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Trash Day by Kidd Wadsworth

January 29, 2023 by in category Infused with Meaning by Kidd Wadsworth tagged as , , , ,
The following story is a repeat of Kidd Wadsworth’s from October 2019. We hope you enjoy it as much now as we did then.

My neighbor, Sterling, complains. It seems I don’t bring my trash cans up promptly. But hey, I’ve got a life, and they’re TRASH CANS!


I’ve got a big brain, too. One morning as I watched Sterling take his trash to the curb and leave for work, I got an idea, a how-the-Grinch-stole-Christmas-idea. I grinned and patted my little dog on the head.


As the garbage truck rounded the corner, I ran down to the curb and drug my neighbor’s still-full garbage cans back up his driveway. When the truck had passed by, I drug them down again.


That evening, eager to see Sterling’s expression, I left work early and returned to find him standing at the curb gazing bewildered at the trash still in his trash cans while mine, and everyone else’s, were clearly empty. The next week, he put his heaping cans at the curb. Quickly, I once again hauled them back up his driveway, returning them to the curb when the garbage truck had passed.


That night, his shouting rocked the neighborhood. “No, they’re not picking up my trash! It’s been two weeks! 110 Paxinosa Avenue!” I felt sorry for the trash guys. Well—almost.


The next week, he had two cans full of trash and three extra bags. It was a trash party! I crossed my fingers, praying he wouldn’t wait around for the truck. He paced on the sidewalk, but after several glances at his cell phone, he got in his light blue Prius, and drove away. I’d barely gotten the trash up his driveway when I heard the truck pull around the corner. On a hunch, I stowed the cans inside his garage and snuck out the back gate.


Wow, talk about dedicated. Those garbage guys actually walked up his driveway and looked around for the cans. They clearly had a note in their hands. They checked his address. Knocked on his door. All this for trash. Impressive.


When they left, I put the cans and the bags at the curb. Took two trips. That night, a volcano erupted next door. I felt a little guilty—not a lot guilty—but a little guilty. I mean, I felt guilty in between giggles.


On trash day eve, nightmares of my neighbor assaulting me with a garbage can lid and a turkey bone rocked my sleep. I woke bleary eyed, to see my neighbor standing at the curb, surrounded by trash. I decided it was time I fessed up. About then, the garbage guys arrived. I ducked behind my window curtains. It was ugly! The shouting, the claims of innocence, “There was no trash!” Shall I speak of the birds shot in the air, the words beginning with … well you get the picture.


About a week later, my neighbor had a backyard barbeque. I brought beer. There were four of us neighbors (right, left and across the street), beers in hand, feet on Sterling’s brick retaining wall, when Sterling told the story.


“No?”


“Really?”


I thought no one knew. But everyone has windows facing the street. When Sterling went inside for more chips, Frank winked at me. Mark held out his hand. “Fifty, or I tell him now.”


I paid.

*


Occasionally, I try humor. Let me know if I got it right.

You can find some of Kidd’s stories in the following anthologies.

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Rite of Fir

December 30, 2022 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic, Writing tagged as , , , , ,

Twig stood silent in the silver light of the full moon, listening to the rustle of mice or maybe voles in the dried grasses and brown leaves around her. No snow yet, but with the crystal clarity of the December night sky slowly being consumed by the advancing clouds, it was likely by morning.

Dipping into the deep shadows of the trees, she walked quickly back to the cabin. The stack of wood on the porch should be enough to last through the storm. 

In the smaller of the two bedrooms, Kayla lay asleep, snoring softly. Twig closed the door to the room and brought in more wood from the porch for the fire. 

picture of a bridge in a snowy forest

It was nearly midnight, and Charlie had yet to show up. Just like him, to promise and not deliver. 

Twig decided to wait up in case he texted that he was lost. From the cabinet near the kitchen, she took out twine, cloth ribbon and glue. She’d make a köknar, for the season, even if just for their short stay. Her grandmother had taught her how when she was nine, and Twig had made one every year since then. One day she would show Kayla how to make her own.

She set her supplies on the coffee table and sat cross-legged on the rag rug to begin her work. The bough of balsam fir she’d cut in the afternoon wasn’t exactly the right shape, but Grandma Pati said any shape would work if you looked at it from the right perspective. That was true for many things in life, Twig knew. Like her own situation. 

Likewise, the story of the köknar could be appreciated from different angles, depending on the weaver of the tale. It was a talisman of good luck. Or it represented winter, with the needles and twine standing in for ice and the thread of family and friendship. Or the red cloth ribbon spoke of the new buds of spring, still months away. The version Twig preferred was that the köknar whispered an alluring call to the sun, inviting it to stay aloft a few minutes longer each day.

By the time she heard Charlie’s SUV outside, she had finished the form. When she opened the cabin door to welcome him, the clearing was covered in fresh snow, the flakes still falling thickly. She hung her creation on the nail she’d driven in last year, their first year in that place, free finally from a past that was better forgotten.

Charlie slipped a strap over his shoulder and grabbed the handle of another suitcase. The falling snow turned his head white and speckled his beard.

“You’re here,” she said. Her shoulders relaxed. The weekend would be good after all. 

“The interstate’s a mess,” he said, reaching the porch and setting down his bags. “No cell service. I was afraid I’d have to pull off and spend the night and then come the rest of the way tomorrow. Kayla’s asleep?” 

She nodded. His embrace pulled her tight and she felt him shiver slightly. “You’re cold. Get inside. I’ve kept the fire up, knowing you’d show up soon.”

He paused at the doorway, staring at the köknar. “You made one.” His voice held wonder, and Twig felt her eyes smart. He’d watched her fashion one last winter, asking questions, holding a knot in place while she glued. 

“I did. Just this evening.”

Charlie picked up his bags and smiled at her. “Then we’re safe.” 

As she shut the door after him, Twig briefly touched the woven bough. “Do your best,” she whispered.

Some of Dianna’s Books

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Pressured

November 30, 2022 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic tagged as , , ,
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Armed with an LED light array half its length, the robotic sub maneuvered closer to the vestimentiferan colony. 

“Hundreds and hundreds of them, it looks like,” Dr. Parish said. “Can you get any nearer?”

“Trying,” Angela said, and sighed in frustration. “The rocky terrain around the vents is tricky. I’m afraid of hitting a jagged outcropping and damaging Deep Fin. We can record from here, and I can boost the magnification. That’s safer.”

“You are now the one in charge of this project?” Dr. Parish said.

Angela said nothing, knowing it was futile to argue with Parish. Besides, she was the pro at controlling the sub unit. Inept at fine controls, Parish nearly crashed it the first few times they had sent it out, and he finally acknowledged that she would be the permanent “pilot.”

She turned on recorder and increased the zoom. At least two meters in length, the tube worms formed dense clumps of slender white cylinders, their deep red gills protruding from the tops. White crabs and other vent creatures clung to the colony like baubles on a giant bracelet.

Parish sighed. “I’d love to spend all of our allotted time on these.”

“But the unit only has about forty-five more minutes before it runs out of battery,” Angela finished. 

While the worm colony drew their attention, it was the vents with their bubbling, superheated water they were more interested in. 

“Go ahead then,” Parish said.

They sat side by side in the control booth aboard the Searcher research vessel in the Pacific. The day was calm, a counterpoint to the excitement Angela felt at finally getting to examine the vents—even if via robotic sub. She had to keep Parish on track. He often drifted, like a boat in a swift current without an anchor.

Slowly, with a delicate tuning of the controls, Angela moved the sub to the vent they had marked on their map. It had formed within the last year, since they had last examined the area, and was remarkable for its size. The monitor registered a rapid warming of the water as the sub inched closer to it. 

Angela, intent on the vent itself, was startled at Parish’s sudden intake of breath. 

“What the hell was that?” he shouted, making Angela jump.

“Where?” She concentrated on maintaining the sub’s location. “On the screen?” When she glanced at him, his eyes were wide, alarmed.

“A figure, but it couldn’t be,” he said. 

She had seen nothing but the rough terrain the sub was navigating. No time to be studying anything else. 

“We’ll run it back later,” she said. Parish must have imagined whatever he thought he saw. “Figure—are you talking human?”

Parish ran a hand over his buzz cut. “It couldn’t be. The pressure down there is like a trash compactor on steroids. But what was it?”

Sensing that Parish was no longer interested in exploring the vents, Angela moved the sub out of harm’s way, slipping back from the rocky outcroppings. “Let’s hold here for a few minutes. I’ll keep a sweep going, and maybe it’ll show up again.” While I’m watching.

“Sure, sure.” Then he fell silent, studying the screen intently.

Angela continued panning the light array across the field of vision. The worm colony lay a dozen meters away, and the rest of the view was the profound darkness of the deep.

A shiver ran down Angela’s spine. He’d probably seen a fish, some odd-ball creature with surprising appendages.

The screen shimmered with momentary static, and when it cleared, she was staring at a face—a human-like face—only centimeters from the sub’s camera. 

Almost as quickly as it appeared, the face vanished, and seconds later, the camera went offline.

“It was there, wasn’t it?” Angela whispered, more to herself than Parish. 

“I saw it,” Parish said. “We both saw it.”

Looking at the readouts from the sub’s controls, Angela felt sick. “We’ve lost more than the camera feed. All connection to Deep Fin has been severed. It’s gone.” And how many millions of dollars gone with it? She and Parish were responsible.

As if reading her mind, Parish clapped her on the back. “Yes, it’s a huge loss, but the flip side is, the world will be at our doorstep the minute we release the footage. Unbelievable. We’ll be heroes.”

Angela hoped he was right.

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Hi, May I Help You, Please

November 25, 2022 by in category Infused with Meaning by Kidd Wadsworth tagged as , , , ,
Photo by Mike on Unsplash

I was sixteen and working my first job at Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers. We were a lively crew. Jerry had the front register, Juanita and Javier were making sandwiches and scooping fries, Greg had the grill, and I was on the back register.

It was a hot day, scorching hot, hot as only Texas does hot, when the big boss, the district supervisor, left his skyscraper in Dallas and drove down to inspect and grade us. He didn’t know, and didn’t care, that we enjoyed the camaraderie of our team, took pride in our work, and routinely invited our family and friends to come to the restaurant. His opinion of us was all too clear in the way he strutted about, his huge smile never touching his eyes. It didn’t matter that the restaurant ran like a well-oiled machine; we were lazy hoodlums that needed to be whipped into shape. After he’d chastised Jerry and the others for trivial mistakes—I believe Javier wasn’t properly using the pickles to spread out the ketchup on the bun—the district supervisor meandered on back to my register to judge me.

Just so you know, I might have inherited a bit too much Texas ornery, Texas gall and Texas stubborn. Of course, I personally don’t think a person can have too much ornery. And gall, life is just plain boring without gall. Stubborn though . . . well . . . stubborn does tend to get a person into trouble.

Ding.

I stepped on the pedal. “Hi, may I help you please?”

Through the speaker came a broad Texas accent I easily recognized, “Yeah. I’ll have fries, a large Sprite, a single, with cheese, tomato, everything and extra ketchup.”

Reader, are you paying attention? The customer said, “Everything and extra ketchup.” Javier, standing not ten feet away, ears pricked to the speaker, laid a bun open on the sandwich board. Greg dropped a single patty of meat dripping melted cheese onto the bottom half of the bun.

I wrote the order down on the outside of the takeout bag. Fries, lg sprite, single, cheese, tomato, everything, no mustard, no mayonnaise.

Right on cue, know-it-all-supervisor-guy spoke, “He said extra ketchup, not no mustard, no mayonnaise.”

I didn’t bother to turn my head and look at him. No, that would’ve been polite. Instead, I opened the bag and put it on the end of the sandwich station and spoke with my back turned toward him. “But he meant no mustard, no mayonnaise.”

Without seeing the supervisor’s face, I knew his fake smile was history. Tension vibrated from his body. After all, time was running out. The car would begin rolling forward any second. If he wanted to clarify the order—

“Ask him if he wants mustard and mayonnaise.”

At the sandwich station, Javier never paused. He kept right on making the sandwich—with no mustard and no mayonnaise. I always liked Javier. Juanita dropped the fries into the open sack and gave me a wink.

The district supervisor repeated, “Ask him if he wants mustard and mayonnaise.”

“I will not,” I said, pulling the drink. “He’s already given me his order.”

The beast shoved me aside and stepped on the pedal. “Sir, would you like mustard or mayonnaise on your sandwich?”

The customer’s loud Texas twang echoed through the speaker, “NO! I told ya, I only want ketchup!”

I tried and failed, to keep the grin off my face. Javier chuckled as he put the neatly wrapped hamburger in the bag.

Yeah, we were only teenagers, working a summer job for minimum wage, but we knew how someone from our hometown ordered a hamburger.

You know, that big boss, that supervisor guy from the corporate office, he didn’t say another word to me all day. Sometimes you’ve just gotta love that Texas stubborn.

Kidd has stories in the following anthologies.

Kidd Wadsworth is also the author of the fantasy novel “The Death of Magic” which you can now read for FREE at https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/59915/the-death-of-magic

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The Legend of the Four Winds Butte by DT Krippene

October 31, 2022 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , , , ,

The conclusion of The Legend of the Four Winds Butte.

***

Utter disappointment at Monroe’s no-show didn’t describe Mary’s mood. She regarded the footholds carved in the reddish stone and sighed to realize he wasn’t coming. 

The debate to press forward without him took but a few moments. She shouldered her Nikon digital SLR and exhaled a deep breath. “Make sure I don’t touch the petroglyphs,” she said, needing the sound of her voice to summon courage. 

With the rock surface pitched inward at thirty degrees, the climb was easier than expected. Good thing heights don’t bother me. 

She pulled herself up and knelt on the edge of the flat peak roughly eighteen to twenty feet in diameter, shivering in the stiff breeze. The four-foot-tall monument of smooth reddish stone jutted from the peak’s center. 

Mary’s first impression was its perfect cylindrical shape. She estimated its circumference at roughly ten-feet. The characters on its unmarred surface encircled the stone in a straight line. Unlike primitive animals and shapes typical of petroglyphs throughout the state, these had the complexity of ancient runes or hieroglyphics.

She carefully circled the outer edge of the rim to view all sides of the cylindrical stone, taking pictures and making notes as she went. A glint caught her eye from rocky gravel piled several inches high around the monument’s base. She got on her knees to squint. A fragment of a different marking peeked from beneath the pebbles. 

Mary crawled closer until she was a foot from the monument. To prevent her fingers from touching it, she used the notebook to scrape away the gravel and expose what appeared to be a humanlike stick figure. She scuffed more pebbles to uncover a second alongside it. Then a third. She unearthed fifteen figures before it ended. 

One etching per known person who disappeared. Monroe’s grandmother was right. Excited at discovering new evidence, she squatted to take pictures. 

Leaning forward for a close up, a loose rock wobbled beneath her boot, and she lost balance. The momentum pitched her forward—until her palms slapped against the etchings. Retracting her hands as if burned, Mary slowly backpedaled toward the peak’s edge with a sickening sensation burbling in her gut. 

The petroglyphs glowed with a silver light. Mary sank to her knees when the sky and surroundings darkened like a full eclipse. Get off the peak, her mind screamed. She scrambled to find the footholds when a gale-like wind pushed her away from the edge. Loose pebbles flailed her body. The wind shifted from different directions, carrying many ethereal voices chanting in an ancient native tongue. A funnel of dust corkscrewed above the monument. The tornadic spiral rose skyward. 

“No, no,” Mary shrieked. “I didn’t mean to. I tripped. I’m sorry. It was an accident.” 

She jerked when an invisible force clamped around her body and pulled her toward the monument. Prickles of static danced on her skin. Dust melded with her tears to form muddy rivulets on her cheeks. “Please don’t take me,” she wailed. 

Suddenly, a strong male voice behind her sang in a native dialect. The song rose and fell in timbre. The static prickling lessened. The winds abated. A few moments later, the invisible force released her body. 

She collapsed in a heap, choking. Dizzy and nauseous, she vomited until nothing but bile drooled from her lips. Strong hands gently helped her to a sitting position. John Monroe’s face appeared when her vision cleared. Mary fell against his chest and bawled like a terrified child. 

“I’m sorry,” she wailed between gasping hiccups. “I didn’t mean to touch it.”

“Easy now,” Monroe comforted. “It’s over now. Just breathe.” 

Monroe rocked her until she cried it out. He handed Mary a handkerchief when she lifted her head.  

She blew her nose. “I should have waited, but I didn’t think you were coming.”

“I was held up by slow-moving campers on the way here. Let’s get off this rock.” 

Monroe went first, staying two footholds below while Mary descended on wobbly legs. He handed her a water bottle when they reached the ground. 

“That song of yours,” Mary said. “What was it?” 

“A little native prayer my grandmother taught me should I ever find myself at odds with spirits.” 

“Do all guides know it?” 

“I doubt it. Most of them are younger and don’t care much for the old ways.” 

“It saved my life.” Mary honked again into the damp handkerchief. “Your grandmother was right. There are fifteen stick people etched on the rock. I almost became number sixteen.” She dabbed her eyes. “What would have happened to me?” 

“The legend claims the life essence becomes one with the winds.” 

My soul scattered to the four winds. She swallowed hard. “Is there any clue to who carved the petroglyphs?” 

Monroe shook his head. “There are some out-of-the-box thinkers who theorize it may have otherworldly roots from before mankind walked these lands.” 

Alien or not, the petroglyphs of Four Winds Butte contained a sinister, lethal power.

Monroe scrutinized lengthening shadows. “We’ve got a good hour hike down to my jeep. We should get back before dark.” 

After stashing their gear, Mary climbed into the jeep’s passenger seat, still quivering from shock. 

Before starting the engine, Monroe turned to her. “You understand now why we don’t allow people there. You were very lucky. So, I’d like to ask a favor.” 

Mary lowered her head with shame and remorse. “Yes. Anything.” 

“If you publish what you’ve experienced here, it will likely renew attraction of other adventure seekers. I don’t think you want their possible disappearances hanging on your conscious. I know of few other petroglyphs hidden from view, and not well known. Nothing as dangerous as Four Winds, but have stories of their own, some of them quite unique. How about you redirect your studies to that.”

Mary swallowed. If Professor Wilkins learned of her transgression and near fatal result, he’d probably kick her out of the master’s program. “Can we—keep what happened between us?” 

“Deal.” Monroe patted her arm. “I think you’re going to be pleased with Three Hands Chasm.” He winked. “No curses. I promise.”   


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