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Fiction Friday: The Heifer That Mumbles

July 18, 2014 Leave a comment

The Heifer That Mumbles

This short story was based on writing prompts of heifer, mumbles and Where’s the beef.

The photo of the heifer used on this post was provided by Carrie of Dairy Carrie.


 

There was something strange in the air that day, and it was more than the harsh brushes of wind whistling through the burgeoning corn fields.

I remember sitting astride Callie, our 9-year-old chestnut horse, at the edge of the cattle pasture, right where the wood post fence tangled with the nearly sideways corn stalks, which were rendered horizontal by the strong, angry winds.

Old Mother Wind was busy that day to be sure, yes, but there was something else. Something I just couldn’t quite wrangle up.

No matter, I thought, watching as the wind gusts let up briefly and the corn stood up again, proud and nearly ready to deliver its fruit.

But there was something underneath those harsh winds, something that I could not quite shake. I bounced to and fro atop Callie, moving her around in a circle, trying to figure out what that was.

There was no figuring going on. I’d like to think my frown scared the winds back into the next day. Calm was restored to the prairie, if only so briefly.

Near as I could tell, that something was a rumbling, a low and guttural noise. Husky yet quiet, barely noticeable. It’s like what the beginning of an earthquake must feel like, that moment when you just start to realize something terrible and devastating is happening. Well, I assume that’s what it’s like at least. I’ve never stood in the middle of an earthquake, you see.

It’s easier for me to say that the rumbling that day was more like that big moment before a twister touches down across the prairie field. Just before the touch down, it’s a calm moment. Not a blade of grass is torn away from the soil in anger. But then the winds start to whip up, a howling noise builds, and all you can do is grab your family, grab your friends and head to safety.

But as I sat astride Callie, I just could not find what that noise was.

Meanwhile, the cattle sat and stared at us. I bucked against Callie a bit as she came to a halt about 50 feet away from a few of the Holstein Jersey cross heifers. They were grazing, grasses briefly being chewed between their teeth. The one in the middle faced us, its muzzle showing a faint smile.

In the middle of the field, several young heifers surrounded one that was standing up, facing me down: The smiling heifer.

Her brown hair was matted back on the top of her head, and her eyelashes were long and lustrous around her curious eyes. Every once in a while, I saw her mouth open and close, almost as though she were whispering secrets about the full-grown bulls in the nearby pen to the other heifers gathered around her.

And I noticed that the low, nearly continuous rumbling along the roots of the prairie grass seemed to match perfectly with her muzzle movement.

I motioned Callie into a trot as we grew closer to the heifers, perched in the middle of the field atop what was a mountain in the prairie, but was really just a small hill of a couple of feet. And I kept watch of her, the smiling heifer in the middle of that crowd. She eyed me cautiously, her mouth moving up and down.

That’s when I saw it, even if I didn’t believe it. The heifer was mumbling.

I dismounted Callie, patting her along her mane, letting her know that I would be right back. The smiling heifer was still standing there, in the middle of her heifer squad, soaking in the wind and sun.

When I reached close to her mouth, I could hear the mumbling more clearly: “Where’s the beef?”

Yes, there was something strange in the air that day.

Fiction Friday: Dinosaur Ambulance, Part 3

June 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Dinosaur Ambulance

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of Dinosaur Ambulance.

 

Angie.

Her amber hair and deep green eyes searched the crowd swelling around her. And then she landed on mine. I felt my face open up into a nice, wide smile. “Jim,” she said. The tension and relief flooded out of that single lonely word. It was the most incredible feeling I had ever felt. My heart swelled in size as she rushed toward me and swallowed me up in a big hug.

She was shaking.

I hugged her back.

I pulled her in tighter. I could feel my heart pounding against her body, pressed up against me. We unraveled, and she looked up into my eyes.

“I’m so glad you’re here, safe and sound,” she said. “When the rex came, I was sure we were all going to die. That was one pissed off momma.”

“I woke up after the attack and there was nothing. It was just me. I was so confused and disoriented. And then Keith stumbled upon me and pulled me in to this makeshift village.” I looked about, and the majority of the crowd had dispersed, just another person welcomed to their new, temporary town. But a few stayed, including Keith. He was talking with a bunch of elderly men and women, and another man in his 30s, all in a huddle, just a few yards away. I could see him peek over another person’s shoulder every minute or so and flash me a Keith smile.

“She was a mean old rex, and I think this town is actually close to her nest. I saw a couple of nests on the way here, and I think she’s going to come back.” Angie took my hands in her, a feverish look in her eyes. “We need to get out of here, Jim. It’s not safe here. Let’s head back to Old Salem. The village still has some structures intact, and we’ll be out of the way of the rex.”

I didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t like Angie to be so forceful, to put her idea forward and not want to hear any debate. And as I looked around the makeshift jungle village and saw huts and forts and other pop-up homes made of branches and leaves and other jungle debris, I couldn’t blame her.  This was not a permanent home.

But my head still ached, the bump still throbbing dully, just background noise against the din of the village.

“Maybe we should stay here one more night before we head out. I don’t know if I’m in too good of condition to travel right now.”

She looked at me, pain flashing across her face. She hadn’t even noticed that I had been injured. Or maybe she had, and felt it wasn’t as big of a concern.

I frowned. “OK, how about this? Let me rest for another hour or two. During that time, you can pack up some stuff, anything you think we might need and they might let us have. Then you wake me up and we head on out.”

Angie smiled. It was the prettiest smile.

 

All I felt was someone shaking me, and then I was up again.

It was Angie. She had pain in her face. And then she said the four words I’ll never be able to unhear: “The rex is back.”

Terror filled the air as I jumped off the cot and was flooded in between waves of men, women, children and others, rushing by as everyone once again ran for safety.

A thunderous roar filled the village and nearly knocked me over. The rex. She was angry.

Angie was still by my side and we grabbed for each other and started to run. Although it was chaos everywhere, nearly everyone was running the same way, and Angie stopped.

“Do you …?” she started to ask me.

“Let’s go back the other way.”

She nodded.

We ran.

We had made it a mile or so away from the pop-up village when we heard the ground shake beneath us, and we were thrown to the ground. Angie fell forward, tripping over a big tree route connecting a family of trees. I stopped and rushed to her side, and her face flashed with pain.

She reached for her ankle.

I wanted to pull her to safety, to lift her up, to carry her on my shoulders. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to.

And she knew it, too.

A roar thundered close by, shaking some leaves off of trees around us.

“Run!” She screamed it at me. It was not a plea. It was not a question.

It was a demand.

I complied.

I ran, faster than I remember being able to, until I was a little bit away, but could still see her. I don’t know why, but I turned, and I saw her, laying in pain on the ground, hobbled by her ankle. The rex stood over her, salivating down on her, its short, skinny arms circling in terror just above her head.

And then I saw the rex, as easy as it had ever done anything, bend down toward Angie and feed.

I just sat there, unable to turn away, wondering why I had to rest so bad in the pop-up village.

I couldn’t even feel the throb of my head anymore.

Categories: fiction Tags: ,

Fiction Friday: Dinosaur Ambulance, Part 1

June 13, 2014 4 comments

Dinosaur Ambulance

This short story has been written in response to the “dinosaur ambulance” prompt.

The news travels fast. We have the Jianchangosaurus to thank for that.

Oh, you probably don’t know what that is. Yes, well, it’s my dinosaur, you see, the one I and other medical emergency personnel use to get about and deliver news and help people. It’s a smallish dinosaur, just hardy enough to support a passenger, and fast enough to deliver her quickly. Its hips stood aside a woman’s when the two were on the ground, and its feathers were marked with crisp fall colors, shades of reds, oranges, yellows, browns. But it stood long, more than 6 feet from head to tail, guided along with a gentle nudge of plants and other foliage, dangling quite close to its nose.

So when Angie, one of the local news messengers, showed up on her Jianchangosaurus—I believe she calls him Sam, but I always forget—I knew there was a problem from the look on her face.

“Jim, there’s been a problem up by Old Salem. A Rex sniffed a tad too close, and it was a mean ol momma,” she said. It didn’t matter that the news she delivered was horrendous, bodies mangled, torn to bits were the details streaming out of her mouth. Her eyes always entranced me, particularly at the worst moments. I shook my head, came back into the conversation. “There’s been a few deaths, and many more injured. I’m rounding up anyone who can come and help.”

Her eyes looked up to mine. I could see the beginning of tears swelling in them.

“Please, Jim, we need your help.”

“Of course,” I said. The shine in her eyes was all the thanks I needed. But I had hoped for more.

The Jianchangosaurus sped across the countryside, flying through the jungle, with its large, bulbous tree trunks and falling fruit. When we emerged from the dense collection of vegetation, the scene was splayed about. Scores of people with weapons, sticks, spears, whatever they could find, were gathered in a large circle, which left room between each person. Our dinos slowed down and walked through a couple of the guards, and in the middle of the circle, death awaited.

At least two, no, three, were dead—it was tough to tell with all of these people torn apart, arms and legs left laying about, with one pair of legs simply left alone near the edge of the circle. A group was huddled over the injured in a wide open, barren field, awash in a sea of red.

Blood. Lots of it.

Angie hopped onto the ground and rushed to the scene. I ran after her, careful not to let her get too far away.

She bent down over a couple of severely injured, a woman and a young girl, maybe 11 or 12. Their screams of pain filled the air, complemented by a strong scent of metallic blood. My nose curled up into itself.

They had scratch and claw marks all over their bodies, rivers of blood turning into lakes on the barren ground.

Two things were clear, I thought. We had to get these two out of here and treat them in an infirmary. There was one close by, just up the road and on the beaten path.

And I could see now that these marks, scratches, they were not from a Rex attack. Had Angie known? Had she lied to me? What was all this about? Subterfuge was at work here, but by whom?

We set about bandaging them as best we could. And we had gotten the two onto a pair of stretchers, battened down and tightened and stretched across the backs of two Jianchangosaurus. One of the men who had been bent over the pair sent the two dinosaurs on their way, and followed closely behind on one of his own.

The rest of us stood in the midst of carnage, blood and body parts still here, there, underneath your foot, right where you place your next step.

I exhaled, and I watched Angie do the same and wipe the sweat from her brow. She wanted to smile, I could sense, but she didn’t. Just like her, I thought.

And then everything changed. The air carried a tenseness that everyone felt, and people looked up from what they were doing to see what was going on.

I knew what it was just as Angie said it. “Rex.” We exchanged glances.

And that’s when chaos rained down.

READ PART 2 ON FRIDAY, JUNE 20.

Author’s note: Yes, I know T. Rex and Jianchangosaurus lived far away from each other and at different times. This is fiction. So I don’t care.

Categories: fiction Tags: ,

Fiction Friday: Adventures in Eating Cereal

June 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Adventures in Eating Cereal

That mysterious liquid was soap. All I can taste right now is soap. I am an adult, I think.

I took the bowl of Cheerios and threw it down. The spoon flew out and rattled against the stainless steel kitchen sink, nearly careening over the ledge and onto the floor. The rest of the bowl crashed against the side, and the Cheerios flowed over like lava slowly working its way down a volcano.

The soap bubbled from my lips, flowing down my chin into the cold metal below.

I gagged. I could feel myself retching, the cold soap forming into a ball at the back of my throat, trying to wiggle its way free. Then all I could taste was more soap.

Adults do these things, right? I know the difference between soap and milk. Usually.

I think.

After all, I am an adult.

#FictionFriday: How I Got Blocked on Twitter

May 30, 2014 3 comments

How I Got Blocked On Twitter

This short story has been written in response to the “I Shouldn’t Have Written That” prompt.

I’ve been blocked on Twitter only once, and it wasn’t an experience I like to relive.

And I can’t believe I even wrote that. It was stupid and dumb—maybe exactly what I would have done. And did.

It started as a blind date. My friend Jeremy had been trying to hook me up with his girlfriend’s coworker for a month or two. “She’s so pretty, and she’s down for guys who play it loose and cool. She’s made for you,” he said.

I would just look at him, amusement plastered on my face. We would be in a bar, or in my apartment watching a game, or even at a park, grilling out under the blazing hot sun. Whatever the case, I would always respond the same: “I don’t know, man. I’m just not a blind date guy.”

I would take a sip of my Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, and Jeremy would stop whatever else he was doing and focus on me. He would have a beer in one hand, or a pair of tongs while he was grilling, or a handful of peanuts as the game played on. “Dude. She wants this. She is begging us to set her up. You could not be in a more perfect position.” He would turn to the TV or his phone. Then back at me. “The pressure is off for you.”

Jeremy would frown at my skeptical glance in his direction. “I’ve never felt the pressure off on a blind date. And I’ve been on far too many of them. Believe me.”

Jeremy would give me that look he had. That “Bro, c’mon” look. But I knew better.

He usually wouldn’t push the conversation beyond that, and I would always want to tell him to ask Kara or Jayme or Zoe or Rachael. Or Claudia, for that matter.

One day, after repeated attempts at asking, I could see the glimmer in Jeremy’s eyes as he set about asking me again. I put my hand up in the air, closing off his comment. “Don’t bother,” I said. “Just set up the date. I’ll be there.”

I could see the frown on his face instantly reach for the sky, unexpected jubilation running rampant on his face.

The date was nothing special, at least until our entrees arrived. Her fried caprese salad looked delicious with little balls of mozzarella fried and dressed atop the dish. My short ribs were resting on a bed of mashed potatoes, tucked in between piles of finely shredded carrots.

We demolished our dishes with intermittent conversation about jobs, aspirations, hopes.

After Rayna finished her salad, she wiped her mouth and folded her napkin and rested it on her plate. I took another bite of my short ribs, and I could only watch as she picked up her purse, flashed me a wry smile, and left.

My food snacked its way down my esophagus as I watched her from my seat on the patio. She unlocked her car, started it up and drove away.

My only remaining dining partner was my utter confusion.

So I thought nothing of it when I reached out on Twitter and asked her what went wrong. (I’ve taken rejection well, but a lack of excuse for leaving, well, that’s just something I found inconceivable.)

“Shut up,” she replied.

“Bitch,” I tweeted back.

When I checked my account next, I found that she had blocked me, and any attempt at an answer to my one burning question were completely and wholly blocked.

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#FictionFriday: The Penguin Photographer

May 23, 2014 1 comment

The Penguin Photographer

Rosemarie Salentine almost died taking a penguin’s picture. Though it wasn’t really her fault, even if she had her obnoxious high-quality flash attached to her DSLR as she shot using her iPhone 5s, which was pointed at the waddling creature.

She’s lucky it was just a broken leg, a compound fracture in three different places. Or maybe it was unlucky. Had she simply fallen into the water and not smacked her leg on the side of the rock leading into it, she’d have been fine. Startled, maybe.

Her screams called forth a wail from the nearby sea otters, who jumped off the ragged rock formation and rained their terror down upon the onlookers in the form of a wave of water escaping their exhibit.

But Rosemarie continued to flail about — some would say she was looking for her camera, but to me she looked truly in pain. That or the water was really cold.

(I certainly don’t know. I’ve never swam with penguins in their zoo enclosure.)

Her camera and phone sunk to the bottom, where one penguin splashed in — it must have been adventurous, as it completely ignored Rosemarie’s shrieks — and tried to feed on it. No, it’s not a fish, you could just imagine it thinking to itself as it let those pieces of Rosemarie’s life continue to sink down further.

At least the EMTs were better at fishing than that penguin was, for Rosemarie’s sake, of course. They had her out within minutes by the time they arrived on scene. That’s quite well, considering Rosemarie slapped her fists down on the back of the technicians as though she thought they were King Kong, carrying her off over the shoulder and up the Empire State Building.

They stuffed her in the ambulance as the onlookers stood about. Half of them had their mouths agape, frozen in fear as the terrified woman continued her rampage, her screams, sobs and wails the only instruments she knew how to play.

The other half — I suppose I include myself in that — simply watched. What more was there to do? We could not help. And we certainly could not afford to divert our eyes from this mess in front of us.

So we watched as the ambulance pulled out of the middle of the zoo. It made its way to the parking lot, a couple of miles away from the penguins’ home. The vehicle would swung out wide to the right to get to the city street, which flowed down a hill and toward an intersection visible below and beyond the those sea otters.

The crowd, most of which had not dispersed (who would?), watched as the ambulance took off down the hill.

Yes, it’s a good thing Rosemarie Salentine didn’t die when she fell in with the penguins. The fiery crash that started from that out-of-control semi truck striking the side of the ambulance was probably far less painful.

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