Grandma’s Chair

“Dad, I want the chair,” Ellen said.

“That was Grandma’s chair and you can’t have it,” her brother, Taylor, said. “I think I should get it. I am the oldest.”

Fred was not happy that his children were fighting over his mother-in-law’s chair. She’d only been dead a week. Now the kids were fighting over her things. God, didn’t they have any sense? What would they be like when he died?

His wife, Madge, interrupted his thoughts. “None of you are getting it. It’s coming home with me and your father.” Madge didn’t even like the damned chair but she was sure as shooting not going to let the kids take it. It was her mother’s, after all.

That’s when Madge’s brother, Carl, stepped in. “You’re not going to take it, Madge. You didn’t even like it. I’m taking it.”

Madge gave Carl a look but figured that settled it. It did not. When it comes to family, it is never settled.

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Near 500 words: The economist

Ester had a head for figures. She was born with it and it drove her crazy when people, especially the politicians, tried to make them lie. Her meeting was not going well. She sat across the table from the Chancellor of the School. They had been arguing for over an hour about the school’s budget. A few of the figures were off and she was concerned. Then the Chancellor let her in on his scheme.

She looked up from her open ledger. “You can’t do that,” she said, frustrated.

The Chancellor’s smile went into a frown. “No, I can,” her boss said. “And I am.”

“I won’t let you,” Ester threatened.

The Chancellor did not like what he was hearing. “There is nothing you can do about it.”

Ester looked down at the ledger and the papers beside them. “But there is.”

The Chancellor glared back at the economist. “You do that and I will destroy you. No one in the country will touch you after I get through.”

Ester was determined. “Allah, the Most Gracious the Most Merciful, will,” Ester said and pushed back her chair and stood up.

“Don’t do this.” There was a pleading in the Chancellor’s voice. “I have no choice. And neither do you.” The plea had turned to a threat.

“Chancellor, we always have a choice.”

Ester was done with the meeting. She opened her briefcase and stacked the papers into it.

The Chancellor’s hands were on the table. They were open and his palms lay still against the wood. He had calmed down from his anger. He knew what he had to do. He didn’t want to do it but he had no choice. “We’ve been friends for a long time.”

Ester closed the case. “Yes, we have. And a friend would not ask another friend to lie for him.” She closed the case firmly, picked it up and headed for the door. One last time, she gave her former friend one last determined plea. “Thomas, don’t do this.”

The door closed behind her.

Thomas went over to the phone and picked it up. “There’s no reasoning with her. Do what you have to do.”

Zeus’ Dilemma

Last Wednesday Zeus decided to come down from his mountain. Olympus had gotten boring lately what with this god and that one trying to out party each other. He wanted to take a looksee around the earth. It had been a bit of days since his last walk around. On top of that, he and Hera had a fight and he just had to get out of the house.

He stepped down onto the earth. The grass was wet and green. It had been awhile since his toesies felt grass. Not since Agamemnon and his bunch whomped up on them Trojans. That’s what Priam and his gang got for putting Poseidon on the pedestal over him. After all, he was the Big Guy. He had the thunderbolts.

It was nice to know that Demeter was doing her job now that Persephone was home for a visit. He took in a long breath of the spring air. Then it hit him. The carbon monoxide. He coughed several times, then cleared his throat.

“Geez, what’s that,” he said to no one in particular. The air was worse than breathing in that stuff he’d breathed when he went down to visit Hades once upon a time.

Poseidon stepped out of the ocean. “Well, it’s about time you came out of your ivory tower and noticed the crap we’re putting up with down here.”

“What is that smell?” Zeus wanted to know.

“It’s those darn chariots the humans have come up with.”

Zeus turned to his brother. “What happened to your nice green color? Man, you look awful.”

Posey was streaked with yellows and blues and purples and all sorts of colors. And they didn’t look pretty. He could have been an abstract painting if he hadn’t been such a mess.

“Junk,” Posey said, displeasure in his voice. “I’d say our brother, Hades, has been up to no good. But even he can’t make a mess like we’ve got down here these days. You seriously have to do something about this place. Remember the lovely wine Bacchus used to make. It’s turned to grape juice these days.”

“Yeah, that Prometheus sure did a number on us,” Demeter said behind Zeus. “He gave the humans fire. What’d they do? They took it and ran with it and now we’ve got a mess.”

“The waters, my kingdom,” Posey protested, “is filled with crap. The fish can’t get a break. The dolphins and the whales constantly protest. I tell them to get in touch with you and give you the old what-for. But you’re never there. What’s with you anyway?”

Zeus had a one-word answer, “Hera.”

“Oh, come now,” Demi said. “Don’t blame on her.”

“I’m telling you,” Zeus said. “After that Hercules, there was no settling her down.”

“Well,” Posey said, “he was your kid.”

“It took me a millennium to get her to let me out of my room. It’s only been recently that she let me out of the house.”

“So,” Demi said, “you just thought you could let things go down here.”

Zeus nodded. “Kinda.”

Then Demi hit him with the news. “You do know what that Thor’s been up to?”

“What?” Zeus said, worried-like.

“He’s been making appearances all over the place. Comic books. Movies. He’s even doing commercials.”

“I knew it,” Zeus said. “I knew it. When Athena suggested we let that Odin go off and have his own kingdom, it was a bad idea. But everybody said she was smarter than the average goddess.”

“Now, now, Dad,” Athena joined the group. “I thought it would be a good idea. It gets cold up there in the north. Nobody wanted to go up there and take care of the Ice Kingdoms. When Odin volunteered, we all agreed. It was for the best. And I wasn’t the one who suggested Thor get his own hammer. You-know-who did that.”

“Hephaestus,” Demi said.

“Hephaestus,” Athena said.

“Hephaestus,” Posey joined the chorus.

Then Athena reminded Zeus, “It wasn’t me who came up with the idea of sending Hephy to the basement where he could play with all his toys.”

“We had to do something,” Zeus said. “It’s all that Aphrodite and her nighty business. She wanted to run out and play with Ares. Little did I know that he was as adept at playing kissy face as he was at war.”

“Apollo didn’t tell you either,” Athena laughed. “Just like him. What good is that gift for prophecy he has if he can’t help his colleagues out.”

Suddenly Apollo appeared. His face filled the sky with sunlight. “Somebody mention my name?”

“Why didn’t you let us know?” Athena asked. “Hephy gave Thor that hammer and now he’s become more popular than the Khardasians? You should have told us.”

Apollo smirked. “What, and spoil all the fun?”

It was then that Ares, the god of war, put in an appearance. He had one heck of a frustrated look on his face. “She’s got a headache. It’s the seventh one this week.”

“Who?” Zeus wanted to know.

“Aphrodite, of course,” Ares let the crowd know.

“Well, that’s what you get for messing around,” Zeus said.

“I was just taking after you, Dad.”

That night Zeus walked into the throne room on Mount Olympus. Hera was waiting. When she saw the look on the Big Guy’s face, she gave him one of her extra-special hugs. They always cheered him up. But not this time.

Zeus plopped his big bottom down on the throne. “It’s all turned out badly.”

“What?” Hera said.

“Everything.”

“Well, that’s what happens when you have kids. You can put everything into raising them and they still turn out the way they’re going to turn out.”

Then Zeus had a brilliant idea. “I’ll turn everything back over to Pater.”

At that, Rhea, his mother, appeared. “Oh no, you’re not. Cronus isn’t having anything to do with the mess you’ve created. We’ve been on a nice long retirement and we’re not bailing you out. And you’re not turning things over to Odin. One Ice Age was enough.”

Hera said, “I know what will help. I’ll give you one of those extra-special massages you love.”

Zeus looked up at his wife. He had a pathetic look on his face. “Not tonight. I have a headache.”

Natasha and the Elephant

Natasha loved a good book. Give her a good book and she was gone like a light. She could sit still for hours, her blue eyes glued to the page, her lips slightly moving, occasionally pushing strands of her long red hair out of her face to get a better view of the page. When asked what she was reading, she looked up from the page, those freckles on her face alive with joy. “Oh, it’s a book.” Then she went back to the page.

By the time she was reading for university, it seemed she had read near all the classics. And not in her language which was Russian. In the original languages. She read Homer in Greek, Virgil in Latin, Dante in Italian, Shakespeare in English, Moliere in French, Goethe in German, Basho in Japanese. When she read a book in another language, she sat with a dictionary from that language and turned the pages, searching for the word she saw in the book. She was fast doing this.

Though she loved literature, she decided the best career for her was the law. She loved  details and the law was filled with details. The poetry and the fiction she had read over the years taught her compassion. So she took on hopeless cases. If she not taken them on, her clients would have received maximum sentences. Most still received maximum sentences when they were found guilty. And they were often found guilty. At least, they had good representation. From time to time, she was able to work miracles and see them freed.

Occasionally she pointed out a piece of the law judges and prosecutors had forgotten. Because of this knowledge, prosecutors and big time lawyers wanted her on their side. But she resisted.

Her clients had no money, so Natasha worked on the side doing legal work when she wasn’t involved in a case. It was way to pay her expenses and ilk out a living. Over ten or fifteen years, she worked in the trenches, tirelessly. Her head always in a law book. She never tired of the law and the law rewarded her for her diligence.

Then came the case of the elephant.

A circus elephant charged her trainer one night. Her name was Kanda. After the elephant charged and escaped its trainer, it escaped and roamed the countryside as a wild thing. Hunters went after her but she eluded them for weeks.

Natasha was in the area on vacation. It was her first vacation since she left law school. She seldom read the newspapers. But she saw someone else with a paper open. There was an elephant on the front page. Her curiosity got the best of her. Why was an elephant in the news?

“Can I see your front page?” she asked the woman with the paper.

“I’m finished with it. You can have the whole paper.” The woman passed over the paper.

Natasha was shocked at the story. She went and talked to several people at the circus.

“She was such a gentle creature,” one said.

Another pointed out, “Very smart.”

Finally, she talked to someone who had seen the incident. “That Pyotr Pyotrovich is a cruel man. How Kanda put up with him for so long is beyond me?”

“Will you tell a judge this?” Natasha asked the woman who was a trapeze artist.

The woman hesitated. If she talked, she might lose her job. Finally, she said, “Yes.”

Natasha took the woman before a judge. The judge issued an injunction. Any hunter killing Kanda would be prosecuted. Until the judge issued a decree.

The hearing was set for Tuesday. On Monday, Natasha contacted the local papers and national papers, knowing that good publicity mattered. The courtroom was packed that Tuesday morning when the judge entered the courtroom.

“This is highly unusual for a court to hold hearing on a thing like this,” the prosecutor smugly pronounced.

“Yes, it is. But here we are,” the judge said.

Natasha called the owner of the circus to the stand. “How old is Kanda?”

“Approximately forty years.”

“And she has spent her years in captivity, has she not?”

“Yes. I bought her from another circus that went out of business. I am very good at business so she helped my circus prospered.” There was pride in the owner’s voice at how good he was at business.

“If she was such an asset to your business, why did you give her over to a cruel and uncaring trainer?”

“I never saw that trainer be cruel and uncaring.”

“Then why do you think Kanda charged and almost killed him?”

“I don’t know.”

Several other witnesses gave positive reviews of the elephant. How she was so good with children. How there was never ever any trouble. She was the gentlest of animals. They were all shocked at what happened.

Natasha called Pyotr Pyotrovich to the stand. “How did you treat Kanda?”

“I was like a father to her.”

“That is all,” Natasha said. Then she called Tatiana, Pyotrovich’s oldest daughter, to the stand.

“How does your father treat you?” Natasha asked.

“My father is a good man.”

Natasha called the younger daughter, Alina, to the stand.

“How does your father treat you?”

“My father is a good man.”

“Now remember you have to tell the truth. It is the law. If you do not tell the truth, you can be sent to jail. Do you want to go to jail?”

“I do not want to go to jail.”

“If you go to jail, your sister would be alone with your father. Is this not true?”

“Yes, it is true.” There was a great sadness in the daughter’s voice.

“Then tell us. How does your father treat you?”

The girl looked over at her father, then she looked at her sister next to him. She hesitated, then spoke the truth, “He beats me.” Then she shouted for all the world to hear, “And he has raped my sister. Kanda saw it and was trying to defend my sister. She hated the things my father did to us.”

Pyotr Pyotrovich stood up and shouted, “She lies. She lies.”

Tatiana left her father’s side and ran to her sister and the two embraced. They were crying.

“Order. Order in my court,” the judge shouted.

An officer of the court walked over and demanded the trainer sit down.

The judge turned to Tatiana. “Girl, is this true?”

Whimpering, Tatiana nodded a yes.

The judge turned to the officer of the court and said, “Arrest that man.”

Then he turned to the owner, “If we find Kanda, will you give her a home and treat her with the dignity she deserves?”

The owner was crying. ‘I will.”

“Then Kanda will not be killed. She will be returned to the circus to be treated with the dignity she deserves. If she is not, and she is injured in any way, there will be consequences.”

A farmer stood up and said, “Your honor, I have the elephant. She is the most wonderful of elephants. I wish to become her trainer.”

The judge took character statements as to the character of the farmer. Then the judge agreed. The farmer could join the circus and train Kanda and the three other elephants. Then he turned to Natasha, “The court thanks you.”

The Man Without A Tie

Don’t you think “The Man Without A Tie” makes a nice title? It’s the title of my first draft of a noir novella of almost 19,000 words. I’ve been working on it for the last thirty days. Yesterday I put “The End” tag to it.

It’s the first person story of a schmuck on the losing side of ten grand. His name is Cord. It takes place in 1953 when “Hank Williams was dead, Frank Sinatra had gone Hollywood, Eisenhower was President, and the government was taken over by the commies. At least, that’s what Joe McCarthy said.”

It may not be a dark and stormy night in the City when the novel opens but it soon will be. There’s always a dark and stormy night in the City in these kind of stories. Just like there are eight million stories in the Naked City.

The main character isn’t Mike Hammer or Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. But his luck may be changing when he’s offered the chance to erase the ten grand gambling debt by two of the local crime lords. All he has to do is find out who killed the blonde. Unfortunately the police consider him a suspect.

It opens with this paragraph:

The blonde might have been dressed like a lady, but she was no lady. She was a regular circe. And she knew how to enchant the hell out of a fellow. There I was in bed with her, making like I knew what the heck I was doing. When we finished, she leaned toward me with those baby blues and put her ante down. “That’s a down payment, Baby.”

For the last thirty-something days, I woke up and wrote at least five hundred words on it first thing in the morning. If I don’t write first thing in the morning, there’s a good chance I may not get anything of my own written during the day. If I don’t write first thing in the morning, I feel guilty the rest of the day. If I don’t write first thing in the morning, I’m a real pain in the neck to know. And in other parts of the anatomy too.

Each morning I pull myself out of the old bedsky, feed the cat, get a cup of coffee, then go to work and let my subby-conscious do all the work. But it’s worth it. I never know what I will come up with. This time I came up with “The Man Without a Tie”.

Want to know why Cord doesn’t wear a tie. Want to know why he doesn’t have a first name. You’ll have to read it when it shows up on kindle sometime in the fall. In the meantime, I have to figure out whether his eyes are blue or brown. One thing is for sure. We know why Cord calls Cherry, the bartender at The Big Easy, Cleavage.