#AtoZChallenge: Multitasking

Melissa woke up to the sound of her daughter crying. It was more powerful than any alarm clock. She checked the time: 5 AM. Her head thudded back against the pillow. Next to her, Mark was stirring. She forced herself out of bed and shuffled over to check on Lily. Her oldest daughter, Madison, bounded out of her room with more energy than anyone should have at that hour. The day had officially begun.

The morning was a flurry of breakfast preparation and lunch packing. Melissa zipped around the kitchen like a lightning bolt, organizing everything she needed and laying out three lunch bags with well-practiced efficiency. She kissed Mark goodbye and gave Madison a hug (though she was getting to the age where overt shows of affection made her squirm) and saw them out the door. Finally, she had a few moments to breathe.

Lily gurgled and tossed a spoonful of pureed carrots across the kitchen table. Breathing would have to wait.

Once the kitchen had been cleaned (again), Melissa consulted her list for the day. There were groceries to buy, she had to pick up some supplies for Madison’s science project, followed by a quick stop at the bank and then Madison needed to be picked up from soccer practice. It sounded simple enough. But first, she had to tidy up the place.

Melissa zoomed from room to room, dusting, vacuuming and mopping. In almost no time at all, the house was spotless. It was time for grocery shopping.

After hopping for a quick shower, she got dressed and packed Lily’s bottle and diapers in her Emergency Baby Kit. With Lily nestled in one arm, Melissa walked out the door. And promptly walked back in to pick up her car keys from the coffee table.

She found a good spot open in the grocery store parking lot, but part of it was blocked by a bad parking job. Melissa sighed and got out of the car. She looked around to make sure the lot was empty, then nudged the offending car with her foot and slowly slid it out of her spot.

Grocery shopping was always a quick affair. She was done in just a few minutes, gliding around the store and around the other shoppers with ease. As Melissa raced over to the checkout lane, she came to a screeching stop. Self-checkout. An old woman with a befuddled expression and a cartful of groceries. A hapless store clerk. She was going nowhere fast. Unless…

Melissa zipped to and from the counter at lightning speed, checking out all of the items to the old woman’s delight and the cashier’s befuddlement. As the woman walked away, still excited about her speedy checkout, Melissa paid for her groceries and headed out to the parking lot. It was time to go to the hardware store. Lily laughed and spit up all over her shirt. The hardware store would have to wait.

With Lily all cleaned up, Melissa was back on track. She strode into the hardware store and consulted her list. A few basic supplies that were no trouble at all. Then came the plyboard. The exact boards she needed were stacked on the highest shelf and she couldn’t see any attendants around. Melissa jumped, grabbing onto the top of the shelf with one hand, and gathered the boards she needed with her free arm. She leapt down and deposited the boards in her cart. All supplies were bought, a clear checkout counter was found, and she was off to the bank.

Melissa found herself facing another long line. There was only one teller available, and it seemed half the city had business to conduct that day. She waited. And waited. And waited. The line shuffled along. Melissa almost pounced on the teller when it was her turn. Her transaction was interrupted by a loud bang.

“Everybody on the ground! Now!”

Banks robbers. Melissa rubbed her temples in frustration. The lead robber was striding around the lobby brandishing a shotgun while his cronies intimidated the tellers and other customers. A chandelier hung from the vaulted ceiling. Melissa grabbed the pen at the counter, snapping off the chain that tethered it. She waited until the leader was standing just under the chandelier. Timing was everything. Then, trying not to be noticed, she tossed the pen like a dart.

The pen hit one of the candelabras mounted on the chandelier, causing it to fall right on the leader’s head. He staggered around for a moment, then went down. The bank’s security guards took advantage of the ensuing confusion to overpower most of the thugs. One of them made a break for it. In the blink of an eye, Melissa overtook the gunman, tripped him, and was promptly back at the counter. Everyone applauded the security guards. Melissa turned back to the teller.

It was a quick transaction after that. She glanced at her watch as she walked way. There was still plenty of time for soccer practice. She was in no rush.

As she got to the car, a loud rumble shook the earth. The sound of screaming soon followed, and then a crowd of people went running past her. Up ahead she saw a giant robot, all metallic arms and legs with a glass bubble in the center. It stomped around, crushing cars under its clawed feet and firing lasers into the air. Lily clapped her hands and cooed at it. Melissa sighed and opened the trunk to fish out her work outfit.

Soccer practice would have to wait.

#AtoZChallenge: Kindness of Strangers

It was another rainy afternoon in the city and Kate, stuck without an umbrella, wasn’t looking forward to splashing through the streets to get back home. She stayed put in the comfort of the little cafe that she always visited after work. If the weather didn’t let up, she’d probably end up staying for dinner. Kate took a seat by the window, sipping her coffee and willing the rain to stop, just until she was back in her apartment.

“Excuse me, miss?”

She turned around to see an older gentleman standing by her table. His silver hair was cut short and neatly parted, and a neatly trimmed beard wrapped itself around his lined face. He was holding a small black umbrella.

“Perhaps you’ll need this,” he said, his face cracking into a warm smile.

Kate was taken aback. “Oh…umm..thank you.” She looked from the man to the umbrella, puzzled. “Don’t you need it, though? To go back out there?” She gestured toward the window.

“Oh, it’s no worry. I’m meeting a friend here and then we’ll be leaving in his car. And besides, I’ve no shortage of umbrellas. Please,” he said, presenting the umbrella to her, “You’ll get home quicker this way.”

Kate cocked her head. “How did you..?”

“Oh, how silly of me to assume,” the man said, looking sheepish. “I suppose you could be headed anywhere.”

“Yes…I suppose so…” Kate gave him an awkward smile and accepted the umbrella. “Thank you. Really. That’s very kind.”

The man nodded. “It’s no trouble at all, my dear.”

Kate walked home mostly dry. Her shoes were soaking wet and her pant legs couldn’t escape the weather, but she was glad to have the umbrella in her hand. How lucky, she thought, and then turned her mind to other matters.


 

“Hey! Taxi!”

Another cab whizzed past, ignoring Kate and her frantic waving. She cursed under her breath and scanned the road. It was surprisingly empty for a weekday afternoon. She spotted the familiar lit up sign and waved her hand again. And yet another taxi took no notice. She was getting late and getting frustrated.

She had half a mind to just walk to the restaurant and was about to turn around when a car pulled up alongside her. It was a tiny little thing, round and pastel colored. An old woman peered out the passenger side window.

“Are you going somewhere, young lady?”

Kate took a step back. She was wary of getting into cars with strangers, but then again, how dangerous could that sweet old woman be?

“I have a date, actually, ” she said.

The old woman clapped her hands together. “Oooh, how exciting! Well, we can’t be late for an occasion like that, now can we? Hop in, hop in! I’ll drop you there in a jiffy!”

Kate hesitated again. “But you don’t even know how far I’m going.”

“If it’s close enough to get by taxi, I’m sure I can manage!” the woman chirped.

She was clearly out of her mind, but oddly enough, there was something reassuring about her voice. Kate couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but the woman seemed familiar.

“Do I…know you from somewhere?” she asked.

“No, but now’s as good a time as any to change that, eh?”

Kate laughed and got into the car. Fifteen minutes later, she was outside the restaurant. She thanked the old woman, who smiled and drove off. This date could have started off on a bad note, Kate thought, watching the car disappear into the horizon. But it didn’t.

Over the past year, Kate realized, whenever she found herself in a bad situation, some stranger always came by to help her out. She’d never experienced that sort of generosity in the city before. It was really strange.

It all happened after the accident. Kate pursed her lips as she remembered that day and how it changed her life forever. But, she reminded herself, things were better now. And if her odd streak of luck continued, things would keep getting better.

She took a deep breath, cleared her head and walked inside.


 

It was quiet in the little diner. No one was there except for the old man. He had a plate of half eaten eggs and sausages in front of him, and was taking generous swigs from a stained coffee mug.

The old woman walked in and was greeted by a waitress who seemed to materialize out of thin air. The woman waved her a cheery hello and walked over to the booth where the old man was.

“Running a bit late today,” he remarked with a twinkle in his eye.

The woman plopped down on the seat across from him. “Ooh yes, sorry about that. I was dropping Kate off.” She leaned forward and dropped her voice to an excited whisper. “She’s on a date!”

The old man’s eyebrows flew up. “A date? With whom? Did you see the boy? He’s not a beatnik, is he?”

The woman dismissed his questions with a wave of her hand. “Oh, Horace, you’re such a worrywart. I’m sure he’s a nice young man. And if he isn’t, Kate can take care of herself.”

“I know,” Horace sighed. “But its hard not to worry. What if she needs our help again, Minerva?”

“Then we’ll help her, just as we’ve done so far.

I’m just so glad to see her out and about. After the accident, after she…lost us, I didn’t think I would ever see her smile again.” Tears were forming in the corners of Minerva’s eyes; one of them rolled down her cheek and dropped on to the placemat in front of her. Horace reached out and put his hand over hers.

“There, there, dearest. She didn’t lose us for long, did she? We’re still around. Whether she realizes it or not.”

“True, ” Minerva said, with a sniffle. “We’ll always take care of our little girl.”

“Yes, we will.” Horace was smiling, though his eyes were damp too. “Now, how about some coffee? Unless you’d prefer something stronger, of course.”

Minerva laughed. “Coffee will be just fine, you old lush!”

Horace broke into a grin and signaled the waitress.

“So, ” he said, leaning forward. “Just what does this young man do?”

“Oh, Horace!”

#AtoZChallenge: Horseplay

“Hey, slow down!”

Helia laughed as she raced past her brother. She had left him trailing in her wake since they had first learned to walk. Now that the twins were fast approaching adulthood, she was the fastest runner in the family and poor Hadros could only lag behind.

“Come, on Helia! It’s not fair!”

“The gods aren’t fair, Hadros! No one ever asks Hermes to slow down!” She grinned and picked up her pace. Her brother’s panting breaths were lost to the wind as she flew through the forest, darting over large rocks and fallen logs. It was the most amazing feeling in the world to run without limits, without boundaries. Trees became a blur of green and sounds of birdsong ebbed and flowed like the river’s tide.

Poor Hadros. He’d never catch up to her. Helia decided to take pity on her brother and stopped, waiting for him by a clearing. He was nowhere to be seen. She couldn’t even hear his steps any longer. She craned her neck and looked around, getting impatient and a bit worried. Even Hadros wasn’t that slow. He should have come into view by now. Where was he?

As Helia was peering into the depths of the forest in an attempt to see some sign of her brother, she heard the sound of a twig snapping from somewhere to her left. She turned her head just in time for a shadowy figure to lunge at her, knocking her out of breath as they both tumbled to the ground. She struggled to stand up, pushing the other figure off her, but it was relentless in its attack.

“Hadros?!”

Helia couldn’t believe it. He’d snuck up on her! Her brother burst out laughing.

“You should have seen your face! Who would have thought that ‘Helia the Swift’ could be ambushed, huh?”

He laughed again, but was cut off by Helia headbutting him in the chest. They both fell to the ground, grappling with each other and kicking up clumps of dirt.

“That’s enough!”

The siblings almost jumped at the sound of their father’s voice. Haeron was standing at the edge of the clearing, arms crossed over his chest and one forehoof pawing the ground. Their mother Hali stood next to him, failing to hide her amusement.

“It doesn’t matter how old you grow,” she said, “You’ll always behave like foals.”

Helia and Hadros stood up, tails drooping. “We’re sorry.”

Their father shook his head, his stern expression giving way to a wry smile. “Alright you two. I think you’ve had more play time than you can handle. It’s almost time for supper.”

“Alright,” they said, in unison.

Helia looked over at Hadros, a sly twinkle in her eye. “Race you!”

With that, she galloped off back the way they had come.

“Hey!” Hadros charged after her.

Haeron sighed. Hali laughed and patted him on the back as they trotted along behind their children.

13 Tales of Terror: Dearest Son

“Hi Dad!”

“Hey kiddo! How’s your day been?”

“It was ok. Kinda boring.”

“Yeah? How come?”

“Well, Mike left today.”

“He did?”

“Yeah. His parents came to see him. They talked about some stuff. Then Mike was really happy. I’ve never seen him laugh so much before. Then he left.”

“Oh…I’m sorry, buddy.”

“It’s ok. I heard something about a new kid coming in.”

“New kid?”

“Yeah, he’s s’posed to come in the afternoon, I think. His parents aren’t around so his uncle’s bringing him.”

“Well, that’s not so bad then. At least you’ll have someone to play with again.”

“Yeah. I hope he’s nice.”

“I’m sure he will be, buddy.”

“How was your day?”

“Oh, you know. The usual. Work. Got some new projects coming up so I’ll be working late for a while.”

“You won’t come visit?”

“Sure I will! I’ll always make time for you, son.”

“Daddy? When are you gonna take me home?”

“I..uhh..well, don’t you like it here? You’re meeting so many new people, and you’ve got so much place to play.”

“It’s nice. But I’d like to go home again. I wanna see Mom. Why doesn’t she visit?”

“Your mom just…has a lot going on. She’ll visit soon, I promise.”

“Ok.”

“Hey. you know we both love you a lot, right?”

“I know.”

“Things are going to be difficult for a little while. But it’ll all be okay soon. We’ll spend a whole day together as a family. I promise, son.”

“Ok, Daddy.

Hey, I think that’s the new kid! He’s coming! He’s coming! Can I go say hi?”

“Sure thing, son. Just don’t disturb anyone else, ok?”

“I won’t! I’ll just say hi and see if he wants to play right now!”

“Alright, have fun!”

“Bye, Dad!”

“Bye, son.

I love you.”

He sprints across the grass, bursting with excitement. You’d think he was getting ready to open Christmas presents. A hearse pulls up near the gates. Soon the mourners and the pall bearers will be coming in. I wonder how old the new boy was, and how he died.

Poor kid. At least he’ll have company here.

 

 

 

 

Story A Day Challenge – Day 22: Under The Same Roof

“Could you pass the gravy, please?”

“Oh, George. Maybe you should go a little easy. You know what the doctor said.”

“I don’t need any doctor telling me how to live my life, May. The gravy, please.”

“You really should slow down a bit, Dad.”

“Oh, not you too, Ricky. If a heart attack couldn’t take me down, I don’t think this gravy will.”

“When’re we gonna have ICE-CREAM?”

“As soon as you finish your broccoli, dear. So, tell me, Elise, has Ricky popped the question yet?”

“Mom!”

“We…haven’t really thought that much about it, Mrs. Brown. In fact, I was having…umm…second thoughts..”

“Whoa…are you breaking up with me? During dinner with my family?!”

“Oh no. I’m sorry, Ricky. I probably shouldn’t have – ”

“It’s alright, Mrs. Brown. It wasn’t your fault.”

“I can’t believe this is happening!”

“I want ICE-CREAM!”

“Is this all the gravy we have in the house?”

Dr. Messner watched the drama unfold with complete fascination, taking detailed notes. He had never seen a case of dissociative identity disorder quite like this before.