…about a hat

It wasn’t much. Black, made out of common synthetic fleece, with a colored band around the bottom. No, nothing special except that it was Raymond’s hat and he couldn’t find it.

He yanked open the third drawer in the hallway dresser, pulling out mismatched gloves and scratched pairs of sunglasses. He dumped them on the floor as he shoved his right hand as far in as it would good. Raymond groaned when his hand met the nothing that was trapped behind the drawer. Spinning, he stalked to the coat rack and plunged his hand into his coat’s right outside pocket yet again. He found nothing there either, save for a couple of used tissues, where his hat should have been.

Raymond resisted the twitching in his leg that wanted him to kick the dresser’s drawer shut just to let off a little bit of his frustration. He took a deep breath. Hurting his foot or breaking the drawer, or both, would only make Molly angry too and Raymond was already angry enough for both of them. The frustration moved like a stone from his chest to his gut, loosening one and tightening the other. He sighed and opened his eyes. Scooping the miscellaneous pairs of gloves and sunglasses back into the drawer, Raymond made another black mark on the private permanent record against which he measured himself.

…about a test

Karen flicked a glance at Lily noting that Maria’s lackey still had her usual smirk on.

“It’s a simple question,” Maria said, the purr in her voice belying the malice in her eyes.  “Did you fuck Jeff or didn’t you?”

Karen stopped herself from gnawing on her lower lip, a bad habit she’d been trying all year to break.  As tests went, this one was a doozy.  Karen knew that if she said yes she’d lose favor for sleeping with another Ranger’s boyfriend.  If she said no, she would have failed the initial test that tasked her with finding out if Jeff was loyal to Lily.  Karen met Maria’s eyes.

“What did Jeff say when you asked him?”

Karen startled when Maria threw back her head and laughed.

“I told you this pledge was smarter than she looked,” Maria said, turning her sharp eyed gaze on the now frowning Lily.

…about a hike

Pam stopped concentrating on drawing fresh, cool air into her lungs. The forest shaded the path now and the drop in temperature gave the mountain air an edge her brain told her she should find unpleasant and her lungs told her was wonderful.

She kept moving up the once rutted path the faded map at the way station marked with a black blaze. Not quite the double diamond of the state’s ski slopes but this was not a trek for beginners. Lactic acid burned Pam’s calves and the backs of her thighs as the grade grew steeper.

Patches of sunlight, like spots on a Broadway stage, burned through the trees’ canopy calling attention to a rock here or a termite eaten branch there. Pam felt her lungs heave with the effort, felt the weight of the tumor so deep her doctors hadn’t even wanted to try to get it out. She knew this was the last time she would ever breathe the knife sharp mountain air.

…about a scar

Laura tried not to smile as the interviewer’s gaze dipped down and popped back up. The question was always the same and usually unasked: How? And it wasn’t as if the scar stood out that much 10 years on. Not like the first few months when it had been red and puckered, pulling the skin of her neck into a bunch. And it wasn’t as if how was all that much of a secret either. Ray was obviously the cause, how could he not be?

Except, and this always made Laura smile, Ray had been so careful not to leave a mark where it would show. That’s why Laura had been unable to break through that blue wall cops always drew around their own. That’s why she’d made sure to dip the steak knife in the blood before she’d passed out and why her knife had still be on the table, untouched, when the ambulance crew showed up.

…about a store

The place had a smell. It was always the same smell no matter what stock was on hand.  They could get 500 Cuban cigars in and within hours the pungent odor of the tobacco and the lingering undertones of dirt would be subsumed by the store’s natural smell.

It had everything Mackie’s General Store, everything you could possibly want or need in that small town in that particular time.  Old man Fred, no one was ever really sure about his last name except to say that it wasn’t Mackie, like to joke that if it wasn’t somewhere in those aisle you probably didn’t really need it and just thought you wanted it.

The store looked like something out of a Faulkner novel, high storage shelves with the rolling library ladder, down the sides.  Narrow aisles though dark wood shelves and display cabinets.  Make no mistake: it was a dry goods store.  If you wanted hardware you had to cross the street and go down the block to Lloyd’s Hardware which had a smell of its own.

A flight attendant learns one of the passengers has brought a weapon onboard

Janey rounded the corner into the galley with the bag of trash and once again wished she had enough seniority to be working the service in first class. The galley in the coach cabin on the 757 always reeked of the chemical toilets.

“Meg, did you see the guy in 23C?”

Meg finished counting out the change from the mixed drink and beer sales and made a note in the log. “The cute one, sandy blond hair?”

“Yeah, him.”

“I’d re-up my membership in The Club with him.”

Janey schooled her expression to remain neutral. She didn’t want to spend the rest of the trip listening to Meg’s tired stories about her mid-flight conquests from her European route days. “He set his briefcase on the seat next to him and I think I saw a gun when I asked him to stow it under the seat earlier.”

Meg waved a hand at her. “He’s the air marshal, shug’. It’s OK.”

“Meg, the air marshal checked in at the gate. He showed Bill his ID and papers. He’s in 14D right up front, just like always. I checked.”

Janey thought from the look on Meg’s face that her friend had reached the same conclusion she had: a gun on plane this size had the potential to kill them all, air marshal or no.

Meg stowed the cash in the lock box. “You go up front and see what it would take to detour us. Let Captain Wilson know we’re following policy 16 and he’ll know what the plan is.”

Janey stowed the bag in the compactor. “What are you going to do?”

Meg pulled the wrinkles out of her uniform vest. “Talk to the air marshal. Did you get counter hi-jacking training?”

Janey shook her head. “I’m scheduled next week.”

Meg’s pat on her shoulder did little to settle Janey’s jangled nerves. “Just follow my lead and we’ll be OK.”

Well, if you could accuse anyone of being downright evil, it would be him.

“Well, if you could accuse anyone of being downright evil, it would be him.”

Dan rolled his eyes. Linda always went for the extreme. Nothing was ever just sad for her. It was a tragedy. Petty meanness, the banal cruelties of everyday life became evil of Biblical proportions.

“So you’d rather have them lay nobody off and shut the whole place down?” Rick shifted in his chair, his hair standing on end from where he’d tried to finger comb it into something resembling a normal hairstyle upon spotting their Division Vice President entering the lunch room.

Linda shot Rick a glare Dan was sure she meant to look fierce. It only succeeded in making her round face look more piggy.

“No, it’s just the way they’re doing it. A month ago everything was fine,” she used her fingers to make quotes in the air, “and yesterday half of the inside sales reps gets pink slips.”

Dan suppressed a chuckle. Linda’s version of “pink slips” came out in that same whisper his mother used to talk about cancer or AIDS, like if you said them loud enough God would smite you with the affliction.

“Have you ever thought that maybe there is no evil, just different priorities than yours?” Dan cracked a baby carrot with his back teeth and waited for the group to process his question. “Maybe Masterson just has different priorities than we do.”

Dan felt someone stop behind him. He looked up into the tan face of Lloyd Masterson, Division Vice President. Masterson stuck out his hand. “How’s it going, Dan?” His voice rumbled as thick and plump as his hand was soft.

“Fine sir.” Dan let go of Masterson’s hand.

Masterson smiled at Rick and Linda and moved on.

Out of the corner of his eye Dan saw Rick and Linda gaping at him. He focused on his lunch, crunching another carrot as he squashed the urge to tell them that they wouldn’t be getting pink slips later that day with their pay stubs. Dan was IT. IT always knew before the employee.

…about performing a simple action

Davis’ hands shook as he pulled the shirt from the hanger. Kendra had ironed it like she said she would before she left for her shift. The linen felt crisp against his bare shoulders. He snorted knowing if she were here his mother would chastise him for his lack of undershirt. He didn’t have to look at the thermometer to know that it bore out his decision. Besides, his mother wasn’t here. For once in his life, Davis knew right where she was.

Trembling fingers forced the last button into the hole before he picked up the envelope with the eulogy in it up from the dresser and slid it into his shirt pocket.

…about an accident

Raymond Blue knew even before the smoke cleared that would always be “that guy.”  Trouble seemed to follow him like a noxious fart.

It wasn’t anything necessarily that Raymond did; he just had an almost genetic knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The upside, though, was that most of Raymond’s mishaps ended up being comical in retrospect.

Like the time he loaded the wrong labels into the capping machine at the bottling factory and 12 gross of lager went out labeled as rootbeer or the time he followed the instructions in the work order to the letter and carpeted the ceiling in the library when they were trying to improve the sound proofing.

Raymond held the traffic control lollypop at his side and watched calmly as a jar of marischino cherries rolled to a stop against the toe of his boot while most of the rest of the truck’s load rolled down the hill toward the chocolate bar factory’s loading dock.

…about clouds

Mandy looked away from the increasingly shrouded horizon and back up the beach to where Dan was constructing the shelter. She didn’t want to tell him about the caves she’d found while he was asleep, drunk on the last of the rum that had washed up from the broken boat that lay speared by the far edge of the reff.

Everything she’d said and done in the past two days had been designed to uss Dan out, to figure out if he was going to take this opportunity to assert himself in their barely birthed relationship or if he was going to accept her as an equal partner.

The wind picked up throwing microscopic granules of salt against Mandy’s face. She checked the horizon again. The height of the cloud bank had doubled and advanced, blotting out the tall peak from the island to their west.