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"From Today" by John Cooper

The fire escape was in the alley beside the building.

It was two year since Jim had made it his home. He cooked there and lay there under it to sleep. He bothered nobody and nobody bothered him.

Everything it seemed was as it should be…

Then today, when he awoke, Jim found sitting beside him there was a new mop and bucket.

Strange he had thought, until it dawned on him that now he would be expected to clean the fire escape for in return for his lodgings.

Everything it seemed was to be different...

"Safety First" by Daniel Aceituna

I always try to play it safe, but here was the hitchhiker pointing a gun at me.
“Take my money. Just don’t shoot.”
“Shut up and drive, mister.”
She reminded me of my daughter. “If you’re in trouble, maybe I can help.”
“Sure, help me get to where I’m going and be quiet.”
An hour later, she saw a place to eat. “Pull over.”
Confused, I stopped in the parking lot.
She jumped out, put her gun in her backpack, and held out a ten. “That should cover the gas.”
“I hitchhike a lot. Just trying to stay safe.”

"The Mysterious Box" by Sivan Pillai

The old man had been confiding in a select few that he was about to make his last will.
Then all were intrigued at the sudden appearance of a heavy box, chained and padlocked to his bed. His sons were certain it contained the gold bars he had supposedly found while clearing the woods years ago. That was the only property he had to bequeath.
Everyone in the family competed with each other to please the old man, to gain his favor.
When he died, years later, there was a broad grin on his face.
The box contained only a couple of old bricks.

"Faulty Connections" by Jennifer Duncan

Bill wasn't looking forward to his doctor's appointment, but he felt he had to share the concerns he and his wife had about his memory, his problem solving, his word finding and understanding.

"I'm having trouble with my memory," he began.

"Just normal aging, but I'll give you a short assessment."

Ten minutes later, Bill had drawn a clock, identified a camel, recited three numbers backwards, remembered five words and completed other similar tasks.

"Perfect score, Bill."

He left the office relieved, no dementia.

Driving home, he mistakenly pressed the accelerator at a stop sign and crashed into a car.

"Reflection Day" by Bill Sells

“It's on! Hear the trumpets?”

“Yes, what happened?”

“'Reflection Day.' We're going to have one this year.”

“Oh, glory be!! It's been such a long time, I've almost forgotten everything. When was the last?”

“Four years.”

“Four? What changed? Why did the King approve it?”

“There's a new chef at the castle. I hear the Queen's fallen in love with 'The Salad.'”

“Thank the Lord for small favors. What are you going to wear?”

“I don't care, as long as I get to see what the rest of the world sees.”

"Love Origami" by Joseph Ramey

Devin penned a love note during Spanish class. He used some of the words he learned that year, like amor, cariño, and lujuria. Easier written than said, but poetry all the same.

He folded the paper into an intricate flower, and asked a girl to pass it forward, pointing in the distance.

He pretended not to look.

When time passed, and nothing changed, he searched for a response. Señora Garcia, the Spanish teacher, continued her lecture until the bell rang.

Leaving, he passed her desk. The flower lay crushed in the garbage can, unopened, unrequited.

"Oh ¡mi amor!"

"The Eye of the Beholder" by Gautam Sen

When Miss Vimla taught her first class, Raj found her to be one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. He wondered why she hadn’t entered the movies.

After a week, she gave the students an essay to write. While Raj scored 8 out of 10, Rahul scored a 9. That day Raj discovered that Miss Vimla’s nose was longer than it should be.

A month later the class was putting up a play. Raj, who considered himself to be a fine actor, earned the role of the lowly servant. Shortly after, he noticed that Miss Vimla’s teeth were not properly aligned.

"Dinnertime call from Prison" by Elizabeth Zahn

Our daughters say goodbye and hand me the phone. I take it to the bedroom.

“Stay true,” you plead.

“I told you. It’s over. I can’t live like this.”

“We promised each other. For better. Or worse.”

“You’ve made our lives worse than worse.”

“I did it for us.”

I hang up. Exhausted. Claire and Michelle burst in. They’re hungry. Disheveled.

I rally to make dinner. Help with homework.

After the divorce, I’ll keep taking the girls for prison visits, for as long as they want. Although I’ll resent it.

I’ll do it for them. Not their mother.

"Clarinet Life on Mars" by Gordon Lawrie

Last Friday, I was sitting on No.26 bus when a Martin got on and sat down beside me. I'd seen him before, but we'd never spoken, so when he (very politely) asked he might join me, I was surprised to discover that he had a Russian accent. This, he explained, was the result of attending Moscow University where he'd gained a Double First in Clarinet and Espionage. Apparently they have a very good Clarinet Department in Moscow. He didn't offer to play, however, even although I spotted a clarinet protruding from his rucksack.
He got off again five stops later.

"Mommy and Me" by Daniel Hybner

We walked into a room full of moms and daughters. My daughter was visibly uncomfortable.

The lady in charge pulled me aside almost as soon as we walked in.

“I don’t want to make a fuss, but this is a ‘Mommy and Me’ painting session.”

“I understand. It’s just that-”

“I’m sorry,” she interrupted. “No exceptions.”

“But, we really-”

“Ms. Pickering,” another woman approached. “This is Molly, the girl I spoke with you about.”

“Molly? Oh. Your mother is the one who... I’m so sorry.”

Molly turned to her and said, “Daddy and me will be just fine.”

Yes we will.

"The School Bully" by Sandra James

I was seven. At school we sat on benches around the quadrangle while we ate lunch.

I balanced lunchbox, lid, sandwich, banana and drink bottle on my knee, daydreaming. Suddenly, a teacher boomed before me. ‘You threw that peel on the ground!’

I looked down at my banana peel on the ground. ‘No, it must have dropped,’ I told him.

‘I saw you throw it,’ he insisted, and meted my punishment.

Years later his face on the front of our local newspaper. Sad passing, it read. A local hero.

I tore it to shreds and burnt it in my fireplace.

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