The Outsider

The bird swooped down and landed at Laura’s feet.

She watched it, as it cautiously hopped toward the seeds that laid scattered about. Pecking furiously, the bird worked quickly to open the sunflower seeds, and greedily ate the contents inside.

Laura laughed to herself as she watched. Sometimes she wondered what it was like to be a bird. It seemed that they always managed to find their way, no matter what. Perhaps there were always people like herself, who would make it a point to occassionally feed them.

Life hadn’t been the kindest. Laura beared the scars to prove it. Her jeans, ripped at the knees, where peppered in paint, sewn-on patches, and an oddly placed zipper. Each embellishment was a memory and a testament to her life.

Laura had lived off the kindness of strangers for many a year. The day she sprang from her abusive alcoholic father’s house, the open road was her home from then on. It had been two years since her dog London had passed, and she had yet to pick up another travel companion.

She kept his collar around one of the straps of her backpack, worn from hopping trains, and hitchiking on highways. Occasionally she would find herself lovingly stroking London’s collar, when she found herself missing him.

Laura remembered one night sleeping huddled under a bridge. Luckily, London was by her side, and barked when some creep tried to steal her shoes in the night. She never slept well. Vigilance was her only security, in a merciless world hellbent on catching her in a careless moment.

Eventually, a few other birds gathered around, to enjoy the little feast that Laura had provided. Scrounging around her bag, she pulled out a soda that she lifted from a nearby drugstore. Popping off the cap with her lighter, she let the cap hit the ground unceremoniously. She tilted her head back, as the cool drink hit the back of her throat.

She let out a loud belch, followed with a laugh, and stretched out her arms. Life was hard, but she was free. The birds were almost done eating their meal, as Laura gathered her things. She was headed to see the river, one last time before she had to catch a train. The road was calling again.

 

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Our Town

The thought of an impending flood terrified Erin.

She imagined a tsunami like wave, created from the non-stop torrential downpour, rushing in and covering the town. Then again, maybe like a clogged bathtub, the water would just rise and rise, until everything was deluged.

She didn’t know what to expect. All able-bodied young people, women and men, gathered together to place sandbags at strategic places. On the news, their eyes bore a sense of fierce determination, trepidation, and hope. This was our home. This was our town.

Erin was too young to help, and she had to watch over her younger siblings. Sarah and Taylor played together happily, unaware of the danger that was coming. Erin thought of her earliest memory of water. She was stomping around in puddles, while wearing her green and white polka dot rain boots.

Water was something that filled pools and bathtubs. Water was for water balloon fights and water parks. Water was the ingredient that made running through sprinklers, or drinking from garden hoses into a magic summer.

With each passing minute, as the raindrops congealed into violent rivers, water was now a threat. It had only been raining two whole days, but that was enough to push the town to its limit. The dam was under strain, and the outlets and basins had reached their breaking point.

The people were not giving up. No one wanted to evacuate just yet. Something could be done. Sandbags, faith, and tenacity would pull the town through. “Bring it on flood,” seemed to be the underlying spirit of the people, as they tirelessly worked together. They would hold fast.

Erin continued to watch the news anxiously, until she fell asleep on the couch. She awakened to her siblings sleeping next to her, cuddled under the burnt orange comforter. She heard the key in the door, and smiled with relief, as her parents walked through the door.

Everyone was home now. They would pull through. No matter the weather, no matter how bad the storm. This was home. This was her family.

 

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Iris

Iris stared at the broken plate that had shattered into several pieces, now lying at her feet on the floor. It had all happened so quickly. She didn’t think that her hands were so soapy, or that she had been moving too quickly, for the accident to occur. Still, the plate had missed its mark. Instead of landing safely in the dish rack, it was now nothing more than a mess to be swept away.

She rinsed the suds still lingering off of her hands, and turned off the tap. Next, she walked solemnly over to the utility closet, to collect the dustpan and broom. As Iris swept the pieces into the dustpan, she mused over the loss of the plate. It was a collector’s item, or so she thought. She had never spent the time to research the brand and decorations on it. However, she was convinced that it had to be of some finer value, because she picked it up at a thrift store for a very good price.

Iris enjoyed watching TV programs like The Antique Roadshow, and often dreamed of hitting pay dirt for purchasing a rare sought after item. She fancied herself being featured on the show, showing off the now broken plate, which would have been valued at $500 or more. Iris thought of all the things she could have done, if she hadn’t made such a stupid mistake.

She could have flown to Paris or Milan. She could have opened up an antiques shop in a quaint small town. She could have written books or given talks about how to find rare antique gems among the clutter in a thrift store. Now, all these dreams were as jagged and broken, as the pieces of plate being swept up to go into the garbage bin.

It didn’t matter to Iris, that the plate was in fact, simply a copy of an antique plate. She never bothered to do the research. Yet, she enjoyed painfully musing over her fantasies that couldn’t be helped, and would never come to pass.

After the plate was laid to rest in the bin, Iris walked over to the stove to make some tea. She put the tea kettle over a moderate flame, and took a seat at the small end table to wait. “Some day…” Iris thought out loud, as her eyes flitted around the menagerie of kitsch items littering her kitchen.

Candy Hunt

Janice quietly slipped out of bed. She crept past her parent’s bedroom, and slowly, stealthily made her way down the stairs. She was on a mission for a late night snack.

She pulled out the step-stool from out of the closet. Carefully she unfolded it, and placed it in front of the cabinets. The best treats were hidden on the very hard-to-reach, out-of-the-way, topmost shelf. With the aid of the step-stool, Janice reached the sugary contraband with ease.

She grabbed marshmallows, chocolate bars, jelly beans, and caramels. She was proud that she was able to do this so well, and so quietly. That’s when Janice let her early success get the best of her. There was a jar of lemon candies, sitting in a fancy etched glass jar. She just had to have some.

Janice thought she had a good grip on the jar, but it managed to slip out of her fingers. She watched mouth agape, as it splintered into pieces after a resounding crash. That is when the hallway light flicked on, putting a spotlight on the stairs. A door opened and closed, and the sound of heavy rushed footsteps hurriedly made their way down the steps.

She was caught. Janice quickly tried to get the broom to hide the mess, but there was no time. She crawled into the cabinet space under the sink, and waited.

“Is it a ghost or burglar Harry?” a woman’s voice asked.

“Well Nancy, I don’t see any signs of a break-in. So, I suspect it’s just a ghost.” Harry answered, while looking around. He swore that the cabinet space under the sink was slightly ajar, if just for a split second. Harry paused to see if anyone or anything would make a sound, and quickly give itself away.

After a few moments of silence, Harry swept up the mess of glass, and put away the other items. He rummaged in the refrigerator to get himself a glass of juice. Harry was thirsty after engaging a moment of heightened adrenaline.

Janice breathed a sigh of relief, as she heard the light switch click off, and footsteps trudging back up the stairs. She wondered who Harry and this woman were. Did her parent’s know that someone had moved into their house? Maybe she should call someone? But who?

Janice made her way into the living room and plunked down onto the sofa. She quietly mulled over what just happened. Digging into her pockets, she began popping some marshmallows into her mouth, which she had managed to hide away.

Eventually, Janice fell asleep on the couch. She kept thinking how strange it was, that some stranger, and not her parents, had come down stairs to investigate. Suddenly, she found herself remembering the accident at the pool, and the flashing lights and siren.

She was the ghost.

 

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