Quartz, Part 3: Flash Fiction Friday Post

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All,

This week’s submission is over a thousand words. Since I’m writing this as part of National Novel Writing Month (killing two birds with one stone), I’m going a little off count until it’s finished.

 

Quartz: Part 3

Pia wiped her hands on her apron. Mrs. Estrada blinked. “Your Mary?”

Zeke nodded and held out the letter. “It says right here, she’s catching the next stage and that was two weeks ago!”

Mrs. Estrada took the letter, reading it quickly as her eyebrows rose. “Oh. Well.” She handed the letter back. “Stage comes tomorrow. After dinner Pia and I will prepare a room for her.”

Zeke nodded. “But what do I do?”

A big grin spread across Mrs. Estrada’s face. She traded smiles with Pia. “I expect you’ll meet the stage.”

The next day, Zeke went into town. He had to talk to Markum, of course, about the mine. But then there was the stage. It was supposed to arrive about noon. He wanted to be there in plenty of time, just in case it was early. He tied Butters to the rail outside of the hotel, then one of the outlaw’s horses, that he’d brought for Mary. It was the gentlest of the three, named Diva. The mare was a diva, he thought, always begging for pats and treats. She did again as he was tying her to the rail. He stroked her gently on the nose, then patted both of them on the neck before leaving.

He checked the three bars. All three had men on the porches, most of them with beers in hand. He shook his head. How they could afford beers before noon was a wonder to him. How’d they make the money if they were lazing on bar porches all day? “Mr. Markum,” he said as he entered and closed the door against the heat and the glare. “Mornin’.”

“Morning, Zeke.” Markum stood up and held out his hand. “I didn’t expect you back so quick.”

They shook.

“I would have stayed out a mite longer, but I had outlaw trouble.”

“I heard. Have a seat.” The assayer motioned to the chair across the desk from him. “It’s good you’re here. I heard back from three companies.”

He and Zeke sat down. “The best offer is from the Red Rock Mining Company.” He shook his head. “I have to tell you, I’m not fond of that company.”

The best offer sounded good to Zeke, even not hearing the amount yet. “What do you mean?”

Markum shrugged. “They have a reputation for driving hard bargains then not paying up.” He sighed. “I’d hate to recommend them, even though they’re offering the best price right now, than see you get cheated.”

Zeke nodded. He’d hate to be cheated too. “What about the other two?”

Markum pulled three sheets of paper from his middle desk drawer. “The second one is the one I’d recommend. It’s part of the Hearst mining companies. Hearst is known to be a hard customer as well but once a bargain is struck, he’s honest about paying up. The third one, well,” he tossed that letter on the desk, “they just didn’t bid much.” He handed all three letters to Zeke and folded his hands over his stomach as Zeke read them.

Taking his time, Zeke read all three. Markum was right about the third one. They’d only bid half of what the Hearst company had. The best offer, from Red Rock, was half a million more than Hearst’s. That was a lot of money. He couldn’t even fathom what that was, and he’d be rich with the Hearst offer.

The memory of the dead outlaws in the street, and the one’s now sitting in Sheriff Colton’s jail, popped into his mind. Blood money. That’s what this mine was. Stained. The joy went out of his decision. Then he remembered, Mary was coming. Today. The joy returned, dimmed. He laid the letters out on Markum’s desk. “I guess I’ll have to take your word on the Red Rock offer, even though it’s quite a bit more.” He pushed the second letter to Markum. “Write them and say I accept.”

Markum nodded. “I think that’s the best choice, Zeke, though I can get you some men to confirm what I’m sayin’.”

“No.” Zeke shook his head. “I trust you. You saved my life, after all.”

“Thank, you, Zeke. I’ll not abuse your trust. You mind if I telegraph them? They’d like to know as soon as possible.”

That took Zeke by surprise. He knew there was a telegraph in town. It was over in the newspaper office. It just never occurred to him to use it. “Sure. I guess. How much will that cost?”

Markum grinned at the young man. “I’ll take care of it, son. They pay me a commission for finding claims.” He held out his hand. “Congratulations.”

Zeke shook with him. “Thanks. But it’s not a done deal yet.”

“You’re right. But it is pretty close.” He came around the desk and clapped Zeke on the shoulder. “What now?”

Zeke ran a hand through his hair. “Meet the stage. My girl is coming.”

Markum laughed. “Well. Good for you! A wedding?”

“I.” He shook his head sheepishly. “I don’t know!”

Again, Markum laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t you worry, son. She’ll let you know.” He opened the door and showed Zeke out. “I’ll send word to Mrs. Estrada’s when the answer comes in.”

Zeke went out onto Markum’s uncovered porch. “Thank you.” He stood there. It would have been nice to go have a beer over at the Oxbow but he could see the men there eyeing him. No. That wouldn’t do. He left the porch and walked back to the hotel. He gave Butters and Diva each a pat and a scratch, then went into the hotel. He’d only been in here once, two years ago when he’d first arrived. They’d improved the place. Now there was wallpaper on the walls and the reception desk was polished mahogany. The clerk looked up from his register expectantly.

“Need a room, mister?”

Zeke shook his head. He pointed at the other side of the lobby. “Getting’ a coffee.”

The clerk nodded and went back to his books. Zeke crossed the room and sat at one of the little tables. Each one had a tablecloth, a candle sitting in the center. A man in an apron came over. “Breakfast?”

Zeke shook his head. “I’m waitin’ for the stage. Just a coffee.”

“Sure. Stage is due in about half an hour.” He pointed to a railroad clock on the wall behind the registration desk.

“Thanks.” Zeke looked at the clock then the waiter. “Appreciate it.”

“Coffee will be right out.” He moved off and through swinging doors into what sounded like a kitchen.

A woman was at another table, reading the local paper, a teapot on the table in front of her and a cup and saucer. A small plate with half a slice of toast was next to the cup.

Nearly noon, it seemed late to Zeke to be having breakfast but maybe she didn’t feel well, or was waiting for the stage, too. Nothing else to do, he watched the street through the pair of windows on the dining side of the lobby. Men rode by on horseback. Women with babies in carriages of with children walked by, heading to the general store or the post office or somewhere else. A rancher in a wagon went by, raising the dust which rolled in through the hotel door.

His coffee arrived in a fancy pot, taller than the woman’s tea pot, a matching cup and saucer was placed next to it with milk in a small pitcher and a little plate with sugar lumps on it. “Will that be all?” the waiter asked.

Zeke nodded. “This is enough.”

The man nodded and left, going over to the woman and asking if she’d like anything else? When she said no, he asked for a dollar. She reached into the bag attached to her wrist and gave him a dollar and a coin. Zeke couldn’t see what it was. A tip, at any rate. He hadn’t thought about that. He’d have to remember to do that.

He drank the coffee, feeling a little foolish pouring coffee from the fancy pot into the thin-sided porcelain cup. Zeke added some milk and sugar, just for the novelty of it, and stirred it with the tiny spoon that had been on the saucer. He tried to use the elaborate handle on the cup but his hands were too big and coarse. Eventually he just picked it up by the rim and sipped. It was alright with the mild and sugar in it, but he didn’t want to get used to it this way. Who could afford to spend money on sugar like that?

The clock ticked slowly toward noon. He paid the bill and remembered to leave a dime on the table as a tip, then went out to the porch to wait. There were four straight chairs out there and three rockers. He was glad it was a covered porch. The sun was hot. He selected a straight chair. The lady with the tea was in one of the rockers. She must be waiting for the stage as well.

It didn’t take long. The stage came roaring down the street from the east, a huge cloud of dust trailing along with it. The horses were neighing, the driver was shouting and its arrival created a storm of excitement and confusion. People came out of the shops and passers-by stopped walking to watch, waving the dust away from their faces. The stage came to a halt in front of the hotel, the horses nearly standing on their back legs as the driver pulled back on the reins, shouting, “Whoa.”

The horses came back to all fours, sides frosted with foam and heaving from their race into town. The driver climbed down on the hotel side, his partner down the street side. Opening the stage door, the driver announced, “Payson. Half-hour lunch stop.”

Men piled out of the stage and headed into the hotel. Zeke expected they’d want lunch fast so they could get back on the stage before it left. He watched them go by, then looked back to the stage. Finally, last, Mary got out, stopping as she reached the ground to look around.

“Mary!” He raced down the steps and ran up to her. Zeke didn’t know what to do next. He wanted to hug her but they were on the street. That wouldn’t look right, would it?

Mary answered that for him by wrapping her arms around his neck and putting her head on his shoulder. “Oh, Zeke. I’m so happy to see you.”

Words, 1774

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Quartz, Part 2: Flash Fiction Friday Post

All, this is a continuation of my Zeke Stanford western story. The first part, Gold Dreams was posted in 2015, part 2, Ambush, was posted in April 2016, and the last part, Unexpected Guests, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, posted in July 2016. Part 1 of Quartz is here. I plan on putting the whole thing together with some editing, and publish it as a book. It’ll be a short book, less than 40,000 words as I see it. But that’s okay. It’ll be like the old dime thrillers of yesteryear. I hope you enjoy it.

Quartz, part 2

“Thank you! I was just going to see if there was some buttermilk and go sit on the front porch.”

“So you should. You’re thin as a rail. Pia!” she shouted.

Pia came running into the parlor.

“Get Zeke some buttermilk.”

Pia grinned and disappeared back into the kitchen.

“Now go on out there and have a seat. I’ll get your mail while Pia gets your milk.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Zeke gave her a bow, same as the dude did.

Mrs. Estrada laughed and shoo’d him out the front door. “Go on with you, then.”

He went out and selecting one of the rocking chairs, sat down and looked out over Mrs. Estrada’s little farm. He couldn’t hear the creek from here but the tree line revealed where it was. Her milk cows were in the pasture, between the house and the woods, slowly munching their way across the grass-covered lot.

Again he thought about the kind of ranch he wanted. Bigger than Mrs. Estrada’s five acres but not so big that parts of it were out of reach in a day’s ride. Turkeys, like she had, maybe ducks and geese, too, if there was a pond or something on the land. Horses, like his dad, that didn’t need to be driven to Flagstaff or Phoenix to be loaded on the train. Though that wasn’t far. He’d heard that in Texas, they were driving their herds all the way to St. Louis. No. Horses seemed much more sensible. Some nice spot with water for a garden. For Mary.

That was another worry. Mary’s folks were pressing her to marry some lawyer. That brought to mind his mine and the sale of it if Mr. Markum could find a buyer. He wondered how honest these mining companies were. If he’d get a good price. He’d need one if he were going to send for Mary. Even so, would she come?

Pia interrupted his thoughts when she came out onto the porch and handed him his buttermilk. “Dinner almost ready, Mr. Zeke. We all eating in the kitchen. Just like the old days.” She beamed with happiness.

He raised his glass to her. “Thank you, Pia. Can’t wait.”

She hurried back into the house. He’d only had a sip of the milk when Mrs. Estrada came out. “Here’s your mail, Zeke.”

He took it. Two envelopes. “Thank you.”

She nodded and went back inside. He appreciated that she always left him to read his letters by himself.

He opened the one from his father first.

Son,

We received your letter. Sounds like you just escaped with your life. Your ma begs you to be careful. Outlaws. I’ve had my run ins with them myself so I understand what you had to do. Not an easy thing, killing a man, but you had to do it. Don’t bother yourself with it. Everything is in God’s hands. Your ma and I pray for you every day.

Love, Pa

That was a fast answer, Zeke thought after he’d read it through a second time. His letter home and the answer back in just under a month. He shook his head in wonder.

Then it was time for Mary’s letter. Like every time, he smoothed the envelope as best he could, then carefully opened it with his knife.

Zeke,

A gunfight in the street! How awful! I’m so glad you are unharmed. It was very nice for the sheriff and the assayer to come to your aid. I pray to God for them and you each night. The news about your mine is quite welcome. Father, especially, took interest, even though Mother still invites Thomas Drew to Sunday dinner.

After last Sunday, I told Mother and Father both, that I was not interested in Mr. Drew and that I was planning to marry you, as soon as your finances are arranged. I know that was quite bold and brash, but I had to let them know.

So, now I am telling you. I plan on coming to Payson on the next stage. I hope to meet your dear Mrs. Estrada, Pia and Cesar. And thank in person Mr. Markum and Sheriff Colton, for your life. I hope you understand, Dear Zeke. I cannot wait any longer.

Love, Mary.

Zeke was so surprised that he leapt out of the rocking chair. He re-read the letter standing up. Mary coming here! He looked at the date on the letter. Why, that was two weeks ago!

“Mrs. Estrada!” He ran into the house, letter flapping in the breeze of his speed. “Mrs. Estrada!”

Both Pia and Mrs. Estrada rushed from the kitchen.

“Zeke! What is it?” Mrs. Estrada, her voice louder than he’d ever heard it, shouted.

“Mary’s coming!”

Both of the women stopped short, staring at him. “What?”

“Mary’s coming here!”

 

Words: 802

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Quartz, Part 1: Flash Fiction Friday Post

All, this is a continuation of my Zeke Stanford western story. The first part, Gold Dreams was posted in 2015, part 2, Ambush, was posted in April 2016, and the last part, Unexpected Guests, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, posted in July 2016. I plan on putting the whole thing together with some editing, and publish it as a book. It’ll be a short book, less than 40,000 words as I see it. But that’s okay. It’ll be like the old dime thrillers of yesteryear. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Quartz

 

Zeke left Sheriff Colton’s office and after dropping the draft he’d been given off at the bank, went to Mrs. Estrada’s house. Cesar stood, wide-eyed at the string of horses Zeke had with him. Poor little Jenny at the tail end, covered in dust.

“Mr. Zeke! What’s this?”

Zeke gave Cesar a wave, brought the parade to a halt and got off of Butters. “Hey, Cesar. It’s a tale, I’ll give you that. I’ve got three horses for sale. Should I take them to the livery or does Mrs. Estrada want to sell them? I’d have to pay a commission to the livery. I thought I’d give Mrs. Estrada a chance first.”

Cesar nodded. “I ask her, Mr. Zeke.” He went around to the horses and untied the string from Zeke’s saddle. He patted first one, then the others. Running his hand along their flanks and backs as he looked them over. “They look good. Little skinny though.”

Zeke untied Jenny from the last horse. “Yeah. They were owned by outlaws. Probably not cared for as well as you would have.”

Cesar nodded. “I put them in the corral. You put Jenny and Butters in the back stall. Same as always.”

Zeke did that, putting their tack away then bringing them out to the currying pole. He’d already started on Butters when Cesar joined him and began to curry Jenny. Cesar’s wife, Pia, came out to the yard, a mug of something in her hand. “Mister Zeke! I didn’t know you was here!” She hurried over and gave him the mug. “Coffee. I get you some too, Cesar,” she said to her husband. “Why didn’t you say Mr. Zeke was here?” She hurried off to the house.

“Sorry, Cesar,” Zeke said, grinning. “I think this was yours.” He held up the mug.

“That’s fine, Mr. Zeke. You drink it. She bring me one soon.”

It was soon after that Pia came back, another mug in hand. “You have same room, Mr. Zeke. You’re back early.”

Zeke handed her the now empty mug. “A little earlier than I had planned, Pia. I had some trouble.”

Both husband and wife looked at each other, then Zeke. Concern filled their faces. “It’s a long story. I’ll come out tomorrow and tell you all about it. How’s that?”

Pia nodded. “That’s fine. Mrs. Estrada will want to hear too. You’re fine? No hurts?”

“No.” Zeke laughed. “No hurts. Not counting the scratches from cat’s claw.” He gave Butters a few last strokes, then patted her on the rump. “Good girl.”

Pia grinned. “That’s good. Dinner at six. I’ll start your bath water.” She hustled back to the house.

Cesar grinned at Zeke. “Now you’ll have to tell. She’ll have Mrs. Estrada all worked up.”

Zeke didn’t want that. But he didn’t want to share the story with a house full of boarders. “How many here right now?”

Cesar looked at him, confused.

“Sorry. How many boarders?”

Cesar shook his head. “Just one. A gambler.”

Zeke’s eyebrows rose. “Really? Mrs. Estrada is fine with that?”

Cesar shrugged. “He pays good. Mostly he’s at the Oxbow. Comes home in the morning and sleeps all day. Makes it hard on Pia. She has to clean his room after supper.”

“That’s a shame. But makes it easy. I’ll see if Mrs. Estrada wouldn’t mind having dinner in the kitchen, since it’s just us, and I can tell you all about it then.”

A grin stretched across Cesar’s face. “That would be good. Like the old days with Mr. Estrada.”

It was after five when Zeke came out of his room. Bathed and in his town clothes, he was headed to the kitchen to see if there was some cold buttermilk and to sit on the porch in the shade. He ran into the gambler, coming out of his room. Zeke nodded and started to pass him by.

“Hey there. Good to see someone else staying here.”

“Hey.” Zeke eyed the man’s clothing. A fancy black suit with a snowy white shirt, ruffles down the front and lace at the sleeve cuffs with a gold chain leading to the man’s vest watch pocket.

The man stuck out his hand. “Red Talbot.”

“Zeke Stanford.” Zeke shook his hand.

“Dinner’s not till six,” Red said.

“I know. I’m headed to the porch.”

The two men walked together along the hall and to the stairs. “Passing through?” Red asked.

Zeke hated these kinds of questions. What was it to this man? “I’ve got some business in town.”

Red laughed. “Me too. I’m headed for the Oxbow. You play cards Mr. Stanford?”

“Not really.”

“Probably a good thing. Too many cowboys with their pay in their pocket come to a sad end by the end of the night.” They reached the bottom of the stairs.

Mrs. Estrada was in the parlor, knitting by the window. “Zeke! Good to see you.” She got up and gave Zeke a hug. “Welcome back.”

Red eyed him. “Mrs. Estrada.”

Her looked told Zeke that she wasn’t all that impressed with her boarder. “Mr. Talbot. Off to the Oxbow?”

He gave her a bow. “I am indeed, good lady. I’m afraid I’ll have to miss your wonderful dinner again this evening.” Red turned to Zeke. “I take my supper at the Oxbow most nights. Not as good as here, but, alas,” he shrugged, “it gives me time to assess my competition.” He headed to the back door. “I’ll get my horse and bid you all, good-night.”

After he was gone, Mrs. Estrada snorted. “Good riddance.” Then she smiled. “I have mail for you.”

 

Words: 936

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Mystery at the Reunion, National Novel Writing Month, Shout Out: Monday Blog Post

Newest News:

My cozy, Mystery at the Reunion, might be a good fit for you. The InkShares site is new to me and I’m still learning how to use it. I’ve put chapters from the story up over there as well as some alternative chapters that may bring the story even more to life. Since the story is in a contest, I can win the contest by getting people to read the story. Here’s the link. https://www.inkshares.com/books/mystery-at-the-reunion. I’d appreciate it if you’d go over and have a read. The book is open for comments, so if you like something, don’t like something, let me know!

Gulliver Station box set for Smashwords is live. I’ve included links to all of the ebook spots where I sell my books at the bottom of this page. I’m still working on the paperback version. I’m having a fight with Amazon on the cover, a technical glitch of some sort. And in the formatting, I’ve run into a weird hurdle that puts the last page of every chapter in the middle of the page. I thought I had the pagination error beat but no. That’s not working either. At any rate, you can now get it in ebook for a very nice price. Enjoy.

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National Novel Writing Month, NaNo for short, has begun and I’m over 7k into my first book, Gold Dreams. I need to finish it up, then start on my All About Bob series. Lots to do there as well.

A reminder that I’ve finished my 2019 calendar. Arizona is such a beautiful place and a calendar of pictures from central AZ fits in so well with my Jean Hays series, I really just can’t resist sharing. Now that it’s completed, you can find the calendar on Lulu. Just click on the link and purchase as many copies as you want for yourself, friends and family. Feel free to share the link, and this post!

Next appearance is in December, the Mesa Book Festival. That’s December 8th. You can find all of the details at https://mesabookfestival.com/.

Shout Out

I want to say a big hi to my author friend Anne R. Tan, also a mystery author. She’s promoting her new book, Smoldering Flames and Secrets, a Raina Sun mystery over on the Books2Read site at https://books2read.com/RainaSun7. Really! Go check it out.

Giveaways:

The 2018 Halloween giveaway is now closed. There’s $80+ as a Grand Prize Paypal cash, plus books and other prizes and as soon as I get the info, I’ll tell you who won! A Christmas one is coming out soon, so stay tuned for that.

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

The Gulliver Station ebook box set released July 30th, 2018. It is finally up on all of my other retailers in ebook format. You can buy it at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords today. You can also see all my books on https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.

 

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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 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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Slave Elf Part 51: Flash Fiction Friday Post

 

Part 51

Find Part 1 here.

 

When they arrived at the palace, Mage Kaepli took down the protective spell and they all entered.

Delia went to her rooms over the objection of Master Kaepli. “But Majesty, you belong in the King’s rooms.”

“Not until I talk to my mother. That will be the end of it.” She went in and closed the door. Outside she could hear two guards take their positions on either side, and sighed. They were just as tired as she was but there they were, standing guard. All she wanted was a proper bath and a huge dinner. But the few cooks the army had with them wouldn’t have had time to heat water, let alone cook anything. She remembered the state of the kitchen. Totally cleaned out. Someone would have to go hunting or something before anyone had anything other than camp rations to eat. She hoped her mother had supplies.

It was a week before her mother arrived.

Delia was in the courtyard to meet her. She gave her mother a hug and a kiss on the cheek after she’d dismounted. “Mother. I’m so sorry.” Her mother looked pale and thin in her white mourning dress.

Raele patted her daughter on the cheek. “I’m so proud of you. You defeated our enemy. There is much to be happy for.”

Delia walked with her to Raele’s rooms. “Rest, mother. May I get you anything?”

“Later, daughter. We’ll go see your father before the burial.”

Delia nodded. “Let me know when you’re ready. I’ll escort you.”

Raele nodded. “Thank you.”

That evening they went to the throne room together. Now Ucheni was in his finest robes, his crown upon his head. Candles surrounded the body and an honor guard of twelve surrounded him. Raele, put her hand on his. “He loved you. Very much.”

“I know. He showed it in every way.”

Raele sniffed and used a delicate handkerchief to wipe her eyes. “He died too young.”

“Iyuno paid for that.”

Raele turned to her daughter. “I heard stories.”

Delia shrugged. “He treated with orcs, Mother.”

Raele sighed. “True.”

They had a quiet supper in the Queen Mother’s rooms and Delia took her leave early.

Three months later, the coronation was held. Raele was still in her rooms but Delia had moved into her father’s apartment. It seemed weird, to her. She stood in front of a floor length mirror as Alia stood by and servants fussed with the coronation gown. It had been less than a year since Corpet the caravan master had given her that blue gown to wear. Slave to Queen in that short amount of time. It didn’t seem real.

Alia nodded. “You look beautiful.”

Delia studied her reflection. Her hair had been just lightly dressed, so that the crown could go on her head. Her hair mostly flowed down her back. A black river reaching to her waist. She teleported a mug of tea to her hand from a nearby table. It was a trick she’d developed one day by accident when a quill was just out of reach. Alia’s eyebrow rose. “Just in private, Ali. It seems silly to have you fetch it when I can just call it.”

Alia shook her head. “As you will, Majesty.”

Delia rolled her eyes. Alia was a stickler. Fortunately, Kaya still had a sense of humor, as did Couran, Relan and Sisruo. She needed friends and confidantes, not masters. “I’ll not do it in public. I promise.”

The ceremony lasted too long, Delia thought, but her mother looked pleased and that’s all she could hope for.

She thought about Captain Catari and poor little Gallett. Both had died in the sick tent, some poison they’d gotten from orc darts. Her thoughts turned to her mother. One day, her mother would move out of the next door apartments, replaced by a husband. That might be Sisruo. He’d passed his exams after he’d healed and was now a Master Mage himself. They would be a powerful couple, if it all worked out. She was still too young to marry, though. Another hundred years or so to get to know him, and her people, and her culture. It would pass in no time.

Thank You for Reading this Serial

670 Words

I hope you’ve enjoyed this story. It was supposed to be a simple flash fiction of 1000 words or less. It ran long the first day and I thought it’d finish up in four or five parts. Hah! Little did I know. The story took off with me and here we are, over 50,000 words later, finally come to an end.

I don’t like the title, Slave Elf, but it was all right for a working name. Here’s the thing, I’d like a new title. So I’m going to hold a contest. I’m going to get this story edited and put into novel form. Whoever suggests the winning title, will get the story as a signed paperback. Make your suggestions in the comments. I give this contest a month, closing May 18th. Get your suggestions in before then. Yes, you may make multiple suggestions. US residents only for the paperback. Overseas readers, I’ll send you an ebook if you win.

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Slave Elf Part 50: Flash Fiction Friday Post

campfire_by_kiaraz via DeviantArt.com

 

Part 50

Find Part 1 here.

 

Alia called for help and two elves Delia didn’t know took her back to the king’s tent. “No.” She pushed away from the tent. “My tent.”

“But Your Majesty,” Alia began.

“No!” Delia shook her head. “My tent.”

Alia directed them to Delia’s tent. “Get the mage,” Alia directed one of them. To the other she said, “Get hot water and cloths.”

Alia got Delia’s breastplate off and her boots. By then water arrived in a basin with cloths. She washed Delia and put her clean shirt and trousers on her then let her lie down and sleep.

When Delia woke the table had a single candle and Alia was dozing, head propped on her fist at the table. She sat up. The small noise waking Alia.

“Princess.” She leapt from the chair. What do you need?

“I need to know what’s happening.”

Alia ducked her head. Everyone is at Master Kaepli’s tent.”

Delia put on socks and boots, having to shoo Alia away. “I’ve been dressing my own feet for years, Alia. Leave me be.”

Alia complied but fidgeted in the corner of the tent while she waited.

“Is there anything to eat?” Delia asked.

“I’ll bring it to the mage’s tent.”

“Good.”

Alia insisted on walking her there before going to get the food. When she entered, everyone, including Master Kaepli, stood. Delia sighed to herself. So this is what is was going to be like from now on? “Reports?”

“We’re glad to see you recovered, Prin, excuse me, Majesty.” Kaepli bowed.

“Thank you. How are our forces from the passes?”

He motioned for her to come to the map table. Juner stepped aside. Kaya nodded her greeting and Delia gave her a smile. Mystesto and Neoni weren’t in the tent but Lord Enaur was. “Tell me.”

Kaepli took a deep breath. “Orcs, Majesty. We had no idea any were left.”

“There are fewer now,” Delia said. The very thought of the ugly creatures she’d had to fight made her skin crawl. “My uncle apparently made a pact with them.” She shook her head. “I’ll never understand it.”

“Agreed.”

“And Captain Catari? Neoni? Mystesto?”

“Catari took heavy losses at the south pass, Majesty. He was severely injured and lost all but one of his men and many of ours.”

A quick thought of Gallett flashed through her mind. She’d find out later. “And the north pass?”

Neoni took a wound, but not too bad.” He sighed. “Mystesto was killed. They had orcs there as well.”

She hadn’t known either of them long but still a pang of grief, sharp as a blade went through her heart. Delia swallowed back tears. She was a queen now, tears were for private times. Still, it took a moment for her to find her voice. “My uncle’s forces were stopped, though?”

“Yes, Majesty.”

“And Sisruo?”

“He took the brunt of the orc attack at the field, Majesty.”

Delia stared at him. “And?”

“He, Couran and Palen were all injured. They’re in the sick tent.”

Alive, she thought. Still alive. “I’ll have to go visit them.”

“Yes, Majesty.”

Alia came in with a plate of roast meat and vegetables. “Majesty. Your dinner.”

The aroma made Delia’s stomach growl. Apparently power from fire didn’t satisfy that need. She sat down, the plate on top of the maps and ate as though she’d not eaten in days. “Go on.”

“We’ve lost nearly a thousand elves, Majesty.”

“And where are Nethene and Ceinno?”

“Dead, Majesty.”

Delia nodded. Painfully, she thought but kept that to herself. “Has word been sent to my mother?”

“Not yet, Majesty.” Kaepli licked his lips. “We await your order.”

Of course, she thought as she ate the last bite of the roast. “Send word that father has died but that I have survived.”

“Where is father’s body?” She stood up.

“In his tent, Majesty.”

“I’ll go see him.”

Kaepli bowed.

Delia left the tent, Alia behind her. After her trailed two elven guards. I’ll have to get used to that, too, I suppose.

There were two guards outside of the king’s tent door, one on each side. They saluted as she passed and she saluted back. Alia stayed outside.

Inside she found her father, washed and dressed in the best robes he had with him, lying in state on a makeshift table, draped in long, cotton cloth. His cloak was wrapped around him and four large candles stood at the corners of the makeshift byre. Gold coins weighted his eyes and a makeshift crown of flowers was on his head.

Delia rested her fingertips on the cloth, not touching the body. It’s too soon. I didn’t get to know you. Why? Why? Tears fell as the pain in her chest grew. So much time, wasted. Damn Iyuno. Damn Nethene and Ceinno. Why? The tears fell and fell but quietly, so the elves outside couldn’t hear. She didn’t know how long she’d stood there but finally the tears stopped and she wiped her eyes with her sleeve. Delia sniffed and left.

“Sick tent,” she said when she got outside. Alia raced ahead as her two guards followed.

Once there she made the round of cots, greeting each one in turn. Finally, she reached Sisruo, Couran and Relan. “I see you survived.”

“And you, Princess.” Couran said.

Relan reached over and smacked his brother. “Majesty, you dolt.” He looked at Delia. “Exuse my brother, Majesty. He’s had the sense knocked out of him.”

“I understand. I had the sense knocked out of me today too. “I’m glad you three are all right,” she said, looking at Sisruo. “May you all heal quickly.”

She spoke to Kaya. “I’m glad you are here to help them.”

“Rest, Majesty. You’ve had a bit of a day as well.”

All of a sudden, Delia felt like an old, used up rag. “Perhaps you’re right.” She took Kaya’s hand and kissed her on the cheek. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Delia went back to her tent. “Alia. I need to sleep. Unless we’re under attack, let me rest.”

“Yes, Majesty.” She bowed and backed out of the tent.

Delia sat down and pulled off her boots. That didn’t mean she was alone. There’d be someone outside the tent all the time, listening for her least command. She pulled the blanket over herself and turned on her side, asleep in a moment.

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 51.

1061 Words

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Slave Elf Part 49: Flash Fiction Friday Post

young_mage_by_hokunin-d36f1tv

 

Part 49

Find Part 1 here.

 

Her father, Delia could see, was a formidable fighter but Iyuno, even without a fire to draw power from, was better. She found herself making tiny movements, fighting Iyuno with her father. Twice she found a fireball in her hand, ready to throw, but had to extinquish it in frustration. Ucheni was missing multiple chances to deal Iyuno a blow. In return, he was falling back, step by step. She gripped and re-gripped her sword pommel until her hand hurt.

Alia approached. “The fire is ready, Princess.”

Delia nodded, never taking her eyes from her father. “Can you tell what Iyuno is going to do, Alia?”

Alia focused on the fight in front of her. She shook her head. “No, Princess.”

Delia sighed. “What if you pretend you are the king? What then.”

Alia blinked at the Princess. “Let me try.” She took a breath and took a fighting stance.

Delia watched at Alia did what she’d been doing. The shield maiden shifted minutely, hands and arms twitching. Alia stood up. “No Princess. It doesn’t seem to work that way.”

“Thank you for trying.”

Delia took a breath and blew it out. Her hopes to use Alia’s magic sight for strikes were dashed. Besides, even if she could see a blow not meant for her, they’d never talked about whether Alia could send her thoughts to her. She didn’t even know if she could herself. Her fingers drummed against the sword’s pommel. Both Ucheni and Iyuno were using swords. Magical, Delia supposed. Iyuno was driving her father back. It was if he were getting stronger. She looked again at his soldiers. There was no smoke from a fire. Where was he getting his strength?

Suddenly, her father’s foot caught on something as he was stepping back he went to one knee. Iyuno raised his sword and before Delia could scream, he brought the sword down. Her father paused, sword half-raised. The army went silent. A gash appeared at the base of his neck. The sword, dropped, in seeming slow motion, in one direction as her father followed.

Then, she did scream. “FAAATHERRRRR!”

She ran out onto the field. Fireballs in both hands. She had flung them at Iyuno before her father had finished falling.

Iyuno swung his sword around and slid it into its scabbard as he held up a hand. Delia was knocked back, falling into the long grass. She turned on her magical sight. Now was not the time to be emotional, she thought as she rolled to her feet. She used her invisible heat force but the force bounced from Iyuno’s magical shield.

Delia made a shield for herself and glanced back at her army’s line. Her army, came the flash of thought. Alia had lit the fire. Delia pulled its strength to her then faced Iyuno.

“So, pup. You think you’re ready to face me?”

“Face you I will, evil one.” She moved into a fighting stance. “You killed my father.”

“Not much of a father, handing you over to slavers,” he said as he circled.

She watched as he moved. Where was he getting his power? She flung the sleeping spell at him. It splashed against his shield.

He threw another fireball while swinging his sword at her. She stepped outside the swing as his fireball hit her shield.

This could go on forever, she thought. Each of us is getting power from fire. How long can I pull on that and survive? His constant barrage of fireballs, force balls and other tricks she’d never seen were keeping her busy but she did her best, now that she was closer, to see where his power was coming from while still putting up some resistance.

A flash at his feet drew her attention. What sort of magic was that? She looked closer as she chanted the sleeping spell and threw a fireball. The ground? He was getting power from the earth? How could that be?

Where was Sisruo? Shouldn’t Iyuno’s hundred elves be asleep by now?

She scrambled as Iyuno pressed his attack. He was powerful, and her magical shield was taking a beating. Delia drew more heavily from the fire. He had to know what she was doing. Why didn’t he try to stop her?

She tried everything she knew, including throwing up a protection spell around him but she didn’t have the skills and training he had. He was going to kill her too if she didn’t do something.

He taunted her again. “You’ve developed some small skill, niece. Congratulations.” He delivered an invisible blow as he used his other hand to try and force her off of her feet.

Delia didn’t answer. At his feet were flashes of light. What was he drawing from?

“Die, traitor.”

He laughed and somehow, clapped his hands together, creating a gong sound.

She took a step back. Now what?

Screams from her army sounded behind her, as in front of her, behind Iyuno, the ground opened up and orcs came streaming from the holes. She stared. Orcs? Weren’t they all dead?

“You’ve broken the protocol, Uncle.”

He laughed. “Winning is winning, niece.”

She struck out, anger washing through her as orcs came racing across the field. Delia doubled her efforts as she used the anger to fuel her magic. She wasn’t sure just what she was doing, fire and lightning burst from her finger tips. Delia swatted at her uncle, a force ball like none other she’d ever done flew from her left hand, making him stagger. She pulled power from the fire. Ah, his fire was underground. That was it. Delia pulled power from that as well.

She charged as the first of the orcs reached her. They swirled around her as though she were not there. That wasn’t what she’d expected. Her army, though, were in the fight of their lives. Iyuno was not so lucky. Her charge took her right up to him. She held him, magically, with one hand as she drew her sword. “You killed my father!” She ran him through, twice, three times. Again, as he lay on the ground. She pulled her sword and began chanting the sleeping spell and swinging at orcs.

She was half way back to her own lines when she realized Alia was beside her, taking out orc after orc. The field was littered with bodies, orcs mostly but elves as well. Delia’s anger exploded and she seemed to swell, larger and larger as she charged after the orcs. When she’d finally killed the last one she found, Alia was calling to her.

“Princess! Princess! Stop! It’s over.”

Delia drew a breath and blinked. “Over?” She felt shrunken and old.

“Over, Princess. You’ve won.”

Delia removed her helmet and pushed loose sweat-soaked hair back from her face and looked around. “Over.” She sank to the ground, exhausted.

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 50.

1141 Words

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