Friday, April 24, 2009

excerpt from "Broken" (currently being edited at Ashland University)

We took our time, walking slowly, both lost in our own troubled thoughts. The sun had fallen below a vibrant purple blanket along the western horizon which we could just make out between the trees. The people around us became shadows in the dusk. Dark forms walking past us, some laughing, some speaking quietly of times and places far more interesting than what my sister and I were dealing with.

As we walked, I began kicking an acorn out in front of us along our route, watching it bounce and zag in various directions along the pavement. The evening was still warm, comfortable. Minutes ticked away. The shadows grew heavier, blending into one another. Katie reached down and grabbed a hold of my hand. I didn’t mind. My friends weren’t around to see.

"We should go back soon, right?" she finally asked.

"We can," I said. "But I doubt they care much about us right now."

"Are they fighting again?"

"I don’t know. Probably."

Katie released a deep breath as we rounded the corner and caught sight of our camper in the distance. From where we stood, everything appeared normal. The paper plates had been cleared off the picnic table. Glowing coals still simmered in the bottom of the nearby fire pit where Dad had grilled up the hot dogs and foil-wrapped corn. As we moved closer to the RV though, I realized something was wrong.

I watched as several groups of people wandering by our campsite along the wooded trail kept hesitating while in front our camper, pointing their fingers in the direction of our Ford and whispering to each other before tentatively moving on. Something was distracting them.

"Hang on a minute," I mumbled to Katie. I squinted my eyes, studying the unlit camper standing roughly twenty feet in front of us. Together we waited in silence along the trail, listening.

I actually saw the commotion before I heard it. The swaying of the RV. Side to side as if whoever was occupying the interior was bouncing from wall to wall and causing the large vehicle to rock back and forth. From where we were standing, it looked like someone was in the middle of an intense, aerobic workout. But Katie and I knew better.

Moments later we heard the screams. It was Mom. A wild yelp in pain. A screeching cry, and another sway of the RV.

"You’re hurting me!"

The low rumble of Dad’s gruff voice, too inaudible for us to hear from where we were standing, followed Mom’s scream.

"Get away from me, you bastard! Leave me alone!"

Katie began sniffling. I watched people stop along the path and stare wide-eyed at the commotion from within the dark camper. Several of them turned and walked determinedly in the direction of the front gate, perhaps thinking about alerting the authorities from a telephone at the front desk.

Moving over to the fencing which ran along the side of the trail, Katie squirmed her way in between two of the posts running horizontally, and sat on her makeshift, wooden bench, her face resting upon her folded arms, her eyes fixed upon the RV. I stood next to her, seething.
Several minutes passed. The fighting continued without pause. The screams. The clanging sound of what may have been a thrown pan across the kitchen area of the camper. Mom’s repeated demands to be left alone. The deep snarling of Dad’s barely recognizable voice, sounding less human with each uttered growl. I glanced down as Katie started crying. What had started out as a perfect day for her at Story Book Forest had suddenly turned ugly by nightfall. Evil in it’s purest form through the eyes of a child. The devastating rapture of two parents caught red-handed in a frenzied attack upon one another.

I clenched my fists. Something had to be done. I had to at least try.

"What do we do?" Katie asked in between sobs. "Make them stop!"

Still more people stopped in front of the RV, pointing and staring. Whispering amongst themselves before slowly moving on. As many as five and six people at a time, stopping along the path, gawking.

My anger grew. A rushing sense of embarrassment soon followed. My clenched fists began shaking.

The rock, just a bit larger than a golf ball, was lying next to Katie under the wooden fencing. It caught my attention as I turned my head from side to side, frantically searching for something, anything that might stop the fighting. Round in shape and colored silver, almost white under the moon’s bright hue, it was as if it had been strategically placed in that exact spot, for that exact moment.

Snatching it up angrily, I moved to the center of the trail, gripping the rock in my right hand. It felt a bit heavier than a baseball. Rough to the touch, gritty.

With a small group of hikers still standing a few feet away, I gripped the rock in my hand like a baseball. Kicking my leg high into the air as if going through my windup on the pitcher’s mound, I reared back, and threw the rock as hard as I could at the camper. All my anger, all my pent up frustration, all the tears, the entire bag of dysfunctional rot, poured into that throw, the hardest pitch I’d ever delivered.

The rock streaked through the air, mere feet above the heads of the bystanders nearby, causing them to duck at the sound something flying just overhead. With a thunderous crack of stone smashing into metal, the rock hit home against the side of the RV, only inches above the window in front of the camper’s small kitchen sink. A sound similar to that of an ignited firecracker echoed throughout our wooded corner of the campground. Everyone suddenly turned away from the RV to stare at me instead, their mouths hanging open in shock.

I stood alone directly in the center of the trail, my arms at my sides, my chest rising and falling as if gasping for breath. Katie had stopped crying. The RV had stopped swaying. The screaming from inside could no longer be heard. I felt a small twinge, a tightening along my triceps just above the elbow, but I ignored it. For one brief moment everything and everybody remained frozen in time under the moon’s eerie glow...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cuckoo's Abound...

I'm truly beginning to feel as if I somehow attract them...kind of like those metallic green flies which tend to home in on that one pile of dog poo left behind on some cracked and winding square of pavement. No matter where my family decides to stake it's claim on this planet on whatever plot of land we find desirable at that time in our lives...we never fail to find ourselves living next to escapees from the Nut House.

Case in point...while spending an unusually warm, spring afternoon swinging my daughter in the backyard, our seventy-something neighbor lady pulled into the driveway next door. I glanced up just in time to see her car skid to a stop next to their mail box, while very nearly getting clipped by a semi which apparently hadn't expected her to suddenly pull off the road. The foggy throttle of an airhorne momentarily caught the attention of every chirping robin in our yard for almost a full minute, before resuming their quest of ridding my lawn of all spieces of wormlife.

Completely ignoring the swerving, swearing driver behind her, our neighbor lady popped the trunk on her car, hopped out of the driver side, and rumbled over to retrieve the mail. She yanked what appeared to be at least a half dozen envelopes from the mail box, turned without giving the letters so much as an errant glance, and tossed the entire pile into the trunk of her car.

She then rolled her aging, pearly-white Thunderbird down their blacktopped drive as the garage door leading to the first of their three bays began rising. Sensing that an odd series of events may be about to take place, I watched as the opening garage door revealed what I had already guessed, and I'm quite sure that somewhere in her mind, she surely must've already known. For inside the first garage bay was where her husband always kept his car, a pearly-white Crown Vic. He had recently traded in his pearly-white Mercury Cougar for it and considered the move a major upgrade.

As if completely ignoring the now open garage door, she whipped her car under their adjoining breezeway, (where she always ends up parking her car, whether she realizes it or not,) and as I curiously observed, hit the button on her visor, thus lowering the garage door back down.

She stumbled out of the car, popped the trunk, gathered up the mail, which apparently was the only occupant currently in the trunk, and ambled her way toward the side entrance of their home.

Just as I was about to turn my attention back to the duty of pushing my squealing daughter into the air as she grasped her swing with both hands, the troubled old coot suddenly stretched her purse into the air and hooked one of the straps onto one of the hooks her husband had attached to their roof, normally reserved for hanging flowers in the spring. She then continued inside, leaving her purse swinging from the roof of the house under a glorious dose of sunshine.

Moments later, looking a bit unnerved, she returned to the scene of the crime, spotted her purse dangling from the roof, and placed her hands upon her hips irritably, as if asking herself, "Now how the hell did my purse get up there?"

Despite reaching an outstretched hand, she was unable to lift her purse from the plant hook. Clearly angered, she then turned and stormed back into the house.

Then, as I was beginning to explain to my daughter why I had to go help out the disturbed neighbor lady, she returned with a renewed sense of vigor, literally launched herself into the air, grunted out a fart loud enough to again stifle the robins in my yard, but managed to at last unhook the dangling purse from the roof. Then without so much as glancing in my direction, she stumbled back inside, where I'm happy to report, she remained for the rest of the afternoon.

I'm fairly certain at this point that she's somehow related to our former neighbor lady who several years earlier, while thanking me for mowing her backyard, made sure to inform me to keep an eye out for the people in the trees while in their vicinity. I assured her I would, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't cast a wary glance upward while steering my rider under her flowering dogwood.

Loonies here, loonies there...and at least whenever I'm around...loonies everywhere.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

...2nd excerpt from "The Fellas"

Rhode’s IGA sits a block north of Millersburg’s downtown square. Housed in an older, one story, concrete block building originally designed to shelter something comparable to a mid-sized Quick Check, within a decade of booming prosperity, Rhode’s steadily added shelving units bursting with essentials until it’s limited space had reached full capacity.

While the thought of moving to a larger facility outside of town had become more than an errant discussion at the Rhode dinner table, the family adored operating their successful business in the heart of Holmes County’s busiest sector. They realized the secret of their success early on. Their grocery store was within easy access for not only Millersburg’s locals, but for the area’s large population of Amish, who would’ve been forced to pay a driver to transport them to Dover or Wooster, both a thirty minute drive, in order to purchase their family’s essentials. Rhode’s was within a buggy’s jaunt for most of the Amish residents living in Holmes County, thus making their shopping destination an easy decision.

And so despite their tighter quarters, the steadily narrowing aisles, and the sometimes frustrating lines at the checkout, the Rhode family held strong in their beliefs and remained at their smaller accommodations in order to stay within a rock’s toss of the town square.

What they did do however, was purchase the vacant lot directly across the street. They leveled the abandoned two-story home which had begun tilting slightly to the left over the past decade. They removed the overgrown shrubbery, chopped down a patch of struggling elms which were currently being choked to death by Dutch Elm’s holocaust of fungus. They paved the entire lot, permitted an access to the street, and thus opened up over a hundred new parking spots and a fifty foot long hitching post for buggies.

What they failed to do however, was arm the area with proper lighting. Only the nearby street lights and the occasional wink and flash of auto headlamps moving along the street provided the only means of lighting for the newly provided parking structure. No one seemed to notice the burdening lack of luminosity, even at night. No one realized how dark it actually became when a thick cloud cover hid the moon’s glow between the hours of eight and ten. Dark enough for a jet black Amish buggy to nearly disappear against the backdrop of a distant hillside. Dark enough to hold customers at bay for twenty minutes at a time while searching through the night for their car while jostling a wired cart filled to capacity with groceries over the concrete walkway. So dark...

"Is Mommy done yet?" four year old Abby Miller whined from the passenger seat of her parent’s pickup, where she’d ended up after scaling the extended backseat following an impressive escape from her car seat.

"She’ll be out any minute," her dad mumbled, eyeing down the lit up entrance from across the street. It had been nearly forty minutes. She’d said she only had a few things she needed.

"She’s taking a really long time," Abby continued. "Come on, Daddy. Let’s go find her."

Her daddy tore his eyes away from Rhode’s entrance long enough to watch his daughter’s blonde curls bouncing off her shoulders irritably. A grin somehow managed to curl his frown upwards. She looked just like her mommy. The natural blonde curls. Those dark brown eyes. But she acted like her too. Feisty. Impatient. All the things that had attracted him to Abby’s mom a decade ago, bundled up in this mini version of curls and attitude for them to enjoy for the next twenty or so years.

He reached up and turned the key back in the ignition, turning on the radio. "Let’s find some music to help pass the time," he suggested.

"Ughh!" Abby groaned. "She’s taking too long, Daddy," she complained.

Smiling, her daddy tried to ignore her as he spun the radio dial in search of anything Abby might want to listen to. He understood her impatience. This had become too long a wait for anyone, much less a four year girl.

The plan had been for the two of them to wait in the pickup while Mommy ran into the store to grab a couple things; she’d mentioned a gallon of milk and some detergent for starters, then as she left the store, he could pull across the street and meet her under the lights so they wouldn’t have to search through the dark parking lot for the truck if they’d all gone in together. Forty minutes ago the idea had made perfect sense. Forty minutes ago.

Unable to find anything on the radio, he settled for a local country station which he favored, but knew that Abby and her mother did not, and turned it down to where only the occasional tapping of a drum beat could be heard over Abby’s insistent whining.

"Let’s give her five more minutes, then we’ll go in after her," he finally relented. It had been long enough.

"Is five minutes a long time?" Abby asked.

"No, not long," her daddy answered.

Turning up the radio dial in response to a Randy Travis song he recognized, her daddy barely noticed when Abby stood up on the passenger seat and turned around to look out through the back window of the truck. Finding himself tapping a finger on the steering wheel to the beat of the chorus, Abby’s daddy enjoyed the sudden break from her constant whining, failing to realize the reasoning behind her unexpected silence. He didn’t notice when little Abby began holding her breath. Or when her back stiffened as she squinted those pretty brown eyes, concentrating on something in the near pitch darkness behind the truck.

His gaze again focused on the entrance to Rhode’s IGA, his head unconsciously bobbing to the twangy beat of the country hit, it wasn’t until little Abby reached over and grabbed a handful of her daddy’s flannel shirt sleeve, and whispered his name into her ear that he finally realized something was wrong. He turned to her, noticed how pale her small cheeks had become, spotted the lone tear drooping from her eyelid, then watched as she slowly raised the index finger of her left hand, the one not clutching a firm hold on his shirt, and pointed toward the back of truck. He looked at her questioningly as she leaned toward his ear and whispered one word.


Without turning his head, he glanced up at the rear view mirror which allowed him a six inch view of the ever darkening parking lot directly behind the truck. Not doubting that Abby had indeed seen something, he was preparing himself for the fuzzy silhouette of a stray dog, or maybe a scavenging raccoon darting from one wheel base to another as it searched for any morsels left behind by evening shoppers. As he watched, a shadow appeared within his small reflected view. It seemed to float across his six inch expanse of mirror, only to disappear a second later.

"What the..." Goose bumps rose up in battalions along both of his arms as he slowly turned his head to face the back window of the truck. In the brief moment he’d spotted the dark shape, just a shade darker than the background of night behind it, he’d quickly realized that what he’d seen was not a dog or a raccoon. The shape he saw was standing or floating, or whatever, in an upright position, like a person. But not a person. Couldn’t have been. It’s gait was too smooth. It seemed to glide over the pavement.

Abby’s hold suddenly tightened around her daddy’s arm. Her breath caught in her throat. "Daddy," she breathed, her eyes widening. "Another one."

He followed her gaze out through the passenger side window. Another shadow caught his eye. Slightly taller and thinner, but armed with the same flawless movement as the one dashing across the parking lot behind them.

Fighting to get a grip on his anxiety, he began watching both shapes using his peripheral vision as they seemed to dart lithely between the endless rows of vehicles around them. Then he spotted an interior light flash on and then off almost immediately. And then another. And that’s when he realized that what he was seeing were indeed the shadows of people after all. People rummaging through the parked cars and trucks. Cars and trucks which had been left unlocked and unattended while their owners strolled through the aisles of Rhode’s IGA.

"Thieves," he mumbled to himself in a whisper.

"Ghosts, Daddy!" Abby suddenly hollered out loud enough to be heard outside their pickup. "They’re getting closer!" She bounced across the bench seating and plopped into her daddy’s lap, burying her face into his chest.

"Sshhh!" he hissed. He stole a glance out the passenger side window. The shadow was gone. A quick glance out the rear view mirror proved the same results. No sign of them anywhere. "Stay still, Honey," he breathed.

He slowly moved his hand toward the ignition on the steering column where they brushed against his awaiting key ring, the truck key already inserted. He placed his thumb and forefinger upon the flat metal grips, preparing to engage the ignition. His concentration now focused on starting the truck, he never saw the shadow rising from the pavement below his window until it stood in full height directly beside him. He turned with a start and stared wide-eyed into the darkened form, a thin piece of auto glass being it’s only deterrent.


He tore his eyes away from the shadow in time to see the second form rise into view just outside the passenger side window. Clutching Abby in a death grip, he whipped his head back to the darkened form standing next to him. He saw a face. He glimpsed a set of eyes. Green. Bold, daring in their striking glare. But young. And that face... Then he heard the familiar clicking sound of the door latch, and suddenly realized that he’d never locked them inside.

"Aah!" he released a scream while twisting the ignition and revving the truck’s engine to life. He slammed the gear shift into drive and peeled forward. Thumping over two concrete parking bumpers and careening across the road, nearly sideswiping an oncoming car which had luckily slowed to turn into the parking lot. He bounced across the street unscathed, Abby still burrowed into his lap. He skidded to a stop directly in front of the lit up entrance where several onlookers were watching him curiously.

"It’s okay now," he said, running a shaky hand through his daughter’s thin blonde hair. "Everything’s okay."

He turned his head back toward the parking lot across the street as his wife at last walked out of the store, a look of concern forming across her brow. He could see several vehicles moving slowly about, either in search of parking, or making their way toward the exit. He could see several people clutching bags of groceries as they awkwardly made their way through the shadows in search of their cars. What he didn’t see were two lanky shadows standing in the spot where his truck had been only moments earlier. They were gone. Like ghosts.

Friday, April 10, 2009


I pressed the button on the side of my wristwatch the moment it began sounding it’s alarm. I was already awake. Had never fallen asleep in fact. I’d kept the digital Timex clutched in my palm, my hand buried under several layers of blankets in order to muffle the sound.

The darkness felt heavy, as if trying to weigh me down, preventing me from slipping out of bed. I pushed the display light on my watch. 3:02 a.m. I had twenty-eight minutes.

Slipping out from under my covers, I gently eased my feet onto the wooden floor. I’d kept my socks on. My undershirt too. Along with my boxer shorts, that was all the clothing I would take with me. Timothy told me not to take anything else; he goes by Tim now. He’d bring along some pants for me. We wore the same size anyway. He promised to help me take care of everything.

Using a sliver of light through my bedroom window from the moon’s thin crescent, I crept to my doorway. Even in the dark, I knew where to step in order to prevent the aging planks under my feet from creaking and awakening my parents. For in a house without the steady hum from a refrigerator or washing machine, the simplest shift of one’s weight in an elderly home can echo like the eery yelp of a lone coyote if one’s not careful.

I shimmied along the hall to the top of the stairwell, where I hesitated just long enough to hear a chorus of steady breathing from my parent’s bedroom before beginning my cautious descent.
With every step I remained along either side of the naked staircase, as if fearfully avoiding a threatening fissure, slowly splitting open the ash planks down the middle. I’d learned over time that far less noise was created along the sides of the stairwell where fewer pairs of feet had been supported over the decades.

I made it to the first floor before again checking my watch. 3:17. I’d have to hurry.
Avoiding the front door, I made my way through the darkened living room to the unlocked window peeking out from behind the couch. I quietly slid the glass pane up far enough to squeeze my body through.

One leg at a time, straddling the window sill, I slid awkwardly through the opening. As I braced myself for the fall onto the soft ground below, the heel of my foot banged into the aluminum siding. It wasn’t very loud, but I cringed none the less. There was no time to dwell on it though.

Dashing around the side of the house, I stopped and reached under the front porch, groping blindly along the damp earth until at last feeling the soft leather of the Adidas running shoes I’d stashed there the night before. Only Timothy knew I’d bought them.

I quickly slipped them on over my damp socks, a cushiony embrace over my feet, unlike any shoes I’d ever worn before.

I glanced at my watch one last time. 3:26. I had four minutes. Gritting my teeth, I spun my body toward the distant corn field and started running.

At the edge of the yard, I turned and looked one last time at the old farmhouse I’d grown up in, knowing that I could never return. It stood out from a stand of mature pines, practically glowing under the cloudless moonlight. For just a moment I considered going back.

A chilly Ohio breeze kissed my cheeks and whispered the sounds of freedom into my ear. Freedom. So long I’d waited. I turned and stepped into the cornfield which met the lawn’s edge.

Cutting through narrow rows of chest-high corn stalks, their sharp leaves whipping against my face and threatening to leave my flesh covered in red welts from the contact, I could’ve sworn I’d heard the front door opening with it’s customary squeal of rusty hinges from behind me. Undeterred, I ran on blindly through the stalks, flicking corn silk out of my face, to the awaiting roadside.

Moments later I burst through the field, landing upon solid pavement. Brushing leafy debris from my hair, I turned my attention to the abandoned road, searching. A few hundred feet from where I stood, and parked along the berm, I spotted Timothy’s car. He’d kept his promise. My heart thudding with apprehension, I began walking toward him. He stepped out of the car. I could see him smiling under the moonlight as I drew nearer.

No more chores. No more homespun pants held up by suspenders. I wanted a chance to buy my own car. A home with electricity. A life with opportunity. It meant leaving the church though. Leaving my family. Just like Timothy had done.

Wearing only a t-shirt, a pair of boxers, and my tennis shoes over black socks, I made my way toward my older brother, who anxiously awaited.


I jumped at the sound of my name and turned to find my father standing amongst the stalks of corn. He’d followed me. I could see his mid-section rising and falling as he fought to catch his breath. Silky strands of corn silk had tangled themselves into his graying beard from his run through the leafy corn. In his haste, he’d failed to pull his suspenders onto his shoulders. His pants continued to droop below his waist. His eyes were moist.

"You’re leaving then," he said at last.

I nodded, saddened by his expression. I knew I’d let him down.
I glanced at Timothy, who remained next to his car, refusing to come any closer. He’d already been shunned years earlier.

I turned back to my father and found him to be at my side. In my seventeen years I’d never seen him cry. As tears began welling up in his eyes on this night though, he suddenly reached out to me, wrapping his burly arms around my shaking frame. I hugged him back, myself unable to keep from crying.

We clung to each other as another early morning gust of wind caused the hair on the back of my neck to rise. Was it ever warm in Ohio?

The many thousands of corn leaves rustled against each other throughout the hillside, as if chatting quietly amongst themselves. Bearing witness to an event they’d seen before.

"Go in peace then," he mumbled into my ear. "And take care of your brother."

"Will you...what about Mom?" I choked. Finding my voice had become difficult.

"I’ll speak with her," he said. "In time she’ll understand."

He turned then and quietly left, leaving me alone in the middle of the deserted road. I watched him return to his corn field, his head bowed, his dark silhouette disappearing between the rows, unsure if I’d ever see him again. The thought left a stabbing pain in my side. But I understood. Some rules simply couldn't be broken.

"Samuel, are you ready?" Timothy called.

I turned and slowly nodded. "I’m ready," I said, wiping away the tears with the back of my hand.

"It’s going to be okay," Tim said as I approached. "You’ll see."

"Alright then," I said. "Let’s go."

I walked toward my older brother’s rumbling Camaro, and to the beginning of my new life.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"The Fellas" (This is the first chapter of a project I'm currently working on)

No one saw them.
A pair of shadowy forms, ghostlike against the darkened backdrop of an expiring twilight. They appeared from behind an aging Dumpster along the edge of the church parking lot. Careful not to bump against it’s steadily decaying welds, the metal having long since fallen victim to corrosion from Ohio’s often inclement weather, they crept along behind the steel deterrent, patiently awaiting nightfall’s obscure embrace.
From the church standing twenty feet off to their left, the rising and falling sounds of the choir could be heard through the stained-glass windows, the panes having been opened to allow an evening’s breeze to grace everyone’s presence.
Sunday evening church services had long become common practice for the more faithful parishioners. The classic style, one-story A-frame, having recently undergone a fresh wrapping of pearl-shaded vinyl siding, was entering it’s second generation of providing a shelter for it’s dedicated members in faith. To the many who entered it’s doors both on Sunday mornings, and for the evening services, Pleasant View Fellowship had become a way of life for many Holmes County residents living in and among the hills and valleys gently surrounded by an Amish community rich in tradition.
For the stealthy pair adorned in black from head to toe and crouched behind the Dumpster however, it was opportunity.
As night’s embrace at last cloaked their shaded presence, and the sounds of chirping crickets from the nearby pasture began mixing with the choir’s harmonious melody, the two slipped out of hiding and proceeded toward the vehicles scattered randomly across the church’s dimly lit pavement.
Hustling along silently on rubber soles, they appeared to glide across the parking lot, suddenly branching off in opposite directions as they each advanced toward the far reaches of the lot. To anyone passing by on nearby Route 62, they would’ve resembled the darkened forms of a pair of meaningless shadows belonging to anyone. A peculiar presence spotted through one’s peripheral vision during a drive-by, and then gone without any thought of foul play other than an untimely blanket of goose pimples rising upon one’s arms.
Almost simultaneously, gloved hands reached out from the darkness and gently engaged the door handles of a pair of late model sedans, each one resting at an opposite corner of the parking lot. The many cricket’s festive chirping suddenly halted as the familiar sounds of a human presence, the clicking of a latch, the steady whine of a door hinge, whispered an eery secret to the warm breeze sifting across the cracked pavement.
A pair of interior lights flickered on and off as two unlocked car doors admitted the uninvited guests. Glove compartments were opened. Many various papers and vehicle registrations rifled through. Visors were lowered. Cup holders scooped of their remnants. A crumpled up dollar bill left discarded on the floor mat. A handful of quarters piling up in the ashtray. An envelope displaying the handwritten word, "Emergency" on it’s front fold, and housing a pair of crisp new twenties inside. A pair of brand new sunglasses tossed precariously on the dashboard. Anything of value, pocketed. Gone in an instant.
Then it was on to the next car, and the next. Every door had been left unlocked. For this was Holmes County. A place where neighbors could be trusted. Where crime was read about on the front page of The Plain Dealer, but left on the streets of Cleveland, far to the north. A place where foul play of any kind simply never happened. Never...
Minutes sped by. Vehicles were ransacked of any and all worthy possessions. The loot piled up. The crickets had grown accustomed to their shadowy guests and began spreading the news of the crime in progress to fellow insects across the valley with their melodic chirping.
From inside the church, sitting along the far end of one of the wooden pews with her husband, Laura Weaver felt an inviting waft of warm air brush against her cheek from the nearby window. A thin smile spread across her face, for she dearly loved Ohio during the summer months. While it never lasted very long, those humid evenings in July and August always reminded her of visiting her long retired parents in Sarasota every Thanksgiving.
As her preacher continued on with the sermon, his take on the Egyptian Empire during the times of Moses’s childhood, Laura glanced toward the stained-glass window standing several feet to her left, hoping for a second gust of fresh air to help ease the stagnance swirling throughout the muggy auditorium.
The flicker of an interior light belonging to one of the cars in the parking lot caught her eye. On and off in a blink, like the far off beacon flashing atop a distant lighthouse. Laura lowered her eyebrows, unsure of what she had actually seen. A firefly perhaps? They were in peak season this time of year.
She moved her eyes across the rest of the parking lot, deciding that the flash of an insect must’ve been what she’d seen, and was about to turn back and rejoin her pastor’s ongoing address, when the same light flashed a second time. It was no firefly.
Laura strained her eyes, trying to see someone stepping away from the car. Maybe one of her fellow parishioners had forgotten something in their car and had run back out to retrieve it. But other than what might’ve been the blur of a shadow, or her mind playing tricks on her, she saw nothing.
A moment later another interior light flickered. This one coming from directly beside the vehicle she had first spotted. And just as quickly as it had appeared, the light was doused once again. A second person needing something from their car? And ironically right next to the original car who’s interior light she had first spotted? Something wasn’t right.
Laura glanced toward her husband. He had fallen asleep again. She glared at him. He was too young to be dozing off in church. She looked at her ten year old daughter reclined next to him, her eyes drifting lazily toward the rafters. Clumsily smacking her jaw to the piece of bubble gum Laura had asked her to get rid of before entering the church. She tossed an angry expression her way as well, frustrated at how tedious the act of going to the Sunday evening service had become for her family. Jesus could return at any moment and here they were, dozing off and daydreaming during a time of worship.
As Laura turned back to the window, yet a third flicker of light caught her eye. This one had come from several rows behind the original lights she had seen.
Growing more troubled by the moment, Laura placed her Bible next to her sleeping husband and slowly rose to her feet. Remaining as quiet as possible so as not to disturb the ongoing service, she made her way toward the exit at the front of the church. Her pastor’s steady monotone continued on without interruption as she placed her hands upon the thick, wooden door and gently eased it open. The door quietly closed behind her as she inhaled a deep breath of fresh air.
She turned her head toward the parking lot, and spotted another flash belonging to the interior light of yet another vehicle. An eery chill began making it’s way up her spine. For a brief moment Laura considered re-entering the church. Then she shook her head, silently scolding herself for dreaming up such crazy thoughts while standing on hallowed ground. She turned and began descending the half dozen, concrete steps leading to the church’s parking area.
As she entered the first row of parked vehicles, the latching sound of a car door entered her ears. Laura quickened her pace. Zig-zagging between rows, she made her way toward where she thought the source of the sound had come from.
Six rows into the parking lot, she suddenly stopped, listening. The whisper of another humid breeze, mixed with the steady pounding in her ears from her racing heart left her unable to hear anything other than the sound of crickets calling out to one another in the nearby field. She unconsciously crossed her arms.
"Hello? Who’s out here?" she asked. The chirping from the field stopped. The parking lot grew impossibly silent.
From where she was standing, Laura glanced down at the car next to her. The driver’s side door had not been closed all the way. She leaned in and noticed through the window that the glove compartment had been left open. A collection of papers, no doubt the vehicle’s registration or the owner’s manual, were scattered across the passenger seat.
"What in the world?" she mumbled, placing her hand upon the door handle.
At that moment the sharp ping of something metallic glanced off the roof of the car, missing her face by mere inches.
Laura jumped and instinctively lowered her body down to the height of the car’s roof. Shaking, she turned around, scanning the parking lot.
The overhead lighting of the lot was so dim she could barely make out the first row of cars in front of her, much less someone sneaking around, watching her from a distance. A gathering of cloud cover forming over the moon’s glowing sheen only added to her murky surroundings.
Laura waited, frozen, trying in vain to control her breathing. A dark form from across the parking lot suddenly caught her eye. She turned, glimpsed something metal coming directly at her, but failed to duck in time. It hit her along the side of her head and bounced to the pavement where it rolled onto it’s side.
Laura yelped in surprise, clutching her hand to her temple as she glanced to her feet in search of what had struck her. She bent over and picked up a coin. A nickle, practically shimmering under the throes of night.
Her eyes still focused upon the pavement, Laura spotted a dark form, nearly hidden from view behind the tire of the car next to her. It looked like a cloth satchel of some kind. A dark-colored pillow case? It was bulging, obviously full of something. She bent down a second time, her fingers outstretched, reaching for it.
A shower of coins rained in from all around her, pummeling her from both sides, but mostly connecting with the back of her head. Before Laura had a chance to react, a second handful dropped from the sky, pelting her head, stinging her exposed face.
Forgetting about the pillowcase, Laura screamed and began running for the church. She stumbled once, falling awkwardly onto the pavement, her head narrowly missing contact with the bumper of a nearby pickup. As she struggled to rise back to her feet, more coins began pelting her backside from the far away reaches of the parking lot. She could feel them landing against the back of her neck, like cold bee stings from some alien hive which she had unknowingly disturbed.
She managed to turn her gaze back toward the parking lot for a brief moment, catching just a glimpse of a dark form standing among the many vehicles belonging to the members of her church. The shape ducked, vanished as she spotted more coins being flung her way from somewhere out of the dark. Again Laura screamed. As another round of pennies, dimes and nickels bounced upon the pavement around her, she staggered back up the steps and through the front doors of the church, her frantic cries bringing everyone inside to their feet.
And as the church parishioners halted the service and rushed to Laura’s side, from under the car where she had been standing, a gloved hand reached out, snatched a firm hold of the heavy pillowcase filled to near capacity with assorted valuables, and dragged it out of sight.'s still a work in progress, so let me know what you think so far!
Thanks for reading...Elliot.