This Show Case features seven pieces submitted in response to our twenty-eighth Writing Prompt: Before Your Eyes. You can see responses to each prompt in the drop down menu for the Show Case page. Try an item. They are all delicious. We hope they stimulate your mind, spirit, and urge to write. Maybe they will motivate you to submit a piece for our next prompt, which you can find on the Show Case home page.
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Before Your Eyes, Before Your Time
by John Correll
“You saw him right before your eyes. Here? At this bus stop?”
“Yeah. It was insane. He waited for the 19. I was catching the 12 over there.”
“This is 1975. That’d make him 86. He’d be super decrepit.”
“Sure. He was all gray. Even the mustache. And bent over old fogey-like. But it was him.”
“And what did you do?”
“I walked right over, and at first, I figured I’d ask him his name. But that wouldn’t do, would it? Too obvious. So, I clicked my heels.”
“In your tennis shoes?”
“Okay, a bit stupid. Definitely didn’t have the effect I hoped for. So I waved my hand. You know?”
“You could be arrested for that.”
“I did it discreetly. And I said, ‘Victory hail.’”
“Maybe a little louder.”
“And what’d he do?”
“He shook his fist at me and called me a long-haired bum and traitor, unfit for the military or the Empire.”
“You’re joking? He said, Empire?”
“Exactly, the 3rd Empire. In that ranting, unmistakable mean voice.”
“No way. Then what?”
“I went back to wait for the 12.”
“And that’s it.”
“No. Some punks went up to him.”
“Punks? You mean those shaved head, dressed in black, combat boot-wearing punks?”
“That’s them. The ones that kick your teeth in if you dare to look in their general direction.”
“They’re the worst.”
“So then what?”
“I tried not to look at them.”
“But I made a hole in my school newspaper like this. And then watched. They marched up and gave him the forbidden greeting just like asking the time of day.”
“Jesus. And he returned the salute?”
“Not at all, but his hand shook like he really wanted to, but he was fighting the urge. Then he smiled.”
“That’s what I said. Smiled and pinched their cheeks like the old newsreel in history class when he’s giving metals to those kids at the end.”
“That’s totally ridiculous. Impossible. He couldn’t be here. After all that time.”
“It’s pissing genius. No one would think to look here. In Berlin. I bet he’s hid here since that pretend suicide of his.”
“But everybody saw his body and his girlfriend’s.”
“Yeah, yeah. That’s right.”
“He used a body double. All dictators have them.”
“Oh, come on. You’re making this up.”
“No. This all happened. Right here.”
“So then, what happened?”
“The war ended.”
“No. Here. At the bus stop.”
“Oh, that. Adolf and the punks got on the bus.”
“I’ve staked out this stop for over a month. And he’s not come back. Totally gone.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“I know. Funny, isn’t it. It’s like he knows I’m on to him.”
A Late Summer’s Bug
by John Correll
The fly before your eyes won’t die. Won’t lie in peace, squashed by your bare feet.
No fly. No.
Circle round and round with angry sound. Orbiting your head in the hazy heat.
Where fly? Where?
Dancing to insect’s pirouette, stomping and swinging to bug’s mean beat.
Sing fly. Sing.
And, when flower’s essence sprays on stage, your star bows once.
And sadly, before your eyes, the fly dies.
The Be(e)ing of a Tyger
by Boris Glikman
The identical coloration of tigers and bees is no random coincidence, without any significance. The real reason for this pun of evolution is actually quite astounding, almost beyond belief.
The simple truth is that the animal that the world knows as a “tiger” has never existed. The true nature of this creature is revealed if you are brave enough to give it a good shake. Once you have done so, you will witness an incredible transformation unfolding before your eyes: the tiger will begin crumbling into pieces until there is nothing left of it, not even a piece of hide, and in its place…thousands upon thousands of bees will appear, as if out of nowhere, buzzing angrily and flying off in all directions.
For you see, a tiger is not a genuine animal. Rather, it is a great collection of Africanised honey bees, also known as killer bees, that have formed themselves into the shape of a tiger. They use this particular configuration to satisfy their great hunger for fresh meat.
All the characteristics of a tiger can be easily explained by this state of affairs: the tiger’s roar is really the collective humming of countless bees; the colour of its stripes comes from the hue of bees’ bodies; its sharp teeth and claws are, in fact, bees’ stingers and its ferocity is due to the notoriously aggressive nature of the killer bees.
in the middle of sunny day.
Yet look closer
you will see
all is not what seems to be.
Bees and tiger
the same colour
Surely that makes
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
Catch a tiger by the toe.
Shake him hard
and make him hiss.
he’s made of bees.
Once you stir him
you will find
bees are gone,
naught left behind.
In their hunger for fresh meat,
bees are practicing deceit.
Alas, the tiger we all adore
is but nothing but a roar.
Romancing the Wart
by GD Deckard
Sometimes, the path of life is not wide enough for two to walk side by side. That changes everything. Without another person to see more than you see, the scenery becomes predictable and eventually, you don’t see the world around you at all. You turn inward.
It took Claire to set him on a wider path. When a job applicant came into his office, Roy never looked up. He just waved them to a seat while he pretended to read their resume. That kept him in control. But at first glance of Claire, he became flustered, he upset the carefully stacked papers on his desk, and he said the wrong thing. “It must be hard to be you.”
Her radiant smile was infectious. The curves of her face and neck and shoulders pulled him down faster and faster and then hurled him into the sky like a ski jump. He was free-falling. “You’re -“
“Beautiful,” she said. “That is hard. Men can’t really see me and women don’t want to.”
“I was going to say exhilarating. Beautiful is inadequate.”
Claire’s expression turned business like. A hint of resignation entered her tone. “I know you’re going to offer me the position. I just want to hear why.”
“Don’t say position. It’s distracting.” Roy shook his head to clear it, but she immediately refilled it. So, he said the first thing to come to mind. “You need a wart.”
“A wart?” A smile tugged her lips.
“A big hairy wart. On the tip of your nose.”
Claire’s face changed from business-like to annoyance to laughter. “That’s brilliant!”
“And that’s why you need to work for Roy Enterprises, NLC. Here, we all have warts. You will fit right in.”
“It’s like LLC. The N stands for No.”
Claire began her career by resetting Roy’s artificially intelligent proctoscopes. Some had gone rogue, selling photos to coprophiliacs on the dark web.
Roy was pleased. “That wasn’t the image we wanted to convey.”
Claire became Roy’s doppelgänger, acting as troubleshooter to her troublemaking boss. There was money in troublemaking, but someone had to cover their backsides.
Roy’s Mooning Service was a success on campuses and golf courses. His secret fraternity, College Mooners, had proven popular among students, and golf courses had discovered that donations to the fraternity kept the mooners away.
Not so easy to monetize were political rallies. “I simply do not understand young people, young lady!” Mayor Janus was clearly distracted by the wart on her nose. “First, they disrupt my public appearances and now you show up to defend them with that thing on your face. Why, for God’s sake, I want to know.”
“Are you making fun of my appearance?”
“What? No. It’s a fake wart!”
Inspired by her association with Roy, Claire said, “It’s a religious symbol. And I’m recording this conversation. Can you imagine the course of your political career once voters learn that you made fun of a woman’s face and her religion?” Problem resolved. The city contributed to the fraternity’s scholarship fund.
“Think of it as a tax refund,” Roy congratulated her. “That’s a rare accomplishment.”
Unfortunately, Claire realized she wanted more from her association with Roy. She wanted Roy.
Fortunately, Roy saw his chance. “That wart,” he needlessly waved a finger at the obvious, “I love it, but you needn’t wear it for work anymore.”
“But then you find me distracting.”
“Oh, anytime we’re alone together, you should wear it.”
Encouraged, Claire leaned slightly to him. “And? Anything else?”
To be clear, Roy enunciated clearly, “No. Just the wart.”
Here, right here … before your very eyes …
by Mimi Speike
I sort out my thinking regarding my convoluted assassination plot.
Do the facts fit my fanciful skullduggery?
Can I get myself to believe it?
Barn Elms sat on the south bank of the Thames, a few miles out of London. A working farm, actually two farms, Home Farm on the east of the peninsula and Windmill Farm to the west, it sent produce down-river to London, and it had some of the most profitable eel ponds in England. But Barn Elms was much more; the manor house was the headquarters of the Secret Service. Queen Elizabeth bought the lease in 1579 for Sir Francis Walsingham, rewarding his value to the Crown.
Walsingham had set-up Britain’s first counter-intelligence network. He received reports from twelve locations in France, nine in Germany, four in Italy, and four in Spain. It was claimed that communications sent from Rome were read in London before they reached Madrid.
He’d established a spy-school in his London house. His school taught cipher and forgery and gave potential agents training in field-work. He himself spent most of his time on his country estate. The main house was a gentleman’s villa. A building at the back contained the records of the Secret Service. He trusted them nowhere else.
As long as Mary Stuart lived, Elizabeth’s life was in danger from Catholic fanatics seeking to return England to the Catholic fold. Elizabeth was reluctant to execute her cousin. To kill Mary was foreign to her impulse for clemency and to her dislike of drastic action. Walsingham was a Puritan, the most extreme of Protestants. His devotion to his faith made him feverishly alive to the perils which threatened the kingdom.
There was the Ridolfi plot in 1571, and the Throckmorton Plot in 1573. (The Babington Plot would not be implemented until 1585.) The Ridolfi Plot has been called ‘one of the more brainless conspiracies’ of the sixteenth century. But an even loonier plot has gone unreported. The Queen never learned of it. It was masterminded by her lifelong friend who was also an ally of Francis Walsingham.
Walsingham was more solicitous of the Queen’s security than she was herself. He pushed Elizabeth in directions she was not willing to take. She harbored a personal antipathy towards him and his ‘gloomy prophecies’. He detested her procrastination. The Queen of Scots had been her prisoner since 1568, but she was unwilling to make the needful decision about the rival’s disposal.
His health had never been good. He used it as an excuse to absent himself from the tiresome ceremony of the court. At Barn Elms, he pursued his own interests. He was an avid falconer, and he was a patron of the arts. In 1583, he gave orders to the queen’s Master of the Revels to create an acting troupe, to be known as The Queen’s Men. (That in itself was an odd interference into a sphere that was none of his business.) The troupe toured both nationally and internationally. If he personally briefed certain of them on his needs, it was not done at his spy school. He’d have them out to Barn Elms, to one of his ‘evenings’.
He hosted gatherings, the only requirement for admittance being that one should be fashionably dressed and well-spoken, and prepared to make a contribution to the evening’s entertainment by singing, or playing an instrument, or displaying a delightful skill. An odd assortment of folks converged on the property once a month. Some of them were there to enjoy themselves, and some were there on business.
The elongated shadows of towering elms draped a courtyard which, considering the gaiety to be spied through the windows of well-lit rooms in a sprawling manse, was surprisingly empty of conveyances. But the river was the highway in these parts. Roadways, aside from a few fragments from Roman times, were furrows. Dee’s house sat two miles southwest. The northerly sweep of the Thames between the two residences would have been a journey of twice the duration, not to mention the wait for one of the public transports that worked the river to respond to his hail and tie up to his dock. He had come by carriage.
Dee was set down at the front entrance, and the coach continued on to the stable yard. Shelter for thirty horses lay two hundred yards beyond the residential complex. Thirty, for a household of eight: a sure sign the site supported doings beyond placid domesticity.
The driver climbed down from his perch and greeted a stable-hand. “Hogarth! We meet again! My turn to treat. I have an excellent whiskey along. Sir Francis will have his jollify, and we’ll have ours.”
Sly’s ears perked up. Sir Francis! Would that be Sir Francis Walsingham? Who else could it be? Elizabeth’s head of security, yards away! Just the one to approach, certainly, about the dastardly intentions of a foremost courtier. How to proceed, it being an extraordinarily delicate business? He’d discuss it tomorrow with Dee. Tonight he meant to enjoy himself.
His head emerged from the baggage hold. His excellent night vison immediately made out a face peering up at him from behind a bale of hay. “Evening, ma’am,” he said. “Fine night.”
“Tis a night,” the female replied, “to make ye glad you’re alive, whatever fate has in mind for you.” She cackled bitterly. “Them fools yonder be nibbling at my best pal ‘bout now, I guess.” She collapsed into a quivering pile of feathers and bawled.
Sly approached her respectfully. “Pardon, Madame, he murmured, I don’t dismiss your pain, but a monumental mischief is afoot. Your queen is in grave danger.”
“My queen! Does I care? What be the queen to me? Broil her butt on a spit, as has been done this cursed day to sweetest chickadee you’d ever want to meet.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“I can’t fault you for that view, all things considered,” replied Sly. “Me, I’m for our queen heart an’ soul. I’ve lived years abroad. I’m home with the intention of showing my face up north. I’ve paused my sentimental journey to intervene in a situation that affects everyone in this grand land of ours.”
“Grand, is it? Easy fer you to say. Folks don’t look at you an’ see dinner.”
“True,” said Sly. “I hurt for such as you. For the sake of me old mama up in Cumbria, can ye put aside your resentment and assist me a wee bit? I wish to join that frolic. To beg admittance at the front door gets me nowhere. I must creep in undetected.
“I appeal to you as a mother, as I expect ye be many times over. Ma’s had no word of me since I deserted. We were a large family, the common thing on a farm. Who of us was her favorite? The bad apple. The big-head brat who felt he was meant for finer than to butcher mice for his living. She encouraged me in my outrageous expectations until my arrogance knew no bounds.
“She agonizes over that, I don’t doubt it. In what Spanish hell-hole do I rot, me an’ my shipmates, captured off Cartagena? To go to sea was my proclaimed ambition. I thrilled to the sea lies of my uncle Declan’s circle of former sea swinks.1 The state she must be in! It eats at me.
I hope to set her mind at ease, to prove her imp of a son has done well for himself. I long to display myself hale and hearty and, more importantly, sound of mind, for it was widely debated, and to promise her the world is a better place for my involvement in a number of tricky situations. I have counseled crowned heads, to their flourishment. Who knows but I may be able to help you.”
This was too fantastic a notion to be taken seriously. The hen thought, He’s a loony, surely. She replied discreetly. “Help me? How, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Don’t mind in the least, but I can’t at present say. I’ve learned not to chase solutions. They suggest themselves, if I have patience. Mistress! You have touched my heart. Give me a name to recall you fondly by.”
“A name! My sort doesn’t get a name, as does a cat, or a dog, or a horse, or even a damn milk cow. We, ever’ one of us, be this-un, that-un. Cook looks us over, tells the man-of-all-work, fetch me in this-un, plucked clean, ready to fry. We hold our breath. Who gets the axe today?”
“Ye’ve not bethought to give yourselves names?”
“Some did. That practice is mostly abandoned. Attach a name to a face, grow close, then see your dear companion manhandled away? I made one friend. Today she got the short end of the stick.2 Nevermore do I reach out. I can’t go through this pain again.”
“May I not give you a name? As a token of my esteem. We’ll keep it between us two.”
“I would be honored to bear any name ye care to bestow on me, kind sir.”
“My mama is Delilah, Delly for short. I’d call ye Delly.”
The hen leaned into him, and he embraced her. “Follow me,” she told him. “A mud room off the kitchen has the door kept ajar. From there, you’re on your own. Good luck to ye, then. Give me regards to yer ma. She raised her a good-hearted …” She thought to herself, loon, but she uttered, lad. “You tell ’er I said so.”
“I will,” whispered Sly. “I absolutely will.”
- Swink: hard work under difficult conditions or for long hours. Archaic.
- Some language experts suggest that the “Short end of the stick” originates from the 1500s. During the Middle Ages, the rich would clean themselves with fabrics after relieving themselves, while the poor would use leaves or a stick with a slight curve, known as a Gompf stick.
by SL Randall
Monday morning, a fresh cup of coffee in my hand, I open my laptop to check in with my characters.
Dunia’s arm reached from under the nest of blankets to silence the alarm clock. She emerged with a groggy expletive. “What the hell kind of dream was that?”
I chuckled softly as she felt herself up, making sure her body parts were in the right place.
“Goddamn creator. That better have been a dream. What were you thinking? A man?”
More curses as she got up and disappeared from my view.
Good enough for me. MC was right, Dunia is a woman.
‘Now, what’s Bepé doing?’ I switched screens. Another surprise. Bepé, nowhere in sight, but there’s Sophia searching his desk. Now I’m annoyed. I unmute the microphone. “Sophia, what are you doing?”
Smoothly, she turns and stares directly at me. No hint of guilt, just smugness. “Just looking for a pen,” her smile is wicked as she holds up the pen, accentuating her middle finger.
Furious, I say the first thing that comes to mind, “I can kill you any time I want.”
Her smile broadens. “But you won’t. You need me.” Before I can respond, she leaves the room.
On a post-it I angrily write,
“Don’t kill Sophia, just make her wish I did!”
I slap the post-it on the notebook labeled Sophia.
My coffee cup is empty. How did that happen?
by S.T. Ranscht