Posts Tagged ‘short story’

The Fix

by Robert Downs

on Tour March 1 – April 30, 2018

Synopsis:

The Fix by Robert Downs

Professional gambler, Johnny Chapman, plays the hand he’s dealt, but when he’s dealt a series of losers, he decides to up the ante with more money than he can afford to lose. Just when he thinks his life can’t get any worse, it does. The loan shark he owes the money to demands that he pay up and sends his goons after him. The man offers Johnny one way out—fix a race by fatally injecting the dog most likely to win. A piece of cake, Johnny thinks, until he looks into the big brown eyes of the beautiful dog, and the price suddenly seems too great to pay. Now Johnny’s on the run and the goons are closing in…

Book Details:

Genre: Noir
Published by: Black Opal Books
Publication Date: December 2nd 2017
Number of Pages: 166
ISBN: 9781626948174
Grab your copy of The Fix on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & Goodreads!

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

The taste of liquor still lingered on his lips. Six months without a drink, and he had the chip to prove it. His eyes were downcast, the table was green felt, and his wooden seat jammed the lower part of his back. The overhead light was dim, and he had his hat pulled down over his eyes. Johnny Chapman had lost three hands in a row, and he didn’t want to lose a fourth.

The Indian sat across from him with his hands folded across his chest, wearing dark sunglasses in a dark room, his hair shaved close to his head, and a tooth missing near his front. He cracked his knuckles between hands and even once during. The sound bounced off the walls in the closet of a room.

“Well, what’s it gonna be?” Thomas Kincaid asked. “I ain’t got all night.” His lips formed a sneer before he took a long pull on a dark drink. His eyes flicked in every direction except straight ahead.

“Don’t rush me.”

“If you move any slower, we’ll both be looking up at the daisies,” Thomas replied. He looked at his two cards for what must have been the third time.

Johnny sucked his lip between his teeth, flashed his eyes once toward the ceiling, and flipped a chip onto the deck. The roar in his ears nearly pulled him away from the hand, but the click of the ceiling fan managed to hold his attention. The darkness helped with his focus as well.

The girl sat across from him, dark hair drifting to-ward her shoulders and even a bit beyond. Teeth as white as a bowl of rice. A drop of moisture near her upper lip entered the equation. Her T-shirt bunched out at the front, and her eyes were as cold as Alaska. She played her cards close to her chest, and her bets were even. For the most part. She managed to toss in a few extra chips when she had a hand. But she was a straight shooter and hadn’t bluffed once. Johnny knew it was coming, though. He just didn’t know when. Even if he managed to run like hell, she’d probably still clip him at the ankles. Her chip stack sat more than a third higher than his own.

She had a good smile. That one. Not too much of the pearly whites, but just enough for a man to take notice. The words on her chest accentuated her assets. Tight, clean, and turquoise—the T-shirt, not her breasts.

Johnny’s eyes flicked to his watch, and his phone buzzed in his pocket. The alarm. His leg vibrated for a second more and then it stopped.

It was almost time. The medication. It took the edge off, and stopped his mind from racing off to infinity and beyond. The man with the dark rims and the white lab coat prescribed it in a room bigger than the one he was in now. If he didn’t take his meds in the next ten minutes, the headaches would start soon after.

The ceiling fan whirred again. The backroom was stale and damp, the casino out on the edge of the reservation with nothing but tumbleweed and small trees for over a mile. Diagonally opposite from the little shithole that he called home for the past several years. The run-down piece of trash with the broken Spanish shingles, cracked stucco, and clouded windows.

Seconds turned over, one after another, and still there was no movement from the Indian to his right. Lapu Sinquah flipped his sunglasses up, and dragged them back down, but not before his eyes looked around the table. The Indian made a face and flipped two chips onto the green felt.

The girl was next. She scratched her forehead. Her expression remained neutral. When Caroline Easton flipped her head, her hair remained out of her eyes. Her look resembled cold, hard steel. She followed the Indian with a two-chip flip.

Thomas tossed his cards away, and it was back to Johnny. He felt it: an all-consuming need to win this hand…and the next one…and the one after. Desire consumed him, after all. Or maybe it didn’t.

The hand that got away. The hand that consumed him, pushed him over the edge, and had him calling out in the middle of the night. One voice. One concentrated effort before the moment passed him by. He couldn’t imagine losing, ending up with nothing. Bankrupt.

This minute reasoning had him playing cards night after night, hand after hand, reading player after player. Moment after moment. Until the moments were sick and twisted and filled with jagged edges and punctured with pain. Or left him dead and buried on the side of the road in a ditch with half of his face missing.

The winning streak wouldn’t last. It’d be gone again. Like a sound carried away by the breeze in the middle of a forgotten forest. This time, he wouldn’t fold too soon. This time, he’d play it differently.

The one that got away. The pot in the middle that would have covered three month’s rent. But he tossed his cards aside, even though he’d been staring at the winning hand for damn near three minutes.

His eyes flicked to each of the three players before he once more peeled his cards back from the table and slid the two spades to the side.

The Indian glared at him through the darkness and his dark sunglasses. “Well?” Lapu asked. “What the fuck, man?”

Johnny tossed his shoulders up in the air. “I’m out.”

“Just like that?” Caroline’s long dark hair whipped around her head.

“Sure, why not?”

The Indian rubbed his shaved head. “You’re one crazy motherfucker.”

Johnny shrugged. “I never claimed to be sane.”

The ceiling fan whirred faster, clicking every five seconds. The air was heavy and suffocating, and he yanked on his collar with his index finger. Two drinks were drunk, and a glass clinked against a tooth. One chair slid back and another moved forward.

“There’s over two grand in the pot,” Lapu said.

Johnny gave a slight tilt of his head. “And I know when to walk away.”

The Indian jerked to his feet and extended a finger away from his chest. “It was your raise that started this shitstorm.”

“True,” Johnny said. “And now I’m going to end it.”

Caroline combed her hair with her fingers. “You haven’t ended anything.”

“I’d rather have that as my downfall than lose it all to you nitwits.”

Caroline smirked. Her white teeth glinted against the light overhead. “Who made you queen of the land?”

“I’d like to think it sort of came up on me,” Johnny said. “It sort of took me by surprise. Existence is futile.”

The Indian smirked. His stained teeth were nearly the color of his skin. “Futility won’t help you now.”

The hand was between the girl and the Indian. Her assets versus his. One smirk versus another. The sun-glasses were down, and both the movements and expressions were calculated. Chips were tossed, and the last card was flipped. Caroline took the pot, and her cold expression never wavered.

A ten-minute break ensued. Johnny used the bath-room, washed his hands, shoved two pills into his mouth, cupped his hands underneath the spout, sucked water from his palms, dunked his hands underneath the liquid once more, and splashed the water on his face. He grimaced at his own reflection, the dark, sunken eyes. He sucked in air and dried his hands. His shoes clicked on the broken tile on his way out the door.

His chips hadn’t moved, and neither had the table. The stack of chips was smaller than when he started this game. As the losses mounted, his amount of breathing room decreased. His longest losing streak was thirteen hands in a row.

The blinds were doubled, and his mind numbed. Compassion was a long forgotten equation, and sympathy wasn’t far behind.

The conversation picked up again, and the Indian perfected a new glare. “I never heard so much chatting over a game of cards.”

“It’s not just a game,” Thomas said. “Now, is it?” One dark drink was replaced with another, and the man’s eyes glazed over.

The girl tapped her wrist with two fingers and flipped her hair. “I think we’re already past the point of sanity.”

“If there was ever a point, it was lost—”

“I had a few points of my own that were somehow hammered home.” Johnny flipped three chips into the pot in one smooth motion. He had a hand, and he was determined to play it, even if he had to stare down the girl and the Indian at the same time.

“The game of life succeeds where you might have failed,” Lapu said.

Thomas knocked back the remainder of yet another drink. “I don’t accept failure.”

Johnny’s eyes flicked to his wrist. “You don’t accept success either.”

“Why do you keep looking at your watch?” Thomas asked. “Are you late for a date?”

The girl called and tossed three chips into the pot with only a slight hesitation. She had a hand, or she wanted to make it appear as such. Her lips moved less and less, and her eyes moved more and more. Her features were clearly defined.

Johnny kept his expression even.

“You’re not late for anything that I’ve seen,” Caro-line said.

Both the Indian and Thomas folded.

“I’d like to take you out back and shoot you.”

“Would that somehow solve the majority of your problems?” the Indian asked.

Johnny nodded. “It might solve a few.”

“Or,” she said, “then again, it might not.”

The last card was flipped, and bets were tossed into the center of the pot. Johnny raised, and Caroline countered with a raise of her own. He called, flipped his cards over, and his straight lost to her flush. Half of his stack disappeared in one hand. He ground his teeth and chewed his bottom lip.

“I don’t like you,” Johnny said.

Her expression was colder than Anchorage. “You never liked me.”

“There might have been mutual respect, but that ship sailed out into the great beyond and smacked an iceberg.”

“Passion—”

“Does not equal acceptance,” Johnny said.

“It will keep you up most nights,” the Indian said.

Determined not to lose again, Johnny kept his eyes on the prize and his dwindling stack of chips. The girl to his right had never flashed a smile, and now her stack of chips was nearly three times the size of his own. His eyes flicked to his wrist once more, and he grimaced.

For several moments, the ceiling fan took up all the sound in the room.

His breath hiccupped in his chest, and he swayed in his chair. The wood jammed against his lower back, and the angry green felt kept an even expression. His mouth moved, but no sound escaped from between his lips.

He fell out of his chair and cracked his head on the carpet. For the next few minutes, he drifted in and out of consciousness.

< <

“Did his heart just stop?” Lapu asked.

Thomas leaned across the table. “What the hell are we talking about now?”

Lapu stood up. “I think that fucker passed out.”

“Which fucker?” Caroline’s chest pressed hard enough against her shirt to slow down her blood flow. Her eyes narrowed, but her hand was steady.

“The one that was losing.”

“That’s all you fuckers.” She tapped her tongue against her upper lip. “You’re all losing.”

Lapu shoved his chair back. “I don’t like losing.”

“But you do it so well.”

Thomas’s body shifted in his chair. “Not on purpose.”

The ceiling fan stopped, and the walls trapped all remnants of sound. One beat of silence was followed by another.

Lapu moved first. He slapped two fingers to Johnny’s wrist and checked for a pulse. The heartbeat was low and weak and arrhythmic.

“What do we do now?” Caroline asked. “Have you got a plan?”

Thomas stood up and sat back down again.

“Cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar,” Lapu said. “Both have the potential to reduce the effects of arrhythmia.”

She pointed. “Or maybe he has pills in his pocket.”

Lapu nodded. “That is also an option. Check his pockets while I prop up his head.”

“I need another drink,” Thomas said. “I’d rather not be sober if a man is going to die.”

Caroline rolled her eyes. “Don’t be so melodramatic.”

Lapu had watched his father die with a look on his face not that far from the one Johnny wore now: the lost eyes and the still body, with his spirit on the verge of leaving this world for the next. Lapu poked through his pockets in a methodical fashion and found a prescription bottle with a half-peeled label. He popped the top, poked his finger through the slot, and removed two pills. He peeled Johnny’s lips apart, shoved the pills inside his mouth, and forced him to swallow. Minutes later, his life force had altered considerably, and color had returned to Johnny’s cheeks.

Lapu nodded his head. “There’s a purpose to every-thing.”

Thomas leaned over and slapped Johnny on the cheek. “I believe in the possibilities of a situation. Those moments that lead from one into the next, filled with passion and compassion and equality, and some other shit.”

Caroline smirked. “Which is what exactly?”

“Not losing another hand.”

Johnny inched his way to a sitting position and slapped his forehead. “Fuck me—”

“Not likely,” Caroline said. “It neither looks enjoy-able nor promising, but that’s a nice try, though.”

“Your perspective has gotten skewed,” Thomas re-plied.

“That’s certainly possible,” she said, “but I wouldn’t be so sure.”

< <

More hands were played, and more hands were lost. Johnny’s stack of chips diminished faster until he was left with two red ones and half a drink. His even expression had vanished long ago, and his feet had started tap-ping during the last three hands. The Indian had six chips to Johnny’s two, and the rest were distributed between Thomas and Caroline, with the girl staring above a tower nearly level with her chin. Her expression hadn’t changed, and neither had her methodical approach to playing cards.

The barrel of a gun dug into Johnny’s lower back-side after he expunged the last two chips he had to his name. He didn’t have time to move or breathe, and he hadn’t even noticed Thomas shift his weight and remove the pistol from somewhere on his person. But the digging did further enhance Johnny’s focus and destroy his moral support. “Cuff him.”

“What the fuck?” Johnny replied.

“It’s time you realized the full extent of your losing.”

Johnny couldn’t see Caroline’s expression, but her voice was filled with menace and hate and exhibited more force than a battering ram.

“Stand up, you piece of trash.”

The gun shifted, and Johnny rose. The room spun, and he considered passing out all over again, but he pulled himself back and inched his way toward the metal door that was a lifetime away.

The barrel against his back never moved or wavered.

< <

She hated cards. Had hated the act and aggression of gambling most of her life. The thrill of winning and the heartbreak of defeat neither moved nor motivated her. Tossing chips into a pot, calculating the odds in her head, reading players around the table, and playing the hands of the other players instead of playing her own made her head throb from the weight of the proposition. But she did it, over and over again. If she thought about it long enough and hard enough, Caroline might have called herself a professional gambler, but that was a term she hated even more than the act of taking money from unsuspecting souls who had a penchant for losing. But if her two choices were paying the rent, or living on the street, she would choose rent every time and worry about the consequences later.

She couldn’t change her fate, or her odds. All she could do was play the hand she was dealt, match it up against what the other guys and gals had around the table, and study the ticks and idiosyncrasies that made each player unique. Over-confidence and euphoria were concepts she knew well, and she could smell it coming like a New Mexican thunderstorm. Even though she understood what she needed to do, she hated her hands even more than she hated long division. With each passing second, her trepidation grew, and the calm she exuded on the surface was a thunderstorm underneath the shallow exterior. It had gotten to the point that it was totally out of control, and probably would be for the rest of her life. It wasn’t satisfying, or even mesmerizing, and yet here she was week after week, going through the motions. The same types of players sat around the table with the same types of expressions painted on their uneven faces. The voice in her mind echoed in time, and she did her best to keep the whispers at bay. But the plan backfired, just as all good plans did that were built on a foundation of lies.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Caroline asked.

“Trying to win,” Johnny said. “What does it look like I’m doing?”

“Losing,” she said. “And not even admirably. You really are one stupid bastard.”

She had been called to test him, to see if he would break and crumble beneath the weight of a bad hand or two or ten, and he had folded faster than a crumpled handbag smashed against a mugger’s face. She had chipped away steadily at his chips, until two red ones were all he had left, and a tower of multicolored circles stood in front of her.

< <

Johnny had a hand that was planted in his lap by the gods, or maybe it was Julius Caesar himself. He couldn’t remember the number of times he’d lost in a row. Six or maybe it was seven. The torment and punishment continued unabated, and he licked his lips more with each passing second. The hands played out one after another against him, and the gates of Hell had opened before him. The girl to his right was methodical, and the jabs kept on coming, one right after another.

Her hands were probably her best feature. The way her fingers slid across the table, shoving chips and poking at her cards, and prodding the weaknesses of those around her, only made him long for her even more.

But this was it. His moment. And he wasn’t about to let it pass him by. Two minutes later, though, the moment passed, his chips were gone, a gun was shoved against his backside, and he was escorted out of the building.

***

Excerpt from The Fix by Robert Downs. Copyright © 2017 by Robert Downs. Reproduced with permission from Robert Downs. All rights reserved.

Robert Downs

Author Bio:

Robert Downs aspired to be a writer before he realized how difficult the writing process was. Fortunately, he’d already fallen in love with the craft, otherwise his tales might never have seen print. Originally from West Virginia, he has lived in Virginia, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and now resides in California. When he’s not writing, Downs can be found reading, reviewing, blogging, or smiling.

To find out more about his latest projects, or to reach out to him on the Internet, visit: robertdowns.net, Goodreads Page, & Facebook Page!

 

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Robert Downs. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com gift Card. The giveaway begins on March 1 and runs through May 2, 2018.

CLICK HERE for the Rafflecopter giveaway

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About the Book

Title: Seven Threads

Author: Jason Atkinson

Genre: Short Story Collection

Seven Threads is a book of 7 short stories full of twists and turns. A girl on the run, a man accused of murder, a homeless man who finds his way, and much more. While each story is unique, they all offer the same human compassion that is sometimes lacking in today’s world. The reader is sure to find each story a page turner full of emotions, and left wanting more!

 

Author Bio

Jason Atkinson is a 32 year old, married man with one adorable toddler. With Seven Threads being his third book, he certainly enjoys writing and also spending time getting to know new people.

Links

www.alifeofheart.com

Book Excerpts

The Gentle Man

Part 1 – Forgiveness

With a somewhat stern and yet gentle approach in his voice, he suddenly speaks. “Forgiveness won’t change the past—but it will change the future. Your future.”

He looks around the room. “Okay,” he says with a broad grin. “Who wants to go first?”

He scans the room with expectant eyes.

A chair creaks as the man shifts in his seat uncomfortably, both from the metal chair being too harsh and because of the looming topic before him. Toward the back of the room, he hears a cough.

“No one wants to go first?”

The room, even though crowded with people, feels chilling and eerie, as if you are in fact alone with your thoughts. No one makes eye contact with him, since that might have been a sign of indulgence in this new topic.

It is getting late into the evening, and usually at this time the wrap-up begins, ending the night the same way it always ends.

Wandering eyes look toward the coffee pot. A few look toward the windows at the top of the walls. It is snowing outside, gentle but consistent. The lamppost illuminates the flakes as they glide slowly down past the window’s limited view. Even though the view may have looked quaint, it only resonates with the harsh reality of what winter often brings, and also what this group discussion can often bring.

As the second hand on the clock ticks away, the leader of the group rises to his feet. Everyone watches.

“I think that will be all for tonight,” he says with a meager smile.

Reluctantly, and of course thankfully, sighs of relief fill the room. Chairs scrape the floor without a care while people mingle amongst themselves and eventually disperse into the cool night air.

Left alone to clean up, the man who had brought them all together mutters to himself,

“Will my words ever get through?”

Walking away, he heads toward the door, turning around one last time to check that the room is clear.

There is no smile this time—only the face of a tired man who just wants to make one ounce of difference.

The lights go out, and he goes out the door, up the steps, and onto the street above. The door slowly closes, the last noise being the latch of the lock clicking into place. The room once again becomes dark, all except for that glimmer of light from the windows at the top of the wall.

 

About the Book

Title: Fallen Star Dust

Author: Morgan Straughan Comnick

Genre: Collection (Poetry, Short Stories, and more)

When I reached the point where adult life began to make its presence known right after high school graduation, I looked to the sky. I hoped to see a shooting star that would light my way and I wished that it would leave a trail of star dust behind to remind myself to stay young at heart. Thanks to writing, the enchantment of youth has never left me. In the next chapter of my life, I began college to follow my dream of being an educator. I developed my career, found out who I was an independent being, stopped hiding my passions, figured out my role in my lifelong relationship with my now-husband, and realized that it was okay to question the world. There was darkness that needed to be seen as well as the light. The poems, short stories, scripts, essays, and other works in this second collection are my everything: the shoulders I cried on, my joys, my bravery when the road became too twisty or too safe. It led me to a waterfall of creativity. That fallen star dust gave me the drive to become who I am today: a teacher, an author, a nerd, and a person of morals, love, and magic.

 

Author Bio

Educator of young minds by day, super nerdy savior of justice and cute things by night, Morgan Straughan Comnick has a love for turning the normal into something special without losing its essence. Morgan draws from real life experiences and her ongoing imagination to spark her writing. In her spare time, she enjoys doing goofy voices, traveling to new worlds by turning pages, humming child-like songs, and forcing people to smile with her “bubbliness.” It is Morgan’s mission in life to spread the amazement of otaku/Japanese culture to the world and to stop bullying; she knows everyone shines brightly.

For more information about Morgan and her works, check out her website, which also have links to all her social medias: http://morganscomnick.com.

 

Links

Website: http://morganscomnick.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Morgan-Straughan-Comnick-167241833430209/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MorganSComnick

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7510773.Morgan_Straughan_Comnick

Youtube: channel

Amazon sales page


Excerpt

To Bear a War (Summer 2014)

It is April and by now, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, so bright, so vibrant they glow in the night like pink fireflies.  Their fragrance fills the air, stirs your soul, clings to your clothes as the petals dance in your hair.  But, you do not mind for they put a spring in your step.

Oh, how I miss the cherry blossoms of my home!

All I smell is decay and dried blood, mud and illness, rot and uncleanness, smoke and death.

All I hear are barks in my tongue and in ones foreign to me, screams of pain, whimpers of fear, gun fire…yes, tons of gun fire; my ears are not trained to know anything else.

All I see is a desolate wasteland, dust and smoke clinging to the Earth like death’s shadow, mounds and mounds of hills that I used to think of as brothers.

Oh, how I miss the cherry blossoms of my home!

I should be in college, studying landscaping like I dreamed of since youth.  I should be eating a home cooked meal with mother as father reads his newspaper carefully, smoking his pipe.  I should be able to watch my sister grow up, to see if she is becoming a young lady or is still an annoying, childish brat.  I should be with…

BANG! A shock ran through my body, zapping my blood.  My teeth chattered uncontrollably and my ears rang like the bells of a shrine during the New Year’s season.  My body reloaded my gun by instinct as I crept through the dirt, mud hugging me like a second skin.  I became primal, animalistic, but as our general told us: ‘We were in war; survival, victory, and dying with honor if it came to that was our only focus…’

I shot my gun, saying the key words in my head like a mantra: Survival…Bang! Victory…Bang! Honor…BANG!  The world popped around as I heard something I was not used to; silence, China sighing from the weight we had put on her.  The battle was over.

I gasped, not positioning my gun down for a second.  When you get into a survival state, it is hard to wind down from it, relax, become a man again…Am I still a man?  I kill, I kill for honor, but, it is still a death…So, am I still…a man when society had barely considered me one?  When I, at nineteen, have not considered me one?

I felt a hand on my shoulder and flinched.  It was Hisao, my buck mate.  He gave me a tight smile of understanding, soot smeared across his cheek, his helmet catty-cornered.  I hopped down from my spot and followed him as he jabbed his thumb hard towards our camp.  His grin became one of joy.  I knew what that meant.

It was time for food.

We unpacked our gear in our bunks, boots sloshing like it was the rainy season, which I suppose back home, it was near.  As I walked slowly to my assigned area all the way towards the back of the base, something on my bed caught my eye.  It was a box.  I walked a little faster, then it became a light jog until I was sliding all over the place, trying to get my footing.  Good thing none of the generals saw that! I shook thinking of a punishment they would give me.

Hisao came to my side, gawking at the package as well as if it was a woman randomly laying on my bed, which, in his mind, was probably what he was wishing for.  He had such a dirty mind! His commentary while we played cards made me squirm!

He was drying his short hair with a towel and he gave me a sly grin, like a fox demon catching one of his subjects stealing from a human, “Oh oh! What’s this?!  Takeshi got a package?  I wonder who it is from? Your osake?  A lover?  You stud!”

I examined the package carefully like it was a precious newborn infant, but there was no indication of where it came from; it simply had my name on it along with my division’s number. So, this person knew I was in China, at this base, but how?  I was shocked we could even get more than a simple letter out here. We were in the middle of a war, for Budda’s sake!

Hisao clicked his teeth together and looked at me deviously, giving my back a hard, but playful smack that bounced off the walls.  I grunted, still holding the package for dear life.  I bared my teeth at him and he chuckled, his eyes shining with sheer wonder and happiness for me.

“Go ahead and open your package there buddy; might be something I do not want to see. If you get any nice pictures from any lovely ladies, however, you ARE sharing?  Does that sound fair?”

I opened my mouth to respond, but before a sound escaped from my lips, Hisao slapped the back of my head and walked off, waving his hand flippantly in the air, repeating “You promised” in a cocky voice.

I ignored his usual, but comforting weirdness and sat down on my bunk, package sitting on my lap. With the utmost care, I took out my pocket knife and let the tape that bound it fall to the floor like ribbons of cascading water in a waterfall.  I lifted the lid with ease, my eyes half shut from fear and half closed for wanting to make this moment last longer.

The mystery was revealed as I moved the flaps of the lid and my mind was absorbed at what was inside: it was a teddy bear.

I picked him up with care, feeling his soft fake fur.  I could tell he was handmade for there was some unevenness in the stitching, but it was secure, tight, and made very well.  His light brown color was warm and inviting and his eyes had a twinkle to them.  He had a little, endearing smile sewed on to his charming face.  I felt bad that he had to smile for all eternity, but I suppose if I was forced to feel one emotion forever, that would be the one I would pick.

He even had a different shade of brown and material to make the paws and feet!  I could sit him down easily and he stayed how I posed him.  Someone took a lot of time and attention to make this…was it really for me?  To top it all off, the bear had a pink ribbon tied aound his neck.  That pink…it reminded me of something, but my mind was fuzzy, ticking me …

Images of a moon-filled night, the breeze dancing around my body, embedding messages into my hair as someone stood beside me, someone who smiled brighter than the moon, their hair smelling like it was bursting with flowers from every land.  The sky was as dark as pitch, but every time I blinked, I saw neon shapes of pink that made everything look magical, like I could believe in miracles and that impossible things could come true, that dreams were not wishes, but pathways for ourselves that had not yet been paved…

I blinked, my head beginning to throb.  I looked at the little bear again and gave his head a pat.  I would give him a home and protect him.  He would give me something to come back to, something I could see every day.

I was about to place him back in the box for now and under my bed when a small piece of white paper became visible.  It clung to the bottom of the box.  I peeled it off and opened it.  I was a note, written in Japanese, and addressed to me.  So, the bear was truly for me! Someone had made it for me!

Excitement coursed through my veins, volts of excitement crackling the air around me.  With an eagerness I was not aware existed in me.  I read the message:

“Takeshi, let us look at the cherry blossoms…”

That was all it said.  I scanned the page left and right, up and down, close and far, but saw no signature.  The box also did not have a name or location on it.  Eh?  Who could have made me this bear, this little bear who filled me with such a numerous amount of emotion that I almost forgot where I was at?  And what was with this message?  I had just been thinking about the cherry blossoms.

The bell sounded for us to go get our dinner, but as I reluctantly closed the box with the bear and letter inside, I noticed one more clue to this mystery: a date.

The letter and package were both sent to me on February 14th.

***

“Nani?!  What?! The package was sent to you on February 14th?  You, my good sir, have a lover.” Hisao’s expressions were all over the place and after he flung his spoon out of his hand, he leaned back in his chair all too casually, rocking back and forth on two legs with his arms crossed behind his head.  A man whose voice could drown out a fighter plane and then go act like all of this was no big deal, like I was a lonely priest to his godliness, irked me.

“Hamlet” Script Rewrite:

Morgan (as Hamlet): “Man, nothing seems to be going good for me lately.  I mean, I’m still so heartbroken that my father was murdered and here, nearly a month later, my uncle, my father’s creepy brother, becomes the new king of Denmark.  Not only that, but my mother, my worry wart MOTHER, married my uncle a month after her husband was killed!  I don’t think everything is right. I don’t trust my uncle; he’s too moody.  And I just don’t understand my mother. Did she marry my uncle for love, for power, for…other stuff that makes me sick to think about?!” (Throwing up noise and shakes).  “Note to self, NEVER imagine your uncle like that!  Maybe I just don’t get women…Maybe that’s not a bad thing…” (Smacks head).  “Oh, and on top of all this, some stupid Norwegians are trying to invade too! AHHHHHHHH! I suppose it could be worse; I could be reading a play for a high school class.  But, I’m sad.” (Gives puppy pout) “MAN!  I need a drink.  OH!  F.Y.I. guys, I’m not promoting drinking or anything, but…yeah, you guys all took D.A.R.E.”

Krystil: (Reading from script) “So, poor Hamlet was basically depressed about his deceased father.  Now, when the story takes place, two men run in fright, seeing a ghost, which they believe is the dead king.  They tell Horatio, Hamlet’s best friend, who tells him the news.  Horatio also sees the ghost king and runs to find Hamlet, who is still whimpering like a puppy dog.”

Horatio (student):  (calling) “Hamlet!  Hamlet! Where are you dude?”

Morgan (as Hamlet): (muffled) “Below you, get off my face bro!”

Horatio (student):  (steps off) “What in the world are you doing?”

Morgan (as Hamlet): “I tried to jump over the table last night, but I didn’t make it and so I took a nap.  What do you want?  Oh! Secret handshake!”

Horatio (student):  “That was weak…anyway!  You need to follow me; I saw your father last night…”

Morgan (as Hamlet): (stands up): “Say what?!  You’re pulling my leg.  My father is…he’s…”

Horatio (student):  (pats shoulder compassionately) “Let it out buddy…”

Morgan (as Hamlet): (cries) “He’s swimming with the earthworms man…”

Horatio (student): (rolls eyes) “Anyway, I really saw him!  In front of the watch tower.  He was all, see through and ghost like.”

Morgan (as Hamlet): (yawns).  “Dude, isn’t that something Scooby Doo should handle?”

Horatio (student):  “I think he wants to talk to you…”

Morgan (as Hamlet): “Well…I do miss my father and Project Runway isn’t on tonight…Okay.”

Krystil: “Hamlet and Horatio wanted front row seats to the event so they waited all night in the bitter cold.  They were about to give up when the ghost came and spoke to them.  It was indeed, King Hamlet, Hamlet’s dead father as a spirit.”

Ghost King (student): “Hamlet, my son…”

Horatio (student):  “AHHHHH!!! Run away before he remembers I owe him $5!”

Morgan (as Hamlet): “Shut up!  Father, it is good to…see through you.  Please, what do you want from me?”

Ghost King (student): “Hamlet, I must tell you the truth…Claudius, your uncle and my horrible brother, murdered me by pouring poison in my ears. He has always wanted my beautiful Gertrude and my beloved Denmark. I demand from you a great task: avenge me!”

Morgan (as Hamlet):  “I’m not sure I have the time, I mean, prom’s coming up and…”

Ghost King (student): “Hamlet!  I’ll haunt you boy!  Look inside yourself; what is right…”

Morgan (as Hamlet): (deeply sighs, thinking) “Avenging you father.  I agree and will make it my mission, even if it makes me breathless!”

(The ghost vanishes after this, saying “weee!”)

Horatio (student):  “Man, that was flippin’ nuts!”

Morgan (as Hamlet): “I have a great task.  I’m not sure if the ghost can be trusted, but I will study hard.  I will pretend to be insaner than Mr. Young in order for others to leave me alone.”

Horatio (student):  “You can hide in the library; nothing important is in there.”

Morgan (as Hamlet): “Excellent idea!  And how true.  Now…I’m off!” (flips a pretend cape and glides off to the side)