Friday, March 26, 2010

The Doctor Visit -- a #fridayflash story

By John McDonnell

Petey and Muggs didn’t have an appointment, but after Petey bent down and whispered in the ear of Mabel Houston, the receptionist, she bolted out of her chair and said that she would see if the doctor could fit them in. 
The doctor, a lean, thin-lipped man named Walter Bergstrom, ushered them into his examining room with the look of someone who had just smelled something unpleasant.
“My receptionist said it was an emergency,” he said. “It had better be, for the way you spoke to her.”
“Sorry, doc,” Petey said. “It’s just that I got a little problem, and I need some help.”
“Yes? What is it?” the doctor said, grabbing the gold pocket watch from his vest and looking at it impatiently.
“I, ah, well, I was with this woman, see, and. . .” Petey’s voice trailed off.
“Come on, man, I don’t have all day,” the doctor said.
“It’s kind of personal.”
“Maybe your friend should leave.”
“Nothing doing,” Petey said. “Muggs goes everywhere with me.”
“Well, then, I’d better examine you. Drop your trousers.”
“Nuts to that.”
“Then I can’t help you.”
“He just wants some medicine,” Muggs said.
“Sure, that’s what you all want,” the doctor said. “All of you goons. You disgust me. You come in here and want me to patch you up after your gunfights, treat you for the clap, arrange abortions for your girlfriends. I can’t stand what you represent. I grew up in a time when people went to church, lived good lives. That’s all out the window now. All the younger generation wants to do now is drink bathtub gin, listen to that godawful racket they call jazz, and have sex. There are no morals anymore. Well, I’ve had enough,” he said, standing up. “I have no time for this. Get out of my office now. Let somebody else help you.”
“Sit down, doc,” Petey said. His voice had a very low tone, like it came from a different person, and something about it made the doctor sit down quickly.
“That’s better,” Petey said, in his normal voice. “I was sittin’ here thinkin’ you look familiar. Don’t he look familiar, Muggs?”
“I dunno,” Muggs said. “Do we know him?”
“Sure,” Petey said. “Why, I think we seen him at Mr. Donovan’s place a time or two. Ain’t that right, Doc?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Muggs looked puzzled. “Did Mr. Donovan need some doctorin’, Petey?”
“No, you lummox. Our friend the doc here was a payin’ customer. Weren’t you, doc?”
The doctor flushed. “If you’re talking about that speakeasy in town, you’re sadly mistaken. I’ve never been near--”
“Oh, wait a minute,” Muggs said. “Now I recognize him. His face is all red, and that makes him look more familiar. He had a red face when I seen him before. He was comin’ downstairs from where the girls--”
“That’s preposterous!” the doctor said, but his face got even redder.
“Say, Doc,” Petey said. “Is that a picture of your wife on the wall? Gee, she’s a peach. Ain’t she a peach, Muggs?”
“She’s a peach,” Muggs said.
The doctor pulled out his prescription pad and scribbled something on it, then ripped the sheet off. There was a slight tremor in his hand when he gave the paper to Petey.
“Take that to Foster’s Drugstore, on North Main,” he said. “Take the whole dose. If you have any problems after you’re finished, come and see me again.”
“Thanks, doc,” Petey said, getting up. “What’s the charge?”
“Nothing,” the doctor said. “Just leave, please.”
“Sure, doc, sure,” Petey said. “Say hello to your wife for us, willya?”

Outside in the Packard, Muggs said, “Gee, that was a coincidence, huh? That you recognized the doc.”
“Yeah,” Petey said. “What a coincidence.”
“I like that better than goin’ to a stranger.”
“You said it, kid,” Petey replied. “It’s much better to deal with folks you know.”

Copyright John McDonnell, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Diversion -- a #fridayflash story

By John McDonnell

Petey and Muggs sat in the back of the Orpheum Theatre and watched The Great Mesmeroni and his assistant, the lovely Fifi, perform magic for the matinee crowd.
“I hope he don’t saw her in half,” Muggs said. “I don’t like to see a girl get sawed in half.”
“It’s a trick,” Petey said. “She ain’t really going to get sawed in half.”
“How do you know? Maybe she will.”
Petey sighed. “Don’t you know it’s all done with mirrors? It’s a trick, that’s all.”
“Well, she’s a pretty girl, and I wouldn’t want to see her get sawed in half.”
The girl wore a red sequined gown that shimmered in the stage lights, and long red gloves, and she had a mane of cinnamon colored hair. She had a ballerina’s posture and graceful arm movements. 
The Great Mesmeroni pulled pigeons out of his top hat, yards of silk handkerchiefs out of a shot glass, and playing cards out of the air. He got giggling audience members to come up on stage and he pulled coins from behind their ears. For the finale, he wheeled out a large polished black box and put the lovely Fifi in it, then sawed her in half. Muggs did not look at this, holding his bowler hat over his eyes.
Afterward, Petey led the way back to the dressing room, and Muggs followed, anxious to make sure the girl was all right.
She wasn’t in the magician’s dressing room, however, and Muggs was disappointed. The Great Mesmeroni was taking his makeup off, and was sitting naked from the waist up at a dressing table in front of a greasy mirror. He looked smaller without his tuxedo on, and he had a potbelly.
He was not happy to see them.
“Gentlemen, please,” he said. “This is my dressing room.”
“We just came to talk,” Petey said. “Mr. Donovan sent us.”
“I know very well who sent you. I told him my answer. I don’t work for gangsters and bootleggers. I am a man of integrity.”
“Now, that ain’t very white of you,” Petey said. “Mr. Donovan loves your act, and he thinks you’d be a big hit at his club.”
“You can inform Mr. Donovan I’m not working at his speakeasy. Why is that fellow staring at me?”
“That’s my friend Muggs. He don’t like the way you treat women.”
“Why’d you saw that girl in half?” Muggs said.
“My dear boy, I didn’t saw her in half. You saw her standing upright at the end of the show, didn’t you?”
“Muggs closed his eyes,” Petey said. “He couldn’t watch.”
“Well, I’m sorry you believed it. It’s all a trick, my boy. It’s about smoke and mirrors, about misdirection, about putting up a diversion so the audience doesn’t see what you’re really doing.”
“You’re lying,” Muggs said.
“God help me, I think you mean it,” the magician said. “Well, I’ve no answer for stupidity. Now get out of here, the both of you.”

In the Packard on the way home, Muggs said, “He shouldn’t saw girls in half.”
Petey whistled, long and hard. “I didn’t know you could bend somebody’s arm at that angle,” he said. “He ain’t going to be sawing nobody in half for quite a while now. Mr. Donovan won’t be happy.”
“She was a pretty girl.”
“Aw, you big ox, you just don’t get it, do ya? Everything about show business is fake. I know a guy who works at the Orpheum, and he says she’s 60 years old if she’s a day. With all the face paint she wears, and the wig, and the stage lights, they make her look 30 years younger. She’s long past being a girl.”
“I don’t believe it.”
Petey shook his head. “It must be nice to be so thick-headed. I bet you believe in Santy Claus, too.”
“I ain’t sayin’.”
Petey shook his head. “Gimme that flask, willya? I need a drink to take the edge off.”   

THE END  Copyright John McDonnell 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Princess Quest, A Flash Fiction

By John McDonnell

It had been blazing hot all morning, and Princess Meredith was perspiring when she came around a bend on the mountain path and saw the wooden bridge stretching across the gorge. There was a white-bearded old man in a long robe standing near the bridge, and she was not happy about this. He was probably one of those old men who make you answer three questions before they let you cross their bridge, and she wasn’t in a mood to answer questions.
"Hello, blind man," she called, as she approached him. She could tell he was blind because his eyes didn’t focus on anything. Also, because he was looking at a tree instead of her.
"Hello," he said, bowing to the tree. "Charmed to meet you."
"I’m over here, to your left."
"Sorry. I’m blind, you know."
She sighed. "I thought old blind bridgekeepers had a really keen sense of hearing, but you obviously don’t."
"Well, I’ve never had good ears. Nor a good nose, for that matter. But, I can tell everything about a person by touching them. For example," he said, running his hands all over her, "I can tell you’re female, you’ve been perspiring, you’re 19, and you have very big—"
She slapped him across the face. "Keep your hands to yourself, you cheeky devil!"
"Sorry," he said. "I don’t see many young girls around here. Last one must have been two years ago. Princess, she was. On a quest. The dragon ate her, I’m sure."
"Oh, fudge," Princess Meredith said, stamping her foot. "You mean there’s a dragon over there?" She pointed at the other end of the bridge.
"Why yes, Miss," he said, chuckling. "There’s always a dragon, isn’t there?"
"Is he big?"
"Oh, he’s a roaring big sort of a fellow, with nasty breath. Even I, with my dodgy sense of smell, I can tell his breath is terrible bad."
"Well, that’s no good. I have to get over there, because I’m on a quest. An evil witch has put a curse on my father, and turned him into a lampshade, and she won’t turn him back until I return with a ring from the treasure cave across that bridge."
"Ah, yes. All the witches like to send people to the dragon’s cave. It’s a common enough quest. Of course, there are alternatives. You could be sent to a wizard’s castle to pluck his beard. Or, you could sneak up to a dwarf’s forge and steal his hammer. Or, perhaps take an ogre’s supper from him? Ah, that would be an interesting one. . ."
"Yadda yadda," she said. "I don’t have time for this," and she started across the bridge.
"Wait, miss, if you please. I’m the guardian of this bridge. You can’t get past unless I let you."
"And how will you stop me? You’re blind."
He smiled. "Yes. But I have special powers. What kind of a bridgekeeper would I be without special powers?"
She sighed. "And you probably have three questions for me to answer."
"Three questions?" He stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Hmm. Never thought of that. No, that wouldn’t do. I’d have to remember three answers."
"Well, what do I have to do?"
"Yes. Well. You have to. . .  that is to say. . . if you wouldn’t mind. . . I mean, ah."
"Would you please get to the point," the princess said, tapping her foot. "I don’t have all day."
"You have to let me give you a massage."
"What? In your dreams."
His face fell. "Oh, that’s what they all say. No massage for us, they say. No. Old George, who has three out of five senses on the fritz, who has to sit out in front of this bridge night and day, with no companionship, year after year, Old George is not allowed the simple pleasure of touching another human being, not allowed to satisfy the basic human need for –"
"Oh all right," the princess said. "Just stop your yammering."
"Would you?" his wrinkled face split into a grin.
"Yes. But make it quick," she said, lying down on her stomach on a nearby flat stone. "And if you go any lower than my third lumbar vertebrae, I’ll beat you to within an inch of your life."
"Oh, don’t worry, miss, I won’t," he said, placing his large hands on her neck. "I’ll be a perfect gentleman, I will."
"A little lower, please," the princess said, struggling to get the words out.
"Can’t hear you," the old man said.
"Argh, akhl, gack," the princess said, as his grip tightened. He certainly did have a strong grip for such a decrepit old man. However, she was able to loosen his grip by kicking backwards into his groin, and then turning and pummeling him about the face and upper body. In a matter of seconds she was on top of him on the ground, with her hands wrapped around his neck. His lips were turning the most interesting shade of green, and his breath – his breath? – was fouler than anything she’d ever smelled.
So it was that just before the old man was able to transform himself into the dragon, the princess strangled him into unconsciousness, then dragged his body to the edge of the cliff and tossed it over, where it fell a great distance and plunged like an anvil into the rapids below.
The princess got up and dusted herself off, then made her way across the bridge and to the cave, where she found lots of treasure. She found the ring the witch wanted, but before she left she took a few baubles along with it.
The princess thought of them as her insurance policy. Her father was impulsive, prone to angering witches, and she figured he’d be cursed again one of these days. It was better to have a gift to placate the next witch than to have to go on another quest like this.
Copyright John McDonnell 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Alien Abduction Story At Short Humour Magazine

I don't know why alien abduction stories seem so amusing to me, but they do. The other day I let my imagination run wild and I wrote a flash fiction story about one of these happenings. I did what Stephen King says he does: I asked some "what if" questions. I hope you like the result. The story is called "The Probe". Here's a link to it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Deaf Jam, a flash fiction


By John McDonnell

The Count’s daughter was very frustrated with his hearing.
“I told you to get a hearing aid,” she said.
“Excuse me?” he said, cupping a hand to his ear.
“I said, ‘I told you to get a hearing aid!’” she shouted.
“There is nothing wrong with my hearing,” he said. “I can hear the sound of grass growing. I have the hearing of a bat.
“You’re deaf as a post,” she muttered.
“Buttered toast?” he said. “No thank you, I’m not hungry.”
“And you’re crazy as a loon,” she said.
He stood with his arms clasped behind him, looking out the castle window at the lightening sky. “Yes, the sun will be up soon,” he said.
“I know it’s difficult having me for a father,” he continued. “Handsome, brilliant, dashing -- It’s overwhelming, I know.”
“I’m going to throw up,” she said.
“If you would simply speak correctly, I could hear you,” he said. “You’ve never had good diction.”
“You old bat,” she hissed. “You probably can’t hear those church bells ringing.”
“Singing? Who is singing?”
She lowered her voice. “It means the villagers are coming after you with their pitchforks.”
“The problem is you mumble,” he said. “You must enunciate every word, like me.”
“Oh, you’re impossible!” she shouted. “I hate living with you.”
He turned. “I heard that. It was very disrespectful, young lady. Just for that, you’re grounded. I’m adding two more weeks on top of the punishment you got for falling in love with that village boy.”
She was about to shriek at him, but there was a sound of a large group of people banging at the door downstairs. She waited.
The Count puffed out his chest. “I am the master here. I must be firm with you at all times, my dear.”
There was a sound of splintering wood as the door was shattered, and then the sound of many boots coming up the stone stairs.
The Count yawned. “No more talk; it is time for sleep,” he said, opening his coffin and settling himself inside it. “We will talk again tonight,” he said, closing his eyes.
“I don’t think so,” his daughter said, as the townspeople burst into the room, with their garlic necklaces, their pitchforks, their crucifixes, and their silver stake.

Copyright John McDonnell 2010

Read An E-Book Week, March 7 - 13

E-books are getting more popular all the time, and it's easy to see why. With compact, handheld devices like the Amazon Kindle or Apple's iPad, it's easy to download and read e-books anywhere, anytime. The books are sold at cheaper prices than print editions, and you can store hundreds of books on each device. E-books offer readers economy, accessibility, and convenience, while they offer writers an easier way to get their books published. It's much easier and less expensive to publish an e-book than a print edition, and this is opening up new possibilities for authors everywhere. March 7-13 is Read An E-Book Week, so why not download an e-book and read it? You'll be happy you did!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Another Horrifying Flash Fiction Tale

I've been writing horror stories lately. Very short horror stories. My latest, The Smell Of Love is up on the Micro Horror site today. Here's the link!