Friday, September 17, 2010

Prompt 4

The Work Place

Seth Thomas

#18 Corneliusstr. Frankfurt a.Main. Only half a mile from the Alte Oper, and settled in the shadow of glass corporate giants such as Die Deutsche Bank, Commerz Central, and Die Deutsche Bahn. The sun is still on the rise, and the shadows of skyscrapers still stretch from Innenstadt all the way to the satellite communities of Höchst, Griesheim, and Eschborn. Paved arteries, veins, and vessels are already pumping away. Pushing life through the city. Sleek black and silver Mercedes intermixed with goateed bike messengers, and men in CandA suits exit the Bahn’s while mothers with strollers climb aboard. You don’t notice at first, but as you caterpillar along with all the other cars you feel something. It vibrates. Like the opening chord of your favorite rock ballad it resonates inside off you with something familiar yet foreign. You begin to wonder, but just then your Czech coworker, Michal Hansel honks his horn and begins shouting at a electrician who decided to park his car in the lane. Whatever you felt is still there, but by now you’ve already forgotten it. So you continue to look out the window. Completely unaware that the city has accepted you. Completely ignorant that you have now accepted it too.

Hansel circles the building three times before a parking spot opens. It looks like a smart car was there before us, but you’re already five minutes late and Hansel beginning to mutter under his breath about losing the reserved parking spot. You try looking up the street for maybe a better spot, but Hansel already has the car in reverse and begins packing the nine passenger Leiferwagen into the spot with all the skill of Mary Poppin’s handbag.

You’re still two blocks away, but the day is nice and despite Hansal’s mutters about being late neither of you bothers walking any faster than if you were early.

The Office, used both as a proper and generic noun, sits on the corner. It’s flowered windows, and painted sills merge innocently into the surrounded townhouses. A secret business, known only by the small plaque on the door which reads:

2. Etage: Kirche Jesu Kristi

3 Etage: Finanz Beratung Gmbh.

4. Etage:Deutsche Amt der Stadt.

5. Etage: Deutsche Amt der Stadt.

The same sign is posted in the elevator, but the buttons for the fourth and fifth floors replaced with locks. You wonder what goes on in the Official Offices of the German State, and even open your mouth to ask Hansal about it (he knows these things better), but are stopped by a man in a sleek pinstripe suit. He runs through the glass doors with outstretched arm shouting “Haltet den Aufzug.” Hansal holds the elevator for him. A short exchange of danke and bitte takes place before the man turns his back to you and places a futuristic looking key in the lock for the fourth floor, and turns it. The elevator door closes, and for some reason it skips the second floor (as always), and goes straight to the fourth floor. Both you and Hansal inconspicuously crane your necks to catch a glimpse of the mysterious secret floors, but all you get is the friendly smile of the secretary before the doors slide shut.

Two floors lower you unlock the double glass doors and walk into The Office. It’s no larger than a small apartment. A single hallway maybe thirty meters long is all the guide you need to find two offices, an empty conference room, storage, a kitchen, and the Office of President Webb. All the lights are on except President Webb’s. Hansal doesn’t waste time anytime taking of his jacket. In three simple movements it’s hanging on the coat rack. He also has his computer booting up, and is already pouring a bowl of Müsli before you have an arm out of your coat.

“Is that you boys?” the voice is sweet and warm, like a freshly baked batch of cookies calls from the second office. Your stomach grumbles.

“Yes Sister Cole” you call back before hanging your coat next to Hansal’s. You go boot up your computer, pausing to look at the picture of a smiling brunette taped to the monitor. Does she still look like that? The question goes unanswered. No point in questions with no answers, and you grab the mug sitting next to the keyboard, and head to the kitchen, squeezing past Hansal with a mouthful of Müsli. ………….. and due to a rapidly dying battery/attention span this prompt goes unfinished.

Prompt 3

Fundamental Argument



To: Agent White

Current Alias: Jeremiah Johnson

Concerning: The package of previous concern.

Intelligence has informed us that the package lost in Venezuela has been located in your vicinity. You are to retrieve it at all costs. Exercise caution as Rogue Agent Black is believed to be involved and is linked with the disappearance of three other agents. All intelligence related to the job is located on the following papers. Commit them to memory and burn before seeking to complete the job.

Agent White flipped the through the following pages. The intel was thorough. It looked like the crows back at HQ had done their jobs this time. A fact that made A. White smile inside. Operations hinged upon Intel, and he had seen many ops go south simply due to a lack of intelligence. Glancing over the papers one more time Agent White smiled to himself. This should be easy enough. He folded them into thirds and stuffed them back into his jacket, before picking up his binoculars and continuing his observation of the old town house across the street.

The building was three stories, and every window was framed in iron bars. Nothing to surprising given the neighborhood. The bottom two floors were occupied. Silhouettes with cromagnum foreheads paced by the windows, the tell tell shadows of gun barrels pointing over their shoulders. The top floor was completely still however. No lights, no sounds. It was possibly an attic, but a feeling in his gut told Agent White that the top floor was probably the most dangerous. Everything matched up with the briefing, given a few minor details, and for the past eight hours nothing more that the routine changing of guards disturbed this hidden fortress.

Agent White crawled backwards from the rooftop where he’d lain for the better part of an afternoon. Soon as he was sure that he was out of sight, he stood up and with soft steps ran to the fire escape ladder. The ladder dropped down to an alley way that opened into the street. With the movements of a skilled surgeon he cut his way from shadow to shadow. Each step, stop, and duck already programmed into his mind. It was no wonder that the guards didn’t see the ghost that slid across the street and into the alley beside their house.

The alley was dim, shaded on both sides by multi-storied walls. It ran straight back about fifty meters before coming to a dead end. Trash cans, and old crates were pushed randomly against the walls allowing a small stream of gray water to trickle down its center. In short, controlled movements Agent W made his way from cover to cover never taking his eyes off of the alcoved door near the end of the alley. It looked like nothing more than a dark spot on the wall. Purely unnoticeable, and probably would’ve stayed that way except for the single guard that leaned against the door. The burnt orange glow of his cigarette floated a few feet above the ground, rising every so often to the guards mouth. Each draw pulling more light from the cigarette, illuminating the guards face with shadows. He’d take a few drags, and then let his hand fall. The cigarette falling back to a barely noticeable burnt orange.

Agent W.’s pistol moved from holster to hand in one fluid, memorized motion. Without slowing his pace, he raised the sights up and with two silent puffs of air the guard fell to the ground. A few more steps and Agent W had two fingers on the guards neck. His pulse was weak, but in a few moments that would no longer be a problem. Still, precautions were everything in this line of work, and in a few short moments the guard was laid under a pile of trashbags, and his gun dropped in a dumpster and the clip tossed into some bottles. Next came the door.

Oddly enough it wasn’t locked. A light tap of the pistol and it slid open on greased hinges exposing a tiny guard room. A wooden chair pointing towards a small security monitor was the only piece of furniture. Apparently they weren’t wanting anyone getting too comfortable. Beyond the chair stood a door. A large heavy metal door with no handle. A closer inspection showed it could be opened by some sort of key, which was found in the guards flak jacket. The key slide into the lock, and with a quick jerk Agent W. was rewarded with the grating sound of metal on metal. Large bolts could be felt as they pulled back and dropped into fittings built inside the door. The door was heavy, even as it glided inward Agent W. still felt it’s weight under his hand. A good push and anyone on the other side would be crushed.

Prompt 2

“Go get your Father for dinner.” A simple phrase, but one that between the years of 4 and 9 I hated with all 82 lbs of my being. Mother, her back neatly sliced in two by apron strings, wouldn’t even turn away from the cutting board, oven, or sink. It didn’t matter all what she was doing when she asked. Every time it came the same way. She’d call my name, letting her sing-song voice have time to dissipate, before calling my name again. This time in a higher pitch, and coated with enough sugar to give Barney a heart attack. Why she bothered to ask a second time I never understood. I knew that she knew that I heard her the first time, but again Mother enjoyed doing things twice. When tying her shoelace, checking the locks at night, and even when placing the crust for an apple pie she always pulled out the the first attempt, and after rerolling the dough would once again lower the crust into the pan with all the precision of an Air Traffic Controller. Maybe the first time was her first draft. The uncut raw version of my name, and she didn’t feel complete until the pitch, tone, and love mixed into her voice had been edited, and remixed to suit whatever she needed from me. Who knows. I certainly don’t. All I know is that if the clock was anywhere near a quarter after five and my name was called twice, was that I would shortly be asked to fetch Father. A task that I never particularly enjoyed in my youth.

Father was always to be found in the rear of the house in a small attic apartment above the room. Mother referred to it as his ‘Study’, but Father never really called it anything. He just grabbed a few books, and with a nod of his head would grunt “Going to work, don’t bother me.” To me it was just the attic. That’s what it was. The ceiling stood no higher than six feet along the center beam, and down either side slide the ceiling until it reached the wall which stood a wholloping three feet high. Crammed into the rear corner was a desk. Our old lime green kitchen table to be truthful, but the steel folding chair and the black polished typewriter gave it the feel of a desk. Papers, imprinted by the pounding of keys, stacked on either end of the typewriters, and even more filled the cobwebbed boxes shoved under the table. Along either side were bookshelves, and like an overfilled refugee raft each book was crammed face to face with its neighbor. The room had a single window which showed out into the alley, but gauging by the brown leather throne my father loved to read in, one would’ve expected the green rolling plains of England, or possibly a glimpse at small café bubbling with night life. Not two metal garbage cans and the neighbors Mastiff curled up on the warm concrete. Just waiting for an unsuspecting student on his way home for school to get within a paw’s swipe.

Most noticeable about the room however was the sandy tan plank that ran right down the middle of the room. Everything, from floorboard to rafter, was stained dark. Mahogany, Cherry, No one ever told me what it was, but that plank stood out like the eye sore that it was. I once asked why he didn’t stain it like the rest of the room, or at least put a rug down so that the room didn’t look like a skunk turned in on itself. All I got was a raised eyebrow. My father, who had been standing on the very plank I was speaking of, simply looked down, then looked back at me, then back down. “Wouldn’t make a difference” he muttered, and began pacing back and forth along the length of the room.

Prompt 1

Writing Prompt #1

Where were you last night?

“Where were you last night?”

Victor lifted his coffee to his lips to avoid Martha’s question; letting the causticity of his favorite drink burn away the sewage that collected around his adam’s apple every night like liquid drano. God, it felt good. Black and strong, the good way. Victor silently relished in the sensation of warmth that sludged down his throat before pooling into the bottom of his stomach; where it continued to smolder like the ashes of a dying cowboy’s fire. Caught up in the sensation, Victor pulled the mug back to his lips, bit off another gulp of coffee, and wiped clean his salt and pepper mustache, without even remembering so much as a trace of the entire action.

“Where were you last night?” Martha didn’t even bother to interject her normal hmmph of disapproval at the fact that he’d ignored her first question.

The mug was halfway to his lips before he realized it was empty. Feigning an interest in the newspaper Victor extended his drinking arm out. His beggers mug held aloft. “Martha, some Coffee?”

Then came the hmmph, then roughly five seconds of silence, and then the familiar shuffle of Martha’s rose laced nightgown across the laminate. Victor was careful not to raise his head as his mug slowly began to gain mass again. Any sign of acknowledgement could destroy his entire ruse, and he might have to actually explain what had happened last night, and why it had been the nearly ungodly hour or ten o’clock before he’d come home to Martha, already long asleep. At the same time, ignoring Martha completely would result in him being denied coffee. It may not have been a razor thin edge he was walking, but it was an old rusty razors edge at least.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

MY FINAL STORY FOR CREATIVE WRITING--- Please comment if you read...even it it's just to say you read it...IT'S LONG BUT WORTH IT

It was nearly the end of the third watch when the hooded man knocked on the gatehouse door. He rapped three times in quick succession with his staff. The door sounded heavy by the deep thuds that emitted from it. He assumed that a heavy door would be necessary for the gatehouse. Cracks, scratches, and holes peppered the door, and he assumed they didn’t come from years of wind, snow, and rain. At about eye height was a slab of wood that could be slid away from the inside. After a few moments it slid back and a young set of eyes looked out on him.

“Who goes there?” said the youth.

“Victor of Alzey” replied the old man.

“And what is your business here?”

“I’ve come for the execution tomorrow.”

“Ah the execution” said the guard “We’ve had lots of people coming to town for the execution.”

“Why would so many people drop a day’s work just to come see another man hang?”

“Oh I don’t know” said the youth, his voice becoming increasingly cheerier. “ I think it cheers people up. Lets them know justice is being dealt. That and not everyone comes to watch the execution. Some come to sell stuff, and others come to buy. With so many people running an execution is like a birthday party for a starving merchant. It’s quite good for the economy really. Why are you coming then? If I might enquire.”

“I’ll never understand all this fanfare over death” said the man, shaking his head.

“Well I don’t know if you’d call it fanfare, but the atmosphere sure is riveting. I’ve always loved a good execution. Really warms the heart to know justice is being dealt. Know what I mean.”

“Not really” said the man, but he doubted the guard heard him.

“So what brings you out for the execution? By the looks of things I’d say you were a shepherd. Not many shepherds around these parts. Not enough open land. You must’ve come quite a ways to get here. Any special reasons, eh?”

“I’m just a tired old man who’s lively to catch his death out here in the cold. Is there anything you need to know or can I be let into the city now?”

“I don’t know. You come for an execution, but don’t care for a proper hanging. That just sounds mighty suspicious to me. Why don’t you step inside here and…” at that moment the guard was interrupted by a guard inside the gatehouse. His voice was as coarse as his language, but the old man smiled couldn’t help but smile at what he heard. “Will you just let the man in. Will ya? If he wanted to attack the city he probably would’ve brought more friends. Just let him go on his way.” The jingling of keys could be heard and then one slid into the lock and the bolt was pulled back with a loud clang. The doors to the city swung open.


At that very same hour in another part of the city three men were sitting on tiny stone bench in a dark, wet cell. A musty odor hung in the air, and every few seconds an invisible drop of water echoed off the floor. Each wall was made of brick and mortar, stacked on top of each other to create a cold hard barrier between the three men and the world. The cell had two openings, a large wooden door that muffled the sounds of the world, and a small window, exactly opposite the three men, that breathed free air through its grated teeth. They couldn’t make out much through the window, but three things stood were visible to every one of them. The cobblestone ground of a courtyard, the full moon illuminating the nearby buildings, and the wooden skeleton of the gallows.

“It’s cruel” said the first prisoner. He was small, scrawny and dirty(even for a prisoner). Every few moments he picked at something in his hawk nose, and unceremoniously flicked it onto the stone floor. “Being sentenced to death is nerve wracking enough without having to watch your own noose swing in the breeze all night.”

“Maybe it’ll rain” said the second one airily. He wasn’t the brightest fellow, but by far he was the largest of the three. ”and they’ll cancel the execution”

“Rain?” wheezed the first prisoner “ Hedward, we’ve been sweltering in this cell for three days without a cloud in the sky and you think it’ll rain?”

“Well it is getting a bit breezier.” Hedward nodded with his chin out the window towards the swinging nooses. “but Perry, a few hours ago they weren’t swinging so much.”

“You fat tub” said Perry scratching at his nose “they’ve been swinging just like normal the entire bloating day. That and they wouldn’t stop the execution for a few rain drops. The only chance you’ve got is if you snap the rope when you fall.”

“You think that might happen?” asked Hedward.”Do you think I’m big enough?” He sat as erect as his shackles would let him and ran his hands over his belly with a smile.

“Not a chance in hell” retorted Perry.”They’ll be certain to use a thicker rope for you, and even if you do manage to snap it the guards will just turn you into an overstuffed pincushion. ”

“Oh” sighed Hedward, slumping down again.

“You really shouldn’t get our friends hopes up” the third man finally spoke. He sat on the end of the bench(if only barely). He was young and strong, but his eyes were empty and hollow. “It’s hard enough having to come to terms with one’s fate, without false hope.”

“Oh shut up you” said Perry “Just because you share a cell with us doesn’t make you one of us. Why Hedward and I go way back. We know each other better than ants and dirt.” Hedward nodded in agreement.

“I’m sorry. I never really wanted to be one of you.” The last three words were said slowly, each one more covered in loathing than the first.

“Oh… Did I hurt your feelings? Sheesh.. you sound like a bloody imbecile” Perry’s voice went even higher as he mimicked the third prisoner “Not like you. Well you’re sharing a cell with us goat face. Like it or not you are one of us.”

“But didn’t you just say that he wasn’t one of us?” asked Hedward.

“Of course he’s not one of us” retorted Perry “but he’s as good as dead as the rest of us so he might as well stop acting like he’s something different.” Leaning forward Perry peeked around his large friend and poked a finger at his cellmate. “What’d you do anyway? Must’ve been something good to get yourself thrown up to the top of the lynch list.”

“I don’t want to talk about it” said the young man. He shifted away from the other two and looked at the wall.

“Oh come on. Everyone else in the crowd will know anyway so what’s the point of keeping it a secret.”

“I’d still prefer not to tell.”

“OH come on” wheezed Perry again “You can’t not tell me. We’re dying together! What difference does it make?” The young man didn’t reply.

“Maybe we should leave him alone” rumbled Hedward.

“No Heddy. He started it, calling us no good scoundrels.”

“When did he do that?”

“Just now.”

“He did? I don’t remember him saying that.”

“Well he didn’t.”

“Then he didn’t call us no good scoundrels?”

“He said it in the way he talked to us.”

“I’m confused.”

“Yes you are, just leave the talking to me. It never was your strong point.” He turned back toward the young man “You’ve insulted Me an Hedward here with your stuck up attitude. You act as if you’re better than us and yet here you sit with us. Awaiting the same noose we all await. Now I want to know what you did to put you here with people like us.” He punctuated the last three words by poking his finger into the man’s exposed back. The young man squirmed a bit, but remained silent still.

“What’d you do? Kill the Mother of God? It can’t be anything worse than what Heddy and I have pulled.” He wrapped one arm around Hedward’s bull neck “Heddy and I are a team. Always have been. He saved me from a pack of dogs when we were kids ya know. Pummeled them straight into the ground with his fists ya see. Now most folks would’ve said thank you and continued on with their merry lives. Not me though. I’m a saint. Hedward could fight right through a brick wall, but never had the brains to navigate past a curtain. So I gots to thinking, and says to Hedward ’Hedward I’ve got the brains to go far in this world, but lack the muscle. You’ve got the muscle, but lack any sort of brains. Hows about we team up?’ I promised I take him far in life and I did too.”

“Everyday we’d patrol the streets and liberate those snotty nobles of their precious gems. Hedward would take out the guards and as soon as we had his richness with his pants down we’d take the loot and run. We lived like kings. Better than kings. We had all the money for whores and meat we could ever dream of, ain’t that right Heddy.” Hedward chuckled a bit as a dumb smile crossed his face. “Everything was just grand until that wench showed up. It was her who turned us in I tell ya. She was way to pretty to be from the slums. Didn’t smell like crap either. Should’ve been the first clue, but I’ll be the first to humbly admit that women are my weakness. She just waltzed right in, and within a fortnight we were both sitting shackled to this bench. Stupid whore…” Perry continued on describing in grotesque detail what he’d do to the women if he ever caught her, but no one was really paying attention anymore. Hedward had dozed off to merrier dreams, and the young boy hadn’t responded once to Perry’s tale of misfortune. Slowly Perry himself began to become sleepier. He voice got quieter, as he snuggled into Hedward’s plump ribs. Right before he dozed off Perry said one last thing. “Hey kid. What’s your name?”

The young man played with the shackles on his wrists for a moment before responding. “Soman” he said. “I’m Soman of Alzey.”


Hedward was awoken by a light shaking in his side. Without even bothering to open his eyes he yawned and said “C’mon little fella it’s not polite to wake a sleeping man. Stop squirming around and catch some shuteye.”

“Sorry” choked Soman. “I’ll try not to bother you anymore.” His face was buried in his hands, but Hedward could see the tear stained floor between Soman’s shoes.

“You know” began Hedward “you really shouldn’t believe everything Perry says. He says lots of mean things. You don’t have to tell us what you did. All criminals have their secrets.”

Soman looked up from his hands and said “I’m not a criminal. I’m a shepherd.”

“A shepherd eh? Well I don’t know of very many shepherds who got hung for shepherding. What’d you shepherd to get yourself a cell?”

“It wasn’t shepherding that got me in here” said Soman.

“Then what did?” asked Hedward leaning forward.

Soman held his breath for a second. That one second became suspended in an eternal moment, an eternity that shattered when he opened his mouth. “I killed a man.”

The cell fell again into silence that last a few seconds before Hedward cleared his throat and said “Since when do shepherds kill people? Only soldiers, and criminals kill people. Are you a soldier too?”

“No” sighed Soman “I’m not a soldier.”

“Then you’re a…” began Hedward

“Well I’m not a criminal” interrupted Soman. “Criminals kill innocent people. The man I killed.”

“Why did he deserve that?”

“He tried to take something very precious from me.”

“Ah..So he was a criminal?” said Hedward.

“You could say that” answered Soman

“I guess you are a soldier then.”

“Since when are soldiers executed?” inquired Soman. When Hedward didn’t answer right away Soman looked up at his cellmate. Hedward’s brow was scrunched so low that it nearly covered his eyes, and his lips were pursed in thought. Before he could find a suitable solution however Soman said “It doesn’t matter Hedward. I’m just a simple a shepherd.” his voice croaked “I just wanted to tend my flock.”

“You had a flock?” said Hedward excitedly. Soman nodded. “You mean you had your very own flock.”

“Well…” began Soman “they didn’t belong to me. They belonged to the Duke. My father and I simply tended the sheep.”

“Did the Duke have lots of sheep?”

“Hundreds” said Soman “and not a gram of sense among them.”

“What was it like?” asked Hedward.

“Really boring” yawned Soman “The sheep follow anyone who can promise food and water. Most days I sat on a rock and whittled.”

“What else?” Hedward leaned forward.

Soman looked at Hedward and chuckled “Do you really want to know ?”

“Yes” pleaded Hedward.

Soman sighed and began. “Well being a shepherd never was the easiest jobs. The sheep are all so dumb that you can never leave them alone. There were always two shepherds watching the Duke’s herd. Every couple of weeks my father and I would travel up into the higher meadows for our round of shepherding. Most years our round came about mid summer, but this year the Duke sent us at the end of spring. I should’ve known, but I didn’t. I was content daydreaming the time away like a love struck fool. ” Soman paused. He seemed to be chewing on a particular memory. However it only lasted a moment before he shook his head and continued. ”We didn’t do much most days. The sheep fed themselves on the green grass and unless they thought they could find something greener elsewhere they rarely broke away from the herd.”

“ During the day my father taught me how to use my sling to fend off wolves, and every night we slept out under the stars. Father would use the stars to tell me the old stories he learned from his father. He loved to tell the one about the Dragon who guarded the God’s Tree of magical fruit. You know, the one where the peddler boys steals one of the Dragon’s three eggs and then trades them back in exchange for the fruit. He loved telling me that story, but the one he always told right before I fell asleep was off Klementia, the mistress of Man. It was her affair with the man Japeth that caused the god’s to cast man down onto the earth, and she was banished to the northern most reaches of the heavens. My father would point out her star and…“ Hedward’s snore vibrated off the prison walls. His head, which was slumped against his chest, rose and fell with each breath. He snored again, and Soman just smiled. “I guess the stories will have to wait for another day.” Looking out the window he could see Klementia’s star dangling above the gallows.

“You see that star.” echoed the voice of Soman’s father in his head. “That’s Klementia’s lantern. Every night she hangs it in the exact same spot in the heavens, hoping that one day her lover will return. She knows he will never return but her consistency is her defining feature, and is her gift to the descendents of Japeth. If you are ever lost or alone, and you can’t find the way. Just look for that star, and you’ll be able to go wherever you want.”


The following day was stifling. The sun was just past its zenith, and with searing eyes gazed down on the crowd of people that had gathered into the courtyard. The courtyard had been slowly filling since before noon, and it was now nearly bursting. Merchants lined the out circles with their wagons. They called to out to anyone who looked their way. The butcher gestured with his burly arms at his latest selections of beef, pork, and poultry. He had a switch in his hand that doubled as a pointer and as a switch to keep the flies at bay. And on the other side stood a man on his wagon. Skinny and pale his loud voice danced over the crowd. He preached to small congregation of women in colorful dresses all the devilries of age. Holding a bottle in each hand, he listed the infinite list of effects his elixirs had. Another merchant carefully guarded his fruit stand in vain from a pack of boys. They circled around him with eyes fixed on the small club he bounced in his hand. He swung his head back and forth trying to keep them all in sight, but one smaller boy was able to get behind him. He bolted to the stand and snatched an apple from the stand. He made to grab a second one, but the merchant’s club cracked down on his hand. Laughing, the merchant watched the young boy slip off into the crowd, unaware that the other boys were pilfering his watermelons. In another corner sat a table of men smoking pipes. Their hands moved constantly through the cloud of smoke that encompassed them as they discussed everything that makes no sense(Namely politics, religion, and women). Others simply milled about the square with no direct purpose other than to see the show. None of them noticed a robed shepherd standing in the shade of the alley.

Like a scuttled ship the long poles of the gallows poked out from the center of the crowd. A blue robed man carrying a scroll ascended wooden stairs. Being a fairly plump man, he leaned against one of the posts for a moment as he caught his breath. His hands were bejeweled with rings, and a large golden medallion stretched from his neck down to his prominent belly. Even when trying to catch his breath the man’s face appeared smug. This man’s name was Sir Arnold Heinsberg, Head Justice of the Royal Courts, but he was known among the general public by many less than favorable names. It was reputed that he lived for only two things, eating, and executing the law to the letter. It was however his complete lack of feeling that made him good at what he did. He reviewed and oversaw every execution, and was commissioned by his Highness himself to mete out justice as he saw fit.

After a few breaths he unrolled the scroll and shouted over the din of the crowd, causing every eye to turn to him. “On this 8th day of the 5th cycle of the moon in the 30th year of the reign of our King. The following prisoners have been sentenced for hanging.

We shall begin with Commoner Perry of Krefeld, next shall we review the case of Commoner Hedward, and last but certainly not the least we have the vilest of criminals, Commoner Soman of Alzey. Shepherd to the late Duke Karls Ruhe of Alzey.” The crowd booed as each name was read aloud, but at the mention of Soman the crowd hissed loudly and some vulgarities were shouted. Sir Heinsberg raised his arms for silence. When the crowd quieted he continued “ Their crimes and case will be reviewed prior to hanging. At this time all voices may be heard, and the sentence will be performed.”?

Sir Heinsberg then rolled up the scroll and moved to a chair on the far end of the platform. Motioning with his hand he called for the executioner to bring out Perry.

The door to the prison grated open and out stepped a burly man with a black cloth over his head. He jerked at a chain which connected to Perry’s shackles, causing Perry to stumble out the door. The crowd roared to greet him and a few shells of a watermelon bounced of Perry’s shoulders. Some others who might’ve known Perry started throwing rocks at Perry’s face. He avoided most of them by keeping close to the executioner, and slouching as much as possible. At one point he even tried to shout some insults back at the crowd, but a hefty rock quickly put him back behind the executioner. Together they ascended the staircase and Perry was brought to stand before Sir Heinsberg. A few more rocks and watermelon rinds were thrown, but after a stern glance from Sir Heinsberg they promptly stopped.

Sir Heinsberg wiggled himself a little higher in his chair and pointing a finger at Perry said “You, Commoner Perry have arrested for the following crimes which are Punishable by death. They read…” he produced another smaller scroll from his robes and read “The Plundering of a Noble’s home, and Women…”

“Now she came willingly,” interjected Perry, but was silenced with a stern look from Sir Heinsberg

“You’ll have the right to state your claims later…. You are being tried for the Plundering of a Noble’s home and of HIS woman. You’re being tried for the illegal selling of royal property, and for the Murder of two officers of the law. Do you have anything to say?”

Perry looked at Sir Heinsberg who nodded his approval before saying “Well… like I said earlier. The woman came willingly. Can’t help it if I’m such a charming fellow ya know, and I willingly admit that I did remove a few items from your cousin Sir Wasserberg mansion, but I’d been going to his place nearly every night for two weeks and he never touched those jewels anyway. They were in the exact same spot on the night stand the entire time and given that Sir Wasserberg is such a kind and generous fellow I figured he’d be more than willing to help a man of poorer circumstance. The money we got from them was used, and I swear on my honor, to purchase food for my little ones….”

A voice shouted out from the crowd…”You don’t have any little ones, you lying sack of bones!” followed quickly by another voice from the same direction “but he’s got one big child to take care of. The dumb wit probably thought the jewels were candy and ate them himself..”

“You leave Hedward out of this.” Shouted Perry to the crowd before turning back to Sir Heinsberg. “ I don’t have any little ones, but I do have obligations to meet, and I’m sure Sir Wasserberg wouldn’t have even missed them.”

“May I remind you that it was he who called the Officers and demanded your arrest.” Stated Sir Heinsberg.

“I’m sure that was just a misunderstanding. I too wouldn’t have been in the best mood if I found someone sleeping in my bed after a long hard day. We’re both men, we do these sort of things. Are a few trinkets seriously worth more than a human life? I mean…”

“And what of the two lives you took? What were they worth?” asked Sir Heinsberg calmly.

“Hey now..” exclaimed Perry “If those two club happy little twits hadn’t been so persistant I wouldn’t have had to knife ‘em. And Hedward only killed the other ones to protect my life. Honestly, does a man not have the right to defend himself?”

“Not when he’s wanted by the law. Do you have anything else to say?”

Perry nodded and addressing the crowd pleaded his case. Starting with the difficulty of being an orphan he slowly worked himself through the years, depicting tragic event by tragic event that made him “The Victim” of life and Society. If he hadn’t have talked so long the crowd might’ve listened, but after five minutes of his rambling began to demand his death. When the crowd got so loud, and a few rocks began pelting the platform Sir Heinsberg stood up and raising his hands brought the crowd to silence by shouting “You have heard the case. I am simply a Mediating Justice. It is the people who decide the sentence. What do you say?”

“HANG HIM!” shouted the crowd in unison. “Hang him!” they shouted again. They shouted it again a third time, and then a fourth. It rapidly rose into a chant and rocks began pelting the platform again. Sir Heinsberg nodded to the hangman, who started dragging Perry towards the noose. At first Perry tried to resist but a quick shove sent him walking. He didn’t say a word as noose was looped around his neck. Tears began to work their way down his dirty cheeks, and a wet spot formed on the front of his pants. The hangman yanked a lever and the trapdoor under Perry’s feet opened. Perry dropped and then stopped in one lurching movement. The snap of his neck drowned out by the cheer of the crowd.

His rope was cut, and a larger thicker one was placed in its stead. Perry’s body was dragged off by two officers and thrown unceremoniously into the back of a wagon. Sir Heinsberg stood and raised his hands for silence. The crowd ceased shouting, but an audible buzz still vibrated among its members. Sir Heinsberg with another jerk of his arm, called for the next prisoner.

Hedward came out the door with two guards pulling on his shackles. His face was wet with grief for his fallen friend, and a wet stain already marked his trousers. A few people tried throwing rocks, but Hedward screamed at them with such anger that no one dared try it again. He lumbered up the Gallow steps. Each one creaked under his weight. The platform rocked a bit every time he shifted his feet. Which was a lot given his nervous state, and Sir Heinsberg was forced to hold onto his chair with both hands to keep from being rocked off.

“Commoner Hedward” began Sir Heinsberg “You are to be tried for the murder of three city officers, and for being an accomplice of the former Commoner Perry. What do you say?” Hedward said something, but he held his head so low it was muffled by his body. “What did you say?” inquired Sir Heinsberg again.”Speak up if you wish to have a fair trial.”

Hedward sniffed audibly and raising his head said “I didn’t mean to kill anyone.”

“Each officer’s heads was smashed in. That’s hardly an accidental act.”

“They were hurting Perry.”

“Perry was resisting arrest. They had every right to subdue him.”

“But they were hurting Perry!” exclaimed Hedward again. “I had to stop them.”

“Commoner, the line between stopping and killing is hardly one that any person simply crosses. Every Officer you killed that day had a family or lover. Were their deaths worth more than either yours or Perry’s? Who will care for their families?”

“I don’t know” moaned Hedward. “I didn’t know. They were just hurting Perry and wouldn’t stop. Even after he was chained.” Tears ran down his face in great gobs and he began choking on his own breath.

“Is that all you have to say?” asked Sir Heinsberg. Hedward didn’t hear him, but his lack of response was taken as affirmative. Turning to the crowd Sir Heinsberg asked “He is guilty of murder according to the law, and what do the people say? Does he deserve to hang?” the cry for a hanging was weaker than Perry’s at first, but after a few moments the unanimous chant of the crowd sentenced Hedward. Hedward was so consumed in his tears he barely noticed the noose being laced around his neck. Just as the trapdoor sprung out from under his feet he let out a loud NO, and then dropped. The fall didn’t snap his neck, and for a few minutes the crowd laughed as they watched him squirm like a dead fish. His toes were only a few inches off the ground and he desperately tried to get a footing. Eventually his feet slowed and then halted all together. His rope was cut too and he collapsed into a mound on the ground. Some men tried moving him, but they eventually gave up and left him lying under the Gallows.

“And now for the final trial.” Said Sir Heinsberg and he motioned for the guards to bring Soman out to the gallows. Soman stepped out the door before his guard and standing erect marched towards the gallows. Fiery determination burned in his eyes and the crowd backed away into a path. Up the gallows he walked and stood himself before Sir Heinsberg. “Commoner Soman” began the judge “you are here to be tried for the Murder of Duke Karl Ruhe of Alzey.” The crowd booed louder than it ever had before, and nearly every hand went in search of a stone. Duke Karl Ruhe was a national war hero. He was loved by the people, and his sudden death was still being mourned within the city. ”You sliced him open from neck to pelvis” continued Sir Heinsberg “and were found attempting to steal his maiden after the act. I doubt you could think of anything worth saying, but have your say.”

Soman bored into the Duke’s eyes and said loudly “That Pig you call Duke wasn’t fit for anything more than the butchering he received. For my whole life my family has protected his sheep from Wolves, Bears, and Thieves. My mother died working his fields, and he dishonored my younger sister.”

“That’s all lies” shouted a voice in the crowd that was heartily supported with more insults.

“Your younger sister was his to do with has he pleased.” Chimed in Sir Heinsberg

“My sister belonged to No one” replied Soman.

“I beg to differ” answered Sir Heinsberg “Your entire family is property of Alzey, and our beloved Duke would most certainly not be bestial enough to dishonor your sister.”

Soman locked his gaze with the judge again and said “I am but a Shepherd. I do not know war, and I’ve seen the Duke of Alzey with a blade. You think a simple ‘commoner’ could dispatch your lands greatest war hero?” he paused for a second and when no answer was forth coming he continued “I only stood a chance because he had his pants down and was so busy beating my sister.” The crowd booed, and even a few voices called out for his hanging.

“Whatever the circumstances” said Sir Heinsberg. “You have killed a direct descendant to the throne and are guilty of murder. The law demands a life for a life. It’s the equal price” Turning to the mob he said “Shall we hang him?” the crowd roared its approval, and the hangman began loosened the noose for Soman’s neck.

“NO..” shouted a man from the crowd. Faces turned to an old man in a tattered robes with a hood around his shoulders. He carried a shepherds crook in his hands and shouted again “NO! I am the boys father and it was I who sent him looking for Isabella. She was kidnapped from our home and we knew not where she was. Knowing the dangers posed to one so young I made my son swear an oath to not be deterred by anything in returning her safely. He fulfilled that oath, and as the holder of that Oath I am responsible.”

“You came a long way to watch your son die.” Sneered Sir Heinsberg.

“I am no lawyer, but does not the law demand a life? What is the worth of his life over mine?”

“Your lives are both worthless” answered the Judge.

“Then take mine for his and the law will be fulfilled. Will it not?”

“You would die for this scum?”

“Scum or not he’s my son, and only a father understands the worth of his son. Will you take me?”

Sir Heinsberg turned to the crowd and asked “Is one head as good as another? Shall we take the father over the son?” Not a single voice was heard. Sir Heinsberg gathered his breath and asked again “The Law demands a life, shall it be the son or the father.”

A gruff man shouted from the crowd. “I served under Karls Ruhe in the eastern war. His every command saved my life. I don’t care who hangs, but someone has too.” A view voices echoed his sentiments.

One of the older men at the table stood up and shouted “I lost my son in the eastern war. I wish I could take his place. I understand the father’s plea, let him take the boys place.”

“Why must one of them hang?” came a voice from the crowd.”What does the law say for Mercy?”

Gesturing openly with his hands Sir Heinsberg explained “Mercy had no claim when the law was broken. Balance must be meted or else all is chaos. Such is the purpose of law. ”

“Let them both go.” Shouted another voice

“I cannot do that” exclaimed Sir Heinsberg “I must uphold the law, it is you who chooses the sentence. If you do not decide it will use my authority to hang this murdererous scum.” He pointed to Soman.

The crowd was silent for a moment. Faces swiveled between the Father and the Son, and gently the crowd parted forming a path from the wagon to the gallows. The Father stepped down and walked towards the gallows. People slapped him on the back and then left the courtyard. He ascended the stairs, and stood in front of his son.

“No.” whispered Soman to his father. “No. I can’t let you.”

“Son” pleaded Victor. He made to loosen the noose from around Soman’s neck, but Soman grabbed his wrists. “You’ve always been a good son. Please just let me do this.”

Tears welled up in Soman’s eyes “I can’t” he whispered “Who’ll take care of Isabella?”

“You will” said Victor, his eyes began to glisten. “You’ve become a man, and you will care for her.” He pulled Soman’s hand’s away from the noose and loosened it.

“But why must you die? It was me who killed the Duke.”

“Someday, when you have a son of your own you might understand” said Victor. He pulled the noose from Soman’s neck.

“But..” began Soman but he choked on his breath

“No buts Soman.” Victors eyes hardened “As your father I do this. You can’t stop me.” And he pushed Soman gently out of the way. He wrapped the noose around his neck and looked at his crying son. Soman’s face was now drenched in tears and his lower lip trembled as he sought to hold back his cries. “Swear you will live an honest life.” Soman nodded “Swear to protect Isabella with your life.” Soman nodded again. Victors voice became more strained with each command and it nearly broke with the final oath. “Swear you’ll bury me next to your mother.” Soman nodded again, and slowly descended the stairs. The courtyard was now empty of everyone except Soman, Victor,the Hangman, and Sir Heinsberg. Victor smiled at his son and with a sign from Sir Heinsberg he plummeted to his death. It was quick, and Soman imagined it was painless. His father’s neck cracked loudly, and Victor was forever motionless after that moment.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spilt Milk

Well this piece I wrote after pouring myself a glass of milk and sitting down to write. It all just sort of came, and then later I went and polished it up for my Creative Writing Class. Unfortunately my first editing attempt resulting my computer eating my story, so I had to edit it all again the second time. So I hope you enjoy.

Jason pulled open the refrigerator door. The little light flickered on, illuminating shelves of deli meat, a bowl filled with last nights chicken Alfredo, the last bottle of a Budweiser six pack, and a gallon of milk.Scanning the shelves lightly for anything he might also like, he pulled the milk out of the fridge, closed the door with his knee, and put the jug on the counter. The kitchen was roughly three meters, by five. Just large enough to contain one full sized fridge, a sink and counter combination, some cupboards, an oven, and small table with three wooden chairs. The floor was speckled green linoleum that reminded Jason of vomit, and the light bulb cast a dinghy yellow light across everything.

Running his hands through his hair Jason cast another glance at the digital clock on the oven. “Where is that boy?” muttered Jason to himself. The clock read 12:33, proclaiming Jason’s son Nick a full thirty-three minutes late for curfew. It wasn’t uncommon for Nick to come home late, but he normally called to say he wasn’t going to be home on time. Jason knew something was up with Nick, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. In the past month he’d become more and more elusive. He was never doing anything that Jason could mark as wrong, but he seemed to be constantly busy. He was off to school before Jason, and it was becoming a growing routine for Jason to fall asleep on the sofa when Nick came home at night. Tonight, when Jason woke up to find Nick still hadn’t come home he decided it was high time to talk with the boy.

The dishes chimed against each other as he pulled a cup from the middle of their dish rack. Holding the cup up to the light he inspected its cleanliness. He slowly rotated it in his hands, watching the light refract off the glass. He then held it up to his eye, and closing the other one looked through the glass. There were some water spots on the bottom, and as the light penetrated them the glass turned into make shift kaleidoscope. Enthralled at his discovery Jason tilted his head back to get a better angle on the light. He tipped his head farther and farther backwards. The light continued to play off the water spots, beckoning him onwards. He followed, the little light show becoming more magical with each degree. He eventually had his head horizontal, and he held it there for a moment before gravity took over and he lost his balance. He took two choppy steps backwards, and would’ve fallen flat on his back if the counter hadn’t of stopped him. The drawers chattered under the impact, and Jason chuckled in reply. He’d had enough funny business and besides, he was angry with his son.

Turning around he unscrewed the lid off the jug, and tilted it over the glass. The milk slowly pooled to the bottle neck. There it waited until it had enough followers in one spot before it went tumbling over the brink. Down it fell towards the lip of the glass. At first it would be nothing but a downward stream. The first splashes would circle the bottom before the sheer weight of the rest smothered it into a suitable drink.

“Damn” whispered Jason under his breath. The milk hadn’t made it into the cup at all, but instead was now spreading in every direction across the counter top. Some of it pooled around the base of the cup, but the majority flowed over the edge and into a puddle on the floor. Putting the empty cup into the sink he snatched a rag and began wiping up the milk. It took a few tries as the milk refused to be absorbed into the rag, and every time Jason wiped his hand across the surface the milk only spread farther(most of it onto the floor). He eventually used the rag as a make shift bulldozer and was able to scoop most of it into the sink. Getting it off the floor was a bit harder, but that was solved after a matter of time. Some fifteen minutes later Jason had a full glass of milk in his hand.

Coincidentally enough, it was also at this exact moment that Jason saw two headlights through the kitchen window. Peeking through the small curtains he could make out a pair of never-winking eyes that made their way down the road towards his house. The make and model of the automobile was undetectable at first, but as it rumbled closer Jason began to make out the outline of a rickety Chevy Blazer. As it pulled into the driveway the engine quieted into dull roar, and Jason could see Nick’s silhouette step out of the car. He waved goodbye to his friend and swinging a backpack across his shoulders walked towards the house.

The living room where the front door was situated was only a few meters away from the kitchen. Close enough the Jason easily got there before Nick. The living room had blue-stripped wallpaper. Something the realtor said made it appear larger than it was. In the end though it still only had enough room for a sofa, coffee table, and a TV wedged into the corner. Even with the lights off Jason could still see the piles of magazines, plates, and beer bottles scattered across the room. Taking a swig from his milk he made himself comfortable by leaning against the wall. Nick’s footsteps echoed across the wooden porch, coming to a halt before the door. His keys rattled as he pulled them from his pack, and after he was able to find the right one it ground its way into the lock. The deadbolt squeaked as Nick slowly unlocked the door.

Jason pretended to have found a keen interest in his glass as he heard all this. Pinching it between his thumb and pointer finger he twirled the bottom in a lazy circle. The milk swirled slightly, but it didn’t move much. It knew that it wasn’t what Jason really wanted in his cup. The door opened and a slice of light slowly widened across the sofa, and coffee table. Nick’s silhouette filled the door frame and he walked through the door. He didn’t turn on the light immediately, but he instead put his keys on the table, and began untying his shoes. His effort to remain quiet was so painfully obvious that Jason felt his face begin to warm with blood. After Nick turned off the porch light and had the door halfway closed Jason flipped on the light saying “Don’t bother being so quiet boy. You’re not half as sneaky as you think you are.”

Like a criminal caught in the act Nick swung around his mouth open. “I’m sorry Dad, we lost track of time. We didn’t mean to be so late. I swear.”

Jason stopped leaning on the wall and took a step into the room. ”You know the rules boys, you’re too be ho…” he paused for a second. He’d only progressed a few feet into the middle of the room. He seemed to steady himself and then continued, “you’re to be home by midnight. Those’re the rules.”

“I know Dad.” Explained Nick “and I’m sorry, Greg and I were up by the River talking and we lost track of time. I swear it won’t happen again.”

“What’s so important that it needed talking about?”

“Well….” Started Nick, unsure of what to say.

“Well what?” probed Jason

“Well…Greg’s parents split up over a year ago. So..I feel like I can talk with him.”

“Why can’t you talk with me?”

“Well Greg and I understand each other.” said Nick shrugging his shoulders.

“And we don’t?” asked Jason “We always talked. What’s so different now that she’s gone?”

Nick didn’t look Jason straight in the eye when he replied. “Not much I guess.”

“Well then why do you need to be out talking till dawn?”

“Just cause it helps.”

“You think now that mommies gone you don’t have to come home at night?” Jason’s voice got louder with each word. “That your daddy ain’t gonna tell you what to do? Well listen here. Rules is rules, and you’re gonna be home by midnight or else I’ll belt you like I did when you was young.”

“I already said it won’t happen again.” Protested Nick.

“Won’t happen again!” Jason’s voice had risen to an all out yell “Darn right it won’t. You’ll be a good boy from now on.”

“Yes sir” said Nick. He crossed his arms in front of himself and his eyes were scanned the room, trying to focus on anything but his father. “I’ll be home by Midnight next time. We seriously just lost track of time.”

“How’d you lose track of time? Eh? Were you drinking? You trying to drown out all your troubles?” Nick shook his head vigorously. “You were drinking weren’t you? You dump stupid boy. Don’t you know drinking ain’t good for you.”

“What makes you think I was drinking?”

“I smells it” said Jason pointing to his nose.

“I wasn’t drinking at all. What proof do you have to accuse me?” Nick spread his arms wide, daring Jason to find an empty bottle on him.

“I smells it.” Stated Jason again

“Why the hell would I resort to drinking Dad? I’m not like you! Look at you. You can’t even stand up straight without wobbling. I don’t drown myself every night in scotch, rum, and beer! What you smell is your own breath.” Nick pointed to all the empty beer bottles scattered around the room. Jason vaguely remembered drinking them, but they couldn’t all have been his. “I’m going to bed Dad. We can talk about this tomorrow.” Nick slammed the door shut, and started making his way past Jason towards his bedroom. “I’m going to bed. Goodnight Dad.”

To this day Jason still doesn’t remember what demon possessed him at that moment, but the second Nick had passed him leaving his back exposed, Jason lifted the glass and slammed at across the back of Nick’s head. The glass shattered into dozens of pieces, milk spilled across the floor, and Nick dropped like a dead bird. At first the blood only darkened his hair, and then it began to drip, then flow onto the floor. It mixed with spilt milk, changing it from ivory white to a dingy red.

“Damn” muttered Jason to himself and as he gathered rags to clean up the mess a phrase his mother used to tell him went through his head. He couldn’t remember all of it, but it was something about spilt milk, and crying.

hope you enjoyed it and if you're still interested here's what my teacher had to say about it.

Great work here-- you've really polished this up since your generative writing. I think you describe Jason's behavior precisely and interestingly. I love the attention to detail-- great. The setting is nicely developed, too. I did think that I'd get a better idea of who Jason was if we heard a little bit more of his thoughts at the beginning. It's great that he's worrying about Nick. Maybe he could also be thinking about his hard day at work or something. For some reason it surprises me later in the story that Jason is so "blue collar" and colloquial in his conversation-- if this could be established earlier, I think his character will feel fuller.

On page 4, as Jason and Nick interact in dialogue, I thought that you could incorporate a little more of Jason's thoughts here, too. Maybe we could get a little more about how he feels Nick slipping away from him. Maybe even some memories of Nick when he was younger would be appropriate here. We see Jason get angry on the surface, so it will give him more depth as a character if we see what motivates that anger underneath it all. That will also help keep Jason from becoming too much of a stereotype, I think.

I think you did a terrific job with the "twist" here. Now instead of the story feeling like a gimmick, it feels like an accurate and thoughtful observation on a character's psychology. Jason is defensive, displaces his anger and guilt, and this feels just right. A strong piece, Seth! Thanks for your hard work.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Morning Ride

This is a short story I wrote in my Creative Writing class. We were working on creating a setting, but it sort of took a life of it's own and here's what I got.

Peter and William’s bicycles rattled along the narrow cobblestone road. Walled in on both sides by a continuous stream of buildings the road weaved down the hill. Standing up off the seat they whizzed onward with gay abandon. Opels, Skodas, Volkswagens, and Smart Cars were parked bumper to bumper on either side. Hugging the curb they left barely enough room for the boys to ride side by side.

Germans love the weekend, and not many of them were likely to be awake at this hour on a Saturday. Most windows were still shaded, and only the shops of the bakers and butchers had flipped the signs on their doors from closed to open. The streets were still in shadow, but it the sun poked it’s head down every alley, laying warm golden bars of sunlight across the street. Every time Peter crossed one he felt the urge to let go of the handlebars and spread his arms wide. He envisioned soaking every particle of warmth that he could into his windbreaker. Building, he hoped, a large enough reservoir to carry him through the next block of shadows.

Puffing heavy balls of frozen air into the morning he wished the day would hurry and warm up. The evening news had reported a steady rise in temperature all week, and even though spring hadn’t quite arrived yet Peter fancied it had. He could taste the ice-cream sold at the gelato shops when the Italians returned for the summer season. He longed to be able to ride down to the swimming pool with nothing but shorts on, and a towel tossed over his shoulder. He counted the weeks left till summer vacation began, and then imagined them at only half that number.

The cold wind sweeping back his hair, and the rusty chains chattering on dirty cogs brought him back from his sunny day dream. Tossing a playful look to William he shifted two gears higher, the chain clunking onto a smaller cog, and spun his legs as fast as he could. Peter caught the hint and matched William. He pedaled as fast as he could but William was the younger of the two and his skinny legs didn’t have the weight Peter’s did. It began slowly at first. An inch, barely noticeable, but it grew into two inches, then six, and a full foot. In the space of fifty meters Peter was a whole bike length in front of William. Spurred by his quick success William pedaled harder. Glancing back over his shoulder he affirmed his climbing lead. He now had three full lengths on William, and his lead was still growing.

The road took a sharp bend, and Peter mastered it wonderfully. Pulling himself tight to his rickety ten-speed he tilted the bike into the turn. He’d watch the Professionals closely the last time they’d come racing through. They always took the turn wide, bending outwards before cutting across the street to the inside of the corner. When done properly they didn’t have to break, and they sped through the turn at full speed. Peter had watched them closely, and he couldn’t help but smile even bigger at turning so perfectly. He did tap his breaks once, but it was only for a second and even the Pros needed to tap their breaks on occasion.

The road straightened out, and the buildings opened up into an intersection; bathed in golden light, and framed in traffic lights it made the perfect finish line. The light was green, and Peter sped towards it. At five meters from the white line the light flashed yellow, but Peter was going too fast to stop now. Cranking down he blared through the intersection as a blur, holding his breath as the light switched to red, and then sighing in relief as he fell back into the shadows on the other side.

Hands raised in victory he basked in the cheers of the unseen crowd. Before him lay the city center; A haphazard panorama of square buildings squeezed into a circular ring. A large road encompassed the center in a large black wheel; shooting spokes at every degree towards a large cathedral. It was the hub of the city, and it dominated the landscape. Towering above every building in the proximity it bathed in the sun. It stood in contrast to itself, one side glowed gold in the morning sun as the other half still stood in the darkness of the night. Pigeons took flight from the bell tower as it rang out long wavy greetings, and Peter shouted back cry of good morning. Peter’s muscles felt warm, and the cold no longer bit at his hands. Squeezing his brakes gently he began to slow down. His heart slowly lessened its tempo on his rib cage also. And then it stopped all together.

The tires squealed first, and then came the sickening crunch of metal against metal. Peter slammed on his breaks, and fish tailing his bike sideways he looked in horror behind him. A silver BMW stood stopped in the middle of the intersection. Its waxed hood was slightly buckled and the wheels bit at the twisted metal of William’s bike which was lodged under the bumper. William lay prostrate a few meters down the road. His eyes were wide in shock, and his mouth gaped for air. One arm was tucked under his body and the other sprawled out across the rugged cobblestone. The sun shimmered off the blood in his hair, and his only movement was try and to curl into a ball. A tall man in a suit slammed his car door and ran towards William. The cell phone in his hand already dialing for an Ambulance. Peter dropped his bike and ran to his brother. It’d been such a wonderful morning.