Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Sober Irishman

The Sober Irishman
By Michael Cannata



           He walked past the pub where the match of the week was being played. He could hear his old mates screaming in both joy and agony as they urged their team onto victory.

            The urge to join them was almost magnetic. He could smell the bar from the other side of the street. The side he always took on his way home, keeping as much distance between him and the door.  He loved the place, but going there was dangerous. He always felt welcome but never felt safe there. And home was the safest place he knew at this point.

            The kids would still be up, fighting for every extra minute of time on the computer or watching the telly. It was a bedtime ritual that had contributed to the increase in his drinking in the early years of his marriage. He always headed to the pub while his wife bedded down the kids. He would drink until he had to go home or risk being tossed. But the last few years had been a lot better.

            He had started going to meetings… support groups to help him deal with the issues of drinking and domestic violence. The meetings helped him learn to control his anger… and control his drinking as well. He knew, now, that it was his friends, the pub, the game; it was all those things that ruined his family life. His life with his friends, the environment they created, was what gave birth to his troubles at home.

            In his drunken stupor he saw the end of the evening, the end of the game... as an unwelcome responsibility. It was the time to go home that served as the trigger. If only he didn't have to go home! He hated seeing the apprehension on his wife's face, the change in his children's demeanor. He could hear their happy voices from the street. Their laughter rang down the small alley where they lived; they lived in small flat that he hated with every fiber of his being. The laughter would stop as soon as he walked through the door.

            His wife would have his portion of supper still warm waiting for him. He always felt a pang of guilt every time he ate her meals, which usually meant a beating was in order. The way she looked when she cooked his meals before he started with the group, was one of fearful anticipation.  She knew when he came home drunk that, the better the meal, the safer she was.

            It was the domain of a failed man. He was just another tired, sorry face doing his best to stay afloat against a tidal wave of debt and depression. He’d considered suicide, but when a friend at the bar with a sympathetic ear invited him to a group session, everything changed. The group saved his life.

            Now, his wife always had a genuine smile waiting for him to go along with the evening meal. There were times she went a little overboard but he understood her need to please him. He hadn't hit her in years now, but, her fear, subtle, yet ever present, still motivated her to do her part. She had even started to welcome him into her bed again, where she would lay stiff and cautious while holding him tight waiting for him to finish. Every time he came home sober her enthusiasm always seemed to grow.

            The group had helped him focus on his troubles in way he had never done before. His friends, his games, his entire life was out of control.  He had to sacrifice them if he was ever going to live the sort of life that would bring him the happiness his family sought.

            He wasn't drunk now. He had spent the last five years passing by the pub and thinking about the life he had led there.  A life he had loved more than his own family. He had come to the point where he knew what was important for him and for his family. He knew what had to be done. There was one final change he needed to make before he could be happy too.  He had made his decision on the walk home.

            He knew his wife believed she could keep that “good part of him” away from the “bad part”, the part that belonged to his life in the pub. But she was wrong. It seemed the less he enjoyed his life, the better they seemed to think their lives were. He had spent five years sober, sacrificing his entire social network; the circle of friends that the pub and the camaraderie the games represented. He was home and he felt more alone every night. He had been doing it to save his family… but now it was clear that it was slowly killing him.

            He stood by the door and picked up the axe that leaned against the shack. They had all made mistakes. He was tired of playing the role of a sober Irishman. Tonight, the wife would be the first to see the error of her ways.  Then the kids would get the whipping of their life.

            Once the family was out of the way, he just might have time to make the second half of the match with his friends at the pub. He could almost taste the ale he had been craving for five years.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What Did He Say?

What Did He Say?
By Michael Cannata




"Everything is all arranged, Mr. O'Bryan, all you need to do is to enter the approval code and push that 'ENTER' key."

Brian Devlin could barely keep a straight face as he waited for his client to do as instructed.

            'Oh man… sometimes I even surprise myself. How do I lie this easily, with such a straight face? How do I mange to look like I'm swearing to God when I don't mean a damn thing I say?'

"You know everything there is to know Mr. O'Bryan. All you need to do now is make a decision.  Just do what we talked about, I'll be rich and you'll be a much richer and more powerful man.

            'Great! He's laughing. Keep smiling you idiot. I'll be the one laughing later… all the way to the bank.'

"We've spent almost a month going over all the details," Devlin explained, again.

 "This investment is going to be the smartest move you ever make. This software program is going to make us more money than a printer at the U.S. Mint! We're both going to be more than rich! I just wish I was going to make as much as you! Haha! But I'm a happy man. I was only hoping to sell the software to you. You're doing me a big favor letting me get in on it."

            'Just a little more bullshit and this guy is mine!' Devlin thought to himself. 'The chump is chomping at the proverbial bit to get this plan started. I'm going to take him for millions before he even gets home. Look at him, he's practically drooling! Guys like him have one thing in common, they never have enough.'

"It's a lot of money, Mr. Devlin." Mr. O'Bryan said cautiously. "Before I sign off, I need you to remind me once again how much return I can expect. And then you're going to sign this promise committing yourself to that return. It's a little more… ah, specific. Unfortunately, my lawyers insist you agree to it. I know it's a last minute wrinkle, but I'm sure you'll have no problem signing, assuming everything's on the up and up as you explained."

Devlin's face never flinched.

            'I can’t believe this guy is going to pull this amateur maneuver. What bullshit! I'll sign your ass with lipstick if it gets you to finish this up.'

"I have no problem signing anything that will make you feel more secure in this deal. I'm sure of my figures and I'm sure of our chances.

"But as you know, Mr. O'Bryan, timing is critical. It’s a 30 day cycle. We move the money around the way the program recommends and in a month we'll double our investment at the minimum. It's imperative that we start buying in 20 hours. You need to make the transfer today so everything can start as planned at midnight.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Ain't technology something? None of this was even possible 10 years ago."

Devlin watched as his client, actually pigeon was more like it, picked up the contract again.

            'If this clown doesn't sign this in the next hour I am screwed! Come on, you greedy, fucking pig. It's only 10 million, you've got billions. My flight is practically waiting. Once you approve the contract and push the "ENTER" button the ball starts rolling! Come on!'

"I'm gonna take a chance with your investment, Mr. Devlin. Just remember, I'm risking my money, but you're risking your life. You understand what I'm saying?" The threat in Mr. O'Bryan's voice was unmistakable.

"I'll have people tracking you 24/7. If this deal starts going bad, it will be very bad for you and that lovely family of yours."

            'You stupid, arrogant asshole!' Devlin screamed to himself.

            "You think you're so fucking smart… so savvy. I fucked your wife you sap! She's meeting me on the island. Once I leave this building, the guy you know ceases to exist. I'll disappear from the face of the digital earth. Plastic surgery will change my real face.'

"They can ride in my car for the next month, Mr. O'Bryan," Devlin promised.  "I'm not going anywhere and neither is my family. I know the price I might pay, but I know how much we can make too. It's not going to cost us anything. And it's sure not going to cost me my life."

            'Well, that's not entirely true. It's not going to cost ME anything. YOU on the other hand, are about to lose 100 million dollars. You might think you're only investing ten. Technology is so damned powerful.'

            Devlin was tired of listening to this guy. But suddenly O'Bryan's tone changed.

'What?  What is he prattling about now?' Devlin's thoughts became confused. 'Just hit the enter button you asshole!'

"By the way, Mr. Devlin, my wife asked me to say hello and extend her regrets," Mr. O'Bryan said coolly as he put the contract back on the desk. "She's sorry to have me tell you that she won't be meeting you tomorrow.  She knew you'd be worried if you weren't told, you being an extra close friend and all."

'Wha… what did he say?' Devlin's mind was racing now.

'What did he say? How could…? Guns? Holy shit!'

"Wait a minute, Mr. O'Bryan," Devlin pleaded. "Please… I can explain."

            "Wait… WAIT!"

            Before he knew what to think, Mr. O'Bryan's driver fired two bullets into the thoughts of the former Mr. Devlin.

"OK, Ricky. Let's get this mess cleaned up. The wife should be awake by the time I get home. I think I'm gonna get very, very lucky tonight. Ha! Haaaah hahahaha!"

"Right away, Mr. O'Bryan, I'll take it from here"

Why Can't I Die?


Why Can't I Die?
By Michael Cannata



Joseph was born to a race of immortals most humans never knew existed. His parents were normal and never lived long enough to discover the secret that their genes had passed on to him. After he had buried them, before he knew that he was blessed with a curse, a stranger approached him in the small village he had once called home. The stranger was also immortal. He told Joseph about his heritage and what to expect as the endless years unfolded ahead of him.

The one thing the stranger wasn't able to tell him was how or why he had been created. The immortals had existed from the time before man had discovered fire; before they wore the first clothes. They were like humans in every way but two. They never died and they never had children. The gene that made a child immortal wasn't carried by every human. The special union between human couples that resulted in a child being born immortal only happened every 100 years. All immortals were males and they were all born unable to procreate.

He'd walked the Earth for over 2,000 years, rarely settling in any one place for too long. Secrecy was essential for people of his ilk. On the few occasions his immortality was discovered, any semblance of a life he had shared with those around him was quickly destroyed. He learned the value of secrecy through painful experience.

In the beginning, when he remained young while those he lived among grew old, he would be considered a god. Slowly, their reverence would turn to fear, he would become a demon in the eyes of the people. In the end, he would be vilified and persecuted.

Over the centuries, he'd been tried and convicted of heresy and witchcraft among other crimes against God or man. He had suffered decades of imprisonment before escaping from the prison or dungeon that held him. When he'd been burned at the stake, the villagers ran in terror as he sat in the flames and laughed at them while the pyre burned down to ashes around him. The executioners ax broke into pieces when they tried to behead him.

Arrows and spears could not pierce his flesh when he fought in battle. Poisons had no effect on him. He ate food only for the pleasure of its taste, not for any need to live. He had any woman that offered herself to him, never fearing an unwanted pregnancy. He even fell in love on occasion, but it was never something he could enjoy. He knew he would always outlive any woman that loved him. Losing someone that loved him was one of the greatest pains he could endure.

He was immortal, and, despite having roamed to the edges of the earth, he was homeless. He never experienced the love of a family or a son. He was cursed to wander, never able to settle anywhere for any length of time lest his secret be revealed. He'd never experienced true love… until he found, Jason, his only "son."

He found, Jason, abandoned in an alley over 80 years ago when he was just a baby. He knew he should have brought him to an orphanage or a church… somewhere where he could be loved and cared for. But as he looked into the child's face, the smile that he was rewarded with made his heart ache. In a moment of weakness, loneliness actually, unable to have children of his own, he decided to raise him up as his own son. Of all the centuries he had lived, none had ever been as glorious as the years they had lived together.

He loved Jason as much as any father had ever loved a son. He taught him all the secrets about how to be the best man possible that he had learned over the centuries. He taught him his skills as a warrior; the trades that would help him build and farm; the way to conduct business so he could become wealthy. He did everything with his son but the one thing he wished for more than anything else. He couldn't grow old with him.

As Jason aged he began to realize that his father never changed. His quiet wondering soon became open questions. Eventually, Joseph had no choice. He either had to leave Jason behind or tell him the horrible truth and risk losing him by exposing his secret. His greatest fear was losing the only person he loved.

When he finally revealed his secret, rather than react with disbelief or fear, Jason embraced him and swore that regardless, even though he wouldn't live forever with him, he would be a both his son, his friend and companion for all the time he had in life. They never spent a day apart from each other.

Now, Jason lay dying of a blessing that his father would never know… old age.

He watched as his son's eyes closed for the last time, clutching his cold hand tightly. He did the one thing he had learned how to do so well in all the centuries he had lived. He cried until he had no more tears.

He'd been left behind, alone again. He had no destiny to meet, just a fate to suffer... and an unanswered question. A question he had asked himself too many times.

"Why can't I die like you?

The Harvest

The Harvest
By Michael Cannata




He stared with pride at the bounty he'd reaped. This was the best harvest he could have hoped for. The money he'd earn selling it would get him through the winter and then some. His latest shipment was fresh and ready to go to market. This load would make the new buyer happy.

"Franklin and Sons," had been a well respected family business for generations and had a long history in the small farming town where he had grown up. His father, Joe Franklin Jr, had inherited the business from his father. When he passed away it went to him, Joe Franklin III. It was soon clear he wasn't the businessman his father was.  At this point the land was worth more than the meager living he made from the business.

Unfortunately, selling the land was out of the question. His father's will had been specific. His father was a big part of the community and so was the land. He could only keep it as long as he kept the business. If he sold the land or the business, he would forfeit any profit he made to the town.

Like most of the businesses in the small farming community, life slowed during the long winter months. He counted on the influx of summer tourists that vacationed at the lakes and rivers surrounding the countryside to keep him afloat. Over the last few years, new regulations and safety rules had slowed his business and hurt his income. Despite his best efforts, his business was on the brink of failure.

Suddenly, last spring, a buyer had approached him with a proposition that would solve his problems forever. All he had to do was add a new product. Nothing in his father's Will would prohibit him from doing that.

The first harvest paid him better than all the money he'd made in the last year. The second cutting added even more money to his income.  In a stroke of bad luck due to equipment failure he hadn't been able to get his last harvest to the market before the goods perished. The buyer had given him a stern warning. If it happened again their deal was finished.

As he worked feverishly through the night, he thanked his luck that he was home when the call came. Three people had died tragically in the car crash. Fortunately, thanks to his quick work, even more people would live. He took some comfort from that.

He carefully packed the freshly harvested organs into the chest filled with ice. As he waited for the courier to arrive with the money and pick up the shipment, he started to repair the bodies, confident that no one attending the wake at his funeral home would ever notice.

. It was a scenic farming community that thrived on transient visitors. Fortunately, his was the only funeral home in the area. If things went well and the usual number of tourists and migrant farm workers perished over the summer season, life would be good. For now he was content to enjoy the fruits of his harvest.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Delivery Guy

The Delivery Guy
By Michael Cannata



The truck driver rubbed his tired eyes trying to keep them open for just a little while longer. His last delivery was also the last stop on his two week run. It was also his most important customer; the best paying one as well. The customer needed the various cuts of meat by early Sunday morning in order to prepare them for his restaurant’s “Famous” weekly lunch and dinner specials.

Last but not least, the customer was the closest thing to a father he’d ever known. Arnie took him in when he was just seven years old and headed for hell in a hurry. He gave him a job doing odd jobs at first. As he got older he learned everything there was to know about Arnie’s business. Arnie was a very rich guy. Arnie always told him, “You do as I teach you, and you’ll be rich someday too!”

When Arnie came to him and offered him a chance to become partners, he jumped at the chance. He listened intently as Arnie explained his plans to make a lot more money by importing meat from different locations, wherever they could get the lowest cost. The best thing was that Arnie wouldn’t have to pay to have his merchandise delivered as long as they had their own truck; Arnie lent him the money to get a truck.

He soon found a job working for a long haul contracting service that took him to most of the major distribution centers around the country. He delivered to manufacturers and merchants carrying trailers loaded with anything that his truck would carry. He specialized in transporting meats and frozen foods.

He built a separate container to hide Arnie’s supplies for a cut-rate price that was almost criminal. He made a lot of money and Arnie saved plenty.

He usually arrived between 3:00 and 4:00 AM, every other Sunday morning. This was home as far as the driver was concerned. He drove a route that took him two weeks to complete from start to finish. A long circuitous route, through a dozen states across the nation. Every job he took started and ended at Arnie’s.

He lived in his custom truck with enough space, comfort and technology to rival a studio apartment. He never slept in any hotel or motel. His cab was his domain bubble. Arnie’s was the closest thing to home to him. He slept in a room whenever he was there, usually with one of Arnie’s girls. The girls at Arnie’s didn’t work in truckers front seats. Truckers had to rent a room to play with any girl at Arnie's

“Arnie’s Interstate Eats,” was the most popular truck stop between Texas and the Canadian border. Any driver that had been on the job for more than a month knew about it. It was a legend in the business. Cheap rooms with clean beds, free showers and phone calls for any trucker with a need and a Big Rig.

From 4:00 AM until midnight, the place was always crowded; Truckers going and coming in every direction. Whatever a trucker needed, he could find it there. No trucker worth his miles ever passed up a chance to stop in. They could have a great meal and enjoy some live company before heading out on their long solo hauls. Arnie’s had one of the biggest menu selections to be found anywhere. Arnie’s greatest pride was his daily breakfast and luncheon specials. His famous, “Traveler’s Specials,” menu items at his, “Roadway Oasis Restaurant,” made the industry magazines. Pasta to pizza; hotdogs, hamburgers and more; Arnie’s had it all.

 Like every truck stop, Arnie’s had its share of hookers working the lot. Arnie took as much pride as he did profit from them, too. None of the girls at Arnie’s stop were the usual desperate, substance abuser; health risk type. The girls were clean, healthy, horny and expensive. Worth every penny, He’d spend a pretty penny in the next 48 hrs helping them earn a paycheck.

He sat at his favorite booth and smiled as, Julie, the best looking and hardest working waitress in any truck stop he visited, sauntered over with that flirtatious look that made her so popular. She called him “The Delivery Guy.” She never asked him his name even after knowing him for over a year.

            “Don’t you ever get tired of coming here, Delivery Guy?” She joked in her tired voice.

            “As long as it means I get to see your pretty face when I get here, I’m a happy man.” He winked.

Arnie came across the diner and called out to the driver. “Hey, Delivery Guy!” Julie’s pet name was catching on. “Let’s get this shipment unloaded before you eat for free. Whaddya say?”  His tough demeanor was just one of the many personas of Arnie… everyone loved him.

The pair walked between the crowed tables, through the kitchen and to the rear entrance to the loading dock.

“I got you a great deal this trip, Arnie. I picked up the first load from the supplier in Oregon and the second in Denver. The supplier in San Francisco was on a vacation. They were the usual size. I wasn’t expecting to get a third load but I got lucky. The new supplier in Nevada called. The price was right, so I couldn’t pass it up.”

Arnie admired the carcasses hanging in the freezer. “Well let’s get them unloaded, thawed and sectioned. I need them ready by tomorrow. I got a big catering event on Tuesday; the biggest convention in town. We get this convention covered and you're looking at a big raise, son."

Two hours later, his part of the Arnie’s Special Menu work was done. The driver sat in his booth thinking of the next trip. He was making more as he got better. The secret was finding the best quality merchandise at the lowest cost.  He finally had an exclusive, paying client and guaranteed income.

He smiled thinking about how impressed Arnie was with this load. He had the biggest smile on his face as they looked at the six dead women, naked, wrapped in plastic; frozen solid and hanging on hooks at the back of the refrigerated trailer.

 “Not one of ‘em is over 19! Fresh as they come!” The Delivery Guy proudly explained. Due to an increase in the suppliers production, Arnie was getting over 600 pounds for the price of 400. Arnie tried not to look impressed but, he knew a good deal when he saw one, He spoke in a gravelly voice as he smoked his cigar.

"They look delicious," Arnie said breathlessly.

The next two days marked his “Weekend,” He thought about taking a shot and trying to persuade Julie to service him in a more personal way. He’d tried asking a couple of times but was rebuffed in an encouraging way. She was playing the hard to get type. No hurry. If she said no, he could always try again. He’d be back as usual in two weeks with his new load. And with all the extra money he had to spend he might even start to look better to her.

The other delivery guy would deliver the next load after his two week run next weekend, just like him. He had never met him and Arnie preferred it that way. He wondered if they called him “Delivery Guy” too.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Bear Hunting

Bear Hunting
By Michael Cannata




He shifted the weight of the pack on his back, resting for a minute as he gazed out over the valley to the western slope and the high ridges beyond. Another half mile and he'd be back at camp ready for a fire and a hot meal. He would start his annual hunt just before daybreak.

He felt the familiar rush of freedom and exhilaration that always came over him when he was deep in the wilderness breathing the fresh air. Out here it was all about survival, real survival. Not the kind he faced everyday back in the city; where survival meant getting to work on time, paying the bills and staying one step away from bankruptcy.

Out here, deep in the mountains, one mistake, one wrong step, meant the difference between living and dying. But this was where he felt most at home. He loved being as far away from the loading dock as he could get. Once a year he took his vacation and went hunting alone.

On the docks his co-workers called him, "Bear." He was 6'7" and weighed just over 300lbs. His impressive size made him stand out in a way he never enjoyed. All his life he felt awkward and clumsy. He wasn't aggressive but he was unattractive, he knew it in his heart. Men feared him and women shunned him. Out here in the woods standing under ancient trees that soared to the sky he felt just the right size. It was where a bear of a man should live.

He was strong and resourceful; he knew these woods like most people knew their backyards. He could carry a 300 pound buck a mile on his shoulders.  He could easily live without the need for the company or creature comforts that the city offered.

He took the large duffel bag off his back and dropped it to the ground. It hit with a thud and a small groan escaped it. 'Good,' he thought. She was waking up.

She was a strong one; he had stalked her for weeks, watching her as she worked out at the fitness center. It was where he found the best victims. He hoped she would be a formidable foe. It had been a year since he'd known a woman. She would fight him tonight beside the fire, but he would have his way, alive or dead. Hopefully, if she was smart too… If she survived the night, she would get her first chance to live tomorrow.

She was the prey for this year's hunt. With an hour's head start she had a good chance at getting away. His goal would be to capture her alive and bring her back to camp for another night. He would release her again the next morning.The game would continue until she got away or his hunt would have to end and he killed her. No one had ever made it out of the woods, so far.

He opened the bag, watching lustfully as she crawled out with her hands and feet bound. She lay naked on the ground staring up at him with terror in her eyes. Along with the terror he saw something else in her expression, the thing that would make her strong. She looked at him with unbridled hate as well. She had a lot of fight in her. This promised to be a great hunt.

He settled in and started the first night's fire.

Dirty Penny

Dirty Penny
By Michael Cannata




            All she knew for sure about herself was her first name. It was "Penny." The few kids she knew called her, "Dirty Penny," because her clothes were old and ragged. Eventually, that's what everyone called her when she was growing up a ward of the state. For her first 9 years all she knew was rejection. She lived in too many foster homes to count. If she had a last name, she never knew what it was. She had no idea who her parents were or if she had any family.

            More desperate than any 9 year old child should ever be, she recalled the day everything changed for her. To the people passing by on the bridge she looked like any ordinary child gazing into the rushing waters below. Her placid face never showed her real intent. Tired of life far too early, she was going to jump and drown herself.

            Out of the corner of her eye, as she hung over the railing, she caught a glimpse of light that reflected off the dark surface of what appeared to be an ancient coin. She stretched her hand out as far as possible and, just as she got hold of it, the railing cracked and she plunged into the water.

            Unable to swim she struggled to stay afloat as the waters pulled her under. It was then that she heard the voice of an angel whispering to her. "Don't let go! Don't ever let me go."

            The next thing she knew she was waking up in a hospital room and staring into the kindest face she had ever seen. It belonged to the only man she would ever come to call, "Dad."

            Once she realized where she was the first thing she said was "Where is it?" When the nurse looked at her with a puzzled look she asked again more urgently "Where is it!? I need to find it!"

            The doctor approached her and told her to relax. He had saved it for her.

            "We couldn't pry it out of your hand until we had you sedated." He explained gently. "I knew it must be something super special." Her took her tiny hand and placed the dirtiest penny she had ever seen into it.

            "Do you know what it is?" he asked.

            "Yeah," she answered." It's me."

            A year later the doctor that had helped keep her alive saved her life again. He and his wife took her into their home, cared for her and finally adopted her. From the day she found it she never left her house without her dirty penny. She wore it on a chain all through high school and during her college years. Her attachment to it became legendary. It was while studying to be a law and business major that she reclaimed the nickname "Dirty Penny." But this time she took it as a mark of pride. She felt unbeatable as long as she had it with her. The penny would usually lay warm against her skin, even on the coldest days. But just as often it would suddenly grow cold and irritate her skin as if trying to warn her of some impending danger.

            Like the time her friends all decided to go for a drive with a guy they had just met. They had all been drinking and decided to go to a party. As she clutched her dirty penny it seemed to grow as cold as ice. She refused to get in the car. Only two of the five people in the car survived the crash.

            It was when she met her first and only husband that she ignored the warning. Her fiancĂ© thought it looked childish and downright ugly. He gave her a beautiful diamond pendant. His objections to the penny grew so strong that she decided to take it off.  She placed it carefully into a hidden compartment in her jewelry box.

            And for the next five years, through all the beatings and lying and infidelity she endured, the penny remained hidden away. Finally she decided to seek out the magic that her penny had always provided. She needed to make a decision and she knew the penny would help. When she went to look for it, it was nowhere to be found. In a panic, she turned her house upside down but to no avail. It was gone. She never told her husband where she had put it… but still she became convinced that he had something to do with it going missing.

            She knew then that some decisions were hers alone to make. She filed for divorce that same day. After two months of legal wrangling the divorce became final. She still has no explanation how it happened but  the next morning, as she lay on her bed trying to plan what her future would be like, a glint of light caught her eye. On the dresser in plain sight was her dirty penny. She picked it up and cried as she clutched it close to her heart.She swore again, this time, she truly would never let it go.

            "Wait! Oh shit." She muttered to herself as she rummaged through her purse. Then she remembered. She had taken it off in her office while she freshened up before the meeting.

             "Driver!" she shouted. "We need to go back to my office. I've forgotten something very important."

            Her already frazzled personal assistant got even more frazzled. "Ms. Carver, we're already running late. We can't keep these clients waiting. Everything we've all worked on for the last ten years is riding on this meeting. Coming in late puts all that work at risk."

            Her assistant's words hit home and brought back memories of other risks. She knew what her assistant said was right. But in her heart, she knew it was a risk she had to take. Things could go wrong, that was true. What was just as true was, as long as she had her dirty penny, everything would work out.

The Time Traveler

The Time Traveler
By Michael Cannata



He sat waiting anxiously. For twenty-four years he'd been trapped in a time that had ended centuries ago. Today, he was finally going home. The portal should open in just a few minutes. He prayed his wife wasn’t home when he got there!

She never believed him when he told her he was building a time machine down in the basement workshop.  For over 8 years he had used all his free time and more money than he saved to complete his project. He had to dip into his retirement money too. If his wife found out he wouldn't have to worry about retiring, she would kill him for sure.

Now, after years of work, it was finally ready to test! His wife wouldn't be home until tomorrow. If every went according to plan he would be back in his lab before she ever knew he was gone. He was beyond excited; he was thrilled to the point of trembling when he stepped into the chamber and pushed the button. He felt a strange tingling, then numbness and suddenly a great surge of dizziness. He blacked out for a few moments, maybe minutes and when he came to he suddenly found himself sitting outside a colonial village 300 years in the past.

He had twenty-four hours to explore before the pre-set return portal opened to transport him back to the future again. He would return exactly one minute after he left.

There was just one little glitch he hadn’t counted on. Actually it was a typo. Back in his time, what was now the future,he had set the time for the portal to open in 24 hours. In his eagerness, he'd accidentally set the date to be returned for twenty-four years after the date he arrived. He had arrived in the year 1712.  But the portal wouldn't open until 1736! He realized the error when he checked his remote panel. He was, thirty-six, now. When he returned he would be, sixty! How would he ever explain that to his wife?

A solution came to him. But for it to work he would have to survive the twenty-four years. When the portal opened, he would return home, 24 years older than when he left, even though only one minute would have passed in his basement laboratory. Once home, he would reset the portal to open in the past an hour from the time he first arrived.

He waited by the tree. If his plane was successful a portal should open in an hour. But after several hours he knew that, for some reason the portal didn't open. It was then that he remembered that he needed to be there in person to reset the time machine itself before a new portal could be generated. He waited for weeks before he knew that his plan hadn't worked. His only hope now was waiting for the portal to open again twenty-four years from now.

He managed to survive the twenty-four years despite knowing nothing about the ancient era he had become an unwitting citizen of. His knowledge allowed him to become a successful businessman and very rich. He had arranged to invest his money is such a way that, should he make it back, he would be a rich man then too.

 He had made a life for himself during the years he was in the past but none of that prevented him from getting back to the tree where he had arrived. He waited with both fear and anxiety and fell to his knees with joy when the portal opened. He had no idea why his first plan didn't work. Hopefully when he returned to 2012 he could correct the problem and try again.

If his calculations were right, and he set the time machine correctly this time, he would go back to the day in the past he arrived and find his younger self standing by the tree. He would explain what happened to the 36 year old him and send him back in his stead.

When his younger self stepped into the portal and returned to the future he would arrive 10 minutes after he left. Once he shut down the time machine the 60 year old version of him that was still in 1712 would cease to exist.

When he arrived back in his basement he felt weaker than ever. Despite the fatigue, he set about resetting the time machine. He worked as quickly as he could. But he moved as slowly as the old man he had become could. And then he heard the sound he dreaded the most.

In, 2012, his wife screamed when she saw the old man in colonial garb in the basement. She ran from the house before he could explain.  He almost finished resetting the time machine when the police stormed his basement. They opened fire on the crazy old guy holding the loaded musket when he turned to face them.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Dinner with Harry

    Dinner with Harry
By Michael Cannata



                        "Is Harry here yet?"

                Sheila tried to sound as casual as possible when she asked. "Is Harry still coming to dinner tonight?" It was the second time in the last hour she asked. She knew it would irritate her husband if she seemed excited.

                Jack, her husband, smiled that strange smile he'd been wearing since Harry had called two days ago to tell him he was in town. When Harry asked if he could stop by, Jack got the usual pang of regret that always hit him when his brother called. He wanted desperately to say no, but saying no was something no one in the family ever said to Harry. He had no way out. He told his wife, who immediately got on the internet and excitedly spread the word. Just as he feared, things quickly got out of control.

                As always, what should have been a nice couple of hours having a beer with his brother, quickly turned into a major family social event. His parents and his sister invited themselves and started making dinner plans. A dinner he would be expected to prepare.

                "He called earlier." Jack told her. "I told him dinner would be ready by seven. He said he might be just a bit late, but to start on time. He isn't much for salad anyway."

                Harry was Jack's older brother and by far the family favorite. Harry was everything that Jack wasn't. Jack had lived in his shadow since he was born. When Jack's parents insisted on joining them, he knew it was finally time for a very special family get together.

                The fact that his parents were coming to dinner irked him. He could never recall them asking to have dinner with them, just he and his wife, at his home. In 10 years this would only be their second time in his home.

                Sheila excused herself and went to freshen up again. She preened herself while admiring the way her dress showed just enough cleavage that Jack would have to notice. She wanted to look her very best when Harry arrived. He always gave her the biggest hug and kiss. She felt silly, but still blushed at the thought.

                She met and married Jack while in college. It wasn't until the week before her wedding that she finally met Harry. From that day on Harry was her favorite fantasy lover. She virtually threw herself at Harry from the start. But he brushed off every attempt she made with such kindness it made her want him even more.

                Jack watched Sheila hurry off like a girl waiting for her prom date. Jack was amused at her feeble attempts to contain herself as the time crawled by until Harry arrived. "She may as well break out in song," he thought.

                When Jack met his wife he was thrilled by her devoted attention. For the first time in his life he was number one in someone's heart. He thought he had found the girl of his dreams. A beauty that only had eyes for him, and it was true, until the day he introduced her to Harry. From the moment she met Harry, Jack was again relegated to second place.

                Almost immediately she started comparing him with Harry. The light in her eyes that she had when she looked at him died. He never saw it again, except on the days Harry visited. Regretfully he began a marriage with a wife who would always secretly wish he was his brother.

                It's not like Jack was a failure. He graduated in the top 10 in his class. He had just been made head of his department at a major corporation. He made damn good money. But nothing he did was as exciting or dramatic as Harry. Nobody knew quite what it was Harry did. All they knew he was in sales, traveled extensively and had the kind of adventures they all wished they could experience. It was why his coming to town was such big news. He was coming home after an extended stay away. Nobody ever knew if they'd see him again so seeing him now was the highlight of their year.

                Everyone had arrived early, not wanting to miss the chance to spend every minute with Harry. The first question each of them asked as they arrived at the dinner was the same, "Is Harry here?" Not even saying hello to Jack as he took their coats.

                Between eating their salad and looking out the windows for Harry's car, all everyone could talk about was what sort of stories he would be telling. It was like listening to a bunch of star struck admirers gushing over their favorite celebrity.

                As they finished the salad their concern about Harry's late arrival grew. Maybe he was in an accident or his car broke down? It would be terrible if he didn't make it to dinner. Their worry became positively annoying to Jack.

                "Relax everyone!" Jack shouted at his startled guests. "If Harry promised to be here for dinner he'll be here! Has he ever missed a free meal with us before? Has he ever failed to completely ruin every minute of my life? He should be ready by now, let me check!"

                A look of confusion crossed everyone's face as Jack headed back into the kitchen. Although surprised by Jack's outburst, none of them offered to go into the kitchen. Jack had made it clear that he was making a meal that they would all love and never forget. The kitchen was off limits for everyone else.

                When he returned, the smile on his face changed into a mad leer. He set the large covered, silver platter onto the table with enough force to splash the juice over his guests. When he removed the cover to reveal an oddly shaped roast, only his wife screamed. The rest of those at the table simply stared in terror. Jack looked proudly at the perfectly roasted head of his brother. 

                  "Harry's here!!" He snarled, before starting a crazy, hysterical laugh; A laugh that would continue for the rest of his life at the asylum.