Jack’s Shorts (Stories)

 Here’s a selection of short stories for your entertainment!


 What Occurred on the Fire Escape  19123747_l

When Nathan Arndt returned from work, having ridden the subway before walking the last six blocks to the eight story apartment building where he lived with his wife Sophia, he expected to find nothing odd or out of the ordinary. There were no signs on the street, no evidence that anything different had occurred. He climbed the worn stone steps and pulled open the heavy wood and glass door exactly as he had done any other evening.

Yet, as he stood, having pushed the button to summon the elevator, he was suddenly acquainted with a surprising fact, when the building superintendant passed close by, on his way out, and nodded to Nathan. This was nothing strange, as Rico was well acquainted with all of the building’s tenants It was his greeting that gave Nathan his first clue, that something had happened.

“You missed all the excitement, Mr. Nathan!” Rico advised him, a strange look visible on his face.

“Really?” Nathan replied, taken aback by this leading statement. “What might that be?”

“There was a fight up on the seventh floor…Mrs. Falk got her ass beat by her hubby…if you ask me! Course, he said she fell down the fire escape, while they were arguing. Ambulance came and took her to the Hospital…she’s God awful bad,” the maintenance man said.

Nathan was appalled by this, being fond of the woman. “Why would he do that?” he demanded.

“Maybe she’s foolin’ around…she is a looker…” Rico suggested, as the elevator chimed.

Nathan nodded, absentmindedly, gave Rico a small wave, and slipped into the elevator, pushing the button for the sixth floor.

Nathan was greatly relieved to have the doors closed, and to be alone, to collect his thoughts. His fondness for Jody Falk was anything but fleeting and casual; he had been having an affair with her for several years. How will I keep my wife from seeing how torn up I am?”  he wondered. And what if her Husband knows I’m the one she’s cheating with? Will he come and beat my ass?  Nathan had cause for concern, as Jackson Falk was a big man, a dockworker and had once been an amateur fighter.  Actually, I’m more worried about my wife, than about him! he realized.

Nathan entered his apartment quietly, slipping through the door, wishing to surprise Sophia. He was less than successful at this, as he got within arms length of her back, while she worked to prepare dinner, when she turned quickly, grinning at his childish efforts.

“Naughty boy! You think I don’t hear the floor squeak when you walk?” she grinned with an exceedingly pleased exuberance.

Nathan slipped close and embraced her, collecting a quick kiss. “I hear that this was quite a day here?” he asked, plunging into what he knew would be an eagerly discussed subject.

“You heard? Who told you?”

“Rico…he said Mrs. Falk got hurt…fell down the fire escape. Fighting with Jackson?”

“Since when do you call her Mrs. Falk?” Sophia demanded, her brows shooting up questioningly.

Nathan shrugged. “I don’t like to be too familiar with the ladies…less someone gets jealous. Besides, I don’t know them all that well,” he suggested, hoping Sophia wouldn’t note his disingenuousness. Sophia stared at him several seconds, then turned back to her cooking.

“I bet she’s been cheating on him…likely he found out, and gave it to her good!”

“I understand he claims it was an accident? They were fighting on the fire escape or something. You think he pushed her?” Nathan inquired, curious as to what his wife might say.

Sophia shrugged. “Hand me that bowl,” she instructed. “The cops were all over the place for a while. I talked to Rosa on the second floor…she watched out the window. The cops talked to him a long time, but didn’t take him in. They took Jody to the Lady of Mercy….she’s critical.”

“If she wakes up, and tells them he beat her up…pushed her…they’ll come back for him,” Nathan suggested.

“Serves him right! He’s not a very nice man…if I was her, I’d cheat on him too!”

Nathan choked on a piece of pasta he had been sampling, this declaration shocking him, especially in light of his own actions. The irony was excruciating. Sophia glanced at him, a look only partly of concern.

“You know what bothers me most?” she demanded, after noting that Nathan was in no danger of choking to death.

He shook his head, afraid to even guess.

“I’d hate to see him get away with hurting her, if he did actually beat her up…throw her down the stairs. She’s a nice lady.” Sophia declared.

“Would you think she was nice if I was the one sleeping with her?” Nathan asked, impulsively sticking his head on the chopping block. Sophia turned to look at him, to determine if he was teasing or if he had just confessed to a supreme violation of all that was decent and holy between them.

“You’re joking?” she asked, involuntarily crossing her arms, a defensive gesture not lost on Nathan. Her voice had taken on a chilly tone. Nathan grinned.

“I just was curious…it’s easy to say how nice someone is, if they’re screwing someone else’s hubby, isn’t it? I’d guess it’s different if it was your own…right?”

“Likely it is. God knows, it shouldn’t be, but it…”

Sophia stopped suddenly, and turned away from Nathan, wiping at her eyes. “I’m sorry! Don’t make me think about you cheating on me!”

“I’m sorry…I shouldn’t have teased you. It just…bothers me to see her hurt…I…think she seems like a nice person. You’re right…he’s an ass!” Nathan suggested, hugging her, and offering a small prayer that his secret was still a secret, seeing that likely Sophia would not wish to reward him for being honest.

They talked more during dinner, but not only about the fight on the fire escape. It was while they were cleaning up, that Nathan suggested that they should call the hospital, and see if they could find out how Jody was doing.

“Are you suddenly gay? Since when do you ever worry about someone outside our immediate family?” she demanded, suddenly alert.

Nathan shrugged. “You’re dying to know too!” he suggested, and was relieved to see a smile blossom on her face.

“You’re right…I’m dying to snoop. You do the dishes, and I’ll call!” Sophia agreed. By the time he was finishing up, she returned to the kitchen.

“They won’t tell me anything, other than that she’s still critical, and unconscious. I got the impression that she’s really bad off.”

“Oh. That’s not good.” They went to sit in the living room, but even with the TV on, Nathan still was preoccupied with the facts of the situation involving the Falks. At last, he stood up.

“I’m going out…actually…up. I’m going to have a chat with Jackson.” Nathan suggested.

“Nathan! Why? You’ll say something and get your ass kicked! He’s a dangerous man!”

“That’s why…I’d like to know…what really happened…” he fell silent, avoiding Sophia’s eyes. She stared at him, as he went out, her suspicions revived, but overshadowed by her worry.

“Be careful!” she managed to call to him, before the door closed.

Nathan walked past the elevator, going to the stairs. He took them two at a time, entering the hallway on the seventh floor, and walking briskly to the apartment where the Falks lived. Nathan had been there frequently when his wife was out for the evening and Jackson was working second or third shift.

I may know where stuff is better than Jackson does, he thought, as he considered the modest apartments layout. He had considered how he would address his inquires, so as not to arouse too much suspicion. He had talked to the man a few times in passing, but was not otherwise close or a friend.  At least I don’t have to feel guilty about screwing a friend’s wife! he thought, partially relieved.

He rang the bell, and waited. When the door opened, Jackson seemed surprised, and said, “Nathan?”

“Hi! How are you, Jackson? I hear your wife got hurt pretty bad today…my wife was concerned, and wanted to see what I could find out?” Jackson stared at him for an uncomfortable moment. Finally, he replied.

“Yeah…she did. We had a…disagreement. She’s been screwin’ around on me! I went out on the fire escape…to get away from her, but she followed me, yellin’ and such. She ended up falling backward. It was ugly.” he ended quietly. Nathan was chilled by the man’s lack of emotion, and how he avoided looking at him directly.

“Wow! If I caught my old lady doing that, I’d toss her ass down the stairs!” he suggested, wanting to sound sympathetic.


Nathan shrugged. Talking quietly, he said, “Sure… what man needs a cheater?” This seemed to assure Jackson that Nathan was on his side, and he visibly relaxed. They talked a bit more, about Jackson’s suspicions, which Nathan was relieved to know were nowhere near the truth. Clearly, Jackson had no idea whom his wife had been having an affair with. This made Nathan sick, that the woman he was so close to had been hurt, perhaps so much that she might die, all because of a vague suspicion; Jackson had no solid proof.

“Show me where she fell!” Nathan suggested. Jackson hesitated only a moment, before gesturing down the hall. They walked to the end, where a door opened to the metal fire escape. Nathan stepped gingerly out onto the metal structure, glancing over the edge at the street far below, which was lined with parked cars. The flat, grated platform had a set of stairs coming down from the eight floor, and a set going on down towards the sixth floor. The railings were rusty, and waist high.

“Dear God…I’d hate to fall down that!” Nathan suggested.

Jackson grinned. “I doubt she enjoyed it either!”

“She have help?” Nathan asked. Jackson shrugged.

“Come on…You can tell me…I understand how it is…had a woman cheat on me before. I kicked her sorry ass!” Nathan declared, which was a complete lie. The idea of a man beating a woman, for any reason seemed utterly unmanly and disgusting to him. This was not true of Jackson, who finally nodded, in the gathering dark. His face was starkly lit by the light spilling out the open fire door.

“I accused her of cheating. She cried, so I knew she had! We argued about it, and I demanded she tell me who…I slapped her a couple of times, but she just got madder. I…dragged her out here…wanted to threaten to toss her over if she didn’t talk. She started calling me names, makin’ fun of me…told me I was no good in bed! That’s when I started hitting her. She was a bitch! She was tryin’ to get loose…that’s when I just pushed her ass back…” The big man fell silent.

“Wow,” Nathan whispered, sick from this telling. A lovely woman had been brutalized for what…this man’s pride?

Nathan considered this, considered his feelings for Jody, and contemplated the possibility that Jackson might escape any punishment, especially if Jody died. He came to a conclusion, and nodded slightly to himself.

“That’s quite a story. You think she’ll recover from her accident?”

“I frankly don’t care,” Jackson replied.

Nathan glanced up, spying a strong steel pipe running horizontal, a couple of inches out from the brick wall.  He noted that he could easily reach it. Nathan moved close to the outside of the platform, and glanced down, pointing.

“Hey! Look at that! You ever see something like that?” He called to Jackson, who moved up beside him.

“What? Where?” he asked, as Nathan slipped back to the wall, where he could reach up, and grasp the pipe.

“Down to your left, in front of the building!” he called, as he pulled his feet up, folding his knees, supporting all of his weight with his hands.

“I still don’t…what…” Jackson’s comment was interrupted by Nathan’s feet making contact with the large man’s back, as Nathan unleashed the strength of his legs, to push his fellow occupant over the railing, and towards the shadowed street below. Nathan dropped lightly onto his feet, and stepped to the rail, to peer over. He could make out several surprised bystanders, horrified that a body had half landed on a parked car, and half on the sidewalk. Nathan was pleased that no one on the ground had apparently been in the way.

Nathan pulled the fire door shut, and wiped the handle with the tail of his shirt. He again took the stairs, and was soon back in his apartment.

“Well…did you speak with him?” Sophia asked, eyeing him intently.

“I tried to…but he seems to be consumed by guilt and remorse. I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumps off the fire escape,” Nathan suggested, calmly, as he sat down, intending to read the paper, pleased with the way the evening had gone.

© 2015 Jack Bessie

        The Martyr’s Sister

I have no understanding of many things; life is a mystery in so many ways. Surely I have no understanding of my brother Amir. I have only emptiness, and people around me who say I should be proud; proud of him, and proud of what he accomplished, but my heart does not wish to hear these words. They have no way with the emptiness that is all that remains of him.

I have many memories, of our times together, many years of life which we shared. We are the children of good parents, my father Omar, and my mother Yara. Father is an honest, hardworking man, who is handy at fixing things, earning a modest living with his hands. Of course, my mother is a proper wife, and a strong woman, who runs our home, and tends the garden so that no words of reproach might be used against her.

Amir and I grew up, much loved, like all of our brothers and sisters. He was the first son, and I, Nura, was the first daughter. We both accepted this, and treasured our place, along with the responsibilities that it brings. Why would we not? It is the way of life, as it always has been. Amir followed his father from the time he could first walk, just as I scarcely left my mothers side. This too is the way we live.

I have many memories, of the early years, when we chased and played among the houses of our village. Those were the years when we were young, when boys and girls could play together without it being improper. We had no toys, such as the city children are said to have, but we never lacked for something to do; even a few stones made it possible to find joy and laughter, in those days.

As we grew, we spent less time in play, as Amir wanted to work with father, to learn all he could. Naturally, I too was busy, helping mother with all of her chores. When I did play, it was with my sisters, or the other girls of the village, yet my brother and I did not grow distant, as you might believe. Our life together, as a family, and then as a part of the village, made us strong with each other.

Life in the village moves slowly mostly, one day much like the next. This is a great comfort, as it makes life more reasonable and safe. Once, we suffered much, as the village was attacked and invaded by other tribesmen, other warlords, or so the elders tell us. Many were killed, but this has not happened in my life time. I am grateful. Yet sorrow still finds us.

There has been war, in the distant lands. People come by, and stop, and speak of such things to the elders and the men. I have listened, even when I should not, and the stories they tell both fascinate and terrify me. Some of the young men have gone off to fight, and they have died, not even their bodies returning to their families. This has been a great sorrow to their kin.

At fifteen, Amir began talking of wanting to go and fight, in this distant war. We were all shocked and upset, especially father, who had come to rely on his help. There were many heated words spoken, and Amir submitted, for a time, to his father’s pleas. Yet I could tell, he had his heart set on this foolish course.

Our mother too, spoke most directly against this. What good mother would not? Did she suffer through the bearing of him, the raising of him, only to chance losing him to such a foolish undertaking? Our people have fought and died for generations, have we not bled enough? she demanded. Surely, life is dangerous enough, without war.

I saw that her words, like father’s, still could not move his heart. When some men came, calling for volunteers to go and join the Jihad, to become martyrs, I saw Amir’s face, so moved, so captured by the wonder of this idea. We spoke hard against it, all of us, within our family, yet too many in the village thought it wonderful for him to go and do this thing. Of course they would, it was not their son, their brother going off to die!

In the end, he departed, against the wishes of our father, and against the very heart of our mother. I could only weep, hugging him for the last time, knowing we would not even be able to give him a proper burial. How is this the will of Allah? Perhaps, if our country knew anything but war, knew what real peace was, we would not see people embrace this act. Yet they do, and those who are left behind, are made to suffer.

When word came, that Amir had succeeded, in his act of self destruction, the villagers were joyous, yet our family could only mourn. My mother is so distraught, feeling as if he died for nothing, repudiating his life needlessly. I too have shed so many tears. I thought about following him, wanting to have our people be proud of me too, but I can not do this act. Perhaps I am just a coward, or maybe, it is the mother to be within me, that refuses to abandon my calling, to bring forth life.

Our life goes on, now without my brother, Amir; the rhythm of the village seems little changed. Children are born, and people die, as it always has been. I hope Amir is in Paradise, for we surely are not, living here, with our pain and sorrow.

I wish I could have a new name, and perhaps a new life. Now I am not called just Nura, now I am known as Nura, the Martyr’s sister. It brings me no joy, no sense of satisfaction, only a constant, aching reminder of what has been lost. Perhaps I am being punished by Allah, but I know not what for. I pray that it is not for loving my brother, Amir, but it seems to be so. Everyone tells me I should be proud, but I have only an empty ache, and a love that has no home.

© Jack Bessie

Neighborhood Improvement 

The town of Coopers Creek was much like many small assemblages of human habitation and existence; neither too big, nor too small, and neither too important, nor lacking in validity and usefulness. It was a place of some small history, having been marched over by civil war troops, going hither and yon, yet it had not suffered excessively therein.

In truth, its history was a more modest weaving of the lives of its residents, many generations of which had existed on streets and alleyways, content to simply go about their business, wishing to be unencumbered by outside forces, and co-existing with each other, more or less, in a calm, and reasonable manor.

Of course, there were occasional exceptions to this. Harold Tremont was quite familiar with one of the unreasonable, manner-less problems that plagued the town, that being a young boy named, in the proper sense, Wilson James. He was never referred to by that, however, having long sense had his preferred nick name, Willie, turned into Gowillie, by the endless repetition of being cheered on by other companions when fleeing the scene of some disturbance. There had likely never been a day, after Willie turned four, when the cry of Gowillie!  had not been heard, as he fled some act of disobedience or destruction.

Of course, Gowillie’s parents were reasonably decent people, who were kept in a constant state of social disdain, by Gowillie’s continual activities. They had responded as well as humanly possible, including beating the errant child’s backside almost off on dozens of occasions, yet he seemed to have been born with a subtle birth defect; there seemed no nervous system connection between his ass and his brain.

Likewise, all manor of timeouts and confinements only seemed to foster a period of rest and invention, whereby he devised new feats of wickedness to attempt, and emerged well rested and eager to attempt them. Unfortunately, Harold’s property seemed to attract a disproportionate share of Gowillie’s enterprise.

There had been year’s worth of Gowillie peeing on Harold’s porch, digging up his flowers or cutting them so they appeared intact, but died a brown and premature death. He managed to put some sort of poison in the bird feeders, which carpeted the town with dead birds. Gowillie let the air out of Harold’s car’s tires at least once a week, filled his mailbox with cat poop, spray painted obscene slogan’s on the house, and in general, terrorized the old man.

Now Harold had initially considered Gowillie’s pranks to likely be a fitting retribution from God for some of the follies of his own youth, when he had been a child of the town, and had enjoyed, like all the other boys, having some fun. The worst of that had likely been the Halloween ritual of moving old man Jacobs out house twenty feet, but they had always returned it the next night, to its proper place. Gowillie would likely have set it on fire, preferably with the old man inside!

Eventually, Harold had passed from considering Gowillie’s acts a form of Divine retribution, to considering them a serious annoyance, as they progressed in severity and deviousness. Even this level of aggravation soon paled, and Harold began to loath, and then despise the boy, sitting and idly dreaming of how joyful it would be to drive his car over the delinquent, and especially, how fitting being able to back up and drive over him a couple of additional times might be.

Of course, Gowillie had no understanding of how much Harold had come to revile him; had he had any sort of ability to consider such a thing, he likely would have been incapable of being such a wicked snot. Gowillie continued to be despicable, as he approached the age of thirteen, and Harold inched closer to the last straw.

All things reached a momentous conclusion due largely to a fortuitous collision of competing plans. Harold’s property was quite roomy by normal town standards, affording him not only his nice sized cottage and a spacious yard, but also held an old building, which had accommodated a horse and wagon a century previous.

Behind this had been a rather dilapidated old shed, which was once a smokehouse on one end, and had been used as a laundry shed on the other. Other than storing some garden stakes and odds and ends, Harold mostly had ignored this structure. It was in May, when he received an official looking letter from the town mayor, asking him to fix it up, or tear it down. The town had decided to get itself polished up for the coming celebration of its founding.

Now Harold was a reasonably civic minded fellow, and upon reflection, he informed the mayor, (who was his deceased wife’s first cousin,) that upon reflection, he’d prefer to just tear it down. He undertook this project, as his free time permitted, it being garden season, and made good progress, in spite of having the usual battles with Gowillie to interrupt him.

On the morning that he discovered all of his tomato plants had been pruned off at ground level, sometime in the dark of night, Harold reached the proverbial last straw.  He stewed about the situation all day, icily considering what might teach Gowillie a permanent lesson about respecting other people’s property. It was while working on the old shed, that he had an idea.

He worked feverishly for the next three days, to get all of the old shed torn down. He had borrowed a small dump truck from a friend, to haul all the lumber over to someone who would burn it in a stove the next winter. With this done, he headed off to get a truckload of large crushed stone. Harold had discovered a large, deep cistern under the shed floor, likely built to supply water for laundry years ago. It held only a couple of feet of water, which was brackish and foul. Harold tossed in some broken chunks of stone, on which the building had set, and backed the dump truck up to the edge, but he did not dump the stone in.

Instead, he went to the garden, to finish putting up a new birdhouse, this one being on a sturdy base that had the look of a windmill tower. While he worked, he kept his eyes peeled for Gowillie, and, as expected, the young hoodlum paused on his bike, with an entourage of other boys, to admire Harold’s newest fixture. Harold called to him, and motioned for the boys to come closer.

Gowillie had no idea why Harold seemed so much more friendly than usual, but he wasted no effort in considering this oddity. The boys rode across the yard, and stopped at the wire fence that encircled the garden plot.

“See that? It’s a new martin house…I don’t want any of you boys throwing rocks at it, or bothering it…okay?”

This seemed to Gowillie to be a challenge to his professional manhood as a trouble maker. “Suuuurrree,” he managed to drawl, as the beginning of a plan took shape. The boys hastily departed, and Harold smiled, certain that Gowillie would not be able to resist the bait.

When it got dark, Harold set to on his next bit of work, spending an hour preparing for Gowillie’s inevitable visit. He put up some wire fencing, at strategic locations, and when he was done, he started the dump truck, and raised the bed, leaving it poised where only a tug on a rope would release the tailgate, allowing ten tons of rocks to cascade into the cistern. Satisfied, he went in to have a quick sandwich.

Harold turned on the front and back porch lights, and most of the inner house lights. He relaxed on his porch, knowing Gowillie would not try to sneak in with him sitting in plain sight. At almost midnight, Harold got up, stretched and went inside, turning the lights out, one by one. This pleased Gowillie, who was getting a bit impatient. He was eager to come and see what he could do to Harold’s new bird house.

What Gowillie didn’t see was Harold stealthily exiting the back door, and going to sit behind the garage, completely concealed by the darkness. Harold had his hearing aid turned up, and listened for any sound of an approaching hooligan.

For his part, Gowillie knew that there was an open place in the fence, where Harold had torn down the old shed, and he intended to enter the garden area by riding through it. He liked moving around at night on his bike, as it afforded a much faster getaway, should he be spotted during an act of wickedness. He also remembered that the dumptruck had been parked next to the opening in the fence, and using its sillowet against the sky, he aimed to pass directly behind it.

Gowillie didn’t know that Harold had uncovered the large cistern, which was now directly behind the truck, nor did he suspect that Harold had placed long, thin sticks over it, which he used to support netting and in turn, grass clippings. Gowillie didn’t suspect this until his front tire left solid ground, and he began plunging into the dark hole, too surprised to even cry out. Bike and rider slammed into the nasty water, and hit the jagged chunks of rock with a substantial crash.

Harold stepped delightedly to the edge, and called down quietly.

“That you, Willie boy?”

He was met with groans and moans, and heard splashing in the water.

“Help me…I’m hurt!” Harold heard, barely above a whisper.

“First answer me a question…why are you such a pain in the ass? What makes you think you can get away with all this evil?”

There was silence for a moment, before he heard, “Because I can! Now get me out of here!”

“Sorry…wrong answer,” Harold quietly declared, and gave a sharp tug on the tailgate rope. The substantial swooshing and rattling of the stones overpowered any sound Gowille might have made. After he kicked in a few stray stones, Harold heard nothing. He went to bed, pleased.

The next day, he hauled in a load of dirt, and finished filling in the old cistern. He added a new section to the fence, having been interrupted twice by people searching for Gowillie, who had apparently run away from home in the dark of night. “Funny, how that boy was,” Harold sighed, shaking his head.

The next day, Harold went to town, and bought a nice shrub, a flowering Rose of Sharon, and a nice selection of perennials to plant on the spot of the old cistern. The town gave Harold a special certificate, for helping to beautify the town, and making it a better place to live. Harold was quite proud of his certificate and even more pleased by how well the Rose of Sharron grew. And, of course, without Gowillie, Coopers Creek was indeed a much better place.

© Jack Bessie

  The Wicked Elf

Ducky Tanner was busy minding his own business, working on one of his custom fly rods, happily sitting on a stool at his workbench in his garage, with the radio on, half heartedly listening to a Cubs game. He had a tall glass of his wife’s wonderful homemade lemonade sweating on the bench top.

His wife, Millicent, had gone to town to shop and pick up a few groceries, as she always did on Wednesday afternoon, after first having her hair seen to at Lady O’Clairs Hair Emporium. This marvelous bit of routine was a godsend for Ducky, who had been retired for two years, and found his wife’s constant presence somewhat irksome. Actually, it was her supervision that seemed so loathsome at times, Ducky having spent almost forty years at a job where he wasn’t so afflicted.

He heard his wife’s car whirring up the drive, coming precisely to rest in the exact same spot she always parked in to unload. Ducky hastened to finish what he was working on, so he could set it aside and go be the dutiful husband; he was nothing, if not well trained after almost fifty years of matrimonial experience.

When he got up, and moseyed out to her car, he was surprised to find her standing and staring at the front of her vehicle.

“What’s up, honey poo?” he asked, curious.

“Ducky…when was the last time you drove my car?” she demanded.

Ducky checked his memory, said, “Almost a month ago…when I took it in for an oil change…why?”

“Did you notice a tap, tap, tapping, when ever you slowed down or stopped?” she asked, looking clearly disturbed.

“No dear…not a thing. I take it you heard something? Just today?” he asked.

“Yes…every time I slowed down, or was at a light, I heard it…thought it would drive me crazy! Would you check it out…you know how I hate anything sounding wrong. I just don’t want to be stranded somewhere!” Ducky nodded.

He helped haul her few items, as she called what seemed to Ducky to be at least a ton of heavy bags into the kitchen, then, taking Millicent’s keys, he headed out for a test drive. Sure enough, when he backed out of the drive, he heard a distinct tapping sound. Ducky drove around the block, and at each stop, or whenever he slowed down, he heard the odd tapping sound. He returned to the driveway, and parked, then released the hood latch.

Ducky climbed out of the car, raised the hood and peered into the engine compartment. He could see nothing. Ducky pushed down on the car, bouncing it, but heard no sound. He went back around the open door, reached in and started the auto, then went back to listen to the engine. He heard an odd tapping, somewhat loud and metallic, and squinted, trying to determine where the sound might be coming from. After five minutes, he gave up, turned off the car and shut the hood.

“I can hear it, but I can’t tell what it is, or where it’s coming from. I’ll call the garage and take it over to have them check it out.”

“Well, I hope they can find it!” Millicent insisted.

“Well I’m sure they’ll find my wallet!” Ducky sighed, going back to his workbench.

The next day, Ducky took the car to the garage that he trusted, to let the mechanic have a listen. The mechanic listened, and put the car up on the lift to look it over, but he found nothing. “I didn’t hear it today either, on the way over, but yesterday it was plain as could be!

The mechanic shrugged, wiping his hands on a rag. “I’m having a lot of that these days. If I had to guess, I’d say you’ve got a wicked elf that likes to get in the car. They’ll make all sorts of racket…think they fancy themselves musically inclined  The next time you or the misses hears the sound, just drive straight here and I’ll take a look…they’re hard little boogers to catch!”

Darcy drove home, amused. Wicked elves! What will they come up with next, when they don’t know what’s wrong! he thought, frustrated. When he got home, and gave Millicent her keys back, he repeated what the mechanic had said, expecting her to be amused. Instead, she was outraged.

“Oh dear lord! That’s terrible! Of all the things that could be wrong! I bet there’s a bunch of them in the neighborhood! We need to check the garden!” Millicent exclaimed, reaching for her garden hat and heading for the back door.

Ducky was flabbergasted. “Millicent! Honey poo… what on earth are you talking about! Wicked elves…what are wicked elves? I never heard of such a thing!”

Millicent turned, and sighed, looking at Ducky as if he were less intelligent than a rock. A small one. “That’s because you’re too much of a rationalist. Wicked elves are magical, and just…wicked! How terrible!” she exclaimed, going out back, leaving Ducky completely at a loss for words.

The situation didn’t get any better, as Millicent returned after fifteen minutes, absolutely fit to be tied.

“I knew it!” she shrieked, coming hurriedly into the kitchen, where Ducky was busy, trying to fix himself a sandwich.

“Knew what?” he demanded.

“Something’s killing the white peony by the climbing rosebush! There’s all sorts of holes in the mulch, just everywhere, and something has clipped the blooms off the hydrangea! Only a wicked elf would do all that!” Millicent declared, rather loudly. “You have to do something!” she cried.

“How do I do something about a thing I’ve never seen and frankly don’t believe in?” he asked simply.

Millicent gave him her best look, the one which conveyed utter obey-ability, and said, “You’d better start learning and believing real quickly!”

Ducky sighed, and went to his workspace, taking his sandwich along. He barely got to enjoy two bites, when the phone rang, and he got up to answer it. He discovered that one of his fellow retired workers and friends was calling, to remind him to come down to the bar after dinner to visit. Ducky thanked him for the reminder, and turned back to his work bench, where he discovered that his sandwich was missing.

Ducky looked around, saw no trace of it, not even a smear of mayo, where an animal might have dragged it off the plate and table. Ducky was perplexed and irritated, as he returned to the house to make another.

“Big appetite?” Millicent asked, innocently.

“Something caged my lunch!” Ducky declared, obviously upset.

Millicent sat, arms crossed, smugly looking at her husband.

“What?” he demanded.

“Wicked elves do things like that! Bet it got your sandwich!” she grinned. “Now find the little blighter and get rid of him!” she added.

Ducky ate in the kitchen, before going out to search the garden and garage.

Ducky took a small, sharp pitchfork, which he used to poke and prod all under and around the garden plants. He found nothing. He got down on his knees, searching for something that he didn’t believe existed, and wasn’t sure he would recognize if he did.

He was about to give up, when he passed near the wilting white peony, and he bent over to brush the foliage back, to examine the stems.

“Hey! I’m trying to take a leak here!” a small creature loudly complained, while peeing on the peony.

“You’re why the plant’s dying! Are you a wicked elf?” Ducky demanded.

“Sure am…what’s it to you?” the creature replied.

“Did you take my sandwich?” Ducky asked, rather sternly.

“That one with the ham and cheese? Too much mayo and it needed more onion!” the wicked elf responded rudely.

“That’s not very nice!” Ducky began, but was interrupted by the elf.

“That’s not very nice, not very nice, not very bice!” it mocked Ducky. “Now would I be a wicked elf if I was nice? You’re stupid, aren’t you?”

“I don’t want a wicked elf, or any other kind hanging around my home! Why don’t you leave?” Ducky suggested.

“How about you buzz off and let me get on with being wicked…I like it here. If you want me to move, you’ll have to make me!” the wicked elf declared and ran off, disappearing under the lush garden plants.

When he arrived at the small local bar, his friends could instantly tell that Ducky was distracted and bothered by something. Bruce, Manny and Curt had been playing cards and trading lies with Ducky for almost thirty years, and knew his moods well.

“Dang, Ducky, did the wife’s cat die?” Manny asked, jokingly.

“Worse,” Ducky sighed, as the waitress set a cold mug in front of him, smiling sweetly at her regular customer.

“What’s the matter?” Tina asked.

Ducky shrugged. “It started with a weird noise in the wife’s car…a tapping. But I couldn’t find a thing, and even my mechanic was stumped. He’s a real ripper…said I must have a wicked elf in the car!” Ducky said, trying to be funny, but his audience leaned in, looking concerned.

“That’s awful!” Bruce suggested. “One of my neighbors has been battling one of them…terrible what they can do!” Everyone nodded.

Ducky was completely shocked.

“Come on…stop pulling my leg! You all sound like Millicent…” Ducky replied, but he secretly tensed.

“I’m not!” Bruce suggested. Tina, who was still standing close, looked at Ducky smartly.

“You’ve seen it…haven’t you?!” she demanded, putting her hand on his shoulder. Ducky looked for all the world like he might cry. He managed to nod.

“That’s what you get,” Curt opined, pointing with his bottle of Molson, “Spending all these years being a rationalist…a non-believer! All sorts of things running around out there, if you open your eyes and see them!”

“Oh don’t be so hard on him! You weren’t all that open to the magical things before your wife ran over that leprechaun with the riding mower, and its mate cursed your shrubs!” Everyone burst out laughing, even Ducky.

Tina patted his shoulder. “My dad was a lot like you…solid, good, no nonsense guy. He didn’t want to accept it either, but, God rest his soul, when he was in the nursing home, the home gnome started comin’ around to visit him. We were all so proud of him when he finally admitted that mom was right all those years. You’ll get used to it,” she said, and went back to the bar.

“That’s wicked news old boy,” Manny suggested, picking at his bottle’s label. “It’s really hard to get rid of one of them. You remember Justin Malcowitz? Poor guy got an infestation of the wicked kind. He accidentally burned his garage down trying to battle the damned things. The city attorney was pretty much on him…threatened to file charges, until he found out about the wicked elves. He really did!”

Ducky sat, considering this. “If I have to tear up Millicent’s garden to get rid of the thing, you can get ready to have my funeral right now! She’d kill me!” Ducky groaned.

“How do you feel about your garage? If you can trap the little bugger in there, you can burn it down. The wicked elves talk…word gets around you’ll burn a building down to get one of them, you’ll have a lot less of them!” Curt laughed.

The group talked and joked, considering ideas that might prove useful for Ducky to use. Around Ten p.m., an old timer named Harold, who had been playing checkers with his son, and watching a game on one of the many TV’s got up to go home. Harold, being almost ninety, had been coming to the bar for decades, and knew everyone well. He shuffled close to Ducky and his friends, and paused, greeting them all by name.

“So…I was eavesdropping…heard tell you’ve got a wicked elf?” Harold asked, his eyes bright and observant.

Ducky sighed. “Looks that way…I just wish it would go away!”

“It won’t…they’re stubborn as tar on sneaker soles. You’ll have to be a bitch…run him off!” Harold suggested.

“How?” Ducky asked.

“You got a microwave? Run a cord out from the house or garage, and put the microwave under a shrub, but first, cover all the sides with leaves or plant clippings. Leave the door propped open half way. Your wicked elf will move in, make himself at home. When he’s inside, sneak over and slam the door. Then turn it on and cook the cursed thing.”

“How long will that take,” Ducky asked.

“Keep cooking until the dang thing blows up. It’s a mess to clean up, but it will do the trick! My brother down in Florida uses that. Just remember not to listen to it, once you’ve got it. They’re worse that a crooked politician!”

The next day, Ducky outlined his plans quietly to Millicent, who was eager to be rid of the wicked elf, but less than enthused at the prospect of having to scrub out deceased wicked elf from the inside of her beloved appliance.

“I’ll buy oven cleaner, if I need too!” Ducky declared, and went about his plan. He ran a suitably long cord out from his garage, and placed the camouflaged appliance under a large shrub. When he was ready, he retired to a vantage point, around the corner of the house. It didn’t take long before he noticed the wicked elf zipping under the shrub and out again, and he watched as it made several trips to and fro, carrying arm loads of sticks and greenery toward the place where the microwave waited.

This went on for a time, and when the wicked elf at last went under the shrub, and failed to emerge, Ducky began his stealthy approach. He had considered his plan at length, and had decided to use a long, wooden stick to push the door closed, so he would not have to get as close. This proved an excellent stratagem, and he slammed the door shut with no difficulty. Ducky knew that the door could not be opened from inside the appliance, a fact quickly acknowledged by the wicked elf, when Ducky heard a stream of muffled profanity emanating form the closed device.

Ducky smiled, pleased with how things were progressing.

The wicked elf was less than amused. “Get me out of here!” it demanded.

“Now why should I?” Ducky asked, in good spirits. “You’re a wicked, nasty, rude and uninvited pest! But not for long!” he added. Ducky selected the highest power setting, and pushed the on button, but nothing happened. This caused him to frown, and he checked the cord, fearing that the wicked elf had unplugged it.

He was even more put out to discover that the pest had gnawed the wires in two, cutting off the plug after first unplugging the device.

“Wicked, wicked, wicked!” Ducky sighed, dragging the whole appliance out from under the shrub, and carrying it to the garage, where he sat it on his workbench, intending to repair the cord.

“Don’t do it!” the wicked elf cried, from within the microwave. “I’m sorry! Can’t we just get along?” the wicked elf suggested.

“I’m sorry, You came into my place and started being wicked!”

“But I didn’t mean to be so rude! I’ve got a condition that make s me act this way! I’m got a family! I’m just trying to get ahead enough to go back home! Please, don’t do this to me!”

Ducky worked, unabated, until he heard what sounded like sobbing coming form within the metal box. “Stop that!” he demanded.

“I can’t help it! Look, if you’ll give me another chance, I promise I’ll do better! I’ll take care of all the plants and I’ll even clean your garage! Please? Can’t you take a chance on a poor, hardworking immigrant?”

“Where are you from?” Ducky asked, in spite of himself, curious.

“South of the border. Please senior, what do you say we just work this out. I’ll be so discrete, your wife won’t even see me!”

Ducky considered this, finally gave in. Frankly, he didn’t want to clean half incinerated wicked elf innards out of the microwave. He opened the door, and let his captive go, who seemed contrite and grateful. He saw nothing further of the wicked elf that day, nor all of the next.

Ducky was working on his fly rods, two days after granting his wicked elf a reprieve, when a shriek from Millicent, who had just taken the garden cart and some tools to the garden, alerted him to the fact that he might have made a bad mistake, in freeing the wicked elf.

When he reached the side of his shocked wife, who seemed on the verge of suffering a stroke, he saw what had so severely upset her; the entire garden was crawling with wicked elves.

“You let it go…didn’t you?! It talked you out of just frying it. Well, here’s your thanks!” The garden was alive with the sound of rude comments and profanity, all coming from the marauding horde of small creatures. Ducky went back to the garage and called for help.

He met Bruce, Curt and Manny that evening at the bar. Millicent had been so overwrought, that she had summoned her sister and had gone shopping, as much to punish Ducky as to sooth her upset nerves. His friends merely shook their heads sadly.

“Rookie mistake!” Manny advised him, to which everyone nodded agreement. Even Tina the waitress was aghast.

“You didn’t!” she sighed, upon hearing Ducky’s actions. “They aren’t just wicked about what they do…they’re wicked liars.”

“Worse than politicians,” Bruce suggested, thoughtfully. “They’d lie to their own mothers, if they even have mother’s,” Curt said.

“They can’t…have mothers…they’d all be drowned before they got past childhood!” Tina suggested.

“Well that’s just great, but now what do I do…they’re wrecking Millie’s garden! I wouldn’t be surprised to go home and find the house burned down!”

The old timer Harold arrived at that moment, with his son. They called him over and Ducky bought him a beer. When he explained his embarrassing problem, Harold tapped him on the head with his cane. “Foolish youngin’…you can’t give em’ an inch!” Everyone thought this was funny, especially considering that Ducky was sixty eight.

Ducky sighed, “That’s fine…now what do I do?”

Harold grinned. “You’re going over to that restaurant supply store on State Street. You might not know this, but there are no wicked elves in Italy.”

“Really? Why is that?” Ducky asked.

“Wicked elves can’t stand garlic!” Harold suggested.

Two days later, Ducky was finishing cleaning up the garden, which now held no trace of wicked elves, but reeked of garlic, strong enough to make the eyes water.

“Do we have to keep this stuff sprayed on everything?” she asked.

“I hope not! It took a hundred dollars worth of ground garlic to mix up the spray! The rain will wash it away. I just hope they stay gone,” he sighed.

“You and me both. Now, what happens to the first wicked elf that pokes his nose in here?” Millicent demanded.

“He’s kapoot!” Ducky said, having no hesitation or disbelief to impair his thinking.

When Millicent retired to fix dinner, Ducky got out the mower to spruce up and trim the grass on the garden paths. He was busy at this, pleased by his success, when he noticed a small something dart across the path in front of him. It had ducked under the beleaguered white peony, and Ducky paused, shutting off the mower. He knelt down and parted the foliage. A strange and unfamiliar figure turned to greet him.

“What are you?!” Ducky demanded.

“Oh…I’m a garden gnome!” the small and strange creature advised him. “I’m here to help fix up and make the plants grow better. That’s what garden gnomes do!”

“I see,” Ducky sighed, considering all he’d had to deal with at the hands of the wicked elf. “Carry on!” he said, getting up. He started the mower, began moving and suddenly veered to the side, off the grass path and completely over the white peony, smiling slightly at the scream that he heard, high pitched and piercing, before it suddenly ceased.

When Ducky was finished mowing, he went inside.

“Everything okay?” his wife asked, a strange expression on her face.

“Of course…why do you ask?”

“I could have sworn I heard a high pitched… scream…while you were mowing,” she hesitantly said.

“Oh…that was just one of those nasty garden moles. I got the little bugger!” Ducky said, smiling, “but I have to get you a new white peony.”

©2010 Jack Bessie