Soup

SOUP

I was the only one left, in my usual booth. My friends had gone home and I was holding my one last drink, staring through the little window in the door out into the night.

Jag lumbered out of the kitchen and murmured for a while with Alyson the bartender before slumping onto the bench beside me.

Jag’s real name was Jerome Andrew something-Italian-that-begins-with-G. As a kid, his mother had called him “Romy” and it took moving to the other side of the continent to shed that name.

He slouched against the upholstery, his belly pushing against the table. He took a deep breath, held it, and let it out. “That’s it, man.”

“Yep”. I took a sip of my drink.

“No more.”

“Nope”. I … Read the rest

Sam Hugh the Junkman

In a town about a half-day’s ride north of here lives Sam Hugh, one of a few hundred people in the area who listed ‘salvage’ as their occupation on the last census.
As in any industry, specialization emerges naturally as individuals gradually earn reputations for knowing more about something than everyone else.
Sam specialized in metal pipes.

A typical salvage job would involve hitching up his horse to his trailer and riding out to one of the abandoned malls.
He would park the trailer near the front doors, which had invariably been smashed open during the panic of ’53 when people looted every store for every bit of food they could find.
Sam would hitch the horse on a very long tether so she could reach … Read the rest

Mouser

Andrew picked up the box and held it on his shoulder as he closed the trunk. Joan had asked him to bring over two dozen antique canning jars a week or so earlier when they were taking one of their strolls.

She was another man’s wife, of course, and Andrew would never… He had to stop himself from grinning as he rang the doorbell to Joan and William’s just-right house.

After a long delay, William answered, to Andrew’s disappointment. “Andy, come in. Joan mentioned you’d be dropping by.”

“Did she?” Andrew shifted the box to his other arm and closed the door behind him.

“Drink?” William led the way to the room that Joan caled the ‘Drawing Room’ and William called the ‘Parlor’. Andrew called it … Read the rest

In the Beginning

— — —

CLASSIFIED

Doc. i. d. : 0219-37 B Class ‘L’ XXXXX

Security: Classified

EVIDENCE XXXXX

Concerning deaths of several dozen unknown male and female, “John and Jane Doas” at or near United States Air Force property in Chaves County, New Mexico

Contents:
One (1) reel magnetic audio tape, recovered from engineering floor of research complex
Containing voices of:
: HW – Harold Wilkins, Ph D. P.I., “Lazarus Project”
: JB – Jerome Banks, asst to Dr. Wilkins
: FS – Francis Shenson, asst to Dr. Wilkins
: ?? – voice(s) of at least one other person

Source:
Room 12, engineering floor, Roosevelt research complex, Dexter

June 14, 1947

Roosevelt Research Center
Dexter, NM

Background:
On June 12, 1947 M.P. David. S. Branford reported … Read the rest

Tombstone

I used to go to the cemetery every Sunday to visit my dad. When the weather was good I would sit on the grass by his gravestone, if not I would park in the road about 30 feet away and sit in the drivers seat with the door open. Sometimes I would sit on a little hill with my back to the stone in order to watch the sunset. His stone was in a good spot, under the canopy of two trees, a little bit removed from most of the other sites. I usually went in the late afternoon, but sometimes later if I had stuff to do.

One Sunday it was later than usual and the Sun was beginning to set. I parked and heard … Read the rest

Bee Sting

I finished my second lap and crouched in the shallow end so my chest remained below the surface.

Before I begin a swim I exercise my cumpulsion to keep the pool tidy, and I paddle about collecting the stray leaves that have settled on the water and tossing them out.
I aim for the shrubs by the fence, but they almost always land near or on one of the deck chairs.
I don’t mind that. It’s not tidy, but I know they won’t stick to my face as I plow through the water.

As I crouched I saw something floating, something alive. A bee bobbed upside-down, one leg twitching.

I walked through the water, lifting and lowering my legs like an astronaut, and peered down at … Read the rest

The Bar

The bar was not crowded but soon would be. The after-work crowd always
arrives at 5:15: 20-something men in colored shirts and black pants
with gel in their hair, initially talking about interest rates and
mutual funds but eventually collapsing into not-yet tired stories of
pranks done at their fraternities when they were in college. For every
10 white men there were 2 Asian men and one black guy

The women always arrived between 5:45 and 6:00. The happiest ones were
tall and blond and slim with big teeth, and the other women tried to
be tall and blond as well. For every 10 white women there were 3 Asian
women.

The bartender had an Irish accent and looked like his nose had been
broken a … Read the rest

Carl on the Pier

Carl stood on the pier, waiting for the stranger to pick him up.

Carl’s name was Frank, Franklin Charles Moore Junior.

“Frank is an old guy’s name” He used to say, out of earshot of his
father. Carls’ mother’s mother was from Guatemala and used to call
him, “Carlito”. So when Frank Jr. was twelve or thirteen he began
going by Carl.

He didn’t exactly hate his father; not exactly hate, but close. And he
certainly didn’t want to be branded as simply a younger copy of the
old man.

It wasn’t the drinking. Carl wasn’t in a position to criticize anyone for that.

And Frank wasn’t violent. Although he was wrong, Carl thought his dad
knew that if he laid one finger on him he … Read the rest

The Sandwich

Tom sat at a cafe, sipping coffee from a mug, looking at the local
paper without actually reading it.

He hadn’t eaten yet and looked around for somewhere to get a bite. The
cafe only served cookies and what they called scones, but he didn’t
want that sort of thing. He could see a donut shop and a deli at the
end of the street. Tom could imagine what they had to offer, and knew
none of it would satisfy him.

There were at least two each of taco joints, Chinese take-out
holes-in-the-wall and pizzerias within a couple of blocks from where
he sat, but having eaten at all those places in the past, he knew he
wouldn’t go back except out of desperation.

At the … Read the rest

Staring at Your Boots

It was a warm day on the farm and the humid air carried all the smells of animals and vegetation and spilled diesel fuel and insecticide.

Donald had been asked to come by to see if he could figure out what had happened to the Jones’s horse, Blaze, who had gone missing a few days before. He walked to the stable; his boots leaving deep prints in the wet earth, and he bent down to pick up a horseshoe near the stable door. Donald sniffed the shoe. There was no horsey odor, just a faint metallic scent, which suggested that the shoe had not been worn for a while.

“Well I could have told you that.” Said the Farmer, Jones, who stood nearby, chewing his tobacco … Read the rest

Frank Bourbon and the Letter

I woke up earlier than usual and after a piss the cupboards reminded me that I didn’t have any food in my apartment.
I dressed in yesterday’s clothes and when I went out I saw the door across the hall open.

Frank Bourbon sat in a chair fully dressed except for his feet and was putting on his favorite pair of socks.
I can only guess that they were his favorite since he seemed to wear them every time I saw him and he seemed like the kind of person who would own a lot of socks.
And I recognized them because they were what I considered to be uniquely ugly, and I had given them to him.
They had been a gift to me but … Read the rest

The Delivery

Bart farted loudly. Nobody reacted. About half a minute later he scratched his rear and laughed a couple times, mumbling something about underpants.

I looked at Arnie, who stood in the corner, smoking a cigarette, staring at nothing. He saw me staring and looked back without changing his expression or blinking his eyes. I looked away first.

“So.” I said. Nothing moved but Bart’s TV screen and Arnie’s smoke.

“So.” I said. “Maybe one of you can sign for this, since it looks like Mr. Cooke isn’t around.”

Again, nothing moved.

I set the package on a workbench near the door.

“Or, tell you what. The signature is just a formality, anyway. Let’s just forget it.”

No reaction again, so I turned the knob on the … Read the rest

Train Story

The train was late leaving Penn Station.
Delays between Boston and New York meant we wouldn’t get into Washington until around 2AM.
Apparently there had been flooding in Connecticut which somehow caused an electrical fire at a switching station.
The conductor was telling some of the passengers about an area of woods they had passed that was both underwater and on fire at the same time, with water going up three or four feet on the trunks while flames consumed the branches.

While the businessmen shuffled back and forth to the bar car to fetch beers in twos and threes, I figured I’d just settle in and snooze or read.
On some trains, falling asleep meant possibly missing your stop, but DC was the last stop … Read the rest