Tag Archives: death

The Road Not Taken (By the Undead)

The Road Not Taken (By the Undead)

By Robert Frost and Dennis Finocchiaro

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, zombies on my trail,
And sorry I could not travel both not knowing which was safe,
And be one traveler, long I stood worried I would fail,
And looked down one as far as I could looking for detail
To where it bent in the undergrowth; I must avoid the zombie strafe.

Then took the other, as just as fair, because I had to choose,
And having perhaps the better claim, of safety and deliverance,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; no mark of dragging feet or shoes,
Though as for that the passing there seemed safe as I could muse,
Had worn them really about the same, I hoped I had a chance.

And both that morning equally lay two bodies long decaying,
In leaves no step had trodden black. But trails of blood there lay,
Oh, I kept the first for another day! In hope there’d be no slaying,
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I found one creature buffeting,
I doubted if I should ever come back, to try the other way.

I shall be telling this with a sigh that my knife did seep into it’s brain,
Somewhere ages and ages hence: it’s former soul did feel my blade,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— much in vain,
I took the one less traveled by, and a zombie I have slain,
And that has made all the difference in this, my long crusade.

The Z Word, my first published novel is available now here.  Make sure you like it on facebook by clicking HERE. Feel free to come by and post any zombie poetry you write on our page!

And yes, I know I’m going to literary hell for what I have done to this classic poem. It’s all in good fun.

Julianne (A Story of Connections)

Judy sat holding the frail, limp hand of her long time husband of fifty years. That’s when Julianne burst through the door.

“Mom-mom! What happened?”

The elderly woman shifted in her seat, replaced his hand by his side and collected herself.

“He took a turn for the worse, as they say. He probably won’t last the night.”

Her grandfather had been in the hospital for over a week now, but this morning when she visited him he was wide awake; they even played a game of cards. She won, but had the odd feeling he let her win. Tears began to form, which frustrated her because she’d purposely promised herself she’d cried her ducts dry in the cab so she could be strong for her grandmother.

“I don’t understand. He was fine this morning.”

“You shouldn’t have made a fuss, I know you had plans tonight with your friend and that man.”

She’d confided in her mom-mom that she had a crush on her friend’s personal assistant ever since he shared his ideas on how he would redo the cityscape one night when his boss was passed-out drunk. He’d offered to show her some of his designs but had yet to actually make the move and ask her out.

She shook her head; this was no time to be thinking about him. She walked over to the other side of the bed and looked at her grandfather’s aged, sleeping face. It broke her heart to see him like this, but it was even worse to look at her grandmother trying to be strong but Julianne could see right through her façade.

“Go back to your friends, Julianne. He’ll be okay.”

“I’m just as worried about you, mom-mom. We’re all we have. I’m here for you, you’re my family. Want me to stay and you can go home?”

At that a male nurse entered the room. “Time for his meds and bath,” he said to the two women. Julianne stood.

“I’ll wait outside.”

“Honey, just go home. It’ll be okay. I’m fine. You need a good night of sleep. Fashion Week is coming, I know how busy you are right now.”

Jul looked at her watch and knew she should be working on some touch ups. She’d planned on leaving Bobby’s right after she ate, but then all this happened. But could she possibly get any work done while her grandmother slept on an awkward hospital chair waiting for her husband to die?

She grabbed a blanket gave a stern, no-backing-out look to her mom-mom. “I’ll take a quick nap on the bench in the hall. Come get me when he’s done.”

If you enjoyed this story, stay tuned for more stories of connection! Will it be the orderly, or someone totally new? Come back soon to find out…

What War Does

This original and many others are now for sale on my Etsy.

The Ferry Ride

This print is available at my Etsy HERE.

The World’s Largest

It was September of 1966, and the girls were too excited to sleep, concentrate on their homework, play in the yard or even watch their weekly shows.

Grandpa was coming.

They hadn’t seen him in over six months. He’d bought the camper after mother passed and had been seeing the world ever since, fulfilling her dream of wandering the country trying to see all of the best places.

National landmarks? No. Famous museums? Nope. Skyscrapers, cities, overlooks, natural wonders? I only wish.

She wanted to see all of the sideshows.

As a little girl, her father had a business venture out in the middle of nowhere, and due to reasons never fully explained to me, there was one time that he had to bring a young version of my mother with him. On the way home, he was particularly exuberant due to such a successful meeting that, in his good mood, he detoured at a sign that said, “Come see the world’s largest frying pan.” And that’s when she caught the bug.

I always thought it was about the rare moment she shared alone with her father. Her mother never really left her father’s side, which is why I’ve always been curious as to the events that lead them to this trip without her. But she always told me it was about the sheer size of it, the fathoming of how a job that large could even have been completed. The pan was the size of a house, she’d said.

Anyway, she spent so many years talking about traveling cross-country to see these monuments to human wastefulness, but they’d only seen about seven or eight; father was all about the history of our great country, not oversized objects. So he started this adventure and spent a chunk of their savings on a camper to see as many of them as possible, I think out of guilt.

So now, my girls, who love their grandpa very much, who have spent the last half of a year missing him, are excited at the prospect of his arrival.

Every car that drives down the street calls them to the window.

“Is it him?” I would ask.

“Nope,” Linda would say with a dejected look on her face.

“Uh-uh,” Nancy would respond, slumping back onto the couch.

“You know, girls, he may not even get here today. He’s driving a lot, there’s traffic, accidents, and he’s old, he needs to sleep and rest sometimes.” They hated hearing this.

It was the next day when he finally showed up, and the girls were distracted by a new board game I’d set out for them. It was the loud bang of the camper’s old engine that made them jump up and run to the window. “He’s here!” Nancy shouted as she ran to the door, Linda’s little legs trying to keep up with her big sister.

Nancy threw the door open and ran out to my father, who was coming up the drive. “Hello my princesses, how I’ve missed you!” he exclaimed, reaching out and wrapping his arms around the two of them, lifting them off the ground to a chorus of giggles. “My how you’ve grown!”

As he put them down they blushed and then became shy.

“I hope you girls are ready, after dinner I’m going to put on a slide show!”

Oh no. A slide show. My parents had been putting us through those for years, and they were one thing I didn’t miss. And to think those were shots of historical landmarks and beautiful, picturesque landscapes. The last thing I wanted to see was a photograph of the world’s largest artichoke.

“I even got one of the world’s largest artichoke! Well, it’s a photograph of a photograph, of course, but it’ll do.”

The girls ran around a bit and as they tired themselves out I approached.

“Hey dad. How are you?”

“Couldn’t be better! When’s dinner? I’ll get the slide projector set up for after!”

Dinner came and went, a bit too fast for my liking, when dad got up and went out to the camper, returning with a brown paper bag. “We’ll do the slide show in a moment, it’s still a bit light out. But first we’ll do gifts!”

The girls got excited and started smiling as he rooted through the bag.

Stephen, at the head of the table, was the first recipient. “Okay for my favorite son-in-law, a t-shirt!” It was a shirt that had a drawing of a man leaning against an artichoke that was almost his size, and it said “I Got Choked Up at the World’s Largest Artichoke, Castroville, CA” and he smiled.

“Wow, thanks Bill,” he said, barely containing a laugh.

I got a mug that had the words “Come Say Your Prayers at the World’s Largest Rosary” and it had the rosary around the lip. “Wow dad, this is great. Where did you see this, again?”

“Oh it says it on the bottom, Newport, Rhode Island.”

I smiled.

“And for my special little granddaughters, I got you these!” They were two stuffed strawberries.

“World’s largest strawberry?” I asked.

“Yup, Strawberry Point, Iowa. Stood on top of a pole. It was a statue, of course. But quite large, even for a statue!” He looked out the dining room window. “Well, kids, it’s dark enough, everyone get ready for the show!”

We assembled in the living room on the couch as he doused the lights and turned on the projector. It started with a shot made from a titling set we bought him before he left. “World’s Largest” it said.

“Clever title, Bill,” my husband stated dryly.

“Thanks! Okay here we go!”

And thus started a cavalcade. A stuffed steer that almost reached the ceiling. A statue of a sharptail grouse (I didn’t even know what one was until then) that he’d driven all the way to Canada to see. A doorknob (I’m not kidding). A dog dish (again, not a joke). A shot of a penny with Lincoln’s head larger than my father. A potato. Yes, a potato. Followed by a huge pierogi statue on a fork. The shots went on and on until about an hour later, when we were finally saved by that giant white light of emptiness in the slide cartridge.

Stephen and I clapped, the girls snored.

The next morning as I served breakfast he had a surprising announcement.

“I’ll be heading back out after breakfast.”

“Oh I’m sure whatever you need we have here, dad,” I responded.

“No, I meant back on the road.”

I looked at the girls, who both teared up.

“But dad,” I said to him softly. “You just got here. We were going to take you to the pool today. The girls-“

He looked down at the eggs I’d placed in front of him. “I’m sorry, dear, but they’ll understand one day. This is something I have to do.”

After breakfast he brought his already-packed bag down and had his camera.

“Come on, girls, let’s ask your mother to get a photograph of us outside of the camper.”

We all went outside and while the girls checked out the inside of his vehicle, he hugged me. “Sorry darling, but you have to understand. I still have a lot to see before-”

I didn’t want him to finish so I hugged him again. Stephen came up and shook his hand.

“Girls, come out and let’s get your photograph with grandpa.”

They came out and posed with him in front of the camper as I took the shot. They looked a bit sad to see him go so soon, this man whom they adored.

“Drive safe,” Stephen said to him.

“Always,” he said, gave me one last hug, then picked up each of the girls and giving them a kiss.

He pulled himself up into the driver’s seat with some difficulty, shut the door, started the engine and then rolled down the window.

“Where will you go, dad?”

“Circleville, Ohio. World’s largest pumpkin, which they then made into the world’s largest pumpkin pie.”

He smiled a huge smile, waved and drove off.

A Great Road Trip

They put their vacation on hold for a few minutes when they saw the flea market sign. He slammed on the brakes, throwing a cloud of dust up from the dirt road their GPS lead them to, and made a quick turn.

“Is it okay?”

“Of course it is!” she said with an excited smile. “Although we really don’t need bait or ice.”

“Very funny,” he said as he pulled into the empty lot.

They got out of the car and couldn’t help but notice the building, a run-down diner on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.

“Maybe the sign should say “Horror Movie” or something. Feel like we might be killed?”

“It’s entirely likely,” she said with a pretend-scared face. “Come on, the yard sale must be around back.”

They ignored the rusty screen door hanging from one hinge and passed the diner made of what looked like light blue, chipping paint. The windows were too dirty to see in clearly, but the lights appeared to be on inside and someone was standing at the counter, but not moving.

“This really is like a horror movie,” he said. She nodded as they turned the corner.

Behind the diner there were several little bungalows covering shelves that held countless objects. Thousands of old items were piled everywhere, yet appeared to be organized. One shelf in the far corner of the lot was piled with old glasses, jars and vases. Each bungalow seemed to be organized in some way, although neither of them could figure out the order.

Beyond the eternal yard sale were huge ditches, run-down vehicles, piles of chopped wood accompanied by a colorful beach umbrella and old farming equipment.

“I keep waiting for a creepy, dirty man in overalls and no shirt to come out with some kind of ax he’s just slaughtered today’s special with,” he said.

“I know, right? But I have to photograph this.”

“Obviously.”

As she walked around snapping shot after shot he searched through the piles of stuff. Old wanted posters. Roller skates. Broken typewriters. Vintage statues and figures of every animal that ever existed. He found an owl and held it up for her.

“Hey, check it out! An owl!”

Her head poked out from the next bungalow over, her camera strap around her neck. “Say cheese!” she said as she held it up and snapped a shot. She looked at the screen. “Too dark. Sorry,” she said as she deleted it.

He continued to root through the randomness of the collection, sure he would find something here that he wanted. He always did. A random old toy. A cartoon character drinking glass. Postcards. Photos. Something that would inspire a story. He kept looking as she took shot after shot.

“Make sure you get one of the roller skates,” he yelled.

“Done and done!” her voice called from a hidden part of a bungalow.

He smiled. Their thought patters were always so similar.

He went to the far corner of the lot and surveyed the land around it, the broken down vehicles, the rusty old unrecognizable objects. He wanted to shoot a horror film here. Or write one, at least. Do something. His skin tingled with ideas.

She finally emerged. “Damn, already took two hundred photos. Now I’ll have to upload them tonight when we get there to make some space on this thing!”

This was going to be an inspiring trip.

The Final Moment

They paused and posed for a quick photograph…

…unaware it would be their last.

The Soup (A Flash Fiction Story)

The Irony of Fortunes

Some music to accompany the story:

He opens the fortune cookie, drops the remnants onto the little dish, and reads it out loud.  “Your life will be happy and peaceful.”

“That’s ironic,” I say from across the table.

“Why?” he asks me.

I give him a quizzical look.  How could he fail to see the irony in this situation?  “Why are we here tonight?  Why did you drag me out on the coldest, rainiest night ever to a Chinese Restaurant we haven’t been to since we were dating ten years ago?”

“I sometimes forget we dated, we’ve been best friends for so long.  We used to come here all the time.”

“Yes, I’m aware of that.  But that’s not why we’re here.”

“Oh yeah…that.”

He’s so frustrating.  Clueless.  But then, that’s the kind of person who would do this in times like these.

“So,” he said, “Can I have your orange wedge?”

I push the little plate towards him.  “Knock yourself out.”

He reaches his big, stupid hand over to my plate and takes the wedge.  He starts slurping at it, sounding like a kid who just started wearing braces.

“Don’t you think I’ll look good in fatigues?”

Ugh.  “Yeah I hear they’re quite slimming.”

He looks like I just slapped him.  He puts down the chewed remnants of peel.  The smell reaches me, making me regret giving up the orangey sweetness.

His gaze is drawn outside, looking at the street now devoid of cars.  Every once in a while the wind blows a splattering of drops onto the window.

“It’s nice here, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it is.  I don’t get why you would leave.”

“There’s so much peace and quiet.”

I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall.  He continues.

“I love this place.  I’m going to miss it.”

“Then why go?”

“You know.”

I really didn’t.  There is no reason, no point.  The worst is that as of now it’s faceless to me.  I don’t know anyone there, so I don’t need to worry or care.  I can avoid it by staying away from the news, papers, websites.  But now he will be there, and now it has a face and I will be confronted with it at all hours.  At work.  In the car.  Washing the dishes.  On a date.  I’m forced to think about it now…and it makes me feel…

“Uncomfortable?” he asks.

“Huh?” It is like he was reading my mind.

“You look uncomfortable.  Need to switch?  My chair is pretty soft.”

“No, no thanks,” I say, laughing a little.

“I ship out pretty early tomorrow.”

“Do they still say that?  Ship out?  Isn’t that the navy?”

He turns a little red, reminding me of the time he walked in on my little sister changing.

“I dunno…”

“Maybe you better find out before you make an ass of yourself.”

He gets up, bumping into the table and making the glasses of water sway enough to spill a bit over the edge.  He drops a twenty on the table.

“Thanks.  This was important.”

“I know,” I whisper.

He turns to go, and I feel like I need to say something meaningful, but can’t think over the emotional noise cluttering my head.

“Wait.”

He turns, but I still don’t know what I want to say.

He gives me a sad wave and turns around to leave.  Pulling his coat tighter, he opens the door and is attacked by the wind, rain spraying him as he makes his way out of my life, and possibly out of his.

The Letter

She always dreaded that the day would come.  He had been serving in the army for a second tour of duty, and she would often have nightmares of that fateful moment.  The men would come, dressed in their uniforms, and solemnly approach her home with that letter, the typed, impersonal apology from the United States government.

It had happened to Ethyl down the street, and she spent days there, consoling her, bringing casserole after casserole, returning home with the emptied dish every night with the knowledge that she would just have to fill it up again tomorrow, a shared sympathy.  After all, it could just as easily be Ethyl bringing the casseroles to her.

And then one evening, she was sitting watching the television when she heard a car coming down the street and just knew.  She got up, still dressed from her long day of shopping with Ethyl, attempting to keep her mind off of her loss, and she could see the car slowly driving down the street.  She watched from the window, lights off, praying that the car would just pass her house.

It pulled into her driveway, a long, black Buick, and the headlights illumined the space around her, through the window.  For some reason she grabbed her purse, an afterthought, or perhaps something to hold onto when the news came.  She watched as two older men in uniform got out of the car and straightened their shirts, double-checking for perfection.  Then one reached into his pocket and withdrew the envelope.

For a brief moment, she felt a breath on the back of her neck, and she turned and saw her husband there.  The men approached her stoop.

She reached out to touch him, and he smiled, just for a moment.  The men were at the door now.

His smile disappeared, and he nodded knowingly, reassuringly, and she knew what he was trying to tell her.  The men knocked.

She looked down at the carpet, freshly vacuumed, felt the gentle caress of his hand at the small of her back, and when she looked up he was gone.