Leap Day

“Do you know what today is?” Goldie asked the two brothers standing on the sidewalk in front of her home.

“Saturday,” nine-year-old Bohannon, and Goldie’s classmate, answered.

“Besides that,” Goldie said, as she rolled her eyes.

Six-year-old Lennox simply shrugged his shoulders, “I dunno.”

“It’s Leap Day,” Goldie proudly announced.

“What’s a Leap Day?” Lennox asked.

“It’s a magical day that only comes around every four years,” she explained.

“It ain’t magical,” Bohannon countered.

“Yes, it is!” Goldie exclaimed.

“Prove it then,” Bohannon challenged.

“Fine, come and stand here on the top step of my porch,” she invited.

Both boys did as she directed.

“Now make a wish about what time period in history you’d like to go back to,” Goldie said.

Bohannon said, “Cowboy times.”

“Dinosaurs!” Lennox cried with excitement.

“Great,” she grinned, “Now all you have to do is make a wish to go there then leap off the porch for it to come true.”

Both boys simultaneously jumped from the porch, vanishing into thin air.

“Well, that’s that,” Goldie proclaimed as she wiped her hands together with great satisfaction.

Lost in the Woods

The darker shadows of the trees, cast down by the full moon’s light, left him disoriented. Smith had misread his map, taken the wrong trail and was now irrevocably lost.

Making matters worse, there were the odd noises coming from all around him. Some he knew, such as the scurry of a mouse, still others like the snapping of a branch or a heavy footfall left Smith questioning his safety.

“Please don’t be that thing again,” he mumbled tearfully.

He felt like he’d been this way or that way before as nearly everything took on the same dense tonality. Still Smith knew he could not stop for any reason – his intuition told him that danger was nearby – that he was being watched and to halt would be death.

“So, as you can see Mrs. Smith, your husband’s delusions are increasing,” the head of the psychiatric ward cautioned, “And the prognosis of a cure, to be completely honest, is becoming less and less likely.”

Mr. Jimmy Fix-It

Jimmy pulled up in front of the house. He casually opened the side door of the white work van and began pulling material out, carrying it to the front door.

With everything unloaded, he closed up and locked the van. Then, with the same casual manner, he worked his magic on the front door lock.

Within seconds Jimmy was inside the house. He then set about unrolling the large plastic sheet over the carpet and up the walls.

Finished, he sat down to wait and as he waited, Jimmy screwed and unscrewed the silencer to his pistol in nervous excitement.

Imaginary Nevada: February 26, 1920

https://soundcloud.com/sierra-tom-darby/in-20200226

He had raced ahead of the beasts throughout the night and his pony was nearly played out, but Brady knew that if they stopped or the animal faltered, it would mean death for both. They had either ambushed Brady or Brady had accidentally found a hidden lair.

Having no time to find out, he turned and urged his mount to run as fast as it could. Not even his Colt could bring down one of the gargantuans. Over the course of several hours, he heard the growls, the pounding, and the heated breathing of the leathery beasts as they continued to pursue him across the open Nevada desert.

Only once did he and his horse fall, rolling down a slight embankment that both knew should not be there. The horse sprang to it its feet and continued with Brady hanging on to the saddle horn for dear life.

Ahead of them, sunlight finally broke the ridge of mountains. It burst the crisp morning air with a silvery haze that caused shadows to lengthen and time to shorten.

With the light came an odd silence. No longer were the large beasts giving chase, no longer could Brady hear their guttural threats, their bodies as they crashed through the pine nut trees and sage, over the rocks and sand.

With a start Brady suddenly realized that he was no longer in the Nevada he knew. He had entered another reality. But when?

He had never seen such large reptiles before, save for their bones in a museum. Now he had to back trail his movements. Find where he’d slipped through time and see if he could return or learn if he was stuck in a bygone era that was not his own.

Batter Up

Delores Hart decided to stop and see if she could find the grave of the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball. Unfortunately, it was nearly dark by the time she located the needed cemetery.

“It shouldn’t be that hard,” she told herself, even though it was practically dark.

After a number of frustrating minutes, Delores finally found the marker. As she stood there, looking at it in the ever fading light, she saw an orb form and fly passed her head.

In quick succession, it was followed by another one and than again. She found herself ducking and dodging the glowing balls of energy as they continued to form and fly at her.

One came very close to hitting Delores in the left hip. The 75-year-old woman stepped back out the way only to trip over a thick tree branch.

Picking it up, she choked up on it as if the branch were a baseball bat. As the next orb came zooming towards her, she swung at it.

With the brilliance of a spotlight flooding her eyes, the orb exploded into thousands of dazzling pieces, falling like glitter to the darkened earth. Surprised, Delores stood there waiting for the next orb to form and come at her.

It never came.

Suddenly, from behind her in the dark came a single beam of light, followed by the sharp voice of the nightwatchman, “You done playing baseball? I wanna lock this place up.”

Though he couldn’t see it, Delores smiled sheepishly, answering, “Jus’ leaving.”

Without another word she dropped the tree branch and walked back towards her car, certain she had hit a pitch thrown by the greatest baseball pitcher that ever lived.

Grain Silo Re-purposed

An old grain silo used to stand in the vacant field down the way. The kids used to pretend it was a rocket ship or a castle, and it remained this way, until a family bought it, turning it into a home.

They worked on the place day-in, day-out and sometimes at night for nearly a year. Then one morning it caught fire, smoke and flames bellowing out from every crease and crack in the structure.

Then to everyone’s amazement, it rose from the ground with a massive trail of vapor gushing from beneath and thundered skyward. All that remains today is the scorched cement pad that was the foundation.

The family has never been seen or heard of since.

Freak Out

It might seem a tad-bit paranoid, but last night, my dogs did their best to scared me half-to-death. As I laid in bed later, I imagined their conversation going something like this:

“I’m kinda bored,” thinks Yaeger, “Wanna freak the old man out?”

“Yeah, but how?” Buddy asks in silence.

“Jus’ follow my lead,” Yaeger snickers with out a sound.

Yaeger then began cocking his head from one side to the other and staring unblinkingly into the corner above the front door, located behind me. Buddy, laying next to me as I sat on the couch, suddenly sat up, turned and faced the door, cocked his head side-to-side and also stared like he too could see something that I couldn’t.

Before the Werewolf Smiles

“Have you ever seen a werewolf smile,” the old man stated matter-of-factly.

No one in the crowded watering hole spoke a word, not even the 20-something he held pinned against the bar.

“That’s right,” he growled menacingly to the young punk who had been picking at him, “And you don’t want too, either.”

Once released, the punk backed away, soaked in the crotch, leaving the old man to nurse his several beers and shots of whiskey in peace.

Amoeba

He had earned an ‘A’ in science because of what he now deemed his pet. Not much bigger than a pinhead when taken from the pond, the amoeba had grown to nearly an inch and was in need of a new jar.

Unfortunately for Ryan Brown, he found the jar a little too late as he came home to find the one with his pet in it busted and empty. He searched the floor of the closet where he had the organism, but could find nothing other than a puddle of dirty water.

It was later, after school had let out for the summer that Ryan began hearing odd sounds coming from the attic above his bed. A dull thump, followed by a dragging sound.

For nearly two-weeks this sound continued. However, when he told his parents of the strange sounds they refused to believe him, insisting it was simply his imagination.

Eventually, he came to believe it was his pet amoeba. It had somehow escaped its jar, but had crawled inside the walls of the house and evolved to the point it no longer needed water.

One afternoon, while everyone was away, the ceiling above his bed caved in. The contractor hired to repair the damage said that the timber had been worn away, as if something had been rubbing itself against the wood.

For the next few months and after school was back in session, Ryan heard tales from his friends about how that neighbor’s cat or this neighbor’s dog went missing. All the while, he slept soundly never hearing another weird noise coming from the attic above his bed.

Then one evening the next door neighbor’s two-month old baby Emma vanished…

Imprints Within the Old Foundation

With my wife out of town, nothing on the tube, and a case of insomnia, I decided to go for a drive. Soon, I pulled into the store where group of radio stations had once stood.

While standing at the register, the woman behind the counter asked, “So, what brings you out at this time of the morning?”

The conversation started from there and she offered up the fact that the store sat on the old foundation of her favorite radio station, which continues to operate from elsewhere now. I couldn’t help myself, letting her know I used to work at that very station.

Then the conversation took a more serious bent as she leaned in and half-whispered, “Anything weird happen when you worked there?”

“Well, what do you mean strange?” I asked back, wanting more information.

“You know, strange things, like ghosts and stuff,” she answered.

By this time her co-worker had joined us, as I replied, “Yes.”

He asked, “Know anything about a black cat?”

“That’s Moon Kitty,” I answered, “She was the station cat.”

“We’ve seen her,” they said in near unison.

The woman added, “She darts around here all the time.”

“We had a guy who worked here for two nights,” the man said, “Swears he saw a woman over near that corner. He left and never returned.”

I looked at the corner and knew that it was the area of one of the older on-air studios.

“That would be Christine,” I said, “She committed suicide while on the air one late night. She’s lonely, harmless, but has a real sense of humor.”

For another 15 minutes I regaled them about all my strange experiences. And as I headed out of the parking lot, I felt satisfied to have others confirm what I had experienced for myself.

Imaginary Nevada: February 19, 1920

https://soundcloud.com/sierra-tom-darby/in-20200219

Duncan Amen was a rarity in the Beowawe area. Though Indian, we wasn’t a member of any of the local Nevada tribes as he came from Canada.

This, and the fact that he was Indian, left Amen somewhat isolated, a loner, and a drifter. He didn’t mind this fact very much because as he liked to tell Brady, “I enjoy my own company.”

Having not heard from the older man in a while and worried about his health, Brady took it upon himself to search him out. As he approached the area where Amen should be, Brady could hear the raucous cacophony of ravens.

As he listened to the cry of the birds, he discovered a set of unordinary tracks. He’d seen the three-toe prints before and because of this, he felt his fear rise up at the thought of what he might find the closer he got to Amen’s encampment.

Nerves on end Brady shouted, “Hallo!”

Amen met him at the doorway of the wickiup. Brady was surprised to see the skins of at least three of the beasts stretched over the structure, providing extra protection from the harsher winter elements.

Amen saw his expression and chuckled, “Weren’t as quiet as they thought.”

Brady laughed as he ducked into the low opening of the wickiup. And as he did this, he thought he heard the ravens laughing too.

The Ailing Minimalist

“It makes me sick to think I threw all those old papers out now that I have a use for them,” he complained.

“I still don’t understand why they’re suddenly so important,” she replied.

“Well, it’s an art project if you will.”

“And you can’t use anything else?”

“It really wouldn’t be the same.”

“Why?”

“During my visit to the museum, I saw an exhibit where this guy named Edi Rama, took official documents, doodled and painted on them.”

“And you wanna do this?”

“Yeah, it inspired me and I got to thinking about my old work notes, letter, memos and email and how I could recycle them into art — but I tossed all of them out — and now…”

She laughed.

“What?” he asked.

“Like you’ve always said, the moment you throw it away is when you’ll realize you have a use for it.”

“You’re not helping my sick feeling.”

Where the Sky is Always Dark

The sky was a darker pallet of stars now, and he had no way of knowing how long he’d lain at the base of the hill. In fact, Bobby Davis was slow to recall how in the world he’s come to to be there in the first place.

Reflecting as hard as he could, all he could mentally picture was that he’d parked the vehicle, got out and walked to the edge of the precipice. After that everything was general blank until he awoke.

Instead of worrying over what had happened, he need to be in the present so he could safely assess himself for any possible injury before trying to roll over and stand up. Wiggling his fingers, he found that they worked; that same for his toes.

Slowly he moved every part of his body, finding he hadn’t broken anything. Davis concluded he’d jus’ ‘rang his bell,’ exceptionally hard before he rolled from his side onto his back and sat up.

“Holy crap,” he mumbled as he looked up the escarpment from where he’d tumbled. He could see where his body had left it deep impression in the red sand, between the even redder rocks, on its way down.

How he’d missed those rocks, Davis thought, “Only God knows.”

“Hello?” he finally asked, speaking into his headset, “Anyone there? Can you hear me?”

Nothing. Then he realized it had fallen off on the way down, so trying to talk to base was an impossibility.

He recalled a conversation from a while back, saying, “These head pieces are shit. They fall off and they stop working.”

“Well, don’t let it fall off then,” he was told by some smart-ass.

At least Davis knew where he could find it. Getting to it was impossible for the time being, so he set the idea aside.

Finally, he stood up and look at his surroundings. He could try to climb up the way he’d fallen down or he could find an easier and safer route to get back up to the Rover.

“Not the most auspicious beginning to a Mars mission in the history of manned-flight,” he chuckled as he limped, stiff and sore along the bottom edge of the massive, and thankfully smaller unnamed crater, “Maybe they’ll name it after me.”

Sound and Silence

“Hey, the program for recording sound is on the fritz,” Tom told Chief-slacker.

“Okay, I’ll be there in a few minutes,” Slacker said, hanging up the phone.

Half-an-hour later Slacker arrived and went immediately to work to fix the problem. It took him two-hours and several reboots of the computer to finally get the system to work.

Without waiting to see if the system would remain in operation, Slacker left the radio station saying, “I’m taking my wife and kids to the state fair. Give me a call if you need me.”

Less than 20 minutes after Slacker left, Tom sat at the desk in the newsroom editing sound for the morning news show. Before he could complete a single project involving the recording of two wraparounds and two features, the system went belly-up again.

Once again he dialed Slackers number. Tom explained that the same problem as before was happening.

“Well,” Slacker said, “Keep rebooting the computer. I’m at the fair with my family. Call me if you still can’t get it to work.”

An hour later, the program that recorded and played back audio still would not work. So Tom called Slacker again and told him it was still down.

“Yeah, well I’m still a the fair, Jus’ keep trying,” Slacker said, hanging up on Tom before he could protest.

Reboot after reboot and the program failed to work. At midnight came the shift change.

“What do you mean you don’t have any sound,” the oncoming jock shouted, “You should have had the Engineer down here working on it.”

“I did,” Tom told him, “And he left after it began working and has refused to come back because he’s at the fair with his kids.”

“This is bullshit,” he shouted at Tom, “Then you should have called Mr. Bully and have him deal with it.”

“Are you fucking kidding me,” Tom responded, “And get my ass chewed for disturbing him for something like this.”

“You’re an asshole, Tom. Plain and simple,” he growled.

“No,” Tom shot back as he headed out of the office door, “We work for assholes who don’t do their jobs and we don’t get paid enough to deal with their shit and ours too!”

The following morning Tom got a call at home from Bully, “I understand you didn’t call the Engineer to have the sound problem fixed?”

“Yes, I did,” Tom answered, “But he only came down the one time and then gave me the excuse that he was at the fair with his kids and wife.”

“That’s not what he says,” Bully stated.

“Check his cellphone and you’ll find he’s lying to you,” Tom said.

“Anyway, you left your relief with extra work because there was no sound available,” he continued.

“No,” Tom returned, “Chief-slacker did.”

“I’m gonna have to sort this out,” Bully offered, “Look of an email from me.”

That was the last Tom heard of the situation. However he refused to trust Chief-slacker ever again, something he already knew to do when it came to anything Bully said or did.

Human Eyes

There was something odd about the lone Elk as it moved through the dense scrub. Jackson watch it through field glasses for a time, but could not put a finger on its strangeness.

Then aiming his glass southward, he located his hunting companion and friend, Richie near the base of a hillock. The man’s orange vest stood out against the stark brownness of the high desert landscape.

Richie was stalking the same Elk which continued to graze until the hunter drew within 30 yards. He raised his 30-30, aiming to bring the animal down, then with a quick and panicked jerk, dropped the rifle.

“What in the…” Jackson exclaimed with a loud gasp.

Jackson watched as Richie hastily retreated, crawling till he was certain the Elk was unable to be see him, before standing and running. It would be days before searchers found Richie, hiding in a narrow cave, mumbling about ‘how human the eyes of the Elk seemed’ as it looked back at him.

Richie was institutionalized, so Jackson said nothing about how he’d witnessed the Elk stand on two hind legs and walk as if human. Nor did Jackson utter a word about the pair of human eye’s that stared menacingly at him from the face of an Elk.

Draw!

He saw the deputy’s hard stare as he drove by him in the opposite direction. The quick draw performer knew that the man behind the badge would be turning his unit around and pulling him over.

It had happened before and it cost Dave nearly $600 the last time. He checked his rear view mirror and saw the blinking of the red and blue lights as they drew closer.

Dave pulled off the main road and down the long dirt drive towards his home. In short order, the cop car sped onto the unpaved road and pulled up at an angle behind the now-stopped pickup truck.

“Keep your hands where I can see’um,” came the deputy’s demand over the vehicle’s loudspeaker.

Once the deputy was out of his car and with his hands still on the steering wheel, Dave asked, “What’s this all about?”

“You were driving distracted,” came the answer, “gonna have to write you up for it. Now get out of the truck and do it slowly, keeping your hands in sight.”

“I need to reach for the door handle to open it, okay?”

“Do it – but do it very carefully – no fast movements Mr. Quick Draw McGaw.”

Dave complied. He also realized that pulling off the main drag on on the road leading to his home, had placed him in danger since he still had his Colt 44 strapped to his hip.

“So you’re heeled, I see.” the deputy said.

“Jus’ heading home from a small performance I gave for the children in the hospital this morning.”

“Duster Dave Barnham, Mr. Do-Gooder, too, huh?”

Dave did not reply as the officer slowly approached. The deputy looked Dave up and down as he pulled out his night-stick and smashed the left tail light of the truck.

“Tail light’s outta order too,” he grinned, “Now back up.”

Dave stepped backwards, beyond the hood of his truck. He grimaced as the deputy broke the drivers side mirror off the vehicles.

Having had enough of the officer’s actions, Dave asked, “Do you feel better and can I go now?”

“No,” he answered as he pulled his ticket book out from behind his backside, having tucked it in his belt as he left the car. He began to write.

“So how fast are you with that gun, Dave – or should I call ya ‘Duster Dave?”

“Dave’s fine. Fast enough to entertain the kids, I guess.”

“Faster than me?”

“Nope. Not faster than you.”

“Really? I don’t believe you believe that for a minute.”

Dave said nothing.

“I think we oughta find out for ourselves,” the deputy stated.

A sick feeling overcame Dave as he watched the deputy square off, right hand slightly open and hovering jus’ above the butt of his pistol. Dave raised his hands, palms open towards the deputy, in a gesture of surrender.

“Afraid?”

“Yes – very afraid.”

“Ha! Duster Dave fastest man alive with a gun this side of Dodge City. You’re nothing but an effin’ coward. Wish I had that on my dash cam.”

“Wanna reenacted it so you can brag all about it and quit riding my ass every time you see me?”

The deputy smiled, “Yeah, I want that on video – show it to my grand-kids – show’um how big a chicken-shit their hero is.”

“I thought you were their hero?” Dave asked be before thinking.

The deputy drew his service weapon and held it on Dave as he made his way back to his cruiser, reached in and switched on his vehicle’s camera. He also pushed the button to the camera he wore on his bullet resistant vest.

After ordering Dave to pick up his shooter, and once the deputy was certain he had the man in the right spot for his camera, he holstered his own weapon and began taunting the showman again. This time though, Dave was prepared and knowing the deputy was not as on-guard as he had been, Dave drew his Colt.

The surprised deputy didn’t even have time enough to touch the butt of his gun. Instead, he found himself facing the polished business end of Duster Dave’s blue steel and ivory handled revolver.

“Now, remove that thing from your holster using jus’ your pointer finger and thumb, and toss it over here in front of me,” Dave calmly demanded.

The deputy, though slow to comply, did as instructed. Dave could see tears glistening around the lower rims of his eyes.

“Don’t kill me,” the deputy said, his voice shaking.

“Turn around and using your handcuffs, cuff your writs together – and make them tight.”

The deputy did as instructed. Dave double checked the cuff, clamping them even tighter.

Next, he returned to his truck and retrieved his cellphone and dialing 9-1-1, “I need the state troopers, pronto. No, not the county, the state.”

Fifteen minutes later, three units came speeding up the roadway, kicking up dust and gravel. The troopers exited their vehicles and immediately placed Dave in cuffs and ushered him to the back of one of the patrol cars.

“So he dared you to draw on him, huh?” the older of the four troops asked, adding, with a slight tone of hostility in his voice, “That’s very hard to believe.”

“All you gotta do is check his dash-cam,” Dave offered, “And the one on his person.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes.”

It took only a few minutes for the troopers to review the dash-cam footage, before Dave heard, “Sorry, Mr. Barnham, this should have never happened.”

After he was uncuffed, Dave quietly watched as the deputy was placed in the back of the same patrol car that he had jus’ been in. He also watched as other deputies came to the scene to witness one of their own being driven off.

“You’re free to go,” the sheriff offered, before asking, “If he’d of threw down on you after you had him dead-to-rights, would you have shot him?”

Dave toed the dust, “Nope, he’d of killed me for sure, ‘cause my gun’s loaded with blanks. It was all show-biz and bluff on my part.”

“Damn!” the sheriff exclaimed, “Remind me to never play poker with you.”

“Truth is, I don’t know how to play poker, never learned” Dave smiled as he climbed into the cab of his truck, “Anyway, have a good and safe rest of the day, Sheriff.”

It was only as he reached for key in the ignition did Dave see how badly his hand was trembling.

Imaginary Nevada: February 12, 1920 

https://soundcloud.com/sierra-tom-darby/in-20200211

Two days horseback east of Beowawe, Brady discovered the mass of bodies sprawled across the rocky ground. The acrid smell of burnt gunpowder mingling with the stench of drying blood, hung heavy in the mid-morning air.

Most were armed with rifles, a few with pistols and whoever had slain them had done so with great ease. The bodies were cold to the touch, so Brady concluded that the killers were long gone.

He picked his way through the corpses, gathering ammunition, weapons and some food. As he finished, Brady noticed a hastily constructed dugout, viciously scratched out and half buried in the hard packed sand.

From somewhere within the darkened cavity came the faint sound of singing. It was a soft female voice cantillating in perfect English, and it only took Brady a heartbeat to recognize the source.

Slowly and quietly, Brady backed away, leaving the encampment and everything in it, include that which he’d collected knowing that his Colt was no match for the vile deity hidden within.

Shimmer

Aubrey Thornton walked ahead of her girlfriends, who had stopped along the trail to take a selfie. She had forgotten her cellphone in the car, so she didn’t participate in the ritual.

Ahead, she saw the shimmering rays of the day’s sun and heat vibrating from the asphalt of the newly opened footpath encompassing Lake Tahoe. She thought nothing of it, not even when she felt a mild jolt of static electricity course through her entire body.

The shock, though slight, left her disoriented and dizzy. She had a sudden metallic taste in her mouth and the bright sunlight somehow seemed even brighter, at least for a few seconds.

She leaned against a nearby granite boulder, thinking she may be over-exerting herself in the higher altitude. Aubrey could hear her friends laughing and cutting up as they made the curve in the trail and came into site.

“You okay,” Lisa asked, “You look a little pale.”

“I’m fine, jus’ pushed myself a little too hard,” Aubrey said.

“Maybe we ought to go get something to eat,” Andrea suggested.

“Good idea,” Lisa said.

As they walked back to their car, Aubrey battled to shake off the feeling that something wasn’t quite right, that she felt somehow different or perhaps her friends were different. By the time lunch was finished, the odd sensation had disappeared from her adjusting mind.


“She was right here,” Lisa cried to the sheriff deputy, “And then she was gone.”

An investigator was speaking with Andrea, who was also upset, separately. He, too, was trying to piece together the two women’s odd story.

“She walked up around that boulder there,” Andrea pointed, “Lisa and me had stopped to take a couple of pictures, and by the time we walked to where we are now, Aubrey vanished.

Five days later, the massive search was called off as a sudden and late season snowstorm moved in over the lake, dropping three to 4 inches of snow. Aubrey Thornton remains a missing person to this day.


As she lay in bed that night, following her long day at Tahoe, Aubrey began to reflect. Recalling and drifting in-and-out of sleep, she realized that her friend, Andrea’s blouse had changed; the cats had become dogs.

This realization made her sit up as she felt a cold sweat cover her body.

As she did, her surroundings evaporated and she found herself prone, on a metal table, unable to move. She could sense more than see the several small gray-greenish beings crowded around her.

Aubrey Thornton screamed; but no sound came.

Belly Up

Sensing her presence, he turned and offered to buy her a drink, saying ‘Belly up,’ while holding his hand out towards the space at the bar next to him. Without warning, the woman dropped on her back, lifted her shirt, exposing her belly.

Embarrassed, the man exclaimed.“Get up off the floor!”

By then everyone was laughing and poking fun at the woman as she returned to her feet, though she didn’t seem to mind.

“What in the hell was that all about?” the man asked, as he begrudgingly handed her a Guinness.

“Had a boyfriend – a master, actually – who used to treat me like his dog.”

After a lengthy draw from his beer, he asked, “So, are you house broken?”

Edit, edit, edit…

If I can write a story using less than 280 characters, you can too. It’s great way to practice cutting extra words from your work.

Go to Twitter and type in #vss365 and give it a shot. Here’s an example of my most recent attempt:

#vss365 #WritingCommunity #HorrorCommunity

Tom knelt, looking over the ledge at the shallow pool of water some 20 feet below. Without warning, his backpack shifted and he toppled forward and over.

“Holy shit! You okay?” his friend cried.

“Nothin’ injured but my fuckin’ #pride!”

It’s both challenging and rewarding and don’t forget to join me on Twitter.

Three-topping Special

It was her first call as a newly hired dispatcher, “Nine-one-one, fire, police or ambulance?”

There was pause.

“I’d like to order a pizza,” a trembling woman’s voice responded.

“Ma’am, I think you called the wrong number.”

“No, I haven’t.”

“You called 9-1-1.”

“Yes.”

Suddenly, there was a hard thudding sound, and a faint cry, before a male voice barked, “Hey, asshole, what’s taking so long?”

She froze momentarily.

“Hello?” he said roughly, “You know what, I’m hanging…”

“Pick up or delivery, and what would you like on it?” she finally asked.

“Delivery. Your large three-topping special.”

“Great,” she smiled, “Address?”

Not in as Bad of Shape as I Thought

A slow start today, as I woke a little bit stiff and sore.

My son, daughter-in-law and I went to Lake Tahoe to sight see, take pictures and hike.

Using as few words as possible, I wanted to show you a couple of highlights.  The above photograph was taken from State Route 28.

A few minutes later, and in spite of my son’s warning, “If you fall, get hurt or stuck, I might not be able to help you,” I made it down the 250-foot embankment, above, to take the next photo.

It was a wonderful day and I’m already looking forward to our next adventure.

Bill Lund, 1956-2020

William Donald Lund, Jr. passed away on January 30, 2020 at the age of 63. Better known as Bill, he was born on December 1, 1956 in Sacramento, CA.

While he grew up in Northern California all his life, it wasn’t until 1973 that he moved to Crescent City from Blue Lake, with his family. He attended Del Norte High School for two years, graduating in 1975.

Bill and I met in high school where he was a senior and I was a freshman. He saved me one morning by stopping a couple of his classmates from giving me a ‘Del Norte Swirl’ in the boy’s bathroom in ‘B’ hall.

I still owe him for that bit of grace.

At Del Norte he excelled in both football and basketball. In basketball he earned two all-conference honors his junior and senior years, and also earning the MVP award as a senior.

Bill went on to attend Butte College in Chico, California in 1976, and then Arcata’s College of the Redwoods in 1977. At Butte, he was a member of the Community College State Championship team.

At CR he earned all-conference in basketball and for a time held the single season scoring record. He was a member of the all decade team, that had the most wins in the school’s history. Bill still holds a spot in the college’s record book for scoring and rebounds.

From there he went on to be a very successful and talented independent contractor.

Finally, I could have used a photo of him taken from his Facebook page or the obituary in the Del Norte Triplicate, where I drew much of the above information, but in the end, I think a nice black-and-white action shot of Number 52 racing down an opponent in basketball from back in 1975, is the perfect way to remember my friend.

True Believers

“So you don’t believe in our ‘folk tales,’ huh?” the Indian fishing guide, using air-quotes, asked the younger man.

He’d been telling the out-of-stater some of the Paiute’s scariest myths and legends, hoping to add a seed of doubt to the man’s cynical attitude about native ways.

“I don’t believe in UFO, Bigfoot, or the Boogeyman, either,” the man replied.

“You should. Unlike Water-babies, Tu’lo’ug Vou’c’g takes many forms, luring the unbeliever in and then…”

Their aluminum boat shifted violently as a great, oscillating mass of changing shape and color, rose from Lake Pyramid’s depths, displaying a multitude of eyes, fins and long massive tentacles. Both men began to pray as it cut the surface, mouth agape, ready to feed.

Imaginary Nevada: February 5, 1920

https://soundcloud.com/sierra-tom-darby/in-02052020

The night before last, Brady found a number of his Basque neighbor, Miguel Lardizábal’s sheep butchered. The animals had been killed violently, throats torn, dragged about as they bled, leaving thick lines and splotches of deep crimson in the otherwise white and newly fallen snow.

The beast which killed them had also left behind a trail of four-toed prints as if it walked upright like a man. A wiry brown hair, thicker than a horse’s main, was found, occasionally caught in the branches of low laying trees and the much rougher sage, and the musk-scented scat it left behind was littered with bits of bone, hide and wool.

Some distance from the water trough he’d help build the summer before, and jus’ beyond the Aspen, he saw the creature, body erect in the full moon’s glow. The hideous things snout sniffed loudly and methodically at the chilled night air as if searching for a new, but familiar scent.

When it saw Brady, the beast growled threateningly, then howled out a challenge before charging straight into the barrel of his Colt. After it collapsed to the ground, dead, he saw the creature transform, no longer a beast, but into a man.

Brady left his body to rot in the morning sun, feeding the ravens, coyotes and the other varmints that live in the mostly vacant land surrounding Beowawe. It was a shame he thought, ‘Lardizábal was good man and a hard worker.’

Guest Blog

Today, I was pleasantly surprised to be published as a guest blogger in “Happiness between Tails by da-Al,” who in her own words, describes her childhood as having been “spent between U.S. coasts and parts of Spain while I corresponded with my grandmother in Argentina.” This one line sounds magical all by itself!

Aside from being a novelist, she’s worked as a broadcast reporter and a print journalist, whose work garnered her an Emmy. And while I haven’t seen a picture of her husband, she does have a cute lab-mix.

Thank you, da-Al for sharing my work with your readers.

How Angels Tread

“I had a completely different idea about what All-Souls day meant,” she smiled.

“What, did you misspell it in your head, too?” he asked.

“Yes, and when I had to kick off my shoes or be dragged skyward, I finally got it,” she returned.

“It definitely isn’t what anyone was thinking while listen to bible lessons in Sunday School,” he chuckled.

“Nope,” she responded, “Now, lets get home before it starts to rain and we catch our death.”

He shook his head in agreement as together they walked hand-in-hand down the sidewalk, with nothing but thin socks covering their feet.

Bedside Manner

The doctor said, ‘brain tumor,’ but those two words vanished as she added, ‘six months to live,’ and ‘immediate treatment.’ To make matters worse, a deadly Zombie virus was been making the global rounds.

He had a decision to make and he had to be quick about it.

It was easy, slipping into the isolation ward of the hospital. All he had to do was find a supply closet, put on the surgical scrubs, then walk-in like he knew what he was doing.

Strapped to a bed, eyes darting, teeth gnashing, was a man. He offered him his bare forearm.

Never Mess with a Fairy Ring

There’s a fairy ring of mushrooms growing in my front yard. The only option to safely remove them is to pull them up wholesale.

It wasn’t long before I regretted doing so. Several things mysteriously went missing from the house: an entire jar of change, the television remote, my truck keys, my favorite coffee cup.

“What the hell!” I exclaimed.

They turned up a couple of days later – in my neighbor’s yard – across the street. We were less surprised by the sudden reappearance of my things than the fact that a fairy ring of mushrooms can grow in artificial turf.

All in the Paperwork

It was a situation Tom never thought of and one which should’ve never happened. But once it was brought to his attention, as a supervisor, he knew he couldn’t let it stand.

A dumber-than-a-box-of-rocks van operator came to him complaining that the know-it-all woman in the front office kept changing the number of exemptions on his federal W-4 tax paperwork. He claimed more people than what he had in his household, which is perfectly legal.

Know-it-all’s changing it without Box of Rock’s consent though, was not legal and Tom politely pointed it out to her. She, on the other hand, kept claiming it was wrong of him to claim so many when they didn’t exist.

“What he claims on his paperwork is between him and the federal government and not you or this company,”  Tom told her.

She refused to listen to him and after the third alteration of his paperwork, Tom took it to his direct supervisor, Mr. Worthless. He had a habit of doing everything in his power to undercut the company at every turn when it came to the company’s local operation.

As usual, he did nothing, and in fact, he agreed with Know-it-all, letting her alter employee’s files willy-nilly.

“So it’ll be okay with you if she changed your filing information?” Tom asked.

“She has no reason to change mine,” Worthless stated, “It’s in perfect order.”

“So is his,” Tom responded, leaving his office.

Next, he went to the manager’s office for possible resolution. Mr. I-can’t-be-bothered couldn’t be, telling Tom to go back and tell Know-it-all not to change employee’s paperwork without their knowledge.

And though Tom did this, she continued to alter Box-of-rocks income tax filing. Since he wasn’t getting relief and technically being management, he acted outside the company by calling the local union representative, telling him what was going on.

Results! He was in the office within minutes, reading the riot-act to Know-it-all, Worthless and Can’t-be-bothered, informing them that he was filing a notice of intent to take action if the unauthorized alterations did not cease and desist immediately.

At first, Worthless and Can’t-be-bothered went after Box-of-rocks, harassing and threatening him with all sorts of disciplinary actions. When Tom learned of this, he confronted both men and told them that he involved the Union and that he did so because of Know-it-all’s illegal actions.

Within minutes, Tom was written up and suspended from work for three-days without pay. However, along with a three-day vacation, his pay was reinstated after going to the state and best of all, Box-of-rock’s paperwork was filed exactly as he wanted.