Just the Tip

NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2015

1st Round, Heat 28

Genre: Comedy

Subject: Unemployment

Character: A fitness instructor

I had a lot of fun writing this piece.  Some wouldn’t consider anxiety, occasional bouts of self-loathing and sleep deprivation fun, but I look at the woes of writing as necessary components of the creative process.  As with everything I write, there were also the euphoric highs as I watched something being crafted and refined from nothing but the cluttered confines of my mind.

I had eight days to concoct this story using the genre, subject and character parameters listed above, and a 2,500 word limit.  A big thank you goes out to my very capable beta readers, and my followers.  I write for my readers, and I could never do this without you.

Enjoy, and please feel free to comment.  For more in depth critiques, please don’t hesitate to contact me using the contact link found on the home page.


“Asshole!”

Zane sprung forward, shoving the guy in the doughnut suit.  This was the third day in a row the fat, chocolate covered grease wheel had tried to encroach upon his street corner.

“Dick!”

The doughnut pushed back, nearly toppling Zane in his own top heavy costume baring the remarkable likeness of a plump, juicy hotdog.

While the certainty of war mounted, neither combatant realized the irony of their insults toward one another.

As Zane stood his ground, the doughnut occupier’s scowl suddenly softened into a look of confusion.  His gaze had shifted toward something beyond his challenger.  Zane turned, waddling like a penguin within his suit.  He had to see what drew his opponent’s attention away from their impending battle for real estate.

An old, grungy panhandler who had unwittingly obtained front row seats to the epic foam food battle was having a grand old time.  Zane watched from the confines of his hotdog suit as the old coot stumbled from behind a sparse grouping of leaf barren bushes.  He assumed the tattered clothed mocker had been relieving himself in as much privacy as the cross streets of Jewell Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard had to offer.  The man’s hysterical laughter collapsed his lungs in a raspy wheeze while he pointed toward the doughnut.

“… Asshole doughnut!”

His trembling hand and accusing finger laid claim to Zane next.  “Dick the…”

Consternation suddenly laid claim to the deep wrinkles across the old bum’s face.  His shit eating, yellow toothed grin fell away under the duress of sudden panic.  His eyes widened, focusing upon some unseen point in space.

Zane wondered if the derelict would die right there in front of them.  He caught movement in his peripheral.  His doughnut nemesis was now standing beside him.  Glancing toward one another, Zane could see the face occupying a fair portion of the doughnut hole silently questioning the beggar’s potential for demise as well.

The old man dropped his cardboard sign advertising God’s blessings in exchange for anything spared by the inhabitants of passing traffic.  Falling to his knees, he reclaimed his pointing finger, clinched his hand into a fist and pounded it against his chest.  A penumbra of reds laid claim to his facial color.  Who knew how many shades of purple his weathered skin would explore before he finally keeled over?

Zane felt he should do something.  Was the old fart choking?  He couldn’t perform the Heimlich maneuver.  His arms only protruded his hotdog bun from the elbows down!  He took a step in the man’s direction, but stopped short.

The greasy haired turd arched his back as though his spine had been sheered below the ribs.  A roiling hack rose from deep within his chest flinging an egg yolk from his lungs.  Gritty laughter followed hot on the heels of the slimy projectile.  Though he kneeled twenty feet from Zane and the territory thieving doughnut, the glob of lung butter was headed straight for them with supersonic speed.

Instinct kicked in.  Zane had become used to dodging objects hurled from passing traffic.  Since taking the dancing dog job for Fanny’s Fancy Franks three weeks ago, he had avoided countless half empty fast food cups, about a buck fifty-seven in change, two golf balls and one enormous bra.

Zane bent at the waist and ducked the tip of his wiener as low as possible while spinning on a heel to his right.  Unfortunately, the dumbass doughnut zigged while Zane had zagged, and a whole different problem arose.  The tip of his wiener had just wedged itself into the chocolate covered doughnut hole.

A cry sounded through the costume’s void above Zane’s head.  The muffled sound of the complaint suggested the doughnut man’s face had been completely overcome by the foam frank.  He also guessed the guy’s head was the culprit behind such a tight fit.

Serves the asshole right, Zane thought to himself.

Zane reached as far as he could above his head trying to disengage himself from the doughnut.  He strained at the armholes in the suit.  He felt nothing.  Zane could hear the panhandler still laughing, and wondered if he and his now conjoined marketing actor had managed to avoid the submission from the old fart’s lungs.

“You’re stuck in my hole!”

“I know dumb ass”, Zane replied as loudly as possible so captain obvious could hear him.  “But I think it’s just the tip!”

Panhandler’s laughter increased in volume tenfold, broken only by bouts of hacking cough.  Mockery from someone who likely hadn’t showered since the late nineties was starting to piss Zane off.  As soon as he could pull the tip of his wiener from the asshole doughnut, he had half a mind to turn his rage toward the loogie hocking prick.  Shit, he and his phlegm rocket caused this whole damn mess!

“Wrap your arms around my hotdog”, Zane shouted once again.

“I can feel the bun, but I can’t get a good grip!  It’s getting really hard to breathe!”

Zane shook violently in his suit and pulled with all his might.  He could feel doughnut guy doing the same.  To no avail though; fatigue was setting in.  His associate’s degree in kinesiology and half his life spent in the gym weren’t going to provide enough strength to get him out of this situation, just as his enormous muscular physique played no part in keeping his job as a fitness instructor.

“I need a break”, Zane called out behind a gasp.

“Me too”, doughnut’s voice admitted through the void above Zane’s head.  “I’m getting light headed.”

Despite the agreed upon break, Zane would be forced to stand bent at the waist for as long as he remained stuck in the doughnut hole.  A steely hue of light across his vantage point of the sidewalk below suggested the sun had begun to set.

How in hell had he come to this?  Zane had never been praised as the brightest bulb in the box by his friends or family, but he had aspirations.  He wanted to have a business of his own.  Hell, his crazy uncle with a wicked case of Turrets owned a hotdog shop.  Why couldn’t he find some niche in the market?

Fitness trainer was supposed to be his ticket until his zealous passion for results cost him his job.  Zane saw causing several clients to shit their pants on the squat machine as a testament to his commitment toward the job…  His boss felt otherwise, and fired him six weeks ago.

Zane longed for the arrival of his first unemployment check so he could dump this shitty temp job.  He’d only agreed to wear the hotdog suit promoting his uncle’s restaurant to make a little cash under the table until his unemployment kicked in.

“Ah you two just goin to stand hea o what?”

It seemed the mocking panhandler had harnessed his amusement toward their demise.  The gravelly voice to Zane’s left carried the weight of about thirty years of smoking two packs a day.  Having seen the unborn chicken he had heaved from his lungs a moment ago, this was no surprise.  Zane did find the Boston accent behind his rasp quite odd and even a bit amusing however.  The non-rhotic slaying of r’s and long a’s were something one rarely heard in Denver Colorado.

Suddenly the old man’s face appeared beneath Zane’s view of the sidewalk.  He smiled wide with a hiss, relinquishing a smattering of yellow teeth and more than a few voids where some of the corn colored chompers had abandoned ship.   His breath smelled like an ashtray filled with fish heads.

“Well if you’re done laughing your ass off and hocking up lung butter, maybe you could help us out.”

“Faack no!  This is the funniest thing I’ve evah seen!  You know what you two look like?  You look like a giant…”

The amused mocker’s description was cut short.  His head shot from in front of Zane’s limited view.  For a moment, Zane wondered if another physics defying glob of chest snot had laid claim to the old guy’s throat, but then he heard what must have halted his train of thought.

A high pitched screech filled the air.  Even with his ears confined behind the thick wiener suit, the noise was deafening.  A thud along with the unmistakable sound of crumpling metal and cracking plastic should have halted the squeal, but the scream of skidding rubber against asphalt still howled.  Another boom of impact resounded…  More squealing and screeching…  Twisting and scraping metal accompanied the pounding percussion of collision.  Shattering and tinkling glass joined the concerto along with a harmony of blasting horns.

It was an orchestra of carnage!

Zane could still feel the pucker between his southernmost set of cheeks when he realized his roadside predicament was likely the catalyst behind the melody of mayhem that had just happened.  He wished like hell he could have seen the wreck as it was taking place!

“Holy shit!”

Zane heard the panhandler’s profane proclamation some distance behind him.  “Yeah, I bet”, he muttered quietly.

Zane suddenly felt the conjoined doughnut pulling him forward.  Certainly, his vantage point being buried beneath the tip of a giant wiener was no better than the concrete Zane was forced to view. The guy probably wanted to see the insurance nightmare that had just taken place beside them as badly as he did.

Before he could gain any leverage, Zane realized what was happening.  The doughnut was going down, and he could do nothing to stop it.

“Damn it!” Zane cried out, realizing their situation would worsen once the doughnut went horizontal.

The foam doughnut fell softly to the ground, but the motion was nearly enough to yank Zane from his feet.  Suddenly, necessity finally began to prevail.  An idea started to materialize in Zane’s frantic mind.  He realized the new angle had just pushed the limits of his costume’s rigidity.  Even now, the bend in his wiener felt as though it was threatening to lift his body from the ground.

Zane struggled to push doubt from his mind.  His idea had to work!

Inching into position, Zane could hear the spit of raspy laughter from the panhandler ensue once again.  Zane shook his head and sighed, and then began the countdown.

“Three…”  He crouched managing to pull his feet a little closer to the doughnut.

“Two…”  His weight hung against the costume’s upward tension.

“One!”  The legs he used to squat five hundred pounds with at the gym erupted beneath him.

As his body flung toward the sky, Zane felt the wiener begin to stiffen.  A certain confidence began to build in his mind.  Sure, being built like a brick shithouse and years of training may not have kept him from the perils of unemployment.  Yes, his drive for fitness ultimately cost him his dream job as a trainer.  But today his muscle and drive would prevail!

Zane reached the pinnacle of his pole vaulting arch.  The fully taunt wiener held true for a few seconds, allowing him to survey his surroundings from an elevated, but upside down perspective.  The concert of crashing cars looked like a scene from an apocalypse movie.  At least a ten car pileup! Despite the strewing heaps of wreckage making for a landscape of fender bender hell, a multitude of people stared precisely in his direction.  Their phones held high, undoubtedly filming and snapping pictures of his uncanny physical abilities.  Zane could even swear he heard cheers and hollers from the crowd.  Is this what professional athletes felt while displaying their own amazing fitness driven skill, Zane wondered.  Why not, he began to rationalize his sudden fame.

Zane felt his wiener pull against the doughnut’s grip as his graceful arch began to succumb to gravity.  Nothing but sky came into view, and a smile pressed at his cheeks.  His trajectory was perfect!

Now all I have to do is stick the landing, he thought.

The tip of his wiener announced its freedom with a jarring pop that sent a shudder through the rest of the costume.  Once free, the fall to earth hastened exponentially until Zane finally felt the assuredness of the sidewalk beneath his feet.

Zane took a moment to revel in the flawless dismount.  He slowly straightened the slight bend in his knees he’d used to dampen the landing’s blow.  Though no rising music of triumph was playing, the climactic end to his demise had mustered a burst of electric guitar power chords within his mind.

“Yes!” he shouted at the top of his lungs while pumping a clinched fist into the air, and turning to face the appreciators of his talent.

A sizable crowd continued to amass, seeming oblivious to the wreckage of cars around them.  Some still held their anomaly capturing phones aloft, others covered their faces with open palms.  Where those tears of joy he saw?

Such attention was foreign to Zane.  An acute sense of humility and tinge of embarrassment settled in his chest.  He suddenly felt foolish for his earlier pity party.  Had it not been for his unemployment and shitty job as a waltzing wiener he would have never known such acclaim.

Zane did the only thing he could think of in appreciation.  He bowed low taking view of the sidewalk once again.  The tip of his wiener bobbed up and down toward the rising roar of the crowd.  Much of the ruckus began to fill with laughter.  Zane smiled with empathy.   Seeing a hotdog bow must be a strange sight, but he knew the source of their true infatuation.  His athleticism is what had drawn their focus.  He couldn’t imagine the positive advertising effects this was doing for his uncle’s restaurant.

With one final bow to his left, much of the crowd suddenly grew quiet.  Murmuring quickly followed.

“What is that”, a woman’s voice questioned with exasperation.

As he began to stand from his final bow, his sight caught something glinting in the final light of day.  The further he stood the more clear it became.  Something oozed from the tip of his wiener, and stretched nearly to the pavement below.  Realization took hold too late, and Zane’s bliss turned to mortification…  The panhandler’s supersonic snot had not been dodged.  Not only had it not been avoided, the slime string from the tip of his wiener swung as Zane stood fully, and plastered itself across his face.

In a fit of disgusted panic, Zane struggled to wipe the goo, but his arms would not reach.  Holding back the urge to wretch, bile stung the back of his throat.  He stumbled and writhed, desperately trying to shake the trail of rancid phlegm.  Zane spun, looking to the ground for anything he might use to rid the muck.

Without warning, his efforts were stopped short.  A muffled yell called out from the costume’s void above his head…

“Not again!”

 

Resistance, Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Sticking to less traveled streets and the shadows of properties she knew well, Zsofia made three kilometers of the trek from her home in the center of the zóna quickly and undetected.  She decided to make a stop out of her way to rouse her only true friend besides Attila.  One way or another, Zsofia would get the hell out of the area she had resided within her entire life, but she suddenly felt a traveling companion would be advantageous.

Vargas Kristóf rubbed a fog from his eyes, and sat straining his ears, listening for the sound he swore had just woke him.  He didn’t have to wait long.  A deliberately rhythmic tapping came from the window across the room.  Three short, one long, a second long and four short…  Kristóf felt his heart leap into his throat with anticipation.  It had to be Zsofi!  She had not visited him at this hour in years!  He flew from his bed to the window and threw the drapes open.

While Kristóf carefully slid the ground level window open, Zsofia met his elated smile with a scolding frown of her own.  There had been a time in both of their young lives when she and Kristóf had found their lifelong friendship in a physically experimental stage.

“Well hello Zsofi”, Kristóf greeted her with devious eyes and a matching smile.

“I’m not here for that”, Zsofia retorted with a huff.  “You’re so stupid.  Now move out of the way so I can come in.”

Zsofia saw she had completely cut the air from her friend’s sails by thwarting his hormonal assumptions.  She suddenly felt a little sorry for the poor guy.  What else could he assume?  The last time she had rapped on his window at three o’clock in the morning, her visit had been for entirely different purposes.  Even if it had been over six years since their last physical endeavor, Zsofia always knew those few short months of poor decisions left a lasting impression upon poor Kristóf.

“What are you doing out so late”, Kristóf asked through a look of confusion.

Zsofia hopped from the window sill, and slid the window closed behind her.  “Damn, its cold out there!”

Kristóf stared at her; his question still apparent from the depths of his crystal blue eyes.

Zsofia wrapped her slender arms around Kristóf’s broad neck and hugged him tightly.  “Sorry I called you stupid.”

She did find her friend quite attractive.  His unkempt blonde locks, broad shoulders, mesmerizing eyes and witty humor should be enough to lure any young lady.  Any young lady but her, it seemed.  Zsofia couldn’t see the young man before her as anything more than a dear friend.  They had been through thick and thin together since they were children.  Both of them shared the common denominator of high ranking fathers who were too busy to trouble themselves with the concerns of parenting.  Zsofia’s mother died when she was twelve, while her friend’s father had divorced when Kristóf had been the same age.  At least her father had never remarried, and she knew some stability by way of Attila.  Kristóf had currently been enduring the hell of stepmother number five who had been as ignorant toward his wellbeing as his father.

Zsofia released her hugging grip to be met with the caring eyes and kind smile of her friend, minus the hormones.  “Is your dad home tonight?”

Kristóf puffed and rolled his eyes.  “Of course not.  Stepmom is probably passed out drunk somewhere in the house while the high and mighty chief of police is undoubtedly out whoring around in search of her inevitable replacement.”

Zsofia couldn’t help but giggle at her friend’s pessimism, mostly because the irony of it all.  Here they were, the privileged offspring of world leader elitists, yet the dysfunction they had both known throughout their lives was staggering.

“So are you going to answer me or not”, Kristóf asked.

Zsofia traipsed across the bedroom and plopped on Kristóf’s bed.  She grabbed one of the tousled blankets and wrapped it around her freezing hands.  “I’m taking a trip”, she finally replied with a broad smile.

“You’re what?”

“You heard me.  I’m leaving the zóna Kristóf.  Wanna come with me?”

“Oh you idiot”, Kristóf spat in a tone dripping with disdain.  “I assume the zóna you’re referring to is our protected neighborhood?”

Zsofia nodded, still smiling from ear to ear.

“You’re out of your damn mind woman!  How do you plan on getting past the wall?  If you do manage to sneak out, how long are you planning to be gone?  While we’re at it, where are you going to go once you’re out?  Good God, what will your father or Attila do when they find out you’ve gone?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Which part”, Kristóf snorted.

“None of it matters.  I’m sick to death of being stuck here.  I want out damnit!  I want to see what’s beyond the walls we’ve lived between since we were born!”

Kristóf shook his head pinching the bridge of his slender nose between his fingers.  “Zsofia, I cannot go with you.  As much as I adore you, I cannot support you in this.”

“Why not”, Zsofia’s voice bore exasperation from Kristóf’s denial much like his expression had portrayed when she scolded him for his assumptions toward her visit.

“We may both be the offspring of some lousy parents Zsofi, but we have the privilege of being born to those in power.  Why are you so curious to see what lies beyond walls constructed for your safety?  Why can’t you just be content for once in your life?”

Zsofia shrugged her shoulders.  Kristóf made sense.  She had a life on a silver platter regardless of her father’s involvement in her life.  She wanted for nothing.  Nothing except to quench an insatiable curiosity.  There is more out there!  So much to be discovered, so much to learn.  To hell with what she had been taught!  She would never be contained to a mold solely for the fact that she had been told to do so.

“Kristóf, you know how I am.”

A crooked smile took shape across his chiseled face while he scuffed a bare foot upon the floor.  “I know Zsofi, and I wouldn’t know you any other way.”

Zsofia unwound her formerly freezing hands from the confines of the warm blanket, and stood from the bed.  Setting course for her friend, Kristóf met her pursuit.  Zsofia hugged him tightly then found his lips with hers, kissing him gently.

Kristóf brought his hands from around her waist and held their kiss in place with no more than a touch to her flushed cheeks.  Zsofia did not feel the lust his eyes had borne when they met at the window earlier.  Instead, she translated his affection in the purity it had been given.  He feared they would never see each other again…  Be careful my friend.

Zsofia and Kristóf parted ways.  Part of her heart screamed to stay under the shelter of her friend’s logic.  Another part, the yearning she felt for answers, pushed her from warmth and known safety in search of what lay beyond the walls of logic she’d been confined within for far too long.

While her mind swam in a pool of conflict, Zsofia stumbled with little more aim than putting one foot in front of the other.  Suddenly her nearly aimless path flooded with an icy light brighter than a midday’s sun.  The contrast of her own shadow cast itself steeply from the tips of her toes into the distance.  Zsofia turned toward the source of cold illumination.  She shielded her eyes from the piercing light.  No focus would come, though her mind began to rationalize the fact that she had somehow triggered an alarm on the property she was mindlessly traipsing across.  A sound tore through the air, conquering the resonance of her own breathing.  Two long shadows danced in the distance.  While the shadows grew, the sound preceding them became distinguishable.  Fear gripped her heart while a sudden clarity forced its way into her mind.

Run!

Zsofia’s feet dug at the rain soaked lawn beneath her.  The fuel of adrenalin overcame panic.  Every strand of muscle in her legs fired at the call of her mind’s prehistoric instinct to survive.  The terrifying sound seemed to be at her heels now.  Barking, snarling, a metallic clinking that was likely some jewel hung from the collars of the beasts.  Zsofia’s hindbrain would not relent; it would not allow her to entertain anything beyond moving as fast as her physical body could move.

She ran until the cover of the night consumed her once again.  Her steps only slowed with the onset of subconscious caution.  It would be a shame to have claimed such a distance only to step into a hole or end up in a bush.

She had no idea how long she had been running, but for the first time since her feet had given flight, Zsofia began to account for her surroundings.  She couldn’t hear the barking anymore.  A cool northerly breeze bit at her cheeks.  With little protest from her legs, fear finally began to subside.  Her stride shortened into a jog, a walk and finally a quivering limp.  She aimed for a thick grouping of trees.  The enormous trees greeted her weary saunter.  Despite an ominous dark that lay beyond the arboreous cover, the giant oaks felt welcoming.  Zsofia held little caution toward the unknown beyond the massive tree trunks.  She simply fell to the ground upon a pile of fallen leaves, and rolled to her back.

Zsofia panted wildly; her heart pounding in her ears.  While she lay supine under the shroud of a huge oak, her legs quivered with adrenalin and fatigue.  She stared beyond the tufts of leaves still holding to their perch despite the thwarting efforts of the late autumn season.  Stars twinkled above.  Thank God the rain had finally stopped.

Wonder swam through her mind.  She didn’t have a clue how far she’d run, where she currently lay or if her snarling pursuers where still out there somewhere, sniffing her out.  Zsofia careened her neck staring toward the unexplainable dark lying beyond her temporary refuge.  Every sense within her stood alert, but aside from the musty smell of decaying leaves, her other senses were met with little confirmation.

Zsofia rolled to her stomach while continuing to discern something from the darkness ahead.  Squinting, she allowed her eyes to trace the dark from where she lost sight of the ground to the sky above.  Understanding suddenly brought focus.  The darkness beyond the sheltering trees was not some consuming space; it was an object.  Some distance above, a horizontal line served as a horizon between the darkness before her and the stars.  The breach of black toward the night sky above stretched to either side of her as far as her eyes could see.  Zsofia called upon a reserve of strength and stood…  The wall!


“Hit him Attila.”

“Scream as though this hurts worse than anything you have ever felt”, Attila whispered then dug the electrified rod into the boy’s side.

Wonder momentarily swept across the boy’s face as if to ask his torturer why he showed mercy.  Attila deliberately positioned himself between the interrogated and Arpad for this reason.  Then the feigned cry came.  His writhing and wailing so convincing that Attila glanced at the tool he held to assure he had turned the voltage down to no more than a tickle as intended.  The boy’s acted agony surely pulled upon some profound inspiration.  Perhaps such acting had been fueled by the fact that he’d been stripped naked, hung from chains by his wrists and beaten regularly for hours prior to Arpad’s and his personal involvement.  Maybe his cries were rooted in having watched his parents beaten to death in front of him two days prior.

Attila was unaware of the boy’s crime other than he had turned his own parents over to the council’s police one week ago with the accusation of being a part of an increasingly rumored resistance.  After succumbing to death without giving any tangible information, the council felt the boy may be more relinquishing since he’d been bold enough to betray his own blood.  Lavish accommodations and promises of grandeur on the boy’s behalf in appreciation for his loyalty to the world council didn’t seem to expose anything beyond the boy’s initial accusation.  Time to take a different approach.

Attila had witnessed the age old public humiliation and torture tactics used over and over again throughout his career.  It kept the people in check.  If they began to rebel, or rumors such as this ‘resistance’ would sprout, Arpad and the oligarchy’s council would respond with a publicized fierce brutality.

As the proclaimed world leader, Arpad rarely took personal involvement in these sorts of matters.  However, he did feel it necessary to occasionally show his disciplinary side to the people.  If a reason behind who he chose to make an example of existed, it was only known to him.  Regardless of his motives, one thing always rang true in his method.  Anytime he saw fit to make his example upon some rebellious part of society, Attila would be the one chosen to administer his bidding.

Mercy despite his boss’s instruction hadn’t always been Attila’s way.  In his younger years, Attila found no remorse in doing as he had been told.  It had been the reason he advanced to the head of Arpad Szabo’s security.  Just like having to use reading glasses now, it seemed age had begun to influence other areas of his life.  A steadily growing bridge began to span the gap between duty and conscious.  This had been the third time in a row Attila showed leniency toward the tortured.

The acts had thus far been kept from Arpad and the attending camera crews.  Ultimately the end result would always be a variation of death, but Atilla had begun to find it easier to sleep if he eased the passing in some way.

More questions came, and were left unanswered.  The boy feigned shock and horror each time Attila secretly failed to administer what had been commanded, but the young man had begun to succumb to fatigue.  He had not been fed or given water all day, and had been strung up by chains for hours.  True to form, Arpad eventually became bored by the lack of results and the steadily decreasing fight from his weakening victim.  He checked his watch and sighed.

“Drain him.”

Rustling could be heard across the packed room as cameras jockeyed for prime position, but no one said a word.  Attila backed away from the boy.  His skinny, bruised and naked body hung limp, bathed in the bright lights of surrounding cameras.  He would be just another victim whose death would be broadcast from a room used for such a purpose many times before.  The floor drain beneath his feet would lap up the blood that would spill, his body would be burned and at fourteen years old, he would only be remembered as one of the council’s pointless examples to society.

Attila neared the stainless steel table beyond any of the camera’s view.  Strangely, he felt anger toward his duty.  To drain the young man meant the careful insertion of a large gauge needle into his carotid artery.  The boy’s blood would course from his neck until his heart failed.  Known as a simple but dramatic death, draining him would not be nearly fast or painless enough.

Setting the electrocution rods on the table, Attila gave pause.  More rustling could be heard.  The room stank with anticipation.  Standing in full uniform, he fumbled at the hilt of his ornamental sword.  He would be seen by millions as nothing short of a monster, but he would not drain him.  Regardless of the consequences, he would make the boy’s inevitable end quick and painless.

Breaking his always calm demeanor and obedience, Attila spun from the table laden with torture devices.  A primal roar spilled from his throat, freezing those in the room with shock.  The young boy didn’t even look up before Attila’s sword had been unsheathed and swung.  Though ornamental in its design, the blade tore through muscle and bone without being slowed.  The edge met the end of its descent and use as a weapon as it shattered against the stone floor beneath where the boy’s body now hung in two pieces.  Attila stared at the expressionless face of the boy’s head as it rolled to his feet amongst the broken shards of the blade he had used to remove the young mind from its body.  Attila’s sword had not only decapitated its victim as the two chains used to confine Arpad’s latest example now swung and clanged independently.  One chain held the boy’s right arm and still twitching fingers.  The left arm and attached body hung from the other.

Attila turned to the cameras.  The stomachs of several in attendance wretched from the gore.  Others feebly attempted comfort of the sick.  The rest discretely looked away.  The only eye contact Attila could gain was the glassy, black sheen of camera lenses.  Those, and the glaring eyes of the world’s leader.

A devilish smile formed across Arpad’s thin lips.  His example had been made regardless of the methods used; his bloodlust quenched.  There would be no reprimand given.

 

The tiny speaker he always wore startled him as it squelched in his ear.  It was Bálint.

“S fourteen to one, do you copy one?”

“Copy fourteen, go ahead.”

“Sir, I’m sorry to disturb you so late.  I am showing a breach at first floor window twelve in the main home.”

Attila sighed swirling his Unicum in a glass tumbler while he sat in his favorite armchair in front of his bedroom’s fireplace.  The fire’s light glinted off of the dark contents of his glass he had been using to subdue the memories of the afternoon.  He downed the harsh liquor which left an aftertaste of licorice on the back of his tongue.

“I think it may be Zsofia sir.”

“I know Bálint, thanks for letting me know.  I’ll take care of it.”

Attila grabbed his security tablet from the table next to his chair, and activated the device.  He zoomed in upon the main home’s floor plan confirming what he’d just been told.  The conflict in his mind concerning his improvisation during today’s televised execution would have to wait.  The entire planet may view him differently now.  Hell, his own staff had steered clear of him today, but there was a certain young lady who would never know that side of him.  Thank God, none of Arpad’s examples were ever televised, or even talked about within the confines of the area Zsofia was now apparently trying to flee.

Attila found himself amazed at the smile threatening to form at the thought of her.  Whether his increasing conscious was the result of age or not, he found solace in knowing anything wholesome in his life came at the nurturing bond he had with the young lady now lurking in the shadows of her home’s eastern courtyard.

He chuckled under his breath toward her naïve determination.  He had a feeling her outburst this morning would result in something rash.  Time to do the one thing he enjoyed most about his job.  Protect the only one he had ever loved.

(Never) Again

It seems it is time to relinquish another tune I have found inspiration within.  Tuesday does seem to be a fitting day for tunes doesn’t it?

The following contribution toward my literary inspiration is the first to warrant a short story based around its powerful lyrics.  Some time ago, a certain talented young lady had every bit as much effect on my inspirational motivation as the song.  Yup, I wrote this for a girl…  A writer girl no less.  In the end, it became devastatingly apparent that I had been barking up the wrong tree with some of the worst timing I have ever had.  Telling real life how its story should go rather than keeping my fiction on paper is a costly mistake.  I may be a proficient writer, but my God do I suck at matters of the heart.

I have posted a link for the song at the end of the short story.  I do hope you like the song for how it was used, but more importantly, I have once again aimed to serve you as readers.  I was tempted to stuff this piece away with the disastrous shame it brought at the heels of its creation, but if you are to know me as a writer then I feel it is my duty to bring you what I have written.


City lights pushed their brilliance into the night sky while an unseen gloom high above, returned its own encroachment in the form of steadily falling flakes.  The volley of light against the descending snow glinted like an endless chandelier above a steadily forming blanket of white over the city streets.

Beth pressed a freshly manicured finger against a button on the armrest beside her, and watched as the limousine’s tinted window withdrew its dulling effect on the splendor beyond.  Closing her eyes, she drew a long breath while the frigid air outside invaded her cheeks.  Pushing her shoulders deep into the soft leather seat behind her, she exhaled and allowed the serenity of the scene before her to encapsulate her mind.

“Sometimes you need to stop and drink in your surroundings”, she sighed with appreciation.

“Quite something isn’t it”, her driver questioned startling her.

Beth saw the man’s eyes glace back at her through the rearview mirror, and a crooked smile pushing at the flesh of his round cheeks.  Suddenly she felt a little embarrassed.  She realized she must have relinquished her thoughts aloud.

“It is truly magnificent”, she replied quietly.

Beth’s gaze turned toward the wonderland beyond the luxury of the stretched sedan once again.  It had been so long since she had been able to go out and enjoy an evening without the nagging anxiety she had shirked some responsibility.  On the seldom occasion she had allowed her friends to drag her out for an evening, her mind never seemed to fully follow her physical self on the outing.  At some point during her involuntary participation within a social setting, she would find herself snapped from a dreamlike trance only to be called to a conversation or introduction already well underway.

She chuckled at one occasion in particular.  Her closest friend Casandra had pleaded with her relentlessly to unplug for one Saturday evening.  Six months ago, after weeks of nagging, Beth finally caved, allowing her agenda ridden bestie to take her out.  As usual, her always churning mind didn’t get the notice, and ended up wandering off at the most inopportune time.

“Beth, this is Derek…

“Beth…“

“Beth!”

“What”, Beth had nearly shouted as she had been ripped from a fog.  “What’s going on?  Were you saying something?”

Eventually her gaze ventured beyond Casandra’s rolling eyes.  A tall, dark haired and very handsome man stood before her with an apprehensive grin.

“Who are you”, Beth asked indignantly.  “And why are you staring at me?”

“Oh dear God”, Cassandra sighed.  “Why can’t you just be normal for once?”

Beth quietly laughed at the memory once again.  She pulled at the button on the armrest allowing the window beside her to ascend to its barrier like position between the warm cabin of the limo and the frigid night air.  Beth had a slew of friends and an incredibly supportive family.  Accusations of her being anything but normal were commonplace amongst the lot of them.  Still, they all appreciated her eccentric passion and incessant drive.  Passion and drive that had finally paid off, even if only in a small way.  Tonight would be different.  Tonight she would mingle, laugh at other people’s jokes and she would not allow her mind to drift away from the here and now.  Tonight she would be normal.

Twelve months of hard work and punishing determination were given toward one particular goal.  Earlier this very day, she had achieved that goal.  Time to make good on the celebratory promise she had made three hundred and sixty-four days ago.  New Year’s Eve would be spent in style this year even if it meant she’d be paying it off for the next four months.

Beth hardly felt the limousine slow when she noticed the façade of her hotel framed in the window to her right.  Within moments, her driver had opened the passenger door for her exit.  As she maneuvered her backside across the wide seat, she pulled a pair of dark sunglasses from her coat pocket and slid them upon her face as though she would soon be met by a thousand flashing cameras.  She knew of course she wouldn’t, but it was all part of the plan…  Tonight, her persona wore the accomplishment she felt.  She would blur the lines between fiction and reality as a literary diva, even if reality didn’t fully play along.

The nip in the air found her cheeks once again.  Only this time the encroaching cool was fought back by a flush of excitement tingling all the way to the tips of her ears.  Beth swiveled to her right, gracefully extending her shapely legs beyond the confines of the sedan, and found footing below her brand new pair of Jimmy Choo heels upon a damp sidewalk. The driver politely took her hand, helping her from the car.  With a nod and a smile, he handed her the single bag she had brought for the evening.

“Thank you”, Beth replied politely behind the subtle steam of her breath.

“You are most welcome.  Enjoy your evening”, the stout, pudgy driver replied.  He closed her door behind her and hurried around the car disappearing into driver’s side.

Beth had already lost herself in the scene once again.  Varying sizes of rectangular blocks burned delicately with a crisp white light across the hotels front.  A coal black baldachin hung overhead blasting beams of halogen against the sidewalk it protected below.  On its edge sat a backlit sign announcing The Curtis to the fourteen hundred block of Curtis Street in downtown Denver.  She had waited for so long, and had worked so hard for this night, she thought.  Suddenly her reverie was cut short as she noted a hotel Porter patiently holding one of the glass entry doors open for her entry.

Beth strolled toward the door being held aloft by the pimple faced, uniformed young man wearing a most peculiar top hat.  She thanked the boy, handed him her bag and begun leading the way to the front desk.  Stopping short, Beth swore under her breath hoping the young man on her six hadn’t heard her curse.  The diva glasses were not cooperating as planned.  They had fogged up nearly instantly with the sudden change in temperature.  She discreetly removed the shields, and discreetly returned them to the side pocket of her wool coat.

At least they’d done their job against the paparazzi, she thought while allowing a giggle to escape her lips.

“I gather you are here for the period New Year’s Eve Ball”, A chipper and nearly annoying voice called from behind the front desk as Beth came within several steps of the partition.  “What a wonderful outfit!”

Beth thanked the overly service-minded lady knowing full well the cream colored wool clutch wrapped around her, completely covered every stitch of the 1940’s dress she wore beneath.

Having signed the appropriate paperwork for her night’s stay, Beth accepted her room key.  She made her way toward the elevator with the young Porter still in tow.  A short elevator ride filled with nearly one sided, idle conversation between she and her insanely bashful Porter came to an end, where the duo were deposited on the twenty-ninth floor.

Sure, it may be one floor short of the highest in the hotel, but Beth couldn’t account for the thousand dollar a night price hike the floor above brought.  She’d saved enough for the clothes on her back, the extravagant ride here and the dining and drinks the night would bring, but she’d be paying off the Choo shoes and the room on this floor for months to come.

Beth swiped her key card beside the mahogany door labeled 2908 and pushed the door open.  She turned to gather her bag from the shy young man and placed a ten dollar bill in his hand in the bag’s stead.

“Thank you”, he replied with genuine appreciation.  Before she could properly express her own thanks, the boy hurried down the dimly lit hallway toward the elevators.

Beth shrugged and turned to see one part of the hotel she had been waiting to see for a very long time.  The room tantalized her mind with the same quirky feel portrayed throughout the rest of the hotel.  Pop culture met extraordinary elegance.  Lime green retro chairs, bold patterns and a burnt orange stripe within the otherwise dark colored carpet gave way to marble countertops, modern lamps and brushed nickel fixtures.  Beth felt fatigue in her cheeks from the smile on her face as she strolled throughout the massive suite.  Had her hair not been professionally done, she would have instantly kicked her shoes off and swan dived into the California king sized bed situated in the middle of the room.

Tossing her coat over one of the lime green chairs, and glancing at her faux diamond encrusted watch, Beth’s smile didn’t dissipate one bit.  Time to freshen up and let the evening begin.  Her escalating excitement for what lay ahead didn’t allow her mind to encapsulate the lavish seven piece bath surrounding her as she examined herself in the mirror.  Despite her earlier paparazzi evasion stunt with the sunglasses, Beth could be characterized by anyone who knew her as anything but vein.  Most times, humility and servitude comprised her demeanor.  Tonight however, would be an exception.  Even she found the reflection before her to be nothing short of exquisite.  Her golden blonde locks were curled into huge rings and pulled high atop her head relinquishing the bold structure of her perfectly complected face.  Fierce mahogany colored eyed stared back at her from beneath freshly shaped brows.  A seemingly perpetual smile brought the dimples she was so well known for front and center, exposing the genuine kindness within the otherwise intimidatingly beautiful creature in the reflection before her.  Beneath her alluring topside her curves found cover beneath a navy blue, 1940’s sheath, knee length dress.  A cream colored bow set at the base of a modest neckline.  Beth turned sideways, cocked a knee and posed with a finger to her dimpled cheek.  The reflection in the mirror caught every subtlety including the demure look strewn across her face.  Her curves were perfect for the 40’s.  Back when women were shaped like women.

Screw you Victoria Secret models, she thought.  I make this dress look damn good!  Beth giggled at her silliness then felt a sudden tinge of sadness that her friends and family couldn’t be here with her.

It had to be this way.  She determined tonight’s celebration at the heels of all her hard work would be enjoyed by her and her alone for two reasons.   One, her manuscript had finally found completion.  She could be the protagonist in her own story tonight without being asked why she just couldn’t be normal.  Secondly, she wanted to prove to herself that she could interact as a part of society on her own two feet after living under a rock the past twelve months.

With one last glance toward her own reflection, Beth grabbed her small clutch purse, flicked the light off and made her way to the door of her suite.  Within moments, she graced the first floor once again.

Venturing past the front desk, she could hear the music playing in the Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom.  Thank God it had caught her attention prior to the shrill voice of the woman at the front desk greeting another guest.  Ignoring the nasally, high pitched bombardment, Beth’s blood coursed with excitement.  The Cervantes had been a valiant host to some of music’s greatest minds all the way back to the Cotton Club days of the 1930’s.  Fitting it should be utilized to host a period themed New Year’s party.

Beth slowed her excited ascent upon the room to a sultry stroll.  Crossing the threshold, the grand room nearly stole her breath away.  The space felt as though she had taken a time machine seventy years into the past.  Thick red velvet draped the walls at every window, crystal chandeliers burned dimly above an enormous parquet dance floor, while each and every one of the rooms inhabitants were clad in dress appropriate to the period.  Women adorned elegant, modest dresses not dissimilar to her own.  Most of the men wore double breasted suits or tuxedos, while others were clad in armed forces uniforms.

Good lord, there are even camera girls, she thought to herself behind a gasp while witnessing a young lady using a period correct camera to snap pictures of patrons.

Moving further into the room, Beth found her way to a cocktail bar a short distance away from where her feet had temporarily become lead from her awe.  Surely a drink would settle her excited nerves.  Perhaps she would even have the courage to strike up a conversation with someone at the bar.  Within moments a bartender in a stark white tuxedo jacket and black bowtie approached.

“What can I make you this evening”, he asked attentively.

Beth hardly ever drank.  When she did, she predominately leaned toward a cold beer or something fruity.  With a smirk she decided she would pay homage to the period she was now immersed in.  “I’ll have a Tom Collins if you please sir.”

“Excellent Choice”, the bartender retorted with a wink.  He took off like a shot gathering the ingredients.

Another young lady about Beth’s age bellied up to the bar next to her.

“Hi”, she began in a chipper tone. “My name is Elizabeth Bryant.”

“Stacey McConnell”, the lady next to Beth replied while gently shaking her outstretched hand.

Suddenly something caught Beth’s attention in her peripheral.  The newly introduced Stacey must have noticed her sudden absence from the newly begun conversation.  Hell, Beth hadn’t even noticed that the bartender had already brought her Tom Collins.

“Someone has an admirer.”  Stacey playfully nudged Beth’s shoulder.

Beth laughed and felt a sudden heat flush across her cheeks.  “He could be looking at you.”

“Ha!  That handsome man has been throwing you glances ever since you walked in the room.”

Beth risked a peek over her shoulder while she shyly cowered over her drink.  He wasn’t looking her way at the moment.  How could this man be so damn captivating, she wondered?  Sure, his boyish face, tall, slender stature and broad shoulders were easy on the eyes, but there was something else…  An unexplainable charisma it seemed.

“Oh crap!”  Beth quickly turned to face her drink once again.

Stacey laughed loudly.  “What is it?”

“We just made eye contact.”

“What’s so wrong with that?  You should’ve batted those pretty lashes of yours at him.”  Stacey turned accepting a martini from the bartender, took a long sip and continued.

“You know, if you keep showing him that voluptuous backside of yours, you’ll be doing little to thwart his attention.”

Though a dimple exposing smile creased her lips, Beth scoffed at the idea of playing cat and mouse with the gentleman on the other side of the dance floor.  “I don’t have time for men right now”, she retorted.

Stacey grabbed her martini glass and a cocktail napkin.  “Ten bucks says he comes over here for a chat the second I go back to my table.

“Oh God, don’t do that”, Beth pleaded.  “Can I come with you?”

“Nope; Cheers Miss Elizabeth Bryant.”  Stacey held her glass high in gesture, and wore an elated smile while she spun to abandon her new acquaintance.  “Remember, you are supposed to be out celebrating tonight”, she called out over her shoulder just before disappearing into a steadily thickening crowd.

“Wait”, Beth called loudly.  “How did you…  Know I am celebrating tonight?”  Beth finished the last part of her inquisition quietly while she plopped down on a barstool in front of her still untouched drink.  She had probably just been referring to New Year’s Eve, she rationalized.

Coincidence or not, Stacey was right.  She is celebrating; for her own reasons along with the fact that a new year and new chapter of her life was dawning.  Why did the same old thought always plague her mind when she notably caught a man’s interest?  Why couldn’t she balance the pursuit of her passion as a writer with someone special?

Working her courage up, Beth downed the Tom Collins in front of her, crossed one shapely knee over the other and spun the swiveling barstool beneath to face across the dance floor.

“Damn”, she cursed under her breath.

Just her luck; he had gone…  Probably scamming on some floozy, no doubt, she surmised with a pout.

For the first time this evening, Beth found reason to frown.  She uncrossed her legs letting them dangle from the stool and stared at the ornately patterned floor beneath.

I certainly don’t need someone special, she rationalized.  I am already so blessed.

“Good evening”, a confident, manly voice announced to her right.

Beth looked up, and quickly found herself unable to muster more than a gasp from her lips.

During  her unintentional pause, the mesmerizing voice belonging to the devilishly good looking man who had previously stood clear across the room continued.

“My evening had been going quite well until it suddenly had potential to become so much better”, He began through an enticing smile.

“You don’t say?”  Beth couldn’t help the tingling fire burning across her cheeks, but she also noticed something else.  He seemed every bit as nervous as she.  Oooh, how cute!

“Indeed!  You see, while I stood enjoying the music and minding my own business, the most alluring young lady suddenly graced this great room with her presence.”

“My goodness what will you do?”  This time feigning her shock, Beth’s questioning words were laden with playful sarcasm.  “Do you think you may buy this young lady a drink or something?”

“Well”, the man relieved his own nerves through a small cough into his fist.  “As I see it, the assuagement of this grand, old ballroom now pales in comparison to the woman I have before me.  The floor for a more intimate meeting is set, and the music of intrigue is playing…  Shall we dance?”

Beth nearly choked as the admirable man held his hand out for hers.  She had never in her life been approached so articulately.  While shock consumed, another anxiety wracked her nerves with the concern she felt toward her aptitude amongst a dance floor.

“But I don’t hear any music at the moment”, she replied.

“Oh, it will.”

Smiling, he grasped her hand and brought her to her feet.  As if on cue, the music did begin to play once they had reached the center of the dance floor.

Beth felt weak in the knees upon hearing the first few notes.

“Are you okay”, the charming man asked while he so caringly placed his right hand at the small of her back and held her hand with his left.

“It’s just this song”, Beth replied quietly.

“Again by Doris Day”, he stated assuredly.  “Your favorite song from this era if I’m not mistaken.”

He was right.  There was no reason to ask how he knew; she’d already surmised the root of this charming man’s knowledge.  Beth simply pressed her head against his chest and let the lyrics penetrate her soul.

 

We’ll have this moment forever

But never never again.

 

A tear formed at the corner of her eye.  She knew what was coming.  With her face pressed against the man who had just swept her off of her feet in a way she’d never been swept, she could see that they were the last remaining souls in the grand ballroom.  The music seemed to consume them, and the light was slowly fading.

Beth looked up and gazed into the hazel eyes of the man who swayed with her to the most perfect song for such an occasion.

“What is your name?”

“But you already know my name dear Elizabeth.”

“We don’t have much time do we”, she asked.

“I’m afraid we do not.”

“Kiss me.”

He brought his face close to hers.  The light surrounding them winked in and out.  Beth felt her whole body tingle.  Anxiety rose from the pit of her stomach.  Her lips did not taste his.

“Wake up”, he whispered.

*******

Beth blinked the fog away bringing her favorite coffee mug into horizontal view.  She pulled her head from her writing desk along with a sticky note attached to her cheek. Removing the sticky yellow square, she glanced at the lower right corner of her open laptop screen.   4:53 PM, November 18th.

“Oh Beth”, she sighed to her empty home.  “You’ll never get done by New Year’s if you keep wasting your time dreaming.”

She stood, filled her lungs with a yawn and stretched her arms over her head.  With a smirk, she clapped her laptop closed and made her way into the kitchen in search of some much needed chocolate.

“But oh what a dream”, she called out with a laugh from behind an open refrigerator door.

*******

An alarm sounded quietly while it caused the phone it was springing from to vibrate across the desk.  Charles grabbed the tiny device and thumbed the touchscreen.

“Wow, four hours already.”  He habitually checked his left wrist to confirm the time, only to find that his watch wasn’t there.  It never was when he was writing.  Charles was always amazed how engrossed he could become in a story.  This little piece however was affecting him in an entirely different way.  Would Beth make her deadline?  Would she open her eyes just long enough to see what she had right in front of her?  Would she ever allow someone special into her life amongst the real world?  Only time would tell.

Charles closed his laptop.  He reached for the power button on the radio next to him, but hesitated for a moment.

 This couldn’t happen again

This is that once in a lifetime

This is the thrill divine

What’s more, this never happened before

Though I have prayed for a lifetime

That such as you would suddenly be mine

Mine to hold as I’m holding you now and yet never so near

Mine to have when the now and the here disappear

What matters, dear, for when

This doesn’t happen again

We’ll have this moment forever

But never, never, again

Replace Your Filter with a Razor’s Edge of Truth

I honestly do not think there have been truer words offered as advise to writers.  Of course, this is offered up by Ernest Hemingway; an author who is undoubtedly one of the most influential writers of the modern era.  A literary master who also gave us the advise “To get started, write one true sentence.”

Though I am writing this very post under the blissful influence of an aromatic and quite tasty Moscato, I am in no way promoting the belief that one should only write while smashed off of their ass.  I am simply stating the importance of shedding distractions, anxieties and all that would prohibit the freeness of mind necessary in writing literary works which are contributory to those who will read them.

With a disclaimer now firmly in place, it is often said, “A drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.”  Is there more truth than the thoughts we harbor beneath the filter of our inner monologue?

With this foundation as justification, I say write writers!  Write with reckless abandon; pound those keys into oblivion under the duress of relinquishing the truest of truths and purest of emotions.  Afterward, revisit your piece of immaculacy.  Focus upon it with clear scrutiny.  Sharpen your literary portrayal to the world into an edge capable of slicing the most hardened of hearts.  This is our duty as writers.  We are to convey with words that which cannot be put into words.  We are to unleash, perplex, challenge and enrich the very souls of our readers.  Though we may write fiction, the greatest of fiction is grounded in truth.  Elaborating upon one of the greatest writers to ever live, I say pour the wine and pull the inhibitions of filtered thought.  Take a few aspirin in the morning, and then relinquish the honesty of your life’s calling by editing your truth to speak to its readers in ways that will change their lives forever.

Resistance, Chapter 1

Chapter 1

“Is this all there is?”

Attila glanced at her from behind his laptop. His eyes drew focus above the rim of his reading glasses. He had not become used to using the crutch for his sight yet, and quite honestly hated the fact that age had finally forced him to wear the damn things.  He pulled the nuisances from the bridge of his nose and sat back in an overstuffed leather chair behind his desk. He could see Zsofia standing beside one of the thin column windows at the east wall of his office.

“What’s bothering you Zsofi?

She stood in silence with the palm and splayed fingers of her left hand against the glass pane. Lost in another world, Zsofia seemed to focus beyond the drab weather and the rain streaming down the window beneath her slender hand.  Attila folded his annoying spectacles and hung them from the neckline of his white, crisply pressed button up shirt.  He knew she would divulge her angst eventually.

“Don’t let me fall Attila”, Zsofia wailed through a toothy grin of excitement.

“I have you little one. You are doing so well!”

 “Do you remember when you tried to teach me to ride a bicycle?”

Attila combed his hand across the top of his head as though the hair he’d been missing for years was still there. “If memory serves me my dear, I succeeded in teaching you to ride a bicycle.”

Zsofia peaked over her shoulder to see Attila gazing in her direction. She knew her abstruse question had sequestered his concern.  Oh how she loved his concern for her.  Too bad he thought of her as no more than a child.

Attila kept his focus upon her while a thousand emotions seemed to gush from her huge chestnut eyes toward him. She said nothing then turned her sight to the distance beyond the window once again.

Unbeknownst to himself, a smile creased his lips. What a dynamic young woman she’d become.

He recalled Zsofia’s fifth birthday perfectly. Her father, Arpad, had given her a bicycle as one of many gifts to commemorate her birth at an extravagant party.  As usual, the party and gifts were no more than a show to the masses that Arpad Szabo had met his obligatory responsibilities as a father.  Once Zsofia grew tired of the ponies, face painters and juggling clowns, and simply wanted to play as any child would, her father could not be found.  Enter one of Attila’s roles as head of security.  He would see to Zsofia’s needs even on holidays, including her birthday.

 In the east courtyard, laden with dark granite pavers and contrasting stone busts of those held highest in the global counsel, Zsofia sat with her knees pulled tight to her chest. One bled from the knee while she sobbed uncontrollably.

“Why did you let go”, she cried.

Attila knelt beside her. “I told you I was going to.  You rode for a hundred meters before you fell.  You did it little one!  You rode your bike!”

Zsofia scrunched her angelic face into a scowl. She peered at Attila aiming to kill him where he stood with her scornful glare.  A pair of huge brown eyes squinted toward him beneath a thick mess of dark auburn hair he had tied into pigtails just that morning.  Atilla couldn’t help but chuckle at the adorable creature before him trying so hard to make her anger known.

“I’m going to tell my father”, she spat while pushing herself to her feet.

Zsofia ran off. He let her be, even though he easily kept tabs on her whereabouts.  Several weeks had passed before she would even speak to him.  In those same weeks, she had never been able to trouble her father to relinquish her tattle tale.  In time, she eventually faced her perpetrator of betrayal and made amends.

Attila smiled again at the recollection Zsofia had just spurred. This memory alone marked the cornerstone of the bond between them now.  What a shame, she is only a child, He thought.

“So what do you think?”

Attila snapped from his reverie of yesteryear to see Zsofia’s face peering at him. Her pretty, sun kissed face lying within the clutches of her upturned palms under her chin, and her slender elbows resting on the heavily varnished desk between them.  She smiled coyly realizing she’d caught him off guard.

“Think about what”, Attila asked. He knew damn well what she was thinking, but he would humor her anyway.

Zsofia huffed and rolled her eyes. “What if this is all there is?”

“You’re going to need to be a bit more precise little one”, Attila retorted with upturned palms and a shrug across his shoulders.

“Quit calling me that! I’m not little.”

Some habits were hard to break, he thought while witnessing a look of scorn across her face. She wasn’t little anymore.  Hell, she stood nearly as tall as him, and had long since worn the curves of the woman she had become.

Five years ago marked the date when Zsofia’s every need would no longer be a part of his security responsibilities, yet here she sat; still under his watch. Along with her absent father having much to do with Attila’s continued attention, his own unconditional love for the young woman before him seemed to play an equal part.  She had been the closest thing he had ever known to having a child of his own.

“I’m sorry Zsofi.”

Zsofia seemed to accept the apology before it had even been delivered. She sat back in the chair across from Attila with a sigh.

“What if all I’ve been taught about the world and the people and places in it, is all a lie? What if there is nothing more than the zóna?”

Attila pondered the question for a moment, wondering how he would offer a different answer to a question she’d been asking more and more frequently. More recently, she had begun labeling her ten square kilometers of confinement.  Today, it seemed, the area reserved for the protection of government elitists and their families was going to be referred to as the zóna.

“You know there is a world beyond the ‘zóna’, if that is what we are calling it today.”

“No I don’t.”

“Sure you do. I have told you stories.”  Attila knew serious punishment would await him if anything he had told her about the world outside of her own got back to her father.  He trusted her though, just as she had come to trust him.  Zsofia would sell him out to her father just as soon as he would turn on her.  Atilla trusted the young woman across from him more than some of the agents working under him.

“You could be lying to me.” Zsofia quickly followed her accusation with a grin.

“How am I supposed to know if it’s real or not”, She pleaded.

“I know what I have learned in school, and the stories you have told me, but I have never seen the world for myself! When do I get to leave this shroud of eutopia?  Sometimes I feel as though this world is less real than the one outside of it.”

Attila maintained his lean within his puffy chair. My God she had become intuitive, he thought.  He knew the few stories he had shared with her likely contradicted anything she had learned within the government controlled school system.  Perhaps this contradiction is what seeded the growing rebellion inside her?

Still, he knew the curriculum taught in primary school to those fortunate enough to afford any sort of education. Propaganda couldn’t encompass the degree of absurdity taught to the world’s children.  Outside of the fundamentals of reading, writing and mathematics, Attila couldn’t imagine one being so naive to actually believe the horse shit being shoveled in classrooms around the world.  Yet, the thumb of Zsofia’s father, Arpad Szabo, and his all-knowing council continued to hold the world under submission.

“You can leave the area your father has designed to be safe for you when he decides you are ready.”

Zsofia snapped to her feet toppling her chair behind her, and let out a loud huff in rebuke.

Now for the tantrum, Attila thought to himself. Still a child; though he couldn’t blame her for her frustration.

“Picsába! A budos kurva életbe! Kibaszott szennyes mindenit!” As the string of profanity flew from her mouth, Zsofia shook her fist toward the window she had stood beside earlier.

“And who is going to stop me; you?”

Attila couldn’t help but chuckle under his breath while she stomped across the room. “I will if I have to”, he replied while Zsofia stormed from his office slamming the door behind her.

Attila sighed. “What am I going to do with that girl”, he asked rhetorically to the air.


“Damnmotherfuckinassholesonofabitch!”

Paul roared with laughter. “Well your swearing in English is a lot better than your fighting!”

Paul watched as Dani sprung to his feet despite the fact that he had just taken a left hook to the jaw from a guy more than twice his size. Paul dropped to the rain soaked pavement releasing the agent he’d just finished choking out.

“Kiss my ass Burke”, Dani retorted toward his friend finding comedy at his expense.

Dani spat toward the ground. A nearby street lamp announced the crimson color his best friend had just expelled, but Paul knew Dani’s pride had been hurt more than his jaw.

Daniel Tákacs may be small in comparison to both his adversary and Paul Burke, but his size bore no resemblance to his fierce capability with his fists. He had obviously whipped the hell out of the bear of a man standing across from him prior to taking the blow to the jaw.  The agent looked as though he would fall on his own ass at any moment.  He staggered about completely oblivious to the fact that little Dani had gained his feet.

Before Paul could witness the hell Dani would certainly release, sparks of light danced across his vision. His teeth clapped together while he felt his body jerked backward by some vice around his neck.

Shit, another one, he questioned. Is this the cop that ran off earlier, or someone He and Dani had somehow missed?

The man behind Paul foolishly tried to correct his nearly perfect rear naked choke hold around his neck. Paul instantly took advantage of the momentary correction.

Now facing his surprise attacker, Paul grabbed the back of the man’s head by the hair, kneed him in the crotch with his right leg and pounded his left knee into the man’s face while he fell forward from the blow to his manhood. His attacker fell limp to the pavement.  Paul opened his balled fist allowing a handful of the man’s hair he’d just ripped from his scalp to float to the wet pavement.

“You weren’t watching”, Dani muttered now standing right behind him.

Paul turned witnessing a smirk across his friends face. “Sorry, I was kind of busy getting the life choked out of me.”

“Where in hell did this guy come from”, Paul questioned, motioning toward the man he had luckily gotten the better of.

Dani Shrugged.

“He isn’t the same guy that took off running when we sprung on ‘em is it?”

“Don’t know, let me ask.” Dani sent a foot into the ribs of the first agent Paul had knocked out.  A muffled groan escaped the man’s lips.

“Hey asshole”, Dani began the interrogation in his native Hungarian tongue. He grabbed the agent’s hair and yanked his head upright. “Do you know this guy?”

A garbled rebuke spilled from the agent’s raspy throat. Hungarian wasn’t Paul’s first language, but he knew enough to tell the man wasn’t being cooperative.

Dani held the agent’s head in place with his left hand while he pulled a knife from his jacket pocket with his right. He flicked the blade open and held it to the incapacitated man’s face.

“I will cut your damn nose straight off of your face if you don’t start talking.” He continued before the man could respond.  “Then I’ll take your ears, and mail them to each of your daughters.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll slice your rapist little prick off, and send that one to your wife with a list of innocent women’s lives you’ve destroyed.”

Paul turned from his friend’s convincing threats and scanned the area. Dani would find out what they wanted to know pretty quickly, but Paul didn’t want to take any chances on being met by another surprise.

An algid drizzle continued to blanket the city while Paul put some distance between he and his interrogating partner. Paul only now noticed how cold the autumn night had become.  It seemed the momentary adrenaline had made him immune to the frigid breeze now biting at his cheeks.

All seemed quiet. A dismal glow sat above Budapest in the distance as the city’s lights pushed toward the cover of clouds.  He and Dani had ambushed two of the government agents they’d been following for the past three months.  The third guy was an unknown; a beat cop that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He would be held guilty by association.  The bastard took off like a shot just as they had almost instantaneously disarmed their marks, and Dani had put a fist into the big guy’s face.  All three of them were so damn drunk, Paul found the man’s sprint to be as remarkable as the ease they had in disarming their primary two objectives.

Paul sighed. The cop had become a problem; a loose end.  The resistance couldn’t risk loose ends.  If the man now wearing his testicles in his throat didn’t turn out to be the same cop that bolted, He and Dani would have to add a mark to the list and rectify the situation quickly.  First they would have to get the two they had come for to a safe house for proper interrogation.

Paul watched as Dani approached shaking his head.

“It’s not him.”

Dani nodded his reply. “Means we have some more harvesting to do my friend.”

Paul looked over Dani’s shoulder to see that his partner had been quite resourceful while he kept a lookout. The two they’d come for were bound and ready to toss into the trunk of their car.  Suddenly, he noticed something missing.

Paul frowned. “Where’s the other one?”

“I broke his neck and tossed him in the Nube.”

Paul shook his head.

“What”, Dani pleaded. “We didn’t need him, and there is no way we could have fit him in the trunk.  Did you see the size of the guy I took out Burke? He’s fucken huge!  I’ll be shocked if we can get him in, let alone both of them!”

Paul turned on a heel and started back toward the two they were going to haul. “You know why I’m pissed Dani”.

“Yea, yea, I know Paul. Human life and all that nonsense.”

“It’s not nonsense Dani, and I think you’re getting a little too quick to kill.”

“Hey man, that guy was set on killing you a few minutes ago. Kill or be killed in this world buddy.”

“I get the logic, I just think you are getting a bit insensitive toward the fact that you’re taking another human’s life.”

“Ah man, I’m not insensitive. I broke his neck while he was still unconscious!”

While he keyed the trunk open to their midsized sedan, Paul couldn’t help but chuckle at his friend’s rationalization.

About ten steps from the open trunk, Paul and Dani lifted the lighter of their two marks. He hadn’t gained consciousness yet from Dani’s interrogation methods.  With a synchronized heave, the agent’s body found the floor of the trunk with a thud.  Dani pushed the man’s limp body toward the front of the trunk to make room for the big guy.

Paul rounded the huge agent and bent to take him by the shoulders. Dani took the feet.  Suddenly the large framed agent snapped alert and thrashed wildly causing both Paul and Dani to lose their early formed grip.  While he writhed amongst the freezing wet pavement, muted groans emitted from behind the gag in his mouth.  Paul quickly swung a fist into the side of the man’s head at the temple knocking him out cold.

“Oh, and I’m insensitive”, Dani spat through laughter.

Paul grinned toward his mocking friend. “Shut up”.

“Ball and Biscuit” Spawns a Bad You Can’t Help but Love

How appropriate it is to post the first piece to Two Wheels and Tunes on a Tuesday!

Without further ado, I will break down The White Stripes’ Ball and Biscuit’s inspiration for me as a writer. Upon hearing the first few beats of this song, I felt it pierce my soul with all the grace of a twelve pound sledgehammer. I’m a sucker for the traditional 12-bar blues backbone this song fully commits to.  Amongst its foot tapping beat, Jack White also saw fit to give us a face full of broken glass in the form of heavily distorted guitar solos.  Ball and Biscuit almost instantly began forming the groundwork for a new character I have wanted to develop for some time.  My heart filled with grit, and a devious smile formed beneath ever so slightly squinted eyes.  The birth of a justified villain had begun.  You know the type.  Dysfunctional and just plain mean spirited because of a hard life’s beats, but somewhere deep, there is a glimmer of good.  A ball busting bad ass that could give a damn about anyone or anything around him until…

Now let’s delve into the song itself. If this didn’t make you want to grab a fist full of throttle, smash the gas pedal to the floor or just plain kick a little ass, you may want to take a second to see if you have a pulse.

“Ball and Biscuit” from the album Elephant, is the White Stripes longest studio recorded song at seven minutes and eighteen seconds.  Every time it has finished playing, I find myself wanting more.  This song was never produced as a single, but it quickly became a fan favorite.

Ball refers to cocaine, while Biscuit is another term for MDMA. The lyrics indicate a serious drug problem shared by an alleged Seventh Son and the woman he is courting.  “We’ll get clean together and I’ll find a soap box where I can shout it”, suggests that the two want to shed their debilitating drug habit, but are making the bold statement while they’re high as a kite.

The Seventh Son is actually an American folk legend stating a seventh son of a seventh son will be granted super powers. Perhaps this is the reason for such confidence in getting “clean”.  I found it extraordinarily interesting when my researching the song relinquished the fact that Jack White of the White Stripes is actually the seventh and final son in a family of ten children.

Five Steps to Make Time for the Pursuit of Passion

A short while ago, I had the rarified opportunity to meet with a fellow writer, and pick her brain.  I have been sitting on a blog for months now knowing how important it was to platform if I am ever to be recognized by literary agents.  What a can of worms I had opened.  The blog has set nearly idle for months while I have struggled with what I should do next.  My writer friend, and the infinitely talented Jenna Willett of Jen’s Pen Den was a wealth of information, and just the kick in the pants I needed to get my butt in gear.

Before I go further, I want to give a big shout-out to Jenna.  If you want to check out another up and coming great contributor to fiction, please click here to see her site and be sure to check out her stories under Jen’s Pen.  You’ll be glad you did!

With a rekindled fire burning brightly, and solid advice to point me in the right direction, all I had to do was leap.

Smack!  It sure looked like a clear path, but wouldn’t you know it?  I ran right into another obstacle.  Where on earth was I going to find the time to walk the writer’s path?

I had four options:  Win the lotto, quit my day job to become a literal starving artist, sell my children, or grab time by the balls and manage it to my liking.  So far the lotto thing hasn’t panned out, I’d hate to starve and as far as selling my kids goes…  Well lets just say my market research is inconclusive.  I may have to offer a BOGO.  The girl is going to cost a fortune because she’s not a pain in the ass yet, and you can have the junior high boy with the purchase of the girl.  Ugh, who am I kidding?  I can’t sell the kid’s either.  Not only are they getting to the age of becoming my twisted little minions, they are also my biggest source of inspiration.  I suppose I should also mention that I love them to pieces too.

Great…  It looked as though I was going to have to cram one more thing into an already busy life.  Not only that, the path of a writer was going to have to become a big priority amongst it all.

I’ll be damned if I will cave under the load of managing the task of what I was born to do amongst the life I was given.  Perhaps you have a passion of your own that you are having a difficult time squeezing into the cracks of time.  Here are five steps we can take to better accommodate the things we want to do with the things we have to do.

1. Take care of your body as well as your mind.

A good diet, regular exercise and adequate quality sleep are a must to achieve balance.  Sure, it sounds like just another thing to carve into your day.  I assure you, it is not.  A Proper diet will give the body and the mind what they need to function as efficiently as possible.  Regular cardio vascular activity has shown to benefit both mind and body.  Regularly cycling, running or even walking will increase or help maintain bone density while strengthening your heart, and helping your body use fat for energy. Perhaps most importantly under this application, cardio also causes your brain to release endorphins.  These endorphins improve mood and focus while thwarting stress, tension and anxiety. As far as sleep is concerned, according to Timothy Morgenthaler, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic, we only need 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night. Less over a period of time, and we begin to operate inefficiently. More than 7-8 hours of quality sleep just means you need to get your lazy ass out of bed and get cracking.

2. Make a Plan.

This one probably sounds pretty obvious, but it is imperative. I find planning every hour down to the ‘T’ is counterproductive. Murphy’s friggen law will undoubtedly rear its ugly head anytime you make something concrete. Instead, make a checklist of must do’s for the week along with an allotted time frame for each, and check them off as you go.

3. Determine What Stays and What Goes.

We all have things we do in life that we can either cut down or give up entirely. “I have to watch television four hours a night.” “I must play video games, surf social media posts, (insert digital vice here) anytime I have a free second.” “I have to say yes anytime someone I care about asks me to do something.” Really?.. Are these things more important than making some time to pursue a passion? Are they more important the feeling content in your successes of holding true to a plan?

4. Prioritize and Compromise Without Causing Harm.

This is perhaps the most difficult step to allowing time for everything in your life. We’ve cleaned house with what stays and what goes; now it’s time to juggle what is left. Only you can determine what is most important in your life, but the key is that there is undoubtedly more than just one thing in your life that is a must have. Relationships, loved ones, children, the daily tasks of maintaining a home in a satisfactory state, work, bills and even occasional breaks for the sake of sanity are all important. Put them all in your plan. Literally make it a manual entry thing in the beginning. Adjust the allotted time as necessary; it will congeal over time. The process will eventually take a less manual entry approach. The main point here is to NOT sacrifice the well-being of others or yourself in the process of squeezing in time for your dreams.

5. Communicate

On a closing note regarding the challenges of making time for the things we want to achieve, I feel it is important to mention this important step. Communicate! Tell the people in your life about the changes you are making. You will likely find your communication met by support and a degree of accountability. These are great things. Having people in our respective corners who truly empathize and support us is essential. Why do you think at the back of nearly every book, the author takes the time to thank a myriad of people who helped get that book into your hands? Because without them, that author didn’t stand a chance.

Hopefully these five steps will be helpful to you in managing the things you want to do with the things you have to do. God knows I struggle with holding to my own advice almost every single day. The most important thing is that we stay persistent because…