Sunday, February 15, 2009

Great Hites # 40

This week we have stories By Justin Lowmaster, Lawrence Simon and Norval Joe

This week ended in a three Way tie. Congratulations Everyone!

Last week Norval Joe won the voting. Congratulations!


Inside Joke
By Norval Joe

The death row prisoner, Harvey Banks, sat inside his cell and smiled. He had an inside joke. His execution was scheduled for December of this year, 2012, but he wasn't worried. He had been counting down the days for years, now, and the big day, the day of the big joke, was only three days away.
The elements of his plan were coming together this Friday, everything was set.
He had been working on this plan since 2004. To make it all happen, he knew it, even back then, he would need a big bank roll, and nothing traded in this prison like cigarettes. Cancer stick currency, the insiders called it. He quit smoking and started saving. It took him a whole year to actually quit. It's hard to not smoke in prison, where everyone does, the smoke is always around you, inviting you back into the habit. He couldn't let anyone know that he had stopped smoking, so that he could get even more 'cash'. "Hey buddy, can I bum a cig from you?" He would ask around after every meal, and stash away a few extra each day. "Got a light?" he would ask, but then not light it, just let it hang in his mouth. Occasionally, someone would catch him at it, "You gonna smoke that thing?" They would ask, and he would reply with, "I'm trying to quit, I wanna be healthy when I go to the chair," and they would laugh together, but he would laugh all the better at his inside joke.
Eight years earlier, almost to the day, he had received the first message. He hadn't believed it at first; thought it was his imagination. He heard it in the static from his fm radio. He knew about static. You get plenty of free time in prison, if you call sitting in your cell free. It gives you a chance to catch up on all the reading you didn't get to do, as busy as you were, on the outside.
Banks had always been fascinated by the stars that you couldn't see really well in the city where he lived. But in the prison library, they had a whole shelf of astronomy books, with pictures of the stars that he never gotten to see. He took the books back to his cell and started to read about the universe, and was fascinated. He talked so much about the things that he read that the inmates gave him a nickname, which doesn't bear repeating in polite company, but alluded to his astronomical interests.
Messages were encoded in the static caused by the cosmic microwave background radiation. He listened to the static each night, at the same time, for a week. He wasn't crazy, or imagining this, he was receiving instructions from extraterrestrial life. Their message was this; They were coming back on the winter solstice of 2012, when the Mayan calendar comes to its end, and they are going to vaporize the earth. They would do it, too, because they weren't pleased with how the earth was doing. These beings had interacted with the Maya, centuries ago, and had given them instructions regarding the proper preparation of the earth for their arrival of their own descendents, centuries into the future. They warned the Maya that if they, the aliens, were displeased, they would vaporize the earth and start over. They even gave the Maya a date; winter solstice, 2012.
The static encoded message gave directions to all who could understand, how they could be rescued from the doomed planet. All who would be saved must be ready, atop a building or mountain, four weeks before the day of annihilation; just three days away.
"It's only Tuesday," he said to the guard, passing outside his cell. The guard didn't miss a beat as he paced by the cell, he had heard worse comments than that all day, and Banks sat is his cell and laughed.
A guy in laundry owed him a favor and agreed to leave him in the facility at the close of business. He could gain access to the roof through an air vent, and since it was six floor up, with no possible way down, the spot lights would never cross it to find him there.
He had carefully selected the proper guard for collusion, and had to offer him his entire stash of cigarettes. Guards were limited to one pack of cigarettes that they could bring into the prison each day, to prevent them from trading with the prisoners; keeping them honest. Five years worth of cigarettes was enough to turn any small time guard into a major player, who then could get cooperation from the bosses of the even largest gangs in the prison. He had promised the guard that he only wanted this one chance to view his beloved night sky, before his execution, and would return to his cell, or more likely. solitary, in the morning when apprehended on the rooftop; but, of course, he would be gone. He kept a straight face during these negotiations, there was no one in the prison who was worthy to share his inside information; let them be vaporized with the rest of the world.
Friday night everything went exactly as planned. He was left, hiding in a bin or clean towels, at 8:00 pm, when the laundry was locked for the night. He waited quietly in the dark room until all sound had died away in building before opening the vent in the ceiling and working his way to the roof. At the 9:00 pm and midnight cell checks, his empty bunk was carefully overlooked.
He had checked the lunar tables and knew that at midnight the waxing moon would be directly overhead. As the moon approached its zenith Banks boldly stood in the center of the rooftop with arms out stretched, head back, looking up into the night sky, expectantly. Waiting, his neck began to get stiff, and at times he had to bend over and stretch out the muscle cramps. Other times, he began to get dizzy, the stars over head spinning around him as he lost balance and tried to catch himself before falling to the rooftop.
Eventually, reality settled in. The moon was descending toward 3:00 am and his alien rescuers had not come for him. The guards would be changing shift and the prison would soon be on alert to a missing prisoner. He sat on a ventilation conduit, his face in his hands, dejected.
The fresh guard quickly reported the missing prisoner and the search began. The investigation rapidly revealed the escape route through the laundry room ceiling to the roof above. Guards stormed up the stairway and through the access to the roof. Spot lights crossed and searched every inch of the roof.
They found Harvey Banks right shoe on the roof under the ventilation conduit, but a thorough search of the entire prison and the country side for miles around yielded nothing more.

Tuesday Morning
By Lawrence Simon

Monday night, Tuesday morning.

Depends on when your day is, I guess.

I don't have days. I just have a job to do.

My job is to kill. I kill people for a living.

Do this job long enough, nights and mornings, and it'll mess up your thinking.

Focus. I need focus.

Alice's Diner is where I pick up my kills for the week.

And coffee. Good coffee.

"The usual?" she says.

I nod.
We used to talk. Flirt, too.

Strictly business now. Stay focused.

She slides a folded sheet of paper across the counter.

"Just one this week," I say, opening the paper.


She knows her name is on there.

Of course she does. It's her handwriting.

"I'm sick of this shit," she says. "Do it quick."

I pull my gun out of my briefcase.

"No," I say, shooting her in the legs. "You laughed when that paper had my son's name on it."


I did. And I know why, too.

It was for my son's college fund.

As I said, the job messes with your thinking. Easy to lose focus.

She's screaming in pain, bleeding on the floor.

I throw her a rag and leave the diner.

I go back in and leave a tip for the coffee.

The bomb in the briefcase will go off in a few minutes.

Then, I'll need a new job. And a new briefcase.

My son gave me that briefcase.

I check my watch. Not enough time to go back in.

At least I remembered my smokes.

By Justin Lowmaster

Margo walked onto the movie set. Rays of morning sunlight cast an orange glow on the tops of the faux storefronts, illuminating words like General Store and Jail. She passed a cowboy that tipped his hat at her.


She smiled politely and continued walking briskly to her small office trailer. She took out her ring of key rings keys. They jangled cheerily as the myriad of keys on one ring danced with the keys on the other rings. She picked one ring, then picked out the blue key.She unlocked the door and entered her trailer. She sat down her notebook on a filing cabinet. A single paper slid and stuck out. She lifted the notebook's cover and slid the sheet back in place and took a deep breath through her nose.

The luxuriant scent of fresh coffee filler her senses. She pulled a mug from among the plate and bowl in the dish drainer that sat beside a small sink. She waited a few seconds for the last drops of coffee to drip into the carafe. As she poured the coffee into the white mug, her phone rang from her pocket. She sat down the empty carafe and answered.


She opened up the small refrigerator.

"Yes, have them deliver the doughnuts to the ... don't interrupt please ... to the Town Hall set. That is where today's meeting will be."

She took a small metal dipping bowl from the refrigerator and poured it's creamy contents into the coffee mug.

"Yes, I'm sure. Be hasty about it, the meeting is in fifteen minutes."

She closed the refrigerator door with her foot and set the little bowl in the sink then hung up the phone. Taking the single spoon from the dish drainer, she stirred the coffee. It went from black with a spot of white to a warm, creamy color. She put the phone back into her pocket.

With a push of the lever, warm water poured into the sink. She put a few drops on blue soap from the bottle by the sink into the carafe and filled it half-way with water, swirling it around. Pressing the lever turned off the water. She soaked the small cup and spoon in the soapy water, then rinsed them off with sink water, putting them in the dish drainer. After draining the carafe, she rinsed it the same way, placing it upside down in the drainer. From the top of the coffee maker she removed the filter and spent coffee grounds and dumped them in a trash can under the sink.

Mug in hand, she sat at a small desk beside the filing cabinet. She opened the a drawer and fingered through the tabs and pulled out a file titled Wednesday. She sat in on the desk and closed the drawer. Today was going to be a busy day. In the file were a few papers. Referencing a sheet from her notebook, she made a few marks on the papers from the file, noting schedule changes and the like. When done, the sheet and file were placed in her notebook. She closed her eyes for three minutes and prayed again for the day. Coffee and notebook in hand, she headed to the town hall.


She waited patiently at the table at the Town Hall set as everyone arrived, going over her notes. Everyone arrived, no one was late. She was happy with the group on this film. Chairs scrapped the wooden floor as various crew members took seats around the table. They were timely, responded well to authority, and had a firm grasp on their jobs. The morning meeting was short and quick because she only had to cover new items or changes, with no need to rehash things that had already been said. Pulling an agenda sheet from the file, she stood up.

"Good morning everyone, today is going to be a busy day. You will all have to be hasty. Is everyone ready?"

Various nods and comments of affirmatives animated the room. The cowboy that had passed her earlier said "Yeehaw!"

"Ok, I will give everyone their agenda. As always, take notes and ask any questions at the end."

A young man with a short, black flattop took a sip from his paper coffee cup.

"Mike P, get on the phone with the caterers and up the persons by three."

He set down his coffee next to his notepad and gave a thumbs up, then attacked one of the doughnuts.

"Mike S., check the inventory for the light bulbs for the Find and Dandy Corral set. You might need to order more, the shipment yesterday was damaged."

A middle aged gentleman stifled a yawn and nodded.

"Annie, meet with the make-up team before they start today. Make sure they know about the updated doctor scene."

Annie furrowed her eyebrows and looked up at Margo.

"They are co ..."

Margo looked up from her notes at Annie. Annie closed her mouth and wrote something down on her notepad.

"Simon, meet with the horse handler. He is new and needs shown around."

The cowboy raised an eyebrow and looked at the bearded man next to him, who just shrugged.

"Tom, I need you to calculate the electricity usage numbers on the sets after today. The last project overused power, and we want to try and minimize use this time."

A balding man with glasses twisted his lips into a confused expression. He wrote a footnote on his own agenda sheet that he had before him.

"Caleb, I need you to ..."

A man wearing a black tie coughed obnoxiously loud. Margo looked up from her notes at him. He had a 'what are you doing?' look on his face. An uncomfortable silence hung over the set. She glanced at everyone sitting around the table. Several had confused looked on their faces as they looked back at her.

"Does anyone want to tell me what is going on?"

The man in the tie, Caleb, scratched his head.

"It is only Tuesday. No one else is showing except us until tomorrow. We are still getting the sets ready."

Margo stared at him blankly for a long, quiet moment. She sat down the paper and took the phone from her pocket. Sure enough, it said Tuesday. She somehow had gotten her days mixed up and had thought today was Wednesday. She sat down and stared at her mug. Most everyone fidgeted in the stillness. After some time, she looked up.

"Does anyone have any questions about prepping the sets?"

After everyone had a moment to think and glance around, no one said anything. Margo looked at her paper.

"It looks like I covered everything for today that anyone needs to know about. Lets get to work!"


At the end of the day, Margo returned to her trailer. She posted a calender next to the coffee maker. The days passed for the current month were already crossed off. She crossed off today with a marker which she clipped sideways onto the calender pages. She set up the coffee maker to brew one cup tomorrow, then mixed some sugar and cream into the small metal dipping bowl which she placed in the refrigerator. On her way out, she picked up her notebook and headed to her car, ready to rest.