Short Story Wednesday: Sam

Short Story Wednesday Prompt: “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner.

I want to talk about a dawg. His name was Sam. Least that’s what he called hisself. Others knew him as Dammit or Git or Sumbitch or Git-on. That’s cause he was a tramp. He walked from place to place, calling no place home. Wasn’t that he didn’t want a home. He did. He wanted one mighty bad. Yet nowhere did he find any hospitality for the likes of hisself.

He was about knee-high-on-a-six-foot-man tall and what you’d call a half breed, half this and half that and half something else. His coat all caked up with mud and so it was hard to tell what color that coat was. If you looked hard, you’d see some brown and some black and a bit of red.

Mostly he was passing-through, getting his meals wherever he could. Got real good at finding a dumpster that might have a feast every couple a weeks. He stocked up his stomach real good, then moved on. Cause he knew nobody wanted him. ‘Tween dumpsters he’d find a garbage can, then someone’d see him tearing at the trash and throw a rock at him. With that, he moved on some more. Long time ago, he’d decided he didn’t want to be any bother, and he tried not to be. But it’s hard when you’re a dawg and nobody cares and you’re hungry all the time.

There were times a dog catcher showed up. Tried to outrun him and net him down. Sam was smart and he was fast. So he ended up on the no-catch list. By that time, he was on his way to another place, another town, another neighborhood. It wasn’t no matter where it was he was going. All that mattered was that he was going.

Now if you’d got up real close to Sam, you’d see the kindest eyes you ever did want to see. You’d know there was no danger in this dawg. There was only love. And you’d see lonely too. When a dawg is on the move the way Sam was, it was rare that any human person would get that chance to see them eyes of his up close.

Where Sam started out, he couldn’t have told you. Some distant memory of a family lodged deep in his brain but that was a long time ago. These days there was hurt and there was fear in that heart of his. As I said, the wandering life is a lonely life. So from time to time Sam would find a tree to keep him company and lie under that tree and dream. He preferred an oak tree. He would wonder if there was a human in his future. He wasn’t choosey. Any human would do.

Sam must have been on the road four, five years with no particular destination. Seems he’d been looking for something or someone all those years and still had not found what he was looking for. But you know, you may just find that which you been wanting, if you search hard enough, and you search with a pure heart. Sam sure searched hard enough, as hard as any, and it was for sure that he had a pure heart.

Maybe it was that some angel came up to God, pulled on his sleeve and said, “Sir, You might want to take a gander at this here dawg. He is a wandering dawg. He’s in need of a friend real bad. I been watching him a long time and I guarantee he is worthy.”

Well, that was why God had angels. So they could watch for things and folks that He might miss. When You are God, You have to keep Your eye on the Big Picture. Which means He didn’t often get a chance to see the little things.

God looked down on Sam and a tear fell from His eyes. Seems that God had a soft spot for dawgs like Sam. So God started doing some thinking. He thought and He thought and He thought some more. Then it came to Him. He knew just the thing for Sam. He called over to one of his extra-special angels and told her the plan He had in mind.

Sam had been tramping for a good four days. His stomach growled mighty hard as he made his way down a dirt road. He thought there might just be a farm nearby. Seems it had been aways since he last saw anything that he could reasonably call dinner.

In the distance, he heard some crying. Sam was a curious kind of dawg. That curiosity got Sam in trouble way too much, but still it was crying he heard. Even though humans had treated him unkindly, you’d think he would’ve not taken the chance. But he did. The crying came closer and closer as Sam edged hisself through the field of grass. Then he came upon it.

It was a human person. Must have been something like five years old and she sat there on the grass, bawling her eyes out. Sam being Sam he felt compassion for the little person. He walked right up to her and gave her a big lick like he’d known her his whole life. She stopped her bawling. Sam did another lick. This little girl started laughing. He did it again and she laughed harder.

Sam did not hear it. He sensed it. He made a quick turn and there was a rattler staring him right in the eye. That rattler was about to strike. Not at Sam. At the girl. The rattlesnake went for the girl. Sam went for the snake. Just as the snake was about to hit the girl, Sam bit into it. He bit that snake so hard, he bit it in two. Then he threw the snake’s head over aways.

Nearby a man stepped through the grass. Saw Sam and thought the girl was in danger from the dawg. He raised his rifle and aimed. Just as the hunter went to fire, he stopped. He saw the dawg throw that snake away. Then the dawg dropped down in front of the child. The girl went quiet.

The man ran over to the child. Sam bared his teeth. Nothing was going to hurt this child, those teeth said. The man dropped to his knees and said, “Easy, boy, easy. This is my Naomi and I am not about to hurt her.”

Sam liked the softness in the man’s voice. He picked himself up and moved away from the girl. The man lifted his daughter into his arms and hugged her. “Darling, we been looking all over for you. How in the world did you get here?” The girl giggled.

The man walked over and picked up his rifle as Sam saw his opportunity to sneak away.

The man looked over at Sam. He said, “Where do you think you’re going?”

Sam did not know what to think. Should he trust this man. He went to run away.

The man called after him, “Sam,” he said. “It’s about time you came on home with us. You look like you could use a meal, some cleaning up and a home. Don’t you think?”

Sam barked. It was the first time he had barked in years. At least, the kind of bark that said, “Thank you.” Then Sam followed the man toward a nearby red barn.

God looked down from His cloud. He said to his angels, “It is good.” The angels all agreed. God smiled. Finally Sam had a home.

Next Wednesday’s Prompt: “Shiloh” by Bobbie Ann Mason.

If you have an itch, scratch it. If you see a dragon, watch out.

Sir Packs-a-whallup was an old school knight if there ever was one. None of that going off to a Crusade just for the sake of knocking a few heathen heads around like croquet balls. Any lord in a tin can could do that. A knight didn’t have to go all the way to the Holy Land to rape, pillage and loot. If he ran out of rpl’s in Merry Olde England, there was always France.

Unfortunately the Pope didn’t give out “Get out of Jail Free” cards for France or England. It was the Holy Land or Bust. Sir’s comment on the the Papal draft and staying home, “At least, you get warm weather in hell. This English weather just kills me.”

You see, many a knight had gone bust by going off half-cocked to Jerusalem. Besides they had to leave their ladyships behind for any Sir Tom, Sir Dick or Sir Harry to romance. It had gotten harder to get a decent chastity belt. Recently there had been a run-on on chastity belts. If that wasn’t enough, there were the recalls, so many that it made GM’s look like a Sunday outing.

On the way to an rpl one fine sprig of a spring day, Sir had an itch. It felt like it had been itching for days. And the itch was under his cuisse. That is, to say, his butt itched. Normally he would have ignored it, but this one was not your ordinary butt itch. It felt like a flea on his dog, Rover. The only way to get some relief was to get off his horse and let his squire shove a wire hanger down his armor and give his backside the scratch it deserved. Four days on a horse certainly qualified for a well-earned scratch.

“Whoa, Peckerwood,” Sir said to his stallion, a black fellow eighteen hands high.

The charger stopped so fast that Sir flew over the horse’s head and landed face down in the dirt. “Damn horse,” he muttered. Then to his squire, “Squire, get out the scratcher.”

Squire ran over to his boss with the wire hanger. Sir lifted himself onto all fours.

Five minutes later, his Sirness gave an audible sigh of relieve. His rear end gave a big toot. The itch had been scratched. Squire said to his lord and master, “Big Guy, me thinks you have the hemorrhoids.”

“That’s what I get for riding Peckerwood so much. What are we going to do about this?”

“Blame it on the horse,” Peckerwood protested to himself. “Always blame it on the horse.”

“Only one thing to do, Boss,” Squire recalled his medical training at the Ye Olde London College for Barbers and Physicians. “Get out the leaches and perform a hemrrhoidalechtomy.”

“Well, what are you waiting for? The Pope to preach another crusade?”

Squire worked his work quickly. “Kemosabe,” he finally said. “Oops, wrong role. Big Guy, the tests are in. Your rear end has been bled. Your backside has been scratched. So it’s time we were off.”

Sir stood, feeling relieved. Then he said, “Thanks. You’re a regular Sancho Panza.” He got back into the horse’s saddle and started down the road. Squire followed on his donkey.

A little bit down the road, the two came to a town. The mayor met them at the gate.

“Thank all that’s holy,” Mayor said. “You got our message.”

“We did indeed,” Sir said from his saddle. “What message was that?”

“The message to come and protect our fair town from the dragon.”

“Oh, that message,” Sir said. “I keep getting my messages crossed. Here a message. There a message. Everywhere a messy-message. Which dragon is it that’s bothering you?”

“Saintjorge. He’s a mean one, he is. Worse than Mr. Grinch.”

“What are his demands?”

“He wants one of our virgins. He has given us till midnight three days from now.”

“And how many virgins do you have in this fair city?” Sir was thinking it wasn’t really a fair city. It looked like a dump. But what the hey. A knight can’t be choosey when it comes to an heroic act. Sir had to take what he could get. It been a fortnight since his last heroic act.

“We only have four, your Sirship,” Mayor gave the knight the census. “All my daughters. We would have more but the king came through last week. And you know how royal he is once he spots a virgin.” Even though the king was half blind in one eye and couldn’t see out the other, it was very easy to spot a virgin. The virgins all had virgin spots.

Sir then asked Mayor, “Here’s the $64,000 question. What are their names, these virgins?”

“Any, Mini, Miny and Moe. I know. I know. It’s not very original. We were thinking about calling them Ima, Ura, Shesa, and Hesa. But that wouldn’t work since my last name is Pigface.”

Sir popped down onto the ground. “Before I go off and bop the dragon a good one, I would like to inspect the virgins.” Sir always enjoyed this part of his job. The Virgin Inspection.

Sir took a look at the virgins and was pleased. Very pleased. And all four had the Virgin Spots.

He looked up at the sky. “It’s a good day for a dragon whopping. It’s a good day indeed.”

A little while later, actually about a half an hour sundial time, Sir returned to the town from the dragon’s cave. Smoke billowed around his armor.

“That’s some dragon,” he said.

Sir went over to a bucket of cold water and plopped his rear in it. The heat rose from the bucket. “I needed that.”

“Did you take care of him?” Mayor asked, hoping for the best.

What he got was this. “You think I’m crazy?” Sir asked. “That dragon is one big sucker.”

Then the smell from Sir’s armor hit Mayor squarely in the face.

“Peeewwwww,” both Squire and Mayor said. “What is that smell?”

“Dragon fart. And I thought I could blow one out. But this guy is holding back nothing. I got to his cave and he hit me with a big one right square in the face. A real doozy. I didn’t have a chance. I would have preferred being roast beef to that.”

Squire reached into his saddle bag. He pulled out a giant bottle of UnStinkum and sprayed his boss with it. Now he smelled like roses. So much so that everybody in the town started calling him Rosie the Riveter because of the riveting way he came up with solutions to any number of problems. Like the current one. How was he going to save the four virgins?

“So? Did you slay him?” Inquiring minds wanted to know. Especially one. Any, Mini, Miny and Moe’s dad, the mayor.

“Are you kidding?” Sir said, glad to be rid of the odor.

“What are we going to do then?” Squire stuck his two bits in.

“We need a plan,” Sir suggested. “And I think I have one. What would happen if there were no virgins in the town?”

“No virgins, no dragon. But we have four virgins.”

“Then we will just have to de-virginize the virgins. In a former life, I was known as Sir Viagra the De-Virginizer, and I am at your service. I have the perfect virgin spot remover.”

Sir was going to have to go the extra mile. The thing was that he had never taken on four at one time. He’d done three virgins before. That was how he had earned his spurs of knighthood. Four was going to take extra effort. But sacrifices had to be made. Besides it was an act of Christian charity. And one thing Sir was about was Christian charity.

An hour later Sir stepped out of the Mayor’s house and lit a cigarette. He was singing, “Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.” Then he said,”I’ve done it. They said it couldn’t be done but I done it.”

“The virgins?” Squire asked.

“Yep, they have all been de-spotted.” Then Sir turned to the mayor and said, “No need to thank me. Knowing that I have done a good deed is all the thanks I need.”

In the sky, they saw the dragon take off from the mountain, squealing his dragon squeal. He flew above the town and raised his rear and let one rip. Then he headed west where there was more opportunity, taking his grandpa’s advice, “Go west, young man.”

Sir Packs-a-whallup held his nose. Squire held his nose. Mayor held his nose. The smell was unbelievable. The wind blew in from the south and the dragon odor lingered over the kingdom for years.

Some say that it was that aroma that first started the Plague. I am not particularly qualified to argue a yea or a nay on that. Let’s just say. The kingdom went bankrupt from the loss of the tourist trade to the kingdom.

Well, folks, that’s tonight’s episode. If you happen to have a dragon show up on your doorstep, just contact Sir at 1-DEV-IRG-INIZ. He’ll return your call within twenty-four hours. Remember that you’ll get a 15% discount if you tell the operator where you read the show. Until next week, good night and good dragoning.

Short Story Wednesday: Dostoyevsky’s Last Night

Short Story Prompt: “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” by Stephen King.

A man about to die. It focuses his mind on what is important: How cold it is in the cell of the condemned.

Fyodor lay on the hard floor, folded into a fetal position to keep warm, his blanket under him to steal his body from the cold stone. The other prisoners did not talk of the justice they had worked for, schemed for, plotted for, some of them for years. They shivered in the cold cell, pulling their light blankets over them. They discussed the best way to be executed.

One said, “I prefer hanging.” His teeth were chattering loudly.

Another said, “Not me. Give me a firing squad.”

Still another chattered, “What if they miss?”

The vote was tied. Four for hanging, four for the firing squad.

They turned to Fyodor. “And you?”

“I prefer living,” the deep, hoarse voice of Fyodor Dostoyevsky said from his corner, then went back to his thoughts.

One of his compatriots shook him and whispered, “Where’s your God now?”

Fyodor did not answer. He turned his back toward the fellow and faced the wall. It was as empty as his future. He silently prayed the prayer he had learned as a boy from his mother, “Mother of God, My hope is in thee. Give me shelter under thy wing.” His fear of the dawn ahead dissolved.

Behind him, someone grumbled, “I wish the police had just shot me. I hate this waiting.”

“At least I’ll be warm,” one chattered. “When I’m dead.”

In another corner, someone was whimpering, afraid to die. The others ignored him. They were all afraid to die, but the rest of them took their fate stoically. They had known the consequences if the tsar turned against them.

The cell was large and dark. It could have held twice as many as the nine prisoners who had languished there for days as they awaited the executioner. If it had been crammed with prisoners, it would have been warmer from the men’s body heat. The tsar did not want to waste money on the condemned, so it was only bread and water for their nourishment for the last few days. And one meal a day at that.

To make the hours pass, Fyodor rested his mind from the chill and fell into a story. It was the story of his life as Fyodor Dostoevsky as a child. The odor of the halls of the Hospital for the Poor where his father worked as a physician, the patients coughing from consumption, the smell of urine in the halls from the sick and the dying. How could he ever forget that smell.

From the family’s residence, he watched through the parlor window prisoners progress down the street on their way to Siberia. Then there was the time he heard the cries of his nine-year-old friend, Natasha, raped. He ran to the garden behind the house.

The rapist gone, the girl lay on the ground, his father kneeling beside her, comforting her, then he raised her body the way Jesus must have raised the daughter of Jairus. He turned. Tears were falling from his eyes. He said to the boy, “Run. Get the police.”

There were fond memories too. His father reading Cervantes and his mother reading too. Reading the Gospels. Reading Job and his trials. Job was someone Fyodor understood. He and the old man were so alike.

Then he was in the woods near his family’s summer home, the ones his brother, Mikhail, referred to as Fedya’s Woods. He must have been eleven or twelve, his head leaning up against a tree, taking a break from his mushroom gathering. He was dreaming that he was Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, whizzing around the forest on his light feet.

He heard a wolf’s growl, or so he thought.

A slight breeze cooled his face, tickling his nose. The woods were quiet, the birch filling the air with their minty odor. The birds had forgotten to sing when, only a few minutes ago, they were singing their hearts out. Then a crackle and a soft padding of the wolf nearby. He smelled the beast, stalking him.

Like a frightened deer, Fyodor upped and ran. He ran hard, crying, “Wolf.”  He ran into the field nearby. The old serf, Marey, caught him and pulled him into his ancient arms the way a tree’s branches often pulled him into the tree. Then the old man held him as if he was his son. He combed his hands through Fyodor’s blond hair.  The man spoke the prayer his mother taught him, “Mother of God, My hope is in thee. Give this boy shelter under thy wing.” The serf looked into Fyodor’s eyes and Fyodor felt safer than he had ever felt. He could still recall the serf’s eyes, the kindest eyes he had ever seen.

Fyodor remembered his last words to his brother Mikhail as he toasted his brother on the older man’s name day. “To my closest friend and the greatest man I know.” Mikhail’s face appeared before him and reminded him of all the games, all the books, all the songs the two had shared together. He would never see Mikhail again. At least, not in this life.

Lying in his corner of the prison cell, Fyodor fell into a deep sleep. He stood beside his mother’s open coffin before the altar in the Church of the Holy Spirit and beneath the painting of the Raising of Lazarus. She wore a fine lace dress, her curls falling to her shoulders. Her face a peaceful face, her body relieved of the suffering from her tuberculosis. Her eyes opened. “Fedya,” she said, “don’t be afraid. God is with you. God is with you.”

Fyodor woke up. The cell door squeaked open. Into the room stepped a priest, carrying a lantern. The door closed behind him and he hung the lantern on the wall. Fyodor pulled his body up and leaned against the wall.

“I am Father Valentin,” the priest said, his beard covering his chest. “I am here to hear your confession if any of you would like.”

“Go away,” the atheist shouted at the priest. Not just at the priest. At God as well. “Get the hell out of here.”

“No.” Fyodor’s voice was fearless, so fearless the atheist cowered into a corner. “I will say my confession.”

Father Valentin walked over to Fyodor and sat down and faced Fyodor. “Yes, my son?” the priest asked.

Fyodor whispered his confession. The priest gave Dostoyevsky his cross. Fyodor kissed it. The priest rose moved on to the others. Each of the prisoners spoke to the priest. Finally it was the atheist’s turn and he too whispered some words.”Just in case,” he said as the priest called to the guard outside the large wooden door.

The door opened. In stepped the Sergeant of the Guard, followed by four of his men. The guards threw a white shroud to each of the prisoners. “Put these on,” the Sergeant ordered.

“Just take us out and shoot us,” the atheist demanded.

The Sergeant drew his sword and hit the atheist over his head with its broadside. The prisoner’s head was bleeding.

“Anybody else?” The Sergeant looked around the cell for any resistance. Then he said, “Put these on. You first.” His sword pointed at the atheist.

The atheist wiped his blood from his head and grabbed the shroud and slipped it over his head. “Bloody marvelous,” he said. The dried red smeared across the man’s shroud.

Each of the other prisoners stood and pulled his shroud over his head.

“Now out with you,” the Sergeant ordered. The prisoners one by one went through the cell door.

Fyodor emerged from the cell and into the hall. A tall, young guard grabbed his hands and pulled them around to his back, wrapped a rope around his wrists, pulled it tight and knotted it. The rope cut into Fyodor, feeling like it was reaching into the bone.

When he was finished with the group of them, the Sergeant of the Guard addressed them. “Follow me, please.”

The Sergeant and two guards led the way while others followed the prisoners. All was quiet in the hall, except for the drumming of the boots of the soldiers against the floor. The prisoners passed the lanterns on the wall, each one a little closer to the end, each one falling away like seconds on a watch.

As the prisoners emerged from the darkness and into the day of Semenovsky Square, the morning sun blasted their eyes with its light. The Sergeant and two of his men broke the prisoners up into groups of three. He led the first group to three wooden stakes and tied them to the poles with rope.

When he finished, he returned for the next three prisoners. Fyodor was the middle man. The snow bit into his bare feet as he was rushed across the field. The Sergeant roped him to the stake. Fyodor’s feet numbed from the snow.

The Sergeant moved, finishing Dostoyevsky’s group, the third group. He grabbed a bottle of vodka from the hall and walked over to the first prisoner in the first group.

“Would you care to drink a toast to the Tsar?” he asked.

“Yes, please,” the prisoner said, the one who had been crying in the corner the night before.

The Sergeant uncapped the bottle, raised it and said, “To the Tsar.” He drank from the bottle, then poured a few drops into the prisoner. He continued onto to the next prisoner, and the next.

As the sun glared in his eyes and blinded Fyodor, the Sergeant came to him. Jesus hung on a cross, between two thieves. A Roman gave Jesus wine. Fyodor hung on a stake between two comrades. A Russian soldier gave him wine too. Was he dying to save his world? Was he dying so that others might live?  He shook away the thought. It was blasphemy. It must be. And this was no time for blasphemy. “Would you like to toast the Tsar?” the Sergeant asked.

Fyodor looked deep into the man’s dark eyes. “I would like to toast God.”

“Very well then.” The soldier raised the bottle to the prisoner’s lips. Fyodor took his drink. It wetted his dry lips, lips starting to chap. The liquor warmed him as he went down.

Then the Sergeant raised the bottle. “To God, and may the Devil take him.” He laughed and drank. He stepped to the next prisoner.

The Sergeant finally reached the last prisoner. “None for you,” he said, indicating the bottle. The atheist spit into his face. “Damn you,” the jailer shouted at the prisoner. He drew his sword. Twice he sliced the prisoner’s face. “Take that to hell, and tell the Devil that it was Nicolai Nikolaevich who did it to you.”

Fyodor prayed softly, “Mother of God, My hope is in thee. Give me shelter under thy wing.” Then he saw Mikhail’s image one final time. “Be a good man, Mikhail,” he spoke to the morning. “Soon we will be together again. With Mother and Father.”

A firing squad marched out before the first three of the prisoners. The men turned toward the prisoners.

Fyodor tempered himself against what was about to come. “Mother of God, My hope is in thee. Give me shelter under thy wing.”

The officer of the squad called out, “Raise your guns.”

“Mother of God, My hope is in thee. Give me shelter under thy wing.”

“Aim.”

“Mother of God, My hope is in thee. Give me shelter under thy wing.”

A horse with a rider galloped through the gate of the fortress, the man on horseback crying, “Wait.”

A few moments later, the officer shouted to the prisoners, “The Tsar in his magnificent justice has given you scum a reprieve. You shall not die this day. Instead Siberia will be your new home.”

Next Wednesday’s Short Story Prompt: “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner.

Conversation in a bar

God walks into a bar. Says to the barkeep, “Whiskey please.”

The bartender turns to God and says, “Can’t serve booze on Sunday.”

“Who came up with that dumb idea?” God wants to know.

The barkeep says, “I think You did.”

“What do you mean I did?” God has about had it with the guy behind the bar.

“Isn’t it one of the Big Ten? Something about remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy.”

“Oh, that one. Maybe My way of keeping the Sabbath day holy is to have a drink. What do you think about that?”

The bartender ain’t giving an inch. “You can drink all you want. Just do it in somebody else’s place. I ain’t about to lose my license. Even if You are the Almighty.”

“Look, if I say it’s okay, it’s okay. Why do you think I came up with the 613 laws in Leviticus?”

“Don’t know,” the bartender says.

“Technicalities. I put enough ifs, ands and buts in there that you can drive a camel through that sucker, if you’re a liking to. Now give Me that drink.”

“No can do,” the bartender says firmly. “And if You keep pestering me, I am calling the cops.”

“You would call the cops on God?” the Almighty asks. He is getting very frustrated.

“Darn tooting I would.”

“Well, I’ll be—” God says.

“Hey. No taking the Lord’s Name in vain.”

“I was just going to say son of a bitch,” God says.

“And none of that either,” the bartender says. “This is a family establishment.”

“Did anybody ever tell you that you’re acting like a lawyer?”

“I’d take that as a compliment. I have a Doctor of Jurisprudence. I just can’t practice at the bar in this state.”

“What do you think you’re doing here? Practicing at the bar.” God laughs.

“Oh, get off it.”

“Look,” God says. “I’ve had a long week and this is my only day off.”

“At least, you get a day off. I haven’t had a day off in a month of Sundays. Trying to pay off my Student loans.”

“Well, it was one heaven of a week,” God gets going. “If you know what I mean. Monday I made the heavens and the earth and separated the dark from the light. Tuesday, I had to get the water where I wanted it. It was all over the place. Thought I would never get the Pacific to play along and shape up. Wednesday, I started growing plants and trees and stuff. That was hard to pull off since I do not have the best of green thumbs. Along comes Thursday and that’s when I give everybody a starry night. Friday, birds and fishes. Then Saturday, it was the animals. I should have left well-enough alone and stopped there. But no, I had to go and screw everything up. And I was having such a good time too.”

By this time, the bartender is leaning on the bar, looking into God’s sky blues, listening. He asks, “What’d you do?”

“I made a man.”

“You didn’t?” The bartender is taken aback.

“I did. Worst mistake of My life. First thing the guy starts off, asking questions. Like I have all the answers.”

“You don’t?”

“I most assuredly do not,” God says emphatically.

“Thought they taught you all the answers in God School.”

“They do,” God says. “But I CLEPed out. I figured I already had all the answers so I just tested and they gave Me My diploma. Little did I know.”

“I see what You mean. Don’t take the easy way out. That’s always been my motto.”

“Before I know, the guy goes on a naming spree. Can you imagine calling a thing a dog and not a wolf. How he can tell the two apart I will never know. I was happy just calling them thing-a-majigs and whatchamacallits. And you want to know the worst part?”

“What’s that?” The excitement is killing the bartender metaphorically speaking.

“He wanted a wife.”

“He didn’t.” Barkeep can’t believe his ears. “Why would he want to go and do a dumb fool thing like that?”

“Beats me,” God says, shaking his head.

“So what did You do?”

“Figured he wanted her that bad, he should get what he deserved. I gave him what he wanted. Lilith. She was nice. I should get First Prize for that creation. You know what happened next?”

“Haven’t a clue.” The bartender is in suspense.

“The dumb ass goes and cheats on her. Some girl from Eden name of Eve. Lilith was royally pissed. I had to give her a divorce. I offered marriage counseling. But she wasn’t having none of that. So it was a divorce. He didn’t sign a pre-nup either,” God smiles. “I must say I am kind of proud of her. She took him to the cleaners. Then I had a good talking with Adam. Told him that he was in big trouble if he did it again. Breaking one of the Big Ten. Adultery. Can you imagine?’

“I can’t.” The bartender shakes his head at the gall of the guy. “I been with the same woman for thirty years now and we have the best of marriages. Oh, sure. She gets on my nerves and I get on her nerves from time to time. That’s to be expected. That’s why I go off on my hunting trips and she goes on one of them Napa Valley Wine Tours.”

“One of these days I am going to have to try one of them tours myself. I hear those California wines can compete with any of the Frenches.”

“I wouldn’t know about that,” the bartender says. “I’m not much for wine. Give me a brewski and I’m a happy man.”

“I’m not much of a connoisseur myself,” God says. “Other than turning water into wine occasionally. If you’re ever up for trying wine, the Cana Wine Tasters Association have a great weekend in the fall every year. They do the place up real nice. You and your lady would enjoy it. Give you a chance for a second honeymoon.”

“Maybe I’ll take you up on that,” the bartender says. He’d been thinking second honeymoon lately. Something special for their anniversary.

“Anyway back to the Garden of Eden,” God says. “I get the guy and this Eve fixed up and married and I am off taking a nap. Nothing like a good siesta to get the energy back up. I wake up and find out the two of them have gone and done it.”

“What’d they do?” the bartender wanted to know.

“They ate one of my apples. After all the work I put in on that apple tree, they just pluck one off the branches and take a big bite. I would have let them have one if they had asked nicely. But no, they had to go and take.”

The bartender was amazed. “Ain’t that the way with some. Take, take, take.”

“So I up and kicked their butts out of Eden. After all I have done for them. Now they’re on their own. Good riddance.”

“Good riddance.” The bartender can’t believe what happened. “You have had a tough week. You still want that drink?”

“You’re going to bend the rules for Moi?” God asks.

“After what you’ve been through.” The bartender reaches for a bottle of Johnny Red  behind the bar and pours a glass for God. He passes it over to the Man Upstairs.

God smiles. Then pulls out a badge and says, “I’m closing you down. No booze on Sunday means no booze on Sunday.”

“But-but-but.”

“No buts about it, Lucifer,” God says. “I’ve been trying to close this Purgatory Bar of yours down for millennia and finally I get to do it.”

God pushes the bartender out the front door, then padlocks the joint. He turns to Lucifer and says, “And you can tell that brother of yours, Beelzebub, I am going to close him down too. I am sick and tired of folks being sent off to his place every time they ask for directions. I ask them what happened and they say somebody directed them and said, ‘Go to Hell.’ I’m telling you his Hell Bar and Grill is going the way of the dinosaurs if I have anything to say about it.”

With that, God got in His new Mercedes and drove off, a huge smile on his face. It had indeed been a good Sabbath.

Short Story Wednesday: The Blue-Haired Boys

Short Story Prompt: “The Red-Headed League” by Arthur Conan Doyle

I sat in the apartment of Mr. Shyrlick Homes, watching the Great Detective admire himself. How did I know he was the Great Detective? He had business cards printed to prove it. As a reminder to me, he showed me his card every time I came to visit him in his boudoir.

I know the word “boudoir” applies to a woman’s private quarters. Unfortunately Homes insisted on calling his apartment his boudoir. When I objected, he said, “Tut, tut, tut. Now, D. R., one mustn’t abuse the language, you know. The word for my quarters is boudoir.”

Why did he call me D. R.? you ask. That too was a misunderstanding I had given up correcting. I have on my card “Dr. Henry Wotsun”. He mistook the Dr. for D. R.

“My dear fellow,” I would retort, “I think not. I think the OED is quite clear on the definition of the word ‘boudoir’.”

“I have taken up the matter with the Word Committee at OED. They assured me they will make the correction with the next edition. Until then, old chap, you will have to take my word for it, will you not?”

“Of course,” I answered, resigned to the absurdity.

Why did I choose to join Mr. Homes in his “boudoir”? It was a good way to while away the afternoon. I needed entertainment after a long morning of patient after patient wanting their buns tucked, their breasts syliconized, their lips botoxed. One more pouty mouth and I swear. Well, you get the photograph.

So there I was, observing Homes admire himself in the mirror for a good fifteen minutes. It was such amusement to watch him stroke his chin and make faces, then turn to his left side and give his face the eye. Then it was to the right and more eye. Finally it was a full face. He turned to me and asked, “I need your professional opinion on my appearance.” I am a plastic surgeon so I do have a certain expertise in these matters.

“Yes.” I knew that I should tred lightly in supplying an opinion on such a delicate matter as Mr. Homes’ face.

“I am thinking of having my hair dyed. What say you, old fellow?”

I was flabbergasted. “You have such a marvelous head of black hair. Why would you want to do such a villainous act?”

“I want to die my hair blue. What say you, old chap?”

“This is madness.”

“Will you do it?” he pressed.

There was no convincing my friend once he had set his mind on a thing. What choice did I have? “Yes, I will.”

Homes grabbed me and hugged me and raised me in the air, then spinning the two us. Finally his enthusiasm exhausted itself and he dropped the two of us to the floor.

“I will,” I said, “if you will share with me the reason.”

He looked at me with a deadly seriousness. “I am joining The Blue-Haired Boys.”

“The Blue-Haired Boys? No, Homes, you can’t. I won’t have it.”

“You have no choice.”

He was right. I had no choice.

“Why?” I asked. The Blue-Haired Boys were the most dangerous gang of thugs in London.

“I have been invited to join. I will have you know. And join I shall.”

“But why would you want to join that gang of thugs?” Every crime in the city of London since The Great War could one way or another be traced to the Blue-Haired Boys. That was what the newspapers said. That was what the police said.

“Now, now, now,” Homes said. “Their reputation is simply a matter of bad public relations. Which I shall rectify once I am a member in good standing.”

Finally I agreed to the dying of Homes’ beautiful hair. I gave him the full body treatment. Not one hair on his chinny-chin-chin would be another color. All the while thinking that once you’re true blue, you cannot return to your former tincture.

Several days later I visited Homes in his “boudoir”. Once again, he stood before the mirror. Once again he admired himself quite extensively.

Finally, he said to me in his cheerful way, “Well, D. R., I am off to the races. The game is indeed afoot.”

“What are you up to, Homes?” I was becoming concerned that my friend might be getting into deep water. I am speaking metaphorically here, of course. What I meant was that he might be getting in over his head.

“The Blue-Haired Boys have accepted me as one of them. I am indeed True Blue, as we say in the trade.”

“So what dastardly path are you about to set out upon?”

“I am bound and determined to show the world what nice fellows my new comrades-in-arms are. And I shall do this one alone.”

In the past, I had accompanied Mr. Shyrlick Homes on each and every investigation. I was actually the detective, solving the crimes he received credit for. I liked it that way. It kept me in the shadows in the public’s mind and gave me a certain ability to move about unchallenged. But now Homes had decided to do this one alone. His very life could be in danger. With this in mind, I followed my friend.

He walked to the waterfront and to a certain ship whose name shall be nameless. No use accusing a ship when it may very well be totally innocent. It was the Blue-Haired Boys headquarters. For many months, I suspected it. Now I had proof. Mr. Shyrlick Homes was taking his blue hair there.

I left the shadows and rushed to the nearest telephone. It was in a pub called the Rotten Smelling Egg. It was a smelly place if ever there was one.

Sergeant Roughed answered the line, “Scotland Yard at your service.”

“This is Wotsun,” I said to the Cop Shop. ” Dr. Henry Wotsun. Give me the Top Cop.”

“Wotsun, sir?”

“It is indeed.”

“And you say you want the Top Cop in the Cop Shop?” As you can see the sergeant was not the brightest bulb in the room. No wonder the Blue-Haired Boys had escaped so many times before. But not this time. I had them and I was not about to let them escape. Besides Homes might be in a bit of the way. His very life could be in danger.

“I do indeed want the Top Cop in the Cop Shop. And get on it chop-chop,” I said amazed at the slowness of the man’s brain.

“Did I hear you correctly, sir? Did you say that you were about to chop the Top Cop in the Cop Shop? That’s illegal, you know, sir. I will have to report you to my superiors.”

“Look, Pop, hop to it. Chop chop. Get the Top Cop in Cop Shop. And don’t slop, please.” My nerves were beginning to fray. What could I do to convince this dodo bird that my call was serious.

“Well, sir, if you insist,” the other end of the line said.

I looked at my watch. It said fifteen minutes till seven. Soon it would be six forty-five and the Blue-Haired Boys would be getting away.

The other end of the phone finally said, “Detective Scheister. May I help you.”

I related my story. Before you know, a battalion of London bobbies had arrived and arrested the world famous criminal, Blue Berry Pi, and his gang of Blue-Haired Boys.

And, of course, Mr. Shyrlick Homes got all the credit. But that is the way I want it. It is the way of we Incognitos.

Next Wednesday’s Prompt: “Rita Hayworth And the Shawshank Redemption” by Stephen King.