Mystery at the Dog Park 1 of 7: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Little Dog by Randy Cockrell


I had this idea for a Jean Hays story but it wasn’t enough of a story for even a novelette so I’ve decided to make it a serial short story. Not every section is 1000 words or less. Some run over to 1200 but I didn’t think you all would mind too much.

I hope you enjoy it.

Mystery at the Dog Park

Part 1 of 7

Jean pulled the leash around her body as the lab-pitbull mix lunged forward.

“She’s giving you a run today.” Karen laughed

“It’s not funny.” Jean puffed. The dog was wearing her out. “Can’t wait to get to the dog park and let her run.”

“I hear ya.” Karen stopped to untangle the two Chihuahuas and the Yorkie mix she was walking.

They arrived at the park and herded the dogs through the gate. Karen took her dogs to the small dog enclosure while Jean let her dog loose in the large dog area. They stood next to each other on opposite sides of the fence to talk as the dogs played.

A woman left the group of dog owners at the picnic table provided and came over to them. She handed them a flyer with a picture of her caramel colored cockapoo, Sandy. “Have you seen my dog?”

Jean took the flyer and held it so Karen could see. “No.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I haven’t.”

Karen shook her head, too. “No. How long has she been gone?”

“Since yesterday.” The woman sniffed, eyes red, as she scanned the area. “I was talking with the usual people yesterday,” she waved her hand at the group around the table, “while Sandy and the other dogs played. Then, she was just gone when I looked for her.” Her voice quavered. “I don’t know how she got out of the dog park.”

“We’re walking the humane society dogs,” Jean explained. “But we’ll keep an eye out for Sandy.”

Shoulders slumped, the woman nodded. “That’s my number on the bottom. Call anytime if you find her.”

“We will,” Karen said. “Good luck.” They watched her shuffle back to the table. “How awful. I wonder what happened?”

After hearing the woman’s story, Jean looked for her dog, Arthur. She spotted him chasing a squirrel on a tree trunk around and around the tree. It looked to her that the squirrel was teasing the dog on purpose. “It’s not a big dog, probably got through a hole in the fence.”

Karen turned around to watch the dogs she brought. The Chihuahua’s were chasing each other while the Yorkie dug a hole. “Poor woman. I hope the dog doesn’t get caught by a coyote or a hawk. One of my neighbors lost her little dog when an eagle swooped in and plucked it right out of the backyard.”

Jean’s eyes went wide. “That sucks.”

Karen nodded. “Yep.”

Back at the humane society, the women turned the dogs in. It broke Jean’s heart to make Arthur get back in the kennel. They stopped in the office. “Margaret,” Jean pulled the flyer from her pocket and unfolded it. “Have you seen this dog come in?” She handed the shelter manager the paper.

Margaret looked at the picture and shook her head. “Nope. Poor little thing. I had a call from this woman this morning.” She sighed. “I told her to do the flyers. And talk to the neighbors around the park. What I didn’t tell her was that the dog may have been stolen.”

“Stolen? Who would do that?” Jean asked.

Margaret handed the flyer back to Jean. “People who then sell the dog on Craig’s list or in a newspaper ad.”

“Oh no!” Karen looked horrified.

“Yep.” Margaret went back to her desk. “Happens all the time in the bigger cities but we’ve been seeing it more and more up here. There’s a market, especially for little dogs like that one. And the bad guys just scoop up the little ones when no one is looking.”

“They don’t take big dogs?” Jean leaned on the counter.

“Oh, they do. They’ll disguise themselves as handymen or maintenance people and take dogs right out of their backyards. No one pays any attention to those guys coming or going in the neighborhood. Purebred dogs are the target, German Shepherds, Labs of any sort, those kinds of dogs.”

“That happens here?” Jean couldn’t believe that people would just go into someone’s backyard and take another person’s pet.

“Not that one, so much. That’s more in the big cities, too. Also, they disguise themselves as animal control and knock on the door. They tell the owners that a complaint of abuse has been filed and they’re taking the dog under protective custody. They show the owner some sort of legal looking document. In confusion and fear, they hand the dog over planning to go to court and get it straightened out but it’s too late. The dog and the thieves are long gone.

“I would be so ticked!” Karen said.

“Me too. Isn’t there anything that can be done?” Jean asked.

“Not usually. They don’t advertise the dog in the area where it was stolen from so you can’t even check the paper or anything to try and find it.”

“How awful.”

Margaret nodded. “Yep. Unfortunately, little Sandy, there,” she nodded at the flyer in Jean’s hand, “wasn’t microchipped. If she had been, there would be some chance of finding her.”

Jean and Karen said their good-byes and left. “Who knew there was a market for stolen dogs?” Jean drove them both to lunch as was their habit after their turn at walking the humane society inmates.

“I had no idea. I mean, you see dogs up for sale in the paper and on the radio all the time. It never occurred to me they might be stolen.”

“Let’s grab a paper and see if there are any dogs for sale in there.”

Karen nodded. “Good idea. Though the current paper came out Friday and Sandy was stolen yesterday. Tomorrow’s paper would be a better bet.”

“You’re right. Tomorrow we’ll look. In the meantime, let’s call the radio station and see what they have on their ads.”

“Great idea. After lunch though. My tummy’s growling.”


Thank You!

974 Words

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Rain Wet Earth: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yard River by Randy Cockrell

A monsoon storm blew in. Great dark clouds piled up over the escarpment and filled the sky, spilling down into the valley. Rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning punctuated the now dark day. The air began to cool—a relief from the heat and humidity.

Rain began to fall. Fat, heavy drops coming one at a time, then the sky opened and water gushed down as though from a fire hose. The gullies and gutters filled and overflowed. I watched from my window, closed against the wind-whipped water. It was over in a few minutes and I stepped out of my front door. The smell of rain wet earth drifted by as the sun broke through the racing clouds and made me want to go camping.

My husband came out and put his arm around my shoulders. “That didn’t last long.”

“Never does. I feel like going camping.”

He nodded. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

“The camping box is ready. We just need to load it and the tent into the car and get some groceries.”

A grin spread across his face. “No plan? Just go?”

“Yes. A few days in the outdoors will do us both good.”

I got a squeeze. “Sure. Why not. Let’s go camping!”

The still wet pine in the front yard sparkled like Christmas in the sunlight as I turned to go inside to pack. The scent of rain wet earth followed me into the house.


Thank You!

243 Words

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Waiting: Friday Flash Fiction Story

Baby by Randy Cockrell

Baby by Randy Cockrell

I watched the seconds pass on my digital watch, counting the passing of my life. My hands trembled, my mother’s tremors now part of my existence. Better than my brother, though, who developed his tremors in his thirty’s. Mine at least waited until I reached my sixties, when it wasn’t a strange sight to see an old woman’s hands shake.

The nurses scurried through the halls along with the occasional harassed-looking doctor. It occurred to me that a harried-looking doctor didn’t project much confidence. Was harried the step before panic? I didn’t know the precise hierarchy of that sort of thing was. And why were they harried? Were people sicker than they’d anticipated? My mouth went dry. Where was our doctor? I checked the watch again—it continued to count the seconds of my life, my future racing up to me then whooshing by, gone, history.

I drew a deep breath and sighed. A lot of history—much of it faded in my mind. Not dementia or Alzheimer’s, thank God. Just distance. I never was much for dwelling on the past. I tend to live in the present or the future. But to be honest, in my sixties, there wasn’t a lot of future left, given the current standard women’s lifespan. My heart leapt when a doctor stopped outside the door. I waited, breath held, but he checked his watch and moved off. Ne news for me yet, then. I went back to breathing. What was taking so long?

It was November and my mind drifted to Thanksgiving. It was at my house this year, my brother and his wife, my sister, all their kids. Mom was gone two years. I’ll make her recipe for rice pudding, a family favorite and she’ll be present in our hearts.

Another doctor paused outside the door, a nurse walked up to him. I couldn’t hear what was being said, the waiting room TV was blasting a soap opera. I was surprised. I didn’t know any were still running. The nurse nodded and left. The doctor, too, in the opposite direction. I sank back into my seat. My own anxiety level rising.

I dropped the year-old magazine I was holding onto the side table. I wasn’t reading it—I might as well let someone else pick it up to hold.

The air conditioning kicked on and I pulled my sweater closer around me. Why is the A/C on in November? I gave the vent a glare and considered moving my seat but a look around revealed everyone else was as annoyed as I was. So when I heard my name called out, I jumped. “Yes!” I hurried to the nurse in the door.

“Mrs. Johns?”

I tucked my purse under my arm. “That’s me.”

“Your daughter, Jessica, is fine. You have a new grandson.” She smiled at me, the corners of her blue eyes crinkling. “Nine pounds, six ounces. He’s healthy as can be.”

My knees quivered with relief. “Can I see her?”

“Right this way, Mrs. Johns.”

I followed her—already planning the baby’s first Thanksgiving.


Thank You for Reading!

513 Words


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Interrupted 2: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Revolution: last book in the Gulliver Station Cover Reveal by Connie Cockrell

Revolution: last book in the Gulliver Station by Connie Cockrell

See Interrupted 6/17/16

She changed her lunch spot from the grocery store because the same guy figured out her routine and began approaching her every day, no matter how often she told him she wasn’t interested. Apparently her appearance was encouragement enough.

So now, even though the selection of lunch items was limited to three pre-made and wrapped sandwiches and two soups, cream of mushroom and vegan vegetable, she spent her lunch hour at Bectie’s Tea and Coffee. It seemed the patrons of Bectie’s understood that someone with a book or working on their pads, were engaged and not interested in conversation.

She settled into the café chair, tuna salad and a slice of lemon cake beside her, Caramel Macchiato at hand, and opened her new book, Jania, Princess of Taria.

Janie yelled as the ship lurched. “Fire all weapons!”

The ship shuddered as all six guns blasted, the gyro’s barely able to stabilize the craft as the gunners complied.

“Princess!” Admiral Rayquil grabbed the back of her command chair. “The Peet fleet is too powerful – they outnumber our ships four to one.”

Jania slammed her fist onto the arm of the chair. He’s right. They’ve already destroyed half of my ships. “Order a retreat.” She could feel the slow burn of anger and shame but it was better to fall back and regroup than be destroyed.

“Fleet!” Admiral Rayquil shouted over the sparking and explosions of the bridge consoles. “Prepare to….”

“Hey there!”

She jerked with the shock of the enthusiastic greeting and the sound of metal chair legs dragging across the tile floor. She blinked as she dragged her consciousness across the galaxies to the reality of Bectie’s.

The guy, twenty-five at her guess, hipster hat on his head and a goatee that needed several more months to actually fill in, dropped into the chair opposite her and settled his clear plastic cup – a latte by the look of it – on the table. He stuck out his hand. “Brandon.”

She resisted her manners in politeness and stared at him. “Do I know you?”

His hand remained suspended over the table. She looked around. Every table had someone at it. All of the other customers were male. Of course. “Why are you here?”

Brandon’s grin fell away with his hand, which grabbed his cup and gave a little salute with it. “Best latte in town.” He glanced at her cup–opaque paper so no real way to tell what was in it. The look was his question as to what she was drinking but she was in no mood to satisfy his curiosity.

“I’m here to eat my lunch and read in peace.” She waved at the other tables. “You should make friends at another table.” She opened her book and stared at the pages, eyes skimming the ink on the page but no reading. Waiting.

He twisted out of the chair, legs scraping, and grabbed his latte. “Bitch.” He stomped out of the shop.

She sighed. She just wanted to read her book and eat her lunch. Was that so wrong? She took a bite of her sandwich—the joy of starting her new book spoiled.

“Don’t feel bad.” Bectie appeared at the table, wiping down the half where Brandon had sat. “Happens all the time.”

That did make her feel better. “Thanks.” She sipped her macchiato and took another bite.

Bectie gave her a wink and went back to the counter.

She reopened her book.

“Prepare to disengage.” The ship was hit with another volley from the Peet.




Thank You!

589 Words

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Chili Cook-Off: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Chili Cook-off

Chili Cook-off

This story is based on my Jean Hays series. For the recipe, go to my blog post Chili Spice Mix, Chicklets in the Kitchen.


Jean and Karen and Karen’s daughter, Peggy, were in the bowling alley bar. Jean sipped her beer. “I haven’t had beer this good since I was in Germany.”

“I’ll have to admit; I do love these craft beers. Clever of the bowling alley to upscale their bar.” Karen poured a second glass from the pitcher on the table.

“Mom, did you read today’s paper?” Margaret drew the twice weekly paper from her tote. “The chili cook-off is in two weeks.” She handed the paper to her mother.

Karen opened it and looked at the community activities section. “Oh, yeah! I haven’t entered that in a few years.” She grinned at Jean. “Want to enter?”

Jean laughed. “The way I cook? What would be the point?”

“Come on. About time you learned to cook the southwest way. That New England boiled dinner stuff has got to go.”

Jean’s mouth fell open. “That’s comfort food, I’ll have you know.”

“Maybe so. But it’s dull. Spice up your life.”

“I don’t know. I suppose I can just open a chili spice packet.”

Both Karen and Peg gasped. “Don’t you dare! I’ll tell the judges and have you kicked out.” Karen shook her head.

“Well then, what do you do?”

“I use my mom’s spice recipe. You’ve had it, by the way. I use it as a dry rub on ribs.”

“Oh, the ones we had last week? Those were wonderful.”

“Good. Go on line, search for chili recipes. Find one that seems good to you. Then go to the store and look at the ingredients in canned or jarred Mexican food. Modify the recipe so it’s yours. Make a test batch or two of chili. Then bring it to the contest.”

Jean snorted. “That’s all, huh?”

“Well, you have to enter the contest now.” The three of them laughed.

The next day Jean went on-line to the contact given and entered the chili cook-off. Then got on her computer to search for recipes. She focused on prize-winning ones. No sense getting just any recipe. After jotting down ingredients from a handful she found she noted that most of them were quite similar. She started a new list, one that contained the same ingredients that they all did. Then Jean considered the differences. It seemed that the small amounts of different herbs and spices were the key. Time to go to the grocery.

She spent some time looking at the canned and jarred prepared Mexican food. Most of it contained the basic flavors she had on her base recipe. A few, however, did go outside of the box. Making notes about those different flavors, she gathered all of the ingredients and went home to whip up a batch of chili spice.

Jean made some averages on measurements. Many of the recipes used almost the same amounts. It was her additions that caused her pause. She decided to base her amounts on the other recipe’s small additions and give it a try.

The first batch was way too hot, as far as she was concerned. She cut back on the ancho peppers. The second batch had too much cilantro. It was the fifth batch that she liked the best. Writing down her recipe, she went back to the store to refresh her supplies. The cook-off was two days away.

She borrowed a crock pot from Karen and carefully transported the chili to the cook-off. It was a fund-raiser so people bought tickets, then after getting one ounce tastes, selected the chili they liked best, second and third, by dropping the tickets into cans at the exit.

Jean and Karen were next to each other and enjoyed talking to all of the people who came by to get a taste of their chili. Chief White, the Greyson Chief of Police came by. “Hi Karen. Glad to see you back. Your chili is always a favorite.” He held his little cup out to Jean. “Glad to see you entering, Jean. Is the chili hot?”

She shrugged. “I’d say medium, but everyone’s taste is different.”

“We’ll see. Later, ladies.”

Karen elbowed Jean. “Two years. Why don’t you ask him out for coffee?”

Jean rolled her eyes. “Oh for gosh sakes. He’s not interested. Remember, he thinks we’re both bubble heads.”

Karen laughed. “Keep telling yourself that.”

Jean was scraping the last half ounce of chili from the crockpot when time was called. Several of the competitors had run out half an hour before. She hoped it was because they’d been too generous or hadn’t brought enough, not that theirs was better.

It took forty-five minutes before the organizers got on the microphone to announce the winners. Jean didn’t know the third place winner, though Karen seemed to and clapped when the guy’s name was announced. Then the announcer said, “And second-place goes to returning cook, Karen Carter!”

Jean jumped up and down and hugged her friend. “How great! And after you’ve been out of it for so long.” Karen went up and got her small trophy and certificate. Jean was looking the prize over when the announcer said, “And this year first-place goes to newcomer Jean Hays!”

Karen hooted in Jean’s ear. “You won!” She jumped up and down. “You won!” She shoved Jean, still shocked, toward the announcer.

Jean stumbled forward, applause washing over her, blushing. The announcer, the head of the organization, held the first prize cup between them as they faced a photographer. Jean smiled and nodded at the congratulations and managed to get “Thank you all so much,” out of her mouth.

At their table, Karen hugged Jean again. “I guess I can’t say you can’t cook anymore.”

Jean shook her head. “I guess not.”


Thank You!

951 Words

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Interrupted: A Flash Friday Story

Dragon by BloodyBarbarian - d3jp97t

Dragon by BloodyBarbarian – d3jp97t via

“What can I get for ya this morning?” The woman behind the grocery store bakery counter smiled at the father and his pre-teen daughter.

I went back to my book, sipping the remains of my iced tea. Lunch was nearly over and I wanted to finish the chapter before I had to go back to the office.

With a mighty flap, Tasha lifted from the mountaintop, her flight of dragons taking off behind her. It’s long past time for the encroaching humans to understand whose world this is. If they’d been smart, they would have gotten back on their ships when they realized Tork was inhabited.With a mighty flap, Tasha lifted from the mountaintop, her flight of dragons taking off behind her.

Colony leader China Buck stood in the command center where Colonel Mark Starr glared at the screens.

“Dragon flight at coordinates 15.16.12W, 102.14.65S, Colonel.”

China watched a blip on the central screen. The dragons were headed straight for the colony. Her efforts at peace now waste.

“Prepare drones.” Mark snapped the order.

The tension in the command center felt as though China was standing next to a blazing fire. Her skin felt drawn and crinkled.

“Drones ready…”

“Hey! Whatcha readin’?”

Jerked from the middle of a battle scene I looked up. Blinking. “A sci-fi story.” I looked back at the book trying to find my place. Maybe he’d take the hint.

“I didn’t know girls read Sci-Fi. I’m not much of a reader myself.”

He sat down across the table from me. Really? I glanced at my watch. Ten minutes left before I had to leave. “Women do, too.” I narrowed my eyes at him. My lunch time spoiled again.

“You come here often?” He popped the little drinking tab on his coffee and slurped.

“This is my lunch hour. I like the deli sandwiches here.” I resolved never to come back here for lunch. At least twice a week some guy feels free to interrupt while I’m trying to read.

“Oh yeah? I’ll have to give it a try. Pretty early for lunch, though. It’s only twenty to twelve.”

If I hadn’t been so annoyed by his interruption I might consider talking to him. He had nice eyes. But doesn’t read? Uh, no. “Yeah, well, I come in early.”

“Where you work?” He sipped his coffee again.

Didn’t he have to be at work? “Nearby.” I looked at his coffee cup. “You’re taking a late coffee break.” I put my bookmark at my page and closed the book. It was obvious I wasn’t going to get any more reading done.

“I’m in sales. I take a break whenever I can.”

I made a show of looking at my watch. “Time for me to go.” I dropped the book in my tote and gathered the paper cup and sandwich wrappings.

“Maybe I’ll see you around.”

Not likely if I can help it. “Uh, yeah. Maybe.”

I dumped the trash in the nearby can and left. Maybe I can sneak a few minutes at my desk and finish the chapter before clocking in.


Thank You!

498 Words

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The Map: Friday Flash Fiction Post



Ten-year-old Evette sat on the steps of her grandparent’s farmhouse front porch. Her brother, twelve-year-old Sam, and her twin cousins, Brian and Barry, same age as Sam, were playing in the tree-house nestled in the branches of the maple at the left side of the house. Its mate stood sentinel on the other side of the house, shading the walk from the driveway to the porch.

She’d been told in no uncertain terms that as a girl, she was not allowed in their club. Evette sighed. Their parents and grandparents were out back on the deck, having beers and talking non-stop about boring stuff. There had been nothing to do all day, all alone.

Last night she’d heard her Grandmother say that she wanted to start cleaning out the attic while she was still spry enough to do it. Grandfather Bob shushed her. “It’s a hundred eleven in the attic this time of year, Claudette. Leave it till fall when it’s cooler.”

Grandma had agreed and the after dinner conversation turned to other things. This morning while the boys had run out to the barn to dare each other to jump from the hay loft into the pile below, she had crept up to the attic to see what treasures might be up there. It was creepy and even at nine in the morning, already so hot the sweat began to trickle down her temples as soon as she managed to get in the stuck attic door.

Evette sneezed. A thick layer of dust covered everything. The only light came from a small, dust-clogged window at the end of the house. The wood was raw, unpainted and she got a sliver when she’d put her hand on a rafter to balance herself as she’d climbed over a pile of plastic bins in front of the door. She stood in an empty spot and looked around. A dresser with its mirror in front of it sat halfway down the right wall. The roof line came to just three feet from the floor there. No wonder the mirror was standing on the floor. Cardboard boxes lined the walls while taller stuff, a dressmaker’s dummy, for example, stood in the middle.

On the left wall, more boxes and bins but just a few feet from the window she’d spotted a large, old-fashioned trunk. Evette fingered the hasp, there was no lock, so she pulled it from the ring-thing and lifted the top. It was heavy and a cascade of decades’ worth of dust poured off of the lid and swirled around the trunk, making her sneeze again. She pushed the lid to the wall and let it rest there.

In the trunk, on top, were uniforms. She remembered Grandpa saying how he’d been in the Army. Someplace called Korea, far, far away. Under that was a metal box, about 4 inches square and about a foot and a half long. Army printing was on it and she tried to open it but it was locked. Placing it on the floor she rifled through other things, a shoebox of photos of soldiers, a packet of letters tied with a shoestring, the addresses faded.

Under all of that was an envelope, nothing written on it. She picked it up. It was unsealed so she looked inside. Once read, she stuffed it in her pocket and put everything back in the trunk and closed it.

This afternoon, she pulled it from her pocket. Checking to make sure her brother and cousins were busy, she opened it and studied it. Out here, where there was more light, she realized it was a map of Grandpa’s farm. Her little finger traced along a line that was labeled stream. She knew where that was. Two days ago all four kids had spent the day wading, the boys trying to build a dam or catch minnows in their hands. Away from that was a drawing of a circle of trees. An X was in the middle.

She looked at the tree-house. The boys were yelling through some make-believe game of Tarzan and attackers. Evette stuck the map in her pocket and drifted off of the porch and around the back. The adults were involved in telling stories about their childhoods and usually she’d stick around to hear that but not now. Now she walked to the barn, out of sight, and after stopping for a shovel, headed to the stream.

She thought she remembered that circle of trees from last year’s visit. Grandpa had told them that the fairies had caused the trees to grow in a circle. She’s spent the whole rest of the day searching the daisies and black-eyed susans looking for fairies. Now she wanted to see what might really be where the X was on Grandpa’s map. She found the stream and walking along it, spotted the trees. They were bigger than she remembered. Evette skipped across the flower-filled pasture, Grandpa had stopped keeping cows long ago, straight to the trees. In the middle it was cool and quiet, almost as though there were fairies here, keeping the world away. Studying the map again, she looked around. Right in the middle, she stuck her shovel into the ground and began to dig.

The next day the police were there searching the entire house. Grandpa had been lead off in handcuffs. Everyone else had been herded into the living room. Grandma was crying on the sofa with Mama beside her, arm wrapped around her shoulders.

Uncle Bill whispered to papa. “He stole it. Before he joined the army? How the hell did Evette find it?”

Papa shook his head. “She told the police she found the map in the attic and went to see what was at the X.”

Uncle Bill ran his hand through his hair. “Half a million dollars. I can’t believe it.”

Evette cried to herself in the arm chair. She didn’t know what she’d done wrong.

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Death in the Desert: Friday Flash Fiction Post



I shook my water bladder, empty. How could it be empty? It had three liters of water in it. I felt my pack. Wet. The bladder leaked, obviously. With no water to put in it I couldn’t tell where it was leaking from. A pinhole of some sort probably. That didn’t help me now. I was about eight miles out from the nearest trailhead and the sun was beating down. The tiny thermometer on the back of my pack read ninety-six degrees. Just looking at that empty bladder made me thirsty.

I put the bladder back in my pack and pulled out my map. Maybe there was a water source nearby. After careful scrutiny the answer was no. I was going to have to hike out to that nearest trailhead and hope for help. The trailhead was twenty-six miles from nowhere. I sighed, folded the map and put it back in the map pocket. I hoped people were there.

Pack back on my back, I trudge off along the trail. Thinking about all the survival shows I’ve seen I wonder if there is something I can do to increase my chances. First, people do know where I am. That’s the first positive thing. Second, I’m an experience backpacker. Another point in my favor. A point against, I’m hiking alone. If I had another person, odds would be likely that their water supply was just fine and we could share. Too bad for me. No one was free to backpack with me this week so I came alone.

I stumble on the rocky path and nearly skewer myself on an agave. Pay attention, klutz. Anyway, I get around that and continue my inventory of possible tactics. No drinking cactus water, that will kill a person. All of those old movies just made that up. This is a popular trail—someone or someones may happen along and give me a hand. Unfortunately, it’s a weekday, so less likely of any traffic.

Crossing a dry wash I remember a popular TV survival show and the host digging in a curve for water. I look around. The wash runs straight across the landscape like someone dug it on purpose. No curves for water to pool in or sink down. I climb back out and keep going.

At noon I find a lone mesquite tree and settle in its meager shade. Two miles down, six to go to the trailhead. I dig out a food bar and stare at it. Do I want to eat this dry? Isn’t there some sort of requirement that the stomach needs water to process anything I eat? I don’t know. Food is fuel but if my body needs water to process the food, am I just hurting myself? I put the bar back in the pack. I’ll die of dehydration long before I die of hunger. I could stand to lose a little weight anyway.

While I rest I try and remember other tips. Maybe I shouldn’t be walking in the sun in the daytime. Don’t the border jumpers travel at night? Stupid. I should hang out here and wait till sundown to travel. Encouraged by this thought I dig my space blanket out of my emergency bag and rig it to the tree for shade. I unroll my sleeping pad and lie down. I could use a nap anyway.

Hours later I wake. The sun is going to set soon. The thermometer reads one-hundred and three degrees. I pack everything up and start hiking, headlamp handy in a side pocket of my pack. This should work, right? Just hike on out to the trailhead. Simple.

Even with the headlamp, three hours after sunset, I stumble over the rocks. Twice I’ve run into cactus spines overhanging the trail. My pants are torn and both legs now have long, bloody scratches. Slow down, missy. Don’t make mistakes. I stop to rest, my knees sore from jolting along the trail. I find a small pebble and wipe as much dirt off of it as I can and pop it in my mouth to suck. It’ll keep the saliva flowing at any rate. I check my scratches. They’ve stopped bleeding.

Break over, I get going again. I find it hard to estimate my mileage. Still, it’s been five hours since sunset. Estimating a mile an hour in the dark, I should be close to the trailhead. At least the night is cooler, about eighty degrees. I thank my lucky stars and keep going.

After another hour, I stop to assess. Where’s the trailhead? I’m on the trail, I’ve seen the markers and cairns. A butterfly of panic begins to move in my stomach. Stop it. Take a breath. Maybe you’re going slower than you think. Keep going. The map says it’s on this trail.

Trudging on, stomach growling, I keep alert. I don’t want to miss any directional sign. I tuck the pebble into my cheek. I’m thirsty, the pebble isn’t fooling my body. It wants water. Now. The panic butterfly, I imagine it black with scarlet markings, is still stirring. I resist the urge to cry. Don’t be a baby. Keep walking.

When the sun comes up, I reassess. I’m on the trail, but there’s no sign of the trailhead. I pull out my phone. If I’m close, maybe there’s a cell signal. No bars. I swallow and put the phone away. The landscape is flat but I can see what has to be the Superstitions in the distance. Desert birds are singing the sun up but I don’t see anything to be happy about. I’m lost while on the trail. Not good.

Should I back track? Maybe I missed the sign? Go on? The map says the next trailhead is sixteen miles away. I’ll never make it.


The recovery team covered the body on the stretcher. “Too bad, really. She was just a mile from the trailhead.”




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Jealousy: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Misty by Justchasingfireflies by d2ybmge.jpg via

Misty by Justchasingfireflies by d2ybmge.jpg via

Edmund hissed.

His slave worried over the device. Enough was enough. The sun inched its way across the sky while the slave fussed and bothered over the machine. Edmund was bored. The slave had forgotten him.

He muttered to the other lord and lady. What is wrong with the slave?

“We don’t keep it busy enough.” Peaches licked her claws as she eyed the others.

“Nonsense.” Edmund rolled over and stretched then lay on his side. His yellow eyes blinked. We must give the slave some time to herself.

“Bollox.” Zaphod’s fur stood up straight as he arched his back. “Too much time on their own projects and they start to forget who’s in charge.”

Peaches rose up from her platform on the scratching tree and sank her claws into the central support, stretching her back into an inverted arch. “I agree with Zaphod. Let them take an inch and they want the whole house. Remember when we were kittens? All that bother about us not sleeping on the bed.” She ripped the carpet from the pillar. “As though the bed belonged to her!”

Edmund shook his head. “The slave uses the device to document us. That’s a good thing.”

“Sometimes.” Zaphod licked his paw and washed behind an ear. “Not often enough. The slave leaves us locked in the house for hours and comes home all involved with the device. What do we get when we investigate?”

“You walk on her controller.” Peaches coughed up a hair ball. “I’ve seen the monitor. All of the pictures go crazy. Your meddling ruined a perfectly good picture of me draped across the chair seat.”

“You think too much of yourself.” Zaphod sneered.

Peaches launched from the cat tree and chased Zaphod around the house. Candlesticks were knocked from the fireplace mantle, the end table lamp fell over and they pulled the curtains from one of the living room windows before they hissed at each other face to face and the slave separated them with tiny treats.

Back on the cat tree, Edmond sneered. “And you criticize the slave.” He rolled his eyes as he sharpened his claws. “Kittens. That’s what you are.”

Zaphod licked his paw and cleaned behind an ear. “Just a little exercise.

“The matter still remains about the device.” Peaches leapt down from the cat tree and stretched on the floor. “Time to take matters into my own paws.”

Zaphod and Edmond watched as Peaches wandered, nonchalantly, into the office. They followed. When they arrived, Peaches had already claimed the slave’s lap. Zaphod leapt up onto the printer. This device shook at random intervals and paper spit out that was easily hooked and destroyed. Edmond was left with the pile of paper in a basket at the side of the desk. Not ideal but paper wasn’t the cold of the glass topped desk, either. Good enough.

The slave did her best to work around Peaches, reaching over and around to the controller. Peaches wouldn’t hear of it. She butted her head into the slave’s hands at every move. The slave tried to remove Peaches. That only ended with the slave’s hand bleeding from Peaches’ retaliatory strike.

The slave set the detested device on the desktop. Peaches left the slave’s lap and approached the device. She sniffed it, then ever so gently, pushed it over the edge of the desk.

The slave leapt up, chair flying backward across the room. Edmond hissed and sprang straight up, paper flying through the air. Zaphod yowled and leapt onto the slave, who shrieked as the device hit the floor.

Peaches yawned and paced deliberately out of the room. Edmund and Zaphod followed as the slave yammered, kneeling over the broken device.

“My work is done.” Peaches eased into her cat bed, curled her tail over her nose and closed her eyes.

Edmond and Zaphod looked at each other. “I didn’t do it.” Edmond swiped a paw across his face.

“Me either.” Zaphod leapt up the cat tree and snuggled into a corner of a carpeted room. “Coming?”

Edmond followed. “Sure, twin. Don’t want to be around Peaches. She’s going to get it from the slave.”

They snuggled down together. “Not our problem.” Zaphod wrapped his tail around his nose. “Let her deal with it.”



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Ragged Weeping: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Misery by fuuuran via

Misery by fuuuran via

I woke again to ragged weeping and groaned. I had to get up at five and drive an hour and a half to work. Every night this week the weeping had woken me. I got up, threw on my robe and opened the bedroom door. Just like every other night, it sounded as if it was coming from my left, down the hall toward the stairs. I sighed and padded barefoot along the polished wood floors.

My best friend Mandy thought it was a ghost when I told her about it two days ago.

I snorted. “There’re no such things as ghosts.”

“Seriously, Bridget, haven’t you ever watched Ghost Finders on TV? They find ghosts all the time.”

Mandy believed everything she saw on the internet or saw ragged weeping. “I’ll figure it out.” I wish I felt as confident at two in the morning as I had at lunch in broad daylight. The sound quieted. I stared around the hall, faint moonlight coming in the window at the end. I went back to my bedroom and got the mini-flashlight and the wooden bat I kept handy by the bed. I opened every door on the hallway. Spare room, closets, bathroom, guest room, all were quiet. Downstairs I did the same, opened every door, listening, shining the light inside. No ghosts revealed themselves.

In the kitchen I listened to the appliances. There was just quiet humming, no ragged weeping sounds. I turned on the kitchen light and started the water in the kettle for a cup of tea. Some chamomile would help me get back to sleep. Two-fifteen in the morning, I sighed as I checked the clock over the door to the dining room. The house was so quiet I could hear the gas feeding the flame on the stove.

Maybe the noise was coming from the basement, the water heater or furnace or something. I shoved myself to my feet and opened the basement door. As basements in old houses go, this one was pretty clean and not too scary. In the daylight, anyway. I went down the creaky wooden stairs and walked around. The washer and dryer were silent. The water heater was quiet under its insulated blanket. The furnace made no noise but I noticed the fuel oil gage read a quarter full. I made a mental note to have the furnace guy come and do a service and to get the oil delivery guy to fill the tank before September.

I stopped at the end wall. Built-in rough wooden shelves stretched across three-quarters of the wall and held a variety of things I didn’t know what to do with and some things left over from the previous residents. I stared at the contents of the shelves. I should just have a yard sale and get rid of this stuff. The sound of weeping made me jump. What the hell! Where is that coming from? I backed away from the wall, swallowing hard. There was nothing on the other side of the wall. That was an end wall, just dirt on the other side. The weeping grew louder. I could see a furnace duct running along the ceiling right over the shelves. That’s why I could hear it up in my bedroom. The duct work carried the sound.

The kettle in the kitchen started screaming. I ran up the stairs, turned it off and dialed 911. It was going to be tough to explain.

Long past time for me to get up the police finished demolishing the shelves and uncovered a secret door. I watched from the steps. The cops didn’t want me in the way. I didn’t want to get too close.

Four officers in SWAT gear opened the door and went into the room I could only just glimpse. The men called out and others went in. “Clear, Clear, Clear,” I could hear them calling out. The officer in charge listened to the comms in his ear. He turned to a sergeant nearby. “Call an ambulance. Someone’s alive in there.”

I went back up to the kitchen and made a cup of Earl Grey tea. I was going to need the caffeine. An hour later they brought the stretcher up the stairs, through to kitchen and out the back door. I saw a woman, hair wild around a pasty-white, emaciated face, covered with a blanket. The lieutenant came up after the stretcher.

“What, who?” I babbled incoherently.

He sighed. “Strangest thing I’ve ever seen. She was a research assistant and lover, thirty years ago, to a Doctor Spark. He convinced her to stay with him in the secret room where they were doing experiments. There’s enough LSD down there to stone New York City. There are crates and crates of MRE’s. They’re tapped into the house electricity and water and sanitation.”

“Why did they do it?”

“She wasn’t clear. But the doc died, probably three years ago.” He looked at her. How long have you been here?”

I shrugged. “A year. But the weeping didn’t start until a week ago.”

“A psychiatrist is going to have to figure this out but people don’t do well all alone. She broke, I’m thinking.”

I could hear a buzzing in his ear. “Roger that,” he said. “They’re bringing the body up now.”

I nodded and moved to the far side of the kitchen, my hands wrapped around my tea mug. The medics pulled the gurney up the stairs and through the kitchen. The body seemed small under the sheet. Desiccated, I assumed. My phone rang. “Bridget, you all right? You’re not here yet.”

“I’m fine but I’m not going to be in today. You will not believe what’s happened here. I’ll tell you tomorrow.”

Mandy tried to get more details but I told her I was busy and hung up. No, this was going to be very hard to believe.


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983 Words

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