and also this:
These were written for a Halloween contest I did not win, so here ya go, world. Trick or treat. A sea monster story, a devil dog story, and a story about demons. Sort of. Count on me to mess with the concepts.
I heard her call, in the chill night after an autumn storm, and I went to her. How could I not? She sobbed as she sang, and her lonely pain plucked at chords within my empty heart. She sang my pain, and it touched me as no one else ever had.
The surf was cold, roaring high, and the stones tore my bare feet to shreds. I bled into the salt foam between land and water, before she rose to embrace me. There was beauty in her coils of iridescent scales, and she sang of joy and warmth beneath the waves. She tied me to her body with strands of kelp, and she tied me to her soul with song, and her sharp fins cut my flesh as she took me under the sea.
She brought me deep, where lay the bones of those gone before, but I did not care. They had fallen prey to her frustration and rage. This time happy accident brought a widowed fishwife when she called, not the tall fishermen her lure had ensnared in the past. She had sought always the biggest, strongest mates, not understanding how my kind differed from the creatures of the sea, and she laughed, when I explained. We shared that joy and more until dawn came, when she brought me safe ashore.
She left me, but I am no longer alone. I watch the sea in springtime now, under warm hazy skies, and life grows inside me. I watch the surf, and I hope for storms.
The shelter said he would probably grow to fifty pounds. Perfect, Jim thought. Fifty pounds was the perfect size for a country boy who was willing to admit that he wanted protection on the mean city streets. No mugger would ever beathim again, not with a dog like that. He named the puppy Dog, because nothing else fit. Dog grew. He read training books. Dog grew. They attended obedience classes. And Dog grew.
By six months, Dog had left fifty pounds far behind. He was big enough to pull Jim off his feet and run loose to chase rats in the alleys. When Jim would catch up to him, Dog would look up from his prey and let his teeth show. His eyes would glow red, above his red-stained muzzle. He looked evil, when he wagged his tail.
Evil? No. Not my dog, Jim would tell himself as he picked up Dog’s leash. He can’t be evil. He’s a good boy. “Who’s a good boy?” he would say, and Dog would let his pink tongue loll out between his bloody teeth. He never left a scrap behind.
When he was a year old, he killed his first mugger. “Who’s a good boy?” Jim said, and he smiled when the landlady opened her door.
Today is not the first warm day of spring, nor the first sunny one, nor even the first time I wandered through the yard to eyeball the progress of all the tiny plantlings huddled under mulch and last autumn’s withered leaves.
It is, however, the momentous day on which I commenced Spring Cleaning. Outside, that is. Cleaning is a yearlong continual process indoors, where seasons are marked by decorative changes and not vegetative ones.
Today’s Spring Cleaning, Outdoor edition, began with the ritual kicking mulch back into beds. Someday I will invent a squirrel transporter, and then mulch-kicking will be retired from the liturgy. Until then, kicking mulch back into the little holes the monsters leave will continue.
Next, today’s main event: shrub pruning. Snip, snap, saw, drag, pile. Utility lines to the house are now safe from the wanderings of waving branches, dead wood was disposed of, shapely shapes were shaped into being, and sproutlets popping up in Unwanted Places were ruthlessly removed.
Fun was had by all. Fun was had by me, anyway.
One dire discovery: the fence behind the shrubs is trying to fall over. This is a Problem. I Don’t Do Fences. Professional help will be enlisted soon.