Roberto had no idea what he’d gotten himself into after the casting crew told him to strip down. The audition was for a sidekick role on a pilot of a cross-over sci-fi detective series between Sherlock Holmes meeting inter-galactic crime syndicate. He felt a slight chill in his briefs after the cameras started rolling.
“Recite these lines” commanded a female producer as she pointed to a page on the script.
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” Roberto uttered in his best Watson imitation.
“Again” ordered the producer, “this time with rage.”
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!” Roberto yelled, channeling Taxi driver.
“Again! With sorrow and disgust!” dictated the producer.
Several hours after the audition, an exhausted Roberto stumbled back to his flat. Upon entering, he found a DVD and letter by his TV. The video showed Roberto starring in a live-action trailer of the upcoming pilot with lines and scenes that he neither spoke nor shot in. The backside of the letter revealed a contract, signing away all rights to his façade. Dotted lines hovered below a signature, undoubtedly his. Beneath that was a simple order…
Charlie always had a knack for finding the silver-lining. When we were stranded on a boat several miles off port with a flooded engine, he discovered that we could catch fish using our keychain and lanyard. During lean times on tour through Iraq, he learned Arabic and befriended the locals so that we could barter for food and supplies. After missing a connecting flight on a layover, we instead converted the final leg into mini road-trip for sight-seeing.
I learned that Charlie developed terminal throat cancer a decade ago and was personally devastated. I was going to lose my best friend but he seemed to take the whole ordeal in strides. As the illness spread until he could no longer speak, he started writing more and more until well… he published that goddamn New York Times best seller! I missed Charlie after his passing but if his life taught me anything, it’s that every moment bears new opportunities, new potentialities. It was after all, how I met you, my loving wife.
A stretch case Fiona thought. The evidence was circumstantial and won’t pass the divorce courts despite having a damning and material impact on the will.
“So how much you want for this?” muttered the leery-eyed informant.
Fiona directed a sharp gaze at the stubby man before pushing the brief back. “These paternity results are under doctor-patient confidentiality. Unearth some legitimate dirt next time.”
“The husband won’t be pleased when I show him this” grunted the annoyed rat turned treacherous.
“Go ahead, they already know” lied Fiona with open disdain that concealed regret. In truth, only the kid didn’t yet know.
The school never assigned anyone to locker 328. A century ago, a group of misfits spread a rumor that a kid had lost his hand when he reached into the chasm. The hand was never recovered and the boy had to be sedated after hysterically pawing with a limb for the its return. Since then, the story of the locker took on a life of its own. During the great war, it housed a gateway to a Lovecraftian universe that whispered sacrifices of the flesh. The red scare by the communists converted it into a secret panel that opened a fallout shelter. The age of love transformed it into an altar for every Eastern deity and pagan god, competition for offerings notwithstanding. Columbine to weapon’s cache. 9/11 to terrorist dead drop. Trump’s election to a stuffed ballot box. A decade later, the county demolished the school and built a hospital in its place. The lockers were destroyed but the story lived on as all of them were replaced with drawers.
The separatists drew lines in the sand after the cold-blooded assassination of their leader. Once a prosperous colony, Damos was on the verge of fracturing in two after an early winter wiped out the harvest and unyielding blizzards decimated the population. Late spring trickled in but arguments for abandoning the settlement started long before. Southward raged the young separatists who dreamt of green pastures and wild game roaming the countryside. Nay voiced the old majority who recalled nothing but desolation over those grounds from whence they traversed long ago. Two shots were fired at the pulpit and mayhem ensued. By next spring, there were no survivors.
Daisy waited by the tracks day and night for her beloved. The morning express fueled a jolt of anticipation but would deflate after the final call midnight. For years she kept the routine, working to uphold the promise made long ago. He’d come to her and she’d wait for him in Ljubljana before setting off to travel together. In truth, the two did meet but tragedy struck soon afterwards when their train collided headlong into another. Daisy survived the accident but with anterograde amnesia. Her beloved perished but not before whispering last words that he’d wait for her in the afterlife.
Sally and Paula adored their older sister Martha. Growing up in the orphanage was difficult as food, warmth, and time were all in short supply. Discipline kept all the children in line and the daily tasks would grind even the toughest pieces. Sally and Paula were particularly at risk as both carried troubled pasts. Sally survived her parents in a train crash but the incident continued to haunt her in dreams. Paula who had a stronger constitution entered the orphanage against her will after her mother abandoned her one day in the middle of a crowded street market. The two found themselves often at odds whereby Paula would lash out at Sally in fit over a silly mistake. Sally would then retreat into herself which further infuriated Paula. Often, someone else had to intervene as to stem the tide of escalation and abuse. That role fell into the hands of Martha, one of the orphanage’s younger sisters who possessed an uncanny motherly disposition but had otherwise never known life outside the dormitory’s grounds. Perhaps it was a prescience of her own fate or a mild form of agoraphobia instilled from birth that bound her so. Whichever the case, the trio found themselves in a dynamic that would eventually reconcile two, sever the three, and entangle a fourth. Such are stories for another time.