Posts Tagged ‘Daughter’

The Moment The Milk Curdles (Short Story Excerpt)

August 10, 2017

June 5th, 2017.
Stark City, Oregon.
8:03 a.m.

“No one ever notices the moment the milk curdles.” That’s what Micah Halpert’s mother always said. “One moment it’s fine, and the next…tainted. Smells bad, tastes bad, and it’ll make you sick. That’s how fast things can spoil.”

But Micah had no cause to think of that on this blessed day. The proud father stood, bathed in sunlight, in Room 217 of Stark County Medical Center’s Postpartum wing, holding his newborn daughter, Hannah. Six pounds and four ounces of pure joy, asleep in his arms. Smiling, he looked at his wife. Kyla lay in her white hospital gown, head turned, eyes closed, the sheet and blanket bunched around her midriff. Just beautiful.

“Good job, sweetheart,” Micah whispered. “Good job.”

Tears pricked his eyes. He didn’t want to cry, but what else could he do? He’d waited for this moment ever since he’d said “I do” to Kyla. And they’d done it. Together. Their lives had entered a new stage of unity and responsibility. As parents, they couldn’t help but grow closer.

Year after splendid year.

“We’re gonna be a great family…”

Sniffing, Micah kissed Hannah’s soft forehead. He wanted to kiss Kyla, too, but didn’t want to wake her. God knew, she needed her rest after six hours of labor. Besides, there’d be plenty of time for kisses later on.

“Oh, thank you, Jesus, so much for this little gift. Thank you for bringing her to us, happy and healthy.”

Micah walked to the window, looked through the slatted blinds. He saw skyscrapers, pedestrians, and passing cars; none of which interested him. Instead, he wondered if his brother, Levi, would show up. He’d already called or texted everyone he knew, telling them the wonderful news, and had gotten replies ranging from “Congratulations!” to “Be right there!” from everyone except Levi. From Levi, he’d gotten a terse: “Good luck, Little Brother.”

Not the reaction Micah had hoped for. But then, Levi had never been the type to say what you wanted to hear.

Instead, Levi spoke his mind; heedless of the result.

“But this time, you’re wrong, Big Brother.” Micah grinned at little Hannah, felt a burst of pride in his chest. “This is the best day of my life…”

Good luck, Little Brother.

Micah recalled the dubious expression on Levi’s face the day he’d told him of his plan to propose to Kyla. They’d been enjoying beer and pork ribs at Billy-Bob’s Bar and Grill on a warm summer evening. “I’m gonna pop the question at the Mariners game on Sunday,” he’d said, prompting Levi to put his rib aside and take a long swallow of Hefeweizen.

“Are you sure about this, Micah?” Levi had asked. “Because there’s a lot about marriage that nobody ever talks about. Not really…”

“Like what?”

Levi had chuckled; a wry, humorless sound. “Like the subtle change that happens as soon as the ring goes on.”

“That’s a bullshit, sour grapes attitude and you know it.”

“Is it? Because I noticed the change within the first week with my ex-wife.”

“But Racquel is nuts; we all know that.”

“Oh, and Kyla’s different, eh?”

“Of course, she is! Come on, tell me she’s not one of the sweetest girls you’ve ever met…”

“For now, sure. But I’m tellin’ you—”

“Look, Levi, I know things went bad for you and Racquel, and the divorce was ugly, but can’t you set all that aside and be happy for your little brother?”

After another swallow of beer, Levi had given Micah the soberest look he’d ever seen. “Bro…you think I’m kiddin’ around here? You think I’m exaggerating about Racquel going from sweet to nasty almost overnight? When we first met, she never nagged about anything. Even when we lived together, life was a breeze. But as soon as we exchanged vows, it became, ‘Levi, stop hanging the towels on the wrong hook!’ and, ‘Levi, why didn’t you buy the double-pleated toilet paper like I told you to?’”

Micah had laughed. “Well, if you weren’t such a slob…”

“Hey, it’s all fun and games right now. But you think I’m exaggerating about how the sex went from daily to weekly to ‘Not tonight, I’ve had such a long day?’”

“So what? There’s more to life than sex.”

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Delirium Tremens (Short Story Excerpt)

December 20, 2016

author-3January 4th, 2017
Stark City, Oregon.
5:53 a.m.

“JESUS CHRIST!” Daniel Jax screamed as four large security guards began strapping him to a hospital gurney. Lightning cracked the air above him, and black spiders swarmed beneath his dirty clothes. Each of the guards had seized a limb, applying hard rubber cuffs for Daniel’s—and the nurse’s—own safety. “I HAVE TO SAVE ZOEY!”

“Easy, sir,” the guard securing Daniel’s right arm said. “We’ll be done in a second.”


Daniel convulsed, turned to the guard with bulging, bloodshot eyes. He wanted to scream, I’m not crazy! but couldn’t find the words. He wanted to tell him about his family, about the beautiful Cape Cod home he’d bought by becoming one of the top insurance salesmen in northern California.

But most of all, Daniel wanted to tell him about the lightning.

“Man, he stinks!” The guard securing Daniel’s left ankle shook his head. “Gotta be wearin’ at least three layers!”

“Okay,” a tired, gray-haired nurse said. “What’s the story here, guys?”

“Looks homeless,” the guard securing Daniel’s right ankle said. “Medics found him in an alley downtown, screaming about demons. Seems very dehydrated.”

“Uh-huh. Name and age?”

“I.D. says, Jax, Daniel. Forty-three years old.”

“Daniel.” The nurse laid her gloved hand on his shoulder. “My name’s Blanche. There’s no demons. You’re having a psychotic episode brought on by severe alcohol withdrawal.”

Having screamed himself hoarse, Daniel turned his bulging eyes to Blanche. The guards had finished strapping him down and he felt helpless. Unable to sit up. Unable to reach out. Unable to do anything but gape and shudder beneath the pale overhead light.

“I know it hurts, but I need you to hold still while I insert your I.V.”
With a sad groan, Daniel shut his eyes, still squirming as thousands of spider legs pricked his flesh. “It took her!” he whispered. “I saw it!”

Nodding, Blanche slid the needle into Daniel’s arm. Daniel hissed, looked up with fear and pain etched into his face.

Another whisper: “I have to save Zoey!”

Blanche shook her head. “Alright, Daniel. Now it’s fluids, fluids, fluids. I’m gonna order a Thiamine boost, and a heavy dose of Diaxepam to help you sleep.”

Fists clenched, Daniel strained to sit up. “I have to save her!”

“You’re gonna be here for awhile, so just lie back and ride it out. Once these DTs pass, we’ll get you evaluated and outta here. I’ll do everything I can to help you, but right now I’ve gotta go check on my other patients.”

Daniel flinched from another crack of lightning as Blanche left, shut off the light, and closed the door. They’d put him in one of the rooms reserved for psychotic patients. No T.V., no sink; nothing which could excite or harm him. A beam of light shone through the observation window onto his face. Already, the shadows in the corners had begun to writhe and swirl. But they didn’t know. Medics, security guards, nurses; normal people. They couldn’t see the true horrors which lived in darkness. Daniel knew because he used to be like them—used to be normal. Then the lightning came, shattering every bit of normalcy he’d ever known.

“I’ll find her, goddamnit! Before it sucks the life out of her forever!”

Still squirming, Daniel took deep breaths. It didn’t help. The lightning still cracked. The spiders still swarmed. And he craved alcohol as never before; like a cramp in the center of his being. If not for this mission, Daniel would’ve killed with his bare hands for a sip of beer. But he couldn’t save Zoey drunk. To save her, he had to bear this agony.

The agony of Delirium Tremens.

“Great news!” Blanche said, pushing through the door. “Got your meds. How are you feeling?”

Gasping, Daniel looked at Blanche. How long had she been gone? A minute? An hour? Daniel had no clue.

“Still riding it out, I see. Well, this’ll help…”

As Blanche injected the Thiamine and Diaxepam into Daniel’s I.V., Daniel again closed his eyes. The Thiamine didn’t matter, but the Diaxepam would be his savior.

God’s mercy, coursing through his veins.

“Alright, Daniel. Nothing left to do but lie back and try to rest.”

As Blanche left, Daniel twisted in his restraints. Lie back and rest? No way. Not when he had a life to save. A life more important than his own.

I’m coming, Zoey! Just hold on a little longer…

Propelled by his racing pulse, the Diaxepam slammed into Daniel’s brain with locomotive force. All at once he ceased writhing and his eyelids began to flutter. His sharp exhalations dulled, becoming deep, almost contemplative sighs.

Hold on…Zo…ey...

One last sigh, then Daniel went slack. Head turned, eyes closed, lips parted. Not quite snoring. Several minutes of blessed nothing passed before Daniel began to dream. The same dream he’d had for the last twelve years: rummaging around his attic on a muggy March evening. His daughter, Caroline, has found a large black widow spider in her room, and he’s vowed to cleanse the house of all insects. Outside, the sky has darkened and the wind has risen; very apropos for the impending holocaust. Bug spray in hand, he’s found a small infestation of creepy crawlers in a dusty corner. As he advances upon the large, silken web, Daniel hears a clap of thunder. A storm, he thinks, taking aim. And as he pushes the spray button, a bolt of lightning strikes the roof above his head. So fast, so sudden, Daniel doesn’t feel the jolt, but collapses beneath the dry explosion—



Daniel’s eyes snapped open. Leaving his sleeping form behind, the homeless drunk’s ethereal self sat up and slid off the gurney. He always felt the same after the dream; anxious, drained…and in serious danger of slipping into the bad place. The realm of spirits, shadows, and demons.

But this time, he wanted to go.

God help me.

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