Mulroney’s Mariachis – A Free Short Story by Joseph Courtemanche

The Free Flash Fiction starts up again – this time at one story per week – with Joe Courtemanche’s excellent story about a man haunted by mistakes in the past. And a Mariachi band.

How many of us can say their past mistakes include Mariachi music and copious amounts of alcohol? I think a lot of us can. A lot of us.

Click on the Mariachi Band to read Mulroney’s Mariachis.

Thanks for sticking with us, folks! If you’re interested in checking out the old COVID CHRONICLES, go here. Please also consider visiting some of the other Free Flash Fiction authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett. Most of us have some sort of books and other things for sale. We’d appreciate your support if you’re willing.

This stories, however, will always be free. Because we love you.

Trouble Lifting

I don’t remember the last time I was able to lift SK1 above my.head. The moment passed, as all last moments do, unnoticed and unmarked. All I know is I tried today and, for the first time, I couldn’t do it.

He’s ten years old now. Eleven is not too far off. The moments he permits me to do such things are few and far between. Plus, he’s built kinda like me: a small tank, a refrigerator with legs. Whether its him growing up or me growing older, it makes sense.

But that doesn’t stop me from being a little sad about it.

We’ve taken to hitting baseballs in the side yard once work and school are done for the day. He’s a lefty. He learned to twist his hips and hold in his hands without me having to tell him, and he whips the ball to all sides of the field like he’s been doing it forever. No longballs. Just a line drive that will take your face off if you don’t move your head fast enough. Just like his dad. My mind tells me he looks like Ted Williams when he swings, but I’m biased. I don’t really know.

I try to tell him how happy it makes me to see him enjoying something. It doesn’t have to be baseball. It could be some other sport or no other sport, so long as he loves something for the sole reason that it brings him joy.

Much like me lifting him up, though, he doesn’t want to hear that from me. He’s got a teenager’s sullenness: a desire to be left alone. Which I guess makes sense. He hasn’t seen his friends in four momths, and the action around our house with all five SKs is intense. He gets lost in the mix, sometimes. He is rarely the squeaky wheel.

I tell him anyway. There are other ways to lift him up when your arms can’t do it anymore. I hope the words stick. I hope he remembers them as he continues to grow; especially if the dark times that sometimes visit me also visit him. I hope he KNOWS the same way he knows how to hit: naturally, without effort, something that’s always been there.

I hope.

The End of The Party

Folks, the end is here. The Covid Chronicles Free Flash Fiction Explode-A-Ganza is now finished. Which is a good thing, because I TOTALLY regret making it a thing for me to type “Explode-A-Ganza” each time I post one of these things. That got REAL old REAL fast.

It’s been a fun ride. We were originally supposed to do two weeks of flash fiction stories. That turned into THIRTEEN weeks and nearly 100 short stories from all the authors. We had a blast doing it, and we hope you did, too.

If you missed a story, just come back to any of our sites and float through the archives. They’ll be here for a long while, assuming we don’t have a cataclysmic technological breakdown. Which, given what’s happened this year, may actually happen. So watch out.

But if you’d prefer to have everything collected into one convenient source for all your Covid Chronicling needs, give us a few months. We’re compiling all the stories into a book, which we plan to sell at some point in the Fall. Should be an audio version as well, for those who like listening to stuff.

I’ll try to keep up with regular posting here, and might even post some stories now and again. Who knows?

For now … please visit Mr Joseph Courtemanche’s site for the last Free Flash Fiction short story, What About The Window? Just click on the window and go on in.

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . Freedom’s just another word for “nothing left to lose” and nothing is all that we charged you for the Free Flash Fiction Explode-A-Ganza. We hope you had fun.

Light and Darkness – a Free Short Story by Derek Elkins

“The darkness is growing.”

“That is why we carry the light into the darkness.  So the darkness can recede.”

In a world full of wounded people with just a few drops of dream left, Derek Elkins provides a light in the darkness. Click on the light below to read his final Covid Story: Light and Darkness.

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . Let your love light shine.

The Last Sermon of Daniel Ramone

“Reverend Daniel Ramone had a simple plan. He would open up the Church as he usually did on Sunday morning. He would set up the camera to stream live. He would preach that Sunday sermon, as best as he knew how. Then, he would go home and kill himself.”

If you’ve wondered whether we should pick up where we left off, or start over new, check out Rob Cely’s excellent story by clicking on the empty church below

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . Sometimes a fresh start is all we need.

New Translation

Amara Jiskani first heard the voice of God as she stocked shelves in the bread aisle in the late shift at WalMart.

“Amara,” God said to her. “I need to ask something of you.”

At first, Amara thought her friend Jibreel, who also worked the late shift, was joking with her. Jibreel liked to play jokes. Sometimes, at school, he’d do impressions of popular cartoon characters. His impressions always made Amara laugh.

But it wasn’t Jibreel. It was God. God in the bread aisle.

“Am I crazy?” Amara asked?

“No,” God said. “You’re not crazy.”

“Are you sure? My best friend, Sara’s uncle Ted started hearing voices one time and HE got put into a hospital. He’s still there.”

“You’re not crazy,” God said again.

“What do you want?”

“I need you to share my scripture with the people. A modern translation from the dusty, old texts. I need you to create the most beautiful, modern Bible for the world to see.”

“Um,” Amara said. “I’m sixteen years old.”

“I know,” God said.

“I’m stocking bread at WalMart,” Amara said.

“I know,” God said.

“I’m also getting a D in English.”

“Yep.”

“Isn’t there someone else?” Amara asked. “Someone more qualified?”

“There are lots of other people,” God said. “But I chose you.”

Amara thought for a moment.

“Are you sure I’m not going crazy?”

“Almost completely,” God said. Amara paused for a moment, and God spoke again.

“I was joking,” God said. “I am completely sure you are not going crazy.”

That night, Amara went home, and looked at the ancient books in her father’s library. The same ones she had looked at since she was a kid. She loved the leather bindings, the way the pages smelled, and way the letters all looked funny. Like tiny cartoon characters dancing across the page. She had no idea what the letters meant.

Amara frowned.

“I will never accomplish this,” she said. “I think you chose the wrong person, God.”

Amara Jiskani waited patiently for God to speak. But God said nothing.

*** *** *** ***

Ten years later, Amara and her husband Jibreel welcomed a baby boy into their family. Aaron, they called they called him. Aaron laughed and giggled more than any baby they had ever known. That made Amara and Jibreel laugh, too. The family was full of joy and laughter.

One night, after Aaron went to sleep, Jibreel stood in front of Amara. His face was sad.

“We cannot afford your schooling and the baby,” he said. “The margins at the store are thin and sales are down.” Amara and Jibreel owned a small grocery store downtown. Jibreel worked there day and night. Amara was with him as well, when she wasn’t studying comparative religions and ancient languages in school.

Amara kept a stack of Bible translations on the top shelf in her room. Pages and pages of written and rewritten manuscripts. Whenever Jibreel asked about it, she said it was “my special project from God.”

Jibreel did not understand, but what Jibreel understood about women was that somethings you will never understand. He did not press the issue.

“I need you with me,” Jibreel said.

They tried for a while to make it work. Amara cut her course load in half, took on more shifts at the store so they didn’t have to pay anyone. That helped. But raising kids is hard. Sleepless nights and never-ending days pile on top of each other. Eventually, Amara decided to focus on her family and the store.

“I will get back to school once the baby is older,” she told God. “I promise.” The pages on her shelf began to collect dust.

Amara waited a long time for God to speak, but God was silent.

*** *** *** *** *** *** ***

A few years later, Amara and Jibreel had started to make headway. Aaron was in first grade. The economy had turned around. Things were looking up.

Amara would sometimes pull her manuscript off the top shelf and look at the words. Some of them made sense. Most did not. But she could imagine. Once the translation was finished, she would design the pages in ornate calligraphy on thick, artisanal pages, leather-bound with many great illustrations.

Beautiful, just as God had asked.

Amara dreamed of returning to school, of finishing the great work God had asked of her. She shred her hopes with God and waited patiently for him to speak. But God did not speak.

Then, a pandemic came. Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world got sick. People in Amara’s community, her church, some of her friends.

Amara said to her husband, Jibreel, “Let’s take some of the food and medicine from the store to give to the people in the community who need it.” Jibreel was worried, but Amara said God would see them through.

So they did. They took ripe tomatoes, thick loaves of bread, bountiful fruits, and all the medicine they could carry to people all over their community. No one they knew went hungry.

Word got out. People came to their store, begging for help and Amara helped them. Everyone. Always.

When the sickness passed, Amara and Jibreel’s store was empty, as was their bank account.

Amara called out to God. “See? Do you see?! We’re broke now. I will have to work twice as hard to raise our son and pay the bills. Is THIS what you wanted?”

“I was not the right person for this,” Amara said to God.

Amara waited patiently for God to speak, but God was silent.

*** *** *** ***

Several years later, Amara and Jibreel’s son Aaron had gone off to college. He studied Biology. He wanted to be a doctor. He paid his own way by working shifts at the store and doing stand-up comedy at clubs around the city.

“I have been laughing my whole life,” he told his parents. “Might as well make everyone else laugh, too!”

Amara and JIbreel were very proud.

One night, while driving home from a comedy club, Aaron missed a stop sign. Red and blue lights. One cop car turned into three, turned into five. They pulled him out of the car, shouted strong words at him. Aaron was afraid. He laughed nervously.

That was enough. The gunshots rang out. Aaron was dead before he hit the ground.

Amara locked herself in her room and cried out to God in guttural wails. She wept until there were no tears left. Amara tore her manuscript to shreds. She did not wait for God to respond. She did not WANT God to respond.

The dashcam footage made it online. That spark ignited a flame that swept across the city, the country, and most of the world, burning cities, destroying communities, taking many lives.

Weeks later, when Amara and Jibreel returned to their store, it was a hollowed out, burnt shell. Which is just how Amara felt.

The police who killed Aaron were arrested and stood trial. Amara attended each. She wanted to see them face to face. She wanted them to hurt the way she hurt.

Many officers tried to justify their actions. “He went for a gun!” they said. “We feared for our lives!” they said. All lies.

One officer did not. He stood before the court and cameras with his head down. “We were wrong,” he said. “I was wrong. I am so sorry. I beg your firgiveneness.”

Amara stood in the courtroom. She remembered holding her son when he was a baby. She remembered his smile, his laughter. She remembered basketball games, and late night study sessions. She remembered the dreams she had for him, and how quickly and violently those dreams were taken away.

Amara wanted to bring the world down on this man. She wanted, she needed vengeance. But a small voice she had not heard in a long time held her back. Amara closed her eyes, lowered her head, and took a deep breath.

“You are forgiven,” she said.

*** *** *** ***

Many years later, Amara sat up in her bed. Her wrinkled hands wrote the finishing lines on the yellowed and cracking manuscript she had worked on for so long. It’s pages were stained with a lifetime of memories. It was not the kind of thing you would buy in a store.

“Is that for me?” God asked as he sat on the bed next to her.

“You know it is,” Amara said. “But I am ashamed.”

“Why are you ashamed?” God asked.

“You gave me my whole life to write a modern translation to share with the world, and this is all I could do.”

God took the manuscript, thumbed through some of the pages. He laughed in some parts. He cried in others.

“You have done a fine job, Amara. This is a good manuscript.”

God leaned in close and took her hand.

“But your first three translations – your family, your community, and your heart – those are some of the best I have ever seen. Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Amara smiled. Then she closed her eyes, and fell asleep.

Kathy Kexel Gets Biblical

It’s the last and final week of the Covid Chronicles Fre Flash Fiction Explode-A-Ganza, folks, and Kathy Kexel kicks it off with a great story about a storm and a prophesy. Click on the tree to check out “Summer Storm”

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett .

As it is in Heaven Part 2 – Paul Bennett

Dr Paul Bennett closes out Week 12 of the Covid Chronicles Free Flash Fiction Explode-A-Ganza with part 2 of his Story, AS it is in Heaven. Click on the baby car seat to read it.

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . Things are looking up!

Dead Tree

Every year for Halloween, Dad dressed up the dead tree in our front yard.

The tree was dead when Mom and Dad bought the house in the ‘60s, had been for decades it seemed. The house behind it had been torn down, rebuilt, and torn down again several times before we even got there. But the dead tree remained.

The dead tree had a storied past, according to our neighbors. It held an air raid siren once. Then, a collection of decorative flags. For one family, it was one side of a clothesline. For another, it was a base for a series of tiny, artistic lights. It was the cornerstone of a makeshift, front yard greenhouse for a few years and, finally it became the base for a dilapidated basketball hoop.

This is how it was for my parents when they bought the place. Dad planned to teach all of us what he referred to as his “Naismith secrets.” He dreamed of watching us play in high school, maybe college on scholarship. But no one in our family had made it above five feet seven inches in all our long history. Those dreams never had room to grow.

It stayed a basketball hoop until the tornadoes of 1978 took the backboard. Rust took the hoop a year later. But the dead tree remained.

Dad found a particular glee in dressing it up every year. Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolfman, The Creature from the Black Lagoon. For a while, it seemed like his 1950s childhood nightmares would forever crawl out of his mind and onto that tree.

One year, he dressed it up as Walter Mondale. Mom didn’t like that much. We didn’t know why.

As we grew, Dad started dressing it up for other holidays and special events. A turkey at Thanksgiving. Santa Claus at Christmas. He affixed a crossbeam to it at Easter, wrapped it in patriotic bunting for the Fourth of July, and affixed a large picture of Uncle Sam to it on Labor day.

“Get a job, hippies,” said Uncle Sam to whoever passed. Mom didn’t say anything.

We tried helping. We begged to help. But dad would never let us. I tried nailing boards to it to start a tree house. Dad took them down and gave me stern looks. Daniel carved his name into it and Dad made him scratch his full Christian name into his left palm with a needle as punishment. When little Sally drew a picture of her cat and glued it to the tree, Dad tore her picture to shreds and told her if she did it again, he’d take her cat. Dad described in full, graphic detail what would happen to the cat. Sally went to her room in tears. Dad went around the house, grumbling and turning off lights, then went outside to re-decorate the tree.

Arbor Day this time. The holiest of holidays.

From then on, Dad took a particular interest in us. If we poured a glass of milk, he’d say “That’s enough. That’s enough. You have enough.” We could color pictures, but we could only use the cheap crayons and, even then, only two colors at a time. Bed time was at 8, no exceptions. Birthdays included a cake with no ice cream. Candy was straight out.

Dad frowned. Mom looked out the window for long stretches. Dad finished each day, planning his next project with the dead tree.

When friends came over, they’d say, “What’s up with your dad and that tree?”

“I don’t know,” I’d say, and they’d laugh. I didn’t laugh. In case he heard.

I went to college. Met a girl. We got married, moved into a house of our own, and had kids. We began to feel the first stirrings of parental frustration. I switched off many lights and debated the volume of milk. I grew worried. But my kids had candy. My kids stayed up late on occasion. And also: no dead tree.

When we were all gone, he took to creating weekly, artistic flights of fancy with his tree. He dressed it in old winter coats and snow boots during a severe cold snap in the winter, covered it in thousands of poppies for Armistice Day, and built the world’s largest pair of sunglasses – which he hung from the branches no less than fifteen feet from the ground – in the summer, accompanied by Beach Boys albums played on a continuous loop at a volume so loud he must have broken several local noise ordinances.

Mom died from Cancer, leaving Dad by himself to make sure all the lights were turned off. The dead tree remained. He dressed it like the grim reaper each day for six months. After that, he covered it in handwritten love poems he’d never gotten around to sending her.

We would come to visit and find artifacts of our youth affixed to the trunk and branches at odd angles. My baseball card collection. Sally’s Barbie dolls. Daniel’s high school letter jacket. Mom’s makeup kit.

When the quarantines started, he increased his output. He covered it in cotton balls so we could have Christmas in July. He painted the entire tree blue once, but it was water color so the rain washed it away a few days later. He etched text from the unsolvable Sanborn Kryptos cipher into the trunk, then drew a door around it in Sharpie with a sign that said, “The answer lies within.”

Each day was a new masterpiece. Each day the tragedy deepened.

We’d stop to check on him to find he had drawn pictures of us as kids and left them out there next to letters apologizing for past mistakes, parental errors both real and imagined. He surrounded the tree in hardened peanut butter sandwiches, then added a picture of himself looking down.

One evening, as the quarantines had lifted, just as things were starting to open again, he posted a large sign that read “I can’t.” Then, he went into the house, sat on his favorite old couch, and died just as Wheel of Fortune came on.

We sold the house to a family with three kids. They cut the dead tree out of the ground. City services came to haul it away.

**** **** **** ****

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . Turn that frown upside down!

Hail Baseball! – A Free Short Story by Rob Cely

I miss Baseball. If you know me, you know that’s a massive understatement. If you don’t know me, you should probably know that’s a massive understatement. I miss Baseball.

So why is it that, after nearly three months of Covid Craziness and Free Flash Fiction-ing, did someone other than me write a Baseball story? I don’t know, bubba. Maybe some things in life are just too painful to look at. For you, that might be the social unrest, the unraveling of constitutional liberties, or the fact that some politicians like to pander to people online so much, you wonder if they are capable of original thought beyond “how can I manipulate this group to vote for ME! ME! ME!”

For me, though, it’s baseball.

Which makes today’s Free story from Rob Cely all that more sweet. It’s about baseball, and it makes me smile. Here’s “Hail Baseball!” by Rob Cely. Click on Joey Votto to read all about it.

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . There may be no Joy in Mudville, but there is Joy here today. Where is YOUR joy coming from?