Bad for Business (short story)

I wrote this short story originally for a flash fiction contest. The prompt was to write a story under 1,000 words about receiving disturbing news from a fortune teller. My story ended up tying for first place! Here’s the short story, Bad for Business:
Bad for Business
I eyed the couch.
“Should I lie down?” I said. 
“Only if you want to,” Dr. Hammerly said. “I hope you don’t mind if I eat my lunch. We’re running behind today.”
“No, no,” I said. “I just appreciate you being able to fit me in at the last minute like this.”
He shoved a forkful into his mouth and sighed. “Homemade chicken parmesan. There’s nothing like it in the world.”
I sat on the couch and drummed my fingers against the leather. “So… how does this normally go? How do I start?”
“How about you begin by telling me about your job?” He flipped through some papers. “You’re a … fortune teller?”
“Yes, well, it’s complicated,” I said.
“Tell me about that,” he said in a pleasant, but practiced, tone.
“I give people encouragement, support. Hope. I’m a hope-dealer, if you will.”
“It sounds as though you enjoy your job.”
“I do. Well, usually. I mean, it has its ups and downs, like any job, I’m sure. Do you like what you do?”
He nodded and took a bite of his lunch. “I enjoy talking to people about life. But let’s get back to you. Would you say your customers are happy with your work?”
I shrugged. “Sure. I like to give the good news, because I like making people happy. And it doesn’t hurt that good news is good for business.”
I ran my finger along the leather couch. Maybe I would lie down.
“Can I be frank with you, Dr. Hammerly?”
He put his fork down and leaned forward. “Yes, please. Everything you say in here is confidential. Like speaking with a doctor, or confessing to a priest.”
“The good news is good for business,” I repeated. “But I think some customers were starting to wonder if I was just a feel-good fortune teller. And that’s bad for business. I can’t have customers wondering if I’m legit. So I made a business decision: I had to give bad news.”
“How did that make you feel?”
“Not great.”
I looked around the room. It was exactly what I’d expected for a therapist. Dark wood floors and dark walls. A sturdy desk with a globe and those banging metal ball things. The leather couch. Dr. Hammerly took the moment to push another forkful of chicken parmesan into his mouth.
“Tell me more about the bad news,” he said, his mouth full.
“Well, Doctor, I was meeting with a woman who came to see me quite frequently, at least twice a month. We knew each other well enough, and it was getting harder to give her a good reading because of our close relationship. In fact, I haven’t had a clear reading on her for some time. I was pretty much just giving her some advice based on details I already knew about her life.”
I thought back to my last meeting with Susette. Her hair a shade darker than usual and styled. Her new slim figure that matched her new clothes.
“And it wasn’t just her. I’d been having some trouble giving readings on a few customers lately. So I felt some pressure to get this one right. When we met, I just knew that there was something she was hiding. Things had changed, and it wasn’t just her outward appearance. Her aura was stronger. She had a hidden happiness that she didn’t feel she could release. I heard her unspoken messages so clearly. She was having an affair.”
“So you told her that you knew?” Dr. Hammerly said.
Dr. Hammerly looked surprised, despite his very polished demeanor.
“It didn’t matter that I knew,” I said. “I wasn’t the person she was trying so hard to hide it from. My bad news to her was that her husband would find out.”
“And she was upset?”
“Oh, very! She begged me to change my reading. She asked me to look into her aura again. But it doesn’t work that way. Like I said, I’m not just a feel-good fortune teller. I’m the real thing.”
“You sound like you feel you had something to prove.”
“Maybe I do feel that way. But it doesn’t stop the truth: he would find out. Her husband was going to learn of her affair, whether she wanted him to or not. The truth always comes out in the end.”
Dr. Hammerly took another bite of his chicken parmesan.
I thought again about Susette that day, how she started making promises to me, as though I was the person she’d wronged. She bargained with me, as one would with God, that she would be a better wife. She would love her husband more. She’d break off the affair, if only her husband would never find out.
“She told me she was sorry,” I said. “She told me she would go straight home to her loving husband, cook him a good meal and make things right.”
“How did that make you feel?” Dr. Hammerly said.
“I didn’t feel anything,” I said. “It didn’t change the fact that he would find out. She could cook him whatever she wanted to cook him, but he would learn the truth.”
Dr. Hammerly punched his fork into another piece of chicken.
“So how did everything turn out?” he said through chunks of his lunch.
“Well, Doctor, in my professional opinion, these things always take time to mend, but the healing process is a miraculous thing. How is your chicken parmesan, by the way?”
He smiled. “Delicious.”
I nodded. “Yes, Susette mentioned it was one of your favorites.”
He paused with his fork midway to his mouth.
“Like I said, the truth always comes out in the end.”

Chaos at the Dog Show

I originally wrote this short story as a submission for a column to appear in a pet enthusiast magazine, but this magazine does not print stories relating to dog shows (I honestly didn’t even think about that), so I’m posting it here. Obviously, I’m crazy about my dogs, and we all just watched the Westminster Dog Show together (Zip, in particular loves watching dogs on tv).

Zip Watching TV

So here’s the story!

Chaos at the Dog Show

By Rascal, the Jack Russell Terrier

Rascal Face
Last night, I dreamt I was at the Dog Show. I was backstage amid the hubbub, the handlers and the hair spray. While the Poodle got his hair puffed, and the Doberman barked strict orders, I trotted between the legs of the Great Dane and hopped over the Pekingese. I’d never seen so many dogs in one place, and had definitely never seen so many hairstyles.

The Parson Russell Terrier sniffed his way over to me.
“Hello, Cousin,” I said to him. “What’s your name?”
“They call me Spot,” he replied. “I enjoy frolicking in the woods and am a great companion. I’m energetic and was bred to hunt foxes. I enjoy success but can be stubborn at times.”
“Okay,” I shrugged. That’s a little TMI for our first meeting, I thought. “Want to take a spin around the room and see who’s who?”
Spot, the Parson, stood on his hind legs and turned in a circle. “Spin,” he said.
“Very funny, show-off,” I laughed. “Let’s go for a quick walk.”
“WALK?” he yipped. A few dogs near us snapped to attention. “WALK?!” He started bouncing as though on a trampoline.

I realized my mistake once the word slipped across my flat tongue. My canine cousin’s enthusiasm was infectious, though, and I couldn’t help myself. Soon I was hopping up and down next to him. We were like two pogo sticks with tails.
“WALK! WALK!” we chanted, and soon other dogs joined in. The handlers frantically grabbed for their leashes and tried calm the pups with liver treats.
“WALK! WALK! WALK!” our chorus continued. We leapt and jiggled through the area. The big dogs stumbled and tumbled over the smaller ones, while those in the Toy category found refuge near larger, protective breeds. I noticed the Pug seeking cover under the Mastiff, and the Chihuahua climbing onto the back of the Rottweiler.
“WALK! WALK!” was our mantra. Spot led the charge through the doors and into the arena, where a surprised scattering of audience members watched our parade. The dog handlers chased us. Round and round we went, pooches and humans, dashing in circles on the green carpet of the arena.
Finally, our excitement waned and dog after dog flopped down. I found a good space to lie down near Spot and we tucked our heads next to each other. Spot yawned. My eyes drooped with sleep.
“That was a great walk,” Spot said dreamily.

“Great walk,” I agreed. My eyes closed and the sounds of doggy snores slowly faded away.
I woke up in my bed, warm and soft. My human was leaning over me with a smile on his face.
“Wow, that must have been some dream, Rascal!” he said. “You were barking in your sleep and your legs were going, as if you were on a walk.”
I jumped up from my bed, tail wagging and ears perked. “WALK?!” I yipped.

Trivial Things (Poem)

Piles of boxes line each wall
A precarious mess, that threaten to fall

Stacks upon stacks of trivial things
Oh, the weighty trouble these boxes bring

Picking my way, so carefully treading
Stepping and stirring, unaware of where I’m heading

These boxes impede and mislead; I despair
I plead to be freed of the cell that we share

The dust takes hold and obstructs my breath
These piles won’t be my last sight before death

I grip at the boxes, pulling everything down
While those trivial things unload and abound

Those dusty boxes, those burdens and fears
Have compiled and swelled in this room through the years

A window, a door, a crack in the wall
I search for my exit, I grapple and crawl

And just when the darkness and dust seems its worst
I find my opening and tumble headfirst

Moving Along (Poem)

Moving along
and stumbling ahead
Ripping and splitting
you out of my head

The lesson you force-fed
me when I was young
Like a bitterness
on the tip of my tongue

I spit you out
Fling you far, far away
But you return with gusto
If only you’d stay

Moving along
I’m gone and I’m free
You creep back and sneak in
where you shouldn’t be

Age and heart take the
brunt of your force
The ransacking chaos
of your brazen course

Your hit-and-run game
is so obscure
that I barely realize
I’m stuck on your detour

Moving along
I’m breaking apart
Hoping my next fight
leaves me my heart

Flash Fiction Contest Announced

The January Flash Fiction contest has been announced over at Devin O’Branagan’s writing blog. This month’s challenge is to write about disturbing news from a fortune teller … in under 1,000 words. Check it out and enter – the rules are posted at the link I included.

I’ve found flash fiction to be a great exercise for when I hit a slump in my writing. I know I do a lot of poetry on this blog, but short stories are where my heart really lies. Unfortunately, I don’t get struck with the lightning bolt quite as often. But a challenge issued for a flash fiction contest can usually do the trick for getting inspired quickly. And the best part is that it’s only 1,000 words, so it doesn’t take quite as long for the writing, then editing, then re-editing. And then re-editing.

So check out the contest here and enter – it’s easy!

Another Love Poem

Somewhere deep inside of me
the words shout out, cacophony
it wasn’t til we met, you see
The words turned into poetry

The tune began to softly play
as I walked down that sandy way
to meet you where the palm leaves sway
that new year’s morn, our wedding day

I hold these words inside my soul,
the songs and rhymes our love has told
of how a thief broke in a stole
a half a heart to make one whole

This love began beside an ocean,
waves and words concoct a potion
So now we’ve set it into motion
a poetry of sweet devotion

These Woods (Poem)

Let’s pick our way through nettles
And romp among the brooks
Singing and sliding down muddy hills
These woods are made for adventure.

Let’s hide in the roots of the tallest trees
and shout and laugh and play
Resting and racing through falling leaves
These woods hold hidden treasure.

You fly like Peter and I’ll be Wendy
in a mystical, magical land
Vines rise like masts and this log is a plank
These woods hold worlds of wonder