“The Moment of Truth” – Part One

It’s time for another Micro-Fiction Monday.  Because today’s story is a little longer than normal, I’ll be dividing it in two.  You can find Part Two here tomorrow.  Now don’t be afraid…  This is only fiction…

“THE MOMENT OF TRUTH”
Part One
By: Rachel A. Carrera

Kevin chuckled at Larry’s joke and shook his head.  “Dang, dude, that was lame.  Where do you hear these things?”

Larry smirked.  “You’d better learn to appreciate them, or at least act like you do.  Mr. Edmund tells a lot of these stupid tales, and if you don’t laugh and act like you like them, he pouts and threatens to take his account over to Sterling.”

Kevin rolled his eyes, then looked at his vibrating cellphone.  “Oh.  Hold on, man.  It’s my wife.  Hey, Baby.”

“Mr. Young, this is Officer Victor with the Brighton Police Department.  I’m at your house with your neighbor, Mrs. Stanley.  Sir, I regret to inform you that an intruder broke into your home.  Your daughter was killed, and your wife was attacked.  She’s in serious condition.  She was taken to Brighton General.  I’m very sorry.”

The color drained from Kevin’s face, and he felt a bit of vomit rise to his throat.  “Wh – what?  Shit!  How’d it happen?  Are you fucking serious?”

Larry pulled the car to the side of the road, and his smile ebbed.  “What happened?”

The cop cleared his throat.  “I’m sorry, sir.  Mrs. Stanley woke to the sound of screams coming from your house, and she called us.  By the time we got here, the door was open, and the intruder was gone.”

“Did – did this happen just now?”

“No, sir.  It was several hours ago when we got the call.  We’ve been here at your house looking for evidence.  The forensics team just finished up.  The lock on your front door is busted, so I stayed behind to try to contact you.  Mrs. Stanley just found your number.  She said you’re out of town on business.  Do you know when you can be home, sir?”

“Yeah, I was on my way to the airport right now.  Damn.  I’ll be there as soon as I can.  I have to get to the hospital to see Jen.”  Tears welled in his eyes, and his hands shook as he disconnected the call.

Larry turned in his seat, and his tone grew serious.  “What happened, man?”

Kevin swiped his hands over his face and sniffled.  “Someone broke into my house and attacked my family – Alisha’s dead!”  He slammed his fists onto the dashboard of the rental car and let out a seconds long, bone chilling, guttural scream.  Then, drained of all energy, he buried his face in his hands, and his chest and back heaved as he sobbed.

Larry gasped.  “What?  Shit!  I – I, um, let’s get you to the airport.  Do they know who did it?  Did Jen get a good look at him?”

“I don’t know.  She’s in the hospital.  Our neighbor was who called the cops.”

Larry pulled back onto the road and sped toward the airport.  As they waited to board their plane, he called Brighton General, then replaced his cellphone in his pocket.  “Sorry, man.  They said Jen’s still sleeping.  Maybe the sedative will have worn off by the time we get home.”

Kevin nodded and wiped his red rimmed eyes with the back of his arm as he paced back and forth in front of their gate.  “Thanks.”

*     *     *

The following day…

Kevin stood outside Jen’s hospital room with Detective Barkley.  His knees felt weak, and his stomach was in knots.  “Do you have any leads on who did this, Detective?  I can’t even believe this is happening.  My daughter was only thirteen years old.”  He sniffled and swallowed the lump in his throat.

Detective Barkley adjusted his glasses.  “I’m very sorry, Mr. Young.  Is your wife any better?  I’d like to talk to her.”

Kevin shook his head and rubbed his bloodshot eyes.  “No.  She’s awake, but she hasn’t said a word since I got here last night.  The doc says she’s in shock.”

Barkley nodded.  “She was catatonic when I tried to speak to her yesterday.  I really need her to snap out of it so she can give us a description of the perp.  The longer we wait, the less likely we’ll be able to find the bastard who did this.”

“One of the other officers told me there weren’t any fingerprints at my house.  Was there any DNA or anything?”

“So far, we don’t have any leads.  We’re still testing, but without a physical description, it doesn’t look good.”

Kevin sighed, and his knees felt as if they would buckle.  He leaned against the wall.  “I can’t believe no one saw anything.  Did you talk to my neighbors?”

Barkley took a notebook out of his pocket and flipped it open.  “Your neighbors to the right are out of town.  The gentleman across the street wears hearing aids and takes them out at night, so he didn’t hear anything.  Mrs. Stanley heard the commotion and called the station.  She said a muffled scream was what woke her.  After she called us, she said she looked out her window, and a few moments later, she saw him leave.  But since it was still so dark out, she didn’t get a good look at his face.  He had on a blue jacket and a black hat.  So far, that’s all we’ve got to go on.  That’s why we really need to talk to your wife…”

*     *     *

Until tomorrow, folks…

Time to talk:  Have you ever had to fake liking a joke in order to preserve a job? Have you ever had to call the police because of sounds you heard coming from a neighbor’s home?

 

The Feud – Part Two

Today, we learn the fate of our friends introduced to you in yesterday’s Micro-Fiction Monday.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“THE FEUD”
(Part Two)
By: Rachel A. Carrera

Close to an hour later, Ron whistled as he headed out his back door.  “Brody!  Come on, boy, it’s time to eat!”  He curiously looked across the hedge to Steve’s back yard.

Steve smirked as he stepped out of his car and made a beeline to his grill.  He fanned a puff of smoke that smelled of charred meat.  He cut into the meat and blew on it, then took a bite.  As he chewed, he stretched his back and eyed Ron.  “Your dog’s dead, Crane.  I told you to keep that mutt away from here.”  He cut into the meat and shoved another bite in his mouth, then chewed it heartily.

Ron stepped toward the hedge.  “So, you did see him.”

Steve sneered and cut another bite.  “See him?  I tasted him!  He’s delicious.  You want a bite?”  He held up a forkful of meat then thrust it in his mouth and smiled wickedly as he chewed.

Ron’s nostrils flared as he glared at his neighbor.  Then he took a deep breath and folded his arms as he smirked.  “Well, I’m glad you’re enjoying that barbecue so much.  But that’s not Brody you’re eating.  It’s Laura.”

*     *     *

EPILOGUE

The color drained from Steve’s face as he digested Ron’s words.  His knees buckled, and he steadied himself on the back of his lawn chair.  He spit the meat on the ground and felt a bit of vomit rise to his throat.  “What?”

Ron threw his head back and cackled wildly.  “You didn’t notice that meat looked a little different than when you left?  Or that it was seasoned a little differently?  Oh, there was no break-in at your store, was there?  Heh heh.  Yeah, I know all about it.  Yeah, as soon as you got that call from the police and left, Laura was happy to let me in your house.  I don’t think she even knew what hit her.”

Steve’s stomach lurched, and he willed himself not to faint.  “Wh— What did you do?  Where’s my wife?”  His eyes grew large, and his breathing quickened.

Ron pointed to the grill and chuckled.  “I just told you, man.  She’s right there.  She put up a little bit of a fight, but in the end, it was easy to overpower her.”

Steve’s hands trembled, and his face felt prickly, then he leaned over the chair and vomited the contents of his stomach.  He clutched his belly and took a few deep breaths.  As he stood upright, he turned and lunged toward Ron, then changed his mind and raced inside his house.  “Laura!  Laura, where are you?”  He ran from room to room as he searched for her.  “Laura!”

*     *     *

Laura smiled and stood just as Ron walked back into his living room.  “Thank you both for being so understanding.  I’m so sorry Steve took things this far.  I hope you know he would’ve never hurt Brody.”  She knelt down and petted the dog.  “He loves dogs.  He was just so upset ever since Murray died last year, he’s held a grudge ever since.  I think he just doesn’t want to blame himself for allowing Murray to stay out for so long unsupervised.”

Katie nodded and patted Laura’s shoulder.  “Well, thank you for bringing Brody home.  And I’m so sorry he bit your hand.  Are you sure you’re okay?  We’d be glad to pay for you to see a doctor.”

Laura shook her head and pulled the hand towel more tightly around her palm.  “No, it’s not deep.  And it’s not Brody’s fault.  Steve had him locked upstairs in our bathroom.  I think he wanted to worry you or something, and the dog got scared.  He didn’t mean to hurt me.  I’m just glad the police called when that alarm went off so I could bring him back home.”

Ron smiled and scratched Brody’s head.  “Well, thanks again, Laura.  I’m sorry all this got out of hand last year.  I really do miss hanging out with you guys and having all our great barbecues.”

Laura gasped.  “Oh!  Speaking of barbecues, I’d better get home.  Steve’s grilling some porterhouse steaks, and I’m afraid they might be the last ones we have for a while.  His business isn’t doing too well these days, and we’re behind on our mortgage.  If something doesn’t change, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”  She patted her tummy and half-smiled.  “And to top it off, I haven’t told him yet, but we’re gonna have a baby.”

*     *     *

Steve burst into the master bathroom and found a small puddle of blood on the floor and a bloody handprint on the sink.  He fell to his knees, and tears welled in his eyes.  “Laura, shit!  I can’t go on without you!  Our credit’s gone.  I’m losing the store.  You were the only good thing left in my life!”  He held his head in his hands, and his chest heaved as he sobbed.  “What have I done?  Why did I threaten that stupid dog?  Damn, Baby, I’m so sorry!”

He cried for a few moments then wiped his nose on his arm and pulled himself to stand.  He tried to catch his breath as he headed into his bedroom and stood in front of his dresser.  He opened the top drawer and pulled out a Glock 38.  He pulled the cartridge out of the handgrip and examined it.  He took a deep breath and pushed the cartridge back in, then wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.  “Laura, I’m sorry.  Please forgive me.”

He rushed downstairs and flung open the back door.  He stormed to the hedge separating his yard from the Cranes’.  He squeezed through an opening and headed toward his neighbors’ house with a determined gait.  His face was on fire, and he narrowed his red rimmed eyes.  As soon as the back door flew open, he fired blindly into the house.  “Take that, Crane!”

Laura gasped and clutched her chest where the bullet entered.  She made a gurgling noise as she melted to the floor of the back porch.  “Steve?  Why’d you—”

THE END

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Let’s talk:  Would this post have been too long if I combined yesterday’s and today’s?  Would you ever trick a neighbor who had been unkind to you?

The Feud – Part One

It’s time for another Micro-Fiction Monday.  Because today’s story is a little longer than normal, I’ll be dividing it in two.  You can find Part Two here tomorrow.  Now don’t be afraid…  This is only fiction…

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“THE FEUD”
(Part One)
By: Rachel A. Carrera

Tears welled in Katie’s eyes, and she collapsed in her husband’s arms as soon as he walked through the front door.  “Ron, I think Brody got out when I was carrying in the groceries.  I can’t find him anywhere!”

Ron hugged her and smoothed her hair.  “Honey, he’ll be back just as soon as he’s hungry.  He’s a big dog.  He can’t hide for long.”  He tossed his keys on the foyer table and headed toward the kitchen.

She sniffled and followed him.  “I know, but I’m afraid he went next door.  You know what Steve Parker said he’d do if Brody ever went in his yard again.”

Ron swiped his hands over his face then peeked out the curtain above the sink.  “Did you go over there yet to look?”

“No.  I went near the hedge and called for him, but he didn’t come.  Steve’s out back barbecuing, and I didn’t want to ask him.  He frightens me ever since what happened last year.  Would you go?”

“Alright, just try to calm down.  How long’s he been missing?”

“At least thirty minutes.  Oh, Ron, you’ve got to do something!”  Her chin quivered, and she buried her face in her hands.

He hugged her to his chest and planted kisses on the top of her head.  “Okay.  I’ll go talk to Parker.  Don’t worry, Baby.”  He kissed her cheek then headed outside.  “Brody!  Come here, boy!  Brody!”  He whistled as he meandered toward the hedge separating his yard from the Parkers’.  “Brody!”

Steve Parker fanned the flames in his grill.  The smell of seasoned meat permeated the air.  He looked up and smirked.  “You lose something, Crane?”

Ron narrowed his eyes.  “Our dog got out.  He didn’t happen to wander over here again, did he?”

Steve puffed up his chest and stepped closer to the hedge.  “Well, maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t.  But I told you what I’d do the next time that mutt came over here and dug a hole in my yard.  I told you if he showed up here, I was gonna barbecue him!”  He chuckled.

Ron’s face turned scarlet, and the veins in his temples protruded.  “For as many times as your dog used to come into my yard—”

Steve cocked back his head and raised his voice over Ron’s.  “Yeah, and my dog ended up dead in your back yard the day after he dug up your wife’s flowers!  I don’t think that was any coincidence!  I told you I’d reimburse you for those stupid roses, but you poisoned Murray!”

Ron narrowed his eyes and jabbed his finger at his neighbor.  “You’re fuckin’ crazy!  I didn’t poison your dog!  He must’ve gotten into something.  Maybe you should have kept a better eye on him!”

Steve squeezed his hands into fists and clenched his teeth, then his lips curled into a sinister smile.  “Yeah, and maybe you should have kept a better eye on your mutt today, too.”

Steve’s wife, Laura, stepped out the back door.  “Honey, you have a phone call.  It’s the credit card company again.  I don’t know what to tell them.”

Steve scowled and looked over his shoulder.  “Get back inside!  I’ll be there in a minute!”

Ron smirked and raised an eyebrow.  “Money troubles, Parker?  Is your business not doing so well?”

Steve puckered his face.  “Screw you, man!”  He slammed down the lid to his grill then spun on his heel and stormed inside his house.

Ron rolled his eyes and headed back inside his own house, slamming the door behind him.

Katie jumped out of her seat in front of him.  “Did you find Brody?  Was he next door?”

Ron stepped around her and grabbed the phone.  “No, I don’t think so.”  He stabbed the buttons angrily as he dialed a number.

“Who are you calling?

He held up his index finger.  “My brother.  He owes me a favor.”  His eyes lit up, and he patted her hand.  “Hey, bro, it’s me.  Listen, Brody’s missing, and I need help.  Can you call down to the station and have someone call Steve Parker’s house and tell him the burglar alarm in his store just went off?  …Yes, it’s Parker’s Vacuum Cleaner Sales and Repair over on Hallandale Avenue.  …What?  Look, man, I just need to get him out of the house for a while so I can look for my dog.  Katie’s in tears, and you know what a dick this guy’s been lately.  Come on, you owe me, man.  …No, I swear, I’m not up to anything.  You won’t get in trouble.  I just wanna look around his house for Brody without him there.  …Cool, thanks.  His number is 555-3772.  …Alright, thanks, man.  Bye.”  He hung up the phone and grabbed a beer from the refrigerator.

Katie took the beer bottle from his hands and popped the top, took a sip, then handed it back to him.  “What’d you do that for?  Do you really think Steve has Brody?”

“Parker’s still bringing up when his dog died last year.  He still thinks we had something to do with it.  I just want to look again without him there.  Maybe Laura or another neighbor knows something.”  He peeked out the window, and a small smile formed on his lips as he watched Steve race out to his car and back out of his driveway.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Be sure to come back tomorrow to read Part Two of “The Feud.”

Time to talk:  Do you like your neighbors?  Do you allow your pets to run around the neighborhood unsupervised?

Send In the Clowns

Have you ever met anyone who was afraid of clowns?  If that someone is you, you might want to skip today’s post.  Now don’t be scared. This is only fiction…

“SEND IN THE CLOWNS”
By: Rachel A. Carrera

Marlee giggled as she glanced at her husband.  “I can’t believe you, Steve.  It seems like every time the circus comes to town, you get injured.  You’re not one of those people who are afraid of clowns or something, are you?”

Steve blushed and averted her gaze.  “Just hurry up, would ya?  My back is killing me.”

“I’m driving as fast as I can.  We don’t want to get a ticket.  So, really, what’s up with you and the circus?  This isn’t your way of getting out of going with us, is it?  Three years ago when the kids wanted to go, you broke your ankle.  Two years ago, you came down with strep throat.  Last year, you got in a car accident and sprained your neck.  And today, you fell down the stairs and injured your back.  What gives?”

He sighed and tensed his muscles.  “I’m sorry, Babe.  I don’t feel like talking about it right now.  My back hurts too much.  I’ll tell you someday.  I promise.”

She rested her hand on his knee.  “Alright, Sweetie.  Look, here we are…”

*     *     *

Dr. Haskell helped Steve to the examination table then gently grabbed Marlee’s elbow.  “Mrs. Chambers, why don’t you go have a seat in the waiting room.  I’d like to talk to Steve alone.”

She bit her lip as her eyes darted between Steve and the doctor.  “Oh.  Okay.  Good luck, Honey.”  She kissed her husband’s cheek and reluctantly left.

As the door closed, the doctor turned to Steve.  “So, Steve, every year when the circus comes to town, you end up here in my office.  Marlee seems to think it’s some psychosomatic ploy to get out of going.  Do you want to talk about it?”  He gently manipulated Steve’s back as he spoke.

Steve blushed then winced as the doctor pressed on his spine.  “Promise you won’t laugh?”

“Sure.  I promise.”

“Well, it’s not like I’m getting injured on purpose.  But the reason it keeps happening…  Well, it scares the shit out of me.”  The color drained from his face as he sat up and hung his legs over the edge of the table.

Dr. Haskell took a seat next to him and took a pen from his pocket.  “Okay.  Well, tell me what it is.”

Steve studied the doctor’s eyes then slowly released his breath before he spoke.  “When I was a kid, my folks took my brother and me to the circus.  Shortly after we got there, my parents ran into some friends of theirs and started talking.  So, my brother and I went to go look at the animals.  We snuck around a back gate, and there was this elephant trainer who was beating one of the elephants with a whip.  It made me so angry that I jumped out from where we were hiding, and I shook my fist and yelled at the guy to stop it.  Well, I guess I surprised him, because he spun around.  And when he did, the elephant bucked up on its back legs and came down on the trainer and killed him instantly.  It… it was quite horrific.  He came squirting out of both ends, if you know what I mean.”

“What?  Oh, damn!”

“Yep.  Some men rushed over, and they had to shoot the elephant.  It gave me nightmares for weeks.  After that, I’ve just always had the feeling that I’m gonna die at the circus.  I don’t know why.  In fact, ever since then, I’ve had a recurring dream that I’m at a circus and killed.”

Dr. Haskell furrowed his brow.  “That’s dreadful.  How do you die in the dream?  Maybe if you know what it is, you can go to the circus, then you can face your fear and get past this.”

Steve shook his head.  “That’s just it.  Every time I have the dream, I die a different way.  Sometimes, I fall off the tightrope.  Sometimes, I get eaten by a tiger.  Sometimes, the circus tent comes crashing down on top of me and smothers me.  And sometimes, the sword swallower picks me to be his assistant.  Then before I know it, he jams a sword down my throat, and I die.  I know it sounds stupid.  And I really do want to go with Marlee and the kids.  But every time these accidents happen, they just affirm my fear that the circus really is gonna kill me.  Please don’t tell my wife.  She’d make a big deal out of it and probably send me to see a shrink.”

Dr. Haskell chuckled as he wrote on a prescription pad.  “Alright.  Consider it forgotten.  Right now, I’d like to get some film on this back of yours…”

*     *     *

Two days later, Marlee sat beside Steve’s hospital bed.  “I’m sorry you couldn’t go to the circus with us, Hon.  The kids had a blast.  Does your back still hurt just as much?”

Steve winced and forced a smile.  “No, it’s feeling a little better.  The doctor saw me this morning and said I can probably get out of here tomorrow.  Thankfully, there was no permanent damage to the discs.  He said that you should plan on waiting on me hand and foot while I lie in bed and tell you what I want for at least a month while I recuperate.”

Her eyes lit up, and her jaw playfully dropped open.  “Oh, he did, did he?”  She laughed.

He chuckled.  “No, seriously he said I need to take it easy for a couple more days, but that I should be as good as new by the weekend.”

She stood and ran her hand up his chest as she kissed him passionately.  “Well, I don’t mind waiting on you for that long.  How about if I go get you some lunch?  This hospital food looks disgusting.”

He smiled adoringly and grabbed her hand.  “Thanks, Baby.  You’re the best.”

She ran her fingers through her hair.  “I love you, Honey.”

“I love you, too, Babe.  To the moon and back.”

*     *     *

Friday night, Marlee carried dinner to the dining room table.  “Alright, kids.  Your daddy’s finally going to be able to get out of bed and eat dinner with us tonight.  I want you all on your best behavior.  Mikey, you go turn off the television.  Jason, you put the dog on the back porch.  And, Ashley, you go tell Daddy that dinner is ready.  Then I want you all to wash your hands and come sit down quietly.”

A few minutes later, everyone was seated around the table.  Steve smoothed Ashley’s long hair then winked at Marlee.  “Smells good, Babe.  I’m starved.”

Ashley beamed.  “Daddy, after dinner, we’re gonna put on a show for you!”

Steve raised his eyebrows and grinned.  “You are?  Awesome!  I haven’t seen a good show in a long time.”

*     *     *

A couple of hours later, Marlee hugged herself and sobbed as the paramedics rolled Steve out of the house on a stretcher.

In the background, a faint recording of calliope music playing “Entrance of the Gladiators” looped over and over.  A dog with a multi-colored, ruffled collar sat in a hula-hoop and growled at the door.

Ashley wore pink tights and a leotard, and tears streaked her cheeks.

Jason’s face was painted like a clown, and he wore his daddy’s shoes and a pointed paper hat made of newspaper.  His makeup ran as he cried.

Mikey hugged a stuffed monkey, and the paper mustache on his face went crooked as he wiped his nose with his arm.

Marlee’s hands trembled as they covered her mouth.  She blinked her red rimmed eyes at the medic and shook her head.  “I just don’t understand.  Steve just got out of the hospital on Wednesday, and his doctor said he was fine.  He only had a sprained back.  He was feeling better.”

The medic nodded sympathetically and rested his hand on her shoulder.  “I’m very sorry, ma’am.  You’ll have to wait for the autopsy for the official diagnosis.  But your husband appears to have suffered a massive coronary heart attack.  I don’t know what he saw, but from the look on his face, it looks like he was literally scared to death.”

THE END

Time to talk:  Is that the ending you expected?  Are you afraid of clowns?  Would you boycott a circus because of the way they treat animals?  Have you ever had a recurring dream?