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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

Little Dog by Randy Cockrell

Hi,

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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