Bath Time

He laid in the bath, his knees sticking up like knobby icebergs. She sat on the toilet, one leg pulled up under her, clipping her toenails.

“Is this what you imagined life would be like?” she asked.

Instead of answering, he slid down until his head was submerged. He exhaled hard and watched the bubbles rise. She appeared above him, almost floating, her mouth making increasingly dramatic shapes. Wisps of hair fell from the loose knot at the top head, framing her face.

He held his breath and waited until he felt the door slam, and then he slowly surfaced.

Ticket Punched

Covered in days of dust, hungry, and kneeling, Gregory King listened as the train chugged along the dried-up riverbed, some two or three miles behind him. He dreamt about escape. A pointed boot, driven hard into his back, stopped that. He fell forward, arms bound, and landed on his face. One of the men pulled him up. He spit sand, and shook, trying to get it out of his eyes.

The train was quiet, likely in the next town, now, King thought. A locust landed on his knee. He stared at it and never heard the shot that killed him.

 

Prompt courtesy of the Friday Fictioneers. Read more stories here.

Freeze, Thaw

We walked for forever, during a snowstorm, wind in our faces the entire time, even if we turned left or right, all because she read about some new restaurant. My socks were wet, a crack in the underside of my boot soaked up the melting snow and salt crystals spread across the sidewalks. A car, ignoring their red almost hit her and we banged on the hood and hollered. The driver honked and yelled, but we couldn’t make out what he said. The confrontation warmed us. We hunched over on the corner, laughing, forgetting our discomforts and grudges, for now.

 

People to See

Dzinski emptied an ice tray into the middle of a tea towel, brought the ends together, lifted it off the counter and spun it. He handed the ice pack to the man sitting at the kitchen table.

“Put that on your knee,” he said.

He sat down, pulling the gun from his waist and setting it on the table.

“Thanks,” the other man said, wincing as he reached over. “You should get the landlord to fix those goddamned stairs, somebody could get hurt.”

Dzinski lit a cigarette, and leaned back.

“I’ll call him first thing in the morning,” he said.

 

 

Things To Do

He had the bottle half-finished when he heard the footsteps on the back stairs. He grinned and wondered if whoever was coming up knew enough to skip the third step from the top of the second landing. They didn’t. A screech at the rusted platform swung free, and a scream as whoever was coming up, suddenly found themselves falling.

Dzinski moved to the back door, and opening slowly, he heard low, mumbling curses coming from the dark below him.

One hand on the railing, the other holding his pistol, he waited for the man to free himself and keep climbing.

Places To Be

Dzinski’d been tailed since the liquor store. Three blocks now. The fifth of rye pulled heavy at his shoulder. He wasn’t sure if he was tired of carrying it, or tired of not having it open. He hung a right at the corner and ducked into Paul’s.

The pool game in the back room ended as he came in, and the defeated young punk pushed past him and outside, trying to escape the jeers of the regulars. Dzinski hurried through, slowing to tip his hat to Callahan as the priest counted his nightly winnings, and left through the back door.

Went Down to the River

He left through the back door, cut across the lawn, through the copse of impossibly tall pine trees, he remembered being able to jump over them, down the ditch and along the lane, the forest creeping in on both sides. His heart slowed, the blood drained from his ears.

Inside, the polite whispers of conversation and remembrance continued, a few eyes in shaking heads looked to the door, still standing open.

The tall grasses, brittle, splintered as he ran through the field. The afternoon sun stabbed down. Panting, he knelt and, seeing the river bed had run dry, he wept.

All Nighter

“I feel bad for girls with pretty eyes,” he said and rolled over on the couch, so his back was to us, and went back to sleep.

The three of us, sitting on the floor around the coffee table, playing Jenga, looked at each other, wondering what he meant. The sun was coming up, piercing through the blinds, highlighting the smoke from the butt that would just not stop burning in the ashtray.

We drift to quiet corners of the room, dragging coats to use as pillows, hoping someone else would get up and get everyone a glass of water.

Ain’t No Gooseberry Ranch

John Family was handing each new arrival a match and giving them a fanner.

Wisconsin and Montana struck out and managed to climb a rattler as it slowed for a tight turn before crossing the river out of town. They each spit out the door, as was their custom, before settling in behind a load of sawed lumber. They weren’t in much mood for barber, neither having had more than a corner of a square since yesterday.

Montana dropped off at the next town, saying he’d try battering the star routes. Wisconsin wished him well, and stayed on, heading north.

Prompt courtesy of the Friday Fictioneers. See more stories here.

Static on the Line

What I wanted to say, and what I said were two different things, and after I heard the words come out of my mouth, I wished I could capture them, with a net, or my hands as they traveled across the space between us, but that was impossible, and my words went into your ears and made your mouth turn down at the corners and your eyes became wet, and I wanted to say I was sorry, to explain how those were not my words, that something had twisted them, gave them thorns, but I knew it was too late.