Tag: #flashfiction

Brotherly Love

 

Brotherly Love

“So, what’s up, big guy?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Okay, I know what’s next. My ‘You’re right, I don’t want to know,’ is not going to mean a twit to you, and you’re going to spend the next unquantifiable seconds telling me anyhow. So, again, what’s up, big guy?”

“Oh, you think you know me so well, but you don’t. Unquantifiable? Really! What does that mean? Never mind, I don’t want to know. I have a pretty good idea what it means. Look, this will take only a minute…I need to borrow $500 so I can get this remarkable deal on a laptop that has all the ‘goodies’ and the mega high numbers on everything – it’s got mega-bytes up the grommet.”

“So, why the hell are you asking me to give you $500. It would be, giving you, $500, because you would never pay it back. We’ve been there, done that before.”

“Aw, come on, you’re my big brother. You’re a handsome dude with a wife ‘to die for’ and you love me. You want to see me succeed, and, with this web puppy, I will succeed. I’ll pay you back when I get my income tax ‘money-back’ check…stop laughing, I mean it, I will pay you back.”

“Listen to you. You are insulting me, little brother…Elaine has gone grocery shopping so it’s a good time to have my chat with you. Sit and let’s allow me to give you some facts…

“Mom and Dad have been gone for a while, and I admit I’ve been over-accommodating you and your spurious needs. Elaine was the vote that got you living here with us, but there is a time-limit for you, Axel. I know you had tough emotional times, but so have I, and you need to put your life back together quickly. Elaine and I are not your mom and pop. God bless them, they’re gone. I love you and want you to succeed in your writing. However, your job at the tire factory pays you enough to be on your own, but you prefer living with us and partying way too much. Elaine must clean your messy room, pick up food droppings, do your maid duties for you, and that stops NOW! No more eating in your room for the remainder of your stay with us. No more messy room. No more mooching money.

“So, Axel, you get no more money from me or Elaine, and you have thirty days to find your own place and be out of here. As for your request for $500, that is a non-negotiable, NO! You’re my brother and I do love you, but your stay here is over in thirty days. If you are not out of here in thirty days, you will find all your meager belongings gone, given to Goodwill.

“Do you understand the ‘program’ I’ve described, Axel?”

“You really would do all that, Matthew?”

“Yes, and I might and will add, at twenty-four, a college drop-out, and a real presumptuous ass, I’ve put up, we’ve, Elaine and I, have put up with you too damned long. The thirty days can and will be moved up based on your attitude. We have simply had it, Axel. You are a brother I don’t recognize anymore. Mom and Dad would be so ashamed of you during these months you’ve been with us. I doubt if you would have left on your own terms, so I’m making that decision for you. You have taken advantage of us and our home for too long. Family love is important, but not so much under these circumstances. Please understand, I mean every word.”

“Wow! Why don’t you tell me what you really think, Matt! Damn, I never knew you felt like this. I just assumed, you know, family and stuff… Suddenly, I feel sort of dirty, you know, like a homeless bum. But, yeah, I understand. I thought you were grumpy at times, but I never thought the grumpiness was about me… Well, my being sorry won’t hack it, but I’ll say, I’m sorry, very sorry, for the way I’ve acted. I’ll be out of here before using up those thirty days. A buddy has been wanting me to move in with him. That suddenly sounds like a winning offer. Don’t misunderstand, Matt, I’ve heard you loud and clear. I will change – for the better, I promise. I needed this ‘Big Brother’ session. Believe me, it all makes perfect sense to me. I really have been an intolerable ass. Thanks, Matt, good ‘Bro’, I’ll surprise you. Wait and see. I love you, big guy. Is it okay if I hug you, Matt?”

“Sure, it’s okay. You’re still my brother. I just played Dad for a few moments, but I still meant everything I said.”

“I know, Matt…guess this is not the right time to mention my affair with Elaine, huh?”

Billy Ray Chitwood – June 17, 2019

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Instant Love

Instant Love

Little did I know at the time that my walk in the woods would bring my heart near to breaking, that a portion of it would be broken irreparably, never to be fully mended, and that my mind would be absorbed with guilt and pain because of my over-active mind…who could have done this to such a beautiful animal? A moment of anger soared through me. A hunter, I surmised. Damn the hunter all to hell! Could I have walked faster? Gotten there sooner?

So many questions and denial assailed my mind as I stared into that tangled brush and saw an animal in pain, its body moving only slightly in spasmodic barely noticeable jerks.

Then, I heard his low whimper carrying doubt and fear. In that instant, all that mattered was saving his life. In that brush of broken tree limbs, rocks, and blood-stained earth was a beautiful Golden Retriever, now more audibly moaning in long painful gasps, somehow sensing my presence. The Golden’s hair was matted with a slow ooze of blood coming from an ugly gash to his lovely head. The eyes were half-opened, pleading, rolling lazily up and down in my direction, as if saying, ‘please, no more, please’, perhaps his mind considering me the enemy who had attacked him. How long had he been lying there in terrible pain? I could only guess. Quickly scanning the area, I saw no other people in sight.

My heart sank at the sight, and, despite his suffering, he was so beautiful lying there in the brush, his body atremble with the uncertainty of my appearance in the dense woods. A tear owned by me came and fell to the ground. Call me, wimpy, it’s okay, because it was instant love, seeing that beautiful creature moaning in distress and so much agony.

As I gingerly pulled away the tangled mess to reach him, he moaned so desperately. With my voice as soft as I could make it, I tried to console him. “It’s okay,” I muttered gently, softly, “I’m going to help you. Don’t be afraid. Please, lie still while I remove some of this knotted mess around you. I’m here to help you, not harm you.” I gently stroked his middle back. He seemed to understand my words and his eyes closed for a moment as he emitted a barely audible sigh. The gash appeared to be his only injury, but it looked menacing with its emission of blood.

For a moment, as his breathing became fainter, I thought he might be dying, but as I reached him, touched him, he reacted with new yelp. As gently as were my arms enfolding him, he still gasped in with every move I made. I talked to him as I worked to get him out of the brush. “I’m taking you to the vet hospital, to someone who can stop your . I won’t hurt you, and I won’t leave you. I promise.”

As I carried him to my car, I could feel and hear his soft labored breathing with little gasps of more discomfort when I had to make an adjustment with my grip on him. I also prayed for the lovely Golden in my arms. At the car, I carefully opened the back door of my sedan and with tedious care placed him on the back seat.

We made it to the Vet hospital, and, Thank God, the Golden was saved. A hunter’s misplaced shot had ricocheted and caused the gash and his near death. He had crawled to the brush for safety, to avoid the danger of which he had no knowledge.

Julie Anne and I named him, Toby. He was with us for eleven years before we had to put him down because of a cancer, bringing an agony hard to bear and memories laved with tears.

Those tears can still easily come when I think of my beautiful friend, now long gone, but never, ever, to be forgotten. He is buried under a peaceful and aged oak tree in the east valley of Phoenix, Arizona.

Rest in Peace, Toby, we will always love you….one day, we’ll be together again.

BR Chitwood – June 11, 2019

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‘A Meeting With The Shrink in Silly-Town’

[Image by Macela Laskoski]

‘A Meeting With The Shrink in Silly-Town’

The Psychiatrist asks, what’s the problem? to the fink.

I’m apathetic, brain-drained, and want a drink!

Well, what’s your problem, do you think?

You hard of hearing, or, what? I didn’t blink!

But that’s what I do, dumb-ass! I get paid to think!

Well, why am I here, almighty Shrink?

You already gave the reason. Is there more to the link?

You, guys! All you do is ask questions that stink!

Well, what exactly should happen, do you think?

Know what? Your questions drive me to that drink!

Then, we’ve accomplished something here, I think.

Yeah, sure, you made $150 bucks in an eye’s blink!

Now, now, relax. How ‘bout that amount with a chink?

How much of a chink, do you think?

Ah, what the heck, I’ll give a 5% chink.

You’re a loon! 5%? You belong in the clink!

You’re testing my good nature, I think.

You think, you dink? I’m gone for a drink.

But, wait, my fee with a 10% chink?

Up yours, shrink, with a chink, to the clink, I think.

Your truly, Billy Ray Chitwink

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Can You Hear Me?

“Can You Hear Me?”

Pre-dawn, rain storm, and fear gripped me like thousands of little fire ants crawling over my naked body, stinging as they hurriedly moved helter-skelter across my skin.

My forefingers rubbed irritated eyes as the darkness moved on the wall in front of me like angry waves lapping on a stormy coast, grotesque shapes of all sizes in staccato persistence…but it was those deep and growling whispers that tore at my sanity. What was this madness of movement and dulled sound?

For some unearthly reason, an aberrant thought came to my frenetic mind… a distorted and disoriented man with gaping mouth standing silently on a walking bridge screaming without sound. Was there madness occupying my mind and body in these dark hours?

My trembling body sought refuge under the bed covers. The ominous whispers were coming audibly low, rhythmic, but I could not make them out. I felt childish in my fear. Why not get up, turn a light on, and see if there was some logical reason for these melodic murmurings? Alone, I could admit to myself that I was too paralyzed with fright to move.

So, I cowed there beneath the covers, the unmuffled bass whispers still there, still melodic but also changing in different modulations.

Time was lost to me as I lay there in my fetus position on the edge of despair. The whispering had somehow merged into a harmonic blend, coming with the merciful daylight.

Tentatively I stretched my body full-length on the king-size bed and slowly pushed back the covers.

My wide eyes scanned the bedroom, saw nothing but the furniture and a splash of sunlight on the western wall. The whispers were now subdued into a musical sound, almost lovely to the ear.

What the hell was going on?

Was a radio on in the apartment?

I rose from the bed, padded to the closet, put on a robe, and walked into the living room. There was nothing out of place or different about any of the rooms in my bachelor pad. I stood looking out the window at the wondrous blue of the sky and chuckled.

But, wait!

The radio was not on, yet still I heard the whispering musical sounds. I was at a loss to explain it.

After a fast breakfast, I called my doctor, gave him a brief recap of my early AM experience, set a mid-day emergency appointment at 11:30 AM.

*

Soon after my long-time doctor ran auditory tests, he came into the examination room and stood stoically in front of me with a put-on capricious look. We were also friends and golf buddies, so I knew the man very well.

“Okay, Doc, the dramatic pose is good but are you going to let me in on it?”

“Just funning you, buddy. Sorry, but I had to confirm my suspicion. You, Frankie, my friend, have MES.”

Again, he just stood and smiled.

“Well, what the hell is MES, Doc? Must not be too serious, or, you’re a masochist, making me beg for answers.”

MES is an acronym for ‘Musical Ear Syndrome’ – that’s what you have. It’s a rare medical anomaly. You have your very own music system built into your brain.”

“Well, is it a temporary thing? Is it something I have to live with?”

“We know of no treatment for Musical Ear Syndrome at this time. It’s a relatively new phenomenon that only a few people acquire. It’s akin to Tinnitus. I’m afraid it’s something you have to live with, good buddy.”

“It scared me, Doctor Ben, really, truly, scared the hell out of me. The sound started out loud and low like a threatening voice until it finally settled into a slow melodic monotone.”

“It’s likely music you’ve heard over the years playing back for you.”

“Can other people hear this MES music?”

“No, just you, Frankie. You’re one of the select few.”

“Well, ‘bully’ for that, but it’s going to be annoying, Doc.”

“Yes, I suppose it can be in the beginning. You’ll get accustomed to it. It should level off sooner than later. At some point you may need hearing aids, and they will help with the MES.”

“Hearing aids? Damn, I’m not that old, Doc. Hell, you’re the old man here, Ben. What? Three years older than I, you old coot.”

“I know, but hearing is not restricted to us old folks. Soon, you won’t even know the music is playing. And, hey, the song could be one of your favorites.”

“Very funny, Doc. You get no strokes on any of the next golf holes we play.”

“So, that’s the tune you’re going to play for me?”

“Still funny, Doc, but don’t give up your day job…a lot of comics are out of work.”

Billy Ray Chitwood – April 4, 2019

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Two Parrots

Two Parrots

There were two southern preachers, one, an old-time Baptist sermon-master, the other, an old-time Methodist sermon-master.

Now, these two ‘good ole boys’ did have something more or less in common: each of them had a parrot. I’m talking here about parrots that can speak words clearly and often.

The Baptist preacher had this male parrot that spewed ugly words and phrases, did in fact at times take the good Lord’s name in vain. I mean, this parrot was something else, and the preacher was embarrassed anytime people visited him in his parish house.

The Methodist preacher had this female parrot that sat in her cage and prayed all day long. Now, the Methodist preacher liked the fact that his female parrot was all holy and full of grace, but he wanted her to step out of the religious role occasionally.

Well, the two preachers became friends because they both met up at the pet shop where they got their parrots, and had so much in common – with God, sinners, and all…so, they just took to each other and began their friendship.

There came the night the Baptist preacher had his new Methodist preacher friend over for an evening chat. Well, wouldn’t you know, that doggone male parrot started up with all his cuss-words and mini-phrases that were, well, just downright nasty stuff for the ears to pick-up.

Well, the two preachers talked long and hard on the subjects of their two parrots. The Methodist preacher allowed that his female parrot prayed all day long, and that was all well and good. But, the Methodist preacher didn’t want his parrot so full of grace that she couldn’t open up a bit.

The Baptist preacher had the opposite problem and he wanted a little more grace in his male parrot, not those nasty words and phrases all his waking hours.

So, the two preachers talked, as I said, long and hard, and finally came up with an idea they both figured just might work…

What they figured to do was to put both parrots, the female praying parrot and the male cussing parrot, into a bigger cage and see if the two could maybe come out of their different shells and become more suitable in their behavior patterns.

So, one Saturday the preachers went to the pet shop, got a bigger cage, took that cage back to the Baptist preacher’s parish house, set it up with the little seats on each side of the cage, a cute little swinging apparatus, and little seeds that parrots just love.

Well, here’s what happened…

The preachers put both parrots inside the cage and closed the little gate. The male parrot that said the nasty words went to one side of the cage, and the female parrot that prayed all day long went to the other side of the cage…and those two parrots just sat there and stared at each other.

The preachers stood there shaking their heads for the better part of an hour, and those two parrots just sat and stared at each other.

Just when the preachers were about to make a move and put the parrots back in their own cages, the male parrot winked an eye and said to the female parrot: “Hey, baby, how ‘bout a little loving?”

The preachers looked at each other, both a little embarrassed with the situation, but stood and waited…

Finally, after several seconds passed, the female parrot says: “What do you think I’ve been praying for?”

Well, don’t you know? Those two parrots are still together, but they don’t talk that much…the Baptist preacher finally rigged some dark shades for the two parrots’ love-privacy for those moments when there was just no other route to go.

Oh, one last thing, the Baptist preacher became a book editor for whatever in the world the reason, and that fine Methodist preacher became a down-and-out fiction writer…

Go figure…

Billy Ray Chitwood – March 24, 2019

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Felix and Fred -Putting Up A Fence

(Image by vipul uthaiah)

Felix and Fred

-Putting Up a Fence-

 “C’mon, don’t give me that crapola! You know that I don’t buy into your atheist beliefs. You’re a close-minded ‘know-it-all’.”

“Hey, you started the conversation.”

“How do you get there, ‘me’, starting the conversation?”

“You asked me what I thought about ‘climate change’…”

“And?”

“And, you used the word, God, in your question.”

“I said, ‘For God’s sake’, how can these young progressives be so stupid as to put ‘climate change’ as the number one problem facing the country?”

“Right, and I said, ‘God has nothing to do with it. There is no God. So, you got pissed and called me names.”

“Look, Fred, let’s get something straight here. We’ve had this lively chat before, and I keep telling you, ‘keep the atheist crap to yourself’, but somehow you always get the conversation over into the domain of metaphysics and intellectual inquiry, trying your damndest to charm me with your intellect, to turn me in a direction I’m not about to go… So, once, and for all the ‘next times’, I believe in a higher intelligence, a Deity, a God, not that ‘big bang’ you bring into just about every conversation we have. Now, you’re entitled to believe whatever you wish to believe, but, I say, but, when I make it clear to you where I stand on an issue, don’t keep bringing up your so-called belief of life being ‘nothingness’, that generic man gets only one chance at this thing we call life, implying we who do believe in God are all idiots.”

“Felix, your argument has no credibility, but…”

“Why, you arse-hole, my argument has no credibility? What? The Sun rises and sets. The tides move with the Moon. A baby is born in very precise stages, alive in a woman’s womb, sustained by the miracle of a woman’s bodily make-up, brought into a world where he or she or they can achieve remarkable feats, or, simply live a life, good or bad, until death claims them. Faith gives Life meaning, a purpose, to create, to explore the depths of knowledge, to live in hope of something ‘beyond’ the earthly realm. The mystery of death beguiles and haunts the thinking man in search of his soul’s quest…oh, but, not you. You don’t doubt, you know ‘with avid certainty’ that darkness awaits at the end of our breathing… You know, because I’ve told you before, Fred, we could have perhaps lively and fun conversations about life and death if you could admit to Agnosticism. But, no, not you. You’re really bright, but I wish you had some honest humility. Ah, I’ve had my say. Let’s finish this fence and stop talking for a while, Fred. Okay with you?”

“Yeah, sure, it’s okay with me, but, hell, Felix, we all have beliefs. I’m sorry I make you so angry, but I’m just speaking from my mind, not my heart.”

“That’s cute, Fred, that little ‘transference thing’ you just did, but don’t be using one of ‘our’ words in this conversation.”

‘Our words’, Felix? Oh, and which word is that, my enlightened friend?”

“The word is hell, Fred. Don’t use it, because you’re violating your belief system. Hell when used by atheists must mean that, in their most private moments, they think of Heaven and Hell! How’s that, my egotistical friend? Now, hand me another cinder block for the fence. We’re almost at the end. A few more yards will do it.”

“Are we okay, Felix? I mean, we still friends? I never know when you go on your rants”

“Rants, huh? I guess you’re talking about my superior logic… Yeah, of course, Fred. We’re still friends. Who else would listen to your brain farts? You make me mad with your mind-set, but we’ve been around too many corners to turn around now. We couldn’t find our way back home. You see, my God was feeding me my lines just now. Who was feeding you your lines?”

“The little guy in my brain.”

“Guess that’ll have to do.”

“We’ve been friends and next-door neighbors for years now, Felix. You figure this fence is a symbol for our disagreements?”

“Hell, no. I just don’t like watching you chase your lovely wife all around the back yard in your birthday suit. That ‘picture’ is not exactly pretty for you, but I’ve fallen in love with your wife.”

“That’s just mean, Felix, even though I’m smiling. That kind of thinking won’t get you to heaven.”

“You’ll never know. Now, hand me the the cinder block, arse-hole.”

Billy Ray Chitwood – March 3, 2019

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Broker in the Pit

Broker in the Pit

The darkness is overpowering, consuming me with its lava flow of sheer blackness, denying my mind sanity, sequence of thoughts, and viable options for escaping this suffocating imprisonment.

What lunacy brought me to this space of horror? (It can occupy my time to explain this vacuity.)

A combination of anomalous events brought me here.

Where is here? When and Why?

The ‘who’ is I, of course, all alone in this dark dungeon of nothingness…my name’s Freddie Cheever.

I’m a jogger. It is my way to stay healthy and trim. Every morsel of food I eat must be assessed for its calorie count and nutritional value. I’m the obsessive jerk people talk about, the guy who takes each aspect of life to its outer limit, weighing on the mind-scale the logical and reasonable factors.

Okay, I had an appointment cancel on me…no reason, just a rude denial of our pre-set meet. I’m a broker, so I’m guessing the lady whose husband just died and left her with all the ‘e-pluribus-unum’ heard rumors about me that were launched by a competitor three years ago. (I’m blessed with fairly good looks and like women – but in very gentleman ways.) Guess one could call me a ‘womanizer’, because, in my opinion, a beautiful woman (in my ‘beholding eyes’) is truly a work of art.

But I digress…

So, I used that aforementioned appointment time with Ms. Snooty to jog. I had no other appointments on my calendar, so I shortened my day, went to my bachelor pad, decked out, drove out in the country to find new terrain for my jogging, found it, parked my Benz, and jogged.

I was into my second mile when I came to a big swath of leaves, and, as I ran through said leaves, I started free-falling downward akimbo and heard above me a slamming sound. Luckily, I landed on my feet – more or less – and badly sprained my left ankle. Whatever the slamming sound it left me in that pitch-blackness that started this narrative. My fall I judged to be some ten feet, but it was the slamming noise that really got my attention, not so much the fall itself.

This was by my reckoning an animal-trap of some kind, and, it was my hope, not a human-trap laid out by some very weird dude or dudes.

Though alone, I was mortified and damned scared. On hands and knees, I crawled the small space, judged the rounded pit’s circumference to be maybe ten feet or more. Its floor was all filled with the falling leaves and likely gave my fall some small advantage. Below the leaves there was just hardness, and all I received from my effort scratching at the surface was a broken finger-nail.

Along the walls of the pit was the same hardness. My guess was that it was either concrete or bitumen. The pit was likely used as a silo of some kind.

That’s when the utter black of the darkness hit me in a mind-chamber that caused me to inwardly flash, like a spasm passed through me.

Did I yell? No, my pit was so serene! Of course, I yelled until my throat pained me to swallow. It seemed that, with that acknowledgement, I was swallowing more often than I could ever remember swallowing.

Okay, I’m there for, guessing here, some three hours. My angst was deep like the hole I was in. I lay on my right-side for a while, then the left-side, on and on.

I did a lot of praying, not that I expected much relief from a Deity I had ignored badly over the years. Still, I prayed, supplicated, pled with tears my eyes seldom used for any reason – well, maybe a really sad movie could bring tears…if I were alone, NOT on a date, NOT in a movie house.

Then, the miracle!

Thought I heard a motor purring above me. Then, no purring of motor. When I felt almost on the verge of ‘flipping out’ a scraping sound came to my ears from above, then a small stretch of sunlight that got bigger and bigger. A gravelly voice came from above – a farmer’s voice, not my Deity’s voice.

“Who’s down there?” the voice sounded almost angry and impatient.

I tried to yell up to my hero, but my voice faltered. Finally, I found a squeaky refrain somewhere in the sore throat and softly sang out, “I’m down here! I fell while jogging.”

“I ought to leave you down there! This is private land, boy!”

I squeaked, “I’m so sorry, sir. It won’t happen again, I promise.”

“Okay, boy, grab the rope, loop it around your middle and I’ll pull you up.”

Did as I was told, and ‘thank you, my divine Deity. You did hear me after all’.

The farmer became my friend – and my client. Tom Simpson’s his name. I’ll never forget what he said to me when I hobbled with him to my car. He bore most of my weight on that short walk.

Tom said to me: “Freddie Cheever, huh? Well, son I have to tell you, you are one lucky fella! I usually don’t come this route. Just decided the last minute to check out this quarter of land. I saw the leaves all messed up, and they stopped at the silo pit.”

Funny how fate works at times. Maybe I’ll start going to church on Sundays.

For sure, I’m going to be seeing Tom Simpson fairly often…he’s a broker’s dream – big spread of land that feeds a lot of people, plus a dairy that yields lots of milk. That ‘e pluribus unum’ I wrote about just a bit ago? Well, good old Tom’s got enough to fill that darned pit I was in.

Billy Ray Chitwood – February 25, 2019

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Souls Refreshed

Souls Refreshed

In the vast blue sky a lone, odd cloud shaped in a halo-like pose appeared on the distant mountain, a most unusual configuration, the sun giving it a beautiful glow and contrast along the far amber slopes.

The mule abruptly halted! I was stopped short with the plow handles slamming into my chest.

I stood in the freshly plowed furrow and gazed in wonder as did ‘old Fred’, the mule. It was a sight that came with a trilling sound, not of thunder with trailing streaks of jagged lightning bolts, but a whispering of strange archaic words in a soft musical cadence. The Sun was directly above me yet a broad shadow without darkness hovered just above the plowed field. There came an eerie stillness that filled the air. No longer were the birds tweeting. No longer could I see the bugs and worms of the earth. Never had I witnessed silence like this. Not a sound came to me in those strange moments after the soft trilling of echoic words. It was as though the ground upon which I stood, the air and space all around me was now a vast surreal cathedral. The tweetless birds dipped and flowed above in muted harmony of movement. I stood spellbound on seemingly sacred soil, and an amazing feeling of grace passed through my body. In that still hallowed moment I felt the essence of God.

Millie stopped in her tracks some twenty feet away, dropped the food she was bringing me at lunchtime. Her hands shook, reached, clasped her cheeks, and her face was bewildered, blanched with surprise, her blue eyes momentarily wide with shock from the trilling sounds emanating from the the strange aberration.

Some seconds passed before I realized Millie was in my arms, her trembling body mixing with my own quivering flesh. There had been no movement. She was just…there, in my arms.

“What is it, Lucas? Is it God speaking to us?” Her voice came to me as a quaint melodic tone, but I knew what she was saying. The silence all around us would not be broken.

“I think so,” I mumbled and tightened my embrace, my own words going back to her in the same odd melodic tone. Millie looked at me as a smile came to her face in a moment of holy acknowledgement.

“The paleness, it’s…it’s transparent. The sky is blue, yet there are shadows across our land. There is nothing to bring these shadows but a sheer transparency. It’s like an enveloping sheet of gossamer that we cannot touch, but can only realize that it is there. And, the total silence is all around us. Oh, Lucas, is this the end of days? Is this what the bible speaks to us about?” Her words could have been the soft sound of an orchestral refrain.

I held her to me as though afraid of losing her. Somehow, this anomaly did not bring anxiety or great dread. We were in a state of bewilderment but found there was no panic, no reason to be afraid. It was more an inner awareness of peace, of tranquility, something holy, an aura of sanctitude.

“Could you make out the sound, Lucas? Was it talking to us?”

“I believe so. Your voice is like the sound that came from the mountain. Is mine the same?”

“Yes.”

“If it was indeed talking to us, I can only feel it was a benevolent message of hope.”

“Your voice is back to normal, Lucas.”

“As is yours, sweet Millie, and the sky is clear and without the shadows that were not there…”

Then, we laughed at my words…’the shadows that were not there’.

“Whatever that most divine sequence I feel somehow renewed, a calmness that I cannot remember having before. Do you feel that as well, Millie?”

“Yes, yes, you describe it exactly, a ‘calmness’ that purifies the spirit and makes life and death a union and constancy. We never die. Our spirits simply move into other kindred souls, in perpetuity. My good Lord, Lucas, did I just say the words I think I said?”

“You said it perfectly, Millie… Tonight, we will have red wine with our supper.”

Billy Ray Chitwood – February, 2019

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Lost in Moscow

Lost in Moscow

I gently touched the man’s arm as he walked by: “Sorry to bother you, sir. Do you speak English?”

The man turned quickly to face me, angry with my touching, shook his head from side to side, pursed his lips, looked me up and down, and finally spoke, “Nyet!” the Muscovite said in a low angry voice and walked away, disappeared around a corner.

“My God! What am I going to do? I’m freezing”

I stood slumped over, leaning against a cold gray brick building on a near-deserted street corner in Moscow. My hands were stiff from the cold Moscow weather.

Does the sun ever shine in this God-forsaken city?

The thought lingered in some stoic wilderness of my mind until my plight hammered its message to some core of my being and tears came. Stop worrying about ‘sunshine’! You’ve got bigger problems!

My plight?

No memory! I have no memory of coming to Moscow. I’m, just, here!

Ask me, what were you doing fifteen minutes ago?

My answer to my own question.

I don’t know.

Now, I’m shaking my head. What did I just say? Did I just now ask:  what were you doing fifteen minutes ago?

Yes, I did ask that question. Just, now, I asked that question. Well, what’s your answer?

My answer? Did I just say, what’s your answer?

Yes. Well, do you have an answer?

Do I have an answer to what?

To, what?

I don’t know.

A woman is passing.

“Maam, sorry to bother you, but do you speak English?”

The woman smiled slightly and continued walking.

A Young boy, maybe fourteen, fifteen, is coming down the sidewalk.

My head is spinning.

I’m falling, sliding down the side of this cold gray brick building.

The young boy is stopping, leaning over me, asking me something. His words are lost in my spinning head and I feel my body falling sideways to the snow-covered sidewalk.

*

“Can you hear me, young lady? Young lady, can you hear me? Her eyes are open. She must hear me. Please, young lady, we’re trying to help you. Can you hear me?”

I can hear a man’s voice, a gentle voice, asking me a question. I’m trying to answer, but I’m having difficulty forming my words.

“She’s trying to speak. Her lips are moving… Quickly, let’s get some water down her…slowly, lift her slowly, that’s good. She’s having trouble, but she’s getting some of it down her…that’s enough for now…she wants to say something…”

“You speak English,” I say so quietly. I have no volume to my voice. I’m scared.

“She’s trembling! She’s frightened! Yes, we speak English. You’re okay, young lady. Do you know your name?”

“Becky Whitsel.” Still lacking volume.

“Where are you from, Becky?”

“I’m from Philadelphia. Why am I in Moscow?”

The people dressed in white and green look strangely at each other. The male in green asks me: “What’s the last thing you remember, Becky?”

“A street corner in Moscow.”

The doctor has a suspicion, and asks: “Are you an avid reader, Becky?”

“Yes.” My voice is coming back.

“What have you recently read, Becky?”

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.”

The doctor smiled. “Are you taking any medications, Becky?”

“No, sir.”

The doctor smiled again. “It’s okay, Becky. I want you to feel really comfortable. I’m only doing an assessment. Don’t be afraid to answer my questions. You will not be punished for speaking the truth. You said just a moment ago you were on a street corner in Moscow. Do You remember saying that?”

With some timidity, I answered, “Yes, sir.”

“Okay, have you by any chance – and, again, please don’t be afraid to answer. We’re only getting to the root of your problem. We will tell no one what you tell us here – have you by any chance taken any drugs or smoked marijuana recently? Please, don’t be afraid to answer. You will not be disciplined.”

Embarrassed, I answer, “Yes, sir. It was my first time – and, only time, I promise. Some school friends and I, just experimenting after school.”

“Okay, Becky, tell me about last week, about your family, and where you live.”

Somehow, with the smiles all around me, I opened up and gave them more information than they likely needed. When I was finished with my short bio, the doctor sent a nurse out to call my mother. Geez! I’m home…good old Philadelphia!

“Don’t worry, Becky, your mother will not hear anything from us, but you must confess to her yourself – and promise her you’ll never do any kind of drugs again… You have had what we in the profession call ‘Global Transient Amnesia’. You will be fine now…but, again, young lady, no more experimenting with drugs. You do understand, right?”

“Oh, yes sir! I can easily answer that question!”

The little gathering with my close friends after school had given me an unexpected reaction I would never wish to go through again… Indeed, me, in the great city of Moscow…and in the winter.

NO MORE GRASS!

We have our own snow in Philadelphia AND it’s much friendlier!

A ‘Flash Piece’ by Billy Ray Chitwood – January 27, 2019

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Chance Meeting at the Mall

Chance Meeting at the Mall

It began when I saw her in the upper-level of the Brighton Mall. She placed her paper bag of purchases on the floor next to her cushioned seat. Avoiding her was not an option as the sitting area was in my path to the escalator.

Of course, you would know, she was beautiful as she sat and shook her head to resettle her long lovely raven curls. She was dressed in lovely colors of Ivory and Lavender, a dress sheer and clinging – like, my eyes at that moment.

My mind did its calculations…do I just stop, sit in the chair next to her, begin a conversation. What do I say as an opener? Her left hand was gloved so, married or not, I was ‘flying in the blind’. It was one of those fateful moments in life where one must decide to act or not to act, with the haunting of the latter lingering forever in the mind… I decided to act.

I sat in the chair next to her. There were other chairs in the grouping, but other shoppers were passing, chatting, and I wanted to be close so as not having to increase the decibel level of my voice.

Please, allow me to pause and explain…

First, my name is Lawrence Wallenby, just, Larry, will do, and I’m a trim six-footer who stays in shape by jogging and exercising – which once, in starting out, was a chore, but, now, something I look forward to. I’m told by some of my staff at the Agency that I bear the looks of actor Matthew McConaughey. That’s good, I think, because I like his acting.

I am not a ‘stalker’ who frequents shopping malls for women to meet and harass. I am a responsible male person who owns his own small advertising enterprise, growing by leaps and bounds, I might add. I am a man who some months ago lost his wife to a drunk driver in a head-on collision. Both were killed, and I had my days, weeks, and months to damn the fiddlers of fate who perform these acts so people can grieve and crawl into themselves and become inoperably viable. So, time did not, would not heal the wound of losing Diana, but, at least, it would have the courtesy to allow the ‘devastation’ period to pass – to the point of having needs to fulfill.

May I apologize if this preceding acknowledgement is not enough a prelude to what I’m about to narrate for you. Suffice, Diana is still in a precious vault of my heart, but I’ve come to realize that life does indeed go on and old needs come rushing back in need of fulfilling.

The handsome lady with the raven hair, soft blue eyes, and most luscious lips glanced up at me with an awkward, almost, smile, and then went quickly back to a piece of paper on her lap – presumably, a ‘shopping list’.

“Holiday shopping can be a real ‘bear’, don’t you think?” Without giving her a chance to answer, I pressed forward. “Of course, you do. You’re sitting here, resting, so, obviously, shopping ergo is a ‘bear’ or your choice of animal. I know you are wondering who the ‘nut’ is sitting next to you, and I implore you not to get up and leave with my muttering hanging in the air. Really, I’m not so great at this, but I do honestly and sincerely believe you are the most beautiful lady I’ve seen in my lifetime. Is it okay that we might meet? Please.”

“Wow, you should take a breath between syllables. You’ll pass out, I’m thinking. Sure, why not? We’re in a public arena here, people passing by, and you don’t seem to be carrying weapons of any kind. So, sure, let’s ‘meet’. I’m Diana Bixley.”

“No, no, you can’t be… I mean, your first name – pick another first name!”

“I’m sorry. Now, you’re confusing me. I thought your little rushed ‘pick-up’ line was cute, but…are you some kind of nut?”

“Oh, no, no. I’m so sorry to blunder like this. Your first name, Diana, is a beautiful name, and you should keep it. Of course, she should and will keep it, you idiot. Again, sorry, but I lost my wife to a drunk driver about a year ago, and her name was Diana.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“No, no, don’t be. I’ve gone through the periods of loss and find that I still wish to go on, but I’ve been with no one for that period of time and very likely don’t know how to act properly. May I start again? My name is Larry Wallenby, and, when I saw you, my heart did little ‘flip-flops’ and I had to meet you. Please, is that okay? I mean, that I had to meet you?”

“Relax, Larry, I’m happy to meet you, and I’m sorry about your wife.”

She offered her hand which I swiftly but softly clutched for some two or three seconds before releasing.

“Are you encumbered?” Too fast, too fast, you dummy.

“I beg your pardon.”

“I’m sorry, again, Diana, but I’m such a ‘Klutz’ at this. Are you married, going steady with anyone?”

“You’re fast, Larry, but I suppose that comes from your loss and grief period. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but, no, I’m not married, not going steady with anyone.”

My heart-beat got faster. Now, don’t screw this up, Larry. Take a shot, but slow down the process. You got the answer you wanted. There’s a chance, so don’t screw it up.

“Do you have children, Diana?”

“No, I’m not too big on kids. They annoy me, mostly. I’m sure I did my annoyance bit as a kid. You have kids, Larry?”

“No, no kids. No animals of any kind, although I love Golden Retrievers. You like animals?”

“Not so much. Better than kids, but the ‘clean-up’ and routines would drive me nuts. Your business keep you busy, Larry?”

“As much as I allow it to keep me busy. I’ve got some good people working at the ad agency that keep the load off me. What do you do, Diana?”

“I’m an actress and model, Larry. I’ve done nothing memorable in film that you would remember seeing. Most of my action is in modeling and ‘specialty films’.”

“You enjoy what you do, Diana?”

“Very much so, Larry. You?”

“Yeah. I was drawn to advertising at a young age for some reason, likely because my Dad had a ‘Billboard’ business. I was fascinated enough by it to take all the courses relative to advertising while in the university environment. The business has been good for me. The people who work with me free me up to pursue other interests, like traveling to exotic places. Do you travel a lot in your business, Diana?”

“Too much, actually. I don’t like airport waits and all the security crap one has to go through anymore… I notice you have no packages, Larry. Are you not shopping? Did you just come to the mall to meet me?”

“Well, while that’s a nice thought, I did plan to pick up some items for my sister and my staff, but now it’s not so important. I can put it off ‘til another day. That is, if I can talk you into cocktails and dinner.”

“That sounds wonderful, Larry. And, what would your plans be after our dinner?”

Hey, she’s playing right into my hand. How can I get so lucky? Hell, I’ll lay it out for her.

“Well, to be honest, Diana, I thought we could go to my place, have nightcaps, listen to some romantic music, turn the lights down low, and see where it all would lead us.”

“Larry, you scoundrel! You do work fast. However, I’m afraid I would spoil your plans.”

“I doubt that, Diana. You’re so beautiful, and I’m sure we would get along just fine.”

Oh, she’s getting up, reaching for her shopping bags.

“Thank you, Larry, for the dinner and romance offer, but I will pass and just say, ‘nice meeting you’.”

“But, Diana, I thought…”

“You thought, what, Larry?”

“I thought we were bonding nicely…”

“By bonding, you mean you thought I would jump in the sack with you, correct?”

“Well, I’m sorry, but I thought we were heading toward something really romantic and beautiful.”

“Really?” She stood and for a moment hovered over me.

I stood and faced her.

“Was it something I said, Diana?”

“No, it was something I did not say, Larry…”

“And, what was it you did not say, Diana?”

“Well, if I say it, no longer will it be not said, Larry.”

She started to walk away.

“Diana, please, tell me what was not said.”

She looked back at me, and, with a slight raise of brow and grin, said, “I like to go to bed with women, Larry…nice meeting you.

Damn, it ended where it started!

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – January 21, 2019

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