Volume 1 Issue 10: Good Gone Bad

This week’s stories come from the formidable Debbie Felio, first-time contributor Tim Clark, and myself. Like usual, the stories may have shared the same conditions in their conception but are definitely distinct reactions to the prompt. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!
See you on Monday!

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No Good Deed
Debbie Felio

  He’d been around the neighborhood for the last year. Initially I thought he was scoping the neighborhood out. There are certain preconceptions, I admit. Thirty years on the same street, you might be suspicious of unknown people walking by, too. And given that most of us are on the downhill side of 60 we’re often seen as easy marks for scammers.
  But this kid – couldn’t be more than 20 – had been helping with odd jobs – yard work, cleaning gutters, even shoveling sidewalks and putting down the melt or gravel in the winter. Mostly outdoor stuff because none of us wanted to risk him coming into the house and stealing something.
  A mutual benefits sort of thing – we got those jobs that we didn’t want to admit we couldn’t do anymore done by helping someone else out – cash – no questions. And he was reasonable and dependable. We weren’t sure exactly what his name was – Markus, Marko, Mario – he answered to any of those. We weren’t a prejudiced group, but you can’t help but notice differences.
  It was one of those surprise weather days when Mother Nature decided to smile big time after a hard couple of weeks of winter. Clear blue sky, in the 70s and some early budding. Some of us were setting our chairs back on our porches and opening the house windows. We all saw Marco/Mario walk up the street from the bus stop at the light 3 blocks away. It wasn’t a regular day for him so none of us had our lists ready. He waved as he passed, but he wasn’t stopping. We watched him walk to Jake Slate’s house. Jake the Snake we called him. A slithery character who mostly kept to himself. A little too off center if you asked me. And Marco/Mario didn’t stop at the porch but walked into the house when Jake opened the door.
  About an hour later, a couple of us on our porches see him – Marco/Mario – come running out of Jake’s house – pulling his pants up and stumbling – that’s when he falls down, and me and Hadley run over to him. He’s bleeding and that’s when we call 911. The fire, ambulance and police all show up. He tried to refuse help, but because there’d been some sort of injury the police had to make a report. Seemed Jake wanted a job a little too odd. When the police go to Jake’s house, there’s no answer, so they go in and Jake’s dead – looks like he fell down the stairs. But because Marco/Mario is the last to see him, he’s now a suspect in a possible homicide – even if it’s accidental.
  He’s taken to the police station and they discover Marco/Mario came over illegally as a kid from Mexico wth his parents who were sent back 2 years ago, so they call ICE.
  That’s all I know.

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Life gets away, this time.
Tim Clark

Life is hard to understand, Occasionally something good will happen. Most times, though, random occurrences, minor, petty inconveniences barge in callously proving life is not your friend. Life belongs in a museum, behind glass, or a zoo locked in a cage. We need to control life a little better. Life walks around, taking, and stomping, and smashing, and just being a big bully in general.

We, here at Life Explained, have decided to take steps to rein in the abusive monster of reality. First we called a meeting, complete with catered breakfast, and coffee service.

It was fantastic, croissants, bagels, fresh pastries, all arrayed in artfully on long tables, covered with pristine white linens. Oh, and the coffee, was the coffee extraordinary. Dark, hot, freshly ground, steam rising as you poured it in your cup. It had to be the coffee of the gods.

A line started to form at the buffet table. Soon there was some jostling, it looked like the cheese danish were going to go before Geoff, the archivist was going to get one. He tried to muscle his way in front of Cathy, the secretary for transportation department, nasty words were exchanged. Glares, snarls and curses.

Not just swearing either. Turns out Cathy comes from a long line or gypsies. It was, in retrospect, obvious. Cathy was always wearing flowing, pleated, flowered skirts ending at her ankle. Her dusky complexion was complimented by eyes so dark and so glittering they appeared to be pupiless. When she walked, anywhere, people, in the back of their thoughts, almost imperceptibly, heard distant, primal music. A song that haunted them for minutes after she had past. Nobody said anything about the melody, why would they. And nobody made the connection, until yesterday.

Before Geoff could could get back to the end of the line all of his hair had fallen out. He had spent so much time perfecting his look, just the right amount of grey around the temples, the rest jet black, and combed precisely backward, almost aerodynamically. He spent a small fortune on hair products, to keep it in place and colored just perfectly. His clothing was chosen to compliment his hair.

When it fell out he dropped to the floor, sobbing, weeping, curled up in a ball, his face buried in his hands. His shining, bald head gleaming under the harsh lights of the flashing camera phones. It was heartbreaking, and all over Instagram.

We decided Life had won this round. Cathy got her own office, and a company car. Geoff apologized and got his hair back, in a gleaming shade of white/silver that would go with almost any suit. And we went back to work.

Don’t worry, we haven’t given up, we lost the battle, but the war continues. Maybe we will have pizza next time.

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 Imelda and Her Shiny Shoes

Tiffany Key

The first pair of shoes that someone, other than her mother, bought for her was after the great storm. The streets were flooded but she had to wear her only shoes or risk stepping on something. The missionaries had handed out the cheap rubber sandals at the end of their visit the previous year. For a while, she was able to get around with the soles flapping open like two hungry mouths under her toes. Eventually, though, the glue disintegrated completely and the shoes became a collection of irreparable pieces.   

Her mother was working in the city at the time and no one else had the money to take care of little Imelda’s footwear problem. She could not go to school without shoes and for several days, went instead to the harbor and make herself comfortable in her uncles’ fishing boat. She would bring her books and dutifully complete her daily assignments. She’d eat her lunch and then take a short nap under the canvas sail she stretched over the stern like a roof.

Had one of her family members discovered her, she would have been scolded for being on the boat but not for the truancy. Night fishermen, her uncles and grandfather thought that sending Imelda to school was a waste of money. Imelda’s mother wanted her bright daughter to do well in school so she could have a future away from the slums. It was for her beloved mother’s sake that Imelda was so diligent with her studies though, for the most part, she found school tedious. She was absorbed in an arithmetic problem when she was spied by her mother’s best friend. The woman walked down the rickety dock in fragile stiletto heels, calling Imelda’s name. When she asked the child why she was not at school, Imelda looked down at her feet in shame, unable to explain to her mother’s elegant friend that she was not allowed in school barefoot.

The woman had grown up in the same neighborhood so she understood without Imelda’s words. The woman told Imelda to pack up her books and follow her. At the mansion the woman called home, her maid was instructed to give Imelda a bath. Then she had her driver take her and Imelda to the shopping street. Imelda was speechless, nodding or shaking her head to all questions. When she was dropped off back home, new patent leather shoes and white socks adorning her small clean feet, she was irreversibly altered. She had been shown a new world, a world where food did not have to be grown or caught if you wanted to eat, a world with maids and drivers and shoe salesmen and the rich fragrance of Vol de Nuit.

Decades later, after they had arrived safely in Hawaii and she learned that not only her jewelry but her thousands of shoes had been confiscated, Imelda’s distressed mind returned to those first shoes. She smiled, remembering how she would use banana peels to keep the patent leather glossy enough to see her future, shining bright.

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