Snippet #15

Time slowed to a crawl as the bus dug into the deep snow on the curb.  Unconsciously, Shelly placed a hand over her heart and held her breath, feeling the back wheels of the great machine slide sideways and grind against the raised edge of the sidewalk.  After a few seconds, the tires caught.  Ignoring the smaller vehicles, the city bus clawed its way into the street.

Pressing her hand tighter to her chest, trying to calm her rapid heartbeat through her gray, winter coat, Shelly glanced nervously around her, trying to see if she was the only worried passenger.  Across the aisle, sitting stiffly in her seat and gripping tightly to her shopping bag, sat a small elderly lady with an old, green knit hat and wide eyes.  As if feeling Shelly’s eyes on her, the woman turned her head and met her inquiring stare.  Nervous smiles tightened their mouths for just a moment.

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.

Snippet #11

Garret froze in the fake leather seat, his left hand plastering itself to the upholstery as if it were glued.  His heart smashed wildly against his ribcage, beating itself senseless while the rest of the body was immobilized in terror.

 

LOOK UP

 

The instruction flashed rapidly on the screen in front of him, the color of the letters changing from white to yellow, the orange followed by red.  A simple prompt from the mechanical marvel he had been burning to touch.  Feed a dollar into the slot and pull the handle.  Watch the reels spin.  It was just too easy to pass up.  

 

LOOK UP

 

They had walked by the open doors countless times, always cracking jokes about the poor suckers inside, going broke and getting too old to move off the chairs. Jokes!  For God’s sakes, they were just jokes!

 

LOOK UP

 

Beside him, William sat slumped in his own chair, his head lolling awkwardly toward Garret.  Where his eyes had been, two charred cavities remained, thick, yellowish fluid spilling over and down his slackened cheeks.  

 

LOOK UP

 

Garret’s fourteen year old brain refused to make a decision.  He shouldn’t be here.  Every muscle strained in place with indecision.  Run!  But if he ran he would be leaving William behind.

 

William is dead.

 

LOOK UP

 

He shouldn’t be here.  He was just fourteen.  He should be home playing Halo or something, not here trying to get a cheap thrill from a slot machine.  He needed to get off the chair and run as fast as he could.

 

LOOK UP

 

No.  

 

William had followed the instruction.

Snippet #10

Wait, what!

“Excuse me?”

“I’m just saying,” Jen continued doggedly, “That if you ever sleep with my brother, it’s over.  We’re done.”

Inhaling deeply through her nostrils, she looked around the room for a few seconds, letting herself process this new and, very late to the party, facet of Jen’s personality.  That annoyingly correct, inner voice was screaming I told you so.  The move had been too flawless.  Even their furniture had gotten along.  Her red plaid couch had combined with that hideous, green, recliner much better than she had anticipated.  Both of them had looked at the combo with surprise.  Then they laughed until tears ran down their faces, discovering they were each prepared to verbally crap on each other’s style choices.

And now?

Setting her cup down on the so-last-decade coffee table, she stood and picked up her sandwich plate to take it to the sink.  Her parents were night owls, they would still be awake at ten thirty.  She could feel Jen’s eyes burning into her back as she left the room.

“Alyssa?  Where are you going?”

Maliciously she jangled her keys, making a bit of a production out of gathering her jacket and bag.  On impulse she turned to face the kitchen doorway, knowing Jen would be standing in it.

“Look, it’s been great and all but, really, I’m not prepared to have someone play judge and jury over my past and make me feel bad about stuff all over again.”  Her stomach lurched a little as Jen went pale, sensing her intent.  She had been so cute!  That bobbed red hair that swooped a little across her forehead was so damn attractive.

“Jesus Al, it’s not even that serious.”

“Not that serious?”  She locked onto Jen’s eyes, mentally drawing crosshairs on them.  “That particular expression is used abusively by people who don’t want to take responsibility for what they just did!”  Grabbing the doorknob, she wrenched it open and felt cool, fresh, night air pouring in.

Snippet #9

The sound of metal scraping on metal made Gloria stomp on the brake and yank her head around.  The front bumper of her red Corolla was firmly pressed against the powder blue door of the neighboring car.  Crap!  Shifting into drive she pulled forward again into the parking spot and eyed the damage to the small, two door beside her.

It looked like an older model with some rust along the bottom of the doors.  Without much straining she could see a crack running the full length of the windshield.  The scrape she had made was a freshly gleaming, silver, eye-sore in the early morning sun.

If a tree falls in the the woods and there is no one to hear it…

If a woman scrapes a car in a parking lot and there is no one to see it…

No heads bobbed along the lanes or stared at her from the seats of the surrounding vehicles.  From the looks of things, she was alone in the parking lot.  She could just leave if she wanted to.  She could back out and drive away, pretend she didn’t know a thing about it.

Judging her from the passenger seat was her two grocery bags, free range eggs and whole wheat bread in one and a few organic, produce items in the other.  The earlier debate she’d had with herself over whether she should just eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast or go to the grocery store seemed a long way in the past right then.

The sound of a door opening beside her jerked her head upright.  Heart pounding, she turned to look, catching the sight in her sideview, of a man loading the trunk of the blue car.  Now or never.

Opening the door she swung her feet out and tried to stand.  Her arms flailed forward for a second as she swung like an infant against the seat belt.  Feeling idiotic, she pulled herself back inside and released the belt.  Free of all restraint, she exited the car, impulsively sliding her purse straps over her shoulder.  It was only three steps to the trunk and she was beside the man.

Then she was past him!

Calmly she walked back into the store and bought a block of butter, chatting casually with the same clerk that had rang up her previous purchases.  She even stopped to buy a lottery ticket from the vending machine.

Back in the parking lot, the spot beside her Corolla was empty.

Saturday Snippet #8

Trying to hold the truck straight while the rear wheels began to slide, Jake felt nervous perspiration break out on his forehead.  He had only had this vehicle for two months.  The search to find something in respectable condition with rear wheel drive had been challenging.  Most of the ones he found were old and exhausted, their bodies rusting, dented and fading.  This truck, his baby, had been a jewel of a find.

Winter in the northern Midwest was fickle.  The storm had been on the radar for a couple of days.  He had thought it might fizzle out before it reached Milwaukee.  It was a common occurrence.  The weather man screams for everyone to hunker down, then the snow turns from feet to inches and everyone is laughing except the school kids.  This one was real though.

A glossy BMW with deeply tinted windows skidded through the intersection directly ahead.  Jake downshifted to second gear, the elderly, automatic whining its disagreement.  Duly noted, he thought but stuck with his decision.  The truck slowed dramatically, its new tires digging for purchase in the six inches of chewed up slush that was quickly freezing into suspension jerking ruts.  The BMW caught itself and clawed its way forward.  He wanted to watch it go, study the way the driver handled it but, his own driving took most of his attention.  He wished strongly the weatherman had been less correct.