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.

Wale

The middle-age fairy visited last night, and left a pair of forest green corduroy pants under my pillow.

“You aren’t really going to wear those, are you?” my wife asked, her head popping up over my shoulder as I stared at my reflection in the mirror.

“I think I have to.  Enchanted creatures can be real malicious if you don’t accept their gifts. Besides, they aren’t that bad,” I said, twisting my hips to the left, sucking in my stomach. “Just need to get them hemmed a little.”

She left, stomping down the hall, muttering something about idiots and make-believe.

Miles To Go Before

The way the snow crunched reminded Dzinski of going out ice fishing with his father and uncles. He stopped, ducking into a doorway, lit his cigarette and pulled at the memory.

How the wind drifted the snow into waves, how you could see air bubble trapped in the ice, the shock of sticking his hand into the water, how his eyes watered and throat burned when he drank from the bottle one of them pulled from inside their coat,  how the men laughed when he tried to keep a straight face.

Only few months later… Dzinski exhaled, and dropped it.

All Aboard

A woman in a wedding gown sat down beside him, pulling at the skirt and tucking it under her, just as the train pulled away from the station. Turtle did his best not to stare, to not steal glances, to keep his eyes focused on the paperback in his hands. He prided himself on minding his business, and this was no time to act any differently.

Turtle woke to the runaway bride asleep on his shoulder. Gently, he shifted out of his seat, making sure she didn’t fall over. She stared at him, confused and unsure.

He patted her hand.

Faena

Dodging charging pedestrians as though they were snorting bulls, head lowered, horns gleaming like in triple polished steel, thick ridge rising. A natural, slipping on the cow path shoveled sidewalks, salt and stone to one side only, as more people trudge to offices in streets, shadowed by early morning sun, stretching and kicking off the covers, reluctantly.

Banderillas call for attention, toss spears, miss.

A pass, a flourish, a call from the crowd, and the cape flaps wildly in the wind. A second pass, tip of the horn grazing thighs, doors to office open, like a sword pierces a heart.

Five Months of Winter

She stops knitting, her gnarled hands immobile, the needles resting against her thumbs, and the ball of coarse wool in her lap. Outside, the sun dips behind the row of pines they planted years ago, to stop the wind coming in fast across the fields, even now, the windows rattle from November to March. I shiver, and say I’ll make some tea, but she says not to bother, she never cared for it. The only reason there’s any in the house, was for her sister, who passed away three years ago, but she keeps buying it because sometimes she forgets.

Answering Machines

“Oh, you are there.”

“Yeah. I was out back, just heard the phone.”

“I don’t really have anything to say.”

“Ok?”

“I just wanted to make sure you got the email I sent.”

“What email?”

“It’s about Grandma’s birthday.”

“When did you send it?”

“Just now.”

“Just now?”

“Maybe ten minutes ago.”

“So, this email is important?”

“Not really. We just wanted to know if you were bringing anyone.”

“To the party?”

“Yes.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Oh, well. I thought it’d be nice treat for Grandma to see you had a girlfriend. She isn’t going to live forever you know.”

Exact Change Only

She threw her cigarette, barely smoked, crushed it under her heavy winter boot, and said all she wanted was someone who would like her for who she pretended to be, and who could make a perfect grilled cheese, where the cheese is all stringy as you pull it apart.

The bus driver stared at her and asked if she was getting on or not.

Shaking her head, she climbed the stairs, swiped her pass, waited for the beep, and made her way to the back as the bus lurched away from the curb and started up the steep, snow-covered hill.