Other Stories, Short Stories, Writing Contest

A Time to Reap – Another Writing Contest Entry

I am once again attempting to hone my writing skills by entering a short story contest hosted by Theresa Oliver’s Short Story Page.  I hope you like it!

The basis for my story.

A TIME TO REAP

Eilain hated her job. It was bad enough that she had to partner with that lech, Thanatos, on the occasional unusual reaping call. But recently, the number of cases had been growing, resulting in her having to spend more and more time rebuking Death’s sexual advances. The guy just wouldn’t give up. It was exhausting.

“Knock knock!” a jaunty masculine voice chimed through the closed – and locked – door.

Eilain rolled her eyes. Speak of the devil.

“I’ll be ready in a second, Than,” she called. “I have a few things to finish up.”

“Just don’t take too long, beautiful,” he replied, his voice heated. “This one’s special. I’m getting a chubby just thinking about it.”

She sighed heavily, her hands resting on the heavy mahogany desk, and bowed her head in helpless disgust. A moment later, the off-key rendition of Nelly’s Hot in Here assailing her senses from the far side of the door finally spurred her into action. With a resigned heave, Eilain pushed herself back and to her feet. She snagged her Hourglass off of the corner of the desk before padding across the room, throwing the bolt, and hurling open the door.

“Hey, baby!” Thanatos greeted her with a sleazy smirk, “Wanna touch my scythe?”

Eilain shouldered past him and gracefully descended the front stairs, grumbling loudly, “Let’s just get this over with, okay? I have a million things to do.”

“You know,” he leered, gliding up behind her and breathing into her ear, “there have been studies that prove that sex improves concentration. Maybe after this, I could help you -”

She cut him off. “Give it a rest, will you, Than?” His breath on her hair was making her stomach turn. She reached the portal and turned to face him. “I am not in the mood.”

A spark of anger flashed in his sockets. He sneered, “What the matter? Is it that time of the month again? I would think you had better control of that, being the Mistress of Time, and all.” Predictably, he injected overt sexual tones into his pronunciation of her title.

Eilain rubbed her temple with her empty hand and spat, “Just shut up and do your job, Death. I know it’s hard for you to refrain from being a lecherous ass, but just this once, try. Try hard. This call is worse than the rest.”

“What’s eating you, Lainey?” he murmured, sounding like a whipped puppy, his anger doused by confusion.

She turned her back on him, effectively putting an end to his loathsome attempt at conversation, and activated the portal. Holding her Hourglass before her chest with both hands, she took the lead, and stepped decisively through the shimmering black membrane.

Thanatos followed, one hand on his scythe, the other gripping her right shoulder so they would not be separated in transit. Once they had arrived safely, he quickly removed his bony fingers before she could shrug them off, possibly aware that he was pushing his luck too far tonight.

They walked to a small cottage – alone in a misty, wildflower-laden field – in silence. Nothing moved but them. No birdsong reached their ears. No breeze ruffled their hair. A pregnant hush blanketed the surroundings, welcoming them with resigned, bated breath.

Entering the cottage, they glided unopposed to the bedside of an exceptionally beautiful woman. She reclined peacefully – her glossy hair artfully spread over silk linens, her lips full and red, her body curvy and voluptuous beneath the thin sheet, the thick lashes of her closed eyes fanning over her flush cheeks.

“Is it time already?” the beauty whispered, her voice heartrendingly weak, eyes still shut.

“I’m afraid it is, Venus,” Eilain answered gently. She watched the last grains of sand pour through her Hourglass rather than Venus’ perfect face, unable to bear witnessing the death of Love.

Thanatos shattered the somber mood by proclaiming gleefully, “Look at the jugs on this one! JACKPOT, baby!”

Eilain closed her eyes. I hate this job.

Humor, Musings, Pet Peeves, Philosophy

Stress, Anyone?

During my initial training as a freight pilot, one of the techniques used by the instructors to evaluate potential employees was to present an ever increasing set of challenges (weather conditions, aircraft malfunctions, elaborate instructions from “air traffic control,” interruptions from “dispatch,” etc. ) during a simulator session to determine how long you could manage the stress before you started making mistakes.  I have recently come to believe that the Universe has adopted this method of evaluating my mettle simply to amuse Itself.  I haven’t received the results in the mail, but I’m fairly certain I failed miserably.

After a long campaign against cancer and a very short skirmish with the additional hostilities of pneumonia, my father in law passed away last week.  Thus began the dwindling of my faculties and my eventual descent to rock bottom, at which I could be found weeping in a Phoenix Sky Harbor airport restroom stall.

As anyone who has met me can attest, I am a control freak.  I need a plan.  My husband’s family?  Not so much.  Combine this lackadaisical event planning style with poor communication skills and an overload of emotional baggage and you begin to see my growing dilemma.  Without my knowledge or consent, I had suddenly become a circus clown juggling seven chainsaws with a distracted assistant haphazardly lobbing flaming batons in my general direction at odd intervals.  And like the proverbial cherry on top, I was also suffering my normal PMS symptoms of exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, and emotional instability.  It was the Perfect Storm of Stress.  I suppose I should be grateful I didn’t maim anyone.

I began this little journey by completely screwing up our travel plans.  I discovered as I attempted to check my husband, two children and myself onto our flight at the ticket counter that the reason I couldn’t print out our boarding passes ahead of time is that the flight I booked wasn’t scheduled to depart for another three weeks.  Luckily, there was another flight within an hour of the one I thought I had booked that was non-stop with seats available and the fantastic women at the ticket counter were able to swap our tickets.

We arrived in Phoenix not knowing where we would be staying or where (or even when) the services would be taking place.  All I knew is that we needed to be back in Illinois on Wednesday for my son’s birthday party, with it’s nonrefundable deposit and invitations already distributed accordingly, on Thursday evening.  I did my best to keep calm and go with the flow while attempting to arrange our return trip with my husband waffling between staying longer to help out his mother and returning on Wednesday with me and the kids.

I was finally able to nail down our return flight standing outside the church immediately prior to the funeral mass on Tuesday.  I know, classy.  To my great surprise, when we arrived to check our bag on our Wednesday morning flight, it turns out that what I had thought was a 9:25 flight was actually a 9:05 flight and we could not check our luggage only 35 minutes before departure.  The next flight was at 6:40 p.m., which I naturally verified 78 times, and trying to figure out what I was going to do to occupy my 3 and 8 year old children for 10 hours at an airport sent me scurrying to the ladies room to blubber away my mascara.

We did finally arrive home at 1:00 a.m. Thursday morning.  I still haven’t recovered my sanity and I really need a vacation.  And a chocolate martini.  Please.

Humor, Musings, Philosophy

Technical Difficulties

It seems the Universe is speaking to me.  The transmission is generally one by one (weak and unintelligible), but the message is vaguely understandable when I adjust the squelch and dampen the static.

This past Thursday, my beloved laptop gave up the ghost.  It had been slowing down and occasionally locking up in it’s old age, but it’s processor had always been healthy and spry, especially after a nice defragmentation and cache cleaning.  As I had no advance warning of it’s death throes, I was not even permitted the closure of being present to say goodbye in it’s final moments of electronic vitality.  It simply slipped quietly into the Dirt Nap Hotel.

R.I.P.

Upon discovering my machine pushing up daisies, I did what anyone would do – after reining in my growing panic, I tried to resuscitate it.  I checked the power cord thinking it may have just come unplugged and drained the battery.  Nope, not the problem.  I held down the power button believing that could restart it.  No response.  I raced to Best Buy fervently hoping that the Geek Squad could determine whether a power cord transplant would revive my mechanized companion.  They pronounced it D.O.A.  In the span of five minutes while my back was turned, it had been reformatted by God and transformed into an expensive brick.

In a murky haze of shock and grief, I purchased a USB hard drive enclosure kit in the scant possibility that it was the laptop’s internal power supply that answered the last call and its hard drive could be salvaged.  Even this final vestige of data was denied to me.  My Gateway had passed into cow-spotted hardware heaven and been promoted to subterranean truffle inspector.

I celebrated its existence and subsequent passing into the Garden of Forever with a bottle of Bacardi Classic Mojito, but the timing of its solo flight began to bother me.  It seems more than a little suspicious that I had just finished updating Quickbooks and uploaded a backup to Dropbox a mere 12 hours before it’s final departure.  This was something that I had never done before and I would have had to reconstruct a tremendous amount of data and been forced to languish in Quickbooks Hell for perhaps another 6 months if this backup was lost.  And then there’s the addition of the new smartphone to my electronic family to consider.  Could this have been a coup?  Is my Optimus V a murderer?  I can only assume there’s an app for that.  Perhaps my trusty laptop was only able to defend Castle Quickbooks long enough for King Backup to slip past enemy lines and elude assassination.

In any case, the sudden relocation of my laptop to Tomb Town has left me at a crossroads.  I could start saving for a new laptop or perhaps a new, more powerful and less expensive desktop.  Or I could simplify my aging home network of two unused geriatric laptops, a middle aged desktop and an adolescent smartphone by simply designating the desktop as the primary family machine and using the Optimus in place of my deceased Gateway.

The fact that I have been searching for ways to simplify my life and reduce the clutter and distractions is not lost on me.  Neither is the fortuitous timing of individual circumstances which brought me to this decision.  Perhaps I am, in fact, reading the Universe loud and clear as I hesitantly start down the latter path by sending the two unused geriatric laptops to the dance floor for their last horizontal tango.  Or perhaps that’s just what my Smartphone Overlords want me to think.