It looked like a normal letter from the middle school Max would be attending in the fall, but as I read a hollow rattle rolled through the page from the shaking of my hands. I dropped it on table, grabbed my keys and fled. This is my default action in the face of tragedy. I first learned this when I was about Max’s age.
We were driving to a cabin on the Lake of the Ozarks. An army of trees with shades of green that Crayola could never hope to box surrounded the road on both sides. Two yellow dotted lines marked the way to a perfect weekend. Just me, my dad, and a lake full of fish. I stared over the high dashboard looking for the sign that would mark our turnoff. This would begin our game of who can spot the water first.
A flash of movement was all I saw before the impact jerked me forward. My dad told me to stay, but I was so drawn to the front of our station wagon that I barely heard his words.
Tears streamed down his reddened cheeks as he sat holding his knees against his chest as tightly as his little arms could manage.
“I hate being little!”
Andy’s father plopped down next to him and thought about what to say while resisting the urge to rub the wavy locks of blonde hair that seemed to always look perfect no matter how messy his clothes were at the end of the day.
“I think I’m supposed to tell you how great being six years old is, but to be honest I bet it kind of sucks sometimes.”
Andy’s head shot up to look into his father’s before delivering a very serious reprimand.
Her eyes froze me. I had never met someone who could say so much without a single word. Thoughts played like pictures across two small blue screens. The slightest lift of her eyebrow could convey things more clearly than most of my dim-witted friends and it is no wonder. They had willingly traded in the treasure of words for the sake of fitting in. How am I expected to know the true feelings of a person who would rather say “LOL” than share the actual joy of laughter with me?
But it was not what she could say to me that chilled my soul, it was what she could read. I felt naked when her gaze held mine. (more…)
Valerie Michaels hoped that March 7th, 2045 would be a special day. And even though it was her eleventh birthday, she would always remember it for another reason.
The ceiling in her room began to illuminate as the soft sounds of classical music signaled that it was time to get up. Her step-mom would be in soon to help her. Until then she stretched and listened to the music drift down like snow upon her. A smile crept across her face as she recognized the soft song. It would only be the first of many surprises from her father. Christine opened the door just as a cello finished the last “Happy birthday to you.” (more…)
Growing up in Hollywood was not as glamorous as it sounds, but the education is unmatched in all the country. In class I was taught geometry, history, and biology, but on the way home I learned how to recognize drug dealers and whores. I could spot a hopeful actor or actress from across a restaurant by the script they kept folded in their back pocket. My friend Dickson and I never finished at the top of our class in school, but outside those walls we felt like Einstein and some other smart guy like Einstein.
My family moved to Hollywood when I was still in diapers because my dad was an actor. He mostly did plays, but wanted to be in the movies. He was always talking in weird voices and pretending he was other people. Sometimes he would let me play along with him. We were knights and spies and astronauts. No matter what adventure we shared it always ended with a tickle fight and lots of laughter. After a while we didn’t pretend anymore. He said it was because I was getting older now and it was time for me to grow up. Luckily I got a new best friend right around the same time.
Being in an interrogation room did not scare Sam. Seeing no cameras concerned him a bit, but he would not go so far as to say that scared him. What scared Sam was the fact that he had arrived there through the back of a maintenance closet, down an elevator that he never knew existed, and into a floor that was not on any set of blueprints he had ever seen. If he had been kept in the dark about all this after 12 years as Chief Engineer, what other secrets did CoreTech hold?
A light snow began drifting down through the headlights as we drove to the house. Nicole reached over from the passenger seat captured my hand to hold in hers. I couldn’t help but smile. Snow always put her in the mood to snuggle.
The smooth baritone of Bing Crosby serenaded us all the way into my parent’s driveway. She probably didn’t notice it, but her hand squeezed mine a little tighter when we arrived. I knew she was nervous, but mentioning it would only get me punched in the arm. Truth be told, I was a little nervous too. But not for my own sake.
The roar of laughter from the men surrounding the fire filled the night air. Kuumo shifted uncomfortably in the dirt next to his mother. She smiled a knowing smile, but said nothing. Another burst of laughter soared through the village and found its mark in Kuumo’s heart.
He could feel hot tears of anger and frustration building and willed them to disappear with fierce determination. Warriors do not cry. He forced himself to focus on the dried leaves beside him. Years of practice had given him the ability to weave them into many patterns without much thought. This was just another curse on nights like these.
The high-pitched squeak of Riley’s chair signaled his coming arrival to the top of the grey wall that separated our cubicles. His words arrived a split-second before the top half of his face.
I looked up to see the hazel eyes of my curious co-worker looking down upon me. His short brown was neatly parted and brushed to one side. When I started working here, his habit of looking over our shared wall reminded me of the neighbor Wilson from Home Improvement, but after a few weeks of why Star Trek is more scientifically accurate than Star Wars instead of words of wisdom from obscure tribes in Africa the illusion faded.
“Some girl dialed my number by accident, but instead of hanging up she left a message.”
Riley’s voice rose a bit with excitement. “Oh yeah? Let me hear.” (more…)
My problem was that I was looking at her face. Her brown hair was pulled back in a single ponytail. She paused for a second to let her blue eyes adjust to the dim atmosphere. As she started walking toward the counter I tried to picture her covered in fur with large ears, but nothing really clicked. That’s when I heard Paul’s voice whisper as he poured a shot of espresso. He never looked my way.