The garden was overrun with wild grass and tenacious weeds had pushed up through the crazy paving. Apt description, I thought as my view followed the path on its meandering journey from the back door to near the bottom of the garden. It then branched into two then set off again to surround the small flourishing orange grove.
‘‘Hola! Beunos dias.’’ The old woman was peering over the stone dyke wall and into my garden.
‘‘Hola…..eh,…morning, Senora,’’ I replied but she was already making her way to the wicket gate, her grey shawl bobbing along the top of the wall like a ship’s sail on a distant horizon.
They were all fed up with the war, the lives it had already claimed, the unburied dead, and the smell of them.
Oh, God the smell.
Life in the trenches of all sides was unbearable: cold, muddy, rife with vermin and parasites, sickness, and some men had gone insane. Often there were suicides.
Riley had been entrenched for a month and hadn't gone topside yet. He was twenty, still inexperienced to the horrors of war, and was dreading the day he was called to go over the top, into No Man's Land.
He had seen fear in others, before they climbed the ladders from the trenches, how they shook in their boots, soiled themselves, vomited bile from their empty stomachs, with tears rolling down their cheeks.
Tangled in the Reeds
When I was a boy there were tales of a lady in the lake.
During the Summer months, my friends and I would ride our bicycles out there, and swim all day. Sometimes, we would take a tent, and camp out there, our parents thinking that we were having a sleep over at Joe's.
We would tell stories, trying to scare each other, and it would work, because none of us would get a wink of sleep, convinced that wild pigs might attack us, or Donny Brooke's pitbull was loose, and hunting us down. Never did we did tell ghost stories, though, because ghosts are like fairies, just something made up.
Ghosts do exist. I know now.
The Lonely Genius
Mario Ober, a forty five-year-old bachelor, hung up his white lab coat, looked around his lab to make sure his important projects were in a state of suspension, input the directions to his unit, stepped on the transporter pad, pressed a button, and he was transported to his unit.. It was a two-room unit with kitchen facilities. In the living room there was a sofa, a chair, and an entertainment-communication monitor that measured six-feet by six-feet. Because of toxic air, there were no windows. However, a giant air purifier, that he invented, was housed in a twenty-five-story structure and worked constantly to bring clean air to the inhabitants of the community.
That Evil Witch
Them Haddock boys was mighty close, two peas in a pod, Amos and Andy, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, stuck together like barnacles to the bow and sap to a tree, but I always suspected there might be something missing in the glue. The trouble started brewing on a Friday and boiled over like Everest by the time Reverend “Moses” Maynard hollered out his first Amen at Sunday sermon. And on that day, it weren’t more than three hours after sunup before one of them brothers was dead and the other hauled off to the hangman’s hotel.
Conrad was the first to go, split in two mid-sentence, the halves of his body peeling neatly apart. The weapon must have thrown itself through him at incredible speed, stretched out like razor wire: quick, but far from clean.
It should have been obvious then that it was only warming up, toying with us even. The machine could have killed us all that instant but instead it chose to give this little demonstration - it wanted us to run, to try and evade it, to fight for our lives. More than anything, it wanted to hunt. This was good, theoretically, it meant that it was doing its job and now all we had to do was ours: stay down, stay ahead of it, and try to stay alive.
“I was being followed today,” said Cedric Gorman, CFO of the renowned Huber Moneda Hospital, to his wife, Sophia, human resources manager for Cactus Sunrise East medical clinic.
They were sitting on the patio of their condominium, admiring a spectacular red desert sunset.
“Really?” said Sophia. “How do you know?”
During his former less-than-respectable life, long before accepting the post at HMH, Cedric had benefited from certain highly developed skills, such as those involved in detecting a tail. However, in this case, not much skill was necessary.
“Obvious,” he said. “Someone ducking around corners, staring in random windows.”
“Geez. Who?” said Sophia.
“The new GI doctor,” said Cedric. “I have an appointment with him in three days for a colonoscopy.”
A Wallet Full of Money
The woman from another lifetime had sent him the surprise she’d hinted at. He waited before unwrapping the cardboard package until he had walked back to the high-rise co-op, an interminable distance from the Post Office on East Broadway. In the package was a recording of Marlene Dietrich singing “Lili Marlene.” He held the disc so the sun shone on the Deutsche Grammofon label, marveled at the shiny shellac, and felt as satisfied as he had been in months.
From the corner of his eye he saw the girl from the 16th floor watching expectantly, waiting to be recognized. She nodded and he slid over on the park bench so she could sit down.