Short Story: Grocery Day

Mark grabbed a cup of coffee and skimmed Facebook. He wasn’t sure why he read it. He definitely wasn’t going to say amen about some sick kid he didn’t know.

He poured a bowl of cereal and grabbed the milk out of the fridge. He took the cap off and realized immediately he wasn’t having cereal today. The smell was so bad. He just bought the jug, but sometimes that’s how it was. Probably sat out somewhere and spoiled before I bought it. Fucking lazy assholes.

He’d have to make another shopping trip.

Fucking hell. Might as well get this shit over with.

The drive across town took longer than it should. But it always did. Fucking old people shouldn’t be allowed to drive.

He whipped into the parking lot and almost slammed into some fucking douchebag. Mark rolled down his window and yelled, “I’m parking here asshole!”

He backed his car into the parking space. Sure it was pointed in the wrong direction now, but it would be a bit easier to see when he pulled out. He’d be headed down the lane backward, but he’d be fine as long as there weren’t any morons in the parking lot.

Mark walked in the door and there were kids running and screaming. Why won’t these people control these little shits? And why does the milk have to be all the way in the back of the store?

Oh, and of course, this woman has to walk so slow. What is this, the fucking scenic route? And she’s taking up the whole aisle.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said loudly. “Some of us have places to be.”

The look on the elderly woman’s face was pure disgust, but she moved out of the way.

He finally managed to make it to the milk and hustled back to the front of the store.

Why are there never any lines open? And they move so slow it might as well be the DMV.

The line was stretched out into the middle of the store. And somehow, even though she was moving so slow earlier, I end up right behind that slow ass from before. She probably came over here right away to get in my way. Oh, and what the fuck, she has coupons.

Jesus boner-fucking Christ. This is going to take all day.

“Ma’am, I’ve only got this milk,” Mark said in a sweet voice. “Would you mind if I just hop in front of you?”

“Yes,” she said disdainfully. “I would mind.”

She turned back to her coupons. The line moved up a bit as someone at the front finished, but the woman stayed in place. And when someone else joined the queue after Mark, the old woman waved at them and told them they could go ahead of her.

They didn’t even spare Mark a glance and moved to their new place in line.

It seemed like hours passed, but finally, Mark managed to get his milk. The woman had let so many people in front of her it took forever.

He stepped outside and walked down the row towards his car.

A horn honked, and Mark leaped out of the way.

“What the hell are you doing backing into a parking place?!” Mark shouted. “Learn to drive!”

Fucking assholes.

Mark got into his car and drove home.

He always looked at Facebook in the mornings, but it just seemed so stupid. A bunch of people lying about how good their life is. A bunch of people falling for scams and fake news. Mark sipped his coffee and scrolled.

When he finished his coffee, he grabbed a bowl and poured himself some cereal. At least he had a brand new jug of milk.

It was sour.

What the actual fuck!? It was that damn woman’s fault for making me stand in line so long. Jesus everloving Christ. I can’t believe I’m gonna have to go through that shit again.

He wove through traffic and sped as best he could. He just wanted to be done with it all. If they would deliver groceries to his house he’d do it that way. But for some reason, even though his neighbor could get grocery delivery, Mark was outside of the delivery range.

He drove through the stop sign in the grocery store parking lot without slowing. Everyone knows you don’t have to stop at those things. You just make more problems if you do.

He spotted two empty parking spaces right near the front, so he parked in the middle so no one would hit his Porsche.

Oh god, not these people.

An elderly couple, on wheelchair carts, blocked most of the entrance. They stopped for a moment and talked to another customer. Oh my fucking god!

“What is this, a fucking funny car convention? Get out of the damn way. Please.”

They didn’t hurry, but eventually, Mark managed to squeeze by and make his way to the back of the store.

The milk cooler was empty.

Mark looked around and found an employee. “Could you check and see if there is any milk in the back? And make it quick, I’m in a hurry.”

“Sure thing, sir,” the kid said as he walked to the back, playing on his cellphone.

A few minutes later, he reappeared. “Is this what you wanted?”

He held up a carton to Mark.

“No, you idiot! That’s buttermilk. Just plain milk. A gallon or half. I don’t care if it’s regular, organic, or even lactose-free. I just want some fucking milk.”

“Okay, no problem.”

Another long wait culminated in the acquisition of a half gallon of skim milk. The worst of the milks. Except buttermilk obviously. But that’s not milk. That’s cow vomit.

The line at the front of the store went pretty smooth for a change. Mark got to the cashier in only a minute or two. He hadn’t seen her before. He would have definitely remembered.

“Hey, what time do you get off?” Mark asked the girl.

“I’m 17, grandpa,” the girl said as she swiped his milk.

“I’m only 35.”

“I’m still not interested. And it’s still not legal.”

“So when’s your birthday?”

She rolled her eyes as he inserted his credit card. God, I hate fucking chip cards. Why does it take longer than swiping?

Not happening,” she said.

“I just want to play an important role at your wedding,” Mark said with a cocky grin on his face.

“Sorry, my granddad will already be there.”

His payment was declined.

“No, there’s no way,” Mark said. “I drive a fucking Porsche. There’s money in my bank account. Let me run it again.”

The cashier obliged, and Mark reinserted his card.

It declined his payment again.

“Fucking hell. Let me call my bank right quick.”

“Maybe you need to sell your Porsche,” the cashier said.

Mark didn’t pay her any attention as he was busy listening to the menu options. He pressed zero to talk to a representative. And then he got the dreaded message, “We are experiencing higher than average call volume. Your estimated wait time is…one hour.”

“How is it higher than average?! It’s always this way! This is average wait time you stupid fucking machine!”

The girl behind the register gave Mark a look and gestured with her eyebrows that maybe he should leave.

He didn’t disagree. Fucking slut.

He’d have to drive to the bank and sort out his account issues. It would be quicker than dealing with this phone system.

He was going to have to come back to the store.

Mark clicked like on the hot blondes selfie. She was showing a bit more cleavage than normal, how could he not like it? He changed his mind and switched it to love instead.

He poured a bowl of cereal and then threw it across the room, scattering pieces all over the kitchen. Give the Roomba something to do. Fucking robots taking our jobs.

He still didn’t have any milk.

He was going to have to make another trip to the store.

He grabbed his keys and headed outside to his Porsche.

The fucking thing wouldn’t start.

WHAT THE FUCK

Mark saw an article titled “How Millenials are killing the Clickbait Industry” and clicked it. It turned out to be just one of those articles full of ads.

He didn’t even try to pour any cereal. It had taken all day for them to get the car fixed. He had tried getting an Uber but he couldn’t seem to find a driver. His rating was 3 out of 5, so he couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t pick him up. 2.5 is average, right? So 3 is better than average. People are so fucking stupid.

Traffic was backed up pretty bad on the way to the store. Probably some woman trying to drive.

All he wanted was a bowl of cereal. He normally ate cereal every day but it had been a while now. Was it really too much to ask?

He sat in traffic for what seemed like hours. An outside observer would note that it had been more like 10 minutes.

This shit is getting ridiculous.

It was like that movie with Bill Murray, Groundhog Day. Every day was the same thing. Well, almost the same thing.

Wait, what if this is fucking Groundhog Day? How did Bill Murray get out of that shit? Something with a modified photon torpedo? No that was something else.

Oh! He had to act like a better person and improve himself.

Shit, I’m screwed then.

Can’t get better if you’re already perfect.

Short Story: Fizzledorf the Blind

Fizzledorf the wizard tapped the ground back and forth with his staff. His hand grasped the purple gem ensconced on the end of the gnarled wood. He wished he’d never found the damned stone.

Finding it might have been his highest achievement, but the cursed gem had taken his sight the instant his fingers touched its violet facets. He should have suspected something would happen, it was called the Cursed Eye of the Blind God, but he had assumed that to be more metaphorical than literal.

It was bound to be worth a fortune, but he didn’t feel comfortable trying to sell it after what it had done to him. Instead, Fizzledorf kept the jewel as a memento of bygone days.

Things had never been what you might call easy for Fizzledorf. Magic flowed through some like too much spicy food, but for Fizzledorf it was more like the aftermath of a cheese plate. He had to push and strain for even the tiniest spurt of magic.

But despite his lack of magical prowess, he yearned for adventure. He tagged along with every mercenary, adventurer, or gypsy band that would take him on. He could get by for a while saying things like, “the magic comes with a heavy cost to the soul.” Or, “this is the strongest anti-magic field I’ve ever encountered.” But it didn’t work for long.

Eventually, they caught on. He couldn’t swing a sword or shoot a bow, and his magic was paltry, to say the least. He could barely manage a passable pot of beans.

And now even the bean cooking was over thanks to the damnable gemstone.

Fizzledorf entered the alley next to his home. It was grimy and littered with refuse, but that sort of thing didn’t bother him as much anymore. Out of sight, out of mind. Of course, the smell wasn’t great, but this was by far the quickest route to his favorite tavern, The Greasy Pudding.

“‘Ere we go, grandpa, give us your money and we’ll let you go,” said a menacing voice. The voice came along with the point of something sharp in the back of Fizzledorf’s robe.

Fizzledorf held his empty hand and his staff high in the air and said, “Really? Nothing about this makes you nervous?”

“Not really, ‘ur a old coot. Whatcha gon’ do?”

“An old man with a long beard? A robe and a staff?”

“So what?”

“Maybe you haven’t heard of me. I’m Fizzledorf. The wizard.” He put extra emphasis on the wizard part in the hopes that maybe the ruffian would get the point. But the point in Fizzledorf’s back jammed in a little farther.

“No, I hearda ya. ‘Ur that useless ol’ coot that can’t even cast a spell. Gimme that gem too, looks like it’s worth a fair bit.”

Fizzledorf slammed his staff back into the gut of his assailant and dashed further into the alley. It would have been an okay plan if he could see, but he tripped after only a few steps. In his adventuring days, he would have sprung up and made another dash for it. If there had been one thing he was good at, it was running away. But nowadays the only thing that really got him moving was his bladder in the middle of the night.

“You shouldn’ta done that wizard,” said the thief. Fizzledorf could hear his footsteps approaching in the debris-littered alleyway.

Holus benatin trazadar moliavus,” Fizzledorf chanted and shook his staff in the direction of the oncoming feet.

The words were gibberish, but he hoped that maybe the threat of magic would scare the hoodlum away.

Fizzledorf thought he felt something as he gestured with the staff, and he braced himself for the searing pain.

But it didn’t come.

He listened for footsteps or breathing, but there was nothing. Just the sound of something dripping.

“Oh, scared away by a little magic? Who’s the tough guy now, hunh?”

There was no answer. Eventually, the old wizard decided he was alone. He grunted as he pushed himself up from the ground and resumed his short walk to the tavern.

He could hear the music already. And smell the food. And almost taste the beer.

It was good beer. It tasted like horse piss more than anything but it did the job and didn’t cost much – the basic recipe for good beer everywhere.

“Fizzledorf, good to see you,” a female voice said.

“Wish I could say the same, Lola,” Fizzledorf half-joked.

The tavern girl laughed politely and guided him through the tavern to his regular spot near the fireplace. As he sat down, she asked, “One mug? Anything to eat?”

“No, just the beer,” Fizzledorf replied. “Lola, I can’t feel the fire today. Am I getting that old?”

“Oh no love, I couldn’t get it to start, I’ll have to get Mack to do it when he’s done cookin’.”

“Nonsense, nonsense. I might be a useless ol’ coot, but if there’s one thing I can manage, it’s to start a fire.”

“Well, be careful, I’m gonna get your beer.”

He heard her walk off. Not that he could hear her footsteps in the busy room, but he could hear the other patrons making remarks about her figure or the sound of them getting slapped as they tried to grab her as she passed.

Fizzledorf stood up and tapped his way to the fireplace. Once he was properly oriented, he stepped back a few paces. He concentrated on the words of the one spell he could always manage. He felt the mystical forces flow through him as he sent a spark into the fireplace and the fire roared to life.

At the same moment, he felt an arcane power the likes of which he had never felt before from somewhere very nearby.

Magic was like that, especially for Fizzledorf. Fuzzy. A better sorcerer might be able to pinpoint the exact location of another caster from 20 miles away. Fizzledorf couldn’t even pinpoint it if he was in the same room.

But the spell was powerful, he knew that.

The music stopped.

“Tulin’s ghost!” someone shouted.

“Get some water on it quick before the whole block burns up.”

“Form a chain!”

A mad rush of activity filled Fizzledorf’s ears. He didn’t know exactly what was going on, but something told him it was his fault. Missed the stupid fireplace most likely, or a spark flew out and caught on something.

If there was anything he had learned after years of adventuring, it was to get out while you could. He pulled the hood of his robe up high and hurriedly tapped his way through the crowded bar. Maybe no one would notice him in all the commotion.

He could smell the smoke from outside, and hear panicked voices.

“There he is! He’s burned the bloody tavern down. Somebody grab ‘em!”

Fizzledorf hurtled into the alley, wildly swinging his staff. He hoped that anyone in his way would move before he smacked them. But he couldn’t afford to slow down.

If only he could make an invisibility spell work. He tried to remember the way the words went together, but it was no use.

His foot slipped on something, and he skidded across the pavers. Fizzledorf fell to his knees, his hands landing on some sticky substance. He gave his hand a sniff.

Blood.

And judging by the feel of the thing under his other hand, possibly intestines.

Fizzledorf thought back to his fight with the miscreant earlier. He retraced his steps in his head and realized it must have happened right around here.

Some poor creature must have been ripped to shreds right after they left here. Probably stray dogs or cats involved. The whole town was filthy with them.

“There he is! Catch the witch!”

“Excuse me, I am a wizard!” Fizzledorf shouted as he clambered to his feet and rounded the corner. His knees couldn’t take much more of this, but just a little bit farther and he could lock the door and maybe be done with this whole mess.

He smacked his head into a post and fell flat on his back.

“Aha!” Fizzledorf exalted, remembering the way to form the invisibility spell.

He climbed back up once more, feeling the strain in his old muscles. He gathered the mystic powers. He concentrated as hard as he could. He knew there was very little chance of achieving real invisibility, but if he could at least make himself less noticeable, maybe the searchers would run past.

“There he is!” they shouted as they rounded the corner.

Fizzledorf released the arcane power. Once again he felt another spell being cast close by. The other wizard must be with those after him.

A confused voice said, “What happened? I can’t see-”

Ha! The other wizards counter spell must not have had any effect. Fizzledorf, you’ve still got it.

He hurriedly made his way into his house, slammed the door and barricaded it. He pushed his back against the oaken slab and waited. Even if they couldn’t see him, they all knew where he lived.

But the knocks didn’t come. The glass in the window didn’t shatter.

Eventually, he felt safe enough to climb into bed, but he kept his robes on in case he needed to flee in a hurry.

There was a pounding on the door.

Fizzledorf pulled the blankets over his head and groaned loudly. His whole body ached liked he’d been sat on by a dragon. Blindness aside, maybe he really was getting too old for adventuring.

“Fizzledorf!” came a muffled shout through the heavy oak door.

More pounding.

He grunted and managed to stand with the aid of his staff. He crept to the door and said, ”I’m just in the bath, you’ll have to come back later.”

“No, you’re not. You’re right on the other side of the door.”

“Well I’m just in my skivvies, give me a minute.”

“You’ve got on the same robe you were wearing last night.”

“Well, I’m not coming out either way.”

“The whole town’s here, we’ll knock the door down if we have to.”

He didn’t like the sound of that. If they could see him through the door, it must be in a greater state of decay than he thought. It had been hard to keep the house up since he lost his vision.

Resigned to his fate, he lifted the barricade and opened the door. He could tell from the sounds of rustling and throats clearing that the voice had not been lying, there was definitely a crowd outside.

“You’ve got to fix this, Fizzledorf.”

A chorus of agreement arose from the crowd.

“Well now, I’m sure you can guess, but my adventuring days didn’t pay very well. I’ve got a few coins I can spare to The Greasy Pudding, and if you want this cursed gem you can certainly take it. Though if you value your eyes, I wouldn’t recommend you touch it.”

“What good are eyes when you’ve made the whole blasted town invisible?”

Invisible?

“I did no such thing. You’ve all known me for years. It pains me to admit, but you all know I am not capable of such magical feats. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to cast something like that, much less undo it.”

There were murmurs of agreement from the crowd. Each voice of agreement was like a proverbial stab in Fizzledorf’s heart, but it was better than the real thing.

“Well, someone made everything in town invisible except you and your staff.”

“And someone’s done something to my son,” an elderly voice cried. “He’s a good boy wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Fizzledorf thought back over the events of the previous night. Age had taken some of his faculties, and the gem hadn’t made the process any easier, but he still had a mind like a… well like a thing that worked very well.

He thought about the blood in the alley where he had been accosted by the vagrant, perhaps it had been some kind of sacrifice. Then there was the moment in the tavern. He had felt another more powerful spell being cast. Most likely that was responsible for the fire, it was possible someone was trying to frame him. And there had been another spell cast while he was trying to go invisible, maybe someone had twisted his spell and turned it on the whole town.

It all added up.

He couldn’t believe he hadn’t realized it before.

Fizzledorf raised his staff high and gestured with the gemmed tip. Its purple facets glistened in the sun, throwing off a glow that seemed more than natural, though Fizzledorf couldn’t see it.

“There is only one rational conclusion…”

The gem seemed to pulse. The people of the town were used to the stone glowing and shining at odd moments. But if anyone in the crowd had known how to read the body language of a magical stone, they might have realized it was acting much like a cornered man getting ready to do anything necessary to survive.

“…there is a dark wizard about.”

The purple gem flickered once more and stopped.

An arcane crystal expert, if there had been one present, might have known what this meant. But the people of the town didn’t suspect anything at all. It was the gemstone equivalent of a smile. The smug smile of a guilty man who has gotten away with a terrible crime and very much likes the feeling.

Short Story: A Breath of Romance

They sat across the room from each other, neither saying a word.

But she kept waving. Beckoning him closer.

He knew the danger. He’d been warned of her reputation. But he couldn’t stay away.

She was so slim and tall. And the way she moved her body was hypnotic.

He sat down next to her, but she played it cool. She always played it cool.

She looked around the room, anywhere but at him. So he turned away too.

That’s when she blew in his ear.

Her voice was a whisper that touched his soul. Her words a low murmur, too quiet to make out.

He inched closer.

Closer.

She blew into his ear once more.

Then she bit it in a moment of pure ecstasy.

The two EMT’s looked at each other as they slammed the ambulance door.

“Can’t believe the guy just shoved his ear straight into an oscillating fan.”