Submersible

Standard

The SONAR tone bounded aimlessly through the massive expanse all around us, but all signs said “nothing to write home about.”

The captain sighed softly while everyone else tried to bury their loneliness in productivity.

The disparity between the nuclear-capable, inescapable, matte-black shell that shielded us was somehow more obvious with a glance through the periscope.

Even if you’re neither agoraphobic nor claustrophobic, being packed sardine-like at the bottom of the ocean can coax both out in short notice.

Ping… ping… ping…

“I see a huge object at 8 o’clock, sir” said the navigator.

So many bloodshot eyes stared in his direction at once.

“Properties,” the captain asked.

“30 feet long, moving toward hostile waters,” the navigator listed.

“Let’s investigate,” said the captain.

The vessel turned slowly, deliberately, to find the object.

“It appears to be diving,” said the navigator.

 The captain commanded coldly “Arm the torpedos,”

We all looked at each other at once itching for something to do, not forgetting that a hole in the hull the size of a quarter would let in a jet of water that could slice a man in two.

Ping… ping… ping… ping…

We were approaching now.

The captain pulled the periscope down.

“On my command,” he said holding his arm up.

Just enough light filtered through from the surface,

To show a sperm whale corpse slowly falling.

“Captain Ishmael?”

“Don’t call me that.” 

The navigator apologized profusely, and asked for information,

“Our worst enemy, another false positive,” the captain said dejectedly.

Each bloodshot eye fell back to its station,

In silent disappointment.

Migration Patterns

Standard

Seven mallard ducks flew in the familiar v-shaped formation they take when coming from or going to far-off places.

The land they cast shadows on grew more and more sparse the further they traversed.

“What a spring this has been,” the Second Lieutenant said with pride, he was sick that day.

The group was well-fed and riding high.

“I know,” piped the First Lieutenant enthusiastically, “I even got some french fries!”

At the apex of the V,  the Colonel glanced at the Lieutenant Colonel incredulously.

“Love those things,” said the Captain.

“Guys, watch yourself out here,” sounded the Lieutenant Colonel.

“Yeah, humans were handing out bread like it was going out of fashion,” said the omega male, no one acknowledged him.

The leader stayed silent.

“We had the park all to ourselves! It was a great spring,” said the Major

There was a whooshing sound, then a smack.

The captain looked behind him, shed contour feathers twirled in the vortex of displaced air.

“Well,” the Colonel said, “seems like our idle chit-chat got our Second Lieutenant eaten by a peregrine falcon,” he said in monotone, “let’s try to keep our mouths shut for a little while, huh?”

Crabbing off Lucky Point

Standard

Sailing snuck up on me.

You move far more than you feel in those boats, really, albeit it at an oftentimes much lower speed than their hotheaded motored counterparts.

You cruise constantly, like those low-hanging clouds that I can’t remember the scientific terms for.

My friend Brian, his old man and I went out one late-summer day.

Brian’s father repeated an old rumor, that some Alaskan King Crab could be found at Lucky Point, under what auspices I’ll never know.

“Pass me the bumper,” said Brian, half in the sailboat, half still in the dinghy.

“This thing on the white rope,” I asked him, hoisting up the loose knot, it yellowed with age and was covered in scuff marks.

“Ropes are called ‘lines’ on boats,” said the old man.

“Yes please,” he said.

I handed him the white line in my right hand, he thanked me immediately and looped it around a cleat, safely connecting the two vessels.

I climbed in next.

“Are you sure about this,” asked Brian as he grabbed his father by the forearm and hoisted him in.

“Things don’t always turn out the way they’re s’posed to,” said the old man while tying the dinghy to a nearby buoy, “but you won’t know that until they happen.”

“Dad,” he said a little indignant, “we’re in New Jersey.”

“Just trust me, pal.”

He acquiesced, and began preparing the two lines.

The old man was above untying the row boat from the side, then steered toward the destination

I sat on a cushion in the galley, not sure what to do as this was my first time crabbing.

Brian poked a hook through the poultry.

“Stick it in between the two thigh bones bones so it stays connected to the trap,” he said, handing me the other hook. “Otherwise, they can pull it off. Give it a try.”

I grabbed a piece of fairly foul chicken.

“They like this stuff?”

“Love it,” said Brian with confidence, “that or they’re just too dumb not to eat it.”

“Aren’t they supposed to eat fish or something?”

“We like to treat them,” said the old man from above, overhearing us.

Brian smiled, “yeah, but chicken is good bait because its hard for them to break apart.”

I pierced the drumstick where I was told, and after a brief inspection, Brian grabbed his line and stood.

“We’re here,” said the old man.

The sea glistened and rippled, aside from the flattened, winding path the currents left. This point seemed no different than any other in the bay, to be honest.

We brought the lines up, tied them to the cleats of the ship and dropped them into the water. Mine was on the left, next to a current. Brian’s, on the right, faced the shore.

The old man rested a net on top of the galley, we went inside, washed our hands with sanitizer, cracked open a few beers, and called a toast to a day in the bay.

“I hope this King Crab thing is true,” said Brian.

The old man sipped calmly, tired of trying to convince his son with words alone.

“How many crabs do you usually catch,” I asked.

“Depends,” said the old man, finishing his swig. “I’ve gotten 32 nice-sized catches on one trip, and I’ve had some go by without anything biting.”

I nodded. Guess it just depends on the day, I thought.

“You need three things to go crabbing,” said the old man, holding up three fingers. “Beer, friends and crabbing supplies.”

Brian finished his beer, he seemed less antsy after his father said that.

Mine was still half-full.

“Let’s go out on the deck,” the old man said.

Brian and his father went to the line that he set up, they asked me to come and watch as they demonstrated.

“You can feel them tugging at the line,” said Brian, slowly pulling it up. A faint, star-shaped outline appeared attached to the very end of it.

Without a word, his father grabbed the net and stood in front of his son, who slowly pulled the catch up within range.

Deftly, the old man sunk the net in and retrieved the iridescent blue crab.

“We got a keeper,” he yelled while high-fiving his son, “looks just shy of 6 inches.”

“Is it a king,” I asked.

“No, kings aren’t blue, and are much bigger than this,” said Brian’s dad.

They gently lowered the catch into the bucket while I finished my beer.

“Check the port side,” said the old man.

I went over and pulled my line up slowly, another star-shape emerged, the same color, but it was noticeably smaller than the last.

“Gotta throw that sucker back,” he said.

I tried pulling it up more, but it let go of the bait.

The old man offered me another beer, “let it soak for a while.”

I plopped the line back near where it was, turned, sat.

“How do you like crabbing, buddy,” the old man asked me.

“So far, so good,” I said, “I think I’m already getting the hang of it.”

Brian rested his arms by the sides of the ship, the two seemed glad that I was having a good time.

“I think you’ll get a keeper,” they said simultaneously, “I can tell,” said only Brian.

A few minutes passed, we decided to check the lines once more.

Brian raised his line, another star-shape emerged from the murk.

His father grabbed the net again.

“Looks like a keeper too, may be a little smaller than the last.”

They retrieved the crustacean, and lowered him into the bucket, a small scuffle ensued between the two catches, which died down once they pinned  each other into submission with their claws.

“I’ll check the port side,” I said to nods from the crew.

I felt a few tugs on the line as soon as I grabbed hold.

Taking great care, I pulled the line up until a faint outline again emerged.

“Looks like a keeper to me,” the old man said, directing Brian to get the net.

It was definitely big enough, but it looked a little off.

Brian pulled it out of the water, and it became clear what was different about it, it was missing it’s left claw.

“Good job,” said the old man with great gusto.

He plopped it in the bucket, it immediately grabbed the second claw of the first crab, the second crab squeezed the new catch on its declawed shoulder, resulting in a Mexican standoff of sorts.

I dropped the chicken back into the water.

We put the bucket in the galley to keep the catches out of direct sunlight.

“Nice work, boys,” said the old man, holding his beer in front of him, “to catching keepers,” he said.

We clinked our bottles and all took hearty gulps.

The sun hung a little lower now, the light cast through the wispy clouds.

“Let’s see what we got,” said Brian.

“Want to try netting,” the old man asked me.

“Sure,” I said.

I stood in front of Brian as he gently pulled the line up.

Two small outlines emerged, two tiny crabs locked in combat over the drumstick.

The old man laughed infectiously.

“Pull it up anyway, it may scare them off,” said the old man, “sorry pal, maybe next round you’ll get to try out the net,” he told me.

“No problem,” I said, “I’ll check mine out.”

I leaned over the side, and felt some stiff tugs on my line.

“Feels like a keeper,” I said.

I pulled up a little ways.

Brian got into position, his father retrieved the bucket and put it in the middle of the deck, just as before.

A massive, red star emerged, firmly attached to the poultry.

Brian and I spouted some expletives, his father laughed at us, then at the massive, Alaskan King Crab, which had no business being in New Jersey.

“Hold on,” he  said, switching the other container with a spare that he added some water to.

“Go ahead,” he said. We proceeded as usual, Brian put the net behind the crab this time, it detached from the bait in a bid to escape, but still found itself ensnared.

We stood in awe of the creature and gently put it in the container.

“Now that’s a keeper, my friend,” said the old man, high-fiving me.

In no time, we polished off the rest of the beer.

I got to try netting, and really refined my technique by the end of the trip.

Brian ended up with five good catches, all blue. I caught two more blue keepers, all respectable by their own standards, but still dwarfed by the King.

I don’t think that was what was supposed to happen, but I’m glad it turned out that way.

I won a short story contest!

Standard

I’m pleased to announce that I’m the winner of Short Tale Shrew’s 2016 spring microfiction contest! You can visit their page by following the following link.

http://wp.me/p6PWc4-4f

And be sure to follow them as well! There will be more contests, and they post excellent advice pertaining to short fiction writing.

In Microcosm

Standard

“I’d rather be sleeping,” said John, sliding hangers back and forth, trying to find an appealing shirt.

Every day he left pieces of himself behind in his bed.

And the dust mites would eat them, as dust mites are wont to do.

He slid a t-shirt over his face, smearing his skin cells into the fibers.

He has left many impacts on the things in his life, sometimes too small to even be seen.

But they meant everything to those dust mites, who lived for generations, before he’d lay himself to rest again.

Is he still John then?

Obligate Carnivore

Standard

I crouched low, and felt the grass rustle up against my empty stomach.

I’m very good at this; it’s what I was born to do.

There stood a hare, ears swiveling, back to me. It hopped toward a red flower.

I’ve never gotten one of these before; they’re supposed to be a lot of trouble to catch.

I couldn’t take my chances, so I used a slower approach than normal.

Right paw first, I slowly tamped down the grass so that it didn’t make a sound.

The hare picked its head up and tore the flower out of the ground; its ears scanned the surroundings.

I took another step.

The hare sat motionless.

I grew impatient, but slowly continued. My tail flowed with the wind.

The hare suddenly stopped eating, sat on its haunches.

I dropped into the grass.

It turned and walked toward another patch of herbs growing near tall grass, all the while the bulb dangled from its mouth by a length of disappearing stem. Still hungry.

When I felt sure it was occupied with eating again, I arched my back and moved forward again.

The hare dropped to the ground and folded his ears.

Now was my time to strike, his guard was down.

I bounded off, eyes widened.

He clearly sensed something, his ears popped back up but he didn’t move a muscle.

I was closing in.

Mouth agape, arms outstretched, claws extended, I leaped toward my prey.

In turn, he jumped straight into the air.

I hit the empty spot where he was and bounced a bit, then he fell onto my back with a sharp “thud,” and knocked me into the dirt on my side.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing much.”

“Not funny,” the hare said with a flick of his nose, “you caught me at a bad time.”

I hissed. He held my legs down, I was pinned.

“But I’m going to be nice,” he said.

I couldn’t do much else but listen, my stomach growled audibly.

“If you promise not to chase me, I won’t have to embarrass you.”

“I’m pretty fast,” I said.

He held his chin high, “sure you are,” he said.

I leaned forward and bit at his neck. Force of habit.

He bobbed out of the way then put his front legs on my head, kicked my face and jumped off of me.

“Last chance,” he said. The field behind him was wide open.

I looked down and noticed some dandelion seeds stuck to my fur. I licked them off and looked at him.

The hare sat staring.

“Choose wisely,”

I jumped suddenly; he ran underneath me and disappeared into the tall grass, yelling obscenities.

Now he’s done it! I dug my claws into the ground and spun around.

The tall grass extended out into the distance.

My stomach gurgled again.

It might go against my nature, but I think I’ll just cut my losses this time.

The Golden Apple

Standard

Alice found herself sonder-wandering again.

She reclined on a sycamore at her local park in late July while reading a novel.

Dogs barked, people chatted.

An accordion player stood by the fountain, with an upturned cap on the ground for pocket change from passers-by.

Cars rolled through the intersection, sometimes honking.

But Alice was unperturbed.

She periodically paused pensively to consider each character and their effects on their counterparts and counter-points; this only strengthened her resolve to continue reading.

“Excuse me,” she heard in a friendly tone.

After a pause, she angled the top of the book down low enough to uncover her eyes.

Before her stood a tall man with wavy brown hair, dressed in rags, holding a shopping bag.

“Yes?”

“Are you the Queen of Hearts?” he asked.

Taken aback, she rested the still opened book on her lap and asked “Who?”

“I thought I recognized you,” he inserted his hand in the bag of bits and bobs and pulled out a yellow apple, still with its price sticker attached.

“I don’t believe we’ve met,” she said.

“Maybe not,” he replied now scratching his head.

He rubbed the fruit on his shirt then took a crisp-sounding bite.

“I didn’t catch your name,” she said, now sitting cross-legged.

He held his pointer finger up in front of his face and chewed.

“How rude,” she thought.

She wanted to get back to reading but wouldn’t be discourteous.

The stranger spoke with his mouth full.

“What?” she asked.

He mumbled again in much the same manner.

“You’re being very impolite,” she said.

The stranger finally stopped gnawing and swallowed.

“You’re Alice,” he responded.

She stood, a little embarrassed now. “Yes I am,” she said. “But I can’t quite place you, I’m sorry.”

“That’s fine,” he said, “I never take these things personally.”

Alice wasn’t sure what to say.

“I wanted to show you this,” he said holding the apple in his outstretched palm, it shined brilliantly wherever illuminated.

“If you take a bite, all things will be known to you.”

She couldn’t believe her ears or eyes.

“Everything,” she asked sheepishly.

He nodded.

“Wouldn’t you like to learn my name?”

“Well I am curious,” she said.

He wrapped his fingers around the fruit and glanced at it, then her.

“I doubt it’s poisonous,” she thought.

She grabbed the dangling length of red-ribbon and nestled it on her current page before clamping the book shut and resting it on the grass beside her purse.

“You won’t be worried about that soon enough” said the stranger.

She approached, then took the apple from his hand and took a bite.

The fruit was delicious but the skin was quite tough, and a tad sharp at the edges.

Chewing, she strained herself to think, but nothing revealed itself.

“Liar,” she said, “off with your head,” finishing her bite.

They shared a laugh, the man bid her farewell.

Alice sat down and pondered every single stranger she saw that day.

She still sits there.