Mumble

“Ya got a big mouth on ya is yer problem, Eddie. How many people ya ate? Ya gotta pace yerself or we’ll get caught. I gotta do somethin’.” Royal, Eddie’s best friend glares at his shack mate, who is moaning at every chew.

Eyelids half closed, Eddie is too preoccupied savoring the last of his ill-gotten meat. There’s nothing like a good summer barbecued shoulder. Granted, it took him a few hours to wrestle it out of his prey who outweighed him by 65 pounds, but he triumphed, making him especially proud of his latest kill.

“I just looove tourist season,” Eddie mumbles, trying to keep in food from spilling out of his mouth.

With pressed lips, Royal saunters off to get his leather sewing kit. As he approaches his friend from behind, he says, “Sorry, buddy; this is fer yer own good.” Royal takes a swing at the back of Eddie’s head with a big sock filled with heavy rubber balls.

With Eddie stunned, he quickly proceeds to sew his friend’s mouth. As he almost finishes, Eddie’s lids flutter open. Eyes looking panicked, Eddie grunts, “Mmmph . . .”

“Oops, I forgot to ask if ya had any last words,” Royal mumbles, feeling a little guilty as he locks the stitches.

The Writer and the Swimmer

Tucked somewhere near Santa Cruz, but not well-known to locals or tourists, is an expanse of beach dotted with patches of shrubbery and occasional palm trees.  Perhaps because the generous acreage is private property, deeded to an obscure trust, few have ventured into the area. Jim Stanger was an exception to this rule.

A few degrees of connections were all it took for Jim to temporarily rent for the summer the California beachfront bungalow that sat by itself under the sun. With no roommates to deal with nor anyone else in the vicinity, he felt he could finally settle down and write his Great American Novel—a longtime ambition he is determined to realize during his summer break.

After a week of succumbing to the lull of the ocean sound whooshing against the sand, he begins each day drinking copious cups of coffee. For every gulp, he taps on his laptop keyboard, aiming to fill several pages per day of whatever inanity comes out. In time, he finds himself being able to string together a coherent story, easily starting from where he left off the prior day. Eventually, he starts to feel wrapped up in the dream world he’s created.

One day, as he finishes a rather involved passage, he glances up, looking out to the horizon to give his eyes a break. A fleshy bit of color swimming in the ocean catches his attention. He squints to better focus his eyes but whatever it is soon disappears from his sight line. For some reason, he feels spooked since he hasn’t mingled with a single soul for a month now. He’s stocked up for three months’ worth of food so he wouldn’t distract himself with runs to Trader Joe’s. He goes back to work again.

The next day, a different rhythmic sound from the ocean interrupts his usual engrossed state. Something about the pattern of the splashing is different from the regular lapping on the shores he’s become accustomed to. He looks out to the ocean and is rattled to see the same fleshy swimmer he saw yesterday, except today it seems a little closer.

In the following days, Jim gets progressively alarmed as he notices that the swimmer gets closer and is staying longer in his sight line. He starts to notice the ribs etched on its chest, although he can’t really tell whether the swimmer is swimming on its back or front. But, the closer it gets, he’s seeing features he’s never seen before on any person. He can’t tell if it’s human, even though the fleshy tone looks familiar.

One morning he wakes up sweating, partially because all the windows are closed and because he’s afraid of what’s been approaching the beach. He decides to pack up and go back to his hometown in Kansas City. His attention is shot; he can’t write anymore.

Weeks later, ensconced in the comfort of his armchair, Jim is watching the morning news and sees a piece about a sea lion festival very close to where he was staying in California. The few images he sees looks similar to what he thinks he saw.  He guffaws and suddenly feels like a buffoon for hightailing from such an innocuous creature. With lifted spirits, he decides to go hiking to the state park and come back later to write, feeling revived and inspired.

As Jim finishes his hike, he sees the beautiful view of the lake. From the corner of his eye, he sees a movement in the still lake. Swimming a few feet away is another fleshy looking creature. It’s just like California. But it looks nothing like a sea lion.

Photos by blogetta

Early Bird Special

Image: Pixabay

“What a lovely little bistro, Edward.” Miss Rose Lee smiles at her distinguished looking suitor, as they are being escorted to their table. She’s happy for having used Seventy+Match.com, a mate matching service for people over 70 years old, and finding a fine gentleman in Edward Finnerman. As a long-time widow, Miss Lee has taken a while to find someone who might measure up to her late husband.

After seating them, their hostess says, “Only the early bird special is being served at this time. Let me get your server to take your drink orders.” She leaves them with a short menu.

“That’s different. Did you say you’ve been here before?” Rose asks.

“It is a fine place.” Edward gives the impression he’s been at the small restaurant before to make her think she is being taken to a quality café. He knows the restaurant only from having passed by it a few days ago, noting it just opened and offers early bird specials. Being new makes it look clean, too. A perfect place to have a first date with his recent lady friend, he thinks, and without spending much money.

A long-nosed man with droopy lids approaches their table and bows. “I am Rinaldo, your server for the evening. What libations may I serve you both?”

“Why, thank you, Rinaldo. What a romantic sounding name. Do you have a recommendation?” Rose is charmed by him.

Edward clears his throat and utters, “I think a small glass of Mogen David would be good for each of us.” Edward gives the menu to Rinaldo and thanks him as a sign of dismissal. He wasn’t counting on adding wine to the tab, but at least he’s getting the early bird special.

Rinaldo nods and takes the menu, murmuring, “Very good, sir.” He walks away.

“It’s so cozy here, isn’t it?” Rose beams at Edward.

“Yes, and good service too.” Edward sees Rinaldo with a large tray holding two covered dishes and two little wine glasses.

Rinaldo sets down the tray on the fold-out stand next to their table. He places their food and drinks before them, uncovering the two plates at the same time with a flourish. He bows and announces, “Today’s early bird is free-range robin, locally caught at sunrise. Enjoy.”

He leaves the two diners staring at their plate of a tiny roasted bird.

Dealings in the Ceiling

Image by Anna

Charlie thinks he is doing his boss a favor when he mentions the sound of scurrying feet above their paneled ceiling.

“I don’t like that. Reminds me of what Johnson, that guy two doors down from us told me last month. He was eating his lunch and suddenly this monster rodent lands in his soup. He lucked out that his bowl of hot liquid got that disease monger good. Ugh.” His boss shivers and continues, “I want you to put some traps up there now. Go to that hardware store a block from us. They should have something appropriate there.”

“Why can’t Ernie do it? He’s the Facilities guy.” Charlie looks around as if Ernie would appear.

“I’ll give you three reasons why . . . first, he’ll take weeks to get to it . . . he’s always got a more serious problem to deal with. Second, he’s afraid of heights so he won’t climb a ladder. That will add even more weeks because he’s going to have to find help; and third, he’s out sick today, so who knows when he’s coming back.”

Charlie regrets speaking up and catching guff from his boss again. As he walks inside the hardware store, he asks the guy behind the counter for help and buys a few mouse traps.

When Charlie returns to the office, his boss tells him he doesn’t want the details. “Just take care of the problem,” he commands.

Charlie places the ladder right under the area where he’s been hearing the muffled sounds. While holding a plastic bag that contains the traps and other supplies, he climbs the ladder and carefully pokes out a tile from the dropped ceiling. He sets the tile aside, along with his bag, inside the plenum space.  He uses the flashlight on his smart phone to scan the surface. He can’t see anything over a foot from where he is, although the smell reminds him of sweaty socks.

As he reaches to place the traps in different parts of the ceiling, he hears a scuffling. From where he is, the sound seems heavier than the light scrabbling of mice. The hairs on the back of his neck stand out. His breathing is strained. As he prepares to scramble out of the area, he sees a large rat with red-rimmed eyes suddenly appear before him.

Lo and behold, the rat speaks, “Shh. I’m just bunking here for the week so I don’t have to take guff from my boss. You feel me?”

The Accident

Image: Pixabay

Vera loves wearing sandals, enjoying the variety of style from simple flip-flops to high-heeled, open-toe gladiators. One day, as she walks through a spring art exhibit, a big elephant statue fell from its perch onto her big toe. The surprise, the pain, the astonishment. Since then, she’s never been the same.

Every day, she seems to slump more, as if shrinking in stature, until one morning, she barely makes it out of  bed. Her whole body is dragging on the floor. Then, out of nowhere a little creature crawls out of her big toe and collapses. Known to its family as Tetra 12, the ant-sized being is ancient and, sadly, its existence is soon ending.