Remembering Miss French Press

I wrote a different short story last night, but it was actually kinda good so I decided to save it to rewrite it a hundred times and submit to literary journals. I wrote a different story for today. It’s called Remembering Miss French Press. Enjoy this first draft.

Fiction – Remembering Miss French Press

I dried my hands on my apron and clicked my pen a few times while I watched her come in. Her dress was brown. She wore a dark red sash around it that matched her lipstick. Her brown hair was not moving in the wind. I looked to Ronald. He turned his head away from me and grabbed the broom and dustpan. I sighed. She stood near the host counter.

“Good morning. Booth or table?” I asked. She pointed at a booth. When she sat down, I handed her a menu. She looked it over and then pointed to the coffee and then to the eggs and toast. I marked my ticket. I took my ticket to the kitchen counter. Fred watched his empty pans.

“Miss French Press?” Fred asked. He dribbled oil from a spoon over one of the cast iron skillets.

“Miss French Press?” I asked. Fred pointed to a small French press behind the coffee pot. It had molded coffee grounds in it. I banged them into the trash and washed it at the sink. I washed and sanitized the French press in the sinks. I washed my hands with soap and wiped them on my apron. I could still smell the mold. Fred called over Ronald. Ronald propped the broom up behind the wall to the prep area and stood by me. Fred showed us the French press. After dumping some coffee grounds inside, we filled it halfway with water, poured hot water in, and waited two minutes. Ronald watched with his hand over his mouth. After two minutes, we filled it with more water. Ronald watched me as I pressed the filter down. When I turned around, Miss French Press stared.

I smiled. I brought her some creams. She didn’t use them. Fred moved the French press back behind the coffee pot. Ronald took a father and son that had walked in. He sat them at a booth in the back. Fred handed me my eggs. I walked them over. I bumped Ronald. A small amount of coffee splashed into his apron. He touched his face. I walked around him. I set the eggs down. Ronald handed me a roll of silverware before taking his ticket to Fred. Miss French Press curled and her middle and index fingers on each hand and brought them together. She pointed behind the counter. Ronald stood by the coffee pot.

 “More coffee?” I asked. She pointed at the coffee pot, pulled her index and thumb away from her face, and then pointed at me. I brought the French press over and refilled her coffee. She ate. I cashed her out. She left her coffee and a three-dollar tip. Ronald stood behind me and watched her walk away. He cleaned my table for me.

Short Story Notes

If I like this one in a few months I’ll rewrite it and stuff. There are things I don’t like about it, but there were things I found useful from it. I like Miss French Press. I don’t like it for the title, but I like her. But it was all I could come up with for now. Also, needs more tension.

Thanks for reading and as always, comment below about whatever. Typo hunters welcome. Admiration of me is also encouraged. As always, thank you all for reading, and I hope you like my stories, or at least like watching me struggle with them. After a while, sometimes my stories graduate to my stories section of my website.

You can follow me on Twitter and like my page on Facebook.

Eric Shay Howard selfie
Me, my lunchtime latte, and my proof copy of my fiction collection, Crushes.
Continue Reading Remembering Miss French Press

On The Gym

Everything I currently know about how the gym works can be summed up in this short story I drafted last night. If you know more about how the gym works, please comment below.

On Gyms

Jack followed Ronald into the gym while I held the door. The receptionist welcomed us and asked if we were members. Ronald took out a card from his back jeans pocket.

“These two are my guests. It’s my mom’s account,” he said. He cleared his throat and pulled his shirt tail down over his belly. “I’m Ronald. I come in here all the time,” he said. He brushed his hair back. She looked the pass over and handed it back. We went further inside. Women in shorts ran on treadmills. I saw one blonde-haired guy running at the one in the back corner. There was an empty one next to his. I stopped there and looked at the buttons.

“No. That’s what you need,” Jack said. He pointed to the chest press machine. Between the treadmills and the chest press were yoga mats. Ronald stared at the girls on the floor.

We passed a pull-up bar and a leg press machine. I studied the muscles on the arms of the guys on the way through the room. Once we were at the chest press, Jack sat me down and adjusted the weights. He pulled the bands out with his skinny arms and reattached them.

“Lift,” he said. I pulled the arms in towards my chest and then pushed them back out.

“Was it hard?” Jack asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Ronald, sit,” Jack said. Ronald did a few sets. Jack adjusted the weights. Ronald did a few more sets.

“You should try this one,” Ronald said. I sat back down and pulled.

“It’s not hard,” I said.

“Do it again,” Jack said.

The second time was harder. I could only do five reps. I stopped midway through the sixth.

“Do 4 more,” Jack said. I let go of the handles.

“I can’t,” I said. When I stood, I nearly fell over. Jack sat down in the seat.

“You’re supposed to wipe it,” Ronald said. He went searching for a towel. Jack started his set. He did 7 reps quickly, then pushed through three more. He released the handles and breathed out.

“You think we’ll get as big some of the guys in there?” I asked. A muscular guy in green shorts over at the free weights had my attention.

“I think if we want girlfriends, we’re going to have to do something,” he said. He watched a blonde girl over on the pull-up bar.

“Better quit staring. You’re in athletic shorts,” I said. Jack punched my arm and laughed. “How many was that? ten?”

“I’m resting between sets,” he said. I nodded. “You’ve really never been in a gym before?”

“No.” Jack licked his lips and scratched his thigh. I looked at my feet. Jack worked on his other two sets of reps. I stared at guys for brief moments. When Jack was done, I did four more reps.

“Where’s Ronald?” Jack asked. We found him in the hall near the entrance. He was staring towards the front of the gym holding a towel. He turned around when we got closer to him. His face was red.

“The receptionist?” Jack said.

“Heh, yeah,” Ronald said. Jack pulled him away by the towel. We went to the free weight equipment. There were more women than men lifting. Jack watched them all for a moment. Ronald fixated on a bigger black-haired woman doing curls. Both of their faces were too red to do the free weights.

The doorway to the men’s locker room and showers was just before the free weights. We peaked around the corner inside and then ran back out.

“You guys ever?” I asked.

“No,” Ronald said. I looked to Jack. He shook his head. We walked back past the free weights, through the pull-up bars and the leg and chest presses, past the treadmills, and past the receptionist.  She thanked us. Ronald thanked her back, smiled, and giggled until we pulled him out by the towel in his hand.

Short Story Notes

I drafted the story last night. I didn’t worry about it too much. When writing, you have to just get it down first, right? I may rewrite it a few times. Reading it the next morning, I can already tell you that I need ramp up the tension in this story a lot. I’m not sure if I’ll post new versions or not. Maybe sometimes. However, I tend to just let things stay as they are on here, other than light touch ups every now and then. I’ll fix the typos eventually. I don’t usually care about typos that much with early drafts. I’d rather just move on to asking you how you figured out the gym?

How does exercise work?

I know exercise is important. I mean, I went to the gym a few times at the beginning of the year before the pandemic and everything closed. Recently, I checked out Krav Maga classes at another gym, but I’m not sure about it. It was okay, but it didn’t feel right.

When my gym opens back up, or when I find a new one, I think I’ll focus on the chest press for a while. I also need to work on my arms, abs, legs, and butt. However, I think I’d like my body more if I had a bigger chest. I already know how the chest press works because it was the one machine I used when I started my gym membership at the beginning of the year. Well, that and the treadmill.

How did you learn the gym? Did you teach yourself or id you learn in a class, like a high school with a weight-lifting class for instance? Did your friends or family show you? Comment below!

I’m probably going to have to end up getting a personal trainer or something to help me figure out the gym.

I may not be a gym goer, but I bike almost every day. At least that’s SOMETHING.

You can follow me on Twitter and like my page on Facebook. Seriously, let’s help each other figure out the gym.

Continue Reading On The Gym

On Football Video Games

I never played physical football. The only thing I know about football is that they wear tight clothes. I did pretend to like football once with a high school crush.

On Football Video Games

I walked down the steps, through the den, and into Jack’s bedroom behind him. He offered me a corner to put my backpack.

“So, this is it,” Jack said. His bed was on the left side of the room. There were folded clothes next to his pillows. Above his bed had an Evanescence and a Lacuna Coil poster. Rob Zombie was behind the television on his dresser. There was a blue bean bag chair at the foot of his bed. His brother’s bed was bigger and on the right side of the room. His brother’s dresser was against the opposite wall, and he had a larger television.

Jack took off his shirt and sprayed some cologne. “You want anything to drink?” There was a small refrigerator just outside his room. It held an assortment of cheap department store branded sodas. Red cream and strawberry flavors dominated the few cans of grape. There was one diet Coke.

“I’m okay for now,” I said. Jack took a red cream soda and chugged it. His elbow extended and his chest stretched. There was hair under his arms, but no hair on his chest. “You can get comfortable,” he said. He changed into a pair of athletic shorts. His legs were skinny and were as tan as his chest. I brought a pair of sweatpants in my backpack, but I left my jeans and thin black sweater on. I took off my shoes.

He laid out some video games over the blue and white quilt on his bed. He switched on the PlayStation 2 as I checked out his collection. The title screen of Madden 2002 loaded. Footsteps walked across the floor above us. He closed his bedroom door.

“Do you play Madden?” He asked.

“I have before,” I said. It was a lie. He handed me a controller. He sat on the edge of his bed with his legs spread apart. I pulled the bean bag chair away from his bed a ways and sat down in it. I picked the 49ers. He was the Broncos. Plays were presented along the bottom of the screen. I mostly lost yards and failed at blocking Jack. When I meant to sprint, I passed. I preferred playing defense, that way I could look up and over my shoulder more. I scored a touchdown accidentally once. He got down off his bed and grappled me at my shoulders.

“You’re getting it!” He said. I blushed when he touched me. I realized this, so I laughed.

We played Madden all evening until we got tired. The only thing I learned about football that night was that they wore tight clothes.

“You can sleep in my brother’s bed if you want. He won’t be here. Or the couch out in the den. Wherever you want,” Jack said. He went upstairs to the bathroom. His brother’s bed had Guns and Roses and Black Sabbath posters, and their records hung above it. They were all symmetrically separated. The records were placed like bricks in masonry work. When Jack returned, I walked all the way up the stairs to the bathroom to change into my sweatpants. When I got back to his brother’s bed, I took off my sweater. I slept in my white shirt. I knew I was gay.

I’ve been blogging about my childhood and high school a lot lately. I wrote this post about the first time I cooked mac and cheese. I wrote this post about one of the times I came out as gay to a friend.

Have you ever pretended to like something because of a crush?

I don’t think I’ve played a football video game since then. Someone will have to actually teach me how football works one day. Have you ever pretended to like something for a crush?

Comment below! You can also follow me on Twitter and like my page on Facebook.

Also, the edits for the paperback of my book, Crushes, are coming along. I promise it’ll be out and available for purchase soon. It’s a short fiction collection.

Selfie me of with my fiction collection Crushes, and coffee.
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On Mac And Cheese

The first thing I learned how to cook was mac and cheese. When I was about ten, we lived in a giant house on a hill. It wasn’t a mansion, but it was a large house with lots of rooms. We had lots of property and horses, too. My stepdad’s daughter was visiting for the weekend. Her name was Allison and she was thirteen.

I was hungry. Allison was busy sneaking cigarettes in the bathroom. Grandmother had a babysitting client that day, so she was occupied. My mom and the truck-driver were doing horse things. I found the mac and cheese in the cabinet, read the directions, and started the process.

The first major mistake I made was not letting the water get hot before I put the noodles in. I hadn’t learned yet that the noodles would stick to the stainless-steel pot if you didn’t. I also didn’t know about adding salt to the water. It was fine, eventually. I only drained the noodles for a few seconds, then added the cheese and milk. What I had brewing now was a soupy, liquid-cheesy bland mess.

Cheese splashed all over the stove. It got under the burner. I wiped the stove with a paper towel. I got another one to get the cheese-spots near the burner. The paper towel caught fire. I screamed and threw my hands up. The paper towel just burned on the stove next to the pot like kindling. The baby Grandmother was watching started crying. After no one came into the kitchen, I took my shoe off and hand-stomped the fire out with it. I turned off the stove and cleaned up the evidence.

A few minutes later, Allison came out of the bathroom twirling her curly brown hair with her finger. I ate my precious mac and cheese that I’d hoarded into a big plastic container. She sniffed her arms, her shirt, her hair, around the kitchen, and then rushed back into the bathroom. I went back to the trash can and poured some water over the burnt paper. I sniffed until I couldn’t smell the smokey smell from it any longer and dropped the water cup in the sink.

Allison came back into the kitchen. She sniffed the stove, the wall behind the stove, the sink, the spice cabinet, the refrigerator, and the trash can. She took a little too long at the trash can, then sprayed perfume from it all the way back into the bathroom.

My stepdad came in. He went into the cabinet and pulled out a Nutty Bar. He looked down at me and my empty bowl.

“Did your Granny burn something?” He asked. I nodded. He shook his head as he walked to the trashcan. Then, after a moment of thinking, he wandered over to the bathroom and knocked. Allison yelled and he turned back to me. I tried to look like I didn’t know anything at all, but I don’t think I was doing a very good job. He pounded on the bathroom door again.

“Allison!” Allison came out of the bathroom.

“What?”

My stepdad went into the bathroom, opened every drawer, opened the medicine cabinet, checked every box inside, lifted the toilet seat, pulled back the shower curtain, and checked behind the door. The baby down the hall cried again.

“Where is it?” He asked.

“Where’s what?” She said. He looked to me. I ate an empty spoonful of mac and cheese. They argued about how her mom had told him that she thought she was smoking but she didn’t know for certain. When the argument was over, she was grounded for the rest of the weekend there, and he was going to see to it that she was grounded back home, too. She went down the hall. My stepdad opened his Nutty Bar.

“Don’t ever sleep with a woman,” he said. I nodded and put my empty bowl in the sink. I eventually got better at making mac and cheese.

Were you brave enough to try to cook mac and cheese by yourself?

What was the first thing you learned to cook? For instance, was it mac and cheese? Ideally, you had supervision if you were really young, so maybe it was something a little more complicated? Comment below! I soon started cooking spaghettis, which quickly became my favorite. Eventually I graduated up to cooking a hamburger, but I remember being super grossed out by it. I didn’t try cooking anything else for a long time because a lot of the other foods freaked me out. For instance, chicken is just weird.

To be honest, I’m one of the few people who don’t enjoy cooking. All I can think about is the dishes. However, I cook because I have to. I’ve somehow become the designated cook in my apartment, too, which was not at all my plan.

Oh yeah, in addition to your cooking stories, let me know if you accidentally almost burned down your house or if you accidentally ratted on your stepsister for smoking.

Eric Shay Howard with coffee at Belle of Louisville
Me with coffee at the Belle of Louisville, thinking about my next blog post.

I also wrote another recent blog post about my childhood, On Decaf Coffee, so check it out sometime.

Continue Reading On Mac And Cheese

Coming Out Over An Evening Phone Call In 2004

Harry, the father of my mom’s boyfriend, sat on the couch smoking a cigarette. The news was on the TV by the air purifier. The phone was in the big chair by the sliding glass door. I answered it.

“Shhh,” I said. I listened for any sounds of other lines being picked up.

“Is it true?” Jay asked. I was glad to hear his voice. I imagined what he looked like now. Maybe he’d started growing some facial hair. Maybe a few chest hairs, too. Was his black hair still short, or had he grown it out a bit? After a while, I answered.

“Yes.”

Harry sighed, lifted his single crutch from the arm rest, and pulled himself up. He walked back through the kitchen and into his bedroom. He shut the door. The oxygen tank groaned.

“Are you sure, though?” Jay asked. His voice cracked a little, going down too low and coming back up too high.

Yes,” I said. I think my voice did the opposite.

“But what about Jenny and Alex? Remember? On the bus?”

“No.” I remembered the bus. “And you liked Alex.”

“Man, this is wild. Does anyone else know?” He was starting to sound anxious.

“Everyone at school.”

“Dang. You have to be careful.”

“I know.”

“Wild, wild, wild. Hold on—”

A muffled voice beside Jay came and went. Jay’s audio stayed muffled. Sounds of swirling and sucking grew from behind Harry’s bedroom door, with a few coughs in-between them. I dragged the phone and the cord over to the couch, turned on the air purifier, and watched the replay of John Kerry conceding. After a few minutes, the smoke cleared.

“Sorry,” Jay said. “Anyway, it’s good to talk to you. When are you gonna come and visit?”

“I can’t drive. My eyes.”

“Oh, shit. Right. Well, when I get my car I’m gonna come and get you. Me, you, Pete. We’ll go to Lexington or something. They have gay bars there.”

“We’re 16.”

“Pete can get us in. No limits, man. Hey, can I ask you one more thing?”

The oxygen turned off. I hurried back to the chair. Harry’s crutch pounded back through the kitchen.

“What?”

His voice stayed steady. “Did you ever, you know, like me or anything?” He breathed into the phone, then quickly breathed in. I thought about the conversation we had with Alex on the bus. I remembered Jay’s big, blue eyes, and I imagined they were sitting in front of me.

Harry stopped at the fridge and pulled out a can of beer.

“No.”

Jay breathed into the phone again.

“You sure? You can tell me.”

I turned my head and looked through the sliding glass door, then back to the hallway behind the kitchen, past Harry. My mom’s bedroom door was closed. I listened for the silence on the phone.

Harry speed-crutched his way back to the couch with his beer in his other hand. After he sat down in his spot, there was a loud pop as he opened the can.

“No.” I said.

“Because we’re like brothers.” He said.

“Right.”

“Right.”

Coming out is hard.

This is a story about coming out. It was one of the times I came out to a friend. Do people still “come out?” If you’re out, how many times have you came out? Do you still find yourself coming out to people, or do you just sort of let people figure it out as an adult? If you’re not an adult, what’s on your mind? If you’re straight, cool. Do you come out? Comment below and let’s discuss. You can also follow me on Twitter and like my page on Facebook.

And, for those of you who can’t come out right now due to, well, reasons, that’s okay.

Eric Shay Howard selfie in alleyway in sun
Continue Reading Coming Out Over An Evening Phone Call In 2004

Losing One – Fiction

The rain stopped hitting the tin roof above the garage door. Sean turned off the table saw and wiped the sawdust from his face with his faded red t-shirt. Maggie ran out from under the silver Nissan. She shook the water off of her and sat down on her hind legs. She scratched behind her ears and breathed through her mouth. Sean put his arms out and she ran to him. She hung off his shoulders and licked the wood pieces off his face.

“Easy now, Maggie. How long have you been over here? They’re prolly looking for you,” Sean said. The smell of rain and watered-down sweat choked him. He stood up and patted out his jeans and t-shirt. Maggie leaped off her front legs and dropped back down as she turned. Sean flipped the switch on the inside of the garage and ducked under as the door came down. He walked down his driveway, across his yard, past the water meter and lighting rod, and toward a red and brown brick house. Sean stepped from his overgrown yard into the well-clipped lawn of his next-door neighbors’. He scratched his throat with a cough at the smell of herbs and ground bark. Maggie wagged her tail through an overgrown tomato garden between his house and theirs. Sean went around it and past the pea green Charger in the driveway.

Maggie ran through the grass toward the side door of the brick house. Sean followed the stones that the grass had overgrown. The screen door opened before either of them reached the house.

“Oh my God. I don’t know how she always manages to get out when it rains,” Stacy said. The dog ran in through the open screen door. “Maggie, stay there, no, there,” she said. She yelled and pointed into the kitchen on the right. Maggie’s tail fell down onto the linoleum, then she stood and ran onto the carpet in the living room. Stacey threw her hand up and shook her head.

Stacey was a woman in her mid-30s with black shoulder-length hair. Sean would never admit to her or her husband, Frank, that he could see some gray as she leaned out the door and into the sun as light glided across the yard. “How are you, sugar?” Maggie said. She grabbed her purse by the stand under the light switch and stepped outside.

“Oh, Stacy, you know, getting a little done with this and a little done with that,” Sean said. He rubbed the back of his head and smiled.

“Uh-huh, aren’t we all?” Stacy said. “Casey here yet? Figured you two’d already have your guns out.” She scratched her ear then felt inside her purse. Her long earrings flashed and Sean looked away.

“Not yet. A few hours, probably. You know Miranda.” Sean popped his knuckles.

“Uh-huh. Frank’s in the basement. Careful, he’s got that mess with the tomatos down there.” Stacy pulled her keys from her purse and drove the Charger out of the driveway. Sean went inside. He took off his shoes as the screen door shut. Maggie put her front paws onto Sean’s shirt. She ran them down his jeans and lifted them to the shirt again. Sean rubbed her head and lifted her legs off him. She dropped down onto the carpet. Sean took a step into the living room. Maggie followed. He lifted her up and carried her to the open basement door. Sean followed Maggie down the blue painted steps.

The basement smelled like a stewed garden. White boxes were tossed behind the pillar ahead of the steps. More boxes and totes were stacked along the left, stopping just before the refrigerator. The yellow door was left open. Sean pushed it shut, careful not to touch the brown stains on the door.

Maggie sat down by Frank at the stainless steel pot of tomatoes on the deep freezer in the corner. She wagged her tail. Frank’s white and red Louisville shirt was clean until he grabbed a gob of tomato and dropped it onto her face. She pulled the pulp in with her tongue before it fell over and off her snout. Juice dripped onto the concrete.

“Casey here yet?” Frank said.

“Not yet,” Sean said. Frank turned his head away from the glass jars and funnels.

“That’s not like Reba is it? You call them?” Frank picked up the basket of sugar and sifted through it with a little yellow spoon.

“Casey’s a teenager now. Probably busy with boys.” Sean put on the oven mitt laying over the freezer door.

“Uh-huh. Or Reba is.” Frank dropped a small amount of sugar inside each funnel.

“We’re going hunting when she gets here. You can come with us if you want.” Sean leaned into the freezer. A jar fell into the floor. He kneeled down beside the shattered pieces.

“Use the broom. You’ll cut yourself.” Frank closed the sugar. Sean tossed the glass into a plastic trash can under the back of the stairs and put back on his oven mitt. Frank grabbed the handle of the pot with a towel. Sean grabbed the other handle. They walked the big pot over the jars along the freezer together and let the tomatoes fall into the funnels.

“You were gonna do this by yourself without a ladle?” Sean stumbled into Frank’s ribs. He let his elbow rest under Frank’s armpits.

“I would’ve managed.” Frank held the pot still over the last jar in the first row. It was full. “Ready?” Frank waited. Sean let Frank’s weight hold him a moment more.

“Ready.” They leaned forward and took the pot the other way across the freezer. They sat the pot back down when the last jar was filled. Maggie stood up and rubbed her paws on Frank’s Louisville shirt as he walked with the pot towards the staircase.

“Down Maggie,” he said. Maggie tried her luck with Sean. He held up his hands, palms out. Maggie whined. He reached out scratched behind her ears. She jumped up onto him and ran her paws down his shirt.

“Maggie, come on,” Sean said.

“Down Maggie,” Sean said from upstairs. Maggie went to the far side of the basement, between an old dresser and more boxes. She laid down beside the dresser and spread all four of her legs across the concrete.

Frank came downstairs with a clinging pan. The steam from it had fogged his glasses. He sat the pan on the freezer, removed his glasses, and wiped his face with his long sleeve. He grabbed the tongs from the pan and placed a lid on a jar.

“What’d you end up getting Casey?” Frank said.

“Some game she wanted.” Sean squeezed a cut on his ring finger.

“She plays video games?” Frank said. He placed another lid.

“No, a board game. Some kind of talking game with a mouth piece that makes it hard to talk.” Sean went to the sink by the refrigerator. He pulled the lever up and watched the blood spill down the drain.

“Now that sounds like Casey.” Frank tightened a ring around a lid. “You alright? Looks like you’re canning your own set of tomatoes over there.”

“Should’ve used the broom.” Sean held his finger under the running water and then applied pressure. Frank went to the shelf above the top of the steps and returned with a small bandage. Sean wrinkled a paper towel from the holder on the side of the fridge into his hands, then he finished by wiping them onto his red shirt. He reached for the bandage.

“Let me,” Frank said. He peeled the paper off and removed the tabs. Sean pointed his finger below Frank’s chest. Frank lifted Sean’s hand up to his eyes, then he pulled the hand back down by the wrist and rolled the bandage up over the finger. He lifted his glasses from his nose and sat them up higher as Sean wiggled his digits at him. Frank stared past Sean’s fingers. He leaned Sean onto the edge sink and he held onto Frank’s arms.

“Stacey?” Frank said. His hands were around Sean’s lower back.

“She left.” Sean pushed the back of his thighs away from the sink and massaged them. Frank held him tight. Their lips mashed and their jeans unzipped. When they got off, they cleaned themselves up with paper towels and water from the sink. Frank cleaned his glasses with his shirt and went back to the freezer. He grabbed the tongs, pulled a lid out of the water, and set it on top of the next jar. Sean fixed his brown hair and felt of his pockets.

“Where’s my phone?” Sean said. He looked around the sink and through the steps to the freezer.

“You didn’t have it out none,” Frank said. He tightened a ring around a lid. The jar busted. Glass shattered over the concrete. “Shit. Lose one every time.” He slid in his socks across the concrete and stopped between the two shelves in the corner along the sink wall. He pulled a broom and dustpan from behind the furthest shelf. Maggie was wagging her tail on the other side of the steps. She jumped up onto Frank as he came back over to the glass. “Down, Maggie, down.” She wined and came over to Sean.

“Down Maggie,” Sean said. She jumped up onto him and ran her paws down his shirt. He grabbed them and held onto them. They danced while Frank swept. He held his palms out to Sean after he finished.

“No cuts.” Frank said. He pulled another lid up from the water with his tongs and set it on a jar. Sean set Maggie’s paws down as she licked his wrapped finger. He pulled his hand up and Maggie turned around. The side of her blond coat was red.

“Hey Frank, Maggie’s bleeding.”

“What?” Frank dropped the tongs into the pot and squatted by Maggie. He examined her coat. Sean went to the sink and pulled the roll of paper towels off the holder. He got down next to Frank, who looked at him from overtop his glasses.

“It’s tomato,” Frank said. Maggie licked his glasses. He stood up to clean them with his shirt and went back to the jars. Sean ran a paper towel over Maggie’s side. She darted away. He tossed the towel into the trash under the stairs and put his hands in his pockets. He looked around the basement from under the stairs.

“You sure I didn’t have my phone down here?” Sean said.

“You wanna use our phone to call?” Frank pointed upstairs.

“No. I’d better get I guess. You wanna come hunting with us later?” Sean watched Frank tighten the lid around the jar.

“Come back later.”

“Okay.” Sean went up the stairs and walked through the house. He put on his shoes and went out the front door.

The sun hid behind the clouds. Sean walked along the grass-grown stones, across the empty driveway, past the garden, over the lawn, and through his overgrown yard past the lightning rod. It started to rain before he got past the water meter. He went through his front door and into the garage. His phone was on his saw table. He slid his finger across the screen. No missed calls. He called Casey. No answer. He opened the garage door and watched it rain.

His phone vibrated in his hand. It was an unknown number. He slid his finger across the screen.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Dad,” Casey said. Her voice was low and raspy.

“Casey? Where are you two?” Sean said.

“Mom’s in the hospital.” Sean put his hand over his hip.

“What happened?”

“She wasn’t feeling good this morning and she came in and they’re keeping her.” Rain pounded the tin roof of the garage.

“Do you want me to come get you?” Sean listened to Casey’s breath.

“No. I’m gonna stay here.”

“Okay.”

“Okay. Love you, Dad.”

“Love you.”

Sean didn’t know which of them hung up first. He put his phone in his pocket. Maggie ran across his driveway and under his Nissan. He turned on his table saw and split a two-by-four.

*

You can read more of my fiction here.

Eric Shay Howard is a writer and editor. He lives in Louisville, KY and edits Likely Red Magazine.

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Continue Reading Losing One – Fiction

The Greatest – Fiction

So I’m in Chicago and I wasn’t able to post this Friday because free WiFi is hard. Also, I’m still not satisfied with this story but here it is anyway. I might rewrite it one day. I’m posting it as is because consistency is important, I guess.

Update 4:15 PM 12/12/17: So I’ve had a few days to recover from my trip to Chicago. I got busy with planning my trip and didn’t have the time to give this the story the attention it deserved. I kind of want to give this story a rewrite, so I’m gonna go do that now.

*

Kurr sat at his desk between his partners’, Logsdon and Ball. Kurr read reports. He drank coffee while he verified alibis in the reports. He reheated his coffee in the microwave three times that morning while he found business names and homes with the listed addresses on his reports. He sighed as he drank his coffee and typed his progress in the reports.

Logsdon and Ball were on the phone that morning. They chatted across Kurr all morning. Logsdon and Ball looked half-dressed, in untucked buttons ups off the rack at JC Penny’s and faint gray stains scattered all over their navy pants, their hair curly, funny, like they’d just rolled over out of bed and come to work that morning. Logsdon and Ball were young. Logsdon and Ball were not used to getting up early in the morning.

Having made it to noon, Logsdon and Ball flipped a coin. Ball called tails. Ball bought lunch. When Ball returned to the floor with a white bag that smelled of onion rings, Kurr locked his computer and followed Logsdon and Ball on through the desks, down the hall, past the cubicles, and to the right. Ball set the bag on the biggest table. Kurr stopped at the counter and poured black coffee into his world’s best singer mug. When he got to the biggest table, Logsdon and Ball had already eaten half their burgers.

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“Your food’s getting cold,” Logsdon said.

“Fine, got my hot right here,” Kurr said.

“You use that line on all the ladies?” Does it work?” Ball said.

“Damn it, Ball. Burgers again?” Kurr said.

“Payer picks. That’s the rule,” Ball said.

“Loser picks,” Logsdon said.

Ball threw an onion ring at Logsdon. It hit him in the nose. Logsdon squished his lips against his nose, unrolled his sleeve, and wiped the oil off with his cuff.

Two by two, the seats at the small tables around them filled. A brown haired man in tan corduroy pants and a white button up stopped and looked under their table.

“Still got both shoes, Ball?” the man said. Ball looked at him with no expression. The man laughed and moaned and went on down to sit with a dark haired woman eating a candy bar.

“These people never let things go, do they?” Ball said.

“They will. Just have to wait it out,” Kurr said.

“For how long?” Ball said.

“Long enough for someone else to do something stupid,” Kurr said.

Kurr heard his own tone and put his burger down. He looked around at the others, the duos. The lean man at the table next to him ate his salad with his partner across from him. They laughed at each other. They texted on their phones. They ate.

“How much more you got, Old Man?” Logsdon said. He chewed as lettuce hung out. Mayonnaise splattered up his glasses. Logsdon wiped his frame with his cuff. The mayonnaise smeared. Logsdon chewed on.

“Only about half way through,” Kurr said.

“We’re gonna be here all night,” Logsdon said.

“You’re welcome to help, you know,” Kurr said. Logsdon made his eyes small.

“I’m following up on leads for the Brown case,” Logsdon said.

“No, you’re having a goofball match across my desk with Ball,” Kurr said.

“I’ve been on the phone all morning,” Logsdon said.

Kurr set his burger down. He moved his world’s best singer mug over to the corner. He folded his hands and placed his wad of fingers on the table.

“Don’t you guys get sick of it?” Kurr said. Balls topped chewing his fry. Logsdon took off his glasses and cleaned his mayonnaise smear with his shirt tail.

“Sick of what?” Logsdon said.

“Sick of not being taken seriously around here,” Kurr said.

“People take us seriously,” Ball said. He looked over to mister corduroy pants a few tables down. Mister corduroy mimed a runner while sitting in his chair.

“Help me, help me, the bad guy stole my shoes,” mister corduroy said. He laughed, threw his hand down toward the big table, and went back to sipping from his foam cup.

Ball ate the rest of his burger. Logsdon continued to rub his glasses down with his shirt. Mister corduroy pants ran toward the door. “Help, someone, my shoes, my shoes.”

Chief Mueller walked in. Mister corduroy pants straightened his back. Logsdon put his glasses back over his eyes. Mueller went to the counter and poured himself a coffee.

“Afternoon, chief,” mister corduroy pants said.

“Marmon,” Mueller said. He stirred his coffee with a red plastic stirrer, tasted it, and added more sugar.

People left their seats and threw their garbage in the hole near the sink. Logsdon and Ball stood up together.

“Back to it,” Ball said.

“Back to the phone,” Logsdon said. He looked at Kurr as he spoke. Kurr remained seated until they left. He watched Mueller as he stood and drank and stirred. Mueller turned and caught Kurr with his eyes over his world’s greatest seaman cup. Kurr approached him after the room emptied.

“Sir, could I talk to you for a bit?” Kurr said. Mueller stirred and nodded.

“What’s the problem, Kurr?” Mueller said. Kurr watched his feet for a minute.

“Am I being punished?” Kurr said. Mueller gulped his coffee and sat his mug down on the counter.

“What do you mean?” Mueller said. Kurr folded his hands and held them to his navel.

“You putting me with Logsdon and Ball. Are you punishing me?” Kurr moved his right foot further to the right, then back to the left.

“Why would you think that?” Mueller said. Kurr moved his right foot forward and then backward.

“They’re the youngest detectives in the department. Everyone else is partnered up and you have the three of us together. No one respects them, which means no one respects me,” Kurr said. Mueller pinched his chin. He came close.

“You don’t like your partners?” Mueller said. Kurr looked down at his feet, tapped his toes forward, backward, then planted his foot back down.

“No, sir. I think it would be best if I could put in an official request form,” Kurr said.

“Kurr, let me tell you something. You are more than welcome to put in that request, but I won’t accept it. You’re with Logsdon and Ball. That’s the way it’s gonna be. You’re with them and they’re with you. I want you three going everywhere together. Every desk assignment. Every case. Every day. If there’s ever a time someone doesn’t see you three together, I want people to think it’s fucked up that you’re not all there. Kurr, Logsdon, and Ball. That’s the way it is,” Mueller said. He patted Kurr’s shoulder, picked up his coffee mug, and filled it with soap and water from the sink.

Eric Shay Howard is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in Louisville, KY and is the editor of Likely Red Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like his Facebook page.

Continue Reading The Greatest – Fiction