Who’s Next: Part 4 – Flash Fiction Friday Post

 

There were riots outside of Congress. People were upset that the Senators and Congressmen and women, all still had insurance. “Why?” People asked. “Why do they get insurance and we don’t? They’re not special. If it’s good enough for them to cut off people with pre-existing conditions from their insurance, why not them?”

The police had to cordon off several blocks out from the congressional buildings and the White House after several men through molotov cocktails at the buildings. Central Washington DC looked like a combat zone there were so many soldiers patrolling.

In the meantime, I had been asking around about making our own insurance company. Several people I knew were willing to invest starter money and pay a monthly premium. I talked to retired insurance agents. They agreed it was a good idea and gave me tips on how to do payouts. A percentage of what each person paid in, was the gist of it. I felt like I was on a runaway horse. Panic filled my waking moments and nightmares filled my nights. The stress was getting to me.

My own premiums for my company were going to run me twice what my old medicine cost. But it would be a buffer for doctor office visit bills and a cushion for any hospitalization. I had to talk to investment bankers. I couldn’t just shove everyone’s premiums into a savings account. That was a whole other level of stress.

In the country as a whole, congresspeople and senators were trying to back up the pre-existing condition legislation. It was impossible. The insurance companies were failing after people stopped paying their bills. Some people had already been to court and the judgements had been for the consumers. The judges called it a breech of contract, even though the insurance company high-priced lawyers argued that there were clauses that said they could terminate policies at any time.

The number of lawsuits reached record highs. The court system was jammed. The President of the United States appeared on television calling for calm and reason. That’s when a protest group cut the power to the station doing the broadcast.

A year later, things had quieted down. My insurance company, Around the Block Insurance, was doing well. People were very careful about making a claim, knowing that they could run out of insurance resources. The FundMe company was making a fortune as people got on, making pages asking for donations. It seemed to be a thing—donating to people who needed medical care. After all, we were all in the same boat.

Congress was working on bills to implement single-payer medical in the United States, similar to what was working in Canada and Europe. All of the nay-sayers were gone—died themselves or finally understanding what the single-payer movement really meant.

I got ready for work. It was casual Friday at the office so I was in a sundress and sandals. My husband kissed me on the cheek on my way to the garage. “Have a good day, tycoon.”

I laughed. My salary was the same as every other person working in my company. That was another thing happening in the country but a whole different story.

“Thanks, hon.” I kissed him back. “Get the pork chops out for dinner, would you? It seems like it will be a nice night to grill.”

“Will do.” He shut the door behind me.

It wasn’t the only problem in the world, but I’d solved, in a small part, at least one.

The End

Words 586

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Who’s Next? Part 3: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Episode 1 here. Episode 2 here.

Who’s Next? Part 3

I wandered through the house the rest of the day, body on automatic as I did the things that needed to be done, while my brain whirled. Nothing came to me. My sleep was disturbed all night with dreams of giant monsters chasing me down streets, pills falling from the sky but evaporating just before a person could get them.

By dawn I got up, a headache pounding. I made some tea and read a book. The news was too depressing to turn on so early in the morning. By the time the hubby got up, I had his coffee ready to brew and eight chapters of my book read.

He gave me a kiss on the top of my head as he passed by to turn on the coffee maker. “You’re up early.”

“Yeah.” I closed the book and pushed it to the center of the table. “I had bad dreams. It seemed appropriate to just get up.”

“How you feel?”

I shrugged. “Calmer.” I looked in my tea mug, empty. I got up and clicked the hot water maker on. “I don’t have a plan yet. Maybe form a group. I don’t know.” I put a teabag in the mug. “I guess I just need to let it simmer in my head.”

He poured his coffee and sat at the table, hands around the mug. “You’ll think of something.”

He was right. I knew that. But I wanted to do something right now. We sat together while we drank our tea and coffee. It was nice that we could sit together, not talking, just being together.

The day moved on. I read more on-line articles. Looked at groups. But nothing popped at me as an action I could take. I sent more email to my representatives. They should understand how I felt.

It was a week before I found an answer. It was an accident, really. I had wandered onto an article that talked about the origins of the insurance industry. It turns out that insurance has been around for thousands of years but health insurance only since the late 1800’s. I toyed with the idea of going back to the original concept, of people paying premiums into a group pot, getting paid back when required. But the tangle of regulations, the need for portability across hospitals and doctors, and other technical barriers made me drop the idea. I thought about the possibility of the insured being paid directly and they would pay whoever was providing service, but the other problems seemed too much. I toyed with talking to an insurance agent but dropped the whole idea as ridiculous.

Even as the days passed, I kept coming back to the insurance idea. Couldn’t the maze of payouts be simplified. I went over my own contract with the insurance company. There was a provision for everything. So many things were denied outright, or only partially covered. It was all up to some mystery team of actuaries or high school drop-outs or someone. All of whom were being paid not to shell out any coverage. I sighed and put the document back in the drawer.

In the meantime, the news showed people protesting outside of the major insurance company headquarters and at the Congress. People were angry. Death rates were going up and the evening news was interviewing one family after another of dead parents and children, all who had been fine with their meds but were now dead when the insurance companies cut them off from expensive treatments.

People stopped paying the insurance companies. The stock market was going down. Hospitals were also losing money as people couldn’t afford to go to the hospital. The ripple effect through the entire economy was taking every business down as their employees died or stayed home, too sick to work.

“It’s happening so fast,” I told my husband as we watched the news.

He shook his head. “Had to happen. Such a large percentage of people have medical issues.”

That was true. And those that didn’t, were now struggling to take care of family members who did. Over the next few weeks people were shouting at each other on the protest lines and in Congress and the statehouses. Blows were exchanged. International travel dried up as travelers avoided the medical mess in the country, afraid they wouldn’t be able to get care if they were injured or fell ill.

What to do? No one could decide. And the country spiraled out of control.

Words: 751

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Who’s Next, Part 2: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Who’s Next: Part 2

I called my doctor.

“I’ve been hearing that for the last three weeks.”

“What do you mean? You know about this?” My mouth had gone dry. “Other people have had their insurance cancelled? Is that legal?”

“They have. And it is.” I could hear him sigh on the other end. “I can put you back on your previous prescription. That’s a generic and you’ll be able to afford it.”

My mind wouldn’t get off the fact it was perfectly legal to drop paid up people. “How did this happen?”

The doc sighed again. “One of those bills stuck as a rider on another bill. There was some press about it at the time but there was that tsunami in Miami and it was buried. It went into effect a few weeks ago but the media didn’t pick it up when the first few people were cut. Now it’s an avalanche. At least I can move you to something effective and affordable. I have other patients that aren’t as lucky.”

My stomach rolled. I swallowed hard. “Diabetes? Cancer patients? Everybody?”

“Yes. Unfortunately.” He sounded as though the weight of the world was on his shoulders. I suppose it was. He was a good doctor.

“Why isn’t this being broadcast by the media? Aren’t people dying?” My hands were leaving damp splotches on the desk.

“People are dying, but not in great numbers. At least not yet.”

Bile rose in my throat. I gagged. “Oh my God.”

“Yeah. I’ll get the new script to your pharmacy. You should be able to pick it up this evening.”

“Uh, thank you, doctor. I appreciate it.” I hung up the phone. The whole thing was too much to wrap my brain around. I sat there for over and hour, doing my best to absorb it. Finally, I did a computer search.

First up was the major media reports. There were links to the actual bill and the congressional and Senate voting records. My jaw dropped when I saw that my own representatives had voted for this abomination of a law. What were they thinking?

I fired off emails to all of them demanding an explanation. Back on the search I saw there were already groups forming to fight this. I didn’t see any in my area but there were plenty of heart-breaking stories already documented. Worse, there where the stories of the children and the elderly. Tears rand down my face as I read them. I think I used half a box of tissue.

Hubby stuck his head in the door. He started to say something then hurried in. “What’s the matter?”

I waved at the screen. “You wouldn’t believe the stories already out about this insurance thing.” I sniffled and wiped my nose again. “It’s just horrible.”

He pulled his chair over and sat, holding my hand as I told him all about it.”

“That sucks.” He rubbed my back.

“Yes. It does.”

“Good thing your meds are affordable.”

I nodded. “We need to do something.”

He shrugged. “Like what? You’ve already written our reps.”

I used another tissue to wipe my eyes and blow my nose. “That’s not enough.” I could feel the aggravation of before turn to anger. “Not by a long shot.” I stood up.

“But…”

“I don’t know, hon. Something. I’ll think of something.”

 

Words: 554

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Who’s Next? Part 1: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Who’s Next? Part 1

I stepped up to the window. “Caren Baker.” I handed the pharmacy tech my ID. She typed the number into her terminal. She tried it again, checking the number as she typed.

I fidgeted. It always seemed to take forever to pick up my prescription.

The tech sighed. “I’m sorry Ms. Baker. This says your insurance has been cancelled.” She looked at me with sad eyes.

All I could do was blink. “But I’ve had that insurance for the last eight years. How can it be cancelled?”

She shook her head. “I’m very sorry. You could pay cash, until you get it straightened out.”

My brain whirled as I tried to absorb the shock of being told I had no insurance. What was going on? “Um. Okay. How much?”

“A hundred and twenty-seven, ninety-eight.” She stared at her keyboard.

“A hundred…?” My words trailed off. I had no idea the medicine was so expensive.

She nodded.

What else was I going to do? This was the newest med for control of my hormonal system on the market. My doc had been so pleased to offer it to me. “It’ll change your life,” he’d told me. And it had, I thought as I slid my credit card into the reader. I’d felt better than I had in years.

She put the pill bottle in the bag, stapled it shut with the instructions and the receipt and handed it over. “Good luck,” she said.

“Thank you.” I left the window and headed for my car. Over a hundred dollars for this stuff. When I got home I complained to my husband about what happened.

“Your insurance is cancelled?”

“That’s what she said.”

“You mean they didn’t approve the prescription.”

“No.” I flopped down in my recliner next to him. “She said my insurance was cancelled. Did you see a letter from them?”

His head slowly shook. “No. Anyway, I give all your mail to you. I wouldn’t toss anything addressed to you.”

“Yeah.” He didn’t, of course, even the stupid catalogs and junk mail. He always put it on my desk for me to decide what to do with it. I got up and went into our office and sat at my desk. I searched my inbox, well, permanent storage of files and projects I needed to work on. I sorted clear to the bottom of the basket, unearthing projects that had settled to the bottom in despair of ever being worked on. Nothing.

I drummed my fingers on the glass desktop. Wouldn’t they send a letter if they were cancelling my policy? They wouldn’t just drop me without a notice, would they? Would that even be legal? Then I searched my files for the insurance company phone number. None. Just the website. So I went to the website, finally found the help center button hidden at the very bottom of the page and of course, there was a contact form. No way to get even a live chat. I sighed and filled it out, asking for a call, then hit send. They’d get back to me within twenty-four business hours. Ugh. Three days? That’s what passed for customer service now?

The next day there was an email. A form letter, if you will, telling me they received my request and were processing it. More waiting. The next day there was an email telling me, after a lot of legalese and butt-covering, that my policy had been cancelled per paragraph, blah, section blah-blah. What? I dug out the policy and flipped through the pages until I found the section and paragraph. In size six font it said they could cancel the policy at any time upon their determination. Furious, I read through the entire section. Finally, at the end, there was a number to call. I pulled out my notepad and dialed the number.

I gave the robo-responder my name and my policy number, then was shuffled through three departments before landing with Gail.

“How may I help you today?” She sounded so chirpy. It was annoying.

“My pharmacy tells me my policy has been cancelled. I sent a contact form and I got back a form letter telling me, basically, that you can cancel my policy at any time. I’ve been paying premiums to you for years. What’s going on?”

“Ms. Baker, let me research your file. I’ll have to put you on hold for just a moment.”

“Fine.” I waited, drumming fingers. She was back in just a moment.

“Yes, Ms. Baker. I have it in your files. Your policy has been cancelled.”

“I didn’t get a letter telling me that. How can you drop a policy holder with no notice?”

“Well, she rattled off the section and paragraph numbers, say that your policy can be cancelled at any time.” She sounded so confident.

“Look. There has to be some reason. I’ve been with your company for years. Shouldn’t there at least be a letter with a notice?”

Again, in her chirpy voice. “I am sorry, Ms. Baker. Let me see if a note was made. I’ll have to put you on hold again for just a moment.

“Fine.” I’m afraid I was short. I paid my bill on time. I paid it in full, every month.

She came back on the line. “I see the note now, Ms. Baker. It says here that you have a pre-existing condition.”

“What?”

“Yes. You use our policy to pay for a hypo-thyroid medication. You’ve been on one medication or another, a new one now, I see, for several years.”

“You cancelled my policy for thyroid meds? More than half the people over forty in the country are on thyroid meds.”

“I wouldn’t know about that. But that’s what it says. Pre-existing condition.”

“But. That’s ridiculous.”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Baker. Can I answer any other questions today?”

I couldn’t think of what to say. “Uh, no. Not now.”

I hung up. What was I going to do?

 

More next week.

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Assault: Flash Fiction Friday Post

I’m no more immune to what’s going on in our country than anyone else.

Trigger warning

Assault

Aaron twisted his hands in his lap. His advocate sat beside him. Silent. Why didn’t the woman say something?

“And then, Magistrate, he rolled over in the sand and on top of me.” Neila shrugged her shoulders. “Totally consensual, Ma’am.”

Neila’s advocate then asked. “When it was over?”

“Well,” Neila gave the jury a smug look, her eyebrow raised. “It was time to go home. I mean, it was fun for both of us, but I had school in the morning.”

Aaron saw the jury nodding. Of course. His stomach rolled.

“Prosecution?”

Aaron’s lawyer stood. “Mistress Tyler. You say Master Wrangler approached you on the beach?”

Neila nodded. “Absolutely. I was taking a moment. University is so busy. I just wanted to watch the sun set and get some quiet time.”

Again, Aaron saw the jury nodding. Yeah. Neila was a bright young woman. Her family was in the courtroom, nodding too. Their darling daughter, being groomed to take over her mother’s conglomerate.

His family couldn’t be in court. They were workers, dad in the steel mill and mom at the garment factory. They couldn’t afford to take a day off from work. It looked bad, his advocate had told him. Like your parents didn’t believe you. What could Aaron do? His family had all they could do to put him through university, even with him working two part time jobs to help out.

“And Mr. Wrangler propositioned you. Out of the blue?”

Neila rolled her eyes at the jury. Aaron could see her body language telling the jury that she thought that not only was this a waste of time but that the advocate was a bit dim. The jury turned stink-eyes at the advocate. “I know.” She put on a demure face. “I was so surprised. I mean, I’d seen Aaron, um, I mean, Mr. Wrangler in a couple of my classes. We’d barely exchanged greetings.”

“So,” the advocate continued, “even though you were out on the beach for some alone time, you accepted Mr. Wrangler’s proposition? Right out in the open on the beach?”

Aaron watched her cheeks color, but it just made her look prettier. She clasped her hands together on her chest. “I know. But,” she shook her brunette curls, “it was the right time.” Then she looked at Aaron, an appraising glance that the jury followed.

Aaron began to blush. Well built, Aaron played for the University on the football team. His phisique showed, even in the cheap suit he had on.

“I was a bit lonely, and, well, there he was.”

“Haven’t you gotten the story reversed, Mistress Tyler? Didn’t you come upon Mr. Wrangler and proposition him? Several of your classmates have testified to that.”

She shook her head. “Not so. He approached me.”

“And isn’t it true that later that evening, in your dorm, you bragged about bagging another football player. Bagging, isn’t that what it’s called in your sorority?”

Neila blushed again. “I’ve heard the term but that’s, well, that’s just uncouth, isn’t it?” Again she made a show of looking at the jury. Every one of the members were nodding again. “And, not to be rude, but he’s, well,” she looked at her hands in her lap, “he’s not really in my league.”

That was the final blow, Aaron thought. She’s rich. Why would she be picking up poor young men on the beach?

His advocate had Neila on the stand for another hour. It was a lost cause. At the end, the judge said that it was a he said, she said and didn’t want to ruin a bright young woman’s future. Neila was found not guilty and released. Aaron sat. Stunned. Neila winked at him as she hugged her mother, no one else in the courtroom saw it.

After that, Aaron received so many calls for sex on his comms, he had to get a new number. After graduation, he lost several job opportunities because of the court records. No one wanted to hire someone who was a complainer. Thirty years later, successful despite the slow start to his career, he saw that Neila was running for office. He spilled his story again. That she’d approached him on the beach, stripping her already scanty swim wear off and placing herself behind him, slowly undulating until he’d tried to roll away. She jumped on top of him, sliding herself onto him before he knew it. Then finished, rolling away, laughing at his embarrassment. Down the beach he could hear laughter. She waved in that direction, then picked up her suit, carrying it in her hand as she sashayed away. “Eight” she shouted down the beach. “Try him out for yourselves!”

No one believed him. After all, he was a poor boy. Wasn’t he appreciative of the attention of such a well to do young woman?

Again, he received calls, death threats, offers of sex, threats against his family. Business dropped off and he had to let two employees go.

A month later they found him, on the beach where he’d been assaulted. Dead. A gunshot to the head.

Words: 850

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The Church: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Adirondack Fall by Randy Cockrell

It was a September, my first Sunday in my new house. I’d cleared enough boxes from the dining room table for me to sit at one end. The sun was just up, and I gazed out of the window, mug of tea in front of me. Maples that bordered the edge of the yard between my neighbor and me were still in shadow but the tree tops catty-corner across the street were in sunlight. The church behind those trees, I didn’t know the denomination, had its steeple bathed in light as well. The church had been built in the early 1900’s and wasn’t large but had that village church look that was postcard pretty.

The belfry was just a square mounted atop the church building. Slats covered the openings. At seven-thirty in the morning, I really didn’t expect to see anything or anyone over there. Too early, even on a Sunday. But just as I was looking away to pick up my tea, I saw something up at the belfry. When I looked back, it was gone. I rubbed my sleepy eyes and looked again. A squirrel jumped from one maple branch to another. The branches dipped and swayed with the squirrel’s weight.

I shook my head. Just a squirrel.

The next morning I was clearing the rest of the boxes from the dining room. It was ten and I was hot, sweaty and dirty and ready for a glass of iced tea. It was a relief to sit down in what I’d established as my spot at the dining room table. The leaves on the maples were starting to brown, I noticed as I sipped my tea. There were already many fallen leaves in the hosta border between my neighbors and me.

I was watching the sunlight dancing on the tree leaves when a movement at the church caught my eye. Again, something up at the belfry. It seemed too big to be a squirrel, but it was hard to tell with all the trees in the way.

The leaves changed, turned orange, red and yellow and fell from the trees. Every day I saw something over at the church. I’d have asked my neighbor, but she only came up from the city once a month for a weekend to check on her house. The neighbors bordering the church parking lot had fir trees on their lot border, so couldn’t really see the church itself. As I got to know the neighbors, I asked about the church.

“Haunted,” Karen Carmichael told me as we chatted in her front yard. She lived four doors down from me on the same side of the street. “The histories say that spot where the church was built was a burial ground. When the colonists pushed the Indians out, they just built over it.” She nodded sagely but I privately wondered.

“Wow. And this is common knowledge?” I wasn’t sure if she was just pulling my leg or not.

“No. It’s in the town histories. If you go to the town historian, it’s all there.”

“Thank you.” I gave her a wave and continued my walk. I’d have to check that out.

A few days later at the historian’s office, I read through the old records. Karen was right, there had been a burial ground there, but the colonists had dug up the graves and transferred the bones to the Indians before they built the church. I thanked the historian and left.

It was mid-November and the whole town was decorated for Thanksgiving. The church was having a harvest festival the week before the actual holiday and had invited everyone on the street to attend. It was a potluck and I came with a casserole.

At the door I was greeted by the pastor’s wife. “Welcome,” she beamed at me. “Thank you for coming. I’m Allison.”

“Hi. I’m Corrine. I live in the white house, two doors down.” I raised the casserole dish. “I brought a ham and scalloped potato dish.”

“Bless your heart,” she said enthusiastically. “Everyone brings pasta and it gets a little old.” She turned to a passing woman. “Elaine, would you show Corrine where to take her dish?”

The woman agreed and we proceeded to a table in the community hall that was packed with food. I mingled, meeting familiar neighbors and others I didn’t know. People lined up and got their food then sat at long rows of tables to eat. The meal was about complete, and I was telling the people around me about how I was seeing something over here nearly every day.

There was a lot of speculation. Ghosts, were, of course, the main topic but many of the men were convinced it was just squirrels running around the roof. The pastor stood up to give a little speech thanking everyone for coming when we heard some sort of noise coming from the ceiling. The pastor drifted to a stop as everyone’s eyes rose to the noise. There were two screams and everyone gasped. A few even stood up. That’s when the ceiling collapsed, and two huge raccoons fell onto the table in front of me. Men were shouting. Women and children were screaming as they jumped up and tried to escape. The raccoons ran in different directions creating even more havoc as more tables of people began to run, screaming, for the exits.

The next day, workers were at the church. I went over to see what was going on. The pastor was in a denim shirt, sleeves rolled up. “A whole nest of raccoons. Several generations worth,” he said as he wiped his forehead with a bandana. We had no idea.”

“I should have said something. I’ve been seeing something up around the belfry and roof since I moved in but never could get a good look.”

He nodded. “Well, thank you anyway.”

As I left, I got a card from the exterminators. I wanted my house and attic checked as soon as possible.

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Working: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Captain

Working

I juggled my cell as I maneuvered eight dog leashes. The pooches, all regulars, were good dogs but each one wanted to smell something in a different direction. “Mr. Malony, I have an opening for an interview between three and five pm.”

I jerked Fluffy away from a discarded food wrapper. The fat little Pekinese would eat anything, then puke it up once she got home and her owner would call and ream me a new one. “Yes, sir. At the moment I have appointments up till three.” I rolled my eyes. The appointment was another job. Not this one, this one was the first job. Six in the morning till eight, walking dogs. The same gig, would that be job three or four, between six and eight. The second job was barista at a coffee shop who could only pay me for four hours, five days a week. Between noon and three was ticket seller at a downtown theater. Not the best theater, by the way, but the manager thought that a pretty girl in the booth would sell more ticket in the slow period. So that leaves three to five for my interview.

I jerked Sammy away from an oncoming owner walking her husky. Sammy was always eager to prove his dogliness to any passing dog. “Yes, sir. I’ll be there.” I clicked off. I really wanted the job. A real, eight hours per day, real pay and holidays and benefits. I could give up all these pitiful make do gigs to pay the rent.

My share of the rent, that is. Six women in a three-bedroom apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of them but there is always a fight for the bathroom and paranoia over the food in the fridge. It would be so great to be able to have my own place or at least a share with just one other person.

My phone rang. “Hey, mom.”

“Hey sweetie. How’s it going?”

I pulled a doggie waste bag from my pocket and scooped up Freddie’s contribution. While I tied the bag shut, I said, “Great mom. How about you?”

“Great, honey. Your father and I booked a cruise to Tahiti for next month. Can you go? We’d love it if you’d join us.”

I sighed. “I don’t think so, Mom. I’m going for an interview this afternoon. I don’t want to commit to anything in the future till I know if I’ve got the job.”

“That’s great, sweetie! I’ve been wondering why you’ve been doing those make shift jobs.”

I had to shake my head. They refused to understand that it wasn’t 1950 any longer. Dad’s corporate job lasted thirty-five years. He did the whole promotion every other year, gold watch on retirement, the climb up the social ladder. Mom, of course, was the socialite on dad’s arm. She’d held a job just after college, where she met dad, and that was her entire working life. They were disappointed in me, not getting a big corporate job right out of college.

Dad got me interviews, of course. But the new corporations were all about the “contractors”. People they could hire short term, pay a salary agreed to on a contract, then they wouldn’t have to pay retirement or benefits. No one was interested in a career path for me like the one dad had. That was way too expensive.

“Doing my best, mom. I hope I make the new job.”

“We do too, hun. Well, let us know, would you?”

“Sure, mom. Sure.”

She hung up and I clicked off with a shake of my head. She seemed to think this was a lifestyle choice. Who would want to be on a constant hustle for enough money to pay rent and eat? But it seemed the majority of the people my age were doing exactly that. It wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity. Businesses just didn’t want full time employees. They cost too much. Stockholders wanted bigger and bigger returns. CEO’s wanted bigger and bigger paychecks.

I tugged Maybelle away from a parking spot that had what looked like a transmission fluid puddle. Then stopped the whole procession to pick up Raylar’s droppings. Very glamorous, being a dog walker, but I did appreciate the exercise. The ticket gig was creepy. The barista job was hardly better. Every would-be self-appointed ladies man made a pass. Why couldn’t they just order their coffee and move along? And none of their lines were original or clever. I liked the dogs better and the happy owners tipped well.

At three-fifteen I was at the office building, tugging my skirt straight and smoothing my hair. I took a deep breath and went in. Oh. My stomach dropped. A panel interview, three people. I smiled at all three of them as I entered. They had me sit and introduced themselves. At the end, I thanked them, left them with my resume, references and my card.

It didn’t feel like they liked me. I thought about my mom and her invitation to cruise. Oh yes. I’d like to cruise. But that was not in the cards. My last day off was six months ago, only because I’d lost an earlier job taking tickets at a parking garage.

I went home. There was two hours before my evening dog walking gig. I changed and ate a can of ravioli as my supper and ran the interview through my head over and over.

I was in the middle of the night dog walk when my cell rang.

“Hello, Mr. Donnah.”

“Ms. Roman, the panel loved your interview. Would you be interested in starting Monday?”

It felt like my heart had stopped. “Yes, sir! I would!”

“Excellent. We’re emailing some basic information for you. See you Monday.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you and the board.”

“You’re welcome.”

I did a little dance right on the sidewalk. Finally! A way out.

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Raspberry Coconut Panna Cotta: A Chicklets in the Kitchen Blog Post

Raspberry Coconut Panna Cotta

It’s summer. It’s hot. The last thing you want to do is start the oven up. The first thing you want is something cool, smooth, slightly sweet, and refreshing. I’ve found just the thing over on www.healingfamilyeats.com/raspberry-coconut-panna-cotta/. As soon as I saw that delightfully pink, creamy-looking dessert, I just had to try it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any raspberries. I did have frozen blueberries though, so that’s what I used. This recipe is easy, and has just five ingredients, probably already in your fridge, freezer or pantry. And it makes 8 servings! Yay!

This being a paleo recipe, we’re not using the usual panna cotta ingredients or methods but that’s just fine with me. Give it a try. Click here for the full post.

 

Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Do you have a favorite dessert to serve family or guests? Please tell us about it in the comments box below if you feel so inclined.

My name is Connie Cockrell and I write SciFi, Fantasy, Mysteries, and a lot of other things and you can find links to all of my books at www.ConniesRandomThoughts.com.

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Four Doomsdays – Doom Three: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Mushrooms, Otherwise known as Fungus by Randy Cockrell

“And in other news…”

I half-listened as I changed my three-month-old daughter, Becca. It was always bad news on the TV and I was too engaged with my first-born to care about whatever was troubling the rest of the world. My world was perfect.

Still on maternity leave, I took Becca down to the kitchen and poured my husband, Ron, his coffee and put it on the table at his place. This was his first day back to work from paternity leave. We’d had such a nice time this last three weeks. I was sorry that he had to go back to work already.

He came into the kitchen, adjusting his tie. “I’m sorry I have to put this thing on again.” He sat down at his place as I put a bowl of cereal in front of him.

“Then don’t. You don’t have to wear it.”

He shook his head. “No. If you want to get ahead, dress for two levels above where you are. That’s the CEO. He wears a tie, I wear a tie.” He scooped cereal into his mouth.
I shrugged. Ron was ambitious and I couldn’t blame him, so was I. But my system was still swimming in maternal hormones. At the moment, I couldn’t generate any sympathy. “Your call.”

I pulled Becca to me and pulled up my shirt. One of the best parts of the day was nursing time. I could feel her little mouth clamp onto my breast and begin to suck. I still couldn’t believe that I had a baby and I was feeding her. Me. Out of my own body. The wonder of it was still overwhelming. When I looked up, Ron was smiling at me. “I’m going to miss this.”

“I’m going to miss you.”

He took a deep breath. “Yeah. Oh. Did you see the news? Some sort of infection is sweeping through India. Killing babies.” He studied Becca, still going strong on my breast. “That sucks.”

I nodded but didn’t answer. What must those parents be feeling? I’d be frantic.

Ron scooped up the rest of his cereal and gulped down his coffee. “Home by six.” He got up, grabbed his brief case and kissed each of us on the head.

“Drive safe.” I was talking to his back as he headed out the door to the garage. He waved and was gone.

After Becca ate, she had a bath, clean clothes, and was down for a nap. Time for me to shower and dress. Then it was into the kitchen, the baby monitor on the counter, as I washed up the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. The TV cycled through to another news cast. I listened this time as the story about India came back on. “Just in,” the newscaster looked into the camera, face concerned. “It seems China has had a similar outbreak as India. The government there has been keeping it quiet but refugees coming over the border of Nepal have reported children dying by the thousands.
I shook my head as I dried my hands. Poor parents. How awful.

“The Indian government has called on the United Nations for medical support.” The newscaster went on to the next story and I turned off the TV. I was glad I didn’t live over there.

That afternoon, I met some other mothers at the park. Of course, Becca was too young to run and play but it was good to get her out into the fresh air. “Did you hear about India and China?” I asked as I sat down.

“Yes. What a nightmare.” Carol’s baby was the same age as mine. We were in the same room at the hospital. “I cannot even imagine.”

“It’s the conditions,” Margery said with a sniff. “The sanitation over there is non-existent. No wonder there’s disease running rampant.

“What if it get’s here?” Joan stopped talking to wipe her three-year-old’s nose. “I mean, with air travel, disease can spread around the world in no time.”

Margery shook her head as she watched her four-year-old son go down the slide. “The people with the illness are not rich enough to travel. We’re safe enough.”

We all nodded but I wondered. I took pre-med in college before transferring into computer science. Disease was no respecter of socio-economic classes. Look at the plague back in medieval Europe or the flu back in the 1900’s. Millions of dead. Europe lost so many people modern historians marvel that the continent recovered.

I mentioned it at dinner that night.

Ron nodded. “It’s all everyone was talking about at work. Apparently, there is something going around in the bigger cities.”

It felt like my heart was in my throat. “What kind of something?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. Lot’s of kids sick. But it’s all a rumor. There’s nothing on TV about it.”

After dinner was cleaned up and Ron was watching a recorded game, I got on the internet and did a search. Pictures put up by private individuals showed grieving parents. YouTube videos showed anguished parents pleading with everyone to stay home and not go out in public. A fungus they said. Some kind of deadly fungus.
I told Ron.

“Can’t be. It would be public by now if there were that many cases.” He went back to the game.

I could hear Becca begin to cry over the baby monitor.

I went upstairs. The poor thing was screaming as I went into the bedroom. “That’s okay, sweetheart. Momma’s here.” I picked her up. Out of the spot where her skull met her neck, something white sprang out.

I screamed, holding Becca out from me face down in the crook of my arm, something long and white. Blood seeped from around the base of it.

Ron came racing in.

“Call 911. Something’s wrong!” I sobbed as Becca kept screaming.

Cordyceps, the doctor said. A new, virulent strain of fungus. By the end of two years, every child under the age of five was dead.

Words: 1000

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