Love in the Cretaceous akes place in a dinosaur park in Oregon a hundred years in the future. Ted Beebe has lost the love of his life and must suddenly find his way alone in old age. He finds young people to take the place of his wife and himself in assuring the survival of Cretaceous World, the park his wife and he created. Global warming has proceeded as predicted, and the fate of Homo sapiens has become obviously uncertain. People come to see the genetically engineered recreations of dinosaurs and are made more aware of humanity’s own vulnerability to extinction. Ted succeeds in creating a new family structure whose three generations will guide the park through the immediate future. He also keeps alive his wife’s memory while coping with the challenges of the uncertain future.
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Love in the Cretaceous: [chapter 3]
by Howard W. Robertson
It takes your breath away to see a Brontosaur run.
Bud sees the two of them thundering towards us though and has plenty of breath
left to holler, “And down the stretch they come!”
We know from fossil thigh-bones that Brontosaurs were capable of a slow run,
so we designed our pair to do about a dozen miles per hour. To see an animal 70 feet
long and weighing 50,000 pounds move that fast seems nothing less than miraculous.
Lana has used the giant crane to drop a couple tons of mixed ferns, horsetails,
and gingko and araucarian leaves into the Brontosaur area. The crane is 50 feet high
with a long arm so the two sauropods won’t bang their heads on it, since they can only
reach up to about 25 feet with their long necks.
It’s May 2117, and the angiosperms are in bloom all around these two colossal
creatures from the end of the Jurassic. We called it close enough and just sort of rolled
them into Cretaceous World, our magnificent dinosaur park. Brontosaurs flourished
around 150 million years ago, well before the rise of the flowering plants about 30
million years later in the Cretaceous period. When our genetic engineers designed the
genome for our pair, they tried to make them as authentic as possible, so the two of
them really prefer the kind of food they would have eaten way back when. That’s why
they come running at feeding time when we give them the ancient gymnosperms that
they like best. There’s actually a large nursery in the neighboring town of Dewberry
that’s dedicated to supplying our herbivores with food from the time of the dinosaurs.
Lana gets down out of the crane and walks over to me.
She says, “I’d sure like to see a whole herd of these moving together.”
Lana has a Ph.D. in paleontology from SUNG and knows full well why we
couldn’t handle that. Our pen of seven miles by four miles is barely big enough for the
two Brontosaurs we do have. By the way, I’m so glad the alternate name has died away
over the past hundred years: “thunder lizard” is so much more appropriate for these
giants than “deceptive lizard.”
I say, “Wouldn’t that be grand?”
She smiles and tosses her long blonde ponytail. Then she goes over to Bud and
gives him an assignment to do.
Tumtum – p. 2
Howard W. Robertson, P.O. Box 50204, Eugene OR 97405, 541-344-6206, email@example.com
Ian Prattis transports you to a faraway planet. Earth is dying due to Humankind’s damage to the environment. The clash of cultures, late in the twenty first century, opens this epic novel of pioneers establishing community in a nearby galaxy.
This futuristic finale of a trilogy stands on award winning books Redemption and Trailing Sky Six Feathers. Buy a print copy and receive the two prior books for free.
Order through: http://ianprattis.com/NewPlanet.html Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble.
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Love, Sex, Lies and Reality
Love, Sex, Lies, and Reality deals with real life issues about relationships. We currently live in a world where people cover up relationships with lying, pretending to Love, put on a facade, Sex has become a Frisbee and Reality is shoved under the rug...we all need to face reality and deal with the lies we often tell ourselves at some point in time not to make us bitter but to make our lives better.
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Being Single: A State For The Fragile Heart: A Guide to Self-Love, Finding You and Purposeful Living
This book is a Guide to understanding Self-Love, Finding Yourself and Living Purposefully. Have you been through a divorce or heartbreak? Need to find clarity and how to move forward? Being Single: A State For The Fragile Heart is easy to read. Learn how to understand what it really means love yourself. Take steps towards discovering your purpose in life. Learn how to put an end to fear while keeping up your faith. Become empowered and focused towards making progress. Embark on this self-discovery journey that will lead to a transformed life.
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Beyond the Pain
Our desire to avoid pain, results in a shift from our true essence. Without gaining in-depth knowledge and understanding of why we experience pain in life and relationships or how to overcome it, we will remain stuck and exist. We however, must live the life God designed for us. There is so much life "Beyond the Pain."
Do not dwell on your pain for too long or continue to shove it underneath the rug. Do not ignore or become numb to it. It will only be a matter of time before it begins to ooze out and show up in all areas of your life.
You can learn how to move "Beyond the Pain" and "Return to Love." Become awakened to the life of love you truly deserve.
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*Delight in the nectar of the gods. Feed your mind with Ambrosia*
Whispers to the gods are like honey from a poet's lips. When several poets raise their voices together, it's a sacred feast of memories and dreams. Poetry is divine food for the soul, full of emotional and celestial feeling. Join us in our longing, our pain and passion, heartache, logic and insanity, fear, faith, confusion, hope, unity, solitude, daily life, political strife, and more.
From the creative minds of Eric Keizer, A.L. Mabry, Sam DeLoach, Alyssa Trivett, Mello Sakia, Stacy Overby, Phillip Matthew Roberts, Veronica Falletta and Stephanie Ayers.
The Poets of this project have partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and all royalties will be donated to this charity.
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Table of Contents
Travis and Trevor
Watching Neighbors Move Out
L. Cohen’s Romance
7th Street Dragons
Free in a Day
Rain Through Me
Scarred Arms of time
She’s Like the Wind
Sweet Butterfly Girl
We Are Not Lost
Temple of Hate
Morning, Lack of Coffee
Dinner For One
For A Friend
Department of Motor Vehicles
Wisconsin Dells Outdoor Picnic
Where We Part
Are We Living
The pacifists loner
Phillip Mathew Roberts
Knowledge abandoned at a curb
Quoting the mute
How one bisexual distracted himself
Buttressing cynicism in latter-day Sinope
Queer antemortem associations
Reminders for the imaginary child
An appendices of unused lines
A few faulty steps
A lullaby for the slightly morbid
Ozymandias' twin stood
Spontaneous responses regarding jury duty
O and Ah synoptically revised
An ensemble piece set postmortem
A Letter Too Late
Beyond the Reach of Time
Hungry for Success
In Time You’ll Forget
On the Edge of Reason
Searching for More Than Ambiguity
Elastic is Time, Time is Elastic
The Taste of Transience
Two Into the Sunset
The Seeds I’ve Sown
As I Wander
On a Walk
I Am Woman
My Quiet Place
SPRING INTO MY WORLD
When Beauty Falls
Of Fairies and Fireflies
The Gathering Place
Like Alice: A Jabberwocky Challenge
Inside Me, There's You
Once in a Lifetime
Jesus Hear My Prayer
When Tears Will Fall
Always & Forever
Ode to A Mother
Zombies with a New Name
Nothing Like Death
His Smile Does Not Help
There Was that Day by the River
The Sadness Lies
A Starlit Warning
Other Books By OWS Ink
This book is dedicated to all those who feel too deeply. We understand your struggle. The good, the bad, and the ugly. This project was a labor of love between the poets involved and the Our Write Side team. Now we aim to take that love and put it to good use. The royalties from Ambrosia will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This is a cause that all of us at OWS feel strongly about and we are honored to be able to contribute to their efforts and programs.
Eric Keizer lives in Northern Illinois with his wife of eighteen years, and his dog, Edith. He earned his B.A. in English from Drake University, and his M.A Ed. and teaching license from Aurora University in 2013.
A lifelong prankster, he enjoys sharing a good, deep belly laugh and telling tall tales. He avidly reads the Classics, but counts Anne Rice as a guilty pleasure. His first book of poetry, Urban Mythology, released in April to resounding applause.
Besides writing poetry, he has written seven children’s books, is working on a psychological thriller about a serial killer, and is feverishly trying to finish a “coming of age” story set in 1980s Chicago.
Travis and Trevor
First came Travis,
And I missed
I’d come home from work and scold him
on those nights,
Suzanne and I would
Quietly giggle at that time
He dropped the f-bomb out of the blue,
I bought him a plaster bust of Beethoven,
And called him Schroeder,
And he’d talk with the bust while he practiced Greensleeves
and fall asleep,
With our beagle close beside him.
I wondered if he’d resent me,
For the tough decisions and time apart,
When he was older and on his own,
And I was growing feeble and tired,
And was suddenly,
On my own.
Then came Trevor,
And I was there for
I’d look up from the want ads
on those nights,
I’d look at Suzanne’s picture
Quietly cry for missing her,
And shout an f-bomb, or two,
I bought him an autographed football,
And called him Sweetness,
And he’d talk about the college recruiters who came to see him practice,
And fall asleep,
With our beagle close beside him.
I wondered if he’d visit me
For we’d spent so much time apart,
Now that I’m older and on my own,
And have grown feeble and tired,
& have become,
Do any of us truly know the people we love and trust?
Keegan Henderson married the love of her life—twice.
And divorced him—twice.
An intelligent and high-spirited thirty-four-year-old, Keegan finds herself once again living with her parents while juggling her duties as a mother to her preteen son and discovering who she is as a newly single woman.
Her ex-husband, Will, a state police investigator working undercover, is a man with a past. His buried secrets are catching up with him, forcing their way into his present, and as a result, he chooses to deceive those he loves in order to protect them.
On her journey to moving on, Keegan has a chance meeting with Jack Grady, a local firefighter, and their attraction to each other is one that neither can deny. But Jack also has baggage of his own that is proving to be too much for Keegan to handle.
As their vulnerabilities are exposed, a series of unexpected events occurs, shattering lives along the way.
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Bad Choices Make Good Stories is a darkly funny coming-of-age novel based on true events. Oliver, a teenage hacker living in Germany, meets Donna online. She's an American girl living in New York. After chatting and talking on the phone for months, he finally decides to surprise her with a visit. But he soon finds out that things are not what they appeared to be, and that this visit will change his life forever.
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Former Marine sniper Sam Asher enjoys his casual civilian life. He’s content with his mundane job, steady girlfriend, and halfway decent apartment, until tragedy strikes too close to home, in a manner that appears to be related to a nationwide epidemic of creepy clown sightings.
Bent on vengeance, Sam hits the road to track down a deranged killer. Accompanied by his brother Jake, and pursued by an overly ambitious Homeland Security Agent, Sam will need to use every resource, every skill, and every friend he’s ever had to find the madman.
As the “clown crisis” ramps up, receiving constant coverage from the media and keeping regular folks hiding in their homes, a rash of murders takes Sam halfway across the country on his quest for justice. The battle-tested Marine will be sucked into a vortex of madness at the hands of a psychopath, engaging in a battle of will and wits that will test his heart, mind and loyalty.
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“Of all the places you could have ended up, why are you here? Why didn’t you go home?”
“This is home. I’d think you would be happy to see me here, establishing a business, putting down roots.”
“When your roots pull mine out, we have a problem.”
Leslie Baker, owner of Potter Lake’s original hometown beauty shop, the Curl & Dye, has a problem.
Her problem isn’t her dwindling customer base. And it’s not the shifty, shady Mayor of the idyllic lakeside town.
Her problem is a muscular, handsome, 6’4” former basketball superstar with a solid physique and colorful sleeve tattoos. Kade “KC” Cavanaugh is back in Potter Lake following his NBA retirement and the business he’s opened, a slick and shiny co-ed salon, directly competes with Curl & Dye.
KC is all too eager to to pick things up where they left off fifteen years ago, but Leslie can’t forget how he pushed her away after an intimate encounter, then dropped out of college and left her behind for the bright lights of professional ball.
Though she won’t admit it, time and maturity have eaten away at Leslie's anger and her long-buried attraction to Kade Cavanaugh has resurfaced.
With a vengeance.
Now there is a larger problem: Leslie and KC find themselves in the center of a city wide drama, and with both sides of Potter Lake at war and their livelihoods at stake, the two have to stop sniping at each other and start working together.
And maybe, in the process, forget the past and revive a budding romance that was very special...a very long time ago.
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I sensed movement at the door and opened my mouth to let the customer know that we were just about to close. To my surprise, Kade Cavanaugh stood in the doorway.
Earlier in the day he'd worn a pair of shorts that looked like he'd pulled them straight from the dryer and a misshapen t-shirt. Tonight, he wore khaki carpenter shorts and a form fitting black t-shirt that spread over his pecs and hugged his biceps and...whew.
I reached out to grip my chair since I was a little light headed. A lightning bolt of attraction punched me in my chest and rushed through my body so quickly, so fiercely, it took me by surprise.
I inhaled deeply, sucking in a steadying breath before I addressed him. "Evening, KC. I'd have thought your shop would be too busy for you to be over here, checking out your competition."
He smiled, quietly laughing while his eyes surveyed the salon, starting at the reception desk, a plain old desk from Caine Brothers Wood Works. Then he took in the mismatched leather chairs that comprised the waiting area; the salon chairs with peeling vinyl patched with black tape and the shampoo bowl that was a refurbished and redesigned laundry sink.
To the naked, and maybe the more upscale eye, the Curl & Dye wasn't much to look at. But people came to the Curl & Dye for the atmosphere.
"I mean, with all due respect, Leslie..." KC shrugged and gestured toward the small salon. "You're not my competition."
That lofty, lightheaded feeling was zapped as quickly as it came on. I felt like I landed face first on the pavement. There went my moment of attraction.
Tamera stood beside me, her arms crossed. "Look who decided to slum it over on the old side of Potter Lake."
"I’m not… slumming. I hadn't been over here since I moved back and— "
"And you decided to pop in and start some shit with us?"
KC's eyes narrowed and his brows formed "V" of irritation. The glare he gave Tamera gave me an uneasy feeling.
"Tam, why don't you close out the day for me? Pull the receipts and get the deposit ready." I led her to the front desk and pulled out the chair for her to sit.
As soon as she was settled, I grabbed KC's arm and guided him back out of the shop into the warm evening. I heard Tamera grumbling, not even under her breath, as she sat at the desk and began the daily closing ritual.
"What do you want?" I asked him, noticing the enormous black Escalade parked in front of the window. "We're about to close up."
He shrugged a shoulder, tossing his keys from one hand to the other. Back in college he used to do the same with a basketball. "I just... was around and— "
"Bullshit. You have no reason to be on this side of the lake except to be snooping around this shop. So... what? You wanted to gloat? To say some more shit about stealing my clients?"
"I'm not steal—" He heaved a deep sigh and shoved both hands into his pockets. "I felt bad. About earlier. You surprised me by showing up at the shop. I felt cornered and I get mouthy when I feel like that. Listen, I think we got off on the wrong foot— "
"No, I think the foot we got off on was right. You came out here and opened a business in direct competition with mine— "
"That was not my intent, Leslie. I keep telling you, I didn't know this shop was here."
"Well, now you do."
I paused, giving a wide-eyed stare at ruggedly bushy eyebrows, at long, undeservedly lush lashes, at almond shaped eyes, at full lips and well-edged goatee.
Damn, he was fine. Had always been fine but... damn, he was fine.
"Now I do," he acknowledged, with a head nod. "All I'm saying is that we should be able to co-exist."
I gestured toward the building that was The Curl & Dye, catching a glimpse of Evonne and Tamera standing in the middle of the shop watching us talk. I pulled him away from the window, toward the driver side door of his truck.
"It would be one thing if you were just a barbershop. Most of the men in this town do their own hair; they only come to me if they want something real nice. That cheap cut you offer is perfect for them."
He scoffed, but I ignored it. "We can't co-exist because women are going to your shop instead of mine, for services I offer, my mother offered, my Grandy offered for years. Your shop could lose a customer or three and it wouldn't hit your bottom line. I need every client I can get. Your shop is some kind of..."
I shrugged, shaking my head. "Get rich quick scheme, it seems. Except you're already rich, so now you're just being greedy. The Curl & Dye is my bread and butter. It keeps me and my parents in food and electricity and Grandy in good care at Primose Gardens. It's about more than a cheap haircut."
I began to back away from him and his truck and his intoxicatingly sexy smelling cologne. It was making me heady and I was feeling all kinds of really familiar feelings from being too close to him.
"I just want to run my shop, KC."
"And I want to run mine," he responded, a hand splayed across his chest. "What do you want me to do, Leslie? Close up, give up my business ‘cause you got first dibs?"
I sighed, lifting my face to the starry sky. "No," I finally answered, making my way toward the front door. "I want you to stay out of my way. You do your thing over on that side of the lake and I'll— "
"Leslieeeeee!" Gisela's high pitched wail made me whip around, my eyes wide in expectation. She tore through the shop from the back room out to the parking lot. "The pipe busted again! Hurry!"
"Shit!" I hissed, rushing back inside where water was gushing from the back room and quickly spreading through the shop and toward the front door.
"Where's your shut off valve?" I heard KC yell, hot on my heels.
"Behind the washer!" I yelled back. Tamera was already pulling the washer away from the wall. KC helped, easing the old monstrous machine out of its spot and reaching his long arms behind it to shut off the water at the valve. The busted pipe stopped gushing, now just trickling out what was left inside.
Gisela and Evonne grabbed the towels stacked on the shelf and began sopping up water. Tamera grabbed the mop and bucket and began swiping waves toward the drain under the sink.
KC was squatting in front of the pipe, inspecting it. "Looks like it's been soldered a couple of times. Not very well, though. This pipe needed to be replaced a long time ago, Leslie. It’s not to code."
"I know," I said, leaning against the doorjamb. "The last time Jessup was here, they said it was a temporary fix until I replace them." I waved a hand at the mess that was our plumbing system. "The whole place needs to be redone. I just haven't... yet."
"I could probably give you a better fix. At least replace this pipe. It'll buy you some time."
KC looked up at me from his squatting position. His eyes were earnest, his expression neutral. It was as if time had never passed and we'd never had that conversation where I gave him an ultimatum. And he didn't take it.
I chuckled, grabbing his arm, then laughed at the thought that I could pull him up. He was well over a hundred pounds heavier than me. "I don't need you to fix my pipes, KC."
Not those pipes, anyway.
Once he'd slowly made his way up, I urged him out of the shop and toward the front door. "I have a daddy and a granddaddy, and believe it or not, there's still a plumber or two over here. They'll come out and take care of it."
KC stood next to his truck and glanced back at the other girls working hard to clean up the mess, like he didn’t want to leave.
"Go on, get back to your shop. They must be helpless without you telling them exactly how to give that cheap ass haircut y'all do."
"You got jokes." KC chuckled, the sound of it a light rumble from his chest that hit me directly in mine. My feelings were all out of control and I needed this man and his eyes and his laughter and his chest and his cologne to get the hell off of my side of Potter Lake.
He opened the driver side door and climbed up into his truck, slamming the door shut. The truck roared to life a moment later, then I heard the quiet whirr of the window sliding down.
"Not for nothin, but you know my dad is a General Contractor. I learned the business inside and out, growing up. I know my way around a busted pipe and some plumbing, too. Let me know if you need some help. Aight?"
I rolled my eyes and turned to go back inside. I would have to be bleeding and on fire to ask that man for help.
Eastway Academy, a shadowy organization steeped in espionage, values obedience above all else. Although a well-trained agent in his third year, 16-year-old Davy Prince struggles to find his morals when every mission seems to put innocent lives at risk. How will Davy react when sabotage turns an already risky job into an all-out struggle for survival?
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“Camelot is ready. The operation is a go,” a voice crackled through the transceiver in my ear. The mission was being initiated and a part of me was annoyed. Only halfway through my fried chicken, I was still pretty hungry. I hadn’t eaten since the night before, since the plane ride down that morning served no breakfast. Given that I was going to meet with a drug kingpin in a few minutes, the last thing I wanted was for my stomach to be growling.
I sat in the first-floor food court of the Franklin Building, El Paso’s premier commercial block and the headquarters of the global fast-food chain Beef n’ Wings. It was just after noon and the area stirred with visitors eager for their lunch. From my position I could see two other field agents, the only other two in the building. Far off to my right, just outside the crowds and colorful cacophony of restaurants, a hulking teenage boy seemed to have the same idea I had as he snacked on a beef hot dog from one of the stands. He wore a blue hard hat with matching blue overalls and heavy-looking harnesses which clung to his body. At his side he loosely held a squeegee as well as some napkins, presumably for his meal. After taking a big gulp, his lips began to move. It was much too noisy in the food court to pick up any word he was saying naturally, but on the transceiver I could hear him perfectly. “Percival is ready. Let’s get this over with.”
At the booming sound of Leon’s voice, I covered my ear nervously, realizing that there was an elderly couple the next table over. There was a good chance they heard nothing, and an even greater chance that they wouldn’t have cared anyway, but one could never be too careful, especially with jobs in public areas. Far off to my right, near the elevators, a small boy lay crouched in the corner, trying his best to stealthily fiddle with an air vent grate next to him. I was only two years his senior, but people most often mistook him for being far younger. He had long, greasy hair and pale skin, products of his indoorsy lifestyle. Out of the three of us in the building, his T-shirt and shorts were probably the most appropriate for the balmy weather outside. His high-pitched voice rang up in my ear, “Kay’s ready. The grate’s off.”
“Proceed with caution,” a young female voice ordered. It belonged to Mabel, one half of this mission’s ‘Camelot,’ or control center. She and another operative, Charlie, gave orders from a different, undisclosed part of town. On their computers, they watched live feeds of the Franklin Building and the surrounding area taken from security cameras and other hacked equipment.
With the go-ahead, Ozzy checked the area directly around him carefully. Then, he swiftly slipped into the air duct, replacing the grate once inside. I made sure not to look at him directly while he did this, as I didn’t want him to attract unwanted attention. It was at this point I realized that it was my turn to check in. Taking one last swig of soda, I said, “Galahad’s ready. Looking for a visual on the target.”
Our target today pertained to Garret Beauregard, the CEO of Beef n’ Wings himself, whose products I was currently sampling. Since the Academy’s clients are allowed to stay anonymous, we almost never know whom we’re working for or for what reason.
As I scanned the first floor for our very special guest, one final voice rang over the transceiver. This one was female like Mabel’s but much deeper, as well as much more mature, practically adult. “Lancelot is ready. I have a visual of the office,” she said. It was Johanna, who at eighteen was the oldest member of our team. As our sniper, if and when things got ugly, she was the first one to pull the trigger. Even on a crackling transceiver, one could still detect the soft yet ambiguous tone of voice. It was very hard to tell if in the next sentence she was going to compliment you or warn you of your imminent death. “Galahad, the Fisher King’s car was just sent down to the parking lot,” she continued. “He should be in there.”
“Just a sec,” I insisted, practically standing on my seat, trying to look through the ocean of people before me. Then, like the Red Sea obeying Moses, the crowd seemed to thin just long enough for me to spot a bigger-looking man with a white cowboy hat. He, along with a couple of men next to him, wore an expensive-looking suit, not unlike the one I donned that day. “I see him. I have a visual on the Fisher King,” I whispered into my transceiver. “He’s with . . . three other guys. They armed?”
“This is Texas, man,” Charlie replied. “What do you think?”
“Lovely,” I sighed, standing up and throwing away my half-eaten lunch. “He’s headed to the elevator. Permission to pursue?”
“Granted,” Mabel said. Her voice became higher, as it usually did when she knew danger was afoot. “Now hurry up; five men can’t fit in that elevator.”
“Roger,” I responded. Speeding across the food court, I wove my way through the people until I found myself by the shiny elevator doors, standing next to Beauregard and his well-dressed friends. As I waited for the doors to open, I tried my best to avoid eye contact. Beauregard, on an impulse of hospitality, said, “You’re pretty dressed up, sonny. On a hot date?”
I gave one last silent mental grimace before lighting up my face with a bright smile, turning to the wealthy gentleman. Enthusiastically, I spouted, “Haha! Very funny, sir. I’m starting an internship upstairs, so obviously I have to look my very best.”
“Internship? Where?” the CEO pressed.
I produced a crumpled slip of paper from my pocket and read, “Floor thirty-five, room three. It’s with Beef n’ Wings. You know them? The super-famous-surprisingly-nutritious fast-food chain? I love all their meals.”
“Huh,” the president gave a tentative smile. He extended his hand, “Well isn’t this your lucky day? Garret Beauregard, president of Beef n’ Wings, at your service.”
I sucked in, trying to contain all my feigned excitement, “The Garret Beauregard? Founder of Beef n’ Wings? Inventor of the $1.50 menu? Restaurant Monthly’s ninth most powerful man in fast food? David Jones, I’m, like, your biggest fan!” I shook his hand fervently.
Beauregard chuckled, maybe amused by my antics. “I didn’t even know I had fans! Pleasure to meet you, boy.”
“We’re going radio silent on Galahad,” Charlie buzzed in my ear. “Keep on his good side and look for an opening.”
I absentmindedly scratched my ear, switching off my transceiver. My only connection with the rest of my operatives was severed. Now, I was all alone.
The elevator to the right gave a faint ding and the doors quietly spread open. Beauregard, two men from his entourage, and I crammed into the elevator. Just as Mabel had predicted, one of the gentlemen volunteered to stay outside, promising to take the next lift up. Right before the doors shut, I managed to spot Leon, squeegee in hand, breaking from the crowd and departing the building.
As I felt the elevator lift us, there was a twinge of anxiety, realizing that I was now stuck in an enclosed space with three armed men. I was allowed to be nervous. A little nervousness was fine; I was pretending to be a student on his first day as an intern.
“This your first time in the city, blondie?” he asked me, reminding me that I was wearing a blond wig in addition to thick-rimmed glasses to hide my identity.
“You bet!” I said, keeping my enthusiasm high. I brushed my artificial bangs to the side. Out of all the wigs I’d worn over the course of hundreds of missions, this was my least favorite. It was long, got in my eyes, never fit my head right, and suspiciously smelled of cottage cheese. Regardless, wig selection at the Academy was limited, and every one had to be worn once in a while.
“So, you’re from the country, then? Don’t look like much of a country fella . . . which town?”
“Um, it’s a real small town, south of here,” I said, trying my best to stay vague.
“South of El Paso?” Beauregard gave me a very confused look.
“I mean north! Just a little north,” I corrected myself, rubbing my head. “Sorry, my mind’s not working straight today. Still trying to process the fact that I got to meet you.”
“Right, right,” Beauregard nodded understandingly. “Yeah, it’s pretty easy to tell that you’re not south of the border. Be able to smell you a mile away!”
The three men laughed heartily. I forced a light chuckle while the hunger in the pit of my stomach changed to disgust. With another ding we arrived on floor thirty-five and stepped off. For an extravagant fast-food brand, their headquarters looked pretty ordinary. The walls and carpets were white, and the faint but stinging odor of hand sanitizer wafted through the air. “Welcome to where the magic happens!” Beauregard extended his arm toward the lobby, looking like an artist revealing their magnum opus.
“Gee whiz!” I exclaimed.
The president, still flanked by his two men, who I presumed were his bodyguards, approached the front desk and rang the bell, getting the secretary’s attention. “Yes, Mr. Beauregard?”
“Got an intern with me,” the man declared. “His name’s David Jones. I was wondering where I could put him.”
“Intern? Sir, new internships don’t begin until the summer.”
My heart skipped a beat. The moment of truth had arrived. “They said I was a special case when they drove me over here,” I said, injecting myself into the conversation. “Please, just check your computer.”
Marcy shifted her mouse around, making a quick series of clicks. “Okay . . . here it is. David Jones, intern, arriving today . . . ” She looked up at me and then back down to her screen. I whispered a silent prayer to Charlie, the master hacker. A few clicks later, the secretary looked up again. “Yeah, everything looks good. Funny, I don’t remember—”
“Well, everything checks out!” I interrupted. “Where should I go?”
Beauregard gestured to one of his guards. “Samson here will take good care of you, kid. Now, I’ve got a little meeting to go to, but I’ll see you around, okay?”
Not counting on it. “Okay!” I cheerfully chirped. “Oh my gosh, this is all so exciting!”
I followed Samson down a hallway, away from Beauregard and the lobby. He directed me through a door, into a room darker than the hallway. Chairs lined the walls and a vacant table with a picnic cloth sat in the center of the room. “Um, this is where we usually bring interns in the summer. There’d be, like, food on the tables and we’d get someone to give you an introduction. Usually it’s this hot brunette from marketing.”
“Uh-huh,” I absentmindedly nodded, no longer bothering to keep up my fake excitement. As the door closed behind us, I began to fiddle through suit pockets.
Samson, clearly unsure of what to do, continued to ramble. “Yeah, I actually used to be an intern here, once. I was raised right up in Anthony. Wait, where did you say you were from again? ’Cuz I remember—”
Samson’s sentence was cut off as I stabbed a syringe into the side of his throat—one swift and precise movement. As I injected him, the man managed to make a few gargled sounds before collapsing to the floor. I immediately checked for a pulse. Toxins were always difficult, because they needed to be the perfect amount. Too little would have no effect. Too much and you kill the poor guy. After confirming a heartbeat under my fingertips, I quietly dragged him under the table and switched my transceiver back on. “Galahad here. I’m in.”
“Excellent,” I heard Charlie say. “Kay? Do you copy? Time to shine.”
“Roger.” Just as Ozzy’s voice registered in my ear the already dark room went pitch black. I heard the gentle hum of the air conditioning die, leaving a vacuum of silence.
The power to the floor had been cut.
I stepped back into the hallway, listening to the murmurs of confusion in some of the office rooms as I made my way back to the lobby. Beauregard’s office was down the opposing hallway to the right, just out of the view of a befuddled secretary.
“Security cameras are now running on reserve power. We have a visual of you, Galahad. The conference was supposed to last until one thirty, but who knows how Beauregard will react to a blackout. Just get in and get out.”
“Roger, Camelot.” The room itself differed greatly from the rest of what I’d seen from the floor. Looking beyond the expensive chairs and enormous desk you’d expect from an egocentric executive, an array of mounted cattle heads dominated the wall to my right while a single enormous painting was to my left. I thought the latter was actually a pretty nice picture until I realized it depicted a native getting clubbed to death by a settler with the stock of his shotgun. The wall opposing me filtered noon sunlight into the otherwise dark office, making the “art” that occupied the walls cast eerie shadows. I stood for a moment, dumbfounded.
“Galahad, we see you in the office. What’s your status?”
“I’m fine,” I assured, trying to collect myself. “This guy . . . he’s really something, isn’t he?” Trying to ignore the Texan stereotypes around me, I approached Beauregard’s desk and rummaged through the papers left on top of it.
“Find anything?” Mabel asked.
“What do you think?” I said, now making my way to the cabinets. “Why would he just leave it on his desk?”
“I don’t know, maybe he has a bit before going to his conferences,” Charlie suggested. “I mean, have you seen the new Beef n’ Wings commercials? The person who conceived those was clearly high.”
Allowing myself a small chuckle, I furiously tore open every cabinet under and around the desk. All were unlocked and all contained meaningless folders and files; nothing I was concerned with. “The Grail’s not anywhere near the desk,” I said. “Are you sure it’s in here?”
“The intel’s good, I swear,” Mabel retorted, her voice getting excited. “I have the transaction data right in front of me. The pickup isn’t until tomorrow, and it definitely entered that room. Where else could it be?”
Feeling a knot grow in my stomach, I meticulously scanned the room, trying to look in a new perspective as I stood behind the desk. The painting was still horrible, the carpet was the same, and the ceiling was the same. The mounted busts, now to my right, were a different story. As my eyes studied the vacant expressions on the cattle’s faces, it became evident that something was wrong. “One of the heads is crooked.”
“One of the cattle heads is crooked,” I repeated, advancing toward the busts. The more I focused and the closer I got, the clearer it was that my hunch was correct. “The white bull in the center. It must be…” Firmly grasping the horns of the trophy, I began to pull. It was much heavier than I had imagined—causing me to pause to catch my breath at one point while it was halfway out of the wall—but I managed to have the head at my feet within a minute. In its place, I was greeted with a pleasant new surprise. A black, open hole; a gaping wound in the wall. “Can you guys see from your camera what I see?”
“I see it!” Mabel said excitedly, now for the right reasons. “What’s inside?”
My hand reached into the newly opened gap. It wasn’t a built-in compartment, rather a crude cavity created by someone smashing the wall open. As my hand wrapped around an object, I felt my heartbeat quicken. “I have something. Heavy. Leather. Maybe rectangular.”
“Sounds like the Grail to me . . .”
My arm was now almost out of the hole, awkwardly handling the package that had been lodged in the wall. With one final tug, a briefcase slid out of the wall and fell with a soft thud on the carpet. A tepid smile growing on my lips, I brought it over to the desk for a closer inspection in the light. Looking near the handle, my small grin immediately dissipated. “It’s got a lock on it. I repeat, the briefcase has a lock.”
“’Cuz hiding it in the freaking wall wasn’t secure enough for this guy,” Charlie remarked, irritated.
“Yep, there’s a latch here. It needs a three-number code,” I confirmed, examining the mechanism closely.
“Okay, let’s think this through,” Mabel said, now practically panting. “I can . . . I can access old security archives! Yeah! Yeah, maybe one of them has him with the briefcase, and we can zoom in on the numbers . . . ”
Mabel’s thoughts came to an abrupt end when I smashed the briefcase into the corner of the desk, shattering the lock.
“ . . . Or you can do that.”
Taking a deep breath, I opened the case. I was greeted by what we were calling in this mission the Holy Grail, all twenty kilos of it, packed together in six different plastic bags.
“Do we have confirmation?”
“Well, pretty sure this isn’t chicken seasoning,” I commented. “Percival, are you there? It’s time to go.”
Just as I spoke, the office door opened. I turned around, realizing it was Beauregard. The two of us stared at each other, shocked. The room was now dead silent, so quiet that Beauregard could probably hear Mabel buzz, “Green Plan AA-01 has been compromised. Initiate Green Plan AA-07.”
Beauregard was the first to recover from the initial shock. He peeked back into the hallway and, making sure everything was clear, shut the door. “I don’t believe you’re supposed to be in this wing, boy.”
I remained silent, seemingly speechless. Inside I had regained focus, but chose not to show it on the outside. Waiting for him to make his move, I observed his hands and facial expressions, trying to get a read on what he was going to do next.
“Galahad,” Johanna softly crackled on the transceiver. “Get down so I can take a shot. I believe it’s time for the Fisher King to exit our fable.”
“Roger,” I muttered under my breath.
“Well son,” Beauregard sighed, reaching into his coat and pulling out a white pistol. “Sorry ’bout this. Some things are best left secret, hm?”
“Couldn’t agree more,” I said, dropping to my knees.
Just as the president readjusted his aim down at me, the window behind us broke. A dash of crimson burst onto Beauregard’s chest and the man shifted awkwardly. There was a slight pause and a light groan before he collapsed to the floor. Hearing a commotion begin outside from the noise, I hastily grabbed a chair and blocked the door before grabbing the briefcase and waiting by the now-shattered office window. Leon—still dressed as a window washer—descended in a cradle.
“Going down?” he asked, his voice echoing through the transceiver.
“Right,” I nodded. Then I gave one last look around the ransacked room. From the angle I was standing at, only the soles of Beauregard’s expensive shoes were visible as he lay dead on the floor. “Think we’ve done enough here. Let’s go home.”
Clutching the Holy Grail and braving the urban winds outside the building, I descended down to the street, and with it, the promise of escape and safety.
"Divine Comedy" is a comical take on life's medical and personal challenges. Though it is based on a one man's real life, it is in the form of fiction since the fine line between real life and fiction is very thin and can often be crossed.
There are only two ways to react to life’s trials and tribulations:
Either to become frustrated, bitter, angry and feeling sorrow, or to see all events as comical and, somewhat, whacky.
There has never been a day in human existence that did not have surprises and astonishments; how each of us reacts, determines the outcome.
Life is a divine comedy; the line between fiction and non-fiction is very thin and elastic. One can stretch it from fiction to reality or vice versa; another can cross the line all together. This writer finds the difference so fuzzy and indistinct that often he is oblivious whether occurrences are fictional or real; he only sees all things as a form of a divine comedy meant to amuse and charm. He does not mind it at all; to him, whether it is fiction or otherwise is irrelevant; what matters is that it is.
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