Separation Anxiety [short fiction]


Separation Anxiety

We stood at the edge of a gaping hole where his flower garden had been  yesterday.

“Where’s the dirt?” I asked.

“Dirt?” Smitty looked distracted, wearing his bathrobe and slippers, holding a chipped #1 Grandpa mug. The coffee lost its steam half an hour ago. He just stared into the depths of the hole.

“Yeah,” I said, “The dirt, the rocks, the flowers… everything that made this your garden. Where is it?”

Smitty mumbled something I couldn’t hear. Then he said that he didn’t know where the goddamned dirt was. “Or the rocks, or the flowers, or the fucking sprinkler system that cost me $650 in chiropractor bills! Or my fucking dog, for that matter. Have you seen that piece of shit dog? If he did this…”

His voice trailed off.

“It wasn’t the dog,” I said, looking across the yard to the edges of the fence. Sparky had a knack for escaping under the fence and coming to my yard to terrorize my cat. “No, I don’t see him anywhere.”

“Fucking dog.”

“Yeah. It wasn’t the dog,” I said. “Did you hear any noises last night? Anything that sounded maybe like a huge yard-sucking noise?”

“Where’s your ladder, Mike?” Smitty blurted. “I need your ladder.” He broke his gaze from the bottom of the hole and pulled the belt to his robe tighter. He was turning in slow backward circles, looking to see where I might have laid a ladder. I told him I’d get the ladder while he went in and put on some clothes. And that I’d look around for Sparky on my way. He looked at his cup of coffee and then seemed to try to focus on my face.

“Sparky? Yeah,” he said. “See if you can find him. I’m going in to put some clothes on.”

And with that, he dumped his coffee on the ground and shuffled back to the house. I stood and gazed down into the pit that was once a garden. The hole was a circular chasm about ten feet across, with vertical walls and a flat bottom. The sides appeared burnished to a low luster by the slow trickle of the broken sprinkler system. The faint smell of moist earth hung in the air around me. The hole was easily eight feet deep. The rim near my feet seemed to have been melted to a smooth crust. I gently kicked at the crust and a small piece broke off and slid to the bottom. The pit was tapered toward the center, and the piece of crust skittered along the bottom and came to rest against what looked like an old shoebox. I hadn’t noticed the box before. It must have been what Smitty was staring at.

I left the hole and walked across the yard to my place. I went through the house to the garage to fetch my ladder. I grabbed it off the wall and hit the garage door opener. As morning light spilled onto the garage floor, I caught sight of something tucked into a corner by the door.  Deep in shadow, with only a pair of dark eyes catching the light, crouched Sparky. He whined when I looked at him, his tail thumping against the wall. His coat was thick with mud, and smears of blood stained the concrete at his paws.

“You know your dad’s looking for you, right?” I said.

The tail thumping stopped and he withdrew further into the corner, trying to hide his muddy face in his paws.

“You wanna stay here for a bit?” I asked. He lifted his head and broke into a wide panting doggie smile. “OK,” I said, “You stay here until we get some of this sorted out.” I lifted the ladder and walked out. I heard his tail thumping as I headed back to Smitty’s.

Smitty was dressed and already in the hole by the time I got back. He sat against the far wall with the shoebox open in his lap, turning a small stuffed animal over and over in his hands.

“Did you find Sparky?” he asked.

“Nope,” I lied, as I slid the ladder along the wall into the hole. “You coming up?”

“You know, I found that dog in the desert,” he said, staring at the stuffed toy in his hands.

I climbed down the ladder. “No, I didn’t know where you got him.”

“Yep, in the desert, with this stupid toy in his mouth,” he continued. “Weird dog. His whole world is this stupid toy. The first and only time it went in the washer, Sparky never left the laundry room until it came out. For the life of me, I can’t even tell what this fucking thing is.”

He handed the toy up to me as I sat down next to him.

The toy was about five inches long and the color of the desert. Most of the fleece had worn off and what might have been a tiny ear was gone. It was vaguely animal-shaped, but with none of the distinct features to make it look like any particular kind of animal. It had the shape and feel of a new-born puppy. And it was creepy. I gave it back to Smitty and he chuffed.

“I threw this damned thing away once. Stuck it out in the can on garbage day. Sparky disappeared right after that.” He chuckled, “But sure enough, a few days later he was back in the yard with this ugly thing stuck in his mouth again.”

Smitty got up and headed for the ladder. “About a year ago I buried it. Buried it good and deep when I put in this garden.” He climbed up the ladder looked around at what was once his yard. “And now this,” he said. “Shit. Guess I’ll have to give it back to him.”




Laudable Audibles – The Cold Dish



The Cold Dish: A Longmire Mystery

by Craig Johnson

Introducing Wyoming’s Sheriff Walt Longmire in this riveting novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Hell Is Empty and As the Crow Flies, the first in the Longmire Mystery Series.
Fans of Ace Atkins, Nevada Barr and Robert B. Parker will love this outstanding first novel, in which New York Times bestselling author Craig Johnson introduces Sheriff Walt Longmire of Wyoming’s Absaroka County. Johnson draws on his deep attachment to the American West to produce a literary mystery of stunning authenticity, and full of memorable characters. After twenty-five years as sheriff of Absaroka County, Walt Longmire’s hopes of finishing out his tenure in peace are dashed when Cody Pritchard is found dead near the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Two years earlier, Cody has been one of four high school boys given suspended sentences for raping a local Cheyenne girl. Somebody, it would seem, is seeking vengeance, and Longmire might be the only thing standing between the three remaining boys and a Sharps .45-70 rifle.

With lifelong friend Henry Standing Bear, Deputy Victoria Moretti, and a cast of characters both tragic and humorous enough to fill in the vast emptiness of the high plains, Walt Longmire attempts to see that revenge, a dish best served cold, is never served at all.

I give it 4 out of 4 otoscopes

I give it 4 out of 4 otoscopes


I loved this book so much that I watched the first episode of the TV show LONGMIRE.  The TV show is disappointing on so many levels.  I deleted the series from my Netflix.  I’ve ‘wish-listed’ the next two books in the series.

Laudable Audibles – John Dies at the End

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John Dies

John Dies at the End

  • By David Wong

An Internet phenomenon originally slapped between two covers in 2007 by indie Permutus Press, Wong— editor Jason Pargin’s alter ego—adroitly spoofs the horror genre while simultaneously offering up a genuinely horrifying story. The terror is rooted in a substance known as soy sauce, a paranormal psychoactive that opens video store clerk Wong’s—and his penis-obsessed friend John’s—minds to higher levels of consciousness. Or is it just hell seeping into the unnamed Midwestern town where Wong and the others live? Meat monsters, wig-wearing scorpion aberrations and wingless white flies that burrow into human skin threaten to kill Wong and his crew before infesting the rest of the world. A multidimensional plot unfolds as the unlikely heroes drink lots of beer and battle the paradoxes of time and space, as well as the clichés of first-person-shooter video games and fantasy gore films. Sure to please the Fangoria set while appealing to a wider audience, the book’s smart take on fear manages to tap into readers’ existential dread on one page, then have them laughing the next.

I give it 2 otoscopes

I give it 2 out of 4 otoscopes

Laudable Audible – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Book 1 of the Millennium Trilogy

An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.


I give it 4 out of 4 otoscopes

Laudable Audible – The Currents of Space

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Currents of Space

Published in 1952 and still holds up. Remarkably current.

The Currents of Space

  • Written by: Isaac Asimov

High above planet Florinia, the Squires of Sark live in unimaginable wealth and comfort. Down in the eternal spring of the planet, however, the native Florinians labor ceaselessly to produce the precious kyrt that brings prosperity to their Sarkite masters.

Rebellion is unthinkable and impossible. Not only do the Florinians no longer have a concept of freedom, any disruption of the vital kyrt trade would cause other planets to rise in protest, resulting in a galactic war. So the Trantorian Empire, whose grand plan is to unite all humanity in peace, prosperity, and freedom, has allowed the oppression to continue.

Living among the workers of Florinia, Rik is a man without a memory or a past. He has been abducted and brainwashed. Barely able to speak or care for himself when he was found, Rik is widely regarded as a simpleton by the worker community where he lives. As his memories begin to return, however, Rik finds himself driven by a cryptic message he is determined to deliver: Everyone on Florinia is doomed…the Currents of Space are bringing destruction. But if the planet is evacuated, the power of Sark will end-so there are those who would kill the messenger. The fate of the Galaxy hangs in the balance.


I give it 3 out of 4 otoscopes