Tuesday, January 31, 2012


     Buckshot Bill McCoy rode into town on his black horse at high noon. Most of the townspeople didn’t even notice him until he reached the Marysville town square. He stopped in the middle of the road and just sat there with the brim of his hat tilted down to cover his face. Lifting his head ever so slightly, he scanned the scene without any visible movement. In a flash, his eyes darted back and forth twice, and that was all he needed. Bill McCoy had traveled to enough dingy towns to know what to look for quickly.
     To the left, a blacksmith hammered horseshoes. Next to him, a local shop owner arranged a display of fancy-looking ceramic plates. On the right side, a preacher man stood on a barrel in front of a saloon and lectured a small audience, which included the unconscious town drunk. Straight ahead was the Marysville jail. The man sitting on the front porch was clearly a deputy, not the sheriff. The sheriff would have taken notice of a stranger who just rode up the street; the man on the front porch didn’t even look in his direction. That was good for Bill McCoy.
     The town of Marysville looked just like the other twenty small Texas towns Bill McCoy had visited, with one big difference: the man crossing the street between the saloon and the jail. He had a curly white mustache, round spectacles, wore a clean suit and walked with a long silver cane. The cane is what gave him away. Bill McCoy remembered that cane from the first time he saw it. That was many years ago, on the day this man ruined his life.
     Bill McCoy remembered that day well. He remembered the tears, the screaming. He remembered the hardships that followed. He remembered growing up tough and learning to fend for himself. He remembered working hard for a few morsels of food, and spending all his free time learning to shoot—learning to kill. Bill McCoy practiced shooting for many years to become the fastest shot this side of the Mississippi—he hadn't earned the nickname "Buckshot" for nothing—and it was all for this moment. He had waited for this day ever since his family lost their farm, and now he was finally going to get his revenge.
     Bill McCoy moved his horse to the side of the road. In one smooth move, he dismounted and tossed the reigns around a post. He didn’t need to worry about tying up properly because he wasn’t planning on staying long. Depending on how that deputy reacted, he may need a fast getaway. But getting out alive wasn’t Bill McCoy’s top priority. Revenge came first, at any cost.
     The timing was perfect. Bill McCoy walked up the street and intercepted the man with the silver cane when he turned to cross the square. He couldn’t have planned it better; it was as if fate brought him to this exact place and time. When Bill McCoy faced the man, standing directly in his path about ten paces ahead, he held his ground and threw back his cloak, showing the two shiny revolvers hanging from his belt.
     The man with the cane saw him and also stopped. They stood facing each other in silence for half a minute. The man looked at Bill McCoy quizzically, as though he struggled to place his face. Bill McCoy looked back at the man hard, his eyes filled with hate. Only then did the townspeople take notice. They didn’t know the stranger with the guns, but they knew he was trouble. Within seconds, the streets were cleared.
     “Doc Larson!” shouted Bill McCoy.
     “Yes, that’s me,” said the man with the cane. He squinted through his spectacles. “Do I know you?”
     Bill McCoy spat on the ground. He spent many sleepless nights imagining what he’d say at this moment, but none of the speeches he prepared seemed appropriate. Instead, he just said the words as they came into his head.
     “’I’ve been lookin’ for you a long time, Doc Larson. You took my family’s farm, took my folks’ money, took everything we had. You ruined my life, and now—“
     “Why, little William McCoy? Is that you?” Doc Larson took a step forward for a better look.
     “Sure is, Doc.” Bill McCoy spat again. “Now it’s your turn—“
     “William McCoy!” Doc Larson ran over to embrace him. “I’ve been searching for you for years! Yes, you’re right, I did take your family’s farm and everything you owned. It was a horrible mistake, but I’ve seen the error of my greedy ways and want to make amends. I’ve been carrying this deed around with me for years, and it’s made out to the McCoy family. I’d like give you a bigger farm than you’ve ever owned, and I’m happy to help you out financially in any way I can.”
     Doc Larson pulled a deed out of his pocket and showed it to Bill McCoy. Sure enough, it was made out to his name.
     “Well, how about that?” said Bill McCoy, looking over the paperwork. “That sure is swell of you.”
     And the plot thinned…

Monday, January 30, 2012


     Elaine put on some soothing music, then sat on a rolling chair next to her patient. Victor had removed his shirt and socks and laid face-up on her table. He twitched when she felt his pulse.
     “I take it this is the first time you’ve tried acupuncture?” she asked.
     Victor nodded quickly. “Yes, but I’m ready for it. My brother has tried it and he told me what to expect.”
     Elaine smiled. “Don’t worry, most people are a little nervous at the beginning. Let me know if you have any questions.”
     “Thanks.” Victor took a deep breath and tried to relax. “I was wondering, where does all the blood go?”
     “I beg your pardon?” said Elaine. “What blood?”
     Victor lifted his head to look at her. “Why, all the blood you’ll be draining out of me, of course.”
     Elaine looked confused. “Victor, acupuncture isn’t bloodletting. The needles don’t even break the skin. There won’t be any blood at all.”
     Victor looked surprise, but also relieved. “Oh… Okay. I guess that’s a little different than I thought. Well, if you could let me know before you insert any needles then I’d appreciate it. I really want to brace myself for the pain.”
     Elaine smiled again. “They’re already in your right arm and leg.”
     He titled his head even further up to look down at his body. Sure enough, several very thin needles protruded from his arm and leg.
     “So… you don’t use a hammer?” he asked.
     “Heavens, no!” Elaine quickly finished his other leg and moved up to his left arm. “Victor, do you think it’s possible your brother was having a little fun with you when he told you about his acupuncture experience?”
     Victor lowered his head back down onto the soft pillow. “That’s not like him, although he did tell me his parakeet was poisonous and that my skin would melt if it bit me. I ended up calling poison control when it nibbled my finger, but they just laughed. And he once made me believe our parents had been replaced by aliens. He convinced me they would sneak into my room and eat my brain if I fell asleep.”
     Elaine let out a subtle laugh. “It sounds like he gave you a few scares as a child.”
     “Oh, no,” said Victor. “This was all last week. By the way, could you give me a warning before you remove my spleen?”

Sunday, January 29, 2012


     “Fine, I’ll pay for a new one!” Joan slammed her phone shut and looked out the passenger window.
     “Is everything okay?” asked Trevor from the driver’s seat.
     Joan sighed. “I borrowed a sweater from my friend Alice and now she says she can’t wear it because it smells like our side of town. You know, I hate to stereotype, but it seems like people from Abbyville are very pretentious.”
     “I have to agree,” said Gary from the back seat. “And while we’re at it, I think everyone who lives on Jackson Hill is a hick. How many old pickup trucks are jacked-up on lawns there?”
     “No kidding.” Trevor looked at Gary in the rearview mirror. “And I’ll add that anyone raised in Lewisburg is a lousy driver.”
     “Wait,” said Joan. “Aren’t you from Lewisburg?”
     “Yep,” said Trevor, as he cut-off the car in the next lane.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Job Security

     Brad stood on the tips of his toes, but he still couldn’t reach the ream of paper he needed from the top shelf. He finally gave up and looked around the busy office until he found tall Will standing by the water cooler.
     “Hey Stretch,” said Brad. “How about a little help?”
     Will smiled and followed Brad back to the office supplies, ducking to avoid hitting his head when he passed through the doorway. He snatched the pack of paper off the shelf without effort.
     “Thanks buddy.” Brad ripped open the ream and began reloading a printer. “It sure is a scary with all the layoffs happening around here lately, huh?”
     Will shrugged. “I guess so.”
     Marcie poked her head up from behind a nearby cubicle. “Pssst! Do you guys have any idea who’s next? I think it might be Cheryl from accounting because she’s totally useless. By the way Will, could you hand me another stapler? I’ve lost mine and they’re way out of my reach.”
     “No problem.” Will plucked a stapler off the supply shelf and passed it to her.
     “Cheryl, eh?” said Brad. “She is pretty useless, but I haven’t heard Mr. Jameson call her into his office yet. It seems like every time he meets with someone to discuss their job responsibilities, they end up getting the axe.”
     No sooner did he say the words than Mr. Jameson walked into the room. Brad returned his attention to the printer, Marcie’s head disappeared behind her cubicle and everyone else began looking very busy—everyone except Will, that is. He stood with his hands in his pockets and smiled at the boss.
     Mr. Jameson stopped in front of him and scanned the room. “Good afternoon, everybody.”
     “Good afternoon sir,” said several scattered voices.
     “Ah, Will,” said Mr. Jameson, looking up. “Would you mind stopping by my office later to change a light bulb? I’m sorry to bother you with it again, but it’s such a hassle for the janitor to haul his ladder up here.”
     “Certainly, sir,” said Will. “I could do it right now if you like.”
     “No, I’m afraid I have a couple meetings now. How about after lunch?”
     “No problem, sir.”
     “Excellent.” Mr. Jameson looked around again. “In that case, I’d like to see you, Brad, in my office in five minutes to go over your job evaluation.”
     Brad’s face dropped. “Uh… yes, sir.”
     “Good, good.” Mr. Jameson started to walk away, then stopped and looked back. “And Marcie, could you meet me in about twenty minutes? I’d like to talk to you about your job as well.”
     Marcie, who poked her head up when she heard Brad’s name, nodded and sank back behind her wall as Mr. Jameson walked away. The rest of the office employees let out a sigh of relief.
     As soon as he felt everyone was out of sight, Will went to work grabbing random pieces of office equipment and moving them up to the highest shelves. He also loosened a couple more bulbs in the breakroom and conference room. Then he returned to his desk, confident in his job security.

Friday, January 27, 2012


     “Another round, guys?”
     “Bring ‘em on!” Malcolm pushed his empty glass toward the bartender and she took it away.
     “This has to be the last one,” said Tom. “I have to work tomorrow.”
     “Sure, sure,” Malcolm said, patting him on the back. “I’m just glad I got you out of the house. I haven’t seen you much since the breakup.”
     Tom sighed.
     Malcolm leaned forward and looked him in the eye. “Look buddy, I know this is hard for you, but you need to get past her. It’s been four months and it’s time for you to move on.”
     “That’s easy for you to say,” said Tom, pushing him back. “I’m not as outgoing as you and I never dated much. I don’t know how to flirt with women. It doesn’t matter anyway, since I’m not even attracted to anyone right now.”
     “What about the cute bartender?” Malcolm nodded toward her over Tom’s shoulder.
     Tom gave her a quick glance. “Why her?”
     “Because you’ve been looking at her all night.”
     Tom blushed. He didn’t think Malcolm had noticed. “I don’t know, Mal,” he said. “I wouldn’t even know how to approach her. I’d probably get nervous and say something stupid.”
     Malcolm put his hand on his friend’s shoulder and leaned in close. “Tom, you’re a great guy. You’re smart, handsome and incredibly nice. She'd be crazy not to like you. Start by telling her she’s pretty and just be yourself. Crack a joke. What have you got to lose?”
     Tom didn’t say a word. He kept his eyes down and played with a coaster on the bar.
     “Think of it this way, Tom,” Malcolm said. “Do you want to leave here tonight wondering what could have happened if you just took a chance? Do you want to walk away never knowing if she was the love of your life?”
     Those words struck a nerve with Tom, and Malcolm could tell from the look in his eyes. When the bartender returned with two more mojitos, Malcolm slid to the side and gave Tom a subtle kick.
     Tom took a deep breath, then looked up at the bartender. Their eyes met.
     “Can I get you anything else?” she asked him.
     Tom’s felt his heart pounding. “I just wanted to tell you… you’re very pretty.”
     “Sure,” she said with a playful smirk. “That’s easy for you to say. You’ve had four drinks.”
     “No, no,” said Tom. “I thought you were pretty after only two drinks.”

     “Maybe next time, buddy,” said Malcolm, as he walked Tom home.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sometimes You Need a Yoda

     Teri let out a loud wail and buried her face in a tissue.
     “There, there,” said Christine, patting her crying friend on the back. “It’s going to be okay.”
     Teri lifted up her head, still sobbing. “Why did I ever fall for him? I knew he was a bad guy.”
     Christine handed her another tissue. “You fell for him because he was bad. We girls are just attracted to ruffians. Remember how Princess Leia couldn’t help falling for Han Solo, even though he was a reckless mercenary with a price on his head?”
     Teri blew her nose into the tissue. “I just don’t understand how he could leave me so fast. We were going to finish school together, and now he’s moving to Utah to be with that floozy he met on spring break.”
     Christine shook her head. “Just like when Luke abandoned Yoda and his Jedi training to be with his friends. It really shows what was most important to him.”
     “I just can’t believe it.” Teri dropped her head onto her friend’s shoulder. “It’s like he was powerless to her… and I just stood by when she made him dump me!” She began to cry again.
     Christine put her arm around Teri. “I know, I know… it’s like you’re in that scene when Luke thought he was ready to confront Darth Vader, but Vader cornered him and cut off his hand, causing his lightsaber to fall deep into the bowels of Cloud City.”
     Teri stopped crying for a moment and looked up at Christine. “Wait, who am I in that scenario? Luke or Darth Vader?”
     “Neither,” said Christine. “You’re the lightsaber.”
     Teri let out another wail and began to sob again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


     Amber stumbled through the front door of her new suburban house with a cardboard box so big she couldn’t see around it. She kicked the door closed behind her and dropped the box in the middle of the living room. It blended well among dozens of similar boxes.
     “There!” she said, wiping her hands on her worn out jeans. “That’s the last one. Now we can start unpacking.”
     “Let’s take another look around, honey,” said Darren, who was already wandering through the empty space. “We have all weekend to unpack. Why don’t we explore our new home first?”
     Amber smiled and gave him a kiss on the cheek as she took his hand. They walked together through the dining room, the kitchen and the laundry room before heading up the stairs.
     “I can’t believe the size of this house,” said Amber, entering the master bedroom. “It must be twice as big as our old place on the south side.”
     Darren nodded. “Two thousand square feet more. Perfect for starting a family.” The comment earned him another kiss.
     Amber walked into the hallway to check the other bedrooms. “I can’t wait to go shopping. We don’t have nearly enough furniture to fill this space.”
     “I’m glad you brought that up, dear.” Darren pushed ahead of her to enter the next doorway first. “Because I think we should discuss what we want to do with this bedroom.”
     “I thought we already agreed it would be an office space.” She walked around him to look in the closet.
     “Well yes, that was suggested,” Darren said. “But we should consider all our options before we decide for sure.”
     Amber gave him a sideways glance. “What do you mean? I need a home office to work.”
      “Of course you do, dear. I’m just saying, maybe there’s something more important we can do here. For example, we could turn it into a yoga room or a game room. Or maybe it could be used to showcase—I don’t know—a collection… of sorts.”
     Audrey shook her head. “We don’t do yoga and we don’t play many games. And we don’t collect anything.”
     “Well,” Darren said. “Suppose one of us started collecting something.”
     “Like what? Stamps or coins? You don’t need a whole room for that.”
     “No,” he agreed, “but maybe for something bigger, like—well, just off the top of my head—swords.”
     Amber put her hands on her hips and stared him down. “Why on earth would we collect swords?”
     Darren shrugged. “Who knows? We probably never would. Except maybe one of us might be surfing the web one evening, very late at night, and come across an article on sword collecting. And maybe that person—it could be either one of us—might just start browsing Ebay for fun to see what kind of deal he—or she—could get on a collectible 19th century Japanese katana blade. And maybe, just maybe, that person might come across a bulk lot of seemingly priceless swords that were ending in an auction in only thirty seconds and that person realized he or she wouldn’t have time to check with his or her spouse before bidding because it would mean missing the opportunity of a lifetime—“
     “Just how many swords would be in this bulk lot?” She crossed her arms and started tapping her foot.
     “Oh, I have no idea… since it’s all hypothetical. Let’s say… one hundred.”
     “One hundred!” she repeated.
     “Or two hundred,” he said.
     “Two hundred!” she repeated.
     “Yes, three hundred.”
     Amber stopped repeating him. She also stopped tapping her foot. Instead, she just stood there and gave him a glare that burned a hole through his head. “If you’re about to tell me that you just bought three hundred swords with our savings—“
     “What? No, no,” Darren said, shaking his head. “I didn’t do that.”
     “You didn’t?”
     “Of course not! I would never buy three hundred swords with our savings. They would be sharp and dangerous, and not suitable for a house that will soon have an innocent little baby in it.”
     At those words, Amber’s heart softened and she moved close to hug him, nuzzling her head in his shoulder.
     “You had me scared,” she said.
     “Honey, you should know me better than that. I would never buy three hundred swords.” He patted her back. “I mean, imagine how horrible that would be. Buying swords would be way worse than, say, buying parrots.”
     She laughed at the thought. “Yeah, I guess so. Three hundred parrots would be much better.”
     “I’m glad you agree,” he said, giving her a loving squeeze.
     Before she could respond, the sound of a large truck engine came through the window and grew louder until it was apparent the vehicle parked right outside. When the engine cut off, an overwhelming squawking noise took its place. Amber looked up at Darren, then darted to the window.
     Yep, Darren thought to himself, I think I handled that quite well.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Art Critic

     Dietrich and Gertrude stared at the painted canvas in silence for a full two minutes. Other museum patrons weaved through them to move on to other exhibits.
     “Hmm,” said Dietrich, stroking his goatee with his thumb and forefinger. “What do you think?”
     Gertrude took a step back and tilted her head to one side, still studying the work. “I like how this piece combines the vivid, dreamlike atmosphere of surrealism with the collage aspects of dada.”
     “Oh please!” Dietrich brushed her off with a wave of his hand. “You wouldn’t know surrealism if a rhinoceros slapped you with a fish.”

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Direct Approach

     “Hi Sheri,” said Monica, walking in the open apartment door. “I’m returning your sweater.”
     “Thanks. Just throw it on the chair.” Sheri had her hands full carrying a large speaker across the room.
     “Here, let me help you.” Monica dropped the sweater on the chair and ran over to give her a hand. “Where are you moving the stereo?”
     “Right up against the wall.” Sheri lowered the speaker to the floor and pushed it so that the front of it faced the wall. “Come on. Let’s get the other one.”
     Monica followed her. “Okay, but why there? Don’t you have neighbors in the next apartment?”
     “Exactly.” Sheri crawled under a table to disconnect the cables of the other speaker. “I can hear them watching TV after I go to bed and it keeps me up at night. It’s so inconsiderate! I’ve had enough of it and tonight I’m going to teach them a lesson. They’re going to be hearing Justin Bieber until 2am.”
     “I see,” said Monica, helping her coil the cables. “I can understand how being kept awake must be frustrating for you, but are you sure this is the best approach?”
     “Oh yeah.” Sheri stood up again. “I’ve been dealing with that television for weeks and this is the only option I have left.”
     “Well, I guess you know what you’re doing.” Monica helped her hoist up the second speaker. “What did they say when you talked to them about it?”
     “Talk?” asked Sheri. “Well I haven’t tried that.”
     “You haven’t?” Monica stopped moving. “Sheri, that could save you a lot of trouble.”
     “Nonsense.” Sheri pushed Monica forward from her side. “My father taught me how to handle situations like this. He always said words were a waste of time.”
     Monica let the speaker drop to the ground. “Is this the same father you stopped talking to three years ago because he posted drunk photos of you on Facebook when you forgot his birthday?”
     “Yeah, he’s such a jerk,” said Sheri. “What’s your point?”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Candyland Prodigy

     Gary walked into his favorite coffee shop and looked around for his friends. He found Trevor and Joan sitting at a table on the other side of the room with a board game between them.
     “Hi guys. Hey, is that Candyland?” Gary picked up one of the playing pieces and turned it over in his hand. “Wow, I haven’t seen this game since I was a kid! I used to play it every day in kindergarten.”
     “Yeah,” said Joan, slouching back in her chair. “That’s what Trevor said, but it’s not the same for him now.”
     Gary looked at Trevor, who held his face in both of his hands. He looked upset.
     “Hey buddy,” Gary patted him on the back. “Are you okay?”
     Trevor shook his head. “I used to be so good. It was my gift.”
     Gary leaned closer to Joan. “What’s he talking about?”
     Joan sighed. “Apparently, when Trevor was little, he was a Candyland champion. He was undefeated and beat all the kids in his neighborhood. He hasn’t played in twenty years, and until we found it today he thought he had a special skill for the game.”
     “Skill? Really?” asked Gary. “Isn’t it just a matter of drawing cards and moving where they say? I mean, you don’t actually have to think to play this game.”
     “I was so good!” Trevor lifted up his head and moaned. “My mom told me I had a special gift. No matter how tough things were in life, I always told myself, ‘at least I can beat anybody at Candyland.’ It was all a lie. This game is 100% chance!” He dropped his head back into his hands.
     “Um, Trevor,” said Gary, kneeling down beside him. “You have lots of other talents. Just because Candyland was a delusion doesn’t mean you aren’t good at other things. You must have another skill, right?”
     Trevor lifted his head again and thought it over. “As a matter of fact, I do. Mom also told me I was the king of Chutes and Ladders, and I kicked ass at Hungry Hungry Hippo. Do you think we can find those games?”
     Gary and Joan looked at each other.
     “I don’t know how to break this to you, Trevor,” said Joan, “but your day is about to get a lot worse…”