This bridge is a balm for my soul. My quiet place, where I can come and watch the sunrise, where the spring breeze dances over the water and touches my hair and face with gentle fingertips just after dawn. This bridge is where I find sanctuary.
My morning jogs often bring me here—a tiny detour, just another five minutes of the day. The extra effort is worth it for the peace and solitude.
To the East is a different bridge, a darker shadow on the river. There’s evil lurking on that bridge which I avoid. My sister attempted flight.
Captivated by the glow in her palms, a soft gasp escaped her. “It’s amazing,” she breathed. The six-inch crystal orb emitted a dim, even light. Gazing into it, most viewers would recognize the familiar mares, oceans, and craters of Luna.
“Thousands of years ago, the Greek gods imbued crystal orbs with the tiniest portion of their power. The Eye of Mars is red, the Eye of Neptune glows blue, and so on. I’ve been trying to complete the collection, but each individual orb is an archaeological search of enormous proportion. They’ve been scattered all over the planet, some in museum collections, some captured by pirates, some lost to antiquity.”
Suspicion flared. She happened to know George had never been out of the state. But whatever, this globe-thing was pretty.
“Mercury is lost, Venus is bright yellow/white, Jupiter is greyish-blue with that big red spot, and Saturn is yellowish with cool rings. Pluto was recently lost. So there’s really only one Eye missing. It’s brown. Can you guess which god it is?”
She ticked off planets in her head.
“Only one missing is Ur…” She spied the reflection of his delighted grin in the Eye. “You bastard!”
When I rubbed it, the antique lantern produced volumes of smoke. The smoke had eventually coalesced into this gigantic barrel-chested individual in loose silks, brass wristbands, and large hoop earrings.
He spoke at length in a booming voice. My initial elation turned to ash when I realized he was speaking some language I did not understand. It sounded vaguely Middle Eastern.
“I didn’t understand a word of that, big guy. Do you speak any English?”
He peered at me quizzically, and touched fingers to his ears.
I’m floating on my back in a lake, there are storm clouds moving in, and I don’t have even the faintest idea how I got here. The last thing I remember is driving on I-80 just west of Rawlins. I was listening to the latest from Jason Aldean… The rest is just a blank.
Wading up to the closest shore, I see it’s a featureless expanse of mud without either tire tracks or footprints.
I didn’t notice the ambient sounds from the wildlife, not until they suddenly stopped.
A saucer shape is slowly rising over the treetops.
Pleated linen shirt with visible white buttons. Black shawl satin-collared tuxedo dinner jacket, slim pointed batswing bow tie. And of course, the required cigarette (which I kept unlit). Retro look, with pieces from my dad’s closet. They just don’t make tuxedos like this any more.
I looked good. But my date looked better.
White bikini, sixties cut. Pretty tame by modern standards (in terms of coverage, at least). The wide belt and sheathed combat knife was unusual and iconic.
“Ready, Miss Ryder?”
I offered an arm and we swept into the costume party.
Three days, two nights. Five hundred dollars per person, explore the wonders and beauty of Pine Creek!
I admit it, my business partner sold me on the idea. I was skeptical—this whole trip sounded much too “expert” for my minor river experience. I’d have plenty of time to learn as we traveled, he said. And the first two days went well, my confidence grew.
While stretching in preparation for the third day on the river, he warned that the extreme rapids were around the next bend.
Now I’m floating face down, and the rocks ahead seem like a problem.
Thanks to social media, the new store front was booming. Foodies drove from all over town to sample my product. I put the finishing touches on another box of chocolate-dipped fortune cookies, carefully adding the last of the sprinkles and boxing them up. A half-dozen tiny fates, perfect for the family of six.
“That’s me. Two, please.”
“Are you married?”
“No, just really hungry, thanks.”
I raised an eyebrow and pointed to the placard.
*** Fortune Cookies — ONE per customer ***
But he was insistent. They never learn.
He seemed pleased with the outcome of his first fortune, rudely munching his cookie while leaning on the counter.
“Says I’ll receive some happy news,” he nodded at me.
“I’m sure you will soon,” I smiled.
He didn’t seem to notice that the second cookie he cracked open (unlike all of the others) contained a black note.
Something is not right today.
Each day, I expect my life to resume its regular pattern.
I will go to work and do my job with smooth efficiency.
Then I will return home and I will do it again tomorrow.
As I always do. Accurate, reliable, dependable.
These principles define me.
But today I feel lethargic, weak. Drowsy. Run down.
I look out the window at the people running their routines.
Today, I just can’t seem to… Oh.
I climb back into bed. I close my eyes and the gears engage.
To add a few more windings on my mainspring.
The brown recluse is one of the most venomous spiders in North America. But she is shy and rarely bites humans.
I am also shy and selective. I only choose the bookish ones. Those fascinated by classic literature, candlelit evenings, a warm snuggle by the fire. And hot chocolate, always the nice warm mug of spiced cocoa.
You’ve most likely never heard of theobromine poisoning unless you breed dogs. Chocolate naturally contains theobromine, and dogs can easily acquire enough chocolate to achieve a toxic dosage. Human fatal dosage is much higher, and therefore exceedingly rare. But did you know theobromine is also available as a toxicant for coyote control?
Step into my beige parlor and join my sepia-toned life. Relax and enjoy a book by the fire.
The cocoa tastes a little bitter? Perhaps I’ve made it too strong, let me add some more sugar, dear.