Under the Clock

Yes, this is my response to the week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt. It’s a little later than usual, but as today happens to be Friday, you could say I’m right on time.

Before we proceed with the usual excitement, I want to take a moment to celebrate. Although I married my wife before God, family and friends on a lovely May afternoon four years ago, today my state and my entire country finally recognizes our commitment to one another. To all the haters out there, I’ll simply say, “I’m sorry you feel so insecure in the love that you have in your own life. My love and my marriage is but one among millions. It is personal; it is real; it is a lifelong commitment. I pray you will someday find something as wonderful to keep you warm in this cold world.” To everyone else, I say, “LET’S CELEBRATE!”

Love Flag

The regular programming for the week is part of a challenge in which about 100 writers from all over the globe participate each week. Below is the photo prompt to which each of us respond with our own 100-word stories. You are welcome to participate by reading and commenting as well as by writing your own story to post on your blog. My story this week weighs in at 99 words and catches up with one of my favorite characters in my hometown of Kansas City. This one is meant to stand alone, but you are welcome to read other stories about him by clicking on “police chief” or “Ben” in the word salad along the right side of this blog.

Copyright Kent Bonham

Copyright Kent Bonham

Under the Clock

The hands of the clock in the grand hall slid passed 11:00 as Ben strode into Union Station. The legendary timepiece hung as he had always seen it—silent as the grave, an irony not lost on the undead police chief.

“Under the clock.” Ben muttered the phrase to himself. A pungent odor halted him 40 paces from his destination. Garlic. Leftovers, he assumed, glancing toward Harvey’s. Then he caught sight of the aroma’s source—ropes of garlic hanging above the shops in the station’s foyer. Someone knew something. He wouldn’t rest easy until he discovered who and what.

Ruach HaKodesh

This is my response to the weekly Friday Fictioneers prompt. Every week writers from around the world share their 100-word stories based on a photo prompt chosen by our amazing leader, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, who happens also to have taken this week’s photo. Play along if you dare!

Copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Ruach HaKodesh

Whenever Gayle sees art nouveau craftsmanship, she smells the old plaster, sawdust, sweat and incense lingering in the defunct synagogue where she first learned to dance. Much was new to her then—adulthood, the names of Adonai, the pulse of sacred movement.

Change, like a dancer’s form on stage, will ever be life’s only constant. The 25-year-old Gayle guessed at this. The 45-year-old Gayle knows it better than most. In Kansas City, the synagogue still stands—leased to another fringe group of devotees. Alone in her suburban home, Gayle makes a selection on her iPod, and the Spirit moves her.

***

Author’s Note: It bears mentioning that this photo struck a deep chord with me–a chord that led to a story that may be uncomfortable to some of you whom I know in real life. Whether or not you recognize the setting, I hope you can understand that some good comes from all things. There are more reasons than I can possibly put into words for me to write and post this particular story today. The life of a dancer can be complicated.

Belling the Cat

As hinted at earlier, this is the first in a new series I’m calling “Flashes of Awareness.” I’ll post a page with details on that soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the story and stick around a while when you get to the end. There’s a great surprise waiting for you in the real world.

 

Photo courtesy of Todd Foltz, copyright 2014

Photo courtesy of Todd Foltz, copyright 2014

Belling the Cat

Ronald pulled into the driveway Thursday evening primed for a domestic fight. That afternoon, his husband had sent a text, “Got off early. Taking the cat to Vivian’s.” Ronald couldn’t stand that cat, so he should have been glad Jeremy had found a way to get rid of her. But did Vivian have to be involved?

The cat was really just a stray. Jeremy had taken her in just before she gave birth, and he had dutifully found homes for her three kittens. After they were born, the cat refused to stay indoors. Jeremy had taken her to the vet to be vaccinated and spayed, and she would show up regularly at the patio door to be fed. Jeremy doted on the feral thing. Now he had found some drag queen who loved cats. Ronald had a mind to suggest that both Jeremy and the cat move in with Vivian.

Upon entering the house, Ronald found Jeremy in bed with the cat guarding him like a police dog. He lay still, scarcely breathing, his face pale as paste.

“What the hell happened to you?” Ronald snapped, approaching the bed. He jumped back as the cat hissed and threatened to attack. Jeremy’s eyes opened slowly.

“Oh dear, what happened?” Ronald’s tone softened.

“The afternoon excursion didn’t go as planned.”

“I gathered that.” Despite concern for his husband’s health, Ronald’s disdain for Vivian and that stupid cat still had him itching for a fight. A low growl from the feral ball of teeth and claws lying next to Jeremy indicated that he was about to get one.

“It’s okay, Kitty. Hush now.” Jeremy stroked the cat. “Calm down. I’ll tell you all about it.”

It took Ronald a moment to realize that Jeremy was directing that final statement toward him. “I’m going to pour myself a drink. You want anything?”

“Water—with lemon.”

Ronald left and returned with two glasses—water for Jeremy, a gin and tonic for himself. Cautiously eyeing the cat, he placed the water on Jeremy’s nightstand. Slipping off his shoes, he crossed to the opposite side of the bed and slid in. Safely away from the hostile guard cat, he propped Jeremy up against a pair of pillows.

“It appears that Vivian is more ‘Queen of the Damned’ than Drag queen,” Jeremy began, self-consciously fingering a gauze bandage on his neck.

Ronald felt the rage rising in his throat. “What did you do?” Ever since the two had met Vivian at the drag show in Kansas City Jeremy had been taken with her.

“Nothing.” Jeremy looked hurt. “I arranged for her to take the cat. She has a couple acres out on County Road YY past the old dairy—plenty of room and very little traffic. I figured you’d be happy to be rid of the cat.”

“Okay, so what happened?”

“She lives in this horrid hovel—all shuttered up. I thought I was in the wrong place. When I rang the bell, she called for me to come in with the cat. I stopped in the entryway so my eyes could adjust, and the cat started thrashing around in the carrier. I set the carrier down, and Vivian came out looking like a hot mess. Next thing I know, she’s biting my neck.”

Ronald’s eyes widened. “Biting? Like a—“ Jeremy nodded.

“Calm down. You know it takes three bites to turn a person. But I think she might have drained me dry if the cat hadn’t managed to release the latch on the carrier. She went straight for Vivian’s face. This little lady’s pretty vicious.” Jeremy affectionately scratched the head of the feline, who was now curled up on his lap, still eyeing Ronald with suspicion.

“And then?”

“That’s when things get a little fuzzy.  I lost a lot of blood. Vivian must have disappeared into her hovel, and next thing I knew the cat was back in the carrier. I put her in the car, found a handkerchief to wrap around my neck and managed to drive home. I don’t remember much of the trip.”

Ronald sighed. There was no sense fighting tonight. “I’m glad you’re alright. Sounds like I need to make some calls—get a team to take Vivian out of the picture before she skips town. Meanwhile, we need to give that cat a name.” Ronald smiled at Jeremy. “I think we should call her ‘Buffy.’”

Flashes of Awareness

Did you fall in love with the stunning cat photo at the top of this post? The cat’s real name is Dillar. Like Buffy in the story, Dillar is a rescue cat. At the time of this posting, unlike Buffy, Dillar hasn’t yet found her furever home. Photographer Todd Foltz took her picture for the Kansas City Kitty Cat Connection, a cat rescue organization in Kansas City’s Northland. If you want a pet that will be forever grateful to you, please consider rescuing an animal from the Kitty Cat Connection or from another organization in your locality.

Although cats have a reputation for being aloof and standoffish, they can be affectionate and devoted, much like the cat in this story. My oldest cat, whom I rescued from a local park when he was a small kitten, can tell anytime that I am feeling ill, and he always sets up a guard post to keep an eye on me until I’m feeling better.

Both of my cats were rescued, and our baby, Frida, was adopted from Sharon Jones, one of the amazing foster moms that works with the Kitty Cat Connection. Click here or the link above to learn more about the great work that she, Todd and others are doing.

The Carousel

Image

Photo Credit: By Davehi1 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Author’s Note: This foray into magical realism is in honor of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of my favorite authors, who passed away last week. The story takes place in a real location in Kansas City. From 1923 to 1977, an amusement park called “Fairyland” operated in south Kansas City. With the opening of Worlds of Fun, another, larger amusement park, in the 1970s, Fairyland began to struggle. Rumors about wind damage and a storm that took out the carousel at Fairyland have become local legend. In fact, online sources date the storm anywhere from September of 1977 to May of 1978. Some sources indicate that there was indeed no actual storm damage, but the owners still claim this as the reason that the park didn’t reopen in 1978. I chose to go with November as the anniversary of the storm for a number of reasons, including the date of a storm listed in the Kansas City Tribune, November 8, 1977. You can read one version of the story about Fairyland here: http://www.kchistory.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/Mrs&CISOPTR=1003

Today, the spot where the Fairyland carousel once operated is remarkably close to where a playground for a low-income housing development now stands.

 

The November wind whipped through the low-income subdivision and whistled along the guttering as D’Arqwan and his son stepped onto the front stoop of Jimmy’s townhome. “Daddy, carry me,” five-year-old Anthony, whimpered.

D’Arqwan, high as a kite, considered the request, then staggered, nearly falling off the stoop. “You got legs. Use ‘em,” he snapped, in an attempt to hide his inability to carry the little boy home at this late hour.

The two descended to street level, and Anthony grabbed his father’s hand before crossing College Avenue. “Look both ways, Daddy.” D’Arqwan’s addled brain found humor in his son’s caution—look both ways at midnight in a subdivision.

They had just crossed the street when D’Arqwan heard the music. “Look, Daddy, a carnival!” Anthony was already running toward the bright yellow lights in the center of the courtyard. As he ran, the little boy slipped out of the red jacket that was two sizes too big for him.

An eerie voice whispered warnings into the cracks in D’Arqwan’s mind. He picked up the jacket and called, “Anthony?” He couldn’t move fast enough to keep the little boy from clambering onto the carousel  standing in the spot where D’Arqwan knew he should find nothing but a graffiti-covered slide and a couple of swings.

As D’Arqwan staggered toward the carousel, it began to rotate, slowly at first. The horses moved up and down. Anthony, perched on a stationary lion, waved enthusiastically to his father. “Look! I’m a lion tamer.”

Terror struck D’Arqwan square in the stomach. “Anthony!” The carnival music drowned out his voice. “Get off the carousel! Anthony!”

Along the cracks in his brain, D’Arqwan heard the pseudo-friendly voice of a ride operator from a  modern amusement park. “Please remain seated until the ride comes to a full and complete stop.”

“No! Anthony!”

The wind, which had died down, suddenly picked up again. D’Arqwan clutched his son’s jacket to keep the wind from ripping it away. The carnival music sped up, and the carousel began spinning out of control. D’Arqwan could no longer make out his son’s face. The sound of a locomotive running along steel tracks drowned the music as a twister stretched its lone tentacle from the sky and sucked in the carousel along with its living occupant.

The first light of dawn played in the sky when D’Arqwan awoke. He lay face down in the gravel of the tiny playground. He struggled to his feet, blinking. Memories from the night before came flooding back. “That musta been some kinda weed over at Jimmy’s last night,” he muttered to himself. Then he noticed the red jacket, still clutched in his right fist. “Oh, God! Anthony.”