Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Story #30: "The Malapropistic Minister"

Okay, here we go! My June Writing Challenge to myself was to write 30 stories in 30 days and publish them here on the blog. That's right, #astoryaday for an entire month. And with this story, I have officially completed my goal. I'm not sure if this is the worst thing (taste-wise) or the funniest thing I've written all month. But here it is nonetheless. I should probably define the term "malapropism" (of which "malapropistic" is a derivative) for those who aren't familiar with it. According to Merriam-Webster, a malapropism is "an amusing error that occurs when a person mistakenly uses a word that sounds like another word but that has a very different meaning."  Enjoy?  ~  JH

"The Malapropistic Minister"

Good morning to you! Let's try that one more time! I said: Good morning to you! That's better! It is truly a blessing to see all your smiting faces this morning. Turn to your neighbor and tell them, "It's a good day to be in the horse of the Lord." Amen! Palm 118, verse 24 says, "This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be clad in it." Song 100, verse 4 impales us to "enter into His grates with thanksgiving, and into His course with praise." Amen? Amen! A couple of prayer upstates to share with you this morning before we bow to rescind our offering. Millicent Stopper's gallbladder obfuscation went reminiscently well and she was able to go home from the hospitable on Friday evening. Slim Yumping is scheduled for a follow-up visit with his ornithologist this coming Tuesday, to determine whether or not he is going to need Tommy Chong surgery. Beverly Honeysuckle is going to remain in the Re/Max center for a couple more days while she recovers from her most recent heart amputation. And finally, Julian Watermark asks us to remember his sister, Earlene Vodka, in ferment prayer. She is suffering from Stage 3 esoteric cankers and, at least as far as Julian knows, she is unsolved. Let us play…

Story #29: "Running Away From Homeless"

Okay, I'm almost there. It's still Day 30, and this is now Story #29 of my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge. One more story left to write. This one here derived from a (supposedly) clever title I'd come up with weeks ago. I finally thought up an appropriate story (supposedly) to accompany said title. Hope you like it. If you don't, that's okay. Thanks for sticking with me this far if you have.  ~  JH

"Running Away From Homeless"

I have this recurring nightmare in which I am running at top speed from a dingily dressed man waving a cardboard sign that reads: "HOMELESS VET PLEASE HELP GOB BLESS." 

It's not the man himself that frightens me, or even the way he is dressed. It's that typo on his sign that frankly scares me to death.

Did he mean to write "GOD BLESS"? That would be the logical conclusion, and one can only hope that was his intention. But what if it wasn't?

Could it be that the man is actually a life-size turkey disguised as a human and the sign is supposed to read "GOBBLES"? Could he know that I am terrified of all species of birds, but most especially the kinds that walk on two legs and fly infrequently? Oh, the horrors!

Or maybe the message means just what it says. That his goal, in chasing me down, is to "BLESS" me with a "GOB" of…of what? Phlegm? Partially digested bananas? Blood? I start to shudder just thinking about it again! And no matter how hard I try, I can't stop thinking about it!

I've made various attempts to send myself off into a peaceful slumber, free from this terrifying reverie, by reading about completely unrelated things right before I fall asleep. Like An Ecological Approach To Turnip Farming, for instance, or the latest issue of Stamps Monthly. But it's all to no avail.

Perhaps I am doomed to sleep, perchance to dream of the homeless vet/turkey-man/phlegm-spewer every night for the rest of my life, and there is no way to make him go away. 

Or maybe, just maybe, the next time I see an actual person in need in my waking hours – whether it be a homeless vet, a struggling single mother, or whomever else – I should extend my hand and if needs be the contents of my wallet to help them. Maybe my reticence to do so is the greatest purveyor of nightmares of all.

Story #28: "A Word In Edgewise"

Here's Story #28 in my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge. I bet we all have one friend (or ex-friend) like this guy. Either of them, actually. Enjoy?  ~  JH

"A Word In Edgewise"

"See, that's exactly what I'm talking about! That confounded attitude of yours is gonna get us both in trouble one of these days!"

This isn't the first time Rodney has gotten on my case today without provocation. In fact, it is the eighth. The first seven times, I tried to shrug it off without saying anything, which only further served to "get his goat," as Rodney likes to say. But I'm getting pretty tired of hearing him jaw at me over any and everything, and now it's time to nip it in the bud.

"Rodney, you and me – we've been friends for a long time now, right?"

"Right, but –"

"And in the course of our long-standing friendship, we've had some pretty good times, wouldn't you agree?"

"Yes, but –"

"And also during that time, we've had our fair share of disagreements, wouldn't you also agree with that?"

"I reckon, but –"

"And through it all, Rodney, wouldn't you say that I have been a faithful friend to you no matter what?"

"Well, sure, but –"

"But what, Rodney? Why must there always be a 'but'? Why do you always insist on having the last word – and indeed, nine out of ten words – on every little thing? Does it make you feel powerful? Does it make you feel in control?"

"I don't –"

"If so, why do you feel the need to control me? What did I do to deserve it? What's in it for you?"

"I –"

"Answer me, Rodney!"

"Well, I would, but –"

"There's that word 'but' again! Why do you always have to get so defensive about everything?"

"I ain't never known you to go off on anybody like this, much less on me! What gives?"

"You never really gave me much chance to, did you, Rodney? You're a talker, no question about that, but you're the poorest listener I've ever met, and I've known some real doozies."

"Well, I'm sorry, but –"

"That again! Rodney, I'm tired of hearing myself talk, because I've already made my point at least half a dozen times now. But I'm even more tired of hearing you talk. Why don't you take your 'confounded attitude' and hit the road, before I have to show you what trouble really is!"

"But – OUCH! Hey, what the –? Ugh, alright, alright, I'm going!"

Story #27: "Where This Finger's Been"

It's Day 30 – otherwise known as "do or die day" – in my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge. This is Story #27. One more story is already in the hopper. The other two are yet to be written. We'll see if this all comes together. I didn't know where this particular story was going until it was finished, and I was surprised by the outcome. Like a few other stories I've written this month, the narrator/protagonist here is female, so you should read it with that in mind. Oh yeah, and enjoy!  ~  JH

"Where This Finger's Been"

You don't know where this finger's been. If you did, you'd treat it – and me – with a lot more respect.

When I was ten years old, in front a packed courtroom, this finger pointed accusingly at the man before me who had stolen my innocence a few months earlier. He had lured me into his clutches by posing as an undercover police officer, and I believed him. My rapist was subsequently convicted and sentenced to spend the remainder of his life behind bars.

When I was eighteen years old, this finger – along with its digital companions – grasped the hand of my friend Stacy and pulled her to safety. The two of us had been rock-climbing in the mountains, and Stacy had slipped over the edge at the precipice, shortly after having disengaged her safety harness.

When I was twenty-four years old, this finger caressed the cheek of the man with whom I would soon be spending the rest of my days. He'd just graced the next-to-last finger on this same hand with a gleaming diamond ring. I reinforced my "yes" with a long, passionate kiss.

Two years later, this finger first grasped the tiny palm of my newborn daughter. She'd been born eight weeks prematurely. It would be several weeks yet before I would be able to hold her in my arms for the first time. I would be hard-pressed to ever let her go thereafter.

Early this morning, this finger was clutching the trigger of a gun. The gun was aimed at the head of the man who violated me all those years ago. He had escaped, or been paroled, it didn't matter which. What did was that he was here, that he had found me. In that moment, my daughter was cowering next to the body of my dead husband in the bedroom adjacent to where I stood. 

I hadn't heard the glass break on the French doors in the kitchen. I hadn't heard my husband cry out, though my daughter told me afterwards that she had. I had been upstairs asleep. My husband had come down to grab a drink of water and had surprised the intruder.

This finger was sweating and trembling more than a little as it hovered over the trigger of that instrument of death. I knew, if my daughter and I were going to survive, that I must squeeze it. The gun I held was that my rapist's. How I had wrested it from his grip was and still remains beyond my recollection. But I had it nonetheless, and I was going to have to use it.

The blast was deafening, but it hit its mark. In that horribly triumphant moment, I relaxed this finger for the first time in a very long while.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Story #26: "Your Biggest Fan"

It's still Day 29, and this is Story #26 in my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge. I like to play with words and phrases, especially in the titles of my stories, and this one is no exception. Nothing earth-shattering here, just a neat little slice-of-life vignette to end the day on a decent note. Enjoy!  ~  JH

"Your Biggest Fan"

Well, you've certainly come to the right place. Come on in, let's have a look-see!

Now over here, you've got your basic, economy-line ceiling fan. Nothing wrong with that a tall, assuming you only like to be mostly cool. You don't mind your cool air maybe going on hiatus halfway through a hot night from time to time, maybe shorting out for no good reason a tall, then this right here is the fan for you.

Then you got your mid-range model here. All the standard features, three variable speeds, single-bulb light fixture, and what have you. She's gonna cost you a little bit more, but you will literally feel the difference when the heat is on. This one is guaranteed to run on the highest setting nonstop for two months straight and not miss a beat. And you can take that to the bank, as it were. 

Now this one right here, this is what we like to call the top-of-the-line, primo-deluxe edition ceiling fan. It's the biggest, most powerful, quietest, and smoothest-running ceiling fan you're gonna find anywhere. It's got five different fan speeds, four independently controlled light bulbs, and a built-in alarm clock, all conveniently controlled by this here handheld remote. 'Course, this one is gonna set you back a few more clams. Matter of fact, right many clams indeed, but you won't regret your purchase for one nanosecond.

Yes sir, this fan right here's the one you wanna go with, trust me on that. Don't believe me? Ask our satisfied customers! I sell ten, maybe fifteen of these suckers every single day, 'cepting the Lord's Day, on which we're closed. Indeed, with the exception of this here floor model, which isn't for sale, we only have one more of these bad boys currently in stock, right out back in our warehouse. Got more on backorder, by popular demand, you see, 'cause we can't keep 'em on the shelves fast enough. Now, have we got a deal, or have we got a deal?

Story #25: "Knew Me When"

I don't know where this #astoryaday June Writing Challenge story (#25 in the series) came from. I neither hold any animosity toward any of my former classmates (high school or college), nor do I ever anticipate becoming as successful as the guy in this story aspires to be. But it's interesting nonetheless. To me, anyway.  ~  JH

"Knew Me When"

Someday I'm going to write a New York Times bestseller, and you're going to say you knew me when. And I'll say when exactly was that? Because when I was nobody, just some guy in your class with a head full of ideas and no real outlet for them, you were not even an acquaintance of mine. Sure, we were both aware of each other's existence, but neither of us could have cared less about the other. The only reason you'll want to act like you know me then, when I'm rich and famous, is for your own selfish benefit, and maybe a little piece of the pie, for old time's sake. But there are no "old times" to speak of, and you know it. You're actually a bit of a horrible person, when it comes down to it, for even thinking of leaching off the successes of others when, with a shred of initiative and a measure of hard work, you could have achieved the same or even a greater level of success than I will one day. But you're too stinkin' lazy to put forth the effort, and that's why, when I make it big, and believe me I will, I'll never take a second glance back at you or anyone else who thought that I was foolish to dream.

Story #24: "The Man Upstairs"

Here's Story #24 on this, Day 29, of my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge. The end of the tunnel is approaching. I can see the light. This story may very well not be what you were expecting it to be by its title, but I think you may still enjoy it.  ~  JH

"The Man Upstairs"

The man upstairs is spying on me. 

He listens at my doorway when he thinks I'm not paying attention. Sometimes, he calls me on my phone and when I answer, he says nothing, only breathes heavily and grunts incomprehensibly. When I go out at night, he peeks down at me from his bedroom window, jostling the blinds carelessly and giving himself away.

I know what he wants from me, but I'm not going to give it to him. After all, it's only the twentieth of month. The rent's not due for eleven more days. 

Sometimes I feel like screaming out loud – and maybe I should, because he's probably listening – "Payday is what it is, man! You can't squeeze blood from a turnip, and you can't stalk me into paying up early. It doesn't work like that. We have an agreement!" 

But it probably wouldn't do any good anyway. He'd probably slink upstairs like the snake he is, and do whatever it is that creepy people do in their spare time; and the second he got bored, he'd be right back at my door – the wretched mouth-breather.

Five months is a long time, but it's all I have left on the lease. I can neither afford to buy out my lease, nor can I risk the consequences of breaking it. 

Occasionally, I've fantasized about opening the door when I know he's out there listening, binding his hands, and dragging him forcefully back up the stairs to his living quarters. But I'd probably get arrested for that. And I can't afford to let that happen, either.

Not to mention the fact that my mother would probably bawl her eyes out and never forgive me. You see, the man upstairs – he's her husband.

Story #23: "Mr. Bubbles"

And we're back to my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge, and not a moment too soon! It's Day 29, and this is Story #23. In case you may think I have backed myself into a corner from which I cannot escape, there are three more stories coming later today. Which means, I am merely four stories away from meeting my goal. Four stories to write over the next two days is no small task, but I am up to it. I hope you will enjoy this one, as well as the next few stories to come!  ~  JH

"Mr. Bubbles"

So sue me, I like bubbles. That I'm fifty-six years old and well past what many would consider my bubble-loving prime is no concern of yours. At least, it shouldn't be.

There's something about bubbles, a certain joy they brogan that can't be obtained through any other means. 

I dip my wand into the bubble mixture, extract it, and blow; and magically, I am transported to a place where all is right with the world, evil is nonexistent, and pain is obsolete. It is, in a word, heaven. 

A mere capful of bubble solution under a running faucet leading up to my bath is sufficient to drive me to paroxysms of childlike laughter.

The world is a terrible place to live in, but bubbles make it just a little easier, just a bit brighter, and the value of this temporal mirth – artificial though it may be – cannot be understated.

Sure, bubbles may not solve all the world's problems – and indeed, may only assuage a few of my own – but in my estimation, they are as good a place to start as any.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Story #22: "To Smell Your Feet"

Today is Day 25, and this is Story #22 in my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. I have a really good chance of conquering this challenge in the next 5 days. As for the story, let me be clear that it is 100% fictional and does not in any way, shape, or form depict me or anyone I know. I can, however, relate to the sentiments of its narrator. Until that last sentence, at least. Enjoy? ~ JH

"To Smell Your Feet"

I love you with all of my heart. You are my best friend, my lover, and my soulmate. I fully intend on spending the rest of my life loving you, always in all ways that matter. My love for you is irrevocable, impenetrable, and unconditional. I will do anything for you, anything you ask, whenever you ask it, assuming it is within my power to do so. With one exception. 

I do not now nor do I ever wish to smell your sweaty feet. I realize that it means a lot to you and that you derive some degree of inexplicable pleasure out of merely offering your feet for me to sniff, to inhale deep the earthy aroma of perspiration between your cute toes. But that's not my thing. Not even close. 

I love you dearly, but that's disgusting. Not sexy, just plain nasty. So, please, for my sake, for our sake, just stop offering. Or at least wash them first.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Story #21: "The Birds Will Eat Your Eyes"

This little story derives, in part, from a number of obsessions of mine, including the safety and welfare of other drivers (and, by proxy, myself); listening to and following rules, no matter how arbitrary; and Alfred Hitchcock movies. Intrigued yet? If not, the title of the story alone should have been sufficient to suck you in. It would have worked for me. Enjoy?  ~  JH

"The Birds Will Eat Your Eyes"

You should always listen to your parents. (My parents told me this.) The reasoning behind this is very serious, and it's very real. 

You see, if you don't listen to your parents, you are liable to make bad choices. One bad choice you might make is trying to send and/or read a text message while you are driving. This is not only illegal in some places, it's also quite reckless. 

Because when you redirect your attention from what it's front of you on the road to what's in front of you on your phone, you're opening yourself up to all kinds of bad possibilities. For instance, you might hit a pothole and lose control of your car. In a panic, you might overcorrect your steering and inadvertently hit a tree, spinning your car around three-hundred-and-sixty degrees in the blink of an eye.

In the process – if you also did not listen to your parents about always wearing a seatbelt no matter what – you might be thrown from the vehicle at a high rate of speed. You might be propelled bodily through the glass, landing with a surprisingly hard thud on uneven terrain, breaking limbs and possibly vertebrae in the process. 

If you happen to have crashed on a particularly desolate road – which is entirely possible, depending on where you live – you might not be found or rescued for quite some time (if ever). If you are losing blood rapidly, you will probably die a lonely and miserable death. 

If you are immobile but otherwise not seriously in jeopardy, you may still be at risk of consumption by wildlife. Generally, the birds will be the first to come, not to your aid but to what they perceive to be an extremely fresh meal. The birds – and we're not talking about sparrows, we're talking about big, ugly, ravenous vultures – will peck at your eyeballs and pluck them out and eat them. And then it gets really bad. 

After the vultures are done consuming your eyes, the wolves will come (or coyotes – again, depending on where you live) and begin to munch on the remainder of your carcass. You won't see them coming, because by this point you will be blind. If the vultures have spared your nose, you may smell the wolves (or coyotes) approaching. By this time, you may have a heightened sense of smell thanks to the loss of your eyeballs. 

You may smell them coming, but you will be able to do little to stop them from biting large chunks out of your torso. The worst part about all this is that you will probably live for quite a while, fully aware that your demise is imminent and – assuming you are not in a state of shock – writhing (as much as an immobile person can writhe) in unbelievable agony as the wolves chomp on your entrails.

And sooner or later, you will die. All because you valued sending and/or reading a text message more than you valued your future. All because you refused, no matter how many times you'd been admonished to do so, to wear your seatbelt at all times. All because you didn't listen to your parents. Shame on you, dead person.

Story #20: "Anybody's Guess?"

It's Day 24 of my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge, and once again I'm a few stories behind. It's my goal today to catch back up. Here's Story #20, and #21 will shortly follow it. Hope you're able to get something out of it, though what that will be is...wait for it...anybody's guess.  ~  JH

"Anybody's Guess?"

Excuse me, folks, could I have your attention, please? Thank you. No, actually, I'm not yelling. Now, could you all gather – ? No, I'm speaking in a normal tone of voice. Now may I talk? No, I will not whisper. I demand to be heard

Yes, forgive me, that was slightly yelling. Regardless, I have a few questions for you all and I'm going to need some pretty specific answers. 

First off, what are you all doing here in my house? Considering the fact that I've never seen a single one of you before, I'm pretty sure you don't live here. So there's that. 

Secondly, will the owner of this pair of Guess jeans please identify yourself? Anybody? No? Well, they're obviously a lady's, so that rules out about half of you. Come on now, don't be afraid to speak up. I won't bite. Much. 

Oh, these are yours? Well, aren't you a cute thing? Come forward, dear, and collect your jeans. Yes, it's simply the strangest thing. You see, I found your jeans balled up at the foot of my bed, on my husband's side of the bed. Odd, huh? I tried to talk to him to get him to explain, but he's in pretty much the same state as you and your friends here. Which is to say, mostly incoherent. 

You know what else is strange, sweetie? When I leaned down to speak to him, I caught a whiff of a very distinct perfume on his chest. Your perfume. Well, I shouldn't assume. Let's compromise and say that it's the same kind of perfume you're currently wearing. Add to that the jeans by the bed, and well, I'm not a mathematician, but it all adds up.

No, of course, I'm not going to kill you, child. And you are a child, just look at you, what are you, nineteen, maybe twenty years old at most? Twenty-one? Sure you are, dear. Keep telling them that at the bars. I'm sure they'll buy your smile and your fake ID, you're certainly pretty enough. No, I'm not going to beat you up either, though it is tempting. I would like a few more minutes of your time, however. 

The rest of you can go ahead and clear out. NOW! It wasn't a request! Yes, I am yelling! And I'm only going to get louder the longer it takes you to leave! Thank you.

Now, dear, please come with me. We're going to wake my husband and get to the bottom of this. Why am I bringing you with me? Well, to wake him up, of course. After all – and again, I'm assuming, but the numbers still match up – you are the one who put him to sleep. 

How do I know? Well, sweetie, I've been married to the man for twenty-five years. I should certainly hope that I know what it takes to put him into as deep a slumber as that. One thing, and one thing only, works every time. And that smile on his sleeping face is a dead giveaway.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Story #19: "While You Were Sweeping"

Okay, last story of the day. Here's Story #19 of my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge, and with it I am officially caught up. Whether I remain on target for the duration of the weekend remains to be seen. I'm betting not. Enjoy?  ~  JH

"While You Were Sweeping"

While you were sweeping, I went to the closet and dug out all of our old love letters. I tossed them all into a garbage bag, stepped outside, and dropped it in the Dumpster.

While you were mopping, I packed up all my clothes. Well, not all of them. I left the ones you really liked on me. Do with them as you wish.

While you were vacuuming, I roused the kids from their sleep, walked them to the car, still in their pajamas, and secured them in their seats. I'd already packed their clothes while you were dusting.

While you were washing the dishes, I cranked the car and drove away, leaving you once and for all and forever.

Don't bother to look for me – you'll never find me. But then again, you probably won't even notice that I'm gone. Not yet, at least. After all, there's still all that laundry to be folded and put away. Or is there?

Story #18: "This Means Peace"

It's still Day 19, and here's Story #18 of my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge. I don't know where these wildly diverse ideas for stories come from, but I like them. Writing the same kind of story over and over again would quickly become terribly boring. Enjoy!  ~  JH

"This Means Peace"

You killed my father. Prepare to live. For what you've done to destroy my family, you deserve the opposite.

A lesser man would freely indulge in hatred and bitterness and allow them to control his life. But I refuse to let you win like that.

I wish you a long life, spent in quiet contemplation of this and all other acts of violence that you may have committed. I wish you unfulfilled loneliness, heart-wrenching sadness, and enduring despair. But I want you to live through it, now and for a very long time. Death is early parole, and I'm sorry, but you haven't earned that.

I could wage war against the system that kept you on the streets for months, years, and decades after perpetrating your heinous acts.

I could rail against those who, for a fee or out of genuine affection, defended your character and proclaimed your innocence.

But these efforts would consume my time and profit little other than wasting the life with which I have been blessed.

As much as you do not deserve it, I offer you my forgiveness. It doesn't make what you did alright. It doesn't mean that I will forget it. I won't, and neither will you. I will and do forgive you so that I can move forward with my life.

I don't expect you to understand or even to care. It doesn't matter. You don't matter to me. All that does is gone, buried six feet deep and marked with carved granite sentiments.

I am at peace, and I fully intend to remain so. And in this peace, I've finally found my rest.

Story #17: "Mother Of Pearl"

Here's Story #17 of my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge. It's another one written from a female perspective. No, I don't have a gender identity crisis. I simply like to explore life – even fictional life – from different points of view once in a while. Enjoy!  ~  JH

"Mother Of Pearl"

I'm worried about my daughter. She doesn't call like she used to, doesn't visit, and doesn't even think about me more than once every six days. (I should know – I'm clairvoyant.)

Pearl has always been very close to me and her father both. But lately she seems so withdrawn, and my biggest fear is that she'll never come back to us.

It's been three months since the aliens abducted her – just sucked her right up into their flying saucer. (Just like the ones you see on TV – somebody in Hollywood KNOWS something!) They've been experimenting on her ever since.

Just yesterday, they had her hooked up to some fancy-pants extraterrestrial device intended to measure the length of time between her sighs. Apparently, sighs matter to the little green guys in ways we'll probably never understand. In my mind's eye, I saw her – in high definition, no less – trying to hold back her audible exasperations just to screw up their tests (which would only have to be repeated the next day, so her efforts were likely in vain).

Pearl's always been a fighter, what with the bullies at her high school (they didn't know how to relate to someone as intellectually and metaphysically superior to them, as she clearly was), the curse that gypsy put her under in college (the horns and tail eventually fell off, but not before leaving faint scars), and now these blasted extraterrestrials.

Pearl's had a rough go of it, no question about that, but I can say with confident clairvoyance that she'll come through on the other side of this a conqueror.

Still, it doesn't stop a mother from worrying just the same.

Story #16: "What's In A Name?"

It's Day 19, and here's Story #16 of my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge. And there's more where this one came from. I stayed up late last night and wrote 4 short stories, all of which I'll post today. Which means...drum roll, please...I will end this day with 19 stories and will officially be caught up. For today, at least. Enjoy!  ~  JH

"What's In A Name?"

All my friends have stupid names. 

I have a very close friend whose name is John Hammer, yet he insists on being called by his nickname: Jack.

Another dear friend of mine – bless his heart – is called Pete (though his given name is Peter) – and his  last name is Moss.

I once dated a girl named Betty who was desperate to get married to somebody – anybody! – so she could leave behind her father's surname of Petty.

My current girlfriend is Kimberly Wemberley, and her BFF Anita was born a Mann. (She's currently single.)

I may come off as overly critical, but I really and truly love all of these people. (Except Betty – she was crazypants!) I simply question the names that they were given or choose to use.

Of course, I have absolutely no room to talk. My name is Henry Butts. And I go by Harry.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Story #15: "Please Keep Off The Grass"

I tend to write stories in bunches, so it's no surprise – to me, at least – that one story led right to another. And will probably lead to yet another one, which would almost get me caught up. Either way, the #astoryaday June Writing Challenge rolls on...  ~  JH

"Please Keep Off The Grass"

It might be legal in some places now, but you better not bring that junk in my house. It ain't good for you or anyone else. 

Sure, you might feel right happy when you're smokin' it, but that high is always gonna go away. And then what? You gotta find another high, that's what. 

Maybe you smoke more of the grass. Or maybe you shoot some other, harder drug up into your veins. Maybe you take some of them funny pills. You might not be addicted now, but just you wait. One thing leads to another. 

Reefer might be something that grows out of the ground, but I'm telling you it ain't natural. You need to stay away from that junk. 

Now, I'm not one to judge. I've done my fair share of bad stuff, too. You probably won't believe this, but I took a sip of whiskey one time, a long time ago, when I was just twelve years old. It was the most disgusting thing I've ever set to my lips. I've often said that if I'd a taken a second sip, I'd be a bonafide wino to this very day. But I didn't. I knew then as I know now that it wasn't for me. 

Now, I know what you're thinking. This old fuddy-duddy geezer don't know what he's talkin' about, but I do. I've got somethin' that you ain't old enough to have yet, and that's wisdom. And I'm tellin' you, it just ain't wise to puff on that weed. Leave it alone, and you'll be alright. 

And if you ever feel like you need to get high, you just come right on over to my house, and I'll set up my extendable ladder, and you can clean out my gutters. If that ain't high, I don't know what is.

Story #14: "Jump Off A Cliff"

It's Day 17 of my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge and this is merely Story #14. Which all-in-all isn't that bad actually, but I'm still playing catch-up. Here's a bleak little tale that could've taken any number of directions once I came up with its title. I think it took the darkest turn possible, but it is what it is and I still like it. I hope you will, too.  ~  JH

"Jump Off A Cliff"

Some people do it for fun, a bungee cord attached securely to their person. Some people fall accidentally and pulverize their bodies against rocks, trees, and what have you. Some people get pushed maliciously, with virtually the same result. And some simply do it because they feel like they've either served their purpose here or simply have no purpose and they want to end it all. 

Me, I jump off cliffs for cash. Well, direct-deposit checks, actually, but you get my point. I'm a stuntman. It's been my job for twenty-odd years now to make the hard stuff look easy for all your favorite stars. That I suffer the bumps, bruises, scrapes, and breaks so they don't have to is probably no concern of yours. They generally appreciate my work, and believe me, it is work. 

Sure, I'm technically safe, secured by invisible wires or safety harnesses that get edited out digitally before you ever see them. But there's always an element of risk to my work, and it's always a possibility that I won't come home each day. At least not all in one piece. 

Tonight, I'm jumping off the highest cliff I've ever seen in person. I'm not here on a lark, not being careless or reckless, not desperate to end my life, but destined to do so nonetheless. 

I'm not alone. There's a small handgun pressed into the small of my back, clasped tightly in my wife's hand. I still don't understand why she's doing this, and she won't explain, but it probably has something to do with the insurance policy we took out last year. Jobs have been spotty of late, as I've been recovering from one injury or another, and she hasn't worked outside the home since we've been married. Times are tough. But I never thought it would come to this. 

We approach the summit, and I look up at the stars. They're shining bright tonight. The river far below me glistens in the moonlight. The jagged rocks break up the flow of the water and further ensure that I will not survive this stunt. 

She nudges me roughly with the gun, urging me forward. Maybe I'll keep resisting, go out with a bang – literally. No one would believe it was an accident, my getting shot and then falling off a cliff. She wouldn't be able to collect the insurance money. Then how would she afford all those nice things she so richly deserves. 

I'm being sarcastic. She's a nice lady, but she doesn't deserve any of that. Still, I wouldn't deny her the pleasure of seeing me fall one last time – she's visited me on the set  a few times lately; I wonder how long she's been fantasizing about and planning this? 

Have I fulfilled my purpose? I don't know. Does anyone ever truly know their purpose in life? I'm not giving up, but I am giving in. 

I'm forty-two years old. She's thirty-six. She can still live a long and happy life, with or without me. She can marry again, maybe have kids with her new man. I could never give her that, which may have been part of the problem with us. 

I slowly turn to face her, my back to the precipice. She waggles the gun in my direction, smirking creepily. I mouth the words "I love you" and step out into nothingness.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Story #13: "BRB"

Last one of the day. Story #13 of my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge. And it's the shortest of them all (so far). But it just might bring a smile to your face. Or a blush. I'll take whichever as a compliment. Enjoy!  ~  JH


"Your move."

"Be right back."

"What's up?"

"Gotta use the john. Only take a minute."

"Don't get lost in there!"

"Only take a minute."

"You said that already."

"I meant it."

"Well, hurry up, why don't ya?"

"Be right back."

"You said that, too!"


"Still your move."

"Still haven't used the john."

"What's stoppin' ya?"

"You're still talkin' to me."

"You ain't gotta answer me."


"Go on then!"

"I'm goin'."

"You ain't moved an inch."

"Don't have to."

"But you said you had to use the john."

"I'm goin'."

"But you…"

"Right here."

"You ain't!"

"I reckon I am."

"Why'd you go just standin' there for?"

"Couldn't wait."

"Who was makin' you wait?"

"You were still talkin'."

"You're puttin' this on me?"

"Nope, but I put it on your floor. Got a towel?"

"Be right back."

Story #12: "Leave Velanov Alone"

It's still Day 15, and here's yet another story in my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge. It's Story #12, if the title didn't give that away. I should note here that, while I do not now nor have I ever spoken Russian, I have saddled an unseen character here with a decidedly Russian surname, the exact pronunciation of which I am not 100% sure. In my head – and therefore, for full effect as it relates to the story – I pronounce it "Vell-uh-noff." You pronounce however you'd like inside your own head. Enjoy?  ~  JH

"Leave Velanov Alone"

Velanov is an innocent man! Your bitter accusations are destroying his life. You're hurting, I get that. You want answers, somebody to blame. I understand full well. But you're on the wrong track!

Velanov is kind, gentle, and wouldn't hurt a fly – clich├ęd but true. Do you really think him capable of strangling that poor woman, dismembering her body, and burning it in a trash barrel in his backyard? It doesn't even make sense!

The man has a solid alibi. He was with me the whole night that lady was killed. It was our buddy Ian's bachelor weekend at the beach. All of us saw him there that night.

That Velly disappeared for an hour or two when he went out to buy chips is understandable. He'd only been to this particular stretch of beach once before. He got lost is all, and he had to stop and ask for directions. Yes, the lady who gave him directions was the one who was killed that night – he admitted as much himself. But the rest is all coincidence and conjecture! 

After all, when would he have had the time to mutilate her and burn her body, as you claim he did? Like I said, he was back at the beach easily within two hours. 

No, we didn't question why he didn't want Ian to ride with him on the trip back the next day. Nor did we think twice about the foul odor emanating from the trunk of his car when we stopped for gas halfway home. Why would we? So a man doesn't clean the garbage out of this car too often and feels embarrassed about it. What of it?

This is Velanov we're talking about here – a man of integrity, for Pete's sake! Listen, I know I'll never be able to convince you. And I know, thanks in large part to your needling, the cops will probably go through with pressing charges against Velly, and there's nothing I can do to change that.

But I'm telling you – you're wasting your time. The man is innocent! If you have any sense of decency and compassion whatsoever, leave Velanov alone!

Story #11: "Wolf, In Cheap Clothing"

Okay, I gave you a couple of hours to catch up reading the first two stories of the day, though you should've only needed a few minutes for each. Here's another short one I think/hope/pray you'll enjoy. If not, there's not much I can do about it anyway. The #astoryaday June Writing Challenge train rolls on...  ~  JH

"Wolf, In Cheap Clothing"

Wolf was never what you would call a dress-up kinda guy. In his line of work, he didn't have to be. And in his private life, he didn't want to be. Wolf was a simple man, with no big dreams and little ambition.

So when he was asked to be a guest speaker at his daughter's Career Day event at school, Wolf was at a loss as to what he was going to wear. A suit would be too pretentious, but a t-shirt and jeans would be too casual. Put simply, nothing in his closet screamed Career Day.

Wolf knew an occurrence such as this demanded that he embark on an excursion he hated as much as or more than scrubbing a filthy toilet – and that was shopping for clothes.

He loved his daughter and wanted to look his best, but money was tight and so was Wolf. So to the local thrift store he would go. 

Poring over the books, VHS movies, and gaudy knickknacks for far longer than was necessary, Wolf then forced himself to stride over to the clothes racks and give it a go. After an agonizing five minutes of tortuous searching, Wolf selected a shabby-looking green polo shirt and some threadbare khakis. An outfit richer and four dollars poorer, Wolf stepped out of the store and headed to Career Day.

He knew that his daughter would be, if not proud, at least mildly pleased at his courageous efforts at clothes shopping and alternately mortified by the overly detailed explanation he would give regarding the duties of his daily job (which are unfit even to relate to you on these pages).

But Wolf would not and did not let that stop him from fulfilling his promise to participate. Cheap clothing and all.

Story #10: "Sleeping Dogs Lie"

Here's another short one for your reading pleasure. Or something like that. Story #10 in my #astoryaday June Writing Challenge. Ready, set, go!  ~  JH

"Sleeping Dogs Lie"

You can't trust a sleeping dog. Like the old axiom says, they lie.

I once approached a dozing Doberman, just to get a glimpse of its impressive teeth, only to have three of my fingers bitten off by said teeth while losing approximately two pints of my precious lifeblood.

Then there was the time I creeped up on a snoozing schnauzer, just to catch a close-up glimpse of its bearded snout, only to find that the dog was merely resting its eyes – not sleeping, thank you very much – and having it tell me in no uncertain terms by persistently barking at me (I was walking away, clearly no threat to the dog or anyone else) until I was thoroughly out of sight.

The third and final time I tried to disprove my own theory about sleeping dogs was what I now ominously refer to as the Shih Tzu Incident. It's been five years, and I still can't bring myself to talk about. Don't ask me to dredge up the painful memories, because I simply refuse.

Just know this: Sleeping dogs lie. Through their teeth. Beware!

Story #9: "Cat's Out Of The Bag"

Admit it, you thought I had abandoned this #astoryaday June Writing Challenge, didn't you? Not so fast! I am nothing if not persistent. (Which is why, frequently, I am nothing.) Yes, it is Day 15, and yes, this is only Story #9. But I wrote several of them over the weekend, all of which will be posted here forthwith. Before you know it, I'll be all caught up again. Just you wait, 'Enry 'Iggins. Just you wait...  ~  JH

"Cat's Out Of The Bag"

The cat is out of the bag. I thought I'd tied the top securely, but I guess not. This is a small airport, but the cat is no easier to find nonetheless. It's probably headed for the food court. I know I would be if I were a cat. 

Fifteen minutes till boarding, and instead of going through a security checkpoint, I'm chasing a cat that, frankly, I don't even like. 

Maybe I should just let it go. No, I promised my mother that I would bring it. Why did I make that promise anyway? Oh yeah, she's lonely. Dad's been gone six weeks now and Mom's had no one to talk to but the walls, and they aren't very good listeners.

Where is that stupid cat anyway? On second thought, this isn't such a small airport after all. I refuse to miss my flight because of a dumb animal – tickets are far too expensive for that.

Sorry, Mom, but I give up. I'll buy you another cat. A local one. It may not be orange with white speckles like you asked for, but it'll have to do.

I suppose it's just as well. I'd probably never have gotten through security with a cat in a bag anyway.