Posts Tagged ‘humpday’

Penance

by Steph Ellis

A hand can signify so much: a loving touch, a safe anchor, a friend. His hand was none of these. His hand was a map of pain raised against the world.

The Selector scanned the fleshy palm scarred with broken lines, a future going off at a tangent, a break claimed by death. How far along that road was he already? It didn’t really matter, they needed a sacrificial lamb, someone to carry their message, their plea for help. Would anybody listen? Was there anybody out there? It was unlikely but they had to try. This was a one-way journey into the unknown.

And still he kept his hand in the air whilst all around him others were lowered. Soon his was the only one left; an unfurled flag ready to be planted on alien shores.

He was chosen as he knew he would be. Showed no emotion as they told him how long his rations would last, oxygen, water. Remained impassive as he was given a small capsule. Its contents would ensure a quick death.

They suited him up. Took him to the launch pad. The remaining survivors waved and cheered him. There was no family, no loved ones. She wasn’t there. Not any more.

Then he was in the small craft. It had been prepared for the mission some time ago, merely waited on a pilot. Now the countdown could begin.

Ten

Him. “Who is he?”
Her. “No one. There is no one.”

Iron hand.

Nine

Him. “Who is he?”
Her. “No one, I said.”

Steel hand.

Eight

Him. “Who is he?”
Her. “I told you, please … don’t …”

Leaden hand.

Seven

Him. “Who is he?”
Her. “No …”

Hand grabbing.

Six

Him. “Who is he?”
Her. “You’re hurting me.”

Hand grasping.

Five

Him. “Who is he?”
Her. “Please … no …”

Hand gripping

Four

Him. “Who is he?”
Her. Sobbing.

Hand pressing.

Three

Him. “Who is he?”
Her. Groaning.

Hand squeezing.

Two

Him. “Who is he?”
Her. Choking.

Hand smothering.

One

Him. “Who is he?”
Her. Silence.

He pressed the ignition and the capsule blasted out into the endless night. His penance had begun.

Homecoming
by K.M. Zafari

The eyes staring at me from the photo mirror my own; aside from a smear of black paint, they are identical to mine. “I didn’t know Dad played football.”

“Toss it,” my sister says, after a cursory glance. She is the less sentimental of us two. “His pension barely covers what Medicare won’t, let alone a storage facility to house all his junk.”

“This isn’t junk,” I say. “These are memories.” I turn back to the box of photos, trying to pretend we aren’t deciding the importance of a man’s entire existence.

But here it is, a life in pictures. Star athlete. Prom king. High school graduate.

This is a man I never knew.

“He won’t even remember any of it, Jace.” Denise softens. “I don’t mean to sound cold, but pictures are meant to remind us of of things. And he’s just too far gone.”

I pick up another photo and slink to the floor.

Soldier.

These were the eyes that I remembered. The ones from after the war, whose stare was cold, unfeeling – a wall between who he’d been and who he’d been forced to become in the depths of a jungle far from home.

This whole time, I’d thought it was me. That I just wasn’t good enough. But suddenly, I understand – he saw in me a future he’d lost long ago.

I pick up the box of photos and carry them out to my car, then sit behind the wheel and stare at the carefree eyes of the star athlete, the eyes that had not yet seen. And he is no longer my drunk, angry father, but a man.

I peel out of the driveway. Denise runs after me, but I don’t hear her shouting, don’t care.

“Hi, Pop.”

He’d changed a lot in twenty years. Feeble, frail. His hands shake as he reaches up and cradles my face. “My boy,” he says. “My boy.” Tears fill his wrinkled, innocent eyes.

“Look what I found,” I say, showing him the picture of the man I want to know. “You never told me you played football.”

I’ll take the remaining pictures home. Some things are better left forgotten.

Sisters
by J.R. Hershberger

Laughing, we jostle into Katja’s living room with our shopping bags.
She drops hers. She is not laughing anymore.
I turn to see what she does – two embracing figures. One is Katja’s husband. The other is a woman I do not recognize.
Katja shoves past me, back out the door.
I follow her.
She runs up the street to the park on the corner.
“Katja,” I call. She does not slow down.
She turns onto the park’s running trail. I fall further behind but am confident I will catch up. She has always been the faster of us, but I have always had more endurance.
It’s been years since either of us has done running of any significance. She tires after less than half a mile and collapses on the grass next to the trail.
When I reach her, she is hugging her knees and sobbing.
“This sucks,” she says.
“It does,” I say, “but you can’t run away from it.”
“Didn’t I just, though,” she says, laughing through hitched breaths.
I laugh, too. “I mean, I guess you can. You did. But, you’re going to have to go back. Deal with stuff.”
She rocks back and forth on her bottom. Watching her, I’m reminded of a game we’d played as kids.
“Remember, ‘Rotten Tomato’?” I ask her, joining her in the grass and hugging my own knees. I push myself backward and attempt to use momentum to right myself without letting go of my knees. I flop onto my side.
“Oh, yeah,” Katja says, then tries herself, rocking backward and then straining to come back to sitting position. She fails; her hands slip and she releases her knees.
We each try again, hugging our knees and rocking backward.
Attempts once again unsuccessful, we lay sideways in the grass.
A teen-aged couple appears on the trail. They stop, staring at us.
We stare back.
I ask, “wanna play ‘rotten tomato’?”
They do not answer as they continue past, wearing worried expressions.
When they disappear around the corner, Katja and I laugh.
We laugh until there are no tears left for crying.
Then, I walk her home.

Please accept my apologies for the missing winner’s post this week. Some unexpected events popped up and one of the casualties has been the Angry Hourglass. I plan to do a double winner’s post as well as double up on the HumpDay Quickie next week, but in the meantime, since I neglected to rescue one of last week’s entries from the spam goblins in time to be judged, here’s a bonus story to tide you over until this weekend.


A Personal Challenge

by Stella Turner

It’s the hug that finished it. Arms around me like bands of steel, hot breath searing my neck. The heaviness of his head forcing mine downwards as the ground rose up to suffocate me. I could only see the chains of domesticity dangling in front of me. I was terrified. My arms limp, fingers caressing the daisies hidden in the grass like ancient overturned gravestones.

The city skyline calling to me, “Run! Run! Before it’s too late”

Whispering in my ear he said the word I’d been dreading. I tried to breathe gulping air into my constricted lungs. I couldn’t push away. Hadn’t I been working for this all my life? Twenty five years! The counsellor had told me how to deal with my underlying anxiety. It was easy just concentrate on breathing.

“You okay Ruby?”

I gasped for air and shook my head. He reached into my bag and passed me the blue inhaler. I wasn’t ready. The strong steroids soothed my lungs air passing down into the bronchioles. I felt stronger but not fit for a battle to end a war.

“I thought you might like to flat share with me”

I shuddered. I’d never shared anything in my life not even my parents and I wasn’t going to start now.

Distant Memories Now Freshly Awaken

David Shakes

Do you remember the nameless three from the lake? The girl and the two boys – one had ridiculous tan marks where his vest had been. Remember?

They must be on a missing persons report somewhere- but it never made the news here. I guess they hadn’t left a plan of where they were going.

Do you remember the sounds as they slipped beneath the water? The girl first and then the two boys – just a small splash and then ripples expanding into nothingness. Remember?

You cleaned your knives and developed your photos in secret. They’re stashed in a shoebox wedged beneath the floorboards. Dust covered memories; blood soaked reminders.

Do you remember the first time you took a life? There’s no photo of that – it wasn’t as planned. They said it was an accident, a child’s game gone wrong. You know it wasn’t.

Remember?

When Anna-Marie cut her hand in craft class. You were first there to help- tasting the coppery blood whilst others fussed with bandages. You took her to the woods a few months later and she never came back.

Do you remember the hunt for her? How they questioned every classmate and how you pushed all your feelings down into the pit of your churning stomach? They weren’t even suspicious of you were they and those feelings never came back – just like Anna-Marie.

Remember?

Of course you remember. You see it all now. You thought you’d acted alone but I was always with you – watching, guiding, teaching. You can see that now.

Your actions have caused ripples like those on the lake – they continue to expand ever outwards tainting many lives and strengthening my cause. I’ve much to thank you for.

It’s time to come with me now my friend. Do be afraid. Your service buys you no favours with me. I’ve some people waiting for you.

There’s the nameless three from the lake. Though the fish took their eyes a long time ago they’re eager to see you. Anna-Marie is there too. They’re all there waiting – waiting to help you remember – eternally.

Ghost Town Radio (Barnstorm)
by Steve Lodge

“Great stuff there. That was our three-in-a-row slot for the morning, listeners. First was The Silent Band, with Denis ‘Mule’ Edgar, trumpet, his brother Slut on sax, Aiden Goodwillie on drums and Rancid Weekes on piano with a number entitled ‘Silence Of The Harmonica.’ Then The Single Finger Tribe with ‘Chase The Pace’ and lastly for this hour it was Newly Hughes And The Loos with their big hit ‘One Man’s Plate.’ I’m Don Makemee and now it’s Weather Watch and I’m told it’s the Pitts. Our one and only, Judy Pitts. What have you got for the good people of the Peninsula region this hour, Judy?”

“It’s raining, Don,” replied Judy.

“These weather reports just get more and more technical. Now, listeners, got some news about our old friend, Limey Bennett. He’s reading some poems from his new anthology ‘Lime’s Disease’ tonight at a Poetry Slam at Carsons. Also there tonight will be Wolfgang Laemmle, the German film Director. And there’s an open mic spot too.”

“Anyway, if it sounds windy here it’s because I’m now standing outside the radio station with the delicious Judy Pitts. We’ve worked together here for six years, Judy. Don’t you just love the place?”

“Don,” she said. “It’s falling down. It has no redeeming features at all. It’s cold, damp, in the middle of nowhere, no road for 20 miles. In fact, listeners, as we speak, another piece of timber has fallen from the roof. It should be condemned. Don, I’m serious.”

“No, listeners, I’m the one who’s serious. Judy, darling, we’ve been together through thick and thin here at Ghost Town Radio. Now, as I look around, I see the first bunches of spring steens on the trees, with almond colouration and pink pigment. Nature is open to possibilities, are you, my love? I have planning permission to pull this place down and build a proper radio shack and living quarters. Oh, Judy, my love, it’s so exciting. Take this ride, this new adventure with me. I bought this for you, darling. I hope it fits your finger.”

“It’s a doughnut, Don.”

“It has a hole in the middle.”

The Fierce Traditions Of Scotland

by Ewan Smith

“It’s all such crap, Homish,” Kirstie muttered in disgust, poking at the muddy ground with a stick. “They’re not even big; Scottish men are never big. But they’re prancing about in that show-ring with their muscles and their cabers and their heavy stones…”

The two of them were sitting on the grass leaning back against the wheels of a horsebox. Somewhere in the distance they could hear the cheers of the crowd, the tinny voice of the announcer.

“It’s 2017, for God’s sake!” she cried out. “All the political parties in this country are led by women. But here we are watching a bunch of oiled up men throwing trees around as if that’s some sort of basis for admiration.” Her mouth was writhing in a twisting sneer.

“Where are the women in that show-ring? Where are the gay men?”

Homish held up his hand with a grin. “Here, miss.”

She turned to him with a look of fury. “Don’t joke about yourself, Homish,” she said, her voice scalding in its intensity. “Don’t ever make yourself less than what you are.”

Homish smiled awkwardly and looked away. He had never known her to be so serious.

“You’re in a strange mood.”

She let out a loud groan of frustration. “This country is so fake. All our traditions were invented for the sake of the tourists. Bloody kilts. Have you ever seen anything as stupid as a Scottish Country Dance Competition? Our national drink with its pretend colour…”

“Is that Irn Bru you’re talking about?” grinned Homish.

In the distance, the crowd was starting to sing ‘Flower Of Scotland’.

“Oh God, that song!” cried Kirstie, hurling her stick at a nearby 4 x 4. “We even have a fake national anthem. It happened 700 years ago, for Christ’s sake!” She jumped to her feet in disgust, grabbing her roll of black bags and litter picker. “Come on, it must be finishing. Let’s go and earn our minimum wage.”

Homish stood up. “Jenny Geddes,” he called out, hurrying after her. “Flora McDonald – the Edinburgh Seven.”

“What are you gibbering about?”

Fierce women, he thought to himself; that tradition was true enough.