The Running of the Red Bull
Charley Daveler

They had been fighting already, so when he sat there, eyeing that Red Bull, his wife said nothing, determined to let him do whatever foolish thing already in his mind. The bus benches were turned upward so as to make it impossible for the homeless to sleep on them, and Xu had to balance to keep them flat. She focused on the times of arrival as her husband reached over and plucked the unopened can from the ground.

She did hesitate. She did debate. But in the end, she couldn’t keep her tongue bit, and asked, “What are you going to do with that?”

“It’s perfectly new,” Soon said. “I’m not going to let it sit here and go to waste. That’s two dollars!”

“That’s what I was going to say. You don’t know where that’s been.”

He shrugged. “I’ll clean it off.”

The woman just pursed her lips and continued to stare forward. She was not going to ruin this vacation by another inane fight. If he wanted to act like a lunatic, so be it.

The bus arrived and they got on, Soon carrying the Red Bull in hand.

They jiggled along the California streets, along the road and onto the freeway until they made it close enough to the castle to see, but far enough that it was still a pain to walk. Xu shouldered her purse as she watched her husband, but more so, the can in his hand. They and all the other tourists started the trek.

“Can I put—” he began.

“This is your thing, you deal with it,” she told him.

Immediately as they and the group began to funnel into the large stone walls of Herst Castle, and immediately the couple began to notice the large signs that read, “No food and drink.”

Xu looked to her husband who studied the words with a placated interest. Soon looked to his wife. A woman entered. She told them to: “Follow her this way,” and “Please dispose all food and drink in the garbage disposal.”

Soon smiled. “Can I…”

Xu pulled her purse tighter. “I am not getting involved!”

The old man sighed, rolling the can in his hand with a pout. He proceeded to shove it down his shirt.

They walked through the tour, lost in a crowd, surrounded by, “No food,” and “No touching” signs with appropriate amount of employees to scowl at all those who threatened to disobey.

Xu could feel the walls narrowing, annoyance rising at her husband, and the desire to flee the imperial atmosphere. She watched as Soon cupped his bulging shirt in a not-so subtle manner, looked to the woman blaring an echoing monotone through the room, and Xu felt her nerves shudder from her spine to her knees.

But they passed the security guards and the frowning volunteers with no incident, and crowded into the large dark auditorium before he finally dropped the can in a clattering thud.

The movie was playing, the historical documentary sung, and Xu looked over to see Soon’s head disappear from sight. She flicked her gaze away and she watched the screen with a stiff determination. From the corner of the eye, she could see her husband’s feet wriggling underneath the seats.

The can rolled down the alley, underneath boot and heel until it hit a leg of a chair, bounced off, and stopped. Soon went right after it. He scrambled, dove, and swooped in, clambering to catch up. With trembling hands, he snatched it up. Xu could see from her seat as his head popped up several rows ahead.

He walked back in a stoop of shame.

She stared up at him as he took a seat. They looked at each other.

They finished the tour, walked back down to the bus, road to the hotel, went into the room, and Soon set his can of Red Bull on the dresser where it would stay until after check out.

Mind Shadows
James Freeze

While browsing the shelves of an old country store, scenes from the past gathered in my mind like intimate snapshots of memories longing for attention.

Along a Causeway was a boardwalk extending a short distance into the Lake with a viewing gazebo attached to the walkway’s End. A small island of Cyprus trees sat in the Lake in front of the Outlook where bald eagles were often seen nesting in the foliage.

A rare but familiar comfort soothed my body with warmth I had not felt since my childhood.

A small fishing village abandoned by late 20th century economics galvanized a vision of a panoramic seascape in my mind.

Most everyone there was bound to the sea, but for many it was an avocation, leaving only a few crusty residents still earning a living from fishing. Turning onto the old ferry landing road I could visualize abandoned boats, stacks of crab pots, collapsing fishing houses and boat parts scattered everywhere.

Tranquil aromas once commonplace to my senses, returned to caress my palate and for a brief and calming moment, I was home again.

Sylvie and Dooney
Richard Baldasty

Be more splendid. Be more than extraordinary. Use every moment to fill yourself up.
— Oprah Winfrey on Starbucks® heat sleeve

Day promised again to be torrid, so they rose early for morning cooling quiet on the deck. "Life doesn't get much better," said Sylvie, as she sucked chips of ice dusted with cinnamon sugar and pointed to contrails of airplanes. But Dooney thought otherwise: he went to the kitchen, returned with a peach-gold sauterne and a half gram of Tunisian hashish. The combination invited flowers in the deck planters to dance their brightest colors. Which they did, said Sylvie, herself disbelieving, as if to honor Dooney's contribution, which in fact she considered superfluous, ponderous.

Ice and airplanes provided perfection already. Why be splendid plus, why ask for beyond extraordinary? Sylvie wanted to confront Dooney, trim his excess, teach him less-is-more. But, no, he wouldn’t learn, would never understand embroidery on the pillowcase doesn't improve sleep, would never get it that a beagle in a tutu isn't ever-so-cuter. Would never know because he could never hear, could never hear because Sylvie would never as much as whisper the correction desired. Because she couldn't. Well-bred, well-disposed, discreet; draped with, thus mummy wrapped by, silken manners. Gagged.

Yet in reverie contrapuntal, a mind resourceful, bold, like someone other. Thoughts, secrets. Sylvie noticed hers traipsing nearer the deck railing. Second story up. Likely serious fractures, nothing definite as death. Sylvie might—would she?—like to push Dooney over. That would be something, that could command attention. Pretty to pretend, to imagine his surprise, his screaming descent. Guilty pleasures. They are, she knew, the best, private images within, home movies taken by hidden camera; played over and again, every moment they really fill you up.

Sylvie sucked another ice chip, waved to the next plane. There were people above, people flying to beaches to take off their clothes. The scorcher meant to linger. There’d be a surge, to be sure, in orders for iced chai. No cup sleeves required, surfeit in the heat. Restraint perfected, simplicity complete.

Dooney gazed up too, in wine and hash manifest. He was admiring dawn, its imperial sun. How more splendid, if but one moment, to dance there with flowers in colors beyond extraordinary. Sylvie, he asked, won’t you go with me?

Cherry Dress
Sammi Curran

I imagine her in that white cotton dress, with the bright red cherries patterned all over, and the day she said I should wear it because it’d make my boobs look great. I never tried it, but I asked her if I could have it. It was so damn pretty. It flared out at the bottom just the perfect amount, coming right above the knees, and the bust was beautifully shaped, the straps thicker than spaghetti. Best of all, it was something that would make her look even more stunning than she did that day, with her mismatched socks and faded gray cardigan.

She said I couldn’t have it. She wanted it, but said she didn’t know what she would wear it to. So I told her anywhere, she would look like a bombshell, and everyone would want a piece of her cherry pie. I started singing Cherry Pie, even though we both know I’m a horrible singer. She did that laugh that sounded like the joy of a fairy, the one blonde strand of hair falling over her right eye. Still singing, I brushed the hair back to join the rest of the short waves atop her head. Then I told her she was gorgeous, and she said thank you, I’ll wear it someday. She said it like it was a passing remark, like I wasn’t staring her straight in the eyes with a sincere smile.

I think that was when I realized there was nothing I could say other than “please kiss me” that would make her see me any differently. I don’t think that’s what she wants from the friendship that I wanted to sprout into something else. So I dropped the subject and stopped singing. I grabbed my keys and told her we should go if we ever wanted to make our lunch date with Brittany. Her smile was genuine and she flitted from the room with me trailing behind, taking a last look at the dress hanging toward the back of her closet.

I never saw her wear the cherry dress in person. I only saw it on her in a Facebook photo of her kissing another girl.

Howie Good

The summer birds have disappeared somewhere, maybe heaven, and a girl who has just turned 13 but looks even younger sits at a work table with a serious pair of scissors, silently cutting lace in the approximate shape of flowers every day after school, one flower standing, another leaping, still another bent like a nail and seemingly grieving for a girl who has just turned 13 but looks even younger.

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