Welcome to my short story blog. These posts will be updated as I write new material, and develop new ideas. I don't plan on frequent posts, as this type of material takes longer to develop than my other blog, Travelighter. I welcome comments from you, and hope these are inspirational and enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


    Laura squatted down next to the flower bed, dug her trowel deep into the soil to loosen a spot and tucked the little pansy plant into the hole.  The row of new flowers extended along the rock border filling in the gaps between the bigger shrubs.  She bought them on the weekend at the home improvement store with her dad, and now, after school, she was planting them, one by one, along the row.  She scooted the dirt in around the root ball and with the trowel tamped it down with her hands.
     The sound of thudding feet echoed behind her.  She looked up to see the neighbor girl, Andrea, running by.  They waved, the footsteps thudded past.  Laura continued planting, tucking the baby plants in every few inches.  The new blooms, purple, yellow, lavender and peach brightened the front border.
     Footsteps thudded behind her again.  This was an afternoon ritual, her neighbor running up the street, down the other side and back again, time after time.  Laura stood up, motioned to her and walked to the sidewalk where they met.  “How many times do you run this each day?”
     “I lose count, can’t remember if I already counted seven or if this is actually eight.  So I just time it on my watch – thirty minutes.”
     “You do this every day?”
     “Yeah, six days a week.  I love to run.”
     “Why don’t you go farther?  Why not go to the school track, why stay just on this block?”
     “Johnny, my little brother, sits on the porch and reads.  He loves to read.  My dad doesn’t get home until six.  I have to watch him.  If I stay on the block, I can watch him and run.”
     “How old is Johnny?”
     “He’s eight.  He is happy to sit and read his books.”  They both looked down the street and could see his black sneakers propped up on the white porch railing.  “He sits in the swing while I run.  I can see him from almost anywhere on the block.  Especially when he sticks his feet up like that.”
     “He must really like to read.”
     “Always,” Andrea laughed.  “Well, I’m off, the timer is ticking.”
     Laura watched her jog down the street and wondered why she was so driven to run.  Maybe she just enjoys it, like I like to garden.  Well, whatever.  She turned back to her planting, pulling a few weeds as she kneeled and worked along the row.

     Tuesday after school, Laura walked to the county park, turned right on the side road and followed it along the edge of the hill around to the back of the park. Three hawks circled overhead as she walked, hovering, watching her.  Behind a tall chain link fence was the community garden.  She met a group of foster kids one day a week for her senior volunteer project, and together they worked a small plot of the garden, growing tomatoes, peas, beans and squash.  The kids enjoyed goofing around, getting their hands dirty, and squirting each other with the hose.  She looked forward to being with the kids, watching their enthusiasm and discoveries with a little piece of nature.
     Two large teen boys sat on a fence railing on the curve of the road.  Laura glanced at them, but quickly looked away.  She didn’t like their haughty expressions, their hovering, watching her.  They weren’t familiar faces from her school.  She picked up her pace, walking quickly and purposefully.
     “Hey, who dressed you, your little sister?”
     Unconsciously, she looked down at her clothes, unable to think what she was wearing.  Jeans and a t-shirt, what’s wrong with that, she thought?
     “And that hair.  Do you mop the floor with that stringy thing?”  The two boys nudged each other and laughed.
     “Looks like she tried to mop the lawn, with those grass stains on her knees.  What is she, a flower girl?”  They weren’t even talking to her, just entertaining each other.
     Laura knew it was better not to make eye contact, not to answer the bullies.  It was hard, though.  She could think of several barbed quips to hurl at them, but instead, amused herself with just thinking them, smiling.  Quickly, firmly, she walked past them.
     Until she was around the corner, they continued laughing at her.  “Look, she has clippers in her back pocket, what planet did she fall off of?”
     The other one said, “Is that a girl who looks like a boy, or a boy who looks like a girl?  Maybe it doesn’t know what it is.”  They laughed at their own amusements.
     At the gate to the community garden, Laura clicked the latch and took a deep breath.  The kids arrived in a county van.  She was glad they didn’t have to walk by those boys.  They had enough of their own problems without others creating insecurities for them.  She did look down at her knees.  Yup, grass stains from yesterday when she was kneeling in the grass.  Didn’t bother her, though, she liked to wear evidence of her favorite pastime.  She did not like how uncomfortable she felt, though.  Did her long straight hair really look like a mop?  Did she really look like a boy?
     These thoughts dissipated as Jimmy, Sam, Sarah and Tucker burst in through the gate behind her, full of questions and energy.  The hour passed quickly and productively and happily.  When the county driver offered her a ride out to the corner, she accepted, not wanting to risk encountering the guys again.  Not because she was afraid, she told herself, but because it was simpler to avoid them.

     Wednesday, after school, Laura mowed the lawn.  There was always something she could find to do in the yard.  She liked the break it gave her in the afternoon before she started her homework.  On one of her passes across the lawn, she noticed Andrea and Johnny sitting next to each other on their porch steps.  Andrea’s head was bent over, her arms hugging her knees up tight to her shoulders.  Why wasn’t she running? 
     Laura shut off the mower and walked to their house.  Johnny looked unhappy, unsure what to do.  Andrea was crying.  Laura looked at Johnny, questioning.  He shrugged.  Quietly, she spoke.  “Andrea, are you ok?”  No response.  “Andrea?”
     Andrea jumped and looked up wildly, like a frightened fox caught in a trap.
     “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.  I saw you out here and wondered if you needed help?”
     Andrea had trouble speaking.  Johnny helped her.  “Some boys picked on her on the way home.  They told her she looked like a boy.  They laughed at us, said we looked stupid.  I thought they were, but they hurt Andy.”
     Laura bristled.  “Did they touch her?”
     “No, just hurt her feelings, I guess.”
     Relieved that it wasn’t worse, Laura chose her words carefully.  “Did you talk to them?”
     “No, but I told Andy to just keep on walking.  When I called her ‘Andy’ they laughed really loud.  Did I do something wrong?”
     “No, of course not.  Did you know who they were?”  She caught Andrea’s eye.  She shook her head. 
     Johnny said, “Big bullies.  Just guys who think they’re big and tough.”
     “Yes,” said Laura, “Guys like that have something to prove, I guess.”
     “But why do they have to pick on Andy?  She didn’t do anything to them.”
     Gently, Laura asked, “What did they say to you?”
     “I looked like a boy.  I do have short hair, and it’s curly.  Does make me look like a boy, I guess.  Not pretty, like your hair.”
     Laura couldn’t help laughing.  Andrea looked hurt, withdrawn.  Laura reached out her hand and touched her knee.  “I wasn’t laughing at you.  Just yesterday, two boys made fun of me and said my hair looked like a stringy mop.  So I know how you feel.”
     “It looks pretty, not like a mop,” Andrea defended her.
      “Thanks.  At first, what they said bugged me, but then I thought, it is my hair, and no matter what they say, I am still a girl, still me and I do what I do.  They are just silly and wrong about me.  But it did still hurt a little.”
     “Yea, guess I shouldn’t take it so seriously.”
     “No, you shouldn’t. But, it could make you think more about who you are, what you want to be and what you want to do.  Be bigger than they are.  Better than them.”
     Johnny said, “If they pick on my sister again, I’ll give them a big one-two punch like the boxer guy on my computer game!”
     “Oh, no you don’t!  That just makes it worse.  Gives them what they want.  If you ignore them, you don’t give them any encouragement or attention.  That’s what they really want, attention, but they don’t know how to get it in reasonable ways.”
     “Guess we all have our troubles,” said Andrea.
     “Is that why you like to run?”
     “I just feel so much better when I run after I get home from school.  If I was frustrated about something, I seem to be able to work it out when I run.  Even if I was tired, I feel better after I run.  Maybe I should invite those bullies to run with me.  I could outrun them, I’m sure.”
     Laura laughed, “Yes, you probably could.  But it is better for you to just leave them behind, don’t talk to them.  Picture yourself outrunning their taunts, so they don’t even reach you.  Their words just fall onto the ground and wither up.  Can you do that?”
     “I think I could.  And not running because I’m afraid and running away.  Running because I am fast and strong.”
     “Good girl.  Johnny, you help, too.  Be tall and strong and courageous, walking with your sister. Protect her, but not with your fists.”
     “Can I kick them?”
     “Funny.  No.  Do you understand what I mean, to be confident and take charge?”
     “Sure, just like that brave general guy who led the army in that book I’m reading.”
     “Yup, sounds good.  You guys want to come over for some ice cream?”
      “Yippee!”  said Johnny.
      “I’ll write a note to my Dad in case he comes home early. We’ll be right over.”

Tuesday, April 19, 2011



                Christine walked casually around the mall with her friends.  She hung behind, running her fingers along the fabrics, enjoying the feel of each one, soft, smooth or rough.  Danielle, with her daddy’s credit card, bought a two-hundred twenty dollar pair of jeans.  Wistfully, Christine watched, embarrassed and frustrated because she couldn’t afford them, nor would she ever look as good as Danielle.  Christine wondered how she would look in expensive jeans. Maybe they would make a difference for her, too, and she could measure up to the other girls. 
                As she wandered after them, she thought she would stay at the mall when the other girls left.  Christine told the girls she was going to call her dad who worked nearby and would be getting off soon.  He would pick her up.  The girls answered noncommittally, telling her she could do whatever she wanted.  Christine knew they really didn’t care, it wouldn’t affect their plans.  They left, walking out toward the parking lot, and Christine called her dad.

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                She went into the Target store and bought big bottles of shampoo and conditioner.  They made the bag heavy, pulling down on her arm.  At Macy’s she went to the teen department, fingering the clothes as she had done before.   At the display with the jeans Danielle had bought, her size was on top of the pile, but she chose three pair, draping them over her arm.  Why did she feel like someone was watching her?  She was just going to go try them on and see how she looked in them.  Looking around, she spotted the dressing room, and checked to see if anyone was watching.  No.  Good.  Relieved, she walked slowly, picking up a shirt as she went.

                John sat at the desk, scanning the dozen camera screens as shoppers browsed the displays.  Didn’t seem to be a day for buying much.   A group of teenage girls wandered around.  One, the obvious leader, could have been one of the mannequins if she posed long enough. The other girls straggled behind her, one rattling away with her thumbs on her phone, one stopping occasionally to finger the clothes and check the price tags.  The leader picked up a pair of jeans, pulled a credit card out of her tiny purse and plunked it down on the sales counter.
                John’s eyes floated around the screens, but nothing really interesting was happening.  The afternoon droned by, like the fly that buzzed around the ceiling.  He did more paperwork and yawned.  A girl walked into the teen department.  Something caught his attention.  He leaned forward and watched the screen.  The girl walked around, running her fingers over the clothes, checking the tags.  She carried a Target bag over her arm, with something heavy in it, and she often shifted it to the other arm.  Or, was she just nervous?                                                      

     As she came around one of the displays, facing the camera, John recognized her as one of the earlier group, the one who had lagged behind.  He zoomed in the camera to get a closer look.  She picked up three pair of jeans, apparently checking sizes and slung them over her arm, over the shopping bag, and headed for the dressing room.  She looked around uneasily, picking up a top to add to the pile on her arm.
           He watched the camera screen at the dressing room door, waiting for her to come out.  There.  He looked closely, counting the jeans she carried.  He could see two, but wasn’t sure about the third pair.  Her manner, though, bothered him more.  She glanced right and left, checking around her, making a complete circle to check behind her.  She put back the top and walked over to the jean display.  He saw her put back two pair, neatly folding them.  Her Target bag looked wider than it had.  Here we go, thought John.

Christine, in the dressing room, tried on the jeans and the top.  The top did not look good – too tight.  The jeans looked great.  She admired herself in the mirror. She had to face her thoughts.  Yes, she had considered stealing them.  That’s why she had the Target bag with her.  She hadn’t actually decided to go through with it.  Now, though, was the moment.  The jeans made her feel rich and attractive and graceful.  Like she could waltz her way through a school day, smiling and being friends with everyone.  There was a nagging thought that she wasn’t thinking clearly, but she shoved it aside.  Maybe she’d even be more popular than Danielle.  Yes, she was going to take them.  She changed out of the jeans, slipped

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them into her Target bag, tucking them carefully around the bottles. She folded the other jeans and top over her arm, just like when she came into the dressing room.
She walked casually out, the Target bag under the clothes and looked around for sales people.  No one was looking.  Her arm hugged close to her body, she stopped at the shirt display and put it back. Christine took a deep breath to slow down her racing heart.  Slowly, calmly, she returned the jeans, carefully folding the two pair on the pile.  She purposefully wandered toward the door, stopping again to touch some of the clothes and look at tags.  See, she wanted to say if anyone was watching her, I’m just out looking today, just enjoying myself.

John had watched the girl long enough to be sure of her actions.  He ran down the stairs, along the back hall for employees, around behind another department.  He checked the fitting room to make sure she hadn’t left the jeans in there, and stopped to catch his breath and calm his adrenaline rush.  This was the part of his job he loved.  She was headed for the door out of the men’s department.  He pretended to be shopping, working his way closer to the door, behind some displays, to be close by when she left the store.  That was the moment he was waiting for.  He was sure the jeans were in her bag, and all he needed was for her to walk out the door with them.

Christine felt like running, but she slowed down her steps, trying to breathe normally.  All I need to do is get outside the store, meet my dad and go home.  Then, I’ll be all right.  She noticed a man

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moving behind a display of men’s sweaters.   He glanced at her, and she quickly looked away.  No big deal, she thought, he just happened to be looking my way.
She put her hand on the door and walked through to the sunny day outside.  The man she had seen stepped through the door behind her.
“I’m with store security. May I see what is in your bag?” he asked politely.
“This is a Target bag, stuff I bought over there.”
 “Then you won’t mind showing me what is inside the bag.”
Reluctantly, she held the bag out to him.  “You can’t prove that I was going to steal those jeans.”
He glanced into the bag.  “So, you do admit to having merchandise in your bag?”
Christine looked down at the ground.
A deep voice behind her asked, “Is there a problem here?”
Christine turned, feeling upset and uncomfortable. “Dad.”
“She walked out of the store with jeans that weren’t paid for.  I will need to have both of you come to my office,” said John.
The look on her dad’s face was pained.  Christine thought her shame far outweighed the embarrassment of not having the right brand of jeans.  She knew enough to know she was facing community service and a crime on her record that she didn’t want.  What was I thinking? If I just hadn’t been caught!  But, no, she also knew the guilt of having those jeans would have spoiled things.  It was a bad idea.

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A half hour later she was sitting in a long, narrow room with no windows, only a door.  Her dad sat next to her; John sat at a computer, discussing with her father what would happen.  A Police Officer walked into the room, talked with John, then her father.  The Officer walked to her and asked her to stand up.  Petrified, she stood. 
“I’m going to have to place you in handcuffs and take you to the station to complete some paperwork,” the Officer said.
Christine felt the cold steel close around her wrists.  I will never do anything like this again, she thought.  They walked through the store to the police car parked outside.  Horrified, Christine saw her friends standing across the parking lot, chatting happily.  She ducked her head, desperately hoping they wouldn’t see her.
In the back of the police car, her hands cuffed, her dad standing forlornly on the sidewalk, Christine knew, sadly, she had made a bad choice. She knew it now, too late.