flash fiction
danny johnson
 What We Lived
 The moon watches like the yellow eye of a Raven Mocker, its shadows stalking me.  I hold my big knife skyward, letting blood drip from the blade as I shake it at the beast.  “Come down here, I’ll kill you too.”  I let out a howl, like a wolf calling his pack.  The mountain echoes the sound, coming back to me time and again.  I went back to cleaning the deer, pausing long enough to cut out its heart and chew on it while I worked, tasting the blood, taking its spirit into my own.
By the time I am finished, innards lay all around.  Now the buck would be much lighter to carry, and the wolves would have a meal.  My way of making peace with them, thanking them for sharing the forest.  I walked to the edge of the clearing and retrieved my horse.  He is shivering and stamping his feet in the cold snow, snorting blast of smoke from his wide nostrils.  
I lead him to the carcass, and struggle with the dead weight, finally getting it loaded onto the rump of my pony.  My woman would be pleased, enough to feed my family and hers.  I climb up and begin to move back through the woods, before long finding the path leading up the mountain and over to the valley beyond.  I stop to watch the sun rise and give another day.  I said a prayer to the Father of the Sky, thanking him for giving me the strength to slay the deer, and for chasing the Raven Mocker away.  And I prayed for the soul of the animal, giving appreciation for his life. 
As I crested the ridge and peered down upon the village in the valley where my people had settled for the winter, I looked forward to a good rest this night.  Lodges were set along the river that twisted and turned its way in and out of the valley.  The river we called Tuckasegee and the white Europeans called the valley Quall.  My nation, the Cherokee, and the Scots moved easily among each other.  I had spoken with one of their clan, and he warned me about a war the white men were getting ready to fight against the redcoats of the English chief across the great water.  I had no interest in this business. 

The Romance of Love
I wonder about you.  At times you come to me easily and others you ignore me completely.  There are no strings between us, so I cannot complain, only hope.  I hope that someday you will make up your mind, either to take me, or go away completely.  The in-between is frustrating and confusing.  Where are you now and who are you with?  I know it’s none of my business.  
So, what will it be, continue to sacrifice and sit in the waiting room, or find solace with somebody else?  You decide, because I can’t.  Do you think we just love to be in love, feel the butterflies, anxious in the absence, and that’s why we just don’t run away?
I walk down to the garden and stroll among the flowers, enjoying the fragrance of beauty and the colors of chance.  This life is simple, it has as a natural order.  What is our natural order, yours and mine?  Is it to constantly emerge, grow, blossom, and die with the first hint of disinterest?  I wonder about these things. 
I will meet you tonight, and we will have the usual laughs and stories about what has filled our lives since we last were together.  But, neither of us really care about such things, it is only the foreplay.  When we are coupled together in the passion we each seek from the other, nothing else matters.  It’s only when we are finished that doubts come, constancy departs, and I fall into the abyss of loneliness again.
I promise myself I won’t do this much longer.  But, what else have I to hang on to other than this tidbit of self-delusion?  I understand how the end will come; it will come in silence.  It will creep in quietly, the realization hitting like the strike of an asp, sudden and painful, leaving me to suck the poison from my mind once again.  This time I think I will let you bear the burden, feel the hurt, slap at the burn in your heart.  I’ve done it enough.  It’s your turn.

Rules Makers
I walk in the graveyard, pausing to read each stone.  The names ring out like bells in a fog, Eli, Ralph, Joseph, beloved wife Rose, Mary, Anna.  Are you still there?  Where did your souls go?  If I put my hand out, can I push through the membrane that divides our worlds and find you there, peaceful and living still?  I think about each name and repeat it over and over in my mind, trying to decipher where such a sound comes from.  E LIE.  Who decided what tone matched what letter?  I try to picture stone-age men turning sound into meaning.  Why is the word hello not ackoger?  Who made the rules?
I bet if I made myself a different set of rules and began to speak my own sounds and language, I would be banned to lunacy.  But why?  Why are we limited by simply what we know?  Is there a way to take all the knowledge achieved by Einstein at his death and transfer it into somebody else’s brain so he won’t have to start all over again with the letter A?  Imagine what progress we would make if we didn’t have to wait the 20 or 30 years for the new person to get up to speed.  
If men can take the entire dictionary and all the books in all the libraries and put them on a microchip, then why couldn’t they implant it in a brain?  If they did, what would we call him, Superlative Man?  And if he was, would we be able to control him, to keep him from controlling us?  What else would he have to learn if he knew everything?  Would they make him go to school until he was sixteen?
I have given up on finding answers because the things I truly want to know are all unknown.  Maybe I’ll find a microchip and put it in my dog’s brain.  That should trip a lot of people out.  If I’m flying on acid, whose to say all the stuff I see isn’t real?

The dog next door barks, barks, barks all the fucking time.  I hate the little nasty fur ball.  I would love to get my hands around its scrawny neck and squeeze until shit ran out his asshole.  Speaking of suburbia, don’t you get sick of the family on the street that is always smiling and waving, like they know a secret you don’t?  Like they have the magic formula to happiness, two kids, a van, and that freaking barking dog.  Nobody is that happy.  That’s probably why the dog barks all the time; I bet he secretly hates their fucking guts. 
Just once, wouldn’t you love to see the police drive up to the neighbor’s house instead of yours?  Find out the guy is distributing child porn?  Maybe then they would get rid of the dog.  And quit smiling all the time.  Bastards.  I think I’ll go down to the bus station, pick up a big ugly prostitute and let her stay at the house for a few days.  Let her parade around the yard in a tutu with some sparkly rhinestones singing “Back that thang up” at the top of her voice.  That should discourage any interruptions when neighbors just want to “drop over.”
Unbeknownst to the street, I sometimes go out after midnight and wander around the houses, taking a peek in un-curtained windows, seeing if any of them are having sex.   It’s fun.  And surprising.  I have discovered the house that does the most fucking is where the retired couple lives.  Don’t you find that amazing?  I try to chat them up whenever I see them, hoping for an invitation, maybe a little three-way.  They never bring it up and act like I smell when I get to laying hints with dirty jokes and telling them about my own porn collection.  Who knows why people do things?
I think someday I’ll write a story about my cul-de-sac, make it a real nasty one, exposing all the secrets they thought were safe.  Wait, I guess that’s what I’m doing now.  Okay, I’ll quit.

A Happy Ending
Jimmy was born in a hurricane, raised by the ocean, and weaned on a boat.  From the time he was six, he was onboard when his father took tourist deep-sea fishing.  He learned to love the rolling waves, the bigger the better. Salt water was in his blood.
By the time he was sixteen, he was First Mate, working to help make sure visitors caught fish so they would come back again. One day, they had finished tying up the boat at dark when his father suddenly dropped to his knees, and grabbed at his chest.  An ambulance came, and at the hospital his dad died from the heart attack.  Jimmy was alone.
He tried to continue the fishing expeditions, but folks backed off when they saw how young he was.  One late afternoon a middle-aged man dressed in fancy slacks and a slick sports shirt approached him to inquire about hiring out the next morning.  Jimmy agreed.  The gentleman appeared at the boat at six, this time dressed in jeans and tennis shoes.  He was alone.  Jimmy thought that strange, but he paid the six hundred dollars in cash. 	 
They crossed the rough inland waters and caught the smooth, deep, green and blue waters of the Gulf Stream. The man came up to the Captains Nest.  He wanted to know if Jimmy would like to make twenty thousand today.  Jimmy agreed, and followed the directions of the man until they came upon a large freighter.  They gaffed and pulled aboard bundles tossed over by the ship.  They sat outside the inlet until after dark.  At the docks, a van was waiting.  Two large, rough-looking men took the bundles and the man gave Jimmy the money in cash.  They agreed to meet again the next month.  This went on for five years and Jimmy became rich.
One day when they got to the docks, the Coast Guard was there.  Jimmy lost all his money, his boat, and spent fifteen years in prison.  He got a job as a First Mate on another fishing boat.  In high seas one day, he slipped and fell off the back.  His body was never recovered.
         I guess it wasn’t a happy ending.
A Killing on the Mountain
“It’s still some cold outside, but the sun will be up in a little while.  Think you can make it ‘til then?”  The bear of a man, Jonas McMillan, stood over the woman who shivered and shook beneath the blanket.
“I’m sure I can.  Always heard you get warm right before you freeze to death and I sure as hell ain’t that.”  She lifted a palsy hand to rub across her forehead, pushing dark, stringy hair away from her face.
The giant lumberjack smiled at her gumption.  “I reckon that’s true enough.”  He had stumbled on the cabin in a snowstorm the day before.  He got inside the door before he realized somebody was there.  She had no fight left and was barely alive.  Jonas rambled around the place until he found some sassafras tea, a can of soup, then melted some water on the stove after he got a fire going. 
He had laid his wool parka over her while the cabin warmed, bringing her out of some misery.  The storm died during the night and he figured he could use the sled he had seen outside to get her to the lumber camp.  All he knew was her head was hot and the rest of her was freezing.  He sat down on the floor, rubbing her arms and hands to transfer some warmth.  “If you don’t mind me asking, what the heck are you doing way up here by yourself?”
Her teeth chattered.  “Came up with my husband at the end of summer, both of us wanting to try and find a way back to our marriage.  I think he brought me to the mountain to leave me, figuring I would die and nobody would be the wiser.  Almost worked too.”
When the sun rose, Jonas lifted the girl onto the sled, wrapped her in as many clothes and blankets as he could find, and started pulling her.  He picked up a clear trail and stayed on it until he came on an awful sight.  At the base of a tall fir tree, he saw a man standing, frozen, arms still around the trunk, layered in ice and snow.  When he brushed at the white covering, he saw the chain that locked his arms together.  He looked at the girl.  
She looked away.
B.B. McCracken
Big Balls McCracken lifted his nose to the wind.  The scent of hot dogs on a grill caught his interest, and he began to follow the smell.  Big was a chubby, red-faced boy of thirteen who never turned down an opportunity to eat.  He was called Big Balls because he had nads the size of which nobody had ever seen.  The school made his momma and daddy get Big a jock strap to wear to school, hoping it would calm down the commotion he caused.  Big was good-natured about it, not minding the jokes and mimicking from the other kids.
 His nose led him around the Brewster’s house and there they were, cooking on the barbeque.  Of course, he acted like he was just dropping over to see Heather, but had no hesitation in accepting the offer of a dog and a coke.  Everybody knew everybody in the little town of Maplewood.
As Big got older and matured, other parts of him started to catch up.  By pure accident, he was walking downtown and had to pee, so he went into the bus station to find a bathroom.  In the men’s toilet, he bellied up to a urinal and started to relieve himself.  About that time a stranger came in behind him, unzipped and stood beside Big.  He glanced over, as men will sometimes do.  “Good God!  Son, that’s the biggest whacker I’ve ever seen.”
That was how Big made his first connection to the movie business.  The stranger was a porn producer just passing through town.  Before long, Big was living in a ranch style house in LA.  He became famous in the late seventies, the tools of his trade displayed on just about every drive-in movie screen in the country.  Then came the video market.  Big was living…well big.  He retired in the middle eighties, figuring he had enough money to go back to Maplewood and enjoy life.  He started to dramatically lose weight, and was diagnosed with AIDS.  He died in 1989.  The porn community had their annual conference in Las Vegas and named an award after him.  They called it the “Big Balls Golden Phallus “ and it was given to the male porn star of the year.  It was much later before anyone in Maplewood discovered what Big had been doing all that time he was away from home.

The Sniper
 I lay in the deep brush at the edge of the jungle for the third day.  The camouflage makes me invisible to the naked eye.  In fact, VC soldiers had walked within three yards of my position twice, one even pausing to take a leak so close I could smell his urine.  But I never moved.
I waited, and watched traffic move around the camp, a picture of my target imprinted on my brain.  He would show sometime.  As it began to get towards dark, I saw him.  He came riding in on a bush wagon, what we called the half-ton trucks disguised with foliage the NVA used to move troops and supplies down the Ho Chi Min Trail.  He was a general, sent from Hanoi to lead the assault on Khe Sanh.  The folks in charge knew they were staging for a big battle, and they had intelligence on who was to lead it.  It was my job to kill him.  
I watched as he moved around the troops, never having a good shot with the Remington Model 70 30.06.  The shot would be simple at three hundred and fifty yards.  He was a dead man and just didn’t know it yet.  By the time I saw him clearly in front of the hootch, I couldn’t take the risk my flash would be seen in the dark.  I wanted to at least have a chance to get back.
I catnapped during the night, coming fully alert at first light.  I trained the binoculars on the place I expected to see him.  I tuned the scope for distance and calculated what little breeze there was.  I trained the sight on the door and waited and watched.  I saw the curtain door move, then be pushed back by a hand just before his head leaned forward to exit.  I exhaled, waited between heartbeats, and squeezed.  The top of his skull shattered.
I didn’t wait around to watch the circus.  It took me two more days of hiding and working my way to a pick up point.  I saw the chopper starting in.  It hovered just above the grass and I took off for the door.  Inside, the crew ignored me.  They said we smelled like death and wanted nothing to do with us.  It was okay, I was used to the loneliness.

 The Reality of Fantasy
The hawk flapped diligently before finding an updraft that would allow him to soar without effort.  He watched the ground below, being witness to a horror.  The man pulled the girl from the car, jerked her by the head hair, slammed at her face with his fist, screaming in a violent rage.  When she was on the ground, she tried to crawl away.  But, he knew there was nowhere for her to go.  He had her now, and he was going to take his time and enjoy it.  He pulled the long knife with the gleaming blade from his belt.
The girl was crying and begging for her life, sliding backwards as the rocks tore at her clothes and skin.  She had no idea what she had done to deserve this.  The man’s face was pure evil, his eyes bulged, and saliva drooled from the corner of his mouth.  Desperately she looked around her, trying to find anything to use as a weapon.  If she was going to die, she was not about to lie down and take it.
He came for her, the glint from the knife making flashes in her eyes.  When he was close, he slashed out, catching her arm and chest.  The blade ripped a slice through skin and blood vessels and nerve ends. She cried out in pain and fear as blood spurted.  She could smell her own urine as it released involuntarily.  The man smiled, raising the weapon again above his head.
This time when he came down, he cut through her face and down her breast, laying it open like a filleted fish.  She screamed again, but only the hawk was there to hear her; he tilted his head to the sound.  When the knife came again, all sounds from her ceased.  The blade cut deep into her neck and throat.  The man stood above her, laughing, bringing the dripping steel to his mouth and licking it clean.
	That’s when the director yelled cut

 Former United States Air Force Viet Nam veteran and Distinguished Flying Cross recipient, Danny Johnson, is a writer of Southern based Literary/Commercial fiction. Praise for his writing includes:  “Not since Breece D’J Pancake has a writer the likes of Danny Johnson emerged from the South with all the glory and hell of life attached and intact in his fiction.  Add a measure of Tim O’Brien’s stylization of military life and you still have only a glimmer of the storytelling you’ll love.”   Stories published by The Camel Saloon, Sheepshead Review, Mr. Zouch, Creative Aspirations, Flash Fiction Offensive, and The Legendary. His short story “Dancing With My Shadow” placed in the top 100 in Writer’s Digest in 2010, and his collection Harry and Bo and Other Stories From A Rambling Mind was published by MilSpeak Books, also in 2010.
Visit Danny’s Website:  http://www.authordannyjohnson.com/