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Deal 1286: Walks

We took the same walk every day. Down the hill to the lake, past the cemetery, through the woods, back past the school yard, and finally down the hill back to the house. Rain or shine, we walked.

Over the years, we saw changes around us. The school was the first to show it. Broken windows. Graffiti. Weeds in the yard. Clear signs of gangs. And even a few patches of illicit plants.

The woods and lake too showed changes, as the community stopped valuing their presence. We used to try to pick up the rare pieces of litter we encountered. But the litter became so commonplace that we would have needed to carry a large back on every walk.

The cemetery too showed signs, beginning with weeds but including vandalized graves and mausoleums.

That was when the trouble really began in earnest.

That cemetery was more important than most, and those who knew its secrets had neglected to pass them down and ensure that certain graves were never disturbed.

The people we encountered on our daily walk began to look haggard and afraid. The stories of strange things wandering at night began to be common, and to carry added twists from personal witnesses rather than the usual friend of a friend heard a rumor sorts of tales.

Then we saw him ourselves.

I don’t think he saw us, and we followed. He was clearly searching for someone, a long past love most likely. He didn’t seem to know that he was dead, or that centuries had passed him by while he was locked in the broken mausoleum. He searched the town, seemingly puzzled by the changes brought by time. Then he searched the cemetery.

We were there when he found her grave.

He turned at that moment from a sad walker on a mission into a monster. He ransacked the cemetery and tore into the town. He terrorized those he encountered. He picked on one particular property, and went door to door demanding to know why nothing was done. He was inconsolable, and refused to believe that she had lived a long and quiet life after his capture and internment.

If anything, stories of her place in the community all those years ago made him even more angry.

She had moved on, married another, and had a daughter.

That sank in, he tried to find the daughter. But she too was long since dead and buried.

But that provided the distraction needed to solve our problem. We used his irrational quest against him, and lured him back into his mausoleum. The repaired tomb closed easily, and the seals were restored behind him.

Since that day, we include his tomb in our daily walk. At first, we could hear him pounding on the door. But as the years wore on, he returned to the uneasy sleep of the not completely dead.

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Deal 1285: Bat

The elegantly dressed gentleman was bruised and beaten. That would have been bad enough all by itself, but he also had a fence board sticking out of his chest. But even that wasn’t the real problem. With the stake in his chest, he could barely move. And dawn was imminent. Come dawn, he wasn’t going to be worried by anything.

Or that was likely to be the plan.

And it was working.

When he found his way out of this, he was going to need to replace his favorite suit.

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Deal 1284: Changed Man

You’d never guess by looking at me now, but I used to be footloose and fancy free. Free to the point that people thought I was feral and untamable. And then it all changed. I straightened up and got right with the world, and now I am a good little slave to the groupthink that drives the world. Don’t rock the boat is my new motto.

I was up to my usual shenanigans when I met him. A tall dark and quiet stranger, well dressed, and looking slightly out of place.

Rather a lot out of place now that I think about it.

He gave the impression that he was more present than even the rocks, trees, and front porches of the neighborhood. I could never tell you what he really looked like, there is just a blur left where any memory of his face ought to be.

But he was a handsome devil.

He called me by name, too.

We had never met before, and he knew my name as if it was written on my face.

Which it might as well have been. I had a full tribal tat covering the left side of my head. I had run out of money when it reached the bridge of my nose. Since it hurt like hell, I had never quite found the time to spend any of my money on finishing it. Everyone called me Quart since my giant white face looked like a typical first quarter moon. It made about as much sense as my real name, so I went with it. After all, when the crowd names you, you usually don’t get much of a say. So if they name you something you can live with, its usually best to just let it ride.

But the stranger knew my real name was Monroe. Monroe Apollo Eagle, to be complete. Not that anyone would presume to call me that, aside from my Momma, of course.

He came around every few days for a while. Then suggested I might find him here and there if I was interested. Never said what I might be interested in, of course. Naturally I wasn’t interested.

And yet, a day or two later I found myself wandering away from my usual haunts.

Must have found him. My memory is just a blur. More a collection of impressions. They tell me that I wandered away from the hood for several months. I don’t believe them. But it is true that I’m not the same person now.

I just don’t remember the process.

I correct people who call me Quart. I don’t while the days away gambling on street corners for petty cash. I have a nice place of my own, and a job of some sort.

I’m a little unclear on the job part.

I go somewhere every day, then come home later. Sometimes with a paycheck.

Where I go and what happens there is also lost in a fog.

Some from the old gang tried to question me.

I broke their arms. Apparently more changed than just my name. I broke their arms in several places.

But I don’t really remember that either.

I do remember something shiny. And eyes. And a calm voice. But never what the voice said, or what shade the eyes are, or what the shiny thing is.

I get up. Dress nice. Drive somewhere that fades away when I get there. Stay there. I presume I have coworkers. I don’t know that either.

But I’m out of trouble.

For now.

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Deal 1282: Typefryer

I was once a strong man. But a lifetime of delivering typewriters to keep prolific authors supplied has left me crippled and barely able to reach the space bar.

Mystery authors are bad. They keep trying out their murders on their actual keyboards, making swift replacement a necessity.

But the worst offenders are cookbook authors. No fine top quality typewriter is happy when doused with flour and sugar. Dipping its keys in batter and then frying them is the last straw.

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Deal 1281: Breaking Sight

I’ve gone blind. I exaggerate. A little. I can see, but it feels like I ought to be blind.

I only attempted to watch all of Breaking Bad in one sitting. I knew better. But every time I tried to look away, some new nuance of the story, the camera work, or the acting just drew me back in. About fifty hours later I have to admit I am hungry.

And my eyes won’t close.

Or open again.

He may be the one who knocks, but I won’t be answering the door.

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Deal 1280 Ribbit

The cluttered studio just left a clear space around her most recent work.

A rollers on a stand held a large beige expanse of Aida fabric stretched for the work in progress, and her work was well underway. She had skeins of the best floss neatly arranged by color, and needles, scissors, threaders, magnifiers, and other less obvious tools neatly arrayed where they could be reached.

The scene was in a swamp, and depicted moonlight reflecting off the still water. Selectively leaving out stitches achieved a shining light effect, letting the light fabric and change of texture contrast with the dark blues, browns, and purples of the water. The stitching technique was impeccable, with every cross formed the same way and pulled exactly flat without puckering the fabric. The back side of the work was as neat as the front, and it was possible the work was intended to be seen from either side.

The technique involved to produce perfectly even stitches on both faces was unusual and difficult.

Especially since it is clear that the two faces are not actually the same image. One is the scene by moonlight. The other is the same scene by sunlight. In each scene, the plants are nearly identical except for different placement of the sprays of tiny lavender flowers, but the critters found in and around are typical of each time of day.

The frogs on both sides are striking yellow and black, with the distinctive markings of D. leucomelas. Not a frog you want to mess with casually, and they know it from their willingness to sit out and bask in the sun where any predator could make the serious mistake of eating them.

The embroidery really is exquisite.

One might expect that the frogs could almost hop right off the fabric.

“Ribbit”.

Oh.