Hot Garbage

What I am about to say is not about my social beliefs or feminism. It’s more about OCD. I needed to say that before I say this… taking out the trash is man’s work. I don’t have a garden, nor will I ever own a pottery wheel. I thoroughly detest having filthy hands. I refuse to grow out my fingernails because of the disgusting, bacterial contaminated shit that gets under them. The very thought of getting dirty launches my gut into my throat. Sure, maybe that does speak volumes about the state of my sanity. However, to those who know me, this is not news. My husband did not marry me for my willingness to touch waste. So, when I do tackle the monumental task of removing the full trash bag from the trash can inside and transporting it to the dumpster outside, I kind-of expect to be thrown a goddamned parade.

I almost never ask my husband to do anything around the house. I’ve pretty much got that covered. Plus, he has the gift of sight. He can see what needs to be done. Typically, he doesn’t need to be told anyway. He’s totally willing to help… except when it comes to the garbage and recycling. If I don’t specifically ask someone to remove the bag when it is full, my hubby and my son will cram their waste into that can until it is threatening to vomit hot garbage all over the kitchen. I hate to nag, so it gets to that point more often than I should publicly admit. I am also starting to think that the recyclables are invisible until I point out that the heap is nearing counter height. Only then does anyone but me seem to notice that repugnant grime is reaching critical mass.

This morning, the kitchen smelled like burning death. Initially I was just going to leave it until my husband got up, but I was consumed by the stench. Plus, he has a rare day off from work. I decided to grant him a reprieve and just take care of it myself. Sometimes a vacuum effect causes the bag to get stuck, making it a real challenge to hoist the trash out of the can. Not today. Today that sucker slid right out. I should have been wary but I was too busy being pleased… until I realized why. Seems there’s not much of a vacuum effect when there is a large vertical tear in the bag.  This one spanned from the very bottom corner all the way to 3/4 up the side of the bag. The minute that sack was liberated, 4 day old refuse began spewing free of its confines.

I’ll spare you the details of the moist, oozing hell that I had to touch with my now forever unclean hands. It’s not that I don’t want to gross you out. It’s just that we haven’t reached the worst of it yet, and I am already grossed out myself. For God’s sake, swampy garbage bread disintegrated in my fingers. I cried a little.

I finally managed to cage the steaming heap of trash can discharge. I transported it outside, gagging and convulsing along the way. The dumpster is almost as tall as I am, so holding the lid open while hoisting a rather heavy bag into it is awkward, to say the least. I managed to heave my swill bag up and in successfully. However, the weight of that percolating rubbish jarred the lid free from my hand the moment it hit the bottom of the dumpster.

Before I tell you what happened next, I should mention… it rained here for 4 days straight. There is water everywhere…

That lid slammed closed with what seemed to be the force of an Oldsmobile falling off of a bridge and crashing into a swamp 30 feet below. The water on top of the lid, the water under the lid, pure, vile garbage water, sprayed clear to my neighbor’s yard. You know what was standing between the dumpster and the neighbor’s yard? ME. I took the vast majority of that disease polluted wave of scum water directly to the face. Oh yes, I GOT DUMPSTER WATER IN MY MOUTH.

So, from now on, unless I’m ferried down Main Street as the Grand Marshall of the Garbage Day parade, sporting a sash & crown, sitting atop a streamer adorned float, while princess waving to my adoring masses, I am never, ever taking out the trash again.


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Nick knew she wasn’t coming after 20 minutes, but still waited a full hour. What choice did he have? He endured the hassle of driving into the city. His 2 hour journey took closer to 3 hours. Some simpleton on a cell phone stepped into oncoming traffic just blocks away from his destination. Emergency personnel had to detour traffic around the entire area while they dealt with the carnage. That slight deviation from his printed directions was enough to have him driving aimlessly lost for an hour. He was thankful he had the foresight to leave the house early. Otherwise, he might have kept her waiting.

Funny how things can change in 60 minutes. She made a complete fool of him. It was Emma who had insisted that they meet in person. He was still completely content with their relationship exactly the way it was. It was thrilling to hear the laptop ring out with the sound of a new message. The online conversations that ensued could go on for hours. She had a such a beautiful way with words. She made him laugh too. Why did she have to mess with perfection?

He paid for the coffee he consumed while he pathetically waited, then exited the cafe. The dark clouds that loomed overhead let out a roar and spilled their contents. Mammoth drops of rain soaked him as he sprinted for his car. At least the accident scene was clear. He could get the hell out of there unimpeded.

Soggy and pissed, Nick made his way home. He didn’t even bother to change before he sat in front of his computer and fired off a message to Emma.

“I waited for an hour, then got stuck in the rain, Emma. You could have called.”

He waited, refreshing his screen every few seconds, becoming more despondent each time his effort proved fruitless. Dispirited, Nick logged off and dragged himself upstairs to shower and change. It was morning before he had the nerve to check his messages again. Still nothing.

“Did you drag me to the city just to break it off? What happened? Decide it was easier to just stop talking to me entirely?”

All day Nick tried, in vain, to forget about being so unceremoniously dismissed. However, he required closure. Out of desperation, he attempted one last message.

“I didn’t know you had the capacity to be so cruel, Emma. I love you, truly and deeply. I was going to tell you at the cafe. I honestly believed that you felt the same. If that has changed, please, I’m begging you, just tell me.”

He fell asleep at his keyboard that night, waiting for Emma to admit she’d made a mistake and confess that she loved him too.

During the 2 days that followed, Nick’s heartache became anger. He was convinced that she intended to end their relationship that day in the city but got cold feet and blew him off instead. By the 3rd day, when a message from Emma finally did arrive, he was too furious to acknowledge it.

Nick selected the message, held down the Shift key, and pressed Delete. He had his closure. He got to give sweet Emma a dose of her own medicine.

Nick never did learn what the contents of that unread message explained…

“Dearest Nick, You don’t know me, but I’ve just recently learned that you do know my sister. Unfortunately I have terrible news. I am sorry to tell you this way. Emma was struck by a vehicle last week and was killed in the accident. I am so sorry that you were not contacted sooner, but the police kept her phone for their investigation. According to them, she was drafting the following message to you when the accident occurred,

I am so excited to see you, touch you, hold you, kiss you. I want to look you in the eyes when I tell you how I feel. I’m almost to the cafe already, I think I’m over an hour early. I’m that eager to begin our next chapter, my darling. Hurry and get here Nick, I…’


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Push For Help

“Why do I always cut it so close?” I thought to myself. I checked the time on my phone, 12:55pm. I had 5 minutes to get to the meeting. Realistically I had 10. This case had been pretty drawn out. All parties involved were familiar with my chronic tardiness. I removed my jewelry, dropped it into a dish with my phone and placed it next to my purse on the x-ray belt. I stepped up to the metal detector and waited to be waived through. It was my lucky day. My bra’s underwire didn’t trigger buzzers nor sirens, a rare occasion indeed. I skated by, picked up my belongings, and headed to the elevators. I glanced at my phone, 12:57pm. I smiled to myself and thought, “I’m practically early.”

A number of elevators arrived at the ground floor simultaneously. My lucky streak continued. The vast majority of the crowd piled into the closest elevators to the security desk. I opted to walk to the more distant and less densely populated elevators. I glanced to the bank on the right. “Five adults, one toddler.” I counted to myself. I looked left. “Five adults, no children. Winner,” I decided. I made a sharp left and quickly hopped onto my elevator of choice, immediately claiming a corner near the doors.

“7th floor, please,” I asked of the stout gentleman nearest to the destination control panel.  As he raised a short, plump finger, the seams of his tweed jacket screamed for mercy. I decided that his jacket likely stopped fitting him sometime in the Clinton era. Even his bow tie was too tight. A roll of greasy neck fat hung over his collar like a scarf. After fighting against the restraints he called clothing, he obliged.

“Thank you,” I uttered, mostly just out of respect for the social expectation of gratitude for the completion of even the most menial task. He then looked me in the eye and bared his dingy brown teeth in a broad, dreadful smile. I politely returned the gesture with a meek half-smile, and immediately averted my eyes directly forward to the “customer assistance intercom” panel on the wall ahead of me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that he was still leering at me, his ample head noticeably moving up and down as he gave me the once over. I pretended he was a member of the defense team that I hadn’t yet met, and he was just sizing me up before trial. I checked my phone, 12:58pm. My irritation with Professor Plump subsided immediately. I went back to being mighty proud of myself for being “on time”.

As the elevator began its ascent, an audible SNAP! started a terrifying chain reaction. Gears were grinding as the elevator lurched and stopped. While most of us simply gasped, the young pregnant girl behind me, who had up until now been mindlessly chattering away on her cell phone, began screaming.

“Jesus Christ, get a grip,” I thought to myself. The elevator had been still for just a few seconds when it attempted to resume its upward journey. Metal on metal screeched and again the lift jumped, dropped, and stopped. The Pregosaurus Rex was still shrieking. I stopped judging her. I considered joining her.

Instead I checked my phone, 1:00pm. “Damn it, c’mon!”

Then I saw it, sucking all of the hope from my soul, ‘No Service’. “Wonderful,” I thought, “commence wailing”.

“Ma’am, would you mind pressing the ‘Push for Help’ button directly in front of you?” The gentleman behind Professor Plump snapped me out of my pre-panic meltdown with his condescending request. I realized for the first time that he was wearing a badge. He was in street clothes, but still carried a holstered gun. “A detective,” I decided. I took a deep breath and complied. Immediately the “Call is being placed” button lit up like a stoplight. I exhaled a sigh of relief.

My comfort was short-lived. The voice that returned my electronic plea for help sounded like it was coming from another planet, in a distant galaxy, from another point in time, in an alternate dimension.

“W… a… … … yo… si… We a… …ing on th… … …ow.”

“What?!?” I asked no one in particular, “Did anyone understand a word of that??”

“I think I caught ‘we’ in there somewhere,” replied the officer with a smart ass smirk on his smug face.

“A regular Sherlock-fucking-Holmes,” I thought to myself.

Ignoring him, I shouted into the intercom, “What? This speaker has more static than a polyester suit in the winter. Can you hear me? We need help! We’re stuck here!”


As the Pregosaurus’ anxiety attack raged on, the little blond kid in the corner began to laugh. In response to the keep-it-up-I’m-going-to-end-you glare I shot him, he shrugged and said, in a very thick Russian accent, “Thees hoppeen een Rossia aoll zee time.”

I found his input to be less than helpful, so I turned away, rolling my eyes as I did so. Professor Plump on the other hand, was riveted.

“О! Какая часть России вы?” That oily bastard started a conversation with little Ivan, in Russian, of course. I shook my head in disbelief. At least the distraction made Pregosaurus stop bellowing. She seemed comforted that Ivan had survived similar ordeals in the past. I also noticed that she was no longer yapping like a chihuahua into her phone. The only logical explanation was that she too was without service in our suspended tomb. It was the first break I had caught since stepping into that death trap. I checked the time. I was absolutely stunned to learn that only 2 minutes had passed since I last looked.

I stared at the red light that indicated that my call for help had been placed. By sheer will I tried to force the green “Call answered” button to light up. It didn’t. I was still trying to conjure telekinetic power when I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder.

“Excuse me, excuse me dear,” a soft voice was interrupting my focus, “would you mind switching places with me?” she asked feebly.

I looked at her incredulously. “Can you not see that I’m trying to save us all?” I wondered, “Besides, this is my corner. I claimed this spot. Kick Professor Plump, Sherlock Holmes, Ivan, or Pregosaurus out of their spot. This one is MINE.”

“I didn’t plan to be on my feet for so long. I didn’t bring my walker,” she went on.

“Who does she think she is, Betty fucking White? YOU forgot your walker and now it’s MY problem. Fantastic.” I knew I was paving my way to hell with my silent assessment of each of the strangers with whom I was trapped and surely going to die. “Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company,” I thought as I looked around, “Oh shit, what if the elevator actually crashed into the concrete depths of the courthouse basement and we’re all dead? What if this IS hell?”

“If I could just prop myself up in that corner there and lean on the railing…”

“Fine.” I interrupted. I wasn’t paying attention to what she was saying anyway. Besides, I couldn’t win this one. Every horrible person in that elevator was now an audience; an audience waiting for the bitch in heels to relent her sweet corner spot in our mutual coffin to the adorable little white-haired old lady with sore legs.

I attempted to secure a new place along the railing but Pregosaurus had decided to make herself at home. She was sitting in the corner, rubbing her protruding belly, with feet outstretched along the side wall nearly all the way to where Betty White was now standing.

I turned around to assess the railing situation at the back of the elevator. Ivan saw me coming and plopped down on his bony ass. He looked me right in the eye, gave me a fuck-you grin, and extended his skinny jean encased lower limbs along the back wall. He took out his phone and began snapping pictures of himself and his surroundings like he had just hiked to Machu Picchu.

Professor Plump too lowered himself to the floor. His all-too-tight clothes did not simplify his efforts. The elevator shook as he shimmied down the wall. I was sure all of the jostling would send us careening toward the underworld at any moment, if we weren’t there already. After much grunting and some inexplicable sweating, Plump’s ass finally reached the ground. I noticed that he actually made an attempt to consume as little space as possible. He hugged his knees to his chest in an effort to keep the area around the elevator doors unobstructed. It was like watching Jabba the Hutt assume the fetal position.

I was relegated to the middle of the elevator, in 4″ stilettos, with nothing to lean on, nowhere to sit, and a portly stalker now enjoying his front row view of my legs. I looked over at my last bastion of chivalrous hope.

“That was nice of you.” Sherlock had a firm grasp on the obvious.

“Thanks, I just wish I had worn more comfortable shoes today.” I angled for sympathy.

“I don’t know why you ladies even wear those instruments of torture. All you do is bitch about how much your feet hurt when you have them on. And, what if you had to run from a rapist?”

Clearly I wasn’t going to get sympathy from this asshole. “I suppose I would just kick them off and go.”

“There ya go,” he replied, “just kick ’em off.”

I looked at the floor. Spots of black putty that used to be chewing gum clung to it. A collection of paper clips, dust, leaves, and various other bits of filth were creating new ecosystems around each disgusting blemish. I realized I was happy to remain standing, with my shoes on no less.

I looked at the holster on his hip. I envisioned myself reaching out with the grace of a ninja, unfastening the strap that held the gun in place, and liberating the weapon from its restraints in one fluid motion. I was debating whether I would shoot them all, starting with Sherlock Shithead, or just make quiet sniveling hostages out of each of them when I heard it…

“Psh psh psh psh psh psh”

“What the hell was that?” I heard it again,

“Psh psh psh psh psh psh”

It was Betty White. She was making the strange shushing noises with her mouth. Her eyes were fixed on the green light in front of her.

“Green light? Hell yes! Call answered!” I celebrated in my head.

“Psh psh psh psh psh psh”

“Is she having a stroke? What is she… OH MY GOD, WHAT IS THAT SMELL!?!?”

I looked down at Professor Plump. He had one hand over his nose and mouth. He was using he other in a desperate attempt to use the railing to pull himself off the floor. He failed. He landed with a great thud and flailed about like a beetle on its back.

I wondered as I watched, “What is the weight limit on this thing anyway?” 

Sherlock Holmes buried his nose and mouth into his collar. I could tell by the tears collecting in the corners of his eyes that it was a relatively futile effort. He began coughing and clearing his throat. I think he was starting to taste it.

“Vat ees dat smeel!?!” Lacking any tact whatsoever, Ivan blurted out what we were all silently deliberating. Well, sort-of. He said something that sounded like what we were all thinking.

The Pregosaurus Rex was writhing on the floor in agony. That’s when I realized it. The noise coming from Betty White’s mouth was intended to cover any noise that may escape her ass as she set loose a foul, constant stream of tainted wind into our crypt. Pregosaurus was in the danger zone, directly behind Old Fart, face level with the gas gun. The way she gagged, choked and carried on, I was sure she was going to break her water right then and there.

Betty White, aka Old Fart, maintained complete composure. She didn’t crack a smile. She didn’t look at any of us. She didn’t move at all. She stood silent and stoic. Clearly she was the source of the stench, but I wondered for a moment if she even realized it.

“Psh psh psh psh psh psh”

“Goddamn it! She realizes it alright!”

I had reached my breaking point. That damn green light had been on for at least an hour now, or so I believed. I checked the time, 1:07pm. 10 minutes had passed since I stepped through security. 10 MINUTES!

“I’m trapped in some realm where time passes infinitely slower. This MUST be hell. I’m dead. We’re all dead. Old Fart is Satan! That’s it! This is our eternal punishment for being terrible people. No way, I can’t be as awful as the rest of these dolts. I bet the other elevator, the one with that kid on it, was the stairway to fucking heaven! I almost got on that one. This is a mistake. I don’t belong with these people. I took the wrong elevator. Maybe I should tell Betty White/Old Fart/Satan. Surely she’ll understand and let me out of here. Yeah, Satan will understand. Shit! What am I going to do?”

The elevator began shaking again. Professor Plump was trying to free himself from his tiny coat. It wasn’t going smoothly, like a mental patient trying to escape a straight jacket. That twat waffle was intent on snapping whatever cables remained intact and riding the fast track to hell.

“That’s it, I’m taking the gun. I’m putting Plump out of his misery first.”

I looked at Sherlock. He was picking his nose, PICKING HIS NOSE! I recoiled in disgust. He caught my revolted look. He removed his snot hook from his nostril and rested his contaminated hand on his holster.

“Fuck the gun, I’m not touching that thing now. I need a new plan.”

I turned toward Ivan, who had just snapped a picture of my snapper. That’s right, he was holding his cell phone near my ankle, screen up, and firing off crotch shots. I kicked the phone out of his hand with my heel. He looked at me with disdain.

I returned a look that said, “Screw Plump. You’re the first to die, Ivan.”

The Pregosaurus Rex was either practicing breathing techniques or was in active labor. I didn’t care either way. She was at least 9 1/2 months pregnant. I was sure we’d still be trapped here when that demon came out of her, whether she was in labor now or not.

“That’s what this place needs, a crying baby.

“Psh psh psh psh psh psh”

“Oh hell no, Betty White! You did NOT just shit your pants again. That’s it. I’m going to kill you all with my bare hands. Come here, Ivan. I’ll shove that phone so far down your throat that you choke on my photographed muff, you little pervert. Your turn, Plump! I’ll twist that ugly bow tie until you suffocate slowly you fat fuck. Ugh, Sherlock, stick that finger up your nose again so I can shove it through your brain! And you, Pregosaurus…”


“Wait, was that? It was! We’re moving!”

The elevator stopped smoothly this time and another DING! rang out like the sweet sound of church bells on Easter Sunday in the Vatican. I swear I heard a chorus of angels sing as the doors opened and a cherubic palm extended into our cell. Shunning my cellmates, I snatched his hand and skipped out of our cage ahead of all of them.

“So sorry about your ordeal, ma’am,” he said as he tipped his hat, “I hope it didn’t cause too much inconvenience.”

I replied over my shoulder with a sprightly tone as I scurried away, “No problem, sir! These things happen. It was no big deal at all. I’m not even that late.”

I looked at my phone, only 1:10pm. Well, at least that last part was true.


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The 7 Deadly Sins ~ Day 2, Greed

I was not planning a short story for today, but that’s what is happening anyway. When you are jolted out of sleep at 3:28am to the sound of 5 quick gunshots, the brain juices start flowing, even if you’d rather fall back to sleep. We got up and checked our surveillance cameras. While the shots were certainly nearby, they weren’t close enough for us to capture any footage of what happened. For a long period of time after that I just laid there, thinking up scenarios that could result in middle of the night gunfire in a residential neighborhood…


“I’m telling you, there is a fortune in there.”  Jesse whispered from his crouched position in the bushes outside of Mr. Butler’s home. “I saw where he kept it when he paid me to mow the lawn yesterday. Follow me.”

Thomas was skeptical. His older brother was always getting him into trouble. At just 17 years old, Jesse had already been in and out of juvenile detention centers more times than Thomas could count. He did not wish to follow in his brother’s footsteps, but he feared his brother. Jesse was 4 years older and had a temper to compliment his penchant for stealing.

Besides, Mr. Butler certainly did not life a lavish life. His home was old and dilapidated. He didn’t own a car. Jesse & Thomas’ mother often drove Mr. Butler to the store and to his appointments. Even if there was an actual treasure in there, he couldn’t imagine it was enough to justify what they were about to do. “Jesse, c’mon, lets just go home. I have a bad feeling about this.”

“He’s an old man, Thomas. Nothing is going to happen you little chicken.” Jesse teased. With that he crept around the corner of the home, still concealed by the thick shrubbery surrounding the house on 3 sides. Jesse sighed and reluctantly followed.

The rustling of leaves, the snapping of twigs beneath his feet, and his own heartbeat were the only things Thomas could hear as he followed his brother closely. It felt like a bad dream. Thomas was convinced that he would wake up, warm and snug in his own bed, at any moment.

“There! An open window.” Jesse reported. “Come here. I’ll give you a lift.”

“I’m not going in first!” Thomas objected.

“God you baby, you have to go in first. You can’t reach that window without help.”

Reluctantly Thomas conceded to his brother’s reasoning. He put his right shoe into his brother’s cupped hands and allowed himself to be hoisted up to the window. He quietly opened it wider and shimmied his way through. Once inside he turned and whispered nervously to Jesse, “Ok, your turn.”

“Relax, I’m coming. Is the coast clear?”

“I don’t know. I’m in the bathroom. The door is shut.” Thomas replied.

“Well open the door and check, idiot.” Jesse insisted.

Thomas felt like he could cry. He didn’t want to be there. His eyes began to well with tears.

“Thomas! IS THE COAST CLEAR?” By this time Jesse was almost through the window. Thomas knew better than to ignore his brother’s orders. He also knew not to let his brother see him cry. He inhaled deeply, closed his eyes and pushed the bathroom door open…

Eugene Butler was born during The Great Depression. A blue-collar man, he never learned to trust financial institutions with his hard-earned income. He did things the way his father did things. He kept his cash where he could see it; at home, locked in a vault. After witnessing a number of times what the desperate were willing to do for cash, he obtained a Glock .9mm to defend his keep.

Eugene lamented his decision to allow that hoodlum, Jesse, to see his hidden stash. It frustrated him that he suffered such a lapse in judgment. That kid was a neighborhood plague. His mother was a kind woman, but worked long hours outside the home. She could not keep tabs on the boy. Eugene thought by paying the kid to do odd jobs he could deter Jesse from finding further trouble. Unfortunately, the effect had been the opposite. The more money Jesse made, the greater his desire for material possessions became.

Eugene’s dissatisfaction with himself kept him awake most of the night. It was almost 3:30am when he got up to warm himself a glass of milk. He was in the kitchen when he heard the sounds of whispers in the adjacent bathroom. He moved swiftly and quietly. Without flipping on a light or making a sound, Eugene retrieved his Glock and returned to the kitchen. He stood in the darkness and waited.

Eugene lingered in the shadows holding his breath as the bathroom door slowly opened. He already regretted what he had to do. Jesse was dangerous. Not only that but he had at least 1 accomplice with him. Eugene was old. He could no longer defend himself with his bare hands. The gun shook in his trembling hands. Damn it, kid. Why did you have to prove me right this time? Eugene thought.

The door opened completely. Eugene aimed in the direction of the activity and squeezed the trigger.


As soon as Eugene heard the thud of a body hitting the floor, he turned on a light. He was mortified by what he saw. He immediately fled to call 9-1-1. Jesse began to wail.

“Thomas! Thomas!! No, no, no, no, Thomas, no,” Jesse pled as he cradled his brother’s head in his lap.

The 13-year-old began to cry. “Jesse, please can we go home now?” Thomas asked through gasped breaths. His little body then seized and began to shake. A few long seconds later, he was gone.

Jesse sat there, covered in blood, clutching his little brother’s body until police arrived. He readily offered his wrists to the officers without making eye contact. He continued to stare at his only sibling, lying there motionless. His desire to undo what he had put into motion consumed him. He longed to bring his brother back. As they placed handcuffs on him, Jesse finally fully understood what his mother had always told him, “He who is greedy is always in want.”


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Writing Prompt: 7 Deadly Sins

Day 1 ~ Sloth

Outstanding photo “Seven_Deadly_Sins__Greed” by the very talented stay_young on


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The Apple

Ben Turner burst through the door, kicked off his shoes, dropped his backpack and ran into the kitchen. As expected, a shiny red apple awaited him on the counter. Without word, he snatched the apple and climbed into a bar stool to enjoy it.

“Hungry today Benny?” Asked Grandma, as she took inventory of the contents of the kitchen.  Ben smiled through his mouth full of apple and nodded excitedly.

He loved everything about having Grandma live at his house. Even getting her moved in last summer was a great adventure. Ben got to ride with Daddy in a big truck all the way to Grandma’s. He felt so grown-up as he helped carry boxes and possessions from her house to the truck. All the way back home he and Grandma sang and laughed.

On his first day of third grade, Ben came home to find the largest, most succulent red delicious apple sitting upon the counter. Grandma smiled and handed it to him. That day, and every day since, they would sit together as Ben finished his apple, happily discussing the events of the day. Mom and Dad were at work, so Grandma even helped Ben with his homework. He would never tell them, but Grandma was a much better teacher than his parents. She was warm and patient where they were usually hurried and flustered. Even when he struggled, Grandma would smile, pat his head, and slowly start over.

Homework wasn’t the only thing Grandma was the best at. Grandma always cooked the most divine meals. He appreciated Dad’s morning Eggo waffles. Mom’s packed lunches were certainly edible. Oh but dinner… Ben looked forward to devouring Grandma’s dinner time creation every single day.

“No homework today, Grandma!” Ben exclaimed as he wiped the sticky apple remnants from his face with the back of his hand. She grinned and shook her head. She motioned him toward the sink and turned the faucets to just the right temperature. He put his hands under the running water and allowed Grandma to gently wipe his face.

“Good”, Grandma replied, “I am making a special dinner tonight. I could use your help. Wash those hands up like I taught you.”

Getting to help Grandma in the kitchen was always a treat. She called him “the official kitchen taste tester” and let him sample all of the food before it was served. He scrubbed his hands as clean as a surgeon in preparation.

As they got to work, Ben wondered what was so special about meatloaf. Sure, Grandma’s was the best as far as meatloaf is concerned, but this certainly didn’t constitute a “special dinner”. His disappointment was quickly replaced with elation when he realized that they would also be baking a chocolate cake for dessert. Not only would he get to taste test the batter, but he’d also get to apply the frosting and lick the spatula. His Grandma was the best grandma.

Mom and Dad gushed over the luscious food that Ben and Grandma had made them. The cake was delectable and moist. The homemade frosting was a perfect balance of light, sweet, and chocolaty. Everyone ate until they were stuffed to capacity.

After dinner, while the adults cleaned up, Ben headed upstairs for his nightly bath. He wanted to hurry to allow Grandma enough time for a bedtime story. She was even better at storytelling than she was at cooking. Grandma didn’t even need a book. She made up plots that twisted and turned. Characters that became as real as life. Stories that would make them laugh and some that would make them cry. The more time she had, the better the story would get.

Grandma peeked into Ben’s room just as he had finished donning his pajamas. He climbed into bed and Grandma sat down to regal him with the story of “Super Bird”. Ben giggled at the title. Of course Grandma knew exactly how to give that bird life and suck Ben into her world of make-believe.

She told him of a little bird, smaller than all of the rest, who longed to be special. The other birds teased him relentlessly because of his minuscule stature. When he just couldn’t stand the bullying anymore, the little bird ran away from home. She painted a vivid picture of the bird’s travels and especially his destination, the circus. Ben’s eyes widened in wonderment as Grandma’s words portrayed a magical place, full of color and laughter, where the little bird was accepted and loved as the “World’s Smallest Bird”. Ben’s expression turned to concern as the little bird began to grow until he was no longer the smallest or unique. His concern turned to relief when the bird didn’t stop growing until he was the circus’ newest attraction, “Super Bird”.

By the time Grandma finished her story, Ben’s mind was full and his eyes were heavy. Before he drifted off to sleep, he told Grandma, “I am going to sleep now. I want to dream about Super Bird.” Grandma tucked him in tight, kissed his forehead, turned on the nightlight, and softly closed the door behind her.

The next day began like any other. Mom was up early to prepare lunches and leave for work. Dad made toaster waffles for breakfast. Grandma zipped Ben’s coat and helped him with his backpack before hurrying him out the door for his short walk to school.

During lunch that day, Ben began feeling ill. He wasn’t sure what was making him sick. He didn’t have a stuffy nose or a tummy ache. His body didn’t hurt and his head felt ok. He just didn’t feel right. That sensation would linger for the rest of his school day. At the final bell, Ben gathered his things and prepared for his walk home.

He exited through the front door and spotted Mommy in the parking lot near the sidewalk. She hadn’t picked him up from school since second grade. Why was she here now? As he got closer he realized that Mommy had been crying. Those around her rubbed her arm, placed a hand upon her back, and some hugged her. Ben didn’t know why, but his eyes began to well with tears. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally reached his mother. He looked up at her inquisitively and she responded with a tight hug. Mommy kneeled until she looked Ben directly in the eyes. Then she said something so impossible, so infuriating, so cruel… She said, “Ben, Grandma is gone. She left this world and moved on to the next. Baby, Grandma died today.”

“NO!” Ben howled as he shoved his way out of his mother’s embrace. “You’re lying!” She had to be! They just ate dinner together the night prior. Grandma’s bedtime story last night was one of the best yet. She was fine, she was better than fine! She just helped him get ready for school this morning. She wouldn’t leave Ben without saying goodbye. She couldn’t!

Once he escaped his mother’s grasp, he started to run. Each step landed quicker than the one before it. He heard his mother call for him, but this only gave him cause to run even faster. He wanted to be too far away to hear her lies. Warm tears streamed down his cheeks to his quivering chin as he ran toward home on a mission to end this heartless joke. Today when he burst through the door, he didn’t bother to kick off his shoes and he didn’t shed his backpack. He continued his uninterrupted sprint through the house until he reached the kitchen.

There the harsh truth became his reality. Ben gasped for breath as he stared in anguish at the empty spot upon the counter.


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