Brief Excerpts

SHORT STORIES by Carole Avila

My short stories have been submitted for e-book publishing. I hope you enjoy these excerpts.

AFTER THE STORM
Kidder, a Gulf War Vet, faces multiple effects of PTSD

Across the street in a dingy brown brick building the manager at the soup kitchen waved with a large serving spoon. Kidder acknowledged him with a lift of his chin. About three dozen people stood in line, waiting for a hot meal to start their day. Mostly men shifted their weight from one leg to another wearing baggy pants and jackets as ragged as the men who wore them.

Women wore oversized coats, throwbacks when their bodies could fill them. Only a handful of stoic children dotted the line with permanent frowns where mischievous grins should have been. For a fraction of a second their exhales chilled into tiny mists, word bubbles that disintegrated like unrealized hopes.

The black-skinned man at the front of the line shouted. “Hey, Kidder! You gonna miss breakfast if you don’t get your butt over here!”

Kidder called back, one hand cupped aside his mouth. “Save my place, Johnny!” and he kept to his brisk gait, as if he were on another mission. He passed an office housed inside a brownstone building with a dented trashcan previously standing guard at the front door. Kicked on its side, the can spewed a small pile of candy wrappers, an empty paper cigarette box, and old tissue. Someone had knocked it down in front of the landmark registering the last sturdy thread of fabric that supported the area’s declining foundation.

Kidder set the can upright. A small sign on the battered container read, “Deposit all illegal substances before entering. Property of the Fourth Street Crisis Center.” Below the words someone scribbled in black marker, “This whole damn neighborhood is a crisis.”

WELCOME HOME
Can Kyle sever the deep roots of his country home as he strives for something better?

After school, a group of us were headin’ for the bus, but Billy Rassmussen said he saw a dead body near Ol’ Merrick’s field.

“I dare y’all to take a look,” he said.

“I ain’t never seen a real dead body,” I said, and nobody else did neither.

We agreed to walk the mile to the edge of Ol’ Merrick’s farm. Sure enough, off the side of the road there was a tattered blanket plum stuck at the bottom of the ditch, dirty and covered with caked mud and plant debris. Somethin’ lumpy and smelly lay underneath.

Billy was the biggest, and for that, we considered him the bravest kid in class, but he looked mighty nervous when he was volunteered to take a peek under the blanket.

“I ain’t scared, but I ain’t climbin’ down into no dirty ditch wearin’ my brand new sneakers,” he said, and crossed his arms for good measure.

The other kids stepped back, and that left me and Lynn lookin’ like we was willin’ to do the uncoverin’. It was an unfortunate fall off the tractor that put my arm in a sling, so Lynn had to hike down to see who died. She climbed over sharp rocks and splintered logs before she finally made it to the bottom of the steep ditch.

Lynn said it was smellier then rotten eggs in a cellar down there. She jabbed a long branch into the dead man’s blanket and called up sayin’ that somethin’ big was underneath. Billy’s sister, Jennie Mae, said to push the stick in harder to make sure it was dead. Lynn shoved that stick under the blanket and shouted that she thought somethin’ was movin’. I’m pretty sure at that point even us boys were scared, what, with our eyes all big and round and the girls downright huggin’ each other.

Lynn hollered up a storm to get her outta there. Turns out, there was a dead body after all.

THE BAKER’S NIECE
A dark story of orphans taken in by unkind Zia, and Tessa is made to work the bakery as well as care for her younger sister, but at what cost to Tessa?

Mamma and Papa resold goods they bought from businesses in the village during a twice monthly trip into the city, a two hour walk from our home. That winter season, they made an extra visit to purchase the doll for Bianca. It was too cold and snow stuck on the ground so Bianca and I had to stay with Zia for the afternoon in case they came home late. After the bakery closed Zia Francesca washed the last of the baking dishes, and I laid my exhausted sister on the sofa.

The town beggar, Marcello, who only had one arm and a crippled leg, rapped on the door. Zia told him to go away but her husband, kindhearted Zio Aldo, let the man in. Tear streaked Marcello shuffled inside. He said that Mamma and Papa had an accident on the outskirts of town. One of the wooden spokes on the front wheel snapped in half, and their heavy pull-cart was stuck on the railroad tracks. Marcello had limped to their aid.

“I’ll pull at the front, and you two push at the back, and we’ll get the cart off the tracks,” Papa said to him and Mamma.

Papa counted to three. He hoisted the cart as they heaved from behind, but Papa slipped on ice, and the cart fell on top of him. The broken spoke punctured his thigh and pinned him to the ground. Papa screamed. Mamma and Marcello ran and knelt by his side. They all felt the vibration of the metal track.

“Take Lucia away!” Papa shouted at Marcello.

Mamma threw herself onto Papa and Marcello couldn’t lift her with the strength of a child in his one good arm. A train rounded the curve, and the whistle screeched louder than the wheels.

Mamma cried.Papa tried to shove Mamma away.

“Lucia! Get off the track!” Marcello said that the more Papa pushed her, the tighter she held onto him.

“I’ll never leave you!” Mamma cried.

“Why must you love me so much?” Papa said in a quiet voice that Marcello barely heard.

“Has it ever been any other way?”

Marcello couldn’t pull them apart and limped away from the rumbling tracks as fast as he could. He spun around and saw Mamma and Papa strangely at peace and actually smiling, happy to be together in their final moment. It ended in a kiss, before the iron trestle ploughed into the cart.

Excerpts can be shared in their entirety provided they include title and author name.

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