Tag Archives: short story

Spencer’s Story: Volume 3

“What are you doing?” Mr. Grum commanded.

Groggy, Spencer took a moment to answer, to get his bearings. “I was just resting. Just resting.”

“Well get up. Now. We have company.”

A tall man in a v-neck sweater of green stood behind his father, smiling, waiting for Spencer to react.

“Spencer, this is Mr. Blankenship. He’s with the church.”

“Nice to meet you,” Spencer said.

“Very nice to meet you, Spencer.”

Spencer smiled, looking Mr. Blankenship in the eyes. This was how it went with company. Smile politely, make eye contact, don’t step out of line. That line had been drawn in impenetrable stone for as long as Spencer could remember. As much as he tried to forget, his evolutionary mechanism aptly reminded him of its presence in times like these.

“We’re going to be using the dining room. I don’t want any interruptions. You got that?”

“Yes, sir.”

With the church, Spencer mused. It’s always with the church. He had wondered why the church took precedence over family. Why the way the family dressed for church worship services was important enough to scream about, fight over. Why Spencer and his brothers had to be so gosh darn quiet in their company. It was as though, as Spencer had thought before, their Christian development wasn’t matured, or brainwashed enough to fit in.

Frankly, he was sick of it. And he went to bed that evening with a sour taste in his mouth.

The next morning, Spencer woke before the sun came to visit. This was par for the course in the Grum household. Early to rise for chores of cleaning and dusting and organizing. While his brothers still had it in them to whine about it, Spencer had grown to realize that it was how it went. And it wasn’t so bad, he had thought. It usually gave him more time during the day to play outdoors: his most favorite place on the planet.

Later that day, after he had finished his chores, Spencer was given permission to invite his friend Garrett over. And that day, Spencer found adventure in a place hadn’t ever before.

*    *    *    *

Beyond the hill behind the Grum house, horses ran, unsaddled and free. Or at least that’s what Spencer liked to think. He didn’t know much about horses–other than what he gleaned from episodes of Have Gun Will Travel–but he did like to lean up against the fence and watch them as they galloped to and fro chasing jackrabbits and chomped on wild lemon grass in between yearnings to scratch their backs with the crust of the earth.

This one time, however, when he was eight, Spencer and his friend Garrett did just a bit more than simply watch the horses.

It was another one of those sunny weekend days in Southern California: perfect for romping around the neighborhood, exploring new trees to build forts upon, finding new ways to lend credence to the title of hooligan or scoundrel or whippersnapper, terms he heard regularly delivered by Mrs. Walden (for skateboarding “too fast” down the hill near their houses, or throwing water balloons at passing bicyclists).

“Let’s go watch the horses,” Garret said. Garrett lived in a stucco box of an apartment next to other stucco boxes, and didn’t often have the chance to be around animals. Small pets weren’t allowed in his apartment complex. Not even miniature horses.

Spencer wanted to get out of the house anyhow. Miah and Marcus were fighting over the integrity of one another’s building block castle: Miah’s being replete with moat, and imaginary crocodiles for the strict purpose of chomping on intruders, or Marcus’ wandering fingers; Marcus’ castle being the one with the highest towers, or the “better angle to shoot things in the face.” The parents were, as was the routine for Sundays, arguing over bills in their bedroom. They jabbed at each other in exasperated exclamations.

“Okay,” Spencer replied. “Let’s go.”

When they both reached the fence at the top of the hill, they leaned against it and looked out upon the roaming beasts.

“Who’s are they?” Garret asked.

“I don’t know. They’re just here.”

“But who owns them?”

“I don’t know. Maybe no one does. I think they’re just wild.”

A few moments pass before the two exchange grins. The grins, translated, amounted to: They’re wild. We’re wild. Let’s be wild together.

That, at the least, was their collective vision. However naive, it was still theirs. No rules. No parents. No brothers or sisters. Only them, and the wild beasts of the field beyond the Grum house.

Stepping through the barbed wire fence, Garrett looks up, noticing one of the horses trot towards them, only twenty paces off or so. “They’re not going to eat us, are they?”

“Um, no. No, they’re herbivores…I think.”

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Spencer’s Story: Volume 1

Spencer slammed the door shut, knowing that he’d hear about it later, but not caring, for in that moment, he was alone, himself.

With each step up the hill behind his house, Spencer could feel the anxiety lessen, allowing for the calming breath of his mind to dissipate the stabbing in his chest.

He climbed.

The long grass under his feet held dew that made his socks all wet, but he didn’t care. He didn’t care that this would be a point of contention later; that the socks, wet and soggy, would somehow find their way into the “reasons why boys need structure” handbook his father so dutifully abused.

At the top of the hill, Spencer looked down into the valley. Horses fed on alfalfa in one-acre lots. Kids ran up and down the street looking for something to prod, someone to play with, some activity to occupy their time. His two younger brothers, Jeremiah (or “Miah” as everyone seemed to call him) and Marcus, played in the oblong patch of grass in the front yard of their home. Spencer, sometimes, was jealous of their innocence. He wondered how they could not know. They lived in the same house.  Slept in the same room. Pooped in the same toilet. Showered in the same linoleum box.

But perhaps they did know, and their alternate universe wasn’t the opposite. Just different. Possibly better.

At least that’s what Spencer wished for.

Something better.

Better like the time he spent the weekend at his friend Micah’s house, when his parents had to make a last-minute trip with the church. Micah’s house, with all of the tasty white bread and sour licorice whips and soda pop, was something better.

Less stabby chest, more sore smiling cheeks.

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Giraffe – 1, Apocalypse – 0

On my way to work this morning I encountered a giraffe. The giraffe was running up the 405 freeway and keeping pace with the traffic. For 10 minutes, the giraffe trotted (is it a trot?) alongside the car. So I thought I’d introduce myself. It’s not often one finds the opportunity, you know.

I said, “Where are you heading?”

“To work.” And the giraffe looks over at me, its eyes a milky black. “Aren’t we all?”

“Maybe. What’s your name?”

“Mags, you?”

“Non. Like Kay En Oh Dub uh U En. Mags short for something?”

“No, just Mags.”

“I wasn’t going to say it, but I’m finding it difficult to hold back….”

“Just say it.”

“…you’re on the freeway. Shouldn’t you be at the zoo or something?”

“I was. But a few years ago I left. I wasn’t cut out for display purposes.”

“What do you do now?”

“Insurance.”

“You sell insurance?”

“A charmed life.”

“What type of insurance?”

“Rapture.”

“What?”

“I sell apocalypse insurance.”

“To insure against fire and brimstone?”

“And zombies and angels and demons.”

“But isn’t that the end anyhow? What’s insurance going to do?”

“It’s peace of mind.”

“Do you also give out AK47s?”

“Just the insurance.”

“Zombies aren’t afraid of paper cuts.”

“Perhaps. But our vision of the apocalypse is the one in books and movies.”

“So.”

“So it may be wrong. Instead of one Mad Max, we may have thousands. Or millions.”

“And if it doesn’t happen at all.”

“That’s the nature of insurance now isn’t it?”

“I guess so.”

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Giddiness in the Stillness Before the Journey

She sits on the vinyl UFO stool, casually twisting back and forth, with her too-long legs swaying below the foot rest.

Before her, a plate of what appears to be some type of chocolate mousse, and a ceramic mug of coffee. On the stool next to her rests a backpacker’s pack – a long journey of a pack, meant for treks into the wilderness, into the great beyond, into the starry night skies of worlds unseen.

She’s alone, a traveler, but she seems to be fine with this. Content. Giddy almost. With the to and fro of her legs revealing this particular bit about her. The coffee mug at her lips is still. She contemplates its warmth. Her breath exaggerating the steam that tenderly licks her face.

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In the Stillness, the Noise Stirs

In the early hours of the morning, while the cats slept, and his wife dreamed of sailboats and the big, shining sea; as the dew on the grass rested without stirring, as the sun beyond the hills wiped the crust, the dulling filmy sleep from its eyes; as the silence of the stillness, of the unmoved and bountiful, makes the noise in Hank’s head that much more pronounced.

And amidst all of this silence, all of the beauty of the composed stillness, Hank decides that he will shoot himself in the head before the beauty of the morning breaks into day.

Before his wife stirs, before she slaps the alarm clock into intermittent silences; before the cats wake and stretch their legs beside the windowsill; before the busyness and congestion takes hold in the streets, as the commuters embark upon another droll drive; before the time ticks its slow, persistent, reverberating beat, Hank will take his life.

But the noise persists in the morning calm, and before Hank takes the cold, heavy pistol in his hands, he curses the god of his youth, and the god his wife held onto so dearly. He asks himself, softly, why it had to be so.

And with a breath, he puts the gun to his head.

And pulls the trigger.

Stirrings Before the Dawn

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