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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The Crib: Flash Fiction Friday Post

The Crib

I watch the stock market feed on the square’s monitor. Three stories tall, the monitor can be seen for twenty blocks. No one can afford private monitors anymore. This is where we get the news. That and the black-market feeds. I wonder, as the rain drips from my broken umbrella down my upturned coat collar, if the feed is right. Or if the black-market is right. Or if it is all a bunch of crap and we’re all being fed a bunch of lies.

More likely it’s all lies.

That’s what ma told me long ago. I believe her. She passed a year ago but she told it true. Always. She had a knack. She could spot a lie a mile away. I wish I had her gift. It would come in handy, it would.

I rubbed my calf. It was hot, and a lump, I was sure. I shook it off. No one could pause for something like a lump. I couldn’t stand around. I had a route and a package. It had to go where it needed to go.

That was another of Ma’s sayings. By way of meaning, do what had to be done. I said I’d do it and by dang, it had to be done. I could feel her hand clouting my head when I’d said one and did another. She didn’t hold truck with that. So now, if I said, I did. Despite the lump.

I run. The monitor news runs through my head. Aliens, they say. Something about aliens. I think that’s a bunch of crap. I think it’s just the posh making it all someone else’s fault. Yep. Why else all the hype. I dodge a youngling beggin’ in the street. More and more of those, and oldsters. But what the hell. They’re no competition to me.

The lump in my leg aches. I ignore it. I can’t make my credits if I’m not moving.

I bound around a rickshaw, then a scooter. They carry people. Ugh. I can’t imagine. What a pain, the people constantly bitching about every damn thing. Better to be a messenger. I just carry small packages, envelopes. Fast! Quick! Snappy! That’s me! That’s until my leg gives way.

I roll. Quick, so no one sees. Like I just tripped on something. The leg aches. The damn lump! But I move on. No one pays a slow messenger. Three blocks to go. A barrier across the street. Criminy’s sake! Another parade? What is wrong with the leaders? Don’t they know what they’re doing? I shove through. I don’t give a crap about who ever I knock down. I need to get this envelope to the address.

Three blocks I shove, elbow, knee. They need to get out of my way. I deliver the message, breathing like my lungs will explode. The secretary gives me a pitiful two credit tip. I push her flowers over and water spills all over her desk and onto her suit. Serves her right. I’ve just run twenty blocks through a parade! She should have more manners.

My comms beep. I have another client, three blocks away. I hurry to the site. Just like every other day.

Six months later I’m in my crib. Bed-wide and two feet longer than the mattress, I lay in pain. I’ve braced my leg up on the top of my crib. My upper neighbor doesn’t’ like it. He’s complained to the owner about the stench, but the owner doesn’t give a flip. What’s it to him? As long as I pay the rent, I can rot in here.

That’s what I’m doing. Rotting. I can’t run. I can’t even walk. On my better days I roll out of this damn cage and pull myself out to the sidewalk. Not an easy feat as I’m three cages high, but I do it. My saved tips won’t last forever.

I make the bandage look extra gross with beet juice but lately that’s not really required. It’s bad enough all on its own. I can just see the neighborhood monitor from the stoop. It’s election season. The monitor is full of the jack-asses claims to help. Damn! What a bunch of crap. Who are they helping? Not people like me. Not people with long-term illness. Not people who can’t pay for medicine. Not people who need a living wage. Damn. I’ve never voted. Never had the chance.

But really. Why would I? Those people aren’t about me. They’re about the rich. The ultra-rich. The people who can buy health. The people who don’t worry about lumps in their legs. The people who I used to run messages for.

I’ll be dead in another six months. The owner will sell off my pitiful belongings and another poor sap will take my crib. And no one cares. Not even me.

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Assault: Flash Fiction Friday Post

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

Trigger warning

Assault

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

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

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

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

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

“Prosecution?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words: 850

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The Church: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Adirondack Fall by Randy Cockrell

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

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

I shook my head. Just a squirrel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He nodded. “Well, thank you anyway.”

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

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Water: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Water

I checked the temperature on my phone as I wiped the sweat dripping down my temple. Eighty-six. Not really that hot. But the morning weather report said the humidity was supposed to be at nearly ninety today. It felt like it. I walked on.  I was thirsty. My map listed the next water source as twelve miles away. I had a liter and a half of water left. I took a swallow to moisten my mouth and thought about all of the advice about what to do when you were short of water.

As a hiker it wouldn’t be the first time I’d face a lack of water on this through-hike, but this was the first time since I’d started my trip. One school of thought was to drink sparingly until the next water source was reached. Wetting my mouth was in this vein. On the other hand, some people thought it was better to drink my fill, store the water in my body where it was needed anyway. Camel up, some called it.

I hitched my pack and adjusted the right strap. It was another two miles before I took another drink. Ten miles to go to the spring. Time to make a decision. I took a deep breath, then drank my fill. Cameling up it is, I thought. I just hope this isn’t a mistake. I trudged on, three-quarters of a liter of water left.

The next part of the trail was uphill. Olive Mountain it was called on the map. Halfway up, I was on the south side of the mountain, shadeless, and the trail was a rock scramble. My breathing was heavy and my mouth was dry but I resisted taking another drink. At the top, I told myself as I struggled over the rocks. The trail switchbacked up the mountainside. I never understood why a mile going uphill seemed longer than a mile on the level. I reached the top and took a moment to look around. This mountain was bald and the view was three hundred and sixty degrees of awesome. That was one of the best things about back-packing. It felt like the whole world was mine alone. A breeze helped cool me and I rewarded myself with another big drink. My water bladder was about a quarter full when I finished.

Eight more miles. The trail down the mountain went fast and the next part of the trail meandered through a swamp. The mosquitos were fierce and once past the swamp I stopped in the shade of a tree to dig some hydrocortisone cream out of my pack. The bug bites were already itching. While putting the lotion on, I wished for the breeze that was at the top of Olive Mountain. The sweat ran down my back. I flapped the back of my shirt, trying to dry off. That was a waste of time. There were five miles to go.

I eyed my water bladder. Drink the rest of the water now or wait another mile or two? I reached over and grabbed the bladder. Then drank it all. I was sweating so much, I really needed to drink. It would have been nice if the water was cold but beggars couldn’t be choosers. I packed everything up and pulled on my pack. Five miles would be about two hours. I started hiking. Two hours without water. In this heat. I was going to be thirsty.

As I hiked I started thinking about the water source at my destination. It had been a dry summer. Some of the trail’s water sources had dried up. I sincerely hoped that this one was still good or I was going to be in big trouble. I didn’t even want to think about having to hike without water. Just thinking about it made me thirsty. The trail wound out of the woods and into a wide-open grassland. The mid-afternoon sun beat down and I took off my hat, wiped my face and put the hat back on. Trudging on, the grassland lasted about a mile, then back into the woods. My shirt was soaked and I wanted water but it was gone. I cleared my mind. Forget about the water, I told myself. I hummed a tune, then took notice of all the flowers I passed and birds flying by. Another mile went by. Three to go.

It had been just an hour since my last drink, but I was thirsty. I dug a piece of hard candy out of my pack and popped that into my mouth. That helped. Anything I could do to trick my body into thinking it had water. The next mile went pretty fast. Then the next section was another climb. A deep breath and on I trudged. Up, up, up, a rocky trail that threatened my ankles.

I didn’t have enough spit in my mouth to swallow and my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth as I gasped for breath. I sure hoped the water source wasn’t dried up. The next water was six more miles away and I really didn’t want to have to hike six thirsty miles in the dark and try to find the water once I got there.

The sun was setting, and I was going slower. One more mile I told myself. Then you’ll get your drink. I went down the other side of the mountain, glad for the downhill. The sign post for the camp site was on my left, pointing out the trail. Four hundred feet. I straggled into the site. There were three other hikers already there. “Water?”

“Over there,” a young woman pointed.

I hurried over. A small spring trickled out of the side of the hill. Someone had dug out small pool lined with rocks. I dug out my cup and scooped water into my bladder and added the water treatment. Half an hour to wait for it to work and a nice cool drink.

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Working: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Captain

Working

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

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

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

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

My phone rang. “Hey, mom.”

“Hey sweetie. How’s it going?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure, mom. Sure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello, Mr. Donnah.”

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

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

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

“Yes, sir. Thank you and the board.”

“You’re welcome.”

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

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The Universe Calls: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Lightning in the Night Sky

The Universe Calls

When I was seven I could hear the whispers. I told my mom about them but she said I was thinking of the voices on the television.

When I was ten, the voices were louder. Not loud enough to make out what was being said, but they were there. After years of telling my parents, I finally understood that they couldn’t hear the whispers and didn’t want to know about them either. I kept the voices to myself.

Every year the voices grew louder, until I could clearly hear them. No one else I knew heard voices, so I kept it to myself, even when they became so loud it was hard to hear the teachers in school, or even mom and dad or my sister or brothers.

I kept to myself and surprisingly, it didn’t take long for people, even my family, to just kind of, overlook me. My brothers were so boisterous that they attracted all of the attention. What they didn’t attract, my sister did as she acted out with skirts too short and boy friends too wild. My parents had all they could handle. I wasn’t a problem so they just left me alone.

By the time I was sixteen, I could tell who in school might be like me. We were the outsiders. Not picked on, just hanging around the fringes. Slowly, I made friends with them. It wasn’t easy to draw them out. Like me, they’d learned to keep quiet. Eventually, though, we had our own table in the cafeteria.

The others had their own gifts. That’s what we decided to call them. Carl was a math whiz. He could see the answer to any math problem. Secretly he’d gone to the biggest university web sites and pulled their math department’s toughest problems. He’d solved them all but didn’t tell them. He worked with Gillian, who was a computer hacking genius, to break into the government’s sites and find their hardest problems. He solved them as well. Tony was a mechanic. He could fix anything. Along with Claire, who could design anything, they built some fantastic new devices, but we didn’t share. Bob was a plant guru and Cecelia could manipulate light. Sound was Patel’s gift. He could make it open, close, build or destroy.

By the time we’d graduated, we’d cracked Wall Street and all of the overseas financial markets and purchased land and had housing and labs built. We told our parents, the ones who cared, anyway, that we were going on a walk-about. My parents both cried as they protested they didn’t know where the time had gone and they hardly knew me.

That was an understatement. We went to our secret hideaway and called others like us from around the world to join us. The voices kept us busy. They wanted us to build all of this great tech. They pointed out where we could improve things. Soon we had kids, well, young adults, now, come who were charismatics. We started them on political paths as the rest of us prepared.

It took a lot of time as we maneuvered our politicians into place in each country. Our military experts had to run interference several times but by the time I was fifty, we were ready.

We’d changed the laws, planet wide. Kids received proper schooling, food, and medicine. More and more children had the gift and we put them to use. Warfare fell away and the last dictator was gone. Cities were cleaned up and the environment, close to collapse when I was a girl, was recovering.

That’s when the voices told me to assemble our leaders. Not the politicians, but the leaders of our little group that I had assembled decades before. I was the conduit, where we’d received our instructions so far.

I spoke as the main voice in my head spoke.

“We congratulate you all,” said the voice who called itself Notion. “You’ve worked hard and followed our instructions. Well done.”

The group in front of me cheered. When they quieted, Notion continued.

“It’s time for us to join you. And for you to join us. We will arrive in a week. Meet us at the spaceport you’ve built. We’ll be together at last!”

There was much cheering at that and while the others asked me what else Notion was saying I could only shake my head. Notion was gone.

Preparations were made. A band was assembled, the best of our musicians that existed. Bunting was raised along with a speaker’s platform. No instructions for the kind of housing Notion and the others needed were given but we prepared an entire hotel with every kind of food Earth had to offer available.

The day arrived, and we were ready. I was on the platform, along with the original group. The ship, if it could be called that, landed. A bright ball of energy and smaller energy balls separated from it. They floated over to us. I could hear Notion.

“Greetings, children.”

I repeated the words before I realized that everyone could hear it speak. It continued as we all gaped in surprise.

“We are grateful for your diligence. We appreciate your efforts.”

I watched as other balls of energy left the ship and as the ship shrank. A ball of energy hovered over each person present. Other balls of energy drifted away. Notion hovered in front of me.

“And you, Cheyenne, we thank you most of all. It’s time for your reward.”

I was surprised. What reward? No reward had ever been mentioned. We were just saving our planet.

Notion drifted closer. Its light was blinding but not hot. I turned my face up to it as it drifted closer. I wasn’t afraid. I closed my eyes. I could feel it touch me, a tingling. Then warmth crept over my whole body. There was a flash of pain, then nothing.

Notion shivered, then made itself draw a breath. It opened its new eyes. “Ah. That’s nice.”

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Storm, Box Set, Flash Fiction, Fair: Daily Blog Post

 

Lightning in the Night Sky

Hey!

Wednesday morning, 1:30am, we had another monsoon hit. Nothing like dashing around the house, half-awake, shutting windows to keep the blowing rain at bay. There was lots of thunder and lightning. The wind was blowing hard and the rain was just pounding down. When I got back up this morning, there was still some rain, sprinkles mostly, keeping everything wet. I don’t have a rain gauge, my last one sprung a leak, but I suspect we got a nice amount of rain. I wandered around the front yard this morning and found some critter had dug into one of my planters, uprooting a plant. Surprising thing, when I dug into the pot to put it back, the dirt was pretty dry. I have no idea why, everything else is wet. Sigh. Mysteries in my own yard.

I managed some work on my Gulliver Station box set on Tuesday. With luck I’ll get some more done today. I also need a story for Friday’s flash fiction post. I don’t have an idea yet. I usually don’t until I actually sit down and focus.

It’s just 2 weeks until the Northern Gila County Fair. I love county fairs and hope that if you’re in the area, you can come by and see the fabulous work our local ranchers, farmers, backyard gardeners and crafters do. The associated horse show is this weekend, the 25th. You can find out more about our fair at www.NGCFair.com.

That’s it for today! Hope your Thursday is just fantastic!

 

The Gulliver Station ebook box set released July 30th, 2018. You can buy it at Amazon 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 my 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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I Shouldn’t Have Swiped Right: Flash Fiction Friday Post

I Shouldn’t Have Swiped Right

Let me start by saying that I hardly ever swipe right. I mean, to change the menu. Yeah. Maybe your phone is different, I can’t say. But otherwise? No. Then, of course, I had a new phone. I bought it because my old phone just didn’t have enough memory. We can all relate to that. Am I right?

I bought the same make of phone. I was hoping they hadn’t changed the operating system too much. They, had, of course. Any phone gets updated every 6 months, just to annoy their customers, I think.

While I was exploring the new phone, a call came in. Yep. You guessed it. Swipe right. So I did. There was a huge flash of light and a noise that made a sonic boom sound like a whisper. Ears ringing, I blinked my eyes, trying to get the light blindness to clear. When my vision returned, I was standing in the middle of a grove of trees.

They weren’t like any trees I’d seen before. First of all, they were purple. I blinked some more. The trees stayed purple. I stuck a finger in my ear to try and clear the ringing. The twittering continued. That was going to be annoying, I thought. Then I turned around.

I just stood and stared. A group of…what should I call them…aliens? Dark purple, they had four arms each and they were all waving around. There were four eyes apiece and they all seemed to be able to operate independently. I took a deep breath. I’m a big sci-fi fan but that doesn’t really prepare a girl for something like this. Finally, one of them stepped forward.

“Welcome! How do you feel?”

I took a moment to process the fact that this, fellow, it was a deep voice, was speaking a pretty good form of mid-western American English. “Fine. Ears are still ringing.”

The twittering from the group behind the alien picked up. One of his arms waved at them and they quieted. Mostly at least. “So sorry about that. We’re just so excited we got it to work.”

“Work?”

“Yes!” He grinned, if you can call it that. There seemed to be a lot of very sharp teeth. “Our transporter. We saw from your signals that you had transporters so we got to work. They probably don’t work as well as yours. We didn’t see anything in your transmissions about side effects.”

I could feel my hands get sweaty. “Transmissions? What transmissions?”

The twittering behind him picked up again. He turned and responded to them in some high pitched tweets then turned back to me. “You call it T V.”

I let out a deep breath. Television. They were picking up our TV shows. Good lord, what must they think? I rubbed my forehead. How to explain this? “So you saw we had transporters and you just, uh, just made one?”

All four of his arms flapped. Since I could see his head was joined pretty thickly to non-existent shoulders, he probably couldn’t nod. The group behind him did the same thing. Okay, flapping equals nodding. “And how did you happen to choose to transport me?” I looked around. I was on a platform, but I didn’t see any equipment. I was standing under an open sky, pink, by the way, with pale pink clouds.

“We didn’t. We just picked a signal and retrieved you.”

I cleared my throat. Thank goodness they didn’t choose some Hell’s Angel or Crip. “Very clever.”

Again, they all flapped. “We did our best to make the trip as comfortable as possible.”

“Appreciate that. And just where are we?”

“Lishton, in your language. We call it,” and he tweeted something that sounded like all of the other tweets they’d been whistling.

“Lishton.” I ran my hand through my hair. I didn’t feel that I was either capable or prepared to be a first contact. What if I said or did something wrong? This could be a disaster. “Nice to meet you.”

“You as well.” He grinned again. So did the others. “Would you like to meet our leader?”

“Of course.”

So he guided me off of the platform and we got into an open, I don’t know, wagon, that lifted off and flew into a city. We met the leader, apparently a group that was the entire, planetary governing body, and went to a lunch with several hundred other Lishtonians. The lunch was fruit and veggies and nothing made me sick, something I was initially concerned about. Then there was music, more twittering, singing I suppose, and as the sun began to set, they took me back to the platform.

“Thank you for joining us for the day,” my guide told me.

“Thank you for…inviting…me.” I went to the center of the platform. I hoped it wouldn’t hurt to go home.

“Come back anytime.” He grinned again and the whole group, still with us, waved. Goodbye, I guess. Again, bright light, big noise, and when I recovered, I was back in my living room. I glanced at the clock. Twelve hours. I’d been gone the same amount of time here as there. Shaking, I turned on the tv. The date was the same. Something to be grateful for. I wasn’t returned to an unexpected future.

The phone rang. I threw it in the trash. There was no way I was going to swipe right again.

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