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.

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!

Superhero Story — Part 8

Read Part 7 here.

Chapter 19 – Lindsay

I clenched my fists, my fingers grabbing handfuls of cold earth. What happened? Where was I? I was with Nick, I remembered. And then he pushed me. The astronomy building! I pushed myself to my feet. There was a hollow in the ground where I’d fallen. I shook my head, trying to clear the clouds of my mind. Cal was up there and I had to get moving, but my body wasn’t cooperating. I focused on taking one step, then two. Then, when I felt normal enough, I broke into a run.

I sprinted up the steps to the tower. At the top, the door was locked. I banged on it, jarring the entire door. “Nick?”

“Stay out there,” I heard him say. I heard other voices, too.

“Who else is here?” a man’s voice asked.

“No one, no one,” Cal insisted.

“Let me in!” I pounded again on the door.

“STAY OUT!” Both Cal and Nick shouted.

It was like they were protecting me, and that pissed me off. I took a step back and readied myself.

“Like hell I will,” I shouted. I jumped up and slammed my foot against the door, kicking as hard as I could. I landed with one foot in the room, the door underneath me. Dust flew up and then cleared, revealing Cal and Nick, their jaws hanging open, and the gross man, his eyes steely and anxious.

Chapter 20 – Nick

I have to admit, that entrance was pretty cool. Maybe cooler than mine. But then when she got in, we were all like, “What now?” and the crazy dude was probably ready to drop us all out of the tower to get rid of us. I didn’t know what he had planned, but his eyeballs were as big and flat as nickels and they were swirling around his head, adding to his nutso factor.

“Lindsay,” I said. “You’re freaking nuts. Now what? You bust up in here and you don’t have a plan, right?”

“Shut up, Nick,” she said. But I could tell, she was wondering what to do next.

“Everyone stay calm,” Cal said. “I’m trying…” and then got that lost look on his face that he’d been getting lately.

“Oh my gosh,” I said. “You guys suck! I can’t believe I’m stuck having this crazy superhero experience with you losers!”

I turned to the creepy dude. “And you! Do you know you practically killed me earlier today? I mean, if you’re so afraid of ‘the monster’ you’ve become, then why not just leave us alone?”

“No, no,” Cal said. “This won’t go well. Don’t attack him verbally.” Then he scrunched up his face again and did more mental math.

The man took a step toward Lindsay, but she stamped the floor, shaking the tower.

“Think again, crazy. You so much as touch me and I’ll whip you around like a rag doll. These nitwits have gotten on my LAST nerve and I’m just begging one of you to step out of line. I have HAD IT with you boys.” Lindsay emphasized each point with a stamp of her foot.

“You’re a freaking psycho,” I said to her.

“I swear Nick, if we weren’t fighting a bad guy, I’d give you one little nudge to send you flying into the wall,” she said.

The guy lunged at me, quick and solid, and I didn’t have time to back away. I felt the cold, gooey freeze seep into my arms, then my torso, my legs, my neck. I was immobile.

Chapter 21 – Cal

The Jelly Man moved so fast that I didn’t see it coming. In less than a second, he had Nick in a bear hug, and I watched as the frozen hold traveled up and down Nick’s body.

“NO!” I cried and threw my arms around the Jelly Man. I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t do any calculations. I didn’t know what the result might be, but I had to stop him. My plan was to pull him off of Nick, but as soon as I made contact with the Jelly Man, I felt the icy grip clench my skin and bones. I was in a frozen embrace.

And just a second later, Lindsay had jumped toward us too. I wanted to warn her, to tell her to stay away of this frozen mass we were becoming. But I couldn’t move, couldn’t open my mouth, couldn’t turn my head.

I felt her arms grab around us, and I felt her strength weaken under the jelly-like stiffness that came to her.

And then, a darkness came over the room. The four of us were all balled up into one lump in the middle of the tower room, and, like the sun passing behind a cloud, the room grew blue, then grey, then black.

I felt my mind release the equations and calculations and numbers that had been constantly running through since the day with the meteor shower. I felt my eyes let go of the laser-like quality that I’d used to unfreeze Nick in the high school bathroom. I felt my arms go limp and my embrace became loose. I dropped to the floor.

Nick and Lindsay were also on the ground. Lindsay clenched her fist and pounded at the floor. Then she winced. The floor showed no damage. The Jelly Man was slumped against a wall, he touched his arm, and then rubbed at his face. There was no gooey residue.

“What happened?” Nick said. “I feel normal.”

“Me too,” I said. “I think we’re back to normal.”

Lindsay stood. “Let’s get out of here.”

“What about him” I asked, pointing to the Jelly Man.

We looked at him, the crazy guy that froze us and took me to the tower and followed us to our school. He didn’t look so crazy anymore. He looked like a normal man, maybe someone who needed to know that others had been going through the same thing he was. He looked like someone who could have used someone to talk to when crazy things started happening to him. He stared at us, looking scared of what we might do to him.

“Leave him here,” Nick said. “We’re all back to normal now. It doesn’t matter.”

So we left. And things went back to normal at school. For awhile we would eat lunch together or catch up in the hallways or after class. Then that stopped. Like I said, things went back to normal at school. But it was good, because we all knew that we had this bond. This unexplainable power was given to us and then an even more mysterious event took it away. It’s not normal and maybe it’s a bit magical. That’s just how life goes, sometimes.

The End.

Flying Figures article on yahoo

http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/flying-people-stun-yorkers-promote-movie-chronicle-194823215.html

Here’s an excerpt from the article: The movie tells the story of three high school students who discover they have superpowers, including the ability to fly.

Hmmm…. “three high school students who discover they have superpowers“?

Well, maybe the movie will tell me how this story ends. (I’m working on it … kind of).

Superhero Story – Part 7

Read Part 6 here.

Chapter 16 – Lindsay

I busied myself by bending the wrought iron patio furniture in my backyard and then fixing it back into the correct shape. My mother would freak if she knew what I was doing. Heck, I was freaking.

When I checked my watch and saw that I’d been waiting for the boys for over a half hour, I got really impatient. And when a superhero has abnormal strength and is tapping her foot impatiently, that’s bad news for the patio below her. So I moved a potted plant over the cracks I made in the cement, so my parents wouldn’t see.

Then Nick sauntered up.

“Okay, where’s Cal?” I said, letting myself breathe out a bit of relief.

Nick shrugged.

I folded my arms and stared at him. “Did you see him after school?”

“What am I, a babysitter?”

“Nick!” I yelled. I lunged at him and saw his eyes widen in fear. “We’re all in this together, you jerk!”

Nick stepped back, probably afraid that I’d suffocate him if I placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Fine, crap! If I’d known this was going to be such a pain I never would have hung out with you up in the tower.”

“Well, none of us knew what this would be,” I said, letting my voice become quieter. Nick was a jerk, but I didn’t need to remind him of that with every sentence. He had to be freaking out as much as I was.

“Where do you want to go?” Nick finally asked.

I thought about it, making sure I moved to the grass before I tapped my foot again. “I guess… we should probably check the astronomy building.”

I’d hoped Nick would tell me that I was being paranoid, but he just nodded.

“You’re right. That’s probably where they are.”

I didn’t need to ask who he meant by “they”. We didn’t need Cal’s foresight to know that he was in big trouble.

Chapter 17 – Nick

The entire way to the tower, I had to basically hold Lindsay’s hand and speak in soothing tones, like a damn sugarplum fairy. It was getting on my nerves.

But when we finally got to the tower, I have to admit, even I got a little shaky. We didn’t really know what we were up against, right? What if Cal was up in that tower with the creepy dude— I mean, what did we know about the dude’s powers, really? I knew firsthand that he could mess me up. And Cal was the only person who was able to fix it. But what if the guy had some other powers that we didn’t know about, and what if Cal was already a goner?

We stood at the entryway, staring up at the top of the astronomy tower. The sun was getting lower in the sky, and I knew my mom would start getting worried. And that made me mad, because I’m a kid, dammit.

Lindsay was biting her nails, practically shoving her hand down her throat with anxiety.

“You better stay here,” I said.

“No, Nick!” she shouted at me. “We’re in this together.”

I sighed. The girl was pissing me off.

“You need to stay here,” I began again.

She cut me off again. “We’re a team. We may be freaks, but we’re freaks together!”

“Lindsay—”

“No, Nick,” she interrupted. “You’re not going anywhere without me. I refuse to wait down here while stuff goes down up there.”

She looked up to point to the top of the tower. It was my chance to get rid of her.

I pushed her down on the ground as hard as I could, since I didn’t know if her super strength would mess me up. She went background, falling first on her butt, then thudding her head against the cold earth.

I couldn’t risk waiting around to see how much damage I’d done. I took off running up the steps of the tower.

I glanced back once to where Lindsay was motionless on the ground, her eyes closed.

Chapter 18 – Cal

My mind was working overtime. The man—I called him the Jelly Man in my head— had taken me to the tower, where it all began. When we got in the room, he’d locked the door and had been nervously pacing back and forth for what felt like hours.

I kept my mouth running. I told him about school and bullies and the chess club and girls. I talked about everything except for my powers. I spoke while I made my mind do mathematics and see what my options were. They were scarce, and none seemed like a plan I wanted to carry out.

He was sweating, or it was just his jelly-like glaze covering his skin. He continued crossing the room. He barely looked at me.

I was running out of topics when the Jelly Man spoke for the first time.

“Enough!”

I shut my mouth.

“I know you were here. I know you up here when you weren’t supposed to be, because I was up here, too. But we weren’t the only ones were we? Who else was here?”

I tried to look like I didn’t know what he was talking about.

He walked over to me with his arm outstretched. “Tell me, kid.”

I cowered away from his reach and his eyes gleamed.

“You know, don’t you? You know about the monster I’ve become.”

I shook my head. “I don’t know anything. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a high schooler who came here on a field trip and I got lost, and now you’re really scaring me.”

The man came toward me again, his fingers practically dripping with the gross gel.

“Leave him alone!”

Nick’s voice came from the other side of the door. The man glared at the wall, and paused for a second. But when nothing else happened, he inched toward me again.

“I said,” Nick’s voice came at us. “Leave him alone.” Nick stepped through the wall, through the locked door and into the room.

The man stared at us.

TO BE CONTINUED (one more part, I promise — ish)

Superhero Story Part 6

Read Part 5 here.

Chapter 13 – Lindsay

We had about 10 minutes before homeroom to get all of the newspapers, so as soon as Cal stopped talking, I was off and running.

“Lindsay, wait,” Nick said, jogging after me. I slowed and let him walk beside me.

“We’re supposed to be splitting up to get this done faster,” I said. “You know, so we don’t die at the hands of an evil villain.”

Nick shrugged. “Whatever.”

“Nick!” I said, nudging his shoulder. He rammed into a wall and glared at me while he nursed his arm.

“Sorry,” I said. “Sometimes I forget that I’m a freak now.”

Nick rolled his eyes. “You just need to … harness the power.”

I giggled and let Nick pull me out of the crowded hallway and into a quieter stairwell. He pointed at the metal stair railing. “Do your best.”

“What?”

“Bend it,” Nick said. “Or break it, or pull it up, or whatever you can do.”

I ran my hand along the railing. This was major. I mean, bumping people out of my way was one thing, but bending metal? This was serious.

I squeezed my hand tightly around the railing but nothing happened. I yanked at it with my right arm. Nothing. I looked at Nick.

He sighed. “You’re not even trying.”

I put both hands on the railing, and felt the cool steel under my fingers. I pushed my palms down and wrapped my fingers tightly. Then I pulled up with all my might.

There was no sound, but the railing, it wrenched under my fists. It let itself mold to my tug, like some malleable plastic. I let go and stared at the bulge.

“Whoa.”

Nick smiled at me.

Chapter 14 – Nick

It was maddening! First of all, the girl gets the super strength?! And then she’s too afraid or prissy or whatever to use it?!

But I was curious: exactly how strong was she? I found out, though. Strong enough to bend steel. Good to know.

So after that fun experiment, we decided to see if there were any materials that my special eyesight couldn’t penetrate. I already knew I could see through wood and bathroom doors, so we tried to see if I could see Lindsay when she was on the school’s second story while I was on the first (I could), and if I could still see her if she was on the third story while I stayed on the first (I could).

I was about to try to convince her to go out passed the football field to see how far my eyesight would reach when the bell rang.

“Oh no,” Lindsay said.

“Relax,” I said. “It’s just homeroom.”

“No, the newspapers, Nick,” she whined. Her face got all weird like when a dog thinks it’s about be slapped around.

She ran down the hallway and pulled newspapers out of kids’ arms, shoving them all over the place. It was kind of funny. I followed her and would pick up any pages she dropped.

Then she disappeared into her classroom.

I wandered around the hallway a little bit, keeping an eye out for any stray papers. But I wasn’t going to like, kill myself trying to get them. I’d thought about it all night, and this was the conclusion I’d come to: the guy, the freezer-sweat creepy guy, he probably only knows about Cal, right?

Let’s piece it together. Creepy guy somehow gets his gross power that night. He thinks back to the tower. He knows there were other people there. Maybe he heard us, or maybe he’s just wondering, or maybe he only found Cal’s jacket, so that’s how he knows. But he sure as hell never saw us, because he didn’t recognize me that day in the office.

At best, he thinks Cal is the only other person with powers. At worst, he heard voices and thinks it was Cal and a girl. Either way, he knows nothing about me.

So what do I care?

Chapter 15 – Cal

By lunchtime, my locker was filled with newspapers I’d confiscated.

“Hey,” some girl said, standing behind me, while I shoved some more papers into my locker. “Can I have a copy?”

“NO.” I said. I slammed the locker door shut and she frowned at me, but left.

At lunch, I was happy to see Lindsay’s arms full of pages. She dropped them on the table, and Nick even had a bunch.

“Do you think we got them all?” I asked.

Nick shrugged and Lindsay looked optimistic.

“Everyone was asking me about them,” Lindsay said. “They said they couldn’t find a paper anywhere. That’s good, right?”

I nodded. “That’s good.”

But even as I looked around the room, I still got a glimpse of a student holding a newspaper. I took a huge bite of my sandwich and stood up.

“I have a couple more to get,” I said.

Lindsay looked around and nodded, standing with me. Nick took a moment, but also stood. By the end of the period, we’d confiscated all of them in the room.

I didn’t even see another paper in any of my afternoon classes. In fact, I didn’t see any more papers at all. Until I walked out of school at the end of the day.

And there he was: the man Nick had seen in the office that day. He was standing at the end of the sidewalk, holding a newspaper in his hands and staring at each kid that walked past.

I didn’t see him until it was too late, until I couldn’t turn around without drawing attention to myself.

And so, as I stood motionless on the sidewalk while all the other kids pushed and shoved to get around me, I watched him see me. I watched his eyes flick back and forth from my face to my huge, dumb picture on the front page of the newspaper.

Then he was walking toward me.

How had I not seen this coming?

To be continued….

Superhero Story Part Five

Read Part Four here

Chapter 10 – Lindsay

Nick told us everything. He told us about the strange man and the gross sweat and how it felt like jell-o at first but then it just took over and grew. He talked for a long time and there was no buzzing. It was probably the longest Nick Tanner had ever gone without lying. Cal just stood there and nodded a million times and kept saying “uh-huh” like he understood.

But I was staring at Cal. I mean, what the heck? Were we not even going to talk about what just happened? Cal used a frickin’ heat ray to unfreeze Nick! And they were just going along like it was another day at school.

I cleared my throat when Nick had finished describing the creepy guy. “Um, guys?” I said. “Could we, like, discuss this stuff? This is crazy, right?”

They both just stared at me. Cal shrugged. “Yeah, it’s crazy.”

Nick nodded. “But it’s happening. So we need to get over it and figure out our next move.”

Cal’s eyes gleamed while he worked out plans in his head. Cal asked questions about the guy and Nick answered.

What was the guy doing in the office? He wanted to know which students were on the field trip.

Did it sound like he knew someone might have powers? Nick didn’t know.

What did the secretary tell him? That she wouldn’t reveal the names of the kids.

That made Cal nod, like he was satisfied. Nick got a look on his face, like he was uncomfortable.

“Oh yeah, there’s one more thing,” he said. “It didn’t seem to matter at the time, but it might be a problem…”

“What is it?” I demanded.

“The guy said that someone had left something and he was trying to return it,” Nick said.

Cal looked like he was going to be sick. My mind raced as I thought about if I might have dropped something while we were in the observatory. Was something missing? A book with my name in it? A pencil with bite marks and my DNA? Was there any way the guy could identify me?

Nick rushed on, the words tripping all over themselves as they raced out of his mouth. “He was probably making it up. He needed to get the names from the secretary. He was probably lying.”

“No,” Cal said. “I left something there. That’s why I went back up to the top of the tower that day.”

Chapter 11 – Nick

“What the hell did you leave up there?” I said.

Cal turned red and started stammering all over the place. “I, um, well, it’s – I had forgotten about it, until you just said that…”

Lindsay had a frantic look in her eyes. “Spit it out, Cal!”

“I left my jacket,” Cal said. “My chess club jacket.”

I groaned. I’d seen him wearing it. It was like a varsity letter jacket, but it had a huge chess piece image on the back. What a dork!

“Does it have your name on it?” Lindsay asked. She chewed on a fingernail.

“Well…” Cal muttered. “Kind of.”

“What do you mean ‘kind of’? Either it has your name on it or it doesn’t.” I spat at him.

“It doesn’t have my name,” Cal said.

Lindsay let out a breath of relief.

“But it says Captain,” he said. “And I’m the only Captain.”

There was silence. Cal was twitching and rolling his eyes around in his skull in that weird way he’s been lately when he’s solving his math equations. Lindsay was chomping on her nails nervously.

“Okay, okay,” I said, trying to smooth out the situation. “So he knows that some nerd left their nerdy jacket behind. But that doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean that the owner of the jacket has powers. It doesn’t mean that he’ll ever know who owns the jacket, even!”

“Unless the jacket has powers,” Lindsay whispered. Her eyes grew wide. “What if the jacket has powers, like if you put it on you turn invisible or something?”

“Like the Invisibility Cloak in Harry Potter?” Cal said.

“Dorks!” I shouted at them. They were out of control. “This isn’t a fantasy movie with dragons and wizards! This is high school. We’ll just lay low until this whole thing blows over.”

They nodded. I stared at Cal. “And you,” I said. “Don’t do anything with the chess club for awhile. Okay?”

“Okay,” he said.

I shook my head. Of all the people to get super powers with, I get these geeks.

Chapter 12 – Cal

As soon as I woke up the next morning, my mind flashed to the school day ahead, and I jumped out of bed.

“Oh no, oh no” I repeated, hopping around the room and pulling my clothes on as fast as I could.

I ran out the door without breakfast and ran as hard as I could to the school. I needed to get there before anyone else.

I was an hour early, but I knew an entrance that was unlocked for the kids like me that liked to get to school early to study in the library. I slipped in and walked through the empty halls, peeking into each classroom. Today was the day the school newspaper came out. I was looking for the stacks of pages. I needed to trash them, or burn them. I needed to destroy them in some way.

I couldn’t find them anywhere. I wandered up to the office. The secretary was there, putting her lunch in the small mini-refrigerator by her desk.

“Well, look who’s here,” she said, smiling. “You’re Mr. Popularity today!” She held up a copy of the newspaper, and there, right on the front page, was a huge picture of me, wearing my chess captain’s jacket and smiling my lopsided grin into the camera. My name appeared under the picture, in case the whole article wasn’t identifying enough. The front page story of our newspaper was how the chess team had made it to the finals of the state championships. This is what happens when your high school football team stinks.

“Hey, yeah, look,” I said. I felt sick to my stomach.

She grabbed a few copies. “You’ll need extras!” She handed me a stack of about five papers.

“Hey,” I said. “Um, could I have some more copies?”

“Sure, hon. How many do you want?”

I gulped. “Um… all of them?”

The secretary laughed and gave me about five more. “You can get more from your friends if you need them,” she said, still laughing.

I met Nick and Lindsay in the foyer of the commons area before the first bell.

“This is the plan,” I said. “We need to split up, and get every single copy of the paper. Take your friends copies, steal them from your homeroom teacher before the start of class. I don’t care how you do it, but it needs to get done.”

I could tell Nick was pissed but he kept his cool.

“Do you think this can work?” Lindsay asked. “I mean, can you, like … see that this works?”

I did some calculations and swallowed hard. “It’ll work,” I chirped, as cheerfully as I could manage.

Lindsay flinched, and then gave me a dirty look.

“Sorry,” I said. “What I mean is, there’s a chance this might work.”

Lindsay waited but didn’t flinch, then smiled at me. “Okay. Let’s steal those newspapers.”

To be continued…