Hands #flash friday

“Can you, please?”

Isaac gave her a doe eyed stare. “Really?”

“I don’t have time to do it myself. I have to get the others done… tonight.”

She batted those dark eyelids and they were like ocean waves upon the shore, crashing against his heart and his love for her.

He gave a nod and a deep sigh.

At the table he stared at the cakes, each one dipped in orange chocolate, lines drawn in them, a green jellybean at the top. They were pumpkins and stabbed in the bottom were white sticks to make them look like suckers.

The cellophane baggies were small, but he managed to get one cake pop in each baggie. It took him an hour—a whole hour, he thought.

Isaac snipped the orange ribbon with the shears, a pair that his big fingers barely fit in the grips of. Each cut sent a bark of pain in his thumb and first finger. He counted as he cut, pulling the ribbon from the spool to a length close to what she had showed him.

He looked at his hands. Oversized. The fingers were calloused from years of hard labor in the outside world. Those things he did easy enough. Need a hole dug? Isaac was the man. Need a tree cut down? Yup, Isaac. And he could take an axe to tree with little thought, the swings fast, furious and often striking with such a solid, jarring thud that most people who heard it thought he had struck stone instead of wood. Need concrete poured or pipes fixed? You guessed it, Isaac could do it for you in half the time most normal men could.

But something as simple as this, as simple as tying a strand of ribbon around a cellophane wrapper with a stick extended from it? He took a deep breath, his barrel of a chest extending outward and deflating as he released it.

The first ribbon lay on the table in front of him. He set one baggie wrapped cake pop on top of it, the white stick pointing at him like an accusing finger. Fingers rubbed together as if he were about to perform a magic trick. He picked up one end, bunny eared it in two fingers. With the other hand, he gripped the other end, bunny eared it over his thumb and into the rabbit hole.

“The hounds gonna chase yah in the hole,” he said and reached for the nub of ribbon jutting between the loop… and missed. The ribbon came free. A breath escaped him and he started over.

Grab. Bunny ears. Hole. Pull.

Over and over, the too large fingers fumbled with the ribbon, pulled it, made the damnable bunny ears, cinched them tight. Over and over he felt the frustration of hands better suited for labor than… than… what? What was he doing?

“How’s it coming?” she asked.

He glanced up at her and saw the aura of an angel before him, her brown hair like a vale, her smile to die for.

Back down at the table, his brows creased, bottom lip sucked in, two upper teeth bit down hard, drew a bead of blood. He looped the bunny ear, pulled the ribbon through the hole and cinched it. A smile came to his brute of a face.

Isaac held the cake pop up for her to see and then looked back at the table. His shoulders sagged, head dipped.

“Only one hundred and seventy four more to go,” she said…

A Silence of Whistles #Flash Friday

Ronnie’s breaths are labored; sharp gasps that sounds like he’s whistling through his nose, even with his mouth open and the few remaining teeth barely visible behind thick lips. He’s a little bigger in the midsection than he was years ago, when his health was better, legs and arms stronger. The green uniform doesn’t fit the same, a little snug in the middle. A contradiction of sorts being that his legs and arms never got much bigger, only his torso.

The cane goes out in front of him, the rubber stopper silent on concrete that looks as worn as he feels. His right leg pulses, his left one sends a shard of pain from knee to hip with each hobbled step. Ronnie reaches the corner, takes a deep breath, lets it out in a whistle through the hole in his throat. To the left, a crowd has gathered, men and women and children lining the sidewalks on both sides of the street. He straightens the best he can, a man in his late sixties who looks like he’s approaching ninety. Bones pop and a sliver of pain chides him for trying to stand tall.

He adjusts his VETERAN OF FOREIGN WAR cap and steps into the road, turns and limps along the sidewalk, passing families and groups of children, his eyes fixed forward as if none of them were there. He sees the small opening in the crowd—a place just large enough for a veteran of his size and stature. The sidewalk is barely six inches higher than the black top, but for legs that have seen a bullet in one and shrapnel in the other it is three feet or higher with no handrails to pull himself up with.

For several seconds Ronnie eyes the curb, steeling himself against certain pain that promises to eat away at him the rest of the day and into the night.

“Would you like some help, sir?”

He glances up at the young woman, her eyes soft and brown, her face a study of concern. “Thank you, Ma’am,” he says, sticks out a gnarled hand missing two fingers and places it in hers. With her strength and his cane, he gets onto the sidewalk, lets out a long whistling breath and nods at her. His face is pink with exertion and maybe… just maybe a little embarrassment. When he was younger, he wouldn’t have needed help. Ronnie looks back at her, gives a nod.

Her eyes linger on him a moment longer, something in them… something stronger than concern. Unease? Fear? Worry? All of them? The sound of a marching band pulls their attention from one another. He looks to his left. One of the local high schools’ bands proceeds toward them, the students in yellow and green outfits, feathers in tall caps. They pass with their eyes straight ahead, their instruments blaring, drums thump-thumping. Behind them a car—a Thunderbird, he thinks—inches along, the mayor on the back, his wife beside them. They are waving, broad smiles on their faces. He thinks of Kennedy on the day of his assassination, shakes his head and watches the car pass, his heart beating hard, mind praying for no such event today.

Another car passes, followed by a second band, then a third. A truck pulls a trailer decked out with a wooden platform painted green, brown, gray and black. A forgotten unit from World War II is painted on the truck’s door and along the side of the float. Ronnie switches the cane to the three fingered hand and raises the other one in salute, the fingers as straight as he can get them, arm rigid. His throat whistles.

Police cars trail behind the soldiers, followed by another band and a tribe of Native Americans, their dances being of war or peace or rain. He didn’t know. A smile traced along his thick lips as they paraded by.

Another band was followed by a lull of… nothing. In that nothing they began to appear, soldiers in muddied uniforms, their helmets covered in mesh and leaves, their arms carrying assault rifles. Some limped, others were helped along by their comrades. His eyes narrowed.

Is that Bobby Jenkins helping… Is that Leroy Wallace with a bandage on his head, a bloom of red decorating the cloth? Are those the Sullivan twins carrying Mike O’Rourke on a stretcher? But…

They stop, the soldiers of yesteryear, their battered bodies forming a rag tag unit of the deceased. They turn to Ronnie—a soldier long dead on the inside, cast aside by the country he stoutly defended—their eyes like yellow fire, their mouths straight lines drawn on haggard faces. Those being helped along or carried, stand and straighten their spines. One man—David Calao, puts his arm back in its socket.

Ronnie backs away, his legs barely holding him up. The building behind him keeps Ronnie from tumbling back and breaking a hip or arm or his skull. The people turn and stare, the woman, her eyes now full with fear. She approaches him. Ronnie waves her off, grunts at the stiffness in his arms, his legs, the weight in his chest, the pain in his shoulder and shoulder blade.

He looks back to the soldiers, his heart beating hard—too hard. They’ve changed. They’re bodies are no longer war torn, but the way they were before death charged the battlefields of Vietnam, waving It’s scythe in broad arcs, claiming them with bullets, bombs, mines and even arrows. With a whip snap of arms, they salute… him.

Ronnie’s eyes fill with tears as Bobby Jenkins steps forward, motions for him to join them. He lets out a pained laugh at the notion of joining the ranks of dead soldiers—men who died honorably, fighting for a country they loved in a war… in a war their people didn’t believe in, didn’t support. All while Ronnie went home, a medical discharge ending his military career before it really ever got started.

Tears spill down his face. The whistle in his throat grows louder with each painful breath. His heart hammers too hard. Ronnie straightens, the bones in his back sighing in relief. His legs don’t ache for the first time in forty years. His brothers wait, their voices lifting on the air, calling to him, beckoning him to join them. He takes a step forward, then another. The edge of the sidewalk greets him, but he steps off of it easily enough.

Just down the road another band was making their way toward them. Behind Ronnie, the woman screams as she and another man struggle to get Ronnie’s body to the ground. He looks back once, noting the world becoming silent. He takes a deep breath, lets it out. There is no whistle. Ronnie smiles, walks toward his fallen comrades, a soldier of honor, his war finally over…

#flashfriday When Monday Comes…

Content Warning: Some strong language and adult situations. If you don’t care much for either of these, stop reading now…

We moved in on a Friday. By that afternoon, the neighbor had taken a shining to Momma. He had that twinkle in his eye, like most other men. His voice made my skin shiver; the way he smiled hurt my stomach. By evening, they were having drinks on the back deck, swapping stories of relationships gone awry. I heard him say something about not hurting Momma, something about love.

Saturday I awoke to the sun beating down through my curtainless window. He stood in my doorway, a hand on his chin, rubbing dark stubble.

“You awake?”

I pretended not to hear him, closed my eyes and rolled onto my side, legs clamped tight together. This scene played out in my head, like other events with similar traits, each of them involving one of Momma’s fuck toys.

Four steps and he stood by my bed. The mattress sagged when he sat down. His hand on the outer part of my thigh was warm, calloused. Heat filled my face as anger rose in my breasts. I clinched my teeth tight as his hand tickled its way up to my hip.

Eyes opened, I reacted, not waiting for the party to get started. My hand on his, I squeezed three fingers together and sat up. His brown eyes grew wide, mouth dropped open. I could smell the stench of stale alcohol on his breath. It mixed with the aroma of cheap cologne. My stomach turned at what he had in mind.

“Stay the fuck away from me,” I said through clenched teeth. He flinched, tried to pull free from my grip. “If you so much as look at me, Momma and I will move… again.”

I gave him a kick to the hip, shoved him from my bed. He struck the floor, rubbed his hand, then smiled and stood.

“Feisty. I like ’em feisty.”

He sauntered from the room shaking his hand. He gave a laugh and I knew… I knew when Monday came we would be on the move again.

His voice carried down the hall as he sang. No doubt Momma had told him she loved men who could sing. He could not sing.

I closed the bedroom door and tried to shake his touch from my skin. I wanted to shower, but with him there–having apparently spent the night–getting naked and showering was out of the question. I learned that lesson in vulnerability from my dad.

I sat at the window staring out on the world. The wind blew gently through the trees and the grass in the yard was a light green. I guessed in another week or two it would be longer and so much brighter. Too bad we wouldn’t get to see it.

Mom gave a knock on the door.

“Callie,” she said, entered the room without my invitation. “Are you going to come to breakfast? Harold’s making bacon and eggs.”

“No thanks.” I didn’t bother turning to her. I knew the look. Her brows would be lifted, eyes wide in hopes that I would get along with her new dick.

Her hand touched my shoulder. “Callie–”

“You couldn’t get to know him first?” I interrupted.

“What?”

“You had to fuck him on the first night?”

“Callie–”

I turned. Her face was flushed pink. Embarrassed. Good. “He’s just like the others.”

“Give him a chance, Callie.”

“Did he tell you he loves you?”

She said nothing.

I laughed. “I can’t believe you fell for that one again.”

“Callie, listen–”

“No, Momma. You listen. By tomorrow morning he will be in my bed and by Monday we will be moving again. You know what’s going to happen, Momma. We’ve played this game before.”

Tears formed in her green eyes. “Unpack,” she said and left the room.

“Gladly.” I unpacked the only thing I would need.

Harold spent the day there. And the night.

Sunday, I awoke to his touch. He rubbed my left breast and it was all I could do not to grab his hand and break it right then. He put one hand over my mouth and fumbled with his pants.

“Wait,” I said, though muffled through his palm.

“What?” he growled, removed his hand.

I smiled, let the twinkle form in my eye. “Give me five minutes and meet me in the shower.”

His eyes popped open, confused. “What?”

“I need to pee and brush my teeth. Besides, I like it in the shower. If you want me, you can have me there.” For good measure I reached down, rubbed the front of his jeans. “What do you say?”

Harold licked his lips and stood. He nodded frantically. “Yeah. Sure. That sounds great. Five minutes?”

“That’s all I need,” I assured him.

He left the room.

The water was hot and it only took a minute for steam to form a gray mist in my small bathroom. My clothes lay in a heap by the toilet and I stepped through the curtain, letting the water sting my skin and awaken me fully.

Not five minutes had passed when I heard the door open then gently close. The tumble of the lock came next. The shower curtain brushed aside and I glanced back, not turning toward him. Harold stood there, naked, his hand at his crotch, lust in his eyes.

“Come on in,” I said as I held my left hand between my breasts, the razor firmly in my grip. His hand touched my ass and I bit back the revulsion tracing through me.

“You want some of this?” he asked, pressed himself against my backside.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath. Maybe Momma will let me choose the town we go to one day. I turned to him the razor obscured by steam. The shower is a vulnerable place. Dad taught me that.

When Monday comes, I thought sadly and brought the blade across his throat…

Green With Black Trim – #flash friday

Her eyes met mine as I left the elevator. They were green. She smiled. I froze. I could frame her face in my mind forever. A soft oval, high cheekbones, full kissable lips, short brown hair—never been into short hair on a woman, but on her… on her it worked magnificently. Her eyes held my gaze and stole my breath away.

I should have gone to the right. Instead, I went left, following her without realizing it, my legs carrying me of their own volition. I caught up to her, held the door open.

Her thank you was raspy, but smooth all the same. My throat closed up, tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Nothing came out.

Her eyes sparkled, lips curved up. My heart raced, legs grew weak. Tears of embarrassment filled my eyes. Heat flushed my face and I looked away.

The sound of her heels on concrete brought me back to the vision before me. She wore a dress—green with black trim. Or was it a pant suit? Maybe it was neither. I can’t recall those details. Nor what she looked like from the neck down. My mind tells me she was petite, short, average breasts and shapely hips. I can’t say for certain that’s correct. No. I don’t recall those images at all.

All there was is her face, her voice, a natural tone that sent shivers along my body, made my skin dance with excitement.

She stopped at the corner. The light was red, the sign a blinking orange hand with two words beneath it: DON’T WALK. She did so anyway. And I followed. Cars honked at me. I’m almost positive of this.

Along the next block her heels clopped, their rhythmic tapping spurred me further. She weaved in and out of people, her head held high, her eyes forward, hands in coat pockets… or were they swinging by her sides? And where did the coat come from? It was a dress before. Green with black trim.

Streets fell away and the day gave to dusk. People dissipated, the world around us nonexistent. At the end of the road, dirt greeted her. She stepped from the sidewalk onto the path that led to… where? A house? A farm? Nowhere? Everywhere all the same?

Trees grew along the path, brambles and briars, bushes and weeds growing about its sides, pushing closer in, narrowing the trail until grass grew from its center and her footfalls faded to nothing. I caught her eyes as she looked back. They flickered bright, her smile stretching outward, embracing me…

Then… she was gone.

Around me stood a jungle of trees and moss; veils of leaves that hung like hair from branches, blocking the sun and casting a gray pallor on my surroundings. Shadows quivered with a soft breeze, life forms too inanimate to take full shape, their hands like claws, fingers like knives waiting to sink deep within my skin, to tear and rip until I am no more. Behind me, where the city should have been, lay a wasteland of darkness, a spill of black from a palette of paint. Closer in the world crumbled, the ground dissolving into nothing, leaves crackling, crunching and fading. Trees splintered and the sky peeked out for a moment only to die in the darkness with the rest of the world.

I ran, heart in my throat, tears trailing down my cheeks. Branches whipped my face, tore through my clothes and ripped skin. Hot liquid spilled from new wounds. A scream hung in my throat as I looked back, saw the world dying and folding in on me.

The cliff sent me soaring. I fell without knowing. Reality sunk in as I struck the ground, feet shattering, legs breaking, tendons and ligaments rupturing. Pain, blinding and vicious lit in on tortured nerves and the scream finally broke through.

Shhhhh…

She held my head in her hands, my shoulders laid atop her lap. Her eyes were green, hair cut short, lips so very kissable. One finger touched my own lips and I quieted. She smiled, leaned forward and kissed me. I closed my eyes and became weightless, a feather cast about by the wind.

I slept.

When I awoke, she was gone and I was back in the city, in my building, waiting for the elevator on the ninth floor of my place of employment. I shook my head, not sure of where I really was or even if I was… The doors opened. I stepped in and everything was familiar. My image looked at me in the mirrored doors. Stubble lined my chin and my hair was cut short. I wore black paints and a green shirt. My eyes were green…

The elevator doors opened and I stepped out. There was no one there. Just an empty lobby, void of sounds, and my image staring back at me from the mirrored doors. She was not there. She didn’t walk by in her dress that was green with black trim. Our eyes never met. And my world… my world was a little colder…