Category Archives: mystery

The Package #fridayflash #fiction #webfiction

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Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

The Package is rated PG by my standards.

The Package, by Deanna Schrayer

Jack bit the tip of his tongue and stared at the cursor blinking on his screen. His eyes crossed as, over and over again, he read the one sentence he’d typed: Orangebeard sprouted his wings and flew across the ghost ship, raising his machete as he took aim at his enemy….

“This is so boring!” Jack thought, “What does this guy want me to say? Who is his enemy? What is Orangebeard’s story?” After rubbing his chin stubble almost off, Jack pushed the laptop away and threw his hands up in defeat. “What makes me think I can write?” he asked the air of his kitchen. He lit a cigarette and stepped outside. He’d walk to the mailbox, clear his mind for a minute.

As Jack neared the end of the driveway he saw a package setting beside the mailbox. It was so big it looked as if it should have been delivered to the zoo instead of his little trailer. The only thing he’d ordered was a book on writing query letters; surely it wouldn’t come in such a huge box. He tossed the cigarette butt in the ditch and stooped in preparation to heave a massive weight. But the box wasn’t heavy at all; it didn’t even feel like it could contain a book, much less something worth the trouble of such an awkward shipment.

Jack balanced the box on his shoulder and jogged back inside, curiosity growing like a pirate’s treasure. He placed the box on the kitchen table, grabbed the scissors and sliced the seam open. Inside was a treasure chest, one of those cardboard deals like you get at a party supply store for a kid’s birthday.

Feeling a bit cautious now, Jack checked the outside of the box. No return address. He took a step back and stood staring at the dull gold chest, unease creeping up his stomach into his throat where it lodged in a tight knot. “You’re being ridiculous, Jack,” he told himself, “It’s just a kid’s toy box, nothing sinister about it at all.”

He pushed his fear aside, barked a short laugh at himself and opened the chest. It contained an eye patch and a scroll of yellowed paper, torn and burnt around the edges, bound with a piece of frayed rope. A treasure map? He untied the rope and a note rolled open.

the package

Jack saw no ‘X’ marking a spot, (or any spots for that matter as it was not a map, just the short note). He scrunched his eyes up as if that might help him understand who the note was from. And it did – he remembered. Captain Delaney, the sailor he’d asked to interview a couple weeks before. Jack recalled him seeming eccentric, but he hadn’t realized the old man was going senile.

He glanced at the clock – if he rushed he could make it. He grabbed his keys and voice recorder and ran out the door, then rushed back in and got the eye patch. He jumped in his barely-still-yellow Volkswagen and headed for the marina.

As Jack parked near the dock it began to rain. A rumble of thunder rolled across the darkening sky. He glanced around before putting the eye patch on; he could just imagine the razzing he’d get if one of his tavern buddies saw him. But there was no one around. No one at all.

Jack stepped onto the deck of The Coral Treasure just as the sprinkles mutated into colossal drops of hail that stung his bare arms like sharp wasps. Thunder boomed louder now and the sizzle of lightning came closer and closer. Jack held his arms out for balance as the wind picked his cap up and sent it sailing into the tall waves slamming the boat. The hair on his neck stood to attention, a cold chill scampering across his bones.

“What’s the matter with me?” he thought, “This is just an interview for Pete’s sake.” But his steps were slow and cautious.

The cabin door creaked ajar and Jack eased it open. “Captain?” he said, “Captain Delaney? It’s me, Jack Preston.”

“Come on in Jack!” a gruff voice rebounded off the cabin walls. It had been a couple of weeks since Jack had talked to Captain Delaney on the phone, but he didn’t recall him sounding so…lively.

Jack walked through the pitch black corridor holding on to what he hoped was rails on each wall as the vessel rocked beneath him. “Thank you for taking the time….”

It was more than the thunder that stopped him cold.

“I’ve been waiting for you, Jack.” The man smiled, his beady eyes almost disappearing beneath thick crinkles of gleaming fat flesh.

Jack stood agape, shivering as he stared at the giant before him, the very monster he had created himself. Orangebeard.

The pirate stomped into the trembling candlelight, and Jack realized where the thunder had been coming from. “I’ve been waiting….and waiting.”

Jack froze, yet sweat popped out on his forehead like glittering beads of mercury. He grew faint.

Orangebeard sprouted his wings and flew across the ghost ship, raising his machete as he took aim at his enemy….

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A poem a day keeps the wrinkles away #poetry #worldpoetryday #nationalpoetrymonth

Wolrd poetry day

If you’re an avid (or is that obsessive?) reader as I am, you’ve surely encountered those articles that proclaim reading is not only a pleasurable experience, it also helps to preserve many aspects of our minds, even assisting in slowing the aging process. This Friday, the 21st, being World Poetry Day, and with National Poetry Month in April fast approaching, I felt it the perfect time to celebrate the many advantages of reading.

If you aren’t a regular reader, but would like to be, I suggest subscribing to The American Academy of Poets’ Poem-a-Day. It’s a fantastic way to initiate reading something each day as most of the time the poems are short and, (for those of you who claim “allergy” to poetry), the older, and usually long, poems are few and far-between. Often they are profound, sometimes silly, even outright hilarious. Plus, you may discover that you absolutely adore poetry, or you may decide one poem each day is not enough and start reading more and more and voila, you’re a reader! You might even be inspired to write your own poetry, something I encourage, even if you don’t know the difference between a sestina and a stanza. No one has to see it if you don’t want them to.

I could go on and on about the many reasons reading, and writing, poetry is so good for our souls, but I believe it’s better to give you a couple of my favorites. These particular two may make it seem I’m morbid but no, I just like the profoundness of both, and I believe, upon reading them, you’ll understand why I love poetry so much.

The Bolt, by Mary Kinzie

That girl so long ago walked, as they all did, shop girls,

Little cousins, and church friends, to the unflattering

Hack of the hem just where the calf begins to swell,

Felt ruchings of the bodice’s stiff panels

Gal the flesh beside the flattening ornate

Armature of underwear (like pads and straps

For livestock, fretted by tooling and bright studs),

So she must yank her knees against

Pounds of rigid drapery in the storm of heat,

 

Trailing through the pestering, gray heads

Of Queen Anne’s lace, wind raveling

Her hair and sweeping through prolific

Jagged-bladed grass – a wind that pressed down

There like God with both His hands, mashing the air,

Darkening the hole where the dry mouth of the wood

Yawned to drink the stumbling travelers already touched

By the heavy sacs of rain that broke and ran

In gouts down saturated pleats of surge…

Here that girl ran last, so long ago, to be run through

By one long lightning thread that entered, through

A slender purple bruise, the creamy skin of her temple,

 

The instant that it happened, nobody remembered

How she looked or spoke, so quickly had she blended

With this evocation of her having been.

 

This was the past: a stroke of imagery stare-

Frozen, finished in suspension.

*

I love how the poem uses two definitions of bolt – a bolt of fabric and a bolt of lightning.

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I Felt a Funeral in My Brain, (280) Emily Dickinson (Emily Dickinson’s poems were not titled, only given a number).

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,

And Mourners to and fro

Kept treading – treading – till it seemed

That Sense was breaking through –

 

And when they all were seated,

A Service, like a Drum –

Kept beating – beating – till I thought

My mind was going numb –

 

And then I heard them lift a Box

And creak across my Soul

With those same Boots of Lead, again,

Then Space – began to toll,

 

As all the Heavens were a Bell,

And Being, but an Ear,

And I, and Silence, some strange Race,

Wrecked, solitary, here –

 

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,

And I dropped down, and down –

And hit a World, at every plunge,

And Finished knowing – then –

*I love how the ending here is truly as abrupt as “the end” always is.

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And here is [the link to] a poem I wrote, She Saw It Comingwhich was originally a flash piece but readers’ comments led me to realize it should’ve been a poem all along.

Who are your favorite poets? What are your favorite poems? Why do you believe you’re attracted to these particular poems and/or poets?

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On a Rainy Tuesday Afternoon #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction

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Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

On a Rainy Tuesday Afternoon is more of a character sketch, (or two-character sketch I should say), than anything.  It’s an excerpt of a short story I jotted down ages ago and have recently picked back up. I’d like to know how interested you are in learning more about these two. On a Rainy Tuesday Afternoon is rated PG-13, according to my standards. Enjoy!

Original photo courtesy of NYPL Digital Gallery
Original photo courtesy of NYPL Digital Gallery

On a Rainy Tuesday Afternoon, by Deanna Schrayer

The young woman nearly fell into Johnny’s restaurant, soaked by the torrential storm slapping the converted brick bungalow like a toy sailboat, her red-gold curls stuck to her face and streaks of mascara pouring from her cat-green oval eyes. She stood panting inside the doorway, bent at the waist and holding on to her knees, gasping for breath.

It was mid-afternoon, only one customer at the bar – Harry the Hobo he was called – and Johnny was polishing glasses behind the bar.

“You all right?” Johnny said, looking at her as if she might be a mirage.

“I’m….I need….” She struggled to find that elusive breath. Johnny stepped out from behind the bar and walked towards her, slowly. He had the illogical feeling if he approached her too quickly she may lash out and belt him a good one. He stopped a couple feet from her and asked again, “Are you okay?”

She looked up at him, straightened, and drew in her lips. She frowned and stared at Johnny as if trying to decide whether or not to trust him. “I…I just had to get out of the wind, it was blowing me all over the place.” She laughed as if the thought delighted her, but it sounded forced. He could easily imagine the wind tossing her about though as she wasn’t as big as one leaf of a willow tree. But something about her demeanor told him she could withstand many storms, that she had already withstood many storms.

Johnny nodded to the drenched girl, “Sit down over here, I’ll get you a drink.” He motioned her towards the only red vinyl bar stool that wasn’t torn.

“Oh, no, thank you but I…I think I’ll just stand here a few minutes, until the storm blows over. Thanks though.” She turned and gazed out the window as if looking for someone, biting her fingernails.

“Naw, now, you get on over here and sit down,” Johnny said, returning to his place behind the bar. She turned and took a tentative step and he sat a full glass of dark liquid on the bar and said, “Drink’s on the house.”

She carried a well-used backpack and wore a thick velvet peasant’s shirt the color of ripe grapes, the soaked material clinging to her slight frame and riding up her torso to reveal a flat belly, and jeans that sported several holes horizontally slashed down the thighs. Johnny couldn’t decide whether the denim was artfully torn or if she’d recently crossed a mad cat. She looked, to Johnny, like a princess who had carelessly stepped away from the palace to follow a rabbit down a hole and couldn’t find her way back home.

She walked slow but steady to the bar and sat down. “Thank you,” she said as she tipped the glass back and greedily sucked down the drink. She sat the glass down hard on the bar and sputtered, “What is this stuff?” she said, shivering.

“Brandy,” Johnny told her, “It’ll warm you up right good.” His broad smile revealed crow’s feet that, along with the silver tufts of downy hair framing his ears, told her he was old enough to be her father.

“Whew, I’d say!” She picked the glass back up and laughed the most infectious laugh he’d ever heard.

Johnny offered his hand and introduced himself. “Johnny Diamanté,” he said, and nodded towards the end of the bar, “That there’s Harry.” The hobo glanced her way and nodded his head, a camo baseball cap concealing his eyes. He raised his own mug of beer in salute.

Johnny detected a hint of fear in her eyes. She was slow to take his hand. When she did he was surprised at how warm her hand was. “I’m Stormy,” she said, and smiled, “Stormy Lassiter.” He wondered if she’d plucked the name from the rain that had ushered her inside.

Since that night Stormy was at the bar every evening. She didn’t drink much and she rarely ate, but Johnny didn’t mind as the simple fact of her presence seemed to pick up business. She soon became sort of a mascot of Diamanté’s Bar and Grill, floating around and socializing with the customers, men and women alike. Stormy would often leave with a couple or a group of girls, but never with men alone, which Johnny was grateful for; (he certainly didn’t want the place getting a reputation for that kind of business).

Stormy may return that evening or she may not, but she was always there the next evening, alert and ready to do it all over again. It was like having a free hostess. Often Johnny would nearly force Stormy to eat something in order to mask the guilt he felt for not offering her a paying job. He’d have the cook make up a plate of appetizers, and Johnny would set it down in front of her and say, “Eat.” When she tried to protest, pushing the plate away, saying she wasn’t hungry, Johnny persisted, holding her eyes hostage, pushing the plate back towards her and giving his head one sharp nod, “Eat.” She’d let the food sit while she talked to the patrons, giving it a cursory glance now and then, and finally Johnny would see her sneaking bites here and there, as if she was afraid of being caught.

It would be several years before Johnny recalled that look in her eyes, the shock of catching it a second time reeling him into a past he wasn’t sure if he was glad had happened or not.

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That Night by the Creek #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction

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Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

I started two different flash pieces this week and they both decided they wanted to be much more than that, at least shorts, so I’ve put them aside to “perfect” for submission and decided to recycle for today’s story. That Night by the Creek was originally published as a #fridayflash on The Other Side of Deanna (now closed) in May of 2011.  It is rated PG-13, according to my standards. I hope you enjoy!

That Night by the Creek

That Night by the Creek, by Deanna Schrayer

Momma pulled off the road in the gravel alongside the creek and cut the headlights. It was so dark I couldn’t see the chicken leg I’d been eating. I heard the tall pines rustling as if it were windy but I felt no breeze at all, even though all the windows in the car were down. I heard the frogs croaking, the creek trickling, (normally it would be rushing but it hadn’t rained in weeks), and Momma breathing heavy. “You ‘bout done with that chicken Stella?” she asked.

“Almost,” I said, wanting to know why she cared, why we had stopped in the dark at such a late hour, but not daring to ask.

“Hurry up,” she said, “I gotta get our contraband outta here so Daddy won’t know we bought fast food.”

“Contra what?” I asked.

“Never mind,” she jerked the chicken leg out of my hand without even having to feel around for it in the dark. In a second I heard a dull thud as it hit the road. Then the flame of her lighter erupted in front of my face, barely missing my nose and she dug around under my feet in the floorboard, gathering up the wax paper and straw wrapper I’d carelessly dropped. “Look around,” she told me, “make sure there ain’t no more trash in here.”

I didn’t understand why she was whispering like we needed to keep our eating a secret but I did as I was told. I found another straw wrapper but it was crushed up and brown, it couldn’t have been from the meal we’d just had. I turned it over with my toe like I would a dead beetle and Momma smacked my leg, hard. “I said get all the trash Stella!” She reached down and picked it up, stuck it in the bag with the rest of the trash, leaned over my lap, and tossed the bag across me and out the window.

Her bushy yellow hair tickled my cheek. The trash went over the bank and landed near the creek. As Momma sat back up in her seat her elbow hit the glove box and it popped open. The faint light inside showed a pair of jumper cables, a bunch of wadded up paper, a pack of gum, and a package of Wet Ones. Momma sat real quiet, not moving to start the car or even to close the glove box. Finally she reached down and opened the Wet Ones, pulling several out and throwing them in my lap. “Here,” she said, “wipe all that grease off your hands.” I did as I was told and she took the dirty rags from me and threw them out the window too.

Momma straightened in her seat but she didn’t start the car. After a minute her lighter flickered back to life and I watched her puff in hard as she lit a cigarette. She’d been smoking Virginia Slims for about a month now, claiming if Daddy could drink then she oughta be able to have some vice. The smoke curled across the car and into my face, shoving its way up my nose and making it itch. I held my breath. Every few seconds the tip of the cigarette would glow brighter and Momma released a heavier breath; it sounded like she was trying to sigh her soul right out of her body.

When I heard a loud snap outside my window I jumped and banged my head on the roof. It sounded like when Daddy broke wood up for campfires. I looked out but couldn’t see anything. I rolled up my window.

“Stella!” Momma whisper-yelled. I glanced towards her voice and looked intently at the spectre-like form of her transparent face above the flame of the lighter. Her eyes slowly moved from mine to the window behind me then grew wide with terror. “Get down!” she screamed.

Before I could reach the floorboard glass shattered all around me and thick, suffocating arms wrapped around my neck. I couldn’t see Momma anymore.       

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The Perfect Wedding Gown #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction

Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

Your lovely comments on my Friday Flash, The Message, two weeks ago, encouraged me to continue with the story and I’m happy to say I now have the next scene: this week’s Friday Flash, The Perfect Wedding Gown. I’m not too fond of the title of this one though so please do toss out your suggestions.

Although The Perfect Wedding Gown works as a stand-alone, it’s even better if you read The Message first. This story is rated PG, according to my standards.

Image by Jeff Tabaco via Flickr
. Image by Jeff Tabaco via Flickr

The Perfect Wedding Gown, by Deanna Schrayer

“What do you think Mom?”

Elana and the salesgirl were looking at me expectantly but I hadn’t heard a word they’d said. Instead of the two wedding gowns the salesgirl held I saw those letters, the misty words my dead sister had scrawled on the bathroom mirror: EL DIe. I glanced at the girl and furrowed my brow at Elana, making her believe I was possibly developing a migraine, (I certainly couldn’t relay the truth of my wandering thoughts). “I’m sorry,” I said, raising my hand to rub my forehead, “I’m not seeing them clearly enough.”

My daughter looked to the salesgirl. “Can we dim the lights a bit please?” The tiny girl scampered about, obliging us in an instant. She hung the dresses on the rack next to the mirror and disappeared behind the upholstered screen. In a moment the harsh industrial lights were replaced with the same soft pink glow the lobby of the bridal shop reflected.

“Are you all right Mom?” Elana said, placing her hand on my forearm, “Do you need to sit down?”

She looked scared and I realized I must look like death. “I’m fine honey, just a little bit of a headache, that’s all.” I smiled at her, willing her to forget about me altogether and get on with enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime day. “That one,” I said, pointing to the ivory gown on the left, “That will be gorgeous on you, I know.”

Elana smiled and seemed to release a long pent-up breath. The salesgirl returned. “Have we decided?” she said.

Elana clapped her hands together. “Yes,” she said, running her hand down the front of the smooth strapless dress, “I want to try this one.” She had a hard time controlling the dance in her feet as she bounced on her tip-toes while the salesgirl moved the dress behind the screen.

I saw my sister then, in Elana, the way she had always twirled around, showing off when she got a new outfit. I remembered that day Lucy had come in from shopping with her friends and rushed to her bedroom to put on the leopard print cat suit. She’d been so excited and all I could think was how ridiculous she looked, in that jumpsuit, like she was all dressed up to go trick-or-treating. Lucy had never dressed like a normal person – every piece of clothing she owned was outlandishly exaggerated – but her style turned heads, that was for sure; the cat suit in particular had turned the most wrong one it could have.

I heard the swish swish of satin and taffeta and looked up from my reverie. I was astounded by the beauty standing before me that was my daughter. The wedding gown she wore was the closest I’d seen (of the six she’d tried on so far) to the one she’d dog-eared and starred five times in her Bride’s magazine. Simple as the dress was – ankle length, strapless with an A-line waist and just a peek of lace at the hem – Elana absolutely shined in it. Her long, dark tresses were pulled back in a French twist and secured with a pearl butterfly clip, a few strands curling down around her flawless face and touching her sharp collar bone. Her cheeks were full and pink and her sapphire eyes seemed to stand out as the pièce de la résistance of the ensemble. My daughter was glowing like the new bride she was about to be.

She had been standing perfectly still before me, not even glancing in one of the six mirrors surrounding her, smiling like a five-year-old awaiting much anticipated appraisal, but now she pushed up on her tip-toes and pirouetted. She looked for all the world like a ballerina in a music box. Still, she kept her eyes on me. “Mom?” she said when she came to rest and held out her arms, “This is the one, I think,” and she bit her bottom lip.

It was obvious her mind was made up but I knew she was seeking my approval, as if her mother’s word had always been and would always be the last one. I sat staring at her, greedily holding on to this rare and cherished moment.

“Mom?” Elana said again and I looked into her eyes and told her, “You are the most beautiful young woman I have ever seen.”

Elana squealed with delight and bounced over to where I stood in front of the fake fireplace. She wrapped her arms around me and squeezed me, tight. “Oh Mom, its perfect, isn’t it?” she whispered in my ear.

“Yes, yes honey, it sure is. Colton will love it.”

Elana pulled away from me and ran back behind the screen. “I’ll hurry so we can go get some food in you,” she said, “Oh Mom, I’m so excited!” Her voice was a bit muffled behind the tufted screen but I would’ve felt that excitement had she not said a word.

I opened my wallet to get my credit card and breathed a sigh of relief that this day had turned out to be as much fun as I’d hoped, that my dead sister had not ruined it after all. When I looked back up Lucy’s eyes shot daggers at me, from all six mirrors.

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