…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.

…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.

…about a color

Unlike other weddings, it wasn’t the style of the bridesmaids’ dresses that caused a stir.  The simple sheath dresses came with matching bolero jackets, for modesty and warmth, and showed enough cleavage and leg to tease but not enough to make Page 6, and, if sized properly, would look good on any woman no matter what her shape.

No, it was the bride’s color scheme that had her future mother-in-law speechless in that way that the bride knew meant she was trying not to laugh.

White.  What was so wrong with white?  Nothing by itself.  Since the bride insisted she would be wearing the polar opposite she had thrown everyone’s assumptions out the window.  For themselves, the bridesmaids were taking it in stride.

“At least it’s not sea foam.  God, do you remember Jaime’s wedding?” one said at a brunch they held in secret.

Another snorted.  “Barely.  There were schnapps.  Remember the one that was fuschia and gold?  I looked jaundiced in all the photos.”

“But where am I going to wear a white dress?” moaned the youngest, who was just as happy to have missed the fuschia stage.

“Your own wedding, maybe,” replied the fourth who knew there wouldn’t be a wedding in her future without serious legislative work.

“Is that what she meant to do, give us a wedding dress?  They are from the best designer,” said the one with the schnapps induced blackouts.

The fourth smiled in a way that made the others nervous.  “Maybe we should just ask her.”

…about selling

Randy knew even as he shook the man’s hand that taking the job was probably a mistake. He took too much after his father, and his grandfather before him, to be any good at the job. His stomach clenched as he agreed to the rate. As unusual as it was to find that kind of job with a salary any more the one Randy was being offered was high indeed. The start date, Monday a week, worked just fine. Randy didn’t tell the man that the could have started right then. He didn’t tell him about the bills marked “Third Notice” in red that sat in the wicker bowl on the counter next to the payment plan packet from the hospital.

As he walked out of the insurance office, Randy tried to use his talents to sell himself the job, that it would be good to meet people, that they product, supplemental health coverage, was something people in a town with a mill and a chemical plant needed. If he couldn’t sell the idea to himself, he figured, he’d be out of a job sooner than the six months he expected to last.