- Blossom on the Water
- “Bud Blossom” is how the man who owned the best restaurant in town translated his Chinese name. Kenny took him at face value until he started working at the restaurant and got a few glimpses of Bud as he really was. “Blossom on the Water” originally appeared in DRAGON: OUR TALES, published in 1997 by the Southern Indiana Writers and was reprinted online in 1999 at Peridot Books, now Allegory.
We both went back to work; me sweeping and him drinking.
After a while, he said, “In China, this river would have a god.”
“Yes, the Ohio, but I mean this…this…this creek. Cherokee Creek would have a god, a king, a lord. Not a man, you understand? A king under the water.”
“A Kingfish?” I started laughing. Kingfish is a restaurant in Louisville, and I thought he was joking.
“A dragon,” he said, his voice so calm he had to be trying hard to make it that way. I looked at him, then: His eyes were narrow slits, his nostrils were flared, and the corners of his mouth were drawn down tight. I could see his teeth glinting from between his lips and I’ll tell you I was a little bit scared.
~ ~ * ~ ~
- Terra Incognita
- Tara Mitchell’s son Cosmo and her demanding and territorial boss–Bud Blossom–don’t make things easy for her when she tries to follow her counselor’s advice and ask five strangers five questions about themselves. The plan is working until it backfires, Tara ditches her waitress shift to attempt suicide, and Bud shows up in her kitchen, uninvited.
Bud sat in her chair, sipping from a second glass of bourbon, reading her assignment. His flat black hair gleamed like metal under the kitchen light.
She tried to blink him away, but he was no hallucination. She stood and stared at him until he turned a page, found it blank, and tossed the notebook onto the table.
“If they gave an Olympic medal for marathon barfing, you’d take the gold.”
“What are you doing here?” Her voice came out in a croak. Her throat felt lacerated and she forced back tears.
“People don’t bug out on me.”
“It’s not about–” She swallowed. “It’s not about you.”
Bud grinned. “It’s all about me.”
~ ~ * ~ ~
- After the storm, after the argument, TJ Goodnight agrees it’s time she left home. She has a car, a job at a local restaurant and this one last morning helping her parents clear up a tree that broke during the night. “Spring” originally appeared online at Espresso Mocha in 2006.
Neither one looked in her direction, now, though the sudden tension in their movements told her they knew she was there. She left the porch, picked up a section, and clanged it into the wheelbarrow. Picked up another. Another. They worked together, almost as if we were a family. TJ tossed another piece–
–It exploded with birds. Chickadees–black and white fireworks–in the air and over the grass–
TJ cried out–they all did–and she dropped the empty wood.
“Where did they come from?” Her father’s face and voice were full of anguish as the adults circled and called orders to their young. One, two, three fledglings joined the whirlwind above. Still the grown birds spun and called–there must be more chicks, unaccounted for. TJ’s father looked at his saw in horror.
~ ~ * ~ ~
- Consider the Artichoke
- TJ would rather sleep in her car than use the restaurant phone to canvass her friends for a place to sleep. Bud didn’t encourage personal calls….
“Some kid named Julie just called for you. Said she’s sorry, but her grandparents dropped in from some damn state or other. Said you’ll have to stay someplace else. Work it out on break or after your shift. No personal calls.” He stalked off.
Now what do I do?
Tara joined her at the station a few minutes later, looking back over her shoulder every couple of steps.
“That man gets weirder every day.”
No need to ask who she meant.
“He said I should ask you if they put mints on your pillow at the Honda Hilton.”
~ ~ * ~ ~
- Sunlight Like Honey
- Her grandfather left her the cabin in the woods, but Bethany couldn’t bear to claim it; claiming it would mean letting him go. She buys some gear and camps out across the clearing from the site of her happiest memories. Nobody could understand the memento she carries in her backpack–nobody except Cosmo Mitchell, who shows up to make sure she’s okay.
Cosmo cleared his throat and stared over her head. “It was rough when my dad had that wreck. He had left us years and years before that, and I never did like him all that much to begin with. But it was still rough. So…. You know.”
Grownups say “Will of God” or “Good long life” or “Gone to a better place”, and it makes you sick. We say “You know” and “Um” and “Hey”, and it helps. It sort of helps. Because you can’t say things that cut too deep for words. Not having any words to say honors the feeling.
“Yeah,” she said.
“What you camping out for? Lose the key? ‘Cause I got my lock picks right here.” He patted one of the deep pockets of his coat.
~ ~ * ~ ~
- The Dragon of North 24th Street
- The wickedest dragon in the world wakes in 1933 in a poor Irish neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. He has a mighty hunger and the power to subdue armies. He hasn’t met the Sullivans. “The Dragon of North 24th Street” originally appeared in the final (December 2000, Issue 50) Marion Zimmer Bradley’s FANTASY Magazine.
Pearl didn’t believe in dragons, but she did believe in her oldest girl. She put down her scrub-brush, dried her hands on her apron, picked up the hatchet she used for splitting kindling, and went to see what was what.
And there he lay, with the head of him as big as a toothache. When he saw Pearl approaching with her hatchet, he puffed out a fireball, as a kind of warning.
Pearl stopped and let out a kind of warning of her own. “Dry that wash with your flame, and I’ll thank you. Singe it, and may God have mercy on your soul.”
The dragon lifted his head and spoke, which took Pearl a little by surprise, for she hadn’t expected the creature to have human speech, only to understand it. “I am Beltran,” he said. “I am Lord of this town, and all the populace belongs to me.”
Pearl crossed her arms, the flat of her hatchet resting on her shoulder, and said, “I am a free citizen of the United States of America, and so are the rest of us. If you want to be a Lord, you’ve chosen a poor place to do it in.”
With a moderate huff, Beltran engulfed Pearl’s wash-rack in so hot a flame it left behind it nothing but a bit of smoldering stump.
Pearl narrowed her eyes, squared her jaw, and held her tongue. Her father raised no cowards, but her mother raised no fools.