Tag Archives: short story collection

When We Were Kids: A Short Story

This is a short story I wrote some years ago. It’s about life and loss and the guilt of being the one who survives a tragic accident. It appears in my short story collection Strange HWY: Short Stories

When We Were Kids

I saw you again today. You were younger than the last time I set eyes on you. It happens that way sometimes. You were mowing the lawn in front of some house I didn’t recognize. I doubt you did either.

It’s the third time in a month that I’ve seen you cutting grass or jogging or playing in that park we hung out at when we were kids. You were always on the baseball diamond—even now. I suppose it has something to do with the uniforms. The colors are always different, but the style hasn’t changed in thirty-odd years.

Dana Rickleman still talks about you whenever I run into her at the Winn-Dixie. Well, she’s not Dana Rickleman these days. Neither is she hot anymore. She married Donnie Soba fifteen years or so ago, had a kid, put on more than a few pounds, and ended up deciding she’s a lesbian. But maybe we already knew that way back when. Remember how she used to say Becky Fordham was enough to turn her?

Speaking of Becky, her younger brother Todd is gone. He went to Iraq during the Gulf War and never came back. He stepped on the wrong spot and left nothing behind but his dog tags. Becky turned into a boozehound after that one. Last I heard she’d been in and out of Burnside Psychiatric Hospital.

The old neighborhood has completely changed. You wouldn’t recognize it now. All those families we knew back then no longer live there. Kids grew up and went off to college, got married, chased careers out of state. Parents became grandparents, got old, retired, moved to Florida, and died. I drove through there a few months ago. Not a familiar face among those I saw. Our old house is long gone. The family that bought it from Mom and Dad, after I moved out, lost it to fire. They rebuilt on the lot, but the house looks nothing like the original. And there are trees where there weren’t any before. Crazy how that works, huh?

I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m rambling. I don’t mean to. I’ve had a lot on my mind since, well, you know. I still struggle with things, Adam. It’s always there in the front part of my mind, where it often blocks out my view of the world around me. I think that’s why Mallory and I got a divorce. She saw those issues, tried to help me, but in the end, she just had to let it all go. It’s not her fault. Even Mom says she’s surprised Mallory didn’t leave me a lot sooner—and you know how Mom was always my biggest cheerleader.

I won’t lie to you. I’ve thought about it more times than I dare count. It’s usually when I’m driving alone, just as the sun dips below the horizon, taking the sky from pink to orange to purple, and that day smacks me in the face all over again, the pain growing only stronger with the passing of time. The way I’d do it, I’d aim my car at some far away tree, mash the gas pedal to the floor, race toward it, and be done. But then I’d hear your annoying voice calling me a selfish little prick—the way you always did when we were kids.

When we were kids. . .

There’s so much hurt wrapped around those four simple words.

When we were kids, we dreamed of playing Major League Baseball for the Atlanta Braves.

When we were kids, the only thing important to us was being able to stay outside for an hour or two after the streetlights came on.

When we were kids, we went everywhere on our bikes—and we never got tired of it.

Speaking of bikes, do you remember that time we decided we were going to be train for the Tour de France? We spent that entire summer riding all over hell’s half acre, thinking that’s all it took to win that stupid race. In your version, you and I would finish in first and second place. Of course, our versions differed as to which finished where. In my head, I was always the victor. And the prize money, well, that was spent a thousand different ways. Always on something foolish or needless—it would always be squandered on selfish desires. Mom would rein us in by taking charge of our fabled earnings. Into the bank, it would have to go. After all, we had college to think about.

I worry about Mom since Dad died. It’s not that I doubt her ability to carry on and live a productive life; she’s done that well enough in the three years since. It’s that profound sadness that envelops her when a birthday or anniversary or an old TV show worm their way into her cocoon, threatening to pull her out before she’s good and ready to deal with life as a changed species. She went out to dinner with Mr. Griffith from the church once—but that felt too much like adultery, essentially killing any notion of date number two. I just don’t want her to be miserable. It’s just her and me now, from our nuclear family. You always hated that term. You used to say it made you think that families could explode, taking entire cities with them. There’d be a mushroom cloud over our town—and it would mostly be Dad.

I miss his yelling about this and that.

Okay. So here’s the thing: I’ve never told anybody about that day. I never even told Mallory—and I told her a ton of major important things. I just can’t seem to make myself speak those words out loud. But I have to. It’s wrecking me, brother.

It was an accident. I swear on it.

I’m the one who locked you in the shed that day.

The day you died.

I did it. It was supposed to be a joke—a prank. I padlocked the door, expecting you to pitch a fit at being locked in. I’d leave you in there for a few minutes, before letting you out. Then you’d sock me in the shoulder and we’d have a laugh about it. But Donnie Soba showed up with a pocketful of firecrackers. I didn’t mean to leave you in the shed. I meant to unlock the door. I got sidetracked.

I didn’t know it could get so hot inside there.

I swear on it, Adam.

It was Dad who found you. He’d called the police after you failed to come inside once the street lights came on. He stomped around the living room, threatening to ground you for a hundred years, every so often yelling your name out into the night. Once Johnny Carson came on, the police were called. They drove the neighborhood, spotlights trained in the dark corners, searching for a wayward boy. I don’t know what it was that made Dad go out to the shed. It didn’t occur to me until he grabbed the key for the lock.

“I killed you, Adam.” There. I said it out loud.

It doesn’t make it easier.

I’m not just a killer. I’m the guy who killed his own brother.

I need to hear your voice, Adam. I need to know your thoughts on my transgression. Where are you? What do you see? What do you know? Have you been watching these thirty-odd years? Is everything I tell you already known?

Have you seen God?

Does He hate me?

Sometimes it’s like coming down with a cold. My body aches, my head throbs, and I can’t bring myself to get out of bed. It’s as if joy ceased to exist when you left. But I know that’s not true. Other people still experience joy and happiness and laughter. I’ve heard it. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. I’ve just never grabbed hold of it for myself—no matter how hard I try.

There really is no need for you to worry. Notions of wrapping my car around a tree are greatly exaggerated. I can’t do that to Mom. Neither can I put myself in front of God before my proper ending. For all I know, I’ll have to continue on well past the century mark, carrying the years as a burden.

Can you put in a word for me—the way you did when we were kids?

But would a simple word really count for anything?

I’m the reason you died, Adam.

Please forgive me.

Please.

Maybe it’s desperation that has me hearing your voice.

“Let it go, twerp.”

It comes audibly to me, as if you’re standing right beside me, speaking it directly into my ear.

My left ear.

“Is that you, Adam?” I ask it aloud, hoping for more.

But there’s nothing else.

“Tell me again—just once more.”

I think of Mom. Of telling her. Of unburdening my soul.

I won’t, though. I cannot.

It’s you I needed to tell.

It was always you.

And tonight, you heard me.

Of that, I am certain.

My burden isn’t gone just yet, but it sure feels lighter.

“Thank you, Adam.”

© 2018 Beem Weeks

This story, along with 18 others, is available in Strange HWY: Short Stories. Find it at all online booksellers.

Crackles of the Heart: Divergent Ink Book 1! A #BookReview

Blurb:

Divergent Ink is the mesh of different frames of thoughts, various interpretations of one core question that yearns for universal expansion. Although the subject matter may change every year, the purpose of the Divergent Ink series will remain the same.

The first book in the Divergent Ink anthology series, “Crackles of the Heart”, centers around the following question: Can the hot, handsome guy fall for the average, awkward woman?

Six Divergent Inks exploring “Crackles of the Heart”. Will there be hearts rejoicing or hearts breaking?

Featuring

Da’Kharta Rising: A five word invitation sets the tone for an afternoon journey. Short, provocative connectivity sizzles “Inside Me”.

Queen of Spades: One look from Her was all it took to put a ladies’ man into early retirement. Yet, the very object of his affection has no clue of his reform. When he opts to take a huge gamble, will his fairy tale end happily ever after or be deemed a “Tale in the Keys of Drastic”?

Adonis Mann: The dark of night can be more than scary, it can be downright intoxicating. When pleasure meets stupefaction, a man with a secret whirls into rapture at the hands of an unknown force. To which end? Will his secret be revealed, or will he revel in the delight it brings? Nothing is as it seems during the wonderment of “Mystical Nights”.

Y. Correa: Steampunk Earth, set in the distant future. When an ambitious city guy meets a carefree country lady, what starts out as a getaway to finish an important project turns into a interesting journey. Steam intersects and hearts collide in “The Steam of Opposites”.

C. Desert Rose: Terah has the misfortune of being given news that puts an expiration date on her life. In her desire to get away from the chaos, she has a chance encounter with the very one that can put the turmoil to rest. Is “Serendipitous Mirth” dumb luck, or preordained destiny?

Synful Desire: Bette is a hard working small town woman with simple pleasures. When visually stunning Jesse comes into the store on what’s normally her day off, her mind accelerates into complex overdrive. In this small town, a lot can happen in seven days. Will one of those events serve to satisfy Bette’s “Seven Days of Stimuli”?

 

My Review:

Rating: ★★★★★

This collection contains some truly intriguing works by authors who are skilled in the fine art of storytelling. Six writers lent their talents here. They have each taken a core question and answered it in their own unique words.

Though there are different styles at work, there remains a thread that connects each of the tales in this book, like a well-groomed path cutting through a summer wood. I’ve read some of these authors before. I am never disappointed in plots or mechanics or inspiration. Good writers know how to pull the reader in and dazzle.

The stories are provocative, dark, and at times, steamy in their telling—though not in an over-indulgent sort of way. There is an order to the chaos. I honestly couldn’t settle on just one or two as favorites, so I’ll give applause to each of these writers: Da’Kharta Rising, Y. Correa, Adonis Mann, Queen of Spades, C. Desert Rose, and Synful Desire. Cheers for a job well-done, authors!

I am a fan of the short form of fiction. This collection will sit on my shelf along with the others I’ve kept and returned to time after time.

Buy it Here:

Day 6 of the Concordant Vibrancy Book Tour: Adonis Mann!

Welcome to Day 6 of the Concordant Vibrancy 5 book tour. Today we are introducing author Adonis Mann. . .

 

The Concordant Vibrancy Collection holds an exceptionally important space in my heart.

Through this channel, Adonis Mann, the author was born. I will be eternally grateful for the doors it’s opened up for me.

My story of joining the Concordant Vibrancy project is an interesting one.

In 2014 I just recently signed my contract to become an All Authors Publishing House author. I was, as yet, inexperienced in the field and knew very little about anything other than I was now being represented by All Authors and I would have to complete the book I was working on very soon.

One day I received an email asking if I would be interested in participating in the anthology project. I was delighted but there was one big issue … I wasn’t published yet.

Being that I had yet to have a book on the market, how would this impact my participation in the anthology?

I reached out to my publisher and asked, for I was uncertain if I’d been invited erroneously.

Following was our conversation, paraphrased of course.

“Dear Jazz and Monica,” I said, “are you certain that I can be a part of the anthology? I’m not yet published.”

“Yes,” responded Monica, “you’re part of the house.”

“But I am not yet published ….”

“Then you’ll be published for the first time in the anthology,” responded Jazz.

Oh, how the pressure mounted at that very moment. It was overwhelming and surreal. I could scarcely believe that my very first publication would be through these means. But there it was … about to come to pass.

And in short order, it did.

My very first participation with anything All Authors at all was “… and we” the short story which was included in “Concordant Vibrancy 1: Unity”. After that, I was included in all of the installments with stories entitled, “Barbershop”, “Luster Lingers”, “Express-Oh” and now “Axis … Redefined”.

It’s been a great pleasure having been part of the fray and my heart breaks as witnessing the end of the road. However, I do know that it was a stupendous ride while it lasted.

Now, please enjoy a short excerpt of “Axis … Redefined”.

 

My Review of Comes this Time to Float by @StephenGeez

Rating: ★★★★★

Author Stephen Geez possesses a talent for crafting tales that draw readers into the unique and vivid worlds he creates. This collection of 19 short stories offers a smorgasbord of genres, characters, lives, and situations with which everyday people can and will identify. From the very first story to the last, Geez has a way of keeping the reader enthralled and entertained.

“Halfway House” tells a sad tale of loss and the search for redemption. “Vapor Girl” is trippy and far out, and one that will surely remain with you. “Family Treed” sprinkles the weird and humorous on this wonderful word salad. “Tailwind” is a thoughtful piece about a pair of aging friends in the latter stages of life. “The Age Eater” carries a note of science fiction and a hint of creepy. But my favorite is a story entitled “Holler Song”. This story harkens to the Ozark Mountains of Daniel Woodrell’s modern classic Winter’s Bone, where poor people caught up in impossible circumstances will do whatever it takes just to survive the lives handed to them.

There isn’t a bad story in the entire collect. Stephen Geez has been a favorite of mine since I first read his novel What Sara Saw many years ago. If you’re a reader with a keen eye for the literary, this is one you’ll want on your bookshelf.

Comes This Time To Float Blog Tour! @StephenGeez

Greetings to all readers! Join me in welcoming author Stephen Geez to The Indie Spot today, as we celebrate the release of his new short story collection entitled Comes this Time to Float. Take it away, Mr. Geez. . . 

 

Salutations!

Hey! You’ve made it to day 16 of my extended blog tour! I would like to thank my esteemed host, Author Beem Weeks, for sharing some blog space today. I hope to interest you story-likers in trying my first book in way too many years, this my only collection of short fiction: Comes this Time to Float: 19 Short Stories by Stephen Geez. You could add another “by Stephen Geez” to that, as I put the moniker in the subtitle, too. I’d be forcing it to find a theme, except maybe that all my stories try to look at something I think is important, but told in a decorative sort of way. Written here and there among novels over two decades, they show a variety of genres and styles, as I get restless. Now they’re tucked between jacketed hard covers and softs, or in e-however-you-likes.

 

The Enticement

Each tour stop will offer the opening paragraphs of a story from the book, then link to the full story online.  A few will also link to audio-shorts narrated by me. An RRBC-specific promo video will be foisted on you every day. Using a narrator didn’t seem right for my own trailer, so yeah, it’s me. Be sure to post reviews in your favorite places, most helpfully if Amazon. RRBC members, be sure to report the Amazon link to your Reviews Coordinator for quarterly credit.

And you, I thank, too.

A Geez Author Blurb

Stephen Geez grew up in the Detroit suburbs during the American-auto domination. He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor. He retired from scripting/producing television and composing/producing television music, then expanded his small literary management firm into indie-publisher and multi-media company Fresh Ink Group. Now he works from a deck overlooking the lake in north Alabama, helping other writers share their compelling narratives with the world.

The Book Blurb

Prepare to think as you explore these wildly disparate literary short stories by author, composer, and producer Stephen Geez. Avoiding any single genre, this collection showcases Geez’s storytelling from southern gothic to contemporary drama to coming-of-age, humor, sci-fi, and fantasy—all finessed to say something about who we are and what we seek. Some of these have been passed around enough to need a shot of penicillin, others so virgin they have never known the seductive gaze of a reader’s eyes. So when life’s currents get to pulling too hard, don’t fight it, just open the book and discover nineteen new ways of going with the flow, because NOW more than ever Comes this Time to Float.

 

The Promo Video

 

Today’s Sample: “Veneer”

In the end, bad weather turned out to be what pierced the veneer.

 

Two uniforms pounded on the door, demanding entry and using her name like they had a right. She remained frozen, barely breathing, her stroke-addled leg throbbing, finger twitching on the trigger of Daddy’s rifle.

 

Bam bam bam! “Mizzus Heidway!” came the door-muffled call of Sheriff Dander, his voice a rumble under that drone of wicked downpour shotgunning the tin roof. “Now, y’alls got to come with us! They’s evacuatin’ the whole valley!”

 

Twenty years since Mama died and left her the house, twenty years since Iris came back to live the South Alabama life she’d fled hoping never to return, twenty years running all her errands in nearby towns to avoid in-yer-business local busybodies, yet now these uniforms had the gall to come uninvited right onto an old woman’s property.

 

“If you’re in there, you’s got to come out now!”

 

Nothing is what she ever got to do, especially for two bullies with badges. She’d seen Sheriff Dander on the news a few times, always under investigation for some kind of brutality. Seems like the kind of person who wants to be a cop is the one who has no business being one.

 

Letting her screen door slam, the intruders retreated into a frenzy of rain. Iris Heidway hobbled to the window and peeked through the curtains. A county van packed with busybodies turned around, then rocked and swayed its way back up the hill, splashing through a frantic gravel-washer streaming down the rutted road. She couldn’t see herself climbing in with that mob, or wedged between all those so-and-so’s at some makeshift shelter, everybody grabbing and hugging, you’ll be okay honey this’ll be over soon anything you need just let us know . . .  Touchers pretend they’re doing something for you, but they’re the ones tricked by a fool’s notion of connection. Anybody lays a hand on Iris Heidway, he’ll be lucky to get it back.

 

 

The Whole Story

I’m adding each day’s story to my blog. Be sure to come back here!

https://StephenGeez.WordPress.com

 

The Audio-short

Okay, find “Veneer” along with the other two in my YouTube channel, precise link on my blog today.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCA2kP6eBIs7nUtOzrH7ObBw

 

Find the Book Now

Should be just about everywhere, but here are the biggies:

 

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/comes+this+time+to+float?_requestid=1776240

 

https://www.amazon.com/Comes-this-Time-Float-Stories-ebook/dp/B0846WY2HZ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=comes+this+time+to+float&qid=1582276112&sr=8-1

 

Other Places I Lurk

https://twitter.com/stephengeez

Instagram: StephenGeezWriter

https://StephenGeez.com

https://StephenGeez.Wordpress.com

 

 

A Pair of Brand New Titles from Fresh Ink Group!

Greetings to all book lovers! Fresh Ink Group has two brand new releases here in the new year! One is a collection of brilliant short fiction from author Stephen Geez. The other is a detailed investigative book addressing pain management versus opioid addiction. 

Comes this Time to Float by Stephen Geez

Prepare to think as you explore these wildly disparate literary short stories by author, composer, and producer Stephen Geez. Avoiding any single genre, this collection showcases Geez’s storytelling from southern gothic to contemporary drama to coming-of-age, humor, sci-fi, and fantasy—all finessed to say something about who we are and what we seek. Some of these have been passed around enough to need a shot of penicillin, others so virgin they have never known the seductive gaze of a reader’s eyes. So when life’s currents get to pulling too hard, don’t fight it, just open the book and discover nineteen new ways of going with the flow, because NOW more than ever Comes this Time to Float.

 

 

American Agony: The Opioid War Against Patients in Pain by Dr. Helen Borel

Managing pain with opioids is a science—except politics, money, and overzealous law enforcement are denying American patients the relief they so desperately need. Demonizing the best pain reliever we have leads to needless suffering, even suicides, and it drives the rise in deadly street drugs. Helen Borel gathers and presents the evidence, the intimidation, the raids of clinics, the chilling effect on those very professionals we trust to care for our loved ones and ourselves. She looks hard at the Veterans Administration, Drug Enforcement Agency, Department of Justice, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chapters include “The Suboxone Hoax,” “The Wrong Arms of the Law,” and “The Epidemic of Death,” plus an entire section on solutions for this widespread crisis. Read American AGONY now—or you might be the next one hurt.

Book Release – Concordant Vibrancy 4: Inferno

Greetings, one and all!

If you’ve been following along this past week and a half you probably already know that this is the day that everything has been leading to.

During day one we introduced you to the ingredient of Purpose. Adonis Mann brought up, “Express-Oh”.

Day two we took a look at Commitment via Carol Cassada’s contribution, “Not Always Like This”.

On day three it was all about Consequences; we delved deep into this ingredient via Harmony Kent’s story, “The Fireman”.

Day four examined Love with Beem Weeks’ tale, “The Complications of Fire”.

Day five was overtaken by the ingredient of Reinvention as told by C. Desert Rose’s story, “Calliope’s Inferno”.

Day six told us that Tenacity was an important ingredient no matter what the circumstance through Y. Correa’s, “Moxy”.

Day seven touched on how the ingredient of Risk can be as scolding as any through Synful Desire’s, “Antipode”.

Day eight cleverly showed how Conviction was as good ingredient as any to keep the fire roaring. Da’Kharta Rising showed us how in “The Chronicles of Aidan”.

And last but never-ever least, Queen of Spades indubitably demonstrated how Empathy is the most powerful of ingredients when maintaining our soul’s fire burning in, “The Calefaction of Insight”.

Now that the picture has become clear and Inferno’s stew is bubbling, come serve yourself us a bowl. Come get your copy of, “Concordant Vibrancy 4: Inferno”.

 

GET YOUR COPY TODAY!

Concordant Vibrancy 4: Inferno – Cover Reveal!

 

Today the members of the All Authors Family are celebrating the cover reveal of “Concordant Vibrancy 4: Inferno”, the fourth installation of the Concordant Vibrancy anthology collection.

First, the blurb …

 

There is a universal fascination associated with passion―its defining element, fire, as well as the unseen. Yet how many dare to trespass beyond the final product, exploring the ingredients which keep it sustainable?
This is the traverse of the fourth installment of the Concordant Vibrancy collection, presented by All Authors Publications and Promotions, entitled “Inferno”. Nine phenomenal talents diverge under one purpose: the creation of literary works guaranteed to set the mind, heart, and spirit ablaze.

Stories included:

Express-Oh” by Adonis Mann
Not Always Like This” by Carol Cassada
The Fireman” by Harmony Kent
The Complications of Fire” by Beem Weeks
Calliope’s Inferno” by C. Desert Rose
Moxy” by Y. Correa
Antipode” by Synful Desire
The Chronicles of Aidan” by Da’Kharta Rising, and
The Calefaction of Insight” by Queen of Spades.

 

 

Since January 2015 All Authors Publishing House has been exploring the elements of nature through the enterprise known as Concordant Vibrancy, an All Authors Anthology Collection.
Book One explored Unity under the theme question of “What elements contribute to the concept of unity?” The element being Earth. Through an array of tales, the authors explained what Unity meant to them.
Book Two examined Vitality. The theme question was, “What force drives your spirit?” The element was Air. Here the authors endeavored to answer the question with a combination of stories and essays.
Book Three looked at Lustrate using the theme question, “What embodies the composition of fluidity?” The element was water. Herein the authors spoke lucidly and clearly on what fluidity meant to them.
Book Four takes a peek at Inferno … the element of Fire. It asks “What are the ingredients to a sustainable blaze?” By far the best of the collection, “Concordant Vibrancy 4: Inferno” is a demonstration of depth in thought and evolution in craft.
Now, without further ado and with great pride All Authors brings you the cover of “Concordant Vibrancy 4: Inferno”.

 

WELCOME TO THE 2019 OCTOBER-WEEN BLOCK PARTY!

Greetings to all! Welcome to Rave Reviews Book Club’s 2019 October-ween Block Party! Today, in keeping with the Halloween spirit, I am sharing my short story entitled Monster, from my short story collection Strange Hwy

CONGRATULATIONS TO MY WINNERS! 

1. Mark Bierman

2. Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko

3. Jerry Marquardt

**This giveaway is now closed**

Three lucky readers will win prizes! (Who doesn’t like prizes?)

Here are my prize packs:

1. A $10 Amazon Gift Card and your choice of a signed paperback copy of one of my books!

2. A $10 Amazon Gift Card and your choice of a signed paperback copy of one of my books!

3. A $10 Amazon Gift Card and your choice of a signed paperback copy of one of my books!

Those books to choose from are:

  1. Jazz Baby
  2. Slivers of Life: A Collection of Short Stories
  3. Strange Hwy: Short Stories

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below!

And now, on to my Halloween short story. . .

 

Monster

 

“Indecent liberties with a minor,” my mother explained, repeating the same words Danny Deagle sprinkled on us kids earlier in the day. “I don’t want you girls trick-or-treating at his house tonight.”

The old man at the end of the street, she meant. A swirl of new words followed him into our neighborhood—words shrouded in secrecy, in a thick fog of mystery. The simple ones I’d commit to memory, intending find them in the dictionary I got for my tenth birthday this past summer—a secret gift that nobody else knew about.

Perv—that’s the one I looked up last night, right before bed. Millicent, my older sister, she used it when telling Grandma Myron about the new neighbor in question. But if there’s such a word as perv, well, old Merriam-Webster hasn’t been told. I couldn’t find it to save my life.

“I ain’t going anywhere near that side of the street,” Millicent announced. “—not as long as he’s lurking down there.”

She’d go over there, though. Millicent thinks she’s hot you-know-what just because she’s thirteen now. Besides, every kid in the neighborhood wants to be the first one to walk up those front steps and ring the doorbell. You have to be seen doing it, though, or it won’t count for anything.

I tossed in a handful of words meant to be my two cents. “Danny Deagle says he got in trouble down in Kentucky before he got in trouble here in Ohio—that old man, I mean.”

Danny Deagle knows about these sorts of things. His stepdad is a cop.

My mother lit a fresh Marlboro and proclaimed, “He’s got no business staying on this street—not with all you kids around.” Thin lazy smoke slithered from her nostrils like twin snakes in search of a meal. “Don’t let me hear that you girls went trick-or-treating at his house.”

* * *

Millicent dressed as a belly dancer again—same as last Halloween and the one before that. She just likes the attention from boys like Danny Deagle and Jeff Brahm. But they like her only because she’s practically naked in her costume.

Me? I got stuck being a hobo again—even though my mother promised me I could be the belly dancer this year.

Millicent grabbed her pillowcase from the kitchen table and said, “Ready, dweeb?”

“You’re the dweeb,” I argued, snatching my own pillowcase.

My mother said, “Don’t stay out all night.”

We’d stay out as long as it took to fill those pillowcases to the full.

Danny Deagle met us in front of his house. Those gray eyes of his drank up Millicent like she’s cool water and he’s been thirsty for days. But he really couldn’t be blamed. Booty shorts and a sports bra, that’s all she wore underneath that sheer white fabric that left her belly bare and exposed.

Our father, before he remarried and moved to Cincinnati, wouldn’t have allowed one of his daughters to go traipsing through the neighborhood wearing only a couple of tissue papers.

.

But our father doesn’t come around anymore. And our mother, she won’t play the villain—as she likes to say. So Millicent gets away with murder.

Kids of all ages crisscrossed our neighborhood exchanging tricks for treats. Smarties and Sweettarts mingled with fun-sized Snickers and Milky Ways in the bottom of our pillowcases. And later, when we’d finally have to call it a night, Millicent would try to swindle me out of all of my Hershey’s Miniatures, offering junk like jelly beans and peanut butter chews for trade.

Billy Pinsler found us where Delbert Avenue and McCaully Drive cross. Billy’s my age—only shorter. “Anybody going to the perv’s house?” he asked.

Danny fixed me in his sight. “You’ll go up there, won’t you, Melanie?”

My head twisted left and right. “Mom said to stay away from his house,” I told him, knowing full-well he’d poke and prod until I agreed to answer his dare.

Danny’s good like that. He knows how to get kids to do what he’s too scared to do—only he’d never admit to being scared.

Millicent joined the push, said, “Since when do you listen to Mom?”

We were already there, bags half-full, in front of that house on the end of our street. I’d be the one going, as usual.

“Melanie won’t go,” Billy announced. “She’s too scared.”

My eyes found Millicent’s eyes. “You’re the one who’s half naked; why don’t you go up there?”

“Because the guy’s a perv, nimrod!” said Danny. “You want him to try something with her?”

And what about me?

I tossed my gaze toward that house. A lone porch light shined out of the dark.

“If I scream,” I said, walking to my demise, “you better run and call the cops.”

A fall breeze passed through the trees overhead, sending loose leaves gliding to the ground.

My legs went heavy and stiff, unwilling to move without provocation. Somewhere on that street a dog barked warnings at kids in costumes.

My body halted at the bottom step leading to the front door. I tossed a glance over my shoulder. Millicent, Danny, and Billy took refuge behind shrubs at the foot of the driveway.

“Ain’t gotta be scared,” the voice said, suddenly there like a spook in the night. “Just come on up. I won’t bite—except you want I should.”

A bead of sweat raced down my belly, which was stuffed with an old pillow to make me look fat.

Gray hair going thin twisted this way and that, like weeds, atop his head. Skinny, like maybe he’d been sick for a while.

My foot found the first step, brought us closer.

He asked, “You gonna say it?”

I would. It only seemed right. “Trick or treat.”

A laugh just like my father’s slipped past his lips. He kind of resembled him, too, around the eyes and nose.

“You say it with no real conviction, girl,” he said, almost accusing me of something.

The mouth of my pillowcase yawned wide, ready to swallow whatever treats he chose to dispense.

Two Hershey’s miniatures.

Mr. Goodbar and Krackle.

“Where’s your sister?” he wondered aloud, throwing his gaze like a pair of marbles down the driveway.

“Hiding,” I confessed, backing away.

But those eyes of his—cobalt blue, same as my father’s—took hold on me, wandered along my length as if sizing me for a new dress.

“You ’sposed to be a bum?” he asked.

Denim coveralls, a gray T-shirt that used to be white, and worn-out tennis shoes seemed the easiest of Halloween costumes to put together.

I corrected him, said, “A hobo.”

“Hobo, huh?” He waggled his finger, drew me closer to his grasp. “Take the rest of these,” he said, offering me the entire bowl of miniatures.

“What about the other kids?”

“Ain’t no other kids. You the only one come ’round tonight.”

It made my bag heavier and more than satisfied, this extra loot.

My voice came tight, higher-pitched than normal. “Thank you.”

“Polite—just like your daddy at that age.” The weight of his body found relief against the door frame. “Did you get the Merriam-Webster I sent for your birthday?”

My head tipped a nod, my voice said, “Thank you, Granddad.”

* * *

“Did he lose his goo over you?” Danny Deagle asked, acting like a big brother. “I’ll tell my stepdad if he did.”

“He didn’t,” I assured him, not really understanding what goo just might get lost.

Millicent’s gaze took hold on mine, passed words into my head, words demanding my silence on the matter.

Aloud, her words asked, “What’d he give you?”

“Jellybeans,” I told her. “Nothing but jellybeans.”

This story can be found in Strange Hwy: Short Stories.

If you ever find yourself on the Strange Hwy–don’t turn around. Don’t panic. Just. Keep. Going. You never know what you’ll find.

You’ll see magic at the fingertips of an autistic young man,

  • A teen girl’s afternoon, lifetime of loss.
  • A winged man, an angel? Demon–?
  • Mother’s recognition, peace to daughter.
  • Danny’s death, stifled secrets.
  • Black man’s music, guitar transforms boy.
  • Dead brother, open confession.
  • First love, supernatural?–family becomes whole!

You can exit the Strange Hwy, and come back any time you want.

See, now you know the way in, don’t be a stranger.

BUY:

 

NEW RELEASE! Strange Hwy: Short Stories by Beem Weeks is Now Available!

Fresh Ink Group is pleased to announce the release of Strange Hwy: Short Stories by Beem Weeks. This collection of short stories makes a perfect Christmas gift for the reader in your life.

Strange Hwy: Short Stories is available in full-sized trade paperback, dust-jacketed hardcover, and all ebook formats. You can purchase Strange Hwy: Short Stories at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Google Books, and many other online retailers.

Whether you’re into horror, historical fiction, coming of age, or slice of life stories, this collection has something for you.

Blurb:

If you ever find yourself on the Strange Hwy—don’t turn around. Don’t panic. Just. Keep. Going. You never know what you’ll find.
You’ll see magic at the fingertips of an autistic young man,
•A teen girl’s afternoon, lifetime of loss.
•A winged man, an angel? Demon—?
•Mother’s recognition, peace to daughter.
•Danny’s death, stifled secrets.
•Black man’s music, guitar transforms boy.
•Dead brother, open confession.
•First love, supernatural?—family becomes whole!
You can exit the Strange Hwy, and come back any time you want.
See, now you know the way in, don’t be a stranger.

Where to Purchase:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Google Books