The Hideout

The Hideout by David P. Cantrell

A friend challenged me to write a short story (under 950 words) using one word from each column from this graphic. I chose hideous, princess and sword. My story follows.

Word Graphic

I love my hideout. I can spy on the kitchen and Gigi when she’s in her bedroom and my mom and dad’s bedroom too. But, I don’t spy on mom and dad’s bedroom anymore because it makes me feel bad, like when I threw a rock at a bird and hurt it.

Gigi’s different. She’s dad’s little princess and gets away with all kinds of stuff. I hate her—she’s hideous. I feel good when I spy on her.

I didn’t like our new house at first. It was old and creepy and none of my friends lived on the street. But, it’s not so bad now. I like Tommy and he’s just two doors down the block. I’m going to show him my hideout today after school and Little League practice.

 

“Bobby, get the door,” Gigi yelled.

“You get it. I’m upstairs,” I yelled back.

“My hair’s wet. Please get the door.”

I ran downstairs.

“You’re always wet. Wet hair, wet nails, I bet you’ve got wet pants too,” I said.

It was Tommy at the door. We ran to my upstairs room. I braced the door with my sword.

“What’s the stick for?” Tommy said.

“It’s my sword, Thunder Bolt. I’m using it to keep people out of my room by blocking the door. I learned how to do it watching TV.”

“Oh.” Tommy sat on my bed.

“I have a hideout that nobody in the whole world knows about. Do you promise not to tell if I show it to you?”

“I promise. Where is it?” Tommy said.

“In my closet.”

Tommy laughed and said, “Everybody hides in their closet. That’s silly.”

“Oh yeah. Just wait and see.”

I got my flashlight and took him to my closet. It was deeper than the one in my old house and had a regular door, not a sliding one. My good clothes hung from hangers on one side and my regular clothes were in a dresser on the other side. In the back were boxes with my little-kid toys inside. I moved the stuffed animal box and shined the light on the floor.

“See,” I said.

“I don’t see anything Bobby. You’re weird.”

“I am not. Look carefully.”

Tommy studied the floor in the corner and rubbed his hand on the floorboards.

“Why is there a cut across the boards?”

“Because there’s a secret door in the floor,” I said proudly.

“That’s so cool. Where does it go?”

“I’ll show you.”

I spit on the suction cup of my crossbow dart and pressed it to the floorboard and pulled enough to get my fingers under the edge. The hatch came out easily. The hole was big enough for an adult and easily accommodated Tommy and me. A big piece of plywood was nailed to first-floor ceiling joists just below the opening. We knelt on all fours then I shined the light around.

“Bobby you’ve got the best hideout ever.”

“Thanks, Tommy. It is real cool. Look, there are trails that go to different parts of the house.”

* * *

 Plywood paths followed electrical and plumbing conduits around the crawlspace that had been built during the addition of the second-floor decades earlier. None of that mattered to Tommy and Bobby—they were in heaven. They spent many afternoons hiding from pirates and evil witches in the hideout. Sometimes they spied on Gigi through a tiny hole and listened to her talk to her friends on Skype. They pretended they were FBI agents gathering evidence against terrorists. Once they giggled when they saw her kiss Jordon Bronson. She looked at the ceiling and scared them away.

The boys had great fun until the exterminator came. It was the last day of summer vacation. Bobby’s dad took a day off to deal with the problem that had bothered his wife and daughter for months—a critter in the attic was the presumption. Bobby and Tommy lay on their plywood perch over the kitchen and listened.

“My wife and daughter have heard creaking sounds and chirps in the ceiling. I heard it once and it didn’t sound like the settling noises that come with an old home. I want you to kill whatever is up there.”

“Sir, we are a humane service and do our best to relocate the offending creatures. But, if necessary, we’ll use lethal force,” the exterminator said.

Bobby and Tommy freaked. They scurried back to the hatch, but Tommy’s pant leg got caught on a nail head.

“Help me, Bobby. I don’t want to be relocated.”

Tommy wanted to help him get loose but couldn’t reach the snag. He had to make a decision: save Tommy or confess his spying. He decided to save his friend. He scrambled out of the hatch and ran downstairs to the kitchen.

He stopped at the doorway. His mom and dad were sitting with Gigi and Jordon at the kitchen table drinking coffee.

“Where’s the exterminator?” Bobby asked.

“Right here,” Jordon said and raised his hand.

Bobby gaped at the scene for a moment before he understood what had happened.

His dad said, “Son, it’s not nice to spy on people, particularly your family.”

“I’m sorry dad. I won’t do it again.”

Everyone laughed when they heard Tommy’s muffled promise: “Me too.”

The New Day

By: David P. Cantrell
This story is my response to a Picture Prompt Challenge. The image was contributed by Logan Wilt.


Logan MarinaThe water’s slap against the boat’s hull was as gentle as a mother’s pat on her baby’s rump, but it woke Roger anyway. He hadn’t slept well in the boat’s bow-bunk. It had never fit his 6 foot frame, but strangely, it felt smaller alone than it had with Maribel next to him. The world felt smaller since her death. He hoped fulfilling her last request would bring some relief from the pain in his soul.

If only I could be as strong as she had been, he thought.

Maribel had amazed him with her strength and will to live, never showing weakness in his presence. To her, each day was a new day to be celebrated; there were no tomorrows, only new days. He’d known there was pain when the slightest movement brought a grimace with it, and he’d witnessed the consumption of her beautiful body, little by little, but she smiled all the time and found the strength to return his soft kisses.

The doctors had given her a month, three months at the most. Maribel proved them wrong. She’d learned how to prove people wrong during her nineteen years with the Tampa D.A.’s Office. In this case though, it wasn’t proving someone wrong that had driven her, it was her desire to celebrate their eighteenth anniversary on New Year’s Eve.

On the morning of their anniversary he’d served her breakfast in bed as was their custom. She’d nibbled the traditional cinnamon roll but hadn’t been able to eat much; it didn’t matter to her—it was perfect. She’d sent him home at noon, telling him to take a nap and shower before he returned. “Don’t be late. Be here by 7:00 p.m.”

He wasn’t late. During his absence, one of the angels hidden in scrubs dressed her up with a new bandana, penciled eyebrows and a touch of lipstick.

“Hey, Maribel . . . my sweet Maybe. You’re looking good,” Roger said from the doorway.

“Why thank you Dodger. I didn’t think you’d notice me in this glorious setting.”

They’d laughed at their weak jokes, shared soup and sipped a bit of Champagne. They’d talked about sailing and other, more mundane, things but mostly enjoyed their time together and avoided what they knew would happen soon. Maybe had dozed off from time-to-time, but was awake when New York’s Crystal Ball counted down the year’s end. They’d kissed to celebrate the moment. “I’m tired Dodger. I’ll see you in the new day,” Maybe said and closed her eyes—fifteen minutes later she died.

Roger had sat in the chair near her bed, sobbing softly into his hands while the medical staff did their job. One of the angels, Jennifer, took his arm, walked him to the waiting room, and sat with him until he’d recovered his composure. He’d thanked her for her kindness and stood to leave, but she’d stopped him.

“May I ask you a question, Mr. Montrose?”

“Of course.”

“Why did you call her Maybe? We all call, I mean called, her Maribel. Oh, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have bothered you.”

“Jennifer you’re not a bother,” Roger said. He smiled as he shared the story of their intimate pet names and the night mutual friends had invited them to a la-di-da party thrown for a Tampa politico. Roger had snuck down to the marina below the politico’s mansion to admire the boats. Unbeknownst to Maribel’s escort, she had done the same. He saw her holding a tell-tail red glass from the party ogling a 30 foot sloop and approached her carefully in the dim light, not wishing to frighten her.

Brandishing a glass like hers, he’d said, “May I have your name?”

Startled, she turned toward his deep voice and was struck by his unassuming smile and the playful twinkle in his eyes. “Maybe, if you don’t dodge the same question?”

“Nice to meet you, Maybe. I’m Roger Montrose, and I’m not a dodger.”

 

Roger had planned to arrive much earlier in order to make the Duck Key house livable after being boarded up for the winter, but mechanical problems with his plane had delayed the Tampa departure. By the time he landed it was dark and too late to deal with the house, so he slept on his boat, the Beautiful Sea Star.

Roger drank coffee and ate dry cereal while half-heartedly listening to the weather report. He heard mid-seventies and partly cloudy but wasn’t really paying attention, he was focused on his own misery, and missed the chance of thunder storms resulting from a fastmoving storm east of the Bahama’s.

He and Maybe had planned to sail the Gulf Stream to Norway when she retired, but death had come too soon. Roger promised to send her ashes where her body would never go. He sailed east from Duck Key looking for the color change that marked the great current to keep his promise.

At forty miles out, the sea color darkened, but so did the sky. Conditions were deteriorating quickly so he went into the galley for the urn. Out of habit, he hooked up his life-line before he leaned over the side to disburse her ashes. It was good that he had, because a rouge wave hit at the same time.

The wave stripped the urn from his hands and slammed his head against the gunwale. He felt no pain but was blinded by an iridescent white light and thought, it’s the new day, Maybe, as he sunk. “No! It’s not the new day. Kick! You can do it. You have much to accomplish. I’ll be waiting when your new day comes.” Maybe’s voice filled his head and drove him to clear the surface.

The sea calmed as quickly as it had angered but the current had the boat in its grasp and Roger in its wake. His only option was to pull himself to the boat’s stern ladder. Without pitons or toeholds he faced a horizontal climb as challenging as any vertical climb offered by Yosemite’s Half Dome. His head ached more than he thought possible but he pulled himself, hand-over-hand, and slowly closed the long gap. His fingers trembled and biceps ached. When he could go no further, he thought of Maybe’s struggle and found the will to push on.

Maybe’s voice was as clear as day when he breached the stern. “Well done Dodger.”

***

Life is full of tragedies. Some survivors are consumed by the wrong they think was done to them. They blame God, the government or the poor schlep that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Roger came close to succumbing to self-pity too, but something pulled him back. Whether it was Maybe’s spirit or God talking through it, he never knew and never cared. What he knew and cared about was that Maybe’s life and death should be honored and he dedicated his life to that purpose. He felt blessed to have the opportunity and promised to never cry over her death again. But, he never watched the Crystal ball drop again either—some promises shouldn’t be challenged.


David P. Cantrell is an author and a member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.

The Shot

 

By: David P. Cantrell
This story is my response to a Picture Prompt Challenge. The image was contributed by Coleby Wilt.


 

Coleby Wilt GolfJason had secretly walked the course a dozen times to find the perfect spot, but it had eluded him so far. He had been forced to reconnoiter on moonlit nights, when security was minimal. He told himself tonight was the night and then climbed the fence near the thirteenth green, just after moonrise. It had to be, because the tournament started the next day.

Six hours later, Jason stood on the eighteenth tee cursing the clouds that had blinded him for much of the night. Suddenly the clouds cleared and a moonbeam revealed an ancient oak that everybody called Ike’s Oak. God had lifted the curse—he’d found his perch.

* * *

Tommy Johnson, a tall Swede from Minnesota, had had a rocky career in the PGA. He’d never won a major, and, at 48, was running out of time. This would be his last chance unless he finished in the top ten, otherwise he’d lose his tour card again and that would be his end. He didn’t have the fight to recover it a second time. The first time nearly destroyed him.

The spiral started at 39 when his wife of twenty years slept with his coach and mentor. Drink and self-pity destroyed his golf career and life. His nineteen year old daughter, Alicia, saved him, although he had never told her. Her faith in him, and her consistent love provided the handholds he needed to climb out of the abyss.

Tommy couldn’t believe it. He walked to the first tee on Sunday as a real contender, only three strokes behind the leader. It had never happened before, and it would never happen again. Strangely, he wasn’t nervous or even excited. He was pleased, more than that, he was joyful. Sundays were notorious for destroying golfer’s dreams, but his wouldn’t be ruined—Alicia was in the gallery and would be cheering for him.

* * *

The time had finally come for Jason McConnell. In a matter of hours the world would know his name, and his power—he’d never be called worthless again by his self-righteous father, the Reverend McConnell. The Reverend had taught Jason to take a beating like a man and kill like a predator in Georgia’s backwoods.  He had learned the lessons well and built a blind that would keep him hidden, fifty feet above ground. It gave him a perfect view of the eighteenth tee and green. He settled in and slept until the sun and the voices of TV crews woke him at 6:00 a.m. He ate jerky, drank some water and waited for the final round to begin.

* * *

 “Bubba Thompson, we’re witnessing an historic moment this afternoon,” Roger Casper whispered to the microphone, although Tommy Johnson stood more than three hundred yards away on the eighteenth tee.

“I agree Roger. Tommy just needs a par to break the course record of 63 and to tie the tournament record of 270. Tommy’s troubled past brings drama to this moment without doubt, but he also faces a tough hole. It’s four hundred yards with a severe dog-leg to the left 310 yards from the tee. It’s only 90 yards to the green’s center from the dogleg’s sweat-spot, but if his tee shot is long he’ll be trapped by a thick layer of leaves under Ike’s Oak, as we’ve seen several times this week. A thicket of trees guard the left edge of the fairway and a long water hazard, plus a steep slope, protects the green from any attempt to cut-the-corner.”

“I saw you cut-the-corner once Bubba. Will he try it?”

“He’s leading by two shots. It would be suicide to attempt it, Roger. It’s 328 yards from the tee to the green’s center and the ball has to have enough back-spin to stay on the green. A small rise behind the green might help, but if the ball goes over the crest, it’s out of bounds. By the way, you didn’t see me cut the corner Roger. My ball hit the slope and went scuba diving.”

* * *

Jason had been watching the match on his cell phone using earbuds to hide the sound. He could care less about the rich man’s game, but found himself drawn to the drama as the underdog, Tommy, made birdie after birdie while the rest of the field fell apart. God had given him the ideal sacrificial lamb. It was a long shot, but he would pull it off. He loaded the high-powered round and turned off the safety.  He’d fire after Tommy swung his club.

* * *

Tommy surveyed the world from his perch on the eighteenth tee. He heard a roar from the gallery around the green and assumed someone had made a good putt, but the green was empty. They were roaring for him. He shivered. He knew what he should do and moved to get his club.

* * *

 “I’m told he took his four-wood. Why would he do that, Bubba?”

“I can’t believe it Roger. He’s going to cut the corner. This is amazing. I can’t believe I’m witnessing it.”

* * *

Tommy held the club and studied his target, and thought about his daughter. This is for you Alicia. Your love for a lost cause brought me to this improbable moment. This is the last hole I’ll ever play as a pro, whether I make it or not doesn’t matter.  I love you, and thank you for saving me. He made the shot.

* * *

Jason couldn’t help it. He had to know what had happen to the ball. The excited announcer described its path. “It has the loft to carry the water Bubba, but can it stay on the green? Yes it can. This is phenomenal, but will it go out of bounds. Good heavens it stopped just short of the crest and is rolling to the green. What a golf shot. Wait, it’s still rolling. Good God it went in, a hole in one.” Jason was stunned, but he recovered quickly. He raised his rifle, aimed it carefully, and took the shot.


David P. Cantrell is an author and a member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.

Drake’s Challenge

By David P. Cantrell
This story is my response to a Picture Prompt Challenge. The image was contributed by Lori Brooks.


“Drake, please keep up.”Lori Brooks Ducks 2

“I don’t want to go Momma. I like our home.”

“I know son, but it isn’t safe anymore. You saw the cat on the ledge over our nest. You should thank the heavens that your father frightened it away. You’re the firstling and must be brave. Do you want one of your nest mates to be eaten?”

“No Momma, but there are too many big and scary creatures around us, I’m afraid.”

“They are big, but don’t think of them as scary. They won’t eat us.”

“They don’t eat. That’s too weird Momma.”

“No son, they eat, I’ve seen it, but they don’t kill our kind as far as I know.”

“What do they kill Momma?”

“Nothing as far as I can tell, they display before one of their own kind and receive food in return. I think it’s food because they put it between their beaks and squish it several times before moving on to some unknown purpose.”

“Ooh, that’s gross Momma. Are they eating each other’s droppings?”

“I don’t think so, but I agree the ceremony is very strange.”

“Where are we going Momma?”

“Your father found a large pond for us and we are joining him there.”

“What’s a pond Momma?”

“Oh, they are beautiful places, Drake. I met your father at one. There is water to swim in and lots of food just waiting to be eaten.”

“What is water Momma?”

Momma stumbled. How do I explain water to my babies she thought. “Children, do you remember the day that the sky turned dark and thunder rumbled, frightening all of you?”

“Yes Momma they answered together.”

“Do you remember the cold drops that merged with your feathers?”

“Yes Momma.”

“Do you remember how good those drops felt?”

“Yes Momma.”

“We are going to a place made of those drops. A place your father found for us and the big creatures won’t stop us. They may even help us.”

And, they did. A police officer stopped traffic in both directions when he saw Momma leading her children across Fifth Avenue. Drake kept them in line from the rear, it was his duty as the firstling. The troop climbed over a rise and heard Father’s call. Momma responded and they hurried to their new home in Central Park Lake.


David P. Cantrell is an author and a member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.