Lie to Me, Please - A Short Story by Joe McDonald

“My life is a sham...”

The sound of Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’ rang through Jen’s room as she sat there jotting down her thoughts in a journal.  She whispered the words aloud as she wrote. 

“Today was my first day of Fall break.  I came home for the four days since I wouldn’t be able to keep my sanity if I stayed at Seton Hall over the break.  I mean, Wintercroft, New Jersey isn’t great but at least I won’t have to be pestered by my friends to drink myself into oblivion every night.  Idiots.”

She placed her pencil on the side of her desktop and sighed deeply.

“Where did I go wrong?” she asked sarcastically.  “Oh that’s right.  My friends are whores, my mom is dead, I’m a rape baby, and I’m stuck in a town that’s looks like a bad B-movie setting.  That answers everything.” 

A faint clanking noise sounded in the background.  Jen turned down the stereo and slowly rose from her chair.


There was a brief period of silence before there was a reply.

“It’s me Jen!  Just got back from the grocery store!  Come on out here and help me cook dinner for us!”

“Yes Aunt Gina.”  Jen grimaced but did as she was told.  She always obeyed her Aunt ever since she moved in when she was twelve.

Aunt Gina slammed the grocery bags on the counter in the kitchen as Jen slowly walked into the room. 

“How’s school going dear?  I know freshmen year can be tough, but you’ll get used to it.”

 Jen just rolled her eyes.

“Tough isn’t the word.  If I wanted to learn about a bunch of shit I will never use in my life I would have went to the 13th grade in high school.  Everyone said college was different.  The only thing different is more people are concerned about drinking instead of thinking.”

“Stop that talk!  You just haven’t joined enough clubs and gotten to know people.  Let’s not talk about college; you’re here for the next few days so you might as well get your mind of Seton Hall.”

“Oh yeah.  So should I think about this place instead?  Like having no real friends and no real mother anymore?”

Jen blurted the words out before she could even think of what she was saying.  Aunt Gina stopped putting groceries away and looked to the ground slowly.  Jen knew she upset her Aunt when she said things like that, but she couldn’t help feeling the way she did.

“Look Aunt Gina…I’m sor…”

Her Aunt cut her off immediately.

“Don’t worry about it Jenny.  Since your mind is on your mother maybe you should go visit the cemetery.  It’ll do you good to go see her since you don’t get many chances to anymore.”

“I guess you’re right.  I’ll be back for dinner then.”

Without even waiting for her aunt to say ‘goodbye,’ Jen grabbed her jacket and fled out the door.  Within ten minutes Jen found herself pulling up the entrance drive of Glomsgal cemetery.

Glomsgal was a very beautiful place despite being a cemetery.  In the midst of all the tombstones, many trees and shrubs were planted.  The grounds were well taken care of.  There was also a large tower that played chimes all day, and it was quite serene sounding.  It was a tranquil place, and Jen would enjoy spending time there if it were only for different reasons. 

She approached the row of stones where her mother was buried.  As she slowed down to park she noticed a figure at one of the headstones.  It was a middle aged man it seemed.  As Jen was walking to her mother’s resting place she noticed that was where the man was.  She examined the man more closely and he didn’t seem to be anyone she knew.

He turned around slowly, looking Jen over with a confused look on his face.

“Can I help you Miss?”

Jen was a little surprised at the question.  Can he help her?  She wasn’t a business traveler looking for directions.  She wanted to visit her mother in peace.

“You can help me by giving me some time alone here.”

The comment seemed to surprise the man.  He glanced at the tombstone they were both standing in front of, and then back at Jen.  He waited a moment before he responded.

“You are here to visit Angela Mantegna?”

“Yes.  Yes I am actually.  Who are you?”

Again, the man fell silent for a few moments before he answered.  He looked at the ground as he spoke.

“I knew her a long time ago.  We were close at one time, but that is all in the past.  I’m here on some business so I have been visiting her the last few days.  It’s the least I can do.  I suppose you are a niece of hers?”

Jen stared at the man, but he never directly looked her in the eye.  He kept fidgeting and looking at the ground.  She raised a brow at his quirky behavior but answered him.

“No actually.  I’m her daughter.”

When the words rolled off Jen’s tongue, the man finally looked at her with a surprised look.  Jen could tell his interest had perked.

“Her daughter eh’?  Now that you mention it, you look a lot like her when she was your age.  I could never forget those brown eyes.”

“Yeah I guess so.”  Jen just shrugged.

The man checked his watch nonchalantly, and then looked to Jen again.

“Well, I’ll leave you with your mother.  I must be going.  Take care of yourself.”

The man started to hurry past her.  She turned to face his back.

“Ummn, thanks.  Nice to meet you.”

The man did not turn back or reply.  He quickly made it to his car and drove off, without even a wave.

“Well that was stupid.”

Jen turned back to her mother’s grave and knelt down to it.  She caressed her hand over the words.

“Two visitors in one day, Mommy?  Aren’t you popular?”

Jen chuckled a bit softly. 

“Thanks for watching over me.  I know every day for the last six years you’ve still been there for me…maybe the only one.”

She rose from the headstone.  Her eyes were a little watery, but Jen tried to be strong with her emotions. 

“Love you mom.”

The words escaped her faltering lips, and she turned and left the site.  She didn’t want to be late for dinner or else she knew her Aunt would flip, and that was just more unnecessary drama to go through. 

The Manicotti was being taken out of the oven just as Jen walked through the front door.  Her Aunt placed it in the middle of the dining room table that was already fixed with placemats and silverware. 

“Ah’ Jenny.  Back just in time.  How was your mom?”

Jen always smiled a bit when her Aunt asked that question.

“Same as always Aunt Gina.  Oh wait, this time she wanted me to tell you that you need to put more sauce of the Manicotti.”

“Oh shut your mouth Jenny.  Sit down and eat.”

After a snicker, Jen plopped down in her chair and began putting a large portion of pasta on her plate.  She didn’t dare take a bite to eat until after her Aunt said a prayer for the meal.  She knew better.

A few minutes passed as the two ate their food.  Jen finally broke the silence.

“A man was visiting mom when I got there.”

Aunt Gina didn’t even look up from her plate.

“Oh yeah?  Was it my cousin Mario?

“No it wasn’t.  I thought Mario was dead?  Oh well, that’s not the point.  No I never saw him before.  He said he was an old friend of Mom’s.  Something about how he was here on business for a few days.”

“Your mother did have friends Jen.  Probably just an old boyfriend or one of her close friends in high school or something.”

That didn’t set right with Jen, especially since her Aunt refused to look at her.

“Well he was about mid-forties I guess, jet black hair with some grey streaks, maybe about…”

“Jen I don’t know who it is.  Don’t worry about it.  You should be happy someone was visiting your Mom.  Now eat your food dear.”

Jen looked a bit disgusted with how her Aunt cut her off.  The rest of the meal was eaten in silence, and Jen locked herself in her room for the remainder of the night.

The next day Jen was forced to go to church early in the morning.  She found herself sitting in a pew at St. Patrick’s, which was right across the street from Glomsgal cemetery. 

 Church never ended fast enough for Jen.  She was raised a Catholic all of her life, but just like most things in her life, Jen didn’t know if it meant anything anymore.  The priest gave the final blessing and Jen and her Aunt stood and left.  Everyone stampeded out of the small doorway at the back of the Church.  It was the only way out, and always took much longer than it should have.

Aunt Gina snapped her fingers in front of the blank stare of Jen as they moved with the crowd to leave.

“Stop daydreaming so much Jenny.”

Jen paid her Aunt little attention.  Her eyes did light up a bit when she saw someone in the far distance.  She squinted and saw that it was the man from the cemetery yesterday.  He just walked out the door.

“Aunt Gina!  Did you see that guy up there?  He just walked out the door!”

Her Aunt pretended to look in the distance, and then turned back to Jen.

“What man?  Was it your uncle Dom?  He goes to this church ya know.”

Jen let out a sound of frustration.

“No.  It was the man from the graveyard.  He was here.”

Her Aunt rolled her eyes.

“You’re still harping on that poor man?  Let it go Jen!”

Her voice was quite stern.  Jen was a bit shocked at her Aunt.  Why couldn’t she at least pretend to be interested?  She followed her Aunt to the car, and just wanted to go home, if you could call it that.

Later that night, Jen was stretched out on her bed staring at the ceiling. 

“One day I’ll figure out which side of the bed is the right one.”

She grabbed her ‘Hooters’ T-Shirt from when she used to work there, and put on a pair of flip-flops. 

“Stupid wooden floor.  So cold.”  Jen was mumbling to herself as she walked over to her closet.  She grabbed a medium sized box and placed it on her bed.  Pictures, letters, and a few books seemed to be in the box.  Jen grabbed a picture out of it, and it was of her when she was younger.  Next to her was her mother, smiling brightly.  Even though times were almost never that great, Jen could always count on her mom to be smiling at all times of the day.  A trait Jen did not have.

She smiled at the picture and laid it next to the box.  Jen began rifling through the box to see all the treasures she still had of her mother.  Towards the bottom she found something that grabbed her attention.  It was her mother’s high school yearbook.

“I hope you had a better time in high school then I did.”

Jen grabbed the yearbook and began paging through.  She found her mom’s picture in the seniors section.  Jen began reading the description below the picture aloud to herself.

“Let’s see.  Angela Mantegna.  Hmm, most likely to become a model.  Blah, blah, blah.  Favorite subject was English.  Never seen without Louis Fortuna.”

Jen then began to go back a few pages and look up the man that was mentioned.  She turned the page and froze.  It was the man from the cemetery except with more hair and about twenty five years younger. 

“Too weird.  I guess he really was an old boyfriend.”

Jen grabbed the book and began towards the door to go tell her Aunt Gina, but before she grabbed the doorknob, she paused.  Did she really want to bring this man up again to her Aunt?  She would only downplay it once again and just scold Jen for being so nosey.  Jen turned back and placed the book in the box.

“I don’t need to tell that old goat.  I figured out who the guy was on my own anyway.  No biggie.”

She placed all the items back into the box and put it into the closet once again.  It was getting late and there was nothing left to do but go to bed.

The next day arrived and once again Jen was forced to get up early.  Her Aunt pounded on the door, and Jen scrambled to let her in.

“What’s wrong?!”

“We have to go to your Cousin Julie’s birthday party tonight!  She’s turning sweet sixteen!”

Jen yawned rudely as she waved her fingers through her raven black hair.

“Well unless the party is starting at nine in the morning, I think the news could have waited.”

“Well young lady it couldn’t.  And dress in something nice.  Don’t you have a dress or something?  Something better than what you wore to sleep.  I still can’t believe you worked at that horrible place.”

Her aunt pointed to the ‘Hooters’ insignia on Jen’s chest.  Jen just shook her head, almost laughing at how incredibly dumb her aunt sounded to her.

“Yes Aunt Gina, I do in fact own a dress.  And I don’t work at Hooters anymore, I only did that for the money I needed so I could pay for college since no one helped me…Remember!”

Her aunt glared at Jen a few moments.

“Just make sure you are ready by six.”

With that said, her aunt left the room and Jen shut the door after her.

After a few hours of listening to music, checking the internet, and playing poker against her stuffed teddy-bear, Jen decided to get ready.  It was only four, but she was bored out of her mind.

In moments she was out of the shower and dialed up with make up.  She put on a short black dress, and her hair blended in with the shoulder straps since it was just as dark.  Then she doused herself with her favorite perfume, ‘Curious.’  She stood in front of the mirror and admired herself.  She had a half smile across her face; a rare sight. 

She went out into the living room where her Aunt was.  As she entered the room, Aunt Gina got up walking around Jen to check out the dress.

“You look gorgeous Jen.”

“Really?”  There was almost a glimmer of hope in her voice.

 “Yeah.  It’s too bad the dress shows too much cleavage.  Too late to do anything about that though.  I swear you are just like your mother, always trying to show too much no matter where you are going!”

 Jen sighed.  She needed to get out.

“I’m gonna go visit mom again.  I’ll be back before six, I promise.  I won’t be able to see her tomorrow since I have to leave here by about twelve.”

“Well then stop talking and get going!”

Jen mumbled to herself, grabbed a jacket and left.  She made sure she slammed the door on her way out.  It was one of her calling cards it seemed anymore.

The sun would be setting in about half an hour or so.  Jen didn’t necessarily want to be out in a cemetery after dark, but she needed to get away from her Aunt just for a little bit.

“What the hell?”

Jen pulled up to where she usually parked to visit her mom’s grave, and saw the man from the other day by the tombstone.  He didn’t notice her pull up at first.  Jen walked as fast as she could in high heels.  He finally noticed her and just stared at her blankly.  She could smell the same cheap perfume she caught wind of the first time she talked to him.

Jen stood there with her hands on her hips, and raised a brow curiously at the man.

“You sure seem to be here quite a bit.”

He let out a sarcastic chuckle.

“It would seem that way, wouldn’t it?  I told you, I don’t often get the chance to visit Angela, so I wanted to make due with the time I have.  I suppose I’ll leave then so you can have a few minutes alone with her.”

“No that’s fine.  You can stay.  I know who you are now.”

He shook his head a bit at Jen.

“You don’t have a clue who I am.”

Jen was a little startled.  Sure, she didn’t really know him, but she knew how he was linked to her mother.”

“You’re Louis Fortuna.  Mom’s old boyfriend from high school.”


The man started to walk away from Jen, heading towards his car.  Jen walked a few steps after him then stopped and shouted.

“Well then who are you?”

The man stopped and turned his head over his shoulder.  He seemed to be struggling with his words.

“I’m the guy who ‘raped’ her…”

The man didn’t start walking right away after he said it.  Jen just stood there, not even blinking.  Her mind couldn’t process the words.  Tears started to stream from her eyes, but she wasn’t whimpering.  She was confused and didn’t know what to make of the information she was just told.  Could it be true?  Is this the man who raped her mom?  Is this man’s DNA inside of her?

She ran away from the man as the thoughts finally broke through her mind.  Panic, frustration and hatred twirled around in her thoughts as she was breaking down in a painful lapse of emotions.  No need to hold it back anymore. 

Her vision was quite blurry from the tears that never seemed to stop running down her cheeks.  She looked back to see if the man was still there.  He wasn’t.  It was just as well.  The thought of grabbing her car keys and jamming them into his eyes crossed her mind in the midst of all the hurt she was going through at the moment.  She hated her Aunt for not telling her.  She hated the man for raping her mom.  She hated the world for getting its sick pleasures out of torturing her.

She sat and cried for a few minutes.  Her make up had run all over her face by this time, and she could care less about her cousin’s party anyway.

She never fully composed herself, but she finally made it back to her car.  She now knew the man who raped her mom, and gave her life.  He must have known who she was.  It didn’t matter anymore.  He wasn’t going to offer to start being her father now.  Who would want a rapist as a father anyway? 

The only question Jen couldn’t begin to figure out was why he would visit her mother so much, nineteen years after raping her.  Did he really care for her? 

Jen slowly drove back to the house.  It was half past six, but she didn’t give a shit.  As soon as she stumbled into the house her Aunt started to badger her.  She stopped a few seconds into her speech when she saw Jen sobbing.

“Good lord!  Did you get into an accident?!”

Jen shook her head and took a deep breath.

“I met the man who raped my mother, Aunt Gina.  The man you were so afraid to tell me about.”

Her Aunt gasped and started to tear up herself.  She began pacing around the room swearing under her breath.

“Are ya happy now Aunt Gina?  Instead of breaking the truth to me when I was a child and telling me who raped mom…I had to meet him face to face at the cemetery and have him tell me.  No Aunt Gina…the only accident here is me!”

Jen began to softly cry again.  She tried to be strong in front of her Aunt to let her know how angry she was with her.  Jen glared at her Aunt who stood there with her hand over her eyes. 

“Jen…that man was my ex-husband…”

Jen again could not even fathom what was being said to her.  Her face was almost childlike in her expression.  Her eyes were bloodshot and glassy from all the times she rubbed them.

“He was your mother’s best friend in high school.  Me and him married when he was twenty and I graduated high school.  We had a fight a few months later because I didn’t like him hanging out with your mother.  He left and the next morning…I found out he slept with your mother.  I divorced him…and he left town for years.  Then I found out your mother was pregnant.  I told her to get an abortion, and she refused.  She never believed in it. 

Jen was stunned at what she was hearing.  Her lips quibbled and her knees buckled, but she had to know the truth.

“I told her if she wouldn’t get an abortion, she could never let anyone know who impregnated her.  She agreed because she didn’t want the family to look down upon me or her.  So we told everyone she was raped.  We told the family the man who raped her was put into jail.  No one ever found out.  I burned Lou’s pictures and any evidence that he existed before you were born.”

Her aunt was choking on each word.

“God damn…I know this is hard for you to understand…but we had to do it.  My father would have killed me and her, but he would have tortured Lou.  The three of us belong in hell.  And that’s everything Jen…”

Her Aunt’s eyes were puffy at this point when she looked over at Jen.  She motioned for Jen to give her a hug.

“Please forgive me Jenny.  You would have never been able to handle the truth.  When your mom died…I just couldn’t bring myself to tell you.  Come on Jen…give me a hug…”

Jen stood there horrified.  Her Aunt was a liar.  Her mom was a whore.  She turned around and ran out the front door.  She almost broke her ankles because of the shoes she was wearing, but she couldn’t even feel pain at this point.  The door slammed as she jumped into her car and she took off down the road.  She didn’t know where she was going, but in the back of her mind she knew life had once again changed for the worse for her and this time she had no one to go to for support.  No longer could she cling on to a piece of cement in a cemetery to give her strength. 

She glanced to the right and saw a road sign that stated “Seton Hall 47 miles.”  After wiping her face and adjusting the rear view mirror to get a better look at herself, she began to press the accelerator a bit harder.

“Maybe I’ll take up my friends’ offers to go get a drink now…”

Living with Death - A Short Story by Joe McDonald

Tumorè, Texas was one of those places in the South West that refused to evolve to the normal life of 2007.  The people still acted like it was over a hundred years ago; they didn’t know better.  No government officials came down to check on them, most likely due to the small size of the corrupt town.  The place was a breeding ground for crime and chaos.  Very rarely did someone from the outside wander into town.  Most folks knew better to just steer away from it entirely.  The town would one day implode and crumble, and when it did that would be when the state bulldozes it and create an entirely new town.  It was less work for the government.

The small settlement used to be a thriving boom town in the late 1800’s.  The only people that live there now are the generations of families that have passed on.  Some people still carried a gun at their side, and the only thing that changed was there were more 80’s pick up trucks on the dirt roads than horses.  Otherwise the mentality of the people was still pretty much the same as it had been the last few generations. 

 It was a windy Saturday evening down at The Sunset Saloon; the local watering-hole in Tumorè.  It was fairly plain inside; a few worn wooden tables and chairs, a richly stained bar counter, and all the liquor you could ask for.  The bright red sun showered through the grubby windows, shining onto the locals who routinely came in every night to blow off some steam. 

On this evening the shabby timber door opened once more than usual.  A few eyes slowly looked upon the new figure entering the inn, but most paid no attention.  A tall figure with slick grey hair waltzed in from outside and slowly approached the bar, leaving the scent of cloves and ash behind him.  He noticed a few men nonchalantly playing cards at a table he was passing; staring at him.

 “What are you good ol’ boys drinking tonight?”  The old man’s voice was gruff with command and authority.

The men all raised a brow in disbelief that the stranger would even talk to them.  A small, malnourished gentleman was the only one to grumble out a reply to the old man.

“Whiskey and Rye, stranger.”

The old man nodded in approval and continued to the bar.  The Tender stood there leaning on the scratched surface of the counter, waiting for his new customer to place an order.

“What’ll it be stranger?”

The old man took his time sitting on a stool.  He looked to his right, feeling the eyes of someone staring through him.  It turned out to be a striking woman, about thirty or so, sitting crossed legged at the end of the bar with a martini in hand.  When their eyes met, she winked at him before taking another nip of her drink.  The old gentlemen smiled politely and returned his attention to the tender who was waiting patiently.

“I guess I’ll have what them boys over there are knocking back.  Gimme a Rye whiskey.”

“Yes, sir.”

Moments later he had his drink order, and began to nurse it.  He wouldn’t be able to enjoy it alone for long as the woman from the end of the bar came up and approached the man.  The cheap scent of perfume reeked from all over her pale body.

“You look kinda lonely over here, cowboy.”

“Probably due in large part to me sitting here alone…well before you showed up.”

His answer gagged her for a moment, but she was determined to press on.

“I’m Cassie.  I work here at the Saloon.  You’re not from around here, so you probably didn’t know that.”

“Work here huh?  And what exactly do you do?”  He finally made eye contact with her once more; his eyes sharpening as he studied her face.

“How about you give me fifty dollars and we’ll go up to my room…then I’ll show you what I can do.”  She smirked seductively and cuddled right up to the old man.  “What do ya say?”

He ignored her passes for a moment; enough to finish his drink and slam the glass onto the bar.  The cracking noise was enough to make Cassie back off a few steps.

“I suggest you just leave me alone darlin’.  I’m not a fan of what you do.”

“You threatenin’ me?”

“Nope…just telling you to get the hell away from me.”

The gorgeous blonde stood with her hands on her hips, and a scowl across her face.  She could not believe the man was rejecting her offer.  By this time a few of the local boys had seen enough of the encounter and stood behind the woman.

“Our women ain’t good enough for you mister?”  A heavy man shouted at the old man who stood there looking cool and relaxed.  “Answer me god damnit!”

The old gentlemen smirked at the men and reached quickly down inside his trench coat; in less than a second he had a .45 calibre six shooter aimed at them all, with the hammer cocked and ready to blow through someone’s body. 

“Get out…”

The people inside had enough.  The old man had lost his mind and was ready to take down anyone that got in his way obviously.  It was better to walk out now and get a drink tomorrow than die by the cool hand of an experienced gunman tonight.  The boys who came up to the old gentleman ran out, along with the others.  Cassie ran out after them all shrieking on top of her lungs.  The only man to stay was the bartender who was backed against the wall of liquor behind the counter.  Once everyone was gone the old man put his gun back in his holster.  He turned and eyed the bartender.

“Sorry ‘bout scaring all your customers, but I didn’t get out of jail to get beat up by a bunch of young punks.”

The bartender eased up only slightly enough to reply to the stranger.


“You heard me.  Funny thing…I get out of jail after thirty-two years, hoping to see the only family I got left:  my daughter.  And I find her in here…and I now realize I am the father of a whore.  Well…I used to be married to one, so I guess it’s only fitting.”

“You’re Cassie’s father!?  My God…you’re Jake Adams!  I thought you’d be dead by now!  Sweet Jesus!  I was just a teenager when you got put away!  Tumorè was scared to death with you around.  Some say you were the last great cowboy of the West…but you killed your wife and…all those people back then.”  The bartender’s voice trembled with fear that the old gunslinger was about to add him to the long list of deaths on Jake’s resume. 

 “’The last great cowboy?’  I’m just a bastard who kills people when they deserve it.  Now that I’ve seen my daughter for the second time in my life, I’ll be getting out of this shit hole.  I won’t be killin’ anymore people in this town, mister.  You people are all dead anyway.  Bunch a whores and bullies, that’s all ya are.  Nothings changed here.”

With that, the old man left the tavern abruptly knowing that a group of people would be out to lynch him soon enough if he didn’t leave the town quickly.  The tender watched as the man departed, and was left to contemplate if the killer was the bad guy, or had the people he killed really deserved it.  Either way, none of them could be saved.

Night Tales of a Princess and a Pig - A short Story by Joe McDonald

The clock in the living room began to toll nine times signifying the end of the day for five year old, Jennifer Lillix.  Her eyes darted over from the television to the clock and she quickly began to pout; she knew what time it was.

“Bed time Jenny!”  Her father walked into the room and looked down to his daughter.  “Ready for bed hunny?”


The response from Jennifer was always the same.  Jim Lillix wondered why he even asked her the same question every night when he knew the answer every night. 

“Well I’m sorry, but it is time for bed, young lady.  Come on, I’ll go tuck you in.”

Jennifer’s brown eyes rolled up towards the ceiling and she sighed heavily to show her displeasure.  Her father turned off the television and followed behind her as they began to approach the set of steps that lead upstairs.

Even at age four, young Jennifer could recognize the routine of everyone at night; her father was in charge of getting her to bed, her mother was relaxing in the shower, and her older brother was playing video games in his room.  No one else had to go to bed at nine except her, and she always wondered why.  She tried to slow down the process of going to bed every night by whining or walking slow, but she wasn’t in the mood for another lecture from her father.  Better to just get on with the process tonight.

“Daddy, is Mommy coming in to say goodnight?”

“Of course princess, she always does, right?”

Jennifer didn’t respond.  In fact she wasn’t even sure why she asked; her mother always kissed her goodnight.  Probably just a habit in slowing down her father every night.

After changing into her Spongebob jammies, Jennifer jumped into her bed.  Her father grabbed a hold of the Lazytown sheets and put them over Jennifer, tucking her into bed.

“Need anything Jenny?  Water, milk?”

Jennifer shook her head.  She had snuck a cookie a few minutes before her father busted her for bedtime.  There was no need for any late night snacks on this day.  For some reason she wanted to get some sleep quickly tonight instead of her usual late night shenanigans. 

“Are you looking forward to your fieldtrip to the zoo tomorrow, princess?”  Her father smiled proudly as if this was some big event for her life time.  Jennifer gasped and her brown eyes beamed up to her father.  The fieldtrip!  Of course!  She had forgotten about it.  That must have been why she wanted to go to bed so quickly.  It all made sense now.

“Yeah!  I forgot!  I can’t wait!”

Jim bent down and kissed his daughter on the head.

“Night sweetie.  Mommy will be in soon.  I think I heard the shower go off.”

Jennifer smiled to her father as he left.  He had reminded her of why she was so excited earlier that day.  Her kindergarten was going on the fieldtrip and her mother would be one of the chaperones.  In her young lifetime she had been to the zoo only once and loved seeing all of the animals.  She wanted to go to bed as soon as possible so she could get to what she presumed would be the best day of her life.

As promised her mother entered wearing her usual purple robe, and her hair all wrapped up like a turban in a towel.  Her mother always struck her as funny when she wore that apparel.  Jennifer did her best to satisfy her mother’s questions to get her out as quick as possible.  The sooner she left, the sooner she could go to sleep.  Her mother offered to read her a bedtime story, but Jennifer declined in an attempt to get things moving. 

“Night Mommy!”

“Oh, g’night Jenny!”

Her mother kissed her good night and left after turning off the lights.  All was now complete on the usual nightly routine of going to sleep.  Now all she had to do was wait until her eye lids shut.

A few minutes went by and Jenny stared up at her white painted ceiling which was dimly lit by the nightlight that was turned on.  Jennifer’s eyes followed the light to study the source of it.  Ah’ yes, her trusty nightlight; protector of her room that kept all of the monsters and demons away.  Without its faint light she would be horrified to even be in the room at night.

Time kept passing by as she continued to think about her nightlight when it finally dawned on her:  she was still wide awake!  All this excitement about going to the zoo tomorrow was keeping her up and making her short attention span wander to boring subjects such as her nightlight.

“This is stupid!”

She moaned in irritation and twisted around in her bed until she got into a comfortable position.  That position turned out to be on her stomach with her head facing towards the left.  She was relaxed now and she found herself slowly falling asleep; that is until her ears perked up and heard a bunch of lasers being fired in the distance. 


How could she forget about her older brother and his videogames next door?  Usually if she could give her father a hard enough time at night she could make it to nine-thirty when her brother was forced to go to bed as well.  But on this night she pushed her parents out the door in record time and he was still up and killing aliens in his pixilated universe. 

The decision had finally come to her in all of her five year old wisdom; she’d go into his room and tell him to turn off his Super Nintendo so she could go to sleep.  After all, the zoo was a major priority and she needed to go to bed; that was much more important than playing Sunset Riders, or whatever else he was playing.

Jennifer rolled out of her bed, and began the march from her room to Peter’s.  She didn’t knock, but instead burst in and glared at him.  Not the best way to get on his good side, but he was more surprised than mad to see his younger sister up, especially since it was after her bed time.

“What are you doing up!?”

“I can’t sleep because you are playing too loud!”

“So what?  I don’t have to go to bed for another fifteen minutes.  Now get out before I tell Mom and Dad!”

Eeep!  Tell Mom and Dad?  She didn’t want the situation to get even more complex that it already was.  Better to make a hasty retreat and hope she can fall asleep even with the noise.  She didn’t want the jeopardy of her field trip to be lost with a punishment from her parents.

“Well…turn it down!”  She tried to sound tough, but it was hard to do when your opponent was four years older than you and had parents backing him up.

Jennifer quickly exited the room, closing the door behind her.  She looked down the hallway; nothing but darkness.  However she heard a voice coming from downstairs.  She recognized it to be her father’s.  Her curiosity got the better of her; she tip-toed to the top of the stairs and listened to see what she could hear.

“So I said ‘You cheeky bastard!’”  The comment was followed by the loud snort of her father, and the unmistakable whiny laugh of her mother.  She was glad they were preoccupied and did not hear her bust into her brother’s room.

Back down the hall she went into her own room.  She had no choice but to snuggle back under her Lazytown bed sheets and hope she could tune out her brother.  Once more she moved and turned in her bed to get herself comfortable.  She figured if she just closed her eyes and kept them shut she’d be able to go to sleep eventually.  Of all the days to not be able to go to sleep, why did it have to be this one?

The comfort zone was reached in her mind and once more she could feel the magical sand fall over her eyes and cause her to become sleepy.  A soft smirk curled over her lips as she started to think about how great it will be to go to zoo, hoping that would be her last thought as she fell asleep.  Suddenly those thoughts were replaced with fear and confusion.”

“Mr. Stuffykins!!!”

She quickly covered her mouth as she sat up in bed.  Did anyone hear her?  No, she couldn’t hear anyone running up the stairs.  That was great but where was her stuffed animal pig, Mr. Stuffykins?  She NEVER slept without him!  Panic was setting in as she quickly dove out of bed and began searching around her room frantically.  He was no where to be found.  She searched under the bed, in the closet and even in the trashcan! 

Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse she heard her parents walking up the stairs and down the hall.  Oh no…they’d find her up!  She ran back into bed and pretended to be sleeping.  She wasn’t sure if they were going to check on her, but she couldn’t take any chances.  The opening of her brother’s door confirmed her immediate guess that it was bedtime for Peter.  She could hear the argument between her brother and father as she occasionally heard every night.  Peter wasn’t as smart as her; he thought he could change his parent’s mind of what time he had to go to bed.  Jennifer just slowed them down and went to bed when she wanted.  Well, except tonight.

 Her eyes were still shut tight, just in case her parents decided to check in on her.  Oh no!  Footsteps in her room!  Her father was still arguing with her brother, she could hear them.  So it had to be her mother.  Soft lips were planted on Jennifer’s cheek and suddenly a fuzzy body was placed next to Jenny in bed.  A moment later the footsteps left the room.  It was safe to open her eyes; and what a sight she saw!  Mr. Stuffykins, in all his piggy splendor, was staring back at her with his black bead eyes.  She hugged him tightly and now believed sleep was in her future.  Her mother must have washed him, she thought.

She twirled onto her side and tried to will herself to sleep once more; to her discontent the argument next door had only escalated and now her mother had jumped in against her brother.  Jenny could only lean up facing her pillow and punch it in frustration, rolling her eyes a dozen times. 

It only took a few more minutes for her brother to concede and go to bed.  Her parents had finally left and only silence was found echoing against the walls of the house.  This was it!  She had her stuffed pig and her brother was finally asleep.  She closed her eyes for a second when she heard it; the gurgle of her tummy had sounded so loud she could hear it.  It was either her or Stuffykins, and she had to admit she was a little hungry.

“Ok…we’ll go downstairs and get a snack and then go back to bed, ok Mr. Stuffykins?”

The pig stared blankly back at her and gave his silent support as he always did.  She scrambled out of the bed and pulled Mr. Stuffykins behind her by his arm.  The hallway was clear; she could even hear some movement in her parent’s room so she didn’t have to worry about them finding her.  It wasn’t a rare occurrence for her to wander downstairs like the brave little girl she was and grab a small snack without anyone noticing.  She knew she had her trusty sidekick to protect her should anything happen.

She lightly tip-toed down the stairs, made her way through the living room and found herself in the kitchen.  Everything was great until she stood there looking up at her father.  He had a banana in one hand and a glass of milk in the other.  He froze just as quickly as she did as if he had just been thwarted in a prison escape.  After shaking the confusion from his head he spoke up.

 “Jennifer?  What are you doing up, young lady?”

She stood there stuttering before her father without any kind of excuse.  Jennifer had forgotten that her father was a notorious late-night snacker.  She figured she’d have to come up with some tears soon to get out of this, but her father’s smile assured her no harm would come to her and her trip was still safe.

“Did you want a small snack, princess?”

“Yes, Daddy.  I’m hungry and so is Mr. Stuffykins.”

Jim Lillix wasn’t a big fan of Mr. Stuffykins ever since that night he tripped over him and fell down the stairs.  Nonetheless he got over his secret hatred for the stuffed pig and accommodated his daughter.

“Ok, you two can share a glass of milk and a granola bar BUT then you have to go to bed!”

Jenny nodded quickly and enjoyed the quick snack with her father and stuffed pig at the table.  It didn’t take long to finish the snack as she was in a hurry to get back to bed.  After kissing her father once more she ran back up the stairs, down the hallway and back into bed. 

She wrapped her arms around her pig and felt very satisfied after her small delicious treat.  At last she couldn’t think of anything else that would be able to disturb her from a goodnight’s sleep.  Her eyes were locked onto the doorway as her vision began to fade and she once more felt the sweet, sensation of sleep setting in.

MEEEOOW!!!  The cat’s announcement that she had entered Jenny’s room had caused Jennifer to once more open her eyes and glare at her kitten.

“Get out Daisy!”

The cat stood there defiant of her young master and proceeded once more to yell up to Jennifer.  Jenny quickly jumped down from her bed and chased the cat out of the room.  It was a simple enough task to do, but Jenny was tired of having to get out of her bed.  She had chased the cat as far as the stairs, and quickly turned around, heading towards her bedroom.  She didn’t like leaving Mr. Stuffykins alone too long.

As she approached her bedroom she could see something was dramatically different.  When she was close enough to her open bedroom door, she finally realized her room looked unusual.  Where was that dim, gold light she was accustomed to seeing?  Gah!  It was off!  Burned out!  No protection!  Mr. Stuffykins was at the demise of all the legendary monsters that were now huddled in her room! 

She had no choice at this point; she’d have to wake her parents.  No way could she go back into her room and go back to sleep now!  She’d be eaten for sure! 

Her small feet ran as fast as she could down to the end of the hallway by the stairs.  She stood outside her parent’s door trying to catch her breath and process all the thoughts that were clicking around her skull.  Her fear of monsters was only interrupted by weird noises and loud breathing that was coming from inside her parent’s room.  It didn’t matter, she had to knock and hope the weird noises were them awake.  She banged on the door and began screaming “Daddy!  Mommy!”

Her fists stopped banging on the door when she heard her mother yell “get off me and go answer the door!  Jennifer is crying!”  Jenny heard some erratic footsteps going all around the room and a minute later her father opened the door wearing his robe.  He looked none to pleased to see his daughter on this occasion.

“Jennifer what are you still doing up!”

“Daddy!  The light went out in my room and Mr. Stuffykins is being eaten by monsters!”  Her eyes began to get glassy and her father began to mumble under his breath about “that damned pig.”  Once he got himself under control he told his daughter to wait in the hallway.  He went down the stairs and came up a few minutes later with a new light bulb for her lamp.

“I’ll replace the light bulb, but you have to go to bed or else you aren’t going to the zoo, got it?”

Jenny looked down and nodded slowly.  Did he think she wanted to be up?  She had been trying to go to bed since nine!

It didn’t take long to replace the light bulb; Jenny could see the light once more return in her room.  She hugged her father and jumped back into bed with Mr. Stuffykins, who to her pleasure was still alive.

 “Ok, g’night princess!”

“Night Daddy!”  She beamed up at him with the biggest, fakest smile she could muster.  She had to butter him up just a little to make sure the trip was not in jeopardy.  He exited the room and once more she had the opportunity to go to bed.

“Goodnight Mr. Stuffykins.”

She snuggled with the pig once more and felt her eyes begin to shut.  Nothing else disturbed her from going to slumber and the sensation finally kicked in as she dozed off to sleep.

 Morning.  The sweet aroma of pancakes seeped through her door and began to twirl around her nostrils.  She could always count on the tang of breakfast to wake her up.  Her eyes slowly unlocked and she sat up, yawning aloud.  She hugged her pig as she usually did in the morning, and looked over to her window.  It didn’t seem to be particularly bright out.  Oh no…She could hear a light tapping against her window.  It was raining!  This was a code red!

She fell out of bed and quickly ran down the steps, dragging her stuffed pig behind her.  She knew her family was in the kitchen so she ran in and looked at them; tears running down her face.  She didn’t want to begin sobbing until she heard her mother say what she feared most.

“I’m sorry Jenny.  The trip was cancelled sweetheart.”  Even her mother’s hug could not stop the tears from flowing; she was now in full cry mode.  All that work last night to get to bed and for what?  To probably spend the day with her mother at home and watch All My Children?  Her father now did his part and picked her up and hugged her as well.  No hug could make her feel better.

“Calm down Sweetie.  They’ll reschedule the zoo trip!  You’ll go soon, I promise!

“But-but…I wanna go now!”  That only triggered more tears and her father put her down.

 “You can’t always get what you want.”  Those cold words that escaped her brother only made her angry.  She glared over at him and tried to stop herself from crying. 

“Shut up!”

“Jennifer we don’t say that here, remember?”  Her father tried to be stern but she could see in his face he was only doing his parental duty. 

“Besides…”  Her mother looked at her with a coy smile.  That look was a rare one, but when it did cross her mother’s face that meant something big was going to happen.  “…Grand pop said we can visit his farm!  I know it’s an hour away but you get to ride the horsey!  And Grandma said she was making rice pudding!  I called school and told them you were sick so you get the day off!  What do ya say?”

It may have been the news her mother just stated, or the crushed look on her brother’s face but once more that signature smile returned to Jenny’s glowing visage.  She ran over to her mother and gave her the tightest hug she could.  Her mother chuckled lightly and knew she had made everything better in her four year old’s world.

“Peter grab your schoolbag, we gotta go.”

Jenny looked over at her brother who stamped out of the kitchen after her father’s words.  She grinned at him wickedly knowing she had won the battle. 

“Bye Princess!  Have fun with your Mommy!”

With a kiss from her father she watched him and her brother walk out the front door; one going to work, the other going to school.  She on the other hand was going to take a trip to her grandparents.  Even the zoo didn’t have her grandma’s rice pudding. 

Stone Cold - A Short Story by Joe McDonald

Cloakeside, Missouri’s only real fame was in 1910 when former President William Taft had to stop there on his way to St. Louis; He stopped at a shack-for-a-motel to use the bathroom to be specific.  Otherwise it’s your average, little town in the middle of nowhere, and no one has ever herd of it.

But to the people who live there, Cloakeside is there own little world.  We all have our own tales of “this” and “that” happening in our home towns, and this small spot in Missouri is no different.

Lee Canyon was walking down the road with a suitcase hanging from one hand and a cigar hanging out of his mouth.  The gorgeous spring sun cast his long shadow from the sidewalk to the middle of the street.  Lee was a tall man; taller then anyone else in town.  He had a reputation for having a stone-cold personality.  Did I mention he was also sheriff of the local authorities?  I guess when everyone in town knows you, you would get a bit of a reputation.

Half the time, the word about Lee Canyon on the streets has very little to do with his job.  You see Lee has an off the record history of cheating on his wife.  No one can prove it exactly, but there have been stories and even a few sightings.  No one dares tell his wife from shear terror that Sheriff Canyon would throw them in jail for no reason; or maybe even worse. 

After a few minutes of walking, Lee made it to his rusty clunker of a cop car.  He flicked his cigar to the side without hesitation and slumped into the vehicle.  Without even looking to see if traffic was coming, he pulled onto the road and went on his way.  Why should he look when no one dared to cut him off or even beep their horn at him?  They knew better.

When Lee was gone, the streets started to fill back up with cars and customers, going about their business for the day.  It was the same routine every single day.  No one knew where Lee Canyon was in the afternoon, but as we already established, there were rumors.  It didn’t really matter where he was, all anyone knew was they could do whatever the hell they wanted for a few hours without worrying about a ticket or anyone scolding them for littering.  It was relief for the people.

Lee was on the other side of town today, actually; almost at the town limits.  He parked in front of a small jewelry shop and exited the car.  His boots scuffed the concrete as he made his way up the steps and shoved his way through the wooden door.  The man at the counter was innocently listening to the radio, but immediately got to his feet when he saw it was Sheriff Canyon.

“Hello sir!  Wh-wh-what can I help ya with today?” the man said.

Lee shifted his eyes around the room and didn’t respond.  He went over to the counter and looked at some of the necklaces for sale.  He scanned them one by one and then picked up a gold chain with a broken heart pendant on it.  After a moment of studying it, he placed it softly in his pocket and glared at the man behind the counter.

“I guess it’s going to cost me an arm and a leg for that isn’t it?  Isn’t it?!  You piece of garbage!”

“Settle down Mr. Canyon!  I’ll give ya fifteen percent off.  Hell, make it twenty!  Say, is this for ya wife?”

Lee searched his pocket for some money but was having some difficulty locating his wallet.  He looked up with a grim expression and sharpened his eyes at the man.

“Turn that damn radio off, Punk!  I can’t concentrate!”

“Yes sir, Mr. Canyon.”

As the man went to the radio he was listening to what was being said.

“That’s right Southern Missouri; Mrs. Mary Canyon was reported dead at the scene of her house.  Her husband Lee Canyon, Sheriff of Cloakeside, is no where to be found to be notified.  State authorities are trying to get a hold of him as we speak.  If you have seen Mr. Canyon please notify him immediately.  Just a tragic event for a distinguished figure of Missouri.  It pains me to have to report this.  Also if you have any information on who was responsible for this tragic event, please notify the authorities!  Please contact…”

“SHUT THAT OFF!” bellowed Lee.

The man stuttered but turned it off. 

“Mr. Canyon, that was about your wife!

“How tragic…” Lee said not so convincingly.  “I gotta go back to the car and get the money for this.”

Lee made his way back outside and left the man alone.  The man looked stunned at how calmly Lee was taking this.  He then started to punch in numbers on the cash register to complete the order.

“Oh, Mister??!”

The cashier looked up and his expression turned to pure fear.  He was staring at the barrel of a 12’ gauge shotgun.  Holding the gun was none other then the crotchety, Sheriff Canyon.

“I didn’t do anything Sheriff!  Please!”

The man got on his knees, crying and begging for his life.  He didn’t understand what he had done to Lee.

“You know too much, kid.  That gold chain ain’t for my wife, as you can see I don’t have any.  It’s for me.”

With that being said, Lee pumped the shotgun, aimed and fired.  The man’s final scream couldn’t be heard over the roaring sound of the shotgun.

“No one questions me…and no one tells me what to do…er’ who to be with…YOU HEAR ME MARY!”

Lee leaned the gun near the counter and reached into his pocket.  He wrapped the necklace around his neck and sealed the bond closed so the ends would stay together.  Once he was done that he grabbed the gun and walked at a fast pace out the door.  He knew full well someone would be around soon.

The thought hadn’t even registered completely in his mind and a woman was already running towards the jewelry shop.  She was probably about twenty-five, and she was very attractive.

“Sheriff Canyon!  What happened in there!?”

Lee pointed the shotgun at her.  She fell back and hit her head on the side of his car.

“Get in the car, woman” he commanded coldly.

She did as he said and when she was in the passenger seat of the police car he got in the driver’s side.  He started the car and took off before anyone even noticed what happened.

2 for 1 - A Short Story by Joe McDonald

 “Dad…I’m only gonna say this one more time:  I don’t know anything about Laundry detergents!  For God’s sake, just pick one!”

Keith Adams held his head in frustration as he stood watching his father in front of various multi-colored detergents.  They had been there a few minutes, and to Keith this was a trivial task holding them up from getting home.

“Keith, calm down.  I know you want to watch the playoffs, but I need to make sure we get the best one.”

“The best one?  Mom just picks the one on sale!  Look!  Cheer is on sale, damnit!”

“Calm down…I don’t like Cheer.”

The pacing then began for Keith, up and down the aisle, as he did whatever he could to get his mind of his Dad’s bungling.  He wanted to get home to see the Indians game.  How his Dad talked him into going to the supermarket still astounded him.

After a few more minutes, Mr. Adams finally put a container of ‘Wisk’ in the cart.  They made their way to one of the checkouts, predictably one of the more crowded ones Keith noticed.  He was about to scream at his dad again when he caught sight of the cashier.  The girl he laid his eyes on was quite appealing to him.  Dirty blonde hair, brown eyes, a cute smile…but then again all he had was eye candy in his life.  He hadn’t had a girlfriend in years.  College was not the fish infested ocean he thought it was going to be.

Shit.  He looked over and saw his dad noticed he had been staring at the girl.  Keith’s father was notorious for embarrassing him in these situations.  Even though Keith was twenty-one years old, his father still humiliated him and had no idea he was doing it.  Mr. Adams constantly gave him the speech about “how he needed a girlfriend” because “it’s normal to have one.” He knew the words by heart.  And in these moments he would try to give Keith a push, no matter who the girl was.

They began to put their items on the rolling black rubber, and Keith silently prayed his dad didn’t say a word. 

“Hello sir.’ The girl said casually.  She probably was forced to say it a thousand times a day every time she worked.

“Why hello there!  Looks busy today huh?”

Keith rolled his eyes at his father’s words.  The girl didn’t want to be pestered by a middle aged moron bent on destroying his son’s self esteem.

“Yeah seems like it.”  She slowly rang up each item, placing them one by one in paper bags and handing them over to Mr. Adams.  She didn’t even look in Keith’s direction.  As worried as he was about his father saying something stupid, he still couldn’t get his eyes off her.  She was stunning up close and her perfume seemed to hypnotize his nostrils. 

“Do you go to college?”

“Yeah…I’m a junior at Knox.”

Keith’s eyes widened.  Knox University was the same school HE went to.  It was over.  She played right into his father’s hands.

“Knox University!  Why my son goes there, isn’t that right Keith?!”

Keith knew his face was red, but put a fake smile on anyway.  It was the first time the girl even looked at him.  Their eyes met and she gave him a warm smirk as if she knew the emotions and thoughts going through his head.

“Hi…I’m Mallory.  What are you?  Junior?”

He didn’t know what was worse, the butterflies running in his stomach or that damn grin across his father’s face.  He didn’t let either stop him from answering.

“My name’s Keith.  I’m actually a senior.”

“You gonna be around KU tonight?”

Mr. Adams winked to his son and decided it was time for him to take the purchased items in the cart and go outside.  Keith felt a little more comfortable now that his dad was gone.

“I guess I could be.  Why?”

“Why don’t you meet me at “Outsiders” tonight?  I know this is a little forward…but you seem cute.  I feel bad for anyone who just went through all that embarrassment with your dad.  You deserve to get a little fun out of it, right?”  She snickered a bit waiting.

Keith looked stunned while she beamed with anticipation for his answer.  He looked over his shoulder and saw the customers behind him were getting impatient.

“Alright, sure.  I’ll meet ya there around eight.  Sound good?”

“I’ll see ya then.  Bye!”

With a goodbye wave, Keith headed for the doors.  Did that really just happen?  He was never asked out on a date by any girl in his four years of college.  Why would she want to go to a dance club with a dog-eared second rater like him? 

Still, the more he thought about it, the more excited he got.  He did think she was beautiful, and she was obviously a sweet girl.  She probably only felt sorry for him, but she was still nice enough to go out with him, even if it was most likely for one night.

He made it to the car and helped his dad finish packing the groceries in the trunk.

“So…how’d it go?”  Mr. Adams was grinning with delight.

“How’d what go?”

“Keith…the girl!  Did you ask her out?”

Keith shook his head slightly as he was so annoyed with this little routine.  Did he have to ask him this every time he talked to a girl?

“No Dad.  How many times do you have to do this?  Do you ever listen to me?!  I tell you not to do this all the time!  Seriously!”

His Dad just pretended to ignore Keith’s comments. 


Keith sat and decided not to tell his did about Mallory.  He didn’t need to know he was going to meet her.  He’d just make a big deal out of it anyway.  On the drive home they were both silent, but Keith had a slight smirk across his face.

When they got back it was only a little after two.  Keith had plenty of time before his big date.  He passed the time by surfing the web, playing his X-box, and watching the last five innings of the Indians-Blue Jays game.  The Indians won, putting Keith in an even better mood than he already was.

“Must be my lucky night!”

Six-thirty.  It was time for Keith to get ready.  There was something so different when getting ready for a date then just getting ready for a normal, routine day.  You took your time when you shaved, you actually paid attention to each strand of your hair you combed, and you doused yourself with cologne.  Keith was no exception to this. 

He quickly got a shower, and got himself ready.  About twenty minutes later he checked himself out in the mirror and smiled.  He wore his favorite button down shirt; left the top few buttons open, and had on good jeans and his throwback Nikes.  He was scared of making an ass of himself, but he did not get many chances as this.  He was ready to go to ‘Outsiders.’

‘Outsiders’ was a dance club-bar in Knox, Ohio where the University was.  Keith lived in Pumpkin Creek, which was about fifteen or so minutes from the club.  He hopped in his black Trans Am and began the trek.

As he was getting closer to his destination his confidence began to slip.  Suddenly he was hoping he put on enough deodorant.  He checked the rear view mirror to see if he was sweating noticeably; he was.

“Shit…relax damnit!  It’s just a date!”

He sighed and smirked to himself in the mirror.

“Your first date in years…”

The thought of being out with the girl seemed to make him relax a bit.  He had thoughts of her not even showing up, but he put them aside as he drove past the club.  There she was standing outside, waiting.  She didn’t see Keith because she had no clue what kind of car he drove.  At the very least he knew she showed up.  That was one less thing to panic about.

He parked in the lot next door, and walked towards her.  Ten yards seemed like ten miles as he walked.  His heart was beating in his ears and his lips suddenly got dry.  He wanted to run away or jump in the middle of traffic, but he came this far; he knew he had to see it through.

“Hey there Mallory.  You look…good.”  He wasn’t sure what to say and already felt like an idiot.

A coy smirk came across her face when he complimented her.  She knew he was nervous.

“Why thank you!”  She spun around playfully so he could look her over, and then laughed.  “I’m glad you made it Keith!”

He laughed anxiously.

“You kidding?  When a total stranger asks me out I jump all over it!”

Mallory laughed and flashed her dark brown eyes a few times at him.  She knew he liked her.  He was not some jackass looking for a one-night stand as she was mostly accustomed to. 

“Well, you wanna stand outside all night or go inside?”

She grinned and didn’t wait for his response.  Her hand took his and she led him through the doors.  Keith’s heart almost jumped up his throat if he didn’t compose himself. 

Cascada’s “Every time we touch” was exploding through the speakers and the bass was not helping Keith calm down.  He was sure Mallory could feel the clamminess of his hand as she led him through the crowd.

“Get me a drink?”

“Sure…give me a sec.”

Keith knew she wasn’t twenty-one but there was no harm in getting her a drink.  Hell, the place didn’t even card them when they walked in.  They didn’t care as long as they gave their money up front.

“Ummn…one Malibu bay-breeze…and a rum and coke.”

Keith leaned against the bar waiting for the drink order.  He stared over at Mallory as she was waiting for him.  He was practically drooling over her outfit.  She seemed so down to earth…he didn’t believe she was real yet.  His thoughts were interrupted when the bartender demanded the money to pay for the drinks.

After paying Keith brought her the drink.

“Thanks!  So you like to dance?”

“To be honest…I don’t think I ever have in my life.”

“Never danced?  Why would you agree to come here then, Keith?  Should have told me!”

Keith took a sip of his drink before he responded, giving himself a few seconds to think clearly.  Everything he said would be critical if he wanted this date to go well.

“Well…I didn’t really care where we went.  I’m just am glad to be anywhere with you right now.”

She gave him a hug and then leaned on him for a moment as she herself took a long taste of her drink.

“You’re so sweet to me…and you don’t even know much about me.”

“I know I like what I’ve seen so far.”

She smiled at him and bit down on her lip some.

“Well…I’ll tell you what.  How about we finish our drinks, and me and you dance for a little?  Sound good?  And if you really don’t like it we can leave and take a walk or something.”

“Hey, I’m willing to make an ass of myself at least once.  No one here knows me.”

“How do you know?  You go to this college.”  She was confused by Keith’s response and wanted clarification.

“I mean…I don’t really have a lot of friends at KU.  So I doubt anyone here knows me.  Hey, it’s ok.”  He threw his empty cup away.  “Let’s dance.”

She downed the rest of her drink and tossed the empty container away.  Mallory led him to the dance floor.  He didn’t think he could get used to the lights flashing in his eyes every few seconds.  Moments later the last thing his mind was on was the lights.  Mallory stood in front of Keith with her back facing him, and her arms up in the air slightly.

“Put your hands on my hips and come in closer on me.”

He almost laughed in disbelief but decided to listen to her since he knew nothing and why should he complain?  He was holding onto a gorgeous girl that actually told him to.

“Closer Keith…don’t be shy.”  She looked over shoulder and shot him a reassuring smile.

He pulled her back to him until their bodies met.  She began to shake her hips, popping them in and out, clicking in with the bass.  Keith did his best to keep up but felt so uncoordinated.

“Hey you aren’t bad!”  She giggled back to him.

“Well…neither are you!”

“What?”  The music was too loud for her to hear.

“I said you’re absolutely spectacular, Mal!”

She slowly turned around, but continued to shake her ass to the beat of the music.  She was looking into his eyes and leaned up and kissed him on the lips softly for a moment.  He was so surprised he stopped moving altogether. 

“You’re a nice guy.  Want to go take a walk?”

Keith stared at her and saw the sweat on her neck and cleavage.  They weren’t dancing long, but he knew she was as hot as he was.  The place was thick with sweat and adrenalin and neither of them could really talk.  After she kissed him, Keith wanted to be alone with her anyway.

“Yeah…let’s blow this pop stand.”

She shook her head laughing, and they waded through the deep sea of people to the front doors.  Keith nodded to a bouncer and then sighed in relief as the fresh air hit his face. 

“Well…we were there about twenty minutes; you think it was worth the ten bucks?”

 Keith laughed at her question.

“Sure it was!  I had a good time.  It’s just so loud…and bright.  I am not used to that kind of atmosphere.  So where to?”

“Let’s just, like…walk around and talk.”  She shrugged.

The two began on foot down the walkway, side by side.  They were silent a few minutes, thinking of things to say to one another.

“Hey Mal…I’ve known you for like…a few hours.  I’m not complaining, but why in the world did you want to go out with me tonight?”

She looked to the ground smiling to herself, letting out a soft laugh.

“You must think I’m some kind of whore…”

“A whore?  Shit, I think you’re an angel.  I just don’t understand why you wanted to go out with me tonight, that’s all.”

“Well…I kinda felt you staring at me the whole time in the market.  You’re cute Keith, and a nice guy.  I knew you didn’t have the guts to ask me, so I did it for ya.”

He glanced over at her and found Mallory looking at him, smiling back.  His hands fell limp to his sides; he made sure they were close enough so his hand brushed against hers as they walked.  She giggled aloud, and took his in her hand.

“You’re not the smoothest operator are you?”

“That wasn’t smooth enough for ya?”

Keith stopped and tugged at her arm so she’d halt.  He bent over and kissed her gently on the lips.  When he stopped he slowly leaned back.  He didn’t know what made him do it, but it felt so right.

“That smooth enough?”  He smirked.  She still looked stunned at his actions.


They walked a little longer, and eventually made it to her car.

“I guess you’re gonna hit the road then?”

“Yeah, I think so.  It’s starting to get late and I have work in the morning.”

Keith peered into her car and saw a Yankees cap.  He quirked an eye at it and then looked at her.

“You like baseball?”

“Not really, why?’  She laughed at his question like she had no idea why he would ask her that.

“You have a New York Yankees cap in your car.”

She looked through the window and saw it.  Keith noticed her expression changed, and she seemed to be concerned over the hat as if it was a shotgun staring her down.

“Well…I like the Yankees…that’s all.”

It seemed plausible to Keith.  He knew plenty of people who wore Yankees stuff and didn’t know anything about baseball.  He hated the New York Yankees.  Still, he didn’t think that should have made her worried.  Did he do something wrong by looking in her car?  Was there something in there she didn’t want him to see?

“Oh.  Sorry I looked in your car.  I guess that was kinda nosey.”

“Hey, no worries.”

Keith couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something was wrong.  He really liked her and didn’t want to screw things up yet.

“Well hey; The Yankees are coming to Cleveland to play the Indians next weekend.  Wanna catch a game?”

She stood there a moment thinking about it, but finally looked up and smiled.

“Sure.  I’d love to.”

 Mallory wrote her number on a piece of paper and handed it to him.

“That’s my house number.  Just ask for Mallory.  If my parents or someone asks who’s calling, just say a friend.  Sorry, my family is kinda weird.  I just wanted to give you a heads up.”

Keith played with the paper before putting it in his pocket. 

“Don’t you have a cell?”

“Yeah…but…I don’t really use it.  Just call my house.”

All these quirks at once were starting to get Keith suspicious, but he played it cool.  She wrapped her arms around him and gave him one last tight hug before they parted ways.

“I’ll talk to ya later!”  She smiled flirtatiously, and that was the last thing he saw before she drove away. 

He couldn’t help but do a silent celebration, and pump his arm in happiness. 

“I guess all those stupid chain letters I never do didn’t give me a hundred years of bad relationships after all.”

The week at college went by as slow as possible.  Keith had papers and presentations to keep him busy though.  For once schoolwork was actually helping him pass the time.  It was Tuesday night and he figured it was probably time he put Mallory’s number to good use.

He picked up his cell phone and dialed her number.  He assumed he would be nervous, but he was more or less comfortable.  She seemed to put his fears to rest the other night when they went out.  Something about her just seemed to make him so relaxed.


Keith was silent for a few seconds when he heard the other person’s voice.  It must have been her mother’s.  He didn’t expect to hear anyone but Mallory, and then remembered it was her house number.

“Oh…sorry.  Is Mallory there?”

“Just a moment.”

Keith waited on the line.  He thought he heard the woman say ‘it’s Danny’ in the background.  A few seconds later Mallory got on the phone.


She sounded so disappointed.  He wondered if she was grounded or something. 

“Hey Mal…its Keith.  I think your mom, or whoever that was, said I was someone else.”

“Keith?  Oh wow, yeah my mom thought it was someone else!”

They both laughed.  She seemed to be in a much better mood now that she knew who it was.  Weird.

“I just called to ya know, see what’s up.”

“Heh, not much really.  Doing a paper on Moby Dick.  So lame.  How about you?”

“Nothing.  You still wanna go to a game this weekend?  Like…Friday night?”

She seemed to hesitate a moment.

“Sure, yeah, I guess so.  Pick me up at my house.  You know that Exxon by Dixon Hall in K-U?

“Yeah.  I get my gas there sometimes.”

“Well make that left before the gas station.  I live on that road.  I’m 439, on the left.”

“Ok.  I’ll pick you up at six.  Have fun with your paper.”

“Shut up!”

She gave a light hearted giggle after she said it.  Her laugh made Keith smile.


Keith heard her hang up and put the phone back in his pocket. 

 The next few days passed by relatively quickly for Keith, but of course not quick enough.  It was Friday and he was in his room buttoning up his Travis Hafner jersey.  He always wore it when he went to Jacobs Field to catch a game.

Keith grabbed his keys and was just about to head out of his room when he saw his dad come to the door.

“Whoa champ, heading to the game tonight?”

“Yeah actually…should be a good one.”

His dad purposefully blocked the door so he couldn’t escape.  Keith knew what the next question was going to be before his dad asked.

“Who ya going with?”

Keith managed to dodge the “Mallory situation” from his Dad for almost a week.  He eventually would tell him about her, but not tonight.  He didn’t want his dad going insane in a joyous cheer and make him late in picking up Mal.

“A friend.  I’ll tell you about it when I get home.  I have to go before I’m late.”

That was Keith’s opening and he took it by rushing past his father, and outside to his car.  Fifteen minutes later he was in Mallory’s driveway.

He was about to get out of the Trans Am when she rushed out of her front door and got in on the passenger side.  He figured she must have heard him pull in.

“Wow!  I like your car!”

He smiled proudly and pulled out of her driveway to begin the trip to trip Jacobs field.

“Hear me pull in?”

“I was waiting by the window looking out for you.”

“Cool.”  He adjusted his mirror as he was stopped at a red light.  She took advantage of him not looking and messed up his hair playfully.


She giggled at him, and he couldn’t help but smile.

“Hey, you aren’t wearing your Yankees hat.”

As soon as Keith asked, that same scared look draped over her face.  He immediately regretted asking, but it seemed like a simple enough question.

“I just forgot it, ok?”

“Hey, it’s cool.  No biggie…”

After that Keith decided it best to turn the radio on.  The hat had some kind of stigma on it with her and she obviously had no desire to talk about it.

About ten minutes went by without either of them saying a word.  Keith didn’t know if she was mad at him or just wanted to enjoy the radio.  She didn’t seem like a quiet girl, so he figured it was the first option.

“Hey Mal…I’m sorry, ya know if I said anything to upset you.  I really…like you, and I don’t want to make you mad or anything.”

She looked over at him a little startled by his words. 

“Keith…You’ve only known me six days…why do you like me?”

“I could easily ask you the same question Mal.  You’re the one who took a chance on me.”

“Yeah…I mean…I’m not saying I…what?  What are you looking at?” 

She saw his eyes go wide with terror.  He was choking on his words and reached over letting go of the wheel and grabbed her.  She saw a white light getting brighter on his complexion as he did.  The car drifted for a moment before she blacked out and felt her door buckle in.  Keith screamed out trying to desperately protect her from the oncoming vehicle that slammed into her side of the car.  On impact his head was driven into the side of the window and he fell limp as well.  

 They say that when you go through a terrifying physical or emotional event you may at times relive it over and over in your mind.  It’s called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Keith didn’t know what it was called; his eyes burst open and he sat up screaming in fright.  He kept seeing the truck over and over coming right towards Mallory’s side of the Trans Am.  There was nothing he could do to stop it or prevent it from getting to her. 

He stopped screaming when he saw his mom and dad standing in front of him.  He was confused and held his head.  There was a consistent racking pain there.  His breath was short and sweat was glazed all over his body.  Realization dawned on him that he was laying down on a bed in a hospital room.

“Where is she?!”

A nurse came over to him and put a pack of ice on his head.  She grabbed his hand and placed it over the ice.

“Hold it there.”

“I don’t give a crap about my head!  Where is Mallory?!”

The nurse grimaced and Mr. Adams came over and grabbed Keith’s open hand and squeezed it.

“Son, listen to the nurse.  You were in a nasty car accident.  Thank God you didn’t get too hurt, save for that knock on your head.  Please…”

Keith’s eyes were swelling up with tears.  His eyes were already bloodshot and somewhat blurry, but he couldn’t help but begin to break down.  No one would give him the answer he wanted, just information he already knew.

“IS SHE ALIVE?!  Tell me damnit!”  He slammed his fist down on the rail of his bed in frustration. 

His Mom and Dad looked at one another, a bit confused at the question.

“What do you think…?”

His head turned in the direction where the voice came from.  All he found was a big draped curtain.

 “Mallory?”  His voice was full of hope as he sat upright trying to look around the curtain, but to no avail.  Mr. Adams helped out by pushing the curtain open revealing Mallory lying on her own bed and a nurse cleaning out a nice gash on her arm.

“Hey!  That’s the girl from…”

Keith cut off his father quickly.

“Mal!  You’re okay!  I was scared that…that…”

“Shhh…I’m fine Keith.  We both are.  My family is on their way.  When they get here I think a doctor is coming in to tell us how we are.”

“The nurses say you guys might have to stay over night.” Chimed in Mrs. Adams.

After that statement, a frantic woman ran in the room followed by an older gentleman and a guy that looked to be in his low-twenties.  Keith’s eyes sharpened when he saw that the guy had on the same Yankees cap he saw in her car last weekend. 

“Mom!”  Mallory put her arms around her mother when she ran to her side.  Keith assumed this was her family.  While that was going on he decided he’d show his parents some attention.  He ignored them pretty much since he was so worried about Mallory.  He knew he was wrong, but he wasn’t thinking clearly when he woke up.  By now he settled down some.

“Hey Mom, Dad.  Sorry…I was just concerned about her.”

“Oh Keith, we were very worried about you!  We came up when we were contacted.  You were unconscious when we got here!  I’m so happy you are alright!”

His mom wiped some of the sweat off his forehead.  She was panting as she was so worried for her son.

“Yeah, you took a pretty good lump son.  Doctor should be coming in any minute now to tell us if you two can go home tonight.  I’m just glad you aren’t seriously hurt.”

Keith’s Dad leaned in close to talk to his son a bit more privately.

“Why didn’t you tell me you went out with the girl from the market?”

“I was going to…I just knew you’d…be you…sorry, it’s my fault.”

Mr. Adams frowned but nodded.  He pulled his head back and stood straight when a doctor came into the room.  The two nurses left as soon as he entered. 

“Hello everyone.  My name is Doctor Glanson.  I’ve been working here at St. Monica’s for about six years.  Before I say anything, Keith and Mallory are fine.  So no one has to worry about internal injuries or major bones broken or anything of that sort.  Mr. Adams took a nasty hit to his head and Ms. Blake scraped up her arm pretty bad, but I’d say they were both very lucky.”

The man seemed to know what he was talking about.  Keith and Mallory’s parents all seemed relieved that the two were okay.

“Unfortunately…they are both going to have to stay here overnight.  It is just for observation, but they took the hit around six-thirty, and it is already nine-thirty.  They both were unconscious for a few hours, and I think it would be best to stay here just incase any trauma, headaches, or several limbs start to feel aggravated.”

Keith directed his attention from the doctor to Mallory’s mother when she began to speak.

“Doctor when can we take them home?”

“Tomorrow morning.  Visiting hours begin at eight in the morning, but I would say come around Tenish.  I have a few questions I’d like to ask them tonight and also possibly run a few simple tests, such as an eye exam, early in the morning.  I am sure you folks have plenty of questions for your children, but I am afraid I must ask you all to leave so I can re-evaluate them.  You’ll be able to ask them everything tomorrow.  Did the state trooper give all of the information to you folks?”

Mallory’s parents shook their heads.

“We did Doctor.  He was making a report to one of the nurses in here.  He apparently followed the ambulance to the hospital.  We talked to him.” declared Keith’s Dad.

“Well Mr. Adams perhaps you and your wife could fill in Ms. Blake’s guardians.  I will you see you all tomorrow and of course contact you during the night if for any reason a problem arises.  I am very sorry you can’t stay, but the hospital is extremely busy and it is very critical at this time of night that we make sure everyone is okay.  I would allow you to stay if there were more serious injuries, but they were brought in at a time of night where the hospital is switching staff and that’s why I think it is best for them to stay over night.  I need to re-evaluate them.  Thank you.”

Both set of parents were dumbfounded by the Doctor’s words.  They wanted more information from their children about the accident.  Mallory’s mom was about to protest when her husband guided her to the doors.  Keith’s mom kissed his forehead and left with his dad. 

Keith looked over to Mallory and saw the guy that came in with her parents.  He assumed it was her brother…until the guy leaned down and kissed her on the lips.  Keith lied there horrified, his lips twisting into a sullen frown.  The kid glared over at Keith and left the room. 

Keith knew what was going on then.  She was using him.  That must be her boyfriend.  A tear gently flowed down his cheek.  He thought his heart would explode in his chest from the torment he was feeling.  He only went out with her twice…but he thought he felt something.  Then again, he didn’t know how it felt to like anyone really.  That was the first girl he cared for in the first time in his life.  He thought he had something…instead he was just a big fool. 

Mallory turned to him and saw his face.  She closed her eyes softly and a puckered brow enveloped her face.  She knew he saw what happened. 

The Doctor was still in the room as all this realization was going on.

“I checked out Mallory earlier when she woke up and she is all clear.  We had to stitch up a wound she had on her arm, and the nurses cleaned out some cuts.  Keith, you had a large swelling on your head.  The police report says you hit your head on the window.”

Keith didn’t feel like talking at the moment.  All he could think about was how stupid he was.  He should have known it was all too good to be true with Mallory. 


He shook his head and looked to the doctor.  The only way to get him off his back was to answer him.

“Yes, that’s correct.  I remember I went to grab Mallory…and on impact, I hit my head on my window.  That’s the last I remember.”

The doctor was writing things on a tablet as he spoke.

“Now Keith, you don’t have any broken bones?  Any back pains?  Head pains?  Vision impairment?  Any problems moving around?”

“No.  I’m pretty stiff and my eyes are a little fuzzy.  I cried a little earlier, that might have something to do with it.”  Keith was getting annoyed and just wished the doctor would leave him alone.

The doctor flashed a small light in both of Keith’s eyes checking them.  He wrote down few more notes and looked up to Keith.

“Your eyes are bloodshot right now so it’s hard to say.  We’ll wait for the morning and give you an eye examination.  My advice for both of you is to get as much rest as possible.  Right now your bodies are very tense and it is hard to say how you will feel in the morning.  You both have call buttons next to your bed if you have any trouble in the night.  Nurses will check in on you every once in a while to make sure you are okay.  Overall you both seem to be in good shape.  I shall see you tomorrow morning.  Any questions?”

The two just mumbled and shook their heads.  With that the doctor smiled for the first time and left the room.

Keith laid in his bad staring at the ceiling.  The silence was maddening to him.  She knew he saw the guy.  He wanted to just get up and leave the room and never talk to her again.  It was bad enough his body felt stiff and achy, but now his emotions were going all over the place.  He began to cough on his bile as it rose in his throat. 

“Keith…you alright?”

He coughed for a few seconds longer until it went back into his stomach.  He was worrying himself into a mess and his body was in no shape for it.

“Yeah I guess.”  His words were cold and complacent. 

“Aww Keith.  I know what it looks like.  I…I was going to tell you...but…”

He cut her off sharply.

“But what?  Were you gonna tell me when you got tired of me?”

“Keith!  It’s not like that!  You don’t understand!  I didn’t want this to happen.”

“Mal, what I understand is I was in a car accident tonight.  My body is hurting, yet it’s nothing compared to how my heart feels.  Ya know what; maybe I did get too attached too early, but damnit Mal!  For the first time in my life I thought someone liked me.  She was beautiful and sweet and I seemed to get along with her.  You Mal, I liked you!”

Keith could see the tears streaming down her face.  She put her head into her hands and sobbed.

“Keith I do like you!  I just…I can’t…I can’t be with you…”

“Listen, I can’t talk about this anymore.  In the morning I’m sure your boyfriend will take you home.  I’m sorry about the accident; I never wanted you to get hurt, even if this happened.  Just…get some rest and we’ll both pretend this was one sick, evil dream.”


He turned on his side facing away from her.  She was sobbing terribly, and closed the curtain in-between them.  He knew he wouldn’t sleep much.  With everything on his mind, the injuries to his body, and her crying he probably wouldn’t get any.  A part of him still felt bad for her, but he was too miserable himself to think much of it.  In the morning he knew he’d be able to get out and go home.


The sunlight seeped in through the blinds and seemed to be drawn directly to Keith’s closed eye lids.  He grumbled as he put the covers over his head trying to shield himself from the light.  It was morning, and he was emotionally and physically drained.  He felt like one gigantic bruise. 

After a few minutes of pretending to be asleep he finally looked over and saw a clock. It was eight-thirty; the doctor would probably be on his way soon to drone on some more.  He noticed the curtain was still up between him and Mallory.  His interest perked even more when he heard voices in the room.  One was Mallory; the other was unfamiliar to him, but male.  He stayed under his covers trying not to move much so he could overhear the conversation. 

“Danny, I’m allowed to go out without your permission!  I told you, he’s a friend and we were going to a baseball game.  That’s all!”

“You don’t tell me anything Mal.  And that isn’t all.  I’m tired of you never answering your cell phone when I call you.  When are you gonna learn?”

Keith was smirking momentarily thinking “the bitch deserves it,” but his expression soon faded when he heard the words of this “Danny.”  He assumed it was obviously her boyfriend.

“Learn?  I was just in an accident Danny!  Keep your voice down!”

“Don’t tell me what to do!”

Then Keith heard a sound that made his brow narrow and his eye twitch.  It was the sound of hard contact against flesh.  After that he could hear Mallory howling in pain; crying out in a terrified frenzy as if Danny picked up a scalpel and shoved it into her throat.  It was obvious Danny had hit her pretty hard. 

“You stupid bitch…”

Keith had heard enough.  He slowly rolled out of the bed onto his feet.  It was the first time he stood at the hospital and he felt wobbly at first but quickly regained his balance.  His body was hurting, but too much adrenalin was rushing through his veins.  He started to walk slowly so he could confront this kid.  Danny was starting for the door when he saw Keith on his feet.  He was a little startled but didn’t seem like he cared much.  He continued towards the door as if he was going to leave.

“Hey…Fucker…get back here.”  Keith words seemed to pierce Danny’s ears as he took his hand off the door knob and turned to face Keith.

“What?  What did you just say?”  His cold eyes were scowling and met Keith’s.

“No one slaps that girl in my presence.   You son of a bitch…you abusive son of a bitch!  Its people like you that make it hard for an honest guy to even go out with a girl anymore.”

Danny darted over towards Keith, but was met with a hard right hand to his chin and he fell over a portable table.  He slumped to the ground immediately, and the table along with a tray that was resting on it, landed on top of him.  Even Keith was stunned at what he just did.  Danny was stirring on the ground, but didn’t get up. 

Keith looked over at Mallory who had stopped crying by this time.  She quickly got out of her bed and went to Keith, hugging him so tightly he almost lost his balance.  A nurse and very tell security guard entered the room and saw Danny on the ground.

“What is going on in here!?  We heard a loud bang from down the hall.  Who is this?  Why aren’t you in bed?  Where is Doctor Glanson?”

As the nurse was badgering off questions to Mallory and Keith, the security guard picked up Danny and restrained him.  Mallory spoke up when she saw Danny was being held.

“He is my Ex-boyfriend.  He came in here and slapped me, and my boyfriend Keith took care of him.”

Keith’s eyes lit up as she spoke.  This was all going so fast.  He couldn’t understand all of what was happening, but he knew he wanted Danny out of the room so he could get some answers from Mallory.

The security guard had heard enough and took Danny out of the room.  The nurse practically threw Keith back in bed and checked him over to make sure he was not hurt.

“What are you doing throwing punches after being in an accident?!  You crazy fool!  Now lie in that bed and wait for the doctor to discharge you!  That goes for you as well Ms. Blake!”

Mallory did as she was told and got back into bed.  She pushed the curtain back between them and started laughing in joy. 

“It’s finally over!”

“Mallory!  What the hell is going on!?”

She finally looked over at him with a broad smile on her face.

“Keith…I couldn’t tell you about Danny.  He is…was my boyfriend, but I never wanted to be in a relationship with him.  We were going out for two months and I didn’t like how he treated me so I tried to break up with him.  He…”

Mallory paused for a moment as if she was re-living some traumatic experience over again.  She brought her knees up to her chest and held them.

“He…threatened me.  He…he said he’d kill me if we ever broke up.  I was so afraid to tell my Mom or Dad because Danny was so convincing.  He’d slap me around and scream at me.  I always had to invent new excuses to my parents on what happened to my face.”

A few tears came down her face as she continued.

“Keith…I really do like you.  I feel like shit for lying to you, but there was no other way.  I know it sounds stupid, but I just thought you seemed like a nice guy.  Dan never took me out except when he was pissed at me or demanded we go to some party over one of his friends.  You don’t know what he would do to me…he scared me so much.  I’ve been putting up with it for way too long…”

Keith had heard enough and cut her off.

“Mallory, it ends today, ok?  He’s not going to kill you, c’mon.  We are gonna tell your parents and that is that.  No one is going hurt my new girlfriend, right?”

She looked at him quickly as he said his closing sentence.  The hope he once had in his eyes he could now see in hers.

“You really wanna be with me, even though I lied to you?”

“You weren’t doing it to hurt me.  I know you are scared of that guy, but you have me now.  You’ll be fine.  That guy is all talk.”

Keith was about to go over and kiss Mallory when he saw her parents rush into the room.  They went over to Mallory and hugged her as if they hadn’t seen her in months.

“The nurse just told us what that piece of shit Danny did to you!  Mallory, we are pressing charges and getting a restraining order!  Why didn’t you tell us about him?!”

“Dad I’m sorry!”  Her tears started to come back.  “I…I was always too scared he’d do something to me!  I never fell down the stairs or got hit by a rock!  He used to hit me…”

By that point she was just sobbing.  Her father and mother still didn’t let go of their daughter.  After a minute of trying to calm her down, Mr. Blake went over to Keith with his hand outstretched.  Keith took it slowly, shaking it.

“I owe you a lot of thanks.  I don’t know much about you, but if you care enough for my daughter that you’d protect her, despite being hurt yourself, you’ve gained my trust and respect.”

Keith nodded proudly, not really able to think of anything to say in response.  Her father went back to Mallory and sat on her bed.

After that, Doctor Glanson came in with a chart and waved nonchalantly.

“Hello everyone.  Mallory, really quick, can you describe your body’s pain level?  One through ten, ten being the most pain, one being no pain.”

“Ummn I’d say three.  The cuts on my arm still hurt.”

“They’re going to.  I think you are clear to go.  My advice is to go to your family doctor in a few days to get re-checked and eventually you’ll get your stitches cut.  Unless there are any questions you are free to go.”

Her parents shook the doctor’s hand and helped Mallory out from her bed.  She looked over to Keith and smiled.

“Call me ok?  I think I am gonna take a shower and relax.”

“Yeah.  I’ll call ya tonight.  Hope you feel better.”

“Pfft…you too!”

She went over to his bedside and kissed him on the forehead.  With a final wave she left with her parents.

For the next half an hour Doctor Glanson probed Keith with questions and gave him an eye examination.  He then had him get a cat-scan for his head, making sure there were no concussions.  When the doctor felt sure Keith was clear to go he shook his hand and left.  Mr. and Mrs. Adams came in to help their son out.

“When did you get here?”

“When you were getting your head scanned.  They told us to wait until it was over.  You okay?  We heard about what happened this morning with that guy!”

“I’m fine Mom.  I really like Mallory.  We are…going out.  He was abusing her and…”

His dad interrupted him softly.

“We heard from Mallory’s parents.  It’s very unfortunate.  I’m proud of you son.  You stood up for her even when I’m sure you’re hurting.  She seems like a nice girl.”

Keith smiled at his dad.  For once he actually felt some kind of bond with him. 

As soon as he got home he ran into the shower.  The shower seemed to relax his muscles making it much easier for him to go to sleep.  He was getting used to the idea of being able to go out and have fun with a girl that liked him.  It had been a trying period of twenty-four hours and he was looking ahead to his happy ending.

Hours passed and Keith had no idea that he had slept for close to fifteen hours.  As soon as Keith woke up he felt the need to call Mallory and see if she was doing as good as he was.  When he looked at the clock it dawned on him that it was 9:30 in the morning of the next day.  His was so exhausted from the hospital and all the commotion that happened his body had to regenerate some energy.  Keith rushed to his cell phone and called Mallory’s house.

“Hello?”  This time Mallory answered the phone, but sounded concerned.

“Mal?  It’s Keith.  I’m so sorry I didn’t call!  I was so tired and I slept so…?”  Mallory cut him off.

“Keith can you please come over here…”

“Ummn, yeah.  I’ll be right over.”

She hung up on him as soon as the words escaped his mouth.  Something was obviously wrong.  He felt it was best if he just went over there as quick as possible.  At that moment he felt stupid for never giving her his number.  She could have called him if something was up.

“Jesus…can anything just be simple around here.”

 He had to borrow his Dad’s car, which was no problem.  As soon as he pulled down her street he noticed a black Crown-Victoria in the driveway with blue police lights on the roof.  It wasn’t a normal police car however, but Keith was smart enough to realize it was someone on the force.  He parked his car behind it in the driveway and made his way to the door where he was greeted with a long hug from Mallory.

“What’s wrong?!  Are you ok!?”

“Late last night…my parents found a note on the doorstep.  It was from Danny.  It was a threat for me.”

“Damn him…so you called the police?”

“Yeah they sent someone over.  Come inside.”

She drug him into the house and led him into the living room.  Mallory’s parents were there, along with another man who Keith assumed was the policeman. 

“You must be Mr. Adams.”

The man stuck out his hand and shook Keith’s.  He was an older gentleman with long, slick grey hair.  It didn’t take much for Keith to see the man was English when his thick accent covered his greeting.

“I am Detective Carney Dred.”  He began to address everyone in room, pacing in a circle, and moving his hands all around as he spoke.

“This morning I was at the station in Fortune Teller’s Woods.  Mr. Blake, you called and I answered.  You alerted me that Mr. Daniel Grim had proceeded to slap your daughter at St. Monica’s Hospital yesterday.  You also informed me that she told you tales of him regularly abusing her and hitting her.  You wanted me to arrest him.  I naturally notified the correct people…and here we are…You then called me a second time when you received a letter in Daniel’s handwriting last night, threatening your daughter.  I have that letter in my procession.”

He grabbed a crumpled up piece of paper and began reading the charges off of it.

“The charges Mr. Grim was to be arrested on were simple assault and reckless endangerment.  Adding to that list now, is stalking and harassment. Whether those charges stand in court is not my concern.  My duty was to locate Daniel and bring him to the station.”

“Yes Detective Dred.” Agreed Mr. Blake.  “And have you done so?

“I went to his apartment and he was not there.  I had no warrant to search the apartment to confirm that he had not just answered the door, however I questioned the landlord.  He informed me about the temper of Daniel, and also told me that Mr. Grim had left the apartment late last night in a storm of rage.  I came here immediately after learning this.

“What should we do!?  We have that nut case out there threatening our daughter!  I want him in prison this instant!”

Keith just sat there holding onto Mallory.  He was trying to keep her loose by playing with her hair.  Her eyes were glassy and he could tell she was obviously very worried.  If anyone knew how crazy this kid was, it was her.  They continued to listen.

“Sir, I have his record.  I have his picture.  I have eye witness accounts that say he made his way here and left that letter on your door step somewhere between nine and ten.  I promise you I will find him and take him in.  Now I am going down to the station and get a warrant to check his apartment.  In the meantime I want everyone to stay in this house, lock the doors and call the police if anything happens.  I would have gotten the warrant first but I thought I should make sure everyone is safe and inform you of everything I know.  I will come back after the search.”

As old as the man seemed to Keith, he couldn’t help but believe that he took no crap from anyone.  His English accent made him so trusting, yet you got this sense of robustness about him.  Keith stood up as soon as Detective Dred did.

“I parked behind you.”

“Ah’.  Ok.”

Keith kissed Mallory’s head and walked towards the front door.  Dred walked after, towering over him.  After getting his keys out of his pocket, Keith opened the front door heading for his car. 

“Get down!”  Keith looked behind him to see what Detective Dred was screaming about when a loud burst shrieked through his body, and he felt a searing pain go into his shoulder.  He fell to the ground as his body just gave up on him from the pain.  He felt blood trickling through his shirt, down his chest.  He cried out from the throbbing.  His eyes darted ahead to see what caused it.  Sure enough there was Danny with a pistol in hand.

Moments later the Detective drew his hand gun as if he was a veteran gun-fighter and shot Danny in the knee.  He also fell to the ground, dropping like a fly.  The detective ran over and made sure to pick up Danny’s gun.  He was on his radio calling for an ambulance.

“Stay inside!”

He pointed to Mr. Blake who was holding back Mallory from running outside to help Keith.

“Two men down.  I need an ambulance right this moment!”

Detective Dred was shaking his head, screaming into his radio.  Keith’s eyes started to close.  He could smell the blood vapors rise into his nostrils.  His throat was going arid and he could no longer feel the nerves in his shoulder.  He couldn’t fight through the pain. 


They say that when you go through a terrifying physical or emotional event you may at times relive it over and over in your mind.  It’s called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Keith still didn’t know what it was called; this time he didn’t wake up in a screaming rage.  His eyes opened slowly and he saw his mother, Detective Dred, and Malloy standing before him.

“Where am I?”

“St. Monica’s Hospital.  Again.”  Doctor Glanson walked in just as Keith asked the question.  “Welcome back.  I guess being in a car accident wasn’t enough for you this weekend?  You’ve been asleep for nearly nine hours.  The bullet was removed from your shoulder.  Once again Mr. Adams you managed not to have any major injuries.  No organs or bones were struck by the bullet.  However your body is going through a pretty rough time right now.  We have you plugged into some IVs to get your body back on track.  It can’t take all these injuries.  You’ll be in this room a few days, so you better get used to being here.”

“I already am…”

The Doctor nodded with a slight smile.

“I’ll give you some time with your family.”  With that Doctor left the room.

Keith was having a hard time keeping his eyes opened.  He assumed he was sedated.  Mallory grabbed his hand and squeezed it.  Mrs. Adams had a damp cloth on Keith’s forehead, and she kissed his cheek.

“Keith you are going to put me in this hospital bed if you don’t stop it!”

He gave a shaky laugh at his mother’s words.  Detective Dred then approached the side of the bed.

“Once apprehending Daniel Grim, I escorted your ambulance here.  I thought you might like to know that he has been arrested and that Ms. Blake here is safe.  Her parents and your father are waiting in the lobby.  I’ll leave so that you may see them.  You are a brave soul, lad.  I thought you deserved to hear that.”

Keith nodded and Detective Dred departed as well. 

“I’ll go get your father.  He’s been worried sick about you!  We’re both so happy our baby is alright.”  Mrs. Adams walked out of the room after the Detective.

Keith began to cough as he turned his attention to Mallory.  She leaned down and kissed him for a moment.  A few tears ran down her face as she pressed his hand.

“You sure you want to go out with me?”

“Well…if I’d have known this much trouble was involved…” He smirked up at her.  “You took a chance on me…I think if I survived this long, I should still take that chance on you.  I dunno Mal, the accident and then I get shot?  I’m still here.  I’d call that fate.”      


Identity Crisis - A Short Story by Joe McDonald

“We’re sorry to interrupt your daily televised programming this evening, but this just in:  four more people have been gunned down and brutally massacred by the Roxy’s in a swarm of bullets at the Wawa on 10th and Viking in the town of Tumore, Texas.  Eye witnesses say they stormed the Wawa with handguns and came out a few minutes later with no trace of stolen goods or money.  No one has still been able to identify the couple since they were naturally wearing masks.  President Bellham passed the “Face-Privacy” act a little over a month ago and it has been illegal to leave any building and go into public without wearing a mask.  Johnny and Amber Roxy have been benefiting from the act the last month.  No one has been able to catch up to the Roxy’s or identify any part of their face.  The only thing we do know is that their kill count is up to 21 and their names.  Stay tuned later for…”

“Shit!  Amber c’mon in here and check this out!  We’re on TV again!”

The man jumped on the couch dancing and swinging his arms around in a state of ecstasy.  Johnny Roxy was so excited about the news he could barely stop himself from screaming out and waking up every person staying at the Holiday inn that night. 

His wife Amber ran into the room to see what all the commotion was about.  Her eyes lit up in exhilaration as she listened to the news report.

“Commissioner Jackson responded to criticism on the Face-Privacy act saying ‘they could wear a mask even if the law was not in effect.’  This is true, however many people believe that this new law only promotes this type of behavior, and it will only lead to more cases such as the Roxy’s now that their identities are secure behind their masks.”

“Johnny!  They still don’t have a clue!  Gimme a kiss you big lug!  Come on!”

Johnny stopped dancing and glided back down on the couch, landing on his bottom, and gave his wife a smooch on the cheek.  She sat next to him on the couch, cuddling up to him, and he put his arm around her.

“We need to get ready soon, baby.  I’m feeling that urge…”  Johnny winked to his wife, slurping his tongue across his lips at the same time.

“Johnny, we don’t need to get ready for that.  We can do whatever you want right…here.”

Amber began playing with her shirt, acting like she was about to take it off when Johnny abruptly stood up almost knocking her off the couch.  She scrambled to her feet, eyes narrowed and her hands on her hips.

“What the hell is wrong with you Johnny?  You just told me you were in the mood!”

“Stupid whore.  I wasn’t talking about that!  Go get your god damn guns and let’s head over to that Texaco around the corner.  Shit, man.”

Johnny left the room before she could respond, heading into the kitchen.  Amber composed herself, and looked into a mirror on the wall.  She stared back into her brown eyes, studying her make up.  After she approved she went to the back room, and a few moments later she had a shot gun in her hand, and a black cowboy hat on her blonde locks, complimenting her short black tank top. 

“Alright John, let’s go.  Oh I’m sorry, aren’t you done stuffing your face with fuckin’ cornflakes?”

“Hey Am, aren’t you done…shutting the hell up?”

Amber rolled her eyes at his pathetic come back and watched as he came out of the kitchen with some crumbs all over his face.

“Here…” she sighed and went over to him and brushed the little flakes off his lips.  She giggled a little and kissed his cheek.

“Put on your mask and let’s go, hun.”

They both put on a pair of black masks and left the hotel, picking up the few bags they owned and packed them into the back of a 1991 red 5.0 Mustang.  The car was beat up, had rust all around the hood, and looked as if it hadn’t been washed for years. 

When the bags were in the trunk, the couple took off down the road.  Amber played with Johnny’s hair as he drove and pulled into the small Texaco gas station at one of the pumps.  Another man was in front of their Mustang filling the tank of his car.  He nodded to Johnny, but it was not returned.  Johnny was in fact glaring at the man who had no idea due to the black mask on Johnny’s face.

A gas attendant walked over to Johnny’s side of the car.  He wasn’t more than eighteen at best.  As soon as he was next to the door he was faced with the barrel of Amber’s shotgun.  A moment later his chest had splattered all over the side of the car and Johnny’s face.  The lifeless carcass fell to the ground in a massive heap of sheer disfigurement.

“Fill er’ up prick!”  Johnny laughed and turned the key in the ignition.

The loud duel exhaust sounded as the car was started back up, and Johnny and Amber Roxy left another scene behind them for the Texas state Police to clean up. 

The stranger at the pump gathered his breath and collected himself.  He slowly went over to the body on the ground.  Bile rose up in the man’s throat as he had to force himself to look away from the spectacle.  When the police came he’d have nothing new to tell them except a masked couple just killed another innocent man and there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do since no one could see through their masks.