de Neuvillette’s confession

Short story

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I honestly can’t fully believe this is true, given all that I know about Geoff Gunderman from being his friends and hearing his music all of these years, but he said it on his deathbed, so maybe. Continue reading de Neuvillette’s confession

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The Battle of Seaside Heights

A short story

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Darkness settled around the silent tin can as it cruised through the water like a stalking cat. Inside 44 souls worked at the task of keeping it running and silent.

“We are now inside U.S. waters, mein Kapitan,” the oberleutnant reported.

“Silent running,” the captain commanded, and the word was passed. “If this mission succeeds, the path will be set in stone and we can proceed with the taming of the Americans.”

The Amerikaner: The word lingered in his mind like stale eggs – soft, rotten. Good people at the core, no doubt, but sorely in need of discipline, the firmness the Reich could offer. On the shore ahead, nestled in their cozy homes, surrounded by comfort purchased at the expense of others, others like the German people, humiliated and looted after the Great War. This sortie would be the first step toward evening that score and restoring the Fatherland to its rightful place of world leadership. Continue reading The Battle of Seaside Heights

Once upon a midnight

Monday Morning Story

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Chapter from the work in progress Krayatura: Beast from the Sea

Ransom Island lay 15 miles off the South Carolina shore, a five-mile-by-three-mile oasis surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Year-round population: Several dozen.

Once a year its population swelled to about 200 to host a philosophical and political seminar called the Ransom Island Sessions. More than one president of the United States had attended Ransom Island, where no minutes were taken and imaginations were freed to conceive bold ideas and bold solutions to the challenges they faced. It was here where some of the most courageous or most foolhardy initiatives (depending on your politics or point of view) first saw light of day at the annual sessions.

This was one of the other 51 weeks.

The sun had set over the mainland somewhere beyond the horizon. No one had come or gone from the heliport or the docks all day, but there had been an unusual amount of activity overhead and out on the water: A Coast Guard helicopter zooming overhead, several small boats far offshore and heading northeast. Shipping channels were in that direction but over the horizon; people usually didn’t come to Ransom Island to be with other people or watch the trappings of civilization float or fly by. Continue reading Once upon a midnight

Wait By The Shore

A short story

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Once upon a time in a place not far from here, but not close either, a man sat by the water. It was not a large lake – he could see the land on the other side – but it was not a small lake either – the land on the other side, he knew by consulting a map, was about 15 miles away.

“Slay the dragon,” he whispered to himself. He knew this dragon was worse than any mythical fire-breathing monster, and it was no myth. “Slay it good and dead.”

He pulled the flask out of his pocket, unscrewed the cap, and sniffed deeply so he could feel the aroma coursing through his body, tense with desire. Then, with a pit in his stomach, he turned the flask over and watched the golden nectar flow into the lake, every fiber of his being wanting to stop, to poke his tongue into the golden stream and pull in one last draught, knowing he couldn’t, not if he wanted the dragon to die.

“Die, you bastard,” he said to the dragon. “I need you, but I don’t want you no more.”

He screwed the cap back on and held the flask in his hand as if seeing it for the first and last time.

“Yep,” he said, “I don’t want you around no more.”

He set the flask down on a flat rock and drew himself up, forcing his breaths to come slow and calm. The day was cool and breezy. The waves licked rather than crashed, but it was what the old-timers called a crisp day. Autumn had reared its red and orange head and was now settling into a dreary brown, and it wouldn’t be long before it all turned into an even drearier blend of gray and white.

“Helluva time to give up your one and only pleasure, I suppose,” he mumbled to himself – of course it was to himself, who else was there?

Wait. Who else was there? Continue reading Wait By The Shore

Wildflower Man

wildflower-man-2The man who carried himself older than his years, boulders weighing down his shoulders, adjusted his glasses and harrumphed.

“Meeting will come to order,” he said. “Here about the complaint regarding Sam Tucker’s lawn. Mr. Tucker present?”

A bearded man who should have combed his hair that morning raised his hand. “Here, your honor.”

The man in the glasses allowed a slight smile. “Not a court of law, Mr. Tucker, no need for ‘your honor.’ I’m Jim Fredricks, alderman of the 15th district and I chair this committee. Jim’s just fine. Now, is the complainant — “

“Sam, then.”

“Eh?”

“Just Sam’s fine. Mr. Tucker was my father.” Sam Tucker ran a nervous hand through his hair and discovered suddenly about the need for a comb.

“All right, Sam. Now is Hank Johnson here?”

“I am indeed. Right here.” The scowling man with the deep booming voice was the only man in the front row, three folding chairs down from Sam Tucker. It had been pretty clear that was probably Hank Johnson.

“OK, you first, Mr. Johnson. What’s the problem?” Continue reading Wildflower Man

‘Take this exit,’ the app said. And then …

My latest for the Door County Advocate …

Somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania, Siri sent me on quite a wild ride, which I may adapt into a horror short story someday.

A flight to New Jersey, land where I was born long before I found my real home in Wisconsin, takes about two hours. But I prefer to make the two-day drive so that I can see the countryside and have a chance to decompress before I see dear old Dad and my brothers and ancient friends.

Most of the time I am thrilled to make the drive. I even add more than two hours to the itinerary by taking the route through the Upper Peninsula and over the Mackinac Bridge, one of the most amazing manmade wonders of the world.

This time around I encountered some bumps in the road. Twice on Sunday afternoon, traffic on Interstate 80 in eastern Ohio stopped in construction zones – stopped, I tell ya. Cars and trucks going zero mph on an interstate highway. It’s a little eerie.

After entering Pennsylvania about 100 miles from my hotel, I set my iPhone and the Maps app to guide me to the place. Almost immediately Siri told me to take the next exit. I knew that was wrong and ignored her advice.

“Take this exit,” Siri insisted. I drove past and she corrected herself to “Proceed 90 miles on Interstate 80.” That’s better. Or was it?

A few miles later a police officer with flashing lights waved to the traffic to slow down. Sure enough, I crested a hill to encounter a massive traffic jam, which slowed us to a crawl for about two miles and 20 minutes.

About 20 miles from the hotel, Siri said, “Unexpected delays ahead. You might consider taking East Valley Road.” There were only three or four semitrailer trucks within sight for miles around. I kept driving.

Sure enough, about five minutes later traffic stopped on I-80 for the third time that day – except now the sun had set. It was the worst traffic jam of the day.

A few hundred feet and 10 minutes later was a sign that said, “Left lane closed two miles ahead.” A quarter mile and another 10 minutes later came an exit.

Finally the lesson was learned: I decided to trust the app and turned off the interstate. Immediately Siri chirped, “Turn left onto East Valley Road. In 7.9 miles, turn left.”

Left? Wouldn’t that take me the opposite direction? No matter. I put my journey into Siri’s, um, hands.

In the dark I could see it was a beat-up, rural road with a 40 mph speed limit that seemed too fast for safe travel. But it was running parallel to the highway, and then it scooted back under the highway, so a left turn made sense again. Smooth sailing, here we go!

Suddenly a sign on the road said, “Pavement ends.” What? The asphalt disappeared, replaced by a pothole-pocked pavement that once upon a time may have had a dusting of gravel over it. And we proceeded into a very, very dark woods.

Bumping along I passed a darkened house that would be the only structure I’d see for the last four miles of East Valley Road. And shortly after that, I saw a flash of light in my rear-view mirror. There must be someone behind me, I thought, either someone else who’s trusting Siri or – maybe someone more sinister. Or some thing

It would be easy on the car to drive about 10 mph through those woods. I drove 25 – and the lights behind me kept getting closer.

Just as I was beginning to think 7.9 miles would never come and my body would never be found, Siri said, “In a quarter-mile, turn left, then turn right onto Interstate 80.”

The rest of the trip was routine. I’ve scheduled the return two-day trip for Saturday and Sunday. Maybe I’ll sell the car and fly home.