The Egg Now on Kindle

Are you spider curious? Or are you a deathly afraid arachnophobe? 3094161954 is a horror story short in the Scary Stories from the Bayou series. It is a much more all audience friendly tale than some of the others in the series, but none-the-less just as creepy and horrifying.

Classic sibling rivalry between an older prissy sister and her younger bug-geek brother turns the family’s relationship from humorous to horrific. Amy is much more interested in her friends, her music, and the fact that next year she will be a freshman in high school. Her brother Seth on the other hand is all about life science and in particular insects—spiders to be exact.

The two live with their mom in Pass Christian, Mississippi on the Gulf Coast. With warm weather mostly year round a boy has lots to explore. His mother does not share his specific interests but does enjoy gardening outdoors. She fully supports her son’s inquisitive nature. Most of the time.

But when the boy finds what appears to be a large spider nest near his bedroom window and wants to display it in his room their mom has other ideas. In compromise she allows him to take it to school. However, his science teacher wants to cut it open to see what’s inside. Fearing its destruction the devious youngster has other ideas.

Many of us have had teachers that we adore. They make grand memories that we cherish for the rest of our lives. Siblings on the other hand often do the same just not always in a good way. Perhaps the fondest of our remembrances concerning our brothers and sisters are the ones in which we got even. This story has recalls that are nothing short in that department. As a matter of fact what truly good horror story is short of such demonstrative torture and revenge—even at the sibling level?

With mild violence and a major creep factor, even for spider enthusiasts, The Egg summons up a visceral fear that most won’t soon forget. It actually has a story within a story that you can tell your siblings on dark, dreary nights while driving down country roads or even more thrilling with lots of traffic on a misty, moonless night. That is actually how the story was invented. And I don’t mind telling you that the mom in the car was so creeped out that she demanded that it stopped being told. Too many spider eyes watching I reckon. The children remember it to this day. Kind of like an Addams Family moment etched into their psyche for over 20 years.

Arachnophobes beware. This creepy tale is Halloween horrific. It lightly delves into the world of arachnids and the study thereof. There is more than one spider family that you may learn about in this yarn. And you may even learn something about your family as well—or yourself. But perhaps you already know that. The dark side we all possess. Don’t fool yourself. It lurks behind the wry smile of revenge and deceit. Or maybe yours is hidden away subconsciously by your thirst for harmless mischief. Like scaring the ones you love with rubber snakes or spiders? Just harmless mischief—that is according to the beholder, of course.

Read The Egg before you go trick-or-treating—or any time after dark. Tell the tale to your kids around the campfire, on the trail at night, or on a drive to Grandma’s under the waning moonlight while on the interstate. Make it a family affair. And don’t worry, no harmless rubber snakes or polymer spiders are hurt in this story. Because there aren’t ANY.

Read The Egg on Kindle here

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Odette’s Tears Now on Kindle

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8482556719 is a love story of horrific consequence. Don’t let the series name Scary Stories from the Bayou fool you for this is a ghost story for adults. Travel through the ages from the ancient African kingdom of Nri to 1960’s New Orleans Mardi Gras. Mama LaRee has—and it took centuries.

The slave trade, an 18th century Natchez plantation, and the old woman’s honed skills at root-work conjuring fill the pages of this story with psychological horror that engage the reader at a visceral level. With her man servant in tow the pair leaves many lives in peril in their quest for a perverse virtue.

The age old tale of lust, power, money, and revenge are as relevant today as they were in the past. This story is a KT Ashely original adaptation of a very old slave tale that has been passed down for generations. The original oral versions of the story when told were usually fanciful and somewhat benign. However this author feels that there is nothing amiable about the slave trade—then or now. During my research it occurred to me early on that this could not be written and told just as another children’s ghost story.

It is however inventively filled with the curious religions that evolved from Africa, the Caribbean, and Rome. The main characters somewhat parallel the actual stories of these deities and their transformation from old world to new in a fictional narrative.

The grounding point of the novella stays true to history concerning slavery in Natchez, Mississippi during the mid-1700’s. Modern day sex trafficking influenced what I could only imagine as the conditions for some of the enslaved females. Research into root-work, magic, and my own fascination with regional urban legends around the New Orleans area fill the pages bringing to life a tale much more comprehensive than that of the oral traditions. And characters herein are much easier to despise, love, or empathize with—even when it is explored as to why they act as they do.

But the mythical beasts in this story are as real today as are their masters. In modern society we just humanize them to try to comprehend their vile deeds. Love and lust can make a person commit atrocities for power, gain, and acceptance. There is plenty of that albeit seeming subtle at times once the reader is entangled emotionally when the horror leaps from the words on the page into your mind. Fiction and realism morph into indistinguishable abstractness here. If this tale does not impinge upon you then perhaps Mama LaRee already has. Might I suggest a priest? Or perhaps not…to be safe.

Odette’s Tears is not a children’s campfire story or for the feeble. It looks deeply not only into how we treat each other but how far we will go to achieve our goals—even when it commands us to possess another’s very soul. The creep factor is high, the violence strong but not all full gore, and the realism will make you a believer. But the ending will definitely twist your doubloons.

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incitive

© KT Ashely 2017

 

“American pie. We’re just a tiny slice of it. A rum and Coca-Cola outfit.”

“Damn, Chief. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone describe us that way,” the young man said. “Usually they think we’re Mexicans. Even Cubans.”

The graying haired man handed an old lady a jug of artesian spring water he had filled near his home. She smiled and thanked him profusely after she reciprocated with two empty plastic bottles.

“And tell Mr. Ortiz to keep drinking—both of you. More supplies will come soon. Have faith,” Chief said. “I’ll take good care of your grandson today.” And they waved goodbye as soon as the young man embarked with the elder.

The two men then drove their three-wheeler onto the next group of devastated homes in the mountain village. An adapted cart rattled behind them on the rocky, rain-washed road. It contained more jugs of water from the man’s spring.

“Rum and Coca-Cola outfit. That’s what they used to call the 65th—the Borinqueneers. Honor Et Fidelitas. It was the infantry unit my Pop fought in during Korea. Didn’t take long before the top brass changed their attitude about that,” Chief stated.

“Gringos—what do you expect. The Commander-in-Chief says that we are an island…surrounded by water…a lot of water…ocean water. Well no shit Sherlock. Puerto Rico is an island, that’s for sure. Of course it’s surrounded by water! That’s the definition of island. And I suppose the top brass in Washington were as dense and arrogant as they are now.”

“Hopefully not as many, although it was still pretty bad when I was in the Navy years ago. But you don’t see any supplies coming through today do you?” Chief asked.

“Just what we have. Just what we are scrounging ourselves. ”

The two slowed as they approached a teenager on the road.

“Hola, Luis. How is your mother?” the retired chief petty officer asked.

“She passed, sir. Last night. She couldn’t get to her kidney treatment…and the heat. And…,” the boy paused and wiped his eyes.

“Ok, ok son. Are the children with your sister?” the older man asked.

“Yes, sir. I was going to try to find someone with a truck or something so we could take her to the hospital or somewhere.”

“It may be best just to leave her at home. The road is still washed out pretty bad near my place on down the hill. We’ll go on up and check on your brother and sisters. Do want to ride back up in the cart?” Chief asked.

“No. I just want to be by myself for a moment.”

“Well, stay away from the loose rocks and scattered debris. And don’t touch any power lines either.”

The men continued on their mission leaving the grieving boy.

“Chief, why the hell can’t they get the Army to lift supplies out here with those big choppers?” the man’s shop apprentice questioned as he held onto the driver’s waist. The precarious path tossed them back and forth.

“I don’t know why. WAPA is a godsend of information. And the ham operators are saying there are several thousand supply containers in San Juan parked idle on the docks. Say they can’t get drivers or fuel out to move them. Hell, we moved all kinda shit out into the middle of nowhere. They need to have the military take this relief effort over and establish supply lines. Just let the Seabees doze shit out the way, rebuild the roads, and supply the truck drivers.”

The teenage apprentice agreed.

Several minutes later the two mechanics stopped at the grieving boy’s home. Five year old twins in soiled clothing were playing outside in the dirt. They were joyfully “cooking” a family feast. It included an empty cereal box, some kapok leaves, and a collection of empty tins.

“Julia? It’s Mr. Vargas. Can we come in?” Chief called to the interior of the home.

A slender young woman of seventeen greeted them at the open doorway with stoic eyes. The roof of the damaged home had been ripped off and pieces of ceramic tile and shingles were scattered about where the children played. The nearby trees were stripped mostly bare. But Chief could see that one room of the house had been largely untouched. Apparently it was here that the family had found refuge after the catastrophe. The mother lay silent upon one of the mattresses on the floor. A blanket was drawn up to her neck as if she was being protected from cold.

“Julia. We saw Luis on the road,” Chief said as he kneeled by the mother’s side. He confirmed what the boy had reported to him. Then he made the sign of the cross.

“I told them she was sick sleeping. She does that sometimes. Then I sent them out to play,” Julia said. “They are too young to know any different.”

“We will need to bury her, mija. I don’t know when help will be coming,” Chief said.

The girl’s eyes welled up and she nodded.

“Grab a few of those sheets and blankets over there,” the man directed to his colleague as they had stepped out of ear shot of the girl. “We’ll do the best we can with what we have. Just leave them in a pile. Then let’s grab the shovels and ax from the cart. We’ll take the body after they leave.”

“I wasn’t expecting this. I didn’t know it would get this bad. Why aren’t they coming? We’re American citizens, goddamnit! I even joined the Navy’s delayed entry program.  Is this the way they’re gonna treat me? I wanted to be like you Chief!”

The young man began to pace. His face became red, stressed, and he stroked his hair upward with his thin fingers. The boy’s wide eyes watered.

“Alright son—alright. It’s hard. That’s ok. Maybe this will help when you go in-country. People will die. It’s not fair,” the veteran mentor said trying to reassure him. The hardened man then squeezed the boy’s shoulder affectionately.

“Well fuck America! Why did they forget about us? Are we just a piece of their colonial pie to cut up and do so as they wish—whenever they want?”

The young man broke away from the man and kicked the dust at his feet wildly.

“Seems that way sometimes. But most people on the mainland are decent folks. You have a decent chance at making a better life for yourself in the Navy—and especially now. Just like I did,” the chief said as he stood between two shovels.

The apprentice straightened up, regained control, and took one of the tools from the retiree. He followed the leader to an open spot several yards from the house. It was near an uprooted tree where the earth had been partially excavated during the storm.

“Let’s dig here. It will be easy to mark and they can exhume her when the time comes. We don’t need to bury her too deep—only about four feet or so. Surely she will be moved before long.”

The men accomplished their task within two hours. They wasted no time wrapping the body and laying the mother to rest. Julia had gathered the twins as instructed and they were sent downhill to Mr. and Mrs. Ortiz’s neighbor’s house. Chief planned to check on them later.

As the day grew long the two men were exhausted from helping to clear debris from the road and from other citizen’s houses. They distributed the supplies of water and of scavenged food they had collected from vacant houses along the way. Chief also had shared news from his ham radio reports. His quick work to organize a community supply and information chain grew with the help of several other residents in the area. He had bet early on that the affected people would be their own best hope.

“Alright then. See you in the morning, mijo?” Chief confirmed as the boy climbed off of the ATV in front of his grandmother’s home.

“Sure, Chief. I’ll be here,” the nineteen year old said solemnly.

“Look. I know it’s tough right now. But you’ve been working with me for the last two years. Hydraulics is your thing. You’re good at it. And you’ll be drivin’ dozers in no time.”

“Sure, Chief.”

After he left the boy the old Seabee checked on the children at the neighbor’s house. Julia had informed the woman that when her mother had become ill she had made arrangements for the family to move to Texas and stay with an aunt. But those plans were delayed due to their own odyssey of another hurricane that had affected the Houston area in which they lived.

Nether-the-less the daughter had remembered the contact information for the deceased mother’s sister. Chief Vargas began the process of relaying the messages to the family via ham operators. It would take some time but someone would eventually contact the children’s relatives for help.

As Chief sat in his patched up shop he opened a hot Medalla and took a swig. His old green and grey office chair squeaked as he leaned back from his radio cabinet. Like his chair the government salvage generator still worked good enough. He was happy with both; as happy as any divorced old salt could be.

Most of the shop had been dug into the side of a hill. The mostly subterranean work-space had protected it from the worst of the storm. His house was not so lucky. But at least a good portion of the garage and equipment had been spared. His imagined ingenuity of working in a temperate space all year long had paid off enormously. Even his old record player survived without a scratch.

Chief pulled out one of his favorite albums by Don McLean. He had become a fan in the seventies. As the music played he sang along. Like most fans he knew all the lyrics to the album’s namesake hit.

But at the end of the song as the part about the father, son, and the Holy Ghost leaving for a better place came across his lips, Chief immediately thought of the orphaned children Julia, Luis, and the twins. Their father had been killed not long ago in Afghanistan as an advisor and now their mother was deceased as well.

In kind his young apprentice who dreamed of making it good like his mentor had lost his mother to drugs though he had never known his father. The boy’s much older grandparents had done what they could for him and over time the neighboring chief petty officer became a surrogate father figure to the boy. The youngster had always been fascinated with tools and machines and had exasperatingly hung around the shop nearly every day after school.

Chief finally relented to his wayward company and eventually became fond of the boy. It was a symbiotic relationship as the old sailor was able to share his glorious sea stories. They had become ever exaggerated in being told over and over again but the audience was always fain to listen. It was a legacy conserved. The veteran’s own two children had been taken by his ex-wife to California years earlier after a bitter divorce. They had all long lost touch via their mother’s design.

But when the songwriter sang about it being the day he’d die the warrior shook his head no. “We’re still here, Mother Maria. Still here,” he repeated taking another swig of beer.

“But bye, bye to this Miss American lie. You gotta be nimble, you gotta be quick—cause good ‘ol boys in Washington are still singing that shit. The music ain’t gonna die, we’ll just bake us another pie. Making these children some happy news, ain’ singing no more blues—motherfuckers. Honor et Fidelitas, Puerto Rico!” he shouted.

_______________________________________________

This story is a work of fiction. Any living or dead resemblance to characters contained here-in with the exception of historical references are purely coincidental and were created solely in the mind of the author.

However, the devastation of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria is real. American citizens please step up and help our fellow citizen brothers and sisters just like those on the mainland. Politics have no place in catastrophe anywhere in the world. Practice Loving Kindness.

 

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Filed under All Stories, interpenetratively, Military/Veteran Related Stories, 5713432612

Monumental Decisions

© KT Ashely 2017

“I never knew you were such a racist sum’bitch, Clay Lasalle.”

“And I never knew you to be so damn ignorant, Linc Johnson.”

A gavel pounded from across the table. The echo filled the mostly empty room of the old high school building that was now the town’s municipal offices.

“You boys need to take it down a notch,” the mayor shouted back as he grabbed for his ball point pen. The disturbance had caused it to roll off of the counter top and unto the wooden floor. It lay to rest beneath his feet.

“Mayor, we need to table this issue until we can speak with cooler heads,” a councilwoman in attendance suggested.

“Shit!” the mayor grumbled as he knocked his head on the underside of the conference table. He came back up rubbing his now somewhat ashy skin where a well-groomed afro had once grown.

“Good idea! Do I have a second to the motion from the councilwoman?” the mayor asked as if ordering the group to do so.

A unanimous chorus of four other voices in the room agreed lest the two men still arguing with one another

“You two need to work out your differences. Until then we ain’ gonna get nothin’ done here. And may I remind you two,” The mayor continued, “that y’all have been friends for years. So cut out all that racist bullshit! The three of us old birds know better. Lived here most all our lives and been through it. So work it out before the skin-heads and the anterfa—fays…intifadas…”

“Atifa, Mayor,” another interrupted.

“Whatever—before they do it for us. You dig?”

“Yessir,” the younger men replied from reproved lips.

The censured men found themselves alone in the same room they that had learned social studies in as middle school students. The tall glass windows rattled when the wind blew as they had always done in a coming storm.

“Look Clay, I’m just sayin’ that I don’t know how you can support keeping these abominations up. They’re racist, they’re Jim Crow, and they gotta go.”

“And I’m saying that it goes deeper than all that. I realize when they were put up. And I realize that some sponsors may have had ulterior motives. But do you realize that poor dirt farmers like my grand-folks put small bits of change into those little collection boxes for them to be erected—to remember the sacrifice of their people who fought against the Northern Aggression?”

“And do you realize that my grand-folks people suffered under those white folks that they honor? I’m sure they didn’t have a collection box at the colored counter at the Rexall for that,” Linc countered.

The men stared at each other a distance apart with folded arms. Each was steadfast in his defiance of the other.

“And just how many of those names on that memorial do you think actually owned slaves, Mr. Johnson?”

“I don’t know, but I do know what it represents with those soldiers carrying that battle flag and all carved up in it.”

“Yeah? And the weeping woman?” Clay asked.

“We both weep for our people, sir. We weep for the oppression it represents even to this day. It is a reminder of what was, what is, and what will continue to be if we allow these stone masters to remain.”

“What we weep for Linc is injustice. We wept for it when we stood up against those who beat us in ’72 for trying to integrate the city pool. We stood there side by side as two naïve children trying to make a difference in this one horse town. And that wasn’t the last time we got an ass whoopin’ either.”

Linc dropped his arms to his waist and held his belt. “Yeah—there was the show. Every time you helped me sneak into the downstairs from the colored section we both got our heads knocked from old man Haney.”

Clay laughed, “I remember that time you slipped between Mrs. Haney’s legs and took off. When I tried the same she caught me with those big old thighs and held me there until Mr. Haney grabbed a hold of me. Woman had no soul. Then he took my belt off and was gonna beat me with it until my pants stripped off in the struggle and I ran home in my drawers.” The man continued somberly, “Got a good welt on the back of my shoulder when his wild swing caught me while I was trying to crawl off.”

The friends chuckled uneasily at the memory.

“Lucky neither one of us got lynched in this town. But that was the beginning of end of allowing continuing illegal segregation here. After your folk’s outrage at Mr. Haney your Pop and all those other preachers got it together and changed things at the civic clubs that were running things. I remember those discussions at our church on Sundays. And when the white churches were invited to celebrate Juneteenth with us in the park—almost half the town showed up.”

“Yes sir. But we were known as quite the trouble makers to the other half back in those days,” Clay stated.

“So why can’t we see eye to eye on this, Clay? Surely you don’t think these things have a place in today’s society.”

“Well, I reckon they might not. But it’s the way it’s been gone about—taking them down in the middle of the night and all. My point is that they do have historical significance to the white folks.”

“Yeah and they have another significance to my people as well—just in a negative fashion in the most vile of decrees,” Linc argued.

“Indeed. I empathize. But many so called white folks see it different. Many see the war in the South as an invasion of freedom and property. And I don’t mean owning slaves.”

“Negro, please,” Linc snorted. “Spoken like a true white boy.”

“Well, I ain’t exactly considered all white. My mom’s people were Slavs—dirty whites. When they came here and settled they bought a small farm near Lucedale. Couple years later the war broke out and my great grandfather got conscripted with two of his older boys into the Confederate Army. One got killed, one got sent home without an arm. My grandfather came back home shell shocked after Vicksburg. Later on the farm was swindled by carpetbaggers. After a brief return to the old country the family heirs ended up working in Biloxi as oyster shuckers in the canneries alongside other immigrant families—moms, dads, and children alike.”

“I thought you were French?” Linc inquired.

“My dad. His great grandmother was a casquette girl—fille à la cassette. They were orphan girls from Paris who were sent to Mobile then New Orleans to marry the French soldiers. So actually I’m half French Creole. Guess you could call me white.”

“And did these Creoles have slaves?”

“I guess maybe they did along the way. Don’t know about my earlier people. Although I do know they “jumped in” along the way. Got a bit of money in the early 1900’s; had a cook and a big house. Lost it in the crash and it all blew away with the dust bowl. Got a regal sounding name now but still broke as it’s meaning.”

“Typical story isn’t it? Entitled generations.”

“More complicated than that Lincoln. That’s what this is all about. You think Sherman gave a damn about burning half of Georgia to the ground and it didn’t affect black folks as well? You think them Yankees that used the Union black regiments as cannon fodder gave a damn about them either?” Clay rebutted.

“Well I know my people didn’t own any slaves.”

“And I know my people were slaves for hundreds of years as well—that’s where the name Slav comes from. And most of those names on the monuments were engraved with the donated coins of surviving relatives who were either forced into fighting for the confederacy or fighting for the preservation of their own homes and families.”

The men once again looked at each other with contempt. But after a long silence Linc spoke.

“Look friend, I know we aren’t gonna fix this overnight. Been a long time coming. My daddy’s people are Creole too—the mixed kind. And my mother’s people are from Somalia. So we have Arab ties like you.” The man paused. “It is complicated. The whole damn world is complicated. But it still doesn’t change the fact that my granddaddy’s brother was lynched in a town square in front of one of your treasured veteran’s memorials.”

“Nor does it change the fact that rich and powerful men still manipulate the masses for their own corrupt interests,” Clay rebutted.

Linc extended his hand. Clay took it and pulled him toward him. The two embraced. Their long gray hairs mingled—one whose hair was bound in dreads, one whose was secured in a ponytail.

“I know this won’t be solved easily. All over this country the issue has gone bat-shit viral. We gotta have respect for each other and come to a sensible dialogue,” Clay said. “But if you ever call me a racist again, I’m gonna conjure up that ol’ Mrs.  Haney and have her choke you with those big ol’ thighs!”

“Not if I bust yo’ ass with that belt first you old fool,” Linc chuckled. “Besides, I like big legged women. Hey, hey Mama.”

“Well Mr. Johnson to tell ya’ the truth I do too. Make ‘em sweat, make ‘em groove. But somehow at that time it just didn’t seem right.”

“Seems there was a lot of that then—and now.”

“Black dog my friend. Black dog,” Clay postulated.

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© KT Ashely 2017

“I think that’s one of the best one’s that I’ve heard in traffic court yet, Chester,” a fellow officer laughed jostling his beer.

“Careful son. I don’t mind offering ya’ll a cold one after proceedings; just don’t spill it on my carpet. Can’t have my chamber smelling like a juke joint. This is still a dry county,” the judge scolded.

“Well it’s the truth. I can tell how fast somebody’s goin’ by the sound of their tires. And Judge agreed.”

“Well Chester, it did help when I asked that boy when the last time it was that he had his phone’s GPS calibrated. Not much he could respond to trying to present evidence with a speedometer app. I knew the answer to that question beforehand.”

“Yeah, but you almost got tripped up by that long hair with his lengthy, hand-written-out, journal of what he remembered that day,” the judge rebutted.

“Well you do get a smart-assed one every now and then that thinks he can challenge the court,” the prosecutor replied.

“No challenge, Mr. Prosecutor. I don’t give a damn about all that so called evidence. The more they talk, the more I find something to add on. I gave that boy and the Nam vet both a little extra. The long hair for challenging my officers, and the vet contempt for appearing with his hat on—guess he thought it would help his case.”

A round of snickers echoed throughout the room.

“Thanks for havin’ our back, Judge,” a rookie patrolman said. His silver name plate read T. Bile.

“And good choice on the dismissal this time, Judge,” a young, wiry man with large pink ears wheedled before the judge could respond to the complementing officer. His anxious attempts to direct the conversation in his favor made his highball glass tip and slosh a red drop of Roy Rogers onto his neatly pressed seersucker suit.

“Well thank you, Mr. Prosecutor. When I saw that old nigga woman—no offense Officer Bile…”

“None taken Judge,” the patrolman interjected.

“I knew that was our gal.” He took a sip of his Sazerac. “What was her violation again?”

“Ran a stop sign, sir. Didn’t come to a complete stop,” Tom Bile reported.

“Oh. Well, least the old ninny didn’t kill anybody.”

“Not going fast enough, Judge. Besides it was out by the old gym. Place is pretty deserted this time of year.”

“Well I gotta tell you boys,” the prosecutor started, “you did good last month but ya’ll gotta read your damn reports better. It was a little embarrassing when I had to ask the judge for a brief recess. I know all those violators sittin’ in there were thinking what the hells is goin’ on when I had to pull ya’ll out to the foyer for that little powwow. Now Chester, I’m gonna blame you for that.”

“Sorry, Mr. Prosecutor. I know you spoke to me about it before. I just can’t remember all that stuff from so long ago. If they contest it’s a good four months before we even see ‘em again.”

“Well that’s why you gotta read the report—refresh your memory. I can’t lead you on every single detail. There’s other lawyers in there sometimes—makes me look bad. And technically it’s illegal.”

A snort and strained chuckles were heard upon the utterance of the man’s last phrase.

“Well you did fine, Mr. Prosecutor by deciding not to enter any more patrol reports into evidence. It holds up my court anyway. I like to keep things moving.”

“Yessir. We did have a pretty good turnout for this month. I know the boys are interested in the numbers.”

“Well let’s have ‘em,” the Judge ordered. “See how we did for three hours work.”

“Well, sir. On revenues concernin’ us for this evening…we had ninety-four contested. We had eighty-seven that were required to appear and of those only ten were dismissed with their proof of insurance for previous missing or expired documentation. Another eight of those I made a deal with to reduce their fine to three hundred dollars from eight hundred dollars before court started with the acquired new proof of insurance. And the rest all paid cash as required. Oh, with the exception of that old black woman that you gave the token dismissal to. She paid nothing of course.”

“Well, I like to keep it fair and balanced. Need to show the gallery that the court has compassion every now and then. But what we really want to know are the figures, Mr. Prosecutor, the figures. These boys wanna get paid for their hard work and the city owes them some overtime for coming out this evening.”

“Right, Judge. So the cash total tonight was thirty-four thousand and two hundred dollars—that’s any average of about two hundred dollars a ticket. Now the patrolmen get a bonus, eh, I mean overtime for tonight’s work at five per cent which makes their pay seventeen hundred and ten dollars each. Officer Bile gets another one per cent for the most citations written—that’s the third month in a row Officer Bile, congratulations.”

“Love my job, Mr. Prosecutor,” the stout patrolman replied.

“Yessss….and that just…leaves us, Judge,” the man said continuing to give his paper a final look.

“No need for those figures, Mr. Prosecutor,” the judge said smacking the heavy bottom of his empty old-fashioned glass upon his desk and straightening up in his chair. “Well, I think that’s a fine thing we’ve done for the town gentlemen. With the non-contested mail-in’s I’d say we had a pretty good month for a patrol force of five—and the summer’s almost here.”

“Could be better,” Officer Bile commented.

“Yeah, I’d sure like to see what they’re gonna roll out this year for new cruisers. I liked those Mustangs we had a couple years ago. I’d like to have another one,” Officer Chester Thigpen wished excitedly.

“Well, you just keep writing citations, Chester and maybe we’ll get you a Ferrari next time,” the Judge laughed.

“For real? Ahh, man—we’d be the coolest cops on the 94! Those big city Gulfport boys would be sooo jealous!” the round farm boy with pale rosy cheeks exclaimed.

“Gateway to the gulf, Chester. Just remember that this summer. They gotta come this way to get down to the beach so don’t take so many McDonald’s breaks. We own the keys to the gate—especially at the bypass light by the Wal-Mart. Best idea ever. Can catch ‘em for somethin’ every time,” Office Bile said.

“Every time,” the prosecutor said fervently. “Like shootin’ fish in a barrel every single time. Welcome to Wriggins—come on through to get yourself somethin’ special complements of the WPD.”

The crew laughed as they pocketed their overtime pay.

 

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They All Look Alike

© 2017 KT Ashely

“Do you have my order? Do you have an order for Linda ready?” she shouted upon bursting through the door. The heel of one of her red stilettos caught on the corner of a floor mat causing her to stumble. Hand, phone, and ear seemed to have been glued together as neither wavered from her head.

A lone customer couldn’t help but be amused as the woman with the big bleach blonde hair and DKNY Havana sunglasses made her way to the counter. She gave the man a look when he neglected to move his muddy work boot out of her way. A few pieces of dried clay crunched beneath the woman’s thin leather soles as she avoided his protruding foot.

“Hello, hello! Scusie, scusie!” she directed at the man tossing a wok in kitchen. She rapped the Plexiglas counter with her keys as to garner the cook’s attention.

“Oh, my God. I think I might have called the wrong place,” she said into her cell phone. “I don’t think this is the right menu. And this place is even more empty than the other one.”

The sole attendant finished his task in the kitchen and grabbed an order pad. “Can I help you?” he asked.

“Oh, my God. Do you have an order for Linda? For takeout?” the woman inquired as she balanced the phone on her shoulder and rummaged through her matching designer handbag. Her slightly too small blue business dress was from Target. The grandmother’s curvaceous figure stretched the thrifty material to its limits.

“No ma’am. No order for that name here. What did you order?”

“Chicken with cashew and Moo-goo-gay-pan,” she replied. “Oh, my God. I can’t believe I called the wrong place. You know, I just picked up a takeout menu and ordered. We just ate there the other day. And I’m not gonna go to the other one now,” she announced to the invisible person in her phone, “It’s thirty minutes away—not for lunch!”

“No chicken with cashew ma’am. Just these chickens,” he said pointing to the glass covered menu.

The woman frowned. “They don’t have that,” the woman said straightening up with phone now in hand. She adjusted an American flag pin that secured the red, white, and blue scarf around her neck. “How about chicken cane-pow. It has peanuts,” she confirmed into the phone. “Ok. I’ll get ya something. Bye. Call me back in just one minute!”

“She can’t have nuts,” the woman declared to the man. “Just give her a General’s chicken. The t-sow kind…no it’s spicy. OK yes, but no pepper! She won’t eat pepper.” Why is it called that anyway? I thought sow was pig she mumbled.  “I still want my Moo-goo-gay-pan.”

The cook did not look up from the counter at the animated woman.

She then pulled her keys out again. “I’ll be right back. I have to run some errands real fast.”

“Ma’am, please pay first!” the attendant called as she started to make exit for the door. He was tallying the order when he had noticed her leaving during the frenzy.

“Oh,” she said. “Ok,” pausing to open her bag once more. “Can you call that guy at the other place and tell him I can’t pick up that order. I really don’t want him mad at me. I might want to go there again. Are y’all related? Is that one of your stores too?”

The woman’s phone rang before the man could answer. The bemused construction worker questioned if the cook would call the stiffed store. The only diner hadn’t a choice but to hear most of the boisterous conversation. The old strip mall space was small and parroting within.

“Yes, yes. I got you the General’s chicken,” she announced bolting out of the door once she had paid. “Well they all look alike. It’s easy to get them confused.”

Just then the woman was struck by the side of a quick moving pickup truck. In her inattention she had walked right into it. She landed on her bottom sideways. Her purse broke most of the fall to her elbow preventing it from being broken on the hard pavement. One shoe had flown off and was lying on the white stripes of the crosswalk.

The gray haired truck driver of her similar age stuck his hand out of the window and flipped her the bird. “Watch where you’re goin’ you fat cow!” he yelled only slowing to make sure she wasn’t killed. The Hillary for Prison bumper sticker was the only thing she could have identified on the fleeing vehicle.

Another man saw what had happened and came to her aid to help her up. She gave him an indignant stare as if he had the nerve to touch her. He retrieved her phone and cat-eye glasses. After the woman brushed herself off she snatched her phone and sunshades from his hands.

“I guess you are going to want a reward or something—Si, si?” she questioned sarcastically. “Dollar, dollar?”

The dark skinned man waved his hands. “No, ma’am. No ma’am, no trouble at all,” he said and walked away.

The woman put the phone back up to her ear and approached her car that was adorned with the same bumper sticker as was on the pickup truck that had just hit her.

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Filed under All Stories, Flash Fiction, Humor, Realistic

Want My Fish?

deader

© 2017 KT Ashely

“Want my fish?” the raven haired millennial with green eyes asked.

The man kept his head bowed and thanked her with a silent nod.

I’d noticed the invisible man too. The popular seafood market and café was busy. Sunday’s early lunch crowd had packed the place. Like others my fair haired bride and I came early to avoid the after church crowd and dine on the generous specials. There were plenty of us foremost heathens in attendance.

Even though the man’s distinctive red and yellow kerchief was faded I recognized the twisted symbols in the headband. It held back his short unraveling dreadlocks. His skin was a bit ashy. His slender fingers counted out small bits of change.

“Check out those tall tables—they have holes in the middle with trash drums beneath ‘em,” my wife declared curiously.

“Yeah, Babe,” I confirmed. “That’s to throw your shrimp and crawfish shells away in,” I said as we munched on fried Speckled trout. My attention was elsewhere but I didn’t want to sound overtly uninterested in something I already knew. I had grown up with them.

It happened only a few moments before the girl had offered her leftovers to the man sitting alone. We must have both seen him slide over to a vacated stool where a group of diners once sat. When they left he immediately scooted his seat in front of a disposal hole. I thought I was the only one who saw him. But apparently another had too as he quickly rummaged for discarded food in a stealthy manner.  He ate his prize as if it had been there before him all along. He looked like a man who was simply tossing shells and pinching tails just like everyone else in the place.

“Is something the matter, Hun? You seem far away.”

“Naw, Babe. How’s your fish?” I asked looking straight at my bride smiling gratuitously.

“Good. But I might have to take some home,” she said.

Just then I heard a man say “I’ll see what I can do.” As I looked away from my wife, the man I had been concerned about seemed to have caught a break. A fit soldier type with flat-top hair and an impression of dog tags beneath his tight white t-shirt was engaged with the man. I felt somewhat relieved but still concerned. I thought I should have caught this earlier as the younger man left his family to make an order.

The unnoticed man began to count out his change once more. He had less than a dozen small coins. This was the second time I had noticed him do that on the long community planks.

“Want my fish?” my wife asked. “I can’t eat it all—there’s just a small piece left.”

“No thanks, Babe. We’ll take it home—with all these extra fries.”

The restaurant bustled and people came and went. It started to die down as we finished up but when the soldier returned with drinks for himself and his accompanying mother and father I became concerned again. He had not acknowledged the lone man.

It was noticeable as I sat behind him that his clothes were clean enough. His socks were dirty and tennis shoes were well worn but overall neat nonetheless. The curious man would often put a knit cap on and pull it off again as if he was overly conscious about his untidy hair.

Declaring, “I’ll be back in a second, Babe,” I abruptly left our high bar table. I walked over to the man whose back was to me, and pulled up a stool next to him.

“Hey Brother—do you need somethin’ to drink? Some tea or a cold drink in a bottle?” I asked concerned that he did not have enough cash for payment.

He looked at me with tired, dark red eyes. It may have stunned him that someone unknown had sat next to him and now was asking questions. But he looked up at me and finally said, “Yeah. Yeah—I could use somethin’. I’m a little short on change.”

His breath smelled of beer but I had not offered that nor did he ask. I then said, “That guy got you somethin’ to eat right? He got you some lunch?”

“Yeah. Yeah,” my friend said with bowed head.

“Ok let me get you a cold drink to go with your lunch,” and I started to leave. I motioned to my wife that I would be right back. But before I could go he reached out for my arm and stopped me.

“Oh, hey. Did you ask me if that muchacho bought me some food?” the man asked.

“Yeah. Did he get you some groceries?” I replied.

“Oh, naw, Bra. I asked him if he could help me out but he didn’t really say anything. I was just wantin’ to get a little hamburger to eat.”

I thought something wasn’t right earlier when the soldier had returned. My gut had told me so and I immediately wanted to correct the situation.

“So you want some hamburger? You don’t want some fish or shrimps or something? Or just meat?” I inquired.

His humble eyes were now much brighter. I saw in his face a brother in arms. I knew what it meant to be hungry. Really hungry. And I wasn’t going to have it.

“Well. I do like dem oysjas.”

“Good choice. Oysjas it is then. You know those oysjas are good for the soul,” I said. “I think they’re dem big Louisiana saltys.” We both smiled and I left to order a fried oyster basket.

When I returned with the meal for my new friend he was most grateful. We embraced our hands in an old school grasp of solidarity.

“Semper Fi, my brother,” I said peering into the weary face adorned with the faded red and yellow head band.

He dropped his head again. But this time I think he noticed my inner forearm tattoo with the letters USN and a pair of silver Submarine Qual Dolphins. His eyes were teary when he looked back up. His face was stern as not to break a proud salute. Then he pulled me into him with our hands ever tightly locked as we hugged. I’m certain no one noticed. It was the absurdity of invisibility even in the midst of a world raging with boisterous voices. Just like in the days of old.

“Semper Fi, my brother. Semper Fi,” he said with proud humility.

 

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(412) 676-9955

© KT Ashely 2017

An elderly lady brought her plate up to the wash window at the church’s kitchen.

The grey haired woman who took it from her said, “That sure was some good Dewberry cobbler you made there Miss Irene.”

“What’s that, dearie?”

“Your pie. It sure was good tonight,” the complement giver repeated.

“Oh, yes. It is a little chilly in here. Maybe y’all could get one of those strong young men to bring a log in and stoke up that fire in the parlor.”

The dishwasher smiled back at the old woman as she and her friend hobbled away to their resting place assisted by well-worn canes.

“Those are two fine Christian women washin’ up in there,” Miss Irene’s companion said.

The elder nodded her head.

“You think there’s a chance Miss Irene will ever give up her recipe for that pie? Some kinda exotic spice in there. And that light crispy crust never gets soggy,” the overbearing of the two washer women commented.

“Gotta be the devil’s work,” the smiling woman addressed her partner rhetorically.

“I don’t know how you’d get it from her. She can’t hear worth a hill a beans. You’d have to get right up close in her ear to ask her for it.”

“Not a chance with that sour breath. Ain’ worth it.”

Both women chuckled.

“You know when I’m that old…well, rather I just be called home to the Lord sooner.”

“You aren’t that far off. Twenty years maybe.”

“Jessie! For goodness sakes. She’s at least thirty years my senior.”

“And you forget we’ve been friends a long time. I know when our last sixty-somethinth birthday was Miss Ellen.”

The marquee in front of the small but affluent church read:

          Henry Wiggins Memorial Family Night Supper and Annual Homecoming

         Welcome Family and Friends to Riverside Calvary Bible Chapel

“You know. I haven’t seen the preacher’s wife come in yet.”

“Well there’s no telling where little Miss Yellow Hair is gallivanting off to now. She’s always late,” Ellie said.

“Brother John said she went up to Red Creek nursing the invalid today,” another much younger voice said from behind the two women.

The dishwashers both gave a downward glance from their turned and cocked heads. The message was clear. The informant wasn’t invited to participate in their conversation.

“Well she can just lick the skillet when she gets here,” Ellie said.

Point taken; and the junior lady moved to the other side of the kitchen to pack the remaining scant leftovers and sort the patron’s pans.

“Red Creek,” Ellie began. “Ain’t nobody up there but miscegenators and poor white trash. Probably them Newt Knight desertin’ clan’s kin.”

“And Negroes. And wild Indians.”

“Oh Jessie, there aren’t any Negroes up there. But I reckon there’s some Yankees. They got that fancy hotel up that way with those mineral spring waters. I hear it costs about three dollars—just to take a bath!”

“Oh Ellie, Yankees don’t take bathes. And neither does Miss Yellow Hair. I bet the only time she gives that mop a wash is when they go to bleach it at the beauty.”

Both women chuckled again heartily. The woman in the back gave a sigh of disgust.

“I don’t know why Brother John married her. He’s a good looker you know. No local boy should be marrying outside the state. You know all those New Orleans gals are loose.”

“Yeah, especially those with eyes as big and blue as hydrangeas.”

“It’s just too bad that preacher’s first wife passed so young—and no children,” Ellie continued.

“Did you know her well?” Jessie asked.

“No. But they say blondie nursed her in her last days. Three years later our Brother John and her were married. That was just before he was called to serve here.”

“Sounds like that tramp did some nursing of her own on that poor bereaved man.”

“Mm, uhmm. Fast enough too. Can’t blame a man for the kinda nursing she probably gives him.”

“Oh Ellie,” Jessie gasped.

“Well. In my younger days when I was married I bobbed the rooster.”

“Ellen May Harper. Now you just stop all that talk. And in the church house. For shame.”

“Well I don’t know what you’re so prissy about. Everybody knows about you and old Clive Taylor behind the school house after eleventh grade graduation,” she mumbled softly looking over her shoulder.

Jessie slapped her with a damp dish cloth.

“That’s a lie! I’ve never had one of them in my mouth, Jessie protested loudly.” Then she spun around to see if anyone was listening.

The preacher’s wife’s best friend had her back to them from across the small kitchen and smiled to herself.

“Besides. It wasn’t with that liar old Clive Taylor. It was with his brother Tommy. And he tricked me I might add. Told me he wanted to go fishing in the dark on the beach. Had a worm he wanted me to catch in a special kinda way.”

“And you believed him?” Ellie asked incredulously.

“Well. We was kinda already pettin’ pretty heavy. But I stopped all that pretty quick once it spit in mouth. Nasty. Didn’t take more than two seconds for that to happen as I remember.”

The two women giggled to each other.

“And I’m sure that was the last time that all happened,” Ellie said.

“Oh, I got used to it with my late husband,” Jessie confessed. “You know it doesn’t take as long when they’re young. The older they get the longer it takes ‘em—too long. But at least you learn to avoid the worst of it.”

“I know,” said Ellie. “They always want that when old Aunt Florine comes to visit.”

“And they can’t get nothin’ else.”

The women agreed as the conversation went silent for a moment. It seemed as if the two privately recalled other sententious memories from their lives.

Finally Ellie declared, “Well, Mama always said there was a price for marrying up.”

Jessie nodded quietly. She then resumed the conversation to the preacher’s wife.

“They say she was a Methodist before Brother John stopped her from back sliddin’ and finally made her join our church. I hear she was sprinkled—ain’t even properly been baptized.”

“Goin’ to hell for sure,” Ellie said snidely with a grin. “You know she’s a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. Probably voted for Hoover last time. Saw her drinking a bottle of Barq’s this summer without a straw.”

“Oh that’s just trashy. Like those oyster shucking women from the Back Bay. Bet she’s a bona-fide Bohemian her own-self.”

“Well I believe that’s who she was cavorting with. Had a couple of them unwed mothers looking awful big—ready to pop another one of them dirty little bastards right on out,” Ellie assured.

“Where’d you see all this?”

“As I was passing by the convent on my way to the market. You know they closed part of Lee Boulevard by my house so they could work on it. My boy had to take me past the poor folk’s clinic run by the Sisters of Mercy and everything over there. Saw it all, honey.”

“Well now if that ain’t something’. If they’re gonna reroute good clean folks down past cannery row I’m just gonna have to call the mayor. Good thing your Amos knew that way. You might’ve gotten deeper on up in there. That boy lives up in those quarters doesn’t he?”

“Yes he does. But in the cleaner part,” she added.

Just then the screen door squeaked open and a friendly voice cheerfully spoke up albeit somewhat with a hint of exhaustion. “Hey Miss Ellie. Hey Miss Jessie. How y’all this evening? Sorry I’m late. Had to check on a sick child up in the forest this evenin’,” the attractive fortyish blonde haired lady greeted.

The two prattling women met her cheerfulness with exaggerated charm.

“Well hello, dear. We were just talkin’ about you and wonderin’ if you were ok. I think there might be a scrap or two left for ya. See what’s left over there on the counter. I’m sure little missy put somethin’ together for ya,” Ellie said and then turned back to Jessie and smirked.

The younger friends greeted each other with a smile and a hug.

“Just talkin’ bad about ya again for sure,” the preacher’s wife’s friend whispered in her ear during the embrace. “You doing alright, Sweets?”

“Oh yeah. Long day at the hospital and then Dr. Wesley asked me to go up with him and check on this new baby one of the young Ellis twins had. Poor girl. Don’t know if either are gonna make it. Thanks to their incestuous Daddy’s backward ways.”

Upon overhearing the conversation Ellie mumbled to Jessie, “Well that’s a two for one on thinning the poor white trash gene pool if they both go.”

“Got anything left?” the nurse asked.

“Those two witches scrapped most of the leftovers into the slop bucket for Mr. Ronnie’s pigs. We had quite a crowd tonight. I did manage to make a small plate of barbeque and save some of Miss Irene’s cobbler for ya though. Hid it on the top of the icebox.”

“Oh you’re so sweet,” the preacher’s wife said kissing her friend’s forehead. “I haven’t had anything to eat since about noon.”

Upon hearing this Miss Ellie hastened directly to the ice box and acted as though she were to wipe its top. Upon finding the plate she pulled it down and turned as to deliberately bump into the blonde. The plate dropped to the floor and splattered at their feet. Ellie was less affected as her apron was well draped.

“Did you ladies ever get a chance to have one of those boys fetch some wood for the Lady’s Parlor,” Miss Irene was heard to shout in a shuffling gait half way to the kitchen with her companion in tow.

“I’ll fetch some right away Miss Irene,” the preacher’s wife called back. “Go have a seat now ladies.”

“That’s a good Christian woman, that is,” Miss Irene’s colleague was heard to say.

The nurse’s friend’s face became flush with anger and her eyes teary as she knew Miss Ellie’s deed was deliberate. But the compassionate girl with the big eyes as blue as hydrangea blossoms just smiled and gently squeezed her friend’s arm.

“Help Miss Irene and her friend back to the parlor. I’ll bring in some wood for the fire.” And this they did as the two curmudgeons at the sink delighted in their evil doings.

When the preacher’s wife had returned with the wood, so had her friend come back to the kitchen from her task. “Honey, would you take this and stoke up the fire for the ladies? I wanna invite Miss Ellie and Miss Jessie out for a moment. I think it’s time we cleared a few things up.”

The friend gave her a curious glance and was reassured that everything would be alright. The three remaining ladies went outside for a stroll by the gazebo on the river’s edge. The moon was beginning to rise and the swift current from the recent rains was reflected.

Not long after, the preacher’s wife returned. Her girlfriend was drying the remaining dishes by the sink when she greeted her back in.

“Oh Sweets, you got red gravy splattered all over your little dress. I don’t know if this will ever come out,” she said as she kneeled down to dab the spots with a damp cloth. She then realized that the blonde had come in alone.

“Oh now don’t worry yourself with that. John can get me a new one.”

“What happened to the two witches of Back Bay?” the friend asked.

“Oh don’t you worry about them. They won’t be bothering us anymore. I thought it was time we buried the hatchet. So I sent them on their merry way home. Told ‘em they’d done enough for the Lord and that we could finish up in here,” the preacher’s wife said as she turned and retrieved the unmolested dessert her friend had saved her. “Wanna split this last piece a pie?”

“Well hey Honey! I was told you had gotten back a while ago,” Brother John said as he stepped in through the back screen door carrying a few more pieces of firewood. “These old folks sure do take a chill. If they stay vistin’ any longer, I’m gonna have to split some more in the dark. But I couldn’t find the ax. Y’all see it out there from before?”

His wife looked at him whilst licking the sticky purple syrup of Miss Irene’s Dewberry cobbler from the back of her spoon and said…“Nope.”  

 ____________________________________________________________________

 This story is dedicated to my Mom and all preachers’ wives. For does it not say in the Gospel of Mary:  You will certainly find just judgement and the divine wrath of the Lord behind the smile of every long suffering pastor’s wife.

 

 

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©2017 KT Ashely

Once there was a great land of prosper and welcoming. But like all lands there was greed and suspicion as well.

When the time came to choose a new leader a rich man, or so it was said by him, spoke of great things he would do to make his nation the greatest and richest of all. The candidate boasted that he alone had the skills to ever surpass the prosperity of any country on earth in the history of mankind. He claimed that his people would benefit equally from the renaissance of wealth and power under his direction. Many people believed him and chanted his name fervently.

The long campaign became ever more strident with accusations of imperfections hurled at each other by the two leading candidates. The rich man’s popularity began to wane when some of the indictments were proven to be true. Many of his vile vices that had been recorded on audio and video became public spectacles. These revelations made the election seem to overwhelmingly favor his opponent in the final days to decision making.

But the cunning man had a strategy. He evoked the age old adage of fear. His mantra was one against fellow lands and their people. The man accused his neighbors for the ills within his own country. Many who were sorely affected by such globalization took heed to his impending prophecies of subjugation. Supporters believed that only he could save them from any further economic disaster and the perceived looming cultural genocide.

To do this the candidate secretly enlisted enemies of the state to spread false rumors about his opponent. He stoked a final firestorm of instilled half truths perpetuated by pundits and opposing factions. The man’s rhetoric and lack of political correctness became even more emboldened in his follower’s minds which now seemed to have been normalized as candid fact. And in one final act the rich man was able to persuade, by intimidation, a justice official to publicly launch a criminal investigation into his opponent’s dealings with alleged corrupt world leaders. The great land was to vote in two days time.

Regardless of the false allegations, in a surprising victory the rich man ascended as the new leader of the most powerful nation. Many hailed his victory while a myriad more wept bitterly in fear of his bodacious brashness. All waited restlessly for his inauguration.

It so happened that a young woman named Ashputtel had recently arrived in the capitol city of the great nation. She came from a land of much despair. The girl had managed to escape with her family and was granted asylum by the great land’s former leader. Back in their country they had helped to protect the fair nation’s diplomats from harm by hiding them in their home during a purge of infidels when war broke out. Because of their good work they were rewarded with citizenship in the great land.

Ashputtel had always dreamed of living in the fair and just land ever since she had seen a post card that her father had once brought back from his travels. Long ago he had visited there and told of its wonders and kind people. It was said that the great land was much like their own once—when her lands were free of vile dictators and fearsome beasts that were said to eat hot coals.

To celebrate the family went to the new leader’s inaugural parade. There Ashputtel was spotted by the rich man as she was adorned in her simple yet striking scarlet head scarf. While walking along the event route shaking hands with his cheering constituents the wealthy doyen was so taken by her beauty that he ordered one of his trusted security officers to quietly obtain her personal information. She then was invited to the leader’s new home and told that fine clothes would be brought to her so that she could attend the evening gala.

And so it was. A large black limousine arrived at their apartment a few hours later and Ashputtel was whisked away to the ball. She had been the only one in her family to receive such an invitation. Her father encouraged her to go regardless of being rejected as to be her chaperone. It was an important opportunity he thought as he relented to the chauffeur’s instruction. But her mother was not so sure. She warned Ashputtel not to delay in coming home because the night could be full of terrors and their adopted homeland was still new to them.

At the gala the teenage girl mingled with other children of diplomats her age. Some were from countries near her nation of birth. Others were from far way lands. But none were from the nation of which she was now a citizen of. She and her fellow guests were relegated to a mezzanine of no great importance. They were as living decor for the dancing hall below. And they were kept there for the length of the ball with refreshments not as grand as those being served to the more relevant guests beneath them.

It was late when the event finally ended. The children were reunited with their parents and Ashputtel surmised that she was allowed to leave as well. But as the teenager made way down the staircase to exit the grand building she was accosted by an aid. He escorted her to a nondescript office in the same wing nearest the ballroom’s galley. Once inside the dimly lit room she saw the shadow of a man who stood by garish gold curtains. They were the  same drapery of Aurelian style that had embellished the whole of the house she noted. When the door was closed he turned to her revealing his face.

“How did you like my gala young lady?” the rich man asked.

“It was wonderful,” the grateful girl replied.

“Well, what a pleasure to have such a beauty like you attend. Miss…?” the man questioned as he walked toward her.

“Oh…Ashputtel, kind sir. My name is Ashputtel.”

“I have a proposition for you. How would you like to work as one of my kitchen maids?” he offered moving ever closer.

The man smiled down at her while invading her space. He grabbed her scarf tugging it from the back of her neck and pulling the girl into him. With his other hand he thrust his fingers between the garment’s elastic waistband and her blouse. She was so startled by the new leader’s impetuousness that she did immediately comprehend his horrid hand deep within her panties until he began to fondle her.

Ashputtel pulled away from his grip and shouted “No!”

She escaped through the door from which she came. But the guards were not able to stop her and she continued running through the night until she reached the nearest Metro.

Once reaching home the girl spoke only of the generosity of the new leader’s invitation. Her father was proud. Her mother was skeptical. Her clothing was disheveled. Ashputtel never revealed to her parents either for reason of culture or embarrassment her true ordeal at the event.

The rejection by the girl angered the rich man for he was accustomed to having what he desired. In his first full week of office he decreed that the citizens of her former homeland were terrorists and degenerates. He issued an executive order that the CDC was to be given enforcement powers to detain and quarantine all immigrants and others of suspected health risks. The man declared that MERS, SARS, and Ebola were of severe concern to the capitol’s public. Because such diseases were known to be carried by such people a temporary confinement shelter must be created until all were genetically tested and found to be pure.

Within three weeks of signing the order hundreds of naturalized citizens were rounded up and resettled into an old gated council estate that was hurriedly renovated to include communal water and toilet houses. A high chain link fence was put up to surround the old property. Other green card refugees faced mass deportations. Many native born citizens opposed this action and labeled it “the purification purge”. Still others declared the settlement was nothing more than a ghetto much like those of the World War Two Jewish districts.

The continued opposition protests to the new leader’s authority angered him even more. His unpredictable outbursts and the untempered actions of his new cabinet members were seen to be a threat to other world leaders as well. In an unprecedented act he then with a stroke of his pen condemned neighboring lands and rallied his fanatic New Order supporters about him.

Colluding legislators banned public gatherings as a threat to national security. Defiant protesters filled the jails to capacity as zealous law enforcement officials implemented the new laws. When the detainment centers became unmanageable people were herded into dog kennels and private zoos. Eminent Domain was used to acquire such properties and loyal servants to the government were deputized to run them.

With newly approved powers instituted by a weakened congress and his own party’s majority, the rich man finally declared himself King. Soon other long held customs were rebuked and many other constrictive laws were sanctioned about the once fair land. The rich man ultimately declared that anyone who did not agree with him spoke dissident-speak and were labeled as deplorables for which there was a heavy price to pay. However those who showed unquestionable loyalty were richly rewarded with jobs, money, and power.

Soon the fair land was as if it had fallen into a deep sleep. Its welcoming nature seemed to have been frozen in the dark shadow of the new administration. A thick, thorny barrier of inescapable briar grew into an immense wall all about the great land’s borders. Former allies declared war on the sovereign land that had once been known as the greatest land of all where a culture of loving kindness was the goal and compassion was the custom. Trade stopped and diplomats fled from the region. Only self-cultivated thorns protected the isolated nation now.

Everything within the land’s confines seemed to have turned grey and to bitter ash. Most citizens were starved of compassion. It had become a desperate place. But Ashputtel never gave up on her adopted homeland—even while walking through the dim streets in her ragged, soiled clothes. For she always wore her vibrant scarlet scarf to remind her of her unyielding faith.

Then one day she squeezed through an opening in the settlement’s fence. She walked on route as she normally did past the neglected and decaying statue that had once inspired her to long for this land. It had been cut up and deposited at the edge of the ghetto as a scrap heap. About its base she espied a beautiful, single, pink briar rose. She admired its beauty and thought how wonderful a sight—even though it was thoroughly consumed by choking and overgrown thorns.

Just then the rich dictator’s armored car and his entourage of darkened machines began to pass by. The girl imagined the sight as large black poodles chasing a fiery, glimmering, hot coal. Its direction was the same as when Ashputtel had stood cheering the leader’s inaugural parade only months before. Then the largest of the cars whose body was gilded in gold suddenly came to an abrupt halt—only yards of her passing. Out of the machine marched a paunchy man with a mane upon his head not unlike that of a Gelada baboon. She instantly recognized him.

He shouted to her, “I know you! You’re that immigrant girl of before. Pull that scarf back from your face and show yourself, slut,” for he could not have forgotten the hidden beauty of which he had once demanded possession of.

When the girl revealed herself the rich man once again felt carnal desire for the young maiden. It was if he were a wolf in the wood ogling his prey. “What are you doing here? Don’t you know your kind is restricted to the ghettos?”

“Yes kind sir I do,” she said stepping backward as she knew his lecherous nature.  “I was on my way to barter this fresh baked bread in the free markets when I stopped to admire a thing of wonder. The way to the market in my neighborhood has now been blocked by neglect and thick briar. I had only one way to circumvent the barricade to reach my destination. It was then that I noticed the flower and stopped to admire its grace growing at the Lady of Liberty’s feet.”

“I see nothing of beauty there—only a rusty, old green relic. Yet another scrap of the past.”

So Ashputtel pointed to the rose. It glistened with dew that had entangled rays of sunshine through the beclouded shadows amongst sharp thorns.

The man frowned at the sight. And in his determination to possess the thing of beauty, as was his manner, he pricked his fingers upon the sharp thorns. Even his smaller than average hands were not small enough to molest this thing of purity.

Ashputtel took pity upon the leader and carefully navigated the poisonous briar to collect the rose at the statue’s crumbling bare feet. She gently plucked it from its root and pulled it out. Her only regret was that the nosegay was not in such a quantity fit for a king; though its glorious essence was abundant for all to breathe.

She offered the rich man his coveted prize but when he reached for it the dew from its petals dripped onto his pricked wounds mixing with the drawn blood. The purity of the flower combined with virtue of the girl poisoned the vile man and he dropped dead to the desolate street without another utterance.

Suddenly all the briars about the statue shriveled to black and turned to ash. The sun then shown upon the decaying relic and once more remnants of the golden torch of freedom glistened—illuminating as a beacon shining throughout the land. And the overgrown briar walls surrounding the great nation then too turned to ash and blew about in the wind.

The man’s beast like entourage turned to bitter salt. Their last sight was that of the girl standing before the statue heap. She held the Pink. And a quenching rain doused the parched great land under brightly lit skies as if the devil were beating his wife. Said tears washed the salty ash away from all its borders and into the sea.

The people of the once fair land awoke from their long stupor. No longer frozen in ignorance or arrogance they vowed never to allow such a vile character to divide them and cause such fear again. And calm was equally felt all over the world.

Ashputtel was championed as a hero. When the decrepit statue was redesigned and restored its new face was reconstructed in her likeness. The scarlet scarf she wore about her head was there as well. It reminded the people in the great fair land that those who do not always look like us or worship like us indeed are our brethren. We hearken to prevent the suffering of all they promised.

So it was that in the new statue’s hand was sculpted the Pink of hope. The dew upon its petals were made of crushed pearl as to shine both by moonlight in the dark and also sunshine by day. The monument was placed atop of the highest hill of the great fair land. For it was to be seen by all who looked upon her as a symbol of enduring democracy. An idea not to be forgotten as archaic but to be celebrated as just freedom for all peoples—just as the founding fathers had envisioned.

 

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Filed under All Stories, Dystopian Stories, Fables, 3107406542

Cross-eyed Mary

© 2016 KT Ashely

Mary skirted a suspicious puddle on the tacky black cobbles. A neon reflection of “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS” shimmered in the undulating plashet. The music was loud. The area smelled of beer and men.

“This place is disgusting,” she chided her friend.

“It is,” Susan replied. “But it’s the fastest way. Besides, once we cross Bourbon it’s only a couple blocks to the Square. We can wipe our feet on the grass. I promise it’s worth the trip. Best seafood findin’s in the Quarter!”

“I’ve never taken my tail that far. Always been enough John-Thomases around here for me.  And on my nights out—they always offer me the most upscale places to dine afterwards.”

Oh, how uptown Susan thought to herself as she reconsidered her friendship with her newest neighbor.

“See—I told ya. Much nicer over here,” Susan encouraged a few moments later.

The smell of fried dough and coffee hung in the dark, early morning mist. The crowds had subsided and Mary’s mouth watered at the thought of her undisturbed late-night treat to come.

“This way,” Susan directed. “Mind your path through here.”

Once they rounded the corner the essence of crab boil spice made Mary sneeze.  But the strong whiff of fish only allured her on to the auspicious cloister she had been told about. It did not take long for the two to settle in for the evening’s meal.

“Well, look a here—Ol’ Tom suckin’ heads and pinchin’ tails wit da ladies.”

“Old Tom, you’re such a crude old bastard,” said Susan.

“Disgusting and fat too”, Mary said under her breath.

“Yeah Darlin’, well there’s nothing wrong with my ears at least.”

Mary gave him an aloof look.

“Tell ya’ what princess,” Tom began as to antagonize his critic. “Why don’t we take a stroll down to Preservation Hall and dig on some tunes. I hear Muddy Waters is playin’. Maybe he’ll dedicate my favorite song to ya—Cross-eyed Cat.”

“You’re a dog, Tom. A filthy stinkin’ mongrel,” Susan said in response him insulting her friend.

“Oh. And ol’ Black-eyed Susan here sounds if she might be beggin’ for another dark patch around that other beamer.”

“I’ll dig these claws in that pudgy puss of yours, Lardass,” she hissed.

“We need to pimp these pussies,” a voice said swaggering from the dark recesses of the alley.

“Templeton. You over grown rat. Why do you even come up here? You should keep to the river lest someone knocks you in the head and skins that coat offa yo’ hairy ass.”

“I developed a taste for meat—like my oyst’chas fresh out the shell if ya know what I mean. Slurp, slurp” he said as he looked at the girls and wagged his oversized tongue about his mouth.

“Disgusting. Nastier than Fat Alley up there,” Susan sneered.

And with that Tom pounced upon her slicing her chest. The fat one pinned Susan to the grimy cobbles and proceeded to violently attack her in every way. Rapine splattered Mary’s coat in the clash and she howled resoundingly.

Templeton laughed at the sight. “She had that coming,” he snickered.

But in his brief moment of content, slobbering jaws clinched upon the heads of Susan and Tom before him. They crackled like the sound of boiled crawfish shells being crushed.

Templeton turned in horror to flee back to the safety of the Moon Walk’s river bank.  But he squealed loudly when another set of jaws shattered his hips and tossed him against the wall of the big green dumpster.

Coyotes! Mary shouted without a word.  She was frozen in fear. Her eyes locked with the creature that had attacked her friend; its mouth watering with the duo of limp prey—heads still mangled together.

The Siamese hesitated no more. “Oh why did I leave the comfort of my garden?” she cried. And she turned as if on a dime and did not stop sprinting until she reached Dauphine Street bursting through the door of her Creole cottage. Mary dove under her people’s bed and cowered in fear within the comfort of an old box filled with flute compositions.

“I should have never listened to Susan. I’ll never cat around with commoners again,” she promised herself.

 

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