Just Another Day

It’s been a while since I dropped a random story. Here’s the catch: I don’t have a lot of time today. So what I’m going to do is scribble for an hour and see what comes of it.

And here we go….

The pigeon outside Hank’s window wouldn’t shut up. The bastard settled there at sunrise, cooing until the alarm clock played static-garbled oldies. It paused long enough to turn around and resumed chatting away to it’s reflection, or whatever the hell birds talk to when they’re all alone.

Better than talking to yourself all the time.

Touché, self.

Hank grabbed the book on his nightstand. His fingers slipped off the slick cover. He settled for dumping the hardcover on the wood floor. Thump. The pigeon scurried to the ledge and flew off.

“Coo, coo, motherfucker.” Peace at last.

His neighbor turned on their radio, gifting him with the nerve-grating top forty hits playing in every club, bar, and department store in the United States. Original thought and creativity flew out the window with the digital age. What happened to bands like Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Judas Priest? Hank cringed. His taste in music was as old as his favorite jeans. No wonder he was stuck dating online. One look at his dated clothes, one peek into his CD collection, and women wrote him off as daddy material. Not the sugar kind. He couldn’t afford an extra large coffee by the end of the month, let alone buy a hot young thing whatever she desired.

Rolling out of bed took way too much effort. Monday morning blahs threatened to send him diving under the covers for just another hour. Rhianna sang about work from the neighbor’s. What a great idea. Go to work and get away from the incessant hip-hop droning.

“Next time I move, I’ll make sure a wannabe go-go dancer isn’t in the building.”

Shit. Shower. Shave. Suit-up. Same routine he followed every work day.

Hank dropped a spare shirt and tie in his messenger bag. A date after work on a Monday. He was insane to accept the request. Who in their right mind wanted to do anything except kill a bottle of bourbon after eight mind and ass numbing hours at a desk job? Karen was gorgeous. That was motivation enough. Hank never lied to himself when it came to dating. She was hot. He was as handsome as a canker sore. The date probably came from pity or the vain hope that his personality was better than his face and soft gut.

Apartment door secured, he took a moment to flip the bird at apartment 412. Her music swapped to some house mix with a rhythm to make people shake their ass. He’d seen his neighbor three times in the year he lived there. She had plenty of ass to shake.

Outside, he hailed a cab. It took three frantic arm-waving sessions to catch a cabbie’s eye. Climb in. Hold on. Pray the guy didn’t rear end a school bus or hit a nun in the crosswalk.

The office building was at the north edge of town. Everyone and their ailing granny swore the big money migration would take everyone from downtown to just inside the north-most border in the city. So far it was the one building, a Starbucks, and three mediocre Chinese restaurants. The building was home to six small businesses, each with their own floor. Though only three years old, it had plumbing problems. Toilets ran dry, leaving crap in the bowl. Sinks leaked—they should just run hoses from one to the other, that’d fix the problem. Then there was the elevator only the brave used.

Hank huffed and puffed to the sixth floor. “Eight hours and I’ll see you again, nemesis,” he grumbled as he left the stairwell.

It was more like eight hours and fifteen minutes. There was always that one last caller who couldn’t decide if she wanted to cruise to the Bahamas or one of the trendy Alaskan treks and asked every imaginable question about both. If he had to talk about snow or sand again that night, he’d jump off the roof.

Down, down, down he clomped.

In the lobby, Hank stepped into a corner near the front doors and pulled out his phone. Karen texted while he finished with the last caller.

See you soon. I’m wearing the green dress. 😉

Hank’s hands trembled. His phone slipped. He caught it and jammed it into his coat pocket. She sent a photo of the dress the night before. The front plunged so low, half of each breast showed. He didn’t anticipate her wearing it, thought the picture was to entice him into actually showing up.

He checked the clean shirt and tie in the shiny metal around the support beam to his left. His outfit was nowhere near as enticing.

At least I’ve got a somewhat tolerable personality. If he didn’t hate himself after fifty years, it had to be a sign he wasn’t a bridge troll.

Outside the building, it took another three attempts to flag a cab. Most of the time he swore they didn’t think he really wanted a ride and waved his arms for shits and giggles.

“Seventh and Hamilton, please.”

The driver’s left brow rose, but he put the car in gear and off they drove, leaving the north side in favor of the slowly dwindling downtown area.

Of course the driver took the longest route. Of course he took his sweet time counting out the change. Of course he parked near a damn puddle. Hank still tipped the guy. It would’ve been another ten minutes before he got a car to stop. He didn’t have the patience to wait another ten minutes. Karen was in the dress. That thought alone obliterated his ability to wait for anything.

Mother’s Kitchen sat on one corner at the intersection with a Walgreens, Taco Bell, and Vons. White folk heaven, he called it. They could get good steak, rubbers, food that’ll make you shit water for a week, and overpriced produce. The nearest Starbucks was one block east. Three more were within a mile radius. Everyone under thirty who passed clutched a Frappichino.

Hank played Frogger to cross the busy sidewalk, bumping a teenage guy who couldn’t walk right with his saggy pants around his knees. “Sorry,” Hank said.

“Whatever.”

Orange is not your color, man. Don’t smack the kid for trying to be a badass. The pep talk didn’t slow his heart rate.

Neither did the blonde woman waving at him through the restaurant’s front window. She beat him to the door, opening it.

“I’m so glad you came.” Karen didn’t waste a moment. She wrapped him in a hug the second she released the door. Her breasts pushed against his chest. He was afraid when they parted, the risqué gown would slip and show nipple. To his surprise, it stayed in place.

They followed the host to their table. Karen ordered drinks. Hank hadn’t found his voice after convincing his dick to calm the fuck down.

“So, uh, you come here a lot?” He draped the napkin on his lap. That’s what people did on dates, right? Pretended they had table manners? At home he ate wherever he happened to be in the apartment when hunger struck.

Karen laughed. “Yes, I do.” She paused and chewed her bottom lip. Miraculously her lipstick didn’t end up on her teeth. The woman was pure magic.

“What’s on your mind?” The way she watched him shifted. He had a feeling their night would end before they finished their salads.

“I don’t want to be rude.”

Hank reached across the table and clasped her hand. “I’m a hard guy to offend. Go for it.”

She chewed her lip again. Deep breath. “Okay. I have to ask . . . Why does that bearded guy have a hand in your back?”

Time’s up! Well, that went weird. How the hell does a puppet end up on a dating site?

Not a Creeper

Okay, maybe a tiny bit. But that’s the reality of being a writer. We can’t be isolated and hope to create characters who grab reader’s by the hand and drag them along for the roller-coaster ride that is their lives. Good characters, grounded in real emotions and actions, make readers forget they’re fictional.

Despite an author’s skill, there’s no way to fake real emotions without witnessing them.

I’ve probably written about people watching before. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. Lately I’ve had the chance to indulge more. Convention work and the promo stuff I do for the haunted house put me more or less smack dab in the middle of humanities petri dish. As much as I prefer solitude and quiet, occasionally it’s necessary to jump head-first into public life and absorb the good and bad people have to offer. Something impossible to obtain through television and movies. Even social media is a inauthentic slice of humanity. People censor themselves. Create a persona to show the world through their words and stupid picture memes. Very few are a raw, unvarnished version of themselves online.

So into the weird-ass world we must go.

Rarely, we’re given the chance to stay at home and feed on the pure WTFery outside our doors. I’m lucky to have a resource close to home who works at a department store. The stories she brings home every day are astounding. I’ll give you an example.

Friday, June 13th. A full moon, to boot. Somehow my source (We’ll call her S) had forgotten the magical mix of idiocy, superstition, and lunar influence. Her bad. Seriously.

Sometime before her lunch break, S answered the phone in the men’s department. The gentleman on the other end started rambling before she finished saying hello. Apparently, his shyness won out and he couldn’t make himself go up to the department to talk to her in person. (Warning flag numero uno.) He wanted her advice on what to wear for a first date, but there’s a catch. (Flag number two.) It’s a hot tub date, with wine. (*blink, blink*) S cut in and suggested he pick out boardshorts to wear on the date, thinking his shyness was about the swimsuit, not necessarily asking her advice.

“You misunderstand, I want to show off the goods. What do you guys have?”

Not one to be caught off-guard often, S rebounded and suggested a Speedo. She’s no stranger to fitting guys with swimsuits, years ago she worked as a water polo coach.

Again, the guy hedged. “Don’t you guys have something more revealing? Like those women’s suits that show off their ass?”

S, with regret in her voice, informed him the store didn’t carry anything of the sort. (This is a higher-end department store in an ultra-conservative section of the city.) “I think you’d be best off with a Speedo.”

The man wasn’t done with her. First, he went on to say he was a manager at another location of the chain she worked for and wanted to bring her over to his store to be his personal assistant. (By this time, S’s coworkers realized something was up and came over to eavesdrop.) When S didn’t sound convinced, he brought out the big guns–claiming he also worked part time as a porn star, and needed an assistant for that work as well. S, too stunned to react, said, “Oh. Okay.”

“You sound so calm,” he observed. “Tell you what, if you come meet me, I’ll give you $300. A sign of good faith. I really want you to come work for me.”

S’s coworkers waved their arms, shook their heads. “Don’t do it. Just hang up,” one mouthed.

“I’m sorry we can’t help you,” S said at last. “Have a good day.”

After S called to tell me the story, we’re pretty sure someone used the Friday the 13th and full moon combo to have fun at her expense. Either that or the store’s secret shoppers are upping their game. Nevertheless, this type of thing happens often at her store. Not to that degree, but still odd. The things people think they can get away with at a store are nuts. Unbelievable, actually. If I didn’t know and trust S, I’d never think people could be so . . . odd.

Sometimes a writer’s best resources come from the friends they keep and their unique experiences.

Tales From The Haunt

The proper title for this blog should be, Tales From the Haunt: The Ongoing Adventures of Frank the Tribble.

For long-time readers, you guys know when I start talking about scares and haunts, it must be October and time for The Grove Haunt to open. Last year, my character, Sera, came out of her daytime rest to give you all a glimpse into her journal.

This year’s character is a tad shy outside of her home. But what she lacks in being talkative, she makes up for in hair volume. To make a Victorian-esque hair style, I created a little cheater device to spare my real hair a lot of tangling. The result is a wad of ratted synthetic hair, which oddly resembles a tribble (yes, the little fuzzy things from Star Trek).

And, because I’m me, I’ve decided the hair piece needs a name. I shall call him… Frank. Thanks to Jinxie G. for the name suggestion.

Frank has a bird’s-eye view of everything that happens in the haunt. He is also somewhat of a chatter-box. So, during the run of the gig, Frank will occasionally pop in and share some of his observations about the world we’re living in this month.

I have never seen so many people willingly walk into a building where seventy-five percent of the walls aren’t really painted, but covered in blood splatter, mud, and other stains you’d rather not identify.

Just a tip, don’t ask to see the toilet in the House. 

The past few days I’ve been blessed to witness the miracle of birth approximately two-hundred times. Each time I get a flutter of excitement and the urge to procreate. You’d have to be there to understand the true beauty of it. 

Frank’s gotta cut it short this time around. He’s got an appointment early tomorrow with a brush. Ta-ta!

Breakfast With a Werewolf (pt 6)

Six days later…

Hunkered down in a thick coat, I did my best not to trip while we walked through the woods. The meeting spot for the pack sat far off the road, just in case. It took a half an hour of walking—or in my case stumbling—to get there. Up hill. Both ways. Okay, I wasn’t exactly feeling good about the plan. Nerves ate at my stomach.

Matthew bounded through the bushes on my left, swung around a small tree, and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. His smile made the orange-red of the sunset seem even brighter. He’d been overjoyed about the trip. He even packed a backpack full of snacks and wine for me. I’d requested the wine. On the off chance something went wrong, I wanted the opportunity to drink away bad memories.

Lips brushed my temple. Matt leaned against my side to avoid a tree branch in our path. He was much better at navigating the woods than I.

“We’re almost there.”

My heart jumped into my throat. I stopped dead in my tracks, swaying from the sudden change in heart rate. Looking back, I wondered how lost I’d get trying to find the car on my own. Matt stepped into view. Concern pinched his brows down.

“You okay, honey?

“This is really happening.” Stupid, but I needed to hear it aloud.

He pulled me into a hug. The strong beat of his heart thumped against my ear. I tried to force my heart into that same steady rhythm. After a moment, I didn’t feel like running away… as much.

“Yes, this is happening. I won’t force you. We have enough time for me to walk you back.”

Continue reading “Breakfast With a Werewolf (pt 6)”

Breakfast With a Werewolf (pt 5)

During the drive home, doubt and I went through ten rounds of a knockdown drag-out fight. By the time I parked in the driveway, I’d changed my mind a billion times, and then talked myself into witnessing his transformation all over again. Okay, maybe solitude wasn’t what I needed.

But in the end, when faced with the prospect of never waking wrapped up in Matthew’s arms again; I knew what needed to be done.

Continue reading “Breakfast With a Werewolf (pt 5)”

Breakfast With a Werewolf (pt 4)

“Who’s up next?” Mary asked as she resumed her seat.

The pregnant woman stood. I noticed she wasn’t quite to the stage where moving was a chore. Mary waved the other woman on.

“Go ahead, Mandy. If you could, please start with when you and Stephen decided to have a baby for our new folks.”

“We decided to try three years ago. At first neither of us thought anything was wrong. When month after month it didn’t happen, we’d just try again.” A faint blush colored her cheeks.

“But after a full year without even a false alarm, Stephen got worried. He wanted a baby so much and the disappointment ate at him. So we went to the doctor. And then another doctor. And finally a fertility specialist that wasn’t afraid of addressing Stephen’s lycanthropy.”

Mandy paused. Her hands went to her belly and she gave a sad smile. “That’s when we found out. Something about the disease changes even the basic DNA of the males. It makes them infertile unless they breed with a were of their species.”

A loud noise startled me. Looking down, my eyes tracked the tendrils of coffee snaking across the wooden floor. Interspersed in the puddle were shards of a coffee mug. Shocked, I looked at my hands.

Wulf knelt down, picking up the broken mug. Mary came to my side, but I didn’t hear any of the softly spoken words she said. All I could hear was Mandy’s admission that lycanthropy made it impossible for males to impregnate humans.

Continue reading “Breakfast With a Werewolf (pt 4)”

Breakfast With a Werewolf (pt 3)

(Be sure to catch up with the story in Part 1 and Part 2.)

Downtown possessed as much life as a dead fish. Once beautiful buildings leaned dangerously towards deserted streets. A handful of newer buildings sprouted up in the last decade or so, but did little to restore the former glory of the area. The decrepit landscape did nothing to lift my dark mood. One small benefit to downtown being nearly deserted, no traffic. It would’ve taken me twice as long to drive north to the more popular part of the city. The downside, I didn’t have nearly enough time to psyche myself up for the meeting.

Wulf’s Café sat across the street from the old courthouse building. The building housing the café changed so often in the last decade I didn’t know what was there until Matt gave me directions to the meeting. Wulf, the owner and proud weretiger—don’t mistake his name for his species—found a better use for the building, utilizing the solitude abundant downtown. His café acted as a safe haven for newly infected lycanthropes and their families. I pulled into the small parking lot alongside the building.

“I can do this.” As far as pep talks went, it sucked.

Afraid that someone would look outside and come to ask why I didn’t come in, I got out of the car. Cool autumn air sent goose bumps down my arms. I took a deep breath, then another.

The patio was deserted. Chairs sat upside down on top of small glass-topped tables. On meeting days, the owner closed the café to the general public in order to give group members a sense of privacy. I appreciated the effort. Matt’s job put us both in a precarious position if his secret got out.

Inside the double doors, the café welcomed me with a warm embrace. A pedestal to the right of the door bore a logbook with the initials L.S.G., Lycanthrope Support Group. I signed in and noted the small list of names above mine. My stomach did that horrible nervous flip-flop thing.

Continue reading “Breakfast With a Werewolf (pt 3)”

Breakfast With a Werewolf (pt 2)

(Be sure to catch up with the story in Part 1)

In the shower, my hands went on automatic, washing the shoulder length blonde mop on my head. The one trait inherited from my mother’s side. She wore her thick blonde locks down to her waist. I couldn’t fathom how. Every time I washed mine, I got a neck ache.

Desperate for a distraction, I let my brain wander to thoughts of my mother. She’d been planning a trip. Probably to an impoverished country that needed help digging wells. Mom didn’t take vacations any more; she went on adventures to help those in need. Me? I’d be happy finding a cheap cruise to Mexico. Preferably a werewolf friendly one.

Just like that, my brain whipped back to the matter at hand, the support group meeting. What if they couldn’t help? Matt needed someone that could deal with his condition. Lycanthropes, despite making themselves public, didn’t have many rights. They certainly didn’t receive any special help or privileges because of what they are. Countless people were fired from their jobs after revealing their furry nature. No laws prevented specialized hunters from tracking weres during the full moon. As a matter of fact, some judges are happier signing warrants to put weres down than they are protecting one’s rights in court.

The reality we lived in terrified me to the core.

I emerged from the bathroom wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around my wet hair. Matthew let out a low whistle. One shoe on and unlaced, he walked over and grabbed my waist. Heat radiated from his skin. Even after my shower, his fingers scorched wherever he touched.

He bent down. Soft lips caught at mine. Stubble scraped across my chin as our tongues met. I leaned into him, accepting the affection I so needed and he too-willingly gave.

Continue reading “Breakfast With a Werewolf (pt 2)”

Breakfast With a Werewolf (pt 1)

“I dreamed that I ate the dog last night.”

My eyebrows shot up so fast I thought they’d fly off and I gaped at the man sitting across the table. We only said a handful of mundane things since climbing out of bed—who’d make the coffee, which bread to use for toast—you know, normal things. The new turn in conversation took my caffeine-deprived mind by complete surprise. The only way he could’ve shocked me more would be if he jumped on the table and sang the national anthem backwards. In Latin.

Instinctively my eyes dropped to the floor and began to search for the puppy we recently adopted. She was really good at hiding. Too good at times. My heartbeat sped up. I leaned down to look under the table. Princess, the notorious beggar, wasn’t in her customary spot. Worry niggled at the back of my mind.

“What are you doing, Annie?” Matthew asked, amusement in his voice.

“Oh!” I straightened. Shame colored my cheeks. “I thought I dropped something. Guess the dog got to it before me.” If she’s still alive, my brain added grimly.

A bright smile radiated across the table. Matt’s too perfect smile—a benefit of his condition—made me constantly jealous every time I scheduled an appointment with the sadist masquerading as my dentist. Humor twinkled in his forest green eyes, another perfection I tried to ignore as I jammed a finger against the nosepiece of my glasses to push them back in place. The man was perfect. Me, not so much. We made an odd couple.

“Do you really think I’d eat the dog, honey?” he asked.

“I…uhh…” Crap. What to say? Yes dear, I thought you turned furry in the middle of the night and gobbled up Princess as a midnight snack. Though to be honest, the yorkie would barely wet a werewolf’s appetite.

Continue reading “Breakfast With a Werewolf (pt 1)”

A Very Valley Christmas

A Very Valley Christmas

by R.C. Murphy

 

Like a Viking horde, Christmas invaded Huntington Boulevard. Nearly every home along the mile-long historical district possessed some sort of twinkling lights fixed to their lawns. The few bare houses were startling in their lack of glitz and mass-produced holiday cheer. On any given night throughout December, folks walked or drove down what had been dubbed Candlestick Lane—so named because the old fashioned street lamps were decorated like gigantic candlesticks. Halfway through the dazzling displays children could catch a glimpse of Santa Claus. A real, live Santa who waved and gave a hearty, “Ho, ho, ho” to passing cars. Holidays on Huntington Boulevard were surreal, beautiful, and a gigantic pain in the ass.

Morning sun stole all of the glory and wonder from carefully decorated homes. Everything in sight looked washed out, tired. Or maybe her mood colored her view of the world.

Rebecca McGovern sneered at a herd of wire deer grazing in her neighbor’s yard. That very same herd had been making Mr. Jacob’s lawn their home for nearly ten years. They were the only décor the old man allowed to be set up. Hell, since his wife passed, not even a tree went up inside. Ah, the holidays. How they persisted in reminding the living of those who have passed on.

Across the street, in the wide grass strip that once held tracks for the long-forgotten trolley line, sat Santa’s sleigh—complete with animatronic reindeer. Somewhere along the line of reindeer caretakers, they fancied that the reindeer were fans of bad disco fashion. Each of the four bore bright, sequined saddle blankets. Rebecca couldn’t help but hum the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever every time she passed by.

A sudden attempt to dislocate her shoulder banished the disco music from her mind and firmly pulled her attention back to the matter at hand.

“All right, Samantha. Calm down, we’re going.” The bouncing blonde chihuahua on the other end of the leash gave an excited whimper and shook. She always shook. It was part of the tiny breeds charm. If only their propensity to develop an ear shattering bark would fall to the evolutionary wayside.

Samantha let out another trembling whimper. Her gaze locked on something over by Santa’s sleigh. Another dog came around the side of the display, nose locked to the dewy grass. The stray hiked up his leg and pissed on the base of a Christmas tree beside the sleigh. Rebecca bit back a laugh. Some days, she held the same sentiment.

“Come on, baby girl. Let’s leave him to his bathroom break.” Rebecca chuckled at Samantha’s snort and led the way down the sidewalk.

Continue reading “A Very Valley Christmas”