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Snug as Two Bugs in a Rug

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If not for being hidden out in the middle of nowhere, the farmhouse’s slanted red roof would’ve seemed a beacon meant to draw people’s attention. The residents within sure didn’t want anyone to notice their whereabouts, not with what went on elsewhere on the property. Leastways, not with what got buried behind their small outbuilding.

The pair labored under a starlit sky that cast just enough illumination for their work. James Earl shot his sister a stern look. “Poppy, you would just about give Mother the fits if she seen how you left that pick ax laying around like that.” He pointed to the ground where the implement lay. “She learned you better than that, girl.”

Poppy resented his constant badgering and focused her icy glare on the ground in front of her instead of on his face, her primary target. “It’s not like she’s here to see it, James. She’s been dead and gone for almost 10 years.” The woman disguised her expression to a more neutral visage before looking up at her sibling.

“Don’t you speak ill of my sweet mother,” he warned. It was not as if he owned the exclusive rights to her memory.

Poppy kept her tone steady. “Don’t you imagine Momma would be a bit more disturbed to know what you used that ax for?” Their parents left the farm to the pair as an inheritance, never suspecting they would remain together indefinitely. Those years put them in a close proximity that often tested Poppy’s nerves.

“And she was my mother, too.” She was finding it more difficult to mask the contention in her voice. Not that James would notice.

Random visitors limped their vehicles along in seek of help on the road, and often fancied them a couple at first meeting. Not many people stopped by any other time. Three RVs out front used to belong to random stragglers who had the bad luck of mechanical problems. Some lacked the gasoline to get them to safety.

Those drivers didn’t know that pair long carried a grudge against the world that intersected with their own path. James Earl and Poppy continued to work at the hole where the latest set of passersby were set to spend their eternal rest. Each of three other mounds had finally begun to settle to an even plane with the surrounding earth. Those spots shouldn’t draw any attention from an otherwise unsuspecting eye.

Poppy and James Earl hoped no one would find out about the treasures they collected from those unlucky travelers. The jewelry and cash locked up in a safe nestled inside a wall in the house, all the souvenirs they hoarded from their victims. Any clothing or other possessions had long since been burned elsewhere and not a trace left of the folks. 

Thinking about that loot made James Earl smile as he stood beside the indented place, hands on his hips, surveying their handiwork. He said, “You know, Poppy, at this rate we ought to have enough together by next year to take that trip up to Des Moines like we always hoped. It will finally be time for a celebration.” His head bobbed up and down with satisfaction.

“I don’t know, James Earl,” Poppy seemed to agree. She picked her tool up from the ground and moved strategically around behind her brother. Just before she raised the pick up over his head to land a fatal blow, she told him, “I might just be drivin’ that road on my own.” 

Our Write Side writing prompt – celebration

photo: “shed rust” by Rusty via Flickr

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Real-life Cameo

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I thought I saw Stan Lee driving down a back road in a red Honda late this afternoon. Same burly silver mustache and translucent skin, a ball cap bill hovering over eyeglasses leftover from the ’70s. He’d probably be driving an Accord, though, over of a standard, factory-straight Civic. So a person never knows. It could be him.

Doing a double-take, I threw it in reverse and whipped around to follow him. Wouldn’t Pete just about have a conniption when he found out I trailed the dude? But Pete wasn’t there to win me over with reasoned logic, and I had nowhere else to be anyway.

Heat rose up from the pavement ahead, but I could still see the Honda’s brake lights at a stop sign maybe a half-mile up the road. Snapping a pic as evidence might shut Pete up over the deal, him always calling me a liar. He would never believe me unless I got an autograph from his hero of super heroes, the thought of which coaxed my pressure on the gas to catch up. I couldn’t let him turn off without me seeing where the car went.

I leaned back toward the rear seat, swerved a bit as I did, and grappled to reach something for him to sign – a magazine, brochure, even a fast food receipt. Anything for his signature. Among all the crap there, not a comic to be found. What I’d give for just one Spider-Man, no matter how ratty.

The library would charge me a fortune for the novel I found nestled in the floorboard – the only paper my fingertips could purchase. Payment for a book meant nothing compared to Pete eating crow.

My junker started to shake at hitting 60 but shimmied to a halt behind the Honda’s dented rear quarter panel at a four-way stop. “Huh,” I thought, “you’d think he had enough money to get that fixed.”

With no time for such random speculation, I had to make a move. A fine line of sweat formed on my top lip. “People say he’s a nice guy, playing a part in all his superhero movies. Surely he’d give me a signature.” No others cars within sight, I stomped on it and bolted to the left, pulled up alongside, one hand on my steering wheel and the other rolling down the passenger window.

The decrepit driver’s body convulsed in surprise at the sudden move, perhaps frightened he was about to get jacked. He shoved the cap backward on his head to reveal a liver-spot-covered face definitely not that of Pete’s favorite comic author. The startled old guy’s mouth hung agape, and the emptiness of his toothless mouth sucked my gaze into its emptiness.

Our heads shook in simultaneous violent disbelief, and he gesticulated wildly. The codger yelled, “First the swerving, and now this! Whadda you want?”

After a beat, I waved in apology and peeled out in front of the Honda. Getting ahead of him and down the road meant I didn’t have to witness how long it took the man to recover from the surprise. Pete wouldn’t hear about the caper after all.

Two Word Tuesday prompt – conniption

Image via Nicholas A. Tonelli on Flickr

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A Mother’s Love

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They stoked up quite a kerfuffle right there in front of the principal’s secretary and several other parents. Angel’s thin frame shook in anger, cheekbones stabbing out through skin stretched over her hollowed-out face. She stood opposite her mother, Lilly’s grandmother, in a showdown just before the girl’s Kindergarten graduation was scheduled to begin. Two grown adults, mother and daughter, set to throw down.

Angel having been awake for 24 hours didn’t help her mental state. Her latest boyfriend kept her up the night before to sample his latest batch, which helped kindle the paranoia of her mother’s determination to get her six-year old taken away by Child Protective Services. She may not take the best care of Lilly, but she wouldn’t stand for anyone’s public criticism.

Lilly lived with her grandma, or the girl would’ve fended for herself the entire school year. Her momma might actually love her, too, but she loved her drugs of choice as much or more.

“What’s going on out here?” Mrs. Phillips rushed into the hallway at all the yelling to find the pair about to square off.

“I’ll be damned if that woman’s allowed in here to watch my baby’s program,” Angel said. “Can’t you see to it she’s kicked outta this school?” Her nose hovered so menacingly close to her mother’s that the rot from Angel’s teeth seemed the only thing keeping them apart.

The principal’s eyebrows arched, incredulous at the younger woman’s assumption. “Not if she’s Lilly’s legal guardian, Angel,” she replied. “And this altercation cannot happen here. You’re both going to need to settle down if you want to stay.” She glanced back and forth between the pair in search of any reaction to the contrary and noticed only a difference in weight and wrinkled skin between the two. Same bleached hair, same defensive demeanor. Angel might become a split image of her mother in a few years, if she lived to experience it.

Fortunately choosing seats on opposite sides the center aisle, the ceremony began without students or other audience members being any the wiser. “The show must go on, as they say,” Mrs. Phillips told her secretary. Unless someone moved out of the district before August, she’d have to deal with this kith and kin again all too soon in the new school year.

Thirteen children wearing miniature blue caps and gowns lined the wooden risers on the stage, and their families beamed up at them from folding chairs across the gymnasium floor. Cherubic Lilly grinned down from her row, and she raised a hand to wave at her grandma.

Our Write Side prompt: kerfuffle (one of my favorite words)

Photo: glasseyejack via Flickr

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In God’s Name

Have the pearly gates opened wide? Probably not. I thought this was appropriate to re-post today. Namaste.

katy brandes writes

Image robbplusjessie – flickr creative commons

Such a lovely summer afternoon generates a wonderful mood, with the breeze blowing and clouds diffusing the heat as they drift in front of the sun. Folks gathered there instead glanced around at each other in stunned bereavement, their eyes glazed over with grief. The cemetery. No one should have to spend an amazing day like that at a funeral.

Friends of the deceased young man milled about behind the line of family members at graveside. Fellow service members weren’t able to attend the hometown memorial as most of them were still at their duty station. Others from his until were still hospitalized from injuries they’d sustained in the IED explosion. His were too serious to survive and snuffed out his life at a mere 27 years.

A procession of motorcycles ran along the entire block of lanes surrounding the section of cemetery where he’d…

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