Short Stories & Poems
Mine and other people's, with their permission of course.
by Margery Reynolds
Sometimes I like the quiet.
And when I sit very still and push away the outside noise,
I listen to the steady rhythm of my heart as my blood pulses through my veins.
Sometimes I like the quiet.
And when I walk in the woods where there are only the sounds of nature all around me,
I feel the earth sigh and I sigh with it.
Sometimes I like the quiet.
And when the moon is bathed in a golden glow and all other light is gone, I am surrounded by silent peace and I breathe.
Sometimes I like the quiet.
And when the fingers of a radiant morning push the night away, and the world around me still sleeps, I listen and I sigh and I breathe.
Sometimes I like the quiet.
When A Cuppa Won't Do
by Margery Reynolds
First published www.mysterytribune.com/
The flash of red and blue lights emergency vehicles drew my attention to the scene outside the window. Across the street, two cruisers pulled alongside the ambulance and unmarked car already there in the driveway. An army of policemen spilled out of the vehicles, surrounded the house, then disappeared inside.
The whistling of the kettle pulled my thoughts back to the kitchen, and Jenny who sat at the table, her head buried between her trembling hands.
“What if…?” Jenny started to ask.
“A bit late for ifs,” I said, reaching for the box of Red Rose.
Jenny’s husband of twenty-two years, had been having an affair. I would never have believed it. Sid just wasn’t the type. I’d said as much when Jenny first mentioned she suspected something was going on. “He’s a family man, a great father, devoted to you and the kids,” I’d said.
But I had been wrong. We’d all been wrong. And five years later things came crashing down.
I dropped three tea bags into Granny’s china pot, poured in the boiling water and set the tea to steep, the way I’d done a hundred times before, because that’s what you did wasn’t it, when someone’s world was caving in on them? “There’s nothing a good cup of tea can’t fix,” Grandmother used to say. “A cuppa cures all.”
But that’s when I realized something. I didn’t much like tea. And Jenny and I weren’t children anymore nor was this some skinned knee in the playground.
This, called for something other than tea.
Pushing the pot to one side, I reached into the cupboard above the stove and hauled down a bottle of the good scotch.
Jenny slid back her chair, fetched two of my best tumblers from the cabinet and set them on the table, her eyes flitting to the scene unfolding across the street at her house. “Now you’re talkin’,” she said, a slow smile spreading over her face as I poured the amber liquid.
The first sip burned all the way down and when it hit the pit of my stomach it lay there smouldering a while as I thought about things. I ventured a look out the window when I heard the ambulance doors slam shut. Then, a woman, her hands cuffed behind her back, a cop on either side of her, was escorted out of Jenny’s house and into the back seat of a cruiser. In less than a minute they were gone, except for the one remaining constable standing guard behind ribbons of yellow crime scene tape.
My eyes met Jenny’s as I raised my glass in a mocking toast. “To Sid, who will never darken your doorstep again.”
Jenny’s lips curved into a wicked smile. Her response a breathy whisper. “No. To Mary. It’ll be twenty-five to life before she’ll ever ruin another marriage.”
Morning Coffee by Margery Reynolds
first published at commuterlit.com
It was strange to sit up in bed and smell coffee coming from the kitchen. I liked the idea that a cup of hot coffee was ready and waiting for me. For so long now it had been just my kitchen and my kitchen alone and I’d grown accustomed to doing the coffee and everything else on my own.
Steam sifted through a half-closed bathroom door as I passed it, tugging my housecoat over my pink, cotton nightie. I usually wore pyjamas, long ones that covered my legs because I often kicked the blankets off in the night. But they were all in the wash. Everything it seemed was in the wash. That’s how it is when someone moves in with you. Your routine changes and life is never the same.
In the kitchen he was shirtless, his hair still wet from his shower, looking bewildered at an open cupboard. When he heard me, he turned around and a soft smile curved at the corners of his mouth. “Morning. How did you sleep?”
“Good morning,” I mumbled reaching for an empty cup. “Mmm I love the smell of coffee in the morning. Thanks for doing that.”
He leaned down and gave me a peck on the cheek. “I don’t know where you keep everything or I would have made you breakfast too.”
I squeezed past him in my tiny kitchen to get the milk from the fridge. “I hardly ever eat breakfast anymore, but I can make you something if you like.”
“No thanks. I’ll grab something on my way out. I noticed a ‘Timmies’ just around the corner.”
“Alright love.” I don’t know why I added the ‘love’. I never called anyone ‘love’—ever. But it seemed right that I should call him that.
He left me alone then, went upstairs to finish dressing and I sipped my creamy coffee and browsed through the obituaries in the paper. It was my least favourite thing to read, but essential at my age to know who was still with us and who wasn’t. It simply wouldn’t do to meet someone in town and ask about their husband only to find out he’d passed away a week ago.
So, The Post kept me up to date, and if it didn’t I had Millie Freeman across the road. She knew everything about everybody and she kept no secrets, not even the ones people asked her to keep. Once you learned that about Millie you never told her anything that was a real, true secret. You only told her the stuff people would find out eventually anyway.
He came back to the kitchen pushing an unruly clump of black hair in place over his brow and slipped a suit jacket off the back of his chair. “Now, I have a late appointment today, but if you can wait, we’ll make dinner together when I get home. I’ll pick up everything we need and a bottle of wine, okay?”
“That sounds lovely.” I smiled back at eyes so blue they reminded me of the ocean. Not an ordinary blue, but a greeny-blue, light in some places, darker in others, as if the depth of their colour somehow held the secrets of his soul. He stood there, gazing back at me, his tall frame filling the doorway. He was dressed up today, professional looking in his grey suit and yellow Michael Kors shirt with matching tie. It had been ages since I’d seen him in that suit. Not since….
“Red or white?” he asked with some insistence as if it weren’t the first time he’d posed the question and I realized I’d been lost in thought.
“Oh! Whatever you like. It doesn’t matter to me. What are we having, chicken, fish, beef?”
“Never mind. I’ll just get one of each. We can put one away for another time.” He bent down and grazed my cheek again with the softest of kisses and I pulled him in for a hug.
His arms around me felt wonderful; warm and safe and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I wanted to ask him to stay home today; to sit with me and talk of old times, to look through the pictures like we’d done last night. But he was fidgety and I sensed, anxious to be on his way. I let him go and called out as he headed for the door, “Have a good day,” hoping it would truly be a good day for him, wishing him success and happiness in whatever it was he was doing today.
“See you later,” he called back, closing the door behind him.
And then I was alone.
Not even a cat to curl up at my feet or a dog to walk. “Perhaps I should get a dog,” I said to the room as I pushed back from the table. “No, too much trouble carrying all those poop bags around, and some days I just don’t feel like taking the kind of walk a dog would need.” I’d had this argument with myself before; several times.
The mail would be in the box by now. Jerry always came before eight. Such a nice man, Jerry. He had a smile for everyone and he never crossed over the flowerbeds, like that substitute who came when Jerry was on holidays. Jerry had one of those Fitbits. He showed it to me once and said he clocked over twenty thousand steps a day on his route. I shouldn’t wonder since he does nearly the whole village every day.
As I pushed open the screen door, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, across the road on Millie’s front porch. Oh dear! I should have waited to get my mail. Now she’d want to talk. She’d invite me in for coffee and I’d never get away. I have things to do. The laundry for one, so I can wear pyjamas tonight and not his ratty old night gown. I did not want to be sitting in Millie Freeman’s kitchen all morning.
But she didn’t ask. She simply waved and called out. “Morning Sarah. Nice having your Joe home, isn’t it?”
My Joe! My Joe! Whatever did she mean? My Joe’s been dead for nearly ten years. The woman had gone bonkers!
She must have seen my frown, though how she could from all the way over there I didn’t know, but she came toward me before I could answer and stopped when she was more than halfway up the drive.
“Are you alright, Sarah? You look a little pale.”
“I’m fine Millie. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I crossed my arms over my chest—a clear sign, I hoped that I didn’t want her to pry or worse yet, come inside. I didn’t want to sit at her place and I most certainly did not want her sitting at mine. I had things to do.
“Well, when I said that… about your Joe being here? You got a funny look on your face.”
“Millie,” I leaned closer toward her wondering if she really had gone off her marbles. “You know that Joe’s been dead for years don’t you?”
She laughed then, that hideous little giggle she always did when she was about to impart some tidbit she wasn’t supposed to. It made me feel inferior, dumb for not knowing what she knew. And it hurt, cut deep into me because just for a moment, it seemed I was some kind of joke or something.
“No darling. I mean Joe, your son. The tall handsome lad. The one who moved in with you because you need taking care of.”
“Oh… That Joe.” I left Millie standing in the drive and closed the door behind me. Joe, my son. So that’s who made the coffee this morning.
The Gypsy's Promise
by Margery Reynolds first published on commutierlit.com
“Follow the setting sun and you will meet him,” the gypsy lady said as she curled her gnarled fingers around her crystal ball. “I see him…there…” she gasped, putting a hand over her heart, “Oh. He is tall, dark and wait. What is this?”
“What?” I cried, my gaze transfixed on her weathered face.
Her eyes opened wide and flitted across the table to meet mine. “But you know this man already,” she began again in her thick accent, “He is no stranger to you. He looks at you with familiar smiles.”
“But..” she raised her hands for silence and bent closer to the ball.
I confess, I went to her with a discouraged heart, convinced after two failed relationships and a series of terrible dates that there was no one in the world for me. I seemed destined to be single, yet I clung to the hope that someday I might meet my true love, my soulmate, the man of my dreams. I succumbed to the taunting of a friend. She was so convinced that this gypsy lady could help she even presented me with a gift certificate. What could it hurt, I’d thought. Surely, anyone who sells and accepts gift certificates had to be legit.
And there I was in a candlelit room filled with dangling amulets, dream catchers and overstuffed pillows. Heavy velvet curtains were drawn over the windows, perhaps more to ward off the suspicious neighbours than to keep in the dark secrets of her clients. Frankincense filled the room as sticks of it sent curls of smoke spiralling toward the ceiling.
And in that moment when she described him, this man she saw in her crystal ball as tall, dark and… well, my heart quickened. How could it not? But surely it wasn’t someone I already knew. All the men I knew were creeps or they married, and some of the married ones were creeps too.
She raised her hands and waved them over the glass as if trying to draw the image closer to her. “No, is no use,” she slurred. “The vision is now gone. The crystal grows cloudy. I see nothing more.” She sat back and looked at me with a satisfied smile, as if she’d imparted some miraculous revelation, expecting no doubt some gratitude in return.
“That’s it?” I cried. “Follow the setting sun and I’ll meet him? And he’s tall and dark and someone I know.”
When the knobby fingers of her left hand flitted toward the door indicating the session was over, I pushed back my chair, grateful I hadn’t wasted my own eighty dollars on such foolishness, and made my way to the door. Somehow I just couldn’t leave it there. I had to know more, so I pressed her for another answer. “Please, can’t you tell me how I will know this man or if not that his name, at least?”
The gypsy groaned, rolled her eyes toward the ceiling, and sat up straighter in her chair. “Young people, you have no patience, no sense of adventure,” she sighed, realizing my reluctance to leave. “Very well, but…” Her gaze fell to my purse.
“Oh, you want more money?” I fished a ten out of my wallet and laid it on the table. The tilt of her head suggested another ten-dollar bill was in order. And when she’d scooped up the money, she motioned toward the chair and I sat, again.
Her eyelids dropped, her face lifted toward the ceiling as she placed her hands flat on the table in front of her. Soon she was swaying back and forth, back and forth, until she came to an abrupt halt. “M,” she said, followed by, “Manuel? No, not Manuel?” She turned her head to one side, eyes still closed as if consulting someone to her right. “Michael. No?….Maxwell?”
“Max!” I couldn’t stop the outburst. “Oh surely not Maxwell Anderson.”
Her eyes snapped open and her head bobbed once, twice, three times. Bracelets of various metals, silver, copper, and gold jangled as she raised her arms overhead. “Max!” she cried, pointing a crocked finger at me, her head bobbing in agreement. “That’s the name the spirits are trying to tell us.” Her hand flitted toward the door. “You will go now.”
As I made my way across the park to my apartment on the east side, my mind whirled back in time to the only Max I knew, a former boss at the first job I’d had after graduating from university. Max Anderson was tall, and he was dark, but Max was not the handsome ‘man of anyone’s dreams’ kind of guy. He was more likely the ‘nerd of no one’s dreams’ with his thick, bottle bottom glasses and pocket full of leaking pens. And don’t get me started on the smell of his breath when he leaned over me to look at something on my computer screen. It convinced us all he ate garlic for breakfast?
I left that ad agency after a year, but Max had stayed on. Oddly enough, they promoted him to account manager and last I heard was dating his personal assistant—poor girl. But, that was at eight years ago. Who knew what Max was up to these days? He might have had laser surgery, and it was possible that someone had given him some fashion lessons. He might even have discovered breath mints. Though somehow I doubted it. No, the gypsy lady had it wrong. It simply could not be Max Anderson.
Just to be sure though, for the next few evenings I avoided going to my favourite bench in the park; her words ringing in my ears, ‘follow the setting sun…’ I stayed inside because avoiding the sunset seemed to be the way to avoid seeing Max.
Eventually, I realized the ridiculousness of it all. Max was probably working in another office in another city by now. And it occurred to me that my friend might have set me up, paid the woman and given her Max’s name as a joke. After all we’d both worked at that agency and we’d shared many a joke at Max’s unknowing expense. And then I thought about how ridiculous the old woman looked dressed in her gypsy clothes, her flaming red hair and her sun dried, wrinkly old face. And that room, laden with incense and things dangling from the curtain rods. Surely this was a ruse. Maybe her accent wasn’t even real.
Convinced I had been the brunt of some horrible joke, I sent my friend a quick and snarky text thanking her for the joke at my expense, and resumed my evening strolls in the park. Once again, I settled myself on my favourite bench to watch the sunset over the river. From my vantage point, I could watch the sun as it sank below the skyline of the city with its brilliant splash of colour dancing across the water. The ripples glistened with shades of apricot and pink like tiny fairies frolicking on top of the water.
And as the last rim of orange was about to disappear and the lights came on to brighten up the path in front of me, a huge Bernese Mountain dog came barrelling down the path. Shy of his leash and delighting in his newfound freedom, he bounded up to me and planted a slobbering wet kiss on my folded hands. He left in an instant, chasing a grey squirrel to the base of a nearby tree and barking fiercely as it hurried to safety.
A man, huffing for breath, rounded the bend after the dog and stopped a few yards away. “Sorry… about… that,” he puffed, doubled over in exhaustion. “He doesn’t usually… get away… on me.”
“It’s alright,” I chirped, fetching a tissue from my pocket.
When he straightened to full height, I realized who he was and when his familiar smile greeted mine; I smiled back. “Double shot latte with soy milk, right?” he grinned.
“Right.” I grinned back at the new owner of the café, where I picked up my morning coffee. There was no disputing it. This man was splendidly tall, and he was deliciously dark and just about the most handsome man I’d ever seen. I’d said as much to a friend several times when we’d met for coffee. Our assumption was that he was married. Gorgeous men like that usually are. And his name was Gary; it said so on the nametag he wore when he was working. Not Max, like the gypsy had promised. Still, he was tall and dark and two out of three ain’t bad.
He perched on the other end of the bench. “This is going to sound like a cheesy line and I promise I don’t mean it to be, but… do you come here often?”
“It is pretty cheesy,” I laughed, “but yes I do… usually. Just the past couple of weeks, I’ve been a little busy. But it’s my favourite place to watch the sunset. I love this park.”
“Me too. I discovered it when I moved into the building over there.” He jerked his thumb toward the iron gates at the south entrance.
“Oh, that’s a great building,” I offered. “A little over my budget, though. I’m over there.” I pointed to the row of brownstones opposite the east gate. When his eyebrows raised, I added, “In the basement.”
The Bernese gave up teasing the squirrel then and pranced up to join us. With a heavy sigh, he plunked down at his master’s feet. Gary reattached the leash and gave his dog a pat while I admired the wondrous love between a man and his dog. I could love a man like that, a caring man, someone who would caress my soul with the gentleness Gary showed that dog. And then I heard him talking; not to me, but to the Bernese.
“How on earth did you get off that leash? You’re a naughty boy, Max.”