Shaved Legs and All: LGBT Pogrom

Nostalgia - By Mizeta Moon 

She was working on her essay about the days when every payment came by mail when her computer died. A time when the mail carrier was a person you talked to on your porch, and you baked them cookies on special occasions. There was no such thing as electronic wire transfer, hacking, identity theft, or funds being routed improperly. You knew your banker, grocer, the kids’ teacher by name, as well as the neighbors. She was comparing the faceless, fear-ridden society of the electronic age to times when children could walk to the store alone and bikes got left in the yard overnight without fear of theft. Generally speaking, people obeyed traffic laws and the nightly news wasn’t filled with murder, mayhem, and drug busts. Her essay wasn’t a lament about the loss of dignity and respect but an expression of the desire for a continual improvement of the human condition. She wondered if that was possible or if we were so used to greed and insensitivity ruling the world that it was now a permanent condition.

She thought about breaking out paper and pen or her grannie’s old typewriter but realized that would be a wasted effort since her essay had to be submitted by email. Sighing, she rose from her desk, grabbed her raincoat and purse, then trudged to her electric car after locking the front door and setting the alarms. A trip to Best Buy couldn’t be avoided. These days it was cheaper to buy a new unit rather than have one repaired–if you could even find an honest repair shop where the owner didn’t scan your browser history for information they could sell. Realizing she was putting herself in a bad mood with the direction of her thinking, she sat up straighter and started looking at the scenery.

It had rained most of the month, but at that moment there was a rainbow peeking out of a multi-hued cloudbank and thousands of geese beat their wings toward whatever destination they sought. Fields were waterlogged and dirt roads showed the passing of farm trucks on muddy tracks. She told Siri to turn on some relaxing light classical music, then nodded with pleasure when the first notes caressed her ears. She was just beginning to enjoy her outing when she rounded a curve and discovered that the road was flooded. It didn’t look very deep but in an electric car one couldn’t risk having components fry and being stranded. She’d have to turn around and go miles out of her way to continue or accept the penalty for late submission. When people went by horseback or mule-driven buggies such obstacles could be surmounted by cutting through the woods or across the fields. Once again, the modern world revealed its weaknesses. She cursed out loud, wishing she’d taken her brother’s advice and bought a big-wheel pickup that could handle any terrain or weather condition. But she loved her car and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

She decided to go back the few miles to another road that would eventually take her where she wanted to go. Being a quitter wouldn’t help her get her degree and keep her GPA intact, so onward and upward it would be. As she navigated the torturously twisty alternative road, she quit seething and started thinking of herself as a racecar driver, bound for glory after winning the race. She reminded herself that every curve in life’s journey is simply another thing to experience and that it is the journey one should enjoy rather than just the destination. She had her essay filed on a flash drive so there was nothing stopping her from staying in town for a nice dinner then going to a coffee shop with WIFI to finish writing her piece and submit it before the submission deadline. Turning tragedy into ecstasy might be the key to happiness, she thought. If not, learning to cope with adversity might lessen the pain. As she pulled into the parking lot at Best Buy, she congratulated herself for doing exactly that.      



Aboard the Cruise Ship - By Mizeta Moon 

They danced like teenagers the first night of the cruise and got along better than they had in years. He came close to changing his mind about killing her but knew he’d regret it if he let her live. Thirty years with the same nag wore him out and led to murderous scenarios constantly filling his head when she refused to divorce him. He tried to leave several times over the years but she controlled the company and his income so he stayed. Sure, he could split with just the clothes on his back and get a job but even the car he drove belonged to the business. He was stuck like a fly in amber.

When she insisted that they take a South Pacific cruise, he didn’t object because numerous opportunities could develop that would help his dream of cashing in her life insurance come true. He knew he couldn’t push her overboard since she was short and stout, and the railings were too high. He sharpened his pocket-knife before leaving home in case he got the chance to stab her on one of the stops, then blame it on an attacker. He cut himself while doing it and the cut was painful, but now he knew how easily it would slice her throat. As long as he ditched the knife any blood on him could be explained by his effort to administer aid.

The third morning, while she was still sleeping. he went to the buffet but nothing looked appetizing so he went back to their cabin thinking he would take a long hot shower, then order a sandwich. When he came out of the shower, he was pleased to see her bed empty. After locking the deadbolt, he made sure his knife was still tucked under his socks. He put it in his pocket, then unlocked the door and ordered his sandwich. They were scheduled for an excursion that afternoon and he wanted to be ready.

Unfortunately, every stop they made over the next few days didn’t provide an opportunity so he knew he would have to find another way. He sat at the bar for hours, running scene after scene through his feverish brain but all he managed to do was get drunk. There were only three days left when a solution fell in his lap. He heard two crew members talking about a powerful drug that looked and tasted like candy but could easily kill you. Evidently, one of them had a big bag of the pills in their room and was going to try some after their shift. That person gave the other one a small container of the pills before walking away. What happened next put a smile on the would be murderer’s face.

The crew member opened the container, sniffed it, shook a few pills into their hand, looked them over, then started putting them back. Just then a big wave shook the ship and some of the pills fell to the deck. Rather than be seen on their knees scooping them up, the person pocketed the container and scurried away–probably assuming the wind would blow them away. He pounced on them like a jungle cat on unwary prey. Hopefully, they were as potent as advertised since his wife dipped into any candy dish she encountered.

After dinner they took a leisurely walk around the deck and exchanged a romantic vibe while watching the moon in a silky black sky. He had a twinge of remorse about the candy and flowers waiting next to her bed but knew such moments never lasted and tensions would return. Sure enough, her pudgy hand swooped into the candy dish the moment they entered the cabin. He acknowledged her gratitude for the flowers, then told her he was going to the bar for a nightcap. As she polished off the deadly concoction and he moved to leave, she said. “Wait a minute. I want to show you the documents you need to sign to become a partner in the business.” Partner!? He panicked at first, knowing the drugs would take effect soon but quickly realized he would be sole owner if they killed her. “How about when I get back?” He replied. “I won’t be long.” She was already nodding off as he closed the door and left. Fortunately for him, the two crew members were found dead by the housekeeping staff as well as her the next morning. He’d feigned being drunk and slept in a deck chair instead of returning to their cabin that night. Accidental overdose was the doctor’s conclusion although no one knew how she acquired the pills. Debarking alone, his step was jaunty as he walked into a very bright future. 






Ambushed - By Mizeta Moon 

The attack was unexpected. No one could have imagined that a peaceful walk through a pristine forest would turn into a nightmare, but now they were running for their lives. Gerald was bleeding from a head wound caused by bashing into a low-hanging branch and Jane’s shirt was ripped by an encounter with a blackberry patch. His feet were sore from running over boulders near a swollen surging stream. They weren’t survivalists equipped for adversity but college freshmen on a day trip.

The echo was loud when the first bullet slammed into the tree he was standing next to. If he hadn’t looked down just at that moment the round would have ripped through his skull. As it was, his hair got singed by the bullet’s heat and the smell was strong even though there was a breeze. Jane screamed when the next round of gunfire erupted, and they started running without any sense of direction. All they knew was that someone wished to harm them and sticking around to find out who or why wasn’t a good idea.

After about a mile they reached a logging road that offered safe footing but would leave them exposed. There hadn’t been a shot for a few minutes, so after a brief confab and sips from their one canteen they decided to risk using the road. Maybe they’d been near someone’s illegal pot farm Gerald stated as they worked their way downhill. Now that they were well away from it they might be safe. Jane disagreed. She was certain someone was still stalking them and would let them dangle for a bit before finishing them off.

Another few minutes of walking led to an expanse of rolling fields that were cultivated, so he thought civilization might be near. Hopefully, they could pay someone to take them back to the car they’d parked at the trailhead. If not, they could call someone at school to fetch them. When they rounded a bend and discovered a ramshackle wood shack he started to surge forward, but Jane grabbed his arm and held him back. There was a rusty pickup parked in a dirt driveway, but no one seemed to be around. No smoke from the galvanized chimney. No dog on the porch. No sounds. He felt like they’d been transported to the set of a horror movie.

While they hunkered down behind a bush and quietly debated whether to knock or keep walking, chugging diesel engine sounds came from the direction they had. Seconds later a big John Deere tractor skidded to a stop in front of the shack and a pot-bellied, full-bearded man in overalls climbed down from the driver seat. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, wiped his brow, then ambled in their direction.

“I know you’re there,” He shouted. “Come on out. I won’t hurt ya.”

Though reluctant, they stood and stepped into the road, wondering what would happen next. The man stopped about two feet away and gave each of them a piercing look. Nodding his head as if settling an internal conflict, he said “Heard you had a run in with Luke. Been telling him to quit shooting without warning. Had to help him bury a couple of folks last month. Glad you’re okay.”

His statement struck terror in their hearts. Before they could say anything, he continued. “You folks look like you could use a drink. Come sit on the porch and I’ll fetch a jug of what Luke cooks up where you were. You won’t tell the cops will ya?”

They cautiously accepted his invitation, still worried about being buried in a lonely grave. Once on the porch with jelly jars in their hands and fire in their guts, they relaxed as the man explained that the people he'd buried tried to steal a batch of liquor from Luke’s still. That incident made Luke trigger-happy and they were lucky that his eyes were getting bad and his aim was off. Gerald offered to pay for a ride but the man said he’d do it for free seeing as they’d suffered. It took a few minutes to crank up the old pickup but soon they were headed back to the trailhead. The old man let Jane sit up front while he and Gerald sat in the bed, bouncing around from every bump in the road. “Don’t come back” were his final words as he gave them a jug for the road. With their desire for communing with nature temporarily derailed, they looked forward to life in the dorm and would gladly heed those words of advice.



Reflection - By Mizeta Moon 

The preacher stopped by the quietly bubbling stream to let the horses drink. The wagon seat creaked as he climbed down, then wrapped the reins around the footrest. He pulled a small flask from the pocket of his coat, took a healthy swig, then grimaced as the whiskey burned its way to his belly. The danger was real, that he was on his way to becoming a drunkard as well as a fornicating hypocrite but it didn’t stop him from having another jolt. He was puzzled by his rapid descent into wantonness, as his faith eroded and his dedication to duty disappeared, but had no answers, only questions. Was it meeting a woman willing to cheat on her husband? Lack of coins for the collection plate? Moral weakness? Had he never been a true man of the cloth? Whatever the reason, the face reflected in the water was no longer worthy of chastising sinners for their earthly failings. 

 The woman whose marriage he defiled had packed a hamper for him before sending him away for good. Reaching for a hunk of bread and some jerky, he chewed slowly as he observed the splendor of the world around him. A stand of magnificent oak trees. Lowing cattle grazing on a grassy ridge. Flowers waving colorful blooms in a gentle breeze. A bevy of quail bobbing and weaving through shrubs. Were these wonders truly created by God? Or were they part of a naturally recurring cycle that required no one’s worship? Once again, he had no answers. For over a thousand years people kept saying the lord would return to gather his flock and cleanse their souls but no one appeared. Was there really a devil who led people astray? Or were humans inherently evil? 

When the horses seemed sated and ready to continue, he climbed aboard and pondered the intersection ahead. Which road led to a brighter future? Did danger lie down one, or all? He’d never wavered in his convictions before nor fretted over decisions. Cast adrift by circumstances that he’d created, he was suddenly fearful, where he’d been steadfast. 

He chose the trail that led to the open prairie, since he had nothing to feed the horses and the mountains might offer sparse sustenance. With their bellies full of fresh grass they would be more willing to journey outward. The one thing he knew for sure was that when he reached the next town, he wouldn’t introduce himself as a preacher. Swamping stalls or sweeping the saloon floor could refill his flask and belly without exploiting the guilt of the faithful. Such work might help restore his sense of self-worth. If not, he’d be like a tumbleweed blowing in the winds of change. By doing so, he might reach a destination and an endeavor worthy of his attention. 

As the wagon bumped its way along, he admired the cloud-filled sky, wondering why birds could fly while man could only walk. He wished he could soar high into the air and see more of the world he was passing through but maybe birds tired of flying or faced dangers he couldn’t comprehend. Deciding he was complicating his journey by trying to figure out something men had been unable to decipher for centuries, he took a small sip from his flask and simply listened to the clopping rhythm of the horses’ hooves. When sunset faded, he saw lights in the distance and realized the opportunity to start anew lay just ahead. Whether he continued to spiral or climb was a fate held in his own hands and heart.     



Bah Humbug! - By Mizeta Moon 

Being a security guard sucked this time of year. Parking close was nearly impossible and even though she packed a gun, there were people to be afraid of lurking in the lot to pick pockets or break into cars. On her first circuit of the mall she discovered that someone picked the lock of an empty store and was sleeping in a puddle of pee. Great start to a workday that began with an argument with her wife about where to go for Christmas dinner. After rousing the offender and escorting them from the mall, she bought a giant cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll, hoping for a day that didn’t include lost kids, shoplifters, and rowdy mall rats harassing shoppers. 

Two bites and a sip in, a skateboarder zoomed by with no pants on. She decided to call the cops rather than chase him down. It was against the rules to skate at the mall, but public nudity was beyond her purview. Anyone flaunting something that small was obviously delusional and potentially dangerous. Sighing, she finished her treat, then boarded the escalator to the second level, only to encounter a red-faced highly-agitated woman waiting at the top. It turned out that the mall Santa was drunk and kept inviting the mothers to sit on his lap instead of the kids. This woman was livid that Santa pinched her butt as she walked by, and wanted him fired immediately. This meant calling the office to notify the manager, then standing by Santa to prevent further mayhem until help arrived. That took nearly a half hour and gained her some dirty looks from rejected kids who wouldn’t get their picture taken unless they waited for a replacement–if one was available. Meanwhile, a woman came out of the underwear store in a hurry. Her purse was stuffed with lacy bras and panties she’d grabbed from a display by the door. Santa had passed out, and the manager was in sight, so she went after the thief. It was times like this she was thankful for her exercise routine and daily run. The woman waddled, she sprinted, then they both ended up on the floor in the ensuing tug of war over lingerie. 

The cops came and took the thief away after saying they couldn’t find the skateboarder. When she looked at her watch, she groaned because she still had hours to go and was getting a headache. Peeing, then splashing cold water on her face helped, and the next hour passed without an incident, which brightened her mood until she turned her thoughts to Christmas dinner. She wanted to stay home and watch football in her robe. Her wife wanted to go to Appleby’s, then a movie, then hit a few bars for some Xmas cheer. Way too ambitious! There had to be some middle ground but for the moment she hadn’t a clue what that could be. 

Those thoughts were interrupted by screaming coming from the escalator. When she got there, she discovered that a woman had pushed a stroller onto the moving stairs instead of using the elevator, despite warnings not to do so. Now the stroller was wedged sideways with the passenger trapped and howling like a banshee. She punched the emergency stop button, then yanked until the conveyance broke free and the little darling could be extricated. Scolding the mom only led to threats to her job security and the woman pushing away in a huff. When did people stop taking responsibility for their actions? She wondered. Or did they ever? 

The rest of her shift went reasonably well but when she clocked out, she discovered a note saying she was being laid off on Christmas eve. Wonderful news when her bank balance was lower than ever. Trudging through the snow led to the discovery that her car had been sideswiped and her front tire was flat. When AAA finally came and fixed the flat, she drove home in a funk. Opening the front door, she was greeted by her wife, who said “My parents have invited us to Christmas dinner, I know you hate my mom’s cooking but it would break their hearts to say no. Please say you’re okay with it.” 

“Bah humbug.”  She replied, as she walked straight to the liquor cabinet. 


Aging Gracefully - By Mizeta Moon 

An old woman sat on a cement bench, knitting a rainbow colored sweater. Yarn ran from a tattered bag on the grass to her swiftly moving needles. The lily-covered pond she sat near was alive with flashing Koi, surfacing to feast on a swarm of gnats hovering over the otherwise serene water. Puffy clouds romped like lambs across a cerulean sky while the sun shed its life giving rays to every open corner. In the shade of the trees another old woman painted what she saw at a wooden easel. Further on, a weathered man sat on a yoga mat, channeling his chi into the depths of his soul. His serene smile radiated the joy of existence on such a wonder-filled day. Senior Center outings to the park were a panacea for the bumps and bruises of life that when left untreated often fester into loneliness and bitterness. Rowena Rutledge, activities director, had dedicated her golden years to helping others age gracefully and stay engaged until it was their turn to leave. She was good at her job and made many such moments of happiness materialize in lives that could have slowly faded into obscurity. Sadly, her time was nigh and her only regret was that the center didn’t have the funds to hire a replacement. As she placed bag lunches on the park bench, she could only hope that someone would donate enough money to jumpstart the outdoor activities program. 

Hours later, as the rickety bus the center used for excursions wound its way down the mountain, she realized this final journey was still filled with things to treasure. Majestic stately trees. Moss covered boulders in rippling streams. Grass waving in the breeze as Oregon exhibited her beauty. Subtle colors blending in a mélange of textures. Mountains reaching high. As they neared the center, her thoughts turned to her grizzled mutt who’d been a faithful companion for years. She’d hoped he'd either pass before her or that some kind soul would provide comfort in his final days. So far, no one had expressed interest and time was running out. She hated the idea of Rex being euthanized. As she stepped off the bus her soul was filled with elation from the outing but saddened by concern for the dog. 

Years earlier she’d made all the arrangements for cremation, signed all the necessary documents to donate her meager belongings to charity, and to funnel what little money remained in her bank account to the center. She’d leave owing no one and would carry the dignity of serving humanity well and proudly to her final moment. As she hobbled into the center an obviously excited young woman approached her. She recognized the woman from a community college program that placed volunteers in nursing homes and senior centers while they earned their degrees. 

“Rowena, just the person I wanted to see!” The woman exclaimed. “I have great news. That letter you wrote to the newspaper paid off. An anonymous donor is going to fund the outdoor activities program for the next three years. They’re buying us a better bus and there’ll be money to pay drivers without digging into our funds. Isn’t that wonderful?” 

Rowena couldn’t hold back tears of joy as her heart filled with gratitude. Her perseverance at planting seeds finally grew into something that would allow others to age gracefully. However, when she opened the door to her tiny studio, she could tell that Rex was struggling to cling to life. No tail wag. No smile. Barely a recognition of her presence. Removing her coat, she sat down beside him and wrapped the coat around them. Reaching the end together was the best possible solution now that her work on earth was done. 


Free at Last - By Mizeta Moon 

The will was contested by several shirt-tail relatives but she prevailed after years of court battles. She understood that estates that large were tempting pies to get a slice of but she was the legitimate heir and was finally free to enjoy and disperse her wealth as she chose. The lawyers extracted a healthy chunk but it was worth it to stop the attacks. Signing the papers to purchase her own private island was the first step in building a new life. She never thought about owning property when she was a clerk at Dollar Tree because such dreams seemed a waste of time, but that was before her father won the Powerball jackpot then died a year later. Her mother died when she was in school, and fortunately for her, no replacement mom came along. So, now she was rich and single, and able to leave the ugliness of America behind. She’d considered a lot of countries to relocate to but in the end they all had their problems. When she learned she could buy an island and make it what she wanted, the problem was solved. 

After donating everything she didn’t need, she flew to Manila, stayed a few days, then climbed into a pontoon plane that would fly her to the island. Until she could build a house, she’d be camping so she made sure she had enough supplies on board to last a month or two. The plane stalled twice before the engines finally roared to life and they lifted off after taxiing across a choppy bay. She had a moment of doubt about their safety but the pilot assured her they’d be just fine. As they flew, she relaxed and enjoyed the beauty of the chain of uninhabited islands that hers was a part of. As they circled it before dropping into a beautiful lagoon, she marveled at how fabulous it was to own such a jewel. Seeing it from above allowed her mind to designate what might go where and how best to inhabit the island with minimal impact. Having a satellite phone was going to make hiring crews and having building supplies delivered relatively simple but she had to be sure what she really wanted before doing so. The campout would help by letting her truly feel the island’s soul before permanently changing it. 

After the supplies were unloaded and the plane flew away, she stood on the white sand beach listening to waves and the whisper of wind through the trees. There was a calmness to the setting that she wanted to preserve. It was a paradise spoiled only by her footprints. Over the next few days she discovered where the wind was most consistent and would be the ideal spot for a windmill to provide power. From there everything would be a steady progression towards the perfect nest. She considered solar but that involved too much technology and maintenance. Keeping things simple would decrease her reliance on the outside world. The first day of rain answered all questions about drinking water when the small depression she’d noted filled to the brim, then spilled over the rocks around it in a prismatic display of natural splendor. 

She realized that such isolation could lead to loneliness but she’d had affairs over the years and never met anyone she wanted to be around all the time. During the building process there would be people coming and going so she wouldn’t truly be alone until everything was in place. By then she’d know if a companion or a pet was part of the equation. For the moment it felt good to be free from the hustle and bustle of city life. No crime, drugs, sirens in the night. Lying on the beach and watching the moon transit a star-filled sky was her treasure and she might never want to share it. Selfish? Perhaps, but she’d funded a foundation that would be helping injured and crippled children around the world before checking out. As long as there was war there’d be plenty in need of aid. Here, there would be peace, and someone to appreciate its value.           

In a Pickle - By Mizeta Moon 

Coffee hit the spot after a long night at the tables. The dealer was crooked but she’d been onto him from the beginning and used her own sleight of hand skills to fleece him instead of losing her bankroll. She knew the pit boss wouldn’t come down on her because they’d have to admit they were cheating and that would bring in the gaming commission. She kept her bets small so that the casino wouldn’t be out much. She didn’t need the money but wanted to play since it was the last night of her vacation and she might not visit the area again. Her job as a magician’s assistant awaited her return to hundreds of birthday parties and she was looking forward to getting back in the groove. 

After taking a quick shower and packing her bag, she called the front desk to check out and arrange transportation to the airport. The lobby was quiet as she signed her bill statement, then settled on a bench to wait for her ride. The few tourists that were active that early in the morning looked frazzled from lack of sleep while having too much fun. When a burly man in a checkered suit walked into the foyer and called her name, she raised her hand, grabbed her bag, then followed him to a small SUV idling at the curb. She didn’t like the look of the man but didn’t have time to request a substitute driver. Her flight home would leave in less than an hour and she didn’t want to miss it. 

She was so used to the auto-lock feature of modern cars that she didn’t know she was being kidnapped until the driver turned away from the route to the airport. “Hey!” She shouted. “You’re going the wrong way.” 

“I know,” the man replied. “The only place you’re flying to is the pearly gates.” 

“Who are you?” She asked. Irritation dominant over fear in her voice. “If you work for the casino and want your money back all you had to do was ask. Wasn’t that much anyway. I make more than that in a day.” 

“Doesn’t matter. Nobody cheats the boss.” 

“Hah! What about him cheating the public instead of running an honest game? Gonna kill everyone who figures it out? Your dealer was so lame a blind man could see through him.” 

Instead of answering, the thug reached over the seat and sprayed her with something that knocked her out. When she came to, the man was laboriously dragging her to the middle of a bridge spanning a raging river. Handcuffs chafed her skin and her knees felt bruised. She must have been too big a load to carry. 

“What now?” She asked. “Hoping I can’t swim with handcuffs on?” 

“Shut up. I need to get this over with. My wife made lasagna tonight and she gets pissed when I’m late.” 

“Boo-hoo. Hope she cuts your testicles off.” 

That remark made the thug grab her throat and slap her so hard that tears ran down her cheeks and she nearly blacked out again. Vertigo set in as she looked at her precarious perch on the bridge and realized how close she was to plummeting. When he let go and stepped back, she smiled because he made a mistake and gave her the advantage. He probably had no idea that she was a magician’s assistant and had clever fingers. 

“What you smiling about?” The thug asked as he pushed her closer to the edge. 

“This.” She replied as she flaunted the key she’d plucked from his pocket as he manhandled her. “Now that my hands are free, I can swim to safety if I fall. But! I think it’s you that needs to get wet.” So saying, she spun on her heels and started running. The oaf tried to follow but his lumbering frame wasn’t agile enough to catch her, When he stumbled and fell to his knees, she kicked him in the butt, then watched him tumble to the maelstrom below. 

Now that she’d missed her flight it made sense that she use the thug’s car to drive home. She had enough of the casino’s money to pay for gas and food, so all in all, things weren’t that bad. She’d probably be too late for Billy Baker’s birthday party, but she reminded herself that life is what happens when you’ve made other plans.

Bnonanza - By Mizeta Moon 

Her mother told her no one had seen Mrs. Jenkins down the street for a week and asked her to check on the woman and her dog. She didn’t like Mrs. Jenkins but chose to keep her mom happy instead of listening to endless guilt trips about failing as a daughter. If her mother wasn’t confined to a wheelchair she’d have refused since she didn’t care much for the dog either. 

She knocked but there was no answer. She decided to look around back in case the woman was working on her flower beds and hadn’t heard her at the door. She discovered that the back door was ajar, and as she approached it, the stench of rotting flesh assailed her nose. Her first thought was to leave and call the cops but put her handkerchief over her nose and mouth instead and pushed the door open with a trembling hand. Flies were everywhere. Buzzing, swirling, they were like a black cloud over the dead dog lying on the kitchen floor in a puddle of blood. Poor Thimble, she thought. Even though I didn’t like you, I didn’t want you dead. Now she was scared and almost ran but realized Mrs. Jenkins might be injured or dead as well and knew the right thing to do was investigate. 

The first floor was a shambles. Drawers stood open with contents spilled, cushions were slashed, and lamps were overturned. No dead woman in sight but she could smell more rotting flesh and heard buzzing in the distance. The stairs creaked as she cautiously tiptoed her way to the second floor landing, clutching the rail so hard her knuckles were white. Her suspicions were confirmed when she entered the woman’s bedroom. Like the downstairs, the room had been ransacked. Jewelry boxes were empty and Mrs. Jenkins lie in a crumpled pile of clothing dumped from drawers and yanked from the closet. Whoever robbed her made sure they found everything of value before leaving her to bleed out. A glance into the bathroom revealed more frenzied pillaging. Realizing she couldn’t help the woman, she turned to leave but something lying in the debris caught her eye. 

When she picked it up and examined its contents, she realized that whoever caused this mayhem was a rank amateur. The envelope was stuffed with bearer bonds which are as good as cash anywhere in the world. The thief or thieves must have tossed the envelope into the pile of papers on the floor because they weren’t currency and looked innocuous. However, she recognized their value right away and sat on the edge of the bed to count them after looking around guiltily and affirming she was still alone. She almost fainted when the total came to nearly four million dollars. 

She was immediately conflicted. Call the cops and turn over the bonds? Keep them? She knew Mrs. Jenkins was a widow and had no immediate family, so the probability of someone placing a claim on them was remote. Did anyone know she had them in the house? Even if someone did, they could have been taken during the murderous home invasion. She decided that she would call the cops from home and hide the bonds under her bed until the dust settled. 

The neighbors were shocked by her discovery and followed the ensuing investigation with keen interest. Three weeks went by and there was no mention of the bonds. No long-lost relative showed up either. The cops were convinced the robbery was committed by an opportunistic stranger who saw that Mrs. Jenkins lived alone and her dog was too small to protect her. After defiling her sanctuary they moved on and would hock the jewels and silverware down the road. As for her, no cloud of suspicion darkened her now sunny horizons. She could finally move out of her mom’s house and travel to far away exotic destinations. That opportunity came a month later when her mother’s request for a full-time caregiver was approved. She did send her mom some cash in the mail, but that was from New York where cashing some of the bonds was no reason to raise an eyebrow.     

Granny Gang - By Mizeta Moon 

The mechanic refused to work on the car when he saw all the bullet holes in the trunk. If I’d hit the accelerator harder, we’d have been out of range quickly but my spike heel stuck in a hole in the carpet and I couldn’t bear down from the resulting tilt. That allowed the guards to hit us with several rounds–one of which clipped the fuel line, causing us to come to a halt across the street from a garage. We thought that was a stroke of luck at first but the suspicion in the wrench monkey’s eyes had me worried that he might call the cops. We decided the best thing to do was skedaddle before he could act so I called Lyft for a ride to our hideout as we call it. It’s actually an old gardening shed behind Winifred’s house where we drink wine from the bottle, play ten thousand, and plan our next heist. Leaving the car behind wasn’t a problem because it’s still registered to a guy three blocks from my house. When he died, we snagged the keys during his estate sale and hid it under a tarp in the woods behind Estelle’s house. So we grabbed the bags of cash, then walked to a bar down the street and told the driver to pick us up there in an hour since we all needed a drink after such a close call. 

Hours later there were four stacks of money sitting on the table in the shed and Marlene was finally satisfied. She always thinks we might cheat her so she demands a recount. After we counted it all again and measured the piles, she agreed that we were truly equal partners. Oh! You might be wondering why I would wear high heels on a job and that’s a very good question. Dressing up like church ladies makes us less suspicious. Nobody expects a bunch of grannies to pull pistols from their purses instead of a hanky. Just so you know, we only rob places owned by a certain someone who is known to all as a liar and a crook. Stealing from him allows us to buy food for the poor and support our charities. We keep some for us of course, but at least it gets recirculated on lower levels instead of adding to the wealth of the wealthy. After the last hotel heist, I was able to give ten thousand dollars to the animal shelter. 

We were well on our way to a rip-roaring drunk when Winifred suddenly got wide-eyed and looked worried. “What’s wrong?” I asked. Instead of answering right away she reached to her ear and unhooked an earring. Placing it on the table she stated that the mate was missing. She said “I lost it when we jumped in the car. Now I’m concerned that some CSI guy will bag and tag it, then trace my DNA.” 

We had a good laugh at that because a diamond earring on the sidewalk would be a prize to one of the homeless who watched us make our getaway. Fat chance that they’d turn it in. Besides, Winifred has never been arrested or had her lineage traced. Even if a cop found it, she could say she lost it when walking to the liquor store. And on top of that, we only dress up to go on a crime spree. The rest of the time we look like a dowdy bunch wearing sensible shoes and comfortable clothes, so she wouldn’t meet any description from witnesses. Without just cause she couldn’t be forced to surrender a sample. 

We were just finishing up a game of ten thousand when Winifred’s husband banged on the door and demanded dinner. I’m prone to tell him to F… off but keeping him happy allows us to use the shed without too much guff. I do talk back to him when it comes to politics since he’s a big supporter of the guy we steal from, but we were drunk and tired by then, so we filed out and left. The last thing I heard him say to Winifred was “that damn Velma pisses me off. Every time she comes over, I have to beg for dinner. And besides….”