Snippet #21

The glass door was propped open with one of those hard, plastic wedges jammed beneath it. Nervously I peered inside, wondering if I was really going to go through with it?  I’d never done anything like this before.  It was so out of character for me that I could hardly believe I had thought of it all by myself.  The boy behind the counter looked too young to have a job.  His hair was flopping over the brim of his visor, and that vest!  Oh god, to even think about buying something from a boy wearing a vest like that and wasn’t working in a hardware store was almost too much.

Just as I was ready to discard the idea entirely, the kid looked up and spotted me.  I guess I’d blocked the light a little too long.

“Hi!  Welcome to Literation Services!”  His face radiated happiness as he looked at me like I was his favorite uncle.  “My name is Kevin.  How may I help you today?”

I felt my eyes get bigger as I contemplated just running away.  How would that look though?  The other people on the sidewalk might think I was a shoplifter trying to get away with something.  They might try to stop me!

“Come on in!”

In spite of myself I responded to his energetic wave and stepped across the threshold.  The change was like night and day.  The feel of the store from the sidewalk had been pretty normal, like it was any other store on the street.  From the inside it was like holding your breath in a submarine, completely unnecessary but oddly compulsory.  The walls were covered from floor to ceiling with shelves packed so tightly with words it was almost impossible to see exactly where one stopped and another began.  My hard won high school diploma seemed an unlikely aide among all these choices.

Walking around the counter Kevin stood in front of me and held out his hand.  His eyes were shaped like almonds with a perfect duct in each corner, just big enough to hold a single, pristine tear.

“What can I help you with?”

“Um… I’m… uh…”  How did people do this?  Did they just come right out and ask?  Or did they play twenty questions?  I shook his hand, so young and lacking lines.

Turning to stand beside me Kevin looked up at one of the shelves and gestured with his open palm.

‘We have anything you could possibly want, it doesn’t even matter what language you need.”  His face glowed with pride as he openly preened over the inventory.  He looked back at me.  “So tell me, what are you looking for today?”

Okay, so I was just going to say it.  No games or charades, just straight out ask for it.

“I need a word that starts with L.”  My voice sounded clipped and hard, like I might chip it if I tightened it any further.

Kevin’s face grew thoughtful.

“How many letters?”

“Seven.”  Yes, seven letters.  I felt like a huge schmuck.

“Okay.  Are you looking for a noun?  Adjective?”

“Adjective.”  What man can’t come up with his own adjective?  I wanted to cover my face.

Moving away like a hound on the hunt, Kevin raised his hands in the air and let them flow across the shelves like he could feel the words better with his hands than he could see them with his eyes.

“Can you give me an idea of what you want to use the word for?”  His voice floated back, very professional and businesslike.  I could not accuse him of being judgmental.

“Um…”  Crap.

Stopping, hands still raised, Kevin looked back at me.

“Don’t worry, I’ll never tell.  All your business with Literation Services is private now and forever.  We don’t even keep a database.”

Snippet #20

Fading sunlight lit the windows with a soft, reddish glow, the edges fading first to orange, then to gold.  All along the street people lowered their heads, tugged the brims of their hats farther down or shielded their eyes with hand despite the sunglasses guarding their delicate peepers.  The brightness, magnified times six, tall, sky scraping buildings clothed in sheets of perfect glass, created a world bathed in its own fashion dilemma; a look to rival Godiva’s famous ride where only a fool could see the truth.  For sixteen minutes, there was no fool, only the dimming of the lights.

Snippet #13

“Sandy, you are a magician with that copy machine so I’m going to have you work on the flyers for the event.”

Flushing slightly at the double edged sword, Sandy stayed motionless for a moment, staring at Kylie.  Making flyers was a terrible job, one that Kyle would pick apart and ultimately do herself through the guise of suggested edits.  The job would keep her right under Kylie’s thumb for the next week.

Brown curls swung coyly around Kylie’s cheeks as she pushed papers around on her desk, straightening and sorting, not looking up.

“What are you waiting for?”  Picking up a pen, Kylie studied a single sheet as if she were going to write on it.

Catching herself before the scowl could get all the way out, Sandy allowed herself a slightly heavy exhale and turned to go, her brain burning with dislike.  The benefits that came with her job were hard to walk away from over a single person, especially one that was so covert with her manipulations.  Voicing her opinion of Kylie to a few of her co-workers had only made her appear as a curiosity.  Everyone seemed to adore the woman.  How was she the only one that saw what Kylie was?

Snippet #13 (COL – Chicken)

“The eighties were righteous, man!”  Bobbing his head in time with the music blaring from the overhead speakers, the man plucked two five dollar chips from the rack in front of him and leaned into the craps table to press them firmly into the field, centering them on the twelve.

Fighting the urge to roll his eyes at the guy, Shane lifted his hands into the air above his head and smiled.

“Hands up, boss.  Dice are coming.”

Two red cubes rocketed down the table, the sharp points digging at the green, felt covering.  Tumbling and bouncing, the dice grazed across the back of the man’s hand on their way to the back wall.

Way too slow, guy.

“Five, fever!  No field!”

“C’mon, man!  Get your hands outta the way!”

The shooter pressed both hands to either side of his backwards baseball cap, the scriptic M above the bill facing away from the game.

“Sorry, man.  They didn’t touch me, I swear.”

Liar.

Shane locked up the ten dollars from the field and focused his eyes on the passline behind it.  Historically, the shooter was short tempered.  He had a history of bullying other players and arguing with the staff over one dollar bets.  The guy in front of him liked to play chicken with the dice.  Last second betting, sometimes just tossing his chips down, letting them scatter toward the field in a way that made them seem like dice magnets.  He always caused a seven out.  Tightening his lips to keep the smile from getting out, Shane gripped the wooden rail and waited.  It was just a matter of time.

Crank

“CRANK!”

Jumping at the sound of his name being bellowed through the forest, Crank nearly lost his grip on the short legged hound wriggling at his knees.  Jamming his fingers beneath the dog’s leather collar, he twisted his head around to see who was looking for him.  Catching sight of the tow-headed, wreck of a boy that was his sister’s son, he dropped his head and sighed deeply.  Marty definitely came from the shallow end of the gene pool.

“Whatcha’ want!”  He tightened his grip on the collar as the young dog scrabbled at the soft earth, trying to get around him to see Marty.  Despite looking like he was being deliberately strangled, Crank was certain the dog had more sense in its head than his fourteen year old nephew.

Heaving his way up to the top of the ravine, the boy bent over, placed his hands on his thighs and waved weakly at Crank.  HIs chest railed as he struggled for air.

“The hell you do?  Run up the side?”  He chuckled cruelly as Marty dropped to all fours, belly jiggling, and wheezed like an old, dying lawn mower.  “I wonder has there ever been a kid what died of a heart attack from just runnin’ uphill?”  Snapping the lead back onto the dog’s collar Crank let him go, watching with amusement as the hound bounced and slathered excitedly all over Mary’s head.

“I think he likes you.”  Crank lifted his cap from his head and refitted it, pulling the bill down lower toward his eyes.  “Why you here, boy?  What’s goin’ on?”

Pushing hard with one hand, Marty forced himself up on his knees, using his other hand to press the spastic, slobbering dog away from his face.  His steel, blue eyes shot desperately to Crank’s.

“Silver!”

The hound sprang upward, tongue swiping toward the open mouth.  Marty lurched to his feet and filled his lungs.

“SHE’S WHELPING!”

The dog hit the dirt as Crank snapped the leash downward.

“Coulda’ just said that!”

Leaving the boy kneeling in the dirt, he plunged down the side of the ravine and began jogging for home.

“Keep up, you sloppy fool.”  Crank grinned down at the dog galloping along beside him.  “Yer gonna be an uncle.”

Snippet #12

“You need to see the parade.  It’s amazing!”  Her face lit up with excitement, her round cheeks positively bulging with a happy smile.

“Yeah, it looks like it’s a lot of fun.”  I smiled too, adding my enthusiasm to the conversation.  George and Sera smiled back from across the table, their elbows resting on the formica.

“You wouldn’t know, you’ve never seen it.”  Her face went blank, her dark eyes dropping to her plate where she began to push at her half eaten hashbrowns soaking in ketchup.

“Huh?”  My smile scratched to a halt and I stared at her, surprised.

“Oh, you’ll say you’ll say you have, but you haven’t.”  She waved a meaty hand through the air at me, dismissing anything that might come out of my mouth next.

From the edges of my shocked vision I watched George and Sera glance at each other, their faces going slack as the happy conversation was knocked out of them.  George lifted an enquiring eyebrow.  Sera made a slight shrugging motion and picked up her own fork to poke carefully at her pancakes.  In two small sentences, the impromptu breakfast had become a train wreck.