See Ya Later

1000 Blue Moon Way was spectacular. A towering sliver of mirrored glass piercing the sky. Paddy Crabtree skirted the line of tourists waiting to board the elevator to The Stratosphere, the tallest observation deck in the world. The young reporter moved to security. The lobby was what Paddy like to call precious minimalism, a fortune spent to look like nothing at all. Hands up, arms out, he went through the security scanner. A concierge, dark bobbed hair, impeccable tailored suit, generous red mouth, waited for Paddy to collect his belongings.
“Right this way, Mr. Crabtree.”
Paddy followed his guide’s sleek sure step across grey veined marble tile floor. He couldn’t shake the feeling that she was a panther leading him deeper into a jungle. Paddy also wished Bedelia hadn’t got roasted apricots on his tie. The elevator doors opened.
Emilia that was the concierge’s name led Paddy from high speed express elevator to high speed express elevator. All the while she purred over the features of the world’s tallest skyscraper and charms of the world’s richest man. Paddy was here to interview this colossus. But Paddy wasn’t here the typical meteoric rise from hard scrabble coal town boy to astronaut to tech stock wizard puff piece. Paddy was here for Harkness Pauls.
Emilia led him to a secretary’s office bigger than his and Siobhan’s apartment. After a polite knock by the secretary, Paddy was finally inside face to face with the great man.
Harkness was a big man. Over fifty with the well maintained body of a man half his age. In a tight white tee and joggers, Harkness walked quickly and shook Paddy’s hand. Paddy’s whole body rattled. Paddy and the great man sat down in a matching pair of oversized leather chairs. With sports memorabilia framed on the walls and a collection of vintage playstation games, Harkness’ office had a boyish dorm room vibe. At Paddy’s elbow was a platter of sugar biscuits and sipping chocolate, his childhood favorites. Paddy turned on his phone to record and scroll for his notes.
“Leave it Padriq. I hate to be bored, cut to the chase.” Harkness was learning back with his head resting on his laced fingers.
“You know you were my hero,” Paddy said and nibbled a cookie. It was exactly like his mother’s even down to the burnt edges on one side.
“I was a lot of people’s hero.” Harkness reached for a baseball and twirled it on one finger.
“No I was the real deal. I followed your mission to Kepler 452b like a religion. When you splashed landed off the coast of Enniscore I was there in the cheering crowd.”
“Skinny round headed kid with a blue and black striped jumper,” Harkness said tossing the ball back and forth. Paddy choked on his cookie. Harkness’s eyes twinkled. “Bring it home Padriq.”
Paddy chilled. “I studied the specs of your shuttle. I visited it at the Dublin Air and Science Museum. It was heavier when it left Kepler than when it arrive even accounting for the speciums. You–” He fumbled for his phone. This whole interview was a fever dream.
“God I can take this it is like wading through treacle. You think I found something out there. You think I found some alien tech that allows me to see in future and I used it to build an empire. But that doesn’t really make sense. If I could see the future I would’ve seen this meeting and known the great investigative journalist uncovered my deep dark secret. Use your noggin Crabtree. The future’s constantly being written.”
Crabtree ate another cookie. Harkness tossed his baseball higher and began whistling a jaunty sea shanty. There was a polite knock.
“Take care, Paddy, be seeing ya.”
Like a skinwalker, Paddy was guided back down the elevators by the ever sleek Emilia. As the doors closed, Paddy pictured the cookie platter and his mum’s wonky stove. Paddy remembered the crowds on the shore of Enniscore waiting to cheer when the spaceman fell from the sky and was fished from their sea. He even remembered trading with a daft old fisherman his tin of snickerdoodles for a Harkness tee shirt. Back on the sidewalk Pappy stared up at 1000 Blue Moon Way and then whistled a familiar tune back to his car.

The Big Sister

I wasn’t sorry when Evi left home. I mean I was ,but I wasn’t going to let her know it. I don’t remember Mama; she went away with baby Ferenc after the spring rains. But Evi left school to care for Papa and me. She was a little mother. Papa was angry at first. He was angry at the whole world for takng his baby boy. He used to shout and throw things. When his blood was up, Papa would take the strap to us. I am his favorite. I made him laugh with my funny songs and dances, but Evi only made Papa angry. Evi would make that face, all sad and teary, and it would upset Papa so much. I told her to be nice and to not make a fuss. But she wouldn’t make happy and Papa couldn’t help himself.
When the troubles came, Papa started planning Evi’s marriage. I remember when Papa told Evi her husband was Bela Bussink, the old clockmaker. We were at the dining table with good mutton stew and appelkuchen for dessert. Cinnamon, warm and sweet, was heavy in the air and I pleaded with Evi with my eyes to be nice. I saw her eyes grow wide and I held my breath. All she said was, “Thank you, Papa.” Her voice was a pebble in a shoe. Then she smiled. I was so happy the night wouldn’t be spoiled.
I was cross the next day when I realized I would have to take over the cooking, washing, and mending. I would have to be the little mother while Evi got to live with old Bela. He was no prize sure. At school, we threw rotten apples at his door and called him Old Mandrake because he was so gnarled. But old man Bela had a bigger house than ours and all of his children were grown and gone except for his youngest son, Erik. But Erik was a few years older than Evi and would be married off soon enough. Stupid Evi, I thought, she gets everything first.
I didn’t see much of Evi after her wedding. I had to wear hard shoes that day and a silly dress Evi made for me. When I did see her it was the same old Evi, more pale maybe and that same awful teary face. I had to cook and clean for Papa and had worries of my own. One day Evi came back home to help with the canning. She was different. I can’t explain it she was just different. Eating her pickled beets a few nights later, I thought about my big sister. I knew she had a secret, a secret from me. Papa would be cross if Evi was keeping secrets.
Next day, quick as a flash I slipped from school and followed Evi. I was an undercover agent like in the comics. I laid in the shadows of the bush watching her house. Finally Evi came out with a large willow basket. I could tell she was only pretending to shop. Soon Evi meandered to Zsusana’s back door, the midwife’s back door.
Everyone even Papa feared the midwife. Maybe it was her loud voice. Or the bold way she had about her. The menfolk would whisper about Zsusana and grow silent when she was around. Church or no, midwives can bring babies into the world or stop them.
I knew Evi was going to have a baby. I pressed my head to that door. The two talked of angels makers. The two talked of freedom. Through the thick wood I could not make out many words. Some I couldn’t understand. But I knew evil when I heard it.
I followed her back to Bela’s house. I lost her in Little Wolf woods then she came up behind me. Something stone hard flickered across her face and then she was my sister again.
“Evi, I heard everything. Don’t do the bad thing. Don’t kill,” I implored my sister.
“Oh ZuZu, such big ears you have,” Evi said. She kissed my forehead to quiet my racing heart. Wrapping her arm round my shoulder, Evi pulled me close. “You have things all mixed up. Come home with me. I am making gruel for my husband. He’s under the weather. Let us talk over hot chocolate like when Mama was alive.”
I don’t remember Mama. Sweet, velvety chocolate, the thought of the steamy mug filled my head as we walked through the forest.

Over the River & Through the Woods

The car door slams. A headache sizzles at my temples. One hand drums angrily on the steering wheels. One child is whining while the other’s long thin legs pound the passenger seat’s back. I’m forgetting something, something important. Loading the trunk I unpack my brain. Traveling with children is like decamping a circus, I think running back to the house one last time. Our tattered caravan backs out of the driveway and the children begin hitting each other in the backseat. Already exasperated, we exchange looks. We exchange a look. He navigates our narrow street. I fish for my phone and trying to remember what I’m missing. I don’t think about surviving strokes or where my kids are. I don’t know about variants or probation or planning a funeral. Driving through orange flame oak leaves we head for the highway on the way to grandma’s house. I’m hoping my ginger cranberry sauce doesn’t leak. He puts his hand on my thigh and tells me that story again. I still giggle. We pick up speed. The boys start singing Ring of Fire. Loudly. Soon we are all singing Maybe Baby. Loudly. The apple pie cools on our kitchen counter and I remember.

Never, Ever

The Blue Route was an endless river slithering before them. There were only a few cars on the road. Mostly only big rigs like theirs sailed up and down the highway. Trevor fidgeted.
Trevor missed his bed, his iPad, and his girlfriend Bree in that order. This was his first ride along with Mercury Transit. He was riding shotgun with one of the old heads, Tony. Convo, all of the Smoky and the Bandits, Maximum Overdrive, all floated in his head. Trevor thought the open road would be adventure and manly stories. Trevor looked at stone faced Tony and fidgeted.
Slyly Trevor reached for the snacks Bree had packed him.
“You open those stank ass boiled eggs in this cab and I’ll bust you wide open.” Tony’s deep voice was a throat punch. Tony said no eating smelly food in the truck. Tony said only grown folks’ music. Tony said no humming. For an old battle axe, Tony was terrifying. Trevor looked out the windows and started to hum Megan The Stallion’s Anxiety.
Tony cleared her throat and Trevor started.
“I ‘member when I did my first ride along. It was a night like tonight. Light traffic, good weather, the kind of night that lulls you right to sleep. Little Big Martin was driving and I saw it,” Tony said.
Trevor waited. Tony coughed and shifted in her seat. She began again.
“It was a woman, young and pale as porcelain. She had on a long shift, like an old fashioned night dress. Long red hair washed over her face, she was standing in the middle of the highway in our lane. She seemed kind of bedraggled you know.”
Trevor nodded even though he didn’t know at all.
“I thought there had been an accident of something. Sometimes people stumble out of a wreck confused, like. That when I realized Little Big Martin was flooring it. His eyes were big with fear and like I don’t know determination. I grabbed for the wheel and he slammed his forearm against my chest strong as a crowbar pinned me to the seat. Faster and faster our rig flew right into this woman in white. I heard the solid crunch of her body hitting the grill. I saw her fly into the air. Suddenly I went wild like I woke from a dream. I cold cocked Little right in his freaking jaw. He braked aways up. I opened the door to check on the woman. That when I saw her—it— sit up real quick and smile. Little yanked me back in by the nape and took off. In the side mirror I could see it running after us. I could feel three heavy thumps against the side of our box. Little Big Martin drove like a god. Then he turned to me and said, ‘never, ever, stop for Lorraine.’”
Tony coughed a little and turned back to her stone face. Quiet, Trevor turned to stare out of the passenger window at the endless river of road.

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The Eyes Have It

The mouth says nothing
Insipid, tame creature
Smiling apologies all day

The ears are useless
Superfluous ornaments
They can’t even shield

No we are every emotion
Every intrusive thought under lids
like the flicking of a cat’s tail, peaceful or livid, look and learn

We are a blink from crying
The windows to this soul
stare into us then glance away

We read a fairy tale
Where a princess could
Trade faces, live in another skin

Some days behind her desk
Or over the sink
Or in bed

We think of other eyes
And the relief of other views
Rolling before us

But mostly we fantasize
Of this moment
Writing late at night alone

No One Understands Me Like You Do

It was a typical night. Carlita was crocheting a shawl while Davy was idly flipping through an old magazine. The Pat Metheny Group played on the stereo and half a bottle of the good red was gone. Pretending to read a news magazine, Davy shifted over and over again in his favorite chair. A half smile flirted across Carlita’s lips as her hands moved rhythmically. Davy’s phone beeped. Fumbling his magazine into his lap, Davy lurched for his cell phone. His face brighten as he scrolled through his messages.

ElizaDoNothing: No one understands me like you
DavyNotDavie: Ive never felt this way. Im like a schoolboy and we haven’t even met in person or spoken on the phone
ElizaDoNothing: You are my shining star Davy
DavyNotDavie: Are you sure we can’t meet this weekend for coffee or something?
ElizaDoNothing: Im so sorry my mother is sick you know real sick so many medical bills
DavyNotDavie: Oh no Im so sorry baby is there anything I can do
ElizaDoNothing: You too goodYou are good enough to eat

Behind his hand, Davy chuckled. A cloud of emotion stormed over his wife’s face. Suddenly, Davy looked up and his face pinked. Carlita glanced up.

“Something came up at work, hon,” Davy said. “I’m going to get things sorted out in my study. It shouldn’t take more than an hour.”
“No worries, sweetie. I’m going to finish this row and catch up on some reading.”

Carlita continued crocheting as Davy scurried out of the living room. She picked up Davy’s discarded magazine and looked at the cover headline, Love Bytes: How RomanceBots, Love Scams, Predators are Changing the Face of Dating Apps. Carlita tossed the magazine back on the sofa. She gave a harsh laugh and poured herself the rest of the good red.

Taking Stranger from Candy

So I wait
for the bell to ring
for the door to knock

They come at night
masked
in gaggles of three or four

So I wait
not with lovely homemade brownies
or mini tubes of toothpaste
I’ve learned the hard truth of shiny red apples

They come this rainy night
In gloomy garish garbs
With sunshiny faces under umbrellas

so I wait
In my own haunted house
Surrounded by personal ghosts

They come this night
With ever hungry bags
All eager eyes and happy fingers

So I wait
With a needful basket of name brand candy
Just to hear the long lost laughter of little children

So I wait
For the bell to ring
For the door to knock

The Other Jack

“Sir do you know why we are stopping you?” PC Oberon asked by the side of the road.
“I’ve done nothing wrong, Officer. I don’t know why I’m being detained. I wasn’t speeding.” Grinning broadly, Jack drummed his fingers on his steering wheel to the beat of the music playing on the radio. Wiry and young, the driver had a mop of inky black hair topped with a cap at a rakish angle.
“Can I see your license, registration, and proof of insurance?” The cop kept his tone neutral but his eyes sharp. He took in the cluttered car complete with empty food wrappers and opened cans of chili. The driver rooted through a gym bag and pulled out a few cards.
“Here you go officer. May I ask what’s the hold up? I have to see a guy about a horse.”
“Sir, it says here your name is Tom,” the cop spoke carefully.
“Sure sure you can call me Thomas, you can call me Tommy, but just don’t call me late to dinner.” Forced laughter blared from the station wagon.
Oberon walked around the vehicle.
“Step out of the vehicle, sir.”
The driver spluttered.
“Sir this license says you are a 47 year old ginger and 6 inches tall.”
“I grew.”
PC Oberon sighed heavily. “Also we have been getting reports all night about someone matching your description prowling around around the Fairy Hill district.”
“Prowling me, I spent the whole night with my best mates, Spratt and Be Nimble, eating buffalo wings and watching the big game. Honest to God, Officer.”
“Dispatch also got a call regarding a breakin at the FeeFiFoFums’ house. Something about golden eggs, and a big golden egg laying goose. A goose very similar to the bird you have duck-taped in that gym bag.”
“Won’t that be goose taped?” the driver chortled. “That gander came with the car, hand to heart.”
“I can also see a beanstalk stained axe on your backseat that appears to be related to the cut marks on the giants’ beanstalk.” PC Oberon made notes in his book.
“Well who are you going to believe me or your lying eyes,” The driver said.
“That was the worst assassination attempt I’ve seen. Have you ever even cut down a giant magical beanstalk? You have use a magic chainsaw. Eveyone know that.”
The driver shrugged. The goose wiggled out of the gym bag and hopped on to the passenger seat. She laid a golden egg.
“Step out the vehicle, sir.”

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Don’t Feed The Animals

The leaves had just begun to blaze gold and vermilion. A crisp breeze nipped. Snuggling in her warm shawl, Bjorn sniffed the air. She took a hearty gulp of her honey sweet tea. That’s when she noticed the odd foot prints. She scanned the trees and then left her porch to investigate. She bent down, peering.
“What is it Momma?” Armel shouted inches from his ear. Bjorn jumped and spillt her tea. She chased him around their yard, swatting at his bottom laughing.
That night, her partner and her son, rough housed in front of the fireplace while Bjorn finished dinner.
“Anything exciting today?” Humbert asked as he carried Armel upside down to the dining room table.
“Yes, Papa, yes,” Armel squealed.
Bjorn coughed and gave her son a meaningful look.
“So what’s today’s adventure?” Humbert asked.
“Momma dropped Grammy’s handmade mug and then she couldn’t catch me even though she tried.” Armel shook his head in mock sadness.
“Well she is pretty, pretty old,” Humbert said, “Gave her a break.”
The trio roared with laughter.
The next day there were more tracks and weird spoor. Next, the trash had been gone through. Bjorn cleaned up the mess and searched the woods. Nothing. That night, she left a few carrots, apples, and a chunk of honeycomb. In the morning, the food was gone and in its place her mother’s mug filled with wildflowers. Bjorn’s heart was warmed.
The days grew cooler. To the bundles of food, Bjorn added thick blankets and Armel’s old sleeping bag. Each day she walked the forest edge. She knew you were not to feed nuisance animals. It encourages them to populated areas. They could carry disease. They were dangerous. She knew she should report this strange unseen creature to the Council. She knew they would set up traps, cruel metal mouths. When she had been young, Bjorn remembered the screams of a captured creature deep in the woods. Bjorn shook the nightmare from her memory and returned home.
The woods were under a shimmering blanket of snow. Armel was up with the sun. He bounded out the house to see if the lake had frozen over. With a boisterous whoop, Humbert ran after him. Bjorn put breakfast to simmer on the stove and headed to the lakeside with an armful of towels and hot lemon balm tea. A half hour later the three were walking back home. The lake was not frozen solid. Swaddled in towels, Humbert and Armel drank their tea and laughed over who was to blame for cracking the ice. Bjorn was heart heavy, thinking of her wild animal, hoping it has found shelter.
The three stopped dead. Their front door was wide open. They approached slowly. Who would dare to enter their home uninvited? Raising a warning arm, Humbert went in first. Big and silent, he explored. Bjorn heard him gasp in Armel’s bedroom.
There it was. Curled into a ball at the foot of their son’s bed, the wild creature slept. With a big head and skinny arms and legs, it was clearly a youngster of some sort. Dirty and hairless, except for matted locs of yellow fur on its head, the thing was barely bigger than Humbert’s two paws.
“It sure is ugly.” Humbert was eyeing the creature, bemused.
“You knew.”
“Like I’m not going to notice a steady stream of my food going out the back door,” Humbert said rubbing his snort with hers, “besides Armel is a terrible confidant.”
“Yeah Momma I’m rubbish at keeping secrets. Can we keep it? I promise to take care of it. I can make a soft bed with hay in a box. I’ll walk it everyday I promise. Pretty, pretty, please.”
The trio watched the wild animal turn in its sleep and then opened its weary big eyes. The three bears held their breath waiting. The creature stretched, yawned, and recurred into sleep. Humbert covered the poor thing with the bed’s comforter. Armel tucked his favorite dolly under its arm.
“I will get the porridge.”

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Watchers

Their house was asleep. Amanda was snoring quietly. Peaches was snoring not so quietly. The whole block was probably asleep except for Alex. Alex never slept at least that was what Amanda joked. He’d tried melatonin and NyQuil and even acupuncture. Alex found only one thing that worked, peeping. Each night he went to bed curled against Amanda’s warmness. He would breathe in her baby powder and lavender scent and listen to her breath deepen. Once his wife was fast asleep, Alex was alive. On cat’s feet he got a double single malt Scotch, a sleeve of Ritz, and his binoculars. Peaches, a plump ginger, surveyed Alex’s movements each night before taking his place in their bed.
Alex watched. Their house was a faded three-storied Victorian. Tucked under the dormers, Alex had the perfect perch. He watched the late night dog walkers and the stray cats. Once he saw the Watkins girl shimmy down her trellis to slip away into her boyfriend’s waiting car. For a while he watched the Martins, a lot of the Martins, until they bought curtains. Mostly Alex watched everything and nothing. When they lived in Center City the night was a carnival. In the ‘burbs, the night was a warm bath. He would watch until his lids grew heavy and his bed called him to sleep.
Lately Alex focused on the Mosely Bees. Amanda liked to give all their neighbors nicknames. The amorous Martins were called the Bunnies, Old Man Gibbs was named Grubinger for his trash can treasure hunting, the McClouds who snipped at each other were known as the McBickersons. The Bees had the monstrosity on the corner lot. In a town of stately painted ladies, the Mosely Bees lived in a simple A frame/shack. Mr. Mosely Bee was a junkman, a junkman who bought a lot of junk home. Bits and bobs, washers and sewing machines, the Mosely Bees’ yard was a hodgepodge of appliances. Quick to smile and quick to anger, the junkman never liked to let anything go. Amanda called them the Hot Messy Bees.
Tonight it was 3:33. That’s the witching hour, Alex thought with a yawn. He looked at Peaches, tucked into a C of sleep. Her gold rimmed eyes flicked open. A crisp crunch sound, the sound of a shovel cutting into soil floated up to Alex’s ears. Alex returned to his binoculars.
Mr. Hot Messy Bee was digging by lantern light. He was digging a hole, deep and body-sized. Alex watched. Guilt trickled under his bedroom and sluiced around his ankles. Alex flipped through his memories of the nights before. The night was his chessboard and knew every piece’s movements. Quiet as a church mouse, Mrs. Hot Messy Bee rarely left the hobbit hole of a house and always with the Mister. Alex could picture her fragile face in the passenger side of the husband’s truck. He remembered when she left a mason jar of wildly beautiful wildflowers on their porch in the middle of the night when his mother passed. He remembered her waving from the slit in her front window each morning as he drove to work. Behind a thin lace curtain, she watched the street during the day. With a flush of gooseflesh Alex remembered he had not seen Mrs. Mosely Bee in over a week. He saw the junkman drag what looked like a mannequin into his hole.
Alex dialed 911.
“What’s going on?” Amanda asked sleep confused.
“Everything, Mandy, everything.”

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