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Wanted: Members of Team Ike 2014

 Remember last year when I sold tee shirts to help with the editing and printing costs of Unfinished Business?

Many of you – appropriately dubbed Team Ike – were wonderful enough to help me out by buying a shirt – and then you got a free book when you posted a picture of yourself sporting the shirt on facebook.

shirt collage

Well – guess what?

My latest novel, tentatively titled Protect This, will be released in August – and after the success of last year’s Team Ike shirt campaign I have kicked it up a notch…

This year’s model is bound to be very popular!

Feast your eyes on this bad boy…

2014 shirt front   2014 shirt back

It’s available in 3 styles and 2 colors and it has a beautiful tropical themed logo.

It’s a fund raising campaign so here’s how it works (for those of you who didn’t participate last year):

  • The shirts will only be available until May 4th
  • If the minimum quantity of 65 orders is not met there will be no shirts printed (no money will be charged for orders placed)
  • You will not be charged any money until the campaign reaches its goal

 

To reserve your shirt click here.

 

But wait!!! There’s more…

Like last year – once the campaign is successful and I reach my goal, not only will you be the owner of a wicked-cool tee-shirt, but I’ll repeat the same offer…post a picture on facebook of yourself wearing your beautiful Team Ike tee shirt and be eligible for awesome prizes (free books). If you’ve read all of them – get one as a gift for that special someone in your life! (or donate it to a library)

If you are inclined to share this blog I would appreciate it very much – and I am always willing to return the favor.

I truly appreciate you support – whether it’s buying a shirt (or 3) or by simply sharing this blog post and helping spread the word.

 

To reserve your shirt click here.

 

Now – in case you have been living in an underwater cave and don’t know who Ike is (I know – unfathomable) you can read a little about him here.

IKE3

As always – thank you for reading

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Making a Long Story Short

Recently Armand Rosamilia and I were talking and he planted a seed in my mind about writing a short story, featuring my main character Ike, for a local event here in Flagler Beach called The Inspired Mic.

The Inspired Mic is basically an open mic night for authors, and Armand thought it would be a good idea for me to read a new short story rather than an excerpt from one of my existing novels.

program

I agreed and wrote the story. It was an Ike Christmas story, and I had fun writing it.

It was very well received, and I enjoyed writing it so much that I wrote another one (just for fun, I told myself) about New Year’s Eve.

After the second one was done Armand suggested writing one for each of the holidays and releasing them in an anthology. I thought it was a good idea and since there were a couple of months before the next holiday (St. Patrick’s Day) I returned my focus to my current work-in-progress – a novel with the working title Protect This.

Then, a few days later, somebody posted a quote from Ray Bradbury on facebook that threw a wrench into my gears.

The quote said “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

short story

It appealed to me for a few reasons;

  • It could be a nice weekly distraction from writing a novel
  • It would be an extension/improvement of Armand’s idea
  • It would help me learn more about Ike and share it with his fans

Ike shirt front

My plan was simple: Each week I would write the short story on Saturday, leaving me Sunday and any free weeknights for working on the novel.

Saturday morning I sat down at the computer with the idea for my weekly short story and started writing. After 7 hours I was ready to quit and watch some TV but the story was only 2/3 finished.

snoopy

No problem…I’ll finish it up first thing in the morning and then dive into the novel.

Not so much…

It took me the better part of Sunday to finish, and by the time I was done I just didn’t have the mental energy to change gears and work on the novel.

So here we are three weeks later and my novel is in a holding pattern – but I’ve written three good stories for the anthology – so I’ve got that going for me.

I’ve also got a cool idea for story number four…and I had an idea for a cool quasi-horror short story…

I may need to cancel my cable TV account.

As always – thanks for reading

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“Dying Days: Siege 2” Hits the Shelves (or: Will the Dying Ever End?)

Remember when the world was going to end last December?

Thankfully it didn’t…because on that very night Armand Rosamilia and I held a book release party at Farley’s Irish Pub for our collaborative effort Dying Days: The Siege of European Village. (not coincidentally – Farley’s happens to be in European Village)

cover2

It was a great party…probably the best party ever thrown (if you missed it, you have no way of knowing if that’s true or not!) and we sold 50 books in about 2 hours.

Talk about “Writer’s Problems” – I sold out of books at my signing so I had to take people’s names and email addresses so I could let them know when I would have more.

Yeah – nice problem to have!

This year, the world isn’t scheduled to end (at least not that we know of), but Armand and I will be having another release party – this time for the sequel to Siege.

We haven’t planned the party yet, but the book is available.

We went round and round about a title…Armand was really pushing for Dying Days: The Siege of European Village II – Electric Bugaloo  while I was pushing for Dying Days & Wild Summer Nights: The Siege Continues – but we decided to go with something completely unique and trend setting…

Dying Days: Siege 2.

Cover DDEV2

In case you missed my blog post about the sequel you can jump over and read it now by clicking here…go ahead, we’ll wait.

Much like the first one, we had a blast writing it (read about the first one here) and much like the first one we used the names of several of our friends here in Flagler County as victims…I mean characters.

If you didn’t read the first one you can find the kindle version here  (it’s on sale for $.99!!!) and the print version here.

The kindle version of Siege 2 is available here – Dying Days: Siege 2

The print version is available here.

This is my second zombie novella – and I must say, it was fun.

My regular readers will be pleased to know that Ike and Brewski are just as good at kicking undead ass as they are that of living scumbags!

So maybe it’s snowing where you are, or there’s nothing good on TV tonight…download these two books, grab a beverage, kick back and take a trip to European Village…just be careful not to trip on the corpses.

As always – thank you for reading

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The Last Chapter by Lori Safranek

This story requires NO Voting. It was the lone entry in the “fan fiction” category and therefore wins by default. It is still a good story and Lori did a fine job capturing my characters…please read it and give her some love!! ©Lori Safranek 2013 – Used with permission

He was determined to get the last chapter written today, come hell or high water. This book had been lingering far too long and needed a firm boot in the ass to get it done and on its way to publication. He was deep into the fourth paragraph, finally realizing how he could resolve at least one loose thread in the plot, when the doorbell rang.

He groaned in frustration, saved his document and went to get the door. He peeked out the door’s small window but all he saw was the back of a head, a very female head with a pair of shades holding back her short brown hair. You would think a guy who writes stories about crime and bad guys would be more cautious, but he just opened the door.

“Hi, can I help you?” he asked the brunette as she turned toward him. She was probably in her 40s, thin, and wore a black leather vest over a tiny T-shirt that emphasized an awesome set of boobs. Her tight blue jeans and black boots added up to a sexy biker chick. This was a good thing, in his humble opinion. So he gifted her with one of his dazzling smiles.

The biker chick squinted at him and looked him up and down, frowning.

“You’re Tim Baker?” she asked. She didn’t sound like she believed it for one minute.

“Yeah, I’m Tim. Do I know you?”

She shook her head and rolled her eyes. Her eye rolling was expressive and nearly acrobatic. She could have made it to the Olympics of Eye Rolling, that’s how good she was.

“Yeah, you know me,” the biker chick said. “Well, can I come in or do I have to stand out here like a bum?”

Tim opened the door wider and motioned for her to come into the house. He smelled cigarettes as she walked past.

“Have a seat,” he said, gesturing toward the couch. She sat and he took the chair opposite, and they looked at one another. Tim couldn’t place this chick’s face, but he definitely knew her. She was very familiar to him, like they had spent time together.

She reached inside her vest and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Tim opened his mouth to object and she put her hand up.

“Don’t even start with me about the cigarettes,” she said. She carefully lit her cigarette and inhaled deeply. She blew a stream of smoke straight into Tim’s face and he coughed. She smiled.

“Who are you anyway?” he asked. He was not in the mood for nonsense today; he had a book to finish.

She snorted a laugh and shook her head. “Sheesh, I figured you would recognize me by now. You seem a lot smarter in your books.”

“Thanks, I think,” Tim said. “Now who are you?”

She laughed again. “Tim, don’t tell me you don’t recognize Didi.”

Tim frowned and tried to think of any chicks named Didi that he knew. Maybe someone from Houligans? Someone from Facebook? Oh, shit, not a stalker. He’d never hear the end of it from his writing buddy Armand if he had just opened the door and let a stalker in his house.

He couldn’t remember any Didi. Then it hit him like a frying pan upside his head. “Didi? You think you’re Didi?”

He laughed and said, “Listen, lady, I don’t know what this game is, but Didi’s just a character in my books . . .”

“Oh, just a character in your books, eh? Is that right, you dumb ass? What kinda book would you have without characters? You are one ungrateful jerk,” she grated the words out through clenched teeth.

Tim was still confused but he was getting a little angry. “What the hell are you trying to pull, lady?”

Didi leaned forward and jabbed her cigarette at Tim. “I want you to stop putting me in dangerous situations all the god damned time, that’s what I want. And I want Brewski left alone, too. We have other things to do than save Ike’s ass.”

“I put you in dangerous situations?” Tim was half smiling now, wondering if Armand would really go this far to pull a prank on him. Yes, of course he would. Tim stood up. “Okay, Didi, since that’s who you claim to be, it’s time for you to leave.”

Didi leaned back on the couch and crossed her arms over her very nicely built chest.

“No, Mr. Author, I ain’t leaving just yet,” Didi said with a smile. “Not till we get some things straight between us.”

Tim walked to the door and opened it. He motioned with his arm. “Out. Now. Tell Armand the joke didn’t work.”

Didi looked genuinely puzzled, but she didn’t budge. “I don’t know who this asshole Armand is, but I ain’t leaving.”

The screen door opened and in walked two of the biggest, meanest looking men Tim had ever seen. The first one was in his early 50s and reminded Tim of a younger Jack Nicholson. He wore a black leather vest and a bandanna covered his hair. He must be the male half of Didi’s biker love match. The other guy was close to 6’6” tall and muscled, with long, dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. They walked past Tim and into the house.

Didi said, “Try to convince them to leave, Timmy, I double dog dare you.”

The tall guy spoke, “Tim, good to see you.”

The biker had sat down next to Didi on the couch. He went to put his arm around her shoulders but the look she gave him stopped his arm mid-air. He sighed and pulled away from her.

Didi said, “Guys, old Tim here didn’t even recognize me, you believe that shit?”

The two men made sounds that could have been a laugh. Possibly. Or a warning. Tim cleared his throat nervously.

“I don’t really know what’s going on here, but if this is some kind of practical joke . . .”

All three of his visitors laughed.

“Damn, Timmy, you ought to recognize your old buddies Ike and Brewski,” the biker said.

Tim sat down hard on a chair near the couch. He looked at each of the three people invading his living room. Tall guy with a long ponytail. Biker type. Biker chick. Oh, good Lord. It was Ike, Brewski and Didi, sitting in his living room.

He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. No way. They were characters in his books, not even based on real people. But man, that tall guy looked just like how he had always pictured Ike. And Brewski, he was the spitting image of the character that lived in the pages of Tim’s books. The girl calling herself Didi was as foul-mouthed and mean as the biker chick he created out of his own head.

“You’re not my characters,” Tim said it firmly. Ike stood with his feet slightly apart, grinning at Tim. Brewski shook his head and his smile flashed from behind his beard. Didi was concentrating on her cigarette. “It’s impossible.”

Ike shrugged. “Maybe it’s impossible, Tim, but we’re here. You’re here. And we have a bone to pick with you.”

Tim couldn’t believe his ears. “You have a bone to pick with me? If I created you, you got nothing to say about it. I make you do whatever I want. That’s part of being a writer. It’s my own little world with my rules.”

Brewski gave a deep, grumbly chuckle. “Well, listen to you, you little typist. Awful big talk from someone sitting here talking to his own characters.”

Tim shot up out of the chair. “Ok, out! All three of you, or I’m calling the cops.”

Even Didi had a nice laugh over that. Ike put one meaty hand out and pushed Tim back into the chair.

“No,” he said. “We aren’t going anywhere, Tim. You see, the four of us have a little problem.”

“A big problem, if you ask me,” Didi piped up. Brewski nodded.

“How can you have a problem? You don’t really exist,” Tim’s voice was rising in volume and pitch. “Are you all three insane?”

Ike patted him gently on the shoulder. “Calm down, Timmy. We’re not insane.”

Tim looked at him, incredulous. He shook his head. “Okay, to hell with it. What’s this problem ‘we’ have?”

“A dead body,” Didi said. She blew more smoke his way. “In my freakin’ house, by the way.”

Tim sighed. “Oh, give me a break. There is no dead body . . .”

He remembered the book he was working on. In chapter twenty-two, he did place a dead body on the living room floor of Didi’s house. The victim was an old biker friend of Brewski’s and Ike was helping them prove Brewski had nothing to do with the murder. The chapter he was working on this morning, the last chapter of the book, would explain everything and Brewski would be fine and the real murderer would be caught.

He laughed and waved his hand at Didi, as if brushing her concerns away. “Oh, that dead body. Don’t worry about that, it all turns out okay in the last chapter.”

He smiled at the trio, but no one was smiling back. “I promise. I’ve just been working on it, and it’ll be fine.”

Ike looked at Brewski, who cocked his head and looked at Didi. Her face held no expression.

“Baker, are you nuts?” she asked. “I’ve had a dead body in my house for four days. Four days, jackass. It stinks. We want to dump it out to sea and just forget about it. But every time we try, you write some crazy shit about a hurricane hitting Flagler Beach. There hasn’t even been a strong breeze since that damned guy died.”

Ike nodded. “She’s right, Tim. You dropped the ball on this one. You left the body lying in her living room, rotting away, and you won’t let us get rid of him. And you aren’t letting me use my connections to find out who did this.”

Brewski swore. “Baker, we want that body gone by the end of the day, and if you don’t do it, we are going to have us two dead bodies. And you aren’t going to be signing no more books or chatting up any more groupies on Facebook, my man.”

“Hey, I don’t have groupies!” Tim said, highly offended. “They’re fans. They like my books.”

Didi snickered. “Groupies, just like Brewski had when he was in that band back in the eighties. I put an end to that whole mess, first time I saw some teenager trying to sneak onto the tour bus.”

Brewski glowered at Didi. “You really think that had to be told? I swear, you can’t keep that trap of yours closed.”

“Bite me,” Didi said, blowing another smoke ring. Brewski growled deep in his chest.

Tim shook his head like a bear trying to escape a swarm of bees.

“Okay, okay, wait,” he said. “Forget about the groupies.”

Didi snorted. “I thought they weren’t groupies.”

Tim glared at her. She blew another smoke ring.

“For now, we have a dead body,” he continued. “I have it under control. I swear to God, I was just writing the ending and it’s all going to work out just fine. Have I ever let you down before, left you hanging?”

Didi scoffed. “Hello? There’s a dead body in my house!”

“I said forget the dead body,” Tim yelled. “Forget the friggin’ dead body!”

Brewski made some getting-up-to-kick-your-ass movements and Tim quickly back-pedaled. “I mean, I just mean, I mean, let’s just deal with this problem right now, okay? I’ll get the guy out of Didi’s house, find the killer and it’ll all be fine.”

Ike spoke up. “Problem is, Tim, you’re moving awfully slow. We have other things to do, you know. Brewski and Didi have been planning to head up to Sturgis for months now and it’s a couple weeks away. And me, I have a job to do. I need to get started on it soon.”

Tim laughed weakly. “Get this shit. I’m inconveniencing my characters. How dare I?”

Brewski sighed and started to get up again. Tim looked him in the eye and said “Dude, try me. I’ll have you dressed in drag again in the next book.”

Brewski froze, seemed to be considering his chances, and slid back on the couch. Tim took a deep breath.

“Okay, I gotta get back to writing, so I can get rid of the dead guy and you all can go to Sturgis and all that crap,” he said. “So, thanks for stopping by, but it’s time to go.”

Ike laughed and shook his head. “Nah, Tim, we’re fine right where we are. We want to make sure you get this thing resolved. And no Facebook, man, we want to see solid writing until things are cleared up.”

“Hey,” Tim said. “I’m not on Facebook that much.”

All three of his guests laughed.

Tim stood up and stalked over to his desk. “Okay, I’m gonna write. Just . . . just be quiet so I can focus.”

It was awkward, trying to write with his characters looking over his shoulder. Didi kept saying, “That’s not how you spell that. You have some shitty spelling skills, Timmy. And put a comma there. What do you have against commas, anyway? ”

Brewski had liberated a couple cold beers from the fridge. He and Ike were sitting on the couch now, drinking Tim’s beer. Occasionally, Ike would ask, “Tim, did you remember about the blood?” and Tim would say, through clenched teeth, “I’m getting there.”

Two hours passed and finally Tim typed those magical words: The End. The body had been dumped in the ocean, all the blood had been cleaned up off of Didi’s carpet and Brewski had been cleared. He pushed back from the desk and let the trio read what he had written.

“Yeah,” Ike said. “That’s a good plan. We can do that, no problem.”

Didi made a little humming noise that sounded a lot like “I don’t know” and pointed to a sentence. “You really think I could get all that blood up with just a carpet steamer? And remember he had four days to leak body fluids.”

Tim closed his eyes and took a deep breath, drawing on all his resources to find enough patience to deal with these maniacs he’d created.

“The blood will come up, and so will the body fluids, Didi,” he said. “I googled it.”

Didi shook her head. “He googled it. Sheesh.”

Ike turned to Tim and stuck out his hand. Tim shook the big man’s massive paw. “Good going, Baker. You did us proud.”

Tim, still feeling a bit lost, said “Well, gee thanks, Ike, I’m glad you like it.”

Then he realized what he had just done – thanked his own character for approving of his writing. A vein began pounding in his temple. Brewski gave him a hearty slap on the back, nearly knocking Tim off his feet.

“Good job, typist,” he said. “Next time, wrap it up a little sooner. We ain’t as young as we used to be. The stress ain’t good for us.”

He and Didi walked out the front door. Ike waved and said, “Thanks again, Tim,” and followed them.

Tim was left alone with a finished manuscript and the beginning of a rotten headache. He saved the document carefully then grabbed his car keys and went out the front door.

It had been one hell of a day. His own characters had shown up at his house, telling him what to write. It was too much. Then again, the book was done. That was always top priority.  Now, he needed a drink. Ike and Brewski had drunk all his beer. Why hadn’t he written them as recovering alcoholics? He chuckled then stopped dead in his tracks. An evil grin spread over his face. Oh, yeah, he thought, smiling broadly, Ike and Brewski were going to learn to live one day at a time in the next book. I’m a frickin’ genius, Tim thought, as he started the car and drove away.

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Filed under Short Story Contest

Personal Hell by RJ Kennett

You may vote by “liking” my facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggBooks and putting a “like” under the link to this story OR by placing a comment below. Please vote only once, duplicate votes will not be counted. Thank you! ©RJ Kennett 2013 – Used with permission

God help us, here we go again.

Sitting in a trench, caked in mud. How many times have we been here? This damn war just won’t end. I watch as a worm makes its way across the toe of my worn out boot. My stomach grumbles. I wonder what that worm would taste like, but dismiss the notion of just slurping it up out of the mud. I still have standards.

We haven’t eaten in days, but that’s probably for the best. The stink of death wafting over the battlefield is enough to take a man’s appetite anyway. It clogs a man’s nostrils as if it were a thing alive, looking to strangle him. Days of charges and countercharges have left dead and wounded from both sides strewn over the field.

Rufus is coughing and sniffling again. I want to strangle him just to shut him up, but I guess it’s not really his fault. Besides, it makes him a mark for the Yanks instead of me.

The Lieutenant is rousting us again. The arrogant prick. He knows we’ve lost what… half our men? Two thirds? I’ve lost count, and still he’s going to attack. Trying to make a name for himself. He’ll make worm food of us all.

I check back with my squirmy little friend. The critter may just get the last laugh.

The Lieutenant answers to higher ups, just like I answer to him. He probably hates them, too. But I’ve never seen them, so the Lieutenant is the focus of my hate. I hope it travels up the chain of command to the source, to whatever imbecile decided we should attack while undermanned.

Poking my nose up, I look over the battlefield. It’s morning, so the fog hasn’t lifted yet. And it’s thick, like a wall of dirty cotton. I can’t even make out the tree line on the other side of the field, but I know it’s there. How many Yanks are hiding there, I wonder?

It isn’t that I’m scared of dying. Been dying for pretty much my whole God forsaken existence. Dying’s easy. I just don’t want to die empty. Empty stomach, empty heart, empty soul. I’d like my death to mean something, and there’s no meaning in this. Not in this war, not in this trench, and sure as hell not in this idiotic charge.

Rufus is standing on my left as we load our weapons, fix our bayonets and steel ourselves for the charge. He lets off a whopper of a sneeze. I take a step to the right. He’s marked himself for sure now. At least the Yanks will kill him before me.

Well, that’s it then. The bugler is sounding the charge. Stupid to announce it to the Yanks. In this thick fog we could belly crawl right up to them and they’d be none the wiser until it was all over. Now we’ll be running into a volley of lead with fog as our protection.

We head out into the field of misery. Rufus is yelling his stupid head off, trying to scare the Yanks, as if his sneezing weren’t enough. I stay quiet.

I can see a line of flashes through the fog, and Rufus’ head explodes. I knew it would. Then I hear the crackle of the volley that took him. How weird is that? Actually, I think he’s a lucky bastard. He died quick and never saw it coming. I can just make out a couple other boys charging alongside me, whooping and hollering like the Devil’s own. Through the fog, I can make out the tree line now, and join in the battle cry. The Yanks won’t have time to reload before we get there.

I see a lad trying, though. I stop running long enough to draw a good bead on him, and drop him like a sack of potatoes.

I hurdle a low fence, stepping on the twitching corpse of the soldier I just killed. That’s for Rufus, you bastard.

Then I see the kid. Can’t be more than fifteen. Won’t live to see sixteen. The terror in his eyes as I roar up on him almost makes me feel pity. I ram my bayonet into his gut, then rip it out, taking a bunch of his guts with it. The kid’s going to die screaming. I’d bash his head in to save him the pain, but I’ve already located my next target.

He’s a big, stocky fellow with a bushy beard, gripping his rifle by the barrel and swinging it like a club, yelling like a man possessed. I don’t think he sees me, and try to slip inside his guard to bayonet him. Big mistake. I see sparks as the stock of his rifle connects with my temple. I crash into him, though, and we tussle.

He rolls on top of me and pulls a knife. I try to fend him off, but damn he’s strong. I feel the blade slip in between my ribs and pop a lung, and maybe some other stuff. He rips it out harshly, laughing like a maniac and moves on.

Bastard. Finish the job for once.

The pain is unbelievable. I look at my bloodied hands and feel the intense, burning agony in my chest. My vision dims, and the cacophony of battle dwindles to a dull roar. A warmth washes over me and the pain eases. It’s not so bad; dying. Darkness envelops me.

Am I dead? I can’t feel my body. I’m drifting in nothingness. Then I see it; a pinpoint of light, somewhere in the black mists that surround me. It grows bigger, coming nearer. I remember the faces of those I’ve killed. That poor kid I disemboweled and left to die alone and in pain. The light gets closer. I’ve done nothing with my life. Nothing good, anyway. It’s been a waste. Sorry, Momma. I wish I could’ve made you proud. The light gets bigger still. Is this God? The light zooms in at me, encompassing me, burning me! I SCREAM AS ALL IS LIGHT-

God help us, here we go again.

Sitting in a trench, caked in mud. How many times have we been here? This damn war just won’t end. I watch as a worm makes its way across the toe of my worn out boot…

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Filed under Short Story Contest

The First and Last by Dianne Gallagher

You may vote by “liking” my facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggBooks and putting a “like” under the link to this story OR by placing a comment below. Please vote only once, duplicate votes will not be counted. Thank you! ©Dianne Gallagher 2013 – Used with permission

Run.

Stop.

Turn.

Run.

Run.

Stop.

Run.

Run.

That was his life. How it always was. How it always would be. Never stop. Never rest. Just run. If he didn’t run, bad things happened. If he didn’t run, his job was left undone and his purpose… well, if he didn’t run, he had no purpose. And without purpose, there was no reason for him. It was that simple.

Eyes were always on him. Always watching to make sure he did his job. Finish what he started. How the hell did he get here? What the fuck did he do to deserve this? Nothing. He had done nothing… but do what he was told. Without question. Maybe it was his fault. Maybe he should have said, “Enough. I’m done. This job you have, this money that’s so important… I want nothing to do with it. No one owns me. I own myself.”

Run.

Run.

Stop.

Turn.

Run.

Run.

Every moment, every day, every year of his life, he did his job without complaint and waiting. Waited for things to end. For rest. For reward. Sometimes it was there, waiting for him at the end of the job. Most of time there was nothing but a meal and a place to sleep. He thought about quitting. Just start running and not stop. He heard about someone who had. Just woke up one day and just decided enough was enough. Started running and came back.  He heard she made it to the next town before they found her and dragged her back. Put her back on the job… but she wasn’t the same.

Neither was he.

It started as a stiffness in his joints, then a cough that started and wouldn’t stop.  One of the bossees took him to the doctor and he could tell right away by the look on everyone’s faces that the diagnosis wasn’t good.

But still he did his job.

Run.

Run.

Cough.

Run.

Cough.

Fall.

And now he stood or tried to stand. He was shaky. Even after years of running, the legs that carried him every moment of every day of every year failed him. As everyone, in the end, failed him.

Another trip to the doctor and the verdict was delivered. Tears would’ve been nice, but he knew better. Tears were too valuable for someone like him. Someone who just did his job. Without question. Every moment of every day of every year.

Until he couldn’t.

In those last moments, any thought might have filled his mind. The feeling of the sun on his back. The total exhilaration of flying across the ground, going faster than anyone or anything around him. Falling in love and having a family… like others had families. But in the end, he thought of one thing. Actually, one person. His first. First hands that touched him. First eyes that loved him. First voice that told him what to do and how to do it.  And told him he was worth something.

“I’m sorry,” the voice said.

He was lying on a table now. Only one other person was in the room with him. The lights were very bright and the smells were all wrong. Disinfectant and alcohol and something… something dangerous. He wanted to get up and run one last time, but his body wouldn’t move. Couldn’t move.

A hand on his face. Gentle. Eyes looking into his. Loving. A voice. Strange, but caring.

“It’ll be over soon,” the voice said.

He tried to focus, but his eyes wouldn’t. Couldn’t. And for a moment, he thought of that first day on the job. And his first. Smiling and laughing and telling him how well he was doing. He was so young and so stupid. The corners of his mouth turned up to something like a smile.

And then he thought he smelled something familiar. Someone he loved. Someone who once loved him. And his heart almost skipped. He wanted it to skip. Wanted to jump up. But he couldn’t.

It was sheer dumb luck that she was there on this day. One his last day. His first on his last. She was there to pick up some antibiotic ointment. And she saw him. Knew him immediately.

“What happens after?” she asked.

“They didn’t want him back,” the doctor said quietly. “We’ll take care of it.”

The woman opened her bag, took out a small wad of bills and pressed it into the doctor’s hands. “I want it done right. I never… ”

Hand. Gentle. Eyes. Love. Voice. Hers.

“You did good,” the voice said. An old voice. The first voice. His first voice.  “Good boy. You are such a good boy. And I love you.”

There was something sharp in his leg. He felt something fall on his nose, on his eyes.

“Best herding dog ever came out of my place. I never should’ve let him go.”

It was the last thing he heard… and it was enough.

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Death Gets a Life by Frank J. Edler

You may vote by “liking” my facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggBooks and putting a “like” under the link to this story OR by placing a comment below. Please vote only once, duplicate votes will not be counted. Thank you! ©Frank Edler 2013 – Used with permission

The doorbell rang.  Death answered it.  A mop-haired blonde guy looking every bit the part of the cliche surfer stood at Death’s door.  Death sighed wistfully, he didn’t want to deal with anyone..

The surfer dude looked at his feet and said, “Hey man, I’m like your neighbor and stuff.  Anyways, I was wondering if you might be able to help me out with this little problem I’m having…” He hesitated as he looked up from his feet to meet Death’s suspicious stare.

Though Death’s head was a skull, his brow ridge raised in surprise as his mouth fell agape as if the bone were formed of rubber.  “Whoa!  I’m not like that I’m afraid you’ve got me all wrong.”

“What?”  The surfer guy was momentarily confused but quickly smiled in understanding.  “Oh not like that Bro.  You see I know who you are.  You keep strange hours, real recluse type, that musty smell.”

Death’s brow ridge scrunched and his lips pursed.  “You mean the black tattered robes, scythe and skeletal features didn’t clue you in?” he asked incredulously.

“Oh man, you didn’t meet the old lady who lived here before you moved in.  I mean, Florida, right?  Land of the old and crusty.”  The surfer guy said with a straight face.

Death was beginning to grow inpatient, “Look, what’s this about?”

“Well like I said this is Florida.  Lots of customers for you here.  You were very busy when you first got here.  I’ve been noticing you haven’t been getting out lately.  Like at all.  Anyway, when you ain’t out there doing your thing, ya know, things start to back up quick around here.  The beach man, they are all over the beach.  It’s getting so you can’t surf anymore.”

It was Death’s turn to look at his feet.  He let loose another depressing sigh.  In that moment the facade crumbled and Death appeared to be only a pathetic shell of a man or a skeleton at least.

The truth was Death was depressed.  Though Florida should have been a boon to his business the long list of people on his harvest list was overwhelming.  The senior population seemed an insurmountable task.  Collecting the souls who were about to expire took every last second of his time.  There was no play only work.  That weighed on the soul of soulless.

Death’s bashful silence spoke volumes.  The surfer guy quickly realized his neighbor was off.  The long arduous hours working one of the busiest districts a Death could be assigned finally took its toll.

Death had become woefully depressed.  He was now a shut-in.  Death needed to get out, get away from the job.  Death needed to get a life before the old decrepit bodies piled up upon one another on the beach.

So the surfer dude did what he needed to do right then and there on Death’s doorstep.  He introduced himself as Johnny and told Death they were going out for the day.

Johnny brought Death out to the local mall first.  Death’s wardrobe was atrocious.  All black flowing robes and all tattered and musty.  Even his undergarments were worn and crusty.  Johnny figured Death had a severe case of swamp ass by the state of his underpants.

They made a beeline for the mens clothing store.  The gentleman who assisted Death with his new wardrobe wasn’t Italian but still put on a cheesy accent and played the part.  Death walked out of the store a new man. He did clean up remarkably well in Johnny’s opinion.  His opinion was backed up when two young blondes almost broke their necks doing a double take as Death walked by.

It was clear to Johnny that it was time to go meet some ladies.  Death was naively unaware of all the ladies gawking at him as they left the mall.  Johnny hoped the blissfully unaware hunk routine would work for Death.

There were some jumping clubs even in the afternoons in this part of Florida.   Johnny figured they were going to need a lot of time to get Death loosened up.  They entered the club and Johnny immediately saw a young brunette near the end of the bar.  She had immediately perked up from a slouch when she caught sight of Death.  Johnny didn’t think it could be this easy.

They sat next to the young lady who couldn’t help but give Death her best pair of bedroom eyes.  Johnny excused himself and whispered in Death’s ear to buy her a drink as he walked away.  Death ordered two drinks and started in with the small talk albeit uneasily.

“Do you come here often?” he asked.

The brunette rolled her eyes.  “You don’t need to make small talk with me handsome.  I like your look, very goth.  I like that.  What do you do for a living?”

“I assist the living with crossing over to death.”

“Oh, a mortician!  Goth, very goth.  Did I mention I like that?”  She gave a devilish scan of the room then looked Death in the eye socket.  “Ya wanna get out of here?”

Death’s hand bones began to sweat.  “Umm, I’m not sure where my friend went and I think if I left he may get ner–”

“Don’t worry about him.  I think he may be a bit preoccupied himself.”  She nodded into a dark corner and sure enough Johnny was talking up a platinum blonde who looked every bit the surfer part that Johnny did. “Come on, let’s go get some fresh air.  My car is a convertible.  Oh I’m Felicia by the way.”

“Death.”  He introduced and held out a hand to shake hers.  She giggled and grabbed him around the waist and led him out of the club.

Johnny figured he gave Death enough time for small talk.  He took the cute blonde he hooked up with, Mindy he thought she said, to go meet Death.  He was happy she seemed like the type of girl who was up for anything.

Death was nowhere to be found, nor was the brunette.  They weren’t seated at the bar nor were they out on the dance floor. All the dark corners were unoccupied.

Johnny’s breath caught in his throat for a moment.  Then he thought to himself, ‘ There’s no way.’  He grabbed Mandy -or was it Mindy – by the wrist and scampered outside.

Johnny scanned the parking lot for Death.  A cherry red sports car with the top down caught his attention and the well dressed skeleton making out with the foxy brunette in the car caught his attention even more.

Death you devil  Johnny thought as he smirked at the sight of the two of them.  Johnny told Miranda (wait, Mandy?) to wait where she was.  He approached Death and his new squeeze who were pawing at each other like two wound up puppy dogs.

“Ahem.”

The lovers let loose their passionate lip lock.  Death looked over his shoulder at Johnny.  He looked like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  The brunette flashed Johnny a catty grin.

“Oh, hey Johnny.  I’m sorry but Felicia here… Oh this is Felicia” he introduced her  in a panic. “She just wanted to get some fresh air and she has this really nice car and we were just checking in out and–”

“Yeah I can see you were checking it out.  Not feeling so shy anymore are we?”  Johnny teased.

Death and Felicia could do nothing but blush.  They had been caught red handed and they were acting like two kids getting caught playing seven minutes in heaven.  Johnny suggested since everyone was getting along famously and the night was still young that they take in some evening surfing while there were still some vestiges of light burning from the deep summer sun.  Death and the ladies were all in and suddenly they were out on a double date.  A better night could not have been planned.

They got to the beach and Death could see right away what Johnny had arrived at his door that morning to complain about.  There were old people carpeting the beach from end to end as far as the eye could see.  Yet the ocean itself was void of any senior bathers.  As far as Death could see there wasn’t a soul in the ocean.

Death, Felicia, Johnny and Amanda (maybe she said Murgatroyd, it was loud in that club) found a vein of space to make their way to the water through the swarm of old people laid prone on the sand.  They were knocking sweet old ladies and ornery old men in the head, shoulders and legs with their surf boards as they navigated the sea of geriatric patients.

They finally made it to the surf and paddled out.  The waves weren’t large but they were steady.  The two couples were having the time of their lives surfing and getting to know one another a little better.  Both Felicia and Rebecca (no wait, Mindy, right?) had surfed before but were a bit clumsy at it.  Death had never surfed but under Johnny’s instruction he began to get the hang of it.

After a half hour or so of surfing they were all smiles.  They floated out in the ocean waiting for another set of waves to come in but the twilight was quickly giving way to the dark and the sea was settling down.  The four gazed back at the beach each lost in their own thoughts for a moment.

Death’s smile went flat as he gazed at that beach.  “Seeing them from here, I had no idea how important my job really is.  Taking those souls day in and day out and leading them on to the other side makes you lose perspective.  I was thinking only of me and not seeing the big picture like I can see it now.”  He scanned the mobbed beach from end to end to punctuate his thought.

Johnny reached over and patted Death on the back.  “It’s okay man.  Everyone’s job sucks but we gotta do it right?  It’s easy to lose focus when you’re a slave to the grind day in and day out.  You just have to remember to take time out for yourself when you start sinking in the work.  If your heart isn’t in the work you’re just not doing the job even though you’re there.  You gotta get a life Death, that’s part of the job too brother.”

Death’s lip bones scrunched together.  A look of renewed determination flashed across his face.  “Johnny you’re right!” he proclaimed.  “Tomorrow I get back to the job.  Thanks to you I feel like a new skeleton.”  He thrust his breast bone out.  “Death is part of life and life is now part of Death!”

He exclaimed to all those piled on to the beach, “I’m coming for you all tomorrow!”  The droning of thousands of senior citizens complaining about children, television programs and the way things are nowadays suddenly stopped.  “But tonight I’m taking my lady friend home with me to show her what it’s like to play with Death!”  He turned and winked at her as she returned a wicked smile back at him.  The old people on the beach broke into thunderous applause.

Mindy (he was positive it was Mindy) had hopped on to Johnny’s board and they were clearly not looking to find a bedroom.  Death laughed and motioned for Felicia to paddle back to shore with him.  When they got back to shore the old folks were suddenly making a wide path for Death and his lady.

Death was not seen the rest of the night but a wail could be heard for miles emanating from his house.  Some say it was the cry of the Banshee alerting all those to their impending deaths.  Some say it was Felicia being brought to climax like no woman has before or since.

+ + +

            Johnny woke up with the sun blaring in his eyes and his face plastered to the sand.  Beside him Mindy lie naked sleeping  with a towel draped over her.  The sun was harsh and he couldn’t open his eyes right away.  He noticed a silence he had not heard in quite some time however.  Only the sound of the water lapping at the beach and the sound of gulls calling in the distance.

He could feel space around him.  He shaded hands over his eyes and opened them.  He saw nothing but sand.  Not a single soul was on the beach except for him and Mindy.  He laughed out loud as loud as he could.  The laughter woke up Mindy.

“What’s going on?” she asked as she sat up and used the towel to cover all the parts that mattered.  “Whoa, everyone is gone.  Finally.”

“Death is feeling himself again.  In a big way.  I can’t believe he took care of them all so fast.  How in heaven did he do it?”

A ship’s air horn blew.  They looked out on the water.  A large cruise ship was sailing out toward the horizon.  The ship was black as black could be.  They could see all the decks were crowded with people.  Standing at the bow as clear as could be was a tall, dark figure with long robes flowing about him.  Death sailed off into the horizon with his lady friend on his arm.  His smile was so bright Johnny could see the gleam from the shore.

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