“Lilies,” Danse Macabre, August 2016
Hurricane Lily pummels the Maine coast, its wind penetrating through the drawn curtains into the musty air of Blenda’s parlor. She sits alone in the dim light, her large figure framed by a Victorian chair. An easel beside her holds a blank canvas, a set of brushes, and tubes of paint. She is talking to a woman who could be her if she were standing. The woman is Swedish with reddish hair drawn severely back. A white bow matches her size but is too youthful for her mature face. It looks like the wings of a bird. A high neck dress cascades over the woman’s large breasts, pauses at the cinched waist, then balloons to the shoes that peek beneath it. She looks as hard as the Victorian chair.
“It’s worse than eighty years ago. Hurricane of ’38,” says Blenda, her voice as musty as the air. “You remember that one. We lost the pine tree. Lost more than that.”
The woman stays silent, immobile. A narrow mahogany table curves upward to her waist. It holds a vase filled with lilies. Next to Blenda on an identical mahogany table lilies rescued before the hurricane hit are coated with salt.
“Pavlov’s Puppies,” Toasted-Cheese, June 2016.
Miss Ellen Stockwell was one of our own, the smartest kid who ever went through Deerborn Elementary School, my father used to tell me. Those days we had only an elementary school and when Ellen graduated from high school the next town over, people weren’t surprised that she disappeared. She left permanently, they thought, to work and study with “foreign intellectu’ls.” But roots run deep in New Hampshire’s north country, and a few years later, Ellen returned from a rumored apprenticeship at the Pavlov Institute. She appeared one day at the bus station, suitcase in one hand, a small girl-child in the other.
No one knew where the girl-child came from, but she had the curliest, reddest hair this side of Concord. Even Ellen’s widowed father must not have known, for he alone among the Stockwells had been a talking man. People speculated about an abandoned lover or a patient at the Pavlov Institute who had fathered the child before he lapsed into permanent schizophrenia. Deerborn is not a prying town, so no one asked even a year later, when the child and Ellen’s father both died of the same unexplained malady of the nervous system.
“The New Alice and Jerry and Jip,” Pilcrow & Dagger, April 2016. Available on-line and in print.
Alice woke to the voice announcing NPR’s Morning Edition. She dozed in and out of the latest updates about toppled governments and fledging democracies in the Mideast, the eternal battles between Republicans and Democrats, the latest scandal in the sports world, the local news. As every morning, she knew she should wake up to classical music so she could start her day with peace not a sword.
Today the local news shocked her awake. “This just in from the tiny town of Emory where police report the grisly murder of Robert and Barbara Martin.” She sat up and shook Jerry, who was still snoring beside her.
“Neon,” available online at Literally Stories, June 2015.
“Name?” the receptionist asks.
“Conrad West.” I study her face. No blink of recognition. I sign the waiver and give her the phone number of my wife, who will pick me up.
I look around the waiting area, deciding where to sit, and choose one of the sofas that face each other. Between them, a curved coffee table holds neatly stacked magazines. From here, I can look through window-walls that join in a 90 degree angle. The view is spectacular. In the distance, the Cascades, green from the spring snowmelt, rise against a blue, blue sky. Soon they will purple over with vetch and when they burn in the summer heat, we’ll call them golden. Below the hills, I watch cars moving along I-5. Picturesque, but closer I would feel the treachery. The noise, the smell, the speed of trucks that carry food, fuel, lumber into thirsty California.
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