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.

Free Fiction Thursday – Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store

Good morning, everyone!

Here in the States, we’re coming up on a three-day weekend. I love three-day weekends. They usually go by too fast and I always feel like I didn’t get enough done, but that’s just the nature of the beast. I still look forward to that extra day when I can sleep in a little, not have to dress for the day job, and basically do what I’d like to do around the house. This weekend I have a cool new project I’m working on, plus there will be sushi on Saturday with my daughter and maybe going to see Snow White and the Huntsman. Good weekend plans, I do believe.

The little boy in this week’s story has something he looks forward to as well: a once-a-month trip to pick out a favorite toy. Only this month’s trip doesn’t turn out exactly as planned. I hope you enjoy “Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store.”

Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store was Daniel Preston’s favorite place in the whole wide world.  Once a month, if he had been a good boy, Daniel’s mom took him on the bus downtown to Uncle Charlie’s and let him pick out one new toy.  He had been a very good boy this month, and Daniel knew exactly what he wanted: a G.I. Joe.

Daniel’s best friend Ned had his own G.I. Joe.  Daniel tried not to be jealous every time Ned played soldier with Joe, but it was hard when he really, really wanted one of his own.

From the outside Uncle Charlie’s looked like any other store. It had a red brick store front with big display windows, and a door with a sign hung in the glass that could be turned to read either “Open” or “Sorry, We’re Closed.”  When his mom opened the door to Uncle Charlie’s, a little brass bell that hung over the door jangled to welcome Daniel inside.  Daniel loved the sound of that bell because every time he heard it, he knew he’d be walking into a store made just for kids.

Uncle Charlie’s had just about every toy a kid could hope to have.  Rows and rows of wooden shelves with model ships and planes; model railroad cars and little trees and fences and plastic people for when you played railroad; plastic horses of every shape and size; stuffed bears and a stuffed monkey that played cymbals when you wound him up; packages of little green army men; marbles and jacks and jump ropes and kites and roller skates.

And most important, Uncle Charlie’s had G.I. Joe.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store

Happy Thursday, Internets!

How about a little horror story for this last Thursday in June? This week’s tale features G.I. Joe, Hoss Cartwright (or at least his hat), and a toy store that’s definitely not all sweetness and light.

Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

 

Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store was Daniel Preston’s favorite place in the whole wide world.  Once a month, if he had been a good boy, Daniel’s mom took him on the bus downtown to Uncle Charlie’s and let him pick out one new toy.  He had been a very good boy this month, and Daniel knew exactly what he wanted: a G.I. Joe.

Daniel’s best friend Ned had his own G.I. Joe.  Daniel tried not to be jealous every time Ned played soldier with Joe, but it was hard when he really, really wanted one of his own.

From the outside Uncle Charlie’s looked like any other store. It had a red brick store front with big display windows, and a door with a sign hung in the glass that could be turned to read either “Open” or “Sorry, We’re Closed.”  When his mom opened the door to Uncle Charlie’s, a little brass bell that hung over the door jangled to welcome Daniel inside.  Daniel loved the sound of that bell because every time he heard it, he knew he’d be walking into a store made just for kids.

Uncle Charlie’s had just about every toy a kid could hope to have.  Rows and rows of wooden shelves with model ships and planes; model railroad cars and little trees and fences and plastic people for when you played railroad; plastic horses of every shape and size; stuffed bears and a stuffed monkey that played cymbals when you wound him up; packages of little green army men; marbles and jacks and jump ropes and kites and roller skates.

And most important, Uncle Charlie’s had G.I. Joe.

G.I. Joe not only came with a gun, he had a canteen and real army clothes.  If only he had his own G.I.Joe, Daniel and Ned could dig trenches in the dirt in the backyard, both their Joes could run from one trench to the next, prop their guns up in the dirt at the edge of the trench, and fire at the enemy just like real soldiers did.  Dust might get in Daniel’s nose and make him sneeze, and his sister would probably tease him about playing with dolls, but Daniel didn’t care.  G.I. Joe was worth it.

Then Daniel saw the Hoss Cartwright hats.

A big, tall hat like Hoss’s would be fun to wear when he watched Bonanza.  Daniel’s sister thought Little Joe was cute, but Daniel knew Hoss was really the best.  Hoss looked out for other people and helped his friends, and he did silly things that made Daniel laugh.  Hoss was good in a fight, too, just like G.I. Joe.

But Daniel wanted G.I. Joe, too.

Uncle Charlie had put a big stack of Hoss’s hats right next to the candy machine, the one where you put in a penny in the front and turned the lever around until the penny disappeared.  Mom always gave Daniel a penny to put in the machine.  Sometimes it had sour lemon drops inside, but Daniel liked the gum better.  It was crunchy and tasted like bubble gum, only the hard shell made it sweeter.

Daniel put his penny in the gum ball machine and got a red gum ball.  He popped it in his mouth and went to find his mom to ask her about getting both toys.  After all, he’d been a really, really good boy this month.

He found Uncle Charlie instead.

Daniel knew it was Uncle Charlie because Uncle Charlie had his own television show, just like Hoss.  Uncle Charlie wore the same blue denim overalls and red-checked shirt that he did on television.  He had the same thin sandy-colored beard and mustache, the same blue eyes, and the same friendly smile.

In all the months Daniel’s mom had brought him to get his toy, Daniel had never seen Uncle Charlie in the store before. The real, live Uncle Charlie.  Daniel was so nervous all of a sudden he almost forgot to chew his gum.

“Hello,” Uncle Charlie said to Daniel.  “And who might you be, cowboy?”

Uncle Charlie must have seen him looking at the Hoss hats.

“Daniel Preston,” Daniel said, being polite just like his mom had taught him.

Uncle Charlie held out his hand and Daniel shook it.  Uncle Charlie’s hand was warm and dry, and he smelled faintly of fresh mown grass and something else — an earthy, slightly unpleasant smell.  Daniel didn’t mind.  Ned smelled worse after they’d been playing in the back yard all afternoon.

(read the rest of the story here)