Free Fiction Friday – Another Door

Good morning, everyone!

Once again, Thursday has morphed into Friday this week. Hours have changed a bit at the day job, making my days a little longer. Combine that with the end of daylight savings time and a presidential election, and… well… this week just flew right on by.

I have good news, though. I have a brand-new five-story collection out, TURNING THE PAGE, all about strong women facing a turning point in their lives. This week’s story is from that collection. I hope you enjoy “Another Door.”

Another Door
Annie Reed

Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed

 Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover art Copyright © Nataliia Bielous |Dreamstime.com

Mavis Trimble dug her husband’s grave beneath the white oak tree where he’d proposed to her thirty-one years ago to the day.

It took her the better part of the morning to hack her way with a shovel through the first few inches of cold, root-choked ground.  There were easier places to dig a grave, but Mavis hadn’t picked the spot just because it was where Edgar proposed.

The white oak was the tallest tree in the windbreak behind their Iowa farmhouse, and Edgar had been a tall man.  The rope swing Mavis’s daddy had hung from the oak’s branches was still there, frayed now with age.  When she was a girl just beginning to notice that boys were good for something other than teasing, Mavis used to sit in that swing and dream about the handsome man she’d marry someday.  Edgar hadn’t been all that handsome, but he’d been a good, decent man who’d loved her with all his heart, and she’d loved him with all of hers.  Mavis wanted to lay his memory to rest in a spot that was special to her no matter how much hard work it took to dig the grave.

Before the sun climbed high overhead, Mavis gave up on the shovel and started attacking the rocks and roots with a pickaxe.  She worked up a serious sweat as she got into a steady rhythm with her swing.

It felt comforting to be warm.  The sun wasn’t much good for that these days.  The sky as far as she could see was filled with the same dark, ashy clouds that had been there the day before, and the day before that.  The clouds made the sun look like a pale, pitiful ghost of itself.

She should have started with the pickaxe, but the pickaxe had been in the heavy equipment barn, and that had been Edgar’s place.  Mavis didn’t like to go in the barn anymore.  The tractor and cultivator and corn harvester they’d put themselves in debt to buy were her husband’s babies, and they looked forlorn and abandoned without Edgar to take of them.  No one had used the machines since her husband left to fight in the war.  Mavis doubted anyone would ever need to use them again.

The life Mavis and Edgar had worked so hard to build for themselves was gone.  The farmland might have been in Mavis’s family for generations, but Edgar made it bloom.  He’d planted hundreds of acres of corn year after year, an ocean of green that stood eight feet, ten feet high, almost as far as the eye could see.  All that hard work had finally started to pay off.  This year had looked like the second in a row their family farm would turn a profit.

Their ocean of green was dead now.  The middle of August, and the stalks were brittle and dry and frozen, and like everything else in the world, covered with dry, dusty ash.

Mavis knew she should have worn a mask over her mouth while she dug, but did it even matter anymore?  A coughing fit nearly doubled her over, and she had to lean on the handle of the pickaxe to keep herself upright.

“Pitiful,” she said when she got her breath back.  The grave she worked so hard to dig was twelve inches deep, if that.  It was almost like the land was refusing to believe what Mavis knew in her heart.

“He’s not coming back, you hear?” she told the farm.  “I’ve accepted it.  Why can’t you?”

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – The Galaxy’s Most Wanted

Happy Thursday, everyone! How’s your day going so far?

Last weekend a lot of my buddies were in Chicago for Worldcon. Me? I went to SacAnime with my daughter. Had a lot of fun people-watching while standing in really long lines, met a couple of cool artists, and enjoyed the cosplayers even when I didn’t know what character they were playing.

This week’s story is about a different kind of cosplayer — a guy who pretends to be someone he’s not just so he can make time with the ladies. All well and good, until he tries his patter on the wrong woman. I hope you enjoy “The Galaxy’s Most Wanted.”

 

The Galaxy’s Most Wanted

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover and layout Copyright © 2012 Thunder Valley Press

Last time I counted, I had two hundred fifty-seven wives and four hundred thirteen children.  Five hundred forty-one nieces and nephews.  A couple hundred pistol toting fathers-in-law.  And a dog.

I’m also wanted on seventeen planets in sixteen different systems.  That’s not counting all the outstanding interstellar warrants against me for child abandonment, failure to support, and back alimony.

Yeah, I used to be something, all right.  I don’t look like much, not anymore.  At least not compared to the pretty woman who brought me out tonight.  Yeah, that’s her.  The brunette.  Curves in all the right places.  She’s sitting on the bar stool to my right, flirting with the hunky bartender, he of the bulging muscles and piercing blue eyes, full head of blond hair, and easy smile.  If I had looked like Mr. What Can I Get A Pretty Little Thing Like You To Drink Tonight, I wouldn’t be in this mess.  Guys like me, we have to try harder.

That’s how the whole mess I’m in started, trying to get women to pay attention to me.  A little lie here, an embellishment there.  What’s the harm?  So I don’t actually own a star cruiser (I am – or was – the third assistant to the second shift lead maintenance tech on the refuse recycling scow that ran between Omicron and Zeta Sawh, but who’s quibbling?) and I’m not the man who ran a high quality bootlegging outfit on New Marris Prime (although I never said no to a decent alcoholic beverage), but a guy like me’s got to have a little edge, you know?  Something to get a girl to look past the receding hairline and paunchy belly, and the fact that I’m a little short.  Okay, a lot short.  But I do come up to at least shoulder height on most humanoid women.  Not all that bad from my perspective, if you think about it.

That’s my problem, you see.  I just always liked women more than they liked me.

Even the ones I shouldn’t have.  Like the pretty brunette on the bar stool next to me.

The first time I saw her I’d just walked into a dark, dingy bar at the end of a long, uneventful recycling trip.  I mean really – how much trouble can a guy get into on a ship full of recycled garbage?  Bored and more than a little bit lonely for some female companionship, I cleaned myself up, spritzed on my favorite deodorizing aftershave, charged up my tally card with the money I’d earned on the trip, and went looking to get laid.

I found Brina.

(read the rest of the story here)