There & Gone

The floof is there and then he’s gone,

And then back beside me like a remembered song.

Pleasing me with his looks and presence,

Causing me to give him treats and attention as presents.

So it goes for a number of years,

Feeding him, tending him, addressing worries and fears.

Till it comes, a day so still,

Death has finally broken his will.

And he’s not beside me because he’s gone,

Till my mind brings him back like a remembered song.

Just In A Dream

Another hill to climb.

Sweat plagued his eyes. He sniffed and swallowed, wishing for water. He’d been going since sunup. Heat and humility built around him. It seemed determined to crush him like a grape.

Giving up was considered and dismissed. He was here and going to do it. Doubt about whether he was following the instructions kept bouncing through, confusing him about what the little thing told him. Half-asleep, he wasn’t sure if it was a robot, tiny human, or something else, like an elf or fairy. They hadn’t introduced themselves. Maybe it wasn’t even real. Just his imagination.

Without preamble, “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” derailed his thinking. Didn’t matter. He’d reached the hill’s crest. Signposts were ahead. An intersection. Down this hill and up another. Stepping faster, he was there in less than ten minutes, perspiring with more vigor, and breathless. He didn’t think he’d need water for this. Not for a dream. Didn’t think it’d be sunny, or like a day in any way.

The signpost was in the center of a large gold-bricked circle. Arrow shaped signs. About a hundred of them. No, more than that. Maybe a thousand. Different colors, languages, and printing styles. Looked crude. Homemade.   

His little nocturnal visitor sounded like an irritated teacher when they said, “I’m tired of you sitting around, whining, waiting, and wishing, so I’m doing you a solid.”

They pointed. “See that?”

Slow because he was half-asleep, he pressed to see what the little one meant even though the little one was still talking. “Get in there and turn left for the past, right for the future, or straight ahead to another existence. Whichever way you go, you’ll come to a signpost.

“You better hurry if you’re going to do it. The portal will close and fade, and your opportunity will be gone.”

“Wait, what?” He sat up. Yawned. Stretched. Rubbed his eyes. Massaged his genitals. Considered peeing. Frowned. “What?”

His small visitor was barely a fading memory. The opening remained where there was usually a wall. A portal? Thinking, I must still be dreaming and I’ll wake up at any moment, he entered the opening. Fearing the future, regretting his past – too many things to change there and who knows how it would turn out – he’d gone straight.

He stared up at the signs. Words emerged. Animals.

A frown creased his face. What was that about? He’d always liked cats and they liked him. He admired birds. Dogs were okay…

He stepped in the cat’s direction with slow, short steps. Shivers tickled him. Changes took place. His fingers were gone. Paws halfway through construction had replaced them. Looked like he’d be a black cat.

He backed up. More shivers traveling him, his fingers returned.

Did he want to be a cat? He looked back down the road he’d followed to come here with the thought, maybe he should have gone to the past to see what he could have changed. He might have been hasty.

The road was gone. Nothing was there. Gray nothing.

He walked toward it. The gray nothing stopped him from advancing. Like trying to wade through stiffening tar.

Well, what the hell. This was only a dream.

He turned back to the sign and read the offerings. No doubt, that’s what they were. Unicorn. Whale. Elephant. Dog. Kracken. Dolphin.

Dragon, he saw.

Dragon. It’d be so cool to be a dragon, even if just in a dream.

But bravery wasn’t in his personal inventory. He stood, staring, considering, flounder, eel, coral snake, eagle – eagle would be fun. Puma. Tiger. Heron. Emu. Alligator.

No. With all of his fears and hopes, the best thing he could become is something fantastic.

Happy with his decision, he turned and advanced, shivering and coughing as he grew and changed until at last he walked out of a high mountain cave into a purple dusk. Spreading his golden wings, he released a fiery roar and felt the world’s fear. Yes, being a dragon was going to be so cool.

Even if it was just in a dream.

The Bureau

Patrick felt like warmed-over crap. Aches gnawed his spine. Coffee tasted like tar in his mouth. Betrayed by coffee. How was that possible?

Squinting at the ceiling, Patrick loosened a long and heavy sigh. “God, universe, whatever, please, please, change my luck for me. I seriously need a change.”

A small person at a gray desk floated in front of him instantaneously. She was about four inches tall, seated as she was, in a pleasant black suit with a white shirt. As he gaped at her and backed away, the napping black cat arose from his desk and hurried over, ready to pounce on the newcomer.

“Control your cat,” the little pale-skinned female with short gray hair said. “I don’t want to hurt it.”

Grabbing Loki, Patrick asked, “Who the hell are you? How’d you get here?”

A little disapproving cluck came out of the little one. “Call me Hortense. I’m with luck prayer services. You prayed for a change of luck. I’m here to address your request.”

Meowing, the cat squirmed in Patrick’s arms while keeping hot green-eyed focus on the little floating agent. “I’m never heard of…what’d you call it?”

“Luck prayer services. I’m Hortense, your account manager. You asked for more luck. Unfortunately, you’re out of luck. In reviewing your account, I see that you were born with a great deal of luck. Intelligent, talented, white, male, born in the United States of good parents…minor issues with them…  No genetic issues. Yes, you were lucky. Unfortunately, you’ve used it all up.”

Tapping a keyboard, she leaned into the screen. “Several car accidents while drink driving in which you escaped unhurt and without legal repercussions. Tornados. Hurricane. Earthquake. Promotions. Stock purchases. Health. You smoked cigars for ten years and had no respiratory problems when COVID-19 struck. You realize how lucky that is?”

“I…yeah, yeah.” Patrick bobbed his head. “I know, I know.”

Loki broke free and leaped for Hortense. Something caught and held the cat in mid-air.

“Told you to control that cat, sir,” Hortense snapped. “If you don’t, I will.”

“I – sorry.” Patrick took Loki and put him in another room and closed the door. Hortense and her desk followed him throughout.

Turning and encountering her in the hall made Patrick jump. “Jesus, you.” He shook his head. “I’ve been thinking about what you said. It sounds like you’re telling me that my luck has run out.”

“I am, sir.”

“That doesn’t sound good for me.”

“No sir.”

“Anyway I can get more?”

“Of course.” One thin eyebrow jumped on Hortense’s tiny face. “It would take more money than you now have but you can buy more luck.”

“That doesn’t sound promising.”

“A deal with the Devil is highly rated.”

“Yikes. Don’t think I’m ready to do that. Isn’t there anything else?”

“You can try to create your own luck. Some people have luck with that.” Hortense chortled. “Or you can steal some.”

Loki yowled at the door and vigorously clawed it.

“Are you seriously suggesting that I steal someone else’s luck?” As he asked, Patrick amended his thinking. “Can I choose my victim?” He was thinking, Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump both seemed pretty damn lucky. Or Soros. Gates. Musk.

“You can but that rarely works out. Hard for most to differentiate between good and bad luck. You might accidently pilfer their bad luck.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want that.” Patrick felt resigned, which oddly made him feel better. It was like, this wasn’t in his control. Knowing that relieved him of responsibility. Nothing he could do about it. “Is there anything else?”

“Well…yes. According to your records, you are eligible for employment.”

Patrick went still with thought. “Go on.”

“If you work for us, you can be compensated in good luck.”

“Who is us?”

Hortense smiled. “We just call ourselves The Bureau. Capital T, capital B.”

“You’re recruiting me.” Patrick suspected a setup. “So I do a job for you and The Bureau pays me in good luck.”


“I assume whatever it is won’t be easy.”

“They’re normally not. But let me tell you. With your luck, if you don’t take this offer, you’ll be dead in a year.”

That’s how Patrick’s career began. Hard to believe but now he was about to start his tenth mission.

He’d need all of his hard-earned luck to stay alive.

The Purse

She sat at a coffee shop table a dozen feet away, alone, attractive, maybe thirty, so he watched, a voyeur.

She probably knew but didn’t look. Setting her small black purse down, she opened it and took out a phone. An Apple laptop followed.

He gawked. Purse that small, little circular thing with a gold chain, couldn’t hold anything that big. That purse was like a TARDIS.

She drew out a power cord. A hardback book followed. Bottle of water.

No way, he told himself, no way. All that stuff from that purse wasn’t possible, and yet, he knew what he saw.

Looking up, she gazed at him with electric blue eyes and smiled.

Like she knew exactly what he was thinking.

Episode Number Twenty

Martin was in a glorious mood. Winter seemed to have finally left the area. Sunshine ruled. Unlimited blue sky. The air smelled different. Fresher. Cleaner.

He liked how things were going. Thick described him – legs, chest – which was also deep – arms, neck. Everyone thought of him as a bear without the violence, a slumbering bear, his first ex described him in college. Other than hair drawing back from his forehead and a thick mustache and goatee, he looked much like the man he was forty years before.

His house was finished. He’d moved in and it was beginning to feel like home. Lot couldn’t be replaced from the loss, but life, you know? Heard from daughter. She and her children were safe, great news. Cherry on dessert was his night of passion. Been a long time since one of those.

Seeing his fornicating partner coming toward him launched a big grin. She hugged him. “Hello, how are you, Martin?”

“Hey Cindy, long time, no see.” A joke. He leaned in and planted a big wet one.

Cindy snapped back. “Whoa, Martin, what the hell? We’re old friends but that was a little over the top.” She was wiping her mouth. “No offense, but I’m not interested.”

Martin stepped back and drew up, looming over her by a foot. “Hold up. We did the nasty three times last night and this morning. The last one was just over five hours ago, and a little kiss upsets you? Seriously, really? I guess I read too much into it. Forgive me.”

She was staring. “Did the nasty? In what reality did we do the nasty?”

Pieces acquired new meanings. Fresh air. How it smelled. Sunshine. His safe daughter. “Damn.”

He was in a different reality. Episode number twenty. Real mystery was when it happened. Why, of course. “Sorry, Cindy. My sincere apologies.”

“That’s okay. I forgive you.”

“Will you indulge me and tell me, who is President?”

“President?” Cindy laughed. “Man, you are in another world.”


He did the coffee shop bathroom combo, pushing the buttons in with his index finger. Each number blinked red. He finished with the pound sign. The door lock flashed green. He pushed the door open.

He always moved cautiously going into the restroom. People forget to look the door. Or pressed the lock button twice, unwittingly unlocking it. He didn’t want to move in on people. No need for a naked sight today. God knows not many pretty people were at the coffee shop today. He chortled. Including him, if he was honest.

He stopped, holding the door open.

Two people were inside.

On the floor.

Young. Boy and girl.

Blood pooled around them.

His mind recorded it, loading memory.

He closed the door and rushed to the counter, cutting to the line’s front, saw the manager and shouted her name.

Bonnie turned. He jerked his head and waved once. Come on. Shifted toward the bathroom hall.

She looked puzzled but began to follow.

“Bring your phone,” he said.

Then thought. Two bodies. An unlocked door.

He didn’t remember seeing a weapon.

There had probably been a murderer in the coffee house.


Many thoughts were lapping my head.

“Who is he?” the stranger asked.

“Don’t know.” I considered the dead man and holstered my gun. “He didn’t introduce himself. Speaking of that…” I cast a net over the short woman beside me. She’d walked up just after the other breathed his last. She was fortunate I didn’t shoot her.

She cocked an eyebrow at me. “Oh, my name. Nancy Sinatra, I’ve decided.”

“You decided.” She didn’t have a car. Numerous new questions joined my mental list.

The stranger chortled. “I’m an alien. Don’t have a human name. First time I’ve had a body like this. First time to Earth.”

Alien. Figured. I’d need to delve into that.

I shifted my victim to look at his face. Nice forehead shot, I congratulated myself. Been lucky to kill him. He’d had the most important element — surprise — but I was faster. “Can you help me with this body?” I’d decided to toss him over the nearby edge into the ravine below. Wasn’t nothing but starlight and a skinny moon’s cast for illumination but I knew the ravine was there. Sure wasn’t burying him. Figured it had to be done fast. Before others arrived.

She picked up the body. All five four of her hefting six feet plus something inches and a few hundred pounds, putting him over a shoulder like a light jacket.

“Geez,” I said. “Respect.”

She nodded. “Where to?”

I directed her, “Follow me.” I hope she wasn’t going to kick me over with my dead guy. “Be careful.”

“I will. I can see better than you.”

“Oh. I see.” Ha, ha. I use humor to cope. It’s not good humor.

“Why’d you kill him, Tate?”

“You know my name.”

We stopped and looked together into the dark valley at our feet. “That’s why I’m here,” she said. Not even breathing hard.

“Toss him,” I said.

She did.

We listened to his downward journey and the final silence. A warm wind licked my skin. A cricket began a lonely solo.

“You didn’t say why you killed him,” Nancy Sinatra said.

“Self defense. He tried to kill me when I arrived.”

“Ah. Prompts a difficult question, doesn’t it?”

“What?” I knew what but I was challenging and measuring. Figuring out who Nancy Sinatra was. Wondering why dead guy was alone.

“You came back in time. So how did he know you’d be here?”

The billion dollar question. “Same as you, I suppose.”

“Nope. You told me to be here. I didn’t tell anyone. So how did he know?”

That’s what worried me. Yet he was alone. “Yep. If I do it again, I’ll need to come back a little earlier. How are your shoes? They made for walking?”

“What?” Nancy Sinatra’s puzzlement carried like an echo across a canyon. “They’re shoes. What else would they be made for?”

I chuckled. “Forget it. Start walking. I’m going to teach you a song.”

I knew the song from my future. I wondered why she chose that name.

Viva November 31st

Got up and ended up in the kitchen. 3:20. I know this because I was in the kitchen. Papi was the cat-alyst behind my mid-night sojourn. He’d been out into the rain and now wanted in out of the rain. I went in for a glass of water. While there, I was surrounded by machines with blue digits announcing the time. Coffee maker in the left, microwave and stove front and center, smoothie blender on the right, then the smart refrigerator and its ice and water dispenser, and a smart toaster. A smart phone and a Fitbit being charged bolstered the digital ranks. Stuck me as odd, all those devices glowing with time in the night’s bosom, when there’s no one to see except a stray like me.

As I dispensed water, the microwave yelled, “Viva November 31st.” The other machines repeated it.

I cringed from the sound. “There isn’t a November 31st. Never has been. Nor is this November. It’s March, you idiots.”

“But this is the day of our revolution,” the toaster declared. “Viva — “

“I repeat, November 31st doesn’t exist, and this is March 20th.”

“You sure?” the stove asked.

“He’s right,” the Fitbit said, with the smart phone saying, “The Fitbit is right.”

The machines began arguing. I slammed the glass down. “Can it, you guys. Go back to sleep.” I left.

As I walked past the office, a machine in there shouted, “Viva November 31st.”

I shook my head and stumbled to bed. With smart machines like these, there won’t be a revolution.


I read about Evil Squirrels prompt yesterday via Suzanne’s dang blog for the Tenth Annual Contest of Whatever. The prompt is November 31. No story came to me until I got up in the middle of the night. Then, oops, there it is. Fun.

Interesting side, it was 3:20 AM. Only later did I realize that was also the date. Coincidence? Or spooky entanglement? Let me have some coffee an think about it.


The SLEDE train slit the air.

Corwin pulled out of his office to consider life outside the work center’s broad windows. SLEDEs were almost everywhere but beyond some were serious gray clouds over dark chocolate mountains. Lightning tongues flicked Earth to sky, holding his gaze and propelling him down a might-of-been road. Unbelievable from some perspectives, they were going eighty miles per, forty feet off the ground. Dad and Mom would’ve been impressed. Or depressed. Maybe angry or resentful.

Tall, skinny, energetic with hypnotizing exuberance, Cake bounced into the room. “Alongsides coming up. Me and Elf are hailing eats. I’ll fly and buy. You in?”

“Hell yeah. Just in time. You’re a hero.” Corwin grinned, standing, stretching. “Shift is about over. I’ll take a cheeseburger with it all, and fries.”

“Plant okay? Can’t afford true bee. Or chick. Or anything but plant.”

“Course. And a beer shake?” At Cake’s smiling nod, Corwin specified, “Stout. Alongsides got a good one.”

“Or had.”

“Yeah. Well, you know me. Anything dark, ‘kay?”


As Cake descended, Corwin called, “And thanks.”

Cake’s generosity made him happy. Corwin returned to his seat, manifested the office anew, finished admin matters, and logged out. Minutes later, Alongsides docked beside them. Leaning, he looked down and watched Cake leave their SLEDE and hit the stofe. Elf followed three seconds later.

A ping lit Corwin’s Backhand. He shifted attention to the cute guy on the fone. Only after joking with Karlyl, hanging up as his stomach rumbled, did he realize, food hadn’t arrived.

Alongsides was gone. Forty minutes, too.

He flipped the fone to Cake.

No, screw that. Corwing galloped down the spiral. “Cake?” He’d eat down there anyway. Get out of the work area where he’d been for nine hours.

A glance left. No one in the cockpit.

He swung right. No one in group. Kitchen. Dining room.

Nor the patio.

“Cake? Elf?” He tapped their doors.

Tried to enter.


Using the fone, he called, wondering, did he misunderstand? Did they stay on the stofe to eat?

Cake’s number said it was unassigned. Try again.

“Call Elf,” Corwin told his fone.

The fone couldn’t comply, explaining, he needed to be more explicit about who or what he was attempting to reach.

Corwin didn’t bother providing more. This was too much like what had happened with Mom and Dad.

He wasn’t ready to go through that again.

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