Flash Fiction-‘He Won’t Hit’

For those of you that are unhip, Flash Fiction is piece of fiction that is between 250-500 words–between 1-2 pages. With nothing but time and words to chase, I decided to craft this one. I’m sure there will be more to come. Flash Fiction is challenging, and dope! Enjoy! -JBHarris

How to Choose a Winning Slot Machine | Casino Market

Curtis watched as he swept up the lobby, watching the late night early morning crowd come in. “The look like gas station dogs!” he looked up, giggling in the direction of Ms. Lucille, the chef that came in at 6:00am for the morning shift. She always came in humming Amazing Grace while she got the food ready for the Lucky Morning buffet. He watched her go through the heavy gold doors to the kitchen. “Morning Ms. Lucille!” Curtis, still sweeping, said after her.

He was right thought. There, on the casino floor, every morning he worked was the wrecking of the night before. There were the regulars that came in because their rooms were comped. There were those that were too drunk to go home because they would have to explain why checks were bouncing the next week. And then there was who Curtis nicknamed The Wanderers. Every day, these group of six people would come in al in their Easter best and they would leave about 7:00am. They would eat after gambling and then they would just…go. Upon seeing them, Curtis thought they looked like Jehovah witnesses. The ‘spiritual walkers’ Stevie Wonder talked about.

They would be these three women in their church hats and dresses. These men would be in their suits and they would just…leave. Curtis watched them leave as he vacuumed, watching the other stragglers either leave or settle by the machine. The Wanderers were leaving, all 5 of them without their 6th. Curtis looked towards the slot machines, and saw him there. The last one, with gray hair, unbrushed and a dusty brown suit. He walked away from his vacuum and looked and walked towards the flashing and dingings light, and the angry voice in the machine that kept screaming “You lose! You lose!”

Curtis got to him, shaking him, his eyes shut at the Keno machine, wishing he was dead. In the year that he had worked at Happy Cherokee Casino, he had never spoken to these people. He couldn’t remember anyone speaking to him. “Um, sir?” he said, sounding more awake than he was. “It aint hittin’! I ain’t sleep!” The old man’s eyes opened as if they were snatched. He looked at Curtis. “It ain’t hit! I ain’t lose nothin’!” He slid from the stool, half shuffling completely cursing at people that weren’t there. Curtis watching him walk away muttering to himself, cursing like spurts from an old Monte Carlo. “I can’t eemb shut my eyes without folk bothering me.” Curtis walked behind him, scared he would fall over for how he was walking. He trotted to the seat he was in and found his wallet. “Chester Humphrey Allen.” The wallet said. There was an old Steel worker union card inside. Receipts, a casino rewards card and a note. And a crumbled five dollar bill.

‘Babe-

Remember to come home by 8.

Mama.’

Curtis ran to this man, newly discovered as Chester Humphrey Allen. Retired steelworker. Mama looking for him. He tapped his shoulder, giving the wallet to him. “Mister Chester?” he caught him right before he left the casino floor. He turned, the pain in his face, willing his body to move backwards. “You left your wallet.” Chester looked at Curtis’s face, as if it were mirror. “Thank you.” He blinked, Curtis blinked. And he turned toward the direction of bacon, biscuits and eggs. “It just ain’t hit. Idda made it up if it had just hit!” Curtis went back to his world, consumed with vacuuming and screen checks and checking for drunks for the next 8 hours. Chester would be back tomorrow.

[image from casinomarket.co.uk]

There Is Nothing But Time Now (Part 2)

The Florence Nightingale Pledge 1893 Art Print by Olga Hamilton
Nursing students before they start clinicals, during their White Coat Ceremony, say this pledge. Don’t you dare disrespect this profession.

I am the daughter of a nurse. A 40-year veteran of this profession.

All I have heard since this pandemic hit is the need for nurses. How valuable nurses are, how they are on the frontline of everything that is happening. So, to hear the tone-deaf Lindsey ‘I Take Two Weeks Off To Self-Quarantine And Come Back To A Job And Check But No One Else Can’ Graham say how much nurses make and how he was against signing this bill because he thinks nurses will quit their jobs to stay home.

Let me help you, Lindsey. This is how a typical night for a nurse goes:

You clock in. Most hospitals have their nurses (and Patient Care Techs/Certified Nurse’s Aides) do 12-hour shifts. You get your report from the nurse’s who are leaving. You and your tech (if you are lucky to have one!) discuss how you want to divide you night. You have to take care of the truly sick, the dying, the angry, the disillusioned and the lonely. You, as a nurse, have pledged to take care of all these people. I won’t even get started on being a Black nurse/nurse who happens to be a person of color taking care of racist patients! It’s a whole different animal to have someone that needs your help and skill to not want it because of your skin tone.

I’ve seen that more than once.

You round on patients. You check nuero assessment. You give pain medicine or management. You reorient the confused, tend to the dying, comfort the lonely and deal with doctors whom are less than helpful, or leave messages praying they get back to them before they leave. And the lights to answer. The charts to start and finish –and the families to remind that all is being done to take care of their loved one.

Being a nurse is superpower.

In my Fundamentals of Nursing class, thing they beat into us is the nursing shortage–worldwide nursing shortage–that was was going to happen by 2020 (Prophetic, no?). Why? The Baby Boomers were retiring. My mother is a Baby Boomer, celebrating her 70th whirl around the sun in March. With the devastation of COVID-19, the call went out to retired nurses and doctors to assist with the efforts to contain COVID-19. When I heard this, I laughed. I laughed loud.

My mother was a nurse during GRID/the AIDS epidemic, Ebola and H1N1. She said she was not doing anything else! I don’t blame her. I have been a CNA/Patient Care Tech for 6 years. My mother and the nurses of her generation and age have done their time on the floor–and are not going back.

One. PAY YOUR NURSING STAFF OR THEY WILL QUIT. This is an unprecedented time, and demands are crazy–so, you need to pay and take care of your staff. Remember I said it. Listen to your nurses and techs.

Two. The NCLEX, because of the emergent circumstances, needs to be free! FREE! There is a desperate need for staff! Graduate the nurses, let them get a 60 day waiver to take Boards (aka NCLEX).

Three. This is not going to go away quickly. Don’t listen to the President. Wash your hands.

[image from fineartamerica.com]

There Is Nothing But Time Now (Part 1)

Maria is a mood.

I have been in the house with my kids and husband for about 13 days. In the almost two weeks that we have been in self-quarantine, I have had nothing but time to think. And write. And be a mom. And a wife. And cook. And write. And pray.

I have pulled from Facebook for a time, because it was time. Social distancing from social media is a must for me–and it seems to happen around this time of year. But this year, when COVID-19 hit? It seems all the more needed and necessary. I have had time to reflect and to think and to process just how effing crazy life could become! And has become!

I have nothing but time now.

I have read, re-read and refuse to start worrying. I have written like Alexander Hamiliton (think ‘NonStop’ from the Hamiliton soundtrack). I have limited my time listen to the news, and decided to only watch the news for like 1-2 hours at time and that’s it. I do that because I cannot handle being inundated with panic. I can’t. I won’t.

There is nothing but time now.

Time to think. Time to plan. Time to see the world as beautiful and dirty as it is. I have had time to realize just how good I am at these words, and how needed those words are, and realizing just how much harder life just got.

Yet.

I am at a peace. That peace is not dependent on Fox News. Why? My source is not the news. Let me help you right quick.

Charles Blow said on Twitter that he can do this quarantine–his ancestors (read: our ancestors) traveled to this country kidnapped, not speaking the language, surrounded by the sick, dead and dying for months. Months! I can do self-quarantine. I can do being alone with my thoughts and getting to know my children. I can handle cleaning off my professional desktop and building that which I know I can do–what I was meant to do. This is nothing.

Survival is what Black women do. And we do it at all cost.

With An Heir (Tzipporah)-#10

My mother, the Grand Amshun, cried at the birth.

The pain of the birth of a were whelp is never easy. I remember the crushing pain on my hips, and how that pain flooded my back. This ripping fire that had consumed me. The midwives, my cousins Henjah and  Makara, told me they had never seen a birth so hard. I remembered crying. The tearing and the crying of tears that weren’t mine.

I had been ready for this moment for months. My mother had been guarding me in the Open Plane. Farron had completed his Beginning to become Alpha in his own right. The night before he was to return to me, I woke up to soaked in fluid and in the most excruciating pain I had ever known. I had gotten up to call to my mother in the room and the world remained black.

And silent.

I was hurt, and in the Open Plane. Somewhere you are never supposed to be at times where you are injured. I was in water, I was cold and the pain had gotten worse. I was screaming. I called for my mother. For Makara. For Henjah. The only three that could fine me on the Open Plane. There no light, and all I could feel was my womb fighting the enteriety of my body. “Ahandra!” I didn’t recognize the voice. “She is mine!” There was growl, and eyes. Not gold from Farron. These were gray, this blue gray that I had seen along the beaches of Myrtle Beach.

The eyes advanced towards me. “Recounce!” The  growling grew louder, more insistent. The light came as the eyes advanced towards me.  It was Narmon, in were form. I saw myself in the white dress as I was always in with Farron. There was blood around my feet, and I was unsure of how I was standing. I went down again, pain was all I could register. The pains were closer together, insistent and furious. Kicks harder, the were I carried determined to leave my body. I felt myself falling to this newly revealed sandy ground. I wrapped my left arm around my belly, preparing to brace the ground with my right. As I fell,  I saw Narmon lunge towards me. I couldn’t scream. I clutched my belly harder, ready to hit the ground. The pain I could understand. The birth I had prepared for. The were whelp I understand. I closed my eyes only to reopen them when I didn’t fall to the ground.  I was flanked by red robes. “Ahandra!” I couldn’t make out the voice. I couldn’t understand what was happening. The red robes bearing me up. “We have her! Now, Ahandra!”

My eyes open to be on the same bed, my mother at the foot of it. “Push, Tzipporah!” her eyes were green. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was so tired. I needed Narmon. I needed him there. I closed my eyes to see him. I couldn’t remember Farron. “Narmon, Narmon.” My head thrashed back and forth, my sweat being wiped away by my cousin Makara. “He’s calling her back to him, Ahandra!”

There was more ripping of my body and something being pulled from me. I screamed, felt that my heart was being fulled from my chest. “Narmon!” I heard his growl in my ears. “Don’t let her go back to the Open Plane!” I closed my eyes, tried to breathe. Tried to pinpoint where the pain was in order to push pass it. “Narmon!”

There was breezes around the bed where I lay writhing. “Ahh!” I felt my legs kicking. My heart pounding. “Narmon!” My tone more insistent, more needy. There were weights on legs. Hands I hoped. There was more patting of my forehead, more movement and rushed voices. “Push, Tzipporah! Push! You need to push just once more!” I gripped the hand that held my right and pushed. “Narmon!”

I felt the breath leave my body and the coolness return. I was in the blanket darkness again. I tried to move through the water, wading towards the shore and the faint light there. I saw him and my heart lept in my chest! “My love!” I went  towards the towering figure on the shore, willing my Open Plane body forward. “Tzipporah!” I felt the weight of the wet clothes I wore. I felt my body tense and lungs burned. I lifted my knees willing to my chest to get to the shore. A small wave pushed me to the shore, and I fell down, the sand clammy under, my hands. I swallowed, spit out the water. I closed my eyes to gather my strength. There were hands on my wrists to pulled me to my feet.

My eyes remained closed, relieved to see him. When they opened, I saw Narmon. I snatched my hands away. “How?!” He only grinned at me. “You called me, not your Alpha.” I turned from him, tears hot on my face. “Tzipporah!” My mother’s voice. I looked around for her. She would know what to do. There were hands around my shoulders, holding me to the Open Plane. “Tzipporah!” I turned shaking him from me. “Nothing! There is nothing you can say that can allow you to be here.”

“You called me.”

“You did not have to answer!”  I wanted to hurt him, bloody his face, bring him to his knees. “I am the wife, the mate of the current Alpha. I am the mate of the Third.” Narmon snarled. “I am his.” I saw his eyes flash that steely blue gray. “You have Leah. Go to her!” I pointed off behind him. ‘Tzipporah!” I looked behind me, certain I would see my mother. But I saw a red cloak. I had been spotted on the Open Plane. I turned to walk towards the comfort of the tall figure in the cloak. “We both must renounce the bond.” He said, a snarl in his voice. I didn’t answer couldn’t look back.

I made it to the red cloak, and seeing the figure in it, I screamed. It wasn’t my mother. It was Farron. He took my hands and said nothing.

I woke to find myself in bed, warm and in dry clothes. My mother was at my side. I saw the concern in her face. “Where is my whelp? Where?” She cupped my face, and I brushed her hands away. “I need to nurse him.” I saw tears threaten her eyes.

“Twins, Tzipporah. You had twins.” I shook my head. “You almost left the world.” I tried to sit up. “My sons. I need my sons!” She stood, looking at me with pity. “The errant bond almost killed you.” I looked at her, the coldness returning. “It took the elders of the  council to save you.” I swallowed, prepared for what she said next. “One died. The younger boy.” There was a wail that rose in my chest, and I couldn’t remember what else she told me. My son was dead. I was in an errant bond, and Alpha could not break it. Not alone. No one knew where another Alpha was whom could help. The nearby Alpha, too, had fallen ill to the same illness that had killed the Second of our tribe.

With An Heir (Narmon)-#9

The amshuns had come to see me early the morning. The sun was still red, but yet I was covered in a sheen of sweat. The closer Tzipporah had come to birth, the harder it had become to sleep. I wondered if my brother, now my Alpha had experienced the same thing. She was his mate, not mine. It was his child, the new heir, which was theirs.

There red robes looked like an Egyptian plague. The Grand Amshun, was always the oldest. This was Tzipporah’s mother. The other amshuns were her cousins, Makara and Henjah. “Get up, Narmon.” It was her mother’s voice in my head. As my eyes adjusted to the predawn light, I saw them. All with some permutation of Tzipporah’s face and eyes.

“Get up, my Prince. Get up!” It has Henjah’s voice. I had thought to make her mine before Leah had grabbed my attention. I sat up, making no attempt to cover my chest. I smirked when  the Grand Amshun nudged her nieces to remain focused. “Narmon.” her voice was morose, as she always seemed to be. “We know about the bond.”

I was silent as a weight settled in my chest. “I need to know if you were with Tzipporah before she was fated to be with Farron.” I stared at her, held her eyes. She knew I had been. She didn’t need to ask what she already knew. I only blinked and nodded. Her mouth moved then, her voice real and palpable. She kept her hood on, an spoke, her words like acid in my ears. “You need to tell me how. How many times. And why!” I heard the rage below her decorum. I never liked her mother, she always spoke to me as if I wasn’t the oldest. “It was moment of passion after her father died, your husband.” I wanted to tell her more, but thought it best not.

“Your moment with my daughter, ” she swallowed, keeping her eyes on me, never leaving the foot of the bed. “The mate of our Alpha, has caused an errant bond.” I closed my eyes, wishing she would go away as quickly as she had come. “That is a superstition Ahandra. Errant bonds don’t exist.” I opened my eyes an saw her eyes shift from brown to gold. “This is why you were not chosen, and could never never be Alpha!” I stood to my feet, wrapping the white sheet around my waist. “This was all your doing that I am not Alpha! You loved my father and hated my own mother!” She moved closer to me, her flanking nieces staying at the foot of the bed. “You are not Alpha, because you were chosen not to be.” her voice was cool as she approached me, eyes still gold. “You are not Alpha because you are not an Alpha.” She dropped the hood of her cloak, the gray and black length of her hair framing her face. “Your father  knew when you ran away before the Consecration for your Beginning, you could not be Alpha.”

“Liar!”  I turned my back on her, feeling as she was seeing what was happening on the inside of me. “And you now turn your back on your Amshun!” There was thunder in her voice. “This errant bond between you and Tzipporah must be severed! Errant bond can only be servered by the oldest Amshun and the Alpha.” The words stung at me, opening memories and wounds.  My Concsecration. My night without Leah. My night with Tzipporah. Both of us broken. I thought nothing of her after. It was only after she was with Farron did it all matter. I couldn’t get her off of my mind.  She was in the Open Plane. I could smell her when I woke. She robbed me of sleep.

“Have the dreams lessened?” It was Makara’s voice. “I know they haven’t. You know that during the Beginning, our kind are most sensitive.” I kept my eyes to the window, feeling the tears come as I was too stubborn too before. “You have bonded with the mate of our Alpha, your brother.” My heart began to break at the truth of her words. “You need to renounce her in order for Narmon to have her totally.”

My body, with all it’s strength, committed to not moving. Renounce her in order for Narmon to have her totally. I fought back the wolf, phasing would change nothing. Ahandra spoke again. “Her birth will be soon. The heir will be born to the rightful Alpha.” I turned to face the three of them, feeling the snarl in my chest. “She belongs with Farron. She is his mate.” Henjah spoke, her eyes green rather than gold. “We are looking for another Alpha to break the bond.” Ahandra spoke, her voice resonating. “But you must renounce her.”

They turned to leave. Henjah, Makara and Ahandra. As the door shut, I fell to the floor and howled. “She is an errant bond?!” I howled. My mind and body rejected. If this be true, I knew there we cases of weres whom died when they had to renounce a bond, because of the pain. It is said errant bonds can kill a were more than anything known to our kind.

Ahandra had been The Grand Amshun for more than a century. She knew this. Ahandra had sounded my death knell.

With An Heir (Narmon)-#8

 

They were keeping her from me.  The amshuns were closing her off from the Open Plane. Yet, I knew exactly where she was. I knew that the entity she carried would be due right after The Beginning ceremony. It would only be fitting for this child to be born the same week my brother becomes The Third.

For this week, all the members of the new Alpha’s family were supposed to be around them. This time of seclusion was to prepare for the transition at the end of the week of The Beginning. As the older brother, I was delegated to a special type of seclusion. I wasn’t allowed to talk to Farron. I wasn’t allowed to be in seclusion.  I was charged with preparations. I had to talk to the amshuns, and be a part of the chain from the Open Plane that would allow Farron to become The Third. This was tradition, unbroken for centuries. The brother of the Alpha is a part of the ceremony to ensure there are no errant bonds. That the mate of the Alpha, is the mate of the Alpha.

I knew when the amshuns had come to rouse me and dispatch Leah from my bed, that they knew. They knew I had been with Tzipporah. I knew, as well as they knew, the child she carried was Farron’s and our tryst was long ago. But there was something wrong. Errant bonds were rare, but not impossible. They happened when there were those weres whom either denied their mates when presented or ran from them.  In the case of Tzipporah and it was after her father had died in war between our pack and another. She was restless and sad, Farron had to go with our father, The Second. He going to lead one day, and had to be a part of the battle first hand.

She came to me. Tzipporah, gorgeous and full of rage, was in my bed before I could open my eyes.  I knew she was there before I knew she was there. Her skin soft and hot, mouth the same. She pleaded for me to be inside her, so she wouldn’t have to think or feel. I obliged, filling all that she opened for me, impaling her with girth and length as furious as pounding rain.

It wasn’t meaningless. Intimacy is everything to us. But there was a shifting to this intimacy, I hadn’t found my mate. I hadn’t wanted to, and didn’t have access to the Open Plane. Yet, once inside her, I did. I saw a lush forest. Trees, water and sun. There was a river she sat by, looking like one of Nanja’s water nymphs. Her skin the color of cinnamon, hair raven dark, wearing a white dress.

Tzipporah sat on this rock by the river, looking at the water, never turning towards me. She looked at the water that rushed over her feet. “This was…this hasn’t happened to me before. This wasn’t supposed to happen.” I touched her shoulder, smiled at the contrast between her skin an the addition of my coconut brown. I said nothing, only watched her watch the water. We knew the Open Plane for was for those whom had mated, that’s when it opened. This space where your heart, mind and soul connected with that of your mate. This place where you both were safe, protected and heard–even when distance separated.

Now, the errant bond was a secret no longer. With the amshun’s knowledge, Farron would have to know. And I would have to explain.

With An Heir (Farron)-#7

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tzipporah was separated from me for the first time in a decade. I mean, really separated. I couldn’t reach her, not even in the Open Plane. I couldn’t find her there. What was more, because she was with the amshuns  I wasn’t allowed to see her.

She had been my mate for a century. Promised to me before then. The Second, my father and her mother, the Grand, had foretold that she would be mine. Just mine. But I had no time to reflect on this, the loss I felt at not being at her side. I knew it was time. The babe she carried was coming. The amshuns had said it would be so. I knew that the time would be swift, but I had no idea it would be as swift as this! During the ceremony where I was to lead my people? Only the ancestors would have planned this.

With custom and tradition, Tzipporah and I were supposed to be separated for this week. It was hard for her, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. When I reached for her on the Open Plane, she hid from me. Tzipporah had never hidden from me, not there. Or anywhere. The Grand had told me it could be happening because of her impending delivery. “My Alpha, she is in a tender state.” She had touched my shoulders in the heated room I was left in. “Let us tend to her. We all knew this day would come, but none thought it would come so soon.” I stared at her, Tzipporah’s steady brown eyes in her face. I grimaced as she left the room.

Something was wrong, I knew something was wrong. I wish someone would have been brave enough to tell me what it was!

The separation for The Beginning was for purification. Tradition said this time was to prove the mate bond, to make sure it was true. That the Alpha was bonded to the right mate. Errant bonds happened, but if an errant bond happened to or with an Alpha the line could not produce the next Alpha. Without an Alpha, there could be no lineage. Without a lineage, there would be no pack.

The Grand left me in the heated room with the light off. Centuries before The Beginning, the first two days of the ceremonial week were in the dark. The Second told me this would be some of the deepest peace an Alpha could have. Here for two days, the ancestors would speak and I would listen. I would know what the previous Alpha knew. I would be asked questions, strength regained and deepened. It was the ancestors that gave the second set of confirmations for your mate. My mate.

I closed my eyes, counted my breaths as my father told me. As my Alpha had instructed. As Alphas had done since our pack began. I felt my hearing heighten, and the wolf that I housed groan and wish for the comfort of Tzipporah. The sweetness of her skin. The smell of her.  I heard my own growl in my new hearing, startled at the hunger found in it.

I