Free Fiction Thursday – Carl of the Bells

Carl Bells web

Carl of the Bells

Annie Reed

 

My friend Carl was born a few beers short of a six-pack, if you know what I mean. He’s one of those guys with a bucket full of great ideas you just know will never pan out. He told me once he could make a killing selling rocks in a box.

“People are stupid gullible,” he said. “They’ll buy anything if you package it right.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him Pet Rocks went out of style while we were still learning our ABCs.

Carl being Carl, I shouldn’t have been surprised when he interrupted our football watching one night to tell me about his latest money-making idea.

We were nursing beers at Big Ed’s Tavern on this particular Thursday night watching the Chargers beat the crap out of the 49ers on Big Ed’s dinky television.

Big Ed got the NFL channel, which was why we hung out there. The place was packed because the 49ers were playing this week, and Reno’s chock full of diehard Niners fans. Didn’t matter that this late in December the 49ers didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making the playoffs.

Carl and I counted ourselves lucky we got our favorite seats at the bar so we could see the tiny screen. You’d think with all the money Big Ed raked in on Thursdays, he’d shell out the bucks for a flat screen TV bigger than a postage stamp.

“You know those bell ringers they got in front of every grocery store around town?” Carl asked me.

“Yeah, the Salvation Army guys.”

Carl gave me one of his that’s what you think looks, complete with arched eyebrow and all-knowing sneer. Carl’s been losing his hair since high school graduation, and he could stand to shed those thirty or so extra pounds around his middle. His sense of fashion is lounge lizard slick. Look at him sideways, and he could have doubled for Clark Griswold’s hick cousin in that Christmas movie my wife makes me watch every year.

The arched eyebrow combined with a sneer wasn’t a particularly flattering look on my good buddy Carl.

“How do you know they’re all with the Salvation Army?” Carl asked.

(end of sample)

~~~

Carl of the Bells

Copyright © 2014 Annie Reed

First published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, January 2013 edition

This story can be purchased at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords.

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Free Fiction Thursday – Self Defense

Self defense webA powerful story about a single mother and her young son from award-winning author Annie Reed.

When Miriam’s son tries to defend himself against schoolyard bullies, he’s victimized a second time by a school system that punishes the victim as well as the bully.

In order to help her son learn to be strong, Miriam must overcome the trauma of her own past. For bullies exist in every walk of life, and she’s tired of being a victim.

This story is no longer available to read for free,but it can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Self Defense

Annie Reed

Miriam sat across the desk from her son’s middle school principal and tried not to fidget.

Her chair was as uncomfortable as all the classroom chairs she’d ever sat in when she’d been in school. Straight-backed with a hardwood seat and battered metal legs, it was an adult version of the kid-sized chairs she perched on at every parent-teacher conference she’d gone to since Mitchell had started school seven years ago. Familiarity did not breed contempt so much as fear—the old childhood fears of being called to the principal’s office. Of being noticed. Of not fitting in.

Only this time Miriam wasn’t afraid for herself. She was afraid for Mitchell.

The principal didn’t shake her hand when Miriam introduced herself after a harried-looking office assistant ushered her into his tiny office. The man didn’t even stand up from behind his neat-as-a-pin desk. His only acknowledgment of her presence was to glance away from his computer screen only long enough to give her a look that made her feel like she was a minor irritation in a lifetime filled with nothing but irritations.

Miriam had offered her hand in greeting. When the principal didn’t give her the courtesy of accepting her outstretched hand, she pulled it back and straightened her skirt as she sat down. She tried to make the movement look natural, like she’d intended to do just that all along, although she was sure she’d failed miserably.

“We have a serious situation here, Mrs. Richardson,” the principal said. “You son was caught fighting.”

(end of sample)

 

Free Fiction Thursday – Jessie

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I don’t know about you, but I spent some quality time with the zombies and survivors of The Walking Dead this last weekend during AMC’s Walking Dead marathon. The marathon was a promo for season 4 which doesn’t start until October, so a marathon in July only makes me realize how long a wait it’s going to be for the next new episode.

All those Walking Dead episodes put me in the mood for some zombie fiction.  I wrote “Jessie” while I was on the Oregon coast, and a favorite restaurant of mine makes a cameo appearance.  Since I’m getting ready to leave for the coast again this weekend, what better story to share for Free Fiction Thursday?  I hope you enjoy the story of Tommy and Jessie on the beach, and that your time along the coast is far more pleasant.

jessie2 cover interior
Jesse

Annie Reed

Tommy met Jessie on the beach.

He’d been wandering along the shore line, walking on the wet sand because it was easier, and playing keep away with the waves so his shoes wouldn’t get wet.  The day was cold and cloudy.  He was looking for driftwood to make a fire, but he wasn’t looking all that hard.  This part of the beach was sheltered from the big part of the ocean by a sand bar, and for some reason there was a lot of driftwood here.  Everything from dry twigs and bark to huge old tree trunks covered with big black splotches that looked like they’d come from a burned out forest about a million years ago.  Tommy wanted to climb on top of the biggest ones and see what he could see, but Leon always told him to stay off the logs, it wasn’t safe, just like Leon had told him to walk along the water because the sick wouldn’t go in the water and it was one way to get away from them.

That hadn’t turned out to be true, but Tommy still walked along the water’s edge like Leon told him to even though Leon wasn’t there anymore.

Tommy had just picked up a piece of wood about the size of his forearm when he saw her sitting on top of a huge log near the water’s edge, watching him.

“You’re not supposed to be up there,” he said.

She stuck her tongue out at him.  “Says who?”

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Firebug

Happy Thursday, everyone!

In honor of the release of a paperback edition of my five-story collection IT’S A CRIME (complete with free ebook version!), this week’s free fiction is “Firebug,” one of the five stories in the collection. Enjoy!

crime v5 ebook small

 

FIREBUG

Annie Reed

Copyright ©  Annie Reed

Me and Bobby, we started a fire yesterday in that empty house on Colfax, the one with the ugly puke-green Realty Masters “For Sale” sign in the front yard.  We got in through the patio door, real easy like.  The guys working on the inside, fixing up the place, they don’t always lock up when they leave.  I guess they think nobody notices, but I do.  Even I know better than to leave a house open like that. Just asking for trouble.

We were outside the AM-PM on Fourth and Garnett, hanging out in the shade, when I came up with the idea.  Me and Bobby, we went to AM-PM for drinks just like we always do.  I had a Mountain Dew with lots of ice.  I like lots of ice in the summer, crunch it between my teeth like candy.  Bobby was sucking down AM-PM’s lame-ass version of a sour berry Slurpee.  He stuck out his tongue every now and then just to gross me out, like a blue tongue is all that gross.  I’ve seen grosser.

I’d slipped a lighter in my jeans pocket when the AM-PM cashier wasn’t looking.  The lighter was clear orange plastic, the kind where you can see the fluid inside sloshing all around.  I almost forgot about it until I did that little jump-skip thing I do over cracks in the sidewalk, and I felt the lighter poking hard against my hip.

“Wanna see something cool?” I asked.

I took the lighter out of my pocket and showed it to Bobby, and all of a sudden, just like that, I had the idea.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Bait

Good morning, everyone!

How about we get Free Fiction Thursday back on track this week with a zombie story? I’ve been biting my nails as this season of The Walking Dead powers toward the inevitable all-out war between Rick and The Governor. Only two episodes left! Yikes. I have a feeling those next couple of episodes are going to be intense.

So in honor of The Walking Dead, this week’s free fiction is “Bait,” a story about what happens to a mismatched group of survivors when they try to do the right thing. Enjoy!

cover2 bait interior

BAIT

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2013 Annie Reed

Sarah saw the little girl first.

“Stop the truck!  Oh, George, please stop the truck!”

George didn’t want to stop.  He was still too freaked by the run out of Reno.  Half a tank of gas was all we managed to get at the last Arco station on 395 before the locals sniffed us out.  Most of them don’t come out into the sunlight, but every gas station in Nevada has a helpful tin roof over the pumps to keep the tourists from burning their tender scalps crispy red in the high altitude desert sun.

Not that Nevada has tourists anymore.

Not that anyplace does.

Doesn’t matter that we’re not from here.  We’re survivors, not tourists.  Everyone else are locals, as George calls them.

George doesn’t like to use the Z word.  Sarah and I don’t either.  Makes it sound like we’re in the middle of some low-rent horror movie.  We’re not.  And calling them The Infected makes it sound like they’ve just got a bad case of the flu, no big deal.  Trust me when I say, it’s a Very Big Deal.  End of the world, Big Deal.  I keep expecting to see an avenging angel sweep down out of the sky, Hollywood blockbuster style, and rip us to shreds for fucking up God’s grand plan.

Not that Sarah and George and I were responsible for this whole mess.  We were never responsible for much of anything, which makes the whole last three people on earth thing kind of ironic, you know what I mean?

“George, stop the fucking truck!”

Sarah yanked on the wheel before George or I could stop her.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Roger’s Christmas Wish

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I’m having a blast this holiday season watching the Christmas episodes of my favorite shows.  First there was Castle, and tonight’s there’s a brand new Christmas episode of The Big Bang Theory.  I can’t wait!

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, just like for the young boy in this week’s story. Only this year a dark cloud has arrived to wreck Roger’s Christmas.  He has one last chance to set things right — he needs to catch Santa on Christmas Eve so he can make the most important wish he’s ever made in his life.  I hope you enjoy “Roger’s Christmas Wish.”

xmaswish1

ROGER’S CHRISTMAS WISH

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2010 Annie Reed

 Published by Thunder Valley Press

Roger couldn’t sleep.

It was Christmas Eve.  He was supposed to be asleep already—mom always said Santa wouldn’t come unless he was sleeping—but Roger was too nervous.

He planned to wake up after everyone else fell asleep so he could go sit in the living room by the Christmas tree and wait for Santa.  He even had his alarm clock set for two in the morning because he was pretty sure that’s when Santa would be there.  Last year Roger snuck out into the living room at three, but the cookies and milk his mom had left out for Santa were already gone, and Roger’s stocking was stuffed full of little wrapped presents.  Two o’clock had to be the right time, it just had to be. This year was too important.  He couldn’t miss Santa again.

Roger had stashed his wind-up clock under his pillow so that he’d be the only one to hear the alarm when the little hammer beat on the bells.  If the alarm woke up his parents, much less his grandmother, Roger would be in big time trouble.

No kid wanted to get in trouble right before Christmas, especially not on Christmas Eve.  Roger didn’t want to take the chance that Santa might cancel Christmas.  Things were already bad enough at his house.  He didn’t think he could stand it if Santa decided he was a bad little boy this year.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Harley and the Alien

Happy Thursday, everyone!

It looks like my website is being cranky this morning when it comes to letting me post pictures, so for right now I can’t show you the nifty cover for my five-story collection ALL FALL DOWN. Bummer! But I can still post free fiction on this sunny, hot, first Thursday morning in August. *g* EDIT:  Yay!  The cover’s available now.  Thank goodness for technology that resolves itself. 😉

This week’s story is about a time traveler who never expected he’d be in any time zone long enough to have a family.  Funny how life turns out. But what happens when history finally catches up to him? I hope you enjoy “Harley and the Alien.”

Harley and the Alien

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2011 Annie Reed

 Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover art Copyright © Rejnkarlgren|Dreamstime.com

Cover and layout Copyright © 2012 Thunder Valley Press

Harley was named after the motorcycle her momma won from her daddy in a game of chicken.

Until she was ten, Harley always thought that meant her momma and her daddy shuffle-danced around each other, flapping their arms like they were wings and making bwack-bwa-bwa-bwack! sounds at each other, until her daddy fell down and her momma got to crow out a victory caw.  Harley got somewhat disillusioned—and a little terrified, to be honest—when I told her playing chicken meant her momma rode a borrowed motorcycle straight at her daddy while each of them pointed ten foot hollow pipes they’d scavenged from a junk yard at each other, like they were knights riding on horses or something.

Well, the story goes that Harley’s momma knocked her daddy clean off his hog, like to put that metal pipe right through his shoulder, and then muscled his motorcycle up off the pavement and rode on out of town before his boys could catch her.

By then it was too late to undo the lovin’ that would eventually become Harley.  Even for a woman as tough as Harley’s momma, being alone with a baby on the way wasn’t easy in those days, so Harley’s momma—Maxine was her name—went home to live with her daddy, Big George.

That’s me.  Big George Wannamaker, and I’m an alien.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Jessie

Good morning!  Happy Thursday, Internets!

I don’t know about you, but I spent way too much time this last weekend watching AMC’s The Walking Dead third-season preview marathon.  I can’t wait for the up-coming season.  Maybe I should dive into the novel to get the background on The Governor, who will be showing up in season three.  Anybody here read The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor?  How did you like it?

In the meantime, since I’ve been in a zombie apocalypse survivor mood, this week’s Free Fiction Thursday story is one of five zombie survivor stories in my collection THE PATIENT Z FILES, which is on sale for 50% off the cover price at Smashwords through the month of July.  I hope you enjoy “Jessie.”

JESSIE

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2011 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover illustration Copyright Andreas Gradin | Dreamstime.com

Cover layout by Thunder Valley Press

Tommy met Jessie on the beach.

He’d been wandering along the shore line, walking on the wet sand because it was easier, and playing keep away with the waves so his shoes wouldn’t get wet.  The day was cold and cloudy.  He was looking for driftwood to make a fire, but he wasn’t looking all that hard.  This part of the beach was sheltered from the big part of the ocean by a sand bar, and for some reason there was a lot of driftwood here.  Everything from dry twigs and bark to huge old tree trunks covered with big black splotches that looked like they’d come from a burned out forest about a million years ago.  Tommy wanted to climb on top of the biggest ones and see what he could see, but Leon always told him to stay off the logs, it wasn’t safe, just like Leon had told him to walk along the water because the sick wouldn’t go in the water and it was one way to get away from them.

That hadn’t turned out to be true, but Tommy still walked along the water’s edge like Leon told him to even though Leon wasn’t there anymore.

Tommy had just picked up a piece of wood about the size of his forearm when he saw her sitting on top of a huge log near the water’s edge, watching him.

“You’re not supposed to be up there,” he said.

She stuck her tongue out at him.  “Says who?”

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Missy and the Man

Good morning, everyone!  How’s your Thursday going so far?  My Thursday started with coming downstairs to find hairballs galore, thanks to the warmer weather we’ve had the last few days.  Kitties, gotta love ’em!

This week’s Free Fiction Thursday story is a period piece about a young girl who really loves cats, so much so that she’s bound and determined to sneak into her neighbor’s garage to see his cat’s brand new kittens.  Only her neighbor’s not a very nice man.  Not at all.

“Missy and the Man”  is one of five stories in my brand new collection ALL FALL DOWN, available for sale now at Amazon and Smashwords, and soon to be available at the iBookstore and Barnes and Noble.

 

Missy and the Man

Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover art Copyright © Rejnkarlgren|Dreamstime.com

Cover and layout Copyright © 2012 Thunder Valley Press

Missy just wanted to see the kittens, that was all.  She’d seen cats before.  All kinds of cats—orange cats with white paws, white cats with pink ears and noses, and black cats with yellow eyes that looked like they should be mean but they weren’t—but she’d never seen little baby kittens.  Missy knew how to pet cats good.  Mommy said cats liked to be petted soft, like Missy did with her doll’s hair.  Missy and her mommy both liked cats, but her daddy didn’t, so they didn’t have any of their own.

Their neighbor did, though.  He didn’t seem like he was a very nice man, but he had a pretty gray cat with a white face and long fur and a fat belly that Mommy said was full of kittens, so the man couldn’t be all that mean.  Missy didn’t think a cat, especially a cat about to have kittens, would live with someone who was mean.

The man wasn’t really their neighbor neighbor, like Missy’s friend Laura’s daddy, who lived next door to where Missy and her parents lived.  The man with the kittens was just the man who lived in the house next to the house where Missy’s daddy had his shop.

Missy’s daddy fixed other people’s furniture, and her mommy helped.  They were always too busy to play with Missy, so when she was done watching Gilligan’s Island or My Three Sons on the little television in the back room where Mommy worked, Missy went outside all by herself to play in the backyard behind Daddy’s shop, just like a Big Girl.

The backyard behind Daddy’s shop didn’t have grass like the backyard at home.  Instead it had lots of dirt and rocks and weeds, and grasshoppers that were almost as big as her fingers.  Sometimes Missy took her dolls outside and pretended the backyard was a great big desert and her dolls needed Missy to rescue them.  But sometimes she left her dolls inside so she could play her absolute most-favorite game:  being a cat.

When Missy pretended she was a cat, she’d walk as quiet as she could through the weeds along the edge of the yard so she could surprise a grasshopper.  Grasshoppers were fun to play with, but Missy was careful never to hurt them, even though she was pretty sure a real cat wouldn’t be so nice to something it was hunting.

Stalking along the fence in search of grasshoppers was how Missy found the hole in the fence.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Jessie

Good morning, Internets! How’s the weather where you are? Here it’s cloudy and cold, on this 2nd day of June, which puts me in the perfect mood for a zombie story.

This week’s Free Fiction Thursday story is JESSIE. Fellow OWNers, you might recognize the setting for this one. *g*

 

Jessie

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

http://www.annie-reed.com

Cover art copyright 2008 by Ivan Bliznetsov at iStockphoto.com

Cover layout by Thunder Valley Press

Tommy met Jessie on the beach.

He’d been wandering along the shore line, walking on the wet sand because it was easier, and playing keep away with the waves so his shoes wouldn’t get wet.  The day was cold and cloudy.  He was looking for driftwood to make a fire, but he wasn’t looking all that hard.  This part of the beach was sheltered from the big part of the ocean by a sand bar, and for some reason there was a lot of driftwood here.  Everything from dry twigs and bark to huge old tree trunks covered with big black splotches that looked like they’d come from a burned out forest about a million years ago.  Tommy wanted to climb on top of the biggest ones and see what he could see, but Leon always told him to stay off the logs, it wasn’t safe, just like Leon had told him to walk along the water because the sick wouldn’t go in the water and it was one way to get away from them.

That hadn’t turned out to be true, but Tommy still walked along the water’s edge like Leon told him to even though Leon wasn’t there anymore.

Tommy had just picked up a piece of wood about the size of his forearm when he saw her sitting on top of a huge log near the water’s edge, watching him.

“You’re not supposed to be up there,” he said.

She stuck her tongue out at him.  “Says who?”

“A wave could come in and knock you off and drop the log on top of you, and no one would come to help you get it off.”

She shrugged.  “So?”

Tommy didn’t have an answer for that, so he shrugged back.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

Tommy told her, and she told him her name was Jessie.  Tommy didn’t ask her how old she was, and she didn’t ask him.  Nobody really cared about that stuff anymore.  Grownups were the only people who wanted to know, and Leon had been the last grownup Tommy had been around who wasn’t sick.  The ones who were sick didn’t care about anything other than eating you.

“Do you know how to fish?” she asked.

Tommy shook his head.  His grandpa had talked about taking Tommy fishing someday, but he never had.  Tommy’s dad didn’t know how to fish.  All he knew was how to crunch numbers, whatever that meant.  One day he’d gone to work and hadn’t come home.  He was in the hospital, Tommy’s mom had said, and she left Tommy with their neighbor Leon.  Neither of his parents had ever come back home.  Leon told him once it was better that way.

Tommy hadn’t believed him until Leon had to kill his own girlfriend because she’d gotten sick and tried to hurt Tommy.  After that, Tommy figured it was better to remember his parents as his parents, not as creepy sick people who wouldn’t even know who he was anymore.

“I know how to fish,” Jessie said.  “Want me to teach you?”

Tommy shrugged again.  “Sure.”  He had nothing better to do.

Jessie had a fishing pole she said she found half-buried underneath one of the logs.  She stuck something slimy on the hook and showed him how to fling the hook with that slimy stuff out into the water.

He stood next to her and watched until one of the waves came up higher on the shore than the others.  She laughed at him when he backpedaled away from the water.

“Are you afraid of the ocean?” she asked.

“No.  I’m just not supposed to get my shoes wet.”

That had been one of Leon’s rules.  He’d seen a movie once, he said, where shoes were the next most important thing after food and water.  A person had to take care of their shoes if they wanted to survive.  According to Leon, wet shoes wore out faster.  Tommy didn’t know if that was true or not, but everything else Leon said was.

Well, almost everything.

(read the rest of the story here)