short story

Dad’s Castle

The land, willed to my father, had been in our family for generations. Everybody considered it useless and unbuildable. His dream became constructing something wonderful on the eroding bluff, somehow overcoming the treacherous pull of gravity. Every portion completed required constant reinforcement afterward. Even as the lowest levels crumbled away, more rooms and terraces were added on top. He was certain that one day a magnificent castle would stand atop this land.

When the land was willed to me, his dream became mine. Someday there will be a castle here.

I just hope I live long enough to witness it.

Björn 6

This week’s entry for the Friday Fictioneers, a 100 word story based on the photo prompt above.

Hosted by the phenomenal Rachel Wisoff-Fields. View other entries below.

Bartleby Snopes Issue 12

Attention people of Earth. My short story Droning was selected for the print edition of Bartleby Snopes – Issue #12.

Find out more info HERE.

Download your free PDF version HERE.

Read and enjoy all of the amazing stories published in this issue.

After you have completed this task, you may carry on with your Earthly lives.

Donovan’s Dream

Donovan wants his franks, man. Donovan’s so hungry, like Donovan’s just a big empty stomach. Got some white bread in the cupboard at home, mustard, some packages of Burger King ketchup, fucking hot dogs it is. A dollar fifty-six for eight franks seems too good to be true, especially for Ball Park Franks. They plump when you cook them. They remind Donovan of Donovan’s childhood, of eating hot dogs at the A’s game with father when still very young. Donovan remembers catching a foul ball with an oily, spit covered baseball mitt that had the stitches coming undone. Donovan remembers being so happy, like maybe that was the happiest moment of Donovan’s life. Later, Donovan had forgotten the mitt underneath his seat with the souvenir ball still folded inside, and father had been drunk and angry because the A’s had lost by fourteen runs. Father had called Donovan the stupidest kid on earth and slapped Donovan a couple times. When thinking of Donovan’s childhood, that’s how it usually ends.

Donovan has a five spot in his pocket, and no more coming in for too long to think about. That kid bleeding Donovan’s money and life away, and that two-timing whore that is the baby mama of Donovan’s son. Donovan doesn’t want to think of any of that. Donovan wants to mow some dogs, but Donovan’s thirsty too. Donovan has enough money for a forty. Forty ounces of Coors is two twenty-nine, so Donovan doesn’t have enough money for two forties unless Donovan puts the franks back, but then Donovan sees that twenty-twos only cost a dollar nine. Donovan does some math and decides this means less money for more beer. Donovan ain’t so stupid now, is he? Donovan grabs two twenty-twos. What a fucking bargain. Donovan buys a watermelon Jolly Rancher for dessert, the last one. Fucking gore-met and shit.

But the line at Day’s Market is un-fucking-believable, and when Donovan has to wait Donovan gets angry. Donovan gets crazy when Donovan’s hungry, man. Fucking reflex, man. Donovan feels like kicking some ass right now. Donovan likes kicking ass. It makes Donovan feel better. Donovan’s gonna open his beer while waiting. Donovan doesn’t care. The beer is cold, man. It tastes as good as a beer can taste.

Donovan wants that beer to last forever, to climb inside that can and go swimming until he drowns in beer. That would be awesome. It is Donovan’s dream, and someday Donovan will make his dream come true.

Coors Banquet (by mikedemers on Flickr – CC BY-NC 2.0)

Pass the Ketchup

 We’d been driving all day by the time we pulled into town, and my dad was even more pissed off than normal. We were all hungry and tired. The motel sign read no vacancy, and the only restaurant still open was a hole in the wall Chinese joint.

“What the hell is this?” he asked. “First no fries or cheeseburgers, and now this shit?”

“They’re chopsticks, Henry,” my mom said. “Use them to pick up your food, like this.”

“I don’t do friggin chopsticks,” he said, stabbing his orange chicken with one chopstick. “Now, pass me that dang Chinese ketchup.”

PHOTO PROMPT Copyright – Marie Gail Stratford

Written for Friday Fictioneers – hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

My 100 word story written about the photo prompt above. Read more below.

Too Long in London

The day starts with you in front of a tube station in south London. You and your traveling partner, who has really started to get on your nerves recently, as the two of you nickel and dimed (euroed and franked) your way across certain parts of Europe for the past month. The hostels and camping had turned weary, tired, every night the beds less comfortable and home further away. It is the twenty-first of May, the day of your return flight to America. The plan is to take the tube to Heathrow airport, which for the both of you costs three more pounds than you can scrape together. You knew those last few pints the evening before had been a bad idea. Your last night abroad had been a beer filled celebration, but it was all a blur now.

It is eight in the morning, the bustle of a weekday London morning, the entrance to the London Underground a river of umbrellas and raincoats. Did I mention the rain? The both of you look the part of the greasy vagrant, unshaven backpackers begging money so you could catch the train to the airport. In half an hour you’d only scraped up a few schillings. Then one business-dressed lady stopped for a moment, having a bit of a problem closing her umbrella. Excuse me, you say. Do you have extra money so that we can make it to the airport and get home to America? After she manages to close her umbrella she turns to the two of you and has a long disappointed look at you.  So you’ll be leaving the country then, she asks. She agrees to give you money, all three pounds that you need. But before she hands it over, she makes you promise that you wouldn’t return to Britain. Ever.

So you purchase your fare and take the tube to Heathrow. On the map it looks like Heathrow is very close. Actually it feels hours away. Much like London, the train ride seems to go on forever. At Heathrow you stand in line for an hour at check-in. You study your tickets about fifty times while you wait. Nonstop, London to San Francisco, May 21st. You get to the counter and show the lady your tickets, relieved to have finally made it through all the obstacles, to verge so close to your homecoming. Then she tells you that your flight isn’t until tomorrow.

The 21st of May, you say.

Yes, today is the 20th

Rainy Day In London (by oatsy40 on Flickr – CC BY 2.0)

The Super Friends

We usually ended up playing superheroes despite my uninspired opposition. The only superheroes I knew were the Super Friends and Spider-Man, both of which aired on the sugar-frosted animation festival known as Saturday morning cartoons.

Eddie Bell always wanted to be Superman. Any excuse to wear that red cape around the neighborhood or to school or to somebody’s birthday party. When he put that cape on it was like he actually convinced himself he was Superman. One time he broke his ankle jumping off the roof, yelling something about leaping tall buildings in a single bound as his cape flapped behind him like a tangled parachute. Later he told us the ground must be made of kryptonite.

Lester Burkes was Batman. He would always disappear into the crawl space underneath the house, his Bat Cave. When he came out he would have cobwebs on his mask and in his hair, mud all over his hands and jeans, emerging from the dark muck like something less than human pulling itself out of the primordial ooze.

My little brother Jimmy wanted to be Spiderman even though he wasn’t in the Justice League. Jimmy would start throwing pinecones and any other pointy objects he could get his hands on if he didn’t get his way, so that didn’t leave much of a choice for me. Was I supposed to play Robin and follow Lester into the Bat Cave? They told me I could be Aquaman or Wonder Woman. Not my style.

Instead I invented my own superhero called Cyclops. Cyclops had robot strength and a single grotesquely large eye in the middle of his forehead. His eye was all seeing. Unimpeded by binocular vision he could see into the past and future. His secret weapon was a headbutt that caused amnesia.cyclops

Eddie told me I couldn’t make up my own superhero, especially such a stupid one.

Lester told me there was already a superhero named Cyclops that shot lasers out of his eyes.

They all told me that I should just be a bad guy, so that the super friends could come together and deliver Cyclops the villain a proper serving of justice league justice.

But Cylcops didn’t want to be a villain. His all-seeing eye could not be constrained by the good and evil dichotomy. Cyclops told Superman he didn’t play by the rules, and Superman told Cyclops if he didn’t play by the rules he couldn’t be a Super Friend.

So Cyclops went inside and sulked by the window,  peeking through the blinds occasionally with his all-seeing eye. His visions of the past were depressing, and the future hung in front of him like a grave, dystopian noose. Some superpowers just weren’t for everybody.

Cyclop’s mom saw him having his little pity party by the window and brought him some jiffy pop. He watched some Gilligan’s Island and it felt, just for a little while, like all things evil in the world had been defeated.

SuperHero (by ‘J’ on Flickr)

One Block Past Sunshine

Depending on which direction you’re traveling, our street is one block past Sunshine Drive. But the direction of approach is important. One block past Sunshine from the wrong direction and you end up in front of a long line of rent controlled apartment complexes, the check cashing place, the laundromat Señor Burbujas, and the shady liquor store my wife is scared to go into. There is also a dive bar called Catfish Charlie’s. Every time I pass by I must fight the urge to go in.

At first I thought it might be a fish market or a sporting goods store, but when I finally found the courage to enter and explore all I found was a dingy hole in the wall that smelled like a stale bar mat. The two guys sitting at the bar each had an eyepatch. What was the chance of that? I wondered briefly if Catfish Charlie’s was actually a pirate bar, which didn’t seem that unusual at the time.

The inside of Catfish Charlie’s was greasy, smokey, sticky. It felt if someone tried to light a cigarette the entire place might ignite, including the two dirty pirates bellied up to the bar. At least the bartender had two eyes. I slid onto the sticky barstool and ordered a Captain and Coke. I wanted to blend in. When the bartender brought my cocktail I realized that one of his eyes was a glass eye that seemed to be pointed in the wrong direction, like a pirate in disguise. I gave him a wink and he gave me a look like he might poke one of my eyes out and make me walk the plank. I pounded my drink and got the hell out of there.

I’m no pirate.


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