Tuesday, December 26, 2017

MARS ICE



In the monitor section that tracks the rovers on Mars, suddenly, a scream grabs everyone’s attention. Sam Adam stands, his hear-gear flopping from his neck. Others in the section watch, dismayed, in horror, as he pounds the sides of his head with both fists, then he slumps to the floor, unconscious.

            The agency director, John Williams, reads Sam Adam’s agency’s medical history, shown on the desk top computer screen. Standing behind him, assistant director, Charles Browne, reads over John’s shoulder, the same information.

            “Nothing here to be an indicator of what caused his collapse,” John says.

            “Maybe, drugs or alcohol?” Charles asks.

            “There’s no suggestion of that here,” John says then asks. “What did the infirmary doctor say?”

            “He is in some type of catatonic state that he is not familiar with,” Charles says.

            “I’ll call Harriet,” John says. Harriet is the agency’s think tank, trouble-shooter, for all situations not involving explorations in outer space.

            “What event was Adam involved in?” Charles asks.

            “The rover found an area with frost on the surface; the team was retrieving information about it.” John says.

            “Did any other team member behave in a similar manner?” Charles asks.

            “No,” John says.

            Minutes later, Harriet sits in the director’s office. “I stopped by the infirmary before I came here, and they’re puzzled about Adam’s condition, so I’m suggesting that our army medical triage unit be dispatched here,” she says.

            In a skeptical manner Charles asks. “Will that be necessary?”

            “Listen, it’s not, at the moment medical, nor can we say it is mental, so we can probably say that it is an intruder,” Harriet says.

            “Oh, hell no, we’re definitely not going there,” Charles says.

            John interjects. “She said probably and that is what we are going on, for now. Harriet make the call. And, I’ll give O’Connor a call and update him.” Jack O’Connor is a retired Senior Chief Petty Officer from the U S Navy with experience and expertise in security.

            After Harriet walks out of the office, Charles says. “Give me time and I could come up with something better than an intruder, I mean it could have been an aneurysm that wasn’t diagnosed.”

            “The infirmary doctor didn’t find evidence of that happening because according to the medical report, it was the first thing that they checked for,” John says.

            Charles didn’t read that. “We need more testing to be sure,” he says.

            “That’s what the army’s triage will do,” John says.



            Jack joins John and Charles in the office. “I went straight to the infirmary after your call; I’m glad that I did because the doctor was about to call the hospital for an ambulance. I stopped him, told him about the army’s triage on the way,” Jack says.

            “Shit. Good thinking,” John says.

            “What was so good about that?” Charles asks.

            “We need to be sure,” John says.

            “Do we really need to be that sure,” Charles asks.

            “Yes,” John says.

            “I had the doctor isolate Adam,” Jack says.

            In a sarcastic manner Charles asks. “Did you swear everyone in the infirmary to secrecy?”

            “No, there is no need for that just now,” Jack says.

            “Damn,” Charles says in an annoyed manner.

            The telephone rings. John answers it. Harriet tells him that the Army triage arrived.  

            “I’ll meet Harriet and the army unit,” Jack says.

            “Okay,” John says.

            After Jack is out of the room, Charles asks. “What about the media pool?”

            “Oh, hell, I forgot about them,” John says.

            “I’ll handle them,” Charles says.

            “No. Let O’Connor do it; we’re needed, to control this situation,” John says.



Harriet and O’Connor sit on folding chairs outside the triage tent. An army medical Colonel and his staff are busy inside the tent examining Sam Adam.

“That assistant director, kind of gets on my nerves,” Jack says.

“You haven’t been here long; you’ll get used to him.”

“If I do, it’ll be by accident,” Harriet says.

“Charles is academically smart but not operational wise; you’ll have to remember that,” Harriet says.

“Sounds like a few Ensigns that I crossed paths with,” Jack says.

The Colonel steps out of the tent; his facial expression tells Harriet and Jack that Sam Adam’s condition is beyond known medical explanations. Minutes later in John’s office.

“Essentially, our patient is brain dead but not from a disease or injury. (He pauses.) There is frost on his brain that stopped all brain functions,” Colonel says.

The office is silence for a moment.

“Then, we can say for sure that we have an intruder from Mars of some kind,” Harriet says.

“Why Mars?” Colonel asks.

“That was the project that he was working on,” John says.

“No one else was affected?” Colonel asks.

“No one else, so we can believe that it is a single intruder,” Harriet says.

“We have to go to the top of the chain,” Charles says.

“I have executive privilege to act for the welfare of the country in such an event, like this, so it stops here for now,” John says.

“The president has to know,” Charles says.

“He will but right now I need to know what we have, avoid a media circus and not to cause a public panic,” John says then asks. “Suggestions?”

“Since I cannot tell you what we’ll find if we open him up, I suggest putting him in a place where he can be monitored,” Colonel says.

“Leave a Pandora’s box closed,” Harriet says.

“His official cause of death then would be an aneurysm,” Jack says.

“Is he married?” Harriet asks.

“Yes, with two children,” John says.

“Does he follow a religion?” Harriet asks.

John taps buttons on the computer. “He’s a non-believer,” he says.

“I’ll talk to his wife,” Harriet says.

“This is a need-to-know situation, so let’s keep it to a bare minimum,” John says.

“Well, then, I have a suggestion, but I would like to, first, talk to the Colonel about it,” Harriet says.

“Okay,” John says.

 Harriet signals for the Colonel to follow her out of the office.



The funeral for Sam Adam is a solemn event from the viewing to the burial; carried out  before the funeral, Sam Adam’s body is laid in a lead container; the container is sealed then placed in a secret place to be monitored by the army.

The intruder waits in the darkness, in the frost that it secreted, for the sun rays to melt the frost so that it can frolic in the waves.  

  



        

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

LATE NEWS


After graduation from a culinary school, Charles and Dolores married, opened a restaurant in the downtown area, delayed being parents until their restaurant became profitable. The restaurant became famous for its cuisine however not profitable. They needed an influx of cash that came from Charles friend, Donald, as a silent partner. Eighteen months later, Charles was killed in what a fire marshal called a freak accident. The love of her life was gone forever however to keep him near her forever, she continued the restaurant. After three years, she and Donald married. However, she never forgot Charles as the true love of her life, even when Helen was born then Frank. Twenty-five years later, the restaurant is a family enterprise.

Dolores wakes, grabs the telephone off the night table. It’s the hospital. Helen enters the bedroom.

“That was the hospital, we must hurry,” Dolores says.

“I’ll call Frank,” Helen says.

Donald has been sick for months, in the recent days he has worsen. This night his expectancy has become hours if not minutes.

The family gathers around his bed. Donald eyes open, looks at his family, stops at Dolores. Weakly, he lifts a hand, with a finger, beacons Dolores to move her ear closer to his mouth.

“I think dad wants to say something to you, mom,” Frank says.

Dolores does so, listens, after several seconds, she straightens, looks at Donald in a stun manner, then settles a hateful glare on him; she punches his face then spit on it. Helen, Frank, and the nurse look on in a shocked, startled manner, as Dolores, crying, runs from the room.

Helen and Frank find her, sobbing, walking along the pavement not far from the hospital. Helen parks the car, stops Dolores.

“Mom, why did you do that to dad?” Helen asks.

“Dad died with your spit on his face,” Frank says.

“He killed my first husband, the only true love of my life; he set a fire to look like an accident. He told me that he did it because he wanted me. He killed my only true love; he killed him because he wanted me to be the mother of his children,” Dolores says.

Dolores does not attend Donald’s funeral. She signs over the restaurant to Helen, then she leaves Donald’s children to never see or talk to them again.   




Monday, November 27, 2017

WEEKEND CAMPING TRIP



Marci parks her car in a space on the forest ranger’s parking lot. She and her college classmates, Alice and Andi, walk into the ranger station, to register, plan their hiking trail and to receive a safety packet from the ranger. Afterwards with their backpacks, tent rolls, composite bows, quiver full of arrows, they’re on the trail, hiking to the campsite, enjoying the surrounding beauty, and their get-away from the city. 

            At the campsite, they set their tents, Alice builds a camp fire while Marci and Andi, with their bow and arrows hunt for rabbit and fish. At the end of the hunt, there is enough meat for them to eat a good meal, with vegetables from cans, and packets of condiments.

            “Damnit, did anyone bring ketchup?” Alice asks.

            “I did,” Andi says.

            “Thank you,” Alice says.

            After the meal, they clean up the area, store things in their proper places, then sit around the campfire, chit-chatting about everything except romance, until the stars replace the sunlight and sleepiness makes them to go into their tents for the night.

            In the morning, it is Marci turn to build a campfire while, Alice and Andi, decide it would be better to hunt for fish for breakfast than small animals. They catch enough fish for a good breakfast. Finished with breakfast, they clean up, then prepare their packs for the day’s hike to the second campsite. Once there, they hunt for their evening meal, eat, chit-chat into the night, then into their tents to sleep.

In the morning, after breakfast and cleanup, they prepare to break camp for the hike. The crack of a shotgun gets their attention; they stand still, look into the dense shrubbery, tree, yards from their campsite, to figure out, where is someone shooting. They heard more shots that pinpoints a direction for them to scan. They hear more shots.

“The ranger said that there would be no big game hunting for months,” Alice says.

“Maybe a camper is being attacked by bears or wolves,” Andi says.

“Those shots came from the forest interior not the camping trail,” Marci says.

They listen for more shots but hear none then they hear strange noise from the bush, coming their way fast. Marci grabs her bow, nock an arrow, pull the string back, aim in the direction of the noise that’s become louder.

“Do you think that we’ll need that?” Alice asks.

“Hell, yeah, it might be a wounded bear; shit, it sounds like a car coming fast,” Andi says. She gets her bow, nock and arrow, aims, bow strings pulled back. Alice does that same, just in time because the ant, the size of a full size black bear, breaks through the bushes, at a fast pace. All three arrows penetrate its body then another volley does the same that makes it slump to the ground, dead. It is then that they realize that it is not a bear. 

“What the fuck,” Alice says.

“It’s a damn ant as big as shit,” Andi says.

“Where the hell did it come from?” Marci asks.

“We better call the ranger station,” Alice says.

They hear noise from the shrubbery.

“Shit, another one is coming,” Andi says.

They nock arrows, aim, bow strings pulled back. A man appears, carrying a pump-shotgun. Out of breath, he says, “damn, you got it.”

“Yeah, we got whatever it is,” Marci says.

Alice walks away from them to the backpacks. “I going to activate the thing,” she says.

“Where is she going,” he asks.

“To alert the nearest ranger,” Andi says.

 He shouts, “hey, wait a minute, you can’t do that.”

“Like hell I can’t,” Alice shouts.

He raises the shotgun, points it at her. An arrow from Marci’s bow plunges into his shoulder. The shotgun fires but aimlessly at the ground; he drops to his knees, grabbing at the arrow.

The ranger station was already alerted to the shots by other campers on the trail. But, it took a photograph of the dead ant sent to the chief ranger by cell-phone to convince him of it. The man was airlifted by helicopter to the hospital under guard. The forest rangers gathered, and heavily armed, tracked the trail of the ant and man that led them to an illegal marijuana farm. Where it was determined that the man used a growth chemical on the plants and a few ants were strayed also.

“It looks like he killed them all right here, but we better search the area just in case, one or maybe more got out like the one those girls killed,” Chief says.

“About these dead ones?” Ranger asks.

“Drag them into a pile then set them on fire,” Chief says.

Marci, Alice and Andi decide to never speak of the ant to anyone unless the forest rangers announce it first. Nobody believe the man, claiming that he is too high on marijuana; however, he is charged with growing marijuana illegally on state property, and careless use of a firearm on state property. Marci, Alice and Andi continue their camping trip, afterwards, return to college. Then, one day, three months later, each receives in the mail a certificate of merit for preserving the forest as a safe place, and a free lifetime camping pass, without a mention of the ant.

Friday, November 3, 2017

A SHOT IN THE STORM



“I saw your wife’s car at the bar,” his neighbor says.

It is a dark, stormy night that should have made him stay home, but he had to venture out into it. She told him that she had stopped seeing the man that she dated before shacking with him. 

“He’s still a part of you,” he said.

“No, that is not true,” she said.

“I don’t believe that bull,” he said.

“I’m yours, please believe me,” she said.

He walks through the bad weather, worse than the weatherman predicted, stops in the bar’s parking lot, hides behind a tree. He can see in the bar that she is with the man; they’re talking. She smiles the cute smile that’s only for him. He knows now that he has no other choice than to do what he had made up his mind to do if he saw them together. The pistol rests between his stomach and belt, he grasps its handle, wraps his finger on the trigger. A sudden thunderclap startles him; he feels hot pain slicing through his penis; he drops to the ground, grabs his groin, rolls around on the ground, screaming, “please help me, I’ve been shot.” A fellow leaving the bar sees him, calls the police.  Police officers arrive before the fire-rescue ambulance. They assist him. A fire-rescue officer tells the police officers, “the guy shot his weenie off.”

“No fooling,” Police Officer says.

“Damn,” the other Police Officer says.

The fire-rescue officer gives the pistol to the Police Officer. “That’s why I didn’t see a bullet hole in his clothing,” she says.

The fire-rescue officers lift him into the ambulance. He sees her. She is no longer interested in the commotion. She gets in to her car with the man.

“He should be home from work now; you’ll like him dad. I really love him.”   

Thursday, November 2, 2017

WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL THE DUCKS



The small community of middle class houses surround a large pond that ducks also calls home mainly because Martin, almost every evening, feeds them with bread crumbs, until one day.

“Well, I’ll be damned; where are the ducks?” Martin asks.

“Maybe another alligator is visiting,” Bonnie says.

“I don’t know, I mean; I haven’t noticed any,” Martin says.

“They could’ve found a better feeding pond,” Bonnie says.

“Maybe so but it does seem strange; I mean, all of a sudden, they’re all gone,” Martin says.

“They’ll be back,” Bonnie says.

“Yeah, maybe so, I’ll just save the crumbs,” Martin says.



That night, Old Man Julius, lets his Chihuahua mix out of the house to roam, relieve herself. After an hour, he realizes that his companion has not announced her return so he goes looking for her. After a close call with an alligator, sometime ago, he couldn’t drag her even close to the pond. He walks around, calling for his buddy until near sunrise then surmises that maybe his buddy was dognapped. He will call the police to report his belief.



The next night, Nancy parks her car behind her husband’s car on the driveway. Walking to the front door, she hears a strange noise from the pond. She looks on instinct rather than curiosity, shrieks, runs into the house screaming her husband’s name, Donald.

Alarmed, Donald shouts. “What the hell is the matter.”

“There’s a beast thing near the pond,” Nancy says.

“What?” Donald asks.

“On the edge of the pond, there is this beast,” Nancy says.

“Maybe a big alligator,” Donald says.

“Oh, hell no, this was a damn creature,” Nancy says.

Donald sees that his wife is shaking from fright, so he strolls out the house.

“Call the police,” Nancy shouts.

Donald walks to the edge of the driveway, looks in the direction of the pond, does not see anything or anyone.

From the doorway, Nancy asks. “Do you see it?”

“Not a thing, maybe it was a trick of the heat and night lights,” Donald says.

“Maybe so but it looked so real,” Nancy says.



Because of the heat and lack of rain, the water level in the pond is down. It is Saturday morning, Madison decides to eat breakfast in the living room, watch a show on the television. Before she sets her tray down on the coffee table, she looks out the window at the pond, sees the frog; it’s body the size of a four-door sedan automobile. It lies still in the pond. She stares at it for a moment to be sure that she sees what she sees. A retired non-commissioned officer of the air force, an expert pistol shooter, she hurries to retrieve her pistol. From the doorway, she aims, shoots the frog four times between its eyes. Martin also saw the frog from his house, hurries to the edge of the pond with his pump shotgun, shoots the creature.

“The damn thing is dead,” Madison says.

“Where did it come from?” Martin asks. 

Neighbors, hearing the shots, seeing the frog, hurries to the edge of the pond.

“That’s what I saw the other night,” Nancy says.

“Damn, it might have been looking for something to eat,” Donald says.

Jenkins shows up. “So, that’s where it got to,” he says.

“What do you mean?” Madison asks.

“I was doing some experiment on it and it began to grow unexpectedly; I had it in a cage, but it grew so big that it busted out, looks like, it kept on growing,” Jenkins says.

Madison studies Jenkins for a fast five seconds, fires a bullet into his heart; Martin steps over the body, points his shotgun at the head, shoots. After a long minute of silence, Old Man Julius says, “well, it looks like to me that Jenkins tried to protect his creature that he created and got in the way of the gunfire.” The neighbors agree.   

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A RIDE ON THE MISSISSIPPI


Megan looks at the grandmother steadying her carrying bag with one hand on the ticket booth counter, rummaging through it with the other hand, while taking moments to tell her four grandchildren if they don’t stop their bad behavior that they will not get to ride on the steamboat tour of the Mississippi River. Megan wishes that the woman would hurry.  She glances at her husband, Donald, standing beside her, the reason they’re in New Orleans. It was his idea, a weekend get-away to rekindle the heat in their marriage, chilled by the doctor’s bad news. They agreed to wait to have children but after ten years the wait became unnecessary. The female in the ticket booth using a microphone calls for the next customer. Donald steps to the window. Megan follows, once there, steps to the side, turns her back to the advertising wall, lean against it, looks at the line of people waiting to buy tickets. A young muscular woman, wearing a black tee shirt, with capital letters F B I in red. Megan strains her eyes to read the smaller letters in white that together with the capital letters reads female body inspector. The woman stands next to another woman and they’re holding hands. Megan looks at the woman in the black tee shirt; they’re eyes seems to meet that makes Megan cower, look at the ground. She peeks at the woman who seems to be ogling her halter-top making her side step closer to Donald. He looks at her, smiles.

            At the gangplank, before boarding the steamboat, a souvenir photographer of the moment does her best to get Megan and Donald to do something lovable other than standing next to each other; Megan looks into the crowd, waiting their turn, sees the woman in the black tee shirt who appears to be leering her body that makes her move closer to Donald who hugs her waist.

            On the steamboat, it is in motion. Donald and Megan sit on deck chairs to view the historic sites that the tour announcer points out. During an explanation of a site, Megan leans forward to get a better view, sees the woman in the black tee shirt with her companion coming up the stairway; she seems to peer at Megan who snaps back to avoid eye contact. She grabs Donald hand.



In the steamboat’s dining hall, it reminds Megan of a Tampa restaurant that they used to visit when they were dating. She recalls that it would allow couples to order a meal on a large plate to eat from together. Donald called it their Lady and the Tramp moment.

            “I have to use the washroom,” she says.

            “Okay, I’ll grab a table,” he says.

            Megan leaves the lady’s room, looks over the crowd for Donald. She sees him waving, strolls to him; the closer that she gets to him the more she realizes that there’s one plate on the table. She hurries through the aisle not noticing the woman in the black tee shirt.

           


Thursday, October 12, 2017

PROTEGEE




“I’m pregnant,” stops the family dinner time conversation, mother and father smiles become frowns directed at their sixteen-year-old daughter and only child. Parents asks in unison. “What did you say?”

            “I’m pregnant,” Joyce says.

            “Were you raped or did you just ignore all of the advice I gave you?” Sally asks.

            “I was not raped,” Joyce says then shy into silence.

            “Why do you think that I told you all those things to avoid being pregnant?” Sally asks.

             “I did it but Tom, well, he wanted to be natural one night,” Joyce says.

            “I warned you about that shit,” James says.

            “Yes, you did daddy but I was, just, well, it was in the moment,” Joyce says.

            “That damn moment that came to this moment,” Sally says.

            “I told you that those punks out there would sweet talk the shit until you do it just to make them happy,” James says.

            “All those talk that we told you about was to avoid this happening at your age,” Sally says.

            “How far are you? It can’t be that far so we’ll see about an abortion,” James says.

            “We can’t do that,” Sally says.

            “Why the hell not?” James asks.

            “It’s illegal,” Sally says.



During the birth, complications due to an unknown medical condition test the know-how and skills of the doctors to save the life of Joyce and her child until the child’s life becomes the priority.



In their living room, sitting together on the couch, watching a drama on the television, munching on popcorn, drinking soda.

            “That was a good one but I had the ending figured wrong,” James says.

            “Yeah, me too,” Sally says.

            James pushes buttons on the remote to find another drama to watch.

            “I was at the grand market the other day and ran into the other grandmother and she had the baby with her,” Sally says.

            “So, what,” James says.

            “Well, I’m just glad that they took the baby before we signed the adoption papers,” she says.

            “I guess there would be a chance meeting every now and then,” he says.

            “Yes, I guess so. He’s gotten so big and cute.”

            “I could care less.”

            “That is a horrible thing to say; I mean he is our grandson.

            “That you agreed to put up for adoption before that family opened their mouths.”

            “I was grieving then so were you.”

            “Maybe so but I didn’t want that child and that was a for sure thing that still stands.”

            Their attention goes to the movie.

            “James.”

            “Yes.”

            “I’ve been stopping at their house after work once a week to see the baby for the past five months.”

            Her confession draws his glare upon her.

            “They understood that our decision about the adoption was during our grief, losing Joyce,” she says.

            “We lost Joyce because their self-centered asshole son got her pregnant; that bastard probably did for bragging rights,” he says.

“Joyce is gone from us forever I’m sorry, so sorry that she’s gone but it is our grandson now,”

“Your grandson, not mine.”

They watch the movie without speaking.

“Joyce was our only child and we loved her but she was my protegee until she finished college then that slime bastard caused that to stop,” he says.

“I’m doing what I’m doing so that the baby will always know who his mother was,” she says.

“That will be the bitch that the bastard will marry,” he says.

There is silence for a long time only interrupted by voices from the television.

“They’re bringing the baby here this Sunday and the plan is that every other Sunday we keep him for that day,” she says.





The other grandparents enter the house. Sally asks them to make themselves comfortable as she lifts the baby from the carriage.

            “Where’s James?”

            “He doesn’t live here no more,” Sally says.