The North Pole Syndrome


[An oldie, but one of my favorites.]


Heartless. Dickish. Mean. A scrooge. Yes, I know what the kids at school sometimes call me. I love Christmas, I love Jesus Christ, I love family and the holiday season.

“Timothy, I’m sorry, but…he isn’t real.”

But Santa? No, we’ll never celebrate him within these walls.

Timmy leaves my office, standing a little shorter than when he entered. My secretary and Vice-Principal give me daring glances, but my conviction is resolute.

I’m going to save the world, one kid at time.

At home I sit at my davenport, a grandkid on each knee. I tell them the story as it was told to me.

It came from the North Pole…

It always starts the same, it always ends the same. The kids stare at me slackjawed and incredulous. I let them go and my son stays behind, his face twisted the way a philosopher’s is when emotion interferes with truth.

“Dad, Emily and I, we’ve been thinking about letting the kids believe. It’s just that, Santa’s not even as important as he used to be…” I let him drone on and I look out my window north…north…

In a remote Greenland village, circa 1743, ten mischievous children were tasked to go north for food and medicine. They returned very different, perpetually in motion, carrying a constant ringing only other children could hear. These “elven” children would go on to build little knicks and knacks, dangerous trinkets they used to kill adults and spread the belief of an omnipresent St. Nick.

My ancestors won the first battle, but where there’s a belief in Santa, there’s a risk of a return. I sit and watch my grandkids play in the den. They turn to me in unison, necks twisted, voices synchronous, high, in legion, and slowly go “Ho, ho, ho…”

Posted in short fiction | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Digitz (superhero flash fiction/short story)


Digitz always wondered: when it came to sucker punches, who was considered the sucker? The clown doing the punching, or the idiot who didn’t see it coming? The answer seemed all too obvious the split second it took for his face to go from CrackaDoom’s fist to the unswept floor below.

“You just got knocked out, homey,” Doom’s voice echoed in the darkness of Digitz head. Geez, thanks for that, man. Good looking out. If he could talk, that’s exactly what he’d have said. But no, Digitz couldn’t talk. He could barely even think, making him virtually useless in the fight his friends were in against the supervillains known as the Thrillmasters.

“Just hurry up and get that safe open, big dog. We can only hold The Block down so long!” The tinny sound of a comm unit coming from CrackaDoom’s body.

The Block’s hangout consisted of little more than a reinforced basement and a few partitions for privacy. The only thing of value was the vials of Boost they kept in Stay-C’s safe, in case they ever had to go against some heavy hitter Talents.

Vials they could use right about now. Vials about to be snatched out from under them like some trap-house robbery.

Digitz needed to clear the cobwebs, He needed to access his powers.

Numbers dance for me. 02493059234….

CrackaDoom tried the combination written on the paper in his hand. Bzzt. Once. Twice. Three times. He stared at his huge hands, wondering if fat fingers were to blame. It took the stupid mutha an extra few seconds to realize Digitz had gotten in his head, had changed the way he could read the numbers.

“Thought you knew what was good for you. Gonna have to put you back to sleep!”

The Thrillmasters had obviously obtained some intel on The Block. The safe combination and what was in it; how to neutralize Digitz and the best time to catch the team off-guard. But clearly, they didn’t know everything.

Digitz might not have a granite jaw, but his Daddy didn’t give him no glass. And the extent of his power was more than just jumbling numbers. As Doom lumbered in his direction, ready to lay the wood down one final time, Digitz reached once again.

CrackaDoom overshot him and ran right into the brick wall, knocking himself out.

Funny thing about numbers: people didn’t realize how often they used them, from counting the seconds on a clock, to intuiting how many steps it takes to get from point A to B.

“Naw, son. That’s a knock-out.” He said, holding himself up over his defeated foe.

The rest of the battle went downhill for the Thrillmasters. Wasn’t hard to figure out who the suckers were if you look hard enough.

Posted in short fiction, superhero prose | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment



Getting off work early was a welcome surprise, but it worried Trendon. For GimBle—tech giant and DARPA contractor—to close off its entire campus early? That meant something big.

In Trendon’s experience with GimBle, anything big meant everything bad.

“We’re getting fired,” Dirk said from the passenger seat of the car.

“Nobody’s getting fired. Except maybe Jeff for that email.”

“Yeah, he should’ve known xHamster isn’t a pet site.”

“Dude’s a goner.”

“But at least he’ll have a website to keep him busy, amirite?”

Campus traffic was at a standstill. Everyone trying to get home, everyone trying to enjoy the rest of a free day. Trendon planned to drop Dirk off and spend the rest of his with Junior. His therapist advised that every moment spent together would bring his young son closer to talking again.

Closer to getting over the bloody death of his mom.

“What’s up with the radio?” Dirk fiddled with the stations, getting nothing but static.

Instinctively Trendon looked up. The clouds hung dark and purple, a twilight hue eerie for the midday. It amped up his anxiety to get to the person who needed him most.

“You mind if we pick Junior up first before I drop you off? I’ll buy us all lunch.”

“Hey, if you’re buying, I’m tryin’. Let’s go to…oh, what fresh hell is this?” Suddenly, the car in front of them, a Ford Escort out of place in the army of Priuses and Beetles, spat a cloud of smoke. Its driver, a slender man as pale as he was hairless, got out excitedly, fanning the smoke with his bare hands.

“Oh, come on!” Dirk said, reaching over and blowing the horn.

“Hey, cut it out,” Trendon said, feeling sympathy for his fellow man. “Maybe we should help.”

“Since when did we become mechanics, brah?”

Trendon twisted his mouth in annoyance at his friend, then got out. Dirk would feel guilty as sin once he realized his mistake, but Trendon wouldn’t hold it against him. Had someone gotten out and checked on his wife’s crashed car, maybe Patricia would still be alive. Had someone bothered to care, maybe Junior wouldn’t have had to watch his mother die for a miserable hour.

As Trendon moved towards the Escort, his cell rang. It was Mac, his homegirl in IT. Being Army, she hadn’t gotten the green light to leave like the civilians.


“Hey, T? You out of here yet?”

“Nah, traffic’s a B. What’s up?” He hoped she wouldn’t ask him on another date. It all felt too soon.

“Better hurry and get out of here. We’re two minutes from a total lockdown.”

Trendon looked around him, suddenly aware of helicopters in the distance. The atmosphere around him sat still, a creepiness holding it in place.

“What’s going on, Mac? This sounds serious.”

The thin, sweaty driver saw Trendon and tried to wave him away. Caught in his thoughts, Trendon ignored him. At the top of the lane, the stop light’s left turn arrow flashed brightly, then blinked, then flashed red. Green. Yellow, Green. Red. Green. All in rapid succession. Car horns honked at the confusion. Angry drivers yelled at not being able to go.

“You know level 13? Something got loose. That’s why they wanted you guys gone. But now the brass think whatever ‘it’ is is being smuggled out.  Nobody’s going to be able to leave. They’re talking about quarantining the entire town!”

“What!?” His thoughts went back to Junior, whose daycare sat on the outskirts of the city.

He had to get out of there, even if it meant pushing the Escort out of the way with his bare hands.

Now at the car, the driver ran. Trendon followed his eyes and looked back. A rank of soldiers ran in their direction.

No, no, no. I have to get to my son, he thought to himself. I can’t be stuck here. Being stuck here is why I wasn’t with them that night. It’s why Patricia’s dead.

“T, you still there?”

Mac’s voice faded in the background of the horns, the yells, the feet of marching men and their rattling guns.

The air, the still, pressurized air, dug into his ears like cotton. The car’s smoke stung his eyes.

“Sir, get away from there!”

It was then he looked in the back seat. He phone dropped with a thud.

The thing looked at him with wide, purple eyes. Trendon knew those eyes. The terrified eyes of a child. The haggard look of young shock, a constant in the vast, cold universe.

Trendon opened the door, ignoring the shots into the air, the gruff commands to cease and desist. He removed the tape from the thing’s lipless mouth.

“It’s okay.”

It let out a piercing cry. A cry like ringing bells. A cry for freedom and help, for somebody to finally give a damn.

Had Junior cried like that? Cried until he couldn’t cry anymore? Cried into the dark beyond after a mother who’d never come back?

Blood dripped from Trendon’s nose. His teeth chattered from the cry’s intensity.

Looking up, Trendon watched the clouds come alive, revealing a dark mass ready to heed the call.

Posted in short fiction | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment



Momma’s suicide had been both a shock and a confirmation. Dee knew the troubles behind the old woman’s facade, the sharp cobwebs and shaky floorboards in her mind. Dee felt them in herself.

“I did my crying long ago,” she told well-meaning visitors after the funeral. They had to go. The platitudes talking of a better place felt like rain popping off hot grease.

No, the only comfort she got came in an envelope, the handwriting pointing to a childhood memory.

“Heard about your momma. Why don’t you drop by for a talk? -Geraldine” the letter said.

Such letters used to arrive weekly, every Tuesday like clockwork. Momma would take them to her bedroom, eyes wet, head bowed, and cry.

One day Daddy caught on. Curious, Dee placed one his shot glasses to the door and listened in.

“You done lost your damn mind, Sain?”

“I can’t just turn my back…”

A loud smack, shocking Dee, making her fall on her back. Daddy stormed out, never looking down at the prone girl.

The Daddy she knew walked out of their lives that night, only his body returning as a saved man, bible in hand. After that, he maintained a well-defined distance from Momma until his death, the Good Word his shield against the virulent madness around him in the form of his wife and daughter.

Dee once read a letter. At the top, 92417 had been scribbled in bold red. The rest talked of changing times, of an unaccepting world, and how the only way to begin a life is knowing about its end.

Doomsday talk. Had it been scented sulfur, Dee’d have sworn she was reading the Bible.


The Saturday after Momma’s  death, Dee decided to make the trip to see her. The women’s prison was surprisingly clean, not as crushing as Dee’d imagined.

“My, aren’t you pretty?” Geraldine lied, smiling. She grabbed Dee’s hands, held them, rubbed them. The guards looked every which direction but theirs.

“You knew my mother?”

“I knew her well.”

“How did you know she died?”

“I still have ears, after all these years.” Geraldine winked.

“The day she died was on…”

“September 24th.”


Dee pulled back and looked at her, laying eyes on an old friend for the first time. Her troubled mind felt oddly at ease.

In her sixties, Geraldine owned the air around her, a magician with the keys to unlock fate. She pulled out and handed Dee her journal, leatherbound and ragged, the same handwriting from Momma’s letters covering it like glyphs. “I couldn’t help your momma. God knows I tried. She loved your Daddy too much to come back to me.”

There was sadness in her voice, flavored by bitter spit. “But I get the feeling that you’re in need of my teachings, just like her.”

The first page was specifically for Dee. The number 63022 glowed bright red.

“Now that you know when it ends, your life can truly begin…”

Posted in short fiction | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tenacious Plant


Eryka found the Roberts’ invitation for her to stay overnight to be…unsettling. She and their daughter were childhood friends, but Pam had been gone for years. Disappeared. Crawled out of her bedroom window and into the inky blackness of the night.

“No, we keep it unlocked!” Mrs. Roberts cried, popping the window’s lock into the open position.

“S..sorry.” Eryka said, not knowing what else to say. Her discomfort was a 12 on a scale to 10. She held a hand up the way she would for a wild animal.

“She might come home.” She gave Eryka a wry smile and left the room. Mr. Roberts lingered a few seconds longer, gaze caught between Eryka and the window, mind far away, as if wondering if he wanted his wife’s statement to really be true.

Eryka sleeping in Pam’s room was their idea. She said yes; anything else would’ve been cruel. The Roberts endured enough cruelty after Pam’s disappearance. Eryka’s folks weren’t the only ones to think Pam was better off gone, one way or another.

“You don’t mean that, do you?.”

Sigh. “If you only knew the things we knew…” her Dad would say, her mom clutching his hand.

Eryka sat the geranium she brought on the empty window sill. A gift felt inappropriate, but plants had always been Pam’s first love.

Besides, if any place needed new life, it was that room. This house.

She laid down on the bed that still smelled of a parent’s miscalculation of a teenager’s perfume.  She flipped through the pictures labeled Pammie, a name she’d hated for years, which her parents always used.

In fact, the entire room had the feel of discontinuity, between who Pam really was and the person her parents imagined her to be. A pot much too small for the plant inside, conforming the roots to its rigid shape until it killed the life inside.

Sleep proved difficult. Lines from Pam’s favorite poem—written in fluorescent marker on a banner above—glowed red in the darkness.

Even while the earth sleeps we travel.

We are the seeds of the tenacious plant

After a while, Eryka’s eyelids grew heavy. Moonlight’s shadows crept and crawled, fingers touching every inch of the room.

The limbs of the geranium seemed to grow and rise, its tentacles pulling itself up on the window.

A shape formed, sticklike and weak at first. As it moved closer to the retreating Eryka, the thing gained in mass and shape, eventually become that of a girl on the precipice of her power.

“Are you there?” The voice spoke low and soft. “Eryka…”

Eryka watched the wet, dark shape crawl on its knees, then finally its feet. The thing’s eyes sat sunken. Its once brown skin a vomit green.


The thing reached. “I’ve been traveling. Come with me.” The words trailed.

Eryka held out her hand, the sadness on Pam’s blank eyes an irresistible call. Best friends forever…we’ll travel the world…

Suddenly the bedroom door opened; the lights flashing bright. The apparition hissed and leaped back, away from her charging parents.

“We knew you’d come back! We knew you’d come back for her!”

Pam struggled in her father’s grip, her slick green skin rubbing off on his cotton shirt. Her mother attempted to fit a child’s nighty on her womanly body. “You can’t be seen like this! It’s unladylike!”

Pam’s cries were gurgled and wild.

Eryka rushed to the window and opened it. Not thinking, she bit Mr. Roberts’ shoulder. He screamed in pain and loosened his grip just enough for Pam to slip free.

“Go!” Eryka said. Pam slipped through the window, her body a tangle of vines. She disappeared once again into the night.
“Don’t leave, Pammie! I’m sorry! Don’t leave!” Mrs. Roberts cried.

But Eryka knew Pam would never come back. No matter what, she was better off, a tenacious plant free from a potted death.

Posted in short fiction | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Trajectory (science fiction flash fiction/short story)


It couldn’t end like this for Brandon and Avi. It wouldn’t. Not in a simple shuttle crash. Not after the years of training, the sabotage and intrigue, and finally the goodbyes.

Humanity hadn’t spent the last 20 years building a ship for interstellar travel, only to finally have two of the “Fab Five Grown Up” meet their fates by crashing into the very thing meant to lead mankind to its celestial promise.

“There’s no way we can land this, B,” Avi said between anxious huffs. He wasn’t even supposed the make that particular meteor run, but Brandon had talked him into it. “And if we take an external vector I don’t think we’ll ever come back.”

“Then we don’t take an external vector, man! Olympus, can you read us?” There was no response from the mothership.

At 23:05 the shuttle had made its approach to Olympus from a successful supply/fuel dig. At the last minute, Olympus’ EM net engaged, its shielding going haywire. Only Avi’s fast thinking had kept them from crashing into the mothership’s hull, an impressive feat he was too humble and insecure to ever cop.

The shuttle’s system had taken damage as a result. Life support was failing. Brandon felt the tingly fingers of the air scrubber’s failure reach into his lungs. They needed to get back to Olympus, and they needed to do it fast.

“I’ll bet you it was one of those avatars we picked up on Sirian’s moon. This entire competition’s rigged! And for what? To find a Fleet that might let us join if we collect enough artifacts like damn toys?!” Avi was a quiet man, an introspective man. His outburst was as animated as Brandon could imagine it to be.

Anger could be unproductive in these situations, but Brandon figured it beat out fear. Avi had kept them alive so far; now it was Brandon’s turn to get them home.

“Avi, can you show the EM spectrum on the screen?”

“Yeah, but what for? It’s just a jumbled mess.”

Brandon leaned in closer to investigate. Sure, the entire mag field around the mothership chaotically shifted like water over a ball, but there were zones that shifted much less than others.

“Right there,” Brandon said, pointing to one of the stabler regions 30 degrees from dock S3. “That’s where you’re going.”

Avi looked at him quizically. “I appreciate your optimism, but there’s no way we can control where we’re going in this mess.”

“Yeah we can,” Brandon said, reaching into a compartment for a pair of thick black gloves. “I’m going to the main charger and pop a short to the hull. We’re going to polarize this bad boy.”


“Just trust me, buddy. You do the vector, let me know when we’re close, and I’ll polarize the plates. We’ll probably lose what’s left of the thrusters, so you’re going to have to use the arms to grab Olympus.

“Trust me.”

Not that Avi had a choice. Brandon found the proper relay and got himself in position. He hoped the gloves were thick enough.

Of all of the Fab Five, those precocious kids who had communicated with an alien entity and convinced it Earth was worthy of a place at the intergalactic table, Brandon had always been the least likely to be here. He didn’t have scientist parents or come from military aristocracy. He was smart, but his IQ didn’t break the bank. His hometown consisted of dirt roads and Mississippi pride.

But here he was. A college grad. Six hours short of a PhD. Black and proud, with an attitude to match.

And most importantly of all, he actually knew his physics. The magnetic force equation. A charged particle moving in a magnetic field will undergo perpendicular acceleration. If his math was right, and if the mag field didn’t change too much too soon, their shuttle should veer right into the dock. Or at least close enough for Avi to grab the hull with the robotic arms used for material acquisition.


Brandon polarized the plates, filling his line of sight with white light. Heat caressed his face. Wires sizzled and popped.

Finally, a deep darkness consumed him.

“I’m not dead. I’m not dead,” he whispered to himself, hopeful. He felt the slight shift of G’s on his body. A sideways force.

“Brandon! You still there, man?”

Brandon didn’t feel like answering. If they survived, he’d have to take Avi out. Maybe try to get him laid by one of the military chicks on Olympus. Or guys. Or whoever. Brandon felt guilty for not being enough of a friend to know. Avi was a lot tougher than he thought.

Avi was a lot tougher than he thought.

If being outsiders was their fate, they’d be that together.

“Got it!” Avi said, as a lout CLUNK filled the air. “Brandon, come on, man! Talk to me!”

“I’m here, bro. I’m alright.”

Back to Olympus and its relative safety. Danger still threatened the ship, but no one ever promised the ride would be safe.

The task of the USS Olympus: to voyage the stars, to meet new life, to prove humanity’s worth, and to join those who would provide the means to save all life on Earth.

Conflict, Commerce, Adventure? Those were the choices given to the Fab Five kids all those years ago.

The adventure had only begun.

Posted in short fiction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Float (superhero flash fiction/short story)


She named herself Archimedes because she made things float. It was supposed to be clever, a cute homage, but no one got it except unimpressed physicists.

‘Wouldn’t a name like Buoyancy make more sense?’ they’d ask, ignoring her obvious flair and sense of style. Archimedes was goddamn gold.

‘But Archimedes was a guy and you’re…not.’

Physicists sucked.

Still, why the city or the cosmos or God or whatever, had decided to give her the power over some geek who knew more about the science, she didn’t know. Did it matter? No. Right now, she was the only thing keeping three hundred tons of bricks from collapsing on a basement full of kids.

“Don’t worry guys,” she said, straining at keeping the darkness from closing around her. “We float down here. They all float down here.”

Instead of levity, the joke made a freckled boy pee his pants. “She’s gonna eat us like It!”

Boy, if you don’t… How was she going to eat his rusty behind while standing there, arms spread, face constipated, trying to maintain the delicate balance between life and death?

“Sorry! I mean we’re going to be okay!”

Superhero jokes didn’t come naturally to her. Nothing did, for that matter. School, family, work, friends. Weighed down by her inadequacies, having the exact ability she’d recently discovered seemed like the biggest joke of all.

But power meant using it for the right. Her mom dying in the line of duty taught her that.

Suddenly, an aftershock! Everything shifted out of place. Like her mom’s death, like her brother’s subsequent fall, a change throwing her existence out of whack. Threatening to make everything tumble down.

Like Humpty-Dumpty. Like the Itsy-Bitsy Spider. The kid’s cries echoed around her. The few remaining lights flicked, threatening to snuff themselves out for good.

But she wouldn’t let anyone die. Not like this. Not when she could sense the already dead in the rubble above her, the ones caught unaware after the earthquake hit.

Dead and broken. All that debris weighing down on their lifeless bodies. Granny’s church stories about souls rising free from their earthly prison scratched her thoughts. But Archimedes sensed no ascension. No going to a better place. There were just there. Stuck.

Weighed down. It felt all too much. Archimedes felt her knees tremble.

Why me? Why’d you have to choose me?

“Ma’am?” It took a minute before Archimedes realized a kid was talking to her. She held out a bottle. “Do you want my water?”

“Naw kid, you keep it.”

Water. Liquid. She had an idea. Well, not really an idea, but a thought born of desperation. What could it hurt?

She opened her mind and reached out with her power, imagining it as a fluid, flowing over anything and everything. It reached every crevice, every nook. Instead of the weight over her head bringing her down, she grabbed it with imaginary fingers.

Tickle it. Change its density. She closed her eyes.

When she felt confident, she gave one final push, causing the world the shake. She pushed, grabbing it all and letting it go. Her mom, her brother, her needs, her fears, like dust from a fan, like smoke from a flame.


When she opened her eyes, the rubble floated above them all in the midday air. Around her, the kids floated too, eyes wide. Impervious, if just for a moment, to the burdens of the world. They flew, alive and free.

The freckled boy drifted to her and tugged her cape. Aw, she thought, little man’s getting caught in the moment. Gotta let him down easy.

“Hey Arkmeridian.”

“It’s Archimedes, kid.” Although Arkmeridian sounded cool af, she had to admit.

“Why don’t you just call yourself Float? It’s a whole less stupid, if you ask me.”

“Yeah, nobody did, kid. So why don’t you just go over there, alright, pee-body?” She waved him away and smiled—genuinely smiled—for the first time since getting her powers.

Her name fit her just fine.

Posted in superhero prose | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

UnSaved (or Nah, I Ain’t Salty or Anything)


Black words on a white screen
Beaten out of a halfhearted muse
Stitched ideas in purple daze
Leftover from the mind’s refuse

A tired hand on Thursday night
Wife and child, attentions fight
Sore muscles, refracting sight
But still accept the writer’s plight

Pop a vein, let inky bleed
Let go of the perfectionist’s row
Words faster, no backspace need
Completed world, two more in store

Asus warm, charge quarter full
Creator worn, but runner’s high
Good night’s work, attention lull
Should I save? Devil whispers nigh

Oh, you tricky laptop bitch
Took a bow, credits to black
No warning before dump proceed
Whole night’s work, no way to track

Lesson learned, Creator screed
Yet a dozen fore litter the trail
Moving forth, Scrivener will lead
Native editors can go to hell

Posted in poetry | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Relief (or Perpetual Anxiety of the Modern Millennial)


Like every tale of misadventure in Aliah’s life, this one started with her being paralyzed by guilt.

Would you like to donate to Hurricane Irma relief?

“Hon, just go ahead and press a button. It ain’t that serious.”

“You’re not in my head, Dray!”

She imagined her fiance rolling his eyes behind her. Didn’t make any of this easier.

Trips to the supermarket shouldn’t be this difficult, especially at the self-checkout with all the shopping completely done. But the last couple weeks had been nothing but a tug-of-war between her bleeding heart and her blood-drained wallet.

“I’ve already donated twice, right? You saw me?” she said, pleading for approval with her eyes. “I don’t need to give any more.”

Just as she was about to press NO, he had to open his mouth.

“Well, technically,” he said, accentuating his words the way he did when he was about to screw with her, “the last time was for Harvey recovery. This is for Irma.”

Her heart sank.


“And I’m sure next week it’ll be for Jose. These hurricanes really are on a tight schedule lately.”


She could tell Dray was enjoying this. He found her millennial anxiety of constantly needing to do more, help more, exhausting and hilarious in equal measure. He moved up behind her, his lips right up to her ear.

“Look at it. It’s mocking you. I need your money. You pitiful grad school money!”

“Dray, I swear to god, if you keep on…”

“It mocks me! It tasks me! It tasks me!” he started in his ridiculous Khan voice. He even unbuttoned his shirt for the full Ricardo Montalban effect.

Out of spite–to herself or to Dray or to the bank, she didn’t know–Aliah pressed YES. Deciding to not feel like a total weakling, she decided Dray would have to use his smart mouth in other ways to get back in her good graces.

But of course, the first thing she did at home was go online and express her anxiety. Her 2,432 friends on FB understood. She got 40 likes on Twitter. A bit relieved, she researched what else she could do. The solution seemed so simple, yet exotically satisfying.

“We’re going to BnB an aid worker,” she told Dray after a bout of lovemaking.

“You wanna say that again?” he replied, enough of his strength returned to be genuinely pissed.

“Don’t be salty, babe,” she said, pulling up the woman’s profile. “She’s heading to Texas and just needs a place to stay the night.”

“I don’t believe you, Liah.” His body dropped to the bed. “And when does this chick arrive?”

“Um…in a couple hours.”

His expression alone was payback for what had happened in the store.

Alternating between salty, sour, and bitter while they straightened their apartment, Dray suddenly became sugary sweet when Lynette finally arrived.

“Anything we can do to help,” he said, trying not to eye the half-black, half-Filipino beauty. Although in her mid-thirties, Lynette wore a tank top well, her toned body a tell-tale of the work she’d done in so many places.

“The floods after Katrina and Rita, the destruction in Wilma. Matthew. Dean. I’ve done aftermath relief to them all,” she said, on a first name basis with each catastrophe as if they were past lovers. “So many people need help, and it’s hard to consciously turn away.”

“Wow. I wish we could do more,” Dray said in full fanboy mode. Aliah side-eyed him, wanting to hit him with the tray of cookies.

“Hey, you’re doing plenty letting me stay here. A lot more than most, I tell ya.”

“You must be independently wealthy or something,” Aliah said, a bit envious herself.

“Ha! Or something. Sometimes you get by, by getting by.” A perfectly mysterious answer.

Aliah thought she would feel better by having Lynette there, but she sensed that supermarket anxiety return.

“You know, you could always come with me,” Lynette offered, specifically to Dray.

“Naw, we got work and…”

“Yes!” Aliah said, interrupting Dray, and surprising everyone in the room, including herself.

She got her grad advisor’s okay to take a week’s break. Dray just laughed at the ridiculousness of it all.

“You do you, babe.”

By the time they reached Texas, she felt pumped. “Look at you, girl. Not all heroes wear capes,” Lynette had told her, giving her daydreams of being a superhero anyway, of walking across No Man’s Land like Wonder Woman, of single-handly fixing power outages with her magical Giving Hands (copyright Aliah Comics).

To her slight disappointment, Lynette and her first assignment was pet rescue. “Hey, pets need heroes too.”

Their very last home of the day had once been a lovely single level ranch-style. That was before the flooding. Now, its beauty stood muted, its walls covered with leaves whose decay gave the impression of autumn. But make no mistake, it was rot.

Aliah’s gag reflex tried to betray her.

As she bent in a corner, a brown and white Shih Tzu crawled up to her leg.

“Hey, look what I found!” she told Lynette, proud.

Lynette examined it, a mischievous smile on her face. “Now this is more like it. This’ll fetch us a good $500.”


Lynette sighed at Aliah’s naivety. “Sometimes you got to get by to get by. This dog’s owner’s abandoned it. I’ll find it a good home and use the money for the relief effort.”

“So that’s how you afford to go all these places, huh?” Aliah said, petulant and proud of it.

As they rode, she imagined herself in the store again, her finger indecisive. Green button or red? Give or not?

“I’ll pay it,” she said, not looking in Lynette’s direction.


“The $500. I’ll pay you it, and find dog’s owners. After I do, I’ll find my own way back home.”

Lynette sighed. “Help yourself, hon.”

Dray was wrong. There was no such thing as giving too much.

Aliah felt a whole lot better.

Posted in short fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Perfection Not Guaranteed

dead-fly“Your card…open it!” Brail said, childlike.

They had everything. So finding the perfect gifts got increasingly difficult every year. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries– a rising tide of anxiety.

“You like it?” he asked. “The poem? It’s Yeats. Let me read it for you,” he said, reaching.

“No! Honey, it’s perfect…” She pulled it out of his reach.

Suspicious, yet keeping his smile, he yanked it from her.

The card, full of Hallmark sappiness and Yeats romanticism, was just the way he’d sealed it, except for one thing.

“A fly?!” A dead fly, its juice oiling up the card, lay right above his signature. “But…this wasn’t here before!”

She grabbed his hand. “I don’t mind. It probably just slipped in before you sealed it. Honey, it was beautiful.” She accentuated the last word, making Brail imagine a dead fly between her lips.

“But not perfect. None of this is.”

They were in a nice restaurant, but seated near the johns. They’d gone to the opera, but sat in the nosebleed. Nothing could ever be just right.

She squeezed his hand, drawing his attention back to her dark, intense eyes. “Doesn’t have to be perfect. Remember our first anniversary? We couldn’t even pay for the dinner.”

“Yeah, but…”

She silenced Brail with a finger to his lips. Her mischievous smiled widened. She reached behind her head and her carefully blonde locks. “One good thing about the drapes not matching the carpet, right?”

She wouldn’t, would she? Not like that dinner years ago…

Cass dropped the hair onto her steak. The fuss she made with management? Grade-A ham. Worthy of the opera. Within minutes they had a better table, and samples of the best wine on the house.

They sipped to life. “As long as we’re together, perfection is guaranteed.”

Posted in short fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment