Sunday, August 27, 2006

Saturdays - Sheyna Galyan

Editor's Note: The newest Storytellers post (and it's a fine, fine effort as well) is from an actual, published author. WOW!

We are honored to have a submission from Sheyna Galyan, an honest to G-d published author. You can learn more about her, and the publishing company she is affiliated with (Yaldah Publishing), at the Yaldah Publishing website linked here.

(And if you don't think I'm being extra nice to Sheyna because she is an actually published author - well then you don't know me very well at all):

I used to like Saturdays but not anymore. Saturdays were my days to sleep in, rent an old movie and watch it with my feet up on the couch, eating extra-buttered popcorn that left my fingers greasy and my mouth sated. On rare occasions, I’d get some crazy-assed notion that I should do something to fix up the apartment that I pay two bucks a square foot for the honor of calling home.

The last time I liked Saturdays was one of those project days that spilled over into Sunday. On Saturday I’d done all of my laundry, shampooed the living room/bedroom carpet, cleaned out my closet, and bought groceries. By Sunday I was incensed by Dances with Cockroaches playing nightly in the appliance-filled niche that passes for a kitchen and, suited up like a superhero from a bad comic book, I was damn well going to do something about it. I emptied two spray cans before the fumes were unbearable, congratulated myself on my hunter’s skills, and decided to reward myself with an Angus Steak Burger at the Burger King just down the street.

I never dine in at fast food places. The smell reminds me too much of part-time jobs I took to pay the bills back in college. I guess by that logic I shouldn’t use a telephone since it reminds me of the job I took to pay the bills now, doing phone-in tech support for a crappy company that makes crappy products and spending day after day listening to people call in with stupid questions. But I make a decent wage and I figured that by summer, I’d have enough saved up to quit and apply to the police academy, which is all I’ve ever wanted to do anyway.

I took my lunch to a small grassy park boasting an out-of-order fountain encircled by graffittied benches as if we were invited to sit and wait for the geyser to start working again. I chose a bench where Steven had professed his eternal love to Danya and Matt had been present. The burger was drier and the onions milder than I liked, but the melted cheese and extra large Coke helped.

I had escaped into a quiet, responsibility-free reverie when a man sat down next to me on the bench, invading my solitude and pissing me off.

“Sorry, this bench is taken,” I said, my voice sounding far more polite than I’d intended.

The man merely nodded, looking at the waterless fountain as if it were a thing of beauty. His khaki trousers, open-necked button down shirt, and brown leather flight jacket were clean and appropriate for the late spring day, so he probably wasn’t homeless. He had medium-length brown hair that looked windblown and a serious but youthful face. He didn’t look deranged or threatening so I figured maybe he just didn’t understand.

I tried again. “Hey, man, I’d like to sit here alone. Can you choose another bench?”

He looked at me with slate gray eyes and I felt my lunch harden in my stomach. “I’m here to talk to you, Jacob.”

“Right. Well, clearly you don’t know me, because if you did, you wouldn’t call me that. Now leave me alone.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why the hell not?”

“I’m here to talk to you.” He paused, a hint of a smile on his face. “Coby.”

I dropped the rest of my sandwich into the paper bag at my feet, my appetite gone. “How do you know my name?”

He shrugged. “It’s my job.”

“What’s your job?”

Again the shrug. “That’s irrelevant.”

“Okay, I don’t know who put you up to this, but ha ha, you’ve had your fun and the joke’s over. You can go now.”

“It’s not a joke, Coby.”

Gray Eyes went back to watching the broken fountain and I tried to think of what to say. This was starting to freak me out a little. Finally I decided he wasn’t going to leave anytime soon and I might as well be willing to have a conversation.

“All right. You know my name. What’s yours? And don’t tell me it’s irrelevant. If we’re going to have a conversation, I’d like to know who I’m talking to.”

He didn’t bat an eye. “You can call me Mike.”

“Mike, huh? Is that your real name?”

Mike turned his cool eyes on me again. “No. But that’s what you may call me.”

Great. “Okay, you say you’re here to talk to me. So talk.”

For a moment he looked almost compassionate. “You’re angry and impatient. You’ve been hurt and you’ve turned away from everyone who can help. This has protected you in the past, but it will become an obstacle to pursuing your dreams.”

This was the last thing I wanted to hear. “Thanks for the free therapy, but I could have gotten that by watching Dr. Phil.”

Mike seemed unfazed as he gazed around the park. “In approximately ten minutes, a man will walk by here and need your help. You will respond in whatever way you see fit. As a result, you will be asked a question. In order that you may move closer to your dreams, and to having the life you were meant to have, please consider answering yes.”

“How can I say that I’ll answer yes if I don’t even know what the question is?” This was definitely freaking me out, and I wanted Mike – or whoever he was – to go away.

“Once you’ve heard the question, you’ll understand.” He stood up from the bench and looked at me. “Maybe we’ll talk again.”

I stood as well, unsure of the protocol in this situation. “Sure.” I hope not.

He began walking back toward the street, out of the park, and without thinking I called after him. “Hey Mike! Just for the record, I don’t believe in fate or angels or God or any of that… stuff.” I stopped myself just shy of using a less civil but more accurate adjective. He didn’t answer and disappeared on the crowded sidewalk.

Just to prove my aversion to fate, I picked up my BK bag and dumped it in the nearest trash can, then headed back to my apartment, sipping my mostly-flat Coke. If some guy was going to come through the park in ten minutes, someone else would have to be waiting at the bench to help him.

I was a block from my building and waiting to cross the street when a man stumbled in front of me and collapsed, his bearded face searching mine, pleading.

“Diabetic,” the man gasped, breathing heavily and visibly trembling. “Need… sugar… help…”

Without thinking, I knelt by the man, cradling his head in my arm, encouraging him to drink my soda. His lips grasped the straw weakly, barely able to suck any of the sugar water up the straw, so I ripped the top off and poured a bit into his mouth. I held him that way, giving him small amounts of liquid until his brown eyes cleared and his breathing became slow and steady.

He clutched my arm. “Help me stand, please.”

I helped him to his feet and now noticed that he wore a black knitted yarmulke on his head.

“Thank you,” he said, looking a bit embarrassed. He brushed himself off and loosened his tie. “I usually carry hard candy with me but I ran out. You may have saved my life. Thanks seem insignificant.”

I struggled to remember anything from Hebrew school, wishing for the first time that I’d treated it then as something more than merely an escape from the drunken tirade at home. “It’s a mitzvah,” was all I could think to say.

“That it is,” the man nodded, fumbling in the pockets of his sport coat until he found a small black zippered bag. He nodded toward the bag. “I’ll have to test my blood sugar, but you don’t need to watch. You’ve been subjected to more than enough of my illness.” He held his index finger up. “I know.” He dug around in his pockets again, pulling out a business card case. His long fingers extracted a card and he replaced the case. “I live not far from here. Please do me the honor of coming to my home for dinner Friday night. It’s the least I can do to repay you for your kindness.”

I hesitated. Friday nights were my time to hang out with the guys at Finnegan’s Pub. But what the hell; they wouldn’t miss me for one night and the guy was offering free food.

“Please?” the man asked. “It would mean a lot to me.”

I shrugged. “Okay. Yes.”

“Wonderful!” He smiled and handed me his card. “You know where this address is?”

I squinted at the tiny type. It was no more than half a dozen blocks in the other direction from my apartment. “Yes. I know it.”

“Good. Come to this address Friday at six o’clock. I’ll walk you to my home. My wife is a genius with food and I promise you a pleasant evening.”

“Okay.” I already had aberrant thoughts about showing up with a bag of hard candy. “Thank you…” I looked at the name on the card and swallowed the sudden lump that had formed in my throat, “…Rabbi Silver.”

“Nonsense,” the rabbi scoffed, waving his hand as if flicking something away. “Call me Dan. And you? What is your name?”

“Coby,” I said, thinking about my strange conversation in the park. “But you can call me Jacob.”

* * *

I guess it’s no surprise that Dan and I hit it off. He’s had me over quite a few times for Shabbat dinner and he’s right about his wife’s cooking skills. Apparently, it took a month for the guys at Finnegan’s to realize I wasn’t coming anymore, but I’ve got new friends now. Last week, Dan and I started studying together in my precious time off from the police academy, where I’m doing well. Both Mike and the cockroaches have been absent from my life, and for that I’m grateful. Most of the time.

But my Saturdays will never again be the same. If I don’t have to report to the academy, I’m at Dan’s synagogue or enjoying the afternoon with people from the congregation. I used to just like Saturdays. Now I revel in them.

Copyright © 2006 by Sheyna Galyan. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

There Is No Tomorrow - Sara (Trophy)

Editor's Note: With minor apologies to Lvnsm27, below is Sara's submission. I'm cutting Lv a few days short because Sara is going away for a little summer- internet free- R&R and I promised her that she would get to see her story on the "big screen" before she went.
Sara's work is a great effort for a first time fiction writer and a fine addition to Storytellers. Enjoy:
“And God called to the light: “Day,” and to the darkness He called: “Night.” And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” Genesis 1:5

She slipped a twenty dollar bill into that page of the bible and made a mental note. Twenty dollars, and God created day and night. She repeated it a few times in her head. That would be easy enough to remember, even if she was in some seedy bus station or kneeling behind a phone booth.
With that accomplished she climbed into bed, taking the time to smooth the sheets over herself. This was her last night in this room. God created day and then He created night. In the same way that the first day passed, every day that came after would follow that pattern. It was a forever kind of thing, something that could be depended on. Days go by. And there was evening and there was morning.
This morning came all too quickly, but she knew that that was just the way it was. Days pass quickly and, once the day is gone, nothing stays the same. As soon as the next dawn arrives, everything has changed. You just can’t step in the same river twice. You will be a different person and the river will be a different river. That was the pattern. So she registered no surprise when she opened her eyes to find her room drowning in sunlight. She wished that she had savored last night more, or appreciated it more when she had it.
But now it was gone and there were things to be done. With that bracing thought she swung her legs over the side and propelled herself towards the bathroom. Getting started is always the hardest part but, as with everything, the morning situation is improved with immediate action.
Showered, dressed, and packed she stood in the doorway of her bedroom and knew that this was it. Once she ran away, there was no taking it back. No crawling home, no accepting more favors. Coming back would be admitting defeat. Besides, she would never feel the same way again. Yesterday had passed and the past cannot be replicated. Without touching anything, without saying good-bye, she walked away.


Who was she kidding? She had no plan. There was nowhere to go, no job waiting for her across the country. She had the will to travel and ten twenties sprinkled through the pages of an old bible.

She made it to the end of the block before her need for a plan paralyzed her. With a self-hating grin she ducked into a yard and collapsed behind a bush. Her mind groped for a plan, for a spark, for something. Even for that old unworried apathy that had gotten her packed and ready. She couldn’t find it. She wanted to leave, but she also wanted to get somewhere. Going and coming are two very different things.

She reached into the front pocket of her backpack and fished out her small black notebook. There had been a time when she never would have done this, but now she almost savagely ripped a creamy page from the back. She didn’t have time for this, but she needed a map. She pulled out her Bic Z6 pen and got right to work.

Salem, Oregon to Sacramento, California. How long would it take? At least eight hours, she thought. There were two options and one virtually crossed itself out on her paper. She sighed, exasperated at her own cautiousness. Hitchhiking would have been free.

Instead she walked quickly to the greyhound station. You can do this, she told herself softly. But then something in her released. For God’s sake, she called to herself, do something. Just once stop thinking and actually be the person you want to be! There’s no risk here, she screamed on the inside. You have nothing to lose! Do this today and you will not regret it, because tomorrow will come and everything will be different. Nothing of today will stay, except the knowledge that you have conquered yourself. There are no real mistakes.

Her mind hardened with that knowledge. There are no true consequences. There’s nothing to ever worry about, because tomorrow is sure to come and then today will be gone. Just as there is no one here today to witness her victory, there will be no one here tomorrow to remind her of her mistakes. She was free, and she walked into the office and bought her ticket.

Monday, August 14, 2006

That Summer - Lvnsm27

Editor's Note - Once again slightly out of order. Here is Lvnsm27's effort.

Happily, I am able to report that I am expecting a number of new submissions this week. Thanks to everyone who submitted and everyone who is about to. And the doors are always open for anyone else who wants to write some fiction. Enjoy.

School has ended and vacation has begun. Evan who’s 14, was walking down the street and then passed by a pizza shop and saw inside the window, a group from school who were seniors, sitting at a table. He always wanted to join them but felt shy because they are older than him. And so he just walked on.

Inside, the group was eating lunch and talking. Ryan said, "What's really annoying, is when drivers don't look before turning left and almost him you." "What happened?" Natalie asked. He replied, "What happened was, I was crossing the street and made sure while I was walking that no cars were coming. And then all of a sudden a car turning left was coming straight towards me before quickly stopping." "I hate when that happens." Jonathan said. Then Jessica remembered something that she saw and said, "Okay guys, I saw a really funny billboard today while I was driving." "Where?" Amanda asked. "Like about a mile from here." Jessica replied and continued, “It showed a picture of Smokey the bear and said, "Remember, only you can prevent bears in hats." They all chuckled. "What was it an ad for?" Steven asked. "I don't know." She replied. They continued to talk and eat for a while and then they finally left.

It was night time, and for a while now, Evan has been having a hard time falling asleep and didn't know why. And so he got out of bed and looked out the window. The sky was a medium blue. And the leaves on the trees were rustling in the mild wind. He stayed out of bed for awhile and then decided to go back to bed and try again.

The next day, Evan told his parents about his problem and that it takes a long time before he finally does fall asleep. "Is there something on your mind that's bothering you maybe?" His mother asked. "No, not really." He replied. Then they gave him suggestions that he could do to help him, like reading or clearing his mind of thoughts. Later on, he was using the computer and then went to go play basketball with those at the park.

Amanda and Natalie were at a shopping center and in the store Forever 21, looking through the clothing. Natalie, who was talking about others from school said, "So have you seen Erica and Jason and their friends recently?" "No." Amanda replied. "Why not?" "Because everything was getting too dramatic for me. At first, things were fine, but then a couple of them became very annoying, constantly complaining about different problems and making up stories about being chased by people. And so I decided to leave." Amanda told her. "Yeah it's probably best that you do. You don't need that." "Yeah. And I'm not that close to them anyway, which makes it easier to slip out."

Steven and Jonathan were in the store Tower Records nearby, looking at the albums. “What do you prefer?” Jonathan asked. “Going to a concert or just listening to the band's CD?” "Going to the concert, of course." Steven answered. "Not me, I prefer listening to the album. I can't enjoy the music with everyone in the place screaming and can't see the band either with others standing in front of me. Plus the album is much cheaper and I can hear it when I want." "Yeah, but at a concert you're with your friends and even with the inconveniences you still have a good time."

Evan was using the computer again and was looking at different things and then went to a certain blog. It had a message on it about a computer worm that's been spreading recently. And it claimed that the culprits are... he couldn't believe it, the group he knows from school. "What the.." he said. And just sat there and starred, in his horrible shock.

Later that night, he was at the beach with a couple of friends, along with other teens there and others in their early 20's. He and his friends Matt and Alex spotted a bonfire. "Lets go over there." Matt said. And they went towards it. Sitting there was the group Evan knows. They sat down next to them and all greeted each other and then conversed about different things. Evan looked at the flames. And then looked at those sitting around and their glowing faces. He thought about what he read and felt a little on edge. He just never expected this from them and now feels that he doesn't really know them.

Finally, the next day, they found out too when Amanda saw the message and called the others. They all met at Steven's house. “Wait, so let me get this straight.” Ryan said. “Someone is claiming that we are responsible for the worm that's going around?” "Apparently." Amanda said. She showed them the message and they were astonished. "Who's doing this and why?" Jessica asked.

"That's what we have to find out." Steven answered.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Untitled Submission - Elster

Editor's Note: First order of business - I wanted to thank Scraps and Jack again for being the sacrificial lambs at Storytellers.

We are slightly out of order this week. Sara was supposed to go third, but changed her story concept at the last minute so I am filling in here to buy her another week.

Please not that after Sara next week, we are going first come first served. Many of you have committed stories but to be honest, I have not gotten anything in yet (bad times). Please send me your stuff via email when you can in order to avoid me having to email all of you to beg. Now without further ado, here's my shot at telling a story:

Dante Reynolds sat at the bar, draining large quantities of tequila and fixing his homicidal stare in the wall-sized mirror. I approached him gingerly and inquired of his poor mood.

“Paula left me,” he said gloomily.

“Paula always leaves you,” I replied, trying to be reasonable.

“This time it’s different. She got all into Buddhism and she thinks my profession negatively impacts her Karma.”

“Well, you have to admit that our mutual profession could be considered a karma killer if viewed in the wrong light.”

He shrugged and ordered another double of Jose Cuervo. When the bartender set the amber liquid in front of him, he took out a sterile alcohol wipe and carefully cleaned the top of the glass.

“If you’re so damn worried about germs, why the hell don’t you just buy a freaking bottle and drink in your immaculate, germ free apartment?” I asked for the three-hundredth time.

“I like the camaraderie,” he replied.

“But your anti-social,” I reminded him.

He shrugged. “Still...” He drank the tequila in two long gulps and sucked on the obligatory lime (bought from an organic fruit and vegetable store, sliced with a carefully hot water and alcohol washed JH Henkle Eversharp blade smuggled into the bar). “You think there’s anything to this karma shit Mike?” he asked me.

“Isn’t karma that nonsense about what colors surround you?”

“No, that’s aura. Paula used to be into that too. She went around telling me my aura’s real black.”

I thought about it. “Wow, it must suck to have bad karma and a black aura.”

“If I got it then you got it too asshole.”

I nodded in agreement. “Well, that may be true, but I have some news that should cheer you up.” He looked at me expectantly. “I got us a job.”

The death look left his eyes and he broke into a smile. “Well partner, that certainly calls for a drink.”

“You sure you have enough Sani-Wipes?”

* * *

Four weeks later, we are back at the bar, this time at a very secluded table in the back, staring at a month’s worth of our shadowing the subject. Our surveillance has been supplemented by a dossier supplied by the potential client.

“He beats his wife,” I throw out there for starters, already knowing the answer.

“Big deal.”

“He’s obese.” I can’t resist. Dante has a thing for fat people.

He gave me disgusted. “What else?”

“Client says he’s into kiddie porn.” Dante makes another face, like he just bit into rancid meat. There’s really nothing worse than a fat man who likes to look at naked pictures of kids.

“Now we’re cooking,” he replied. He’s drinking beer from a sanitized glass tonight. When you decide a man’s fate, there’s no place for tequila. “Oh, and he drives an American car. Anyone who drives American deserves to die.”

We are drawing some interest from a couple of college muscle headed monkeys sitting at the next table trying to impress their girls. They seem to be listening in on our conversation. Bad idea. Dante simply fixed them with an unblinking stare. In under two minutes they have vacated their table. “Assholes,” he mutters. Dante has little use for people, except as a source of income.

He turns his eyes back to me. “I dunno Mikey. I mean yeah, he’s an asshole (Dante’s universal word of disdain), but I’m not convinced he should be a dead one.”

Dante Reynolds is the best partner a mechanic like me could ever hope for. He’s a solid pro with an artisan’s eye for detail. His plans, and execution of such plans, are always perfect. No witnesses, no evidence and no cops sniffing around us two weeks later. But genius always has a drawback. In this case, it’s Dante’s morality standards. No one gets offed until he decides it’s a righteous kill. Sure, to you it probably sounds stupid. Trust me, I think it’s even dumber, especially in light of the fact that his reasoning never makes any sense anyway. But that’s the price you pay for perfection. And if we have to pass on a couple of hits here and there, that’s ok too. We’re still making money hand over fist.

Dante leaned back in his chair. “Look Mike, this is just another case of one drug dealer wanting to muscle in on another, fatter dealer’s turf. There’s no Karmic balancing.”

“I’m sorry, what did you just say?” I’m starting to feel a twitch in the corner of my eye.

“I said there’s no Karmic…”

“Dante, please stop spouting off your ex-girlfriend’s bullshit. I have been listening to this nonsense for four straight weeks. I’m going insane.”

He sipped his beer thoughtfully. “Don’t be so unenlightened. There’s really something to this Buddhism stuff. I’m telling you.”

“Yes, you’ve been telling me for weeks. I’m begging you to stop.”

“Fine. What else you got?”

It’s make or break time. The truth is, except for the fact that the mark is a dealer, he seems like a pretty decent guy. I play the only card left in my bag. “Client’s offering a hundred and fifty grand if it looks like an accident.”

He leaned back in his chair and stared, possibly contemplating Buddha. He stayed that way for a while, but I knew better than to interrupt him and he made his karmic balance accounting. Finally, he settled forward and drained the rest of his beer. “Hundred and fifty grand huh? Fuck it, let’s ice him.”

* * *

It’s two weeks later and we are back at the bar. Dante’s returned to drinking tequila and I’m nursing a beer. The job was, well it was perfect. Dante’s an artist. The way he pulled it off, “accidentally” bumping into the mark, the polite “excuse me” and he slipped the syringe into the mark’s arm, the moment of confusion, followed by a burst of pain. The “heart attack” that followed. Just a masterful piece of work.

Dante is saying something but I missed it. “What?”

He gives me annoyed. “I said, the beauty is that this will not have stained my karma.”

“Dude, you killed someone. From what I know about karma, you’re gonna come back in your next life as this guys toilet bowl, and he’s gonna come back with weak bowels.” I shudder at my own mental image.

He smiles at me condescendingly. If he starts calling me grasshopper I will take out my .45 and shoot him dead on the spot. “I have made my peace with Buddha. I have promised him many gifts will go deliver them to him at the Buddhist temple in Queens.”

There’s a Buddhist temple in Queens? “And what gift would that be?”

“The Buddha will receive three hundred hard boiled eggs and three hogs heads. Then my karma will be squared.”

“Eggs and pig heads.” I shake my head in wonder. Maybe I’m totally missing the boat with this Buddha thing. This religion seems to kick some serious ass.

“Yes, the Buddha has odd tastes. Of course, us westerners couldn’t possibly understand his great ways.”

I drain my beer and take out a twenty for my portion of the tab. “Okay Dante-san. I am gonna take my split of the goods and head down to Miami for two weeks of dog racing and Jai Alai at Hialeah.” He nods, lost in his world of hog’s heads, no longer concerned with the physical world the rest of us mere mortals are inhabiting, while he exists on a higher plane.

In truth it’s all good. By the time I get back, Dante will have forgotten all about Buddha and will be back with Paula and all will be right with Mike’s world again. See I have a religion too, cycles and patterns. And that’s the beauty of cycles and patterns; they tend to constantly repeat themselves.