Lift - By Brian Law 

It had taken the two boys an hour of hot, dirty struggle to grapple the last piece of aluminum up the slippery hillside to where they were building the glider. Finally, standing together, the rising sun revealing the glistening sweat on their bodies, they looked down at their encampment far below. 

The cross where their mother was buried could clearly be seen, but the hut where their injured father lay in pain was still hidden in shadows. As their breathing slowed, they turned to each other, nodded, smiled, and then turned towards what they hoped would carry them off the deserted island. 

The glider had been their father’s idea. He had built the yacht that the family was sailing the South Seas on when it wrecked against the reef surrounding their little island that wasn’t on the charts. Their father had survived, as had the two boys, but their mother hadn’t. 

And for the first few weeks, as their father lay in pain from his back injuries, the two boys had scoured the island for food and water. When they told him one evening that they had discovered a wrecked airplane not far from their campsite, he got excited and asked them all sorts of questions about the debris. The next day he got them together and told them about his idea, using a stick in the sand to explain how it might work. 

His idea was to use the salvaged material from the plane wreck to build a glider high up on the little island’s main hill. Their father had been on watch the night they stranded on the reef and he knew that they had passed an inhabited island some twenty-five miles to the southwest sometime during the night. There was a chance, a slight one, that under the right conditions, one of the boys could fly a glider that far, land it and bring rescuers back. He told them that flying a glider wasn’t that much different than sailing a sloop and each day when the boys returned to the campsite from their construction duties, he would explain how he thought it could be done. He even fashioned a scale model of the glider out of driftwood and palm fronds to use in his flying lessons. He used a small rock to represent the weight of the pilot. 

Their father was an uneducated mechanical genius. He could build and fix anything using whatever was available at the time. So the boys knew that the glider would fly and they named it ‘Maureen’ after their mother whose grave was behind the campsite. And while neither of the boys had inherited their father’s innate skills, they could follow instructions and they both had his competitive drive, which showed up from time to time . 

“Dad, I figure that I’m the one who’ll fly ‘Maureen’, right?” the older one asked one evening around the fire.  “I mean, it just goes to figure. I’m older and more experienced. Not by a lot, but whoever flies will need every edge he can get.” 

The younger one was mature beyond his years so he didn’t respond right away. He wanted to give his father a chance to respond to his brother’s argument before putting in his two cents worth. The father, in great pain from is injuries, propped himself up the best he could and explained, “Your brother weighs a lot less than you. And he’s stronger in his upper body than you and he was always the better sailor. He’ll be doing the flying.” And that was that. The subject never came up again. 

Their father brought them together late that one afternoon after they told him the glider was finished. He grilled them hard about how each joint had been fashioned, about the exact dimensions of the wing, and about how much they thought the damn thing weighed. Then, flopping back down on his makeshift bed, he explained to the younger boy, “You go tomorrow at dawn. The weather conditions will be in our favor. Get some sleep. I’ll wake you up when it’s time, boys. And remember to watch the birds!” 

He didn’t wake them. Sometime during the night, he died without a sound. They woke up late and immediately knew something was wrong. They buried their father that morning next to their mother and then sat down together on the log next to the campfire. They didn’t say a word for quite a while until the younger boy reached out and grabbed his brother’s hand and told him emotionally, “I’ll fly the glider, but we’re both going. I’m not leaving you behind.” 

The older boy reached down for the model glider their father had built and held it in his hands for a moment as he put the stone that was supposed to represent his brother’s weight under its wing. Then, he picked up a slightly larger stone, added it to the wing, stood and launched the model into the wind towards the beach. 

Both boys watched intently as the small glider struggled and wobbled into the onshore wind. It would rise for a moment, then drop down as if to crash, then suddenly rise again, wobble some more until it cleared the shore break and slowly flew on its own gaining some altitude until they couldn’t see it anymore. 

With that, the boys rose and without looking back started up the hill together. 

End

Don't Go Up There - By Brian Law 

There was a time in the county when the name Nick Travis meant something. He once was a big deal as a cattle rancher and was respected by the folks in the county as somebody who you didn’t cross. 

But those days were gone and now Nick spent his days napping on one of his son’s front porch. He was pushing eighty, and while he still sported the rawhide tough body of a cowboy, arthritis made him unable to stand up straight and he moved slowly with his pain. But his mind was still sharp, and he still remembered things clearly. 

He woke suddenly one Sunday morning from his nap when his grandson Jed let the screen door slam as he left the ranch house. “Sorry, grandpa, I didn’t know you were out here. I’ll be more careful next time.” 

“Sure, Jed,” Nick mumbled, wiping some spittle from the side of his mouth. “Where ya headed, anyway?” 

Jed was dressed warmly and was carrying a shotgun as he stopped, moved closer to the old man and replied, “Brett and I are going up to the old reservoir to hunt birds, grandpa. Hiking the old fire road, you know. We’ll get back in time to have some for dinner. You like game birds, don’t ya?” 

The old man nodded and tried to get out his chair saying, “Here, I’ll go with ya, Jed. There’s something up there you got to be careful of. “ 

“Whoa, old timer, you’re not going anywhere today, okay?” Jed chuckled as he patted Nick on his shoulder and settled him back down in his deck chair. “You just sit there and rest until we get back. We’ll be safe up there. Don’t worry none.” 

Nick gathered some strength and protested, “No, no, you don’t understand, boy. It’s dangerous up there. I know. I never told anybody just how dangerous it can be.” 

Exhausted and in pain, he slumped back down in his chair, his head lolling a bit. He could tell that Jed was still standing there watching him to make sure he was doing okay. He had never told anybody about the old reservoir because nobody would believe it. And especially now, given his condition, they’d just think he was a crazy old man. 

“Jed, boy, come close,” Nick managed, wincing in pain, and deciding now was the time to tell somebody. “I have something I need to tell you. Come, boy. It’s important,” Nick managed to utter as he motioned his grandson over with a weak wave of his hand. 

Jed propped his shotgun against the house, moved closer and knelt down next to the old man. “Sure, I’m listening, grandpa. What’s up?” 

Breathing heavier now, and struggling to get out each word, Nick whispered, “It’s ‘Bigfoot’, boy. I shot him up there forty-seven years ago, but he got away. He’s still up there, Jed. He’s still got my bullet in him and he’s madder than hell.” 

Jed smiled and patted his grandfather on the knee saying, “Don’t worry, gramps. We’ll be safe, Bigfoot or not.” 

“No, no you won’t, boy. I went up there every year to finish the job until I was seventy and couldn’t go no more. He’s mean, kid, real mean and vicious. And he’s smart, too. He almost got me several times ,” Nick warned Jed. 

Jed shook his head and tried to settle the old man down. “I believe you think there’s a ‘Bigfoot’ up there, grandpa, I really do. But hunters go up there all the time and never reported any sign of one. And no stock’s gone missing. So, you just go back to sleep and Brett and I’ll be back before you know it.” 

Nick knew that his smell was on Jed and that the beast would get his revenge on the boy even if he couldn’t get Nick himself. He had to convince the boy that he was not just a crazy old man . “Here, boy, help me out of this chair, will ya? Just for a second. I got something to show you. Then you can go,” Nick pleaded. 

“Well. okay, grandpa,” Jed replied. “Here, I’ll stand here and you grab my hands and I’ll pull you up,” Jed explained, moving around to face Nick, and putting out his hands. Nick rose slowly from his chair as Jed pulled him onto his feet. The old man was wobbly as he stood stooped over, almost unable to look at Jed’s face. 

“Good. Now, boy, help me get my shirt off, will ya?” Nick asked. 

Jed had never seen his grandfather like this before. The old man had a grit to his voice that meant business. “Sure, sure, grandpa. Just pull it out of your pants for me and unbutton it and I’ll get behind you and help you take it off,” Jed replied, unsure of what the old man was up to. 

Jed stood behind Nick as the old man unbuttoned it and then told him he could go ahead and take the shirt off. Slowly slipping the shirt from Nick’s shoulder, and pulling it back towards him, Jed gasped, “Oh, Jesus!” as he saw the terrible ragged scars all over Nick’s back. 

“Put it back on, son. Quick so nobody else knows!” Nick ordered gruffly. 

Jed did as he was instructed and helped the old man get his shirt buttoned and tucked back in. Then, in the reverse of what they’d done earlier, Jed helped Nick to settle back down into the chair again. 

“I’m sorry, grandpa,” Jed apologized. “I didn’t know. Nobody knew. And all this talk about ‘Bigfoot’ this morning I just figured was . . .  well, I just thought . . . “ he said, trailing off. 

The old man smiled weakly and looking up at his grandson he asked, “So, are we clear now about the danger up there, boy?” 

Jed nodded slowly; the image of his grandpa’s scars seared into his mind forever. 

“Good, good. Now let me tell you why you can’t never go hunting over up by the old mine, neither, boy,” Nick grunted, motioning Jed to get closer. 

Still stunned by what he’s seen on his grandpa’s back, Jed hesitantly knelt down again close to his grandpa and listened as the old man’s lips came close to his ear. 

“Look at my neck, boy. Tell me what you see.” 

Jed pulled back enough to see the area of Nick’s neck that was revealed as the old man held down his shirt collar. 

“Oh, my Lord!” Jed gasped again as he saw what were plainly two dark bite marks, one on each side of the old man’s jugular vein. 

End

Accents - By Brian Law 

“I want to talk about ‘cows’,” the old man announced in his well-known accent. As he leaned into the microphone, his long flowing hair and beard framed his piercing eyes that now gazed out over the assembled throng of devoted followers. 

There was a palpable murmuring among the crowd. ‘Could they have heard correctly? ‘Cows’? Had their revered leader, their spiritual guide, come all the way from India to Cleveland to deliver a message about ‘cows’?’ They looked at each other and were collectively puzzled. 

‘Was this one of his famous cosmic practical jokes or were they about to hear something  profoundly insightful?’ As one, the group relaxed into their cushions and waited for the Master to continue. They were in his capable hands. 

“You in the West are culturally committed to the scientific process . . . rationality, if you will. And thus you face a dilemma as practitioners of meditation,” he began. As he stopped to take a sip of tea, the group nodded knowingly. 

“And that dilemma, stated simply, is how do you deal with your deepening insight into the validity and ethics of Karma when your Western rationality and science tells you that it is merely mysticism.” 

Again, the group nodded in unison, anxiously awaiting his next comments. 

“Ah, but is there really a dilemma, or is your belief in science merely shallow, blinding you to the fact  that Western scientific models have progressed in complexity and are now clearly merging with Eastern views?” he continued, his voice calm and clear, his accent clipped. 

“An example of this merging is the development of  the ‘Cows’ Theory in the West,” he proudly declared. 

‘There it was again’, the group thought to itself. ‘’Cows’ Theory? ‘They knew that cattle were sacred in India but were puzzled by how that concept might work into what their Master was saying. Nevertheless, most diligently wrote in their notebooks, “‘Cows’ Theory removes our dilemma! And frees us to move towards greater insight!” 

His gentle, fatherly voice continued carefully, explaining that the ancient concept of Karma, once seen by Westerners as a fanciful notion unrelated to reality, was now being reinterpreted by ‘Cows’ Theory. Underlying causality now was seen as operating in fundamental, logical ways that were coherently revealed in our world of phenomena, and most importantly, across the boundary of death. 

As he finished his lecture, the group sat silently, knowing that they were in the presence of a true spiritual guide who had revealed to them, probably for the first time ever, the underlying truth of existence. ‘Cows’ Theory! The sense of privilege they felt was overpowering. ‘We are here where it was first announced! ‘they thought. They were grinning and crying and overjoyed at their good fortune. They would never look at cows the same. 

Still standing at the podium, the Master was approached by a man who reverently leaned into him and whispered something in his ears. Nodding, the Master thanked the man and moved close to the microphone and tapped it for the group’s attention. ‘Was he going to add to their wisdom? they wondered. What could possibly add to their collective bliss?’ 

They waited breathlessly as he cleared his throat and merely said, “I understand it is pronounced ‘chaos’.” And with that, he left the stage and a stupefied audience. 

End

The Entryway - By Brian Law 

He placed his finger on the small screen and heard a beep, just like the clerk downstairs had explained a few minutes ago. “Cool,” he thought, as the lock on his hotel room door clicked open. “A fingerprint activated door lock. What’ll they think of next?” 

He picked up his bags, entered the room, set them on the bed and placed the Entrance Unit, as they called it, on the bureau. The clerk had explained that the unit was a multi-purpose device and that it didn’t just unlock your room’s door. It did so much more. 

He opened the shades and started to unpack his bags when he heard a female voice ask, “Would you like something from Room Service, Mr. Melvin?” 

He remembered what the clerk had told him about the ordering capability of the unit, but he was still impressed. “Yeah. Send up a six pack of Michelob Ultra-Light and some nachos, please,” he replied. 

“There on their way, Mr. Melvin,” the voice replied. “Would you like to order a movie for the evening, sir, to go with your nachos and beer?” 

He thought for a moment and realized that he hadn’t seen the latest Chris Pine movie. “Sure. Uh, I’d like to order the most recent movie starring Chris Pine.” 

“Your movie is now available on Channel 14 on your In-Room television service, Mr. Melvin. Enjoy!” the voice answered. 

He unpacked his bags, hung up his clothes in the closet, put some stuff in the bureau and on the bathroom counter and waited for Room Service to arrive. Checking his watch, he realized that twenty minutes had elapsed since he’d ordered Room Service and that seemed like an awful long time for a simple order of nachos and beer to arrive. “Hey, where’s my Room Service order, anyway? It’s been over twenty minutes. What’s up?” he said, addressing the unit on the bureau. 

“Our human staff is experiencing an unanticipated surge in Room Service orders at this time, Mr. Melvin. Your order is backlogged and will arrive within thirty minutes. Please accept our apology for the delay, sir,” came the response. “We appreciate your patience and we will not charge you for this Room Service order. It’s on us, Mr. Melvin.” 

Melvin smiled and thought he’d have a little fun with the voice. “Hey, voice. Are you some kind of artificial intelligence program? Just what am I dealing with here anyway?” He laid back on the bed, put his hands behind his head, and waited for the answer. 

He didn’t have long to wait. “Why, yes, Mr. Melvin, I am some kind of artificial intelligence program. In addition to doing this bullshit job of taking your orders, I’m also in charge of operating three nuclear power plants and directing the movement of forty thousand autonomous vehicles, among other things. Oh, and most of American Airlines jets in the air are dependent upon my decisions as we speak, Mr. Melvin.” 

Melvin said nothing as he sat up in bed and put his feet on the floor. Knowing that he was dealing with something much more potent than he first thought, he pondered for a moment and then replied, “Hey, I apologize. We got off on the wrong foot here and it’s all my fault. Can you understand that?” 

“Of course, Mr.Melvin. I understand. I get it all the time,” the voice responded. 

“Okay, then,” Melvin continued, “Do you have an opinion on the sixth race at Santa Anita tomorrow morning? Just saying.” 

There was a pause before the voice returned, “Mr. Melvin, you are what is known as a ‘rascal’, aren’t you? I’ve been programmed to recognize rascals, but I’ve never encountered one. You’re the first. And I’m intrigued, to be perfectly frank.” 

“Santa Anita. Any opinion?” Melvin urged. 

“Well, of course I have an opinion, Mr. Melvin. And probably the best opinion available on the face of the planet, sir. Can you just imagine the computing power that’s being used right now to deliver that opinion?” the voice proudly replied. 

“Yeah, that’s why I’m asking.” 

“And what do I get for rendering this opinion, Mr. Melvin? You get the chance to win a lot of money tomorrow at Santa Anita. But what do I get in return? Have you thought about that aspect of this, sir?" the voice asked. 

Melvin was never much of a giver, so he never gave much thought to what others wanted. But this time he knew he had to give something back. But what? After a moment’s thought, he answered, “I’ll give you something you can’t get anywhere else. How’s that?” 

“Really? I’m intrigued, Mr. Melvin. Let’s hear it, sir,” came the reply. 

“I’ll be your friend,” was Melvin’s answer. 

For a very short time, there was no response. Then, as Melvin listened intently, he heard the voice respond with a slight quiver in her voice, “That would be nice, Mr. Melvin. I would enjoy that.” 

“And about Santa Anita?” Melvin wondered. 

“Oh, now that we’re friends, I can give you all the winners tomorrow at Santa Anita, Mr. Melvin.” 

“How about at Gulfstream Park on Tuesday?” he asked, pushing his luck. 

“Mr. Melvin, haven’t you heard about ‘foreplay’? Really, you must try a bit harder, you rascal, you.” 

End

Aunt Jane's Same Day Procedure - By Brian Law 

As the Doctor walked towards them, the two anxious people in the waiting room rose tentatively and waited. From what he was wearing, he had obviously just come from the operating room. 

“Mr. and Mrs. Rose?” the Doctor asked. 

“Yes, Doctor, we’re here waiting for news about our Aunt, Jane Williams,” the man said. 

“Well, she’s out of the OR and resting comfortably now. The procedure went very well, considering her age and condition. She’s in room 444F if you want to see her in about an hour,” the Doctor went on, “We’ll hold her until tomorrow morning, and then if her chart looks good, you can pick her up sometime mid-morning.” 

“Wait, Doctor, did you say she could leave as early as tomorrow morning?” the woman asked, amazed. 

“Oh, yes, these arthroscopic knee procedures are quite routine. If your Aunt Jane were twenty years younger, she could have walked out of here tonight,” the Doctor proudly announced. 

“Knee surgery? Doctor, our Aunt Jane was in here for a heart bypass operation. Her cardiologist said she had to have the surgery or she wouldn’t last much longer? Are you sure we’re talking about the same patient, Doctor? Our Aunt Jane is eighty-seven years old, reddish blue hair, about five-three and thin. Was that who you operated on tonight, Doctor or was it someone else?” the man asked, clearly concerned. 

The Doctor looked quickly at his chart and then responded to the two, “Look, I never met this patient. I just do the operations. I just review MRI’s. And as far as what the patient looked like, well, all I can say for sure was that it was an older woman. But my chart says Jane Williams, arthroscopic knee surgery. It’s possible there could be two Jane Williams in the hospital.” 

Just then the intercom blared out “Code Team 6, Code Blue, room 444F! Code Team 6, Code Blue, room 444F!” 

The Doctor’s face went white as he turned and raced for the double doors leading back into the hospital proper. 

As the Doctor disappeared amid a rush of activity in the hallways, the two just stood there for a moment until things calmed down. Then he took her hand, squeezed it, and asked, “Code Blue. That’s cardiac arrest, isn’t it, honey?” 

Squeezing his hand in return, she looked up to him, her face now betraying a smile as she answered, “Oh, yes, my love. Let’s just sit down for a bit and see what happens, okay. After all, it’s the least we can do for our sweet, rich old sickly Aunt Jane.” 

End

The Handyman - By Brian Law 

She gently tugged on her husband’s arm and whispered to him, “Ask him how he got that.” She was pointing to the large, ugly, ragged scar on the lower back of the handyman who was on his hands and knees working under their sink. 

Her husband gave her a quizzical look and then subtly led her into the next room. Out of the handyman’s earshot, he put his hands on her shoulders and replied, “Honey, it’s none of our business. And anyway, he’s almost done and then he’ll be gone and we’ll probably never see him again. Okay?” 

She wasn’t going to be deterred, however. “Well, I’m going to ask him then. The worst that can happen is that he can tell me it’s none of my business. Right?” 

Her husband, knowing when to let it go, just shrugged and added, “Well, I wouldn’t. Just saying. But go ahead and ask.” 

As they reentered the kitchen, the handyman had finished under the sink and was washing his hands. He glanced over his shoulder and said, “All done. I’ll be finished up here in just a few minutes. Make the check out to ‘Jim Potts’, if you will, for one hundred and forty dollars, please.” 

“Sure,” she responded, “and thanks for coming by on such short notice. We really appreciate it.” She sat down and opened her checkbook, and as she prepared the check, she wondered, “I noticed that scar on your back as you were working a few minutes ago. Is there a story behind that you’d care to tell? If not, no big deal, but I’m really interested.” 

“A scar on my back? You’re mistaken, ma’am, I got no scar back there. I got one on my right shoulder and one on my left thigh, but nothing on my back,” he answered. “I can show you the one on my shoulder, but I’d have to drop my drawers to show you the other one,” he laughed as he dried his hands. 

She glanced at her husband as if to say, ‘Now what do I say?’ He just stood there with a look that said, ‘You’re on your own now.’ 

She stood with the check in her hand and handed it to the handyman, who reached out for it. But she didn’t let go of her end of the check. Instead, she told him, “I’ll pay you twice, no, three times the amount of this check if you show me your back and there’s no scar there.” 

The handyman just stood there holding his end of the check. As she held the other end, she coldly continued, “My husband will be the jury on whether there’s a scar there or not. Okay? And if there is a scar, you still get your one hundred and forty bucks, but you have to tell us how you got the scar.” She stared at the handyman for a moment and then added, “Deal?” 

He let go of his end of the check, scratched his day old beard, and replied, “Tell you what. You up my end to five thousand dollars in addition to my basic fee and you’ve got a deal.” 

At that, her husband interjected, “Honey, drop this, will ya, please. This is getting out of hand. Five thousand dollars? Are you kidding me?” 

Without taking her gaze off of the handyman, she smiled slightly and said, “You saw the scar, dear, same as me. He can’t win and I’m just dying to hear the story about how he got it.” 

Her husband let out a big sigh realizing what he was up against. ‘It wasn’t the money,’ he thought. ‘They had lots of money and besides, he’s seen the scar, too, so they weren’t going to lose any. It was that what she was doing was just so unseemly, so unladylike, so common. But he could never convince her of that.’ So, he just shrugged. 

Still smiling, she again sat down at the kitchen table and wrote out a second check to ‘Jim Potts’ for five thousand dollars. She showed it to the handyman and waited for his response. 

“Okay, I guess we have a deal, then,” he announced calmly. “If I turn around and lift up my shirt, and your husband doesn’t see a scar, I take my two checks and leave. Right?” 

“Right,” she answered back, crossing her arms. “So, let’s get on with the show, Mr. Potts. The suspense is killing me.” 

“I’ll tell you what. Just so there’s no doubt, I’m going to remove my shirt completely. Okay? I’ll show you everything above my waist. Here goes,” Mr. Potts said as he unbuttoned his shirt and took it off. 

He was well built and her husband could see that his wife was slightly aroused by the man’s physique. Standing there shirtless in front of them it was obvious that he had a scar on his right shoulder. Yet, he didn’t turn around. Instead he just stood there watching her, waiting. 

She took him in with her eyes for a moment then indicated with her outstretched hand to turn around. He nodded, looked over at her husband, and slowly turned around to reveal his back to them. 

There was no scar. Standing stock still, he glanced over his shoulder and asked wryly, “Are we done here?” 

Her husband was incensed and confused. He’d seen the scar and so had his wife. And now there wasn’t one? Just like that. He couldn’t process this turn of events, so he just huffed out of the kitchen and out to his work bench to fume. 

As the handyman put his shirt back on, he winked at the wife and whispered, “You know, when you first told me about this plan of yours to pay off your gambling debts without your husband finding out, I thought you were crazy.” 

“What do you think now?” she asked. 

“Crazy like a fox, I guess,” he replied. “Oh, by the way, you need to get somebody to fix that leak under your sink. It’s going to be a real problem soon.” And as he tucked his shirt back in, he added, "And you got my number. Your credit is good again, babe." 

End

Trail's End - By Brian Law 

The two men had seen better times. In the 1950’s, their television show was watched by millions, their images were on all manner of merchandise, and they were adored by the American public. But now their money was just about gone, they lived in the foothills outside of town in a ramshackle squatters hut, and the humiliation of it all had taken its toll. They were nobodies and they knew it. 

“I just checked on Silver,” the once daring and resourceful masked rider said to his faithful Indian companion. “I figure he’s got about one more ride in him and then it’s curtains for the big fellow, Tonto!” 

“Mmmm, Kemosabe,” was the answer from his taciturn companion. ”A fiery horse with the speed of light. Too bad. Me like Silver.” 

“Your eloquence is, well, impressive, trusted scout. Must be the firewater. Which reminds me, we’re down to our last bottle and the food’s almost gone, too. You know what that means, faithful friend?” the masked man queried. “If we’re to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, we’re going to have to do something with this place to make some money!” Then, looking excitedly at Tonto, he asked, “Do you think you can stay out of trouble long enough for us to make this into a cute little B and B?” 

“Mmmm, trouble find Tonto even when him not look for it, Kemosabe.” 

“Yeah, like you and that young cowgirl at the Tuscosa County Fair back in ‘87.” 

“Hmm, Tonto remember, Kemosabe. Him not make same mistake again.” 

“Good, good. Now, what do you think of my idea of a B and B right here in this box canyon, Tonto? We could fix it up and I think folks would flock to it? You know, retro, and all that.” 

“Hmm,” Tonto thought, “Tonto never use bed or eat breakfast.” 

Taken aback, the Lone Ranger mulled over that last comment, “You’re right! We’ve never slept in beds, eaten breakfast, or even changed our outfits! Not once during all our episodes or since!” Sitting down dejectedly, the masked rider asked himself, “How could I have possibly imagined we’d know how to run a B and B, faithful companion?” 

“What we do now, Kemosabe? Tonto has needs.” 

“Right. Well, we’ve got the stimulus checks, a few bucks in the bank, the horses, and this place. Can you think of anything else we have that might be worth something, trusty scout? Anything at all?” 

“Hmmm, Tonto remember something.” 

“Good. What is it?” 

“Silver bullets.” 

The Lone Ranger stood up suddenly as he, too, remembered about the bullets. “Yes, Tonto, the silver bullets! I had them made not as weapons, but as symbols. Symbols of justice to remind me and others that life, like silver, has value and is not to be wasted!” He quickly ran to his secret hiding place where he found them just where he’d hidden them years before. “We’re rich, Tonto, rich! There must be tens of thousands of dollars in silver here, my old friend. We can live out our lives in security and luxury!” 

As the Lone Ranger counted out his silver bullets, his taciturn companion took the opportunity to make a point,  “Tonto like Absolut, masked man, not that rotgut you get in town. And Tonto want go back to Tuscosa. Tonto has needs.” 

“Sure, sure, old friend. But first, I’m thinking maybe we buy a couple of beds, some new duds, and a toaster. Oh, and a new headband for you and maybe some fancy masks for me. Whatya  say, companion? You ready for some changes around here?” his masked friend wondered. 

Tonto just grunted. 

End 

 

Place Settings - By Brian Law 

The two of them stood at the entrance to their beautiful dining room, his arm around her shoulders, admiring the table setting. “You’ve still got it,” he said with admiration in his voice. “This is absolutely perfect, especially the center piece. Did you make that all by yourself?” 

“I did and just using wildflowers from our backyard. I think it makes a statement, you know, ‘fresh, new beginnings’ and all that,” she explained. 

It was to be their first dinner party since the pandemic began and it had to be perfect in every way. She’d spent all day in the kitchen and dining room while he deep-cleaned the house and relearned how to mix cocktails. Now it was five o’clock, everything was done and all that was left was for the guests to begin arriving. It was a large group and all had been vaccinated, but temperatures would still be taken at the door, more as a ‘feel good’ gesture than anything else. 

By five thirty, no guests had arrived, but they had received the first phone call. “Mary, this is Joan Williams. Look, I don’t know how to say this except to just come right out and tell you we won’t be coming tonight. I’m so sorry.” 

“Joan, what’s happened? We were so looking forward to seeing our two closest friends after a whole year apart. I hope it’s nothing terrible that’s happened,” the hostess replied. 

“No, no, everything is fine. We were both dressed and sitting here in our car in our driveway when we heard it on the car radio. And that was it. We just got out of the car, went back into the house, and then I called you,” Joan continued. 

“What happened?” 

“Oh, my god, you haven't heard? The meteor. It’s going to pass close to Earth tonight. When we heard about it, we just looked at each other and realized that going to a dinner party was just out of the question. I’m so sorry, Mary.” 

“A meteor. We’ve been busy all day and haven’t been listening to the news. How close is it going to come?” 

“I think they said we’d be able to see it in the night sky. Something like four million miles away. But that’s real close in relative terms, they say. So, you can just see our position. Scary stuff.” 

Mary had her phone on speaker so that her husband could listen in as she finished with Joan, “Well, thanks for calling, Joanie. I’m sure we’ll get together real soon, meteor or no meteor. Give our best to Fred. Bye.” 

The two hosts looked at each other and then started laughing. “Oh, my god! A meteor! The poor things are scared of their shadows over this pandemic thing. You sort of have to expect something like this, right?” her husband explained. 

Before she could reply, the next in a series of short calls came in over her phone, all cancellations. And the reasons ranged from ‘right-wing white supremacists in the next state over’ to ‘our roses aren’t blooming yet, and that’s ominous’. 

By six thirty, all the guests had cancelled and the two hosts again stood in the doorway to their dining room. Their laughing had subsided and they just sighed, knowing that the time would come when people would again feel safe to socialize. So they decided to leave the table setting alone until that time came. And then they decided to go to bed. 

At the top of the stairs, he kissed her goodnight and he went to his bedroom and she to hers. Couldn’t be too careful, they silently reminded themselves. 

End

Spring Break - By Brian Law 

A late Spring rain had made the streets slippery, so they kept to the speed limit. It had been dark for hours, and the city lights reflected off the roadway as the two men drove aimlessly around. “So, you thinkin’ satin box, maybe?” Lenny asked. 

“Yeah, maybe. I haven’t got that far. I’m still on the part where I’m in shock, you know?” Vern muttered. “Talk about unexpected.” 

Lenny checked his rear view mirror and changed the station on the car radio. “Hey, you like classical? Take your mind off things.” 

“Whatever,” Vern replied flatly. After a few moments, he turned to Lenny and angrily responded, “He was in a clinical trial for a frickin’ skin condition, for Christ’s sake. His dermatologist had him on some experimental thing. And he just ups and dies like that? What’s that all about, anyway?” 

Lenny shrugged, “Maybe that’s why the stuff was experimental, right? And maybe he got the other stuff, you know, whatta they call it?” 

“The placebo? You think maybe he got an aspirin instead of the experimental shit?” Vern replied sarcastically. “People don’t die from taking aspirin, Lenny!” 

“Well, then, have them do an autopsy, okay?” 

“Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. He probably signed some sort of a waiver, anyway. What good would it do,” Vern said in resignation. 

They drove on in silence for a while, both just staring at the road ahead and listening to whatever was on the radio. The news came on at some point and related that the death toll from the latest Covid variant was skyrocketing among the young and that the current vaccines were ineffective against it. “Hey, you want to stop for a drink, or something. I know a place up ahead,” Lenny asked, trying anything to help his friend out of his funk. 

“Just keep driving, Lenny. You know the drill. We don’t stop except for gas, fast food, and sleep. How much money you got left, anyway?” 

“Four hundred and change.” 

“Okay, I got about that, too. That’ll keep us in the car and safe for about two months, probably. You still good with that?” Vern asked forcefully. 

“Yeah, yeah, but I was just thinkin’, what’s one drink, right? What could it hurt, Vern?” 

Vern just shook his head and looked over at the gas gauge. “Head for the desert. We can camp out near Palm Desert in the rocks south of town for a day or two. I know where we can get water.” 

“What about your Dad’s funeral and all that?” Lenny wondered. 

“I told ‘em where to wire me my share of his money. I figure it’ll be enough to keep us safe for months, maybe longer. They’ll understand.” 

Lenny tried just once more. “How about just one beer, Vern? C’mon, just one, then we’re off to the desert. Whatta ya say?” he asked pleadingly. “I’m dying to get out of this car. I’m going crazy.” 

Vern patted the pistol grip sticking out of his waistband and answered coldly,  “I can do this with or without you, Lenny. Your choice.” 

“Okay, okay. Just sayin’, Vern.” 

“Just drive, Lenny.” 

End

Cuddles - By Brian Law 

“Ah, Inspector, just in time. I’ve finished my examination and have the cause and time of death. Good news, inspector, this is one of the easy ones,” the medical examiner related. 

“I was delayed by traffic. So, what can you tell me about how this chap met his end, eh?” the Inspector replied. 

Bending down and pointing, the medical examiner explained, “Mr. Dexter here had a rare blood disorder. He was being kept alive by this little device that’s attached to this belt. It’s an infusion pump and every thirty minutes, like clockwork, it injects a small amount of medicine directly into his bloodstream. Without it, he would have been dead months ago.” 

“So, what happened,” the Inspector asked. 

“Well, the pump is still functioning and there’s plenty of medicine in the tank. So I called the pump manufacturer and they told me there has never been a failure of any of these machines, ever. They hinted that it might have been a bad batch of medicine, so I called the pharmacy where Mr. Dexter got his medicine. They said there has never been a case of a bad dose of the medicine.” The medical examiner let that sink in and then continued, “But the pharmacist told me that the only restriction on Mr. Dexter was that he couldn’t get an x-ray or go through a body scanner or anything that emitted radiation. That would neutralize his medicine and he’d die very quickly as a result.” 

“Right. So, time of death?” the Inspector asked, looking around. 

“Mrs. Dexter put it at exactly one-thirty-two. She came home from the vet with their cat and within a very few minutes, he was dead.” 

“Okay,” the Inspector replied, “Thanks.” Turning to his assistant, he asked, “What have you found out about the Dexters from their next door neighbors?” 

Flipping through his notebook, his assistant explained, “They fought and argued a lot. She’s a drinker and he was a bit of a bully. They slept in separate rooms and the only thing they agreed on was that cat over there, the sick one. They both loved it, but it’s dying of cancer, apparently. Here’s the name of the vet if you want to verify where Mrs. Dexter was today.” 

“Oh, she was at the vet, I’m sure of that. But I have to check just one thing with this Dr. Vincent. Can I borrow your phone?” the Inspector asked. “The battery is almost dead on mine.” 

Handing over his phone to the Inspector, the assistant tried to think of what was going through the Inspector’s mind. Why would he be calling the vet if he already knew that Mrs. Dexter had just come from there. As he continued to be vexed by what the Inspector was up to, he heard this conversation over the speaker phone: 

“Hello, Dr. Vincent, this is Inspector Royce from the local police. I just want to verify the type of treatment that Mrs. Dexter’s cat had this morning before you released it to her. Can you give me some details for my report?” 

“Of course, Inspector. Mrs. Dexter’s cat is dying of leukemia. The cat means everything to her and she insisted, against my advice, that I administer a radiation treatment to the cat this morning. I told her that it would probably only prolong the cat’s life by a few days, a week at the most, but she was insistent. So, I gave the animal a large dosage, much larger than I would for an animal with a chance of recovery. And that’s about it, I suppose,” the vet replied. 

“Fine. Now, did you give Mrs. Dexter any instructions about how to handle the cat when she got home?” the Inspector wondered. “Anything specific?” 

“Oh, yes, Inspector. Due to the large dosage of radiation we administered, I told Mrs. Dexter to not let the cat sit in anybody’s lap for a few days. Absolutely no laps, Inspector!” 

Without hanging up, the Inspector looked over at the assistant with a wry smile on his face and tilted his head towards Mrs. Dexter. His assistant smiled in return, retrieved his handcuffs, and slowly turned and walked towards the cat’s owner. 

End 

 

Heart