Original Short Story 3 – “They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To”

Here’s a little story I wrote for my writing class, inspired by an image of an old man. I hope you’re having a wonderful week, and I hope you enjoy the story. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think! Happy reading 🙂


The disappearance of Angelika Leos is what brought me to a small Greek island five years ago. The way she had vanished without a trace had sent a chill down my spine. Admittedly, the paycheque also sweetened the deal. It’s not every day that you get assigned to a missing person case. I rented a motorboat, and though I didn’t quite know what I was looking for yet, I knew where I was headed – Angelika’s hometown. The sea was calm that day, but the sun beat relentlessly down and left me with a sunburn the size of Pangea across my shoulders. Only an hour into my trip, the engine made a noise like a clogged drain and sputtered to a halt. Just like that, I was trapped in the middle of the Mediterranean, near an island that I couldn’t pronounce, with a touch of heat stroke and a fatigue so great all I could think about was taking a nap.
I woke up to the sight of an old man standing over me. The shock nearly made me tip the boat. He was possibly the oldest man I had ever seen: lips puckered around a rancid smelling cigar, and wiry eyebrows covering a pair of swampy green eyes. I felt inexplicably jealous that he had managed to get such a rich tan, while I looked not unlike a cooked lobster. He nodded wordlessly and extended a calloused, hairy hand, which I took after a moment’s hesitation. In an instant, he tied my plastic boat to his and we sped away, skipping over the waves like a pebble.
The old man’s house was perched atop a hill, looking dainty as a bird’s nest and just as fragile. I noticed how nimble he was, as he tied up the boat and hauled the rental onto the shore. He looked up and said in broken English; “I fix… later.” I tried to tell him that he didn’t have to, that I would call for a water taxi, but he had already started up the hill, and so I followed.
The inside of his home had the feeling of an empty tavern – warm and inviting, yet strangely sad. The decor consisted mostly of fishing paraphernalia, and in the corner, an old dog that I’d mistaken for a brown rug snoozed away. I got the impression that the dog was his only friend. “I make tea,” he shouted from the kitchen. “You like peppermint?” No, as a matter of fact, I thought peppermint tea was repulsive. “Peppermint’s fine!” I lied, unable to will myself to argue with an old man. Alone in the living room, the warm tavern feeling had shifted. Something was off, though what it was, I didn’t know. I listened to the clanking of cookware, making sure that he was still occupied while I sifted through papers with the name “Nico L.” printed on them, which I guessed was the name of my rescuer. He shuffled back into the room before I had a chance to find anything substantial. My heart beat fast, and I was worried it might shut down like my boat’s engine had. I nodded thanks as I took the mug in my hands. We sat for a while, sipping our lukewarm tea, bound by a rope of silence. I watched him carefully. He looked constantly on the verge of crying as if he was replaying a sad memory in his mind. I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. He was nearing the end of his life, and his solitude was causing him grief. I looked at my lap, not quite knowing what to say. It was then that I saw, lying on the floor, those unmistakable green eyes looking back at me, contained in the prison of a photograph: Angelika Leos. My whole body stiffened. He noticed me staring. “Ah. You look for Angelika,” he croaked. I took a moment to breathe. Steady, heart, steady. “You… know her?” I stared at his creased brown face, which was twisting into a horrible grimace. “Nico,” I whispered. “What happened to her?” He got up and hobbled over to the window, looking down at the sea. “You are lucky,” he began, “that your boat did not sink.” he looked down. “I told my daughter before she left. They don’t make those boats like they used to.” Nico turned to face me then, and his stony expression had turned soft. The tears that I thought would fall never did. He wore the stoic look of a soldier, of a father, of a man that was done crying. “She never listened.”

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Original Short Story 2 – “Paying Lobster”

 

“God bless him,” said Georgia, as she stood at the foot of the ramshackle grave marked with the name ‘Renner H. Cromwell’. Beneath it was the date of his death, as well as a short sentimental inscription: ‘A man of honour.’ Georgia and her partner Carolin huddled closely together while the early winter wind whipped around the cemetery. Beneath her heavy scarf, Carolin’s face twisted. “Who paid for the lettering? Aren’t you supposed to pay by the letter?” She stuffed her hands further into her coat pockets and exhaled a cloud of frozen breath. “This son of a bitch’s name alone could put his family in debt.” She bent down as if to observe the handicraft of the headstone up close. Georgia clenched her teeth and glared at her partner. “He was a good man. Really,” she said. Carolin chuckled. “You know, if you have to say that, it usually means he wasn’t very good at all.”

Back on the main road, the pair walked with their heads down towards the centre of town. “I feel like I should have brought flowers,” Georgia said through her scarf. “He was an important man. Do you get cursed if you don’t bring flowers to the grave of an important man?” At first, she laughed at herself for thinking this, but then she felt a chill run up her spine and she fell silent once more. If she wouldn’t be cursed for forgetting flowers, then she sure as hell would be cursed for what she had already done to his grave.

Under the warm light of a street side café, the two shed their layers of clothing and sat at a table by the window. “It’ll be in the news before long. They’re gonna know,” Carolin said, her hands wrapped around a mug full of freshly poured coffee. Georgia waved away the waiter’s attempts to pour a mug for her as well. Carolin sighed; “They’re exhuming the grave on Saturday and they’ll know that we were hanging around.” Georgia stared out the window and tapped her fingers on the table. In a sudden moment of clarity, she shook her head. “No. No, they aren’t gonna know,” she said. Carolin looked at her friend in a way that said, ‘I appreciate the optimism, but at the same time I really don’t.’ Georgia didn’t even notice. Her mind was already spinning at a mile a minute with ideas. “Hear me out! We do something public, but not too showy. We pay homage to him somehow, get the dirt off our shoulders. Easy as that.” The waiter came around a second time with a new pot of coffee, to which an exhausted Carolin raised her mug for a refill. “That’s a fine idea, but where are we gonna get one this time of year?” She asked, after burning her tongue on the coffee. Georgia furrowed her brow at her partner. “It doesn’t have to be something huge, just… like I said, just to pay homage to him, make it seem like we respected him-” she rambled, before being cut off by Carolin. “Yeah, I heard you the first time, but where are we gonna get one this time of year?” Georgia had already pulled out her phone and started writing down notes. “Carolin. What do you mean one?” They gawked at each other in mutual confusion. Georgia blinked. “A lobster,” Carolin said simply. Georgia stared, dumbfounded, at her. “You said pay homage. Lobster. I’m taking online French courses,” Carolin confessed. When it finally clicked, Georgia laughed and put her head in her hands. “God dammit, Carolin, you better not end up in prison. They would chew you up.”

They paid the cheque and donned their winter clothes once again, everything the same as it was before, except for the word homard that had been hastily written in black pen on Carolin’s hand as a reminder. The fear was only now beginning to set in. It would only be a matter of time before someone realized that the grave of public figure Renner H. Cromwell was empty. They were going to have to come up with a plan, and fast. Preferably not lobster-related.

*via Daily Prompt: Homage

 

*This story was written on 08/27/17 – the day the prompt was released. 

Original Short Story 1 – “Tempt”

There she was. A young girl wandering about the streets. The air was cold and the buildings creaked, the dead of night wrapped her up and made her lungs tighten. She had been daydreaming of her fellow. He wasn’t very nice to her at all but she liked him anyway. When she came out of her reverie she realized that she had come to a halt before a crooked little wooden shop. It baffled her to see the shop, for it had never been there before and it looked as though it had been constructed overnight. Indeed that’s what had happened. The shifty makeshift shingled shop seemed to whisper her name, so she entered because she was a little bit delirious and didn’t know how she’d gotten there. She was cold. The shop radiated a warm glow and sucked her inside its mouth like a lemon drop. She quite liked the feeling of being a lemon drop.

 The shop was strange, it was much larger on the inside than the outside, and the walls were lined with shelves that went from the floor to the ceiling, the ceiling to the floor and the feiling to the cloor. The shelves were filled with boxes that had papers spilling out of them. Some blank, some burnt, some drawn on. Directly ahead was a very small desk with a chair that faced the opposite wall. She was not scared so she didn’t blink. The girl cleared her tight throat, and shook away the night. The chair spun round to reveal an old man sitting behind the desk. She was not surprised.

He had the silveriest facial hair she’d ever seen, even more silvery than her fellow’s. He was writing. The girl wasn’t curious but the silence became unbearable so she began to inquire about what he was writing. The old man suddenly turned solemn and furrowed his brow. “If you do not know my business,” he began, “then why do you come seeking my services, child?” The girl was embarrassed suddenly and turned around to leave but the man called after her and told her please sit down. She didn’t turn around right away. After thinking for a while in the warm shop the girl was confused, as there were no chairs in the room, but when she turned around again, there was indeed, a magnificent velvet chair where there was once empty space. She was not scared so she didn’t blink. She sat down and the old man looked her dead in the eye. His eyes were the colour of the night. She shivered. It was warm but she shivered still. 

 “Do you wish to know of your future?” he asked The girl laughed for the first time in her whole life because that’s what she thought she should do. what? did she? She asked him, “what will this cost me?” Cocking a silvery eyebrow, the man put his hand to his chin and stroked his magnificent moustache once. twice. thrice. frice. “I suppose it will cost you your life,” he decided. The girl shrugged her little shoulders. Her fellow had his life taken and was still as lively as ever. Still a bit curious, she asked him next what all the papers on the walls were for. He glared at her with a silvery eye and a silvery frown, and said, “Don’t change the subject and please don’t waste my time. Would you like to see your future, or not? She sat silently and wondered for a little bit. She could just feel a sliver of cold air trying to latch itself onto her. She hissed at the cold and shooed it away so that she could concentrate. Could this really be true? Perhaps without her life she could be nice with her fellow again, like old times. She sighed. How lovely it would be. In all her 12 years she had yet to receive such a delicious offer. “Yes, i would like to see my future,” she said. She was not scared so she didn’t blink. the old man cried a little bit. He told her not to worry. Perhaps he just had allergies. 

He got out a marvellous quill pen and a bottle of ink. It was spiffing and the girl wanted to steal the quill but she remembered her fellow. When he stole he was hanged and he died she remembered. “My dear child, I haven’t yet told you of my specific services,” he whispered. The girl was irritated, as it was late and she was a little bit tired and maybe drunk. After all she was only a small child and she needed to get home to her fellow. “I am going home,” she reminded herself. “I will be with my fellow.” The old man stood up from his chair. The girl nodded her head and said, “Tell me what you do please.” The girl remarked that he was very short. Indeed more short than her fellow. Her fellow was a tall fellow, yes. He cleared his throat and began to speak.  Melodic was his voice all of a sudden. As if he’d recited this over and over. “My duty is a very arduous one. you see, people come from far and wide to utilize my service. I possess the power to see into the future, and I draw images of what people will look like when they die, so their age, health and so forth. I set up shop only once in a while, when I can sense that someone will be tempted to wander in.” the girl was intrigued just a little bit by the little man. how very badly she wanted to know her future! When would she die? In a few months? Years? Centuries?

A clock struck midnight outside. She counted the tolling bells on her fingers and gasped and nearly ran from the shop. Midnight was her curfew, how her fellow would be mad! But alas, her temptation was far too strong, and so she stayed in the velvet chair, awaiting her future to be shown to her. The old man took his seat again behind the desk and looked at the girl once more. “Give my your hand, child” he whispered so softly she wouldn’t have heard if she weren’t sitting so close. She placed her hands on the table. She was not scared. She did not blink. The old man, not once breaking his stare, took her smooth hands in his aged, wrinkled ones. He then closed his eyes and started humming a familiar tune; God Save the King. The girl was scared now. Her fellow sang this exact song while just before he hanged. He never got to finish. She blinked a little bit. She stayed where she was and silently said her prayers. May my fellow come back she said. May he come back and stop hurting me. That wouldn’t take too long, she knew her fellow would return again more kindly than he had before. She was so very anxious to see a glimpse into her future life. She watched the old man closely, his wrinkles were fading, his silvery hair dulling, but the light from her own eyes was draining. “May he defend our laws, and ever give us cause, to sing with heart and voice, God save the king…”

“Our father prince and friend, God save the -“ the man immediately stopped humming then, and his eyes opened with a jolt. He released the girl’s hand forcefully. Funny, that was where her fellow had stopped singing too! He smoothed out the paper on the desk, but then reached in the drawer instead. the girl assumed he was getting a different kind of paper or a fresh pot of ink, but he pulled out a large rectangular object that looked quite heavy, wrapped in brown paper. He looked the girl dead in the eye as he unwrapped the paper and said “if only you hadn’t given into temptation, my dearest one.” the paper peeled back to reveal a glimmering surface. An exquisite mirror! The old man held it up and the girl was faced with her own reflection. It took her a moment, but she soon understood. She began to sing. “God save our gracious king, long live our noble king.” The door behind her slammed open and a gust of wind swept through the shop. She couldn’t bear to look behind her so she focused straight ahead. She saw her dead fellow, hurtling toward her with a knife in hand. She was not scared so she didn’t blink. She smiled as her fellow brought her warmth, plunging the knife into her chest. The last thing she saw was a portrait of herself, glowing with temptation and regret.


I thought I would try something new this week, I hope it’s interesting to you. This story was quite out of my comfort zone, I tried a brand new voice but I really like how it turned out. I’m thinking that adding an original story once every few weeks like this one will help to bridge the gap between book reviews. Speaking of book reviews, I apologize for the sparsity of those. I’ve been quite busy with school but there is one coming up. Thank you very much for reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

-Mackenzie