Breathe

GrammarGhoulPress



The gunman cradled his McMillan rifle gently and sighted through his 5-25x scope breathing slowly, waiting for his shot. The target was just over 2300 meters distant and he could see the heat rising in waves as he watched.

He knew that, just as he observed, he was being observed. He had heard the drone but only once, faintly from a great distance, behind him. It was a long shot but he was confident.

#

The heavyset man in the blue suit leaned closer to the monitor and nervously spun the fat cigar he held between his fingers as he watched.

“Can he make this?” the fat man asked of no one in particular.

The uniformed man standing at the back of the room spoke up, “If anyone can make this shot, the corporal can,” he said. “It’s about 500 meters beyond the recommended range of the Tac-50 but he’s the best.”

#

The gunman felt loose, easy, unhurried; the morning air was warm, but not too warm, it was calm. Conditions were good when his target detached from the company of his companions and walked 10 – 12 steps off the path, stopped and, unzipped his trousers to urinate.

Now or never thought the gunman. He breathed in then out all the way. He emptied his lungs and gently squeezed the trigger. It amazed him, as always, how little noise the .50 BMG seemed to make as it left the muzzle at a speed of more than 800 m/s.

He counted seconds: 1… 2… 3…

He watched for the red cloud confirming the kill. He knew that officially his spotter and the anonymous watchers had to confirm – but for his own peace of mind he wanted to know as well. He had to watch.

#

The fat man, in the blue suit, pumped his fist when the small figure at the top of the monitor collapsed face first into the scraggly bushes. “Yesss.”

#

The gunman swung his barrel and watched through the scope as the others dropped and searched frantically for him. Craning their necks and spinning their heads. When one of them pointed at his hill he crawled backward, away from the crest, and dropping out of sight, stood, collected his things, and walked away with his spotter. They walked briskly but there was no need to run.

The spotter clapped him on the back, “Nice, shot man. Helluva shot.”

He shook his head, how had it come to this? He was a sniper, trained by his government to kill with surgical precision. Had he been picked for this position because of a talent to point a rifle? Maybe that was part of it. He believed a bigger part was that he had been picked because he was pliant, adaptable, malleable. He knew that not everyone could do this kind of work. He was one of the elite.

He grinned. He loved his job. He fist bumped his spotter and they picked up their pace as the slope steepened in front of them.


Picture Prompt #3

Picture Prompt #3; Blondie – A Tribute

 



 

Image courtesy of "The Daily Prompt Alternative"
Image courtesy of “The Daily Prompt Alternative”

I really don’t like my haircut,
Or this suit.
That contract isn’t finished yet, either.
Mr. Dithers isn’t going to be happy.

And now there’s going to be puppies too.
Why can’t Daisy stay in the yard?
Why didn’t Cookie stay in the yard, for that matter?
I’m not old enough to be a grandfather.

Damn, I need a nap. And a sandwich!
I need my mower back from Herb.

Paint with Words #1 – Street Life

Paint with Words #1 – Street Life

 



 

Marie and I were excited when my promotion came through and I was tasked to head the sales office in Tantamount Lake. California. This was a good position. A well performing territory, like the Tantamount office, made it easier to get going. It is always simpler to maintain and grow a sales territory than it is to start one from nothing. It would give me an opportunity to learn what was expected of me in this new job.

Of course, we had to relocate from Wisconsin to California and the move came quickly. We had two weeks to get it done but, as it was only the two of us, it was achievable. Everything in our apartment was carefully packed into a yellow and green Mayflower truck and we got on a plane to Orange County, California. The company provided a condo and a car. We had the address of the office and the condo, both in the town of Tantamount Lake, about 15 miles from John Wayne Airport. When we arrived we wasted no time and jumped in a taxi to take us to our new home. The taxi driver was named Alex. He told us that he was from Uruguay and that he liked to talk.

The 405 freeway was congested in both directions and it took almost an hour and a half to reach the Tantamount Lake exit but Alex pointed out some interesting sights on the way. There was a mini-golf course that also offered bowling and cart racing; we saw a couple of hospitals, some shopping centers, some more shopping centers, a concrete river bed with no water, and a lot of sound blocking walls. At one point we even caught a glimpse of green hills in the distance but the sighting was so brief we both thought it might have been a mirage. Alex, assured us it was real.

When Alex told us we were in Tantamount Lake neither Marie nor I had realized we’d left one city for another. Our new friend and tour guide, amazed us when he told us that we had actually traversed through about seven separate cities so far in our journey. He said we had to look sharp, as in many cases, city boundaries are defined by nothing more than a small green sign with reflective letters advising the name of the burg you were entering. Alex took a right hand turn onto Tantamount Road, which curved gently around an artificial pond, with a fountain in the middle. This, he told us, was Tantamount Lake. It wasn’t big and it was obviously man made but it was clean; with soft grass lawns sloping down to the water’s edge. A white painted gazebo with bougainvillea climbing gracefully over the trellis top sat about halfway between the lake and the road, completing the perfect pastoral scene. Marie squeezed my hand.

There was no litter to be seen anywhere and the trees around the lake all looked as if they had been planted within the last 6 months. Short, with sparsely leafed but perfectly groomed canopies they sat atop thin trunks planted in mounds of fresh dirt with hedges, azaleas, and impatiens serving as under plantings. Three or four more quick turns and we passed a column welcoming us to Tantamount Bluffs and Alex deposited us at 16 Avenida Lucia, our new home. There was a 10 foot square of grass in front of the house that we admired on our way to the door, which was flanked by Bird of Paradise and Lilies of some sort, I didn’t recognize. The key I had for the front door slipped neatly into the lock but didn’t work. As I fiddled with it, the door was pulled open from the inside and I was standing face to face with none other than ‘Malibu Barbie’ herself.

“Can I help you?” she asked suspiciously.

“Hi,” I said as I pulled my key back, “We’re the Walters’. Are you from the company?”

“I’m sorry,” Barbie replied, “I wasn’t expecting company. I’m just off to play tennis.” She stepped outside and pulled the door shut behind her, locking us out.

As she started down the walk I called after her, “but we’re the Walters, this is our house, number 16 Avenida Lucia. She stopped and looked back at me.

“Oh, you’re the new guys,” she said, “this isn’t 16, this is 19.” She spun the number 6, with the missing screw on the post next to her, effectively turning it into a 9. “16 is that one,” she said pointing catty-corner across the street at a house that looked exactly like this one. “I’m Muffy,” she said, “welcome to the neighborhood, gotta run,” and she was off – her garage door silently sliding open. We watched her back a cream colored Mercedes into the street and drive away.

“Marie,” I said, “all these houses look the same. It’s kinda spooky.” I scanned the street.

“No they don’t,” Marie had been studying them as well. “Look, Muffy’s house is beige, across the street, that one’s tan and ours, number 16, is definitely ecru. The house on the other side of ours – must be 14 – looks more like a cream or a mocha – hard to tell for sure in this bright sunlight. Our house also stands out ‘cause we don’t have Bird of Paradise. I think that’s a Boxwood hedge.”

By this time we had made it across the street.

“Maybe I can paint a red dot on the garage door so I can find the house again.”

“Careful,” Marie warned, “Neighborhood like this… a red dot might net you a little time in jail!”


 

 

Photo Challenge; Ephemeral

Photo Challenge; Ephemeral

This week’s theme: ephemeral. Show us your interpretation!



 

Storm Over the Malpais
Storm Over the Malpais

 

Up Scope

Chimera 66 #11



 

“Kaleidoscope or periscope, how much different can they be?”
The captain of the submarine had turned and asked of me.
“The choice, I think, is yours sir; but may I suggest to you,
The periscope is best for your torpedoes to run true.”
He pondered what I’d told him, scratched his head and walked away,
“You might be right,” he muttered, “I’ll think on that today.”

 


 

Come on guys – I’m an old bubblehead. What do you expect from me with a prompt like this???Enlisted Submarine Dolphins

The Daily Prompt Alternative; The Day the Earth Tilted on Its Axis

ODP



It was about thirty years ago that I last saw my big sister, who was a high school English teacher, an educator with a love for words. I was living in southern California and she was in Phoenix. She called to tell me that she had won a trip in an Arizona radio contest. The prize was a trip to Ventura for the weekend. The radio station would be busing the winners in that next Friday night. She suggested I drive up and meet her at their hotel on Saturday morning for breakfast. They had some promotional responsibilities and obligations that they had to take care of after lunch but we should have the whole morning to catch up. I told her that this sounded like a great idea and agreed to meet her for breakfast around 7:00 am.

It was a little under a two hour drive from my house to Ventura so I got an early start that Saturday morning. It was the middle of June, and the marine layer was in. It was cool and foggy but I knew the gloom would burn off by mid morning. Everyone who was alive, remembers that date. It became a momentous occasion, after all – the world changed that day – changed on the backs of ten lucky listeners from Arizona who each shared a fondness for popular music.

The ten winning contestants were being lodged at one of those nondescript business hotels like Ambassador Suites or Hamilton Lodge, you know the type. The rooms are junior suites and feature kitchenettes and a big breakfast buffet in the mornings.

It was easy to find the group in the breakfast room. They had pushed tables together and were all eating en-mass. An employee of the station was explaining their itinerary for the day. After breakfast, their morning was free. They could go shopping or sightseeing or whatever they wanted, but they needed to rendezvous back at the hotel by noon. They would all be bused to the beach for the live broadcast which would take about two hours. The rest of the weekend was theirs again. Brochures of nearby attractions and tours were spread out on the tables. I noticed that everyone in the room, excepting the minder from the station, was large.

I spotted Helen and waved. She beckoned me over and I gave her a hug, “Get some breakfast,” she told me. “I had an idea that you might want to write about this. It could make a great story.”

“Why’s that,” I asked. “Fill me in.”

She explained that the contest had been the brainchild of KAKTI Radio and they had gathered all their largest listeners for this trip to California. This afternoon they were going to the beach for the live broadcast and a session of calisthenics, with an emphasis on jumping jacks.

“The object,” she explained, “is to make California fall into the ocean and move the coastline to Arizona.” She laughed. “It’s all in good fun,” she said, “and these guys are all really nice.” She introduced me to some of the other winners, seated nearby. Jack was a software engineer from Tempe; Silvia was a single mom who worked on a road crew and lived in Buckeye. Jim and Katherine were a couple who both worked in the Aerospace Industry. I don’t remember specifics of any of the others, but I agreed with her. I thought it would make a good story.

We all tucked into our food and I subconsciously began gathering back stories from the other winners who were seated around me and Helen. I made interview appointments for later that day and Sunday morning. I wanted to get to know these people better. I smelled an interesting story.

The food, the company, and the conversation made the morning pass quickly and pretty soon the room was empty except for me and my sister. We sat and talked until the rendezvous and when everyone was gathered again, I was allowed to ride the bus with the winners to the beach.

To make a long story short, the plan worked and the Ventura coast buckled under the strain of the ten contestants jumping up and down on the sand. Eight new islands were formed. They have since been named: Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Clemente, San Nicolas, Santa Barbara and, Santa Catalina.

The DJ and I were the only survivors from that group who had been on the beach that day. They had set up the broadcast equipment on higher ground, up nearer the highway, and I was sitting with him. It took a while for the break to occur. Everyone was laughing, having fun and, jumping up and down. Suddenly the earth moved. I lost consciousness but when I came to the DJ and I were wedged between rocks on a high point of the island that is now known as Anacapa, and is part of Channel Islands National Park. It sits about eleven miles off the coast of Port Hueneme. My sister and the other winners were swept out to sea on the tsunami. No trace of them was ever found.

Each year in June I take a day and, like a pilgrim, come back to this island peak. I gaze towards the sea and remember those brave contestants who forever changed the face of our planet, altered our geography and, created these beautiful islands. May they rest in peace.


 

Talking to Strangers – A Primer

Strangers: The Prompt



 

Never discuss politics or religion with anyone you want to remain friends with.
Discuss these things only with strangers.
Only with the people you meet in public places like airports or coffee shops.
You don’t care what they think – they’re strangers.
You’ll never see them again anyway.

Lie to them, if you want.
Make up stories.
Entertain yourself. Pick your nose.
Or, open up with the truth. Spill your guts.
Maybe they have the answers you seek. You never know.

Ask them for free stuff.
“Are you going to eat that?”
“Wow, those are really nice. Can I have one?”
“Maybe one for my kid too?”
“Can you spare a couple of bucks to help me get to Omaha?”

Or you can treat them respectfully. Ask for nothing except a bit of their time.
Honor their ideas and listen to their opinions.
Share a joke or two, but not about religion or politics – knock, knock jokes are good.
But, take what they say with a grain of salt until you get to know them better.
Remember always that, until they become friends – they are strangers,
and
They might just be messing with you.

14th Street Coffee Bar (Revisited)

 GrammarGhoulPress



 

Shelly waved to Chuck as he stepped out of the shop and turned towards home. Making her way around the counter she flipped the sign on the door

– CLOSED –

She pulled the blinds and began cleaning. She was almost done when there was a light tap on the door glass. She wasn’t expecting anyone this early but went to investigate.

Pulling the shade aside she spotted a man standing outside her shop. He was tall and slender. She was surprised to see him. His skin was browned by the sun and was cracked by the dry desert heat, dust gathered in the lines on his face and neck. His clothes were neat but worn. He looked like he’d fallen on hard times. Under his left arm he held a large flat package wrapped in brightly colored Tehuana oilcloth. A leather grip held shut with a piece of knotted hemp stood at his feet. She turned the latch on the door and stepped aside.

Wrapping his long fingers around the handle of his case, and picking it up, he swept inside the shop, tossed his valise atop a table and leaned the wrapped package on a chair.

“Hi Dad,” Shelly greeted him. “How’d you find me?”

“Does it really matter how, darlin’? I’m just glad I did.” He spread his arms wide and Shelly ignored him, turning to shut the door.

“When did you get out Dad? Do they know you’re gone?”

“Look what I brought you Shelly,” he said. “I picked this up at an estate sale, just outside Hobbs.” He peeled the tape from the oilcloth and unwrapped what turned out to be a painting.

Shelly recognized it right away, “Jesus, Dad. That’s a Boticelli. It’s from Italy. You sure didn’t buy that in New Mexico!”

“’Course I did, honey. I got a receipt and everything, see.” He peeled an envelope from the back of the painting and spilled out a lot of torn pieces of paper. “That ole boy I bought it from, he kinda tore up the receipt but I can put it back together for you and you can see.” He began laying the parts of the fragmented document on the table, piecing it back together. “I can’t read it,” Shelly’s dad said, “he wrote it in Spanish I think.”

She peered over his shoulder and watched him reconstruct the single sheet of paper. It was old. It was written in Italian. Shelly didn’t read Italian but she could figure out that this was a paper that documented provenance of the artwork. At the top was printed ‘Galleria degli Uffizi’. She saw Boticelli’s name, she saw the name, Medici several times but without knowing the language that was all she could tell for sure. There was an old red wax seal in the bottom right corner fixed just below a scrawl that she assumed was some long-dead curator’s signature.

“See,” her dad said, “All legal.”

Shelly opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by another knock on the door.

“Stay out of sight Dad, that’s Toby. We’re supposed to have a date tonight. I’ll figure a way out of it.”

Her father seemed to shrink into the chair where he was seated and Shelly went to the door and opened it a crack. She made an excuse to Toby about having to fix the espresso machine and asked for a rain check. When he left she closed and re-latched the door.

“You coulda gone, Shelly. I’m not here to mess up your love life.”

“Forget it Dad, I’m not going to leave you in my shop unattended. There’s a shower and an extra room upstairs you can clean up and stay till morning but then you have to go.” She showed him his room and gave him a towel. Lying in her bed she listened to him move quietly in the back of the apartment.

At some point she must have drifted off because the next thing she knew her eyes popped open and the clock informed her that it was four am. The house was quiet and she knew he was gone and that she would have to call the Sheriff. His room was empty, the damp towel folded neatly at the foot of the bed. She hurried downstairs and found the front door pulled to, but unlatched. The Botticelli was hanging on the wall behind the NCR, and forty dollars had gone missing from the cash drawer.


 

POTUS on Slide Guitar

mondays-finish-the-story



When the team heard the dam explode, they knew they had limited time to make it to safety. Tanner knew that the contents of Lake Sassafras would destroy everything in the canyon if his team couldn’t stop it. Not thinking of himself, he worried only that Lillian’s tavern was just down the canyon, and the Bluegrass Festival was in full swing.

Tanner’s team had been dispatched for security. It had not been announced that the president would be sitting in with Bluegrass Bypass, headliners of this year’s show and POTUS’ favorite band. But Tanner knew that the word had still likely gotten out. He was expecting trouble but he hadn’t anticipated this!

“Dan, are you still wearing those old boots with the holes in ‘em?”

“Uhm, no. I got new ones, Chief.”

“Damnit Dan, don’t lie to me. We’ll raft downstream. If we get ahead of the flow, you can put the holes from your boots on the canyon floor. We can drain this water, save the festival.”

B. W. Beacham 2015
B. W. Beacham 2015