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short stuff

by j.r. cornell


Copyright 2017 J.R. Cornell


Smashwords Edition



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Table of Contents


Title Page

Copyright Page

Table of Contents


The One-way Ticket

Homeward Bound

The Box

Danny Boy

Elevator Blues

The Drifter

Date Night


About the Author

Connect with Me

The One-way Ticket


“Yeah, yeah! One sec! I’m coming, mac!” The night watchman hustled to the rapid knocks coming from the employee entrance. “Sheesh! Whaddya want?”

“Boston Police! We’re responding to a disturbance!

“I never made a call.”

“Look, mac. We got a call saying there was a disturbance at the Gardner Museum and we’re just here to check it out. Ya gonna let us in or what?” The mustached officer’s gruff voice crackled over the PA system.

“Yeah, hold on.” A loud buzzer rang and the wooden door’s automated lock clicked. The door creaked open and two policemen entered the art museum, looking around as the security guard scratched his scalp. “I didn’t call the police. Maybe my partner did. H-hey, Joey! You call the cops fer somethin’?”

Joey shook his head as he remained seated with his feet crossed and propped on the counter of the security desk.

“I don’t know what to tell you guys, we never –” he turned to see a gun pointed at his waist. “Whaddya think yer doing?” he yelled.

The taller, clean shaven officer looked at the guard’s nametag over the rounded rim of his glasses. “Rick, is it? Joey?” he inquired in a British accent. “Gentlemen, this is a robbery.”

The mustached officer clubbed Rick over the head with a blow that knocked him to the floor and retrieved a roll of duct tape from his jacket pocket; the adhesive’s distinct peeling rang throughout the room. He taped his captive’s wrists behind his back and rifled through his pockets.

“And what do you think you’re bloody doing, you wanker?”

“I-I wanted to see if he had any change his pockets.”

“Don’t muck this up! Get over here and tie up this chap, eh?” Wearing a sly grin on his face, the Brit pointed a gun at Joey, a glare of light glinting across his glasses as he turned to face him. “We don’t want this fellow doing something stupid while we loot the place now do we?”

The mustached officer finished tying the second guard to a chair; afterwards, he searched for his partner who had moved into the museum’s Dutch Room. His boorish voice and thunderous footsteps echoed throughout the corridors. “What are we stealing, mac?”

“We aren’t stealing anything, ‘mac’, we’re liberating!”

“Lib-a-who-ting?”

“Liber-ATING! We’re liberating art! And keep your voice down! Do you want the neighborhood to know we’re robbing it?” He massaged his brow while speaking under his breath, “Bloody Yanks and their poor educational system. I can’t believe we end up losing the war to them.” He surveyed the room and made checks on a piece of paper he had pulled from his phony police blouse, “and Édouard Manet’s Chez Tortini; that makes six. They’re all here; time to collect.” The Brit unsheathed a box cutter from its protective casing and cut into a painting with unbridled vigor. “I don’t need anyone looking for professionals after this is over with.”

“Which ones should I take, mac?”

“Er, take whichever you think will look good on your Frigidaire, mate. Maybe your mum will think you got better at your crayon drawings.” He rolled his eyes and continued to smash and cut into the paintings from his list. He placed each painting between two layers of bubble-wrap and walked them to the museum’s employee entrance.

While his partner was preoccupied with choosing paintings, he made one last trip into the museum’s “Dutch Room.” Upon entering, his eyes locked onto his heart’s true desire: the bronze eagle finial atop a Napoleonic flag. With both hands, he unscrewed the finial from its post, careful not to drop it, and placed it into a mahogany box with a foam insert of its shape. After securing the box, he made his way to the employee entrance to meet with his partner.

The Brit and the mustached officer loaded their score into the trunk of a red Dodge Daytona. The mustached officer started the car as the Brit opened the box in his lap; a faint light shone throughout the car as he marveled at the finial and his eyes sparkled in it. His soul warmed as he wondered if what he felt was like what Sir Galahad felt when he drank from the Holy Grail.

“Wh-what’s that?” The mustached officer peered from the corner of his eye.

“My ticket home.”

“H-home? You mean back to England? Where at in England ya from?”

“Where?” the Brit smiled, his eyes still fixed on the finial, “it’s more like when.”

Homeward Bound


After parting ways with his would-be partner-in-crime from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, Callum headed to the forest clearing where he hid his ship during his visit to the past. He powered on the time-travelling ship and went to change out of his police officer disguise and into his normal clothing: smoky grey slacks, a white long-sleeved collared shirt, smoky grey vest, and black boots.

Callum grabbed his holographic communicator and stepped outside into the night. After keying on the communicator, a man, seated in a raggedy metal throne, appeared and greeted Callum. “Good’ay, mate! You got what I asked for?”

“Yeah, I have the pieces of art you wanted. Things didn’t go like you said they would but I managed to get it all done. Where’s the mechanic you promised me? I’m trying to get out of here.”

“Well, here’s the thing. All my guys are kind of tied up right now. It’ll be another day or two before I can send you a mech.”

“C’mon, mate. I did what you asked. Can you send someone to this time period with the parts I need or not? They don’t even have to stay. I’ll fix the bloody ship myself.” Callum’s annoyed tone disputed his seriousness. He tuned out the rustling leaves and waves of whistling winds in the abandoned forest clearing; a lone crow cawed in the distance.

“I mean, yeah, you stole the art I wanted but that doesn’t nearly cover what you already owe me, and now you want me to spend resources to fix your fuck up? I don’t know, Cal. That’s going to cost you.”

“It’s going to cost me what?”

The dealer paused, tapping his chin. “How’s about you do one more favor for me?” he grinned.

“Just one?” Callum felt uneasy; he’d been handed deals like this before and they never worked out for him, but he felt he had no other options.

“Yup. Only one. And don’t worry. You don’t have to do it right now. I’m going to call in this favor at some point and I just want you to fulfill it, no questions asked. Sound good?”

“Fine, Jaime. I’ll do it. I’ll owe you a bloody favor for this one.” Callum hung his head in despair.

Jaime smiled and rubbed his hands together. “Good. Your assistance should be there right…about…now.”

A bright light illuminated the moonlit forest clearing where Callum hid his ship. A teenaged boy appeared as the light emitted a low hum; it was one of Jaime’s runners. Callum didn’t recognize this one; he must have been a new one. “Here you go, sir. Everything you asked Jaime for is in this bag. Good luck to you.”

“Thanks, kid. How old are you, anyways?”

“Thir-thirteen, sir,” stammered the boy.

“Thirteen!” Callum was in disbelief. “I hope you don’t end up owing Jaime your whole life like I almost did, kid. Go on. Get outta here.”

“It was an honor to finally meet you, sir. The stories they tell don’t compare to the actual thing,” the kid said before vanishing in the same flash of light in which he arrived.

“Jaime’s snatchin’ ‘em up younger and younger these days,” Callum whispered to himself while digging through the bag of tools.

Hours had passed and the sun had begun to rise since Callum started the maintenance on his ship. He wiped a bead of sweat from his brow after he tightened the last bolt; he was ready to test his work to see if he would be able to travel home.

Callum applied power to the control terminals and began praying a silent prayer; nothing happened. In a fit of rage and despair, Callum slammed his fists onto the terminal and the ship roared to life. “Oh, thank Tobias! I knew you wouldn’t quit on me just yet girl!” Callum fell back into his pilot’s chair and sighed a sigh of relief. I can finally get home and put this whole ordeal and time period behind me like it should be.

Callum’s present thoughts were nothing compared to the ones he refused to entertain, though. He knew that at some point, Jaime would come to collect his favor, and it would not be anything simple; but he couldn’t stress about that at the moment. Callum was more concerned about how was going to explain to Boot that he was going to be late on paying his debt.

The Box


Who the hell is at the door this time of night? Rashad stumbled through the dimly moonlit room as he searched for the light switch. “Uh! Yeah! J-just a sec! I’ll be there in a minute!” As he moved briskly across the cold, wood-paneled floors, he found himself regretting the decision to not put on the pair of house-shoes he bought specifically for such situations. “Alright! I’m coming! I’m coming! Stop ringing the damned –” Huh. No one’s here. He peered into the darkness of his suburban neighborhood, looking for the person that dared to disturb his sleep.

Dissatisfied with finding no one, he turned to head back to his comfortable bed after closing the door to his upscale home. There, waiting two feet away from him, was a box emblazoned with ribbons, glitter, and a familiar handwriting. Befuddled by the box’s sudden appearance, Rashad exclaimed, “Alright! This isn’t funny anymore! Who put this box right here?” His breaths were laced with fear as he crouched to pick up the box. “Hello?” echoed through the empty home as its owner made his way to the kitchen; the box emitted a warm aura as he carried it.

He sat the box on the counter of the kitchen’s island, slowly tugged at both ends of the velvet ribbon, and placed it neatly to the side of the box. Inside the box was a photograph of an 11-year old Rashad hung upside-down from a set of monkey bars; written on the back were the words, Remember me? Confused, he flipped the photo back over and behind him, in the picture, stood a figure that was not there before; it peered directly at the camera, as if to be staring through the picture and into his soul.

“What the –” exclaimed Rashad as he stumbled back, almost tripping over the chair that he then realized was horribly placed. He caught himself on the dining table as the picture floated to the floor. Afraid to look at the picture, he inspected the box to see who sent it. Inside was a note with his name on it that read,

No matter how much you try to forget,

Your life will always be filled with regret,

For my existence you dared to neglect,

My presence will be your sanity’s unrest.

Upon reading the last word, the box started to rumble atop the counter. Rashad backed away in fear, unable to pull his eyes from the box. He finally gathered his nerves and made a run for the door. A dark, shadow-like figure flew from the box and stood in front of him at the door. The figure’s eyes glowed a deep blue as it took form. Rashad carefully back-stepped as the figure stepped towards him. With each graceful step, the figure’s definition solidified, revealing its identity. It flashed a sly grin his direction and Rashad gasped as he spoke her name: “Pandora.”

Danny Boy


Papers flutter atop the round table’s wooden surface as a brisk breeze strew them about; Daniel places his hand over them to prevent them from floating off with the wind’s trail. “We can’t continue to see each other, Moira. What if your husband finds out?”

She lights a cigarette and puffs until the tobacco glows brightly. “He won’t. Stop worrying, ok?” She blows a plume of smoke from her ruby lips. “We’ve been too careful. There is no way we could screw this up with all the planning we did.” Moira uncrosses her legs, placing her right foot onto the wooden patio deck, then crossing her left leg over her right. The cusp of her heel loosens, causing the remainder of her shoe to dangle from her toes.

Daniel undoes his sky-blue and cream striped necktie enough to allow himself to receive a little air. He can never quite contain himself when Moira teases him with her toned legs and feet; she knows it. “B-but what IF he does? Huh? He will murder us and there’s nothing that’ll be done about it. He’s a capo for the biggest mob boss in all of Sanction City!”

“And he’s also the WORST capo the don has! His head is so far up his own ass, he hasn’t even noticed that I stopped wearing my ring two weeks ago.” She blows smoke towards Daniel, ashing the cigarette into a porcelain ash tray sitting on the table. She brushes a stray hair from in front of her right eye, “that’s why I’m with you, Danny; you noticed.”

He smiles, blood rushing to his cheeks as he gazes into her emerald eyes.

“See? Even the way you look at me; it makes me melt. I know I’m supposed to be this tough mafia wife but when I’m with you? I feel like I’m 17 again and crushing on the most popular boy in the neighborhood.” She places her hand on the table, palm facing upward, as if to beckon Daniel’s hand to join hers.

His hands reach across to hers, one under and the other over. His smooth hands always tickle and surprise her when he touches her; they contrast the coarseness of her husband’s.

It always amazes her that, with the type of work he does for the Family, he manages to keep such smooth and elegant skin. Her husband, on the other hand, does nothing all day and manages to still have dry skin, rough hands, and body odor that would make a skunk run in fear. She pulls her hand away and turns her head to cover her shy grin. She stands, fixes her form-fitting black shoulder-strapped dress, and walks over to Daniel, and sits across his lap. A comforting sigh escapes her lungs when he places his hand on the small of her revealed back. She grabs the middle of his necktie, pulling him closer to her, and kisses him. “I love you.”

“I lo—” Daniel’s body slumps over in the chair.

“Danny!” a second bullet whizzes through the air, hitting Moira in the back as her last words echo through the once peaceful night.

A hand closes the cover of the scope attached to a silenced sniper rifle. “That’ll teach them to sneak around on me.”

Elevator Blues


The drab reflection in the elevator door was enough to turn John’s head from it. How could he go through with this? How could he have found himself in this situation? There was no time for reflections, though; internal or external. It was time for action.

“You got something on your coat, Liyah.”

“I’m not falling for that again, Uncle John,” she giggled.

John flashed a loving and playful smile to his niece despite the battle waging itself within him to mask the horrors he was preparing to face. What made matters worse was the somber melody crackling through the speakers of the 115 cubic feet of dilapidated steel and wood shaft. It reminded him of all he hoped to keep locked away during what had become valuable time with his late sister’s only child. It reminded him of the phone call he’d received just the day before that asked him if we would take guardianship as he is her only living relative. It reminded him of the emptiness he’d felt in the pit of his stomach upon learning of his sister’s “accident”. It reminded him of the rage that replaced that emptiness and led him down a path he could no longer turn away from.

“Uncle John. Uncle John!” Liyah tugged at the arm of her uncle’s tan overcoat. “The elevator stopped. Is this where we stop, too?”

“Yes, dear.”

“I don’t like it here. It smells funny.” Her nose was scrunched as she pinched her nostrils closed. Careful not to stray too far from her uncle’s coat tail, she grabbed hold of his clammy hands with a tight grip. “Where are we going?” she asked with a nasally tone.

“I have to leave you with a friend of mine for a few days. Don’t worry, ok?” With a deep sigh, John forcibly smiled to her, kissed her forehead, and lied to her, “everything is going to be fine.”

Everything is not going to be ok. John pressed the button to the lobby and hung his head. The door closed and his weight shifted with the downward movement of the elevator, his head now rising from the motion and his eyes fixing on his reflection. I could die tonight; but before I do, I plan to take as many of Rizzo’s men with me as I can. The chamber of his silver-plated Colt 1911 filled itself with a hollow-tipped round as he racked the slide to the rear. My sister’s murder will not go unpunished.

The Drifter


“Where ya headed, buddy?”

“As far east as you’ll take me, ma’am.”

“Hop on in! I have a delivery to Kentucky and could use the company!”

The large, Bunyan-esque man grabbed the handle of the semi’s passenger door as his petite brunette savior opened it for him. He threw his bag into her cab, nestled his weary body into the cushioned seat, and wiped a pool of sweat from his brow.

The cab of the truck had a homey décor. There were postcards posted on the wall above the small, neatly kept bed. It smelled of freshly picked peaches blowing in the wind as the air conditioner cooled the heated core of its newest passenger. The desert day had been brutal to him but the cab of the truck promised a better evening.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Where are my manners? My name is Lance. Lance Scavaneaux,” he said tiredly.

“Well, isn’t this cute? I’m Gueneviere, or "Gwen" for short. Nice to meet ya.”

"How's that cute?"

"You know," she extended her soft fingertips over to his rough hands for a shake, "like Sir LANCE-a-lot and Queen Gueneviere from the King Arthur stuff?"

"Oh," he chuckled. "I get it now."

"So, what brings you ‘round these parts?”

“Oh, nothing much; just on my way to the east coast to catch a ship for work.” Lance reclined his seat a little and pulled his shabby baseball cap down while answering her question.

Gwen took the opportunity to give him a closer look than she previously could on the side of the dusty road. He was a muscular fellow; not anything like he worked out in a gym regularly but on a farm; it was definitely a farm because she could smell the bouquet of wheat and hay with a faint but distinct scent of manure traveling through her nostrils. The dusky sky complimented his bronzed skin while highlighting the sternness of his jawline; Gwen was smitten. She smiled at him and bit her lip when she noticed he’d peaked at her from under the lid of his cap.

By the time the warm sky turned into a star-clustered evening, the two had become quite but awkwardly acquainted. Gwen spoke of her suburban childhood and her desire to become a truck driver to spite her overprotective parents. Lance mentioned his rural upbringing and how he’d been quite the ladies’ man all his life. His left hand often found itself on her leg or stroking her hair before she nudged it away while masking her distaste in his friskiness.

“Would you like something to drink or eat? I have to stop for gas in a little bit and, uh, stretch my legs,” she said while glancing in his direction.

Lance smiled and nodded in affirmation.

Gwen exited the truck, leaving Lance inside, and entered the store to pay for food and gas. She returned 10 minutes later with a smile on her face and passed him his share of food. “Eat up.” The engine of the truck roared to life as Gwen turned the key to the ignition to continue their eastbound journey.

Lance ate his meal of a road-stop burger and fries and gulped down the fizzy coke for refreshment. His taste buds sated, Lance’s eyes began to fill up on Gwen’s figure. He contemplated exactly how he was going to bed her in the back of truck’s cab. “Aren’t you going to eat? I would hate for that bag of Doritos you were snacking on a few hours ago to be your last meal,” he groggily said to her.

“Wh-where am I?”

“You’re in Kentucky, darling; well, what’s left of you anyway.”

“What? What do you mean ‘what’s left of’ me?!” Lance strained to see how much of his body was missing.

“Well, funny story, doll. I’m a serial killing truck driver who just happened to pick up a notorious serial killing rapist on the run from U.S. Marshals.” With her back to Lance, Gwen slowly sharpened a butcher’s knife. “It turns out I managed to get a hold of you before you could get your filthy little paws on me.” She placed the sharpening stone on the table with the rest of her tools. “Now, you slept through the majority of the dismembering but now we’re at my favorite part: the part where you’re awake for the rest. Oh, and to answer your question,” Gwen said, smiling as she turned to face her victim, “yes, I am going to eat…you.”

Date Night


“Jesus! Could you NOT do that to me? You know I hate that!”

“Now, Jai, it wouldn’t be any fun for me if I warned you before scaring you.” PitStop grinned.

“Right, because everything is a joke to you.” Jai rolled his eyes.

“Who you gettin’ all pretty for?”

“Nunya, mane. Could you please let me finish getting dressed and stop harassing me?”

“Lisa. Oooh. Wait a minute? Isn’t that the girl we met at Barnes & Noble the other day?”

“How did you?”

PitStop tapped his head with a sly grin. “Really?”

Jai hung his head. “Oh yeah. I forgot.”

“Wait. Jai has a date and didn’t invite US?”

“Dear God, not you, too! Can y’all please let me have this evening to myself? I really like her!” Jai hung his head in desperation.

“No can do, señor,” mocked Lot. “We’re going, too. We need to know that she’s good enough for our dear boy and to make sure YOU don’t screw it up.”

“Me? Screw it up?” scoffed Jai. “You two are always buttin’ into the conversations, making me seem crazy.”

“But you are crazy, Jai,” PitStop and Lot said in unison, “you’re literally talking to yourself in the mirror. We’re just figments of your broken imagination.”

###

Thank you for delving into my mind and immersing yourself into some of the universes it has created. If you wish to travel to more of these worlds, please, join me; I wish to be your guide on the journey.


About the Author



J.R. Cornell is a game writer, screenwriter, and published flash fiction writer and poet. His published works include The One-way Ticket and Date Night, and an upcoming book of poetry titled, lyfe: a book of teenage poetre. Cornell hopes to become a huge influence, innovator, and household name in the worlds of poetry, media production, comics, gaming, and flash fiction.


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