Art and the philosophy of life

Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

A short story about angels…

no angel neon signage

“I’d like a room, please.”

The guy behind the desk looked at the short, balding man in front of him. “Sorry, you can’t stay here.”

“I just need a room for tonight.”

“No vacancy.”

“You just flipped the sign,” said the man, tiredly.

“No shirt, no shoes, no room,” said the guy.

“That’s crazy,” snapped the man.  “I’m wearing a shirt and shoes.”

“It means, we reserve the right to say you can’t stay here.”

“It’s because I’m an angel, isn’t it,” sighed the man.

“That’s what the sign says,” said the guy.  “no angel.”

“What do you have against angels?” asked the man, holding his wings tightly folded against his back.

“Angels leave feathers everywhere and some of you are pious and evil.”

The angel unfurled his wings and turned a kind of dark blue with red highlights.  His voice seemed to come from somewhere else, when he said, “I could destroy this building before you could blink and…”

“That’s another thing,” said the guy.  “You’re always putting on a show. Always yelling at someone, turning colors, or threatening non angels. It pisses all of us off.  So go find an angelic hotel to put you up for the night.”

“Wait, what?” asked the man.  “We do those things?”

“You just DID one of those things.”

“I thought your kind worshiped us,” said the man, refolding his wings.

“Dude, the only thing people worship nowadays is money, power and stuff.  You aren’t  even on the list.”

“It never used to be that way.”

“Yeah.  You could say that about a lot of things.”

“So, I can’t stay here?  Even if I promise to be good?”

“Truth is hard to come, so no.  You absolutely cannot stay here.”

“Fine, then I’ll sit on your roof and spit on those who come to your door.”

“You’re thinking of gargoyles.”

“Oh,” said the man.  “You’re right.”

“Why are you on earth anyway?”

“It’s where we come to let our wings down.  Being an angel is so boring and I seriously hate the music and all that gold.   You people have lots of violence and horrible things happen to you all the time.  That’s why we made you the way we did, so you could entertain us.  Your suffering, hatred, terror and deaths are entertaining, kind of like your television programs, except you’re real,” he laughed.

Five minutes later the guy was nailing the angel’s wings to the wing wall.

“Hey,” said Jake, from behind the bar.  “Another one?”

“Yes, he was into suffering, so I thought I’d show him what it felt like.”

“It’s the only way they learn,” said Jake, shaking his head. “The only way.”

How they met…Neon…a short story

Love You To The Moon & Back neon signage photo

“This is a great bookstore,” she said excitedly, throwing a few more things onto the counter.  “I absolutely LOVE it, to the Moon and Back.”

“We’re opening another shop on the moon before Christmas.”

“Interesting,” she muttered.  “And how, exactly, will the customers get there?”

“People are already living on the Moon. The government just doesn’t want anyone to know,”  he said, conspiratorially.  “Don’t tell anyone I mentioned it.”

“Oh, believe me, I won’t,” she laughed, crossing her heart with her finger.  “You have a lot of unusual books.  Things I’ve never seen anywhere else.  It’s wonderful.”

“Thanks.”

“We need a lot more independents.  So many closed, but perhaps they’ll start opening again.”

“I wouldn’t hold my breath,” he said.  “It’s a tough business with on-line shopping, offering lower prices.”

She nodded.  “Makes it difficult for everyone.”

“It does.  You get price cuts from publishers, according to the number of books you order.  Who can compete with Big Box stores and Amazon?  No one, that’s who.”

“It’s not fair,” she said.

“No.  It’s not.”

‘How are you going to deal with radiation poisoning on the moon?”

“Tin foil.”

She burst out laughing.  “Great idea.”

“We think so,” he said, smiling.

“Have you read any of the books in my stack?”

He looked at the books and nodded.  “I’ve read all of them, but you won’t like this one,” he said, pulling it out of the pile.  “The blurb is great but the book is terrible.  Bad writing and weak plot.  The characters are so dull I don’t think the pages would catch if you put them into a roaring fireplace.”

She stared at him.  “Thank you.”

“This one is great, and I’d recommend buying the second book. They may be going out of print.  Once that happens, the price will skyrocket and people will be selling their copies on line.”

“I’ll do it.”

“On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst, this book is a five, if you like reading about the misery of others.  I don’t, but you might.”

“No,” she said, putting the book aside.  I don’t.”

“This one is fantastic.  Great writing and characters you’ll never forget.  You might even want to be one of them.”

“Perfect,” she said, smiling.  “Have you been to the moon?”

“Excuse me?”

“The moon.  Have you ever been there.  Did you go looking for a proper bookstore site?”

“I’m not supposed to talk about that.”

“Why not?”

“Because no one is allowed to know about trips to the moon.”

“Are the people there aliens or humans.”

“Those are the same two things,” he said.

“Hmmm.  I guess they are, when you think about it.”

“We’re aliens on earth.  All of us,” he said.

“You can’t be an alien, if you’re born here.”

“I think you should look at these two books,” he said, reaching for a couple of hardcovers on the shelf behind him.

“Okay.”

“Don’t you want to know what they’re about?”

“No.  I trust you.  If you think they’re great, I’m willing to read them, but only if you read two that I pick out for you.”

“Really?” he said, grinning.

“I’ll be right back,” she said, disappearing into the shop.

When she came back, she had two books in her hands.  “Read these.  No questions asked.”

“Promise,” he said, taking them from her.

“I’ll come back in two weeks and we’ll discuss the books, okay?”

“Yes.  That will be fun,” he said, putting her books into a cloth bag.

“Is the moon beautiful?”

“Not really.  It’s a man-made orb, metal and hollow inside.  It’s cold on the dark side and nothing really grows on the outside.  The government has people working inside the orb, making weapons, lots of things.  It’s a dead place and living inside is horrible, like living in a house with no windows.  Artificial light, is artificial.  Drives you crazy in no time at all and you long to be outside on earth.”

“What if I told you I was CIA and you could be disappeared for what you just said?”

“I’d ask you to kiss me, before you shot me.”

She grabbed his shirt, pulled him forward, and kissed him.  “You need to be more carful, Timmothy Larken,” she whispered.  “Please don’t make me erase you.”

“People should know,” he said softly.

“They can’t know,” she said, picking up her bag.   “I’ll see you in two weeks.  Hope you like the books I chose for you.”

 

Photo:  Dalal Nizam
Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

The Reaper…a short story

“Hello,” she said.

“Hi.”

“I’m The Reaper and I’m on vacation.  What can I do that’s fun?”

“Uh,” he said.  “You’re the Reaper?  The Grim Reaper?”

“That’s a giant misconception,” she sighed.  It’s just Reaper.  I’m rarely grim.  In fact…I can’t remember the last time I was grim.”

“Wait.  If you’re on vacation, what will all the people who want to die do, while you’re gone?”

“Stay alive.  But no worries. I asked a friend to keep an eye on things.  Not literally, of course.  I mean, she’s going to watch over things for me.”

“Can your friend reap?”

She shook her head.  “No.  Only I can do that.”

“Are you here for me?”

“What?  No,” she laughed.  “I’m not here for you.”

“Then what about the people who are suffering and want to die?”

“I’ve never had a vacation.  Not once.  Do you know what that’s LIKE?”

“No.  But still…”

“I never stop working…EVER. I’m not asking for much.  Just a day or two off, so I can do something different for a change.”

“Don’t you like your job?”

“Sure I like my job.  It’s a great job.  I help all living things.  I stop suffering.  I also know that when people die they have more fun on the other side than they could ever have here.”

“Really?”

“Think about it,” she said.  “How much fun can anyone have here.  The gravity alone is killing you.”

“It’s also keeping us on the planet,” he said.

“Is that a good thing?”

“If you don’t want to float around in space, then yes, it’s a good thing.”

“You guys depend on sooooooo many details to keep you alive.   You need just the right amount of oxygen, gravity, sunlight, food, medicine, contact lenses…”

“We don’t all need contact lenses,” he said defensively.

“…clothing, warmth, places to live…and then you die anyway.”

“Did we evolve?”

“If you had evolved, you’d be in better shape than you are now, that’s for sure.”

“So did god make us?”

“Seriously?  God?  Oh, please.  Some Gamers were drunk out of their minds on a mixture of space dust and something they found on NP47-543.  It was late, and they came up with a design for a planet and put all of you on it.  Did they follow up on what they had done?  Nooooo, they did not.  And here you are, still left on your own, trying t kill everything. Believe me, evolution would have made you a lot stronger and better equipped to survive.”

“You’re making me tired,” he said, yawing.

“That’s another thing,” she said, pointing at him.  “You need to SLEEP.  You all have to be unconscious for a huge chunk of your short lives, or die.”

“You’re not what I expected,” he sighed.

“You thought I’d wear a hooded robe and carry a scythe?”

“Kind of.  And be male.”

“Why would I be male?”

“I don’t know.  I just thought you would be.”

“Look.  I don’t have much time, so just tell me what bowling is all about.”

“Bowling?  Really?  That’s what you want to know about?”

“What is it?”

“You throw a heavy ball down a wooden floor, called an alley, and try and knock down all the pins at the other end.”

“Pins?”

“They’re about this big,” he said, using his hands, “and shaped like this.  There are ten of them.”

“That can’t be right” she said.  “Who would want to do that?”

“A lot of people.  There are teams and they play against each other.”

“To knock down pins?”

He nodded.  “It’s fun.  Kind of.”

“Okay.  This place is a lot more boring than I expected.  I’ve been here a day and a half and I’m ready to go back to reaping.  Since I’m here, do you want to come with me?  I’ll show you some cool stuff, like the moons of Saturn and…”

“No thanks.  Nice of you to offer, but I’m going to stay here.”

“Up to you, as long as you know I’m coming back for you…eventually.”

“I do know that.”

“You guys don’t have long life spans.  It’s funny how you celebrate those who make it to a hundred.  Think about it…things have been here forever, in spite of what your scientists say.  FOREVER!  Do you know how many years FOREVER is?”

“A lot?”

“Yes, a LOT,” she laughed.  “And you live a few years and think that’s great.  See, that’s what I mean.  You’re flawed.”

“I get that,” he said.  “But we don’t know anything else, so it’s okay.  And you haven’t walked in our shoes, so there is that.”

“Why would I walk in your shoes?” she asked, obviously confused.  “I have my own shoes.”  She held out her foot and showed him her sandal.

“They look comfortable.”

“They are,” she said, smiling.

“So what are you going to do now?”

“I want ice cream,” she said.

“I can take you to a place down the street, if you like.”

“I’d like that very much, Scott Anderson.”

“You know my name?”

“I know everyone’s name.  It’s part of my job.”

“So you work with dead people every single day?” he asked, as they started walking.

“They aren’t really dead, they’re just different than they were when they were here.”

“Is everyone who dies okay?”

“Better than okay.”

He nodded.  “Have you ever had ice cream?”

“No, but I know it comes in colors and it’s cold,” she said, excitedly.

“You should probably try a chocolate and strawberry mix.”

“I will.  And if it ever gets to be too much, and you want to leave earth early…just whisper my name.  There’s no need to suffer,” she said.  “I’m always here.”

“Thank you,” he said, sincerely.  “I’ll remember that.”

 

Neon…

down the rabbit hole sign

“Can I see a menu, please,” he asked, standing at the counter.

She slid a plastic sheet across the counter.

“This is my first time.  Any suggestions?”

“Depends on how long you want to be gone,” she said, tapping her pen against the order form.

“An hour, I guess.”

“Then go to Madrid or Sweden.  Both are very nice and you can do a lot in an hour.”

“Is it scary?” he asked.  “Does it hurt?”

“It doesn’t hurt at all but I don’t know what scares you, so I can’t answer that question.”

“I suppose that’s true,” he agreed.  “I think I’ll take one hour in…Sweden.”

“Excellent choice,” she said, putting in the order and handing him a stack of papers to sign.”

“What’s all this?” he asked, flipping through the pages.

“Insurance things.  Things that will prohibit you from suing us.  You know, the usual stuff.”

“Why would I want to sue you?”

“That will be two thousand dollars,” she said, slowly tearing the bottom off one of the sheets, and handing it to him.  “Take this to Room 9 and give it to the person who will be working with you.  Have a nice trip. You can pick up your gift package on your way out.”

“Gift package?”

“Souvenirs, from Sweden, of course.”

“Oh.”

“What are you waiting for?” she asked.

“Has anyone died during their trip?”

“Just the usual amount,” she said, running her hand over the counter, as if she might be cleaning off crumbs.

“The usual amount?”

“Yes.”

“How many is the usual amount?”

“About twenty percent.”

“That’s a lot of people.”

“Do you think so?”

“Yes.  I do,” he said.  “How do they die?”

“Hart attacks mostly, but there have been…other causes.  Some just decide to stay where they have chosen to go.”

“Stay where they went?  You can do that?”

“Yes.”

“I could stay in Sweden for the rest of my life?”

“Yes, but that will cost extra and you won’t be able to leave there, since you’ll be more like a hologram, after awhile.”

“That sounds terrible,” he said, taking a step back from the counter.

“A lot of people die on vacations, so it’s not really that odd.”

“But this is an out of body trip, not a physical relocation.”

She shrugged.  “What can I tell you.  People get bored and want excitement.  You know how it is.  So, you better get moving, your tour guide is waiting for you.”

“I changed my mind.”

“There are no refunds.”

“But you didn’t tell me all of those things before I said I would go.”

“It was in the fine print.”

“I didn’t read all those pages.”

“That’s not my fault.”

“I’ll write a bad review,” he said.  “People should know about what you’re doing.”

“We’ll give you a free half hour trip if you don’t do that.”

He glared at her.  “I don’t want ANY trips.”

“Well, that’s up to you.”

“This is madness,” he said.

“Madness is always what you find, when you go DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE.”

 

 

 

 

More about surprises…Dale asked for a little more…so here’s a little more.

“You’re so beautiful,” said the woman, staring at her daughter.

“Please don’t say that I look just like you.  I hate it when people lie to me.  And women are intelligent and powerful now. Beauty isn’t supposed to matter.”

Her father, standing behind her, smiled.  “Life is all about beauty.  Fortunately, we all see beauty in different ways.”

“I’m Your mother.”

“You might have given birth to me, but there was no mothering. At all.  So the word doesn’t really fit.  What’s the game?  You must want something from me that you couldn’t have gotten before.  If I don’t have something you want, you would have left me alone for the rest of my life.”

“We were trying to protect you,” said her mother.  “Now you’re old enough to protect yourself.  It’s time to come home.  And you do look just like me, whether you like it or not.  Genes are genes, after all.”

I know that,” she said.  “I’m trying to make a point.  You left me alone, for nineteen years, supposedly for my own good.  But what if it was really for your own good?  How do I know why you did anything?”

“She was a lot nicer to me,” snickered her father, sitting down on the sofa.  “Much nicer.”

“That’s because I thought you needed help,” she hissed, turning toward him.  “I WAS BEING NICE.  You looked lost and pathetic.”

He started laughing.  “She not only looks like you. she’s just like you,” he said to her mother, who smiled and nodded.

“You know what?  I’m out of here,” she said.  “I’d say it was nice meeting you, but that would be a real stretch of the imagination…mine and yours.”

“Kitty,” called her father.

A huge dog ran at her and knocked her down.  He licked her face, then ran in a circle, then licked her some more.

“OMG,” she yelled.  “What’s your deal, you crazy dog?”

The dog jumped around and over her, then nudged her, then laid on her, then licked her, until finally, he just sat there and stared at her.

“He missed you,” said her mother.

Kitty fell to the ground and rolled onto his back.  Giving her the universal dog signal for tummy rubs.

There was a knock on the door, and the cutest guy she had ever seen, walked in and said, “There’s a load of books being delivered.  Where do you want me to put them?”

Just leave them in the foyer, thank you,” said her father.  “We’ll be leaving soon.”

“Yes, sir,” said the cutest guy she had ever seen, before smiling at her and leaving the room.

“Can I have him?” she asked, from the floor, the dog pinning her to the ground.  “Pleeeeeeeaaaasssse, can I have him?”

Her mother snickered.

“Kitty,” she said, “Get the bunny.”

The dog flew into action and ran into the other room.  A second latter he was galloping toward her with a sad and well worn stuffed bunny in his mouth.”

“Good boy,” she said, trying to wrestle him to the ground.

“Do you remember everything now?” asked her mother.

“Why did you let me say all those things to you before you let me see Kitty?”

“So you could say what you wanted to say.  You know I don’t think it’s good to hold things back.”

“When do we leave?”

“Midnight,” said her father.

“I still want that guy,” she snickered.  “He’s the cutest guy I’ve ever seen.”

“He’s not quite human, but then neither are we.  You’ll have to ask him.  No spells,” said her mother, grinning.

“Rats,” she said.  “Fine.  I’ll do it that way.”

“Yes.  You will.”

“You’ve spent a lot of time with me over the years, haven’t you.  You just cloaked the memories, so I couldn’t find them,” she said.

“It was safer to do that.  We have a lot of enemies, as you know,” said her father.

“But we’re the good guys, aren’t we?”

“We think so,” he said, suddenly looking toward the door again.  “Kitty! Guard!” he shouted.

The door flew open and the cutest guy she had ever seen, was covered in blood, looked half dead, and was being dragged into the room by his arm.  The ogre doing the dragging was huge and menacing looking.

“Okay.  Now, I’m pissed OFF,” she said, getting to her feet.  “This,” she waved her arm in the air, “has been a really weird day,” a glyph lit up. “I’m tired, and I didn’t even get to meet the cutest guy I’ve ever seen,” she said, growling. “So YOU, OGRE, DISAPPEAR NOW!” she said, throwing the glyph at him.

The cutest guy she had ever seen, lay there bleeding on the rug.  She looked up and saw both of her parents staring at her.

“Uh, could one of you help him?”

Her father went to his side, said a few words, laid his hands on his chest, and then poured light into him.

“That,” said her mother, delightedly, was FANTASTIC!  They were right about you when they said you were one of a kind.”

“Mom, everyone is one of a kind, even this crazy dog.  We’re all snowflakes, remember?”

“They meant your magic sweetie.  Your magic is one of a kind.”

“Oh.”

“Where did you send the ogre?”

“Send him?” she asked.

“Ah,” said her mother.  “You might need some fine tuning.”

The cutest guy she had ever seen, groaned.

“He’ll be fine,” said her father,  straightening his shirt sleeves.”Just give him a few minutes.”

Kitty walked over to the cutest guy she had ever seen and licked him a few times.

“Interesting day,” she said.  “What’s my real name, by the way?  You hid that from me too.”

Her mother nodded.   “We had to, so you couldn’t tell anyone.  It’s Lily.  Because the day you were born, the Day lilies were blooming outside the window. They were so amazing and I knew you would be amazing as well.”

“Lily Morningstar?”

“Yes,” said her father.  “Lily Morningstar.”

“I kind of like that my name is dangerous enough to get me killed.  It will keep me on my toes.”

“She’s just like you,” said her father, staring at her mother.

“What’s his name?” asked Lily, looking at the cutest guy she had ever seen.

Tommy.”

“Oh, thank goodness.  I was afraid it would be something elvish and I wouldn’t be able to pronounce it,” said Lily. “I’m assuming we’re all packed and my stuff is here, including my cat.”

“Of course,” said her father, grabbing his jacket.

“Is Tommy coming with us?”

“He was always going to come with us,” said her father.

“You should have led with him.  Or at least with Kitty,” who smiled at her, when she said his name.

“Ready? asked her parents.

“RAGS,” said Lily, who then watched her cat drop off a soft cream colored chair to the floor.  She did a few ballet steps, and a few stretches, before allowing herself to be picked up.  “Now I’m ready.”

And just like that, they were somewhere else.

Neon…FIRE EXIT

Fire Exit Signage

“Excuse me,” he said, a little too loudly.

“What already,” she hissed, coming out of the back office.

“I want to see the fire…exit.”

“Why?” she asked.

“I’ve never seen fire actually exist from anywhere and I want to see that.”

“The fire EXIT doesn’t have anything to do with fire exiting.  It’s a door for people to use if there’s a fire.  People are supposed to exit through the fire exit door, not fire.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” he said. “None at all.”

“Maybe not to you.”

“Shouldn’t it say Human Exit?”

“No, because that could be any door.  This door is only to be used in case there’s a fire.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean WHY?  THAT’S what the door is for, that’s why.”

“Can’t people go through the door any other time?  Won’t the door open unless there’s a fire?”

“Of course it will open if there isn’t a fire.”

“Then isn’t it just a regular door?”

“It’s a regular door that has been set aside to be opened only, if there’s a fire.”

“So,” he said, “no fire goes through that door, right?  People go through that door if there IS a fire.  So, what’s on the other side of the door and does fire know that the door is only for people and that it can’t go in there?”

She looked at him and said,  “Yes.  Fire knows that it’s not allowed to go through that door.  Fire knows that it’s a door only people can use.”

“I don’t know why you didn’t just say that in the beginning,” he said, shaking his head as he walked away.

 

 

 

 

God…a short story

man in black and gray plaid dress shirt wearing black cap

“What’s wrong?” asked the little boy, staring at the man.

“Oh, a lot of things,” replied the god.  “More importantly, why are you out this late at night?”

“I snuck out.  My mom thinks I’m in bed.”

“Why would you do that?”

“I don’t know,” he said, shrugging.  “She said I probably do some of the things I do, because I’m easily bored.”

“It’s dangerous out here, you need to go home.”

“Are you god?”

“What would make you think that?”

“I don’t know.  Just feels like you are.”

“I’m one of them, yes.”

“How many are there?” asked the boy.

“A lot.”

“Are there any girl gods?”

“Yes.  They make the best gods.”

“Why?”

“They seem to stop fights, rather than start them.  But don’t get me wrong,” he said, seriously.  “I’d never want to fight one of them.  They can be vicious.  If you ever meet on, be careful.  Not all of them like kids.”

“Why are you in the alley?”

The god looked at the child and smiled.  “You’re curious, aren’t you,” he said.  “Gods come here for all kinds of reasons.  Vacations, to start trouble, to try and save things, different things like that.”

“Why?”

“Because we can.”

“My mom said that’s a bad answer to any question.  She said we can do anything, the thing is NOT to do the bad stuff.”

“She’s right.”

“Are you here for bad things?”

“No.  I’m trying to help people get along.”

“My mom said that’s never going to happen,” said the boy, unhappily.  “We can’t even get along in school.  Bullies hurt the other kids.”

“That’s wrong.”

“I know.”

“Are you a bully?”

“No.”

“Have you been bullied?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

The boy looked up and smiled.  His eyes turned flaming red, then went back to brown.

“I see,” said the god.  “You’re one of us.”

“I guess,” said the boy.  “I don’t know what I am.  Not really.  My mom said I’m a good boy and her angel, but I think I’m more than that.”

“Maybe she doesn’t know what you are.”

“Do you know what I am?”

“I don’t,” he said.

“Can you lie?” asked the boy.

“I can,” answered the god.

“Can all gods lie?”

“Yes, and they do, all the time.”

“Why?”

“To get what they want.”

“I don’t want to be like that.”

The god bent down and looked into the boys eyes, “Then don’t be.”

“Is that possible?”

“Anything is possible.”

“Do you know who my father is?”

“No.”

“Are you lying?”

“Yes.”

“Why won’t you tell me?”

“It’s not my place to do so.”

“Okay. I’m going to go now.  It was nice meeting you.”

“Stay inside at night.”

“Okay.”

“You can be good, if you want to be, remember that.”

“Okay.”

“What’s your name?”

“Rabbit.”

“You’re real name.”

“John.”

“You take care now, John.  Listen to your mom.”

“Okay.”

“Good luck kid.”

“You too,” said the boy. “I hope you stay good.”

The god watched the boy walk away.  Then he sighed and said, “I hope I do too.”

 

Photo:  Dave Goudreau
Unsplash

 

 

 

 

A kind of long story about what comes next…

If I knew Death
was going to be

just like life
 I might have worn
more ball gowns

 

“Seriously?” she asked, looking round.  “This is it?”

“What did you expect?”

“I don’t know, something nicer than this tiny, empty, off white foyer, and maybe a wing or two.”

“I get that a lot,” said the guy with the clipboard.

“Wait, don’t you have computers?”

“No.  I just hold a clipboard because everyone recognizes it, no matter their age.  Makes everyone feel comfortable.  People rarely question clipboards.”

“Good point,” she said.  “If I knew I was going to die in my sleep, I would have worn something nicer to bed.”

He nodded.  “I hear that a lot as well.”

“You do?”

“Maybe not to bed, all the time, but people don’t like dying in their ‘grubs,’ as they call them.  If that’s true,” he said, dropping his arm and staring at her, “why do they wear them at all?  I mean people can die at any moment.  Shouldn’t you guys be prepared for that?”

“Most people don’t think they’re going to die, until they’re dying.”

“Why?”

“I don’t think we’d be able to live, if we thought about it.  What would be the point?  Who would want to work toward death?  We pretend we’ll live forever and that gives us the incentive to keep reaching for things.  Actually, the world might be a better place if people did think all they were doing was heading toward death.  Maybe they wouldn’t work themselves to death and instead have a hell of a lot more fun all the the time.”

“I don’t like to use that word around here,” he said stiffly.

“What word?”

“Hell.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“Well, for one thing, Hell doesn’t actually exist and for another, some people want to go there and when I can’t put them there, they get, angry.  Apparently, they’ve made pre-death arrangements to meet their friends in Hell.  Impossible, of course, and that’s where the disappointment and anger come in.”

“So where am I now?  This can’t be heaven,” she said, looking around.

“There is no heaven, no hell, no anything but right here.”

“Then where do you live?”

“Live?”

“Yes.  Where is your house?”

“Why would I need a house?  I live right here.”

“You mean you live standing here all the time, holding a clipboard?”

“Yes.”

“I thought you said there was no Hell,” she said, looking horrified.

“There isn’t one and what’s wrong with standing here?”

“Isn’t there something else you’d rather be doing?”

“Like what?” he asked.

“Pretty much anything.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Tell me where I’m going from here,” she said, sighing.

“There’s only one place to go,” he said, checking things off on his clipboard.

“That would be…where?”

“Earth.”

“But I just came from there.”

“Everyone comes from there,” he said, looking confused.

“What about all the other life in the universe.  I thought I could go someplace else.”

“And be a bacteria?”

“No, be something fabulous and peaceful and nice.”

“There are no places like that.  Most places are either too hot or too cold, too big, too small, or made out of gas.  The atmosphere in other places, is to die for,” he giggled.  “That’s a little personal humor,” he said.

“I get it.”

“You look unhappy.”

“Ya think?  Half the people on earth are killing themselves to get off the planet, and you’re telling me you just keep sending everyone back?”

“Pretty much.”

“Why would you do that?”

“It’s always been done that way.”

“Dumbest answer EVER, and I won’t go,” she said, crossing her arms in front of her.  “I want to see a menu.”

“A menu?”

“Yes.  I want to know what other choices I have.”

“You mean like being a human or a bird?”

“Is that possible?”

“I’d have to look it up.”

“Don’t you have Google?”

“Too much energy around here.  It fries everything,” he said.

“I’d like to talk to your superior.”

“Who?”

“The person you work for,” she said.

“Who would that be?”

“Don’t you know?”

He thought for a minute and said, “I work for someone?”

“I just assumed that you did.”

“I don’t know who it would be.”

“You mean you’re all alone, all the time?”

“No. Humans never stop coming through here.  You can see the long line.  That never changes.  The line never ends.”

“You’re making me feel really bad for you.”

“For me?”

She nodded.

“Why?’

She sniffed.  “You work all the time, you don’t have any friends, or even a dog.  You don’t know who you work for and I don’t even know if you get paid.  If you do get paid where would you spend your money, since you’re always right here.”

“Are those bad things?” he asked.

She nodded again.  “And you’re wearing that awful blue suit.”

“What’s wrong with my suit,” he said, looking down at himself.

“It doesn’t fit right and it’s off the rack.”

“What rack?”

“If you’re going to be here forever, you should have a good suit.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Have you ever been to earth?”

“No, and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.”

“Really?”

“Can you imagine the stories I hear from the never ending masses of dead people?  It’s terrifying, horrifying and…”

“Yeah.  I didn’t think about that.  I guess it would be,” she said.  “It’s kind of different when you’re there.”

“It is?” he asked.

“No.  Not really,” she said, sadly.

“So, I’ll send you back rich but…”

“Male.”

“You want to be a male?”

“Think about it.  You’ve heard the stories, right?”

“Right,” he said, straightening up.  “A rich male…”

“Extremely good looking, intelligent, good connections, with fantastic parents who start shelters for all kinds of  animals.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes.  How much time do you have?”

“Seriously?”

“Yes,” she said.

“I have all the time in the world.”

“You know what?”

“What?” he said.

She grabbed his hand.  “Earth might be a miserable place, filled with violence and hatred, misery and evil, but it does have it’s moments, and there are flowers.” she said, smiling at him.

He closed his eyes and saw her life flash before him.  “I’m going back with you.”

“Excuse me?”

“Back.  I’m going to go to earth with you,” he said.

“But I thought you said you would never go there…and won’t we be babies?”

“I changed my mind, and I can make us any age we want to be.”

“You can?”

“Sure.”

“Does anyone else know that?”

“No,” he said.

“Okay then,” she laughed.  “But what about the gazillion people in line.”

“They’ll be okay.  They’re dead.”

“So am I.”

“Not for long,” he said, happily.  “You have to show me everything.”

“I can do that,” she said.  “Can we be magic?”

“I’m afraid not.  Magic doesn’t really work the way you think it does.  Not on earth.  It’s there, and you all use it, you just don’t realize, or recognize it.”

“What do you mean?”

“How do you think you become beautiful?” he said, looking at her.

She squeezed his hand, and they walked into the warm white mist.

 

 

 

 

 

A short story about…

Person, Bench, Lake, Bank, Mountains

Mike Gerber rode his bike to the bench every day.  He said it kept him young.  His friends laughed at him, since Mike was young.  Well, youngish, for their crowd, anyway.  He sat on the bench, coffee in hand, a small book of poetry, or history, on his lap.

Not long ago, Mike wondered why he was here.  Alive.  If there was a point to all of it, he didn’t know what it was.  Sure, he’d been in love, once, or three times, but that just made him more confused.  He thought that if he could love more than one person, love couldn’t be that special.  Not if those he loved were interchangeable.  He loved all of them when he was with them.  Then things fell apart, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly.  There were no arguments, just pleasant goodbyes and better luck next time, partings.

His job was comfortable.  But that too was boring.  He took up sky-diving for awhile, but same old same old.  Even that thrill wore off.  He climbed mountains, but that just changed the view.  The mountains were crowded and he had to wait in line.  Boring.  He did free climbing, which was as terrifying as it was exhilarating.  He fell, survived, and now walks with a slight limp, especially when he’s tired.

He couldn’t remember when he stopped listening to what his friends were saying.  They told the same old stories, or talked about doctors, or the problems their adult children were having.  He stopped going for coffee with them, and little by little he drifted farther and farther away.

It was a sunny Tuesday, and someone was sitting on his bench.  He parked his bike and went to his spot.  He glanced at the man, who was about his own age, and nodded.

“Beautiful, issn’t it?” asked the man.

“What’s beautiful?”

“Everything,” said the stranger, smiling.  “It’s all amazing.”

“It’s the same everyday,” he sighed, sipping his coffee.  “It’s boring, not amazing.”

“It’s different every moment,” said the stranger, in amazement.  “You just have to pay attention.”

“If you say so.”

“I do,” laughed the man.  “Everything changes, every second.”

He opened his poetry book and started reading, ignoring the stranger.

“What happened to you?”

He lowered his book.  “Nothing happened to me.  I’m just not you.  And I’d like to sit here quietly, and read.”

“Everyday Nature puts on a show for all of us.  Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to see it.”

“Are you going to keep talking to me?”

“How can this not take your breath away?” asked the stranger, waving his hand toward the water.

The man closed his book, went to his bike, and rode away, wondering where he would sit tomorrow, if the stranger came back.

The stranger shook his head and stood on the bench.  He opened his arms, closed his eyes, and breathed deeply.  He thought about how wonderful it was to have a body.  How amazing it was to be able to feel and touch things…to be able to love and climb and jump, or watch the drama of nature, play out in front of one’s eyes.

“Crazy humans,” he said out loud.  Then he laughed…and flew away.

 

Photo:  Pixabay

 

Mr. Tittle…a story about love.

person in gray hoodie standing near books

Simon Tittle was a quiet man who loved his wife Margaret and books.  They had everything in common and in fifty years of marriage, they never once had an argument.   That wasn’t because one of them gave in to the other, it was because they truly agreed on almost everything.  When tiny differences did arise, they just smiled and let things go.

The Tittle’s did not have children.  They agreed they weren’t cut out for parenthood.  They opted for a slow and steady kind of life.  One with the lease amount of drama possible.  Their favorite way to spend an evening, was to sit next to each other on their tiny loves seat, and read.  Their favorite thing to do, was spend their days in bookstores…used and new.  When they found something special, their eyes lit up with excitement, and it was even better, if what they found, was for the other person.

So, when Margaret crossed over, on the first day of summer, Simon was left to his own devices.  Left alone, grief stricken and basically lost.  He couldn’t remember being without her.  Not really.  Nelly, their cat curled up on the cushion of the love seat where Margaret always sat, and refused to eat, for two days.  She tried to comfort Simon, but she too, felt the great empty space that Margret left behind.  So the two of them sat side by side, napping and staring into space, wondering what happened to their lives.

Simon only went out to get supplies: cat food, bread, cheese, two apples, a tomato and toothpaste.  He and Nelly spent all of their time together, until Nelly started walking around more often and looking out the window again.

One sunny day, Simon received a flyer in the mail.  His favorite bookstore was having a sale.  He looked around the house, at the shelves heavy with books, and decided to go and have a look.

After breakfast he put on his coat and checked his phone, still expecting a call from Margaret, even thought he knew it was impossible.  He just kept thinking that if there was a way to get in touch with him, she would.

He arrived at the shop and immediately felt the stress start to leave his body.  He could breath again and started focusing on the titles calling out to him.  He took his time, touching one book, then another, when the owner, Bill Gets, patted him on the back.

“I’m so sorry to hear the news, Simon.  Margaret was a wonderful woman and you were lucky to have had each other.”

Simon’s heart was suddenly beating so hard, he wondered it Bill could hear it.  He smiled a bit and nodded.  “Thank you.”

Bill handed Simon a package, wrapped in plain brown paper, tied with string.  “This is for you.  Margaret told me to give it to you, once she was gone and you came back to the shop.”

Simon reached for the package and watched Bill walk away.  He feelings were piling up inside of him, so he took a deep breath and tried to look at the books on the table.  He thought leaving immediately would be in poor taste, so he picked up a couple of books by favorite authors, paid, then walked home, the wrapped package, getting heavier and heavier with each step.

Simon opened the front door, went to the love seat and sat down.  Still wearing his coat, he put the books on the floor and lay the package across his knees.  “Margaret, what have you done?” he said, to no one in particular.  Then he untied the string and let the ends drop down the side of his legs.  Slowly, he removed the paper.  He held his breath, as he picked up the first book. It was small, with a dark blue cover.  LOVE POEMS.   He opened the cover and took out the piece of paper that was tucked inside.

 Simon
Since I can’t tell you I love you in person, I’m doing it this way. 

Whenever you miss me, read a poem. and know that it’s from me.
There are a couple of them that are favorites, so I have written in
the margins.  Just little notes, nothing big or flashy,
since that’s not exactly my style.  I think it could have been, but
once I fell in love with you, you calmed me down and I fell into 
step with you.  I mean I never wanted to be a ballerina, but I did
like excitement.  So, my love, enjoy the poems and think of me
when you have to. I’d rather you go out and enjoy your life, but
that might take you awhile, you slow-poke.  Nelly will help you, if
you ‘ll let her.  Okay, look at the next book and remember
to thank Bill for this big favor.
Love, Margaret

Simon wiped at his eyes and slipped out of his coat.  The next book was HOW TO PICK UP WOMEN.  He laughed out loud and opened the cover.

Simon

Are you laughing?  I hope so.  Just hang out at our bookstores
and talk to women.  You’ll need someone.  You know that women
can live by themselves but it’s much more difficult for men.
Read the book.  It’s not just for those in their twenties.
I’m snickering.  There are pictures.
Go to the next book.
Love, Margaret
P.S.  Buy new clothes.  Expensive new clothes.

He was laughing when he flipped through the book and saw the pictures. He kept wiping his eyes and Nelly, wasn’t sure if he was happy or sad.  Then she decided that he was a little of both, and went to throw her catnip mouse around the kitchen.  He reached for the third and final book.

Simon

This is my FINAL DIARY.  It’s all about you.   
Inside you will find my heart.
Inside you will find my love.
I’ll wait for you.
Tell Nelly I love her.

Margaret

 

Simon leaned back in his chair.  Nelly jumped onto the books on his lap and curled up.  He stroked her back and she started purring.  After a few minutes, they were both asleep and the healing had begun.

 

Photo:  Celine Ylmz
Unsplash

 

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