Junk

The words seemed sincere enough. A long-lost royal relative in Nigeria had passed and left a significant amount of money in a bank account waiting to be claimed. All I had to do was send my personal information and the money would be wired to me as quickly as possible. My finger poised above the send button mere seconds from enjoying my new-found wealth.

Or a cheery, well-endowed woman with suspicious intentions found some obscure profile of mine online, one that I never knew I had posted, and fell in love with me. She just had to meet me, immediately. All I had to do was click on the link to her website that included a mishmash of incoherent letters crammed together before some obscure domain name. Seems legitimate if you ask me.

Or maybe I have some issues in the sex department. That’s nothing a little blue pill can’t solve. Luckily, my new best friend, who again is from a country I’ve never visited, can get me boatloads of blue pills for nothing more than pennies. I’m sure if I purchase enough he’ll include a Pez dispenser so that I can pop them whenever it’s convenient. My productivity will take a hit for sure.

I get endless amounts of junk email. Luckily, my accounts filter this out, but sometimes, before I hit “Empty,” I take a peek inside the junk folder just to see what exactly resides in there. It’s how I humor myself when I’m at a stalemate with my latest project and can’t seem to find the right words. I get a good chuckle and continue to gawk at the fact that someone, somewhere responds to these ridiculous messages or otherwise the messages would stop. Whatever fraction of a percent of a response rate they get justifies the minimal cost of blasting out thousands of emails to recipients around the globe. I wonder if anyone has ever followed the trail of these trite emails to the sender. What would he find?

I think a short story could be written around this (whether or not it would be good is up for debate). What if someone clicked on the link and responded to one of these emails? What would happen? The obvious is that he’d (and only a guy would click on these mails) get ripped off, lose his life savings, get an STI, etc., but could there be something more? Would it lead to some level of international intrigue befit of a movie in the Bourne series? Probably not. I’m betting on the STI.

Puppy Love

The top of the cardboard box flapped incessantly as if it were trying to fly away. A furtive scratching sound emanated from within the box, which stood about a foot high without its top open. Finally, the scratching ceased and a tiny puppy put his paws on one side of the box and listened for any approaching sounds. He sniffed the air and turned his head wagging his tail as he did so. A tinny whine escaped him. He couldn’t see above the top of the box, but he knew someone was there.

Across the room, a young boy peered around the corner. He scanned the living room, brightly lit in the morning sun, and spotted the box instantly. He heard the whining and he knew what was inside the box. A smile broadened across his face, and he ran the short distance to the box sliding on his knees as he embraced it. The puppy shifted and fell onto its haunches as the boy hugged the box and looked inside.

The puppy stared up at the young boy and yapped his approval as the boy gathered him in his arms and hugged him close. The puppy sniffed and then eagerly licked the young boy’s face resulting in a contagious giggling that continued for minutes. With each giggle the puppy licked more aggressively until the boy was on his back rolling around with the puppy on top of him.

At once the boy sat up with the puppy engulfed in his arms. He took a long look at the little creature, which was all white save for some brown and black splotches around his eyes. He had a fat little belly covered in short hair that still had the pink softness of a newborn pup. The boy kissed the puppy’s head and squealed in excitement. He had the first dog that was just his, not one that he shared with his dad. He couldn’t have been more excited, and the fact that the little dog was just his size made it even more special.

The boy jumped up with the little puppy still in his arms. His blazing copper hair sparkled in the sunlight as he darted out of the room to find his mother. She busied herself in the kitchen making breakfast, and she smiled as her son held the puppy in front of her exclaiming his delight.

Yes, the puppy is yours. No, the puppy cannot sleep in your bed. You have to take care of it. No, the puppy cannot have your breakfast. Please don’t put the puppy on the table.

The puppy wagged its tiny tail as it watched mother and son. Discouraged that the boy had been distracted by his mother, the puppy yapped garnering the boy’s attention once again. The boy nuzzled the dog and hugged it closer. He ran back into the living room with the puppy in his arms and put it on the floor. They played together while his mother finished cooking breakfast. The laughs and barks made the woman smile as she set the table.

Breakfast was ready, so his mother called him away. The boy reluctantly put the puppy in the box, and it immediately raised up on the edge of the box searching for the boy with the flaming red hair. It whined when he walked out of its sight drawing the boy’s attention to the box in the living room as he hurriedly ate his eggs and toast.

Toast crumbs covered his shirt when he stood up from the table and scattered on the floor as he ran back to his puppy. He tilted the box over, and the puppy bounced out of the box onto him licking his shirt clean. The boy giggled, and the course of the day was set. They were inseparable – a boy and his dog.

Lessons

The sun bore down on the little boy who sat atop the cinder block steps leading to his house. His unruly copper hair danced on his head and glistened in the sunlight, but his pale skin looked as if he hadn’t seen the sun at all in his short life. He bent his left leg at a right angle on the steps and rested his tiny elbow on his knee holding his head up like he was resting. He wrinkled his forehead and furrowed his brow over his pouting lips. He hated it when his mother didn’t let him do things. He was a big boy at six years old. He could do things on his own. She just didn’t understand that.

He looked back at the clear storm door behind him and listened for his mother. She had just stepped back in the house to get him a cup of water. He couldn’t hear her or see any sight of her. He hopped up and glided down the steps quickly. He made a beeline for the road in front of his house moving with a speed that would put him over the hill by the time his mother returned to the door.

He stopped for a brief moment at the edge of the road and looked left and then right just like his mother had taught him. The slick rural road with heat emanating from the blacktop sat silent and empty. He couldn’t even hear any cars coming. He took one step onto the asphalt and felt the excitement of adventure awaiting him. He took another step and hurried across the road without hesitating.

Once he crossed the road and crested the hill on the other side, he could see his great aunt in her bonnet below meandering among the blackberry bushes picking berries methodically. He smiled. He had wanted to go with her when she had walked by his house, but his mother refused to let him go. Didn’t she understand that he always helped his great aunt when she had important work to do?

He continued walking down the hill toward his great aunt on the cross street that ran perpendicular to the big road he had just crossed. He stayed to the far left facing any potential traffic just as his mother had taught him, but staying on the edge of the road proved difficult given the uneven asphalt. He persevered focused on his great aunt ahead of him. She didn’t notice he had crossed the road and was walking toward her because she was so absorbed in picking the scrumptious berries. He kept quiet. He wanted to surprise her. She’d love it that he came to help her.

At the foot of the hill, a slight breeze pricked his neck and tickled him, and then, a sudden, long shadow cast about the valley in which he entered. A shrill voice yelled his name puncturing the quiet that had bottled his determination. He stopped in his tracks. His great aunt turned and looked at him and, then, angled her neck to look up to the top of the hill. The boy knew what she saw before he turned around to face his insubordination.

At the top of the hill, his mother stood with her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face. She yelled his name again and demanded that he return to the top of the hill to her. The little boy slumped his shoulders and looked at his great aunt. She offered no shelter from the wrath of his mother. He whined and exhaled frustration before he turned and stomped up the hill toward his angry mother.

As he reached his mother, he protested and gave his reasons for disobeying her. He was a big boy. He only wanted to help his great aunt. Why couldn’t she let him do what he wanted to do?

His mother would have none of the argument. She grabbed his hand tightly in hers, looked both ways from the edge of the road, and dragged her son back across the street. He resisted, and she pulled harder until the heels of his feet rested on the grass in his yard as she pulled him toward the house. She yanked him up into her arms and carried him into the house. He started crying in anticipation of the punishment.

He had disobeyed her specific orders to never cross the street alone. She had told him that he couldn’t go with his great aunt, and he went anyway. For that, he had to be punished. She put him on the couch and demanded that he stay there. He froze and cowered in fear as she left the room momentarily.

When she returned she brandished a fresh switch in her hand. The angry look on her face said more than the words she would mutter. She raised her hand and brought the switch down upon his pale legs. The thin branch lashed his legs leaving a little red welt across them. Her arm flailed like a mad woman until the cries and pain reached a crescendo. She stopped. A rash of red welts cut across his legs.

Did he plan to disobey her again? No. Did he understand what he had done wrong? Yes. Did he understand the dangers of the road? Yes. Would he ever cross the road again by himself? No.

Some lessons are learned the hard way, and this one, the little boy would never forget.

Stung

The little boy breathed in the crisp, cool air of the spring morning. Bulbous dew hung from the long blades of grass at his feet, and the sun pierced the mist that hunched near the ground like a scorned dog. Birds, hidden in the bushes and trees that surrounded him, sang a melodic song, both hopeful and alive. One bird chirped mightily above the rest, emphatic and commanding. Bees buzzed by him, headed to an overgrown garden near the road. The flowers waved and glistened in the supple sunlight as the bees encircled them intoxicated by the pollen.

The boy stood still for a moment observing all that surrounded him. The sunlight struck his fiery red hair revealing flames and twists of curls. He looked at the flower garden and its collection of bees and ignored it for the moment. Something more enticing beckoned him – a sandbox. He hopped and ran in the tall grass toward the object of his affection until both feet landed with a thud in the soft sand.

He dug his fingers into the damp sand enjoying the feel of the tiny grains on his hands as he molded and formed the it to his will. He grabbed a toy bucket, a small, plastic shovel, and an impossibly tiny earth mover as he played, making engine sounds and clicking noises that indicated a boy serious about his work. Meanwhile, the sounds of spring still engulfed him.

A lone car trundled by on the two-lane asphalt road near his house, but he hardly noticed as deep into his play as he was. A slight breeze pricked his skin and rustled his unruly hair. He looked in its direction, blinked slowly, and sighed in content. Life was good in the sandbox.

A few yards away his mother stood at the door to her home behind the screen that kept the bugs out of the house and watched her son as he played. She put a cup of coffee to her lips and sipped. The black coffee steeled her against the chill of the morning, but the sun threatened to over-warm her. She could hear her son making noises as he played and she smiled to herself. Such was the life of a young boy. She stepped back into the house to busy herself with the day’s chores.

A long moment passed as the boy played, but something distracted him from his sand castle. He looked up from his creation and noticed the flower garden again, basking in the glow of the sun. The flowers beckoned him with their vibrant reds and yellows and purples. The bright colors enchanted him. He suddenly wanted to touch them, feel the delicate blooms in his tiny hand.

He stood up in the sand box and dusted the sand from his shirt and shorts being careful not to step on his sand castle. He walked to the flower garden like a boy possessed taking in all the colors at once. One flower, the tallest one in the garden, stood in the center and glowed a velvety red. It reminded him of a cake his mom had baked once, and he remembered how warm and soft it had been when he bit into it. He knew he couldn’t bite the flower, but he wanted to feel it on his own hand, rub it or pet it like he would a dog. He imagined it would feel so soft.

He stood on the edge of the garden and reached for the red, velvety flower. He leaned precariously on the edge as he did so taking care to remember to stay out of the garden as his mom had warned him. He technically wasn’t in the garden as his feet were firmly planted on the edge of the bricks that circumscribed the flowers. He had to stand on his tiptoes to reach the enticing flower. The puffy, red bloom wavered just beyond his finger tips before he made one last stretch and grabbed it in the palm of his pale hand.

The flower felt as he had imagined – buttery soft and delicate. The pleasant odors of the flowers entranced him for the briefest of seconds as he enjoyed the feel of the flower in his hand. Suddenly, a sharp rebuke met his palm. It startled him and sent an arc of pain through his palm and up his arm like he had sliced his hand on a knife or other sharp object. He withdrew his hand quickly and eyed his reddened palm already starting to swell from the bee sting. The pain and the sight of his impaled hand startled him and he let out a wail that punctured the otherwise peaceful morning. Tears flooded his eyes and he squeezed them shut as he screamed in pain.

He turned and ran toward his house holding his hand as if it would fall off should he let go. The drama followed him to his doorstep where his mother bent down and examined his hand. She rubbed it and placated her son with her soothing words. He tried to tell her what happened, but the words were lost in the trauma. She knew, as all mothers do, even without her son’s explanation. He had ignored her warnings about the flower garden. As she tended to her son’s sting, she knew it was a lesson he would not soon forget.

A Moment in Time

A slight, spring breeze ruffled the thin curtains that covered the high, rectangular window in the bedroom. The faint light of the early morning squinted in the darkness revealing a sleeping, young boy who lay half-covered in his small bed. The chill nudged him awake and he reached for the edge of his blanket, pulling it up to his neck without opening his eyes. He rolled over onto his left side and then onto his stomach. He tasted the stale fabric of his pillow, smacked his dry mouth, and slowly opened his heavy eyelids.

Half awake, he peered at the dark, paneled wall next to his bed as his eyes adjusted to the faint light. He kicked his feet beneath the blanket and took a deep breath. From the down the hallway outside his bedroom, he heard music playing, faint and indecipherable. The succulent smell of bacon cooking wafted into his room along with the other smells of morning. His mother must be up, he thought, as he swung his tiny legs over the side of the bed and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

For a brief moment, he sat on the edge of his bed donned in his summer pajamas – a thin shirt and a pair of loose-fitting shorts. He rubbed his face and ran his tiny, pale fingers through the twisted, curly mass of copper hair that shot like flames from his head. He slid off the bed and dug his toes into the golden shag carpet that covered his bedroom floor and most of the tiny trailer in which he lived. The carpet tickled his feet, but he liked the way it felt when he rubbed his feet on it. Sometimes, he’d scrape his feet along the carpet and shock himself when he touched the door knob on his bedroom door.

He shuffle-stepped to his door and peered down the long, dark hallway momentarily frightened by the darkness. The door to his parents’ bedroom stood ajar, but darkness swallowed that room, too, He instinctively knew his parents were up. He could smell his mom’s cooking and hear the faint sounds of parents carefully enjoying the solitude of a sleeping child – hushed words, soft steps across the floor, and restrained laughter.

Taking a deep breath, he stepped into the dark hallway and hurried toward the light at the end. Visions of monsters and other creatures of the darkness quickened his step, but he stopped short just inside the kitchen to take in the happenings on this morning. His mom stood at the stove, her back turned to him, stirring a pan of succulent gravy and scrambling a batch of eggs. Bacon sizzled on the griddle, and biscuits rose in the stove. The boy inhaled the smells of homemade breakfast and his mouth watered. He sighed contentedly and his mother turned toward the noise.

Seeing her only child standing there, she smiled broadly and closed the gap between them enveloping him in a hug. Her soft robe bunched and encased the young boy’s head as she pulled him into her. His vision went white for a moment and all he could breathe was the floral detergent scent from her robe. She gave him one last squeeze and kissed the top of his head. The boy caught his breath and then smiled basking in the warmth of her love before he wandered into the living room to find his dad.

His dad hunched over a console record player that stood along one wall of the living room. He didn’t notice his son at first as he fussed with the turntable in the belly of the console. He adjusted the record and carefully placed the needle on it before he stepped back to see if the song he wanted would play. He stared wistfully at the record as it turned, so focused that he didn’t see the little boy watching him.

Gauzy, sheer curtains hung over the window above the console filtering the early morning sunlight as it struck the man, brightening his young face. The little boy thought his dad glowed, but he failed to notice the slight stoop of a long night’s work. His dad simply wanted to relax a little after the night shift before he wandered down the hall for some sleep only to repeat the routine yet again the next night.

The music started to play and its sweet melody filled the living room. The dad stepped back a little and rubbed his hand through his thick, wavy hair. He wore a white t-shirt that bustled at the chest and arms, a powerful countenance that spoke of the work he did with his hands every night. His dark, blue jeans hung from his thin waist and splayed out above bare feet that dug into the golden shag carpet. Like his son, he enjoyed the feel of the carpet on his toes.

The man turned and saw his young son now, staring at him adoringly. He smiled and waved for him to join him. The little boy ran to his father and hugged his leg, and the man patted his head before he picked him up into his arms. He kissed the boy’s cheek, and the boy giggled at the tickle of the man’s mustache. They sat on the couch together to listen to the song that played.

The song started out slow and gradually rose until it reached the chorus. As the chorus played, the man sang along with his son leaning into him. The little boy felt the warmth of his dad next to him and inhaled the smells of a good night’s work – sweat, aftershave, and cigarette smoke – a sweet mix that he would forever associate with his father. He loved it when his dad sang along to the songs he played. Even at such a young age, he knew people sang when they were happy, and he loved it when his dad was happy.

His dad put his arm around him and hugged him a little closer, and the little boy lay his head on his dad’s broad chest. He could hear him breathing, and when the chorus came around again and his dad sang, the little boy listened to the echo of his dad’s voice in his chest. He loved the way it sounded. It made him feel close to his dad. At that very moment, he understood how much he loved him, and it made him happy. He didn’t want that moment to end. He wanted to sit there with his dad all day while he played his beloved records repeatedly, but such moments weren’t meant to last.