Stories by Mail, Day 19 – Lament of the long-suffering support staff

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Let him have the glory, Odie thought glumly, drumming his paws on the tripled-locked briefcase he carried. Retirement should’ve been years ago. Entirely devoted to the job, the lion’s share of his work would be classified for decades–but had he ever complained about the stress, the impossible hours that prevented him from starting a family, his profound lack of social life?  Odie was a company beagle.

Now he watched Garfield launch himself into Jon’s car, weighed down with sunscreen, sports equipment, and a visor that didn’t quite fit over his marmalade ears. The tabby would inevitably recover the stolen documents, rescue the ambassador and, if previous assignments were any indicator, probably hobnob with the Prime Minister and crash a state dinner party. Posing as a lazy, lasagna-loving underachiever certainly had benefits.

But Odie would once again assume the role that had defined his life– professional handler, sitting a thousand feet away in his unmarked van, making it all look effortless.


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Stories by Mail, Day 18 – Side by side in orbit

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She stirred. A hint of golden light skimmed across the watery roof above, signaling that the sun had retreated hours prior. The creature lifted her colossal fins and swam upward, shaking off sleep. The dark hours were in bloom, and that meant fewer people and less activity. Safety.

An oversized eye popped above the water and swept from side to side, surveying the area. Her moat appeared pristine, uninfected…but at its boundary, she could spot the glow seeping out of the US Capitol Building. Her gaze wandered from window to window, watching the staffers hunched over documents, toiling late into night.

She wondered if the glowing rectangles were calf suns.


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Stories by Mail, Day 17 – The hunger of a professional

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Miyamoto concentrated as the bitter Antarctic winds whipped against his diminutive frame. Years of intense training ensured he wouldn’t shiver too noticeably, but even a world-class rōnin had limits. A drop of effort-sweat careened down his furry face; he appreciated the irony.

The samurai glanced again at his companions, three nearly-identical Adélie penguins who were honking and braying softly as they slumbered. He’d been fortunate–the birds had failed to realize he was merely wearing a penguin suit, and his true identity remained concealed. By tomorrow, he’d have infiltrated the highest levels of their operation, foiled their nefarious plans, and would be boarding a plane for much more temperate climates.

It was, save the temptation to snack on his counterfeit nose, a textbook execution. He ought to have selected something other than a carrot.


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Stories by Mail, Day 16 – The space of settling

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Bei Tuan gently tightened her embrace, using her paws to massage Fernando’s head and torso. Since her snuggling business opened its conifer-stump doors two years ago, he’d never missed a session. “I haven’t felt this safe and comfortable since I was a cub,” he would often remark as she gathered her purse. “You have a natural gift.”

She synched her breathing with his, steering him towards a rhythm. Tension trickled out from his limbs, evaporating into thin wisps. “How much time?”, he muttered. He sounded half-asleep.

The panda glanced nonchalantly at her overhead clock. About ten minutes remained in their session, but Bei Tuan was hard-pressed to think of a reason why her client should know that. Life would reactivate soon enough. “All the time in the world,” she said softly, holding him as if she never intended to let go.


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Stories by Mail, Day 15 – A brother’s burden

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“….calcite deposits that form when water flows down the cave’s walls. Beautiful, isn’t it? This particular wall stands 75 feet high, and–”

Nathan surreptitiously elbowed his younger brother as the tour guide droned on. “What d’ya figure they’ve got trapped in there?”

Stuart glanced up from his notebook in confusion, his pen dragging until the word “feet” more closely resembled an inebriated triangle than anything in English. “Who’s ‘they’?  Who’s trapped what?” Nathan was three years his senior, and therefore was thoroughly versed in the world’s machinations.  The elder sibling considered it his responsibility to educate Stuart regarding the Iluminati, the faked moon landing, the Kennedy assassination, and other truths that the government actively endeavored to squelch. If he didn’t, who would?

“I mean, a wall of freaky stone taller than our house just happens to be in a cave, out of the public eye? Aliens. It’s perfect.”

“The wall is calcite,” Stuart mumbled. “And caves are underground because…they’re caves?”

His brother sighed. “I was like you once.” Noticing that they were lagging behind, he lurched forward, deciding not to speak on the matter further until he could determine that they were out of listening-device range.

 


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Stories by Mail, Day 14 – Sailing against the twilight

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Rebecca Kirkland wrapped her daughter in her arms, hoping that squeezing the six-year-old would make her own trembling less obvious. The group’s self-appointed captain had announced that the ferry they’d stolen was chugging along at about 17 knots, but Rebecca was an elementary school teacher, not a sailor. A knot tied things together, and at the moment, everything was breaking apart.

She could still hear the guttural caterwauling from the shore. No one knew what provisions the ferry carried, or where they were headed. The undead were too physically unstable to swim, but the plague was spreading at a frantic rate. When the fuel tanks dipped low enough, Rebecca and the nine strangers she now needed to trust with her life would be forced to land, though the plague would be even more pervasive by then.

“Ssssh, baby,” Rebecca whispered to her daughter, gently turning the little girl’s head towards the sea. “It’s OK. We’ll float on. We’ll float ever on.”


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Stories by Mail, Day 13 – Civilization belongs to the arbiters of taste

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Since every postcard is different in terms of format, text description of images, etc, it’s always difficult to guess how much room I’m actually working with prior to the final step. This story was written longhand while I was waiting at the car dealership, and went through three endings and four White-Out sessions. Since it looked like a mess, I added paint. IT’S FESTIVE. 

*****

Timbits skulked lithely to the opposite side of the ridge, like waterbeads dancing on a riverstone. His face wore discontent well; in their final seconds, his prey often appeared contrite, as if they were more concerned with not disappointing him than with self-preservation. The dour mountain lion swished his thick tail in irritation and glanced again towards the log cabin where the furless apes were feasting.

This morning, the apes had chattered excitedly about a box, and Timbits knew their song, if not the lyrics. Being a cat, he fancied himself a natural philosopher on the subject of boxes. Before he could bound towards their treasure and seize it for himself, though, the apes slid a smaller metal box out of the lengthy cardboard one and, using their primitive tools that served as a poor imitation of claws, collapsed
Timbits’s prize into a formless brown mass. He growled at the memory.


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Stories by Mail, Day 12 – Devolution of a rivalry

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“I apologize for bellowing. It’s your office, and you have a reasonable expectation of tranquility. I’m just…what are my rights in this situation?”, Harriet grunted quietly as her fury waned. She relaxed a smidge as her breathing became more measured, but her front legs still quivered.

“No need to apologize, Harriet,” her attorney said. “You’re upset; anyone would be. But to be honest–and I understand this might be difficult to digest–these flyers alone do not constitute grounds for a lawsuit. Now, you can–”

“Don’t feed me that malarkey!” the pig squealed with indignation, instantly reignited. “She used my likeness without my consent, captioned it ‘What’s the latest dirt?’, and I’m not supposed to take offense?   Every Porcine-American I’ve ever met is extremely conscientious about personal hygiene! If we don’t stop reinforcing these horrendous stereotypes, we–”

Carter Holloway, Esq shook his head as his client continued  her diatribe. It was only 9 AM, and he was already in dire need of a nap.


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Stories by Mail, Day 11 – The barrel seals the spirit

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Well, something like this was perhaps inevitable. Given the size of the postcard, I figured I’d aim for about 70 words. It ended up being over 200, so then I tried entering at the halfway mark…but THEN I misspelled “inconspicuous,” and my attempts to use correction fluid made the section so unreadable that I skipped over that area and moved on. Everything was fine for about 45 seconds, until I realized that even though I’d cut half the story out, the ending wasn’t going to fit either. Needless to say, I won’t be mailing this one!!

 

*******

“…and typically, you’d be meeting with my Master Taster, but I haven’t seen a prospective order this large in years,” the owner said cheerfully. “I asked Jeff if he’d mind me stealing his thunder. One of the perks of being in charge.” Forte thought the man might’ve grinned; the lower half of his face was almost entirely concealed by ferocious facial hair. “So, what are your plans for 100 barrels of whisky, if you’re open to–Mr. Forte? Everything all right?”

Edward Forte sewed crumpled lines in and out of his brow. He’d been gaping at a small, strangely inconspicuous portrait of the distillery’s founder, which was resting on the wall directly in his sight line. “Uh. Yes, of course. Sorry. It’s just…that portrait. He’s your spitting image.”

The owner chuckled lightly. He turned a glass over in his hand, watching the whisky slip in and out of the ice cubes. “So I’ve been told. He was born in the 19th century. I should hope to look so good at 169!” Forte relaxed and made pish-toshing noises, warming to his proposal.

It wasn’t until several hours later, alone in his apartment, that he realized the owner never actually denied being the man in the portrait.


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Stories by Mail, Day 10 – Statuesque

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“Going to do one final sweep through the rotunda. You’ll lock up here, Ellis?” the guard asked. His keys jingled in his pocket as he shuffled through the corridor.

Queen Liliʻuokalani heard Ellis’s faint response from the next room. The guards never spoke to her, never paid her the proper respect. None of the strangers who lined up like cattle every day to gaze upon her swore their fealty. Her confusion grew ever thicker.

Darkness swallowed the Hawaiian monarch, as it did each night at 10 PM. A thin sliver of light from the hallway shone on her Order of Kalākaua cross, the word KEOLA barely legible.

Eternal life.


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