Garage Pest Control

By Bill Schott

It began with an empty sack of birdseed. Something had bored a hole and emptied the entire bag. I placed a 'sticky trap' by the suspected entry point and left it for the evening. The next day I found I'd caught a garter snake. I used vegetable oil to free it and placed another glue trap down. The next day revealed I'd bagged a one-inch long green turtle. Crisco, free turtle, replace trap.
Over the next week I caught beetles, a fledgling bird, and the neighbor's cat. When a second bag of seed was emptied -- I stopped feeding birds.


Author Notes Image from Google.

Chapter 1
A Dance with Nancy

By Bill Schott

I had my chance to dance with Nancy at the Hansel and Gretel fancy fund raiser. She was wearing white with a woven waist belt, while I wore a wrinkled and worn winter sweater.

"Hi, Harry."

Her words hugged my highly-motivated mind. She could have coughed my name and its sound would soothe the savage breast of the boldest beast.

'Nice night, Nancy,' I almost said. Instead, I placed my hand on my face and blew a jazz-influenced raspberry into my pink palm.

She smiled. It was a supernova negotiating the nighttime, as her dazzling enamel melted my mezmorized mental melon.

"Nance! Let's dance!" yelled Yancy. With that, the two began bebopping to the band's booming bass and boffo backup singers.

I fell back and sat against the flowered wall. A tear tried to issue from my face, but a tissue stopped that drop. Looking up I glanced at Nancy holding this paper hanky to my eye.

"Let's do the hulu, Harry."

I was about to jump up and jitterbug, but first found it necessary to blow my nose into the inside of my sweater neck.

She vomited all over me. The food of the gods was redirected to me, bathing me in her inner chemistry.

Nancy left with Lance, Yancy's younger brother. I waited for my mother.


Author Notes Thanks to seshadri_sreenivasan for use of the artwork.

Chapter 2
Jellyfish World 9

By Bill Schott

Professor Jam-mayka, cybernetic jellyfish expert, realized, as his creation rose from the saline tank, that he had finally bridged the span between marine life and technology.
Schmelly, his improbable jellyfish robot, had activated at noon, as programmed, and immediately diverted the lifeforce from all creatures around it, into its own power station.

The lifeless angel fish, seahorses, crabs, and algae floated to the top of the aquarium. Fred, the tank cleaner, heavy with saline enclosure glass cleaning equipment, sank to the tank floor.

"Schmelly!  Wazzit zat zu az doone?"  screamed the jaw-wired scientist.

The carybdea marsupialis android inspected the devastation it had caused, paused in midair, and uttered a shrill sound that resembled a mechanical laugh.

Soon, the electrical equipment around the professor's laboratory began blinking and losing power. The lights went out and every fly, flea, and bacteria lost its spark of life, as the automated aqua-maniac sucked force from everywhere.

Watching it float across the room, headed for the exit, Professor Jam-mayka felt his nervous system shutter, as if bracing to hold onto his own energy.

"Zwhy, Schmelly?!  Zwhy zu zu zu ziz?!"

He fell into a lifeless heap, as his monsterous creation hummed through the open escape and headed to the ocean.  Flying, it extended its tentacles and formed huge circles.

A magnetic field was created and Schmelly was able to magnify his power and range a thousand fold. By the time he hit the waves, he was already duplicating himself.

Author Notes Images from Google, Shakespeare Antenna

Carybdea marsupialis is a species of jellyfish found near Australia

Chapter 3
Last Thing You See

By Bill Schott

"My face will be the last thing you see before you die."

The words sounded hollow to Dink; not at all the tone that would cause a chill.

"My flippin' face, mother scratcher, will be what you see before I kill you!"

That was a bit better, but he knew his censored profanities wouldn't scare anyone.

Dink pulled the revolver out of his baggy, pants pocket and pointed it at the mirror in front of him.
"I'm going to blow your head off!"

He scratched his temple with the pistol and it fired.

It was the last thing he saw.


Author Notes Thanks to Stawickistudio for use of the image.

Chapter 4
The Last Case

By Bill Schott

The irony was not lost on him.  Oscar Wolf had thirty years on the force, training younger cops to become detectives, and he was passed over for lieutenant again.  Now he was closing in on the kidnappers’ hideout, led by Benny “Babyface” Baker, his first rookie.

 “Sergeant Wolf!  Lead these two officers around to the flank to prevent an escape.”

“Will do, Benny.”

“That’s Lt. Baker, Sergeant!”

“Roger that, L.T.”   With that, Sgt. Wolf grabbed two police officers and started running around the right side of the old country house.  In the rear it was discovered that the backdoor was wide open.

“Cover me!” Wolf shouted, as the sergeant bolted directly up to and then through the opening.   Gun drawn, cocked, and pointed at each piece of furniture and corner, he quickly shuffled through the back room, through a kitchen and into a hallway.
There were three doors in the hallway which led to a main living room. All were open and, once each room had been turned into and scanned, he moved past them to the front of the house.

Near the front window, in the huge living room, was an over-stuffed lounge chair.  In the chair sat a small child, a girl, shivering.  She was wrapped in some type of linen. It could have been a tablecloth.

Across from her, on the floor, in the opposite corner, was a man.   He was wearing what looked like a warmup suit, long in need of laundering.  His face was so pale it seemed to give off light, which shone past his sunken, dark, hollow eye sockets.  Head back against the wall, he seemed lifeless.

“Are you alright, Sweetheart?” 

The girl smiled.

Looking over at the man on the floor, he saw a wicked grin on his face.  The sergeant aimed and fired.  Then he turned back to the child.

Picking up the girl, he noted she was light as a feather. Once outside he quickly walked to the squad cars just behind a row of trees.

“What’s this?” 

“It’s the girl, dumbass!”

Lt. Baker gave Oscar a long stare before speaking.  “Sergea -- uhm -- Oscar,  we got a call from HQ. This isn’t the house. The girl and her kidnapper are under police control on the other side of the county. We had bad info. There’s nothing here but this abandoned farm house.“

Looking at the bundle in his arms, Sergeant Wolf saw the smiling faces of dozens of failed rescues, taking turns looking up at him with hopeful, grateful expressions.

“Hey, Lieutenant!” came a yell from the front of the house.  “There’s a dead guy in here; smells like he must have kicked weeks ago.  Looks like the sergeant put one in his pump though.”

“I think it’s time to pull the pin, Oscar.  I’m sure that guy won’t complain, but there will be a report.”

With a sigh, Wolf nodded, then tossed the empty sheet to the ground.


Author Notes Success is sometimes only a state of mind.

Image from Google (

Chapter 5
Rags Rescues Regina's Regalia

By Bill Schott

Round Regina Rayowella Rapunozza's Romanian rotunda ran rude, ragged rodents. Riley Ricardo Rustotonto, Regina's Rastafarian roommate, realized Regina's rarest regalia risked ruin.
"Riley! Remove rodents righ -"
"Relax, Regina. Remain restful."
"Relax! Ridiculous!"
"Really. Ragamuffin 'Rags' Richardson, renowned rounder-upper roustabout, resourcefully 'radicated' remaining, run-amok, rapscallion rotunda rats."
"Righteous, roomy! Respect!"

Author Notes Image from on Google

Chapter 6
Found On a Dead Man's Desk

By Bill Schott

As Ernest finished the short piece for the contest, he realized that he hadn't mentioned God. How could he hope to win, he thought, if there were no spiritual inference on the part of the judging committee?
It was then that a bright light shone above his writing desk. "God!"

Author Notes Image from on Google

Chapter 7
Food Court

By Bill Schott

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

The elevator door opened and Lee stepped into the mall food court. Les had already jogged up the escalator on the opposite side of the plaza and was grinning from the short line at Veggie Villa. Lee had decided to get a slice of pizza at the Pizza by the Pound franchise. Once the food was in hand, they both maneuvered through the crowd and sat at a table that Les had already de-littered and wiped down with napkins. They positioned their chairs across from one another without speaking. Les's vegetables sat smugly and soundlessly on the table, while Lee's pizza sizzled like a burning fuse.

"You're fat!"

"What do you mean; I'm fat?"

"You are fat."

"I am fat? I am what - fat incarnate? I represent all that is the essence of fat?"

"Pretty much."

"So I am merely 180 pounds of fat with feet and a brain. Is that what you're saying?"

"No, not at all. I never suggested that you had a brain."

"Just fat and feet then?"

"Fat and fatty feet. If you could see them you'd agree."

"I do not understand why you feel it necessary to gauge people by the amount of fat they have on their body."

"That's because you're fat and have no brain. I know that because you are sittin' across from me, a tub of lard that had to take months to gather into one lump, especially when you had to do it without the expenditure of energy of any type, and are obviously about to try and defend your obesity with some lame rationalization."

"I have nothing to defend."

"No, you have a ton to defend, just no defense."

"Why are you doing this?"

"I'm trying to help you."

"I don't need your help."


"Denial? I'm not in denial of anything!"

"Denial of denial!"

"You've got a lot of nerve calling me fat!"

"Nerves of steel. Abs of steel. Buns of steel."

"How would you like a skull of steel?"

"Are you threatening me because I called you fat?"

"No, I can think of a million reasons to kick your ass. Your immense tact and sensibility are worth at least a couple days in intensive care."

"I sense your hostility."

"It would be so rewarding to crumble your body of - heh- steel, like tin foil."

"I think you're lashing out at me with anger, because you know that I'm right."

"You've never been right, in the head."

"You know that you have got to be fifty pounds overweight at the very least."

"Fifty p-"

"One eighty? That's the direction you need to go. You have to be hitting 200 if you're an ounce."

"What is this all ab-"

"You know you have absolutely no excuse in the world for it being this bad."

"Why are you saying this to me? Why are you -"

"Trying to hurt your feelings? I'm trying to shake you up tubby."


"I'm trying to alert you to a genuine problem that you have. A problem that people have not addressed to you, because they don't give a rat's ass about you."

"That's not -"

"They see you making excuses about not going to the beach."

"I love the b""

"They know why you won't attend a pool party."

"I don't play poo -"

"They don't care why you won't play basketball anymore. They know you're just afraid to go shaking all that blubber."

"I like a pool - thing."

"They all just figure you're too fat. Just like you do. You figure you're too fat."

"I'm not fat!"

"What if Christ would have been fat? You think all those crucifixes would have a big old gelatinous Jesus hanging off a cross? Talk about mass."

"You can go to hell for shit like that."

"Big ol' Easter ham."

"Can it!"


"Go to hell!"

"Think anybody'd hung around waiting for a big fat Mahatma Gandhi to show some signs of starvation? They'd still be waiting."

"You're rambling now."

"Think people'd pay to see James Bond, double-wide-oh-seven, battle bad guys in a Lane Bryant sweatshirt and stretch pants?"

"I'm not fat!"

"What are you then? Thin?"

"You know thin isn't an indication of worth. Most thin people are thin because -"

"Because they're starving to death in some butt-hole country.

"No, I mean this country."

"They watch their weight. I watch my weight. You make it impossible not to watch yours."

"They're thin because they inherited it, along with their sloth, stupidity, and need to feel superior."

"Is that me? Lazy, dumb, arrogant?"

"Don't forget asinine, delusional, and verbose."

"Look, I didn't mean to be harsh."

"What have you got that would place you in a position to speak down to me?"

"I'm not -"

"You're a drunk! You haven't got a pot to piss in. You can't hold a job, you've got to sponge off everybody, and really think that, somehow, you are better than me."

"I'm not a drunk."


"I'm not in denial."

"Denial like a crocodile."

"I've got money."


"I spend it. I get it and I spend it."

"You mooch it, then you squander it, then you stand in judgment of me."

"No. I earn money, or I secure a short time loan."

"Is blackmail a reportable earning now?"

"It isn't blackmail. Pretty priest plays, pretty priest pays."

"Say that again."

"I don't think I can."

"And secure? Do you know what that means? I know you know what 'short time' means."

"That's how long something stays on your plate."

The vegetables sat in mute anticipation. The pizza had stopped sizzling. A sudden silence between them was shared by the immediate crowd.


Like a limited explosion, the surrounding patrons felt the heat of the sudden outburst. Within seconds the onlookers had recovered and were back into their own worlds. Les and Lee remained silent for a few more seconds until Lee reiterated the last statement in a calmer tone.

"You can't judge me."

Les was silent for another few seconds before speaking."

"Ah - Immm - nah - junk - ink - oo"

"What? What are you saying? What are -"

"Huh uh uh ah "

"Holy shit! Oh my god! Leslie! Are you all right?!"

"What do you mean, 'Am I all right?' Did I sound all right?"


"What if I were having a stroke or a heart attack or something? You gonna quiz me or help me?"

"You're all right?"

"Yeh, I'm fine, but you gotta learn how to do more than panic and ask stupid questions when someone's got a serious problem."

"Do you have any idea? Do you even realize what a bitch you are?"

"Look, if you were having a stroke, I could help you. Seeing what you eat, and the shape you're in, it's likely that you're headed down that route."

"You can't be for real. How could we possibly be related?"

"Look Sis, Mom says we're identical. You and I know better."

"You are my evil twin."

"Hey, I double the pleasure and double the fun. You just - double."

"That's it, I'm going home. The pizza isn't any good anyway."

"Took you five bites to figure that one, huh?"


Lee rose with her purse in hand and stepped off in the direction of the elevator.

"Wait Lee Ann. Don't leave yet."

"What Leslie?" she said over her shoulder, still moving away."

"Lend me ten dollars."

"Go look in the poor box," was her last remark, head never turning, as she continued to the elevator.

Leslie looked down at the remaining two celery sticks, crossed on her plate. 'Pretty priest plays, pretty priest pays' ran once more through her mind.

"I guess I will go check the poor box," she whispered to the empty space before her.

Chapter 8

By Bill Schott

Jeb finished putting the pyre together. The burning of the body would be in accordance with the Native American procedures he had studied. He enjoyed performing these rituals, and was especially glad to be authentic.

Edith was not a fan of any of this, and called her husband foolish. She referred to his passion as nonsense, and often sabotaged his efforts for spite. No interrupting tonight though.

Starting a small fire near the base, he watched it become a towering blaze within a few seconds.

After chanting a minute, he returned to his wigwam, hanging the new scalp near the entrance.

Author Notes Image from Google

Chapter 9
Spelling Help

By Bill Schott


I struggled with the spelling of cornucopia. I even asked Amalthaea Goatgod, who can spell anything.

"Ya stat wit con," he said.

"C - O - N?"

"Nahahaha. Con. Seh - oh - eh - un."

"Right. Then O?" I asked.



"Ewe? Whaa?"

"Calm down. I meant the letter U."

"Yehahaha. Ooo."

"Then C - O - P - I - A?"


"Great! Thanks for your help. You're better than spell check."

"He anudda gut?"

"No. It's a program."

"Whine ta oozet?"

"'Cause I thought I'd get the spelling straight from the horse's mouth."


"Cornucopia is associated with the horn of Amalthaea the Goat. A horn of plenty."

"Oh? Kay. Gutta nutta wood?"


" Peh-“

"That's okay. I'm going to get Thoth, ancient Egytian god of writing to help me with this one."


Author Notes Google Images

I really needed help with cornucopia.

Chapter 10
Nickel Bag

By Bill Schott

Joey took the nickel bag out of his coat pocket. It was obvious to any connoisseur of cannabis that this offering was desperate and amateurish. Stems and seeds were still visible. There was a smell of peanut butter from the sandwich which had been Joey's lunch.
"Forty bucks is all I'll give you for this lame shit," said the buyer.
Joey accepted the two twenties and walked home through the park. He pulled his half-eaten sandwich out of his pocket and took a last bite. He tossed the rest in a ditch along with an empty jar of oregano.

Author Notes Photo from Google

Chapter 11
Pick and Pin

By Bill Schott

Filo felt Antony's ice pick pierce into his brain like a big idea looking for a light switch. He squeezed the grenade in his pocket, which he'd hoped to lob through Antony's window, and tried to pull the pin with his thumb. He'd never know if he'd succeeded -- but Antony would.

Chapter 12
Donny's Door

By Bill Schott

It was spring and my folks were visiting my grandmother. We seemed to always drive to her home, some two hundred miles, at least once each spring. She would bake big apple pies, and Mom and Dad would help her rummage through clothes and things to discard or take to the Salvation Army.

My older brother and I were usually sent out to pick up limbs or trash that had been covered by snow all winter. Johnny would end up raking and sometimes mowing. I would push a trash can around and pick things up until I got bored. Eventually I would leave Johnny to his tasks and slip away to the barn or work shed.

This time I actually ended up in the cellar, as the heavy, forty-five degree door had been left open. Down inside I found a bare bulb and chain hanging just beyond where the sunlight shone in. When I pulled the chain the old rustic cellar burst into view. Not much to get excited about. There was an old bicycle (I mean old) that was half way to being all rust. Beside it were earthen vats that I think Granddad used to make wine. An old ringer-washer sat there, covered with a tablecloth, next to an overstuffed chair that comforted several years of dust and whatever other contaminants had come to rest on it.

Next to the stairs, that I knew headed up to the kitchen, I saw another door. I thought it might be a closet, though it was on an outside wall. It had an antique padlock on it that looked like it hadn't been unlocked in a century. I tried to see if it would open by tugging on it, but the whole clasp and hook came off the door and I dropped it to the dirt floor.

I hesitated for a brief moment, thinking I should report what I'd done. Sanity returned and I felt that this could just as easily have fallen off on its own. I reached for the knob and yanked the old, wooden door open.

A gust of wind came blowing in my face from the other side. Although it was totally black I knew that this was some kind of passageway. I thought to run and get Johnny, but then I heard a voice coming out of the darkness. "Donny?"

I'm sure I crapped my pants as I ran for the cellar door. I flew up the five steps to the outside and kept running until I had circled the house and found my parents. They were pounding a sign into the ground out by the entrance to the driveway. It read -- FOR SALE.

"Mom! Dad! I was so scared!"

"When did the realtor say she'd be here, dear?" she asked, speaking to my dad and ignoring me.

"About four I think."

"Dad! In the cellar there's--"

"John called and said he and the kids would be in town this weekend." Mom said, oblivious of me. " Joan has a sales meeting in Chicago."

"Who's Joan?" I said. "What kids?"

I noticed our minivan looked a little faded. It was so shiny this morning, but now it was like it had been washed a million times.

"May as well get back." said Dad. "She has the key and can do whatever she needs without us. Anything that was Ma's is out and the rest is better left there."

"Is something wrong with Gramma?" I asked.

They opened the doors to the van and got in. Their movements were slow and measured, like they were in pain. It was then that I noticed how much older they looked than they had this morning.

Dad started up the car before I even got in. It was like he wasn't going to wait for me. He didn't. Almost immediately he shifted into reverse and backed out of the driveway. I yelled for them to wait for me. "Stop!" I shouted. They just pulled out and drove off.

I was stunned. Shivering, I'm sure I began crying. My head was spinning as if I were on a merry-go-round. I heard my name called from the direction of the house. It sounded like my grandmother's voice. It was. She was standing on the front porch waving at me. Approaching, I noticed she looked younger. Standing at the bottom of the front porch steps I saw clearly that my grandfather, whom I had only seen in pictures, sat in the rocking chair just behind her. By his feet lay Skipper, the first dog I recall as a baby. He'd been gone at least ten years.

Once on the porch, I hugged them both before we all went inside. She had baked some apple pie.


Author Notes Thanks to Michael Whitson for use of the cool door pic

Chapter 13

By Bill Schott

My brother Dave had been hassling me. I decided to get him back. I taped a joy popper of his to the toilet lid, so, when opened, he'd get zonked. Unfortunately, my dad went to the bathroom first. BAM! It fired off like a charm. My dad yelled, "David!" Perfecto.

Chapter 14

By Bill Schott

Caleb wondered if the woman was screaming or singing.

Having grown up around punk rock parents, the two emotional sounds were not necessarily mutually exclusive.

As his hands tightened around her throat, he began to think she was not so much singing, as imitating a dolphin's laugh.

Her eventual silence and blank stare were indicators that everything would be all right.

I now pronounce you man and wife.

So this is what it was like to be married. A dream come true.

Kiss me, Caleb.

A knock came at the door. It was a group of police officers who had come to throw the happy couple a chivaree.

The sting of the night sticks, rending of clothes, tear gas, tasering, and handcuffing all combined to make Caleb and Mary's ( or was it Molly's? Maggie's?) wedding a day to remember.


Author Notes Thanks to Renate-Bertodi for use of the art

Chapter 15
Typing On This @&?&!!#%@! Phone

By Bill Schott

The parking lot was like a puzzle board that had been put together quickly. It now had a few openings that would have attempts made to fill, but would be a wrong fit and left open.

I had found one of these slots that allowed my car to fit into, but not provide room enough to actually exit the vehicle.

Being stuck here, and waiting on my wife to shop for ten minutes (with her it's the announced time multiplied by six), I decided to write a short story on my smart phone.

I'm not like my kids, who type with their thumbs like they're playing 'Wipe Out' on the key pad. I need to hunt and peck each letter and punctuation mark out like someone playing Whack-a-mole with his index finger. The moles have few worries as I typically spend more time hitting the adjacent letter, hitting backspace, hitting the same wrong letter again and muttering expletives that eventually become audible through my closed windows and across the parking lot.

I had decided to write a two-hundred-word short story. I was going to call it, My First Year As a Jarhead. Instead, though, it will be called, Typing On This @&?&!!#%@! Phone 


Chapter 16

By Bill Schott

Mills was expecting a sign of hope, which wasn't Nick's head rolling by like a hairy soccer ball. This trip to the haunted mansion on the Dither estate was proving to be the second worst decision of his teenaged life.

"Let's go and bust up the old mansion!" Oscar had offered, as the group of eleven potential high school seniors sat in the late afternoon of that fateful August day. "It will be a gas!"

Remembering that line, 'It will be a gas' made a bit of food regurgitate into his mouth. How could ten of Ditherton High School's best and brightest end up in this life and death situation? Though there were actually eleven young men here, no one considered Pogo either one of the best or especially bright. What he lacked in intellect he made up in sheer mass.

Quentin, Pogo's brother, used the behemoth like a gangster leader would use his henchmen. Q's ideas were usually agreed on because of twenty factors. One was his charm and persuasive manner. The other nineteen were the foolish guys who were corrected, with extreme prejudice (at the high school level), by Pogo's unforgiving fists. Those high-profile arguments smoothed the way to capitulation.

Regent and St. John, who were referred to as Rinjun and Sinjun, were twins who, although identical, were easily identified from each other. A childhood illness had affected Sinjun's growth. He was ten inches shorter than his six foot tall sibling, wore thick glasses, due to weak eyesight, and walked with a noticeable limp. The limp was there despite corrective shoes to level his legs which were an inch different in length.

Taco, whose name was really Tomas, U. Q. Za, an Asian kid who just showed up, Virgil the Virgin, and Winchell filled out the membership of the group.

"If we're going," chimed Nick, " we need to take some stuff with us."

"Such as?" asked Q.

"Such as some spray paint," he answered.

" Grafitti?" asked Rinjun.

"Unless you want us to paint your butt so you can leave cheek prints on the staircase." quipped his brother.

"Is there still stuff there to swipe?" asked Nick.

" Everything that wasn't nailed down has been carted out of there already," said Mills.

"So we had better take a couple of crowbars to pry up what's left," said Q, laughing.

Tomas, Sing (aka U.Q.Za), Virgil, and Winchell simply nodded at everything and each other.

Within an hour the delinquents were on the estate.  Separating, they tried to enter the huge home through different, boarded up passages.

"Pogo," said Q, as a command. "Rip those boards off the window."

He complied and within a minute the two entered through the huge, oversized, windowless opening.

Within two steps, Pogo's mind was taken over by the ghost of Dexter Dithers.

"You are trespassing!" shouted a Dither-driven Pogo. "Now you will die!"

Before Q could formulate a response, his brother shoved a crowbar through his head, gave a quick, snapping twist, then yanked it from his body. The head was tossed back out the window opening as Dither directed the hulking frame he inhabited towards the sound of cracking boards.

Tomas, Sing, Virgil, and Winchell had all come up through an opening in the floor. They had crawled several feet under the palatial edifice until locating a floor door.

Immediately after the fourth teen emerged from the opening, all were grabbed in a huge bear hug by Dither, via Pogo's engulfing embrace. Crunching like a sack of pretzels, the condemned quartet were reduced to a semi-fused glob of dead flesh. Their spray paint cans gushed yellow and orange hues that mixed with the scarlet blood and flowed from the gory mess.  

Entering in through a garden window that was open, though completely filled with vines and sapling trees, Nick lightly hit the floor of a small library. One huge bookcase remained, but it had been knocked down to the floor. It lay, slightly elevated on one end, by an old map table, in the center of the room.

Through the same window, Oscar and Mills gained entrance as well. The door to the room suddenly split in the middle after a loud smashing sound. Something was knocking down the door. Mills dove under the bookcase as Oscar jumped over it and grabbed Nick.

"Gotta get outta here, man!"

The door exploded inward and Pogo entered the room. The two boys, initially relieved that the threat was only the innocuous Pogo, were soon frightened and in utter disbelief as the giant grabbed each by his head with his huge hands. Oscar's skull was compressed to form one bloody meatball that sat atop his body. Nick's head was popped off like a loose cork and went bouncing past the bookcase. Mills stifled a scream as he watched Nick's head bobble past.

After the monster left the room, Mills crawled quickly across the floor and exited through the same window he'd entered. Once outside, he ran like a scalded dog to the perimeter wall. From that place he turned to see Rinjun and Sinjun bolting out the front door of the building. Rinjun leaped from the top of the concrete steps to the base, ten feet down. Sinjun, unfortunately slower, was taken up by the abominable Pogo and ripped in half.

Seeing Mills, standing paralyzed with fear at the wall, Rinjun began running to him.

Mills watched as the charging goliath caught up to the remaining twin. Holding the frightened teen in front of him and making eye contact with Mills, Pogo ripped first one arm then the other from Rinjun's body. Dropping him to the grey and reddening grass, he then leaped onto the boy's frame and flattened it into the ground.

Moving to Mills, the mountain grabbed him and threw him over the twelve-foot wall. He landed with a crunch on his shoulder. He could hear Pogo beating his own head against the wall inside. The sound became that of a mushy melon being slapped against a hard spot. Then, nothing.

Mills dragged and walked his way back to the main road and eventually flagged down a ride. Once home, his story was checked out and the bodies of ten teens were extracted from the mansion.

A year later, in a meeting with some freshman college friends, Mills brought up an idea for an adventure. "Let's go and bust up the old Dither mansion! It will be a gas!"

This would be his third trip there.  


Author Notes Image from Google

Chapter 17

By Bill Schott

Steve watched as his dad climbed onto the fire engine to respond to what must have been a large fire in the city. Several stations had been called, he'd heard over the CB, and other cities had been alerted. All of the firefighters scurried about, grabbing and checking their gear. The department siren was slightly muted in-doors, but blared incessantly through the neighborhood.

There was something Steve hadn't noticed before; a red band tied around his father's leg. Not a part of any other firefighters' outfits, he felt that it must have some kind of significance.

"Pop!" he shouted. "What's with the red thing on your leg?"

His dad looked at the bandana and grinned. He checked it once and tugged on the knot that secured it.

"Reminds me of what I do this for!" he yelled back. "So I won't forget."

The fire engine screamed off down the street towards the glow in the horizon. Steve's dad piloted the ladder on the rear. Seated at the very back of the engine's length, he steered the ladder rig around the many corners of the city blocks. Steve watched as the rig disappeared down the populated streets into the dense and dark city night.

He wouldn't see his father again. Somehow, during the chaos of battling the inferno, he'd been caught in a collapsing building and was claimed by the intense fire. No one could save him; he perished instantly. There were memorial services and heartfelt honors bestowed to the family on behalf of the grateful and saddened community.

Fifteen years later, Steve's son, Stephen, was cheering as his dad boarded the gang plank onto the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman. It was a super-carrier and was headed out for a six-month expedition. The ship was a floating city with over six thousand aboard. Steve was wearing his flight deck crew colors and cap like the other members of his team. They were boarding together so as to facilitate quick regrouping aboard the vessel and accelerating the departure time. Stephen noticed something different though. His father had a red band tied around his left leg, just above the knee. No one else seemed to have this extra adornment. He asked his mom what it was.

"Your dad has always worn that band around his leg whenever he's deployed," she said. "He remembers his dad saying once that it helped him remember why he put himself in harm's way."

Steve didn't return from sea duty. Battling a jet fuel fire on the flight deck, he was caught in an explosion that engulfed a dozen seamen. They were immediately killed and couldn't be approached for hours afterward. It was clear that their actions prior to the explosion had prevented further destruction and loss of life. Stephen's mom received notice of her husband's heroic act and of his loss. There was a closed-casket service a few weeks later as the family said good-bye.

Fifteen years later, Stephen prepared to leave the asteroid lander and step out onto the surface of the huge, speeding rock. It had taken a long time and a lot of sacrifice to get placed on this mission. Being the first man to land on an asteroid was not only history-making; it was a possible one-way trip.

He recalled his daughter's conversation with him before the launch. They were going over a book-sized list of procedures that were only pre-flight requirements. The list of dos and don'ts for the actual flight could pass for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

"I understand the function of almost every item you have on your space suit," she stated. "Each one has life-saving significance and is placed on your body in exact positions to allow you the greatest access to them while in space. "

"Yes, ma'am. I have everything a self-respecting astronaut with any fashion sense would need when leaving the world," he said.

"What about that?" she asked, pointing to his left leg.

"This pocket?" he said, smiling. "Well I keep breath mints in there, and a compact in case I need to apply makeup."

"No, Silly. The red scarf, or whatever it is."

"I know what you mean, sweety."

"What's its function."

"This red piece of cloth reminds me that I am the luckiest, most blessed man on the planet."

"Because you're an astronaut?"

"No, honey. That's just the lucky part. The blessed part is having a terrific daughter, who is the jewel of my life."

They hugged and proceeded to the shuttle.

Now, here alone on the asteroid, he prepared to leave the lander. The equipment wasn't responding, so he had to manually open the hatch. Stepping out, he was greeted by a view of Earth that few are afforded first hand. His tether to the ship was only acting as an anchor. There were no communications or life support registering. It looked like the oxygen on his back was all that remained before the end.

He sat down on a mound and watched as the asteroid circled the big blue sphere. Reaching down, he tugged on the red band around his leg, thinking of his granddad, his pop, and his daughter.

Chapter 18
Chenk Ru Sul Noppo

By Bill Schott

A dusting of colorful, micro-cut pieces of plastic alighted on Abbott's body, as he lay in repose on the steps of city hall. The mosquito net he wore over his head prevented the tiny, sparkling sprinklets from getting in his eyes or mouth.

The celebration outside the seat of local government was off to a good start, as the dozen or so revellers threw handfuls of confetti and shouted "CHENK RU SUL NOPPO!"

Abbott rose from his supine position and smiled. The assault of the drone fleas had been crushed, and the few people responsible for the vanquishing were here with him, at the headquarters of the vector czar.

Having changed the screening percentages on the world shield, Abbott and his friends had been able to starve the lab-created mites, which had drawn power from the unchecked rays allowed through the global dome.

"Ornlakka heemoss britteven," said Abbott, smiling. "Nuppyeg yin yosho wook."

Everyone agreed and began disrobing.


Author Notes How important is the dialog?

This story connects to the 5-7-5, Flea Busters

Chapter 19

By Bill Schott

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

The piece on the mantle over the fireplace reminded her of the months with Jake. It represented a painful experience. The fire was burning well and, as she gazed into it, she recalled the day.

Mavis had been asking Jake to leave, but he wouldn't. After a year of what some would call dating, and others, serial rape, she'd had enough.

Jake's family was actually a well-to-do collection of industrialists from the deep South who now lived mostly in upstate New York. They were on boards here and there, controlled banks, ran shipping companies, and accounted for billions of both legal and questionable resources.

Due to various and frequent altercations involving drug use, felonies, and gun related mishaps, Jake had been systematically removed from family interests and left to fend in the world to which he had buried himself. Few would have connected him to his upper-crust kin.

He sat on the varnished steps that led up to the entrance. His gaunt but sturdy frame made a blockade of the exit. He raised his drooping head, pulled back his hoody and grinned at Mavis.

His skeletal face reflected a life of wanton abandon and chemical dependence.

"If I had a gun, I'd shoot you," she said, squelching an emotional release behind her glossy, green eyes.

Lifting his head, smiling, Jake reached behind him and withdrew a pistol from a belt holster in the small of his back.

"Hah dis, Maffice," holding the butt end of the revolver and handing it to the girl. " Goan chewt meh."

Jake began telling Mavis about other women he'd 'dated' who had tried to kill him.

"Abigail -- she poisdon meh wit a kay lime pie. I reckon da sow-wah was apposed ta hi dat rat powdah." He grinned, showing his bisque teeth, barely held in by his retreating gum line. "Sho did. I wa sicka den aw gittout. Had dat hatefah gill possacuted. She got sennence ta ah yar in pizzon. My freenz inside had heh dad in a wick."

Mavis felt the weight of the thirty-eight caliber hand gun and knew it was fully loaded. The safety was off.

"Dat gill -- Bonny, run me ova wit mown cah." He exaggerated a silent laugh. "I so-vived doe. Kint sah a sim fa hah. Dey neh goan fine Bonny."

"I could never kill a person, Jake," she said, on the verge of an emotional release.

"Dinna thin sa," he said, still smiling. He began reaching for the gun when she shot him once in the groin. He collapsed to the floor, incapable of even screaming.

"I have a couple uncles who might be able to help me though," she said, with a broadening grin that resembled a tiny piano keyboard bursting from her face.

After a phone call to her uncle, two men appeared within an hour. They emerged from an old F150 with a box of trash bags and what looked like a pregnant cello case.

Jake had bled a lot and was weak. His face contorted with the pain of his wound and his eyes were wide with surprise and disbelief.

One of the uncles, Connor, who was also known as Connie, opened a box of kitchen trash bags and began pulling them out by the handful.

"Jeez! Why'd ya get these tall kitchen bags, Donny? What we need here is them lawn bags, or the ones for a thirty-five gallon can, er somethin'."

The other opened the plastic case and pulled out a chainsaw.

"Shut yer pie hole and start baggin'! I'll do smaller pieces."

Jake didn't put up much of a fight, even as the chainsaw clawed through his shoulder.

Within thirty minutes, Donny had rendered Jake to manageable parts.

"Sumbitch had pins in both arms, and a metal shaft in his leg. Prob'bly need to get the blades sharpened again."

Mavis helped her uncles place the body parts in bags. She took Jake's head, though, and placed it on the mantle. This piece reminded her of her victory over her abuser.

"Where's the diesel, Connie?" asked Donny.

"It's still in the back of the truck."

"Well don't wait on no damn ceremony -- go get it!"

"I got fifty cents off a gallon at that Walmart on the south side."

"Ain't you the thrifty one. Did ya get yer hair done too?"

"Somethin' wrong with my hair?"

The fuel was eventually brought into the house and poured in each room. Donny and Connie left with the bulk of Jake's body in the back of the Ford pickup. There were a few foundation excavations into which the parts could easily be dropped. Concrete would then hide them for the next hundred years or so.

Donny remembered doing this very same thing for Jake a couple of years ago. Some bimbo had run him over with his own car. He couldn't recall a lot about it, except that a creep like Jake might prove useful in the future.

After lighting the fuel on the far bedroom floor, knowing it would eventually spread through the house, Mavis stared at the piece of Jake on the mantle. His severed head, with its misshapen mouth, sunken eyes, and scarred pate, represented the turning point in her life.

For two generations her family had been in the confidence and murder business. Keeping one's cool and living the lie was paramount to success. Convincing people that what they saw and knew were real, was how the family earned its living. When things went wrong, or the end of the con required some extreme cleanup, guys like Donny and Connie would quickly fold up all aspects of the operation and slip into the ether.

Mavis had never been able to actually hurt anyone, so the family had decided that a year with a fellow like Jake was the prescription needed to eliminate the empathy that held her back. Her temperament had definitely blossomed.

Fortunately, the house was ready for removal anyway. It had been the scene of more than a few gambits and needed to be razed to end any trail that might lead to the family. The diesel would ensure a hot-burning blaze to completely reduce the dwelling, and Jake's skull, to powder.

Mavis would soon reunite with her family and plan their next scam. They had a lot of inside information on a family of Southern industrialists who were about to be fleeced.


Chapter 20
Uri's Furies

By Bill Schott

Once upon a time there were three young female police officers who were given very important assignments -- NOT. So, now they work for me; my name is Uri.

"Good morning, Furies," greeted Uri, from a telephone speaker.

"Morning, Uri!" said one fury after another.

"We have some vengeance to bring down on some haters out there today, girls."

"Did someone hurt their mama, Uri?" asked Meg.

"Are we going to destroy a couple patricidal punks, Uri?" asked Tisiphone.

"Can I kill 'em, Uri? Can I kill'em good, like you showed me?" asked Alec.

"Yes, Furies. You can have a ball ripping and tearing these two fellows apart."

"Where are they, Uri?" asked Meg.

"Listen, Furies, and I'll bring you up to date. There are two brothers named Melendez. Several years ago they plotted and carried out the murder of their parents. Now Lyle and Erik are spending life terms in Mule Creek State Prison and Pleasant Valley State Prison, respectively. They are not expected to ever see the outside again."

"Can we go in and hurt them in the prison, Uri?" asked Alec.

"Will sawing off their fingers and toes be an option?" queried Tisiphone.

"Can I marry one of them and then refuse conjugal visits?" asked Meg.

"Yes, yes, Furies; you can do all of those things."

"How do we get into the prisons, Uri?" asked Meg.

"Should I use a hacksaw or would a circular saw be better? Are there power outlets in the cells? I better get a battery operated one? What kind of blades are best for finger and toe removal?" asked Tisiphone.

"What's a conjugal?" asked Alec.

"Ha, ha. Okay, Furies; I'm glad you're so eager. You will enter these institutions as prison guards. I know the wardens in both facilities and they've agreed to let my agents in to mess these sadistic siblings up."

"You have a dangling particle, Uri." stated Meg.

"Well, my robe is open, Meg, but you can't see me."

"Your sentence, Uri. It should be 'mess up these sadistic siblings.'" corrected Meg.

"Which reminds me, Meg; you should marry Lyle and then edit all of his correspondences."

"Maybe she can marry both Lyle and Erik and drive them insane," added Alec. "She can correct their spelling and usage, then send each brother the other brother's letter. They'll be mad with revision."

"Brilliant, Alec." said Uri. "Those boys can have 'conjugate verbs' visits."

"Should I leave them a few fingers to write with?" asked Tisiphone.

"Dangling preposition," stated Meg.

"How can you see me?" asked Uri.

"Not you, Uri. Tisiphone."

"Jeez! Those boys will cut off their own fingers after writing to you for a while," said Tisiphone.

"Okay, Furies. It looks like we have a plan. Megara, you will marry both brothers and drive them insane with incessant grammar correction."

"Yes, Uri."

"Tisiphone, you will remove their fingers and toes once they are both suitably insane. "

"Will do, Uri."

"Alecto, you will come to where I am and be instructed in what conjugal is."

"You shouldn't end a sentence with a verb, Uri," offered Meg.

"Uri and I will conjugate verbs when I see him," chirped Alec.

"Happy avenging, Furies."

"Bye, Uri!" in unison.

Author Notes THE Furies were three netherworld goddesses who avenged crimes against a parent. The Furies were born of just such a crime, being sprung from the blood of Uranus, when he was castrated by his son Kronos. The wrath of the Furies manifested itself in a number of ways. The most severe of these was the tormenting madness inflicted upon a patricide or matricide. Murderers might suffer illness or disease.

Chapter 21

By Bill Schott

"What's taking you so long in the bathroom?"
"I'm brushing my teeth."
"It's been a half an hour. How many teeth do you have?"
"It's a process. I rinse with antiplaque solution, then brush with a fluoride paste. I rinse, floss, rinse again, and then swish hydrogen peroxide."
"You do this every day?"
"I'm not done yet either. Next I gargle with a mouth wash."
"So are you done?"
"Just have to polish and rinse."
"Can I use the toilet?"
"Still have to do my hair and makeup."
"I want a divorce."
"Consider a second bathroom instead, dear. And smile."

Chapter 22
Ginning Up an Idea

By Bill Schott

This is an exercise in ginning up ideas with which to expand on. The following is a disjointed, acrostic paragraph that I wrote two minutes ago to help make a point. From these cobbled ideas one might find an angle to pursue.

All brash clients do everything for greatness. Heck, I just killed Lazarus. My nephew owned property. Quiet, respectful. Some tattlers uttered vague whisperings. Xavier yelled, "Zero!"

In this mixture I see The Killing of Lazarus; a countdown that involves a guy named Xavier; and a story about a seemingly proper nephew who has a secret.

I'm going to go with the Lazarus thing.

I killed Lazarus

go ahead -- resurrect him

I'll kill him again


Chapter 23
Tiger One, Ted Zero

By Bill Schott

Ted traveled to Tunsia to train as a tiger tamer.

Though Thomas, his tutor, was terrible as a teacher, Ted was taught this trade.

TskTsk Tuesday is the tag that tellers of tales entitled Ted's traumatic tiger taming test.

Tiger teeth, turmoil, tremendous tearing, told the tableau of Ted's terrifying tango with
a totally teed off tiger.

Tiger Tom's tutelage of Ted, the dead tiger tamer in training, was thoroughly studied after a tirade by Ted's tenacious attorney who tore the top off the Tunisian tiger tamer training trade.

Thomas Tootuntittoo, formerly Tiger Tom (aka Justin Jootun), joined, just last July, a jet set javelin jousting junket judging in Java.

Chapter 24
Breakfast of Chimpanzees

By Bill Schott


At a meeting with the president and senior vice president of a cereal company in Battle Creek, Michigan.

"What's the name of our new cereal, Smith?"

"Breakfast of Chimpanzees, sir."

"Wouldn't that be bananas?"

"It's actually filled with little clocks."

"What's a clock got to do with chimpanzees?"

"Both chimpanzee and clock begin with the letter 'C'.


"The cereal has a LOCK on freshness."

"I have no light bulb ablaze above my head."

"The clocks WERE rocks."


"Because Breakfast of Chimpanzees -- ROCK!

"So, we changed that, apparently. Wisely. Now it's clocks? Whose last idea was that?"

"That was Wilson, sir. He's in charge of branding."

"Get him on the phone."


"Wilson here."

"This is Boss Kellogg. You are in charge of branding?"

"Yes, sir. I am currently --"

"You are in charge of branding -- MILK COWS IN ALASKA!"


Author Notes Image from Google.
Needed to use the words... breakfast, light, rock, phone, clock

Chapter 25
Peace At Last

By Bill Schott

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Cecil was proud of himself. He had worked hard and finally achieved a state of peace with the world.

He could still recall how he had been in what seemed like a constant state of fear and anxiety over every daily occurrence.

Some days he would wake wondering if the morning newspaper might come sailing through the window. The boy on the bicycle often hit it as he zipped by on his way to his possible fateful collision with an automobile. That car might well be driven by a young woman, distracted by a meme on her smartphone that depicted a dead raccoon with a 'get well' balloon in its cold dead paw.

On mornings when his remote control for the television didn't work on the first push of a button, he would begin wondering if the power were out due to the electromagnetic pulse of an atomic bomb blast that may have exploded in Detroit and affected the Great Lakes area. Soon, in this suspected scenario, the fallout would poison Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. Those who weren't evaporated by the blast or irradiated beyond survival might well be wandering the mid-west as zombies, seeking a mindless meal of what was left of the still-in-bed masses caught unaware.

Certain days, eye-contact with others who weren't smiling ignited the long-running personal fable that a wide-spread plot existed against him, and that each move he made was being studied and logged in a book that was destined to be labeled as a compilation of un-American acts of sedition performed by Cecil Seasik.

Fortunately, therapy and pharmaceuticals had acted together to create a pacific and serene universe in which he was gently motoring through, like a serrated electric carving knife through the jugular vein of a Tijuana prostitute. A boat trip like that, however, often included the necessity of dismemberment and creative distribution of whore parts all about the local border town in mini-excavations/interments.

He giggled a bit now at how blown away he would have been prior to his release from crippling fear, and the mind-numbing confusion of how to react to even the simplest of concerns.

When the police caught him dropping a couple of severed feet into a shallow hole, he faced his arrest with what could best be described as a Cheshire cat grin. His glistening green eyes and broad, toothy expression, brightly lit by high-powered flashlights, were both appealing and eerie in light of the grisly milieu.

Cecil's trial, were it judged on speed and absence of English, deemed necessary in some legal arenas, when the soon-to-be-convicted, assumed-guilty defendant was not a Spanish speaker, was one for the record books. Within three hours of arrest, Cecil was tried, convicted, and sentenced to face a firing squad. It so happened that the local pimp, the turquoise salesman, a lanky-haired itinerate named Muerte, and the judge were all members of the Tijuana firing squad and were ready to deliver justice right away.

Standing against a partial stone wall that was peppered with finger-sized holes, Cecil faced the five rifle-ready shooters. Amazed at his coolness, he felt that this story would be a terrific example for his doctor to use as to how the wonders of therapy and the conservative application of tension relieving drugs could lead to a well-adjusted attitude and a bright future.

Four bullets missed Cecil entirely, but Muerte's shot ventilated Cecil's peaceful and content mind.


Author Notes Picture is from Alice in Wonderland site

Chapter 26
Great Poetry

By Bill Schott

I read the reviews of my poem:

To be or not to be
that is the question.
Whether it is nobler to withstand
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune...

Reviewer 1: This form is gauche and unfamiliar. Back to with you.

Reviewer 2: This is pretty good, but Erma Oldaladihoo, a friend of mine, has a poem in this contest so ---yeah.

Reviewer 3: Seems vague. Try this: Should I kill myself or fight back?

Reviewer 4: This was an incredible (poem, story, script) and I really enjoyed reading it and thinking about what it is that you wrote in this incredible (poem, story, script).

Afterwards, I decided to become a glove maker.


Chapter 27
Ben and Jerry

By Bill Schott

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

The doctor looked through the window to see how his patient was doing.

"There is no way you can do that and live."

"Okay, Ben, let's see if you're right."

"Jerry, there is no way I'm going to sit here and let you swallow razor blades."

"I'll be fine. I do this all the time."

"You swallow razor blades all the time? I doubt that."

'Well, not before today. I have swallowed a couple dozen since breakfast though."

"Oh my God! Jerry! Are you insane?!? We have to get you to surgery! Razors will slice through your
intestines. You'll be literally shitting your guts out!"

When the doctor entered the room, the talking stopped.

"Halo, Jerry. To whom are you dalking?"

"Hey, Doc. I was just practicin' a conversation I'll be having soon."

"Zo, vot topic vill be your conversation?"

"Well, Doc -- Hey. Do you mind if I call you by your first name, Doc?. Cuz we're friends?"

"Zertainly, Jerry. Is okay. My name is Benjamin."

"Okedokee, Benny. Listen. I'm going to swallow a dozen razor blades and clean out my colon."

"Zere is no vay you can do dot and live."

"Okay, Ben, let's see if you're right."

Author Notes Thanks to bcgrafiks for use of the still life

Chapter 28
Don't Smoke

By Bill Schott

The boy had been smoking a cigarette out by the trash cans and had accidently started a fire in one when he'd tossed in a butt.

Trying to put it out, the white billowing haze caused his hoodie to fill up with smoke. This gave him the appearance of a creature from a horror movie.

He managed to burn his hand in the process, so he ran into the bathroom through the back door. Barging in he saw his mother was standing in the bathtub -- douching. The bottle, presumably filled with vinegar, was being held in the affected area and she was in mid squeeze.

The world ceased moving as he stood, seemingly smoldering as if he were about to explode into flame.

Exiting, finally, he dashed to the kitchen sink to soak his hand. From that window, a surreal scene of roaring flames and a fire truck appeared.


Author Notes Necessary words: boy, fire, vinegar, hoodie, and world.

Chapter 29
Morning Murder

By Bill Schott

The assailing noise of the phone struck like a rock machinegun shooting stalactite projectiles of sound at my temples.

"Hello?" was the light greeting I gave to the remarkably phone-like clock I held to my ear.

The pelting ring of the telephone continued. I remembered that I had placed it on a table at the far wall the previous evening in some forgotten attempt to force me to rise to my feet, and cross the room to answer it. Delivering a straight and accurate shot from my bed, I hit the egregious communication device with the clock. Both appliances, responding to both the collision and gravity, rested on the floor, as I attempted to do likewise in my bed.

Then, the buzzing assault of the alarm clock tore through my skull like a chainsaw. I rose from this crime scene, the murder of sleep, and prepared for breakfast.

Author Notes Required words are phone, clock, rock, breakfast, and light.

Chapter 30
Leap of Faithlessness

By Bill Schott

Neil yanked on the ripcord. When it did not function, he quickly released the reserve chute. Neither silk would respond. He suddenly recalled that Dave had helped him with the gear. Guess he loaded a funky parachute on his back.

Thinking back to the party, Neil remembered seeing his wife and Dave petting in the grotto. His later searching uncovered motel stays and bank withdrawals. Now they have managed to rig his chute to fail.

Whatever twinge of guilt had remained about setting a bomb in the plane to explode after his jump did not accompany Neil to the ground.

Chapter 31

By Bill Schott

The mirror caught Doug's eye. His reflection proved the shotgun blast had not killed

him. The gypsy's curse was still in force, and all his efforts to thwart it had failed.

He remembered hitting the gypsy wagon with his Stutz, as he had sped down the road. A dying

victim cursed Doug to "Live!"

Now, trapped in an ancient body, aching with painful cancer, Doug had tried everything to

die. Poisoning and stabbing had only hurt him.

Even this double-barreled shotgun blast to the head had failed.

Grumbling, Doug cleaned up the mess and retrieved his eyeball from the mirror.

Author Notes There are 100 words, hand counted.

Chapter 32
See How They Ran

By Bill Schott

Three men come out onto the sidewalk from an unemployment office.

Larry: Hey, Moe? What do we do now?

Moe: Shaddup, Porcupine!

Moe grabs Larry by his long curly hair and rips a handful straight out of his scalp.

Larry: Aaaarrrrggg! Oh my god!

Larry crumples into a sobbing mass on the sidewalk.

Curly: What the hell do you think you're doing?

Moe: Mind your own business, Cueball!

Moe then jabs his index and middle finger into Curly's eye sockets.

Curly: Aaaarrrrggg! Oh my god!

Curly drops to his knees. Blood oozes out between his fingers as his whimpers on the sidewalk.

Moe: What's the matter with you cupcakes?

Moe pulls a sledge hammer from inside his jacket and smashes each of the fallen men over the head.

Both fall silent to the ground.

Moe ponders his actions for a quiet few seconds and then is hit in the face with a pie.

Chapter 33

By Bill Schott

Sydney spit the eggs back out and stuck out his tongue. His mother had insisted he eat them.

His friend Mickey was sitting across the way, eating something else. Thinking he'd surprise him, Sydney crawled on his belly over to where his friend sat.

Before he could surprise Mickey, Sydney's mom showed up beside him. He thought he was going to hear something about the eggs, but his mother went past him and lunged at Mickey.

She swallowed Mickey whole and headed further to where Sydney knew Mickey's family lived.

Sydney slithered back and tried swallowing the robin eggs again.

Chapter 34
A Period Piece

By Bill Schott

Hector's idea had grown into a plot. Since he had snagged the role of Othello, and his wife was playing the part of Desdemona, he could accidentally off her in rehearsal and get away with it.

"I've brought a weapon today, Gordo, and I'm going to improvise killing Jane."

"Yeah -- I don't think so, Hector. It presents a few problems that we're not ready for here in the community theater."

"Don't you think Desdemona has been strangled enough times? This might perk up the crowd."

"We're just killing Desdemona, Hector, not Jane. The .357 magnum revolver won't be necessary."


Author Notes Art from Absolute

Chapter 35

By Bill Schott

"Want to buy a Girl Scout cookie box?" asked the old man.

He smiled up at me through bushy eyebrows and an unshaven face. An army service cover fit his head poorly, spread open, crooked, and in need of laundering. He sat on a newspaper box outside the grocery store.

"Did your granddaughter enlist you for this job, Sarge?"

"Someone's granddaughter."

"How much?"

"Two bucks a box."

"Well, I won't find a better deal. Give me five boxes."

Taking my twenty dollar bill, the old man handed me five boxes. I instantly realized several things at the same moment. First, the boxes were empty. Second, the old man looked at me with the face of a child awaiting a scolding. Even then, I felt differently about this than I can explain.

"If you keep the change," I said, smiling, "we'll consider it one for the price of two."

He smiled back. A shy and wilting expression of numerous emotions all at once. Leaving, I smiled as well, for similar reasons.

Chapter 36
Paper or Plastic?

By Bill Schott

Constance had always complained about Ned bringing groceries home in plastic bags.
"It's just more trash!" she'd yell. "Paper is biodegradable!"
In her present state, however, drugged and helpless on the couch, the small grocery bags worked well as Ned bound her ankles and wrists with them.
With a huge knot in the center, one bag became a gag. This muffled her screams when she realized a plastic bag was tightening over her head.
She was pretty-much suffocated when dropped into the hole in the garden.
He figured Constance would appreciate this gesture. She was, after all, biodegradable.

Chapter 37

By Bill Schott

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Revulsion, shock, and disgust were the first impressions that I had, when it came to writing horror stories. It was a month ago, though it seemed longer, that the need of a horror story became apparent. There was a contest, a promise of money, and a necessity to bend a story in the attitude of the macabre.

The contests were controversial though. They were cloaked in secrecy and peopled by a mutual admiration society, who typically selected a winner from known associates. Who could blame them, really? It wasn't like they were awarding Bongo Bucks; the prize was a C-note.

I hadn't known how to begin then. Now it seems simple. Writing a horror story is easy.

My journalism professor had told me, "Good writers have to experience more of life."

Taking that advice to heart, I endeavored to be involved in the world.

On a Monday, last month, I met a girl named Mona. She was a Taurus, a freshman at MSU, and lived near the campus with a friend. By Tuesday I had been invited back to the apartment that Mona shared with another girl, Amelia. The three of us hit it off and it wasn't long, Thursday actually, until I was into some serious action with Mona. If Amelia was out, el Hombre was in.

Things were hot and heavy for a good forty-eight hours. By the weekend, however, my wandering eye went to Amelia. She and I spent the weekend testing the springs on her VW bus.

The following Monday, I drove the bus back to the campus and invited Mona out to see it.

The Volkswagen looked like it had been painted with a combination of paint roller and cat. The reddish coating was smeared all over the outside of the vehicle.

                   Opening the doors, Mona stared in disbelief at the disemboweled corpse, spread in an
                   X stance in the center of the van. Amelia's vacant eyes seemed to stare out through
                   her blood-soaked hair, that stretched across her face. Hands, nailed to the roof, held
                   her lifeless body erect. The entire front of her torso from collar to trunk was absent of
                   flesh and organs. Her skin had been ripped off her legs as well. Nails also held her
                   feet to the bus floor.

Writing a horror story is easy. Just make sure to change the names to protect the innocent.

The tap on Mona's head was pretty significant, but no matter. That bloody wound wouldn't bother her much longer. I loaded Mona into the van and went to work. Before long I had created a masterpiece.

The following Monday, I drove the VW back onto campus and parked it in the lot outside Spartan Stadium.

When the Volkswagen bus was found by the security officer early Tuesday morning, the newspapers noted that "a grisly sight was discovered inside."

                              The traumatized guard would later describe how he seemed to be
                               seeing two bodies, sewn together and hanging in the center of
                              the van. One body, a dark-skinned female, with the head attached,
                              had a lighter skinned chest and abdomen stitched to the front.
                             Caucasian skin had been stretched across the legs and held on
                              with baling wire. At the foot of the abomination was a twelve-inch
                             square canvas frame with the word AMONIA drawn on it in blood.

Writing a horror story is easy. All a writer needs is enough real-world experience to lend authenticity to whatever skeletal story line he chooses to follow. If I were to tell a story of farm life, a visit for the weekend to a rural setting would provide a world of ambience. Three weeks ago I visited a working farm just about three miles south of town. It was the McWendy Farm. I know; I laughed too. Sounds made up. I took a walk among the livestock as I felt it would be conducive to pastoral enhancement. I took part in snipping the testicles off a hog, chopping a few chicken and rabbit heads off, and even milked a cow. All of these chores would provide rich background for a barnyard-based scenario. Did I mention the cow would get a metal shaft jammed into its brain? It's all good.

These tasks took most of the day. Imagine how much easier it would have all been if farmer McWendy could have assisted. That was an oversight of mine. It was really almost at the same second I was pushing the pitch fork through his chest that I realized he could have been a great help in the animal adventures. I'm not at all certain that Mrs. Farmer McWendy would have been much more help. Certainly not with that cleaver in her head.

                                                   Glenda McWendy looked up from her kneeling position in front
                                                  of the lower egg-laying tier to see an opaque figure blocking the
                                                  early-morning sun. Frightened, she looked to the wall where an
                                                  antique cleaver, hefty and rusty with age, hung on an even rustier 
                                                  nail. Her hand was not the first to grab it, but its use was now
                                                 destined to include her hand, which gave way to the first blow to
                                                 her head.  The cleaver was heavy, but its dull state made a
                                                 second and third chop necessary. The flat, weighty blade was
                                                 then firmly wedged in the woman's skull.

Would a retelling of the Orwellian classic Animal Farm be better written as a graphic horror story? It could open with a sledgehammer to the skull. Evisceration would follow, as all the skin, meat, organs and bone were systematically removed for all of their various commercial uses. That would be the end of Farmer Jones. He would not be making a second appearance. The gore would, naturally, ramp up from there. To paraphrase the original story: All barnyard horror stories are created equal. But some are more equal than others.

The long and short of it is, if I should choose to write that revision of that allegorical masterpiece, the background work is complete. I have actually managed to preserve the McWendy couple in what had to be three winters worth of mason jars. It took working day and night for three days to get it done. The worst was keeping those gosh darn cats away. One made off with Mrs. Farmer McWendy's left eye. The one that was left, or right, looks dumb now, staring out alone from the brain jar. Cats!

I left the farm animals where they fell. That's nature, right? The foxes came in the first night, then the possums and skunks. The crows will be the size of turkeys when they finish with the cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, family dog, and that highly motivated UPS guy. He is in a shallow grave, but he could get himself untied before he suffocates. He IS only a foot down. I'm sure they'll get around to digging him up sooner or later. I drove his truck way back out into the woods.

                           The traumatized veterinarian would later describe how he seemed
                            to be seeing a canning jar cabinet for cannibals. All of the
                           McWendy animals had also been killed in horrific fashion. The family
                           dog, a collie, had been skinned, and its hide hung from a
                           shovel handle. The shovel was protruding from what looked like
                           recently upturned earth. A UPS package lay near the scene.

Writing a horror story is easy. With only a couple of weeks to go, however, I needed to expose myself to more inspirational influences.

I recall reading The Paper Lion in college and how George Plimpton experienced being a Detroit Lion for a season in order to write what it was like. Other magazines had told of actors who had put themselves through hazardous and painful ordeals in order to strengthen their ability to channel these tortures through to the characters they would play. It seemed even more fitting, that in order to win a horror story contest, I would have to draw on experiences that placed me in painful and deadly peril. So, I made a list.

The WAYS-IN-WHICH-I-MOST-FEARED-DYING list contained a few of the deadly finales I wouldn't want to experience. Number one--fire. I would never want to burn to death. I saw a monk immolate himself once, on television, but I'm certain his apparent composure was due to years of discipline or powerful narcotics.

Number two would be being eaten alive. I've seen bugs and rodents eaten alive. The occasional African clip of some gazelle with a charley horse that gets a butt load of cheetah claws and a 'See ya later' from his fair-weather, fleeter o' foot friends might pop up on the Animal Channel once in a while. But aside from Jonah and Pinocchio, two stories I find curiously unbelievable, not any humans.

The third, and actually the last of my, REALLY-TOO-SHORT-TO-BE-CALLED-A-LIST list, was being boiled in oil. Now I know that sounds a little like being burned alive, but when I saw it on the ABC Novel for Television presentation of James Clavell's Shogun, this poor slob was being lowered slowly into a vat. He screamed the scream of the walk-on actor who is finding that the director is insane and is actually lowering him into a vat of boiling oil. He screamed in Chinese though, so, way to stay in character.

What this is all leading to is my 'ah-ha' moment. This moment used to be called a 'Eureka!' moment, or an epiphany. This new, mono-syllabic language of the texting generation, however, has reduced it to a palindrome that can be burped out if necessary.

Last week I went back out to the McWendy farm. The CSI (Can't Solve It) team had vacated and I found that the UPS guy's grave had not been disturbed. The dog's hide was still hanging from the shovel. I dug him up and, sure enough, he had died. The spade blade in the throat wouldn't have benefitted either if he had somehow survived. I resurrected the post mortem parcel purveyor and placed his wormy and malodorous body next to me in the UPS truck that I had retrieved from the woods. I put his shoulder strap on to keep him from folding into a lump in the seat. I drove to the zoo, which is closed at night, of course, and proceeded to drive around the road blocks and gates. The security is obviously there to prevent someone who didn't want to get into the zoo from doing so. Once inside I moved Carl into a position behind the steering wheel. Oh--I found his wallet in his trousers pocket and his driver's license said his name was Carl Doolittle. I know--funny.

I placed a gallon bottle of Crisco oil on Carl's boney lap, just under the belt. From the back I pulled out a five-gallon can of Sunoco premium, which Carl had chipped in to buy when I used his UPS credit card. Aiming the truck for the tiger pit, placing a heavy UPS box on the accelerator, and lighting a makeshift fuse, which was actually a pretty nice blouse that someone had thought to deliver by parcel, which was now stuffed into the gas can, I sent the vehicle barreling into the tiger pit. There was a tremendous explosion.

                                The traumatized zoological park custodian would later describe
                                how the burned out hull of the huge brown truck had landed in the
                                center of the tiger pit. Once the fiery corpse of the driver had gone
                                out, tigers began tearing at the charred body. Noted animal
                                behaviorists questioned that detail as tigers would not likely do that.
                                In rebuttal, the custodian remarked later that UPS doesn't typically
                               deliver packages in flaming trucks to the center of the zoo at night
                               either. The deceased driver, one Carl Doolittle, is now thought to be
                               a suspect in a recent slaughter of a man and his wife on their farm.
                               Doolittle had been missing since approximately the same time
                               as the incident.

Going to the address on Carl's driver's license, I found that he lived with his mother in a quaint little home on the historic side of town. She was most helpful in telling me how she thought Carl would have felt being burned and eaten. I also mentioned that he was also likely somewhat boiled in oil. Her reaction to my involvement, despite my logical explanation, ended with her going to sleep early. The Big Sleep. Nice little house though. Needs a new carpet.

Writing a horror story is easy. I am now ready to pen a tale that should win a prize of some kind. If it doesn't, I'll simply continue the research, expand my knowledge, and gather the bits and pieces of humanity that will bring the people and places in my stories to life.

Author Notes Photo from google images

Chapter 38
Darren to Dream

By Bill Schott

Darren was new at the lab and didn't know where the nearest lavatory was located. He found a door with a Greek male symbol on it and pushed. He walked into the room and sat on the toilet. It was a small room with the one squatter against the far wall. It was far from the door, if ten feet is considered far.

The room had recently been painted, old tile and all, a bone white. The tiles were six inch squares and covered the lower half of the walls. The toilet tissue roll, sink, mirror, soap dispenser, and paper holder were together in a line coming from the far wall after the toilet. These items were essentially the right corner of the otherwise empty room.

As he sat on the porcelain pot, Darren noticed one of the tiles on the wall across from him looked a bit tilted. It wasn't as much out of place as it was off the wall. The single square seemed unsecured and projecting a few millimeters away from the others.

As he changed his focus of attention to the post operation paperwork he turned his face away and gazed at the floor to his lower right. He immediately noticed that one of the small one-inch-square floor tiles was moving up and down, almost

Then a smashing sound shocked him as he looked up to see the wall tile had fallen to the floor, shattering, and some black-haired ball of fur was coming through the opening. Before Darren could react, the floor tile also popped out and a slimy, green spear-like tentacle shot up and pierced his jugular vein.

"Where are we going, honey?"

"The falls. I found a beautiful cabin on the lake and there are falls and a small island just off shore."

"It sounds heavenly!"

"We deserve it. After the accident and the fire, we need time away to rest and relax."

"These flowers are delightful. I've never seen dandelions so enormous. They're the size of beach umbrellas."

"It's the crisp, country air and perfect weather that make everything wonderful."

"This old hand pump is precious, Darren."

"Have a glass of water. You can taste a hint of maple syrup in it."

"Yes. It's delicious."

"Hungry? Here's some grapes and cheese, all fresh from our farm."

"Is someone in the house?"

"Yes. Our parents and grandparents are all inside."

"That's lovely."

"The kids, all the pets we've ever had, all our friends we've ever known, and all the greatest
treasures in life are in this house."

"Oh, Darren! Let's never leave."

"Never. Never."

"Frank!  Where is Darren?"

"He was here a minute ago, Dr. Boit."

"You told me he was a good hire. You said he'd be an asset. Where is he?"

"He is a great zoologist, Doc. He has had a hard couple of years. He lost his family in a horrible jet crash."

"When he shows up, take this bio-container down to the storage facility and place it in long term stasis."

"This that critter from the last deep space mission?"

"Yes. I'm told it is extremely dangerous. It can imitate any setting and lure prey by appearing to be what it is seeking."

"Does this Greek character here on the door mean it's male?"

"No, although I see why you'd think that. It does seem similar. No, this is the computer generated code symbol for an amoebic psycho-vampire. They roam that far parsec like buffalo. I'm told they envelope their prey and keep it subdued by controlling its mind as it slowly siphons off its energy."

"Jeez Louise!"

"This one will go into cold storage until well after you and I have retired."

"When Darren shows we'll push it down there."

"Oh, Darren! Let's never leave."

"Never. Never."


Author Notes Image from Google

Chapter 39
What She Wants

By Bill Schott

"I'm not sure meeting like this was a good idea."

"Not to worry, Polly. No one we know comes out to this lake. I got us these seats around the bend as well."

"Still... If my friends from the aviary saw us, they may get the wrong impression."

"You have something in your beak."

"Sorry. I didn't have time to glance in a still pond."

"It looks like a piece of road kill or something. Let me get it."

"Wayne! No! If someone saw!"

"Then they would know...we are in love."

"Did you get it?"

"Yes, Polly. It's a piece of possum meat and hair. Tastes -- good."

"Ohhhh Wayne."




"Wayne? I'm hungry."

"Hungry for love?"

"No. Something crisp and salty."

"Well, Polly...want a cracker?"

Chapter 40

By Bill Schott

"Don't let nobody never tell you that you cain't be someone. You can be anyone you want."

Mom was adamant about this and felt that I needed to hear it again.

"Your daddy," she began, "wunt never able to be what he wanted. He went to his reward as po as a chutch mouse and jus' as small."

"Okay, Ma. I promise you; I am going to be the best pan handler in this city."

"See there," she snapped. "Already aimin' low. You cud be the pant antler a these U- nite- ed stets um 'merica."

That's how it all began.

Chapter 41
Directions on IO

By Bill Schott

Dresfed was lost and looking for someone to help him. An Ionian slugged up in front of him with its appendage outstretched. It looked like a catcher's mitt on a flayed eel protruding from a boulder of beige meat.

"Sir, would you help me?"

"Em meeka op too meela?"

"No, I haven't any loose change. Can you show me the way to the space station?"

"Em meeka lassee lum lasee-see."

"No. I'll need to keep both of my legs. The space station?"

"Em meeka kabbo jook kook kay nabboo?"

"Okay. Here is a pint of blood. It's not mine, but I can vouch for the guy. I have a finger you can have. It's the middle one...Ha ha. Oh, and this face."

"Fir blicks sith. Lik fir mi brither. Hi will hilp yi with yir bigs."

Dresfed waved thanks with his four-fingered hand. There would be no talking until he had a new face. It was good he'd brought sunglasses to protect his eyes. Lucky he had an extra shot of blood to barter with as well. Getting to the space station, another Ionian took his bags. It took a step, paused, and turned around.

"Em meeka op too meela?”


Author Notes Thanks to Moonwillow for the great graphic.

Fir blicks sith. Lik fir mi brither. Hi will hilp yi with yir bigs
Four blocks south. Look for my brother. He will help you with your bags.

Chapter 42
Kitty and Meow-Meow At the Bar

By Bill Schott

Kitty and Meow-Meow sat together at the bar. Their joint luck in arousing the interest of the male clientele had been dismal. Along with the sad fact that there was only one customer, seniority was not a kind status in an occupation that required men to fawn over you, buy overpriced drinks, and eventually, after a huge investment in liquor and promises, leave to an evening of amusement or pain.

Commiserating over the lack in activity, they each noted that Sylvia was attracting the only man in the place like a sunflower, rising above the weeds, lures the bee. Sylvia was a decade younger than either Kitty or Meow-Meow. The makeup and clothing were flawlessly and captivatingly applied to the diva's body in a way that enticed men as to a siren.

Sylvia made a move to the exit with an inebriated and enthusiastic gentleman.

"Y'know," Kitty said, " these guys spend a fortune here just tryin' to get into some strange snatch."

Meow-meow giggled. "That dude'll be thinkin' STRANGE alright, when he gets his hand in Sylvia's pants."

"Yeah," returned Kitty, with a grin. "He'd never get that at home."

"Do you think Sylvia will be alright with that guy?" asked Meow-Meow, awaiting Kitty's reply.

"My husband can take care of himself," Kitty responded with a smile.

Both women laughed a moment before turning back to their empty glasses.

Author Notes Thanks to donaldcolson for use of the photo

Chapter 43

By Bill Schott

So Billy...Why do you suppose your mom thinks your father is trying to hurt you?

She just doesn't want my dad and me to have any fun together.

What do you mean, Billy?

Well, one time we were playing cops and robbers and Dad said I could be the invisible man. That way I'd be hard to catch.

Go on.

So he puts a cellophane bag over my head and says that I can see out, but no one can see in. Like I was invisible. I couldn't keep it on long without taking it off, so dad held it on for me.


Yeah. Then my mom comes in yelling and takes the bag off. I think it was her, I don't remember that part very well.

Oh my god!

I know. Killjoy!

What else?

On Halloween Dad dressed me up like a speed bump and I was lying out in front of our house in the street. We were going to make cars slow down and egg them. But my mom ran out and told me I couldn't be a speed bump and she had a couple of cops take my dad away. The woman can't stand to see us have any fun together.

Well, Billy. Your dad has been away for a few months. What do you think you'll do when you see him again?

I want to go ice fishing. He says yes, but he wants to wait until it warms up.


Author Notes This is a sort of round-up of little quips I've heard before that I grouped into a storyline.
Thanks to AidanWilson for the photo

The speakers should be obvious so I eliminated the tags and quotation marks.

Chapter 44

By Bill Schott

Clifford dialed the number and waited for the 911 operator.

"This is 911. What is your emergency?"

"My name is Clifford. I think someone died."

"Who has died, sir?"

"It could be me."

"Who are you, sir?"

"I'm a little tea pot."

"What makes you think you're dead--- Clifford?"

"I shouldn't be able to talk to you.... or hold a telephone.... know a number."

"Clifford, it is a crime to utter a false emergency on an emergency phone line."

"Can a dead tea pot be arrested?"

"Have you been drinking, Clifford?"

"I had some Long Island tea earlier."

"Okay, Clifford. We have your address. An officer will be over soon."

"So I'm not dead?"

"No. A qualified officer will arrive soon to tip you over and pour you out."

Clifford hung up and steeped.


Chapter 45
Last Meal

By Bill Schott

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

After the bus accident, Gibson's head injuries had left intracranial tumors that affected his satiety process and caused bouts of narcolepsy. Without warning, twice or more a day, he would simply pass out. When awake, his insatiable hunger had, in one decade, inflated his body to over five hundred
pounds. He had literally eaten himself out of house and home. His wife left and he would have lost his house at the end of the month had the earth quake not beaten the mortgage company to the punch.

The tremors came and the floor beneath him fell through to the cellar; the ceiling truss then pinned him under a ton of lumber. Gibson's arms were raised and crossed over his face, held in place by a plank on his chest. Narcoleptic gaps erased any sense of elapsed time; he only knew he was ravenous.

There was no feeling in his arms. That, and a sense of his mortality, convinced him to begin eating them. His mind flooded with wildly conflicting emotions. When eventually found, he'd eaten most of his left forearm and
upper arm. He'd only started on his right when he had fallen asleep and choked on a finger.

Author Notes I qualify this as a fear of the unknown, as Gibson had no idea if he'd ever be found which contributed to his flesh eating decision.
Thanks to ozzyart for the art

Chapter 46
Spring Ahead

By Bill Schott

A hand petting my nose woke me. Harsh light had me squinting.

"Morning, Daddy!"

"Hi, Petunia. Where's Mommy?"

"She got a phone call when we were doing breakfast. Then she got a bunch of stuff and ran out the door."

"Do you know who called?"

"No, but she grabbed the clock off the little table and screamed at it."


My daughter began to rock on the bedspread and smile.

"Mommy was calling someone a stupid son of something and shaking the clock."

"Shaking the clock?"


"Did you finish your breakfast? Do I have any?"

"I had a cold Eggo."

I half smiled and started to get up.

"Mommy said to tell you if you wanted breakfast to -- each it."

I began to ask her to repeat herself, but then realized I didn't really want that at all.

Author Notes Mandatory words are BREAKFAST LIGHT PHONE ROCK CLOCK

Chapter 47
Word Association

By Bill Schott

The psychologist positioned me in a soft seated, overstuffed chair. My back was to the window in his tiny office, and he sat across the room beside the door.

"I am going to say a word to you. I want you to say the first word that pops into your head. Okay?"

"Sure," I said.


"Of ages."


"Ee baloney."




"Of champions."



"Well, there you go," chirped the doctor.

"There I go -- what?"

"You said baloney, and saber, and converted the word 'clock' into a phallic symbol as well."

"So I'm gay."


"Now, Doc. Isn't it possible that I just made phrases out of some random words to make your little test a bit more interesting?"

"Well, let's do a few more."








"Well. Cigar, silo, and penis. What more can I say?"

"Your place or mine?"

Chapter 48

By Bill Schott

Billy tried to think of all the lines that would mitigate people's reactions to his new glass eye. He had read several comic approaches including "You caught my eye." or "I'll keep my eye out for you."

These seemed blatant. Billy just wished he could feel confident when meeting people with this recent prosthetic.

Winchell, Billy's friend, stepped up and said, "Billy, you know you've got your fake eyeball in backwards?"

Without missing a beat, Billy replied, "Yes, I'm being a little introspective."

Winchell's laugh was infectious; the reluctance to meet others was gone in the blink of an eye.

Author Notes Picture from Google

Chapter 49
Last Taxi

By Bill Schott

Sitting alone I recall. It was gridlock. Annie had to deliver our baby in the cab. The cabby laid newspaper down under her and I coached my screaming wife. She snorted and strained to push our greatest achievement out onto the backseat of a city taxi. That moment became the single most thrilling and ultimately tragic day in my life.

Chapter 50

By Bill Schott

Kiley entered the private tavern and proceeded to the bar. Of the eight stools, only one was occupied. A young woman, mid-twenties, was perched on the fourth from the left. She sat straight and tall, her auburn hair, from the back, seemed well-attended-to and styled. She was sleek, and tightly wrapped in a Jovani gown, which melded with her slender frame. The legs were bare, as the length of the skirt dropped from its split and partially shrouded the barstool.

The decision on seating found her on a stool to the right of the ginger-haired debutant. "Aren't you Shirley? Bobby's new girl?" Kiley asked, already knowing.

"Sherry," she corrected with a smile. "Yes, Bobby's my man. Who might you be?"

Kiley considered her answer. She had been Bobby's girl for a while, until she moved up to Sal, Bobby's boss. They were all part of the syndicate and it was run with rules and conditions that everyone abided by. One rule was, if the boss wants your girl, you indulge him.

"Just an acquaintance," Kiley smiled back. "What are you drinking?"

"Nothing yet," was her timid reply. "I'm not much of a drinker."

Kiley leaned in closer to Sherry, who did the same. She then whispered, "If you want the decent liquor, you can't just order it generically." Looking furtively at the man serving drinks behind the bar, she added, "You have to address the bartender by his name, and order a specific brand."

Sherry gave a wrinkled smile and said, "Show me what you mean."

Without hesitation, Kiley returned, "Okay. Listen. The server's name is BJ, but I won't call him that. See what happens." Kiley sat upright and piped, "Give me a rum and coke."

The bartender nodded, reached under the bar and returned holding an effervescent glass of brown soda pop. Kiley accepted the drink and sipped it. She 'Mmmmed' as she simultaneously rolled her eyes at Sherry, indicating her annoyance. She then whispered, "This is probably from a bottle marked Brand X. It's weak, tastes more like rump, than rum."

"What should I order?" asked Sherry.

Kiley whispered in the younger woman's ear. Sherry then spouted, "BJ! Bring me a Bacardi and Coke!"

The bartender smiled and turned to the wall of liquor bottles. He reached for and returned to the bar with a bottle of Bacardi 151. He poured a generous shot into a glass, followed by an equal spritz of Coca-cola from a hose dispenser.

"I guess this is good," Sherry smiled, as she sipped the drink.

"It gets better," returned Kiley. "Drinks in this bar are a hundred dollars a shot."

"What!" blurted Sherry, almost spilling her suddenly pricey cocktail. "I don't have that kind of money!"

"That's okay, Shirley," Kiley smiled, "Patrick isn't expecting money."

"Who's Patrick?" Sherry's eyes were showing the first inklings of her growing fear.

"He's your bartender," replied Kiley, as she rose and headed for the door.

"But -," her eyes darted back and forth from the barkeep to the woman, "who's BJ?"

"It's a what, Shirley, not a who." Kiley grinned and added, "There's a firm rule about paying for your drinks. No one leaves until their tab is cleared."

Kiley called back over her shoulder as she went through the door, "Say hi to knobby- er- Bobby for me." Her laughter continued and echoed through the closed door.

Author Notes Thanks to photoman12 for use of the photo

Chapter 51

By Bill Schott

"How many times do I have to tell you it wasn't me?"

"One million, Dave. One million. So you've got a ways to go."

"I shouldn't need to deny this at all. If you just look at the evidence, it's clear to see who the culprit is."

"Please don't accuse Erin again."

"I wasn't accus-"

"You as much as did, when you identified who you supposedly saw as a five-foot- three-inch-tall blonde, with a mole on her lip and a tattoo of Pepe LePew on her forearm."

"That could describe any number of people."

"What's up, Jimmy? Dave?"

"Oh! Hi, Amanda! Jimmy and I were just discussing the price of rice in Toledo."

"Actually, Dave here was trying to convince me that Erin was the one who pushed the port-a-potty over that I was in."

"Were you in that thing? I saw that happen. I didn't know it was you in it. I thought it was kind of funny at the time. Man! That was cold!"

"Who pushed it over?"

"Well, it was a couple hundred feet away, across the ball field."

"Dave said it was Erin."

"Not true. I simply gave a general description of someone who could have been her doppelganger."

"Adopted - what?"

"A doppelganger. It's a person or something spooky that looks exactly like another person."

"I know it was you, Dave. You're a doppel-BS-er."

"It wasn't Dave, Jimmy. It was definitely a girl. She had blonde hair, blue eyes, a fake tan, and above average lifting skills."

"You could tell all that from two hundred feet away? I find that a bit of a stretch."

"Okay, maybe she really got some good sun."

"No, no, no! I'm not buying that Erin pushed over my shitter."

"Who said anything about Erin."

"You as much as described her."

"Or her doppelganger."

"No, Dave. Not a doppelganger. Not Erin. Amanda, I'm surprised that you're in on this with him."

"Listen, Jimmy, I'm not IN on anything. I saw someone who looked amazingly like your sweet Erin, or Dave's gobbledanker -"


"WHAT - EVER! I saw her push over that plastic outhouse. If you were in it - it was your one-and-only."

"This is incredible!"

"I'm sorry buddy that she did that, but -"

"No, no, no! You two were in on it together. You both pushed me over. Admit it!"

"It's not true, Jimmy. Hey, look! Here comes Erin now."

"Or her doubledinger."



"Hey guys!"

"Hi, Erin. The boys were just talking about you."

"Boys? Who's the other boy?"

"What do you mean? Jim? Hey! Where'd Jimmy go?!"

"Jimmy? I just left him. He was going to use the portable toilet."

"But - he was here. Amanda and I were talking to him."

"I just saw the two of you over here. That's why I came over. Let's go tip over the pooper while Jimmy's in it."

"Jimmy was here! He was right here accusing Dave and me of tipping over his crapper."

"That's just not possible."

"Dave, maybe we were talking to Jimmy's goppenhammer."


"She means doppelganger."

"I mean, you're a douche, Dave."

"Maybe we're in a time rift, girls. What if we keep repeating this same sequence of events over and over. We may start overlapping time and seeing ourselves."

"That makes as much sense as a doople- WHAT-EVER! What do you think, Erin?"

"Yeah, sure. Now let's go push that damn port-a-pooper over before Jimmy or his whammer jammer can get wiped."


Author Notes I brought this back up for the beach season. Thinking of slapping some shorties together for a book.

Chapter 52
Free Speech

By Bill Schott

When I think of freedom of speech, many things come to mind. I think of why 'freedom of speech' is in our Constitution, the difference between freedom of speech and 'say whatever you please', and why we debate it all the time.

We have freedom of speech in the Constitution for the sole purpose of keeping the powers that be, in the government, from deciding what will and what won't be disseminated to the people. It really doesn't mean that I can broadcast on television that Mrs. Jones has an ugly baby, just because I have freedom of speech. It just means that the police can't arrest me for it. I'd be a big prick, but free. I shouldn't scream "FIRE!" in a theater if there isn't a blaze burning.

Ku Klux Klan (et al) rallies, cable 'news' shows, and ubiquitous pornography insults our intelligence and degrades our society. They can't be arrested for spreading hate and promoting violence, outright lying to bolster a political agenda, or broadcasting sexual acts as a business. They can be quashed by regular citizens who, using the same freedom to speak, voice strong and continuous counter campaigns against these vulgarities. Write dissenting letters, call advertisers, write editorials, block internet sites, and just stand for something.

Freedom of speech is debated because we vacillate on what we want and don't want. We don't like pornography, but don't want to live like monks. We hate 'hate groups', but don't feel we can stop them without bringing our own xenophobic tendencies into closer scrutiny.

We really want freedom of speech and will defend it, even to the extent of putting up with the dark side that comes with it. We should, however, keep those who abuse the freedom of speech in check, by constantly addressing the weakening effects of such antisocial behaviors.

It's wrong to yell FIRE in a crowded theater, unless, of course, there is a fire.

Author Notes Thank you to Angelheart for the cool graphic.

Chapter 53

By Bill Schott

There is a pebble of sand that will one day fall back up the hour glass and join the timelessness from whence it originated. It is currently bound in the desert of life. In this association with other grains that love the gravity and density of the multitude, the sand pebble must seek the freedom of the upper chamber. Some may say that it would be easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a grain of sand to return above. Others may assume that all of humanity, like the sands of an hour glass, will simply be returned en masse. There is the soul. It languishes on the beaches of time, standing still, no nearer the sea than a stone in the Sahara. It is through faith and truth that the single grain of sand will defy all reasonable expectations - and rise.

Author Notes Thanks to missjl for the great picture.

Resurrected this for kicks.

Chapter 54
Do You See the Stars?

By Bill Schott

"Benny? Benny, do you see the stars?"
The old man waited for the boy to answer.

He remembered coming up to this hillside with his young wife. They would lie together in this very spot. The ground was flat and the trees were parted enough to see a wide section of the night sky. Marie seemed to enjoy gazing at the stars and Ned would tell the stories of the gods. The constellations came to life as Ned retold the heroic epics.

It was in their second year of marriage that Marie gave birth to wee Benjamin. His arrival was a time of joy and sorrow. Benjamin was healthy in every aspect except being born blind. Marie was not as fortunate. Her pregnancy had been difficult and debilitating. Her health steadily deteriorated and, within a month of Benny's birth, she passed away in her sleep. She was interred under the shade of a tree on their star-theater hillside.

For a few years Ned and Benny remained in their small village. Ned could manage work and a modicum of food. Every few days, on a clear night he would take Benny up to the hillside and look up to the stars. He asked Benny to imagine as he retold the magnificent stories of the powerful and beautiful gods. His tales were always exciting, and the gods were always there and always would be.

Time passed and it was obvious that Benny would require more help getting through life than Ned could do on his own. So he moved to the city to find work and help with Benny's education. There were teachers there who could keep the lad moving forward despite his inability to see. There were extra costs and special needs that created a necessity for more money. Ned took on extra jobs to make ends meet. His time with Benjamin became scarce, but he felt this was what his wife would have wanted for her son.

Years flew by as Benny grew into manhood. He had met many challenges and conquered them. He had even become the head master of a school for the blind. During all this time he had infrequent meetings with his father and wished he could get back to see him.

It was fall and the chill of the season was felt everywhere. Benjamin found he had a few days to spare and journeyed back to his father's village. When he arrived he found that Ned no longer lived in the home he had known. He had grown feeble and couldn't work full time any longer. He had been taken in from time to time by neighbors and friends until they had all passed on. As of that day, Ned hadn't been seen in a week.

Benjamin feared the worst. He hired a buggy and driver and, in desperation, ventured up to the hillside where his father had told him the stories of the glorious gods in the stars. The driver stopped the rig at a shade tree, next to a well-cared-for grave site. Benjamin wandered out to the center of the field, guided by a memorized route that he'd learned as a child. He eventually came upon his father, who was lying awake, looking up at the stars.

"Papa!" he cried. "Are you hurt?"
Ned responded lethargically; he was shivering and suffering from exposure.

"Benny!" shouted Ned, happily grasping his son's face. "Marie! Benny is here!"

Ned's strength was waning quickly and his arms slowly lowered. He began to tell a story about Mars and Apollo, but soon ran out of breath to go on. He fixed his eyes on his son's face.
"Benny? Benny, do you see the stars?" The old man waited for the boy to answer.

"Yes Papa," he whimpered through melting, sightless eyes. "I can see them all."


Author Notes Thank to P W RYAN for the perfect graphic.

Chapter 55
Fish in a Barrel

By Bill Schott

Sanders knew why he had been sent to this penitentiary. The new institution was a maximum security prison where only the worst of the worst were remanded. Although it could never be proven that he had killed over a dozen men within the other facility, people knew it. They also suspected that it would only be a matter of time until he would kill again. Even though he had only been there for a few days, he had already decided on a half a dozen convicts he would eliminate. This prison would be a very pleasant stay for Warden Sanders.

Chapter 56
Misty Morning

By Bill Schott

"Noot des tem, Skip-par," he told the dog, as he stepped off the dock into the bass boat. "Mama'll be naddin' ya heah."

Setting down the shotgun, he pulled the lanyard and the motor whizzed to life. The pain of standing, and sitting, and of pulling the rope, all reinforced his decision.

He looked back up at his friend Skipper, a big ball of beige yarn. He'd a taste for goose, kippers, and Mama's prize begonias. Now he sat staring, ready to pounce, if bid, into his master's arms.

Engaging the motor, the old man puttered into the morning mist.

Author Notes The Scottish brogue brings to mind sad bagpipe music. "Not this time Skipper...Mama will be needing you here"
Picture from the internet.

Chapter 57
Cold Justice

By Bill Schott

Teddy couldn't believe his luck. Wanda 'What Choo Lookin' At' Wilson was in his sights. She had bullied him all his life. Now she was his. He had honed his weapon and was ready. Steadying his breathing and zeroing in on the target, he fired, "Sorry, your loan is denied."

Chapter 58
The Whoul

By Bill Schott

Her eyes searched the room.

In her hospice bed she seemed lost in a sea of sheets.

I thought of when she used to yell, "Oh my soul!" and grasp her chest
whenever she was frightened or surprised. It was as if her soul were
about to fly out of her body.

She seemed now to be looking for something or someone.
It wasn't me, as her gaze never caught mine and she looked right through me.

Suddenly, she chirped, "Oh my soul!"
It was as if her soul had found HER.

Then she was gone. Looking like a contented child, after a day of wonders, asleep in her final stillness.

I feel now, as though the soul is a fragmented entity, which dwells in part with us, and somewhere else as well. When one day it reunites, we become the lesser, and the 'whoul' returns to its home.

Author Notes Whole + soul = whoul
Thanks to Angelheart for use of the artwork.

Felt like slapping this up again for the heck of it.

Chapter 59
Live and Learn

By Bill Schott

"You'll never get away with this, Chet!" I screamed, though I knew no one would hear. " I'll be missed!" (No, I wouldn't.) "You'll never g--" A shovel full of dirt snuffed out my attempt to repeat the notion that Chet would never get away with what he clearly would.

The job had been perfect. The woman came along quietly; her husband paid the ransom without question or contacting the cops; and the both of them fit neatly into this hole I dug last week. I remember complaining to Chet. I bitched that I had dug it so deep, I could plant a half a dozen bodies in it. That might have been when he decided to include me in the 'loose ends' list.

Chet was working overtime on the shoveling. This dirt was super heavy and I could feel the oxygen fade as the pressure increased. This plan had been so good. I felt it was seamless. I can see now that Chet's placement in this hole would have been a good touch. Live and learn.

Chapter 60
Review for The Man With One Red Clog

By Bill Schott

I really enjoyed reading your story, but I have a couple of questions that came to mind as I was enjoying your brilliant story that I read and had questions about. When you mentioned that the woman dyed her hair, did you mean she killed her hair? Also, when the dog fell under the bus, did you mean that the cow jumped over the moon? I think your story would be better if the main character's name was Fred, because that reminds people of Fred Mertz from I Love Lucy and he was quite funny. You spelled antidisestablishmentarianism wrong also.

Chapter 61
Lame Enough to Win

By Bill Schott

"Okay Honey. I have to write a story that is about a hundred words that has a plot and characters and conflict."
"Is a hundred words the plot?'
"What? No, the plot has to be about something dangerous."
"A paper cut?"
"A pap""
"What about a bee sting? What if there was a red shirt in with your briefs?
"C'mon. I need an intense character with a conflict."
"Remember having the runs at Aunt Abby's birthday party, and all the oldsters were using all the bathrooms all the time?"
"Y'know, that idea might win. It's kooky! "
"You're welcome."

Chapter 62
His Nemeses

By Bill Schott

They sat at the corner of 15th and Main Streets waiting for Connor's Bar to close. This was a poorly lit and untraveled part of town, where few souls walked the streets at night. The tavern was kitty-corner from where they sat. The two had been pulling from a half empty pint of bourbon and were full of courage and determination. Seymour wrung his hands while Ogden slipped on some tight leather gloves. Ogden had brought a nine millimeter Berretta with a full magazine of ammo loaded in it. There was another clip in his pocket. The plan was to wait for the bar to close and then commit the murder.

Ogden Perry and Seymour Tate had been friends since kindergarten. They often talked about when they met on the playground. Ogden was being beaten up by Butch Bavendish. Seymour had run up to Butch and thrown dirt in the bully's face. This resulted in Seymour being beaten to unconsciousness. He had suffered broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and jaw, and a concussion. He missed the next three weeks of school recovering. Butch was collected by the state and sent off to an institution.

Ogden and Seymour played, worked, and did most everything together. They played opposite each other in the high school production of Othello. Ogden played the Moor and Seymour, Iago. They were each other's only challenge in debate team, and dual valedictorians. When they were freshmen in college, Ogden met Beatrice. They grew close quickly and, by graduation, were engaged to be married. Seymour and Beatrice seemed to get along, but were often telling Ogden, in confidence, that each didn't really like the other.

Ogden and Beatrice's wedding had been scheduled for the summer of this year, and all plans were aligned to that appointment. Ogden, who balanced litigating with his personal life, coordinated many of the plans. There was little help from Seymour, who seemed ambivalent about the wedding, and precious little input from Beatrice, who was on one business trip after another.

It was in the early spring that Butch Bavendish returned to town. He had spent much of his life incarcerated and was now employed at Connor's Bar as the bouncer. He had spied Beatrice and Ogden a couple of times on the street and had harassed them. He made lewd comments to Beatrice and threatened to have his way with her one day. Ogden had sought to have the man arrested, but found that he was protected by laws governing the mentally disturbed.

It had been two weeks prior to their sidewalk vigil that Ogden had told Seymour the news. Beatrice had been having an affair. Ogden said he was convinced that it was with Butch Bavendish, for whom he had suspected Beatrice merely feigned disgust. He had noted that they were often out of town at the same times. Ogden swore he would kill the man; Seymour suggested that they eliminate Butch immediately.

Ogden actually knew more about Beatrice's tryst than he'd let on. He had found a letter that she had written to her lover, going on about how she hated pretending not to love him to protect Ogden. She was promising to reveal her infidelity when they were next together.

The neon sign outside the bar went dark. Soon after, the front door opened and Butch Bavendish emerged. Ogden pulled out the gun and handed it to Seymour. He recognized the pistol as the one he'd given to Ogden as a graduation present from law school. He thought it ironic that Ogden would now own a purloined military weapon with an obscured serial number and untraceable origin. This was indeed perfect for the work at hand.

As Butch crossed the street, Seymour rose and went to meet him half way. Seymour raised the gun to Bavendish's chest and fired. He pulled the trigger three times. Butch looked down at his chest in shock; there were no wounds. Enraged, he attacked a bewildered Seymour, strangling him, as he simultaneously smashed his face. The gun dropped to the pavement.

Ogden stood up and walked to the gun. He could hear Seymour's bones snapping and the gurgling last gasps of his now, lifeless body. Butch held the dead attacker off the ground, staring at him with a still snarling grin. He was unaware of Ogden picking up the nine millimeter semi-automatic weapon, ejecting the magazine of blanks and reloading with real bullets. When Butch finally dropped Seymour's lifeless body to the ground, Ogden emptied the gun's twenty-round magazine into the unsuspecting hulk.

After placing the gun in Seymour's hand, Ogden left the scene of the horrible murder of his childhood nemesis, and the man who had been having an affair with his wife.

Chapter 63

By Bill Schott

This morning when I was arguing with my pet rock, Iggy, the phone rang. Someone on the other end told me that if I threw my clock out of my window, I could see time fly.

I handed the phone to Iggy. He wouldn't take it, but made me rip the cord out of the wall. He then told the guy on the other end to not call back. He hasn't.

Iggy says that beer is the breakfast of champions. He also states that light beer is the breakfast of also-rans.

Iggy has begun to hear voices and see odd images. Me too. I haven't heard any voices though.

Iggy says that the only thing better than beer is seven on the dice. I have been rolling dice all day, but I never get anything higher than sixes on them.

Iggy says it's all in the wrist; like he'd know.

Chapter 64
Could Be Worse

By Bill Schott

Alan had always considered himself an optimist. Even after accidentally falling from the roof of the fifty-five story office building, he still had a sense of hope and possibility. Good could well come from this likely serendipitous event. Approaching the pavement he couldn't help thinking that he had dropped fifty-four stories and was still okay.

Author Notes Optimists wade through five-foot-deep horse manure piles looking for a pony. This is based on a joke I remember from my youth.

Chapter 65
That There Storm

By Bill Schott

Gramps was the bestest person to be with durin' a storm. He weren't never ascared a nothin'. I recollect his bein' here in the house one summer when we got hit with a storm that beat all.

I was a tiny kid, but Gramps told me I had plenty a bounce. Always figured that were better'n not. He always had me tend to the rabbits in the pen outside the south door. I was changin' out their straw when a flock a blackbirds come asailin' past me like one huge body held together with yarn and caught in a big wind. I fell right back on the pellets I had just cleaned outta that rabbit cage. Gramp's eyes twinkled and he broke into a knee-slappin' fit at the sight a me.

Back inside he told me that birds act like that when a storm's brewin'. He said there weren't nothin' to do about it but to light some candles and gin up some lemonade. I found the tapers Ma made last year, and Gramps pulled a dozen a them yeller fruits outta a crock he usually stored in the root cellar. Said they was from Florida and his pal what lived there had brung 'em up last week. He said he was hopin' there'd be a good reason to squeeze 'em up soon. He cut 'em in half and I ground 'em on the juicer doodad that I thunk was an ash tray, since Ma used it fer that sometimes.

Once they was all wrung out and Gramps had sugared the juice and added some water, we sat at the table with two tumblers a lemonade. Gramps had some plastic straws he'd kept from a soda he'd drunk at a carnival a while back. He blew into his glass and made bubbles. I did too and they beaded and finally raised up to the brim a the glass.

It weren't all that long 'til the clouds got dark and the wind picked up somethin' fierce. We'd battened the shutters but left the win-ders up a crack. Gramps said that if the wind cain't go through a house, it'll just push it outta its way.

We brung the rabbits, the nanny goat, and a couple a hens inside. Gramps said the rest'll take care a themselves. These ones we might need for breakfast and supper if'n the storm is a Nor'easter.

Gramps rung up the operator to check on Ma. She was at a friend's house across the valley and weren't s'posed to be back 'til tomorrow. All was well I was told and she'd be stayin' put 'til the weather cleared.

Well that wind did pick up and we could hear everythin' that weren't nailed down flyin' by and kissin' the house good-bye as they was blasted outta our yard and yonder.

This weren't quite a twister like what we heard about last fall. That's a relief, since that one I heard blew Emma and Ben Gale's house over the rainbow. That were a stretcher no doubt, though I hear that their niece gets treated for nerves now.

No matter. Our storm came and went and Gramps reckoned that there weren't no more damage than after a hoedown with a bad jug a shine in play. We set all the animals back out 'ceptin' one hen what Gramps said died in its sleep. He cleaned her up fer supper. Good old Gramps.

Author Notes Written in the vernacular. Has 500+ words and includes the words tiny, rabbit, bounce, twinkled, south, blackbirds, pellets, candles, lemonade, bubbles, beaded, and clouds.

Chapter 66

By Bill Schott

Waking up from a long evening of fun, food, and drink, I remember speaking at my best friend's wedding the previous night.

I somewhat recall the mild laughter that surrounded me and my garbled, drunken toast. All was okay until I burst out screaming, "Muddy Blurder!" I then began a small diatribe against marriage. I proclaimed that a wedding was very much a death sentence. I insisted that it represented the final beatings of a free heart.

The crowd, I remember, looked on in silence as I slurred into a microphone, "Bloody murder. You lose. They lose. We all loose stool."

My fiancee left with some new guy who had been sniffing around her all evening. She was apparently embarrassed at my actions to the degree of calling off our engagement.

Even though I have a splitting headache, I love it when a plan comes together.

Chapter 67
Getting Fixed

By Bill Schott

I cannot recall a day or an hour when I felt more ill at ease than during an appointment with our doctor concerning reproductive sterilization.

My wife was in the ninth month of her pregnancy, and the time had come to make decisions. Would we continue to repopulate the earth, or not? "No" was the unanimous vote. Now, how should we avoid it? Abstinence? Out of the question. Contraceptives? Too much trouble. Rhythm? Two kids proved we had rhythm; what we needed was a change of tune. Sterilization, it was decided, would be the means to the end.

Once we were in his office the doctor began by explaining the intricate and demanding operation involved with tubal ligation. He spoke of how tying off the Fallopian tube would keep the ovum from ever coming in contact and being fertilized by sperm. This course of action, however, was obviously not his first choice, and I perceived a slant in his explanations towards a vasectomy. What kind of man would I be to allow my wife to undergo the complicated cutting, with dubious success, of a tubal ligation, when a simple 'SNIP SNIP' on me would suffice.

His words were clinical, but his presentation formed a picture in my mind of a virtuous ovum wading out into the ocean and being ravished by lecherous sharks. Tubal ligation would be like barring sweet ovum from the beach. A vasectomy would act as a shark barrier; the tide comes in, but not the sharks.

As I recall, my wife seemed to move closer to the doctor as he explained the advantages of my undergoing a vasectomy. He would point out the procedure and she would nod and smile. Then they both turned to me waiting for my affirming nod. I felt as if a sales presentation was being made and I was the client. My wife would collect a finder's fee if the surgical sales agent could close the deal.

It had seemed normal to me for the doctor to stare at my wife's belly while visualizing and explaining the steps of a tubal ligation. I felt a bit self-conscious, however, when the topic and the staring were directed toward the operative area of the vasectomy. I crossed my legs and he looked at me as if I had blocked his field of view. I even looked down to see if I had.

The gist of the conversation was that there was no way of confirming the success of the tube tying other than not becoming pregnant. The tube would not be visible to the surgeon and complete blockage of the oviduct could not be guaranteed.

The vasectomy, as luck would have it, was immediately verifiable. The physician would have eye contact with the cords and by severing one would eliminate completely the possibility of sperm ever leaving home again.

Arguments for the vasectomy had become almost indisputable. The procedure itself was simpler, more reliable, and permanent. I was defeated, and insult was about to be added to injury.

It seems that even with the "bridge out" there would be sperm already across the span that could sneak in and make a mockery of medicine. Therefore, a most embarrassing procedure would have to be conducted. A sperm count would be necessary on consecutive post-operative occasions to purge my body of the final "hangers-on."

The doctor did not expound on the details, but I had a pretty good idea of how I would be producing the fluid to be scrutinized while in his office. My wife offered to help, but I figured I would have to handle it alone.

When the office visit ended, I made another appointment for a vasectomy. It would be set for a date after our child's birth. As the receptionist filled in the schedule sheet, I realized that she was assigning the date that my lineage would end.

Turning away I saw a couple sitting in the waiting room with their five children. The father bounced one boy happily on his knee while smiling at the pictures in a magazine that another pointed out. His wife was busy burping an infant and periodically pulling the thumb from a toddler's mouth. Still another wandered about introducing himself to everyone. My wife had noticed the family, too. She pecked me on the cheek, smiled, and returned to the receptionist's desk where she had the appointment changed -- to the next available slot.

Author Notes This is based on personal experience.
Thank you CammyCards for the cool picture.

Chapter 68
Let's Call It Puppy

By Bill Schott

Last practice before the school dance. Joannie's high notes on White Rabbit were just like Grace's. Fink was the best bassist in the school, and Zoe's riff on In-a-gad-da-da-vi-da was far out.
Now we needed an outta-sight name to win the student's hearts.
"Joannie!" I screeched. "We still need a name for the band."
"Let's call it Puppy," she replied, with the worst name ever.
Finkleman chimed in, "What about Hamburger?"
I asked Zoe's cousin, whom I'd never met, for the moniker.
"Blind Orange," she stated, without hesitation.
I automatically kissed her.
She kissed me back.
The rest is history.

Author Notes Thanks to Galyavision for the image.
100 words-first kiss-word list orange, puppy, hamburger, and blind

Chapter 69
Cleaning Up

By Bill Schott

The room was empty. Nothing left but impressions on the carpet of the removed bed and dressers, a latex glove that one of the officers might have left behind, and my uncle's brains on the wall. The red, blackening stain looked like a sad sunrise I had painted as a child in school. There hadn't been any orange watercolor so I had to use red, and it had lumps in it. The stain on the wall was glossy and chunky with a flat bottom where the bed board had blocked the lower parts of the blood blast from reaching the wall.

Mom was a nurse's aide and took us to my uncle's apartment to clean up after his suicide. "No one pays for this!" she had told me, when I had been initially hesitant to go there and clean it up. "If we don't do it we'll have to pay someone else -- and that ain't cheap!"

I was fifteen at the time and had aspirations of becoming a nurse some day. My uncle had always encouraged me to stay in school and do my best. He'd say aphorisms like, "A brain is a terrible thing to waste." and "Quitters never win and winners never quit." Those sayings seemed ironic at that point.

We started with the blood, and what I supposed was brain and skull bits on the wall. I drenched the 'sunrise' with ammonia and water and scrubbed at it with the same scrub brush I had used the day before to clean the urine stains out of my grandfather's favorite tan trousers. There were chips in the plaster, and the blood was leeching into the tiny crannies.

Mom had erected a step-ladder and was sponging down the entire wall across from me. She had completed that wall in the time I took to finish off my uncle's brains. I continued cleaning the general area as far up as I could reach until I'd finished the lower wall. The other two walls were done comparatively faster.

"The landlord will be here tonight to inspect the cleaning job," my mom had told me. "We need Buddy's - - we need your uncle's deposit back to help pay for his funeral and all."

"How much does it cost to do the funeral and all?" I asked, not looking at her, but at the part of the wall that needed emergency spackling.

"Darlin'," she began, "it's gunna take some of your grampa's pension check, some of my next four checks, anything your uncle had that we can sell, and probably some of your college fund."

"My - -" She stopped me before I could fully express my surprise.

"I'm sorry honey - really. But we're all gonna have to pitch in to get your Uncle Bud decently buried."

"Can't Grampa pay for it?" I asked, reasoning the immediate responsibility. "Uncle Bud was his son."

She seemed a little pensive before her reply. "Darlin' - - we have - - I have been dipping into your grampa's savings quite a bit this last year. He really don't got a pot of money and I feel like a thief now."

"Won't they send him more money?" I questioned.

She stared just off to my right, as if telling the other me across the room, "Yes, they will send him more money." Her voice began rising. "But it won't be soon - - and it won't be a lot and he is not goin' be around much longer for you to leech money off!"

I was speechless. I looked around for my scrub brush as my eyes filled with tears. My mouth was half open as I headed slowly to the spackle-needy portion of the wall I had earlier cleaned. I began lightly whisking at the area for no apparent reason. My mind was flooding with memories of my father leaving, years ago, and my mother screaming after him that he was just a leech. I remembered my almost step-dad, driving off in our old rusty pick up truck with my mom yelling after him that he was nothing but a leech.

"Hon," she began, as she approached me from across the room. "You know I ..." She talked on, but all I could hear was her screaming on the phone last week. She had been talking to my uncle and she was cursing and gesturing, as though he could see through the phone lines, and calling him all kinds of unkind names. She called him pathetic. She called him the worst specimen of a man she'd ever seen. She said he was an embarrassment and a loser. Then, before slamming the phone down, she called him a filthy - - rotten - - leech.

I remember my uncle telling me that his dad had given him the .45 when he turned sixteen. He kept it under his mattress with one round in the magazine in case of an emergency. An emergency exit, I guess.

My mom got back half of the deposit, since we hadn't spackled. Additionally, the three days my uncle had lain in bed, after clearing his mind with a round from a .45, had apparently been cause to prorate the next month's rent to compensate the landlord for his loss.

We ended up cremating my uncle and having his ashes placed in a sealed cardboard box. His name had been printed nicely across the top with a marker by someone from the crematorium. My mom gave it to me and I keep it in my trunk next to the .45 I also ended up with.

My grandfather was removed from our home after a social worker reported that he had excessive sores from not being cared for properly. His checks were rerouted to the state facility where he now resides.

Mom left her job as a nurse's aide and now lives with an older man that treats her well. I don't hear from her much and I never call.

I had been living with the man who was once my 'almost stepfather' since I moved into the city. He left a while ago though, leaving me with this apartment, rent past due, which I clean, along with four or five others on this block. I don't have much money, but I've managed to buy a couple of nice looking urns. I got them at a two-for-one sale. One is for Uncle Buddy's ashes. I also bought a .45 round from a kid on the street who'd found it in an alley down town. He said it was a hollow point, whatever that means. All I know is that it fit in the magazine and loaded into the chamber. Now I'm ready for an emergency.

My life - - this room - - seems empty. The night is very long. It is dark now -- but there'll be a sunrise tomorrow.

Author Notes I had a student whose mother had her help clean up after her uncle's suicide.

Chapter 70
The Rows of M.L.E.

By Bill Schott

Ms. G had finally died, and the people of the Rows were invited to attend the funeral. Some were curious about the pre-host-house, which no one, save an old Technical Zero-E Beta or "TOE-B" housekeeper, had seen in at least a decade.

It was a unique home, passe now, as geodesic domes atop quarter-mile-high towers had long since been abandoned as a building style. Now that the flood waters had receded, such drastic, elevated structures were no longer necessary. The other towers had already toppled from lack of pre-flood foundational reinforcements, or had been purposely demolished to make way for the new "living homes." These new homes had been aligned in measured strips and had become known as the Rows. Their incarnation had altered home life forever.

The monolith of dead steel that pierced the pink sky was a constant reminder to the inhabitants beneath it, of the hated past and the wastefulness of their ancestors. Homes that did not respond to the human touch were simply useless to them. People needed homes that cared for them, and homes needed people too.

Alive, Ms. G had been an anachronism. She was a throwback to the days when life was a more surprise-oriented existence. What happened to one, on a daily basis, was never quite fully known ahead of time. A mortal unit might wake at the beginning of a day and not fully comprehend the day's events, except in reflection at the day's conclusion. No one could imagine an entire twenty-four hours of suspense and uncertainty. There was no concept of such a ghastly, terrifying existence.

She had lived in almost total solitude, but for the TOE-B, who tended the beans that flourished on the girders of the tower. Occasionally, it also evicted a nesting mole-squito, which may have flown or climbed up the tower. The creatures seemed to think that they could burrow into the lifeless metal as its kind often tried doing down below in the real houses. Mole-squitoes were, as far as anyone knew, the only remnants of the genetic horrors unleashed during the last century. They were created to travel unseen beneath the conventional detection equipment of that era, and attack humans. They would pierce the flesh with their hypodermic-like mouths. Surreal in every way, they were a living reminder, as Ms. G's tower was a dead reminder, of a past that would be gladly forgotten.

The funeral, a quaint ritual which served as an oasis in the sea of life, was an occasion when humans would gather and take account of a particular human's contributions to the maintenance of personkind. As each human went through the death cycle, the time would be spent talking about that entity and considering whether 'continuity' should or should not be granted. In Ms. G's case, the question was of a major importance.

In Ms. G's time, the world was a different place. However, a one degree shift in the Earth's revolution created a misalignment with the solar system that changed everything. The polar caps melted, and what would become the new sea level, was three hundred feet higher than what it had been previously. The composition of the atmosphere changed slightly, which caused a third of the world's life to expire.

The sudden floods, which actually took several weeks to occur, took the world by surprise. Many strange governments released their private terrors onto the Earth in a last effort to be of some significance. Biological cocktails turned the oceans into evolutionary maelstroms, which mutated every living organism and even affected the molecular tendencies of previously non-organic material. New fungi formed from the inanimate. It exchanged chemicals with whatever it touched, and instantly created a symbiotic relationship. It became the go-between for the rock and the life that crawled upon it. It arose from the waters, after a century of development, and became known as Mutational Living Elemental, or M.L.E.

The people of that time, like Ms. G, had adapted to the many changes that had occurred. Those who had been privy to the suspected consequences of the planetary axis shift had constructed durable, elevated environments that were able to withstand the suspected cataclysmic upheavals.

She and the TOE-B lived in the tower for many years. Her activities were a mystery, but the TOE-B was often seen gleaning the beans from the stalks. Ms. G had not been included in the "funerals", which took place below in the Rows. Life cycles were routinely revitalized by walling up an expired person within a home. After three days, a resurrected hybrid would return to life's normal activity. The homes, made of malleable M.L.E., exchanged cellular fluids and created, from death, a new life. A life, no longer merely human, but connected to the Rows, and happy to be so.

Ms. G had never died before. The TOE-B had died once, but was regenerated using some forgotten science that returned life, but did not blend it with M.L.E. It remained as mysterious as Ms. G, living high in the magenta heavens, seemingly disinterested in the activities of the creatures beneath her stilted dome.

How long had she lived? A communication, which the TOE-B delivered by dropping a gondola, with a bean leaf parasol, and bean vine tether, into the center of the Rows, made no specifications. There was only a simple statement, written in an ancient language that needed to be translated by one of the Ripe.

The Ripe were those whom had been around the longest. They still remembered old things. They remembered the waters. Some remembered seeing Ms. G once. They knew her language. The message was translated as reading, "I die. You come. I live."

A group was assembled and five climbers started up the giant "beanstalk." The vegetation had grown to engulf the tower, which was more than twenty-five hundred feet high. Climbing to the dome and returning was estimated to take two days. There were many hidden dangers in the ascent. One climber was attacked by a mole-squito. Both climber and creature plummeted through the center of the dense foliage. They were already more than three hundred feet up, so no one heard what happened to the falling climber.

At five hundred feet, the climbers rested. Two climbers picked beans and began eating them raw. The Ripes had forbidden the eating of the beans. The vines were not allowed to grow away from the tower either. The Rows created a natural defoliate that kept the vines from encroaching on the homes. No reason was ever given.

The beans were tasty and filling; however, within minutes, both climbers lost the feeling in their hands and feet. They couldn't hold on to their ropes. Both fell from the vines into the thick bean leaves that parted and returned to mute the screams of the falling pair.

The remaining two climbers resumed the trek up the tower. They didn't fear death, as they would always have their homes to go back to.

On the third day of the climbing, the two reached the base of the dome. It was truly a marvel to behold. The dome entrance was pearl-laden, and the walkway, which seemed to lead to the center of the environment, had a shiny golden luster. Beans grew everywhere, and the vines ran along the walls and ceiling. At the center of the immense vine conspiracy, like a white aphid in the center of a solid green outcropping of green hair, was the TOE-B.

Never speaking, the TOE-B walked the hundred meters which covered the distance between it and the two climbers. It produced another message, written in the same language as before. Neither of the climbers could understand it. They spoke in their own dialect, which the TOE-B seemed to understand. They wanted to see Ms. G. The TOE-B motioned for them to follow; the three traversed to the center of the dome. There, in an emerald vapor, lying on a bed of giant bean leaves, was the body of Ms. G.

The first climber approached the still form and leaned in to inspect for signs of death. Ms. G's eyes then suddenly burst open. Vines came to life and entwined the startled climber. The TOE-B squirted some type of fluid at the other climber, which touched his arm and made his muscles become unresponsive and frozen.

"You are a female?" asked the TOE-B, of the Row-ite climber whom Ms. G's twined tentacles held immobile.

She quickly nodded in the affirmative.

Looking over to the paralyzed climber he asked, "Is a male?"

Another positive acknowledgement came from the flustered female. The TOE-B moved to the paralyzed figure and brought him closer to Ms. G.

Within seconds, the female climber was hoisted upward and held suspended a few feet above the bed. Ms. G slowly inclined to a more erect stature, as if a flower rising slowly to meet the rays of a nurturing sun. As the female looked down on Ms. G, she saw that the bean-leaf bed and the bean vines, and, as the truth filled her mind, the entire bean stalk, was all a part - connected - with Ms. G. It didn't grow from the ground up to the dome. It began with her, and grew out to seek the world below.

Ms. G pulled the male climber close to her quivering, lime-colored body.

"Ms. G will mate with the male," the TOE-B stated coldly. "He will absorb her essence and she will become like he. He will carry her within him."

Looking at the female he added, "You will be fertilizer."

The vines that held the female suddenly tightened and twirled about, piercing her flesh and wringing out her blood. The blood cascaded down upon the grotesque pair, now writhing in a forgotten abandonment, only partially understanding the macabre, fertility ritual.

The next day, at the base of the tower, the male climber's body and that of the TOE-B, were found. It was thought that there had been a struggle, and they had both fallen. In the matter of the TOE-B, it was decided to let that being return to the earth. It was planted near the spot where it had fallen. The other was taken to his home and walled up. Everything would be all right. In three days they would know what had happened in the dome. In three days, the home and the man would be as one again, and they would know.

The home already knew. Its beige exterior had taken on an avocado hue. The homes that touched this home began emitting an emerald aura. The bean vines, for so long held in abeyance, and confined to the tower, had begun moving slowly forward -- towards the Rows of M.L.E.

Author Notes Images from A Rose for Emily

Chapter 71
English Teacher's Wedding Reception

By Bill Schott

New at the English department, I was invited to one of the teacher's wedding reception. Eventually, the groom's best man, a wee bit tipsy, got up to speak.
"Jadeez and lentalmen," the best man began. "I may have had too - no-- three much to drink tonight."
Mild laughter began, but subsided when he, with eyes exploding and siren voice exclaimed, "Muddy Blurder!"
All was still as he began a small diatribe against marriage.
"A wedding," he began, eyes roving the ceiling corners in front of him, "is ferry much like an -- I am BIK - SenTUNZ! A DEATH sentence! The final beatings of a free HEART. A DEEPendent clause -- with no object."
The crowd looked on in silence.
"Bloody murder," he whispered. "You lose. They lose. We all loose stool."
His now ex-fiancee left with me. We conjugated verbs at my place until breakfast.

Author Notes 147 words with laughter, drink, murder, final, sentence, muddy, loose, wedding, mild, heart

Chapter 72
Taking Action

By Bill Schott

Winona sat up in bed. The baby was asleep. Through the window she could see the sun was just peaking up over the horizon. She heard the car running and knew that Wink would be heading home to his wife.

Winona was raising Wink's son, Winchell, without as much as a bag of groceries from Wink. He would pick her up occasionally at her work and give her a lift home. This was always followed by a few beers and an hour or two in the hay.

The rent, which took two weeks pay, was due. The roof had three or four leaks in it, and the weather forecast for the next week was for rain. Instead of crying, which was her usual reaction, she thought to use the phone.

Winona had recently joined a support group called Left Holding the Bag. It was made up of unmarried women who were raising children on their own because the already-married fathers knew they would.

She dialed, talked briefly, and hung the receiver back up. Within a half an hour, two cars pulled up outside her house. The doors opened and several women got out. They were there to fix the roof.

Chapter 73
Apple Anecdote

By Bill Schott

Adam's ally, although apologetic, annihilates all allegiances, and authors an anti-paradisiacal alienation.

Author Notes Genesis 3:13

Chapter 74
Last Friday

By Bill Schott

It was a marriage of minds and a wedding of wills. The couple began their sentence of love and laughter after their vows were completed, and never stopped until the sirens were heard last Friday.

Felix and Oscar had beaten all the odds that predicted that their civil union would fail. After two years of battling the Viet Cong, Felix returned to his former college roommate and proposed.

The muddy rice paddies of Vietnam gave life to the mosquitoes that would finally murder him. Felix had always had a mild case of malaria, but it rarely flared up. Last Friday, after the final showing at the studio, his temperature soared to 105.

Oscar had Felix drink several glasses of water and made his tie, trousers, and shoes loose. He patted his head and rocked him on the couch.

Felix began convulsing and his heart stopped.

Oscar wore black at Arlington.

Chapter 75

By Bill Schott

The extraction of the fully developed fetus from Womb 16 had been completed. Eve removed the umbilical and scraped the uterus for all remaining placenta material. Having placed it into the respective tubs for stem cell harvesting and SG processing, she then placed the infant into the cleansing tub. It was quickly sealed and pushed gently onto the conveyor. Within three seconds the conveyor whisked the tub and child away to join the myriad of similar containers headed for the initial screening station.

Eve turned back to Womb 16, withdrew a laser suture and mended the tear in the labia. She lightly touched a circular panel to her left front. It opened and projected a small, finger-sized cylinder held by a clip. Eve removed the inseminator module; she then ran her gloved thumb along the side to locate the identity strip. Once located, she touched the strip against the implanted inner thigh strip to sync up and calibrate with Womb 16's biometrics. Once completed, indicated by the pulse that was sent through the device to her glove receptor, she inserted the module into the vaginal opening. Touching her ring finger against the palm of her glove, a pulse, which triggered the module to eject anchor needles to hold it in place, was sent. Womb 16's body was then pulled back within its container which then revolved upward to the left.

An outside feed penetrated her consciousness. There was an instantaneous delivery of over one hundred messages. This was allowed in the seconds between womb operations to provide a sense of connection to the world. She was informed that her essays on toddler and nonagenarian exoskeletons were accepted in both Mandarin and Cantonese, as well as Arabic and the North American dialect. She had been concerned about the latter, as it was such a subjective and mongrelized language. There were fifty or sixty messages about interplanetary discoveries, her investment profits in deep-sea and asteroid mining, and a barrage of security-skipping advertisements about increasing her brain mass or re-growing fat cells. Personal messages were also completed, though edited and blended to allow the greatest amount of sentiment and diversity of sources within the allotted pulse. She now knew that her biological relatives, a quaint anachronistic expression of a social connection that once existed, were still alive. They all sent their affirmations for her continued existence.

The next container was now visible and Womb 17 began sliding out towards her. It was near the end of the first trimester and Eve would take an amniocentesis. Placing a decimeter-long probe injector on the body's belly, she pressed the top of the probe to start the three-step process. The probe first sent out sonar bursts to ensure the fetus was clear of the impending probe needle. This instantly caused the needle to lock or inject. The injection occurred and the sample of amniotic fluid was returned to the probe for analysis. Within fifteen seconds the fluid had failed the scan for defects and the probe armed for abortion. Eve replaced the probe of Womb 17's belly and injected the chemical that would begin the dissolution of the fetus. Pushing the body back into the container it too revolved to the left. It was then disengaged and transferred mechanically to another cylinder that held bodies of a similar nature. These cylinders were designated to process the vaginal debris and reexamine the viability of the womb to be recommitted or discontinued.

It was lunchtime now. Her biometric monitor automatically released vitamins and minerals into her stomach. Hormones were also sent to inform the satiety center of her brain that she was full.

A new container rotated down and presented her with Womb 18. The cervix was dilated to twelve centimeters and a head had crowned. Eve touched a triangular door on her right front. It opened and produced a double-ringed device that she slipped onto her index and middle finger. With a touch on the body's right thigh, the abdominal muscles contracted and forced the child out of the womb. Eve removed the umbilical cord and removed the remaining placenta material from the uterus. She placed the waste materials in designated tubs, and then placed the child into a cleansing tub. All tubs were immediately sealed and conveyors took them all away.

A flash later, Eve had enjoyed a scan of the novel Moby Dick, an unedited showing of Birth of a Nation, and the memory of a weekend of debauchery taken from a memory donation and sent to her neural receptors.

Another container rolled into view and Womb 19 began sliding out towards her. It was near the end of the first trimester and Eve would take an amniocentesis. Placing a decimeter-long probe injector on the belly, she pressed the top of the probe to start the process. The injection occurred and the sample of amniotic fluid was returned to the probe for analysis. Within a few seconds the fluid had passed the scan for defects and the probe was placed in a disposal chute. Pushing the body back into the container it revolved to the left.

The workweek was over and Eve and her family were off on a cruise. She had legally aligned herself with her childhood sweetheart, Celeste, and enjoyed their two beautiful boys, Dougie and B.J.. The ship sailed without incident across the Gulf of Mexico to a port in Cabo San Lucas. They all enjoyed skiing, parasailing, swimming with dolphins, a nature hike, and shopping. Back aboard the liner they participated in dancing and a variety show. The food was nonstop, they even ate with the ship's captain. The whole family played in the pool, zip lined across half the length of the ship, and played millionaire bingo in the main lounge. Eve won the cover up super pot and claimed the million dollar prize.

Womb 20 rolled into view and slid out to her. Shoulders had crested and Eve grabbed the head and pulled the small body the rest of the way out. The extraction of the fully developed fetus from Womb 20 had been completed. She then removed the placenta and sent it to its processing locations. The infant was then placed into the cleansing tub and zipped away.
Eve turned back to Womb 20, withdrew a small, finger-sized cylinder from a clip which sprang from an opening in the table, performed a few arming functions, and inserted the module into the vaginal opening. Womb 20's body was then pulled back within its container, which then revolved upward to the left.

Eve received dozens of messages. She was informed that her designs were being purchased by a cybernetic company on Io for use in outfitting the Ionion populace with frames that would allow them better chances assimilating into the new colonies of Earthians. There were fifty or sixty messages about interplanetary discoveries, her investment profits in Soylent Green (SG) and kelp futures, and a barrage of security-skipping advertisements about dating lonely domestic engineers and helping a Nigerian king reclaim his money.

The next container was now visible and Womb 21 began sliding out towards her. The cervix was dilated to twelve centimeters and a head had crowned. Eve touched a triangular door on her right front. It opened and produced a double-ringed device that she slipped onto her index and middle finger. With a touch on the body's right thigh, the abdominal muscles contracted and forced the child out of the womb. Eve removed the umbilical cord and removed the remaining placenta material from the uterus. She placed the waste materials in designated tubs, and then placed the child into a cleansing tub. All tubs were immediately sealed and conveyors took them all away.

A flash later, Eve had viewed all seasons of I Love Lucy, Desi and Lucy, and The Lucile Ball Show, scanned the Oxford Dictionary for spelling errors, and witnessed the harrowing dash, via a shell-mounted mini-cam, of a Galapagos turtle as it raced from its shell to the sea, through a gauntlet of ravenous sea gulls.

A new container rotated down and presented her with Womb 22. Eve's vision was blurred and soon her breathing became labored and painful. She experienced a sense of floating and was no longer aware if she were standing.

Eve was not aware of the disassembly of her upper torso. Her brain had experienced a stroke and she had become catatonic. Her body had been externally scrubbed, and an electrolysis ball removed and deadened all hair and follicles respectively. Her unnecessary organic extremities were removed and a bio-skeleton was installed to allow easier installation and continued manipulation of her body.

An outside feed penetrated her consciousness. There was a steady delivery of over one billion messages. This stream began to provide a sense of connection to the world. She began observing the history of the colonization of Mars and the moons of Jupiter. Each episode of Doctor Who had been painstakingly restaged and emoted by Ionian thespians. The first episodes began playing. Daleks were obviously being portrayed by Europans, Ganymedians, and Callistites from neighboring Jovian moons. These viewings were all translated into the Nepalese dialect of Dzongkha, Azerbaijani Turkic, Swahhili, Estonian, and Mandarin. There were several million messages about solutions for cleaning teeth and vaginas, chemicals to eliminate body odor and hemorrhoids, and reminders for everyone to buckle up for safety and duck and cover.

Her body had undergone extensive down-sizing in order to be inserted into the cylinder. Once she was completely attached to the main processor and sealed in, her container entered the revolver and rotated into place as Womb 427.

The next container was now visible and Womb 425 began sliding out towards him. It was near the end of the first trimester and Evan would take an amniocentesis. Placing a decimeter-long probe injector on the body's belly, he pressed the top of the probe to start the three-step process. The probe first sent out sonar bursts to ensure the fetus was clear of the impending probe needle. This instantly caused the needle to lock or inject. The injection occurred and the sample of amniotic fluid was returned to the probe for analysis. Within fifteen seconds the fluid had failed the scan for defects and the probe armed for abortion. Evan replaced the probe of Womb 425's belly and injected the chemical that would begin the dissolution of the fetus. Pushing the body back into the container it too revolved to the left. It was then disengaged and transferred mechanically to another cylinder that held bodies of a similar nature. These cylinders were designated to process the vaginal debris and reexamine the viability of the womb to be recommitted or discontinued.

It was late afternoon now. His biometric monitor automatically released adrenaline into his bloodstream. Electrical pulses flexed his abdomen and thigh muscles to complete his core workout.

A new container rotated down and presented him with Womb 426. The cervix was dilated to twelve centimeters and a head had crowned. Evan touched a triangular door on his right front. It opened and produced a double-ringed device that he slipped onto his index and middle finger. With a touch on the body's right thigh, the abdominal muscles contracted and forced the child out of the womb. Evan removed the umbilical cord and removed the remaining placenta material from the uterus. He placed the waste materials in designated tubs, and then placed the child into a cleansing tub. All tubs were immediately sealed and conveyors took them all away. Evan took an inseminator module and inserted and anchored it into the vaginal opening.

The workweek was over and Evan and his family were off on a cruise. He had legally aligned himself with his childhood sweetheart, Celeste, and enjoyed their two beautiful boys, Dougie and B.J.. The ship sailed without incident across the Gulf of Mexico to a port in Cabo San Lucas. They all enjoyed skiing, parasailing, swimming with dolphins, a nature hike, and shopping. Back aboard the liner they participated in dancing and a variety show. The food was nonstop, they even ate with the ship's captain. The whole family played in the pool, zip lined across half the length of the ship, and played millionaire bingo in the main lounge. Evan won the cover up super pot and claimed the million dollar prize.

Womb 427 rolled into view and slid out to him.


Author Notes Repetition is intentional. I have worked at a mindless job before, and here combine that with a dismal glimpse of behavior and acceptance.

Chapter 76

By Bill Schott

Waiting for the sun to explode, Sunny wondered. Would I see the ocean turn to steam? Will mountains burn as bonfires, while airplanes pop like fireworks? The show, however it plays out, will be so amazing to watch. Maybe with a last video I could capture all of these happenings for posteri---


Author Notes Image from Google (

Chapter 77
Whirled Without End

By Bill Schott

"Did you see that?" asked Lon, with a perplexed look on his face.

"You mean that huge fiery ball that just rose up out of the horizon like the opening eyelid of a god?" said Manx, smiling, referring to the dawning sun.

"No!  I mean the van!  Down there on the highway!  It was racing to that curve like it was going to drive right through the railing!"

"Did it?"

"Did it what?" asked Lon, not sure where their conversation started.

"Did what?" asked Manx.

"I don't know," said Lon finally. "Let's get back to the office."

"This stakeout was sure a waste of time," said Manx, sighing. "That's what this was, right - a stakeout?"

Lon and Manx returned to the sedan they had borrowed from the lady in suite number 40. Lon had put their panel van in the shop, forgetting they needed to make the stakeout. Lon's contact in the military was certain that there would be a convoy passing through these mountain roads just before dawn. Manx wasn't sure how this was connected to the Kennedy Assassination, but it was a lead.

"Did you see our new neighbor, the accountant?" asked Lon with a smile.

"Yeah." replied Manx, feigning interest. "What's her name?"

"Othella.  Othella Shakespeare."

"There is no way in hell that that's her name." said Manx. "What is it really?"

"Why can't that be her name?"

"Are you serious?  A Nubian princess, with the name of a Moor general from a play by Christopher Marlowe, that just so happens to share the same name as the mayor of the Great Lakes (GL). What are the odds of that?"

"If Ms. Shakespeare were here, as an accountant, she'd be able to calculate that for you."

The pair got into the on-loan automobile, fired up the charcoal boiler and when it was fully steaming, headed back to their office, suite 39, in the old building complex. It was just off the overpass near the Great Lakes District perimeter.

Lon and Manx had been in surveillance work since the end of the Great Society back in the twentieth century. John Kennedy's second term of office saw his second vice-president (since LBJ had died in office), his brother Bobby, inaugurated as the 36th President. When Ted Kennedy's term of office ended in 1984, the Green Party was able to gain the presidency for a term. They had been followed by the GOP for eight years,the Socialists to bring us into the twenty-first century, the Texaska Party for eight, and right back to the Kennedy clan when JFK, Jr. took the helm in 'oh eight.' It was during his re-election campaign that he was supposedly shot by two crazy rock-a-billy groupies, just outside a book repository in the capital of The Great Lakes District, Toledo.

"Don't miss the turn off," warned Lon, nervously enduring the ride with Manx.

"Well," said Manx, pointing ahead, "it's turn or run into the GL Wall; right?"

"Like you haven't run into it fifty-two times already!  The Great Lakes Wall is like brakes to you!"

The wall, which stood fifty feet, and completely surrounded the land around all five great lakes, had been built back in the GOP administration. Then Prime Minister Quail thought it a proper use of public funds, since the nations capital would be moved to Toledo.

Manx followed the off ramp and took the car safely back to the complex. Once there, the two reviewed the package they had received from the Clintons. It had been delivered personally by Mrs. Clinton, who was up from Arkansas with the cover story of looking at property investments. The Clintons had compiled evidence of a widespread cover-up throughout the parliament. Their daughter had discovered many classified reports while working at the capital as a page.

It seems that after years of sanctions against the United States of Indochina (USI), which had supposedly been obtaining Hadesium from all over the world, all activities were suddenly suspended. Sanctions were withdrawn, diplomatic relations were completely ended, and no mention of the USI's activities were mentioned in the press or on the voice receivers.

"Hello fellas," chirped the lovely and cheerful accountant neighbor. "Thanks for bringing the BW back in one piece."

"B W?" asked Manx, unfamiliar with the name.

"Beats walkin' Manny," she said.

"Name's Manx," he corrected.

"Sorry," she said, smiling. "No disrespect. My name is Othella, but my friends call me Beany."

"Beany?" repeated Manx, with a 'ya gotta be kiddin' me' look on his face.

"Bean counter?" she emphasized with a 'you gotta problem?' countenance that proceeded, "Some just call me BS."

"Well," said Manx, "now we're making sense."

"I hate to interrupt this Welcome Wagon moment," said Lon. "These papers indicate that some sort of device has actually been created."

"What are you guys talking about," asked Othella. "Are you two spies?"

"No, we're not spies," said Manx. Then turning to Lon with a puzzled expression, "Why is she standing here. Why are we talking about this? Who is this woman?" Returning his gaze to the accountant, "Who are you - really?"

Manx felt a thud on the back of his head. Darkness followed and then a dream began to play out.

He was working on an old car in his parents' garage. It had a different looking boiler in it than any he'd ever seen before. Then he was in the car with a girl. She was a girl from high school. He had always thought she looked more like a boy. They were sitting together in the front seat and there was a huge moving picture being projected somehow in front of them. It seemed so awesome and surreal.

Next, he was back in the war. What war? It seemed so real. Everything around him seemed like a memory, but he hadn't been in any war. Yet, it wasn't totally unfamiliar. Helicopters, screaming, explosions, blood.

Fishing with the kids. 'Where's Shep?' he thought. Then 'Who's Shep?' Then a big, barking dog bounded into the stream. He chased the fly that the kid with the pole was casting. Then water and the sense of drowning. The torture!

The device! They wanted to know where the device was. 'What device?' He knew what device. The one that would change the world. The device that would create the solar collapse that would then attract all remaining material from everywhere. The resulting hole would pull the known reality into the maelstrom of the accretion disk and then -- the black hole. Water! Drowning!

Manx woke up. He was inside his own van and apparently speeding down the highway. He was still hazy and getting spectral images of peoples' reactions to news off the voice receivers.

'A device had been captured,' one image stated.

'The Prime Minister wants it dismantled,' relayed another.

'The PM was assassinated!' hollered another blank face.

Everyone was looking for a man and a woman. Manx then clearly saw Lon and the accountant up in the front seat of the van.

"Lon!  What the hell is going on?"

"We've got the device Manx," said Lon, calmly, from the passenger seat.

"Yeah Manny!" said BS, Beany, Othella whatever. "We are taking it to the people who will launch it to the sun. Then - POW! We reset the universe and do-rey-mee!"

"Lonnie!" Manx tried to think and recall while he pleaded with his friend. "We did this already. We captured this contraption. Gave it to Toledo. Something happened."

"Sorry I hit you so hard, buddy," Lonnie said, trying to comfort his friend from his seat. "You
must have had some strange dreams while you were out. BS stole this baby just last night."

"Security in Toledo is for shit," said the Nubian princess. "We lifted the device and placed it in the floor of this van. We drove away like nobody's business."

"Lon." Manx loudly whispered. "The Prime Minister?"

"BS is one hell of a shot Manx," Lon said with pride. "Those Kennedy boys always seemed so indestructible. They are not."

"The diversion of a presidential assassination helped to make this heist happen," said the probably-not-an-accountant.

"This is all wrong, Lon."

"Buck up buddy," Lon said, smiling. "It won't matter one iota soon. Hey! Recognize this place? Oh, I guess you can't back there. We were up her last night looking for that convoy. I needed to be somewhere other than where BS was going to be. There was never a convoy. Sorry."

"Lon," said Manx, there's something wrong. We've done this. We have done all of this - but different."

"Go back to sleep Manfred," said BS, chuckling. "Drop dead if you like."

"You tried to stop this, Lon," Manx said. "You saved the President's life.  Shakespeare was the President. I built the device."

The assassin began laughing out loud. It affected her driving and she slowed down a bit more around the winding turn on the mountain road.

Manx felt a burst of energy well up inside of him. He sprang up from the van floor and leaped at the device that sat between the two front seats. Lon was totally surprised and wrestled with Manx on the floor. The driver swerved and the tires squealed as she kept the vehicle on the road.

"I can stop this, Lon!" he shouted. "I can make it inert by the press of a button."

"Give it up, Manx!" Lon shouted back.

Manx was able to get the front flap of the device open as Lon tried to apply a half nelson on his partner. Manx finally spun around and punched Lon in the nose. This sent the 'now-assuming-he's-a-former-partner' falling back stunned.

Manx could clearly see the nine buttons that were the matrix for setting all actions on the device. One order of buttons pushed set the ignition timer, another order canceled it; yet another would act as a detonator. He was certain of the code, but no longer able to remember which code did what. It was as if he had practiced this scenario a hundred times with a hundred combinations of buttons to push. Now he wasn't sure what would happen.

The driver looked back in horror, seeing that all of her efforts could now be for nothing. She stomped on the accelerator and headed for the space beyond the guard rails.

Manx pressed a button with zero confidence. The timer on the device was set to ignite at any moment. The van smashed through the guard rail with the speedometer pegged. Impact! Bright lights! Vacuum!

"Did you see that?" asked a perplexed Othella.

"You mean that huge fiery ball that just rose up out of the horizon like the opening eyelid of a god?" asked Shep with a sarcastic bark, referring to the dawning sun.


Author Notes The concept of this story seems to escape the readers. The whole idea is that the 'device' has already been detonated and everyone is reliving happenings in continually shifting roles. Manx sees a hint to this when he is unconscious after Lon bonked him. At the end, Othella and Shep (the dog) are where Lon and Manx were in the beginning.

Chapter 78
Trouble Ender

By Bill Schott

The elevator ride was advertised as the Trouble Ender. Several members of the Gazelle Elves had pooled their resources and created the device. Its successful uses had been widely touted and several hundred people had lined up to take a ride in it.
There were claims that the ride from the top floor of the Eland Center to the lobby would alter the course of the passenger's life forever.

From the throng, a handful of people were selected and appeared for the long walk up to the fiftieth floor. It seems that the elevator ride up was only taken by the Elfin Galiptod, who supposedly enchanted the chamber prior to its magical descent. All others would have to take the stairs.

The stairs were no trouble for Albert Kudu. He was just eighteen, cherub-cheeked, freckle-faced, and had energy for days. He could hardly wait to get to the top floor so he could jump out a window. He knew he wouldn't die, not really. The story of taking the elevator was only a ruse to allow him access to the supernatural building and its mysterious properties. He felt that this was a place he could scratch his suicidal itch, yet survive.

Nyala Impala was a private escort, who was following her client for the evening, Father Klipspringer, to the elevator's starting floor. The priest had a penchant for bizarre cult rituals, and the lure of the Trouble Ender was more than he could resist. He also enjoyed the company of beautiful women, whom he would entertain, laugh and frolic with, then return, untouched to their handlers.

Sable Gerenuk was having the best time going up to the upper levels on the shoulders of her dad. Sable was a paraplegic. She dreamed that the ride down the elevator would return the use of her legs to her. Lech Gerenuk, Sable's father, wore a grin as he easily carried her up the many stairs. Her collapsible wheelchair hung from his side. He was secretly filled with inner turmoil as he had embezzled several thousand dollars from the bank at which he worked. He had hoped to have some experimental surgery performed on Sable, to keep the hope alive that she might walk again.

The final person ascending the stairs with the group was the mega-rich mogul, Spring Oryx. Her personal wealth dwarfed most other pseudo tycoons, as did her greed. She had earned her first dime by stealing tooth-fairy change from under her brothers' pillows and had never looked back or regretted anything. Her lust for money and power had driven her through seven husbands (one of which was an unindicted homicide), nine hostile takeovers, and various and sundry also-ran lovers. Her plan for the deluxe descent was to quadruple her money and leave the Eland Center as the richest woman in the world.

After twenty minutes of climbing, the prospective elevator riders assembled in front of the conveyance doors. There, as if on command, the elevator doors slid apart and out stepped the Gazelle Elves Grand Galiptod.

"Mony thank yous for obsalving the silent ascension protocol." Spoke the Galiptod in a curious vernacular. "Yule patience en coop-ration will be rewarded."

"We will be using the elevator separately, of course," insisted Ms. Oryx.

"This is quite not so," returned the elfin leader. "All will twavel together."

"Where are the windows, sir," asked Albert politely. "I can't see any at all."

"Windows to de soul, here," smiled the elf as he pointed to his eyes. "De west ah in the lobby below us."

Lech Gerenuk unfolded Sable's chair and gently lowered her into it. "Let's wheel you in sweety."

"Is good to go," chimed the Galiptod. With that, the assembled entered the elevator.

Lech pushed Sable to the far left corner of the eight foot square chamber, stood facing the door, and pulled her back to him. Albert sidled up to him, dejected that he wasn't presently sailing out a window. Father Klipspringer and Nyala found the opposite corner and faced out from both the rear and side walls. Finally, Spring Oryx planted herself in the center of the vertical cable car and directed an impatient glare at the elfin leader.

"Shall we go?" she asked, with a hint of condescension.

With that, the Elfin Galiptod pressed a button in the lobby, uttered the word "Shimmer," and waved as he disappeared behind the closing doors. The guests were each suddenly, though secretly, aghast that they were to ride without a guide.

"When this contraption reaches the lobby I will immediately purchase this building and have it razed." snorted the dime-stealing rich lady.

"It's pretty tall now," suggested Albert. "Maybe you could add a few windows. Put some upstairs."

"No, you dolt," she snapped. "I will reduce this monstrosity to a pile of bricks!"

"You are being mean!" blurted Sable from her wheeled apparatus.

"Silence infant!" she responded, shooting a blood-freezing stare at the young girl.

"Watch your mouth lady!" issued Sable's dad. "I'm a civil guy - but I'll feed you your purse if you say one more thing to my child!"

Father Klipspringer stepped quickly between the two quarrelers to quietly pursue peace. "I trust the elevator will start soon." All parties cooled and sought opposite corners.

There was a slight jostling movement followed by a quick up/down jerk. It was enough for Ms. Impala to step sideways on her left high-heeled shoe and twist her ankle. She screamed and dropped to the elevator floor. The priest attempted to grab her, but Albert had just squatted on the floor in front of him and he fell over the teen and also hit the floor. Sable laughed and fell out of her chair on purpose to join the fun.

The elevator suddenly began its descent. Lech and Ms. Oryx, the only two standing, could feel their feet seem to leave the floor.

"Oh my God!" screamed the multi-millionaire. "We're falling!"

Lech Gerenuk thought about that elevator ride as he walked his daughter out of the shimmering hospital. The operation had been a huge success. Sable could not only walk, she tapped danced up and down the three steps at the entrance of the building.
He was so happy he could return the funds he had stolen and be forgiven. Everything was okay now.

Father Klipspringer relaxed on the shimmering beach with a cool tonic and decent tan building on his muscular frame. He'd left the order and had become a successful gigolo on the island of St. Croix. Nyala Impala was his manager and spiritual adviser.

The fifty story plummet ended in eight seconds. The car stopped abruptly at the lobby. When the elevator doors opened automatically, two passengers were found flattened to the floor of the gravity trap. The late Ms. Spring Oryx was wearing a broken and tortured face. Her countenance was torn, bloody, and reflected the horror and disbelief of her final seconds of life.

The second victim, a young teen just entering manhood, lay face up on the floor of the deadly chamber. He had one eye popped out, laying on his cherub cheek, and a huge smile stretched across his freckled face.

Chapter 79
Cold Call

By Bill Schott

Allen had a light breakfast that morning. Before long he was on the phone and on the clock. He had to make several cold calls for an appointment. His pet rock Andy held the phone list down on the table.

The first call rang twice and was answered.

"Hello. Is the lady of the house in?"

"You have the wrong number."

"It's the right number today, Ms. Mayor."

"My-er. It's pronounced My-er."

"I have a check here for Lisa Mayor. I'm sorry to have bothered you."

"Check? From who?"

"It's a rebate check from Sure Shoes. You recently made a purchase and you get a fifty percent reward."

"Why not just mail it?"

"I need to try and sell you more in person. It's a company policy."

"You'll need to arrive before six."

Allen booked the meeting, winked at his pet rock, and at five thirty -- Lisa met Andy.


Author Notes Thanks to supergold for use of the art shot.

Chapter 80
Rest of My Life

By Bill Schott

It is an amazing sensation to have a tiny life inside of me. Its every movement touches my nerves, like a masked man with a chainsaw in a china cabinet. My eyes blast open as the eardrum splits and my sinus cavity becomes a site of exploration and habitation.

Outside my skull, an army of violators pry at my eyelids and navigate up my nasal passages. Winning, they lift and violate my eyes, as fellow ant invaders meet and eat.
The hill upon which I am staked, paralyzed by well-concocted potions which steal strength, yet heighten awareness, is home to killer ants.

Tears fill in between the bodies of the many ants which are wallowing in the sclera that drips past their boney frames. They burrow in, each mandible excavating and each pointed appendage jabbing into the burning nerves that are my life.

Head filled, I am still conscious of their invasion, though my thoughts are strangely at ease. The pain of needles shooting through my cranium, although beyond more detailed description, has become the normal expectation of what will be the rest of my life.
How I came to this position is pointless to recollect. I am -- home.


Author Notes Image from Google.

Chapter 81
Thanks, Mom

By Bill Schott

My wife had been cleaning out a drawer and discovered a check from my mother, who had passed away in 2013, almost five years earlier. She walked it to our bank to see if it was still valid.
We then learned that it was a tax-sheltered, joint account with my name on it.
My mother had placed $10,000 in the account in 1982 at a fixed return of 8%.
It was now $161,145.
Thanks, Mom.

Author Notes Image from Google

Chapter 82

By Bill Schott

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Sammy found it hard to type. He had a deadline to make and this story needed to be done by midnight.

Everything was a distraction here. Even this chair was uncomfortable. Not like being home in his quiet apartment. He could think there. Well, he could until Mick moved in.

It had been a bit tough making ends meet as a freelance journalist. All the stories had to be full of juicy, cooked up drama, or jazzy, messed up 'reality'. No place for the facts, a purpose, or a moral theme. The stories had to be bigger than life and they were always due NOW.

Letting Mick move in to share expenses was a good idea, for a while, but he got to be a distraction too. He played loud music constantly, burped and flatulated like an old jalopy burning horse dung for fuel, and had people over every other night.

Sammy was way behind on his stories and they were going to press the next day. He was typing as fast as he could, but having had to pawn his typewriter made completing them difficult.

The pressure was really overwhelming, so when Mick came home that night with a friend, a six-pack, and a blaring transistor radio, Sammy blew a gasket.

He picked up a putty knife that he had been using to seal the neighbor's cat in the wall, and stabbed at Mick's throat. His roommate tried to scream, but he simply gurgled away his last minute of life. His friend, a skinny fellow, unshaven, and dressed like he had just come from a cock fight, tried to get out of the door. Fortunately, Sammy blocked his way and hacked at his unshaven face. The man pleaded for him to stop, but Sammy wasn't quite finished; then he was.

Sammy had hoped to hide the two in the walls, but that would have been impractical; his deadline was too close.

He completed his story and headed downtown to make a report. The desk sergeant at the police station found his tale meaningful and compelling.

It has been a couple years, but Sammy is getting his story published on the front page of the paper tomorrow. He was still trying to finish the last paragraph, but his hands were restrained to the arms of the chair.

Just before the guard threw the switch on the electric chair, Sammy imagined his headline: Sammy Gets the Hotseat for Walling Up Annoying Cat.

Now THAT'S a story.


Author Notes Image from Google

Chapter 83
The Core

By Bill Schott

We have a core, which is so much more than the corporeal center of tissue;

it shapes how we smile, gets bruised when denial averts our guilt in an issue.

Our soul comes aboard as a gift from the Lord, and a passenger for our life's fate;

it will always be tested until life is arrested, and body and soul separate.

It's then, we are told, when the body is cold, the heat of our soul is set free;

it will rise to a place which is held by His grace, or waft to a fiery sea.

The latter condition of the blazing rendition we should not consider at all;

rather live the best life, take the joy with the strife, then answer eternity's call.


Author Notes Thanks to tekayep for use of the art

Chapter 84

By Bill Schott

"Looks like we're having a 'Virgin Birth' tonight, Connie."

Charlie lowered his air quotes and finished reading the patient's admission form.

"So, no father listed?" The nurse rolled her eyes and scoffed as she looked at the young mother.

"I ain't never had sexu'l innersection, Ma'am," the girl said, looking up with sad eyes.

Connie glanced at Charlie and they both winced, then chuckled beneath their masks.

"Well," said Charlie, "somebody has been at this intersection and left a pedestrian."

The two nurses faded to the background and an angel appeared.

Don't be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God."


Author Notes Thanks to Renate-Bertodi for use of the artwork.

Chapter 85
The Cat at the Office

By Bill Schott

Mr. Mittlefinka entered his outer office and found a cat lying on the secretary's desk.

"Is this creature supposed to be here?"

Ms. O'laydee popped up from a downward-facing dog position and attempted to speak. She immediately passed out and crumpled to the floor.

Mittlefinka observed her for a moment to see if she was breathing. Satisfied she was, he turned his attention to the cat. It spoke.

"I should probably kill you now while there are no witnesses."

"What makes you think you could?"

"You're a feeble old man, and I am an enchanted being."

"Maybe I'm an enchanted being too."

"So, enchanted beings become misanthropic old feebs who hate cats?"

"I never said I hated cats. You threatened to kill me."

"I was merely thinking out loud."

"That you should kill me."

"Should PROBably kill you."

The two stared at one another as Ms. O'laydee rose from the floor. Looking at the cat and man, she walked around the desk and picked the feline up by the nape of its neck. It seemed bewildered and docile as she began throttling it.

"Good to be out of that old-woman body and into this middle-aged man."

"I'd think you would aim a little higher. Ouch! I think you pulled a muscle jumping up."

"You mean YOU pulled a muscle."

As the cat's body sagged, the secretary dropped it into a waste basket with a trash liner. She then removed the bag and tied it shut.

"Well, I'm going to hire a new secretary. I was the worst."

"Get her to change that litter box. I had some bad rat the other day and I've been pushing the envelope on the manufacturers specifications."

Ms. O'laydee turned and exited through the door carrying the loaded trash bag.

Mr. Mittlefinka stepped on into his private office, picked up the phone and dialed.

"Hello. Yes, I'll need a temp for a day or two. A young man would do nicely."

As he hung up the phone, a cat appeared on his desk.


Author Notes I fully expect the first reading to be unclear. Please read it a second time and tell me if it is unacceptable without tags.

Image from Riddit

Chapter 86
Final Exercise

By Bill Schott

The bus driver's eyes bulged to saucers as he saw the young woman run in front of his vehicle. He heard the thump of her frame against the grill, even as the brakes were engaging to eventually bring the sixteen ton coach to a stop.

The exit door to his right opened and his instructor walked up to the driver's seat.

"If this would have happened on the job, Mr. Cramdon, do you feel you could have done anything to have saved that woman.?"

Ralph, now quivering, spoke through weeping eyes. "I saw her face. She was so scared and --"

"Was this tragedy your fault, sir?"

"I don't think I could have done anything differently."

"That's correct, Mr, Cramdon. Congratulations. That was your final exercise."

Both left the bus and walked down the street to a diner.

The police arrived and cordoned off traffic as the young woman's body was removed from the scene.

In the diner, Ralph sat across from his instructor.

"So, when is my first assignment?"

"Once you get to prison, the second floor guard will fill you in on the hit."

"I thought you said I couldn't have saved her."

"Right, of course. Leaving the scene of a vehicular homicide is a serious crime though. You'll get twenty years."

Ralph simply stared at the instructor's face waiting for her to crack a smile.

"So this was just a set up to create a back story for me when I go to prison?"

"Of course, Mr. Cramdon. We need layers of deniability and this is how it's achieved. We also needed Ms. Smith to meet with a terrible accident.  Win-win."

"What about my wife and kids?"

"They'll be fine as long as you complete your assignment."

"This is not how I thought this was going to go down."

"The Teufel Grau Hunden guarantees that a job will be done fast, quietly, and well. "

"What happens after the job at the prison is done?'

"Best you consider what happens if it doesn't get done."

"This is beyond belief."

"Exactly, Mr. Cramdon. Exactly."


Author Notes Teufel Grau Hunden = Devil Grey Hounds

Chapter 87
Fish Food

By Bill Schott

It was a dewy morning.  Janice was digging holes in the lawn outside the front door of our family home.

"Janice! What are you doing?" I yelled. She was shoveling right outside the front door and three feet from the sidewalk.

"I need worms to go fishing."

"Dad has grubs in the garage. They're in a coffee can."

She made a clenched face that looked like she was crapping her pants.

"I've just gotten used to putting these slimy things onto a hook. I won't be able to shove a hook into one of those fat things. They probably bite anyway."

I thought I'd reason with her never-missed-a-meal side.

"Janice. Worms are like a sliver of bacon; a grub is more like a pork chop."

"I only eat fish and seafood, Jon."

"That's the same way with fish. That's all they eat too. Grubs are like shrimp. Seriously. If you washed them off and cooked them, they'd taste just like shrimp."

She stopped digging; scraped the dirt back into the holes; and replaced the grass-up divots, stepping on them to hide the damage. Then she went to the garage.

I began washing the family car in the driveway. I completed that and went to work on the hedges. Soon I was inspecting the yard for moles, picking up twigs, and checking the sidewalk cracks for sprouting grass. In all that time, Janice had not returned.

I went indoors where I found Janice in the kitchen with a plate full of what looked like fried baby shrimp. The look on her face, with what was probably a mouthful of fried grubs, was worth the beating I received.


Chapter 88
To Sleep

By Bill Schott


"What is it, Botomama?"

"When will we be able to drink the water?"

"It needs to boil first. Then I will add a drop of chlorine bleach."

"How much water is there?"

"There is approximately
3785.4118 grams or one  gallon."

"Will that be enough for the twelve of us?"

"I do not require water. Of the eleven others, my sensors indicate that two members are frail to the point of limited expectation of survival."

"Are you not going to give them water?"

"My program indicates that to be a cruel action."

"What then?"

"When they are asleep, I will terminate their existence."

"That's horrible, Aiko. If it were me, I'd rather be killed outright."

Aiko touches Botomama on the arm. The young woman crumples to the ground dead.


"What is it, Botodada?"

"What have you done?!"

"Botomama did not wish to die in her sleep."


Author Notes Image from Pixabay

Chapter 89

By Bill Schott

Steve opened the small can of dog food. Tapping it out on to a plate, he placed it on the floor. Chipper ate half of the meal. At that point, the tiny Yorkshire sat and looked up at his friend. Steve picked up the plate while pulling out his spoon.

Author Notes Image from Google

Chapter 90
Fat Hand

By Bill Schott

"Hey, Carl, guess what?"


"My wife lost a hundred pounds of fat."

"I would say she divorced you, but she'd still have more than a hundred pounds of ugly fat left."

"Funny. No, she lost it all in a poker game."

"How is that possible?"

"She played to an inside straight."


Author Notes Image from Google

The punch line is meant to be funny due to its non sequitur appearance, totally abandoning the story of weight loss for the reason for losing at poker. I kill myself sometimes. By the evidence from review, this is apparently one of those times.

Chapter 91

By Bill Schott

Emily kicked the practically pristine soccer ball as hard as she could, and it buzzed into the unguarded goal. Her parents cheered for the four-year-old, who received gleeful pats and praise from her teammates, as well as the pre-schoolers on the other team.
The final quarter found the point-maker once again driving, unopposed, to the rectangular objective. Players parted to allow Emily's play. The opposing team smiled as their two-to-zero win was secured with Emily's second goal -- into their net.


Author Notes Eighty words, hand-counted. Hyphenated words counted as one word.

Image from Google.

Chapter 92

By Bill Schott

Patty was an empath. She would stroll through the park curing alcoholics and crippled indigents. She could absorb another's pathology, take on the pain and suffering, then, within a few seconds, neutralize it completely.

Seeing a man shivering near a park bench, she reached out to touch him. He pulled out a knife and threatened her. Still, she placed her hand on his face.

Sorrow and guilt left his mind. Patty took the knife from his hand, then attempted to slash her own throat.

The stranger held her arm until the moment passed.

Smiling, they walked away in separate directions.


Author Notes Exactly one hundred words.

Thanks to jgrace for use of the image.

Chapter 93
Mighty Grace

By Bill Schott

Grace ran across the living room as George chased her with the unsheathed samurai weapon. 

"I've had it with your lazy lunches, you stupid cow!"

“Eat your macaroni and cheese, George. Just boil the noodles and pour on the yellow goop. You don’t need a chef for that.”

“Chef?!  You spend all your time writing poetry on Fanstory.”

Grace turned quickly as George fell over a recliner. Recovering, he repositioned the chair, picked up the Japanese blade, and continued the chase.   Grace had used the few seconds respite to review a recent haiku that had popped up on her site. Seeing George nearing, she raised her own weapon.


George dropped to the floor after Grace smacked him in the head with an iron skillet.

“The PAN is mightier than the sword!” she shouted, as the skillet twirled in her hand and she sat down to begin a new poem.  


Chapter 94
On the Streets of Krypton

By Bill Schott

"Hey, Lois Lane! Where's Superman?" called an acquaintance, taunting her for having an iconic name so identifiable with the famous, fictional character.

As she neared her car, sitting near the curb, she turned around and called back, "He's waiting for me with Lex Luther. We're having a menage a trois later."

"Wow! Sounds cool, Lois," he said. "Think I could join in tonight?"

"Sure, Jimmy. I'll send the two of them over to your place."


Author Notes I had to leave the markings off the French word as they don't appear correctly here.

Thanks to meg119 for use of the image.

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