All In

all-in“C’mon, Sean. Just one more.”

Ray looked across the table. Shuffling the deck of cards, his eyes remained locked on mine. I knew his plea wasn’t referring to another hand of poker. That’s the way it was with Ray and I. We knew what the other was thinking without saying a thing.

A slight nod signaled my consent. When at an impasse, everyone else in the world turned to a quick game of rock/paper/scissors. For Ray and me, it was poker. Five cards were dealt to each of us. Fanning my cards out, the full house with aces high left me confident that I wouldn’t be subjected to Ray’s proposal.

Setting my cards face up on the table, Ray’s initial facial expression left no hint as to the outcome of our duel. The emerging smirk on his face along with the royal flush that followed suit secured my fate.


“Last time, right? I’m supposed to be on the straight and narrow once I’m married.”

“Last time,” Ray assured me. “This one will be a breeze. The super only wants a ten percent cut in exchange for the master key.” Ray slid the brass key across the table to me.

“Which apartment?”

“I’ll call you later.”

“Okay,” I begrudgingly consented.

It’d become an addiction, pilfering the apartments for small items that owners wouldn’t miss, but could be pawned for some decent cash. Ray used his position as general contractor to scout out potential targets. I’d sweep in later and snag the goods when the owner was not at home.

I was done with the entire thing. I’d be marrying Julie in two weeks. She’d changed me for the better. I’d always be grateful, even if I couldn’t thank her for it. I couldn’t expose that negative side of my being to my future wife.


Later that afternoon, my phone rang.

“Sean?”

“Yeah?”

“Unit seventy. Six o’clock. Got it?”

“Yep.”

It was that short. Like I said, we could easily complete each other’s thoughts.


I slipped through the hallway inconspicuously. Glancing left, then right, I slipped the master key into the lock.

Easing myself into the apartment, I quickly moved towards the kitchen. The high end utility knife was our most ambitious target to date. Its absence would be noticed. Since this was the last time, however, it was well worth the risk. It would pocket us nearly two Ben Franklins.

It wasn’t where Ray said it was supposed to be. Something wasn’t right. It was against our code, but I had no choice but to call Ray.

“It’s not here.”

“Yes, it is. In the drawer below the mixer.”

“What mixer?”

“Where are you exactly?” The tone in Ray’s voice was disconcerting.

“Unit seventy.”

“Not seventy. 7-T, on the top floor. Get outta there. You’re in the wrong place.”


Julie agonized over the decision. She wasn’t proud that her brother was a recovering drug addict. But, he was making amends and getting his life back on track. Julie was happy to watch James’ golden lab while he was helping at the halfway house for the week. She knew that Sean, her future husband, deserved to know the truth. She’d tell him everything this evening over dinner.


The envelope on the counter was addressed to James Reilly. Same last name as Julie. The picture resting beside the envelope confirmed my anxious suspicion. As the rightful key unlocked the apartment door, a realization of the circumstances about to unfold paralyzed me.

In poker parlance, I knew I was all in. My cards were on the table, and I had no choice now but to play them. I’d have that opportunity to thank Julie for all she’d done for me. Whether she’d believe me, or even be willing to listen, was a different matter altogether.

Author Note: Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read and comment. It’s in the sharing each other’s stories and thoughts that we become something more than the sum of the parts. The transition to my new author website is progressing and scheduled for going live in a couple weeks. To make sure you stay connected and continue to receive these (#FlashFictionFriday) stories to your inbox, please sign up to be a part of my author community. You will receive two previously unpublished stories as a small token of my appreciation (one now and another one once the new site goes live). As always, inspire and be inspired!

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Milkweed

Author’s Note: Exciting changes are coming to my blog over the next month or so! I am in the process of converting my offering here in the blogosphere over to a complete author website in preparation for my first full-length novel release later this year (Second Chance).

To make sure you remain connected with me through this transition, I invite each of you to subscribe to my author email list. I promise not to spam you, and you always have the option of unsubscribing at any time. I would be honored and privileged to have each one of you follow along and share with me as I continue onward and take the next step towards becoming a published author.

As a small token of appreciation for your active participation in my community, I am offering you a copy of a previously unpublished short story, Impression, upon joining. Also, once I complete the transition to my new website, I will be offering new and current email subscribers another unpublished short story, Homecoming, that was selected as an honorable mention in the romance category of the Writer’s Digest 2015 Popular Fiction Award Contest.

I’m both anxious and excited (but, more excited) about continuing this journey towards sharing my love of words and the emotions behind them with each and every one of you. As always, stay inspired … And now, on to this week’s flash fiction offering – a bit of tongue in cheek humor to kick off the new year.


Milkweed

MilkweedA package of bacon, a jar of pickles, and a half gallon of milk. Paul put a checkmark next to each item on his list. It was an odd assortment of items to place on the conveyor belt, but it’s what his mother had written down. He’d come home too many times with the wrong thing to not follow her list to the letter.

Everyone seemed to need milk today. Paul had gotten the last container. Listening to the beeps of the scanner complete his order, Paul dug the cash out of his pocket, handed it to the cashier, and waited for his change. Knowing his mom would ration his intake of milk, Paul opened the jug and took a quick sip.

Grabbing the reusable bag filled with his purchases, he exited the comfortable air conditioned store, emerging into the sweltering heat of the summer evening. That’s odd, thought Paul. He heard the trill of a bicycle bell, the kind he last heard as a toddler on his tricycle.

His choice of words, odd, didn’t begin to shed light on the weirdness unfurling before him. Perched precariously atop the bicycle seat riding past him was a black cow. He had to look twice. Paul rubbed his eyes, but it was still there. The ringing of the bell was followed by a bellowing moo as if to say, “Get outta my way! I’m in a hurry!”

As Paul looked around, no one was fazed. There were humans pushing their shopping carts across the parking lot. They’d stop periodically to wave another bicycle through, yielding the right of way to yet another bovine bicyclist. Paul seemed to be the only one baffled by this sequence of events. He felt his forehead. Maybe it was the heat? Maybe he’d eaten a bad mushroom at dinner?


Earlier that day, on a secret farm over on the far side of town, Bessie sidled up beside Calvin, tail wagging, and asked whether he’d found anymore of the good stuff, that special plant they’d found in the hidden garden behind their master’s shed. It was so good. It made them feel invincible, like they could do anything in the world. Tasted sort of funny with a strange aftertaste, but it was the best stuff they’d ever eaten. They’d become quite fond of it, even if it was in short supply.


Paul sat down on the edge of the sidewalk, trying to make sense of this seemingly surreal world that he was now immersed in. He tried to piece things together logically with no luck. It’s probably just the heat. I just need something to cool me off. The pickles weren’t going to work, so he grabbed the half gallon of milk, opened the lid, and took a few more good swigs.

That’s better, thought Paul, as he wiped the white mustache from his lips. It was the heat. Everything seemed back to normal now as Paul waved the brown cow through the intersection before heading back home.

Inside Tip

inside-tipI clutched the three dollar thumb drive in my pocket, knowing it was worth so much more. So much more. I fell into this fortuitous situation thanks to an overheard conversation. It didn’t matter that my inclusion was a return payment for my silence. It was worth it. I was inside the circle now.

The CFO was as adept at manipulating information as he was people. His salary paled in comparison to the money being siphoned through the fictitious hedge fund. The return on these investments was usually risky. This one was a sure thing thanks to the aforementioned manipulation skills.

I was the first one to arrive in the server room. Hidden behind the stack of CPUs that would make me my million were five USB sticks, one for each of us with instructions provided by the CFO.

I snagged mine before sneaking back out the door. I was the last one added to the group, one more than they’d ever intended. I knew that I wasn’t benefiting as much as the other four, but it didn’t bother me. One million would be just fine.

I quickly yet slyly proceeded to the coffee shop around the corner to inspect its contents. Everything was to be done on personal machines. No corporate connection could be inferred. The USB drives were risky enough, but still safer than email.

I plugged in the USB stick and waited for the prompt. I typed in my password, M!lli0n5, and awaited my instructions. Invalid Password.

Damn. How could I mess this up? I was sure that I had it right. I tried every variation with no luck. I stared at the drive sticking from my computer, trying to come up with other permutations, when I realized the problem. The block numbers etched on the stick. I read them upside down. I grabbed number two, not five.

I should’ve just returned to the server room and retrieved the correct stick. My already mischievous behavior intrigued me. I looked at the password again. It spelled millions. Could it be?

I typed another password at the prompt and was less than surprised when access was granted. M!lli0n2 was the password for stick two. The weak password had a suffix. The screen flashed before presenting me with instructions that I should’ve expected.

Number five is a concern and needs to be dealt with. Buy 500 shares each. It’ll remove him from the equation.

I may have been naïve, but not dumb. They were planning on choking my cut of the earnings while simultaneously adding it to each of their own.

I was furious, but kept my emotions in check. Returning to the server room, I grabbed all five sticks. My role as IT lead was an oversight on their part.

After reprogramming each of the drives with revised instructions, I replaced them in their original position. I knew now this would be my last week with the company. But, it would certainly be worth it, for many reasons.

The Gift

The GiftIt appeared to be the most unfortunate sequence of events possible. In a moment of serendipity, however, I discovered what I had been aimlessly searching for in the emptiness of my world.

I didn’t tell Amanda about my plans. It would be of little consequence whether I told her or not. I had to work late. It didn’t matter that it had nothing to do with what I had been sinking every waking moment of my life into for the past two weeks. I was on the brink of completing negotiations for the million dollar sale of a highly sought after loft on the Upper East Side.

The bottom line is that I wouldn’t be home on time. That was all that was important. Amanda and Emma would be on their own for dinner. I knew that this was our weekly family time, and I did feel guilty about bowing out of my obligation as a husband and a father to my seven year old daughter again, but my hands were tied. I was the only one available.

Phillip had an urgent situation arise at the last moment that needed immediate attention. It was something about his son and wife breaking down on the way to his holiday chorus recital. He dropped off everything I would need in my office before darting towards the elevator.

I begrudgingly made my way to the bookstore around the corner from our office. I cursed this unexpected turn of events under my breath. I should have been etching seven digits into a ledger book in my quest for a successful real estate transaction, not reading about sugarplums and candy canes in this wretched getup.

It was a way for our business to give back to the community. I had successfully avoided involvement for as long as possible, until now. I slipped on the pants, pulled the jacket over the top of my white oxford shirt and tie, and made sure to remove the white semi-curly locks from under the collar.

I stuffed the down pillow under the oversized jacket before affixing the beard that scratched at the natural stubble I had accumulated over the course of a usual day.

“Ho, ho, ho,” I uttered monotonously and sarcastically.

“C’mon, Drew. Show a little holiday spirit. This is for the kids, after all.” The elf dressed in pointy shoes and a green felt costume was in a much more festive mood than me. I recognized her as an intern from the accounting department.

With hot cocoa in their hands, the pack of children congregating in the back corner were waiting for Santa to begin reading the Christmas story. I could be more useful to kids, and Emma in particular, if I could ink that deal still sitting on my desk. This certainly wasn’t the ideal way for me to help provide for my family’s well-being.

I put on a façade, enough of one at least, during the reading of the Christmas story. Now for the tough part. It was the children’s opportunity to come sit on Santa’s lap and express their deepest wishes for Christmas morning. The diminished distance between the children and me would make it infinitely more difficult to feign jolly tidings for the season.

The line of twenty or so children seemed to continue on forever. After about forty-five minutes of the same requests – PlayStations, iPhones, puppy dogs, and Barbie dolls, everything changed.


“How about some pizza, sweetheart? Daddy has to work late tonight.”

“Sure mommy, can I get extra cheese?”

“Absolutely, dear.”

They frequented the small mom and pop pizza parlor too many times to count. It had become their stand-in whenever Drew was otherwise preoccupied helping to support their luxurious lifestyle.

Amanda watched as Emma pulled the gooey cheese farther and farther away from her lips. Her arms weren’t long enough to prove victorious over the playful ploys of that extra cheese.

She smiled, watching the innocence of youth, before reaching over and helping to put an end to the struggle between the young girl and pizza slice.

“How about a chocolate chip cookie?” Amanda didn’t need to ask twice, and she didn’t need a verbal answer as Emma’s eyes opened wide and the smile spread across her face.

Amanda knew that The Book Nook was known for their freshly baked cookies. It would be the perfect treat to take Emma’s mind off her dad’s absence yet again.

After taking the first bite from her second gooey concoction in as many hours, Emma noticed the line of other children. Curious as always, she craned her neck and stood on tiptoes to get a better view.

“Mommy, mommy! It’s Santa! Can I get in line? Please?”

“Sure, honey,” Amanda replied as she wiped the excess chocolate that was left at the corner of Emma’s mouth.


I couldn’t believe my eyes. What were they doing here? Amanda was focused on her coffee. I assumed it was her usual double mocha latte. The young boy presently sitting on my lap didn’t receive full attention as I tried my best to grab Amanda’s.

Her eyes finally locked on mine. I could tell by her confused look that Amanda didn’t know why Santa was shaking his head while looking in her direction. She finally did recognize me as Emma began trotting towards the elf and hopping up to sit on my lap. It was a place that she hadn’t been for far too long. She seemed to be more comfortable on Santa’s lap than my own.

“Ho, ho, ho!” I bellowed in as disguised a voice as I could muster. The smile on this little girl’s voice was so genuine. I hadn’t seen it in such a long time. No, I guess that’s not the right way to put it. I hadn’t recognized it, buried in my own self-absorbed pursuits.

“What would you like Santa to bring you for Christmas?”

I already knew she wanted the new bike with training wheels we had looked at a few weeks ago. I also knew that she had several books lined up on her Santa list. She was an avid reader for a seven year old.

It should have been easy for her to express the contents of her list to Santa. She had been talking about it nonstop. But still, Emma sat there on my lap with a perplexed look on her face, deep in thought about something.

“Santa, you are magic, right?”

Uh oh, I didn’t like the direction this was going.

“Santa always tries his best,” I replied.

“Well, I already sent you my list. But, I’d like to change it. If I still can.”

Okay, this was magic that I could certainly handle.

“What would you like, sugarplum?” I became distracted by what might be forthcoming, probably the more expensive bike that was three price points above what Amanda and I agreed would be appropriate for her age. No matter, I’d find a way to make it happen. I always did.

“I was wondering,” Emma continued, “if you could get me a bottle of minutes.”

In a more confused tone than Santa should probably have in his voice, I offered, “What do you mean?”

The imaginative seven year old, wise beyond her years, continued with her Christmas wish.

“My daddy works so hard. Every time I ask him to play with me, he always tells me ‘give me a minute’.”

She paused before continuing. “I thought maybe if I could give him a few minutes, he’d be able to play with me more.”

Santa is supposed to be jolly. He isn’t one characterized by tears. This one came close to tears upon learning of this little girl’s Christmas wish.

“Santa will do his very best.” It was the only response I could come up with in the moment.

The look of elation and hope on Emma’s face as he hopped off my lap and bolted back towards Amanda was heartwarming.

“Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas, Emma,” I shouted out to her.

She stopped in her tracks and turned around.

“You know my name?”

“Ho, ho, ho! Of course I do. Santa knows everything. Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas, Santa,” replied Emma with a look of wonder and amazement on her face.

The last time I remember sitting on Santa’s lap was as a ten year old boy. I was convinced, however, that I had just been fortunate to visit with him once again in the form of a seven year old girl.

Maybe Santa didn’t know everything, but this particular one knew more than enough now.

First Class

first-classRachel watched as raindrops trickled down the pane of glass. The left one took a shortcut, veered to the right, and raced to the finish line at the bottom. These were the games of a bored six year old.

The temperature had spiked unexpectedly. The pristine blanket of snow that began falling on Christmas Eve was being slowly eroded by gloomy showers in the area. When the rain subsided to barely a drizzle, Rachel’s begging to play outside was met with little resistance.

She imagined herself as a frog, hopping between puddles, towards the safety of the next lily pad in search of prince charming. She always found the silver lining in everything. Everyone else saw the rain as a nuisance. Rachel playfully bounced through it. When she came to that coveted spot in the front yard, her cheerful smile transformed into an anxious furrow on her brow.

On the ground, in the same mound that she remembered depositing it a few nights ago, was the oatmeal. Rachel remembered Grandma telling her the reindeer liked it that way. It was easier to eat when it was in a pile. She scooped up the soggy flakes and scampered into the house.

“Mommy!” She screamed with dismay.

“What is it dear, what’s wrong?” Her panic subsided as she saw her daughter’s hands.

“Mommy, the reindeer must be sick. They didn’t eat anything at all.” Rachel held out her hand as pieces began to slip through her fingertips and fall to the floor.

“I’m sure they’re okay, honey. The neighbors must’ve put out extra this year. They were probably just full when they got to our house.”

“How do you know? They always eat. We should send them more, just in case.”

“Okay, sweetheart. Let’s do that.”

Grandma also said that oatmeal had magic powers that only reindeer could extract. In the right amounts, those oats would give them sustenance to last the entire time between their annual December journey.

Rachel’s mom pulled down the box of oats. Rachel retrieved the measuring cup. One quarter cup for each reindeer. An extra quarter cup for Cupid because he was Rachel’s favorite. They wrapped it up, and addressed it to the North Pole.

“Hurry mommy, he’s here!” Rachel ran outside.

Trotting behind her, Rachel’s mom called out, “Excuse me, we have a package.”

The mailman grimaced as the pestering rain dripped from the brim of his cap.

“Reserve oats. For the reindeer,” Rachel’s mom offered with a grin.

Upon inspecting the recipient’s address, the mailman promptly pulled the stamp from his pocket and branded the package with the words ‘First Class’. A proud smile appeared on Rachel’s face.

The two adults in Rachel’s presence couldn’t help but smile too. The drizzling rain caused both of them to blink. She found it odd that they blinked with only one eye, but Rachel was just happy to help those reindeer when they needed it most. Little did Rachel know that she was helping those adults even more.

Silent Knight

silent-knightThomas lifted the hammer into position. He used all his concentration and skill to strike the glowing metal in the precise location. The yellow-orange shower of sparks sprayed in a circular pattern, some of them traveling back in the direction of his exposed skin. It was a minor sacrifice to endure for the sake of the village.

His father was ruler. The small town was nestled among the hills, midway between the forest and stream. Thomas knew he’d never be ruler. That lofty distinction was reserved for his older brother. Thomas still took great pride in his work as one of the village blacksmiths.

A conflict was brewing with the neighboring village on the far side of the forest. Recently, tensions had been running high over the unjust bartering agreements of the last several fortnights. It was always the same. Three bundles of wheat in exchange for two sacks of wool.

Somewhere along the way, greed began to infiltrate this covenant. Three bundles of wheat became two, and the sack of wool was packed less densely in return. When the trio of pigs disappeared from the neighboring village, however, it was an act of aggression that couldn’t be overlooked. A militant confrontation was forthcoming.

The men of the village gathered ammunition. The woman prepared meals. The elder leaders took asylum to strategize. Even though Thomas’ father was aging quite well, he was in no position to be on the battlefront. Thomas, however, knew his father’s stubbornness quite well. His father would be leading his village gallantly into a battle that was senseless, but nonetheless necessary.

That’s why Thomas remained tucked away in the dirty shop behind the house. The periodic clang of metal complemented the commotion around him. This was a time to prove his worth, if not to the village, at least to himself. The leaders congregated in the village circle, dispersing rations and distributing weapons to each of the warriors now prepared for battle.

As the battalion set forth on their journey, Thomas remained inside to finish his work. As the sun began to set over the horizon, he emerged from the shop and walked through the door into the kitchen. Seated at the table with her hands wrapped tightly around each other was his mother, trying to keep herself together.

His father’s stubbornness may have been courageous to the village folk, but it was also detrimental to his family. Thomas handed his mother the ornately crafted trivet. He knew that baking was her way to cope with anxiety. Thomas wasn’t the village blacksmith chosen to craft weaponry, but that never bothered Thomas. He knew his place and did whatever he could with the opportunities presented to him.

His mother had dozens of trivets lined up on the shelf above her stove. She probably didn’t need another one. The feeble grin curling at the corner of his mother’s mouth and the tight embrace that followed let Thomas know that perhaps this was exactly what both of them needed.

Fletching

fletchingThe crunch of autumn leaves beneath my feet meant two things. Time was dwindling before every last available piece of winter meat would disappear into hibernation. And, there was no wretched way I would get any of it with this amplified announcement of my presence.

I leaned against a maple tree, allowing the quiver of arrows to press into my back. It was a reminder that this life wasn’t easy, living in the wilderness, and fending for myself.

My bow and these arrows were supposed to be my livelihood. They’d provide sustenance as well as a challenge that had become stale in my previous life. And what a challenge it’d become, perhaps more than I’d anticipated. I was living off wild berries and sap from these trees. I didn’t know what was vanishing more quickly, my time to persevere through these adverse circumstances, or my resolve to do so.

I wiped my brow, smearing some of the charcoal camouflage on my sleeve. I was sweating. I suspected it had nothing to do with temperature and everything to do with stress. I could prosper in a boardroom, but I wasn’t sure I’d survive out here.

I exhaled. Move down by the stream, I thought. The animals needed hydration, and the sound of water meandering over the rocks would provide concealment for my noisy rambling through the forest.

As I tenderly placed each sole along the stream’s bank, I was more concerned about my audible footprint than my physical one. I kept my eyes peeled for any movement.

The twig beneath my foot snapped in two. Damn. It was then that I perceived motion in my peripheral view. I swiveled my head and locked eyes with a twelve point buck. He’d been drinking from the stream before looking up, now staring in my direction.

Slowly, but deliberately, I reached behind my back to extract an arrow while simultaneously placing my bow in the shooting position. Drawing back the arrow, I lined up my sights on what would be dinner for the next several months.

He remained there, staring at me, as if waiting and willing to provide his sacrificial offering. I tried, so damned hard, to release that arrow. His eyes. They reflected something back at me, a determined yet compassionate look that I didn’t think was possible from a wild animal. They spoke to me with invisible words. If I can survive, so can you.

I released tension in the bow, keeping my eyes locked on his. He simply nodded, as if in a bow of respect, and returned to drinking water from the stream. He had remained calm in the presence of danger and determined in the face of adversity.

The wise among our species say we each have a spirit animal. We don’t pick it. It picks us. Now, I know what they mean. That buck provided me with something more valuable than meat. Even better than the will to survive, he provided me with the empowerment to live.

Cassiopeia

cassiopeiaThis cylinder with precisely aligned mirrors is like a magic portal into another universe. I close one eye while I peer through the eyepiece, seeing light that has traveled years to greet me on this summer evening. I can still hear Grandpa Will’s voice sharing that fact with me as a nine year old girl. It has stuck with me for decades. Even though I have access to the most advanced deep sky observation equipment that research money can buy, I still pull out this little telescope on occasion to reminisce.


“Sweetpea, what’s a four letter word for portal?”

Grandpa was the crossword master. I knew he already knew the answer, but I’d play along. This was our special time together each evening in the living room.

“That one’s easy, Grandpa. Door.”

“Ahh, of course,” he’d say.

I’d sit curled up beside the radio, positive there was someone inside speaking to me. Between segments of my favorite show, Starwatch, Grandpa fed me questions that he knew I’d be able to answer. I was only nine, but not as naïve as he thought.

Tonight’s constellation was Cassiopeia. I’d always been fascinated by the mythology behind the stars. Each night, when the show was over, there was time for pajamas and teeth brushing before heading off to bed. Sometimes, when Grandpa was feeling gracious, he’d let me stay up an extra ten minutes listening to his favorite jazz show together. Tonight was one of those lucky nights.

I rotated the tuning dial. I knew exactly where his program should’ve been. All I could hear, however, was static.

“No stalling, Sweetpea. It’ll only be ten extra minutes no matter how long it takes to find the station.”

I’d used this tactic before, but not tonight. I kept nudging the dial, trying to find the smooth saxophone sounds. I never did find it, but I did hear a voice between the rumbles of static.

“Grandpa, did you hear that?”

“What?”

“That voice.”

“No, Sweetpea. How about we head out to the backyard and see if we can’t find Cassiopeia?”

We spent the remaining five minutes looking at the distinctive W in the night sky. Grandpa explained how half of the year it was a W, the other half it was an M. I was hooked, but I still couldn’t forget that voice.


I panned towards the stars in Cassiopeia, my heart beginning to flutter. The twinkling was presenting a message in Morse code. My heart beat faster with each letter revealed S-W-E-E-T-P-E-A.

“Ellie, did you find something?” asked Jack, my colleague across the way.

“No. Cassiopeia is just really interesting tonight.”

“Well, let’s get back to it. These new galaxies don’t find themselves,” quipped Jack.

“Yeah, right.” I smiled before taking one more peek through the telescope. The last twinkle to greet my eyes on that evening was like a wink, from my Grandpa Will and Grandma Margaret, somewhere in the middle of Cassiopeia, a galaxy away, but always right next to my heart.

Leap of Faith

leap-of-faithThe dirt beneath my feet is compacted. There are a few pebbles that don’t belong. They scratch at the soles of my track shoes as I work to flick them out of the way. I’ll not permit any imperfection from interfering with my goal. It’s so much more than a number. 8.95 meters. It is the holy grail for long jumpers and I am poised to engrave my name into those record books with my final effort of this competition.

The wind is at my back. The crowd is energized with anticipation. I shake out my calf muscles and swivel my head back and forth to clear the mental cobwebs before beginning my approach for takeoff. I envision a jet fighter accelerating quickly as it is catapulted off the deck of an aircraft carrier. That’s how I have always done it in the past, prepared for accomplishing the unthinkable, used vivid imagery to picture impossibility becoming my new reality.

I begin to trot before working up to a sprint as I reach the white demarcation that serves as the threshold between what has been in the past and what will be in the future. Planting my left foot, I extend my right foot towards the sky at an optimum angle. Not the pristine takeoff I’d been hoping for, but I’m determined. I’m certain, this will be my moment.

I arrange my limbs in a perfectly aerodynamic form. A gentle nudge from the whisper of a breeze blows from behind me. ​Thank you​, I whisper in my thoughts as I approach the spot in the sand that I have imprinted in my mind. There is no special denotation showing where I need to arrive, I just know. Reaching my azimuth, I begin a descent back to earth, my short-lived flight now cleared for landing. I extend my toes and fingers out towards the horizon, watching that coveted spot in the sand pass beneath me.

With a thud, my shoes sink into the sand. I exhale a victorious breath. The measuring tape is extended, but I already know the results. 8.96 meters, a new world record. The crowd erupts in appreciation of my Herculean accomplishment. I’ve done it. I’ve overcome my personal demons. I’ve prevailed against all odds to win the gold medal hanging around my neck. The smile on my face couldn’t be any prouder, even if in reality, I haven’t won a single thing.

The supporting cast of the theatrical production joins me on stage as the final act is completed. The audience provides a standing ovation for my performance. My eyes lock on those of a young boy seated in a wheelchair at the end of the third row, clapping with an enthusiasm that is more infectious and rewarding than the imitation reproduction hanging around my neck.

It’s then that I realize that winning a medal may be the ultimate goal for some. But, for me, inspiring others to reach beyond their personal limits, now that is pure gold.

Secret Rendezvous

secret-rendezvousReilly had become a little too laissez faire with his correspondence concerning the matter he was trying to keep secret. He used to wipe the history clean from his phone after every message. It was getting too laborious to keep up with it. Besides, Kelli was never the techie type anyway. She could barely navigate the internet, let alone dig through his message log.

“Aren’t you going to check that?” asked Kelli from across the table. They were enjoying a meal at their favorite restaurant in the uptown district. Everything had been perfect up to this point in the evening. A few glasses of merlot, an oak grilled bacon wrapped filet, and a succulent pair of lobster tails shared between the two of them.

Reilly distinctly remembered his instructions not to call or text him at this hour. It was too risky. “Nah, it’s probably just someone phishing for me to come back into the office.”

As the lead prosecutor on the team of lawyers at the firm, Reilly was often called in for advice on lesser cases, but he knew that wasn’t the case this time around. The double chime originating from the phone in his left pocket was different from the single ding for all other senders.  Reilly knew it was her.

The signature chime beckoned again from his pocket. “Excuse me, honey.” Reilly stood up and retreated to the lobby of the restaurant and checked his phone. The message read “Meet me tomorrow, usual spot and time.” The second message had read, “Actually, an hour earlier this time.”

Reilly punched at the keys with aggravation, “Don’t text me anymore tonight. She will pick up on it eventually. Will see you tomorrow.” In haste, Reilly pressed the send button to quell any hint of suspicion from Kelli in his absence. To be safe, he deleted the message thread before quickly returning to his seat.

The message that arrived on Kelli’s phone before Reilly returned was unexpected to say the least. The message itself was disturbing, even more so when she realized the sender was her boyfriend, from the lobby.

As Reilly arrived back at the table, Kelli kept her cool. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, just as I thought. Someone from work. The nerve of people, right? On our one date night each month.” Reilly seemed irritable over the disruption. Kelli thought that perhaps he was unsettled for the wrong reason.

The next day, Kelli feigned sleep before sneaking out to tail Reilly on his route to work. If he was cheating on her, she would catch him red-handed. She had no reason to doubt him, but that message, it was damning.

Kelli watched from across the parking lot as Reilly rapped his knuckles on the door of room 312, peering left and right down the corridor with a suspicious look on his face. The brunette who answered the door let him inside. It wasn’t even three minutes before Reilly emerged from the room, got in his car, and drove away.

Kelli peeled across the road, came to a screeching halt in front of the hotel, and waited. When the brunette emerged, attaché in hand, Kelli confronted her.

“Who the hell do you think you are?”

“Do I know you? I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong person.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I don’t since my boyfriend just walked out of this room. You obviously know he’s already committed, or so I thought, based on the messages you two have been sending each other.”

The woman sighed with remorse as she realized their little secret was out of the bag. “You don’t understand, I …”

“I understand perfectly well, you promiscuous bitch. I should level you right here, right now, before I go give that deceitful excuse for a man a little piece of my mind.”

“You’d better think twice before doing anything else.” The woman reached into her attaché and withdrew her business card. “Here,” she sighed as she handed it over to Kelli. “My name is Gina Stewart. I was hired by your husband, yes. I flew in from the other coast because he heard I was the best. To custom design your engagement ring. It was supposed to be a secret.”

“I’m sorry, I mean, I didn’t mean to …” Kelli stuttered, looking for words that would help her backtrack, to rescind the occurrence of the previous two minutes. There were no words to excuse or conceal her jealous rage.

“Don’t worry,” Gina said. “Just know that you have a good man. There aren’t many guys who would go through as much as he has. Reilly obviously thinks the world of you.”

Kelli couldn’t help but feel the guilty weight pressing down upon her shoulders. The surprise that was forthcoming from her future fiancée was replaced by surprise at her own indignant temper.

She bit the inside of her cheek, looking for the courage to ask the unthinkable. “Please. Don’t …”

“I won’t say anything,” smirked Gina. “If your future husband is entitled to a secret, I suppose you are too. This little one will be ours.”