The books to keep

Well, I picked my favorite John Le Carré to keep from the little collection I showed you a week or so ago.

I’m also keeping *all* of my Hemingway just because, and a few others for reasons that might be obvious. Everyone has a bird book and every writer has Fahrenheit 451, right?

Two are on the shelf because I fully intend to finish them both sometime.

There are actually a few other books I’ll keep around, likely in a box or two unless I can find a free-standing shelf that will fit into my modest new home office space.

I’m still trying to decide if 50 years is long enough to keep high school yearbooks. Maybe too long?

What do you think?

B.J.

The Missing Kite

Kalmo Bettis woke up in mid-snore from a rare midafternoon nap. His first thought was about the dream he’d just lost, hot seconds away from either carnal relief or more frustration. He rolled off the sofa, grabbed his service pistol from the coffee table and held the Glock 22 behind his back. Peering between the curtains, he saw no sign of either visitor or prankster who might have rung the doorbell. The street was quiet.

He opened the door and relaxed, then cursed himself for letting the lilacs grow so out of control that he hadn’t seen the kid. Bettis knew from experience that little ones seldom attacked cops. More important, he recognized this one. He hid the pistol in his waistband and stepped outside. “What do you need, young man?”

Bettis towered over the boy, who took a few steps back, ready to run. “I’m sorry to bother you, Officer, but my mom said I should report it to you.”

“Report what to me?”

“Somebody stole my kite.”

Bettis smiled and looked up and down the street. “I see. What’s your name, son?”

“James, sir. James Wagner.”

“I’ve seen you around. You live down on the corner, right?

James nodded.

“And how old are you?”

“Seven today. I got the kite for my birthday.”

Bettis sat on the top step and gestured for the boy to join him. James took a spot at the far end, leaving a couple of feet between them. Bettis shook his head, studying the row of houses on the other side of Blakemore. “Now that’s a real shame,” he said. “Some criminal stole your birthday present? Did you call 911?”

“No sir. My mom said that’s just for emergencies, like if my dad comes around.”

Bettis looked at him and nodded. “Your mom told you right, James. You listened to her. That’s great.” He reached over and gave the boy’s shoulder a pat, taking note of a slight flinch. “Does your dad come around very often?”

James looked down at his feet and shook his head. “Not much.”

“You have any brothers or sisters, anyone else at home?”

“No, just me and my mom.”

“Does he call?”

James shook his head again and turned to Bettis. “On my birthday. That’s about it.”

“Did he call today?”

“Yeah. He told me happy birthday and asked if I liked the kite. He said he dropped it off in the night.”

Bettis nodded. “And did you tell him you like the kite? What did you say?”

“I didn’t see it. There wasn’t anything inside the front door like he said.”

Bettis stood and locked his eyes on the house on the corner. A siren sounded in the distance. It grew louder. “What did your dad say then?”

James stood and followed the cop’s gaze to his house. “He started swearing and said someone must have stolen it and he’d get me another one. He wanted to talk to my mom.”

“Did she talk to him?”

“For a minute, then she said he couldn’t come over and she hung up.”

“And then what happened?”

“She started crying,” James said. “I told her someone stole my present and he was going to bring me another one. Then she told me to come over here.”

Bettis reached back and touched the Glock, reassuring himself that it was close. “Where does your dad live?” he asked.

“Over on Clayborn,” James said.

“Does he have a car?” Bettis stepped to block the boy’s view of the house as James described a rusting pickup that squealed around the corner and stopped. Close behind came a police cruiser with lights flashing and siren blaring.

James lurched down the steps. Bettis was quicker. He grabbed the boy and pulled him close.


This story first appeared in Bright Flash Literary Review in 2020.

The past is downstairs

Bern pedaled at a constant cadence of 75 rpm in the lower level of the main Smith Compound residence. A video screen in front of him showed the scene from a camera making its way along a trail somewhere in a rain forest in Costa Rica. His background music faded to nothing, then into Jim Morrison singing about the end of something.

What’s ending? What came before? Was I this high the last time I heard the song or is that my imagination? I don’t think it was what Frank and I listened to in his basement somewhere back in our long ago but who can remember something like that after a few hits of black Afghan? The hot dogs F boiled up didn’t last long. I’ll never forget that part. Exactly which song was playing doesn’t matter, but I always wonder what happened to F after that and if he had indeed killed himself and why no one ever told me. I hope I wasn’t responsible because I wasn’t a better friend. It’s not that I’m high now, because I’m not, but the sync between the video and The End is just too fitting down here. I’m trippin’ and seeing so many things in a different way as the trail bends left and right and climbs above the greenery and across one footbridge and on to another and then I’m in another basement looking for the Christmas presents Rosemary and Dr. Bobby had hidden in the crawl space, on the far side from the stairs so we had to go around the furnace where the Devil lived if we wanted to peek. There was no demon in the next few basements. Just memories of hiding and imagining and talking on the phone beneath my sisters’ bedroom, and sweeping and mopping and checking to see how much oil was left and if termites had left more tracks, and long-forgotten photo albums, and a bobby whistle and a roller skate key that I still carry around sometimes in case of an emergency and to help me remember even though some things can never be forgotten.

If only The End had lasted a little longer.

B.J.

Horror in two sentences?

Checking on his long-neglected author profile, the writer could not let the question go unanswered: Can you tell us a two-sentence horror story?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Conrad woke to a pleasant whiff of sawdust and the buzz of a blade tearing through floorboards. He rolled out of bed in the darkness, straight into the abyss.

Image by Alexander Antropov from Pixabay

Another made day for a writer

Last month I posted something about how some news from an online journal made my day. I said it was about getting a story published and that the story “may or may not have something to do with a kite.”

It has to do with a little boy, some other people, and something about a kite.

Here it is:

The Missing Kite

Read on, my friends.

B.J.