New Sheriff in Town: The Answer

There were hands to shake and smiles to be given. Myrtle greeted her staff and tour the Law Enforcement wing of Enceladus’ Security Complex. She appeared interested, calm, and completely collected but inside Myrtle reeled. For four years, Myrtle had rehearsed what she would say if she ever saw Hatchet again. She would rage on how she felt, how their son felt, how his leaving broke their hearts, she would tell him of the anger and the hurt. Instead she merely shook his cool grey hand and mumbled polite noises. She hoped her face didn’t betray her when she learned he was one of her detectives.
When they met Myrtle was a rookie cop and Benji — she used to call him Benji back then because 83Nj100 was such a mouthful —was her police support auxiliary. Some of the other officers treated their android auxiliaries like equipment but Benji was more than that. He was her partner. They had written together patrolling the Martian badlands and shared a desk in Robbery Homicide. They had the highest completion rate in the city. He always had her six and she had his. They were friends, then more than friends. Despite the whispers and the dirty looks they bought a micro farm with a farmhouse and a white picket fence and adopted Django. In honor of her last name Carries Two Axes 83Nj100 renamed himself Benjamin Hatchet. Together their little family buffered the protests. Then one day she came home to a note on the kitchen table and the end of everything they built together.
Her hands trembled as her office door knob scanned her thumbprint and unlocked. Myrtle nearly fainted when she opened her door and there sat her Benji, Det. Hatchet. She closed her door and sat behind her new desk.
The slick contemporary office furniture, the tasteful abstract prints, a fresh orchid in a slender bud vase, Myrtle took in her office looking everywhere except at her ex. Finally her eyes landed on her tablet she opened her calendar.
“I saw when you and the boy stepped off the Manifest. He’s gotten so tall. How’s he—“
Her eyes met his. Hatchet stopped talking. He looked away. The Kimber droids are humanoid very human with factory grown skin and flesh. They were manufactured gray-skinned with pale eyes and dark hair. Built as soldiers, servants, and sex workers, the Kimbers were intelligent, strong, fast, intuitive, and highly imaginative. So imaginative, the Kimbers, the most popular droids in the solar systems, started to imagine they had rights. Myrtle could see the weight of the last civil war on Hatchet’s face. Myrtle began to work hoping Hatchet would take the hint.
“Even if you hate me it is good to see you,” Hatchet said crossing his long legs and settling back into the chair.
“You know I couldn’t hate you even if I tried but I certainly tried. Now I’m indifferent,” Myrtle said without looking up. “How the hell did you get in here?”
“You know I’m good with tech.” Hatchet chuckled and the laughter bubbled with warm memories. The air between them was charged.
Myrtle flung the orchid and vase at his head. Hatchet caught it and chuckled again.
“Why did you bring me here?” Myrtle stood up. “Don’t tell me it is because I’m good. You nudged my name to the top of candidates list, sweet talked the algorithms. You’re wheels inside of wheels.”
Hatchet set the flower back on her desk. His finger trailed the pink blush of the ruffled petal. He walked to the door. He looked out of the office windows. A series of domes bustling with factories and farms stretched across the ice glazed land. His eyes narrowed.
“You know why you’re here. Good day, Sheriff.”


Queen of Hearts on King of Spades then Jack, the cursor moved quickly flipping electronic cards covered in dancing pineapples. Ring, ring.
“Southern Pennsylvania Association of Superheroes and Paranormal Entities, this is Claudine.”
“The world is going to end tonight….” The voice trailed off into hysterical laughter.
“Okay is this Alien Technology or General Supervillain,” Claudine asked her eyes glancing over to Seven of Diamonds.
“I will rain fire upon your cities and the legions of Hades—“
“All right, let me transfer you to our Hell mouth department, please hold.”
Claudine moved the Seven to Eight of Clubs, then switched to Word to create an agenda for the next Human Flight Training committee meeting and opened a Zoom for the Junior Clairvoyants.
Oscar slither walked across the lobby and plopped three of his arms on her receptionist counter. Claudine hated that.
“Looking good, Doll face. Would you like to take a walk during lunch? A little light cardio does a body good.” Oscar wiggled what she guessed were his eyebrows at Claudine.
Claudine wished she could explode things with her eyes. “Isn’t there a big mailing scheduled today? At least that’s what Blackthorn said this morning that and something about casting a spell to make someone calamari if the pension statements don’t go out on time.”
Claudine offered Oscar’s retreating back her broadest smile. She switched back to her Solitaire game uncovering a red two. The cards began to bounce cascading across the screen. Winner again. Ring ring.

“Southern Pennsylvania Association of Superheroes and Paranormal Entities, this is Claudine.” She cradled the hard plastic against her ear and shoulder while switching from Klondike to Spider.
“Hello Miss, I’m a retired Sup and I wondered if the Association covers eyeglasses.”
“Good morning Captain Nautilus let me direct you to SuperHuman Retiree Benefits.”
“I know I had them last week.”
“All right, sir. Now have you checked the online member portal.”
“Or last week.”

S.S. Manifest

New home
This lifeless sphere
Made ours by blood, sweat, will
Our children will range across the stars

“Today’s writing prompt was to write an American Cinquain, a five line poem with the syllable structure 2-4-6-8-2, on connections. I suck at poems. My mind is walking through my last piece, New Sheriff in Town. This poem written by a crew member on the first colony ship to Enceladus, second moon of Saturn.

New Sheriff in Town

Vast whiteness stretched out like a blank page. Myrtle sat upright in the hover sedan, afraid to wrinkle her new uniform. Looking out the vehicle windows, she was reminded of the vids of deserts back on Olde Earth. As a little girl she had liked the dizzying colors of the tropics and feared the dark of the thick forests. As she grew older Myrtle was drawn to oceans of sand with life hidden in its secrets. Cold, arid, lifeless these were the words that summed up Enceladus. She was not drawn to it. She had spent so much time weaving the innumerable joys of their new home to get Django excited about their move that Myrtle had begun to believe her own stories. The reality of this moon was a hard thing.
She forced herself to return to the view whizzing past. The horizon was a taut rubber band. There were no trees, no bushes, no clouds, no liquid water. The landscape was an unturned clear face of ice with eruptions of large bluish domes. There was domes of emerald green hydroponic farms to feed the men and domes factories to build the robots. The men and the robots built the identical suburban houses that would one day become the dream homes of the future. Her son dubbed it Planet Fishbowl and pulled on his HeadPhones. Myrtle swallowed down her lump of regret.
Myrtle did what she always did. She began making lists. What do I know? They wanted me here. The Board of Regents had reached out to her directly asking her to apply to the Chief of Police position for the new colony. The interview process went smoothly. She knew the local crime stats and resources available to her department. The salary was generous, the housing, pleasant. The Sub Mayor had greeted Django and her at the station and the Chair of AmeriChoice had sent her a honest to God basket of fruit. Myrtle had researched and researched. She knew everything that could be known about her new job except Why did they want her here?
The hover had stopped. She had arrived. Myrtle didn’t know how long she had been siting lost in thought but the vehicle’s NavSat voice sounded a little impatient. She approached the primary sealed doors and was scanned. Noiselessly, a series of metallic doors slid open for her. The building had the vibe of warehouse that had been recently renovated as a high end hotel. She strode into the Security Central Complex. A desk sergeant and her drone smiled up at Myrtle from their desk. Welcome to Planet Fishbowl, she thought. In her dress blacks with her hat tucked under her arm, Myrtle smiled back.
“Long time,” a familiar voice rang out behind her.
The politeness drained from her lips. Myrtle steeled her spine and slowly turned to face the last person she had ever expected to meet again.
Myrtle said, “No see.”

Grief is

Heavy unbearably heavy

Weighing down your limbs

Pressing down your lids

Laying across your chest

When you know you must to get up and do all the things that need to be done

Light incredibly light

Light as a sun faded photograph

Light enough to slip into a pocket and be carried everywhere

Light as the paper band the hospital taped around your wrist on the last day you see your dad

Light enough to still be felt after it is cut away.

Daisy, Daisy

Daisy’s hair was a rich brown halo of thick coils. With a rat tailed comb, her mother separated the locks into smaller sections. Daisy with her tablet in hand sat cross legged on a pillow on the kitchen floor as Thea bent to rub coconut oil into the child’s hair. Sunlight from the window over the farmhouse sink lay across their shoulders. A vegetable stew bubbled in the crockpot and cornbread baked in the oven.

In the corner, the old radiator sighed with steam. Yawning, Thea stretched her back to stay wake in the cozy heat. Daisy stretched too and then broke out into song.

“Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do.”

Thea began teasing out the tangles and thinking about the accounts she had to reconcile.

“I’m half crazy all for the love of you. Ow!”

“Oh, sorry baby,” Thea said. She hoped all of the amounts would tally but she knew they wouldn’t. Stupid I can’t find my receipt Rita. “ I wish your daddy would learn how to do hair. Every Sunday you come back like a ragamuffin.”

“Mildred doesn’t pull my hair, Mommy.”

“Yes, I know you’re tender-headed, sweetie peach.” Gently, ever so gently. Thea began to braid.

“I’m not a sweetie peach. Mildred never calls me ragged muffins Mildred says I can be anything I want to be.”

Thea’s hands moved like water separating and joining weaving down to the ends. She looked over at her computer bag. Daisy hummed to herself.

That’s right sugar pop.” Thea oiled the girl’s scalp and massaged from her roots to her ends.

“I’m not sugary pop. Mildred says she couldn’t do what she wanted but I can.”

Thea thought next Friday she would tell Steven to make Daisy wear a satin cap or he can start taking this head to the salon.

“Mommy what’s hysteria?”

“What now? “

“Mildred said—“

“Who is this Mildred? What kind of kid is this with two dollar words?”

“Mommy! Mildred is my friend, my special friend,” Daisy said.

Thea moved quickly. Shiny braids gleamed in the afternoon sun.

“She’s my special wecial friend who lives in my closet. Ow!”

“Sorry, sorry, how long have you had this friend?”

“Forever since we moved here. She used to keep me up with her crying. It made me so mad but you told me to use my words instead of my fists so I started talking and she started talking and we started talking. And then I could see her. Well I could see some of her.” Daisy broke out into song. “Give me your answer do.”

Despite the stove and the radiator, the kitchen suddenly grew cold. Thea’s hands froze in mid-air.

“What else does she say?” Thea said softly. She could see her breath in the air. Memories of this old house, her Mom Mom’s house, were she spent many sleepless summers seeped into the front of her mind. Closing her eyes, Thea slammed the five panel door on those thoughts She set down her comb.

“Just that she loves me like a mommy just like I was her little bitty baby that she doesn’t have anymore.” Daisy rocked to her song in her head.

On stiff legs, Thea climbed down to the tile floor eye level with her daughter. Thea smoothed the girl’s edges and kissed her forehead. Thea locked eyes with Daisy. They held each other’s cheeks.

“I’m your Mommy. You’re one and only Mommy. I know things have been hard with the move and changes but you and I haven’t changed. It’s impossible for anyone to love you like I love you. I’m your Mommy.” Thea lovingly tapped Daisy’s nose. Daisy hugged her mother tight.

Suddenly the kitchen was warm, heavy with the smell of buttery cornbread. The frost melted on the window glass taking away the words written in the ice from an unseen hand

“And I’m your butter bean,” Daisy said.


The Cackle

The day was bleeding out against the dark sky in ribbons of magenta and gold. The boys ran in small packs of four or five. More dangerous together than apart. Tennyson was the new kid. Justin had vouched for him but that only got him to the circle in woods not in the inside.

The woods were the green space tucked behind a small college. The four boys stood in a circle fighting the cold and the boredom.Tennyson’s parents had begged, borrowed, and stole to afford a modest house in the affluent suburbs with the best schools. But Tennyson made his own path. The four boys stood in circle sharing a bottle of liquor. Tennyson choked back the bitter fire in his throat and drank deeply.

The boys passed a joint and took turns playing tracks from their phones. Their grunts, whoops, and barking laughs punctuated the heavy bass. Flying, Tennyson bobbed his head to the beat.

Bobby stepped out of the darkness. The air was charged. He lit a cigarette, his spotted face crimson in the flame. Tennyson wanted to slip into the trees, wanted to sprint through the fields, wanted to cut across his neighbors’ backyards, leaping fences to the safety of his home. He knew his mom had saved a plate for him.

“What you looking at, freshman?” Bobby growled.

“Could I bum a Newport?” Tennyson answered in a deep voice, flaring out his chest to appear bigger.

“‘Member I told you I was bringing Ten?” Justin said.

Silence. After a pause someone chose another song and the boys bobbed their heads in unison for a while.

“It’s cold as shit out here,” announced Bobby.

“Well, Alfredo’s is already closed,” Tyler said, scratching his shaggy mane. “And my mom would straight up kill me if I brought folks home.”

“I know a place,” Tennyson said, his voice breaking.


The cackle of teens traversed the woods, cut through the square, hooted and hollered across the playground, and stopped behind the abandoned church. Tennyson showed them the broken lock on the cellar door. The inky black of the church basement swallowed them.

Tyler tripped over a chair. Justin tripped over Tyler. The pair started play fighting. Bobby flicked his lighter and attempted to light some kind of candle. The basement blazed impossibly bright. Bobby had lit a road flare that he lifted from his dad’s SUV.

“Careful guys careful,” Tennyson whined.

With a high pitched giggle Bobby lobbed the road flare to Tyler. “Don’t get your panties in a twist, freshman.” Sharp teeth shining, Tyler laughed manically in return catching the flare and tossing it over Tennyson’s head. Justin joined in the hysteria jumping for the road flare as it slammed against the far wall showering an old pile of hymnals. The laughter continued as Justin retrieved the flare and tossed it. Soon slender tongues of flames appeared among the dried pages.

Tennyson beat at the flames with his feet and then his coat. The others howled in the smoke before running outside. Wild, Tennyson tried to crush the fire. Justin pulled him into the cold of the night.  Ten stumbled on the grass. Face striped with soot, he watched part of his life burn away and then Ten turned to run with the pack.


Memory Lane


We thought of you today. I love you. I think of you everyday.  Love, Mom


Charlie walked towards the rain streaked handmade sign. It was roughly taped to a traffic signal. Closely he peered at the words, tracing the familiar handwriting was a dirty finger. Charlie remembered grocery lists and birthday cards. Memories surged and crested over him. He leaned a hand against the pole to steady himself.

“You about to hurl?” Freddy shouted.

“Look, my boy, is hungover. How was the party, man?”  Mick laughed

“I thought you were straight edge,” Vic said, joining in the laughter.

Charlie walked away from sign and climbed up into his rig.

Freddy tossed  a stack of flattened boxes into the compactor. Vic and Mick held on to the truck’s rear. Charlie executed a tight reverse and headed out of the complex’s parking lot.

“I’m just sayin’. If you gonna hurl let a brotha know that’s all I’m sayin’,” Freddy said.

The cold front had moved out and morning was warming. The big green truck cruised around the complex’s curves. Charlie concentrated on the winding road looking for old ladies, clueless joggers, and tiny dog walkers. He could see his last Thanksgiving dinner at his Mom’s, watching football on the sofa, laughing with his cousins, helping Mom lift the turkey.

“Just let me know, man. That goes for gas, too. ‘Cause this one time Jack do you know Jack the driver not Jack the floor guy. He ate a bunch of tacos this one time—“

Mentally Charlie muted the conversation and pulled into the next parking lot. The crew hit the recycling bins. Mick was making up stories about all the things he did last Saturday while Vic and Freddy dumped bins and pretended to believe him.

“Hey there is another one of them signs,” Freddy called out.

The truck continued along its route. Charlie was back at school in the lunchroom reading a PostIt stuck to his juicebox: I love you, Mom.

“There’s another one.”

“And another.”

“ I wonder what it’s about,” asked Vic lifting a soggy loveseat

“It’s probably a viral ad like for a new app or a phone or something,” Mick explained.

“Nah, it’s a memorial for the living. Somebody is trying to call someone back into their life, man,” Freddy said carrying the other half of the furniture.

“Hey Rascal  you want a mint?


“Mint? Dude where are you?”

Freddy ate his candy. Mick talked about all the girls dying to date him. Vic stretched his aching back. Charlie pulled out on the main road already back home.