Monday, September 3, 2012

Issue Twelve, Volume Four

From the Desk of the Editor;
Hello and welcome to Issue Twelve, Volume Four of Larks Fiction Magazine! In this issue we examine love, loss, and the macabre.
We hope that our US readers had a safe and relaxing holiday weekend and have a happy Tuesday.
Daniel J. Pool
LFM Editor

Harry Loves Mildred
By Gary Clifton
            Mildred was on the ass...again.  Harry tried every thing - apologizing for the sins of all mankind, baby talk, finally pleading - but no dice.  Mildred wasn't speaking to him for the umpteenth time, an irritation that had plagued their relationship for 37 years. She hadn't spoken for days.  Harry sat meekly on the den sofa.  She'd confiscated the T.V. remote. He couldn't even watch Jeopardy.
            She hadn't yet, but during past snits, she's spent hours on the telephone complaining to her mother in Tulsa about the million faults of her miserable, loser husband Harry.  He'd tried to work on that belly.  Pork chops were good eatin' and hellfire, he couldn't help the baldness.
            For the past two nights, he'd followed her upstairs and spent sleepless hours on bed's edge while she ignored him.  He'd been drowsy all day.  Fortunately, today was Sunday and he didn't have to fight commuter traffic.  Mildred had gone to church - Harry never attended - but she'd refused the courtesy of a good by when she'd left that morning.
            Now, she banged around the kitchen, ignoring him like a panhandler.  "For God's sake, Mildred," he stepped into the kitchen, "just gimme a clue what you're upset about.  We could run over to the cafeteria on Sunset for late Sunday lunch?  Then maybe everything will be okay." 
            She literally looked right through him.  The hard look around her eyes seemed strangely to say this time was it.  Harry knew he was no Tarzan, but Mildred, standing there in the kitchen, wasn't exactly a sleek young specimen herself.  Damn her eyes, treating him like this. She'd regret it.
            Suddenly, Mildred, still in church clothes, snatched the SUV keys from a kitchen counter and made for the driveway.  Harry, determined to salvage what he could of the marriage, followed.  Mildred threw up the rear hatch of the car and tossed in her odd habit she'd had for years.
            Harry, disgusted to the max, climbed in the rear hatch in anger, slumping in the rear seat.  She'd, by God go nowhere without him.  It was his car, too.  She whizzed away, still refusing to communicate.
            Harry, dozing, snapped to when she swung under a covered car-port, amidst immaculately manicured shrubs on either side.  She popped the rear hatch to grab her purse.  Harry, now mad as hell, bailed out he rear door which she nearly slammed on his head.
            Harry followed her through double doors.  A somber man in a black suit greeted her.  Many friends and acquaintances standing around hugged and patted Mildred.  Then he saw the sign:  "Visitation Service for Harry Callaway in Viewing Room J."  Beyond, he could see an open coffin.  Harry's body lay, hands folded in the classic over the chest  position, in the gilded box.
            "Great God!" Harry shouted.   "Mildred, I'm right here!"
            Mildred turned to the glut of mourners.  "My, my, I feel I can almost hear Harry, bitching about some trivial matter.  I'll miss him."
The End 
About the Author;
Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has short fiction pieces ;published or pending on over thirty online sites.  He has an M.S. from Abilene Christian University.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Rowse

Stay a Spell
By J. Scott Kunkle

He loved riding the trains.  Even as a little kid, trains had been things of fascination for him.  He and his father had played with model trains and he loved to ride whenever he had the time, which was very seldom indeed.  Now, fast approaching fifty, he had little time for anything other than his work.  As for trains, the bus ride to and from work was now the closest substitute.
Adam Moore hated his life.  Not only his life, but his job, his family, his neighbors, the couple that sold the burritos on the corner and even the guy who sold nachos at the local ballpark.  In fact, he hated everything and everybody.  Mostly, he hated that the driver usually missed his stop, even if he rang the buzzer well ahead of time.
The jangling of his cell phone interrupted his musings.  With a sigh, he pulled his phone from a pocket and answered the call.
“Moore,” he said.  The smile vanished. “Yes, sir.  I am, sir.  On my way, sir.”
Adam closed his eyes and counted to ten.  He was convinced now that he understood why postal workers went berserk and killed their employers.  The pains in his stomach were back.  He wondered if he could hijack the bus and drive to…anywhere.
The bus slowed and then stopped with a lurch.  The doors opened and several more people boarded the bus.  An older woman with a huge paper bag filled with yard stopped at Adam’s seat.  She stared at him as if he had grown an extra head.  He smiled at her and waited.
“Aren’t you going to offer a lady your seat?” she asked.
“Pardon me?” was all Adam could manage to stammer.  He was acutely aware of the fact that everyone was staring.
“Aren’t you going to get up and let me sit down?” she repeated.
Adam looked around. “There are a lot of empty seats.”
“But I want this one.”
With a sigh of resignation, Adam stood and allowed the woman to sit.  He moved back a few rows and sat down in an unoccupied seat, doing his best to ignore the snickers and comments from the other passengers.  Once seated he closed his eyes once more and willed them all away, the sounds slowly fading until all he could hear was the running water in the creek and the occasional sound of a fish jumping.
“You gonna try your luck today, sonny?”
Adam opened his eyes and regarded the old man now seated beside him.  “My luck with what?”
“Why, catching fish of course,” answered the man with a laugh. “You think they’re biting today?”
“There isn’t a stream within a hundred miles of here,” said Adam.  “So it’s doubtful anything is biting, except maybe the occasional stray dog.”
“Always with the jokes,” laughed the old man.
Adam opened his mouth to speak and it was then that he noticed his surroundings.  It appeared that they were no longer on a bus, but rather on a train.  The people appeared to be the same people, but they were definitely on a train.  He started to get to his feet, but the train lurched and he lost his balance and fell against the window jamb.  He stared out the window in wonder.
Instead of the crowded city streets, there was a sprawling country scene flashing by outside the window.  Adam could see a pasture with horse running about, and a barn, huge and red.  There were no tall buildings cluttering up the skyline, instead there were blue skies and white clouds.
“Where the hell are we?”
“Now that is a joke,” said the old man. “Same place as always, Cedar City.  That’s the Cochise River out there.  Fishing is always good here.”
“Are you insane?” asked Adam.
“Not any more than you, Adam,” answered the man with a chuckle.
“How do you know my name?  What is going on here?  How did I get on this train?”
“You got a mess of questions, Adam,” said the man. “Does it really matter after all?  I mean, really?”
Adam closed his eyes tightly, his breathing shallow.  This was not possible.  He was on a bus, a city bus, not in the country.  The old man was clearly disturbed.  Taking a deep breath, Adam opened his eyes and turned to the old man.
He was back on the bus.  The old man was also gone, as were most of the people on the bus.  Adam looked and saw his stop as the vehicle rolled onward.  He stood and pulled the cable and then sat back down to wait.  Shaking his head, he questioned his own sanity.  Did all that really happen?  More likely, he had fallen asleep and dreamt the whole thing.  That was it of course, he had simply been dreaming.  Then why was he still able to detect the aroma of the old man in the air?  The man had smelled of the beach, ocean spray and sea salt.
His cell phone rang again as he stood to exit the bus.  The driver stopped quickly and the jerk nearly threw Adam off his feet.  He answered his ringing phone as he stepped off the bus.  “Yes, sir.  I know, Sir.  At once, sir.”
Adam Moore was having a bad day.  Not only was he late for work this morning, but he had somehow lost his papers for the morning meeting and it had taken an hour to find them.  Then, as he worked through his lunch hour, one of his co-workers managed to spill a cup of steaming hot coffee in his lap.  After half an hour in an awkward position under the hand blower, the boss called him into his office and reduced his hours, but not his workload.
Seated once more on the bus, this time travelling in the opposite direction, Adam wondered what could possible happen next.  With the cut in hours, and the corresponding reduction in pay, he would have a hard time paying his monthly bills.  As it had been, he was existing hand to mouth and this meant less of everything.  He slumped in his seat and closed his eyes, his heart racing with anxiety, wondering if someone could die from worry.
The train whistle sounded very close.
Adam opened his eyes and stared out the window.  He could see a town square, replete with running children and green grass.  He half expected to see Andy and Opie any second.  Laughing softly, Adam tapped his head against the window.  “Boy, if I’m dreaming, this is a doozy.”
“What makes you think you’re dreaming, Adam?”
The old man was sitting next to him again, fishing pole and tackle box in hand.
“I got on a bus,” said Adam. “And now I am on a train.  If I’m not dreaming, then how did I get here?”
“People get places by a lot of different ways,” replied the man.
“Thanks for the help.”
“You are quite welcome, Adam,” said the man. “Well, this is my stop.”
The train slowed and came to a halt.  Adam stood and started to follow the other man, but hesitated as he neared the door.  The old man looked back as he exited.  “Nothing to be afraid of, Adam.  Come and stay a spell.”
Adam went through the door and stood between the cars.  The old man had disappeared into the crowd of people milling about the train, greeting and being greeted.  Taking a deep breath, Adam went down the steps.
The sun was warm on his skin and the cool wind wafted the smell of fresh popcorn from the town square.  He wandered down the main street, with shops lining the cobblestone road, until he came to a park.  Walking across the grass, he realized for the first time in forever that he liked the smell of the outdoors.  He pulled off his tie and stuffed it into his jacket pocket, unbuttoning the top two buttons.  This was the life!
Two young boys ran by, fishing poles in tow, heading for the bank of the nearby stream.  Adam watched the boys, so pure in the unbridled enthusiasm of youth.  Life was so much simpler as a boy, the hassles and worries of the real world had been so far in the future.  Old age had seemed a million years away, far from the world where young boys were indestructible and dreams always attainable.
Approaching the stream, Adam saw a familiar face sitting on the grass, line dipped into the water.  Adam walked over and sat down next to the old man.
“Nice little town you got here,” said Adam.
“What’s the name of this town?”
“Well,” said the man. “I don’t rightly know.  Nobody ever asked me that before.”
“How can a town not have a name?” asked Adam. “And how can you live in a town and not know the name?”
“Well, son,” said the man. “I wake up in the morning happy, spend the day fishing or whatnot, then eat a wonderful meal and spend the evening with the woman I love.  I don’t care what the name of the town is, you get my meaning?”
“I’m beginning to,” said Adam.
“You can have whatever you want, son,” said the man. “Why not stay a spell?”
“You know, that sounds pretty good to me.”
Night had fallen over the city.  The bus sat in a deserted parking lot, a police cruiser next to it.  An ambulance, lights flashing, pulled into the parking lot and stopped beside the bus.  A police officer and the bus driver stood aside as the two paramedics carried the stretcher inside the bus.  The cop turned to the driver.
“So he got on and then what?” asked the cop.
“Then nothing,” answered the bus driver. “He gets on every day, at the same stop, and he gets off every day at the same stop.  Except today.”
“And he just sat there?  Did you talk to him?”
“Yeah, I talked to him, but it didn’t make a difference.  He never even noticed.”
“I see.”
“He isn’t here anymore, officer,” said the driver. “You know what I mean?”
The two men emerged with Adam Moore on their stretcher.  He stared vacantly up at the sky, a smile on his face as they loaded him into the ambulance.  As the driver had said, he was no longer here.
Adam Moore had gone fishing.

The End

About the Author;
J. Scott Kunkle served in the Army for 10 years, before returning to his hometown of Tucson, Arizona. He is a single father of three and spends most of his free time on the computer writing.
His short stories have appeared online at sites such as Bewildering Stories, Flashes in the Dark, Powder Burn Flash, Static Movement, Weird Year and The Fringe. He has written four novels and well over a dozen feature-length movie scripts, several of which he is actively seeking representation. His short work “Walking With Shadows” won the Fiction Addiction Short Story Contest several years ago.

Thank you for reading this issue of Larks Fiction Magazine! Please join us next week for more great fiction!

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