoid my apparent lane change and ended up over-correcting, spinning out and facing the wrong way.  I pushed the accelerator to the floor and watched the traffic snarl form in the rear view mirror.  “Proud of yourself?”  You asked this as you fixed your hair in the mirror.  “Actually?  Yeah,” I answered as I took the next exit.  “Me too,” you stated, a contended look across your face.
You settled into your seat, snaked your hand into mine, and sighed.  “Y’know, a girl could get used to this.”
I silently agreed with you, squeezed your hand a little tighter, and cast a quick smile at the bag on the floorboards.  “I hope so.”

Vacation-gram: “What’ll You Have?”

Hello All!  I am still on vacation this week.  I am now sitting on the beach, enjoying an iced coffee and some sun.  Or sitting in my room playing Cities: Skyline, which is much more likely.  Anyways, I wanted to make sure you still had something to keep you busy.  This was written for a Writer’s Challenge; the prompt was “What’ll you have?” I felt I took it in a different direction.  Hope you enjoy!

“What’ll you have?”

To most people, it would seem like such an easy question, but I wasn’t most people.

I was born 86 years ago yesterday. I had started a shop in my hometown when I was 19, and turned it into a multinational business. I had married my high school sweetheart and raised four children, a boy and three girls. I was now the proud Grandfather of 8 grandchildren. I gave to the arts and tried to do right by my employees, friends and fellow humans.

And now I was facing death. Literally.

I stared into his kind eyes; they were green, with specs of gold. A faint smile creased his genteel face.

“You’re really not at all what I expected.”

“I appear as what you’ve lived. You’ve lived a good life and have little to fear, so I appear to you as this. To those that cause evil in this world, I appear…” He considered his words. ”…differently.” The smile came back.

He adjusted his cufflinks, and leaned back in his chair. The leg he had crossed lazily over his other bounced nonchalantly in the air. He fixed his unblinking stare on me again. ”So, sir. What’ll you have?”

“What are my options?”

He grinned. ”Spoken like a true business man; wants to know what it he can choose from. You and I will chat here for a while, and then we will leave together, and at 6:15 this evening, your secretary will walk in and find you in that chair. Dead.”

The last word was like a door slam. Not scary, but final.

“What will we chat about?”

“Whatever you like. Any secrets you’d like to know? Any tales you’d like to hear? Any point in time you want to hear about?”

“Who really shot JFK?”

“Lee Harvey Oswald, but he was just a pawn.”

“Jimmy Hoffa?”

“Amazingly, he fell off a bridge and drowned. Mob wasn’t involved at all.”

“Was my father afraid when he died?”

This question gave him pause. He frowned and looked at the ground. I saw him considering, then he took a deep breath, and looked up at me, tears in his eyes. ”He was worried about his family. Worried that you would think ill of him.”

I stood up and walked to the sideboard, pulling out a glass and ice with the bottle of scotch. Looking in the mirror, I raised my eyebrows in an unspoken question. He nodded affirmative, and I mixed two glasses. I walked back to my desk, handed the glass across to the figure, and sat down. I took a sip of the woody liquid and held it on my tongue.

Taking a deep breath, I swallowed. I looked at him. ”Can I write a letter?”

He smiled gently. ”No. It would look like suicide.”

I nodded. ”Can I make a phone call? I promise not to say anything.”

“There’s nothing you could say in that phone call that hasn’t already been said. She knows you love her, and you know she loves you. If you haven’t lived your life like that was the last day, a phone call now won’t change anything.”

“What comes after?”

He laughed, “Adventure, sir. The next part is an adventure.”

I looked at my wall clock. 5:13.

“Almost ready to go. Just need to do one thing…” I pulled out my phone, and wrote a quick text message. ”Okay, let’s go for a walk.”

We both stood. I looked around my office, at the assorted awards and memos, at the plaques and declarations. Then at the photographs of my family and friends. I smiled. ”It’s been a great adventure already.”

Her phone buzzed at 5:14 with a text message from her husband. She smiled as she read the words. 67 years of marriage and he could still make her smile. She got up to start dinner so it would be ready when he got home in 45 minutes. She looked at the message one more time before she set her phone down.

“Can’t wait to see you. I love you more than life itself.”

Tonight at 11….

It started off innocently enough: just getting a little, let’s call it creative, with a small story.  Maybe I sprinkled a couple of “facts” in with the story.  No one double checks our network.  Hell, we are at the bottom of the ratings every night.  Well, were at the bottom.

See, my boss walked in one day, about three weeks ago.  Mr. Waite told me that ratings are so down that his bosses are looking for even more ways to cut.  They might even have to close the entire news department.  I mean, c’mon, how many more reruns of Road Rules and Soap Operas can a network put on?  Anyways, he suggested that if I had any, “creative solutions,” I should come and talk to him.

So, the next day, when I handed in my regular garbage, it had a couple of extra pieces in it, like maybe the drunk driver that was arrested could have also been responsible for the rash of vandalized mailboxes in this other neighborhood.  Or that the dog park one town over was being investigated for a puppy ring; that one I didn’t even have to explain, which was great because I had no idea what it meant.  See, our station was small enough that no one noticed or cared.  But then, we blew up on the internet.  People started watching.

Mr. Waite came back to me, and said that the embellishments were fine, but now, it was real news only.  But if I found some big stories, “y’know, creative ones,” I should come and talk to him.

So, that night, I went to the bar down the street, and had a couple of beers, and thought.  Oh, I thought.  And then, inspiration!  It was crowded in the bar. I walked up to the bar and told the bartender that my buddy was too shy, gestured towards some guy sitting a couple of tables over, too send a drink over to the pretty young thing sitting in that booth.  The bartender smiled, said he’d put it on our tab, and went to work.  I said thanks, laid a couple of bucks on the bar, and waited.

The fight started small, but pretty soon, it was a full on brawl.  I already had my camera set up when the cops showed up.  I got the scoop and was the toast of the station. And then I realized…I would have to do something else for tomorrow night.

It started off like that; a couple of cars in this neighborhood got broken into, or a rock through a window downtown.  Then a couple of muggings in the nicer neighborhoods, just enough to warrant a story.  But they kept needing more.  Now, I’m a reasonable man, and I knew my crime spree couldn’t continue.  Not with just me, so I started hiring some college kids to help.  Pretty soon, we were planning accidents at questionable intersections, “exposing” insurance fraud at nursing homes, and “discovering” puppy mills.  It was like a little theater troupe, all in the name of saving the station.  And it was perfect.

And yet, Mr. Waite came to me again.  He tells me that there might be awards, promotions, even my own show on the network, if I can break “one or two big stories.”  Something that really gets the passions going.  Crime, or sex, or politics.

Which is why I had to stick up that liquor store.  It’s amazing the owner didn’t recognize my eyes when I showed up five minutes later to report on the incident.  That’s why I had to use Sarah to get those incriminating photos of the Senator.  She whispered in his ear that his fly was down, but no one likes politicians, so it was easy to blow his story to dust.  But it wasn’t enough.

So, now I’m in the back of a van, careening down the freeway.  I can’t believe that that cop was just sitting in the parking lot of the bank, getting ready to deposit a check, when we come around the corner and pile into the van.  He peeled out right behind us, and I never had a chance to bail out to make my broadcast.  Now there are four cop cars behind us and a helicopter above us, and we are driving for our lives.

Looks like no matter what, I am on the news tonight.