The sky had been an unusually brilliant shade of blue that day. Not that it mattered much now. Billowing smoke rendered it a kind of sooty grey against the approaching twilight. At least, that is how it looked in the small bit of sky which was visible through the high bows of the trees. A harsh, pungent smell wafted on the early evening breeze. The smell of burning.Read more.
It was six o’clock on an August morning when an old war hero hobbled up to the front door as Anni was sitting in the kitchen drinking a cup of the bitter chicory that now stood in for coffee. Anni was listening to a bird and trying to decide what kind of warbler it was when its song was drowned out by the sharp trilling of the bell, a signal that traveled from the front door of the big house down a cable in the hall to the kitchen, where a series of clappers mounted on the side wall vibrated with alarm. She stood up from the table. Her mother had come down from upstairs, where she had been putting an inexperienced young housemaid through her paces. There was murmuring in the hallway that passed into the parlor. A few minutes later, the front door opened again, and the old soldier took his leave in low tones, his single boot crunching on the gravel as he retreated down the path.Read more.
When the doorbell rang, Shelley looked at the grandfather clock, wiped her mouth and hands with her napkin, placed her plate in her lap, and with one fluid motion reversed and turned her wheelchair out from the kitchen table. She rolled (the term she most often used to reference her method of self-propulsion) to the sink where she placed the plate to be loaded in the dishwasher later. It was 8:45 a.m. The showing was early, but Shelley appreciated the potential tenant’s punctuality.Read more.
Toward the end of the monsoon, after humping the green-roofed mountains and the elephant-grass hills southwest of Hué so long that they’d become my home, I got a rear job. There was an opening in the security platoon at Eagle Beach: I’d finish my tour of duty there. This was a lucky break, since the Army could just as well have made me a clerk in muddy Phu Bai, the rear area of my battalion.Read more.
The ethereal stream ferried us to the Hub – a galactic repository for interrupted existence, a depot collecting the chaff of every species in the cosmos, a harbor for abandoned souls needing to belong. Didn’t matter what system you were from or how you were expelled. We all found refuge in each other’s exile.
Of course, not every soul felt at home. Some chose dissipation, others preferred isolation. Most of us just tried to quell the pain (even the soul-gangs were only looking to assuage the agony), but Śevvi had a different plan.Read more.
Low clouds parted briefly giving weak winter sunlight a chance to reach old Charlie, offering welcomed warmth. Perched on Charlie’s head was the old straw hat he wore any time he was outdoors, and he pushed it down to just above his ears before cautiously stepping off his front porch onto an ice covered walk. A tin Folgers coffee can tucked under his left arm.
Charlie’s front walk ran out ten feet before connecting with the town’s cement sidewalk, which eventually ended in the downtown section of small Howard, Nebraska. Charlie’s mailbox lived out here. He didn’t receive much mail but getting to it was risky business in winter.Read more.
When Della was thirteen and standing at the ironing board, her father walked in and said, “Change your dress. Your father is coming.”
“You’re my father,” she said.
The man told her no.
Change your dress. Your father is coming. How long had it taken him to say that? Ten seconds? Twenty? He was commanding and spoke slowly. No one dared interrupt him. So then it took twenty seconds to give her dark hair a new meaning, to make it a wedge between her and her milky brothers and sisters. Imagine the shock of such news, the sudden question of whether anything was what it appeared to be.Read more.
“He’s screwing up,” said the voice in Eileen’s ear. “He’s going to lose the mark.”
Eileen frantically typed send apps now on her iPad. A server appeared from the compact kitchen and placed a bowl of roasted cauliflower and a plate of sliced cheeses with olives and honeycomb on a wine barrel table.
“Gentlemen, let me tell you about our starters.” Eileen watched from her seat at the bar as the black-haired, wide-hipped server launched into a description of the food. Bright midday sunlight filled the small, high-ceilinged wine bar. Eileen shifted slightly on the barstool to block the light and remove the glare from the iPad screen. One half of the screen displayed a video feed of Punit glancing at his phone, the other half a chat window.Read more.
They told me that no old house in the country was without a story, that they all held a long legacy full of intrigue, disaster, mystery, and scandal. I had even heard more macabre, whispered tales of specters on the moors and in the corridors alongside overwhelming family portraits and suits of armor and marble busts, but soon talk of homes was lost in talk of gloves and in flower arrangements, which it seemed held a much greater significance. Marriage was the topic of the day, not hauntings and secrets.Read more.
“Good afternoon. Could you kindly let Maritza know that Val is here to see her?” Val observed the woman at the counter look her over with big almond-shaped eyes drawn tightly in suspicion. Perhaps her polite demeanor was throwing the receptionist off her game.
“Yeah. Wait here.” The receptionist walked through a beaded curtain to the back. “Yo, Maritza, some lady is here to see you. Val or whatever her tight-ass name is.”
Val could hear laughter in the back. Her mother’s cackle was hard not to hear; it was usually the loudest, the most obnoxious.Read more.