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Crossing Over

Crossing Over

This was written for Kinsman’s Quarterly Iridescence Award. The prompt was paranormal. This was selected for the semi-finals. Unfortunately, due to a mix-up in Submittable, it didn’t advance.

There was a man on the bus that I couldn’t take my eyes off. He kept shaking and whispering to himself. He was scratching all over. Every time he looked my way, I turned around but my eyes would drift back to his strange ways. I tried asking Mommy about it but she told me, “Mind ya business”.

She hunched over a book, playing with a strand of one of her long braids. Sometimes she would play with the ring Daddy had given her. She said she had to study for a test. I didn’t know what that meant.

I tried to entertain myself by looking around at other people. There was a woman near the front who kept coughing. Another man was sitting in the back. When I turned around, his eyes were locked on me. It scared me so I snatched my eyes away. I peeked back again and the man was looking out the window. He was wearing a black shirt with no sleeves. There was a white skull on it that I thought was kind of cool. But looking at people was getting boring.

I started kicking the chair in front of me but mommy told me to knock it off. Faced with no other options, I went back to staring at the weird man. He was shaking and beating his head now.

“Do you want to help me study?” Mommy asked. I perked up as she spread the book out in my lap. There were animals on the pages. A lot of words too but I didn’t know what they said. They weren’t like the books Mommy and Daddy read to me. Those were fun and had big letters. I pointed to the animals I didn’t recognize and Mommy told me what their names were and how their bodies worked.

“I’m going to take care of animals one day,” Mommy said. My eyes got wide in excitement. I asked if I could help her. She smiled and said, “Of course you can.”

A voice rang out, saying the next stop was Birchwood Community College. I knew what that meant. I got excited and jumped out of my seat, running to the front. Mommy shoved the book back in her backpack and followed me. The first person who walked on had long dreads and was wearing a red jacket. He gave me a big smile and picked me up.

“My little man!” Daddy said, holding me as he showed the bus driver his student ID. Mommy kissed his cheek then mine, telling us she’ll see us later. She told Daddy to actually cook today. Eating out wasn’t allowed.

“Of course baby! We ain’t eating McDonald’s again.” Daddy said, sounding serious but giving me a wink. I winked back. Mommy rolled her eyes but she was smiling. She waved as the bus doors closed. Daddy and I sat down. The man with the skull shirt rushed to the front of the bus, stopping the driver. He said he wasn’t paying attention and almost missed his stop. The driver opened the door and the man stepped off the bus.

I told Daddy about the animals in Mommy’s book and about daycare. I asked why the weird man was acting like that. Daddy told me it was because aliens put weird stuff in his nose. I decided I didn’t trust aliens anymore.

Before long, a voice announced Lee Street. I jumped up and ran towards the front. McDonald’s was on the corner. I ordered the same thing I always did. Chicken nuggets with a slice of cheese on top. Daddy didn’t order anything and paid with some change he dug out of his pockets. I wanted the orange pop but he told me mommy would kill him if I didn’t have something healthy today. So I had to drink water. It felt weird to eat by myself so I gave Daddy one of my chicken nuggets. But only one. 

On the way home, we stopped by the park across the street. I met some kids there. We’re new to the neighborhood so I hadn’t made friends yet. I like this place better. The people weren’t as scary and we didn’t hear loud popping sounds as often. Some kids were playing hide and seek and they let me join. I had climbed a tree to hide, when I saw a guy in a white skull shirt standing by the swings. He was staring at Daddy who had sat on a bench, reading a book. The man looked up as if he had felt my gaze. He turned around and walked away. Then someone grabbed and pulled my leg. Stupid man got me caught.

We had started another round when Daddy told me it was time to go home. I said goodbye to my new friends. We crossed the parking lot to our building. There wasn’t as much trash around as our last building had. The only thing out of place here was an apartment with a broken window. Someone had shoved a basketball into the space.

After we walked the three flights of stairs to get home, Daddy made salad. One for him and one for Mommy. I stood in front of the balcony door, watching for the bus. It came when the clock had a seven on it. My parents had taught me that. And other things too. Like how to spell my name and their names. All the colors. How to count to one hundred. They said I needed to be prepared for school even though I couldn’t go for another year.

A bus came and I saw a short woman with red and blonde braids walk off. I hopped up and down, yelling “Mommy’s home!” Daddy chuckled and grabbed my hand. We went downstairs to meet her at the door. She gave me a big hug, telling me she missed me.

As we were closing the building door to head back upstairs, a man rushed in before it closed. He said he had forgotten his key and thanked us for letting him in. I recognized his shirt immediately. I had a score to settle.

“You got me caught,” I told him. The man whipped around, staring down at me. He had on sunglasses this time so I couldn’t see his eyes. My parents looked between me and the man.

“You know this guy?” My dad asked.

“Naw, naw, man.” The stranger said, “He, uh, I, we just saw each other at the park.” He snapped around and hurried down the hall before I could say anything else.

“Didn’t I tell you to mind ya business?” Mommy chided, but she said it with a smile, running her fingers through my stubby dreads. I couldn’t wait until they were as long as Daddy’s.

“He made me lose at hide and seek.” I said, “This is very serious.” My parents chuckled and we went back home. I heard some loud music in the hallway but it wasn’t as noisy as our last place.

When we reached our door, I thought I felt someone’s eyes on me. But when I looked back I saw no one down the halls. It didn’t matter. It was bathtime and after that, my parents let me watch cartoons while they read their books. They read a lot. They told me it was important to do well in school.

It took about an hour, but my eyes started to droop. I hated when that happened, it meant I would have to go to bed soon. I sat up straight and held my eyes open, hoping my parents wouldn’t notice my hands. But when I heard Mommy laugh, I knew it was over.

“Someone is tired,” Mommy said.

I shook my head. “Not me!”

“Yes, you,” Mommy said, walking over to the small bookcase against the wall. It was shaped like a tiger, my favorite animal. “What do you want to read?”

“Sherlock Paws!” I yelled. Mommy smiled and grabbed the book. “Daddy, are you reading too?”

Daddy smiled, but I think I heard him sigh too. “Of course, I’m reading too. Don’t want to miss out on reading Sherlock Paws for the hundredth time.”

“And we’ll read it a hundred more,” Mommy said, giving Daddy a look.

“Yep, maybe even a thousand times more,” Daddy said, joining us on the couch.

Just as Daddy sat down, a loud bang made us jump. It reminded me of our old neighborhood but it was closer than usual. I tried to see over the couch but mommy gasped and pulled me close. At once, Daddy wasn’t smiling anymore. I had never seen him look so mad. He stood up and shouted. I didn’t know what was going on. The man kept asking for a payload and Daddy kept telling him he didn’t know what he was talking about and to get out.

The man moved closer and I could finally see him. He had a skull on his shirt and a gun in his hands, pointing it toward Daddy. I couldn’t see his face because he was wearing a mask. Mommy asked him to please leave us alone. We didn’t know him or what he was talking about.

Another loud noise. Then Daddy fell. Mommy screamed and I heard Daddy yelling, “Run!” Mommy stood, with me in her arms. I reached out to Daddy. He was trying to get to his feet and I didn’t know why we were leaving him behind.

But Mommy only made a few steps before I heard another loud noise and Mommy screamed again. Then I felt pain and started crying. The man went through the apartment, throwing our things on the floor. Then he yelled a bad word and ran out of the room.

Daddy called out to us but Mommy didn’t say anything. She held me close, her breathing was heavy and sharp. I was still crying because my side hurt and I was scared. I didn’t know if the man would come back and hurt us again. Daddy crawled around the couch and wrapped his arms around us.

I asked Daddy why the man hurt us. He said he didn’t know. He told me everything would be alright. The police would come and help us. I told Mommy that my side hurt and she started crying.

“Remember what we do after we read, baby?” Mommy asked.

“We pray,” I said.

“That’s right.” She said. “Lord, please don’t let anything happen to my baby. Take care of him. Don’t let him die.” Daddy started crying and he kissed my hair. He never cried.

We were there for a long time. The numbers on the clock kept getting bigger then they got smaller again. We didn’t hear any sirens. No one came to the door. I asked my parents why no one was coming and they told me to keep praying. A miracle would happen.

After a while, my side stopped hurting. My chest felt funny, though. My body felt heavy. My parents were still holding me tight but they weren’t talking anymore. If I tried to ask them something, they would make a small sound. But I didn’t know what they were saying.

I heard other sounds though. They started low at first and I could ignore it. But then it got more noticeable. It sounded like a scream. A hushed scream that echoed but never ended. I twisted my head around and saw a person at our door.

I gasped. The look of the person scared me. They didn’t have flesh like a normal person, or a firm shape. They glowed and shimmered. They had a face but I could barely see it. I think they were the person that was screaming but they didn’t look scared or in trouble.

Then Daddy said, “No!” I snapped my eyes to him, saying, “Daddy!” I hadn’t heard him speak for so long I was scared something bad had happened to him. But he didn’t speak to me. He was talking to himself.

“No, I’m not leaving my son. And he ain’t dying.” Daddy said. He tightened his grip around me.

But his body didn’t move. He stayed slumped over, leaning against Mommy. When he spoke, his lips didn’t move. His eyes were open and still.

“Nita, baby, come on. I’m not losing you either.” Daddy said. He reached over and grabbed her hand. When he moved, his arm glowed like the person in the doorway. But he wasn’t shapeless like they were. He had a form. I could see his face.

Mommy grabbed his hand and sat up. But her body stayed where it was.

“Mommy?” I said, confused and scared. She reached out to me then noticed her hand and looked down at herself.

“Yefet, are we dead?” She asked Daddy.

“I don’t know.” Daddy said, “We need to get him to the hospital.” He reached out to me then hesitated and pulled back, as if he were afraid. Then he reached out again and touched me. He sighed in relief. I looked down at my hands but they looked normal. My body moved. Even if I felt sluggish.

My parents looked up at the person in the doorway. Daddy asked her if she saw someone coming and the form nodded. If they were speaking, I couldn’t hear them.

Someone gasped from the hallway. They rounded the corner and jumped back, covering their mouth with their hands. Their eyes scanned the scene but before I could speak they bolted down the hall. The figure in the doorway moved closer to my parents. I think they were talking to each other.

I heard footsteps coming from down the hall and someone else looked in. This time I spoke as soon as I saw them, asking them to help. The woman told me her husband was calling the police. She came in and knelt near me, telling me she would stay until the police came. I told her my parents were there. She covered her mouth, saying, “You poor, poor thing.”

My parents told me they didn’t think other people could see them but it was okay. Help was coming now and we would be alright.

A Future After All

A Future After All

This was written for a prompt by the Midwest Writing Center. The prompt was radical hospitality with a 500 word limit.

Seven years gone. Not in a flash, that would have been a blessing. The years had lingered and festered. Started when she was twenty-three. Now she is thirty. Her twenties had slipped through her grasp like she was trying to grip water.

Vanessa sat in her cell. Hands wringing. Foot tapping. She was impatient. This day had been the only thing that had kept her going. But freedom wasn’t what she was thinking about. Only one thing was on her mind.


Why had she done something so stupid? Why risk her entire future for a few bucks? She knew why. Desperation. That’s what put most of these women in this horrendous, life-draining dump.

What could she do now? Vanessa wanted to feel hopeful for her future. But she didn’t have one anymore. Eight years ago, she graduated thinking a bright future was ahead of her. In under a year, her life was burned down and she had no one to blame but herself.

What now?

A terse voice called her name. Vanessa looked up, seeing the guard. For all her moping, she quickly jumped to her feet, grabbing her few belongings before bolting through the open bars.

Outside, the breeze of freedom brushed against her face. She couldn’t do anything but stand there, finally realizing. She had survived! The suffering was over.

A figure rushing across the parking lot caught her attention. She didn’t recognize the teenager at first. He had been a boy when she went in.

“Brian!” She screamed, running towards him.

“Aunt Van!” He yelled, embracing her. “I’ve missed you!”

“I missed you too buddy! Look at how tall you’ve grown!” Vanessa said, holding him tightly. Her eyes stung with tears of joy. She was embraced by two others. Cathy and Damien. She had missed them so much.

“We prepared the barn for you,” Cathy said when they were in the car, her head twisting around the seat to look at Vanessa in the back. Brian was sitting beside her.

Vanessa made a face, “You’re sticking me with the cows.”

Damien laughed, “They’re in the new barn. We fixed up the old barn for you. Made an apartment upstairs.” A weight lifted off Vanessa’s shoulders. It was almost impossible for an ex-con to find a place.

“Thank you guys!” Vanessa said.

“That’s not all. Remember Julie?” Cathy asked, “She owns that bridal shop downtown. I talked to her. When you’re ready, she has a job for you. You can use my car to get into town.” Vanessa was speechless. She didn’t know if she deserved this kindness. Not after messing up her life so horribly.

“I don’t know what to say.” Vanessa said, “I don’t know what I would do without you.” Words couldn’t express her gratitude.

“When we had no one else, we had you.” Damien said, “Don’t worry. We got you.”

Brian leaned over and gave her another hug. Vanessa was full of joy. She did have a future after all.

Corporate Collision

Corporate Collision

Bob had that look on his face again. His nose crinkled in a distinct expression of disgust. Disgusted with himself, perhaps. Or more accurately, disgusted with me.

“Carol, the printer is out of paper again,” Bob said. His voice was quiet, but his anger was as clear as the coming storm.

I watched from across the room, one eye peeking from behind my computer. Prepared to snatch it towards the screen should he feel my nosy gaze and look my way. Carol, his secretary, and his wife, never uttered a word. She continued tapping away on the keyboard as if he hadn’t spoken.

Yep. This spat was definitely not about the printer.

Maybe it had something to do with that email Bob sent me. The latest of many, actually. The one asking me to go with him to dinner, yet again, and after dinner we could visit a nice hotel. There was also that last sentence. The one implying that the status of my employment relied on the response.

I decided to not respond at all.

Instead, I went back to work. Checked the rest of my messages, and forwarded some important ones to my coworkers. One of them was Carol. I added Janice’s email, the head of HR. It wasn’t until I pressed send that I realized I had forwarded the wrong email. Instead of the quarterly production reports, I sent the invitation to a job-dependent dinner date Bob had sent. Silly me. I make the clumsiest mistakes.

At least that’s what I told Bob when he called me into his office fifteen minutes later. He had the same look that he was wearing now. Eyes squinted. Face red. Nose crinkled. Lips tensed in a snarl.

Bob leaned down on the table on his knuckles, his voice raised this time. “Carol!”

The woman in question swirled in the chair so violently that I thought she would fall out of her seat. She shrieked, “What do you want from me, Robert!”

I stood, evidence in hand. HR had scheduled an appointment with me, and if I waited too long, I’d be late. Down the hall, I could hear the sounds of her shouting. Being too far away, I couldn’t understand what was being said, even if I strained to hear. Although Bob deserved this, I hated to be the cause of a lover’s quarrel.

The walk to HR felt longer than it was. I was swerving between guilt and triumph. Was it worth it? I could become the reason Bob loses everything. Then again, I didn’t do anything wrong, did I? I stood up for myself. He wrote those emails. Even after I told him, ‘No,’ and, ‘Stop trying.”’

In the meeting, I gave Janice every inappropriate email Bob sent me. I answered questions and told her my side of the story. I was told there would be an investigation, as was fair.

Upon returning to my seat, I couldn’t help but notice that Bob was gone. He wasn’t even in his office. A small crowd surrounded Carol’s desk. There were shoulder pats, tissues handed, and words of comfort whispered.

Carol looked up as I entered the room. The scowls sent my way threw me off guard. I could understand it from Carol, I suppose. Bob was her husband, and I was interfering with their lives something awful.

But the crowd gathered around her was also scowling at me. I couldn’t believe it.

Assuming that they hadn’t heard the whole story, I returned to my desk, waiting for the office gossip to bark up my tree. Just as expected, after the crowd dispersed from Carol’s desk, Richard sauntered over.

“Hi, Rebecca. Heard you got into some trouble?” Richard said. That was the one and only thing I liked about the guy. He always got straight to the point.

Annoyance crept up and almost leaped from my mouth in the form of a, ‘Are you freakin’ kidding me?!’ But my calm prevailed. I struggled for words to say. HR had asked me not to discuss the matter with anyone. Unless someone else was at risk of harassment or assault.

“Well…” I hesitated, “Well, someone sent me numerous emails asking for something inappropriate and implied that could lose my job should I decline the request.”

Richard’s frowned, the worry lines making him look older than he was, “Oh.” He said . He seemed genuinely surprised.


“I just…heard something different.” He said. “Thought you were the one sending inappropriate emails.”

I snorted, “No, I have all the emails to prove it.”

“Wow,” Richard said. “Sorry about that, Becca.”

I shook my head, “No need for you to be sorry. You didn’t send the emails.”

We small-talked for a bit before he walked away. His gait was more determined now that he had fresh gossip. An hour passed, and the harsh looks I had been getting softened .

A weird Monday, sure. A terrible start to the week. But nothing compared to the week after. HR requested a visit and I went enthusiastically, assuming it had something to do with my harassment case.

It did alright. Janice informed me the investigation was over, and no evidence of Mister Robert Dawson harassing me was found. To top it off, oh so beautifully, I was being let go for discussing the details of the harassment case.

I stared at Janice as if she was mentioning the weather, too shocked to feel anything, any emotion. It was like my soul had to step away from my body to process the news. To her credit, Janice gave me the time I needed. She even had the decency to look guilty.

After many moments of my casual gaze, she broke.

“Look, I know it’s unfair,” she said in a hushed tone. “But Mister Dawson has friends in high places. But don’t worry. When you’re looking for a new job, I’ll give you an excellent reference.”

“Oh, wonderful!” I exclaimed. I was aiming for genuine, but it came out as sarcastic as I felt. All Janice did was cringe. I thought I had more to say, but maybe my soul was still taking a walk. Or perhaps I realized it wasn’t entirely her fault. Bob did have friends in high places, and she was being toyed with as I had been.

Standing with as much dignity as I could muster, I said, “Well, I suppose I better gather my things.”

A sheepish look settled on Janice’s round, aged face. “We took the liberty of cleaning your desk. Your things are in the corner.” She said as she slid the letter of termination across the table.

My soul tapped me on the shoulder, informing me that anger was starting to bubble up. But, being overcome with the indignity of it all, I kept that anger in check. At least for now. There was no way I was going to grab my things and shamefully shuffle out of this building.

I turned around and gave the boxes in the corner a cursory look over. “Oh, I don’t see my…um, stuffed bunny. My grandmother gave it to me, so it means something.” My voice trailed off towards the end of the lie as I was already heading out of the room.

I sped down the hall, ignoring Janice calling my name. Entering the work area, I saw Bob standing at the door to his office. A charming smile, and a sly wink, as he chatted up a woman I didn’t recognize. She was probably my replacement.

Bob had been out of the office during the week of investigation. Seeing his face again, especially so chipper and unharmed, made the anger in me froth and simmer.

When Bob saw me thundering into the room, his smile dropped. My ex-coworkers went silent when they saw me. They concentrated on their screens, pretending to work. I didn’t even know what I wanted to say. I stood there, glaring at his ugly face.

Bob seemed startled, but then he smiled again. Victorious. “I see you’ve heard. Goodbye, Rebecca.”

That bastard.

I guess my soul decided to rejoin my body at that exact moment. I don’t remember grabbing the flower pot that was on the end table beside me. But when I saw it hurling through the air, I knew I had thrown it.

If Bob had moved a fraction slower, it would have hit him. Somewhere deep in my soul, I was grateful it hadn’t. I would have been facing charges if it had. For now, when the ceramic pot crashed and shattered against the wall, pieces falling to the floor, I was enraged at my lousy aim.

The crowd stopped pretending to work. They stood at their desk, gasping and whispering surprise. My replacement had jumped back and kept backing away as if she thought I was there for her.

“Fuck you!” I yelled. I don’t know if I was yelling at Bob or everyone in the room. I turned to leave, shoving Janice out of my way as I walked down the hall.

I could probably kiss that “excellent reference” goodbye, but it didn’t matter. This wasn’t over. Armed with the emails Bob had sent me, the letter of termination, and the constitutional right to inform the press, I was ready for battle.

They had declared war. But I was going to win it.

Beneath the Yellow Street Light

Beneath the Yellow Street Light

Kathy pressed end on her black flip phone. She was too young to have something so old but her paycheck dictated such things. Her call had gone unanswered, as always. She couldn’t blame Sean for not answering. He had twenty-five years’ worth of reasons to ignore her.

Didn’t mean she had to like it. She never knew if the boy was dead or alive and contrary to his beliefs, it did matter to her despite barely seeing the kid since he was four. She had been very young back when she had Sean. It was a tired excuse but very true. Back then she thought raising a child interrupted what she really wanted to do. Which, apparently, had been chasing the approval from a friend no older than her and significantly less wise.

By the time she figured out being a good mother was a better use of her time, Sean had decided he didn’t want that anymore.

She used to blame her friend for that but had long come to accept that she made her own pisspoor decisions and now she was living with the consequences. At least, every now and then she could huff a sad sigh of laughter when she thought about some of her adventures.

Kathy sighed as she lifted a chubby hand to her face, taking a puff of her cigarette. Her other hand was in her pocket, clenching her phone. She wished something, anything would happen tonight. A high-speed police chase, misbehaving teens disturbing the peace, hell, she’d take watching a cat toying with a mouse. Just anything to concentrate on other than her failures.

But nothing ever happened in Glenville. Wasn’t enough people around for it.

It was dark tonight. A thick blanket of black lying over the two blocks that made a sorry attempt of a downtown area.

There was a single street light and she stood under it.

The county bus was late, as it was every night. For some reason, she could never get out of the habit of coming early anyway.

She heard the crunches of shoes meeting dirt on the ground behind her and she jerked around, tensing. When she wished something would happen, she didn’t mean for it to happen to her.

A young man stepped into the sharp yellow glow of the street light. His clothes were too big and he wore a torn and ripped backpack.

His face had the foxlike features that should have been worn smugly but with the way he wore a slight frown, brow furrowed, his shoulders sagging, the boy just looked defeated. He was too young for that.

“This the bus stop?” He asked, his speech was fast with a lilt she didn’t recognize. Definitely wasn’t Midwestern. Maybe a New Yorker but why would a New Yorker be in the middle of backwoods Iowa.

“Yeah,” She drawled slowly, a bit caught off guard. She had never seen this man in her life and she’s seen everyone in Glenville. One of the perks of being the only bartender in town.

He nodded and leaned against the light pole. Maybe going for suave but landed on timid.

“Who the hell are you?” She asked, then winced when he gave her a surprised look. She had been working on this mystical thing called “couth” but so far it had escaped her. “I just meant you’re new around here. And we don’t get new people.”

“I’m Jacob.” He said.

“Huh,” Kathy said, taking another puff of her cigarette, “How’d you end up here?”

“I was born here.” He said simply, averting his eyes to look down the street at absolutely nothing, wasn’t anything to look at but horrifying darkness. “My mom is from here.”

“Really?” Kathy said. ”Who is she? I know everyone in Glenville.”


“Clarice?” Kathy repeated. “What’s the last name?”


“Doesn’t ring a bell.” She said, abandoning her cigarette butt on the ground then lighting a new one in its place. “Hard to find someone I don’t know around here.”

For some reason, this caught his attention. Kathy could tell by the way he turned to face her, eyes a little raised.

“She had a rough life here.” He said, “She had me when she was young and got involved with a lot of drugs. But once she left everything got better for her. Went to college even. Graduated, too.”

“Really?” Kathy said. It sounded flippant but she was sincere. It always did her good to hear that someone escaped this hellhole and survived. It happened too rarely. “Can’t believe I don’t remember her. She older than me?”

“No, I think she’s probably younger than you.” He said. “She’s forty.”

Kathy narrowed her eyes at him, “So am I.”

Jacob’s “oh” was bashful.

“What’s she doing now?” Kathy said, saving the kid from his own awkwardness.

He perked right up, “She studied English and Business in school and owns a fashion company now.”

“Oh, that’s really nice!” Kathy said.

Jacob nodded enthusiastically, “She doesn’t make the fashion, she just runs the place. She married my dad out of college. He’s a real estate agent. They’ve been married for about twenty years.”

He went on and on and she listened intently. His dad ran a real estate agency. They owned several houses themselves and several cars. They took multiple vacations every year. He was an only child and was the apple of both of his parent’s eyes. They were going to send him to college soon, but they let him take some time off. He got accepted into Yale and Harvard and was deciding which college he wanted to go to.

Jacob was a strange little bastard, a weird clash of demeanor. He seemed weary and jaded yet fresh and optimistic all at once. Like an animal that was molting.

When she saw lights far off in the distance she interrupted him. No one liked a bragger, and she most definitely wasn’t becoming jealous. Nope, not this old bird. Matter of fact, Kathy thought she had been very generous for letting him make her feel like a failure for the past ten minutes.

He wasn’t trying to, she supposed. But Jacob’s parents had done so well and she was, admittedly, ashamed she had done so little. She should have left Glenville. Went to college. Made something of her life. Been somebody.

Then maybe her son would be answering her calls.

“But what are you doing here?” She asked when she could finally sneak a word in.

“I wanted to see where my parents came from,” Jacob said.

“Your father from here, too?” Kathy asked. Jacob nodded. She thought about it, determined to figure out the people who made this boy. She knew everyone in Glenville. There was one Jensen family in town. None of them attached to a Clarice that she knew of. Unless…

“What’s your mother’s maiden name?” Kathy asked.

Jacob gave her a hesitant look but answered, “Steinbeck.”

“Clara?” Kathy asked.

“Um, yeah,” Jacob said cautiously. Kathy’s eyes widened, the dam had broken and memories flooded in.

Kathy squealed, “Oh, you’re Clara’s boy. I remember the day you were born. I was there!” She said, reaching over and pinching his cheeks. “Look at cha, all grown up now.”

“You knew my mother?” He asked.

“Oh yeah, she was my best friend when we were growing up. Inseparable until we went our separate ways.” Kathy said, deciding Jacob didn’t need to know the particulars of why. “Don’t know where Clarice came from though. She was good ol’ Clara back here. So glad to hear she turned her life around!” Her definitely-not-jealousy had morphed into awe. She remembered Clara had tons of potential, if only she had acted on it. Kathy was happy she did.

Jacob only gave a very small smile and leaned back against the pole, watching the bus get closer.

“Where is she now? Still in New York?” Kathy asked, “I caught wind that she had moved to Trentburg, it’s just a few miles out but that couldn’t have been true.”

“She died,” Jacob said simply, his voice flat. It cut all the excitement out of her. His attitude change was sharp and unexpected.

The bus had creaked up, the doors jerking open on its hinges in a hazardous fashion. Jacob rushed in first and Kathy was busy trying to figure out what had changed. Had she said the wrong thing? Maybe the boy didn’t know his mother used to go buy another name?

Jacob went straight to the back of the dimly lit bus, sitting by the window. It finally dawned on Kathy that there was a strong possibility not a bit of what he said had been true. That made far more sense and raising a son who would tell elaborate lies fit right into who Clara was.

For a moment, Kathy thought to leave it there and move on. But just before she sat down in the torn, stained chair she reconsidered. Who was she to judge? She hadn’t raised a son at all. Her son didn’t even care enough about her to even lie about her life.

Kathy walked to the back and sat beside Jacob, trying to think of something to talk about. She didn’t know what had been the truth or lies. Or if he had even lied at all.

Deciding to test the waters, she asked, “So which college do you plan on going to?”

He sighed a bit, his brow furrowing again, “I don’t know. I visited the campuses last month. Just a little gun-shy I guess. College will be different from high school.”

Kathy nodded. The way he said it, she was guessing that was the truth. Or at least there were colleges he had been accepted to, maybe just not Harvard and Yale.

“Maybe it’ll be different in a good way.” She said. He shrugged. She figured he was less nervous about the new experience and more insecure.

She wasn’t sure what to say next. Her experience in reassuring was extremely limited.

“Well, there’s a community college around here somewhere.” Kathy said, “I thought about going myself. Why not start there and transfer? Sometimes starting small makes the bigger step easier.” She couldn’t say she actually learned that wisdom. But it did sound nice and like something that could be true.

Jacob smiled a bit as he thought it over. He met her eyes. “What’s your name?”

“Kathy.” She said, “I don’t know if your mother mentioned me much. We…didn’t keep in contact.” Kathy said and hoped Jacob didn’t notice she had to struggle for the words.

He just nodded in understanding, “She didn’t keep in contact with most people,” Jacob said. That sounded exactly like Clara. Once she got what she needed, she booked.

“It’s good to meet you,” Jacob said. Kathy smiled.

Nothing else was said as the bus jerked and lurched down the road. Kathy figured she’d give Sean another call when she made it home. Hopefully this time he’d answer.

The Lonely Vacation

The Lonely Vacation

“You look lonely, miss.”

Cynthia spun on her heels to face the voice that had spoken to her. At first, she was irked. How exactly does someone “look lonely”?

But she was surprised to find a gentle, friendly face looking back at her and her frown slowly lifted into a smile.

“What makes you think I’m alone?” She ask.

“It is the way you look around, miss.” He said, “As if you wish you had someone to share the experience with.”

Cynthia was…stunned. She hadn’t realized she wore it so apparently. She had indeed taken this vacation to Italy all alone. She had invited some friends to come along but well…it would seem that she wasn’t the type of person others wanted in their company.

“Dance with me?” The man said. It wasn’t until now that she noticed there was music in the air from a band playing in the plaza down the street.

“Okay,” She said, somewhat cautiously as she took his hand.

For some reason she hadn’t expected him to twirl her around on the sidewalk but…it was fun. Somehow this little dance with a complete stranger far from home made her lonely trip worth it.

Almost a Jail Rat

Almost a Jail Rat

Claire VanBurgen thought there’d be more riffraff surrounding this type of thing. The shows always made it look so dramatic. Being jostled and dragged into the police station, hands grabbed in the harshest manner, slammed on little pads of black ink for fingerprinting.

Maybe it was because she was pushing ninety-three but none of that happened.

The cops kindly arrived at her small apartment at nine in the morning, right after she had eaten breakfast. They helped her down the stairs and held her hand as she got in the back seat of the police vehicle.

There were two of them. A fella and a young lady. The fella was cute. Very cheerful to talk to. When this was over, she’d had to introduce him to her granddaughter, Monica. Maybe it would convince her that this whole little adventure wasn’t completely ridiculous after all.

The young lady constantly looked confused. Claire figured she wasn’t used to booking the elderly.

She asked Claire repeatedly, “Why did you do it?”

Claire continually told her the same thing, “Why do people do anything?”

When they reached the station, they escorted her into the building and brought her to a small conference room, telling her to wait.

“I’m not being put in a cell?” Claire asked, rather surprised.

“Not yet, we need your statement and to take your information.” The cheerful fella said.

She humphed when they left the room, hands folded petulantly on her lap. She had been hoping for an interesting story, something more “cool” as the youngins said.

They didn’t keep her waiting though. The cheerful fella returned and took her information and statement.

She recounted the story as best as she could. Her memory wasn’t quite what it used to be.

Her neighbor had been making quite a raucous. As has been their habit since the day they moved in. So Claire grabbed a bat, walked to the floor below her. And beat down the door, threatening the residents in there.

The officer asked her how many people were in the apartment.

Claire said, “Just one. A young lady by the name of Monica.”

The officer narrowed his eyes a little, in suspicion. But his only reply was, “My neighbors are noisy too. But alas, we can’t let people bully them with baseball bats.” He spoke in an exaggerated dismayed tone.

“Yes, I now realize I should have handled the situation differently,” Claire said. The cheerful officer chuckled.

Afterward, he escorted her to the mugshot room. Claire was excited about this part. No more nice Mrs. VanBurgen. She’ll soon have proof that she was not the kind, little old lady everyone thought she was.

He gave her a sign with numbers on it, and they took her picture. She had dressed up for this very occasion, smiling brightly. She wanted to look her best.

After that, they took her fingerprints and her possessions. Everyone handled her very gently as if they thought she’d shatter to pieces if they were too rough.

Finally, she was taken to the holding cells. Claire was so excited. She could finally say, “Yes, I have been to jail.”

The young lady officer walked in, just as the cheerful fella opened the cell door.

“There was no crime.” The lady said, hands on her hips, giving Claire quite a scolding look. “Her granddaughter confessed that ‘going to jail’ was on her grandmother’s bucket list and she was helping her cross it off.”

Oh, warts! Blast that girl! If she had just held out for a few more minutes!

The policeman looked at her, his brow furrowed in confusion. Then he laughed, rather heartily.

“Of course it was all made up. You couldn’t knock down a door.” He said.

Claire raised her head high, dignified, “You don’t know what I’m capable of.”

The policeman chuckled, “I’m sorry Mrs. VanBurgen but we’re going to have to let you go.”

“Oh, warts!” She huffed. “Can I at least sit in the cell for a while. And have my mugshot.”

The officer laughed again. “Well�I don’t see why not.”

Claire beamed as he helped her walk inside. She took a seat on the cot. It was rather uncomfortable. As it should be.

“My granddaughter won’t be in trouble, will she?” Claire asked the policeman.

“No, ma’am. She’ll be fine.” He said, with a smile.

They didn’t let her stay for long. Only about ten minutes. Claire was a bit downhearted about that but at least she can say she’s been in jail before. And, after all, she did get to introduce the cheerful officer to her granddaughter.

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