New Stories for July 22nd, 2015
Paula nibbled her right index fingernail and stifled a chuckle, a half-eaten Tupperware container of Fiddle Faddle shaking on her lap. Doug snorted beside her, not from amusement but sleep apnea. Their doctor suggested a CPAP, but somehow the money for such third-tier necessities was always a paycheck away. Either Hannah needed a dental retainer, Logan had Little League camp, or Paula’s aging Durango threw a rod on the 405. Doug hoped to take the kids down to San Diego this summer, see Shamu before the activists had SeaWorld shut down, but it’d take an economic miracle to make that happen.
After another bite of caramel-coated relief, Paula resealed the Tupperware carefully. She allowed herself junk food only one time each day, during The Daily Show’s opening segment. Gotta keep my girlish figure, she reminded herself, then vowed to return to Pilates once the money for classes rematerialized. She risked boosting the volume one notch higher, glancing at Doug’s rumpled form on the couch to make sure he was snoozing away. He snorted again, his hair damp on his forehead.
Tonight’s show was all about Bliss Panerotic, a theme park opening mid-June on Catalina Island.
A clash of steel, of blade upon horned helm,
And axe against mailed breast. Fiery darts
Piercing inky skies and warriors’ hearts,
As battle-spilt blood flows free through our realm.
Then we are routed, surrounded by foe,
Us Hammer-Folk, fifty in all, trapped by
Two-hundred, raiding Cross-Folk spear and bow.
Their king Harald demands thus: kneel or die!
I shuffled through the usual envelopes containing statements of financial obligation, fliers emblazoned with stellar deals at this or that establishment, more bills and then….what was this? A thick, white envelope with a blue border and my name and address scrawled in black ink on the front. There was no impending special occasion, no cause for a friend to send snail mail so the non-bill correspondence was unexpected. No name could be found with the return address and as I flipped the envelope over to open it, upon further examination I spied a thumb print, in what could have been blood?!
My heartbeat quickened as I tore the paper open, not mindful of what could lie within in my excitement. There could have been a toxic powder or bloody nub of a digit removed from a loved ones, instead: a ransom letter, classic in style, typography cut from magazines and pasted together, mismatched but legible, then Xeroxed. The message was clear, they had something of mine and wanted to make a trade. Accompanying the scandalous note were Xeroxed photos of a bag. A tote bag clearly meant to be my precious, if only I could avoid infuriating these nefarious carryon culprits. That is the name that I had given them, The Carry-On Culprits.