Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Good People of Harvey - A couple get out of danger thanks to some good Samaritans and are reunited with their daughter.

 2017 Falsh Fiction Championships - Round 1 Challenge 2
Genre: Historical Fiction
Location: Machine Shop
Item: Turtle

The Good People of Harvey
A couple get out of danger thanks to some good Samaritans and are reunited with their daughter.

We sat in the machine shop, it was dry and we were eating hot dogs again, for the fourth day straight.
“I hate the smell of hot dogs,” I said.
“At least we have food. Good planning, We will go out for some Good Dog Houston as soon as this is done,” my husband replied.

Of course, it wasn’t going to be ‘done’ with, for us,    for months, probably years for the city.
It was Wednesday. Hurricane Harvey had made landfall Friday and tore down on Houston. The entire place was drenched, houses ripped up and flooded, trees and road signs scattered everywhere, no power, no cell phones, people lost and broken, some people dead, the entire city demolished.
Cassie and I were out of town last weekend visiting friends and I left Cassie with them so she was safe and on ‘vacation.’ Tom and I stayed in our house with about two feet of muddy water covering the floors, eating one of the dozen or so packages of hot dogs I had cooked on Thursday, and deciding if we had to leave.

“We can’t save it,” Tom said, gentle, soothing, but still slightly pained. It was Tuesday. “We should head to Austin with Cassie before we get trapped.”
I scowled, but I knew he was right.
“We can wrap some hot dogs and water, take your phone, Cassie’s pet turtle and a few clothes and put it all in the mountain climbing backpacks and head out early,” he said.
So we did, and stepped out into waist deep water outside our front door in the morning.

I walked behind Tom, holding Excalibur the turtle in his plastic case, as we slowly made our way down the front steps, along the sidewalk and down the driveway into the street. It was like sludging through a marsh. There was cold, dark water at least a couple feet deep everywhere. Rain was still coming down steadily and the wind was blowing pretty fierce. We walked down the middle of the road, hoping the footing underneath us would be solid and debris free. I floated Excalibur along in his case, which stayed mostly high and dry. As we neared the first intersection we notice the water rushing faster and then heard a bull horn screech. A young woman was standing in the entryway of an apartment building off to the right and was yelling into the bullhorn. She told us to head toward her and wait, ‘cause there would be a boat soon to pick us up.
My husband and I looked at each other and shrugged then went toward her.

The woman with the bullhorn, Mina, lived on the 3rd floor of the apartment building, her and some friends had thrown a hurricane party, but when the liquor ran out and she started noticing cars trying to make it down the street and getting stuck and swept away at the intersection she grabbed her raincoat, the bullhorn, which someone had brought to the hurricane party, and she started warning cars. She had been doing it for two days. I asked if her place and her family were alright. She told me everything was mostly fine but she had family up north she hadn’t been able to call and update them. I reached into my backpack and took out the satellite phone I had bought when I was working as a freelance journalist in some war zones, and handed it to her.
“You can call anyone you need to with this,” I said. “The battery charge only has a few hours tho and I don’t know what I’ll need it for so try and keep the calls short.”

Tom and I stood beside her as she called her family to let them know she was alive. We were waiting for some guys from the neighborhood who had stayed with their dogs and now were using their fishing boat to help people get around, using the machine shop as their base of operations.

The guys and their boat pulled up, we all exchanged greetings and they gave Mina a package of food, then Tom followed me into the boat and they started to move us toward the edge of Houston, then pulled up the boat outside Big Jim’s Tools machine shop. Jim had apparently stayed home and been safe during the hurricane, but came back to check on his shop on Sunday, then opened it up to volunteers and those in the neighborhood who needed a fairly dry place and some coffee and help.
Jim had a backup generator in the machine shop, which put out a bit of power, enough to keep on the lights and have heat and run the Coffeematic in the break room. I let him and everyone else coming through use the satellite phone to contact loved ones and eat some of our hotdogs while Tom and I made a plan to move to a dry area to catch a bus to Austin or have Cassie and the crew some pick us up when they could. Tom and Cassie and I would have to stay in Austin for a while anyway.

As a small group of volunteers gathered, and we ate hot dogs, I asked Jim where the closet shelter/police command center was so that Tom and I could have our friends pick us up there in a few hours. Jim said he would take us to his house, let us rest and wait for our ride there. I hugged him way too long after he said that, and probably made him think twice about making the offer.

Although, when Cassie ran to the door of Jim’s house and pounded on it, later that night, I saw her and hugged her about five times as long. I also smelled hot dogs on her and decided hot dogs weren’t really that bad after all.

Monday, September 4, 2017

FAMILY ALBUM - Ohio Poetry Day 2017, Family Ties contest, Honorable Mention

Family album

My sister takes old fashioned
black and white photographs
with a hi-tech SLR camera.
She puts shoes in graves
because she can't find any models.
She's always about an F stop away
from suicide.

My brother hopes to go to South America.
He has to get shots
for his safety,
wear a big brimmed yellow hat,
and carry his degree around.

My father washes dishes
but never dries them.

My mother cries
something terrible.
whenever I leave.

I've got a drinking problem,
I don't drink enough.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

RBR (Romance Between Robots)

2017 FFC Round 1
Group 25 - Romance, A strawberry field, A golf ball

RBR (Romance Between Robots)
Sparks fly between two strawberry picking robots.
Can they figure out what it all means and will it matter?

Robot #5 heard a tight flurry of drums with a roaring saxophone darting in and out. After accessing an internal music database, #5 determined the music was “Tenor Madness” by Sonny Rollins. The music appeared to be targeted at #5 from across the strawberry field by Robot #2001. There was no other thing in or in proximity to the field.

#5 was puzzled. The song was a blistering heartbreak but it was full of beauty. What message did it deliver?

The fragile arms of #5 trembled for just a nanosecond while gripping the next strawberry as it hung beautifully, fully ripe at the end of the stem, and tugging it off lovingly. Never had there been music in the field before, never had #5 done anything but work in the field before, but now #5 felt the need to approach #2001.

#2001 had watched #5 for a month. The field was huge, rows and rows of green bushes with bright red strawberries sunning and sweetening on the ends of the stems, getting the 8 hours of sunlight they needed each day. The sparkle of the sunlight hitting #5 was the only difference in the landscape, the only escape from the monotony of caressing the fruit - the only other thing to be caressed. The sparkle of #5 was warm and alluring and interesting. #2001 wondered what it was like to be alluring and interesting and sparkly, not just a semi intelligent service robot, another gray rule follower among millions.

Music piped to #5 was a thing #2001 thought might get #5 to look and determine if there was allure, interest and sparkle to #2001. Both robots were fragile. Both were second generation limited artificial intelligence devices designed to break easily. Previous robots had been too strong and damage resistant and humans worried that those robots could not be stopped if they attacked, so technology was used to manufacture more fragile robots that could easily be broken if they went beserk on, or near, a human. #5 and #2001 were big silvery hunks of easily bent alloy overtop of an upright, short rolling metal cabinet with arms and a personal assistant-type technology, that was constantly connected with the cloud of robots.

Suddenly a song, determined to be an electronic and instrumental, remix version of “Creep” by Radiohead, filled #2001. A definite anomaly was occurring. The music had to be beamed over from #5. Nothing else was in range to target and project music. The song was melancholy and angsty, and talked a bit about escape. Did #5 want to escape the strawberry field? To escape with #2001?
It was lunch time, both robots would power down and recharge completely in the sunlight now, rolling into an open field nearby with nothing in the area to block the sun from the solar panels on the robots.

Today #5 took the lead, another anomaly, and led #2001 out to a wide open, shadeless spot, about a mile south of the strawberry field. The two fragile robots rolled there slowly, conserving the little energy they had left after a long morning of work. Another week and the robots would be done picking strawberries in the strawberry field and they would be separated for a future project. It was impossible to know if the two robots would ever cross paths again.
Right now the robots were stationed side-by-side in the open field. #2001 shut down after setting an internal clock for 24 minutes, so returning on time to the field would be possible. #5 shut down, after setting an internal clock for 23 minutes.

As #2001 shut down there was a flash of light off #5, the artificial intelligence systems in #2001 said there was a dazzle and a chance for humans to feel touched and have desire, in that intimate, breathtaking moment. A moment later #5 registered a slight shine off #2001 and sensors said that conditions were adequate to ripe for romance. Then both robots were asleep.

After 23 minutes the head of #5 rose, the eyes opened and memories flickered of nice moments between #5 and #2001. There was, phantom, music again within #5. It had to be coming from #2001, still sleeping in the same spot adjacent to #5. In a millisecond #5 was directly in from of #2001 and reached out an arm to awaken #2001 to talk about the shine of #2001, the pleasing, mysteriously messaged, music and the conditions for romance. #2001 felt an alien pressure on the humany shell of the fragile artificial intelligence unit it controlled and shot out both arms, pushing with great might against the alien presence. #5 was struck in the chest and rolled back a foot, before rolling over a golf ball, tipping backward and landing on its back. Sparks flew from the eyes of #5.

#2001 registered that #5 had fallen on a rock and had internal damage and the hard drive in the unit was failing. It did not register why there was physical contact between the two units. Physical contact was forbidden and always bad, wasn’t it?

A robot always woke up by an internal clock, #2001 had never been disturbed in sleeping mode by something outside. It was a reaction to a new thing, to danger, #2001 had not meant to kill #5. As the fallen robot lay motionless #2001’s artificial intelligence metrics went in directions of sadness, remorse and great loss.

The mouth area of #5 was lit up and a staticy sound came out.
“I have an affinity for the way #2001 shines in the light, in the light… of the strawberry field” came out like white noise and struck #2001 in the middle of the operating system.
“#5, you have a lovely sparkle and I enjoy your anomalies,” beeped out of #2001. “I shall return to the strawberry field now and tell the field hands of your unfortunate mishap.”

#2001 rolled back toward the field and wondered how to forget.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Dick's Anniversary - The Flash Fiction Challenge 2016 | Challenge #2 Assignment Group 54 - Romantic Comedy/A Pediatrician's Office/A Blender

Dick’s Anniversary

Dr. Richard Tomlin pulled into his reserved space outside the overly white, sterile looking, office building on another bright, humid morning. He had a full 30 minutes before his first appointment. He had finished his morning at the local hospital with no snags, checked on the new mothers and the new babies and found no irregular issues, and was able to skate out of there quickly.
Walking into his office Tomlin felt energized and ready to fly through the day. He set his stuff down in his office, turned on his computer, then grabbed his ID badge and walked toward the kitchenette area as he fastened it to his shirt. It was then, he saw it.

A brand new Vitamix 5200 series blender on the counter next to the coffeepot, which was already brewed and about half empty. The blender did not belong there. It was a disaster.

“Hello Dr. Dick,” said Nurse Tomlin, as she came up behind him and grabbed his ass.
“Why… why is that blender here?” he replied.
“Did you not have a good morning?” she asked, and kissed him on the cheek. “I saw the blender in your office this morning and set it up. You planning on makin smoothies at the office on the regular? The girls will love that.”
“Teresa,” Tomlin sighed, “It’s not for the office.”
“It’s for home?”
“It’s for you for our anniversary next week,” Tomlin squeaked out.
“Oh,” Teresa said, coldly, with just a twinge of murder in her voice. She turned around and walked toward the reception desk, talking back to “Dr. Dick” over her shoulder. “Good that you remembered our anniversary this year, sorry I spoiled the gift.”
“Teresa? Come on.” Tomlin stammered.
“You got a patient in 10 minutes, Dr Dick. You should get ready,” she barked back.

Tomlin bit his tongue. What was wrong with a blender he thought, the most expensive blender on the market? She wanted smoothies as much as he did, he knew. Leaving the blender set up where it was and bringing in some stuff for fruit smoothies around the office would be the best thing to do now, he knew. Smoothies were the magic of his day. But, what to do for his anniversary, he did not know.
A decade ago when he first met Teresa ideas weren’t as hard to come by, he thought, going back to his office and settling into his comfy desk chair.

“My brain has gotten stuffed up,” Tomlin muttered.
“What was that?” asked Nurse Mitchell as she stuck her head in his office. “Brian Stratford is your first patient,” she said. “He is ready in exam room 2.”
“Julie, wait…. uh… what was your favorite anniversary gift ever?” asked Tomlin.
“Well, I mean…. cutesy stuff is fine, just going doing something to remember it, make a memory,” she said and closed his office door.
Tomlin wondered if smoothies in bed for a week was enough of an experience to give his wife, to make her mark their 9th year of marriage as the best one yet.

He got up and walked to exam room 2, he spent 15 minutes with Brian Stratford and his mother and found Brian had an ear ache and prescribed some antibiotics.
It was good to have a mother who could soothe her son and keep him in check during appointments, Tomlin thought. Some mothers are useless, only good for checking their cell phones, which they can’t turn off for a whole 10 minute appointment so they can be involved with what’s happening to their kid. Maybe too many whiney kids and substandard parents each day is what made he and Teresa not too concerned about having a family. It made him and Teresa a complete unit, all by themselves, no additions needed.

He returned to his office and stared at his computer looking at the empty area of the screen where he needed to enter in a friendly, helpful, trustworthy blog on his website. Procrastinating he checked his e-mail and the American Academy of Pediatrics website and then he saw an ad with smiling woman. The woman smirked a bit, just a hint of teeth and her eyes sparkled, exactly like Teresa.
Pressing a button on his phone Tomlin told the staff to reschedule all appointments in the last week of the month.

After another ear infection appointment Tomlin went into the kitchenette and got a cup of coffee with lots of sugar and lots of cream. He then unplugged the brand new blender and leaned against the kitchenette counter waiting for Teresa to walk by. When she did he put down his coffee, picked up the blender, and threw it on the ground at her feet. The blender snapped into broken bits, Teresa jumped back and “Dr. Dick” wore a huge grin.
“What the hell Richard,” yelled out Teresa, jumping away from the broken blender garbage on the floor. “You are gonna have to buy a new blender now, all the staff were ready for smoothies.”
Tomlin turned red, his eyebrows furled, his heart raced and he blurted out “Teresa, we are going to Spain for a week for our anniversary.”
“We what…”
“I just bought us tickets to go to Valencia, Spain the last week of the month,” Richard told his wife, cautiously inching closer to her and making himself open for a kiss or a hug.
“What about..”
“Everything is being rescheduled, I’ma take my vacation at the hospital and we are gonna go, and experience the beauty and seduction and romance of Spain.”
“I like Spain,” Teresa eeked out, as she smiled.
“I know you do,” Richard said, wrapping his arms around her and planting a huge kiss on her.

“Stop grabbing that nurses ass, and go buy us a new blender,” Julie yelled from down the hall where the other nurses and staff watched, giggled and smiled approvingly.  “Hurry up your next appointment is in 45 minutes.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Stop Breathing By The Seaside - The Flash Fiction Challenge 2016 | Challenge #1 Assignment Group 54 - Mystery / A Wharf / A Dog Collar

Stop Breathing By The Seaside
Two detectives investigate a murder on a wharf and find the solution in the dead man’s stomach.

“This guy died from his stomach tearing open, probably someone kicked it in,” Dr. Daniels spat, cold and clinical, into the phone. “There are signs of violence and fighting.”
“Ok, let me know if you find anything else,” answered Detective Jones.
Jones hung up the phone and sighed in exasperation.
“What did the doc say?” asked Detective Smith.
“There was a fight,” Jones answered.
“Surprise surprise, wanna head down to the crime scene and see what we can find in the daylight?” Smith asked.
“Yeah,” Jones said as he set down his coffee mug with a thud. “Let’s go be cops.”

Smith pulled out of the Dunkin Donuts parking lot, Jones sat beside him juggling a dozen jelly donuts and two vanilla coffees. The coffees and donuts were evenly dispersed between the stomachs of the two detectives as they parked illegally in front of the business offices of the Widgery Wharf and Port Facility. The smell of the sea and fish stung them as they opened the car doors on this muggy July day.

Built two centuries ago, the wharf was still a thriving fishery and working waterfront, with fishing boats, house boats, seafood processors, boatyard repair places and lobstering operations going along right beside the trendy bistros and condos.

“I got a call about a dead fisherman, last night, around 11:30,” said Wharf Operations Supervisor Dick Jacobs. “One of the guys was on his way home and saw Jimmy laying on a pier. Same thing I told the cop last night. I got a busy day today, we got an artisan fest on Union Wharf next to us.”
“You got time to make us a list of the places Jimmy Stock sold lobster too,” Jones asked.
“Yeah, the fest starts at 10 a.m., I got a bit, I’ll write some down.” Jacobs began scrawling chickenscratch on a sheet of paper and handed it to Jones. “I really didn’t know Jimmy all that well, so that list may not be complete. But if I think of any others I will call you.”
 Smith handed Jacobs his card, asking if Jacobs knew of any enemies Stock had. Jacobs snatched the list back from Jones and wrote BILL GREEN at the bottom of it.
The detectives thanked Jacobs for his help and told him they would be at the wharf all day, investigating the crime scene and checking the lobster places.

“Nobody liked him,” said John Frost. “But I don’t think anybody would kill him.”
“What about Bill Green,” asked Jones.
Frost chuckled a bit and considered a second then said “Maybe Bill would do it, Jimmy was sleeping with his wife and rubbing his face in it, but I don’t know.

“Yeah, Jimmy left here last night around 8, he said he was going to meet with Bill’s wife, but I don’t think he did,” said Jesse Stone. “Jimmy was on his way out, and we were trading niceties and in walked a big block of a man, square and bulging everything, and he asked Jimmy to step outside… something about a loan.”
“Did you recognize the big guy at all?” asked Smith.
“I’ve never seen him before. Most of the fishermen are in good shape, but this guy was a gladiator-type, he probably spent most of his time in a gym,” said Stone.

“Jimmy gambled a lot, he was trying to find somebody to loan him money to redo his boat too,” Tyler Grace said. “Most of the old school guys still use wooden traps, he wanted to upgrade. Nobody would give Jimmy a loan though, he was a mean guy, weatherbeaten, dirty talking, didn’t care for frivolous things and didn’t really care for people he didn’t need. He was kind of a dick and he wasn’t making tons of money. Hell, none of us are nowadays, with the environmental rules and the climate changes and everything else.”

Jones and Smith walked back toward the crime scene on the fishing pier. There was a husband, some gamblers and who knows who else after Jimmy Stock. One lead sounded as good as the other. Women always lead to murder. Money always is a crime. The detectives didn’t know which lead to chase first.

Smith’s cell phone rang and he stopped to answer. Jones kept walking and he saw a man in his 20s, scruffy, wirey, coming toward him walking a small dog. The dog ran up to Jones as he stopped at the end of the crime scene pier. Jones scratched the dog’s ears and asked the owner what kind of dog was it.
“It is a labradoodle,” answered the scruffy man.
“Have you had it a while, just walking it down here without a leash,” Jones said. “I could never get my dog to do that.”
“Just got it today,” the scruffy man answered. “I haven’t even named it yet.”
“What’s your name man?” asked Jones.
“Ely, Ely Cumberbatch. I live in those condos over there,” Cumberbatch pointed to the pricey condos abutting the wharf. 
“You walk down here a lot?” asked Jones. “I’m with the police department, investigating a murder down here last night.”
Smith walked up and Jones introduced his partner to Cumberbatch. Smith stopped, a shocked smirk on his face, and murmured something to his partner.
Looking uncomfortable Cumberbatch excused himself and tried to walk away, but Smith had his gun out and was standing in his way.
“My partner just got a call from the morgue,” Jones said to Cumberbatch. “The guys down there found a dog collar in the stomach of the man who was killed on the pier last night. The tag said the dog was named Tulah, and it belonged to Ely Cumberbatch. So, why don’t we head to the station and you can tell us about your walk last night.”

“That asshole kicked my Tulah. Kicked her in the stomach and she died a few days later. I had to make him pay,” growled Cumberbatch.