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Friday, April 1, 2016

An April Fools' Misadventure

April Fools' Day falling on a Friday was too good an opportunity to pass up.  Yet, for the longest time, I had no idea for a story related to the occasion.  Then, as so often happens in this crazy business, one popped up at the last moment.  I hope it entertains you.

An April Fools' Misadventure

Harvey Smiley was the sort of practical joker people wanted to strangle. He aroused this propensity in his victims through his ill-considered acts of puerile foolery.

Among Smiley's circle of friends was a certain philatelist named Arthur Meacham. Meacham was a most serious sort of person; he pursued all his affairs with ferocious intensity and never in his life so much as cracked a joke. He also possessed considerable wealth and indulged himself in his favorite hobby of stamp collecting.

Among the valuable items in Meacham's collection was a 24-cent Inverted Jenny airmail stamp. This particular example was part of the U. S. Postal Service's initial airmail issue of 1918. Somehow, in the printing process, one sheet of 100 stamps ended up with the Curtiss JN-4H biplane image upside down. It's one of the rarest U. S. issues and Meacham shelled out $150,000 for his specimen. In commemoration of this famous error, the U. S. Postal Service has re-issued the Inverted Jenny in a two-dollar denomination.

Meacham boasted of his ownership of this stamp at every opportunity and never failed to show it off to visitors. So it was that Smiley learned of it and made it the target of his April Fools' joke.

Thus, it transpired on the evening of April 1st that Smiley appeared at Meacham's door. Concealed in his jacket pocket was a glassine envelope with one of the re-issued inverts. After drinking and chatting with Meacham for an hour in front of a fireplace in which blazed a cheery pyre, the latter excused himself to use the bathroom. It was the opportunity Smiley anticipated. He hurried to the bookcase, retrieved Meacham's stamp album, and with great dexterity switched Meacham's Inverted Jenny for his own. He then settled back into his seat to await Meacham's return.

“Oh, by the way, Meacham, I almost forgot. I brought you a little gift that I'm sure you'll appreciate.” And with a flourish worthy of a professional conjurer, Smiley produced the glassine envelope and handed it to Meacham.

Meacham's brow furrowed. “What's this, old boy? You're giving me a stamp?”

Smiley grinned. “Indeed, I am. And have a look at it, will you? It's the real thing, my friend.”

Meacham reached into his desk and picked up a pair of stamp tongs. Perhaps it was the bourbon they had been sipping or Smiley's history as a prankster which caused Meacham to see what he expected to see instead of what lay before his eyes, because when he extracted the Inverted Jenny from the envelope, he smirked. “Nice try, Smiley, but these are a dime a dozen. You didn't think you could fool an old hand like me, now did you?”

“You'd better look closer, Meacham. It's the real deal.”

“Rubbish! I don't have time for your fool pranks.” And with that, Meacham flicked the stamp onto the blazing embers in the fireplace.

Smiley gasped. “Look what you've done, you fool! I told you, it was REAL!”

Meacham scowled. “You're still trying to trick me. There's no way that stamp was genuine. See here.”

He fetched his album from the bookcase, opened it on the desk, and pointed to the stamp that Smiley had slipped into the mount moments earlier.

“You see, you can tell by the denomination. The genuine Inverted Jennys have a '24' in each bottom corner while the re-issues have a '2.' As you can see, this one has a...” His face turned as white as the pages of his album. “You filthy scoundrel!”

As Smiley bolted from the apartment, he heard Meacham slam open the doors to his gun cabinet.

Alas, poor Smiley; although he sprinted down the hallway at Olympic speed, Meacham's bullet proved faster than his fear-inspired legs could propel him.

Friday, March 25, 2016

No Matter

My third effort is from a writing blog contest.  The requirement, in this case, was the piece had to be no more than 300 words.  The irony was optional.

No Matter

Erich Pohl stared with revulsion at the scene before him. Scattered heaps of bodies torn and mangled in ways beyond imagination. A harvest of the Great War gathered by the enemy's machine guns during last night's battle.

A sergeant stood three meters behind him.

Sergeant Schmidt! Come at once, please!”

The Sergeant hastened to Erich's side. “Yes, Lieutenant?”

The British will attack again in the night, Sergeant, cowards that they are.”

Yes, Lieutenant.”

I cannot stand to see our comrades left like this. A burial detail, on the double, Sergeant.”

Yes, sir.” The Sergeant turned on his heel and hurried toward his unit's camp one hundred meters away.

Erich reached into the pocket of his greatcoat and retrieved a solid silver card case. His face relaxed into a contented smile as he opened it and beheld his fiancée's picture. Margarethe, who waited for him at home, was his love and joy. His spirits soared for tomorrow he would begin a week's leave. He sighed with delight.

Bobby McCullough was the best sniper in his regiment of Lovat Scouts. He kissed the photo of his fiancée, Fiona, and slipped it into his pocket. Then he returned to the task at hand. He rested his .303 Pattern 1914 Enfield rifle on the pack roll in front of him and steadied the crosshairs of his sniper scope on the head of the German officer 300 meters away. The German seemed preoccupied with something in his hand. No matter. Bobby applied pressure to the rifle's trigger...

photo credit: German soldiers in a trench with a machine gun via photopin (license)

Friday, March 18, 2016

I'm a Dragon!

This story was also for a writing group assignment I did a short while ago.  The requirements were no more than 200 words and the subject, "I'm a dragon..."  Enjoy.

I'm a Dragon!

I'm a Dragon. And let me tell you, it can be a real DRAG.

First thing every morning I DRAG myself out of bed, which is no easy chore considering how cold and drafty this cave is. Then I DRAG myself to the kitchenette and DRAG open the refrigerator door to see what's available for breakfast. Only this morning, when I opened the door, I sneezed. If you know anything about Dragons, you'll understand why the contents of my refrigerator are now crispy-charred versions of their former selves.

With breakfast now toast (literally), I give it up and head to work. What sort of work does a Dragon do, you ask? Why, welding, of course! With my built-in blowtorch, my boss pays me half of what he saves on welding gases as a bonus each month, so we both come out ahead.

After work, I DRAG myself back home by way of the supermarket as I need to restock my refrigerator. Taking care to not overcook dinner, I either watch TV (I'm careful to not laugh too hard) or read a book until bedtime.

Next time, I'll tell you what happened when I sneezed on my best friend's stamp collection...

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Dark and Stormy Night

I wrote the original version of this story for a writing group assignment a short while ago.  The criteria were that it contain no more than 150 words and start with the cliched phrase, "It was a dark and stormy night..."

A Dark and Stormy Night

It was a dark and stormy night when I heard someone pound on the front door. I put down my book and went to answer it.

It was my friend Ethan and he was a sodden mess.

"What the hell happened to you?"

Ethan tottered through the doorway like a ninety-year-old man with terminal arthritis, although he was only seventeen.

"I was on my way home from late basketball practice and as I walked by the Old North Cemetery this truck came out of nowhere with its headlights right in my eyes and I thought it was going to hit me so I jumped for the ditch and somehow got away. Whew! May I sit down?"

Just then I felt someone shake my shoulder and heard my mom's voice.

“Tom, Tom. Wake up! Terrible news. Your friend Ethan was hit and killed by a truck last night during the storm...”