Blog · Distant Spring · Sneak Peeks

Distant Spring

Chapter One

Lottie Stephens was running late. She despised running late. Always chronically early, her armpits were drenched and her hands shook as she searched for her keys. Why didn’t she hang them on the hook when she came in last night? 

 But she knew why she hadn’t. She was drunk. And angry. And, hmm, had she tossed them against the wall? Suddenly ducking under the hallway table, she searched. Ugh, they’re not there. Her flickering memory was hinting that that’s where they’d be. Twisting her head under the table she turned to see them dangling, stuck between the back of the table and the wall. Also, wedged between the back of the drawer and table back a bent photograph hung out. She grabbed the corner and tugged it free. The breath pulled from her body as she glanced at it. 

David. 

As she shoved the picture into her pocket, Lottie hit her head on the table as she stood. She clutched it and pulled the table away from the wall enough to let the keys drop. She scooped them off the floor, scuttled through the kitchen and into the garage, swiping her purse off the arm of the couch, and flew into the garage. 

Lottie hopped in her car, momentarily fantasizing about the cup of coffee she never got the chance to make, and hit the door button, cursing it for raising so slowly. While she waited she slid her hand into her pocket and pulled out the picture of David, sighing before curling it into the cupholder. She backed down the driveway and headed off to her dental appointment, seemingly hitting every single red light along the way. 

A blue pickup joined her about a quarter of her way along and followed her, riding her ass. Fire grew inside her. “It’s not like I can go any faster!” She screamed to the silhouette in the rearview mirror. “What do you expect me to do? There’s cars in front of me.” Lottie wished she had the guts to jump out of her car at the next light, open the truck’s door, pull the man-shaped silhouette out, and beat the living shit out of him. But, as it was a him, it was not very likely that she would be the one giving the beating and what if it was some sort of psycho who would have no trouble fighting a woman. And the way he drove, it seemed more likely than not that he’d be just that kind of man. Instead, she opted to throw her middle finger up as she took off from the last light before turning into the dental office parking lot. 

Panic swept through her as the blue pickup followed her into the parking lot. Uh-oh, what if this was the kind of psycho who would follow a woman to her destination and pummel her for throwing the bird. She whipped into the closest space she could find and threw the car in park. She grabbed her purse and scurried to the office door. She kept a spying eye on the truck. It pulled into a space. She saw the drivers-side door open as she ducked into the safety of the dental office. 

Side-eying the entrance, she removed her coat, and flung it on the hanger. It slid off immediately and fell in a crinkled heap on the closet floor. She wasn’t going to take the time to try to rehang it. The psycho could come in at any moment. She scuttled over to the front window to check in. The hair on the back of her neck rose as she heard the jingle of the doorbell, the hanging of a coat, and the patter of footsteps walking across the carpet behind her. He was standing behind her. Oh why wouldn’t the lady at the front desk look at her already. 

Quit looking at that computer screen and check me in, god dammit.

As though reading her thoughts, the women with blue rimmed glasses looked up. “Hello there.”

She leaned in and whispered, “Charlotte Stephens. I have a nine-thirty appointment.”

“You’re all set.” The woman smiled. 

“Thank you.” Lottie twisted and rolled around the man standing behind her. 

She tucked herself back in the security of a corner seat near the front of the office by a large ficus plant. 

Wait, is this a real ficus?

 She rubbed a leaf between her thumb and forefinger. 

Wow. Real. 

Lottie allowed her eyes to drift up to the man standing at the window. That was definitely the one she’d given the finger to. She could tell from the shape of his silhouette—the way his hair was lightly spiking upwards in the front and his shoulders were very broad. 

Grant Ryan. She heard him say. She quickly scooped a magazine off the counter and shoved her nose inside. There was no way she was going to make eye contact. Her stomach swirled. 

Why did I have to throw him the bird? This is just my kind of luck. I’m going to have to get a new dentist now. Ugh, but I really like coming here. No! He’s the one that was wrong. He can get a new dentist. 

Once again perturbed at the thought that he was the asshole driver and now he was going to push her out of the best dentist office she’d ever been to. He took a seat catty-corner to her. She chanced an angry glance at his direction but her eyes quickly shot away from his as they met. He’d been looking directly at her. His eyes darting away as quickly as hers had. Her heart pounded in her chest. 

He knows I know he was staring at me. He didn’t look angry, though. God, and he’s cute, too. Just my luck, he’d also be really cute.

“Hey, Lottie. I’m ready for you now.” Kay, her regular hygienist for the last three years, smiled and motioned her back. 

Lottie hopped up and scampered toward her. 

“Oh, don’t forget your purse.” Kay pointed toward Lottie’s bag sitting by the side of the chair.

“Oops.” Lottie’s face flushed red as she spun to grab it, careful not to look in his direction. 

The morning is complete, now you look like an idiot in all regards.”

“We’re going in room four.” Kay motioned Lottie to the room and followed quickly behind her. “You can set your things on that chair.” 

Lottie plopped her purse where she was directed and climbed into the dental chair as Kay donned her mask. “How’ve you been?” 

“I’m not having the best morning but up until now, I’ve been okay.”

“Yes,” Kay pulled down her mask and put a hand on Lottie’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry, honey. We got the request for David’s records to be sent on to Hickam Air Force Base.”

Lottie’s stomach dropped. Yes, the last time she came, David and her were still trying to work things out. “Thanks, Kay. It’s for the best this way. I’m really alright with things now. I’m happy teaching at the school still. You know I love my students and this town.”

“And we love having you here. You know, my granddaughter still goes on about how you are her favorite teacher. And she had you, what? Two years ago?”

“That’s right. Sarah was in my first class. She’s such a sweet girl.”

“Thanks. She really is sweet. I’m worried you might not think the same when you get my grandson, Todd, next year.” Kay laughed and picked up a scaler. 

Lottie opened her mouth as Kay began her work. 

“Todd’s a sweet boy but he can’t sit still for a second. I swear, my daughter had no idea what she was in for with Todd. Sarah was such an easy child and Todd is still giving her a run for her money. It’s like she was a first time mom with her second. Ah, I’m sure you’ll be able to handle him in class. He’s got a good heart. Just can’t sit still, is all.” 

Lottie smiled around the dental tool scraping her teeth. Kay worked away. Scraping and polishing. Silently and quickly. That’s what Lottie loved about Kay. Cleanings with her were always quick, painless, and never filled with questions expected to be answered around a mouth full of metal scalers, mirrors, and curettes. 

After finishing, Kay raised the chair. “Would you like to schedule your next appointment?”

“Sure. I’ll be here.” 

“How’s October 14? Same time?”

“That’ll work for me.”

“Okay, see you in six months. I put your appointment card in with your new toothbrush and sample paste.”

“Thanks, Kay.”

Kay handed Lottie her dental prize bag as the dentist swooped in. 

“And how does everything look today?” The dentists washed her hands, tipped the chair back, and looked into Lottie’s waiting mouth.

“She was squeaky clean as always.” Kay winked at Lottie.

Just as fast as she swept into the room, the dentist sat back, pulled her gloves off, and smiled at Lottie. “Everything looks great. No cavities today.  Keep up the good work.”

“Thank you.” Lottie wiped some spit that had swept across her chin.

Kay removed the bib from Lottie as the doctor waved and scuttled out of the room, ducking into the room next door. “Hey Grant, and how are you doing today?” Her words cutting off as she disappeared inside.

Lottie waved to Kay as she scooped her purse of the chair and left the room. With the dentists hands in his mouth, there he was, the cute guy she’d given the finger to in the next room. She froze for a moment while pulling her purse over her shoulder. His eyes connected with hers before she quickly averted them and hurried to the front desk. 

“Am I all set?”

“You’re good to go, Charlotte. See you next time.” The receptionist waved and quickly went back to her computer. 

Lottie grabbed her coat from the hanger—someone had hung it for her—before bursting through the door and half-running to her car. His mouth was full of dentist fingers but for some reason she was worried he’d soon be behind her if she didn’t hurry. As she bustled out to her car, she glanced over at his blue pickup. A bone-shaped magnet was stuck on the tail-gate that read “I ❤︎ my rescue.” Her mind drifted momentarily—as she pressed the unlock button on her bobble—wondering what type of dog he might have. A lab? Or maybe he looked like a German Shepherd man. Although, she knew pit bulls were the dogs that filled most shelters. Yeah, she could picture him with a gray pitty riding next to him in that old blue pickup. She shook her head and climbed into her car. No, he’s a tailgating jerk, not some sweet guy who rescues pitties. 

Why are you always trying to give jerks good qualities and imagine them to be anything other than they are? 

Lottie buckled, took a quick glance in the rearview to make sure he wasn’t coming out yet, backed out of the space, and headed off towards the school, wishing she’d taken the whole day off. 

After a morning like this, school was the last place she wanted to go. Her energy levels already felt completely zapped. She turned onto Falcon and headed straight for the White Buffalo Coffee Bar, fumbling in her purse for her wallet as she neared. Grabbing it, she sighed as she looked inside, only spying repeats of Alexander Hamilton’s handsome face. She hated to part with her tens. Why couldn’t there be an Abe or Andrew instead? 

Great timing, there was only one car in front of her. Unlike whenever she’d try to swing by before school and hit the morning rush. Once it was her turn, she pulled up and ordered a large white buffalo mocha and a small espresso. She took the hot drinks, carefully placing them in her cupholder, and handed the barista the ten. 

“Keep the change.” Lottie smiled, pulled off, and headed for the school. Before pulling out of the parking lot of the White Buffalo, she peeled off the lid of the espresso and sipped out the hottest little bit before turning the AC on full blast and pointing it at the open cup. She carefully pulled out onto the road, praying she’d sipped enough coffee out to avoid a spill, and headed towards the base. 

She slowed and rolled down her window at the gate, handing the guard her ID, “Good morning.”

“Morning, ma’am.” The guard handed her ID back. She shoved it in her purse, rolled up her window, and drove by the “Welcome to Altus AFB” sign like she did every weekday morning, headed to Rivers Elementary School. Pulling into the parking lot, she was relieved to see an empty spot waiting for her. Until she realized there was a motorcycle hiding in the spot. 

“Dammit! You really gotta take up a whole space with that thing, buddy?” Lottie picked up her espresso as she rolled through the lot looking for another space and took a big gulp. Ah-ha, another spot. A small spot, but her little, silver honda fit could squeeze into a space half that size. She pulled in and unbuckled before downing the rest of her only slightly too-hot espresso. Purse in one hand, her white buffalo mocha in the other, she headed in to the office. 

“Lottie, you’re back. I wasn’t expecting you for another half hour.” Maura pressed her glasses to her face and smiled before picking up the phone the moment it rang. “Good morning, Rivers Elementary. How can I help you?”

“I’ll be in the teachers’ lounge.” Lottie mouthed as she waltzed by taking a small sip of her mocha. She walked down the hall and stopped short when she saw streamers, balloons, and a sign hanging up in the teachers’ lounge which read, “Sayonara, Melissa! We’ll miss you.”  

“Fuck.” Lottie closed her eyes. She’d forgotten Melissa’s goodbye party was today. She sunk down into a chair and sipped her coffee staring at the line-up of good-bye presents covering one of the lounge tables. So much for not writing things down. She kicked herself. She knew she forgot any and everything if she didn’t write it down and set a reminder in her phone. 

The bell rang just a few moments after she finished the last sip of her coffee and missed the trashcan when she tossed her cup at it. “Of course.” Bending over as soon as she rose from the chair, she waddled over to pick it up. Lottie squealed and jumped when she got a firm smack to her butt. 

“Hey hot stuff, make me work for it.” Beth waggled her eyebrows at Lottie.

“Shut up and keep your hands to yourself, ya old pervert.” 

“Never, you know I can’t resist that sweet ass. Especially when you’re presenting for me.” Beth peered into the trash. “What Mr. Cooley’s trash lounge coffee not good enough for you this morning?”

“I needed something stronger. I’ve had the shittiest morning and to top it all off, I forgot about Melissa’s going away.”

“I knew you would. I put your name on the card of my gift.” Beth winked. 

“Oh, you’re the best, Ms. Grimes.” Lottie threw her ams around her. 

“Ah, you’re welcome, sweetie. I knew you’d forget when I told you to write it down and you didn’t. You really need to start listening to me.” Beth rubbed Lotties back before pulling away. “So did you hear? They finally hired a long-term-sub to finish out Melissa’s class for the school year. He’s supposed to stop by the going away party. Melissa invited him.”

“Nothing like waiting until the last minute to hire someone.” 

“I know right, but that’s the way they roll around here. Better get to class or we’ll get sent to the principal’s office.” Beth stuck out her tongue and headed off down the hallway. 

Lottie stuck hers out and headed to her class, curious about who the new teacher would be. 

 

 

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Blog · Poems & Shorts · Sneak Peeks

A Poem

I don’t often write short stories or poems but I do from time to time. I’ll start posting them under Poems & Shorts. Here’s one.

poem (1)

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Blog · Sneak Peeks

A Night Game

A Night Game

It’s October and Halloween is on its way! Looking for a fun, creepy halloween read?

My book, A Night Game, is available in both ebook and paperback!

Check out the first chapter…

CHAPTER ONE

Owen Taft flicked on the light switch as he stepped into the bedroom he shared with his twin brother, Hugh. He stopped short when he saw a big mess in front of him. His eyelids flung wide open and his jaw dropped.

“What the—?” His head whipped back when his brother walked right into him. “Hey, watch it.”

“Sorry.” Hugh peered around Owen into the multi-colored building block minefield that carpeted their room. “Immy,” he muttered. 

“What’s going on? I told you to get ready for bed,” Mom said as she walked up the hallway. She shouldered her way between the boys.

“We were, but—” Owen said.

Mom’s mouth pinched in a hard line as she absorbed the scene and crumpled to one side. “Ouch, ouch.” She plucked a yellow block out of the arch of her foot, straightened, and looked at them. Her eyebrows initially pressed into a V shape but smoothed when she took a deep breath. “You boys need to get this cleaned up before you go to bed.”

“We didn’t do it. We’ve hardly been in our room. We’ve been playing Eagle Talon Empire all day.” Owen’s head jutted back and palms flung upward to secure his innocence.

“We actually defeated the Raven Province boss already.” Hugh’s big brown eyes were gleaming.

“I know Imogen did it. She always wants to play with my blocks. I should just get rid of them already.” Owen kicked a few across the carpet. 

“Immy!” Mom called into the hallway. 

Imogen waddled up to the doorway in her high heel princess shoes. A pink, glittery tiara rested atop her honey blonde hair.

“Yes, Mamma.” A smile pushed her rosy cheeks high up on her face.

“Did you make this mess?” Mom asked. 

Immy’s blue eyes drifted from one side of the room to the other, her jaw hanging open as she surveyed the mess. 

“No!” Her voice cut like a dagger, revealing the insult the question brought onto her tiny person. 

“Yes, you did.” Owen bent over at the waist. His hands on his hips and his face nearly pressed against hers. His emerald eyes glared at her from in between the wisps of shaggy brown hair draping his forehead. He resembled a pecking chicken as his head hurled the accusation. 

Hugh stood with his arms crossed, nodding in agreement, one eyebrow raised. 

Imogen stared back at Owen. She didn’t appear to be intimidated by her brother towering over her. She stuck her face right up into his. The tip of her tongue rested between her lips for only him to see. She tucked it back in before she glanced over to her mom, casting her most sincere expression. 

“I didn’t do it. I promise,” Immy said. 

“Liar.” Owen pulled his lip back in disgust and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Owen, she said she didn’t do it. I’m too tired for this. Why don’t the three of you just work together and get these blocks picked up.”

“But—”

“Just get it done. It’s almost bedtime, and the longer you wait to get to work, the longer it’ll take. Got it?”

“You always believe her lies.”

“Geez Owen, are you twelve or two? Now, if you want to keep acting like a toddler I can treat you like one — take away your video games and give you some tinker toys instead. Sound good to you?” She cocked her head to the side and tapped her foot as she waited for his response.

“No, ma’am.”

The three of them plopped down onto the carpet and began to clean. 

“Tomorrow we should set up a trap that will alert us if someone sneaks into our room while we are playing games,” Hugh said. 

The plastic blocks clinked together as they swept them into a pile and shoveled them into the bin. 

“Or someone could just learn not to mess with other people’s things.” Owen shot a sharp look at Imogen.

“I wasn’t even in here at all today,” Imogen said.

“Right,” Owen said. “I don’t know if I want to play tomorrow, Hugh. I played with you most of the day today, and I didn’t have any time to draw.”

“Oh, come on. Just for a little while?” Hugh begged.

“Can I, too?” Imogen asked.

“No!” Hugh and Owen both shouted and went back to scraping the blocks into a pile.

They were nearly finished with a third of the room when Owen spied Imogen sitting and playing with a car made out of the blocks. 

“Immy, you have to help.”

“I am.” She picked up a handful of blocks and chucked them into the bin. One missed the mark and fell over the other side. 

“Just keep cleaning, liar,” Owen said.

“I’m not a liar. I really didn’t do it.”

“Sure, whatever.” Owen turned back to his task. His cheeks grew red and warm with frustration.

Every time one of the boys glanced up at Imogen, she hurriedly scooped up some blocks and tossed them into the bin. Owen suspected she wasn’t doing much cleaning because she wasn’t making any progress on her side. He was unsure if she was lazy or if her four-year-old hands were simply unable to pick up many blocks. 

When they finished on their side, the boys helped her clean up the last bit of remaining mess. When they finished, they called for their mom. 

“I told you it’d get done quickly if you worked together. Goodnight, boys.” Mom took Imogen’s hand and led her out of the room. 

“Night, Mom,” the boys said in unison. They kept their eyes down on the floor until they were sure she was gone and then pulled on their pajamas. 

After crawling into his bed, Owen lie awake and listened to the old clock in the hallway announce the time with its hourly chimes, first ten of them and then eleven. Sleep does not come quickly when one’s mind is brimming with the bitterness of injustice. 

He rolled onto his side and stared at the moonlight streaming through the window. It seemed to float and swirl the way dust does when it’s stirred up in sunlight. It was as though there was some substance to it as it cast a stretched rectangle on the floor. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep a wink until he released some of the anger pressing on his chest. Above him, the mattress shifted and groaned. He wondered if Hugh was still awake, too. 

“You up?” he whispered. 

“Yeah,” his big brother—by sixteen minutes—said.

“Aren’t you sick of Imogen? She never gets in trouble for anything.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“If we make messes, we have to clean it. If she makes messes, we have to clean it up, too. It’s such bull crap. And all she does is lie. I’m surprised she didn’t try to blame Laslow.”

The dog lifted his head from the floor when he heard his name. 

“Mom always believes her and thinks we’re big fat liars. She’s been lying since she first learned to talk,” Owen said. 

They both laughed, and Owen relaxed down into his pillow. After releasing some of the anger that had built inside of him, he hoped sleep would finally take over and transport him to a brand new day. He rolled on his side again and sighed. His blinking eyes slowed until they didn’t open any longer. 

Laslow, who had been fast asleep on the floor, twisted his body upwards, ears alert, and growled. Owen startled out of his brief journey into dreamland. His heart pounded in rhythm with Laslow’s constant pulsing noises. The boys had never heard Laslow growl before. He only ever barked when a stranger approached the house. His aggressive behavior sent alarm bells ringing throughout Owen’s body. Hugh leaned over the rail of the top bunk, his eyes darting between Laslow and the doorway. Owen felt frozen, and his voice released with a squeak when he finally managed to form the words.

“What is it, boy?” 

Laslow’s concentration didn’t break. His eyes remained locked on the hallway outside the door. Ignoring Owen’s voice, his ears turned farther forward like a radar dish tracking a target. A thumping sound echoed from the hall. Laslow lifted himself up onto all fours and crept toward the door, little grumbles spilling out of his bared teeth.

SLAM!

Both boys jumped 

“What was that?” Hugh hurried down from the top bunk. Owen had already scrambled out of bed and followed Laslow as he inched his way to the doorframe. Hugh came up behind Owen and the three of them craned their necks around the wall, peering out into the dark hallway. The long black and white fur on Laslow’s back stood tall like a ridge.

BAM!

“Mom? Dad?” Owen called. 

They stood there a few more moments, listening to complete silence, before Laslow lunged forward like a racehorse bursting through the gate, and flew down the hallway. The boys chased after him.  

“Maybe Immy fell out of bed,” Owen said.

They entered the doorway to their sister’s room, knowing there was no way a fall could have made such a noise. 

“Uh, I don’t think so.” Hugh pulled back the covers of Immy’s bed, only to find the empty indentation of her little body. 

Owen froze and stared as Hugh lifted up the covers from the floor around the bed—no Imogen. 

His skin prickled, and the hair on his neck stood at attention. Owen’s emerald eyes frantically scanned the room for any sign of her. His heart jumped into his throat. 

Something was very wrong.

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Blog · Burnished Path · Sneak Peeks

Burnished Path

Chapter One

Babette Watson’s back was rigid. Tears balanced on the rims of her eyes. She clenched her fists to try to calm the tumbling in her ams. Her legs were weak but she tried her best to stay strong.

“Did you do it?” Aaron glared at her through the small slits his eyes had become. His arms were folded in front of his chest and he stood so close to her that she could feel his breath heating the sides of her wavy brown hair.

“No,” she mumbled. It was the only thing she thought she might be able to croak out without releasing a flood of tears.

“Tell us the truth! We all need to know because we’ll all get kicked out if you’re found guilty!” Spit flew off of Aaron’s teeth, almost hitting her.

“I didn’t!” Babette could no long hold back the tears. They streamed down her cheeks, one after another in an endless parade.

“Aaron, think about it a sec.” Dacey wedged herself in between her teammates. “With ‘the eye’ everywhere we go. Do ya think she’d risk it?

The four of them glanced up to the round silver camera hanging in the corner of the classroom.

“Not if she tried when she thought it was inactive!” Aaron stepped around Dacey and glowered again at Babette.

“Man, lay off.” Cabe wrapped an arm around Babette’s shoulder and shielded her from Aaron’s burning stare. “No fret, Babs. I know you wouldn’t do it.”

Babette rested her head on his shoulder and nodded. Her breath hitched as she settled into the comfort that Cabe always brought her.

The door opened and Professor Milch marched in. His heals stomped across the floor as though he were mad at it. He tugged at the bottom of his crisp white lab coat as he stood to face the class. “To your stations.”

Cabe gave Babette a pat on the back before taking his place. Aaron stared at Babette on his way around to his station before snapping to attention with sharp precision. Dacey drifted away, smiling and floating concerned eyes to Babette before standing at attention.

“And sit,” Professor Milch said.

Everyone sat at attention. Eyes forward. Palms flat on the desk top. Feet flat on the floor—shoulder width apart. Backs straight. Butts perched on the edge of the seat.

Though only a few short moments passed by, time seemed to drift on a cloud of eternity. Sweat beaded on Babette’s forehead. Her stomach churned and her eyes refilled with tears.

Professor Milch stood still as a wax figure. His white lab coat was buttoned all the way up up. A thin slice of the white button down shirt and the black and white swirled tie peeked over the top. His black slacks had crisp iron marks down the center. His black hair was salt and peppered at the temples, closely shaved around the sides, and tad longer on the top.

His arms were crossed. The lab coat stretched taught over his muscles. His head remained still though his laser-beam blue eyes scanned back and forth over the four teammates.

The pressure sat heavy on Babette as though an anvil balanced on her head. She couldn’t help but squirm minutely in her seat —just enough to release the unease that raked up her spine. Her watery topaz-brown eyes glued to the top button of his lab coat. She couldn’t bare to look in his eyes.

“At ease,” Professor Milch said.

With those words, Babette’s back curled like a parchment finally released after being rolled out against is will. A tear landed on the edge of her lab coat, leaving an oval circle drip. Another tear caught on the apple of her high round cheek. Quickly, she wiped it away and sniffed the moisture that was threatening to escape her nose.

Babette slowly tucked her curly brown hair behind her left ear to try and get a better look at Aaron. He was sitting with his back still straight in the chair and his hands resting the desk. She couldn’t tell if he looked worried or angry.  She knew better than to turn her head to look at him. Sliding her eyes back to the front, she dropped them quickly to the desktop when she realized Professor Milch’s laser gaze was locked on her. He paused another excruciating moment before speaking.

“Professor Calloway and I stood in front of the teaching team tribunal early this morning. As you well know, Babette was accused of practicing powers outside the classroom.”

Babette’s breaths halted and her heart began to pound so hard she could barely hear what he said. He head swirled. She felt weightless as though floating underwater.

Dacey raised her hand.

“Yes, Dacey,” Professor Milch said with pressed words. One raised eyebrow at her.

“Sir, what exactly is she accused of. I mean, I think we have a right to know since it affects all of us.”

“You think you have the right to know,” he said. Babette couldn’t tell if it was a question or a statement. He drummed his fingers on his forearm and pursed his lips. “Fair enough. Babette’s been accused of attempting binding in her barracks.”

“Wha—,” Babette mumbled. One sharp glance from Aaron quieted her.

Dacey raised her hand so hard it nearly lifted her off the seat.

“Dacey, yes,” Professor Milch sighed.

“If she did anything like that, I would’ve seen. I would’ve told.” She glanced at Babette. “Sorry, Babs.”

Professor Milch uncrossed his arms and tugged at the sleeves of his lab coat. “She did it in the bathroom behind closed doors. You wouldn’t have seen.”

“Seriously!” Cabe said. “How could they tell that? And I thought the eye was supposed to turn off when we’re in the bathroom.”

“Only when using the toilet or entering the changing stall,” the professor said. “And I don’t recall you raising your hand. I also don’t recall ever saying this was a discussion. You will sit and you will listen—quietly. Do I need to put you at attention?”

“No, Sir,” Cabe said. “Sorry, Sir.”

“Class, rise and stand at ease,” Professor Milch said.

Everyone stood. Babette rubbery legs didn’t feel capable of lifting her, but she drifted to her feet. The fate of her team pressed on her shoulders.

***THIS IS A FIRST DRAFT OF A WORK-IN-PROGRESS***

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Homer · Sneak Peeks

Homer

I would like to point out that I’m not the author of the following journal, merely its translator. I have opted to do a communicative translation rather than a word for word translation in an effort to relay the exact contextual meaning of the original in a way that the language and content are both easily comprehended in English. Admittedly, however, as Chimpanzee is not my first language and I do not have any peers with which I can confer, mistakes most assuredly exist. To be true to Homer, I have taken painstaking efforts to be as accurate as my skills allow.
First, I feel I must tell you how it is that I came upon Homer’s journal, to begin with. I was working at the Après-Captive Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center researching chimpanzee language when I received a letter in the mail. The envelope looked dirty, beaten, and battered like it had been on an incredible journey even before reaching my fingertips. The return address simply said, “Звёздный городо́к, Россия,” having started out my career in the U.S. Air Force as a Russian linguist, I knew this letter had come from “Star City, Russia.” I had no idea why someone from Russia would be writing to me. I opened up the letter and read a most peculiar request. The person writing me had requested that I come to Russia to translate a document which had remained hidden for decades. The writer of the letter believed the document to be written in Chimpanzee and having heard of my work in the field of Chimpanzee linguistics decided to write me. Not a great deal of detail was given, but it was too intriguing to leave my curiosity unscathed.
I booked a flight to Moscow and then a train to Star City. Upon arriving in the city, I called a cell phone number given to me in the letter. The person on the other end directed me to a tea house. I promptly took a cab to the tea house, got a table, ordered some tea, sipped anxiously, hoping that the fact that my eyes were constantly darting from side to side was not too noticeable. I had waited for approximately one hour when a young man arrived and sat down across from me. He asked me, in Russian, if I was Clementine Porter, to which I answered affirmatively. He paid for my tea and asked me to follow him. I got into his car, and we drove to the outskirts of Star City to a charming little dacha nestled back in a grove of pine trees.
Inside the dacha, I met with a woman, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions from the Russian government or other entities within the country. She told me that her father had been a janitor at one of the Soviet Union’s Space Program center in Star City. She said she was just eleven years old in 1963. This was when her father brought home the lifeless body of a chimpanzee.
Her father told her that he overheard that NASA had launched a capsule into space and lost it, or thought they lost. In an effort to learn more about the technologies that NASA was using for its space program, the capsule was both lost and recovered by the Soviets as the result of a top-secret insider spy space program. Someone at NASA was working for the Soviets and deliberately “lost the capsule” for them. While her father had to have a security clearance to work at the space center, he was not privy to detail of any real consequence.
The capsule was left in space for over a month, as not to arouse suspicions of the also-spying Americans. A fake Soviet capsule launch was orchestrated so that the Americans would believe the Soviets were recovering their own capsule. Once recovered, the capsule was brought inside the hanger of the center. Her father was summoned to dispose of a chimpanzee body that was found inside. The body was in a wheelbarrow, they told her father to strip the body of the space suit, search it, and burn it. Then he was to toss the body into the dumpster. Even though the body was not human, her father couldn’t bear to treat it with such disrespect. He tore the patches off of the space suit and set them ablaze in the burn bin.
When he got the body home, they dug a hole and prepared to bury the body with dignity. Just as they were about to lower the body into the hole, they saw something sticking out of the bottom hem of the spacesuit on the chimp’s thigh. Her father pulled it out to discover a journal. Inside was a script of characters they did not recognize. Her father researched for years trying to find the language contained in the journal. He was not successful before he died from a heart attack in 1975. The journal was then buried in a box in the backyard garden where it remained until the woman’s grandson had come home from school and told her about a film he saw discussing my work in chimpanzee linguistics. That is when she decided to write me the letter.
And that is how I came into possession of Homer’s journal. Translating this journal has taken me years. The story which emerged has since shattered my heart into millions of pieces. I knew it would not have a chance of becoming whole again until I made sure that Homer’s story was told…and heard.

***This is a very early draft of one of those unfinished works I started years ago but never finished.***

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