Friday, July 23, 2010


A #fridayflash story

By John McDonnell

The Mr. Sweety ice cream truck was as much a part of summer on the island as bikinis and sunburn, and when the kids heard its tinkling music they’d run from the beach with their money and line up to get their frozen treats.

The truck was owned by a man named Banana Joe, who wore a big floppy hat and pretended he liked kids, although the kids knew his smile was fake and his cheery manner disappeared when there were no parents around. Besides, he had one long fingernail, his pinky nail, and the kids thought that was weird.

Banana Joe had a specialty, miniature bananas dipped in chocolate sauce and frozen. He called them, “Banana Joe bars”. The kids loved them.

He had a brother named Willy who was not too smart, and he helped out on the truck, but Banana Joe was mean to him. He called him “Stupid,” and “Dummy”, and ordered him around.

One time Willy felt sorry for a little girl who didn’t have any money with her, and he gave her an ice cream bar for free. When Banana Joe found out about it he got angry at Willy and called him really bad names until Willy got tears in his eyes and looked embarrassed in front of the kids.

“You do that again and I’ll put you back in the home,” Banana Joe said.

“No,” Willy said. “Please, don’t do that, Joe.”

“I swear I will,” Banana Joe said. “I oughtta do it anyway. You’re more trouble than you’re worth, you moron. I oughtta put you back there where you belong.”

Willy’s lip was quivering, and he was wringing his hands.

The next day, when the kids heard the music from the truck and they ran to get their ice cream, Banana Joe wasn’t there. “He got sick,” Willy said. “I’m gonna sell the ice cream now.”

The kids all cheered, because they loved Willy. They lined up and fired their orders at him, and Willy tried his best, but he got all mixed up about what everybody wanted and how much everything cost. He took forever, and the kids were getting impatient. One teenaged girl tried to butt ahead of everybody.

“I’m tired of waiting,” she said. “I want a Banana Joe bar.”

“I’ll get to it,” Willy said. “Just give me a chance.”

“I want it now,” she said. “My Dad knows the mayor. He can get you kicked off this beach. Now!”

Willy wiped his brow, and said okay. He reached in the freezer and brought out a Banana Joe bar. The girl paid him and tore the wrapper off the bar. She bit into it, said, “Ow!” and cursed. “Why is this so hard?”

She looked closely at the place where she’d taken a bite. Her face changed, and her eyes got very, very big.

“Oh my God,” she said. She dropped the Banana Joe bar on the pavement and ran screaming down the beach.

In the noonday sun, you could see a fingernail protruding from the chocolate.

Copyright 2010 John McDonnell. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Blog Wins An Award!

I received this award from Danielle La Paglia, who writes terrific flash fiction and has a better-looking blog than mine. I'm supposed to pass this award on to 15 other blogs whose fiction I enjoy. I am really slow with tasks like this, so I'm going to modify it to seven blogs (otherwise it'll take me till 2012 to get this done). There are tons of fiction blogs out there that I like, so it's hard to limit this list to 15. However, here is my attempt:
FutureNostalgic. A great series: pixies vs. fairies.
. Mazzz in Leeds. Funny, dark.
. Eric J. Krause.  Sci fi podcasts, among other things.
. Laura Eno. A funny series about Chronos and Death.
. John Wiswell. "The Bathroom Monologues". Amazing what he comes up with.
. Icy Pop. Really short stories with a punch to them.
. Tony Noland. Writes in different styles and genres. I look forward to his #fridayflash posts.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Thing In The Basement

A #Fridayflash Story

By John McDonnell

“Watch out for the thing in the basement,” Billy’s Uncle Hank used to say. He thought it was funny, and he’d smile when he told Billy about it. “Been down there a long time, since before I bought this house,” he’d say. “People told me about it, told me not to buy the house, but I didn’t listen. I know it’s there, though -- I can feel its presence. Like a cold, clammy feeling; it makes your skin crawl. You know something’s watching you, just waiting to pounce.”

Billy didn’t like his uncle. He was strange, had too many rules, and every rule had a punishment. The worst punishment was the basement. If you ever did something really bad, Uncle said, you would have to go downstairs where the thing lived.

The basement was called a “Michigan basement”. It was unfinished, with a bare earth floor and walls. There was a workbench, with tools scattered all around, and clutter everywhere. Old, broken furniture. Ancient toys. Old magazines moldering in stacks. A bare lightbulb in the ceiling. It smelled damp and musty, and there were strange noises that came from the shadows. His uncle came down here to do his woodworking, and he had an assortment of saws, lathes, and chisels. There was even a big industrial table saw that could cut thick planks of wood.

When Billy’s mother told him she was going away on vacation with his father and that he’d have to stay with his uncle for a week, he pleaded not to go.

“Now, Billy,” his mother said. “You’re being unreasonable. We can’t afford to hire a babysitter for you for the week, and we have no other close relatives living nearby. We’re not really friendly with any of our neighbors (you know I don’t believe in getting chummy with neighbors), so Uncle Hank is the only option we have. I don’t know why you keep saying you don’t like your Uncle Hank. Why, he’s my brother -- we’re so close, we could almost be twins.”

The first day, Billy broke a rule. His uncle had a strict rule about not wasting anything, and Billy accidentally tipped a liter bottle of soda over on the kitchen table, and all the soda poured out.

His uncle got red in the face, smiled, and said, “Well, Billy, I think for that infraction you need to spend some time in the basement.”

Billy begged him not to go, but his uncle didn’t listen. He grabbed Billy by the collar and marched him down the old wooden steps, then marched back up himself, closed the big wooden door and bolted it shut.

And then he turned out the light.

It was a good thing the house was set back from the road, and there were no neighbors close by, or they would have heard Billy’s screams. Billy’s uncle seemed not to notice the screams, or the pounding on the door, or any of the other noises that came from the basement. The next morning he came down to breakfast whistling a cheery tune. When he was finished eating his cereal, he said, “Well, Billy, I think you’ve had enough punishment for one night. Let’s see how you’re doing.”

When Billy’s mother got back from her trip and came to pick him up, she rang the doorbell over and over, but nobody answered. She tried the front door handle and found that the door was unlocked. She made her way through the house calling, “Billy, Hank, where are you?” In the kitchen she saw a cereal box on the sideboard, and a bowl and spoon in the sink.

The door to the basement was open.

She went downstairs slowly, calling, “Billy, Hank? Are you there?”

It was dark in the basement, and it took several moments before her eyes adjusted.

There was something at the far end of the room, by the table saw.

The thing in the basement moved toward her.

“Mama,” it said.



Friday, July 9, 2010

Prime Cut, a #fridayflash story

By John McDonnell

“This is a wicked good steak,” Joey said. “Where’d ya get this meat, Angie?”

“You like it?”

“I love it. I never tasted nothing like it.”

“I got it from the supermarket. They have a new butcher in the meat department. He’s such a cute guy, blonde wavy hair, ice blue eyes. And so helpful. The kind of guy who really listens to a girl, and tries to help her out. Anyway, he has the best meat.”

“Yeah, well, that’s good, Angie. I’m glad you found a new friend. Now, listen, I’m gonna tell you something, but I don’t want you to cry. I hate it when you cry.”

“What’s that, Joey?

“I got a new girlfriend. Her name’s Honey, and she has a body on her like a damn Mack truck. I mean, she has curves on top of her curves. She has skin like, you could bounce a quarter off it.”

“You used to say that about me, Joey.”

“I can’t help it, Angie, I’m in love with her. You’re not crying are you?”

“I’m not crying, Joey.”

“That’s a switch. You always cry when I tell you about a new girlfriend.”

“I’m over that, Joey. I mean, after the 200th time, a girl gets used to it. Well, maybe not used to it, so much. You want another piece of steak?”

“Yeah, sure. This is the best meat I ever had. So what was it you were saying?”

“Nothing, just that I decided crying don’t do no good. I mean, what good did it ever do me to cry about you cheating on me on our wedding night? Or the time when I was in the hospital after my car accident, and you couldn’t come to see me right away because you had a date?”

“Angie, I told you, I promised that girl I’d take her out. I didn’t want to break a promise.”

“I know, I know. Here’s your steak. Good, isn’t it?”

“Better than the first one. I better finish this fast, though. I gotta date with Honey tonight. Funny thing, she hasn’t answered her cell phone all day.”

“I’m sure she’ll turn up eventually, Joey.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Now, here’s a nice little salad I made you.”

“Angie, you know I don’t like salad.”

“Joey, it’s good for you. You don’t eat enough salad. Besides, I fixed this one special.”

“Yeah, looks like you put some crazy new vegetables in it. What are these things, anyway. They look like little pink carrots, except -- what the? Is this a finger? What is this, a joke? It’s a joke, right? And wait, is this a ring? Oh my god, that’s the ring I just gave Honey!”

“Remember that nice butcher I told you about? Well, it turns out he’s a whiz with a knife. Oh, I’m sorry, Joey. Was there something wrong with the meat? You look like you have an upset stomach, sweetie. You’re turning all green.”


Copyright John McDonnell, 2010. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Larry's New Girlfriend

By John McDonnell

It was Dolores who came up with the idea that Murphy should give Larry a job in his bar.

“It’s no good having an alien in the house all day,” she said. “I never know what he’s going to turn into. Yesterday he was a walrus. Now my living room sofa stinks of clams. And my mother thinks she can fix him up with her favorite soap opera actresses. Her hold on reality is getting shakier since he’s been around.”

So Murphy reluctantly hired Larry as a bartender. Larry was a quick study, and in no time he was a master mixologist, sometimes turning himself into a four-armed Hindu deity in order to keep up with drink orders on busy nights. He was a good listener, and could converse on any subject except chaos theory and modern Art, so he was popular with Murphy’s clientele.

Larry was adept at handling misunderstandings among the patrons, too. Once, when two inebriated men started arguing, Larry changed into a large, red-bearded Viking warrior, and when he split their table in half with his battle axe they suddenly decided to make up.

Larry’s only drawback was that he tended to mix himself pink fruity drinks while on the job, and after a few of these he had less control over the physical details of his existence. You never knew if he was going to change into a life form that was charming, curious, or toxic, and anything could set him off.

Murphy found a way to deal with that by hiding the little paper umbrellas that Larry put in his drinks, since Larry thought the umbrellas were essential and wouldn’t take a snootful without them.

Business improved, because people liked Larry. Murphy even came up with theme nights, where Larry would turn into famous people from the past and answer questions while he tended bar. Babe Ruth was a popular one, as was Sigmund Freud, although Murphy had to tell him no more Marilyn Monroe after he nearly caused a riot in the bar.

Larry met several women at the bar and even went out on a date or two, but nothing came of it. Dating was awkward for Larry; he was prone to creating mini black holes in restaurants if his meal was undercooked, or turning himself into an ostrich when he didn’t know what to say.

Murphy began to think that Larry would never find a girlfriend, until one day when he had to call a pest control company after he found a rat in the kitchen. When the exterminator showed up it was a woman named Myra who had pasty white skin, a lumpy body, and Coke bottle glasses. She wore a dark green uniform and was a little too interested in rodents.

“Rats are highly intelligent,” she said. “They form communities just like humans, and they are highly efficient breeders. One male and female rat can have over a million descendants in less than two years.”

Murphy shuddered at the thought of a million rats running around his bar, but Larry, who was currently in the form of a toothless, gray-bearded prospector from the Old West, perked up.

“Yes ma’am,” he cackled, “and don’t you know that rats regulate their body temperature through their tails. And, by cracky, they can stay afloat for three days. Not only that. . .”

“You have an interest in rats?” Myra said. Her glasses were steaming up.

“Why yes,” Larry said, changing into a myopic professor in a cable knit sweater. “I happen to think they are an extremely well-adapted life form.”

“Agreed,” Myra said. “They are fascinating animals. Much more so than humans.”

“I concur,” said Larry. “Highly evolved.”

Myra coughed. “I, uh, never met anyone like you,” she said. “Would you, er, would you want to go out to lunch?”

“I suppose that would be a highly useful thing to do, since we could discuss rats.”

“Yes,” she said. “Highly useful.”

“I’m a vegan,” Larry said.

“Oh, me too!” Myra said. “I know a great place down the street. They make the best burgers out of broccoli and kale.”

They walked out the door and left Murphy wondering at the strangeness of love.