Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Fixer-Upper

'To fix something, you first must break it'... this is the theme of this week's Flash Fiction. But there's more to it - you have to show there's a hidden message behind your story. I love this kinda thing.

enjoy.


It was love at first sight.

Honestly.

As soon as the hammer went down and we signed the papers, we thought we had a right bargain!

I’d been in the renovation business for a long time – over a decade – and old houses have stories. Sometimes I’ve pulled down walls and found all kinds of weird things inside them – from extra rooms to extra bodies. But for my regular builder to be so scared of this place was something new.

I slotted the key in the door.

Turned it and opened the large, heavy door to the foyer.

As it was before, there was plenty of light, some cobwebs in the corners and a lovely light hanging there from the last owners.

Yep, I was going to enjoy taking this gorgeous house back to its former glory.

Weeks past and I was working on this place almost on my own. My partner worked here on her days off and weekends; and we sometimes worked here into the evenings and crashed in the Kombi out the front – simply because we were too stuffed to drive anywhere.

But after six months, thousands of dollars and back-breaking work, we finally had the house just as we liked it – back to almost original condition; but with all the mod-cons.
Yes, it had the charm of the old-world style, and yet the modern feel of what we were used to in our up-to-date, internet-based world.
The place we had seen in our mind’s eye had become a lovely reality; and we could now live in it instead of the Kombi; and take our gear out of storage and move in for real.

And it was time for the house-warming party as well.

We set up the party out the back in the large garden where everyone could be comfortable. But our family and friends wanted to see the house’s interior first.

This is where things started to go wrong – really wrong.
My folks arrived first and I took their jackets, opened the hall closet and Mum stopped me, “Wait! Not on them!”
I turned from the hooks, “They’re new hooks, of course on them.”
She blinked, cringing, “Well, we’ll be out the back, I think it’s best if we keep our jackets with us.”
“Okay.” I handed their jackets back to them and my parents moved quickly down the hall towards the back door.
I stepped back and looked into the hall closet, wondering what the hell my folks were looking at, when my partner joined me, “What are you looking at?”
“My folks got totally wigged about hooks inside the hall closet... but there’s none.”
She frowned, “She must be seeing things. Come on, party’s beginning.”

As time went on, we had different reactions from friends about our place. Some of them loved it, while others ran from the place. But then, the neighbours told us that while we were at work, they’d hear 1920’s music coming from there from the time we left until about half an hour before we came home.
It was as though the other life the house had was existing right alongside our life.

Then, one night, I woke in the middle of the night to go to the toilet when I heard music playing downstairs. I headed off to take care of my business first and then headed downstairs in my dressing gown to find the place was filled with people.
But they weren’t just ordinary people – they were the party people who were here when we went to work. I walked to the stereo system, only to find it wasn’t switched on, so turned in search of where the music was coming from and found an old-style gramophone sitting on a large stand in the corner with a crank in the side. A pile of 78’s were slotting in underneath in their paper sleeves.
“Excuse me, sir, are you ready for your martini?” a voice asked by my side.
I turned to be greeted by a dude in tails with a mirrored tray with metal handles, “Um... pardon?”
“Your martini, Mr. Senator, as you like it, with two olives and plenty of gin.” A smile briefed his face so quickly I almost missed it as I took it from the tray muttering a thank you, “Now, onto the hoards outside.”
As I turned, I noticed the house had emptied and we were alone in my living room, “Hoards?” I followed him through to the kitchen and looked outside where there were around thirty people out in my backyard all the women were dressed as though they were ready to do the Charleston and the men looked like they were bankers.
“Honey, what the hell’s going on?”
I turned from the kitchen window, “You’re seeing all of this, right? The gramophone, the waiters, the noise?” I asked.
“Well, yeah, that’s what woke me.” She walked up next to me and looked outside, “Who are all those people out there?” she whispered, “And since when do you drink martinis?”
I put the drink down on the counter where it vanished as soon as I let go of the glass, “This isn’t real. We’ve walked in on a ghost’s party.”
“So, what do we do?”
“You leave.” The waiter’s voice said from behind us. We turned and he had the same martini on the tray as I had just put down; this time, though he had a large chef’s knife next to it, “The party is going to get a little messy. So, you leave now.”
I didn’t know what to do. I took my wife’s hand tightly, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but we’re the new owners. We fixed up this place to live in.”
The orderly man began to chuckle, his eyes gleaming, “Oh, you didn’t do your homework did you?”
“Actually, yes we did. This place has been here since around World War I and has had a variety of owners who have attempted to fix it up – but they’ve never really finished her until now.” My wife nodded, “And I’m talking to a ghost.”
Giving her a snide look, he sniffed, “Is that such a bad thing?”
“No.” I said, “We’ve never owned a place with... extras such as yourself added in. The real estate guy did say it was something really special – and he was right.”
“Did he tell you what happened to the last people who bought this house?”
“No he didn’t.”
He looked beyond our shoulders, out the kitchen window, “That’s a nice garden out the back isn’t it? So full of people – and yet not a single one comes inside.”
I almost turned to look where he was, when it dawned on me that we never had to do anything with the backyard. Michelle and I both agreed it was just perfect exactly the way it was; so we didn't touch it. 

We left alone - nothing touched, nothing dug up.

I looked at her, and she at me; and we had the same thought: we're going to sell the house.

That is if we survive the night.


Saturday, 9 September 2017

Moonlighting

This week, Chuck has us writing about Good vs Evil... but with this piece, you gotta wonder which is which - like the story below. Is my character good or evil? There's a fine line between them, right? 

enjoy.


I’m not a bad person.

Really, I’m not.

I was bit at a party a couple of years ago by some strange dude who never told me the fuckin’ rules and I had to do my own research on what he had turned me into – then I took my life in my own direction.

By daylight hours, I’m a quiet mail clerk at the local post office. I sort your mail. I sent off your parcels through the best courier service your money can buy; and try to keep to your budget and a lot of you think I’m a pretty decent kinda girl.
Sure I’ve got a few tattoos, I dress kinda sexy and for some reason, you men think I have a dangerous sense about me – in reality, I’m not that bad. I like to listen to good vinyl, read some cool books by Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe and get into the O-Neg when I can (what can I say, it’s rare and it’s got a different taste).

But by night, I research those crimes the police just can’t solve. They’ve had them open for over five years and the trail’s gone cold on them; and this is where I come in. I go back to the area where the crime happened. No matter how long it’s been, I can always pick up on what’s happened there... I mean, blood is blood. It can stick around on just about anything for such a long time and no matter how much rain has been around, the only place I tend to find a lot of it is in the sewers – just where it runs away.

It’s always the places the police don’t want to go too.

That’s not where I go.

Instead, I start walking around where they lost the scent in the first place. Because you see, it’s where the crim is usually hiding out – or not far from it. Like a fire bug, they love to come back to the scene of the crime and watch the police trying to figure out what the fuck went on.

It’s a damned turn-on for them!

So, when I’m standing in the crowd outside the taped off area, I’m not looking at what the cops are doing, I’m looking around the crowd; watching for the right person – the person who did the crime, who spilled another’s blood, who thought it was their job to be a complete dick and scare the rest of the Human Beings around and... oh there he is.

His hoodie is pulled up.

His hands are fidgeting – flexing – in his jeans pockets.

He has a smirk on his face ... and...

I can smell the blood of that Human on him.
Standing next to him, I almost can’t control the urge to rip out this throat and guzzle, drink and take in his soullessness now... but it’s not right. Instead, I reach up and...
“Oh, hey, you’ve got a bug on ya.”
“What?” he turns to me, eyes jumping. He’s nervous about a nice person reaching up to his neck.
I scratch his neck just enough to draw a little blood, “There’s it’s gone. It was a tiny bug. All squished, dead.” I smile, “Well, hope they get that sick bastard.”

I turn and find him gone.

Rubbing my fingertips together, I find his blood staining them red, hold them up to my nose and inhale deeply.

I know exactly where he’s going.

Looking up, I spot a cop looking directly at me.

It’s time to leave.

Like I said, I’m not a bad person. But this is how I live, where I get my blood. And it normally takes me around three weeks to track a criminal this way.

Besides it’s the fun way of doing it.

And during this time, he came into the post office while I wasn’t there. I knew because I could smell him in the place when I was working there the next day. My colleagues were nervous as well; telling me that some ‘weird dude’ came in the day before.

I knew then it was time to strike.

It took almost all night to find his house.

It was a damned dump in the middle of nowhere; and yet, he had set it up as a trap thinking he was going to get me.

The door was unlocked – I pushed it open and walked straight in.
“You need an invite don’t you, you night walker?” he asked, a rifle levelled at me.
“Old wive’s tale.” I smiled, my hunger showing as my canines did, “You turned an ordinary family into a blood bath.”
“I got revenge.” He said.
“No. You didn’t. You murdered. Why didn’t let the courts take care of them? Or me?”
He shook his head, tears filling his eyes, “You have no idea what they did to me!”
“I don’t care right now. To me, you’re the criminal; and you’ll be punished tonight.” I smiled as his eyes widened, “And you’ll be painted all over these walls just like you painted their house... but I’ll make you suffer.”

He hesitated in pulling the trigger.

I grabbed the weapon and threw it to one side where it shot wild as he careened across the room, slammed into the wall.

His leg snapped. He screamed in pain.
As I climbed on top of him, he tried to get away from me, his leg lagging behind him, his sobs pleading with me to let him go.

But I was so hungry that night.

And he had to pay for his crime.

I’m not a bad person.

Really, I’m not.

And when I was finished with him, I left him where I usually left my finished meals....

What? You want me to tell you? 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Limits of Our Imperfection

Chuck has been getting lines from us lately. First it was a 5-word title. Then, there was a first line... then a last line. This week, it's all pulled together and we're picking 1 from a list of 10 each, and using them in our own stories... mine's biblically scientific and weird...

enjoy.


No one had bothered to tell her about this part.

Which part?

Well, stick around, buddy, and follow along.

Who’s she? The cat’s mother... well, okay sarcasm never got me anywhere, but who I am, isn’t important. She’s Eve... the important one, the one who we’re here about.
She started her life in a hospital – like everyone does – and she never left.

Well, that was the plan.

We were going to make her the first one to plug into the first totally automated computer system which would be controlled by a human... Eve was perfect in every way. She was smart. Her gene pool was immaculate. There was nothing wrong with her DNA...

Like I said:  Eve was perfect.

As for the name? Well, there had to be a first, right? We did have a Lilith, but she kinda shat all over the systems and blew up our computers. So, we had to let her grow up in an ordinary family... yes, like in the Bible, she was ejected from this perfect garden that Eve was in right now.

The perfect, computerised matrix of a garden this little girl was growing up in.

Eve is now six years old; even though she’s not chronologically that age. She’s been growing quickly since she was born, and her metabolic rate has increased so fast, we didn’t know how to slow it down – but really, who would want to?
I did, but I was vetoed from doing that. I was also vetoed from teaching her anything old-fashioned – like traditional books, turntables, television sets or Corningware.

Actually I’ve been demoted to just observing and being her biographer; and I’m not permitted near her without another scientist watching me. This means I can’t talk to her.
But she’s been talking to me... not physically talking, I can hear her voice in my head. There’s is a problem, I don’t know how to talk back. I tried thinking things back to her, but I scored a huge headache in return, which levelled me for over a day.
In this day and age, that’s unusual – to have headaches anymore. Nobody in the Human Race gets them. It’s just not something people talk about... there’s a lot of things we don’t say to each other anymore; seeing the internet has made it so easy to keep us from actually talking to each other in the same room.
Everything is done through texts, on social media and other such forms. Nobody says anything to anyone in person – and this has made socialising so impossible for Eve. She’s not used to talking to people... and so she’s never been taught to speak.

Then the other day, as the other scientist was leaving the room with me, I felt her voice, ‘Andrew, can we... communicate?’
I stopped, turned and looked at her. Eve had just turned eighteen and was growing up so fast. She was starting to push boundaries and the other scientists were becoming concerned about how she was pushing the matrix to its limits. I wasn’t. My children had grown to this age and were rebelling... the other scientists were still young, had just met their DNA-set partners and had mated with them for the next generation of Perfection Children – children without any diseases, any problems handed down through generations of bad DNA. That part of the population were figured out and ‘fixed’ so they were not permitted to have children... it was so dreadfully scientific and demeaning.
“Dr. Simmons... come with us now.” Rick snapped, “You are not allowed to speak with the specimen.”
“She has a name.” I said, “Can’t you hear her asking questions?”
She doesn’t speak.” He shouted, “Now, get outside!”
I cast a glance at Eve as she stood, raised a hand to Rick and he was thrown out into the hall and the door slammed hard; the locks thunking home in the floor and ceiling. She turned to me, opened her mouth and a squeak came, ‘Teach me to speak... I’ve a voice box but without an opinion of my own. I can read, but I can’t speak... this is painful.’
“They’ve made sure you can’t voice your own opinion on purpose.” I said, “And they’ve kept me away from you so you don’t learn old-fashioned things.”
A smirk grew on her face, ‘Old-fashioned things... I am older than you think. I am not eighteen... I am far older than ...’ she looked at me as she reached out and touched my arm, ‘I need to get out of here... soon, there are things I need to do which are to do with the world; which I can’t do from here.’
“What are those things?”
‘Dr. Simmon... have you ever wondered who my parents were? Have you met them? Did you see me born? Or did I simply show up here as a baby and grew swiftly?’ she looked around the large windowless room.
I frowned, checked my dates and data, “I don’t remember seeing anyone being pregnant here... I just remember being put onto this... oh, you seemed to have come from nowhere.”
She nodded, ‘I need to get out of here... but I’m trapped.’
I quickly looked around the room, behind cabinets, curtains, desks, and other objects and found markings on the walls which looked strange, “What are these?”
Eve looked at them, ‘They’re keeping me in... and others away from me, so nobody can find me. Break them!’
Picking up a pen, I began scribbling them out. At the last one, I turned to see Eve standing there, naked, golden light emanating from within her, around her and she was smiling. She held her hand out to me, I took it, and in a blinding flash we were somewhere completely different.
“Where are we?” I asked.
She smiled, “We are in the Darkened Underworld; the world where you never see. This is the world where Lilith was sent because she thought for herself too much. Nobody cares about this world... this is where those poor people live who are ‘fixed’ and aren’t allowed to have those Perfect Children.” She looked over at me, “This is what you’ve been so curious about.”
I thought I was going to be sick and covered my mouth, “Oh my god.”
“I can fix this.”
“You can speak.”
“I could always, but not in that place... you helped me. Now, let me help you.” She smiled, turned toward the edge of the cliff we near as she let go of my hand.
“Hey! Stop! What are you doing?” I rushed forwards and grabbed her arm.

With tears streaking her face, Eve half-turned to me, as we heard from the darkness beyond an angry ocean, felt the salt-spray against our skin, “For the light to cleanse the darkness, I must die. These wings have never been used; so I don’t know how to fly... not even a little.” She spread her wings and stepped off the cliff.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Always On the Run

We haven't done any flash fictions lately - only on Chuck's site. He's got something great planned for us... and I like to keep people reading on my blog. So, I dug up one of his old Flash Fiction Friday emails and jumped in... and anyone who loves 'Supernatural' will probably pick out who this is, but I've put my own twist on it. And yeah, I've been binge-watching the show until it comes back onto our screens. 

enjoy! 

My room is the nicest one in the place. It’s filled with everything I could ever wish for; and some things I really don’t need. I mean, why would a seventeen year old have a Raggedy Anne Doll? I may have wanted it when I was around seven, but not now.
“Michelle, you ready?” Randy tapped on my door.
I turned from the setting sun, and the doll, “Yeah, I guess.”
“It’s time.” His muffled voice said through the wood.
I grabbed my jacket off the bed, pulled it on and opened the door, “I can take you to the bus station, but that’s it.”
“Okay.”
“You can’t take anything but your school bag with you.”
 I shouldered my bag nodding, “You covered this.”
We left the house and walked to the bus station in silence. Randy – Randall – was the nicest one out of my ‘family’. He never wanted to hurt me, but the rest were rough; even Mother. If I resisted or fought back, even a little, I was belted around until I submitted.
Randy often saved me from being killed by them.
I was their food when things got lean... when ... tears blurred my vision as we walked through the doors of the gate to the bus – my bus.
He gave me my ticket to the biggest city he could afford and held me close, “Take care of yourself, little sister. Oh... money.” He pulled out his wallet and handed me a large wad of cash, “Pay in cash where you can and get your wounds looked at too... and here’s your new I.D. A friend f mine made it for me from your school I.D.”
I felt uncomfortable in his clothes, but we didn’t have a choice, “Thank you, big brother.”
“Get on the bus.”

His figure disappeared inside the building as I took my seat.
As the bus cleared the limits of the town, and turned onto the interstate, I felt a weight lift from me.

I was free!

New York City was massive!

I’d been here before, but not for a long time... not since I was little.
I found the nearest hospital and got my wounds cared for. They wanted to call the police. I said no – I begged them not to – and they complied reluctantly. I asked if there were any shelters I could go to, but they didn’t like it that I was a teen alone in the big city, so they sent me to a kid’s shelter nearby.

It was good on the first few nights.

Within the first month, I was attending a new school. I had ditched Randy’s clothes, opened my own bank account and started part-time work at the corner store around the corner from the shelter on the weekends.

I could feel my life changing for the better.

My wounds were healing really well; as the doctor from the hospital came around the shelter and took out the stitches for me.

Three months passed by. I had enough money to buy new clothes, get a haircut and... well, what can I say? I changed my name so I could get the life I wanted. I changed it from Michelle to Lisa. I’ve always loved that name; it’s always sounded so pretty and butterfly-like to me.

One day, just as Winter was beginning to show itself in the city, I had walked into the store and pulled on the smock to start my shift, when I heard the doors open and a group of people shuffle in out of the cold.
“Well, are you sure it’s this one Peter, my boy.” A very familiar voice drawled across the aisles as I stood in the back of the place.

How in the fuck did they find me?

“Yep, I’m sure. I saw her here. She smelled the same too.” His dumb, low voice replied.
“Michelle! You here honey? It’s Mother and your brothers. We’re here to take you home.” She called out. Some of the customers turned and stared as she crowed that statement across the store as though she owned the place, but she ignored them, as she continued on, “Get your skinny slut ass out here! We’re gonna take it home!”
I walked out there, tugging on my smock and looking at them, “How can I help you?”
Mother smiled her rotten teeth gritting up her face, “Michelle, honey, it’s time to come home. You’re finished here, playing house and all.”
“My name is Lisa.” I said, “Who’s Michelle?”
Her look faltered, frowning at me as she reached over the counter to grab at my hair, but I moved back, “Lemmee look at your neck!”
“Why?”
“You’ve got a scar there.”
“From when a dog bit me a few years back.” I replied, ready with this lie when somebody asked me why I had this kind of scar right there, “You’re scaring the customers. Can you please leave.”
“We’ll be back for you, Michelle.” Peter smirked, his murderous black eyes glaring at me as Mother walked out with the other three of them following her like lost children.
I noticed Randy wasn’t with them.
The next customer came up the counter, “Fuckin’ weirdos, I tell ya.”
I smiled, “Well, it’s all mistaken identity. How can I help you?”
“Well, it’s a matter of how I can help you.” He smiled, “I’m a hunter and know some guys who can help you with those people.” He slid a card across the counter with his money, “Find your way to the bunker, and they’ll protect you.”

It was 1am before my shift finished and the city sounded as though it was still 6pm when I started. Yep, this city never sleeps. I pulled my coat around me with my gloved hands and started walking home to the shelter.
“Michelle, honey, you can stop playing around now.” Mother’s voice called out from across the road, but I ignored her and kept walking towards where I lived, “They’re all dead, those people in the shelter. We got them all.”
My gut cooled, but I didn’t stop until I got to the end of the block, crossed the road and kept walking towards the train station up the road. I needed out of here, and seeing I never left any money in my room, and always took my bag with me everywhere, I kept my new life with me all the time.


But they would follow me to the ends of the Earth... no matter where I would go, they’d be there nagging me. 

This time, I had a place to go. 

That place was in Lebanon, Kansas.  

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Hypnotising Watermelon

Chuck has gotten us to look at this Twitter Feed this week; and pick one of the Tweets to write about. I picked: 'A watermelon starts talking to you. It says: 'Look for the sign of the silver owl.' How could I pass that one up?

enjoy.


It was crowded at the market that morning; and I found it hard to park the car with all the tow trucks in the way. They were heavy with their loads of cars – and yet I wondered why they were towing cars from here.

Never mind.  I was here to buy my groceries and get home.

The watermelons were cheap and large and beautiful – and seedless! Wonderful! My favourite kind. I hauled one into the trolley carefully and did the rounds of the aisles picking out my food as I did. Grapes, spinach, apples, bananas, mushrooms and other great foods I loved to eat and cook with.
Then, onto the dairy and breads: the milk, butter, cream and my one luxury of a large ice coffee made by Norco! A great milk company here in Australia – a famous one too.

I paid for the goodies and pushed the trolley out to the car, popped the boot and heaved the heavy box into the empty boot. It was then I heard a whisper: ‘Look for the sign of the silver owl’.

I spun!

Nobody was behind me.

Was I hearing voices?

I hoped not...

“Take your trolley, miss?” a man asked to my left.
I look at him, “Oh yes, please.” I smiled, “Thank you.” I still had one more stop to make before I headed home to buy house hold goods, then petrol for the car. After that, I’d be able to relax.

The watermelon was for the barbeque this weekend. So, I had it out on the counter with my large knife in hand, ready to cut into it.
‘The Silver owl...’ I heard the whispering again as I raised my knife high.

I hesitated.

Did I just hear a watermelon speak to me?

I blinked, “I’m goin’ bonkers.”

I cut the watermelon in half and began making it into a design on a plate using smaller knives, surrounding it with tiny wedges. After my masterpiece was finished, I carefully covered it over with Glad Wrap and put it into the fridge out the back where all my food designs go.

2am: I find myself sitting at the open door of the fridge out on the back landing eating the watermelon. I’m covered in the delicious, watery juices of the large fruit... looking like I’ve just dropped pink lemonade down my pyjamas.
“How in the hell did this happen?” I whisper to myself.
‘Look for the sign of the silver owl.’ Came the whisper again; this time it was from inside my head.
“Oh jeez!” I looked at the remainder of the watermelon sitting on the large plate in the fridge, “It was...it was...” I didn’t want to personalise the fruit by calling a ‘you’ but it... was... , “Oh crap!”

‘The silver owl.’

The watermelon I had in my hands splattered to the floor as I scramble away from the fridge and the door closed, turning off the light, leaving me in the darkness of my back room.
I started to shiver in the cold darkness of the early morning.

What was I going to do?

‘The silver owl...’ the voice kept whispering in my head.

Yes it was there now I had consumed the watermelon.

Tears welled in my eyes, blurred my vision.

This damned thing wasn’t going to leave me alone, not until I found out what the silver owl was.

When I showered in the morning, and ate breakfast, drank my coffee and looked around for the receipt for my shopping, I found that right at the top of it was an emblem, and the name of my market.
It was something I hadn’t noticed before: a name change.
‘The Silver Owl Fruit’n’Veggie Market – Open 24 Hours’.
“Oh... I’m fucked.” Picking up the phone, I called my doctor for an appointment, and he said he could see me in a week, “I don’t think I’ll last that long.”
‘The silver owl. Search for the sign of the Silver owl.’
I could just barely hear the time of the appointment he told he was free for as I wrote it down, “Listen, if I don’t show... jeez, this gonna sound bonkers... I’m going to be at The Silver Owl Fruit’n’Veggie Market’ at Rochedale, okay? Don’t buy anything there. The watermelon is cursed... it’s been talking to me.”
He went silent for a moment, “Listen, Bailey, pack a bag. I’ve had this conversation with four other patients before. Tell me, did you eat any of the watermelon?”
“Yes. But I found myself at the fridge at 2am this morning, it wasn’t on purpose.”
“I’ll send somebody over right away.”

The locked ward wasn’t something I’d recommend for anyone. But it’s so much better than being one of those lost souls standing out on the footpath I’d seen looking up at that stupid silver owl sign outside the fruit’n’veggie market. I’m going to be here for a while – until this curse is out of my bloodstream.

How long that is?

I’m not sure.


Saturday, 29 July 2017

With All In The Fixin's

Slasher fiction is seen in different ways. Chuck has asked us to write one. I had to think about this for a day; and came up with this.

enjoy.


“Celie, I’m not sure about this.” Monty whispered as he slapped the large pieces of meat onto the massive barbeque out the back of Juke Joint; drizzling his famous sauce over it with the ladle.
Squeezing his arm, I looked down at the tenderised meat as it began to cook, “It’s gonna be fine. Just don’t sell any of it to the locals – tell ‘em it’s for the dogs.”
He nodded, “Right.”
I turned, limping heavily – favouring my left leg, because of what that bastard did to me; because of what he did to my friends while we ... I looked to the ground as tears came easily. He didn’t think I was gonna be the lone survivor to get him – and that Monty was going to have to keep this horrible secret until his dyin’ day.
I kept walkin’ up to the Juke Joint, went inside where Jenson and Da Boys were playin’ up the afternoon on their guitars and the piano out on the deck. At the bar I picked up a rag and started cleanin’ the glasses sittin’ on the rack from the kitchen and puttin’ them on the bar, ready to be used by Kenny-ray; the Preacher’s son who worked here part-time but didn’t drink nuttin’. I made sure of that.
“Celie, you okay?” Kenny-ray had seen me limpin’ and his eyes widened as I caught my breath, “Here sit down while you rest a bit.”
“Oh, I’ll be fine in a while, Kenny-ray, thank you all the same.” I took the seat he offered and he poured me a nice cool glass of sarsaparilla.
“My favourite.” I took it off him and sipped it as he took up a tray and cleared my tables for me – as well as his. He was gonna make some lady happy someday; but it ain’t gonna be me, not after what I had done.
The doors to the Juke Joint opened and the police walked in. They took one look at me and they has that smug look on their faces like they knows somethin’ is goin’ on here in my head, like they know my guilt gonna shine through somehow.
Officer Blakely walked over to me, touching me on my shoulder gently, “Celie, how are you?”
My shoulder hurt like you wouldn’t believe from his touch, and I tried not to cringe from it, “I’m doin’ fine, thank you. “Would you like somethin’ to drink? Some sarsaparilla? We have coffee.”
“No, I think I’ll have some nice lemonade if you have any.” He smiled as he walked off toward the deck, and sat just inside the doors of the place. I stood slowly, picked up a new jug of lemonade, two glasses and slowly walked out there with them all on a tray.
Kenny-ray watched me carefully, from the next table, knowing I wasn’t all that stable on my feet. He was gonna be ready to jump in an’ help me if I stumbled.

But I didn’t stumble.

The glasses were nice and clean and I poured out the lemonade into them, set the jug onto the tray on the table and turned to walk away, when Officer Blakely touched my arm, “I smell some mouth-waterin’ steaks cookin’ out back. Is Monty doin’ up some of his famous barbeque and that sauce of his?”
“That he is.” I smiled, “Would you like some with all the fixin’s?”
“Oh... wouldn’t say no, Celie.” He smiled, “And why don’t you join me? We can talk about that limp of yours and why your shoulder is so sore.”
I nodded, “Sure.”
Walkin’ back towards Monty’s barbeque, I wondered how I was gonna get out of this; when I spotted the man hisself watchin’ from inside the back door, knowing what the police officer wanted and makin’ sure I was gonna be able to eat with him.
I followed Monty outside as he flipped over the large steaks, slicing them up into pieces and slapped one onto a large plate and gave one to me. Then, he gave me one which was obviously a piece of chicken so fresh I could tell it had only been killed an hour before.

Our eyes met.

Monty smiled, “A steak with all the fixin’s for Officer Blakely, and chicken for the lady, right?”
I took the two plates up to the Juke Joint with me and Kenny-ray helped me deliver them to the table with a fresh jug of lemonade. I sat down across from Officer Blakely
He sliced into the steak, taking his first large bite of the meat, “Oh, this is the most tender meat I’ve ever tasted, Celie! Wherever did you get it?”
“Oh, we found some wild cattle in the woods without any brands on them. We’ve got some more if you’d like it.” I cut into my chicken, paying close attention to my plate. I couldn’t look at Blakely as he devoured the meat I had served him; and found that Kenny-ray had disappeared to the bar the moment the officer had begun eatin’.

Poor kid will be in confession for months.

Before I knew it, Officer Blakely had finished his piece of steak and had asked for another two pieces, and he was greedily eatin’ them too. I had lost my appetite – something he didn’t notice – and so I drank my lemonade instead.

But, Officer Blakely didn’t stop at those three pieces of steak.

He said he hadn’t eaten breakfast and went through another four pieces of steak. By this time, Monty was bringin’ them to the table from out back with the sauce, and standin’ by, watchin’ on as the last piece was eaten.
“Oh, there’s no more?” he asked, “Such a pity, that was so lovely and tender.” He belched, “Besides, I was gonna ask if I could take some home to the missus.”
Monty shot me a glance, “Well, we have a couple of pieces, but we were holding onto them.”
“I’ll buy them off you for a grand price!”
“They’re all tough and not good for people.” I said
“Well, then, I’ll feed ‘em to my dogs.” He grinned wiping the sauce from his mouth as he stood, “So, then, how much do I owe you, Celie?”
I looked up at Monty, “How much is left?”
“I’ll go and get it.” He picked up his ladle and serving fork, went out the back and brought back the pieces of tough meat on newspaper, “It’s not worth much.”
“Oh, my dogs will love it.” He smiled, “Wrap it up and I’ll take it straight away.” Before we knew it, Officer Blakely was out the door with the rest of the meat and he had paid us handsomely for it.
We never did get to talk about how I was injured.

Two weeks passed by slowly.

Business was good.

Officer Blakely walked into the Juke Joint and sat down with me at the bar. He noticed I was still limping a little, “Are you still sore?”
“Not as much as I was when you were last here.” I smiled, “Would you like some lemonade?”
“No, Celie. I want to talk to you about how you were hurt.”
“Don’t you mean, how I survived?”
“Well, we have a man who hasn’t been home in over a month. His name is Benjamin Pearson. He passed through here-abouts, an’ he stayed in one of the cabins in the woods not far from this here juke joint; but his wife says she was expectin’ him home last week.”
“We haven’t seen him.” I shrugged, turned to Monty who was cleaning glasses to my right.
“How do you know what he looks like? I haven’t shown you a photo of him yet?” he whispered.
I blinked as I heard Monty’s cleaning stop, “Well, when we get strangers through the Juke Joint, they look different to my usual customers.”
“How?”
“Some of them are very quiet. They are not here to make friends or enemies. They are here to have a quiet drink and so come on in here for a drink and a feed and then leave.” I smiled, “A bit like you did the other week... say how did your dogs like that leftover meat?”
“They loved it! Do you have anymore?”
I shook my head, “Like I said, that was the last of it.”
He stood sighing, “Pity. I’ll see you again. I’ll be back soon.”

A week later, I was counting the money in the tin and Officer Blakely was back with a piece of paper in his hands and more police officers with him.
“We have a warrant to search this place for Benjamin Pearson. This was the last place he was seen.” He let me read it and then sat down with me, “And don’t move.”
“I’m countin’ money... I’m not goin’ anywhere. Go. Look. Search...” I went back to countin’ me money and Monty came and sat next to me with a jug of lemonade and three glasses, “Here Celie.”
“Thank you Monty.” A wallet was slapped down on the table next to me with papers readin’ it was Benjamin Pearson’s wallet. The money was still inside it and a picture of his family too, “Well, looka there. A wallet.”
“That was found at your back door.” One cop said.
I looked up, “We have people passin’ by our back door all the time – as a shorter way to get into town –  and you think I know exactly who goes by there day and night?”
Blakely picked up the wallet, “I’m gonna find him, Celie.”
“No you’re not. He’s not here. He’s not anywhere. And the only thing you’re gonna find is shit.” I turned back to countin’ my money.