William F. Crandell returned home from the Vietnam War with a taste for adventure, a skeptic’s eye, and a hundred thousand stories. Completing a doctorate in history at Ohio State University, he was awarded a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in 2004 for his mystery novel, Let’s Say Jack Kennedy Killed the Girl. Bill has published numerous short stories, book reviews, and political analyses. He was awarded the PRIZM’s Mark Twain Award for Hu-mor/Social Commentary 2012 and resides in Milton with his wife, Judith. Bill’s work has appeared in the DPP anthologies SOLSTICE, EQUINOX, and AURORA, available at Amazon and other booksellers. If you’re a fan of hard-boiled writing, you’re going to love Bill’s writing, so get yourself a copy of one of his books today!
OUT OF THE BOTTLE
by William F. Crandell
“STINKIN’ BUMMER,” Majesky murmurs, as he lights a cigarette on the back deck and snorts smoke into the soggy late-night air. Turning, he toasts the familiar ghost reflected in his windowpane. Was he ever really alive? Did his dulled blue eyes ever really hold the light? But the vodka works, and his thought train wanders off the track. “Stinkin’ windows need washing,” he mutters. “Before Ellen sees ’em.”
The faint, distant bop-bop-bop of a passing helicopter reminds Majesky that, yes, once he was alive, fully alive. He shut Vietnam out of his thoughts when he left the Army. Avoided news stories on it, switched off TV shows about it, sold shoes to mothers who didn’t wear combat boots.
But just now, as he thinks about fifty years of a burnt-out marriage and a job he hates, the genie slips out of the Absolut bottle. Majesky remembers a cute bar girl named Ling he met on Tu Do Street during a three-day pass. She wore a short, white dress slit up one well-formed thigh. Not as pretty as Ellen was, but full of spontaneity and pleasure.
First Majesky smiles, and then he cries. “Jeez,” he whispers, “what I’d give to see Ling again…”
Once more the sound of the helicopter, now closer overhead, catches his ear. A Huey. The kind they used to tear around Vietnam in. He knows the WOP-WOP-WOP-WOP-WOP of this one, has waited fifty years for this chopper.
Majesky gets to his feet, staggers out to the garage with what remains of his bottle of vodka trailing unseen in his left hand. On the top shelf over his workbench is a dusty ammo can. Yes! He still has the old hand-held flare he once mailed home to his kid brother, the signal rocket he has toyed with firing for fifty Fourths of July.
By the time he gets back to the moon-drenched patio, surmounting the broad, vacant lawn, he has slapped the firing cap into place and taken a long pull of vodka to clear his vision. Majesky clenches the bottle between his thighs and whacks the butt of the flare.
His eyes follow the trail of ascending sparks and he watches, the Absolut bottle raised as if it were a telescope for his tongue. At last the ancient flare floods the black sky with white light, swinging gently as the little parachute carries it three blocks away. It hisses as it sinks into the flawless lawn.
To read the rest of the story, grab yourself a copy of Aurora!
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