The writing contest prize this week will be 14 books, not one! In other words, your entire summer reading list.
Because I'm mailing from my office, the winner must have a US mailing address. You can enter if you don't have one of course, but if you win, we'll send the books to the first runner up.
The books are:
Eileen Cook, WITH MALICE (totally heart stopping YA, I loved it!)
Ashley Ream, The 100 YEAR MIRACLE (awesome!)
Slipping into Darkness by Peter Blauner (one of the best writers around)
The Promise (advance review copy) by Robert Crais (one of my heroes)
Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz (enough good things about this cannot be said)
The Ways of the Dead by Neely Tucker (stunning)
The Bone Orchard by Paul Doiron (if you don't know his work, you'll have the joy of discovering a great talent)
Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope (debut, set in the Northwest, what's not to love!)
And to top it all off, three books by Bill Loehfelm who is so terrific I can't summon the words:
Doing the Devil's Work
The Devil in Her Way
Let the Devil Out
The usual rules apply:
1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.
2. Use these words in the story:
3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the
prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: bone/boneyard is ok but bone/bonfire is not
4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.
5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.
6. International entries are allowed, but prizes
7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)
8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.
8a. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)
9. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.
Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"
10. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")
11. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.
12. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.
Contest opens: 8:58 am (EDT) Saturday, July 2
Contest closes: 9am (EDT) Sunday, July 3
If you're wondering how much time you have before the contest closes: click here.
If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's
an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/
(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)
Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Sorry, too late. Contest closed.
Open mic night. Time to dazzle.
He raised the trombone to his lips, puckered and blew. The sound was piercing, like a litter of kittens trapped in a bean bag tumbling down an up escalator. When his breath exhausted, he lowered the instrument of doom, gasping and heaving, holding a wide vaudevillian grin as he jazz handsed for expectant applause.
A lone cough. Uncomfortable shifting in seats. The red light glaring at him.
He mimed a cane tugging his neck off stage. No $1,000 prize tonight. No worries. The crowd tomorrow would love him. Surely.
100 tick marks on the wall.
A red X tattooed on my shoulder.
In my hands, a rifle.
How did I get here?
Images flood the empty spaces in my mind. A woman. She is pretty. And in crosshairs. An unseen voice, even and evil, says “Pull.” My finger obeys. Gunpowder smell. A crimson spray. A dull ache starting in my heart and ending somewhere in my bones. The same unseen voice says “Reset.” My brain buzzes, and those jigsaw memories slide into the slipstream of forced electronic catharsis.
How did I get here?
101 tick marks on the wall...
The young woman arrived naked except for a bloody slip. I scribbled a note.
She sighed. "What’s in a name? A rose by any other –"
"I get it." I penciled in PATIENT X.
She blinked, absorbing the bright space.
"Heaven?" She sounded surprised. "I don’t see the devil."
"Downstairs. It’s nasty, full of bones, reeky shanks and whatnot."
"It happened fast. I’d barely drunk 100 words of his tongue’s utterance–"
"Enough about his tongue. Here, it’s strictly cold showers."
"But wherefore –"
"He’s downstairs. Think you’d be here together?"
I smiled. "'Tis torture, not mercy."
When Xavier gave her a hard time about breakfast that morning, Carla decided to end their relationship. She’d had a devil of a time pleasing him. For the 100th time, he’d called her a bonehead for overcooking the eggs.
“We need to talk,” Carla said.
Xavier glared at her. Now what?
Carla’s bravery slipped. “Uh...is chili okay with you for dinner tonight?”
No bitching? Huh. “Yeah—just don’t make it too hot.”
“Of course not.”
Well that was easy, Xavier thought.
Carla opened the pot of chili and dumped in a jar of jalapenos. Well that was easy, she thought.
You open the door. The room is dark. On the floor you see a faintly glowing X.
The X is oddly shaped. The green glow reminds you of something.
The floor starts to shake. You notice an aged slip of parchment.
You cannot run.
The words on the parchment become clear. You hear a rattle growing louder.
You cannot do that.
You cannot do that.
You cannot do that.
You drop the stone. A bone devil appears. “Finally! I’ve been looking for this for 100 years!”
Miz Stokes loved Gulf fishing so much she booked my charter for 100 birthdays.
"X that day, Harley. It's mine. Four-a-m at the slip, rain or shine. Only sissies sleep til five."
She brought deviled eggs.
I brought beer.
One year she hooked a huge mako.
"What'd you use?"
"Jawbone of an ass."
Last year I sprung her from her nursing home.
She apologized - no deviled eggs.
"Only ate 'em to be polite."
This year it's just me, her ashes, and the promise she made me make our last day together.
I wish we had made all 100.
“The bone will need time to heal.”
The doctor looked at me, kept his face from slipping into a tight smile. My husband sighed. “100 dollars?”
“Sign by the X.” Uninsured, dysfunctional—the doctor’s disdain for us was palpable. I could see in his eyes that though he didn’t typically deal with cases of abuse, he knew multiple injuries at different stages of healing were a hallmark. His chart likely mentioned the black eye just now turning bumblebee-yellow.
“I’m sorry,” my husband told me.
Devil I am, I let him apologize.
He swallowed and shifted his arm in its sling.
“Losing today, my dangling participle will be the only thing Scotty-too-haughty remembers.”
The crowd went wild. Grammar-offs in the streets can be vicious. And Scotty’s rival Big Diction just scored some major examplar-innuendo points.
“Shall we call you ‘Evil Big Diction’? Or maybe ‘Libido Evicting’? Or how about ‘Iconit Big Devil’?”
The crowd groaned. Scotty’s one-letter mistake cost him the anagram points he was counting on.
“Gazabo? Nemertean? Which art thou?”
Damn iambic pentameter. The crowd roared. Scotty’s lips quivered. He would need at least 100 points on his last round. Impossible. Unless.
“Youay endyay entencessay inyay epositionspray, itchbay.”
Let slip the dogs of war? Gladly, may all 100 perish quickly.
99 race out, cursed as they pass.
“What now?” she sniffs.
“The enemy approaches,” exuberant.
“Sounds dangerous,” sitting.
“No more than usual,” coaxing.
“Bring down just one,” wheedling, “gets you an extra bone. Buried carefully, marked with an 'X', only you will know it's there.”
“The devil, you say,” rising, “just one?”
“That's right,” gleefully, the odds of no return favor me.
“The enemy outside!” fearfully, as she turns.
“I see the enemy here,” springing.
When Miranda got impatient she drew dead guys and swore.
“Oh, for fuck sake! Make that bonehead flipper-butt program of yours shit or get off the fuckin’ pot already!” For a fifth grader, she definitely had a mouth on her.
Preacher called that sort of talk, “Devil’s lip.” I called it friggin’ funny.
And we waited on in the echo of silence.
Finally, mercifully, line after beautiful line burst through the screen.
“Now what’s all that?” she asked.
“You got in!”
“I got in.”
It was time.
He must have slipped. It’s the only explanation.
He shouldn't have gone to that party. He hadn't been ready.
C’mon, don’t make me go alone. What’s the worst that can happen?
She implored, and he imploded. Now last night is a pulsing void. He tries to look into it, but his head hurts too much.
He would have earned his 100-day chip in two more weeks. Dammit.
The Devil burps and picks a bone from between his teeth. Around him lie the pulpy remains of yet another world.
Orville slipped the bonds of Earth and sailed away.
Watching, her ruby-painted upper lip twitched as she swirled her red-satin skirt.
"X marks the spot," she said into a cool December wind. "In over 100 feet, history will change."
The clatter of the homemade engine rattled over the whisper of the hand-carved propellers.
Wilbur flew the farthest.
The flights finished when the bones of the aircraft fractured.
"I'm not worried," she said, blowing a kiss. "I have faith in mankind."
Paul Tibbetts was the first, but not the last over Hiroshima.
"Appropriate," she grinned. " The first flight at Kill Devil Hills."
Patient: Scarlet, 3-year-old female Labrador
Appointment: limping, ‘smells bad’
Days since first noticed: several, client very busy
Exam: fractured limb, metatarsal bone exposed, maggots
Veterinarian’s optimism that people are basically good, just uneducated: slipping
Prognosis: good with amputation
Client comments: expensive, euthanize
Client vehicle: Lamborghini
Estimated evilness of client: 95%
Discussion involving responsibility, rehoming, inappropriate situation to euthanize: >1 hour
Client’s displeasure: expected
Client’s concealed weapon: unexpected
Defense using oxygen tank to club client: reasonable
Fracture of client’s leg in skirmish: ironic
Accidental nature of sustained fracture: undetermined
Police notified: after appointments, full schedule, staff very busy
Scarlet’s recovery: 100%
XXX Marks the Spot
She flounced from the theatre, her diamond earrings scattering angry slivers of light down the deserted street.
“I’m so over online dating! Only a devil would drag a lady to a porn film on the first date.”
“DeNiro did it in Taxi Driver.”
“You, sir, are no DeNiro.” Her cheekbones flamed from 100 watts of neon and too much rouge.
“And you’re no lady. Technically, you’re not even my date.”
“What am I, then?”
He caressed the gold chain around her neck and slipped a blade between her ribs. His breath tickled her ear.
It was like the Devil himself scratched out an X in the yard.
The woman was all wrinkles and bones encased in a yellowing white lace slip under her housecoat.
"Can I come in?" I asked. And she stepped back, a 100 if she was a day.
I told a lie, a story: I was lonely. Some truth: old, no family. She fed me dry cake. I cased the place.
I drank the tea she made, pocketed her silverware. Broke parole vows.
When I started to choke, she rubbed my hand.
"It's okay, dear," she said, "your misery is over."
The Devil roared. She turned her head from the paper she had stumbled out for. Under a sky pregnant with rain it rushed her like she was wearing a red X.
The wall of water and detritus cast her into a logjam. It felt like every bone was broken as she slipped through a conscious state. To focus she began to count. Both she and the count floundered at 100. The water was noticeably rising that way.
A pair of angel’s hands roused her. She lost consciousness again as she was lifted toward heaven. The unknown angel stayed behind.
From the humble witness stand, you flashed your gold like Pharaohs of old. Beelzebub, dressed like you that day, could have hornswaggled that jury of simpletons.
When you let it slip that your best friend’s wife had confided in you, your puppy-dog eyes on me convinced the jury of your embarrassment—and innocence, while my bone marrow curdled.
When the exculpatory evidence appeared in my jewelry box just as you hinted it might, your release was delivered, as you knew it would be.
If it takes 100 years I'll reach you from my cell—or hell.
He’d just smiled, waited for the police, the Sergeant calling him the devil.
One night with her.
Lying on the thin cot, arms stiff, eyes closed, he can smell the lavender, picture the jeweled strap slipping.. . .her turning her sculpted face away, nose boned in the air. He squeezes his hand, feels the knife’s cold steel.
They’d come for him any moment. His breath quickens—1001 pairs of eyes staring. Hood sliding. Noose tightening.
He’s straining against straps that hold him. Screaming. The newspaper on his breakfast tray, headline wrong. “Madame X Slashed At Metropolitan.”
Who would know?
Dr. Carlos adjusted the magnification to 100x. He slipped the specimen under the lens for the tenth time, but it made no difference to what he saw, even using a fresh sample. He had just lost a patient, a young mother, to the same devilish disease. And now he was about to life-bomb one more young mother.
His vision blurred. He pulled off the latex gloves and wiped his eyes. He rolled his chair over to the phone. The number was second nature to him.
"Hello, honey...?" he said, swallowing hard as he dressed the puncture wound on his arm.
When X was a baby, his cries shot deep into our bones. We convinced ourselves we could buy solutions for upset tummies, and maybe nerve.
We fretted when he cursed at kindergarten. We moved schools when Teacher recorded, 'pushed', and he said, 'slipped.' We moved town when he bit kids like a wild dog, and parents dubbed him 'Devil.'
We moved 100 Heavens and Earths.
Now, as sure as The Law has compelled an X in place of his young name, I am compelled to love.
And every time I see his mark, I think of it a kiss.
It started with army men and dinosaurs. Carnival goldfish. Things a boy could bury underneath the Devil’s Backbone. X marks the spot. But it wasn’t enough.
“I was 100% sure this date would suck, but I’m having fun.” The words slipped off her drunken tongue.
He’d buried bits of himself, too. Toenails, calluses, hair, scabs. But it wasn’t enough.
She flirted shamelessly. She should have swiped left.
Five mannequins slept under the soil now, armless bodies with judgmental faces. But, still, it wasn’t enough.
The waiter asked, “Do you want anything else?”
He took her hand. “No. This is enough.”
The jury spoke after 100 hours of deliberation.
Angry words calling Mateo the devil followed an eruption of cheers. Deputies struggled to hold the victim’s father back.
Mateo’s gentle eyes latched onto me. A tattoo peeked out above his dress shirt, a skull and crossbones forming an X. I lifted trembling fingers to my lips and blew softly. I had convicted him months earlier. Taken away presumption of innocence. My switchblade of a kiss slipped into his heart, and Mateo staggered backwards.
As I stumbled from the courtroom, tears landed on my sweater, sparkling mementos of what could have been.
I'm a devil for Halloween. I got a tail and a pitchfork and red horns on my head.
Joey got 100 fleas and a bone through his nose. I tell Joey the bone's for his mouth but he don't listen.
Next is old man Walker's house.
“What's that X on the porch?”
I squint past a foam headstone and a plastic skeleton. “Beats me.”
We travel up the walk, careful not to slip in the mud. Joey knocks.
“Trick or –”
I pitch my pumpkin bucket, heavy with booty. Joey ain't so lucky.
Now there's two foam headstones.
She didn’t expect so much blood. She’d observed the required 1000 hours, but it was different when her own hands were hot with the blood. She wasn’t supposed to be here today, but after the bombing, no way was she sitting home watching her people labeled evil by the world because of one man’s deeds. Again.
Her hand slipped. She cursed, then laughed. It should look like an accident, right? She let her hand slip again, scalpel digging into the bomber’s heart until it scraped bone. One more monster dead, one more born.
Takes a monster to kill one, right?
"X-man, you be boned," Little J pointed both fingers. "You bet that lettuce on a board jump that can't be done."
X squeaked his Chucks on the asphalt.
"Knew a guy did a 100."
"100 soda cans laid out? Fantasy."
The sun slipped behind the school wall. X smoothed the long knee bandage and pushed off.
"One ramp slip and it's scab-city."
It wasn't the gorge, he wasn't E.K., but he was rolling. Airborne over the Pepsi, timeless in the hang, 50 cans and a Red Devil racer.
The crowd of three held their breath. Damn close, he thought.
“X marks the spot.” HiS LIPs, rough as sandpaper, traced my clavicle.
I held my breath and waiteD. EVIL always won out where he was concerned. A cold blade tip pricked my skin. “Baby.” I pulled him closer, ignoring the nip of metal, distracting him with my tongue.
He pulled me on top of him. We moved together. He traded the elk BONE handle for a fistful of hair.
Then I thrust.
I thrust again. Fifty times, maybe 100, until I dropped the blade on crimson skin. Finally, I’d marked my ex.
Some people say that I’m obsessed. I prefer the word focused. Or fixated. Do it 100 times, then 100 more.
I flash a devilish grin as I kick off my slippers. A girly, ribboned pair that I special order in bulk. Sometimes pink; sometimes purple. But basically the same pair.
So far, none of the crime scene techs has noticed.
You see a dank cavern.
You enter and slip in a pool of [sealed evil]'s saliva.
You fall. Gross.
Your torch illuminates Bone Dragon, All-Devouring Herald of … X
Bone Dragon notices you.
/run from dragon
>Command not recognized.
Bone Dragon bares its fangs.
>>>WARNING LOW SANITY<<<
/run from boner dagon
>Command not recognized.
Bone Dragon lunges.
Bone Dragon claws you.
You have died.
Radio reported it to be a scorching 100 degrees. Made the sweat on my neck feel like the devil's breath. No different than any other day, the guy was always on my back.
Slipping through the X of yellow tape, I surveyed the scene: my fellow officers crowded around a vehicle. Except, this car was familiar enough to quench the heat with a chill to my bones.
"Spotted a taillight in the ditch. Estimated it happened an hour ago. Driver was unconscious but..."
I gasped. The sight of the body bag and empty car seat brought me to my knees.
X was on her way to nab one more perp, when it happened. Her face contorted, thick claws protruded from her hands ripping her delicate flesh. Her eyes danced evil. She continued on the call, now on four legs, and watched him slip out the window.
In the morning, 100 bits of him littered the lawn.
The devil has 100 words for ‘sin’ or so they say. “They” are dead wrong; the big bad never had near that much originality. The seven deadlies are for chumps. So dry, so explicitly sinful. No art at all. No creativity.
Now me? Oh my yes. Sinning slips behind me like a black dress dangling out a closed car door, like a chicken bone in a bag torn open, like saying you love him while leaving your loyal someone else at home. Such sins are mine alone.
Want simple? See old Lucifer. Want extraordinary? Let Mama Lilith sin you free.
The note said, “At noon on the 100th day after my death, go to Devil’s Hop Yard. By the waterfall, where stones form an X, a letterbox. It is for you and you alone.
Every day, nothing.
On that day the heavens raged, I was terrified.
It was there.
In the box, a slip of paper, a stamp and an inkpad.
Who did this?
As the storm paused to take a breath, I pressed stamp against paper. Black ink bled the image of a wishbone.
He walked out of the woods.
He beckoned. I followed. They never found us.
“That doctor was slipshod,” Miss Cleo said in her sultry voice.
I held her story in hand, reluctant to print it because her lawsuit was based on her inability to read auras after she was injected with dye for a CT scan. “Still, this'll probably be thrown out of court.”
100 days later, she won her settlement. The story ran. “I never had evil intentions, Miss Cleo.”
She shook my hand, a tremor all the way down to my bones. “No. But actions make examples of us all.”
Later, I was injected for a CT scan. Results positive.
Millie turns from the calendar where purple X's march across each day until today, her birthday.
The party started at 1:00 pm. By 2:00 pm, it's clear. No one is coming.
While her mother makes angry phone calls, Millie cuts the cake, devil's food with white icing, then slips upstairs to her room.
From the window, she can see over to the park. The kids from her party chase each other, laugh. Millie shoves cake into her mouth. Dark crumbs cascade down the front of her new dress.
Loneliness seeps into her bones. She feels much older than eleven.
“There you go,” I murmur as I tuck the blankets around her. “All set now?”
Her eyes glint with devilish mischief but she doesn’t respond. I raise one eyebrow. She chuckles and makes an X across her mouth, silently promising she’ll be quiet now.
Then she takes my hand and begins the familiar ritual of palpating each of my fingers, deep enough to feel the shape of my bones. I wonder what she’s thinking and, at the same time, marvel at her strength.
I stay until she slips into blessed sleep. “Big day tomorrow, Mama,” I whisper. “You’ll be 100.”
Tic-tac-toe revealed our differences. We’d play when I visited him within the bowels of institutionalism, his existence reduced to three hots and a cot.
He always used X. I thought how teachers put that beside something wrong.
“Use O, it’s perpetual, like hope.”
“You bonehead,” he joked, “I got 100 years, and you’re talking hope?”
He was found hanging in his cell, note pinned up.
Bro, grains of sand slipped through the hourglass of life too slow. Devil got his due. Keep your nose clean. Avoid this shit.
O’s covered his cell walls.
I keep that picture in my head.
“Here,” John said.
I ran towards him slipping on some old bones and colliding with a branch in the process.
John narrowed his eyebrows at me. “Billy …“ Then he shook his head and fixated his eyes on the myth.
In front of him, an X shaped rock hid under the rozenberry tree.
“Do you really think we should dig under the Devil’s X? What about the Gypsy’s warning?”
John rolled his eyes and handed me a shovel. Hours later, we hit a wooden box. John pulled it out and opened the cover unleashing 100 plagues of death.
Scariest coaster ever? Doubt it. The previous riders run past screaming, covered in fake blood. Wimps. The lone worker, calls himself X, straps us into the harness -- tight, biting. No way to slip out. The ride is fast, I'll give it that. Over 100 mph. But scary? No.
"How'd you like it?" X asks.
Eh. Where's the punchline?
A machine gun lowers. "What the Devil--?" Dave struggles. I squeeze his hand. Screams echo.
"You have three seconds." X grins.
Click. The harness opens.
One. I jump out.
Two. Dave tangles.
Three. Straight through his bones.
His reflexes had slowed, every impulse succumbing to the cold. Slaughtered carcasses kept him company, blood congealing on bone.
“You’ll go to Hell in a handcart,” his mum had said.
It had taken her 100 minutes to die; he’d counted every one. The police thought she’d slipped on the stairs. How long would he take?
Beaten and imprisoned all for a stupid debt.
“And she was right you know,” said a voice, “although the Devil’s discarded the handcart, preferring something a bit more … compact.”
Luke stared at the ice box. Behind him an electric saw whirred into life.
"You're gonna anger the homeowner's association," said Juanita.
“Screw 'em," said Loyd. "I'm gonna plant tomatoes. Go away. I'll holler when I'm thirsty."
With a pickax, Loyd marked an X and struck the soil. Nothing happened. He purchased a SuperTurbo 100 tiller. Its blades slipped uselessly across the grass.
“Why can’t I have a garden?”
“My contract with your HOA forbids it,” said a devil made of dirt. He picked his stone teeth with a bone. “Of course, we could make a side agreement.”
“A blood sacrifice still works.”
Loyd hoisted the pickax. “Juanita, I’m thirsty.”
I used his shovel. It bruised me with its weight; I didn’t care.
Thunk! As I’d expected; X marked the spot. 100 shovelfuls later, and I’m home and hosed.
And why shouldn't I? The little devil was nice and cozy, surrounded by guards; electrified wire fences. Nice of him to stash the slip of paper with the dust behind his gun safe. I never cleaned there. Fool. That’s also where he’d hidden those photos he’d wanted destroyed…
Sure, the names were in Spanish, but I’d taken that in high school; just needed to bone up a little.
He wouldn’t mind.
Knees bent on unsettled ground.
This is no prayer.
It is penance.
A stealthy recompense too long postponed.
The garden trowel slips into the soil.
It could be bones.
In place of tears 100 bulbs go into the dirt,
a delayed response to a devil's memorial,
To the hundreds buried here.
Autopilot AI development group
Bugfix tracking slip 2016-07-02
Software patch ready for download
EV-I license no. 97982269
priority software overrides
set condition-check tab ON
IF bright sunlight
THEN image contrast adjustment +100
IF truck traffic present
THEN radar angle adjustment +20
IF driver accepts terms
THEN begin autopilot
IF driver hands on wheel
AND driver eyes on road
THEN engage lane following
IF driver watching movie
THEN stop the fucking car
He knows where we are going.
Yesterday I stopped by the butcher, brought home a femur. Juicy, bits of meat still clinging, but he just drooled and wagged. I wanted him so badly to enjoy it, this last offering.
Perhaps the irony was too much.
His hips are rotting. If I’d brought him in months ago an X-ray might have caught it – a shadow in the bone, a spot. The devil’s in the details. In his case, 100,000 devils, buried in marrow.
I slip my hand under his nose and bring his face to mine.
“Stay,” I beg.
Field Notes, Ryhl Whitney
BLM Mine #666 abandoned 5/1916 aka 'Hotel Hades'
(note-to-self: Xtremely dangerous – don't go in dude!)
– Check in portal area ONLY!
– Test seepage water at fissure.
– Observed cloven footprints (elk?)
– Effluent dense, slippery and highly corrosive
– Color blackish red, suspect sulfuric acid, avoid!
– Corroded bone and blood present (same elk?).
AP wire - Breaking (5/13/2016)
"Missing Geologist near BLM mine #666. Suspect foul play.
100 missing persons reported in area since the mine closure.
Local Cascade villagers refuse to join the search and rescue effort.
Authorities claim that you can check into Hotel Hades
but you can't check out.
The intricate pattern, captured on X-ray at 100 milliamps, confirms it. There’s a she-devil in your best friend’s humerus. By now my microscopic minions have slipped away to colonize other areas, too. You’ve already lost the battle.
“Amputation,” the vet advises.
But you don’t want a three-legged dog.
“Remove the defect and replace it with cadaver bone.”
Yikes! Talk about ‘Night of the Living Dead.’
Ugh. Those drugs make me sick.
“There’s always euthanasia…”
Some choice, huh?
What? Wait…think of the minions!
“Eighty-nine percent remission rate.”
Bastards! Off to reinvent. But don’t worry. I’ll definitely be back.
Mission: Rescue 99 from Hell Hall.
Strategy: Slip in, hit the henchmen, track the target, and free the friendlies.
Target: De Vil, the murderess and mistress of camouflage.
Cool, crisp night. The dilapidated mansion bathes in moonlight. I slink through the shambles of a parlor, while my partner 101 plays decoy. 101 lures the men the way she once lured me—perfectly.
I corner De Vil.
The target crosses her arms.
HQ says we should throw the bitch a bone, but I’m not here to fetch her for a bobby. This time, X marks the spots.
The sentient devil’s darning needles on this planet weave translucent bone lace and dye it brilliant fluorescent colors with xanthone derivatives from the local foliage. We salivated. Better than cotton, better than silk, better than spider web or steel mesh: immensely strong, workable and the beautiful was a plus.
Want, negotiate, design, promote, promise 100 things before manufacture.
It was a slip-up. Before a single molecule got out, we ran like hell. I always wondered where they got that huge supply of bones behind the admin building. Now I know. Real dragonflies don’t sew your lips shut.
I managed to slip into the cemetery when he wasn’t looking. The darkness hid me, which was good. However, it also hid him.
I normally coveted his devilishly good looks, but not now. Tonight I just wanted to disappear.
I heard his footsteps and smelled his musky cologne. I peeked around the tombstone as a passing car’s headlights flashed briefly on him, illuminating the stupid X of the skull and crossbones plastered across his shirt.
100 feet separated us.
I held my breath, trying to become invisible.
Where’d he go?
His hand grabbed me.
“Tag, you’re it.”
Tonight, at midnight, I will kill my 100th person. A milestone. Afterward, I’ll celebrate with my coworkers.
I’ve been killing for 40-plus years, but after tonight I’m ready to retire.
I’m tired of watching the soon-to-be dead people squirm as I strap them to the chair and slip on a hood, eyes wide with the anticipation of death. I’m tired of the smell of burning flesh and the sound of rattling bones when the electric current spasms their body.
An inexact science, but victims need justice.
I am the devil, and I am God, with one flip of the switch.
It's a cruel number.
It’s the number of weeks we spent trying.
The number of times I was called evil and unfit to be a parent after it happened.
The number of streetlamps I should have passed on Redbone Street before arriving at my daughter's daycare.
The number on the license plate of the Model X I parked behind at work.
The number of things that had already slipped my mind that day.
The temperature that afternoon.
It was her age, in days, on the last day of her life.
The snapping of her bone forced her eyes open.
“There you are. Thought I’d have a devil of a time waking you,” he grinned as all 100 of his teeth glinted dully in the sun’s waning rays.
She panted through the pain, surreptitiously seeking fissures in the rock face to slip through.
“Yes, find one! I tire of the endless feeding.”
With a shrug, he turned.
There it was, the small shimmering “X.”
Focusing, she sank her awareness downward finding the silver sword.
The blade pierced his heart.
Orange light and grey ash never looked so good.
“Slip sliding away…”
“Stop! Paul Simon should sue.”
“Devil in a blue dress?”
“No.” She’s contemplating the safe, she knows the combination. “What else you got?”
“I want Candy?”
Head shake. “I want you to sing Xanadu, wait, Satisfaction.”
I sing, watching everything I’d hidden disappear into her backpack. Finished, she turns and smiles. It doesn’t reach her eyes.
“Sorry love. You don’t pass the audition.”
I moisten my lips. “Go now?”
Glancing back at the safe, she grabs an almost overlooked bundle of 100’s.
“No. Another Paul Simon. Hearts and Bones.”
Surprisingly strong hands take my head, and twist.
The grass grew thin and wild about the hoary headstone, like elderly hair.
Devlin hissed, “Whistle past the boneyard, gowk, or the Devil get ye.”
“You’re not scaring me,” Carter snapped. Yet as he slipped past the grave, he recoiled from the crackling leaves.
“You swore you’d do it, maybe 100 times.”
“Shut up.” Carter eyed the grave, wondering what might dwell there.
“I knew you were chicken.”
Carter’s shoulders tensed. Knife in hand, he whirled and pulled Devlin down to the grave.
Devlin laughed beneath him. “What now? Kiss me?”
Carter’s reply was X-rated.
“Boy?” A man with yellow eyes offered, waving two $100.00 bills.
“For what?” I considered new video games and kicks. I knew teeth weren’t bones, but the grayed nubs peeking from his saliva-strung lips contradicted the fact.
“Merely leave him and slip away with your compensation.” My brother the drool-master engaged the repulsive man with gurgles.
Exasperated, he produced another Benjamin.
Mom was still in Sephora.
I abandoned King Droolian’s stroller, slipped into the impish man, and snatched the floating bills as he face-planted in the fountain.
As we fled, I called back, “The devil’s in the derails.”
After 100 days, I was known as Patient X. The doctors said no one else had survived this illness.
Kept under lock and key — for my safety, they assured me — I hungered for escape.
A hospital isn't a prison, so I eventually got a chance to slip away. Then I ran until my bones ached.
When I reached a hillside village, I was desperate to eat. Gnawing pain consumed me, but no food I saw was appealing.
Then some students walked by, heads deep in books and smartphones. I realized what I yearned for.
And why I'd been locked up.
Devil’d cash in early if I slipped. A 100 feet into rocks.
Scary, but peaceful. Less sad. Except for that car, blocked behind mine, honking. That was rude.
Still my mind.
So much going on.
Julie phoned. I started to text, then hit X. She’d cry, say please. Please try. But pills were just a lie.
I stepped closer, roaring wind blurring time, marked by my pounding heart.
Flashing lights, footsteps. Julie sobbing something. Shit. Hadn’t wanted to say goodbye.
A cop climbed up, reached out a boney hand. “Son, don’t…”
Everything happened so fast.
I slip into the soul of a dancer. Her movements balance peril and poise. She floats on pointe; her ankles overextend past her limbs.
I sense the pain beneath her focus. Over 100 of the 206 bones in her foot are fractured.
This will be her last performance.
Her life will soon be devoid of the purpose she has assigned it. This moment will haunt her, as will my presence.
She will call me the Devil.
Whether that's true, I cannot say. I can only say that these fleeting moments of greatness give me fire in this sterile eternity.
“X-Women, assemble.” She wears pink bunny slippers with her pajamas, a blue towel tied around her neck.
“Not now, honey. Aunt Dana needs to rest.”
“But mom, we have to assemble to chase away the bad evil people. Say ‘Begone and stay gone for fear of the X-Women’ 100 times.”
“Let’s just say it 10 times, okay?”
A dramatic sigh. “Okay.”
They chant the line. She grabs me in a bone-crushing hug, careful to avoid my broken arm.
“You’re safe now, Aunt Dana.”
My swollen mouth hurts, but I smile anyway. “I feel safe now.”
I don’t think I’m lying.
As the vaudeville show lets out, there's treasure to be had.
X spots the mark.
The guy's a prize: Well-off, tipsy, and careless. Before they've ribboned their way through the rabble one block, he's flashed his dough twice, buying for his filly. Inside coat pocket, right side.
X would've pegged him even without Olivia's chalk on his sleeve.
At the bump, the guy topples. X apologizes and helps him up, then slips away.
The wallet contains $1.00. And a note: "Love and war, Xavier. -O"
X's heart seizes. He quickly feels for his own billfold.
How cliché, the map says X marks the spot. The bolded big red X sits right next to the bend in the river. Can it be that simple? Has the devil hidden his secrets in such an obvious location? Is this the key to his kingdom? Or would these riches once again slip through my fingers? No, this has to be the one, 99 attempts have failed. Lucky 100 just has to be it. I can feel it in my bones.
“Why do they call it cross-stitch if you’re just makin an X?”
“Granny, what’s that slippery stuff in the washtub in the barn?”
“Best go wash, child. That stuff will eat you to the bones.”
“Granny, where’s Pappy?”
“He forgot to throw salt, child. He’s gone for a bit now. Always throw salt over your shoulder if you spill.”
“1 tree, 2 tree, 3 tree, 4. 100 paces and you’re knockin at Devil’s door.”
“Where’d you learn that, sweetie?”
“Hi, Mommy! Granny taught me. She said it’s how she finds Pappy when she needs to talk.”
She started in Vaudeville. “Disappearing nightly,” she’d say. Cinema arrived, and absent the talent of Mae West or Groucho Marx, she departed.
A Red Cross nurse, she was ribboned for saving thirty-two Yanks one night in Nazi-occupied France. “They were soldiers, and young.”
She returned home after the 91st Evacuation Hospital. Raised four successful daughters. “My most delightful chore.”
Making ends meet proved slippery until she invented bottle caps that preserved beverages. “Pepsi purchased the patent.”
Today, her 100th birthday, her youngest, Elizabeth, said, “Mama … you must write your memoir.”
“Oh, dear.” She blushed. “I’d have nothing to say.”
EUPHEMISMS & IDIOMS
1. Domestic disturbance
2. Spontaneous abortion
3. Last straw
4. Last meal
5. Just desserts
6. Devil in the details
7. Accidental death: anaphylaxis
8. Cool as a cucumber
9. Slip of the tongue
10. 0800 Police inquiry
11. Dog on a bone
12. Inconclusive evidence
13. Case closed
14. Award-winning recipe
15. Happily ever after
I watch Detrick tag a bone colored wall with black spray paint. It’s late, past midnight, but it’s gotta be 100 degrees out here. Sweat beads run down my temples.
“Mom’s gonna beat the devil outta us if she finds out.” The words slip out, despite his earlier demand for silence.
“Chill,” Detrick grunts. He draws an X with a circle in the middle, then starts on his signature—a wad of cash with a decorative D on the clip.
“Nah,” Detrick says, finishing his tag. He grins down at me. “Call me Money.”
Magic has its tools, bones and blood and crystal and earth. My mother taught me the arts. A slip of a girl then, I quickly moved from pupil to mistress.
Nothing prepared me for the stabbing wound of betrayal. My heritage is to the light; pain pulled me toward evil. Echoing laughter of the man I thought loved me haunted my soul.
By the new moon, I knew my decision. Bones and blood and crystal and earth. 2 drams this x 100 drops that. I pulled them together, I measured them well. The potion fair glowed. A potion for death.
Can’t do your homework? What are you, stupid?
HCl = 100 X H+ of vinegar
What do you call that? It’s not ballet, it’s not even vaudeville.
HC2H3O2 + NaCl ---> HCl + NaCH3O2
(vinegar) + (salt) ---> (hydrochloric acid) + (sodium acetate)
What’s this slop? I'd rather starve.
HCl causes lipid peroxidation of cells
Do you call that clean? Look at the ring around the bathtub, useless.
She looked down at the gleaming tub and scooped out the last of the debris.
Like she thought, her mother didn’t have a decent bone in her body.
100 men, only 24 loyal. The sea's fed well tonight, but it's still trying to chew me up. Its teeth tear into me, icy sharp. It'll swallow me whole soon, carry my bones in its belly 'til the devil comes.
The water feels molasses thick, but I reach the axe at my hip.
Heave ho thunk: I wedge the axe into my (fucking my) ship's bowels. One hand on the haft, I grip a jagged barnacle with the other. My blood teases the hungry water.
The sea smacks its lips but lets me go. It knows a feast is coming.
Light the blue touch paper and retire,
X marks the spot while palms perspire.
100 curses spawned evil's ire,
yeah--suck my bone if you desire.
Careful now the mask just slipped
how's feel with fly unzipped?
The news is now, the boat just shipped,
what's that you say, the voters blipped.
Now the time wait and see
wonder, just what kind of mystery,
or some such sublime trickery
will erase that X from history.
Max and I were BFFs till he told me I wasn't real. Oh, the laughs we used to have. Like when he was depressed, and I'd hide in the mirror and pretend to be his reflection till he leaned in real close, and I'd shout, "Boo!" Scared the devil outta him! And that time his grandma got all mad, who was it who made her slip and break her tailbone? I could tell you, like, 1000 stories. Then one day he said go back to hell where I belonged. So guess where I sent him. Go on, guess.
Sam found the X that marked the spot where the Devil had buried the bone 100 days earlier. Now to dig it up and give that rascal the slip before he could pull Sam under. With paws and dirt flying, Sam soon spied the prize. As he snatched it, though, a hand reached up from the hole, grabbed Sam's muzzle and pulled. Sam wrenched loose, bit the hand and skedaddled with the bone, proving that biting the hand that feeds you can be for the dogs.
“It’s hotter than the Devil is Hell,” said Al.
Virgil smiled, delight on his ghastly visage. He banged out a note on a xylophone made of bones. Another passage opened.
“Circle Two,” Virgil said, sounding the proud tour guide. “Follow me down.”
A stairwell wound into oblivion at Al’s feet.
“Love what you’ve done with the place. How much further?”
“Slippery here. The steps can be messy this time of eternity.”
“..96, shit, 98, disgusting, 100,” Al counted his descent. “Fuck this. Going back.”
“Wait,” Virgil said. “Your wife? You’ll lose her forever.”
“Let the bitch burn.”
The Reading of the Prophet Ezekiel finished, our a cappella choir sang.
“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,”
The music stoked us.
All the hatred and evil vicissitudes visited upon our people. All the swilled slips fed to and bedded upon our ancestors. It dried our souls and parched our hearts. How long? 100 years? Nay. Thousands.
But, the Lord says:
All our people sang,
“Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around,”
They stretched and stepped. They strolled and strutted.
It is time.
It. Is. Time.
We are gonna survive.
And we are gonna thrive.
David never found work. The legal market was terrible. Jill got something right before graduation—a small firm offered $100k. They rented a townhouse in Wayside Village, near the university.
The hours were long. Jill would slip in, bone tired, David long asleep, game controller still in his hand. She tried not to judge his pasty skin, his creeping waist.
A flash of light from David’s phone one night.
>Still up? XOXOXO
A few frayed wires, a camp stove, should make tomorrow’s game electrifying.
She smiled heading out early to work. It was just a rental anyway.
“...TUV, WX, Y and Z. Now I know my ABCs, next time--”
“All right, all right. Why don’t you count for a while?” Watching Bailey was proving to be a devilishly difficult $20 an hour.
“Ooh, counting!” This occupies him for all of a minute and a half. “...98, 99, 100.”
“Okay, okay. Bailey, fetch me my slippers.”
Bailey returns seconds later with drool-covered slippers in his mouth. At wit’s end, I walk to the kitchen.
“Look, Bailey, a bone!”
Finally, some peace and quiet. Sometimes the old tricks work best, even with a genius talking dog.
You worry over nothing. I am happy, finally.
It's this new tech, you know. For only $100 a session, I relive the best part of my life. It's like time travel—but real. I'm with Jeremy again, before the accident. The lazy Saturdays, the walks to Cambridge... I slip into the past, and we're together. I can feel his stubble, his muscles, his bones...he's real.
You can call it the devil's machine, but it's only for fun, Alexandra. Only for a moment of nostalgia. I can quit whenever I want.
But, yes, a few more checks would be nice.
“Boilermaker,” he said, sitting down next to me.
“Sure thing, don’t mind that fella next to you, he just lost his wife.”
“Fuck you Ned,” I said.
Ned bit his lip, and served the fella his boilermaker.
“I tell yah, the devils never dealt me a square hand since before I was a kid. Worked my fingers to the bone,” I said, draining the last of my Springbank 100 proof Scotch. I nodded for another.
“Let me get that, you lost your wife.”
“How’d ya lose her?”
“Fucker showed a pair of sixes, and I had a full boat.”
Six years ago I became a pirate. I was a slip of a girl then, my blue eyes a blazing contrast of life against the dull stone-wash grey of this stormy sky. This was the sixth time we have moved in as many years. The rain never stops here; there is no sun. We live on Devil’s Ave. I mean who names a street after the devil? Our school mascot is the Jolly Roger. The skull and crossbones – there to remind the 100 plus students that we are pirates? After arriving, the reason they fly the Roger was made clear.
Sgt. Barry charged into the room.Blood defined the corpse of her daughter. The killer threatened her with his bloody knife. 100 angry thoughts sought relief as each heart beat bounced the badge on her chest. Her service revolver snapped on target. The X tattooed above his eyes registered and demanded action. He fell. She holstered her piece and stepped to her daughter’s body. Gushing tears caused dimples in the cherished blood. She delivered several bone crushing kicks. A shiver shook her as she perceived the devil slip from her despised son-in-law’s body. She fumbled for her cell phone.
I may be little, but I see things: good, evil, sex...everything. I prefer the happy times when everyone's smiling, dancing, laughing, but I'm there for the tears and the crying as well.
I may be little, but she trust me. Yesterday in bed, today bones and toys for her beloved dog, 100s of memories I keep locked inside me.
I may be little and she trust me, but I can only see so much with my one eye, but don't worry — I see things. Well...I see things until she slips me back into her bag.
“You’re doing it wrong,” E said slipping ahead.
X gritted his teeth. He hated vowels down to his cross-legged bones. “Tyrant.”
“What was that?” Of course, Alpha had heard him.
That was the problem. Vowels were everywhere. They knew all X’s plans to expel them from power. If Orwell had wanted to study a police-state he only needed to have glanced at his typewriter.
Double-U, H and Wye had served a 100 years for their unauthorized get together.
X glanced over his shoulder.
Q held out a piece of paper.
Unfolding it, X cracked a devilish smile.
Capote called me Monsieur X in his columns. I especially loved the bitchy comments about me. “But never reveal my identity.”
“His lipo reduced him to a sack of potatoes.”
“He applies his makeup with a trowel. His face melts at 100*.”
“He dresses in the finest Vaudeville tradition.”
As alcohol curdled Truman’s genius, he’d backstab one friend, then another, to spice up his columns.
The coroner found “no foul play.” Money buys anything in Bel-Air.
I stole Truman’s ashes and added the ashes of his last column I found when I visited him that night. I had warned him.
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