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

Making my day: Friday flash

It doesn’t take much to make my day lately.

Today, for example, I dropped my Colorado primary ballot in the box at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. That didn’t make my day, but the act of voting did give me some satisfaction as the next step in sending Sen. Cory Gardner from Washington, D.C., back to the Eastern Plains.

I voted on the way home from picking up my monitor and keyboard from the big building on a hill above Boulder where I’ve spent most of the last nine years doing my day job. After more than three months of working from my basement office, I finally accepted that it could be months if not years before I go back to the big building. A few people have returned so far, but most of us still don’t have that choice. My ultimate choice may be to work from home indefinitely, as much as I miss the view from Boulder.

That thing about retrieving my monitor and other stuff so I don’t have to use the company-issued laptop all by itself didn’t make my day either. It was a sad thing.

What made my day was having a little short story accepted for publication in an online journal. It took maybe 90 minutes to write a couple of months ago. After a handful of rejections, the first flash fiction I’ve written in years has found a home. It may or may not have something to do with a kite.

If you read my story when it’s published next month, it will take you however long it takes to read about 630 words. That’s the flash part – few words that go by fast.

Read on, my friends.

B.J.

Read a book – free on me!

I’m like a lot of people who have some extra time on their hands these days. Instead of taking the bus to work and back, I walk downstairs to work remotely and walk back up later. With all that commute time saved, I’ve been poking around and moping around here at The Smith Compound.

ebook cover

Today after work I Zoomed a friend to wish him happy birthday and catch up a little over a remote beer. His birthday was yesterday and a surprise party got canceled, like almost everything else. We adjust.

Anyhow, while I was poking (and moping) around earlier, I came across some free ebooks that I’ve been meaning to offer to whoever is interested. I have giveaway links for four (4) Detective Red Shaw novels, one for each of the next four readers who join my mailing list.

Which reminds me I haven’t actually sent anything to the fine folks on my list in quite a while. I did promise not to overdo it, but now I’ve got an idea for something that might work.

We shall see.

Read on, my friends, and keep your social distance.

B.J.