Short Stories

Barbara enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction as well as novels.  Below are some of her published shorter works and a link to her award winning short story “The Return,” published in Montgomery Magazine in December 2018.

America, Beware

“Good morning, John.” President Trump reached across his desk and greeted his chief of staff with a prolonged double handshake. I woke this morning with a great idea, one that’s never been done before, not by any other president in the history of this country.

With raised brow General Kelly nodded.

“I want to introduce a new American flag, one that reflects the new America, the one I’ve made great again. What do you think?”

Kelly wiped his hand across his mouth.  “Well, sir, it’s an interesting idea, but there are some pressing matters on the table. There’s the potential pre-election government shut down, the fallout from the Woodward book and the anonymous New York Times oped.

“Never mind those things. They’ll pass over as everything does. My people love me. Just look at my ratings,” he said passing an article across his desk.

“Sir, these are rantings, not ratings. They list the lies of the week.”

“What lies? You mean fake news mis-quotes? Oh, who cares, my people are with me. Now, here’s my idea. You get me the best flag maker you can find, but make sure they’re American. I can’t have some Chinese coolie worker or one of those people from shit hole countries sewing our flag.

“But, sir…”

The president rose from his chair scowling at Kelly. “You’re wasting time. Let’s get on with this. I’ll have Sarah slip at today’s news briefing that a surprise will be coming from the White House later this week. It’ll get everyone excited and media mayhem will distract the world from these other issues.

Hours later the president studied Kelly’s list of seamstresses and tailors, noting the race and ethnic heritage of each one. “Okay, set up interviews with each of these people. Let’s start with this Mamie Jefferson. “Black is beautiful, right,” he laughed.  “Yeah, this is good, good, great! And call Ivanka. She’s the best American designer.  Believe me, I know. I paid the most money of any father ever, to send her to the best schools and to graduate summa cum laude. Get her in here, but don’t let the flag idea slip just yet.”

Kelly cleared his throat and twisted his jaw while straightening his tie. “Sir, there are some important matters that we must address. There’s the trade agreements, North Korea, the Mueller indictments…”

“Not to worry, I’ve told you. This will be a distraction and give time for things to settle. Have you seen the fake news media’s already scrambling for a leak of my greatest idea? Oh, I just love this.” He grinned rubbing his hands together.

When Ivanka arrived dressed in a fitted white sheath dress and matching heels, Trump stared, nodding with admiration at his prodigy. “Please sit, darling,” he said taking his place behind the mahogany desk, where he shared his latest idea.

“Hmm, a new American flag?” she whispered. He watched, waited until their grins met.  “Of course, Daddy. That’s a great idea. After all you have made America great again. We should celebrate it with a new flag.”

“Exactly. Wonderful. I knew you’d like my idea. And we’ll have a parade, the grandest parade ever. Every military unit will march carrying the flag and every uniform will have the new flag emblazoned on its shoulder, the right shoulder. It will be a massive celebration. I can see it now. All those flags waving, welcoming a new era in America.

Three days later, Ivanka walked up to the White House gates, a brown cardboard tube tucked under her arm with the just enough of the MAGA flag label visible for photographers to capture. And just as planned the media zoomed in and the flurry of speculation began. The rumors naming Trump’s Deep Throat, the NAFTA debacle and the threat of government shut down were old news.

“Yes, this is wonderful. The best.Amazing!” He breathed heavily, washing down a bite of his Big Mac with a sip of Coke while staring at Ivanka’s drawings. He buzzed General Kelly and instructed him to call an immediate cabinet meeting.

“Is it an emergency, sir?”

Trump paused, but for only a second. “Yes, this is an emergency meeting, and make sure there’s a mole in the room. I want this leaked. Trump laughed hanging up his phone. “Power, it’s a beautiful thing.”

In the days that followed, White House officials could not contain the President’s urge to tweet: Mueller investigation done. Can’t prove collusion! WITCH HUNT!!! A massive failure! Waste of time and money. Your President has done more for this country than any other president before him. AMERICA IS GREAT AGAIN!!!  And while the country went wild with cheers and protests, the president gloated.

*                      *                      *         

On unfurling day, Trump supporters arrived early filling the bleachers lining Pennsylvania Avenue chanting USA,USA, while protesters shouted Lock him up. fifty flag bearers led the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue followed by the Marine Corps Band alternately playing “Hail to the Chief” and songs paying homage to America. President Trump followed with Ivanka on one arm and Melania on the other. Mamie Jefferson  and her extended family followed right behind. And in the wind flags lining the streets waved the face of Donald Trump centered on a red trimmed field of golden circled by the words America is Great Again.  

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House of Memories

Harry sat at the table with Evie sipping his mint tea as he did every morning. Three weeks had passed since the funeral, but he still felt her presence and talked with her as though she were there beside him. He heard his daughter, Laura, enter through the back door and smiled at her as she joined him at the table. Her fingers drummed the yellow formica tabletop, and he fingered the cotton batting oozing from a tear in the vinyl seat of the chair next to him. He wasn’t sure when she had begun speaking, but he tuned in at the words, “senior living facility.”

“…Or maybe an apartment. A fresh clean space, Dad, with modern appliances and central air. Remember, we agreed to make a decision today.”

Harry cringed. “No. There are too many memories in this house.” He could never leave them behind.

“You can take them with you.”

She didn’t understand. The memories were in the walls. The scents, the sounds, the aging hues. While he appreciated her interest in his well being, she didn’t yet understand the importance of holding onto memories.

His daughter’s voice receded like white noise in his ears. Move from this place? My life’s blood? Rooms that hold over fifty years of memories, walls infused with Evie’s Angel perfume?

Setting the empty mug on the table, Harry’s eyes drifted to the aging gas range with foil lined burners and grease stained back-splash. His head bobbed up and down. They were details that had gone unnoticed, but oozed with memories like the tear in the vinyl chair. He drew a deep breath savoring the lingering aromas that once wafted through Evie’s kitchen. “Your mother lives here, and I promised never to leave her.”

Harry’s eyes rose to wine spots on the ceiling only he could see. Evie’s wide-eyes had locked with his that day when the bottle cork popped and an erupting geyser sent a shower of exploding fermented grapes raining down on them.  Laughter, tears of laughter licked away with burgundy flavored kisses. With an impish grin, he recalled the passionate love that followed there on the kitchen floor bathed in spirits.

Still smiling he pushed back from the table and reached out to his daughter.  “Come, walk with me.” Taking her hand he led her down the hall. “These walls are bursting with our family secrets,” he said stopping to study a road map of cracks in the plaster.

Heading upstairs his hand caressed the wooden banister, where the once dark stain had yellowed from years of loving hands sliding over its surface. With each step his grunt was met with groans from the creaking stairs complaining with him. “Your mother always said those are sounds of life, and I should be glad I can hear them.” He chuckled pausing to wipe a tear from his eye.

Together they followed the black and white collage of family history rising up the stairwell wall. For years Harry had been passing them without notice. But today he paused at each photo, each one holding a story. Births, weddings, and rights of passage. Loved ones long gone. He tapped his finger on the one of his son posing proudly in his US marine uniform, hoping Evie would find him in heaven.

At the top of the staircase hung their wedding picture. She in a long, white satin gown, her waist pinched pencil thin.  He, gift wrapped in black and white with a large bow around his  neck. His hand swiped the cold glass trying now as he had then to push a stray curl from her forehead, but once again his effort was refused. He kissed two fingers and let them rest on her lips. “You were a beauty, Ev.” He stared into her dancing green eyes with that tiny splash of yellow in only the left one. He swayed remembering how they’d danced,forgetting everyone else in the room. Closing his eyes, wrapped in her warmth,he stumbled backwards on the step.

“I’m all right, Ev,” he said straightening up and looking into the eyes that had faded to shades of gray.

“And here,” he said moving down the hall, “here lies our marriage bed.” He stepped across the threshold imagining his bride in his arms and settled onto the mattress. Evie was with him in this bed, this house, this home they’d built together. Smiling,he looked up at his daughter. “Here…right here is where I belong.”

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Basement Rock Star

Watching the first episode of American Idol Season #1 sparked memories of my secret childhood imaginary fame. I stared wide eyed at the television screen holding back laughter and a twinge of regret. I had missed my chance. I was far ahead of my time in the 1960’s when friends and I descended my basement stairs lugging our well-stocked portable record cases. It took only those twelve steps to transform us from ten-year-old girls into rock star idols. There we created our own show, but our fame never rose above the cellar door.

Tucked away in our “recording studio” we each chose our favorite artist and song to sing with the original pop star assisting from my single speaker, 45 rpm record player.We donned our homemade costumes and makeup and created dances to enhance our well rehearsed performances. We were the “search for a superstar” long before Idol’s America debut in 2002.

On performance day, one at a time, each “star” took her place center stage on the cold, black,linoleum tile floor under the dim, recessed, 40 watt ceiling fixtures, pretending to ignore the glare of the bright spot lights and the incessant snapping of camera shutters.

We took turns singing our hearts out with Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Frankie Avalon and my favorite, Mark Dinning. Standing poised with bowed head, each performer waited for the scratch of the record player needle making contact with the vinyl. Then lifting her head, transformed into the star of choice, she stared into the crowd, ready to belt out the song into the garden hose. The imaginary crowd hooted cheers of delight with each performance and the rest of us acted as judges, somewhat kinder than Simon Cowell and not quite as cool as Randy Jackson, but always one as sensitive as Paula Abdul.

My friends were good. They sang a mean “Mack the Knife,” “Venus” and “It’s Late,” but no one could perform “Teen Angel” like me. I felt every word of the song. I looked up to the heavens crooning, “Teen Angel can you see me, can you hear me, Are you some where up above…” and the tears welled in my eyes longing for my lost love who foolishly had run back to the car stuck on the railroad tracks just to retrieve my high school ring. I closed falling to my knees, tears streaming down my cheeks, eking out the final words, “Teen Angel, Teen Angel, answer me please.”

The judges voices awarding me the full 10 points were muffled by the audiences screams of approval and shouts of, “More, more, sing it again!” I saw my name up in lights, the crowd pressing forward against the police line to get my autograph. I waved, blew kisses and fans shrieked. I was Mark Dinning, and just like Kelly Clarkson, I was a star and everyone loved me.

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Flash fiction writing from “Photo Prompt 100 Word Stories”

I Need My Teeth

I brushed, I flossed and reinserted my Invisalign trays. I chomped the rubber Chewie to set them in place before kissing my husband good night. Deep in amitriptyline induced REM sleep, I dreamed of waking to my grinning teeth resting upon my pillow, all protected inside their plastic shield. I tried to speak but only drool slipped down my chin as my tongue slipped from my mouth. “Bring me my teeth,” I screamed waking my husband. “I need my teeth,” I told him again pointing to the glass on the bedside table. “You’ve got yours.” He laughed. “Those are mine.”

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Magical Paper Orbs

The lanterns lit the aisle just the way I had always dreamed, a subtle, yet festive glow leading to the altar. I took one last deep breath, straightened my gown, and through a veiled, floral scented cloud filled with music, I floated under the swaying paper orbs, growing closer and closer to destiny’s gift. Wrapped in black and white, topped with a crisp, red satin bow, his warm, outstretched arms magically drew me into his orbit. Vows and blessings joined us as one, before our ringed hands touched and the lanterns lifted into the night sky, winking as we kissed.