Announcing My Latest Short Story Collection: Happy, Sad, Funny, Mad

I’m so excited to announce that my latest short story collection, Happy, Sad, Funny, Mad, is now available at Amazon.com!

In this collection, you’ll find forty very short stories of various genres that can be generally categorized as happy, sad, funny or … well, you get it. Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, and some will flat-out scare the puddin’ out of you. I guarantee each and every one of them will entertain you, though.

Get your copy today by clicking HERE. Thank you!

Keeping Up With Claus: A Short Story

James Huff stands amidst a throng of people in just another chain department store trying to make a decision. He’s surrounded not only by people, but also by Christmas wreaths and gaudily decorated trees. Holiday music plays over the store’s speakers, but coupled with the procession of marching footsteps as well as the din of hundreds of chattering voices creates a sonic abomination.

As evident, Christmas shopping is not James’ favorite activity. However, he is on an important mission, one he cannot mishandle.

A salesperson waits before him—a conservatively garbed matron probably around his mother’s age. He is thankful for such a minor miracle. He needs an experienced woman for this endeavor, a woman who’s attained both worldliness and wisdom.

“They are both lovely,” Carol, the sales representative, says matter-of-factly. Though he has never met Carol, her nametag makes all the necessary introductions.

“Yes, they are,” James agrees. He studies the two bracelets and appreciates that Carol is not attempting to sell him on the more expensive one. She must sense he’s an easy mark, a surefire sale just waiting to happen. He appreciates that she’s not the gluttonous sort.

“Any woman would be glad to receive either of them,” Carol says.

“I agree. I personally like the more expensive of the two, and I think she will, too. Unfortunately, it’s beyond my budget. I hate to cheap out when I know she’d like the other one better.”

“If I may say so, sir,” Carol begins, “I wouldn’t describe the less expensive one as ‘cheap.’ It costs a significant amount of money.”

“You’re right, of course. And she’s not the materialistic type, so it’s really not about the money.” James holds the finer bracelet up to his face and studies it. “It’s just, I know her tastes, and this is it. She’ll kill me if she ever finds out how much it costs, but long ago I learned a valuable lesson in choosing the right gifts. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

***

During a past Christmas, everyone had a good idea what lay under the Huff Christmas tree. James’ life consisted of He-Man, Ghostbusters, and comic books. His older brother, Ted, lived for the Chicago Bears and the Super Bowl game he knew they were fated to win. Their dad, Anthony, had a passionate interest in building model muscle cars in his downstairs shop when he wasn’t busy with work, which wasn’t very often.

So for the men of the family, the various packages of all shapes and sizes could only hide a limited number of delightful possibilities.

As for their mom, Debbie, well, the boys didn’t really know what interested her—besides them, of course—but the boys trusted their father to take care of her gifts.

James had an unflinching confidence in the infallibility of Santa Claus, but he also understood that Santa only brought gifts for children. Adults simply had to rely upon each other to make sure their Christmas wishes came true.

And judging from the multitude of geometrically diverse objects labeled “Mom” or “Debbie” beneath the tree, his dad did well that year.

Oh, if only Debbie, Ted, and James knew what the immediate future held for them.

Ted decreed himself all-time gift sorter, and once he yet again accomplished the task with an efficiency that increased every year, Debbie settled in on the couch while eyeing an assortment of effects whose innards were unfathomable. Anthony kicked out the footrest of his favorite recliner. Ted, beaming at yet another job well done, sat upon the ledge before the fireplace, warming his backside with a preternatural tolerance to the flames. James sat smack-dab next to the Christmas tree so that he could use it as an adventurous gateway to the heavens for the new toys with which he would soon be playing.

Per tradition, James, being the youngest and most impatient, got to open a gift first. Imagine his elation when he unwrapped the He-Man toy known as Buzz-Off, a strange hybrid of man and bee. Hopefully Buzz-Off had not grown too comfortable in his plastic and cardboard home, for it took all of two seconds to emancipate him.

Ted went next, and he pumped his fist in the air when he opened a pair of official Jim McMahon sunglasses. He would wear those sunglasses every Bears game until McMahon went to San Diego.

Though Debbie was technically the next in line in terms of youth, she insisted Anthony go ahead. He opened a year’s supply of top-of-the-line model glue. Ted and James failed to see the allure of such a gift, but the smile on their father’s face told them he felt ecstatic.

While the men were captivated with their newly acquired baubles, Debbie, her curiosity piqued most intensely by the largest of the packages, suppressed her urgings in order to enjoy the suspense and instead opened the smallest of the gifts.

It wasn’t unusual in the Huff household to open the biggest gifts last. History proved those were usually the most excellent. None wanted to start with the best only to end on a low note.

Imagine her surprise when she found Anthony bought her, on behalf of the boys, a new scrub brush. She glanced up to see Anthony studying the ingredients of his model glue, Ted wearing sunglasses and throwing imaginary touchdowns, and James flying Buzz-Off as high as his short arms would allow.

Ever the master of etiquette, she thanked them for the gift, listened as they mumbled a reply, and then she laid it aside and contemplated.

If only Anthony’s present to her turned out to be an aberration, a one-time error in judgment that could be dismissed as soon as she opened the next package, but such good fortune would not occur that Christmas.

James next opened a t-shirt with the famous Ghostbusters logo upon it. It went on over his Batman pajama top without hesitation. Ted opened a pair of official Chicago Bears sweatbands and put them on with a grin from ear to ear. Anthony opened a collection of one hundred miniature bottles of model paint, and he began to feel a stone growing ever denser in the pit of his stomach as he watched Debbie pick up a box that anyone would naturally assume housed a piece of clothing.

And Debbie did make such an assumption. She presumed the slightly oversized box might contain a house robe, or perhaps the little black dress she had wanted for so long in order to wear to work parties. Because the boys finally took notice and gave her their full attention as she pulled out a welcome mat, she fought back the tears and refused to acknowledge her husband.

Palpable tension filled the room, and even David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s duet playing on the radio in the background did nothing to bring about peace in the Huff home.

With trepidation, James opened a box of brand-new comic books, but the expression upon his mother’s face soured his mood. Ted seemed equally afflicted, for his Bears sweatshirt did little to lift his spirits. Even Anthony, finally realizing he committed a grievous mistake, barely noticed his new set of paintbrushes … he knew what lay ahead as Debbie reached for her third gift.

Though it appeared taller than the objects surrounding her, it did not take up much space. She hoped against hope that it could perhaps be that new television or stereo she wanted for her sewing room. A glimmer of positive thinking convinced her this would all end well. Anthony must have come close to overshooting the budget on the television or stereo, and so he bought those little, undesirable things to simply give her something to open. That way she wouldn’t feel left out. They would all be laughing about it soon enough.

The tall item she started to unwrap could only be a plastic garbage can.

And so it was.

She didn’t bother unwrapping it all the way.

Ted slid down the ledge of the fireplace, suffering chilliness as he put distance between he and the heat he so loved, and leaned into James’ ear.

“This is not good,” he said. Ah, so important the years were that separated James and Ted. The older brother was not yet completely versed in the complicated diplomacy necessary for men and women to coexist, but he knew enough to understand his father risked all-out war.

Because of James’ age, he couldn’t formulate any complicated thoughts to interpret his instincts, but those instincts also warned him that his father had blundered far into the danger zone.

His mother broke the silence—discounting the cheery background music—and said, “Open your gift, James.” She tried so hard to sound warm and loving, but, as she discovered in high school, Debbie was a terrible actor. She could not hide the melancholy in her voice.

The Huffs went through several more rounds of unwrapping, but as each circuit completed, the ambiance darkened. Such change in atmosphere could not be avoided as Debbie found herself worthy of receiving a laundry basket, a low-grade cutlery set, a dictionary, and a collapsible shovel.

At last, the final chapter arrived. James and Ted didn’t remove their eyes from Debbie’s biggest gift as it awaited her shaking hands. Debbie glanced at it as well, wondering, like Caesar, if it would be the last knife in her back. A sheen of moisture escaped the pores upon Anthony’s forehead, and rightly so.

Anxious for the crescendo, James tore through the paper that exposed the mammoth Castle Grayskull, and then motioned for his brother to hurry up. Ted shred apart a box divulging a Walter Payton jersey, then jutted his jaw out and stared at his father. Anthony took his time, as though he attempted to stay an execution, and finally could stall no longer once an incredible model replicating a 1970 Ford Mustang Mach I engine shined at him.

Heart fluttering as no one said a word, Debbie slowly ripped apart snowmen and reindeer, yearning to see the brand names RCA or Zenith. Instead, she saw a wet/dry vacuum cleaner.

The last thing Debbie wanted was to make a scene in front of her boys. However, she also thought they needed to see a woman assert herself when necessary. She fought to keep her voice calm and steady when she asked, “Anthony, I appreciate the fact you went Christmas shopping for me. I do. But what—exactly—are you trying to tell me with these gifts?”

Ted leaned over again and whispered to James, “Mom and Dad are getting divorced. You just wait.”

“What’s that mean?” James asked with eyes moistening. His instincts again worked overtime.

“What?” Anthony asked his wife. “I thought you’d be happy I noticed all the things you needed around the house!”

“No, Anthony. You got me things we needed around the house.”

“What’s the difference?” Anthony asked. “I spent a lot of money on that stuff!”

“It’s not the money, Anthony,” Debbie mumbled. “It’s just … Oh, I sound like such a brat. I’m thankful you got me gifts, really. But who in his right mind buys his wife a wet/dry vac?”

“I’ll have you know that wet/dry vac cost a bundle!”

Before anyone knew what happened, Ted gathered up all his presents in his arms and hauled them to his mother. He dropped them into his mother’s lap and said, “Here, Mom. You can have my stuff.”

James lifted the gigantic Castle Grayskull box as best he could, and he stumbled with it to his mother as well. “If you don’t mind, I’ll keep the little stuff, Mom. But you can have the best one. You deserve it.”

Anthony looked stunned.

Touched by her boys’ selflessness, Debbie dropped her head into her hands and fought back tears. Then, realizing her sons still watched, she lifted her chin and smiled at them. She set aside the gifts they bestowed upon her. After that, she stood up and said, “Thank you, boys. I truly appreciate the gesture.” She then took refuge in the only bathroom.

Once she left the room, Anthony asked, “What’s the big idea, boys? You’re making me look bad!”

“Mom’s gifts stink, Dad!” Ted cried out.

“Yeah, Dad,” James agreed. “I sure am glad Santa brings my presents! If you’d been in charge, I probably would have gotten a toilet plunger or something!”

Ted and Anthony exchanged knowing glances.

Then Ted scowled and said to his father, “What if Mom gave you the kind of presents that you gave her? How would that make you feel?”

***

“I’ll take that one,” James says to the salesclerk while pointing to the bracelet he prefers.

“You’re sure?” Carol questions. “If you don’t mind me saying so, Christmas isn’t supposed to be about the money. I’m sure whomever would love either of them.”

“Absolutely. But I have to make sure it’s perfect. And my gut tells me she’ll like this bracelet the best. So, I’m sure,” he says with a grin. “Very sure.”

Carol senses this gift has far more importance than she can comprehend, so she simply offers James a smile and begins wrapping the exquisite bracelet. Once finished, James thanks her for the assistance and makes his way out. He leaves the threshold of the department store and enters the tumultuous halls of the mall. 

While navigating his way through the multitudes of bundled-up people, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone. Using only his thumb, he dials a number.

After waiting a few moments, the other end finally picks up and offers heartfelt salutations.

“Hi,” James returns. He lifts his other hand, shopping bag and all, to his ear in an effort to dull the ruckus encircling him. He asks, “How’s the knee?”

Once the medical update comes to a close, James replies, “Good, glad to hear you’re staying off of it. Listen, I picked up the robe, the scarf, the gloves, the perfume, and the Picoult book, but I had to go a little over budget on the bracelet. I saw a different one I thought she’d like better. I hope you don’t mind.”

James weaves his way through the Christmas shoppers while listening to the recipient of his call, and then finally corroborates, “No, I agree; she is worth any amount. I thought you’d feel that way. I never would have spent so much of your money otherwise.”

While leaving the mall and trying to avoid salty puddles, James chuckles as a familiar Christmas story issues forth from his conversationalist. Finally, he says, “I think Mom forgave you for that a long time ago, Dad. You couldn’t have done any better these last twenty years if you were Santa himself.”

_______________________________________________________

Copyright © 2007 by Scott William Foley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. This story first appeared in the December 2007 issue of Town and City Magazine.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

Shady Characters: A Short Story

“Look—over there!”

“Where?”

Donnie pointed out his window and said, “There, in that field. See that bunch of trees?”

Sammy took his foot off of the accelerator while peering through the windshield. “Yeah. What’s a patch of trees like that doing in the middle of a corn field?”

“Who cares?” Donne asked. “It could be just what we’re looking for. Let’s check it out!”

With a simple nod, Sammy cranked up Guns N’ Roses’ “Sympathy For the Devil” and then veered off the country road onto a dirt path leading down the middle of an empty field. He hit the gas and roared with laughter as his 1981 black and gold Firebird fishtailed on the loose dirt.

Donnie screamed over Axle Rose’s shrieks: “Punch it, Chewie!”

Both boys beamed as the spring air whipped through the open T-tops and their hair.

Once Sammy reached the dense circle of trees, he slowed down and found an opening. After easing the Trans Am into the thicket, he cut the engine.

They found themselves within a clearing, an open space the size of a baseball infield.

“Oh, my god, dude!” Donnie cheered while pumping his fist like Arsenio Hall. “This is perfect!”

Both boys opened their car doors before exiting the vehicle. They looked at the canvas of leaves above them. With each gust of wind, small pockets of sunlight peeked through the organic canopy.

Sammy ran over to Donnie and punched him on the arm while bellowing, “This is the place—most definitely!”

“For real,” Donnie continued. “You drive out here at night, cut the lights, and no one will ever know! No houses around to see you—just make sure no one else is on the road before pulling off, right?”

“I can’t believe our luck,” Sammy said before clapping his hands together. “We’ve been looking for a spot like this all day! Finally!”

“And dude,” Donnie added, “once summer’s here, you won’t even have to worry about her getting cold!”

“Yeah,” Sammy said with a smirk as his thoughts became obvious. That devious grin suddenly turned sheepish, though, when he said, “I guess I better find a ‘her’ first, huh?”

“Hey, you’ve got your license and a cool car now—the chicks are going to line up for you!”

Sammy laughed a little, then mumbled, “If you say so.”

Donnie said, “You got the wheels. You got the spot. Now you just need the girl. You got me beat! I don’t get my license until August.”

“Yeah, but you’ve already got a girl,” Sammy said.

Donnie smiled smugly. “Yes. That I do.”

Sammy shook his head while taking in their surroundings. Something near the center of the clearing caught his attention. “What the hell?” he muttered.

“What’s up?” Donnie asked.

Sammy pointed at three tombstones in the middle of the space.

Donnie squinted. He then whispered, “Those look like … Are those graves?”

While craning his neck forward, Sammy asked, “Does that one in the middle say ‘Fido?’” 

A thunderous barking suddenly erupted, causing both boys to jump. Moments later, a black dog sprinted into the area with its tail wagging furiously. It leapt up onto Donnie, knocked him over, then dashed toward Sammy. Crouching down, Sammy rubbed the dog between the ears while looking at Donnie. He said, “You should have seen your face, man! You looked like you saw a ghost or something!”

Donnie stood up. He brushed the pine needles and leaves from his jeans. “Ha, ha. Real funny. Ghosts don’t come out in the daytime, dummy.”

“Well, that ain’t entirely true,” something said from beyond.

Sammy shot to his feet while he and Donnie followed the direction of the voice. They saw a man emerging from a dark patch in the trees. His clothing looked decidedly… old. Very old. 

The dog began turning in circles while incessantly barking.

“Yep. They can come out whenever the hell they want,” a new voice crooned.

Sammy and Donnie’s eyes darted to the tombstones, and there, atop the one on the right, sat a woman. Her clothing appeared antiquated as well, though, unlike the man, she wore a dress instead of trousers.

The man pointed at Sammy while demanding, “You—what year is it?”

“What?” Sammy replied in a quivering voice. 

“He asked you the year,” the woman clarified.

“You guys dope fiends or something?” Donnie asked while feigning bravery. “It’s 1994.”

The man’s eyebrows lifted nearly up to the brim of his cowboy hat. “1994? You don’t say? Let’s see here, then. Whoo-whee. That makes it about thirty years since our last visitor and there about … 140 years since the fire. Ain’t that right, darling?”

The woman rolled her eyes at the man as she said, “Sounds about right.”

Donnie said, “Yo, I don’t think you should sit on that stone, lady. It’s disrespectful.”

The woman burst out laughing. Moments passed before said, “Not if it’s mine, sugar.” 

Sammy’s eyes fell upon the tombstone the woman perched upon. “Nettie Norman,” he read.

Donnie looked at the other stone and read, “Guy Silas.”

“That’s us,” Guy said with a sneer. He approached the boys and hissed, “What are your names, fellas?”

As they backed up, Sammy answered, “I’m Sammy—Samuel. This is my friend, Donnie.”

“Dude!” Donnie yelped while slapping at Sammy’s arm. “Don’t tell them our names!”

“Hey, Nettie,” Guy said. “This boy, Donnie, he looks as though he might be black like you. Two black people in Cass County. Who’d have thought?”

Sammy glanced at Donnie and asked, “Are you related to her?”

Donnie shoved his friend away and yelled, “Am I related to a ghost? Did you see her tombstone? She died over a hundred years ago! No, we’re not related!”

“I thought maybe she was like a great-great-grandma or something. And they’re not ghosts.”

Nettie noticed Guy getting agitated. She chuckled as she said, “Sammy, make no mistake, we’re definitely ghosts. Donnie: relax; we’re not related. Guy and I never had any kids, and besides, I wasn’t from around here anyway. This was Guy’s home.” 

“Yep. Thought we’d be safe up here,” Guy said. “Brought Nettie back so we could be left alone. But we wasn’t, was we, Nettie?” Guy walked up to Sammy. He leaned down while staring hard with his hazel eyes into the boy’s face. “In fact, you look a lot like the guy under that white hood. Remember when I yanked it clean off, Nettie? They had you all tied up. I was fighting hard.” He then paused a minute before muttering, “Not hard enough, though.”

“We’re still together, Guy,” Nettie said. “That’s all that matters.”

Guy then screamed into Sammy’s face, “Tell me your family’s name, boy, or I’m gonna skin you alive!” At the conclusion of his eruption, the skin upon Guy’s face melted off, first revealing muscle and veins before giving way to patches of smoking, ivory bone. 

Both boys screamed in terror, turned, and raced to the Firebird. Donnie dove headfirst through the T-top opening. Sammy had the car started and in reverse before even being fully seated.

As the car sped away, the dog continued to bark without end while prancing from foot to foot.

Nettie slipped off the stone, approached Guy, then wrapped her arms around him. “Why are you so mean to visitors? We don’t get them very often.”

Guy looked down at her, his face fully restored. “Can’t have them coming back,” he replied. “They’ll stay quiet if they’re scared. I don’t want people out here moving us.”

“Even if they did, they’d keep us together,” Nettie said. “Heck, the Klan had the decency to bury us all together. Still can’t believe they gave the dog a stone.”

“Yeah,” Guy seethed. “Real Christian of them after burning us alive … including the dog.”

Both Nettie and Guy looked over at the third tombstone. The dog wedged between their knees as they remained in an embrace. 

“Maybe we could move on,” Nettie said quietly after releasing Guy. She bent down, kissed the dog on the nose, then stroked his back. “We could meet in the hereafter or Heaven or … whatever.”

“Maybe,” Guy agreed. He too leaned over and patted the dog’s rump. “But what about Fido here? You think they’d move him, too? You think dogs are allowed past the Pearly Gates?” 

Fido began to whine.

Nettie took Fido up in her arms. She sauntered over to the middle tombstone before sitting with her back against it. Fido remained in her arms. Guy followed, took his place next to Nettie, put his arm around her, and then leaned his head against hers. 

All three of them remained silent in the copse of trees. 

“You know,” Nettie said after thinking for a few moments. “This place isn’t so bad. Plenty of shade. I think we should all just stay right here.”

At the conclusion of her statement, Fido barked in joy.

______________________________________________________

Copyright © 2021 by Scott William Foley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

Hunger Pangs: A Short Story

“Pfwahh. Errh Brohtt ahhr ummk.”

“Gwaack, Hurmph! Rrerrm ibb fwapt.”

Oh. I’m sorry. How rude. You don’t speak Zombie, of course. I’ll just have to narrate this little tale for you, then. My name is obviously Brohtt. You’re not stupid—you gathered that much.

You caught me talking with my dear friend, Hurmph. Perhaps “dear friend” is something of an embellishment. We haven’t spoken since we bumped into each other in the Seventh Circle while celebrating the New England Patriots initial Super Bowl victory. Hurmph has always been a delight—so full of mischief, that one.

In fact, Hurmph has been such a consistent pleasure that I feel terrible having interrupted his meal. However, just as I’m about to take my leave, he asks me a question. Because you’re almost certainly an American and speak only English, I’ll translate for you.

“Brohtt, join me, old friend. This one has such a lovely flavor, and there’s ample brain to spare.”

“Thank you, Hurmph, but I must decline.”

Hurmph asks, “Have you eaten since our arrival?”

“Alas, no,” I respond.

“But why? It’s been an hour. These vessels are made all the weaker by our possession. You must gain sustenance if you wish to persist!”

Ah, Hurmph. Such a caring soul. Well, metaphorically speaking.

I pause a moment to bask in the glory of our surroundings. Everywhere I look, fresh humans are being gorged upon by my brethren. Magnificent Mile—indeed! What a serendipitous location for our revelation from the deep. The sounds of flesh ripping, explosions, bones crunching, fires blazing, screaming, and general death throes are a symphonic tempest forcing me to smile.

Whoops. Tooth just fell out.

Bother. Hurmph is right. These earthly bodies don’t last long even under the best of circumstances. Without nourishment after their death, they wither away to dust in no time at all. Speaking of which, Hurmph still awaits my response.

“Hurmph,” I say, “You must understand. I can’t simply ingest just anyone. I am in search of the perfect victim. The first eaten is always the most special—the one always remembered. I need someone who makes my heart flutter, my eyes brighten, my—” 

“But you don’t have eyes or a heart,” Hurmph interrupts.

“Well, no, not literally, not of my own, but, confound it! I’m using magniloquence, Hurmph. Please try to keep up.”

Hurmph squints at me which, unfortunately, loosens one of his body’s eyeballs and it plops out. Oh, look at that. It’s still attached. It’s like an ocular tetherball—wondrous!

“Hurmph, you’re familiar with Tom Brady?” I ask.

Hurmph appears offended while saying, “Of course.”

You must understand that we all love the Patriots—every last one of us. We see kindred spirits in them. Which clearly makes Tom Brady our MVP. It didn’t even hurt that much when he joined the Bucs. We have many, many Buc fans in Hell as well because, well, you know … Florida.

You’re confused by the mention of Hell again, aren’t you? As you have assuredly ascertained, I’m more of a humanities sort of fellow, but I’ll do my best to explain the science of it all.

Most of you think that Zombies are the result of some kind of virus. Ha! If only that were true. I’ve seen your track record with vaccines. I’ll never figure out how you all managed to survive thousands upon thousands of years. Not to worry—my friends and I will end that dynasty.

Speaking of dynasties, isn’t Bill Belichick the best? Oh, he makes my heart swoon. I’d eat him with no hesitation whatsoever. Drat! I’ve lost my train of thought yet again. Anyway, Zombies—we’re not a virus. We’re people!

Sort of.

To be more precise, we’re tiny little demons spawned in Hell. We just love it when we’re set loose upon the mortal world. As spirits, we burrow into the human brain where the soul resides and then we take hold. Yet, when we do so, we suck up that body’s soul, which is a problem because the soul is what keeps these corporal humans ticking. Thus, the rapid deterioration begins, and so we must find more and more souls to eat, along with their gray, mushy little containers, if we are to keep one leg moving in front of the other—or shuffling. You comprehend the gist.

We can body hop, you understand, or we can stay put. Coincidentally, when we dine upon a new human soul but choose to remain in place, that tasty snack becomes a Zombie as well, just one without a handsome little demon like myself manning the stick. Before you know it, we create a dirty rotting gang of rotten scoundrels birthed by our actions, all of whom are rather thoughtless. Honestly, it’s very much like Bill Belichick’s coaching tree.

Dash it all! I’ve once again become lost in my oral wilderness. I must make amends for offending Hurmph.

“Yes, of course you know Tom Brady—how foolish of me. As you know, Tom won’t play with just anyone. He’s very selective about who he allows into his circle. I, too, must remain ever vigilant in order to maintain the sanctity of my essence.

Hurmph hurmphed, then said, “You’re kind of an ass.”

His low-brow insult missed its target, for at that very moment, I spotted her—the one! Oh, she is perfection personified—she’s even wearing a Patriots jersey! I must have her! To feel her soft, warm brain matter sliding down my body’s throat—ecstasy!

As I saunter towards her with my body’s arms outstretched, ready to embrace my very own Rob Gronkowski, she begins screaming, “No! No! Stay away!”

I do love it when they play hard to get.

I’m so close I can smell her sweet scent even over the putrid guts and bile tainting the street we dance upon, and that’s when she aims a crossbow at me.

A crossbow?

Really?

Who in the Nine Circles of Hell carries a crossbow?

She howls, “No means ‘no,’ mother ******!”

My, that’s some saucy language.

D’oh. She got me right between my body’s eyes. I can feel the tip of her arrow jammed in far too deep, right into my body’s brain. The clichés are true—a brain blow is the only way to expire a Zombie.

Ah, well. At least I can say I never lowered my standards. Tom and Bill would be proud—I’ll see them one day, you know. Alas, better to have loved and lost than to—

__________________________________________

Copyright © 2021 by Scott William Foley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

Love, Lies, and Pumpkin Pies: A Short Story

Matthew Campbell leaned over the chain-link fence he shared with Ramona Stocks and said, “Ah, don’t you just love these crisp October mornings?”

“I do,” Ramona replied as she tugged her summer flowers out of the soil. The first frost had arrived and done them in. She didn’t mind, though. Ramona possessed an infinite amount of patience, and so the endless planting and replacing of flowers each season did not bother her. “In fact,” she resumed, “fall is my favorite time of the year.”

“Mine, too,” Matthew agreed. His hands clasped together and hung over the fence, just a few feet from Ramona’s head as she toiled in her flowerbed. He twisted his wedding band around his finger—something he’d started doing after his wife passed away many years ago. “Whenever the leaves start changing and a chill enters the air, I always think about my mom’s cooking. Dad mostly grilled our meals in the summer time, so fall meant Mom was back on the job.”

Ramona smiled. 

She’d been a high school science teacher, and because she’d given every ounce of time she had to her profession, remained single. She enjoyed retirement, and as she glanced up at Matthew, thought perhaps it was the right time to finally start dating.

She moved into the house next to Matthew two years ago after occupying an apartment for most of her adult life. Renovating it was something she did for amusement, and gardening quickly became a passion for her, too. It also gave her an excuse to chat with Matthew, who never failed to appear when she was outdoors.

“Was your mother a good cook?” Ramona asked after pulling out the last of her impatiens.

“The best,” Matthew answered. “She kept my brother and me plenty fed, let me tell you.”

Ramona stood and removed her gardening gloves. “I bet she could bake well, too.”

“Oh, yes.”

Sensing an opportunity, Ramona said, “Well, baking is something I’ve been meaning to take up. What’s your favorite treat?”

Also sensing an opportunity, Matthew wasted no time in answering, “Pumpkin pie, without a doubt. Mom’s were to die for, but I’ve never found one quite like hers.”

Ramona patted away the dirt on her knees while asking, “Maybe I could practice by baking you a few? You could sample them and then offer some advice on how to make one like your mom’s. Once I get it right, I’m sure I’ll start winning contests in no time.”

Matthew adjusted his cap, grinned, and said, “Why, it’d be my pleasure, Ramona. You just bring those pies over whenever you like.”

Two days later, Matthew’s doorbell rang. When he opened it, there stood Ramona with a fresh pumpkin pie. She beamed when she saw him lick his lips.

He practically sang, “Let me put on some coffee.”

Once the coffee brewed, they both sat down at his kitchen table. “Some people put whip cream on their pumpkin pie, but not me,” he informed. “I appreciate it for what it is. Of course, that doesn’t apply to my coffee.” He then dumped two spoons of sugar into his mug.

“I can’t wait any longer, Matthew,” Ramona said. “Go ahead and take a bite.”

Ramona saw a flash of ecstasy on Matthew’s face followed by what seemed to be a concerted effort at looking disappointed. Teaching had given her the ability to read body language without error, and Matthew proved a poor actor.

Nonetheless, she asked, “Is something wrong?”

“No! No, it’s delicious,” Matthew responded between chews. 

“But?”

“Well, if you’re really trying to make it like Mom’s, she always served it after it’d spent the night in the refrigerator.”

Ramona chuckled and said, “So you like it cold.”

“Yes, but you couldn’t have known that,” Matthew said. “I should have remembered to give you that detail the other day. I can’t really comment on the ingredients unless it’s cold, you know, because the coldness changes the flavor.”

It was all Ramona could do to keep from laughing. “I understand, Matthew. Think nothing of it. Why don’t you keep this one and I’ll bring you another one—a cold one—in a few days and we’ll take it from there.”

“Perfect!” Matthew agreed. They then passed several hours talking while Matthew nibbled away the entire pie.

As the weeks passed, Ramona brought pie after pie to Matthew, and though each pie was delicious in its own right, Matthew always recommended a few things. A bit more ginger; a little less salt; a dash of extra cinnamon; add lots of sugar; just a hint of vanilla extract; go easy on the ground cloves; and on it went.

But after each sampling, Matthew and Ramona spent an increasing amount of time together. They went to the movies, out to dinner, took drives in the country, and even rode the train to the city for a few days of sightseeing. A relationship slowly developed, and both of them were perfectly happy with the way things progressed.

Finally, near the end of October, Ramona dropped a pie off at Matthew’s while his younger brother, Peter, happened to visit. 

She didn’t stay long because she didn’t want to intrude upon the brothers’ time together, but also because she didn’t want any complications thrown into the farce. 

After exchanging some friendly words with Peter, Ramona told Matthew to tell her later what changes needed to be made to get it more like his mom’s. The stunned expression upon Peter’s face did not go unnoticed.

The boys sat down to try Ramona’s latest incarnation. It was, as usual, scrumptious. Before they knew it, Peter and Matthew devoured the entire thing.

Leaning back in their chairs, Peter finally asked, “What was that about Ramona trying to make pie like Mom’s?”

Shame spread across Matthew’s face as he said, “She wanted to learn to bake well. I really like Ramona, and I really like pumpkin pie, too. I told her she could practice by making it like Mom’s. I wanted to continue seeing her, so I kept suggesting little changes to the recipe here and there.”

Peter’s mouth hung open. At last, he revealed, “Matthew … Mom hated pumpkin pie. She couldn’t even stand the smell of it. She always bought it for you at Parlier’s Bakery!”

“I know,” Matthew confessed.

Later …

“Good to see you again, Ms. Stocks.”

“Hello there, Jeremy. How are you?” Ramona asked her former student.

“I’m doing very well, ma’am. What can I get for my best customer today? Yet another pumpkin pie?”

“That’s right, Jeremy,” she said as she stood inside the bakery Jeremy inherited from his father, Robert Parlier. “Yet another pumpkin pie.”

“You sure you don’t want something else?” Jeremy asked. “I would think you’d be tired of it by now. At least let me make you one fresh with some different spices.”

“No, thank you, Jeremy,” Ramona said with a sly wink. “Your pumpkin pie is perfect. Don’t change a thing.”

________________________________________

Copyright © 2009, 2017 by Scott William Foley

This work originally appeared in Bloomington News and Views for the Young at Heart, October 2009

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

“Swingin the Clown” Now Available At Podbean and Amazon Music

Who likes creepy clowns? “Swingin the Clown,” an unsettling story I wrote a few years ago, is now available in audio format at both Podbean and Amazon Music. You can also listen to it at ScottWilliamFoley.com.

In this short story, Sadie peeks out the back window before going to bed. This night, though, a clown sits upon their swings. Against her husband’s wishes, she confronts the stranger. She will wish she hadn’t.

Want to meet Swingin the Clown? Click any of the above links!

“Fallen Man” Now Available At Podbean and Amazon Music

My science fiction short story, “Fallen Man,” is now available at ScottWilliamFoley.com, Podbean, and Amazon Music.

In this story, Bryan is certain he’s going to die at the bottom of that ravine. When help arrives, it’s in a form he never expected.

Click any of the above hyperlinks to give it a listen!

Now Only Available To Read In Happy, Sad, Funny, Mad: Stories

My Thanks To Jen Weaver For Her Souls Triumphant Review

I wanted to take a moment to thank Jen Weaver for the following Souls Triumphant review …

“Disclaimer: I describe myself as a lover of murder and psychological thrillers…this does not mean I hate on Sci-fi, but it is not often my first, second or third choice. That being said, when someone gives me a book to read, I read it, and today, I’m glad to say that I may not be putting those Sci-fi books on the back shelf!

I have read a lot of Scott Foley’s other books and I always enjoy the depth and reach of his characters. Souls Triumphant is no different! Within the first few chapters you instantly can relate to Joe! He is kind, inquisitive, and who doesn’t like a dreamer? The action starts fast and doesn’t stop! What will happen to Joe? What will happen to Alexandra? Can they survive? Can their love survive?

I flew through this book, it is easy to read, keeps you turning the pages and ends with you wanting more!

So the real question is….When is book 2 coming out?”

Reviews are so important to an author. They help readers decide if they want to try a book out while also spreading the word. During these busy, difficult times, I greatly appreciate Jen’s time and effort!

Interested in Souls Triumphant? Click the cover to visit it at Amazon.

There’s Something Normal About Souls Triumphant

I recently released the 15th anniversary edition of the one that started it all, Souls Triumphant. I initially came up with the idea for Souls Triumphant while attending Illinois State University in Normal, IL. Then, when I neared graduation, I took an amazing creative writing class and really started fleshing out the plot in the form of a short story. Of course, this eventually led to that short story becoming a full-fledged novel, and the rest is history.

Before uptown Normal became Uptown Normal, it was just a humble stretch of buildings consisting of barber shops, comic book stores, coffee houses, and bars aimed at the college crowd. Those of you who attended ISU before the much needed revitalization of the area may recognize certain characteristics of the old uptown Normal in Souls Triumphant.

This may be the first time I’ve publicly announced this, but uptown Normal absolutely served as the inspiration of the uptown area in Souls Triumphant. Though I never specifically say in the book that it’s taking place at Illinois State University in Normal, IL, the area certainly served as the basis for the primary setting.

If you’re familiar with Normal, IL, and want to play a fun game, see if you can match up certain bars, locations, and cafes in the book with the Normal that existed in the late 1990s.

Haven’t read Souls Triumphant yet? You can find your copy by clicking the cover below.

Special Thanks To Dr. Jane Thomas For This New Review Of Souls Triumphant

Dr. Jane Thomas has long supported my writing. Once again, she has gone above and beyond by writing a review for the 15th anniversary edition of Souls Triumphant. Here it is!

Souls Triumphant is a must-read. Part Christian allegory and part thriller, the story offers a few ‘Avenger-like’ characters, with two very interesting protagonists, one of whom grows from doubts about himself and total unawareness of his powers to a warrior of legend. The other grows into the being she is meant to be and provides one of the twists in the plot line. Percolating through the story, as in all Foley’s stories, is an assurance of the essential goodness of creation, though it must be fought for and defended. The story is so fast-paced, it’s almost impossible to put down until you’ve reached the end. Ten-star recommendation!”

If you’d like a copy of Souls Triumphant, simply click the cover below. Thank you!