The Last Laugh

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The Last Laugh

(Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood)

 Hi, my name is Hymie Ludicrus and feel free to laugh. I love laughter directed at me.

At parties, people would break up when I gave them my name.

What’s in a name, right?

Laughter.

Those party folks gave impetus to my being as funny as I possibly could. The ‘life of the party’, that was me (or, ‘I’, if you want me to show I know a bit about grammar). I didn’t leave the party with a girl – I had this crazy looking nose: it went down so far, then dipped and went further down almost to my upper lip…made eating and drinking some interesting experiences, particularly at a classy joint.

I remember as a kid, I didn’t get a lot of laughs with my name because the other kids didn’t have the vocabulary to connect my last name. Of course, my first name ‘Hymie’ would get a laugh now and then. Hey, it’s true, some people have very strange names one can use for comedy.  

One kid on the varsity football team had the last name, Chitwood. I played with that name in my mind for quite a while until I came up with something. Chitwood was a pal so I knew he wouldn’t deck me or anything – probably, just laugh along with me and our other buddies. So, our little group came out of Assembly one morning, walking to our next class, and I say to Chitwood: I’ve got you figured out, Chitwood. He says with a smile: Okay, wise guy, how am I figured? I make sure the group is tuned in to what’s being said, so I say: Is it true, Chitwood, that you eat sawdust and shit 2×4’s?

All in the group laughed, but Chitwood chased me all the way to my next class…which just happened to be English. I wondered if our attractive old maid English teacher would enjoy the question I asked of Chitwood. Anyway, it wasn’t long before the entire football team was razzing my buddy, Chitwood, with my little mind quip. (Incidentally, you folks reading this, sorry for using the word, ‘shit’, but ‘crap’ just didn’t have the alliteration I needed…)

Well, let the record show I tried to become a real-life comic, worked on routines days and nights and finally got my shot at the Scottsdale Comedy Club. There was not a time in my life when I was so excited, and those ‘butterflies’ were giving me fits long before my Saturday night ‘gig’ – I was so proud I could now use a word (‘gig’) other comics, singers, and groups used.

My entry on stage I worked on relentlessly before the big night came. With a large crowd in the audience, I heard my name booming from the microphone. I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, brushed the backstage curtain aside, and walked on stage. People were cheering and applauding though they didn’t even know me.

Halfway toward the mike, in full view of the audience, I stumbled and fell (the routine I had worked on). The crowd was mixed with ‘oohs’ and laughter. When I got back on my feet, I gave them my grimaces, my head jerks, my crazy gyrations – all of which I worked on for weeks. When I grabbed the mike, I said: Is there a doctor in the house? A very pretty lady will work fine, as long as I can see her credentials… Only modest, likely, courteous laughter.

That entrance was to break my opening jitters and loosen up the crowd, and, to some degree, it did. My Shtick went over very well, got some good laughs, even used my crooked nose and a girlfriend I didn’t have in many of my routines,

Management invited me back. I started making a few bucks, hired an agent, Gail Pepper, fell in love with her, and, oddly, she with me. Her nose was a bit like mine, only smaller…kissing was a bit of a chore. (Laugh cue card, please!)

I started every comedy performance with the same joke – mostly for the new people in the crowd, but the ‘regulars’ loved it and roared every time I told it. It became my ‘signature routine’, with all the gyrations and facial expressions…

Two good friends are playing golf at their beautiful country club course. Both players are ‘scratch golfers’ and play the first six holes with no one in front of them. Both guys hit booming drives down the middle on the long par five 560-yard seventh hole.  When they approach their second shots, they see a couple of women ahead of them some two hundred yards. The women are chopping up the fairway grass, hitting their balls maybe five or ten yards with each swing, unmindful of the players behind them. The guys are really getting fed up with the waiting… Finally, one of the guys tells his buddy, ‘Hey, I’m going to run up there and tell them to let us play through’. So, the guy runs up the fairway, gets within twenty yards of the women, stops, and runs back to his playing partner. ‘Wow, Jerry’! the guy says, ‘I almost made a terrible mistake: one of those women is my wife, and the other is my mistress’… So, the other guy says, ‘Hell, I’ll run up and tell them to let us play through’. Jerry runs up the fairway and gets within twenty yards of the women, stops, and runs back down the fairway to his playing partner. ‘My God! Freddy, small world, isn’t it’? (Laugh cue card, please!)

The small world was my ‘oyster’ for many years. Gail and I bought our dream home. We had a son (Brooks) and a daughter (Belinda). We doted on them. Thank God! they both had their mother’s smaller nose, and, with no hooks. Our life was full. Gail and I bought and ran our own comedy house. We featured some top comedians and made lots of money.

I still did my gigs but somewhere along the way lost the sharp edges to my routines. At what would become my last performance, ironically enough, at the Scottsdale Comedy Club, it was not my finest hour.

My Shtick was stuck in neutral most of the night, but the crowd loved me: they even brought me presents – I just don’t know where the hell they got them. In fact, they threw them at me, big lush juicy tomatoes…just their way of showing they loved me!

As a closing routine, I stumbled and fell going off the stage and got the longest, loudest laugh of the night.

It turned out I got the last laugh.

 Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – June 20, 2017

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A Heart Thing

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A Heart Thing

What was I doing here? It seemed a sad inertia was in control of my body.

Beautiful, yes, this sand and sun part of the world! And, it was a promise my heart compelled me to keep…after so many tears and a fragile restoration from the pain and finality of impending death. Those who have lost the warm cloak of love will know of what I write.

Before coming inside to sit on the big bed to write my thoughts of desperation and longing, I stood on the 9th floor balcony of the ‘Royal Tower’ and gazed out over the beauty that is all of Paradise Island Bahamas.

Close to my tower, people and kids watched the feeding of large Manta rays, while, in the next large pool, loud cheering came from children and their parents as brothers and sisters slid quickly down the steep, thick, clear round-tube through water where sharks swam all around them. My wan smile of acknowledgment came and lingered briefly from the shrieks of play and excitement in the large pool below.

I began my writing…

This is for you, Johnny, these words my heart and soul convey, words which I pray will give me sustenance to continue life – a tenuous blur in my mind during the past few days…

We spoke of coming here to the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort just two months ago at our most beautiful first anniversary dinner, one week before your cancer diagnosis came from your doctor. As always, you faced that awful information in your fashion, showing your acceptance and lack of concern. “Hey,” you said, “doctors make mistakes! I feel great and plan on living for many years with my lovely bride.” You kissed me softly on the lips and gave me your brave smile.

On our arrival home, I tried, too, for bravery, but failed. You saw my tears, gathered me in your arms, carried me to our bed and slowly, with moments of playful tease and tormenting delays, made spectacular love to me. You made me momentarily forget the terrible news of the diagnosis.

The days that followed were much the same. You took me with you on your business trip to Seattle, even allowed me to be present during your major appointments. You would not be without me for a moment. My love for you, always at its highest point, came near to eruption, to the degree of silly school girl antics. I clung to you, stopped on the busy sidewalks of Seattle to embrace, kiss you, in such a state of euphoria that I could almost forget the dreadful cancer news…almost! It hovered just above my consciousness, bringing deep dips of sorrow at the prospect of losing you.

Then, there came the Tuesday telephone call from doctor Dearfield’s office. You were to check into the Holy Cross Hospital at 8:00 AM the next day to start treatments. From your soft and inaudible voice while talking to the doctor, I knew the seriousness of the situation. I also saw the momentary closings of your eyes and the dropped chin.

After the phone call with the doctor, you insisted, without allowing my dissent, that night would be our last together. Your arguments were selfish, you said, that you would not allow me to see your declining days of health caused by Cancer’s newest treatments, including sessions of Chemo therapy. You made me promise not to show up at the hospital. You gave me the first-class ticket to Nassau, booked my ‘top priority’ suite at the Atlantis Bahamas for a three-week stay. You said, if the news proved good, you would be joining me at Atlantis. If the news were negative, our Tuesday night would be our last night until we met in God’s eternity. We were locked in each other’s arms all that night, me, saying silent prayers…

I stopped writing when tears began blotting my pages. I was hopelessly lost in my lassitude, laid back on the bed until feelings of anxiety hit me, got up, left the lovely suite and walked aimlessly around the grand resort.

Below ground, I walked along the thick concrete walls of the world’s largest marine exhibit, passing within three feet of all kinds of exhibits, sharks, rays, all kinds of water life, swimming up to the thick glass enclosure where families touched them safely via the glass. Even in a lethargic state, I managed to find some minimal escape from my despair.

After walking up and through the large casino, I returned to my room. It was 5:00 PM. I took a sleeping pill and soon fell asleep among the tear-blotted pages written some hours earlier.

For the next few days, it was much the same for me, ordering room service food, eating only parts of it, picking up the pen to write more thoughts on paper and giving up when the tears came. Johnny’s face I saw as an image on the glass sliding doors to the balcony, on the bathroom mirrors, in my mind when eyes were closed. The weather outside was beautiful, and, even in my grief, I could understand the popularity of this paradise.

Even with the beauty of Paradise Island, the walls closed in on me, forcing my movement, either to the pool area or the beach.

On Friday morning of my second week, I awoke with the same torpid lack of mobility, dregs from the sleeping pills, ordered room service coffee and eggs Benedict, drank the coffee, left most of the eggs Benedict. I picked up my pen to write more about Johnny, and, again, began crying.

Outside the weather was all sun and blue skies. I took off my pajamas and put on my bikini, grabbed a beach towel and noticed I was still wearing the last gift Johnny had given to me – a most elegant diamond-studded pendant with a lush heart-shaped Garnet gem. I placed the pendant on the dresser, lingered over it for a few seconds until the tears thought about returning, and walked out the door.

The sun felt strangely good on my body, adding pleasantly to my lethargy. I tried not to think, but it was impossible. Johnny was so solidly in my thoughts, and I truly wondered if I could live without him. I turned my body on the beach towel to the tummy, my back needing some sun.

As I lay there on my tummy, my face upon my folded arms, eyes closed, reliving memories, I felt something drop to the sand in front of my face, a few sprinkles of sand touching my forehead.

Impulsively, I raised my head and glanced at the sand in front of me.

My heart skipped several beats! My head and entire body was tingling with titillating thoughts.

Quickly, I turned over onto my back and sat up.

Standing above me with a wide grin on his face was Johnny!

“Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” I blurted and jumped from the beach towel and threw myself into his open arms.

“You just buried your Garnet pendant!” he said, with a mock sneer. “That cost me a few bucks, you know! And you leave it on a dresser in a resort?”

“Oh, Johnny, Johnny!” I sighed deeply, “You’re here… Are you cured?” I kissed him so much he couldn’t answer.

He finally disengaged enough to mutter: “You ever hear of ‘remission’? That’s me! The ‘Remission’ man! On a mission to re-claim my lovely, lovely bride. Shall we get a drink and celebrate?”

“Not just a drink, Johnny! I have a lot more in mind for you!” A quick thought hit me. “That is, unless…” in my stuttering way, “there are health issues.” I gave him my raised eyebrows and soft smile.

Johnny slapped me on my ‘buns’, smiled broadly, and said, “Bring it on, baby! I’m up to the task!”

“Make that, ‘tasks’, please, Johnny!”

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – 6/14/17

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Paradise Island Bahamas

 

Wicked Marcie

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Wicked Marcie

“You’re a filthy beast!” she spoke as tears fell down her cheeks.

“And, what kind of beast, would you say?” his face squinted in a soft strange sadness.

The woman did not understand the expression, read it as a ‘mocking’ of the situation. She appeared cautiously in conflict with her emotions. She spoke again.

“Oh, go ahead with your ugly passion, Willard. I can’t stop you, but you can know this: I’ve never hated you more than at this moment.”

Willard stopped mid-stride and stared at the woman in the wheelchair, his brow wrinkled, his tired face showing an anguish she could not comprehend. His steps were measured and slow as he neared the wheelchair. The woman quavered and showed a fear she sought to hide. She hunched as much as she was physically able, and spoke: “Please Willard, don’t slap me again, and don’t do the other thing…please! If I ever meant anything to you, please, please, don’t go in there tonight!”

For some terrible seconds, Willard stopped, stood erect, and appeared to consider what the woman was saying. With reticence, he looked wearily into her sad eyes before responding. “It was you, Bella!” He spoke in a soft voice with a hint of some sort of pity. “You put yourself in that wheelchair when you tried to kill me. You do remember that night, don’t you, Bella?”

“I didn’t try to kill you, Willard. I only wanted to keep you away from Marcie, just trying to scare you, that’s all. I could never kill anyone. Marcie did something bad that one night, and you’ve been making her pay for it ever since. For pity’s sake, she’s only fourteen years old. You said you loved her as your own. What you’re doing is criminal and sinful.”

“You rushed me. I dodged. You went flying into the coffee table and damaged your back. I’ve gone all these weeks caring for you, Bella, while Marcie kept flaunting her blossoming body at me, smiling and inviting. You never saw any of that, Bella. Yes, it’s criminal and sinful, what you’re thinking, and I’m also a man who has needs – needs you can’t satisfy until you mend.”

“Can you so easily justify your actions against our daughter, Willard?”

“Our adopted daughter, Bella, fourteen years, going on twenty-four. I’m justifying nothing! You believe what she tells you. You don’t see her coming on to me every night. She’s insatiable in her own sexual needs, a nymphet right out of a Nabakov novel. She must be. I avoid her. I tell her it is all wrong, both legally and morally what she wants from me. That doesn’t stop her from coming to my bed each night. I never harbored a sexual need for her. It never entered my mind and still does not. You remember that night when she came out to the den in only her panties and bra. You went to bed. I was drinking and half-drunk. She tried to seduce me with her eyes, with her swinging hips, with her sitting on my lap and tormenting me with her moves.

“You came out and saw it all, Bella, and knew that it must be my fault, not Marcie’s fault, the little girl we brought home when she was six years old. You didn’t notice me trying to disengage from her that night, struggling to get her off my lap. Whether she learned about sex from her many ‘night-stay-overs’ with ‘school friends’, or, watched porno movies, she tried to seduce me with her knowledge of every move in the sexual manual. She showed me filthy pictures to seduce me. She…”

“Stop, Willard! Please, stop! I Can’t listen to your vile comments any longer.” Bella started to move her wheelchair toward her bedroom, but he stopped her.

“Just one last thing, Bella, and you can go to bed… I will say no more after these last comments. Please, hear me out.”

Bella looked down at her hands, intertwined on her lap and remained silent.

“Yes, I slapped you a few times, not hard, just enough to stop your rants about Marcie and me. You would never let me tell you what I’m saying tonight, and I’m sure you will never believe me. I’ve tried to tell you before tonight but you always get so angry – and that gets me angry, and I don’t tell you. That changes tonight…

“I have never had sex with Marcie, Bella…not that night you saw her on my lap in her panties, not any night. Yes, she comes to my room, and, in my anger, I sometimes slap her, warn her about losing her home, having her put in some squalid detention center, and come short from really strapping her, finally getting her back to her own room.

“What you saw weeks ago is all that happened, Bella. I repeat, I have never had sex with Marcie. AND, it would not have happened when you saw her on my lap. Yes, I had liquor working in my system, but I would never lose sight of my moral integrity altogether.

“I don’t know what Marcie is telling you, what kind of lurid tales she is spinning, but this I do know. She is an evil young lady, and I have spent all the time I care to spend on trying to straighten her out, talking to her in matter of fact terms, paternally and with caring feelings. AND, you need to know that, today, late this afternoon, after using up all my clear thinking in trying to save Marcie, I visited state officials and alerted them that the situation was no better than when I first reported it to them weeks ago. Yes, I reported Marcie to state officials and followed up with them on several occasions to keep them informed.

“They will be picking her up tomorrow morning. The officials are my friends, Bella, and they believe what I’ve told them. They believe me because what I’ve told them is true…they even did background checks on her former life before us, on her sinister parents.”

“My God, Willard! She’s our daughter.”

“Bella, do you not believe the words I’m telling you? Marcie is evil! I’ve tried to save her! Can’t you see that? She is telling you unsavory lies, working against us. She cannot stay any longer in this house. I truly can say, I’ve done all I can do… She now belongs to the state.

“I know this is difficult for you, but you have not seen Marcie as I’ve seen her. You have been wheelchair-bound, unable to lend your maternal counsel to her. You must know I would not lie to you about this. You know how I’ve loved you over the years…that has not changed. I still love you and long for the day you’re out of that wheelchair. Marcie is a victim of her previous parents, a ‘bad seed’, and I’ve come to know she cannot be here any longer. She is trying to hurt us, Bella. PLEASE! Understand that.”

Tears rushed down Bella’s face, and she could see the tears on Willard’s face as well.

With some effort, she reached a hand upward to her husband. Willard caressed the hand, kissed it, held it against his cheek for some seconds, and smiled gently down at his wife.

“Now, you must go to bed and get your rest…”

Bella tried to speak, to give one last attempt at saving Marcie, but she knew, now, without any doubt, that Willard had spoken the truth to her. Her voice rendered incapable of speech by the tears, she sighed deeply, slowly shook her head as Willard wheeled his distraught wife to the bedroom.

Willard pulled the bed cover up to her chin, and, as he took a sleep capsule from a pill bottle on the bedside table, he spoke gently and with love.

“Take the pill, dear Bella. You need aid to get you to sleep and away from the thoughts. Take also my love and know that, tomorrow begins the first day of the rest of our lives. All our days will be happy and good after this darkness leaves us.”

Bella took the sleeping pill, wiped her eyes with a soft tissue and allowed Willard a kiss goodnight.

***

When three state officials arrived the next morning, no one answered their front door ring.

Concerned because the dire circumstance of their visit, they jimmied the door and entered.

An odd odor greeted them, along with splattered blood on the tiled floors and walls of the master bedroom.

A portion of the big king-sized bed was covered with the blood of Bella, half-covered on the bed, her face oddly peaceful as though still sleeping.

Stretched across Bella’s lower body was Willard, his own blood oozing out of the multiple stab wounds to his now mutilated pajama top.

The officials searched the other rooms of the house but could not find Marcie.

“Oh, my God!” cried the lone lady in the group. “It must be obvious that Marcie murdered her adoptive parents. We need to alert the Sheriff’s office and the State Police.”

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – June 7, 2017

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Sinful Desperation

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Sinful Desperation

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood-

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”

He stared at the ceiling as he reclined on the big bed, his naked body stretched straight, seeking relief from his back pain.

“It’s been years, my son, since your last confession. I hear desperation in your voice. Is the Church your last bastion of hope?”

A mournful smile of contrition and watery eyes looked upward to the ceiling. He would play both parts of this little satire from his soul, not mocking the billions of people who habitually practiced their faith in a Deity, rather, an awkward attempt at an anodyne for his pain.

“Yes, Father, on all accounts…” a back spasm interrupted his soliloquy and he sought another position on the bed. He was too tightly wound and needed to move his limbs in some exercises the cute young lady in physical therapy had insisted he practice each day.

Finally, he found some relief and continued with his conversation with the ‘Holy Father’ there in the center of his ceiling. “Yes, Father, many years, and, in conflicting ways, a lifetime ago, yet, now, here, as the filmstrip of my earthly adventure unveils itself to me, my weekly spiritual visits to your Church seems not so far away.”

The man was almost ready to hear a reply. Not to be, he continued.

“So, on to my confession, Father, one, I fear will take more than a few ‘Hail Marys’ and a heavy penitence to absolve.” The man closed his eyes and his face took on a grimace.

“I confess to one of Man’s oldest of the seven sins, Pride. All my life I’ve taken umbrage with people who sully me, sometimes, in simple remarks that attempt to jest and tease. Perhaps that sin comes from a youthful disconnect with family and a poor quality of life. This sin has cost me friends and love connections. It is also truth to say it is the least of my sins.

“I confess to an earlier life rife with excessive sensual pleasures, Lust/Debauchery of the wicked and most wild, orgy-filled, salacious kind. I sought out and experimented with life’s underworld of Bacchus-plus drug madness. There were moments of intense euphoria, gratification, and immoral depravity.

“And, when the days and nights of playing Nero’s mad fiddle ended, there were tears, self-recrimination, times for soul-wrenching and no resolutions: preparation-time, it could be said, for the next ‘big toot’.

“I confess, Father, to periods of Envy, of Sloth, of Gluttony, and of Greed.

“There remains one more sin, Father, that of Wrath. I have saved it for the final portion of my confession because there was a prelude of most, if not all, the seven virtues before its denouement… a period in my life of happiness so fulfilling, so real, that it seemed my life had found its right and true moral compass.

“Having run the gamut of my ‘fiddling’ days, I sought to find a more righteous purpose in my life. A friend of mine who had been lost in the same forest of shame as I invited me to go to church with him on a beautiful Sunday morning in June. After smiling stupidly at the idea, I decided to go…to see how the ‘moral half’ lived.

“Are you still with me, Father? Have I lost you in my recount of decadence?”

The man could almost see the Father’s smile. “How could I not? What with such an interesting life you present to me?”

“You, Father, speak with a forked tongue. You must know it’s the fires of hell I’m destined for!

“Whatever, at the beautiful church with my friend, I met Maureen, a woman of remarkable beauty I felt destiny had placed in my path. We both felt a Karmic bonding and began a long relationship which ended in marriage.

“Our love was pure and, by any standard, storybook. We danced in the moonlight and worked every day at our jobs, saved our money and became wealthy, mostly by her artistic talent and her huge following. We were together all the moments we were not working or at a painting exhibition.

“We had a baby boy who died in his sixth month of an undiagnosed tumor.

“Maureen and I were devastated by Brian’s death, but, for her, there was an emptiness she could not fill. She began drinking. She stopped painting, and fate pulled her from me into the arms of another man. She was still trying to fill the void left by Brian.

“We began to argue, our spats becoming an ugly, yet another obtrusion to our love.

“Last night, Maureen arrived home after midnight, clearly in the mood for another spat. I pleaded with her to go to bed. She became infuriated with me and began slapping me. The slaps made me angry, and I tried to wrap my arms around her to carry her off to bed. She stomped my foot with the heel of her shoe and pushed me backward. I began to fall and grabbed her wrist instinctively to secure my footing. Then, she, too, began to fall, and I let go so she could get her footing. Her head banged loudly into the granite counter in our bar area and she went down onto the carpet, blood spreading out in a profuse flow from the gash. Maureen died last night, Father.”

The man could almost hear the sorrow in the Father’s voice, see the pain on his face through a small imagined window in a small imagined confessional.

On the bed, as tears flowed from the man’s eyes, he saw a pale shadowy figure, an apparition, Maureen, her arms extended toward him, her sad tearful eyes and still beautiful face beckoning to him.

The man’s face was covered in tears, his voice gagging and pitiful gasps, as he thrust the butcher knife upward into his heart.

The bedroom was silent in its darkness as the two wraiths walked across the room to eternity.

Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – May 25, 2017

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A Piece of Memory

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A Piece of Memory

The flashlight fell from my feeble fingers into the fast- moving current of Campers Creek. In the moonless darkness, my body trembled with the awful cold and uncertainty of the moment.

Uncertainty?

How did I know this was Campers Creek?

I was here with my club-footed cousin so many years ago…why do I remember that piece of my past and not this part of my present?

Why did I have a flashlight?

How did I get to the middle of this fifty-yard wide swirl of water?

Why am I here?

Why do I hear faint screams in my ears that sound demonic – and, yet, somehow familiar?

What is my name?

I can’t think of who I am!

Who do I know?

I was here with my club-footed cousin so many years ago…why do I remember that piece of my past and not this part of my present?

Did I just say that?

Why do I not know where to go?

Who is the woman whose image keeps flashing before me?

What do I do?

My God!

Has the world gone mad?

Flash Fiction by: Billy Ray Chitwood – 3/6/17

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The Phantom Lady

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The Phantom Lady

            Unnoticed, the lady came quietly into the store and stood in front of the counter. She had about her an ethereal quality, dressed in a soft burgundy and gold outfit. Her face professed a youthful beauty, yet, mystical and serene with a quiet mysterious attraction.

            It was some seconds before the store owner became aware of her standing directly across from him.

            When he looked up, she simply uttered one word with a stoic, “Thanks.”

            The store owner looked to his left, to his right, and spoke to the woman across from him: “How can I help you?”

            “Thanks.”

            “Yes, I heard you but I’ve yet to do anything for you.” He smiled amiably. “Are you alright?”

            The store owner squinted and stared at the woman across from him. She was beautiful! Her eyes were fixed steadily on him, and he began to get a creepy feeling, like the woman was under some sort of emotional distress. She appeared dignified along with her beauty and without any outward sign of physical injury.

            “Thanks!” This time her voice was more strident, more impatient.

            The store owner was in an unknown territory, not able to think beyond ‘weird’ and ‘odd-ball’ but was sure this lady definitely had some sort of mental condition. The owner saw ‘hop-heads’ all the time, could see their glazed over eyes and their stupid behavioral patterns. This lovely lady gave no indication of being on drugs. She was more prim and proper than most people who came into his store. There was also an inexplicable quality about the woman he could not identify.

            The owner opened a counter fridge and took a bottle of water, and spoke, “Here, lady, drink some water. You could be dehydrated. Come, sit for a spell.” He pulled a straight-back chair from behind the counter and gently guided her to a sitting position.

            “Thanks.” The lady never blinked, her eyes locked in one position. The bottle of water she loosely held fell from her hand to her lap to the floor.

“Lady, can you tell me what’s wrong with you? I don’t understand what your ‘Thanks’ is saying to me. Can you say more than ‘Thanks’?”

            “Thanks!” The lady was back to a more forceful, yet, perfect enunciation.

            The store owner shook his head, frustrated with this turn of events. ‘Yes, the woman was enunciating perfectly’ but there was no context. ‘What am I supposed to do here?’ he mumbled.

            It was afternoon slow time so the store thankfully was empty. The owner knew most of the people in the small town of Green Valley, but this lady apparently just got off the bus heading to Macon.

            “Are you hungry, lady? Can you nod your head if you are?”

            “Thanks.” She was back to the low-key ‘Thanks’. There was no nod of her head.

            “Hi, Ken,” it was the town sheriff’s deputy walking his beat. He noticed through the store window in passing that Ken was seemingly carrying a worried expression. The deputy walked into the store and asked, “Things going okay?”

            Ken sighed, “Hey, Cliff, I’m glad to see you, darn happy to see you, actually.”

            “What’s up?”

            “This nice lady, Cliff, she’s in some kind of trouble. She comes in, stands across the counter and says, ‘Thanks,’ rather matter-of-factly, and every time I try to offer help, she says the same thing, ‘Thanks’, and at times she’s a bit more forceful the way she says it. I can’t figure it out. She looks physically fine, very pretty, but must have something going on in her brain…you know her?”

            After carefully eying the woman, Cliff said, “I think I saw her get off the bus at the Drug Store Stop. A cute lady like her, you can’t miss noticing. She seems to be ‘out of it’, like walking in her sleep, or, hypnotized.”

            “Did she have any baggage? All I see is that purse she’s hanging onto.”

            “Nope, didn’t see any baggage… You have no idea what she means when she says, ‘Thanks’?”

            “Not the foggiest, Cliff… Excuse me, I have to wait on Mrs. Barnes.”

            Ken gathered a few articles for Mrs. Barnes. She gave a ‘You’re welcome’ to his “Thanks” and left. Ken ‘smiled’ at the parting exchange and went back to Cliff and the puzzling woman.

            “So, what do we do, Cliff?” Ken asked.

            The woman began to tremble and her purse fell to the floor, as though she was nudging it to fall.

            The two men looked at each other, shaking their heads with wrinkled brows

            “Maybe we need to look into her purse, Ken… I don’t know what else to do – other than take her to the Sheriff’s office and see what ‘Sheriff Goose’ has to say. I mean, this is crazy, she seems well enough within herself, more or less calm about her presence here… It’s like someone has hypnotized her to say ‘Thanks’ over and over.”

            “Maybe that’s a reasonable assumption, but, for goodness sake, why? Why would someone do that?”

            “Gee, I don’t know, Ken, just thinking off the top of my head.”

            “Thanks.” The stiffly aberrant lady spoke again the familiar word that was now cryptic and out of place. She uttered the word sternly, almost in the form of a rebuke, her face showing no strain, her body perfectly erect and proper, almost surreal in her burgundy and gold outfit.      

            “This is nuts, Ken!” said Cliff as he grabbed her purse from the floor.

            “Wait, Cliff, don’t open her purse yet. We could be opening ‘Pandora’s Box’. You know the World today. It’s got a lot of ‘Crazies’, people angry with the government, fearful, frustrated, out of work, ugly mass killings by illegal immigrants or just bad people. I’ve never seen the country with this blind kind of runaway madness. This woman could be part of a plan, like, we could be one of those ‘soft targets’ that the newscasts are always reporting. Maybe she’s been programmed or hypnotized strictly for that purpose…”

            “Ken, listen to yourself! This is quaint little Green Valley, Georgia. We know everybody in town…”

            “We don’t know her, Cliff!”

            “Well, right, Ken, but come on! Who’s going to get off a bus in Green Valley, Georgia, particularly a neat looking lady like this and just start killing people? She’s simply got a bad mental problem of some kind.”

            “Hope you’re right, good buddy.”

            “Thanks,” now a steady monotonic stream from the trance-like woman in the chair, at five-second intervals, her stare, her body in a more sustained tremble.

            “Cliff, don’t open that purse! Let’s get out of here now! I’ve got a really bad feeling!”

            Cliff dropped the purse on the lap of the chanting and robotic-like lady, allowed Ken to pull him out the front door of the store onto the sidewalk. Ken slammed closed the door behind him, took a final look through the plate glass and saw the woman’s mouth still moving in a mechanical-like way.

            Both men ran across the street to the other sidewalk.

            There were a dozen people on either side of the street but they sensed danger and all ended up near Cliff and Ken. They knew only that something was happening outside their understanding. They instinctively followed the deputy’s and store owner’s actions.

            Across the street, the crowd was growing slightly as people emerged from other stores and offices and saw the anxious deputy and store owner. They waited and no one spoke. There was a fearful anticipation of some awful event about to happen at Ken’s store. The people followed the eyes of the deputy, could see the depth of his own fear, and made it their own.

            Cars slowed near the crowd and sped away with the rapid waving of Cliff’s arms. The car people could read the distress gathered on the sidewalk and considered it their best decision to be away from that location.

            The seconds ticked away and became long minutes of stress. Cliff finally spoke to the crowd: “All of you stay where you are. I’m going across the street to assess the situation. This could be nothing more than an odd moment in our town’s history, but we have to be safe and err on the side of good judgement.”

            Cliff crossed the street and tentatively stepped to the plate glass window. The sun caused a white-out glare, and Cliff could not make out anything. Carefully, he edged to the door, slowly opened it, and stepped inside.

            There was no one in the store! The mystery woman was not there. The chair was back in its normal spot. There was no purse on the floor, no A/C or electric equipment sounds in the store at all. It was eerily still and darker than usual, even with the sun splashed all across the plate glass window.

            Cliff searched every square foot of the store, and the silence became deafening. The backdoor emergency and employee exit was key-locked by Ken, could only be opened and locked by him. There was a steel bar across the door for added security against robbery or vandalism.

            When his search was completed Cliff returned to the small crowd gathered on the opposite sidewalk.

            The crowd was sent home with the announcement that all was secure. When asked of the crowd what had happened, Cliff and Ken never told the exact nature of the alarm, only dismissing the incident as a misperception.  

            Later, Cliff and Ken re-entered the store, confident that there were no explosive devices, just the unnerving bafflement of the mystical and mysterious woman.

*

            When the dream ended, his body was covered in sweat and cold to the touch. His wife hovered over him with worried words and sympathetic frowns.

            “You were turning and tossing, honey! Are you coming down with something? You’re all sweaty!”

            A full moon from a clear night shone through the bank of windows of the master bedroom and provided light enough to show agony on his face.

            Ken shook his head several times before answering. “Just a bad dream, Dixie…a bad dream that was so very real. I’ve never had a dream so real in my life.”

            “You want to talk about it?” Her blue watery eyes showed concern and love.

            “Not now, Honey. I’ll tell you all about it in the morning. You go back to sleep. I’m going to get a glass of water and try sleep again without riding a nightmare.”

            Over coffee and pancakes the next morning, Ken told Dixie of his strange and mystifying nightmare in vivid detail. Nothing was left out of his accounting. At the finish, he was sweaty again. “I just can’t believe the reality of that dream. When I see Cliff, I’ll find out how and if his sleep was interrupted last night.”

            “Dreams can be weird, Kenny, but you can’t believe Cliff would have the same dream?”

            “Yeah, I know, Dixie, but this one…this one took a lot out of me. I’m left thinking, this one just had to mean something, and I’ve got the gnawing feeling that I need to talk to Cliff.”

            At the store in mid-morning, Cliff stopped during his ‘beat’ walk, wearing a harried expression on his face.

            “What’s up, Cliff? You have a dream last night?”

            “What? You kidding me? How would you know that, good buddy?”

            “So, you did have a dream last night?”

            “A ‘lulu’, an off the wall nightmare! Don’t tell me you had one as well?”

            “Like you said, Cliff, a ‘lulu’…”

            They were stunned! Their dreams were discussed and found to be identical!

            Thus, an ‘urban legend’ was born…and sanctified by strange occurrences in the small town of Green Valley, Georgia.

            Not only occurrences but identical mystic dreams by the citizens as well.

            Green Valley became a virtual ghost town with very little stirring of its people…most stayed closed in and did not stray very far from home.

            The most beguiling effects of the Green Valley anomaly began occurring when other small towns across the country reported disturbances of a pretty lady in a burgundy and gold dress who communicated in strange monosyllabic utterings, then disappeared not to be seen again.

            Soon, the national media picked up the story and ran a steady stream of possible scenarios…’The Phantom Lady’ is reported by ‘Space Mysteries Network’ as a robotic machine sent from an unknown planet to create chaos on earth as a prelude to an outer-space attack’.

            The prime-time TV networks ran various three-part and five-part ‘Strange Cosmic Events’ highlighting an all-women planet invading our country with identical clones’.

             Magazine and major Newspapers ran serial issues suggesting Secret Projects of the United States Supreme Court in collusion with the United States Government.

            Of course, there were some people in the political ranks issuing reports of Political Chicanery, producing elaborate and outlandish reports that staggered the mind even beyond ‘The Phantom Lady’ incident.  

            The year of 2029 was becoming an alarming amalgam of Progress and Uncertainty.

 {Short Story by Billy Ray Chitwood – March 2, 2017}

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Sunrise Sonata

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Sunrise Sonata

The man’s countenance projected a sorrowful and faraway expression as his body found some measure of comfort against the boulder just below the rise of the hill. The spot was his place of meditation.

 

He came during darkness after the awful TV news of a mob’s protest turned violent killing innocents and destroying property over several city blocks.

 

In the dark quietness he lifted his tenor saxophone toward the starlit sky and filled the cool air with soft mellifluous notes, springing from a well of remembered love songs. The soft notes floated upward toward a Deity the man could never forsake, to the Omniscient and Omnipotent King of Kings, the golden instrument praying in its way for the miracle of Love and Peace.

 

Tears came to dry upon his face time and again as the agony of soul sought release. The anger and hate of hooded protesters could not stop the madness that plagued the Earth. Only the merger of kindred minds could bring the world together.

 

The man watched the sunrise from his spot of somber solitude, and a spiritual stirring came to his body, a feeling of some respite, a sense of Designed Expectation.

 

He rose, placed his saxophone in its case and walked from the hill. He was sure he could hear the rapturous sounds of his saxophone in the air behind him.

 

Billy Ray Chitwood – February 11, 2017

 

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Passing Glory

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Passing Glory

PAST

          We practiced all summer, between beach time and part-time work. We worked hard to become Western Rose High School’s best tandem quarterback and wide receiver in the football history of our school and our state of South Carolina.

          We? Bobby Borden is the wide receiver of whom I write. The quarterback is Danny Miles. That would be me. 

          Coach Collins ended our Spring Practice session with this locker room announcement: “I’m already second-guessing myself in telling you guys this, but here goes. The team assembled in this locker room may very well be the best group of athletes we Coaches have had for years. I’m talking about all positions. I’m talking about depth, I’m talking about speed, about execution of plays on offense and defense.”

          The coach paused, did that little lip press and nod thing he does when he’s about to say something big.

          “What I’m saying to you group of young men is that you are potentially as good as any South Carolina State Championship team this state ever crowned…”

          Pause.

          “Now, it’s good if this news pumps you up, but do not, repeat, do not, get your thinking going off in the wrong direction. The teams you will be playing this Fall and Winter will likely be hearing something similar from their coaches. What I’m saying is real, and I mean every word. You can be South Carolina State Champs this year. Keep believing these words! Make them your mantra! BUT, do not ease up on the practice field. Execute your plays, play your positions like you’re in that State Championship game.

          “Remember this point: regardless what you hear and read in the various media, do not go into any game thinking the other team is a ‘lay down’. Each team you play this year will be reading of your newspaper heroics and will be posting their bulletin board hypes, having their pep rallies, practicing hard just to humiliate you. Stay within yourselves, know you’re good, but go into every game knowing that the other team has watched the video tapes, know as well as they can your strengths and weaknesses and are waiting to pounce on any mistake or turnover you make.

          “We Coaches will do all we can to have you prepared for battle, but you are the guys that have to play the game…and, don’t worry, we’ll keep reminding you of this little locker room chat.

          “Remember, football is just a game but it can teach you some important life lessons and lead to bright futures – if not in football, in the business world. 

          “The last thing I’ll mention is also very important. Each time you take the field against that other team, remember to have fun! Practice will be at times very tiring because the Coaches want to hone your skills, have those skills ingrained so they will be second nature, and you will be glad when bedtime comes. Whether a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior, the rewards are waiting for you when you finish your academics here at Western Rose, scholarships for some, jobs for others, and I guarantee you that these years of playing a rough sport and learning in those classrooms will have you ready for the even tougher competition in the adult world…”

PRESENT

          Bobby Borden gathers in his large soft hands my long high-floating spiral on Breton High’s 17-yard line. Bobby works hard to make it all the way to the end zone but the Breton safety has the right angle and tackles my best receiver on the 12-yard line…

          Coach Collins predicts correctly about our team. We make it all the way to the South Carolina State Football Championship Game in Clemson, South Carolina.

          Coach is right about something else. We build a 24-3 lead at halftime and come out too full of ourselves in the second half. The Breton Warriors make some good adjustments, stop us cold in the third quarter and score three touchdowns – on our two fumbles near our goal line and a punt return. 

          The coach at the end of the third quarter huddles the players on the sidelines and gives us a reality check. “You’re playing too tight guys and rushing your assignments. We’re here in this exalted stadium with a huge crowd mostly on our side, and they are dying a little bit each time we make a mistake. Look, this is your game to win or lose. You work hard to get here. You believe in yourselves. You know you’re as good or better than the Breton Beavers. The Western Rose Warriors need to take a few deep breaths and rev up for a big finish. Danny, make your reads, audible when you see a one-on-one possibility for Bobby. The Breton safety doesn’t look full-speed to me. Maybe you work on him. Be ready to scramble, Danny, because they are going to keep blitzing you…try a screen pass or two to get them away from the blitz. You linemen are doing a great job. Keep it up. And, Bubba Hopkins, hit them hard up the middle and over tackle…”

          The horn sounds for the third quarter.

          Coach Collins finishes with this: “All the Coaches are proud of you guys. You’ve got fifteen minutes to build some great memories… Love you guys!”

          We all pile on hands, yell loudly, and take the field.

          Well, the fourth quarter goes well for us except for some stupid penalties that stop our drives. Our defense is terrific, holding the Beavers to sixteen total yards. So, now, we’re on the Beavers 12-yard line with nine minutes to play in the game, huddling, and I’m calling a fake hand-off and throwing to Bobby at the post. Bobby fakes the defensive double coverage players out of their jocks and makes our tandem a thing of beauty… The huge, awesome crowd and our sideline goes wild. My heart does little flip-flops!

          Touchdown! Extra Point! 31-24…

          The Beavers take the kickoff on their own 6-yard line, and our special team guys get the runner on the 13-yard line. The Warriors are feeling good. We have the beavers on their own 13-yard line. They try a couple of running plays but our linebackers fill the gaps.

          The Beavers are now facing third down and six yards to go for a first down. The Beaver quarterback calls a screen, and we blitz. The speedy and small motion guy jukes our linebacker, catches a high pass, and outruns our safety and two other defensive backs for a touchdown. Great play! And I hate it!

          Score: 31-31!

          With the football changing hands two times, we now have one minute and three seconds to play in the game. We miss an opportunity to take the lead. We score on a pass play, but the touchdown is nullified because of a holding penalty. After two more dumb penalties, we punt to the Beavers.

          The Beavers have the ball. After our defense holds, it’s fourth down on the Beavers 40-yard line. Their Coach calls the team’s final time-out to go over the options. There are only twenty-one seconds left on the game clock when the players go back on the field.

          The quarterback almost loses the ball from the errant center, but recovers and lofts a long 35-yard pass to his wide receiver who catches the ball.

          On our sideline, there are lots of groans and many heads are hanging low. Our safety hits the wide receiver with a jarring tackle on our 10-yard line and the football goes straight up into the air about fifteen feet. Our safety twirls, looks up, and the ball falls into his arms. He then races ninety exciting yards for a touchdown, dodging, stiff-arming, turning, twisting.

          Happy moments for Western Rose Warriors.

          Score: 38-31!

          That’s the way the score stays as the ensuing kickoff return is the last play of the game. The runner is tackled on the Beavers’ eleven-yard line as the clock runs out.

          The noise is deafening! People are rushing onto the field. Players are embracing, some crying tears of joy, some tears of defeat.

          The western Rose Warriors are the South Carolina State Football Champions!

FUTURE

          Bobby Borden and Danny Miles got their athletic scholarships and went on to play as a star tandem passer/receiver at Clemson University where they had three winning seasons and bowl appearances. AND, they could have played pro ball but decided a business partnership and marriage was more important to them.

          They married their high school sweethearts, had wonderful families, and built a major sports products business. They stayed friends throughout their lives and occasionally watched a replay of their victory over the Breton Beavers.

          They never forgot Coach Collins and his assistant coaches. They never forgot the glory of winning the South Carolina State Football Championship and their great games at Clemson. The bruises and jarring tackles of past football glory became arthritis and hip replacements eventually. Their football experiences made them competitive in business and they achieved most of their goals.

          Glory came with business more often than football victories, and the elation always came with each goal achievement, much like that championship game in Clemson, South Carolina.

          Glory with all its euphoria fades but can temper the rest of our lives. The football experience often has for some of us a subtle current that never leaves our minds and bodies. When the right Coaches meet the right players, there can be magic in the transference.

         Past glories and the sports’ lessons learned have a place always in the hearts and memories of those who experience them. Those lessons can weave themselves into positive outcomes for life’s problems. When faith, humility, love, and family are added the human spirit thrives.

 Flash Fiction by: Billy Ray Chitwood – January, 2017

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 CONGRATULATIONS TO CLEMSON UNIVERSITY- NATIONAL FOOTBALL CHAMPS!

 

‘The Way We Were’ – Then and/or Now

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The Way We Were – Then or Now

 We awake in the cave, our minds blurred by realities of living.

 Moira goes deeper into the cave to bathe.

 Somehow, we have ended up here above the land we now see through the opening of the only home Moira and I have ever known. We eat certain vegetation, sweetly sour berries, and meat from the kills of our crude weapons. Over time we have developed a language that allows us to communicate with each other.

 Who are we? What are we? What is our purpose? Are we creations of some bewildering fate that allows us the awareness of thought? We can think and therefore we exist. There must be more than the hunt, the kill, the cave in which we live.

 What of this thing I hold in my hand, heavy and gouged by the passing of time? How is it I know to call it a rock? I throw the rock into the wall of the cave and it bounces here and there, finally landing not far from the great opening.

 Moira’s question breaks into my thoughts.

 “Why do you throw the rock, Meito?”

 Without looking at Moira, I fumble with the dirt and pebbles on the ground where I kneel, I respond. “I throw the rock because of my confusion and our way of living…the rock has thickness, weight, and no feelings. Why can’t we be like the rock?”

 Moira stands a few feet away from me. She has just come from the cleansing water pit deep in the cave, her long black hair wet and stringy. Her pretty face and deep brown eyes show innocence and purity. The meager animal skin she wears clings to her body and does little to hide the sensual fullness of her youth.

 “Because the rock has little function,” Moira answers. “Because the rock has no feeling, cannot hunt, kill, and show love. Meito, we have this same conversation so often. This is where we are and must accept our destiny. We have made our lives better than when we met some years ago, hopeless and lost in this wild mountainside. We will go on and trust in our love. I believe there is some spirit power that will guide us to where it is we are going.”

 As I stand, a smile appears on Moira’s face and her eyes sparkle with an unfathomable certainty. She sees my heavy brown beard part and show its own smile. I go to her, and we embrace.

 “You always lift me out of my depression. We will let life happen as it is destined to happen. The people we see hiding behind trees, fleeing from us – as we flee from them – maybe, one day, we can unite and get out of the caves… You are beautiful, sweet Moira, and your love is enough for me.”

 We soon leave the cave for our hunt.

 It is a beautiful day on the mountain.

 Flash Fiction by:

 Billy Ray Chitwood – January 1, 2017

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Believe It Or Not

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Believe It or Not!

It’s difficult…”

It’s also illegal…”

Can’t tell my wife, my kids, my in-laws, my friends…my country.”

These are the most frustrating moments of my life!”

The Shrink sat in his stuffed leather chair, legs crossed, staring across the short space with imperious blue squinted eyes. Dr. Keeley paused for several seconds, his white hair and beard giving him an appearance of some ancient scholar whose mind held all the answers. “Do you wish to discuss with me these concerns, Mr. Taylor?”

I do. I have to talk to someone, or go nuts…no humor intended. The information I have is smothering me. May I ask, is our conversation totally private and cannot be divulged to anyone?”

That is correct, Mr. Taylor. The information you share with me is private and assured confidentiality. Feel free and secure in sharing your information with me.”

Does that hold true for divulging government ‘Top Secret’ data to which I’m privy and have signed ‘Non-Disclosure’ agreements, under penalty of fines and imprisonment?”

I can only tell you of my ethical standards and ask that you be sure whatever it is you wish to discuss has some medical basis, that is, it is detrimental to your mental and/or physical health. I can say I’ve had no one before you discuss with me any ‘Top Secret Non-Disclosure’ data.”

Well, there’s no one with whom I can talk, or, at least, feel safe in talking…even my good wife. You know, most people likely have a predisposition about ‘Conspiracy Theories’, and what I will tell you certainly qualifies…although it’s the absolute truth. It’s been a real problem for me, watching our country for years go down what I believe is the wrong path, and, now, with me privy to this information, I’m feeling like we are near the Apocalypse stage… Damn, where do I start?”

Take your time, Mr. Taylor, and try to relax,” said Dr. Keeley.

After a few quiet moments, Mr. Taylor spoke. “I will not tell you how I obtained this information, nor will I mention any names or locations. You will listen and perhaps think I’m rational and sensible, yet a big part of you will doubt and presume I’m a fruitcake…”

Mr. Taylor waited for a moment for Dr. Keeley to reply. He did not.

Mr. Taylor proceeded. “There is a new Army being built in our country as I speak, an Army the likes of which the world has never seen, except, perhaps, in ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Terminator’ movies. The machines will indeed take over the world – THAT is my fear! I’m talking about bio-sensitive machines, huge machines that can move at the speed of sound, including human-oriented robots that can take different shapes, robots and machines that cannot be destroyed.

There is a global central command here in our country that will electronically, intricately, with scientific, technological fail safe certainty, control these machines and human robots and send them to the troubled spots of the world… ISIS and all the other terrorist groups will be eradicated within weeks, not months, years, but days and weeks. Talk about art imitating life! This is Science and Technology imitating life – or, maybe somehow more accurately, creating new non-organic life forms and machines.

While I want ISIS and all evil eradicated, Dr. Keeley, my fear is we are creating a human wasteland. We are letting the wisdom of history and the ages fall upon deaf ears. We are messing with an ‘Intelligent Creator’s Grand Plan’…unless we’ve been duped by the tenets of Faith – and, I don’t believe that. Barbarians who behead and burn people alive, of course, deserve their eradication for their ideology is pure evil. What about the emotions of love and compassion? What about that intricate nine-month cycle of birth? What about the beauty all around us, the oceans, seas, deserts, and mountains? Are we…”

Mr. Taylor, lost in his passionate oratory, looked across at Dr. Keeley. He was slumped in his chair, his chin on his chest, eye glasses askew on his face… There was a soft snoring sound, louder with each breath, emanating from Dr. Keeley’s benign face.

Mr. Taylor slammed his right foot down on the lovely wooden flooring.

The noise brought Dr. Keeley upright in his chair, announcing: “We will meet again this time next week if it is convenient for you…”

Have you not heard a word I’ve said?” asked an irritated Mr. Taylor.

Of course, you give me the same ‘conspiracy theory’ every week at this time. I practically have your words memorized. I’m hoping each week that I shall hear additional information about your theory. Are you taking the medication I prescribed for you?”

You have prescribed no medications for me, Dr. Keeley…if you are a Doctor! This is my first and only visit to your office. You are a conspiracy yourself, a real ‘quack’, if you ask me!”

And, you tell me that each week, Mr. Taylor.”

So, why do you take my money? If you can’t help me, why do you continue seeing me?”

Dr. Keeley rose, walked to the exit door, opened it, smiled gently, and bid Mr. Taylor goodbye with these words, “It’s ‘ground hog day’ each week for you, Mr. Taylor, with your monologue and our dialogue repeating itself. Please take the medication. It can help you. As I’ve told you, the original Mr. Taylor died shortly after seeing me the first time. I’ve also told you that at each visit. If you are one of the ‘human-oriented’ and ‘bio-sensitive’ robots, you should have the new army re-program you…you should have the new army re-program you…you should have the new army re-program you…you should have the new army re-program you…”

Mr. Taylor stood mortified. On and on went the would-be Dr. Keeley with monotonic sameness and the same gentle smile.

Oh, my God! The new army has begun its new computerized ‘key people replacement process’. What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? What can I do?”

Flash Fiction authored by: Billy Ray Chitwood – December, 2016

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