Do You Believe In Magic? Glamour Anthology

Hi Everyone!

I am thrilled to announce that Grant Hudson of the Inner Circle Writers Group has chosen my story, Do You Believe In Magic? to be included in the 2019 Romance Anthology, Glamour.

This is the 3rd anthology published by Clarendon House that I have my work in and I’m overjoyed.

Many thanks to Grant for supporting not only me, but the work of so many other writers!

This link takes you to where they can be purchased. I’m in Gleam and Portal as well.

https://www.clarendonhousebooks.com/anthologies

Waiting For Flight 175

Hi Everyone!

Here’s a special shout out to Onkar at The Literary Yard for featuring my story, Waiting For Flight 175. Thank you!!

Waiting For Flight 175

I’ve also posted it below. Enjoy!

Waiting For Flight 175

A crowd of humanity surged through the concourse like a tidal river rushing down a coastal inlet. At gate 23 in the waiting area for flight 175 people settled themselves into the seats, leaving as much space as they could between themselves and the people around them. As departure time drew nearer more and more passengers arrived, filling the seats one by one until none were left, leaving the late arrivals standing wherever they could, rocking back and forth on their heels, looking around and trying not to make eye contact.

Larry Gustafson sat in the last seat in his row out by the concourse trying to read a short story by a favorite author. It was hard to concentrate.

Next to him a middle aged, paunchy guy in a red turtle neck stood up. His shirt was neatly tucked into grey dress pants which were accessorized by a shiny burgundy belt and with a silver buckle. He addressed the woman next to him who was quietly reading a newspaper.

“I’ve had something fatty to eat and something salty to eat,” he stated to her. “Now I need something sweet to eat.” He paused, his pronouncements hanging in the air proudly like flags waving. He stood watching her, waiting for her to look up. “Maybe some water too,” he added, making it seem like he had arrived at this conclusion after much deliberation.

Larry cast a quick glance in their direction. The guy was nervously shuffling his feet, staring at his traveling companion, hands twitching at his side.

“Well, go get something then,” she suggested without looking up, slowly turning the page. Larry noticed it was the front section of the local newspaper. She shook it to straighten out a wrinkle and continued reading.

“Where should I go?” The guy asked, not taking his eyes off her. All around people were walking into and out of the area, restlessly waiting for the plane to begin boarding. It was going to be awhile. Larry glanced at his watch. They had a good twenty minutes. “Maybe I should get a candy bar.”

He looked down her again. She was dressed comfortably in loose fitting tan slacks and a beige blouse which nearly hid a thin, gold chain necklace. She had rings on most of her fingers and a prominent, diamond studded one that was most likely a wedding ring on her left hand. She was quite tan, which was surprising given it was February in Minnesota. Larry got the feeling maybe they were just passing through. But then again maybe not. Maybe she had been tanning for the last month or so, getting ready for a vacation to Las Vegas, the destination of the flight.

“What do you think?” The guy asked, nervously putting his hands in his pockets and jingling what sounded like a bunch of coins.  After a few moments he took out a wad of bills that he unrolled and started counting with a practiced manner that indicted it was a task he did often. Then he put them back in his pocket.

She folded the paper and rested it on her knee. She raised her hand and patted her hair, which was light brown and tastefully frosted. Her lipstick was deep red, almost maroon, and matched the color of her fingernails. She appeared well off and looked to be the same age as the guy, nearly sixty. “Maybe get a candy bar?” she asked. “Like a Snickers?”

“I don’t know,” the guy pondered, seriously considering her suggestion. “I’m not sure about the nuts.”

“Then how about a Hersey’s? she replied. “They’re just chocolate.”

“Hmm…” he said, thinking.

Larry had forgotten all about his book and was now surreptitiously watching the entire conversation out of the corner of his eye. The guy put a hand to his chin and rubbed it and then slid it to the back of his neck, massaging the skin vigorously. He was smooth shaven and his complexion was an unhealthy mix of ruddy and pale, not like his traveling companion’s at all.

“I don’t know,” he finally said. “I’m just not sure what I want.” HIs eyes were blinking rapidly, his confusion genuine.

Just do it! Larry wanted to scream. It’s only a friggin’ candy bar for christ’s sake. But he didn’t. He just watched and listened, becoming drawn in to the couple and the drama being played out.

“You know there’s a kiosk just down the concourse to the right,” she said, pointing.

“There is?”

“Yes. Why don’t you go look?”

Nervously contemplating her suggestion, the guy rubbed his hands together like he was dry washing them. Then he crossed in front of Larry and stepped to the edge of the concourse, looking down toward the kiosk. The flow of people swerved around him without missing a beat. He stepped back saying, “Maybe I will.” And then stood there looking at her, shoving his hands in his pockets again, fiddling with his money some more.

The guy’s shoes were nicely polished, dark brown wing-tips. Larry thought they were a nice juxtaposition to the tan work boots he was wearing. The contrast of colors looked kind of pleasing together, he thought, as he carefully moved his boots out of the way, not wanting the guy to trip.

The guy’s traveling companion looked up at him and opened her paper, shaking it once to straighten it out. “If you go, get me a bottle of water please.”

“What kind?” the guy asked.

She was quiet for a long time. By now Larry felt like he was part of the conversation and had some small vested interest in her answer. Really. What kind of water did she want?

Finally she gave a slight cough, turned to a new page and said, “Doesn’t matter.”

Larry didn’t’ realize he’d been holding his breath. He let it out and felt a sense of relief. But it was only momentary.

“Really?” the guy said, questioning her. “Really? It doesn’t matter?”

“No. Any kind will do. But you should hurry.” She glanced at her watch. “We’ll be boarding soon.”

“Geez.” the guy said, looking at his own watch now, getting quite anxious. “Do you think I’ll have time?”

Her eyes shifted to the next page. “If you hurry.”

“Ok,” the guy said, turning to leave. “I’ll be right back.”

He hurriedly left, merging quickly into the flow of people. Larry leaned over in his chair and watched him, finding himself concerned that the guy was going to be safe. He surprised himself that he cared so much. When the guy was out of sight, he repositioned himself in his chair and shot a quick glance toward the lady. She was engrossed in her paper, an air of calm around her, concentrating on her reading but also at ease, like this sort of thing with the guy happened all the time and she was so used to it that it didn’t even faze her. Larry turned back to his book. He tried to put the couple out of his mind so he could focus on the story he had started. It was hard to do. He was just starting to read when the guy returned. He surprised himself by realizing he was relieved the guy made it back okay.

“Look at this water I got,” he said, excitedly, sitting down and taking a plastic bottle out of the small bag he was carrying. “It’s the best.”

Larry glanced over. He had to admit he was curious. The guy was handing her a bottle with a label he was unfamiliar with. Not Evian, Clear Mountain or Poland Springs. It was some French name he’d never heard of and the shape was slightly different from most bottled water, this one being thinner and taller.

“Thank you,” she said, setting it on the floor, going back to her reading.

The guy sat down and twisted the top off, taking a long drink. When he was finished he smacked his lips. “Boy, that tastes really good.” He turned toward her, “I didn’t realize I was so thirty.” He started drinking some more.

“Be careful how much you drink,” she said without looking up, continuing to read. “You know how you hate to use the bathrooms on airplanes.”

The guy stopped drinking and his leg started jiggling up and down. “Oh, boy,” he said, agitated. “I didn’t think about that.”

She glanced at her watch. “You can use the bathroom here on the concourse, if you want, before we board. You don’t mind those.”

“Yeah,” he said, sounding relieved. “That’s a good idea.”

She smiled and patted him on his arm. He seemed to calm down. “Did you get your candy bar?”

“I did.” He reached into the bag and pulled it out, showing it to her. “What do you think?”
“A Hersey bar. All chocolate. That’s a good choice.”

“Do you think I should eat it now?”

“Yes,” she answered and then turned back to her paper. “You don’t want it to melt and make a mess.”

“Good idea.” He pealed back the paper and bit into the bar, clearly savoring the chocolaty flavor. When he was half way through he leaned over, offering her some, “Do you want a piece? It’s pretty good.”

“No. I’m fine,” she said, setting the paper aside and making it a point to look at her watch again. “You should finish up and use the bathroom. I think we may start boarding soon.”

And, just like that, over the loud speaker the gate attendant announced early boarding for those needing assistance. The general boarding would begin in a few minutes.

“Oh, boy. Do you think I’ll have time?” he asked, suddenly very nervous. He quickly stuffed the remainder of the Hersey bar in his mouth, chewing rapidly and crumpling up the wrapper.

She patted his hand reassuringly. “I’m sure you have time, dear.” She said. The term of affection seemed to point to the fact that they were married, something Larry had been wondering about. “Why don’t you go now? I’ll wait right here for you.”

The guy stood up hesitantly and looked at her. “Are you sure about the time?”

She smiled reassuringly. “Yes, I am. You go to the bathroom and hurry back. I won’t go anywhere. I promise.”

“Ok, then.” he said, moving toward the concourse, glancing back at her. “Promise?”

“Yes, dear. Just hurry.” she pointed to her watch.

“Ok, then. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Larry watched as the guy slipped into a break in the crowd and then was swept away. He leaned over and watched until he was out of sight. The last thing he saw was the guy cutting through the sea of people, heading for the men’s room. Larry thought about getting up to follow him, but it looked like he was going to make it all right. Satisfied that the guy was okay, he settled back in his seat, checking that he had his boarding pass. The lady folded up her newspaper and put it in a small carry-on bag. She took out a tin of Altoids and popped one in her mouth, snapping the top shut. She noticed Larry watching her.

“Mint?” she asked, offering the tin to him.

Embarrassed, Larry stammered, “Ah, no. Thanks though.” He felt his ears turning red.

She smiled at him. “Going to Vegas?”

She seemed very nice. Pleasant. Larry felt himself becoming drawn in to talking with her. “Well, yes,” he said, his embarrassment fading. “I’m meeting my brother there. He’s picking me up and we’re driving to where he lives.”

“He’s from Vegas?”

“No. South. Two and a half hours. Lake Havasu City.”

She nodded her head. “It’s nice down there.”

“I’ve never been. First time.”

“You’ll have a great time.” She was watching the concourse now, looking for the guy.

“Are you and your husband going to Vegas?” he asked, curious if he had guessed correctly and they were married.

“Yes.” She smiled. “We’re celebrating our fortieth anniversary.

Question answered. “Well, congratulations,” he said, meaning it.”That’s something to be proud of.” He knew of no couples who’d been married that long.

She smiled at him and ran her hands over her slacks, smoothing them. “It is,” she said. “He’s a good man.”

Just then her husband rushed into the waiting area and stood in front of her. “Whew. I thought I was going to be late.” He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. “There was a line in the bathroom and I didn’t know if I should stay there or leave. Finally a stall opened up and I used it, but it seemed to take forever to go. You know…,” he said, looking around, embarrassed. “Then I wanted to wash my hands but the water took forever to come on. Finally it did.” He paused, agitated. “I hate those automatic faucets.”

His wife reached up and patted his arm. “Well, you’re here right how. You can just relax.” And, just like that, at the touch of her hand, the guy calmed down. “I’ve been talking to this nice gentleman here,” she said, indicating Larry.

Larry looked up at the guy and smiled. “Hi.”

“Hello,” the guy said, cautiously.

“I’m Larry,” he said, putting out his hand.

The guy took a moment before shaking it, and glanced at his wife who nodded, like it’s okay. “Steve,” he said. “My name’s Steve.”

“Nice to meet you, Steve,” Larry said.

In the background the call for boarding began. “And this is my wife, Susan,” he added.

“Hi Susan,” Larry said, shaking her hand, introductions now complete. “I hope you both have a great trip and a wonderful anniversary.” He meant it.

Steve gave his wife a questioning look. “I’ll fill you in when we’re seated, dear,” she said as she stood, picking up her carry-on. “It’s our turn to board,” she looked at her husband with affection and put her arm through his. Then she turned to Larry. “You have a good trip,” she said, smiling. “Have fun with your brother.”

“I will.”

Steve and Susan moved into line. Larry stood up but hung back waiting for his section to be called. He watched the couple as they inched forward toward the gate and then down the runway. He saw Steve’s head bobbing along, dipping occasionally as he said something to his wife. They seemed like a nice couple and something about them and how they were with each other made him feel good. It was a feeling that might be worth exploring. They rounded a corner and then were out of sight. His boarding section was called and he moved into line, putting his book into his carry-on, forgetting about the story he had been reading, thinking instead about Steve and Susan. He wouldn’t mind at all if, by chance, he ended up being seated next to them for the flight to Vegas. And why not? He hadn’t even left the airport and already his trip was memorable. Who knew what lay ahead?

 

Night Prowlers – Potato Soup Journal

Hi Everyone!

If you get a chance check out my story today on Potato Soup Journal. I’m giving a special shout out to Julie on the editorial staff there for selecting it. Thank you, Julie!

Night Prowlers by James Bates

I’ve also posted it below.

Night Prowlers

Lance sat bolt upright in bed, suddenly wide awake. The room was washed in the soft light of the full moon. He’d heard something. Was someone in the house? Maybe Linda had come back. He felt a quickening of his heart, a happy feeling. Then he felt what he still considered her side of the bed. Cold. That’s right, still gone. Damn. She’d left Minnesota six weeks earlier to move to New York City and live with her new boyfriend, leaving him with their two children and the cat. Shit. What to do now?

Suddenly, there it was again, that noise. Floorboards creaking. A rustling sound. No doubt about it, someone was in the house. Someone or something. His mind quickly ran through the possibilities: A mouse? No, too tiny, too quiet. A chipmunk? Unlikely. Bailey, the cat? Hmm. The cat hunting a mouse? Ridiculous. Knowing the fat reticent tabby, he was probably fast asleep in a warm spot somewhere.

No, not the cat, and if not the cat, it had to be a person. A robber! First Linda had left, breaking his heart, now his home was being broken into by some creep. His brain nearly exploded with rage. Well, damn it, the guy was going to have to pay and pay big time. He was ready. There’d been a series of break-in’s in Minneapolis earlier that fall, and even though he lived in a small town twenty miles to the west, he figured it was best to be prepared. He reached over next to the night stand and grabbed his brand new lead core baseball bat. Now he was all set. Bring it on.

Lance got out of bed and stood, bent at the waist, bat held high with both hands, senses on red alert, ready to protect his home at all costs. With only dim moonlight to guide him, he quietly made his way through the house, step by cautious step, starting with both the kid’s bedrooms, then the bathroom, linen closet, living room and kitchen. He saw nothing. Then he went downstairs and checked the family room, laundry room, furnace room and storage area. Still nothing. What was going on?

He went back to the kitchen, turned on the overhead light and sat at the table. He propped his bat next to the chair and bent to pet Bailey who’d awoken and accompanied him on his hunt for the robber. The big cat purred, easing Jeff’s fear somewhat.

In a few minutes he became aware of the house creaking and settling, and it gave him an idea. Maybe that’s what it’d been. Maybe it was just ordinary noises that a house made as the November weather turned cold and winter approached. Sounded plausible. He listened some more before deciding that it made sense, that there really was no robber, just the house being a house. Well, that was a relief.

He stood up, turned off the light and went back to his bedroom, set the bat next to the nightstand and crawled under the covers, shivering a little while trying to warm up. Eventually, he fell into a restless, uneasy sleep.

In the living room, when they were certain their father was asleep, ten year old Evan and eight year old Stephanie stood up from their hiding place behind the couch.

“Well, that was weird,” Evan said, brushing back a lock of hair from his eyes. “Dad didn’t even see us.”

“Maybe he was just tired,” Stephanie said, shivering, wrapping herself tighter in her thin bathrobe. “I’ll bet that’s it.”

“Maybe…” Evan responded, thinking. “It’s just that he’s been acting so different lately. You know, since Mom left.”

“I know. I think he misses her. I sure do.”

“Yeah. Me, too.” They stood pensively until Evan reached over and patted his sister affectionately on the arm. “It’s okay, Steph.”

It was all he could of think to say. With their mother gone, they were finding themselves depending more and more on each other for emotional support, especially since their father seemed to be in another world most of the time. Like tonight.

Stephanie sighed, “I thought it’d be fun to play a little trick on Daddy and cheer him up, but he didn’t even know we weren’t in our beds.”

“Yeah, I know,” Evan said. “Sometimes I wonder if he even knows we’re still living in the house with him.” He sighed, sadly. Then he turned so he was looking outside, and his mood brightened, “Hey, cool. Steph, Look.”

They were standing next to the living room window. The full moon was illuminating the outdoors like daytime. The moon glow on the grass was shimmering silver, almost like magic, a reminder of better times, happier times.

Stephanie looked but didn’t really see anything. Instead, she snuffled, leaned against her brother and fought back tears, “Do you think Mom will ever come home?”

“I don’t know,” Evan said, patting her on the back, trying to be strong. “I hope so. At least we aren’t alone. We’ve got Dad.”

“Yeah,” Stephanie said, wiping her nose and looking over her shoulder back toward the hallway. “Maybe we should go check on him.”

“Good idea. Let’s do that,” Evan said. “I worry about him.”

“Me, too.”

Hand in hand, brother and sister slowly made their way from the living room down the hallway and quietly opened the door to their father’s bedroom. They tip-toed inside, the moon casting a shadowy soft illumination, and, with barely enough light to see, they stepped to the foot of the bed.

Just then Lance felt, rather than saw, a movement. Someone was in his room. The robber! All the pain and anger of the last six weeks boiled over into one volcanic instant, and he reacted, adrenaline racing. He jumped to his feet and grabbed his baseball bat, ready to do battle. In the dimly lit room he saw them standing near his bed. Not one, but two robbers. Damn. Well, they’d better be ready to pay.

Speechless, Evan and Stephanie stood frozen in place.

Lance took a step forward, bat raised, prepared to strike and inflict some serious bodily damage. Instead, he stepped on the cat, who yowled, turned and sank his sharp teeth deep into Lance’s ankle, sending him crashing to the floor, smashing his head on the nightstand with a sickening thud.

“Daddy!” Stephanie cried out, running instinctively to him. She fell to the floor and cradled her father’s head in her lap as he moaned in pain, and used the edge of her robe to dab away a trickle of blood running down his cheek.

“He’s hurt,” Evan yelled, turning on a light and reaching for the phone that had fallen off the nightstand. He called emergency and was told help was on the way. Then he searched for the bat. When he found it he said, “I’ll be right back.” He ran through the house to the garage and put the bat in the trash can, thinking, out of sight, out of mind.

Then he hurried back to join his sister, and they did what they could to comfort their father. In the background they could just make out the wailing siren of the approaching ambulance.

Lance groaned and opened his eyes, feeling groggy. His focused first on Stephanie, then on Evan, before managing a weak smile, “Are you kids all right? I thought there was a robber in the house.” He slurred his words, barely able to speak coherently, but at least he was conscious.

Brother and sister looked at each other, a message passing between them, one of both solidarity and hope.

Evan said, “Everything’s all right now, Dad. We called an ambulance. Help is on the way.”

“You just rest,” Stephanie added.

Lance nodded, lay is head back, closed his eyes and mumbled, “Thanks, kids.”

The wail of siren was getting louder, and the ambulance would arrive any minute. Evan and Stephanie waited nervously, each wondering, now, with their mother perhaps gone for good, if they were ready for this, ready for what the future might bring. They turned to each other, made eye contact, and, with no words being spoken, made a silent pact that they were. They’d do whatever they needed to survive. They had to. They were a family, the three of them and the cat. They had to make it work. They had no other choice.

The World of Myth Magazine

Hi Everyone!

I’m thrilled to have my SF story, Millennium Microbial, featured in The World of Myth Magazine. Thank you, Steph!!!

http://www.theworldofmyth.com/

I’ve also posted it below. Enjoy 🙂

Millennium Microbial

Karen settled into her seat, waved good-bye to her husband and opened her company issued computer. Millennium Microbial liked to called it a Data Tablet, but Karen and everyone else just called it a laptop because that’s what it was.

Her boss Jerry Finkelstein had sent his personal transport carrier to pick her up after emailing her with a message to come to work early, or, as he put it, “Suffer the consequences.” The consequences being having a day (at least) docked off her forty year predetermined LifeLine. She’d already lost thirty-seven days and didn’t want to lose anymore. Not like her husband who was at one-hundred and seventy-seven lost days and counting. Sure Quinn was a quiet man, an engineer by profession, but he was also a bit of a free-thinker, something she loved about him. But it was also something that got him into trouble in the rigid thinking twenty-third century. Hence the large number of docked days.

Karen turned her attention to her laptop. She knew exactly what was on Finkelstein’s mind. He wanted an update on the project she and the other two members of her team had been working on. As she brought up her records, a shudder went through the normally unflappable young lab worker. The team been studying the possibility of improving the nutritional value of the world’s dwindling food supply. They had the preliminary results, and they weren’t good. The process they tested was going to be prohibitively costly and no manufacturing company in their right mind would go for it. With that being the case, the world would just have to do with more chemically produced nutritional supplements and vitamins, and get used to more injections of the body’s much needed proteins, just like they were doing now. It was the only way.

Distressed to have to present such dire results to her boss, Karen closed her computer and looked out upon the grey, ashen land that was now planet Earth, the end result of two hundred years of global warming. Desolate brown landscapes, non-descript concrete structures to live and work in and a dusty atmosphere making daytime seem like perpetual twilight. The outside world was endlessly depressing.

She sighed and focused her attention. The transport carrier had parked in the tunnel underneath Millennium Microbial. She exited and made her way to the entrance. Two security guards checked her for banned electronics and a reader scanned her index fingerprint. When they acknowledged she was safe to enter she swiped her identification card and was let in through massive steel doors.

The inside of the building was stark with whitewashed walls, wide hallways and black tile. No color anywhere. She took the elevator to the fifth floor and made her way to her cubicle. Next to her Jen popped her head over the partition.

“Hey, there. Did you hear about the meeting? Finkelstein wants all of us, me and you and Randy, to attend.” Jen pointed one cubicle down where their other team member’s work station was located.

Karen nodded. “Yeah, I heard about it. He called me in on my day off.”

“I know. That sucks,” Jen lowered her voice shook her head. There was no love from either of them toward their demanding boss. “You could use a break.” She switched gears and asked, “Do you know what it’s about?”

“I’m pretty sure he wants an update on our project.”

“So soon? We’ve only had two months to work on it.”

“Yeah, you know him, he expects miracles. Doesn’t care about scientific method or process at all. Just results. What a jerk.”

Jen whispered, “Yeah, I know. He’s the absolute worst.” She was paranoid about anyone over hearing their conversation and with good reason. The company was ripe with employees who would do anything to get ahead. It made for a more stress in an already stressful work environment.

At twenty-six years old Karen and Jen were the same age and got along well. They’d worked together at Millennium Microbial for five years, the entire time they’d been employed by the bio-engineer company.

Karen checked the clock on the wall. “We should get going.”

Jen pointed behind her. “I’ll get Randy.” Of the three of them, he would be considered the quiet one, almost to the point of being withdrawn. He was a brilliant microbiologist, though.

“Sounds good,” Karen said. “I’ll grab my laptop. It’s got my re-cap on it.”

Five minutes later the three of them walked in Jerry Finkelstein’s office. He took one look at them and then checked his ornate watch. With no preliminary greeting, he barked, “Let’s get started.” He didn’t even offer for them to sit down.

Not surprised by his rudeness, Karen, as team leader got right to point, opening her laptop. “I’m assuming you want an update?”

Her boss sat back and smirked. He was a short, squat man with a thin goatee. He looked like a potato, one of the few vegetables that still existed in the world. “Yeah, I do. Give me your best shot.”

Inwardly, Karen grimaced. God, she hated the man. ‘Give me your best shot.’ Everything was a game to him. In fact, sometimes Karen got the distinct feeling he wanted them to fail, especially she and Jen. He had a bad attitude toward women in general and the two of them in particular, always making them prove their worth as competent scientists.

“Okay,” she started. “Here’s where we’re at.”

The essence of her presentation was that their research into splitting microbial DNA and trying to genetically engineer a different stain of food was a failure. The plants they developed all died. The experiment was a failure.

But, at least they’d learned something, as Karen pointed out in summary, “We know what doesn’t work. Now we can focus on looking in a different direction.”

Finkelstein leapt to his feet and screamed. “I don’t want to go in different direction! I wanted this to work and now you’re telling me it doesn’t. We’ve already invested a lot of money into this research. What you’re telling me is unacceptable.” He shook his head disappointedly. Then he pointed a finger at Randy. “What about you? You got anything better than this?”

Randy looked sheepishly at Karen. She felt a sudden clutch in her stomach and knew immediately something bad was going to happen. He was going rogue and he was going to turn on them. “Well, to be honest, I do.”

“God damn it!” Karen yelled.

“Good,” Finkelstein said. “And you,” he pointed at Karen. “You shut up.” Karen clamped her lips shut as he flicked his fingers at them, like shooing a fly away. “I want you both out of here. Now.”

They did as they were told but not before Karen and Jen both shot hard stares at Randy on the way out. He avoided their looks of disgust. At least he had the decency to blush.

“What was that all about?” Jen whispered once they were outside the office and the door was closed.

“I think our team mate is going off on his own. Remember how we talked about trying to genetically engineer a DNA strand like they did back in the twenty-first century? I think that’s what he’s going to talk to Finkelstein about.”

“We both know that won’t work,” Jen said.

“I know. I guess our old teammate Randy just wants to try and get on Finkelstein’s good side.”

Jen coughed out a derisive laugh, “Good luck with that. We both know he doesn’t have one.”

“Randy doesn’t know that, I guess. You know, I always thought there was something funny about him.”

“Well, you were right.” She pointed toward the closed door to emphasize her point. “That’s for sure.”

The two of them walked back to their cubicles, talking intently. “We could get started on our own research right away, you know,” Jen said. “You’ve got those last findings, right?”

“Yeah, the ones that suggest working with that DNA strand?”

“We can investigate that one protein strand on the fifteenth chromosome.”

“Yeah,” Karen said, thinking. Then she made her decision. “Let’s do it. Let’s prove that idiot Finkelstein wrong.” She set her laptop down on her desk and took out her phone. “Let me call my husband. It could be a long night.”

Jen gaze looked into her own inner distance, almost thinking out loud, “It could be a long few months. If we don’t get this worked out…” she let her words trail off.

“Yeah, I know,” Karen said. “If we don’t coming up with a solution to increase the world’s food supply…”

“We’re dead,” Jen said, cutting her finger across her throat.

“Yeah. Dead,” Karen agreed, looking at her friend. They had a huge job ahead, but they had confidence in themselves. They clasped hands in solidarity. We can do this. Then Karen dialed her husband. “Hey, Quinn. I’ll be home late. Something’s come up.” She listened and then said, looking at Jen and giving the universal A-OK sign, “No, it’ not a problem. Me and Jen can handle it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends on Spillwords

A special shout out to Dagmara for featuring my story today. Thank you!! https://spillwords.com/friends-by-jim-bates/

I’ve also posted it below. I hope you enjoy it!

Friends

Dave was sprawled on the couch watching the evening news when an incoming text beeped. He glanced at it and sighed, “Shit, JT, what the hell?” He set his phone down without looking at the message. Man, just give me a moment to myself, he was thinking. Just let me chill and unwind a bit.

He’d been home for half an hour, had showered, put on some clean clothes and fixed a plate of fruit: a sliced up honeycrisp apple, a hand full of red seedless grapes and a little chunk of havarti cheese. All he wanted was to hang out and relax. He was beat. He had just finished a ten hour shift as what his boss called a sous chef at a local restaurant. Right. Dave grimaced when he thought about his job, because he was under no illusions whatsoever about the work he did; what he did was food prep and that was that. Pure and simple. Any idiot could do it. The fact that The Egg and I was a locally sourced, natural foods eatery that regularly made the top ten list for places to eat in the Twin Cities didn’t hide that fact, not one little bit. At least to Dave, anyway.

But, he didn’t mind. He liked the work. Liked that he made enough money for he and JT to rent the one bedroom apartment in the hundred year old brown stone on Emerson Avenue in an older neighborhood of Minneapolis. Liked that he was close enough so he could walk to work in ten minutes and not have to drive his old Ford Fiesta. Liked that he could help pay the bills. JT made good wages working for Gibertson’s Environmental Services, cleaning high rise office buildings in downtown Minneapolis late at night. He liked that he could even save some money so maybe he could go to college one day; if he ever decided he wanted to.

But for now…now he had to deal with JT. He fired up his water pipe and took a hit of Raspberry Crush, pulling the smoke down deep into his lungs and savoring it as he reached for his phone. Let’s see what the guy’s up to.

He read the text. It was short and sweet. Well not all that sweet. What it said was a cryptic, Come get me.

What the hell was going on now? Dave knew JT had had the day and the night off. He knew his friend was going to ride his fat tire bike somewhere. But it was the middle of winter and cold out for christ’s sake. How far could he have gone?

Dave looked out the window. Their apartment was on the third floor of the three story building. It was in the middle of the block, right across from a street light. Through the bright illumination he could make out the snow flurries that had begun to falling earlier in the day. It was beginning to snow harder, now, showing no sign of letting up.

Damn.

What’s up? he texted back.

At RR. Need ride.

Well, for double Christ’s sake. RR was the Red Rooster. It was the bar Dave and JT would sometimes stop at when they rode their bicycles from Minneapolis to the little town of Long Lake, twenty miles to the west. It was an area of woods and fields in western Hennepin County known for its well kept bike trails where they enjoyed going fat tire riding. Liked it a lot. But that was during the summer or spring or fall, for that matter, not in the middle of February. Not in the middle of winter like it was now. Not with a foot of snow on the ground and more on the way. What the hell had JT been thinking?

Well, Dave had a guess. JT had recently developed a thing for the bartender out there. A serious infatuation. At least he had a few months back when the weather had been mild and they’d ridden out to check on the trails. On the way home they’d stopped at the Rooster. The bartender was a handsome guy named Jeff and JT had immediately been drawn to him. In fact, he’d stayed drawn to him even though he’d never once been back to the bar to see him. JT liked to imagine the best when it came to relationships instead of taking steps to show the person how he felt, imagine being the operative word. He liked to pretend that whomever he’d fallen for was going to reciprocate his feelings. The way Dave saw it, it was easier for JT to just play the game in his head rather than act on how he truly felt. Except for now. Now, apparently JT had decided to follow his heart and take things a step further. Yep, the more Dave thought about it, the more he figured that, yeah, that’s exactly what JT had done.

Jeff? Dave texted back.

No. Jeff’s gone. Marybeth.

Dave sighed. Jesus. When it came to infatuations, JT was an equal opportunity kind of guy. A good looking man or a good looking woman, it didn’t matter. If there was a spark that JT felt, that’s all it would take. Next stop, Love City.

Dave and JT had been friends for almost their entire lives, having met back in grade school in Miss Whipholt’s third grade class. Back then parents and teachers called the two boys introverted and socially awkward. Labels notwithstanding, Dave and JT only knew they preferred to not be around a lot of other people. They bonded over a love of bicycles and bike riding. Over time, their small coaster brake Huffys evolved to trek dirt bikes, diamond back mountain bikes and Schwinn fifteen speed racers, until finally, now, to each of them owning a treasured Raleigh Pardner fat tire bicycle. Riding bikes was a pleasant, solitary activity, something they could do alone or together. As the years passed, they rode together, more often than not.

Now in their mid twenties, they were still friends, close friends, best of friends, in fact. Close enough that Dave texted back, What a bunch of BS.

Apparently unperturbed by Dave’s response, JT responded with a smiley face. Then, after a short pause, another text pleading, Come get me? and another smiley face.

Jesus.

Dave could see it now. JT had ridden his bike out to the Red Rooster on his day off thinking he’d be able to make it with Jeff. Jeff had been gone, who knows, quit maybe; maybe even hiding in the back room, but gone nevertheless. So JT strikes up a conversation with Marybeth, a new bartender, and one thing leads to another. It gets to be make it or break it time and MB informs JT that she’s not interested. Maybe she has a boyfriend. Maybe a girlfriend. Whatever…The point is, she’s not interested. JT starts drinking and time goes by. It starts snowing. He’s getting drunk. Suddenly he realizes he can barely stand, let along ride a bike all the way back to Minneapolis. So what’s he do? He sends a text to his pal. His good buddy. Good old Dave.

Dave sat back on the couch and glanced at the television. Colbert was just coming on. He watched for a minute or so and laughed once or twice at some jokes made at the expense of the current president. Colbert was really pretty funny sometimes.

Beep. Another text. U coming?

Dave lit up the pipe and took another hit. He looked around the living room, the main room of the apartment. It might not have a lot of furniture but that was all right. He slept on the couch he was now sitting on, JT had the bedroom. There was also a small bathroom and a tiny, galley kitchen. It wasn’t the biggest space in the world, but the price was right and it worked for them. And it was clean. They both made sure of that. No one said that just because you were a guy in your twenty’s you had to be a slob. Both he and JT liked to keep their place neat and tidy and looking good. And it was.

On the table across from him was the television. Next to it was a red lava lamp with a gold base they’d bought together over three years earlier when they’d first moved in; a kind of housewarming gift to themselves. Dave watched the red mass bubble away for a few seconds and then got to his feet. He turned off Colbert, picked up his plate, went to the kitchen and washed it. Then he took out a stick of sandalwood incense, put it in its holder and set it carefully in the base of the aluminum kitchen sink. It’d be safe there. Then he lit it. JT would like the aroma when he came in.

He picked up his phone and texted, On my way. B there in 45.

He put on his boots, winter jacket and wood cap before grabbing his car keys. He locked the apartment and made his way downstairs to the parking lot where his old Ford Fiesta was parked. He started the engine and turned on the heater. While the car warmed up he took his brush and stepped outside to clean off the snow. It felt like the temperature was around ten degrees. What the hell had JT been thinking, riding out to Long Lake today? Twenty miles in the winter. Man…Dave shook his head, fighting back a grin. What a crazy guy.

When the snow was removed, he got back inside. The warmth from the heater felt good. Some of the snow on the sleeve of his jacket started to melt. He put the car in reverse and backed up. It usually took about thirty minutes to drive out to Long Lake, but what with the snow and all on a night like tonight it’d definitely take longer. That was okay. It’d be good to see JT. He’d been kind of been missing the guy.

Just before he pulled out of the lot his phone beeped. Dave stopped and checked it. JT had sent a message: a smiley face and a thumbs up emoji.

Dave texted a smiley face back.

Then he put the car in gear and headed out into the snowy winter’s night. Yeah, it’d be good to see JT. It’d be good to see his friend.

 

The Coyote – Drabble

I’m thrilled that my story was featured today! Thank you so much!!

https://thedrabble.wordpress.com/?fbclid=IwAR2syh3s4hyiLREHB582TRh-O5HgBDjaAsGQ_PFkd0Nqenqauu7CBhLuPAs

I’ve posted it below as well:

The Coyote

“It’s a damn coyote,” the man exclaimed, looking out the window of his mansion. He yelled to his wife, “Ellen, call animal control. Hurry!”

Oblivious, the sleek animal trotted on. He knew he’d ranged too far from his den and into the Neighborhoods, but he was hunting for his mate and their pups. The rabbit he’d killed was his reward and he hurried to get home. The smell of humans frightened him. He trotted faster planning to never return.

Ellen ignored her shouting husband. Instead she watched the coyote lope away, envying it’s freedom, wished she could join him .

 

Swant’s Service

Hey Everyone!

On January 1 of this year The Academy of the Heart and Mind featured my story. Check the link out if you get a chance. I also posted it below.

https://academyoftheheartandmind.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/swants-service/

Swant’s Service

“Well, thanks for meeting with me. It was good talking to you.” The realtor took out a business card and gave it to Charlie Swant who glanced at it, already having forgotten the guy’s name.

Then he aggressively extended his hand and Charlie reluctantly shook it, “Well…Okay then,” Charlie said, not knowing what else to add. He certainly wasn’t going to lie and tell the realtor that,Yeah, it was good to meet you, too.” Or, “We’ll talk soon. Thanks for stopping by.” Or any other pleasantry that most people would have responded with.

The realtor just looked at Charlie, getting the hint. The old man was nuts anyway. Who wouldn’t want to take the one and a half million dollars he’d offered to buy the decrepit gas station the guy owned? Swant’s Service. What a stupid name. No one he knew ever took their cars there anyway. Why trust their precious Porsche or BMW to a grease monkey like Charlie Swant when they could just as easily go to one of the luxury car dealerships ten miles down the road? The realtor waved and turned away. “I’ll stay in touch,” he said over his shoulder while stepping into his Cadillac, “But I’m never bringing my car here, no matter what,” he muttered as he drove away.

Charlie watched him speed off, noting the almost inaudible high pitched squeal in the engine that was probably a bearing in the water pump starting going out. Good riddance, he thought to himself, and turned to go back to work. He had an oil change and a tune-up waiting and the day wasn’t getting any younger.

Swant’s Service was built by his dad Clarence in 1942, the same year Charlie was born. Clarence suffered polio when he was young and was unable to serve in World War II so he decided to do the next best thing, serve his country on the Home Front by doing all he could to keep America’s cars and trucks running. “I’ll provide my customers with the best service I possibly can,” he said when asked about the name of his gas station, “We’ll sell more than just gasoline. We’ll sell reliability and dependability. Our customers will never be dissatisfied with the service we provide, I can promise you that. In fact, they’ll probably tell their friends.” Which they did, and Swant’s Service was off and running.

The station stood on a small piece of property on Willow Way, a quiet shady street that was one block off Orchard Boulevard, the main road through the small town of Long Lake. Across the street from the station was the cozy, well maintained home Charlie shared with Martha, his wife of fifty-two years. He had a good life: a home that was paid for, a wife he stilled adored and a business that was all his own. Plus, he was doing work he still enjoyed. Why would he consider changing things right now by selling out to some fly-by-night realtor with a fancy car and too high an opinion of himself?

Well, his daughter Janet could think of a few good reasons, telling her dad he should get rid of the station and use the money to, as she put it, “Retire or travel or something.” Charlie Swant couldn’t see himself doing anything like that. Not on your life. Not right now, anyway.

He had just entered the service bay when his phone buzzed. It was a text from Larry, his oldest son. Kids on the way. Charlie texted back that he’d be waiting for them. He went to his work bench and checked his tools. Everything was in order. The Kids were a group of eighth graders from Riverside Middle School where Larry was assistant principal. It was located twenty five miles east in downtown Minneapolis, and they were considered high risk students, having had trouble adjusting to life in Minnesota. To try and help them Larry and Charlie came up with a plan: Charlie would mentor the kids. He’d also teach them about taking care of cars, sort of like the automotive maintenance shop classes that used to be offered in junior high schools back in the fifties. Times were different now. Budgets were tight and shop classes weren’t around anymore. The kids were attending by their own choice, having given up a study period to learn what went into taking care of an automobile.

In the beginning Charlie was under no illusions about what he was getting himself into. He knew most of the kids just wanted to get away from school and Hang out, as they were apt to say, sneak cigarettes, and goof off. But from day one Charlie wouldn’t have any of it. Not on your life. Twelve had started the class. He was strict but fair yet a few just couldn’t handle the discipline. He was down to nine now, having weeded out those who wouldn’t abide by his simple rules: treat others with respect, work hard, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. He didn’t admit it very often, but he thoroughly enjoyed being with eager students, giving the kids a two hour block of his time every week. During the first meeting he’d written their names down. In retrospect he was glad he had because he’d needed to refer to his list often in those initial weeks. It had been challenging back then, but he’d worked at it. Now, of course, he knew them all by heart: Abshir, Amir, Cabdulle, Daleel, Fuaad, Gaani, Idiris, Kaahi and Kamal. They were young Somali’s living in a high rise housing complex in the heart of Minneapolis. Today they’d help him with the oil change and then he’d supervise the project they were working on, restoring a 1957 classic Chevrolet, getting it ready for Long Lake’s Fourth of July parade. Charlie would drive and the young Somali’s were going to ride with him. They were excited and so was he. It would be fun. He couldn’t wait.

Charlie whistled to himself, using his shop cloth to wipe down his tools. Sell his service station for a million and a half dollars? Never. Not on his watch.

A beeping horn interrupted his tool cleaning. Charlie turned and saw Jerry Larson the school bus driver pulling in to drop off the kids. Charlie grinned and waved and walked out to greet them. Jerry opened the door and Fuaad and Kamal and the rest of the kids tumbled out. Charlie called out, “Hey, guys. How’s it going today?”

A chorus of voices came back to him, all on the order of “Just fine, Mr. Swant, ” or some variation thereof.

“Good to hear it,” Charlie says, “Ready to get to work?”

“You bet,” came back another chorus, this time more eager than the first.

“All right, then,” Charlie turned and led his young students toward the service bay, “Let’s get to it.”

Talking Stories

Hi Everyone!

My story Flower Power is one of the stories featured this month on Talking Stories Radio. This hour long monthly program well produced and very enjoyable to listen to. My story is toward the end and is about 2 minutes long. Enjoy!