Monday, March 31, 2014

NYC Midnight: Round Two

I was so excited to make it through the first round of the NYC Midnight short story contest, and then I realized round two would require me to write a 2000 word story in only three days. When I got my assignment, I think I actually groaned out loud. My assignment for round two was to write a fantasy story that involved dancing and a repossessor. What the hell was I going to do with that and how on earth was I going to do it in three days? What I came up with is the story you are about to read. I would love your feedback...did you like it...did you hate it?


Shoe Envy
by
Bill WIlbur


            When it came to fairytale kisses, Snow had them all beat.  She had been in a coma until her prince leaned in for a closer look and accidentally brushed his lips against hers.  That was the truth of it, no matter what the storybooks say.  It had been an accident. But it is true that kiss woke her from eternal slumber and became THE KISS, the one smooch by which all others were judged. 

            When it came to swords, there was the mighty Excalibur.  Hair was Rapunzel’s thing and you couldn’t think of a little prick without thinking of Sleeping Beauty.  But when it came to shoes, there was where the waters grew murky, the ocean, by the way, belonged to Ariel.

            Cinderella had her glass slippers, and while they were beautiful and considered THE SHOES by nearly everyone, there was another pair, belonging to another girl in a faraway land.  Cinderella had long heard tales of the ruby slippers and the girl who clicked her heels incessantly.

There were days when Cinderella could think of nothing else. She hated sharing the spotlight.  If shoes were to be her thing, than they should be hers alone.  She shouldn’t have to share the glory with some farm girl.  Shoe envy can be an ugly thing.

So troubled was Cinderella, that she’d summoned her fairy Godmother, who arrived, as usual, in a giant bubble, which floated through the air propelled by the soft flutter of hundreds of bluebirds all flapping their wings.  As the bubble landed softly in the courtyard, the birds began dropping onto the grass, their tiny chests huffing and puffing. 

Glinda stepped through the slick transparent wall with a loud pop as the bubble burst.  She made her way up the path to the castle, gingerly stepping around the passed out birds on the ground. 

“Cindy!” She squealed as Cinderella appeared in that doorway.

Cinderella ran down the hill toward her fairy Godmother.  “Glinda!” 

They embraced and made fake kissy noises in each other’s ears.

“I’m so happy you could come,” Cinderella said as they walked up the hill, the heels of her glass slippers sinking ungracefully into the soft hillside.  Heels on a slipper, who does that?  “It has been such a long time.”

“Well, how could I resist your note.”  Glinda smiled.  Clearing her throat she recited, “Glinda, come at once. It involves shoes. Love, Cindy.”

Smiling, Cinderella said, “I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist.”

“I’m a girl aren’t I?  Shoes are like men.  You can’t have just one pair.” 

Behind her, the bluebirds were recovering and beginning to flutter around in circles.

Cinderella led her fairy godmother into the castle, explaining her situation.  They plopped down on Cindy’s bed and stared at the ceiling.  “Those ruby slippers should be mine, they’re too fancy for a farm girl to wear when slopping the hogs.  I must have them.”

“Be careful, dear.  The last girl to say that melted.”

Cindy pouted.  “There must be some way.”

“Well,” Glinda said.  “I could ask Dorothy to give them to you.  But I doubt she would.”

“You…you know her?”

“Of course, dear.  I‘m her fairy Godmother too.” 

Cinderella sat up in the bed.  “All this time I thought you were mine.”

“I am, Dear,” Glinda said.

“No,” Cindy responded.  “ONLY mine.  I didn’t know I had to share you.”

“You should know something else,” Glinda touched Cinderella on the cheek.  “I gave Dorothy the ruby slippers.  They were a gift after she dealt with a certain unpleasantness in Oz.  I give all my girls shoes.”

“How many of us are there?”  Cinderella asked.

“Oh, too many to count, Dear.”

Cinderella jumped up.  “You can ask for them back!”

Glinda shook her head.  “No, I couldn’t do that.  A gift, once given, is forever.”

“But, I’d give you back my glass slippers if you asked me.”

Glinda smiled, patting Cindy lightly on the arm.  “I’m sure of that, Dear.  But Dorothy is a sportier type of girl…made of heartier stock.  She is stubborn and self-righteous, and she holds on to what is hers. She does have a bit of a gambling problem though.  Can’t resist a bet.  It’s how the wizard got her to steal the witch’s broom.”

Cinderella slumped back onto the bed.  “Isn’t there any way?”

Glinda thought for a moment and smiled.  “Perhaps there is something.”

 

A bet was offered and accepted, and word soon spread across the land.  A dance-off between Dorothy of Oz and Cinderella of The Kingdom was set.  Many people travelled great distances to watch the winner-take-all match.  The fields around the castle filled with commoners and hucksters alike.  Those with no money, and those who wanted it. 

Winner of the dance-off got the shoes.  Both pairs.  Glass and ruby slippers both.   For three days the crowd waited and on the fourth a great cheer began to rise.  Dorothy had arrived, but she had not come alone.  Walking beside her were the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow.

Together, they approached the massive door to Cinderella’s castle. 

“I’m having déjà vu,” said the Tin Man

“It sure does feel like we’ve done this before,” agreed the Scarecrow.

Dorothy said nothing.  Her face was a mask of determination and she clutched her handbag and her little dog too.

The door swung open as they approached and Cinderella stepped out.  Her eyes darted to the girl’s shoes before rising to look at the girl herself.  She was a plain girl with hard eyes, and really, who wore pigtails anymore these days?

Dorothy curtsied.  “Hello ma’am.  I’m very pleased to meet you.”

Cinderella pasted a smile to her lips.  “The pleasure is mine, Dorothy.  Welcome to my kingdom.”  With a sweep of her arm, she said, “Please come in.”

Crossing the threshold, the cowardly lion looked all around and sighed, “Here we go again.”

 

The royal atrium at the castle’s center began to fill as the wealthiest among them bought their way inside.  Stadium seats had been constructed by the royal masons along all four walls for the best view of the battle.  Mutton vendors walked among the seated crowds where two pence bought a slab of meat and goblet of ale to wash it down.

High above, a skylight illuminated a royal pedestal draped in royal cloth at the center of the royal dance floor.  Off to one side, a royal band of minstrels tuned their instruments.

Presently a stout man with facial hair so long, it nearly hid his short, round torso waddled to the center of the floor and stood near the pedestal.  He held his hands up to the crowd for silence and after several minutes the room was quiet.

From somewhere beneath his beard, the stout man produced a scroll and unrolled it with a flourish.  “Hear ye, Hear ye,” he proclaimed.  “Let it be known that on this day there will be a great contest.  Cinderella of the Kingdom challenges Dorothy of Oz to a dance-off.  A winner-take-all competition for…” and here he paused to examine the scroll for a moment.  “…for…uh…shoes.”              

The crowd, made up almost entirely of women, erupted in a tumultuous cheer.  The few men in attendance, presumably there to witness a catfight, applauded discreetly.

The stout man rolled the scroll tightly and muttered, “That’s how I roll,” before slipping it back beneath his beard.  He reached out a hand and snatched the royal cloth off the pedestal to reveal two pair of slippers, one made entirely of glass and the other encrusted with rubies.  The crowd gasped collectively, and one man in the front row suddenly leapt to his feet in excitement.  Presently, the minstrels began to play.

From the east entrance, Cinderella entered the arena, and from the west came Dorothy.  They were both barefoot.  They stood side-by-side at the center of the room while the crowd bellowed, and turned to face the spectators along each of the four walls.

The stout man held his arms up again and the crowd grew instantly silent.  There was a great flutter of wings from above as Glinda’s bubble descended through the skylight surrounded by hundreds of bluebirds.  She drifted slowly down until her bubble burst on the floor.  The bluebirds collapsed all around as she walked to each girl and hugged them.  “How exciting,” she said.

“The battle will consist of three rounds,” announced the stout man.  “Each lady will perform a dance of their choosing and Glinda will be the sole judge.  She will declare the winner and award the shoes to that person.  Her decision will be final and we shall all abide by her verdict.”  The crowd erupted again, and the man in the front row nearly fainted. 

“As this is Cinderella’s home, Dorothy of Oz shall go first.”  The stout man lifted the pedestal and carried it off the dance floor, gently pushing exhausted bluebirds out of his way with the toe of his boot.

The minstrels resumed as Glinda and Cinderella left the dance floor, picking up bluebirds along the way.

Dorothy of Oz raised her arms above her head, and brought them down dramatically with a heavy strum of the mandolin.  She leapt and twirled and mesmerized the crowd who had never seen such movement.  Spinning faster and faster as the music swelled, Dorothy leapt high in the air and landed in the splits.

The crowd jumped to their feet and the man in the front row actually ran from the room in his excitement.  They cheered for a full three minutes and only calmed down when Dorothy walked off. 

The music started again, slow and melodic, as Cinderella entered from the opposite side of the room.  She began her dance with a curtsy to the crowd and then twirled and danced with an elegance and grace rarely seen outside the castle walls.  While Dorothy’s dance had been filled with an angry sort of beauty, Cinderella’s commanded the room with its simple sophistication.  As the music faded, she finished as she had begun, with a curtsy.  The crowd sat in stunned silence trying to catch their collective breath.  They’d witnessed a magical performance.

Dorothy erupted onto the stage for her second dance with her hair flowing free around her face, no longer retrained by pigtails. She performed a strange dance full of jerky half movements and angry screams that left the audience stunned.

Cinderella followed with a dance where she was carried by servants for most of it to give the appearance of flying.

For their final performance, they shared the stage and battled head-to-head to a fast number played by the minstrels. Spinning madly and flipping her hair around, Cinderella twirled in a spirited tribal dance from the farthest reaches of the kingdom, while Dorothy laid some woven mat on the floor and spun on her hips and back, legs in the air.  The dance was intense and both girls were out of breath at the end of it.

As the crowd applauded, Glinda rolled inside her bubble across the floor, her bluebirds still recovering, and stepped out. 

“My, that was exhilarating.” Glinda motioned for both girls to stand next to her. “I don’t know how I will ever choose, you both deserve to be crowned the winner.”  She sighed. “But choose I must and so the winner of this dance-off is…”

A scream cut her off mid-sentence and a hand maiden rushed out.  “Milady,” she curtsied to Glinda.  “The shoes, they’re missing!”

“What!?” shouted Cinderella.

The maiden handed her a note and Cindy unfolded and it read.

 

Royal Order of Repossession.
 
By order of the royal credit bureau, both pairs of shoes have been repossessed. Glinda and her shoe habit have grown out of control and until payment can be made in full, said shoes shall remain unavailable.

 

Cinderella glanced to the empty chair in the front row where the excited little man had been and then at Glinda, who only shrugged.

 

 

END

 
 

 

END

Sunday, February 16, 2014

NYC Midnight 2014 Writing Contest: Round One

So for this round, I had one week to create a short story based on the criteria they gave me.

I had HORROR/ADVERTISING/ A BULLY

Here is what I came up with, I would love any feedback you would care to share, bit good and bad!

Feel the Burn
by
Bill Wilbur




Jacob Bodeen tossed off the sheets and sat up in bed. This was the third night this week that he couldn’t sleep. The heat was part of it. His broken air conditioner wheezed and shook and tried to cool the place, but all it really succeeded in doing was pushing the hot air around the room like a soft breeze from hell.

Sleeping with the window open barely helped, but the bright lights of the billboard directly across the street lit up his room, painting the walls in their bright red neon. The advertisement was for some new brand of lipstick and both the lips and the stick glowed with the promise of electric sex.

The woman on the billboard, more beautiful than any he had ever seen, was looking directly at the camera with her lips, full and voluptuous, parted ever so slightly as the tip of the red lipstick was poised for penetration.

Jacob didn’t know anything about advertising, but he knew what he liked.
On more than one occasion he had stared back into those deep hazel eyes and pleasured himself. On those nights with his eyes closed and his mind lost in fantasy, he could swear the woman in the sign whispered the nastiest things into his ear.

He was handsome enough, and had dated women off and on most of his life, but none of them compared to the beauty out the window. And once those women got a good long look at the scar tissue that covered most of his body, they couldn’t run away fast enough.

With a sigh, he rolled onto his side and allowed the billboard to lull him to the edge of sleep with the soft buzz of its incandescent spotlights. His eyelids grew heavy and just as he started to drift, with the prospect of sleep no longer just a distant concept, a loud thud came from the bathroom followed immediately by the unmistakable sound of the toilet lid slamming shut.


Jacob rolled over, turning his back on the most beautiful woman in the world, and stared at the doorway to the bathroom. The neon glow of lipstick was not strong enough to penetrate the shadows that far into the room. He squinted into the darkness a minute more, listening. But when all he heard was the sound of his own breath, he lay his head back down; sure that sleep would elude him for the rest of the night.

Staring at the ceiling, trying to take deep, rhythmic breaths, a soft lullaby entered his thoughts. It was the same song his mother had sung to him every night as a child when the night terrors would wake him screaming from whatever nightmare they’d chased him through. She would come and sit at his bedside, stroking the top of his head and singing a sweet song of love and loss.

That was always the thing with lullabies, they sounded sweet and innocent but the words sometimes told a different story. And as the grown-up Jacob drifted away on the lilting voice filling his mind, he thought that tonight, the lullaby sounded just a bit sinister.

The thumping woke him around three o’clock. He came instantly awake. The room was like a sauna and the hot air had a weight to it that was hard to move through. It took real effort to raise his hand to his face and wipe the sweat from his eyes. There was a humid stickiness to the air, like when he took long showers in the winter with the apartment sealed up against the cold and the water hung lazily in the unmoving air.

The toilet seat slammed in the bathroom and Jacob started. He swung his legs over the edges of his bed and listened intently. There was nothing for a long time and then, softly there came a thump. It had been subtle and deliberately quiet, as if whoever was in there moved stealthily, not wanting him to hear. Or maybe they had wanted him to hear after all. Maybe whoever it was had made just enough noise that he would hear but the neighbors wouldn’t.

“Who’s there?” He called out to the darkness. Reaching beneath his bed, Jacob retrieved the baseball bat he kept there. He’d hit the winning run with it during the CIF playoffs his senior year in high school, and if it was good enough then he was damn sure it would be good enough for whoever was in his apartment.
Thump.

Jacob edged toward the bathroom door. Snaking his hand inside, he flipped on the light.

Empty.

He took a second, longer look, staring into the mirror which showed the shower and the rug on the floor and the towel rack where his towel hung, it showed the clothes hamper in one corner and the toilet in the other. The lid to the toilet was down. Across from the commode was a small window, too small for anyone but a small child to crawl through. Everything was clean and tidy and where it should be.
He edged around the door with his bat raised high and stepped into the bathroom. The smell hit him full force like a punch to the face, and he recoiled back out of the room. It had smelled of urine and shit and burned plastic, there was no other way to describe it.

It had smelled like his childhood.

A sudden, horrible memory slammed into him and he nearly slumped to the floor with the weight of it. He was thirteen years old and it was the last week of summer camp. For the entire summer Jacob had avoided a beating by the camp bully, a fifteen year old named Stanley Renker, though there had been several close calls. A dozen times in the mess hall, Stanley had knocked the tray from Jacob’s hands and whispered, “Feel the burn.” But Jacob was good at making himself scarce and for the entire summer, the dumped trays had been the worst of it. Until the final week.

They came for him while he slept. His cot was closest to the door of the cabin and they simply reached in and grabbed him under his blanket. He struggled and fought, but the blanket held him like swaddling and he was defenseless. Somebody pulled a pillow case over his head. He screamed and a few lights went on in some of the cabins, but nobody came to rescue him. It was summer camp after all and pranks were a part of the experience. They built character according to the counselors. They were harmless. By the time the adults figured out they were wrong, Jacob was nearly dead.

The bullies carried him out to the lake and tied his hands and feet with knots they had learned that very summer. They gagged him with a jock strap from somebody’s locker and tossed him into the blue plastic outhouse that stood lakeside for emergency use. “Feel the burn!” Stanley shrieked as Jacob struggled and lunged from the outhouse. Stanley shoved him back against the wall and Jacob slipped to the floor in whatever disgusting slime was there. The bullies laughed and slammed the door shut. Jacob heard a padlock snap into place and knew he’d lost the fight. He’d have to wait until a counselor came down for a swim in the morning. If this was the worst of it, he could bear it. The humiliation would be bad, but he would only have to deal with the jeers for another week.

From outside the outhouse there was a commotion and then a voice said, “Jesus, Stanley, what the hell are you doing?”

Stanley only laughed and repeated, “Feel the burn.” But there was something in his voice then, something that scared Jacob bad.

The sudden smell of gasoline filled the night air and Jacob edged to the door, peering through the crack at its edge. A soft orange glow filled his vision and then the first of the flames licked up the side of the outhouse. Jacob screamed and kicked at the door. The blue plastic walls began to run and molten plastic dripped from the ceiling onto Jacob’s skin. Within a minute, the entire outhouse was aflame and beginning to melt into itself. Jacob’s skin blistered as the burning plastic dripped onto his scalp and arms. His heart hammered in his chest and he knew he was about to die.

With every ounce of courage he had, amped up by the intense fear of being burned alive, Jacob lunged against the door, coating the right side of his body in burning plastic. With a shriek he lunged again, and the melting door bulged outward. With a third lunge, he broke through and the melting door wrapped around him as he fell. Rolling down the slight incline, Jacob threw himself into the lake. The plastic cooled immediately and bonded to his exposed skin. The world grayed before his eyes and he forced himself up onto the bank of the lake. As his head hit the dirt, he passed out.

Stanley and his goons spent three years in Juvenile Detention and were released on their respective eighteenth birthdays. Three years and they reemerged with a clean slate, while Jacob spent those same three years undergoing one hundred fourteen separate skin graft operations, and the rest of his life horribly disfigured. Twelve years of therapy had done nothing to alleviate the anger.
With a last look around the bathroom, Jacob flipped the light off, and in the afterglow of the dying filament he saw it. His subconscious registered the shape behind the shower curtain while his tired mind tucked it away as a shadow and a trick of the light.

Jacob climbed back into bed, blew a kiss to the woman outside his window and closed his eyes. From the bathroom came the unmistakable sound of the shower curtain being drawn slowly back followed by a soft thump. He sat up in bed just as his shampoo bottle rolled from the darkness and across the bedroom floor.

“Who’s in there?” He yelled as he jumped from the bed, his baseball bat already in his hand. Lunging through the doorway, he switched on the light poised to swing at whoever he found.

But the bathroom was empty.

The shower curtain was still pulled across the tub as he had left it, though the bathmat beneath it was wet and showed the very distinct impression of a foot. Jacob whipped the curtain aside and slammed the bat forward into the empty shower. He swung left and right, his heart beating a tribal dance in his chest.

There was nobody there.

He stood perfectly still, breathing heavy and feeling like a fool. Halfheartedly he swung the bat at the bunched up shower curtain and sent it flying like a vinyl ghost in the wind. Laughing a nervous laugh, he shook his head. He set the bat down, straightened the shower curtain and knelt to examine the bath mat. As he traced the moist impression, a woman’s voice slammed into his mind. “Behind you!”

In one fluid motion, Jacob snatched up his bat and spun around to face the empty room. He looked at his own reflection in the mirror and all at once all the breath left his lungs and he slumped forward. The bat grew heavy in his hands and when he dropped it he barely heard it hit the tile floor. Somebody had written on his mirror in what looked like blood. The words ran down and dripped red onto the sink.

FEEL THE BURN.

He stumbled backward out of the bathroom, pulling the door closed and didn’t stop until the back of his knees hit the mattress. Sitting down hard on the mattress, he fumbled for his cell on the nightstand. As he punched in the numbers, a loud thump hit the backside of the bathroom door and his brain suddenly brought forward the shadowy image he had registered earlier behind the shower curtain.

“911 operator, what is your emergency?”

The toilet lid slammed three times in succession.

“I…uh…I think someone is in my apartment.”

The bathroom door rattled in its frame as something heavy slammed into it from the other side.

“Are you in the apartment, sir?”

“Yes,” he whispered. There was the sudden, unmistakable sound of glass shattering and his toiletries being thrown around the room. It sounded like a war zone in there.

“What is your apartment number, Sir?”

“Apartment Four-A”

“We have a unit on the way, Sir. Can you leave the apartment or are you confined in some way?”

“No.”

“Help is en-route and will arrive in approximately three minutes, Sir. I suggest you wait outside for the officers.”

“Thank you,” he said and hung up. Stepping into his slippers, he headed for the door to do just that when the female voice in his head screamed, STAY!
He stood indecisive for a few seconds, his hand hovering over the doorknob. There was no noise coming from the bathroom and so he let himself relax. He sat down in a chair near his dresser and glanced out to the woman on the billboard. She looked as beautiful as ever with her slightly parted, invitingly full bright red lips, the phallic lipstick teased ever so close to them. Her teeth looked longer somehow and sharper. And she was winking at him.

STAY!

The word infiltrated his mind again and he felt his sanity begin to slip ever so slightly.

A loud knocking at the door drew his attention away. “Police, open up!”

Jacob glanced back at the woman out the window. She was looking directly at him again and he thought he detected just a tinge of madness in her eyes. Her grin had pulled up a little further at the edges revealing long, white, razor sharp teeth.

“Mr. Bodeen?” A sharp rap at the door. “Are you there, Sir?”

Jacob rushed across the room and opened the door. A young, short officer with a sharp angular face stepped into the room followed quickly by his partner, a tall, wide man with a head of shockingly blonde hair. The big man glanced quickly at Jacob and then surveyed the room. There was no recognition on the man’s face whatsoever. Why should there be, the last time they’d seen each other was nearly ten years old. Back when they were kids. Back at summer camp.

The shorter officer spoke while the big man moved about the room like a panther stalking prey. “My name is Officer Harrington. You stated to the 911 operator that you believed someone to be in your apartment. Do you believe that to still be the case, Mr. Bodeen?”

Jacob only nodded. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the other officer. He stared, disbelieving. Ten years after nearly killing him, Stanley Renker had become a cop.

“The bathroom,” Jacob wheezed.

Stanley pulled his weapon and proceeded to the closed door.

“Please wait out in the hall while we clear the room, Sir.” Harrison followed Stanley the goon toward the bathroom door, unsnapping his holster but leaving the pistol sheathed for the time being.

Jacob came up behind them. “It sounded like an MMA fight in there,” he whispered.

They both looked back at him and for the first time, he noted a glimmer of recognition on the goon’s face.

Stanley turned back to the door and knocked. “Police! If anyone is in the bathroom you have ten seconds to come out or make yourself known.”

They held their breath. The seconds ticked by.

Nothing.

Stanley turned the knob and, with a deep breath flung the door open. He lunged through and Harrison went in after him. Jacob stayed where he was until Officer Stanley called out to him.

“Mr. Bodeen? Could you come in here please?”

Jacob braced himself and stepped into the bathroom. There was no damage, no broken glass, everything was as it always was. He glanced at the mirror. The words were gone.

“Well, Mr. Bodeen.” Harrison walked over. “Everything appears to be in order. Perhaps it was a bad dream that felt real.”

Jacob nodded but he wasn’t really listening. Instead he was staring over the officer’s shoulder at Stanley, and at the shower curtain behind him. A dark shape shifted stealthily behind the curtain until it was directly nearest the man who had nearly burned Jacob alive.

TAKE THE GUN! The woman’s voice screamed in his head. KILL HIM!

Before he knew what was happening, Jacob reached out and snatched Harrison’s pistol from the holster. He pushed it into the man’s chest and pulled the trigger twice. Even as the short man fell, Jacob pivoted and pointed the gun at Stanley who had his own pistol up.

“Feel the burn, Stanley?”

Recognition flashed suddenly on Officer Stanley’s face and his hand wavered.

NOW! The voice in Jacob’s head screamed, and he felt his mind snap fully. PUSH HIM NOW!

Jacob put his head down and charged. He heard Stanley fire once, twice, and then he plowed into the bully, knocking him back into the shower.

The scream in Jacob’s head was deafening and he dropped to the tile floor.

A sudden darkness swirled up and over Stanley, wrapping around him like a blanket. “It BUUUUURRRNNNS!” he screamed before the inky blackness poured into his mouth and down his throat. His eyes grew wider and his body began to convulse and in just a few seconds, Stanley ‘The Goon” Renker died.

“Feel the burn, fucker,” Jacob said and tried to stand but the world tilted and he slipped on the linoleum. There was blood soaking his shirt and pooling onto the linoleum. He tried to push himself up but his foot slipped in the blood, and he sat down hard. His head grew heavy and he rested it on the toilet seat. Words appeared on the side of the tub, written in what looked like blood, but Jacob knew better. He recognized that particular shade of red. It was lipstick.

I love you, Jacob.

He smiled a weak smile and closed his eyes while hysterical laughter filled his mind.



END

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Adventures of Elf Abba Vols 1-4

As most of you know, Evelyn and I write a new original Christmas story each year to send out as a Christmas Card to our family and friends. I am now happy to announce that volumes 1-4 are available in audiobook form. These holiday tales are read by Valerie Trujillo, an aspiring new actress on her way to big things. We are proud that she chose to be the voice of Abba, our clumsy little elf. You can order the first set now! Volumes 1-4 contain the following Adventures of Elf Abba: Volume One: Abba Gets Her Wish Volume Two: Christmas Cheer Volume Three: Abba's Big Surprise Volume Four: The Christmas Caper Enjoy the preview and pre-order yours now!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Busted Mule and Other Stories

My newest story, The Busted Mule', is the first commissioned piece I have ever written. the gentleman who requested it kindly donated to The Saragosa Project, a movement to bring my novel to the big screen. He is a muralist and asked that my protagonist be the same. The Busted Mule was the result, I hope you enjoy it. You may purchase it below along with a few other short stories I have made available but clicking the corresponding 'buy it' button. Busted Mule CoverWEB
Sheriff Elias Cooper had a headache
Sheriff Elias Cooper had a headache
Sheriff Elias Cooper had a headache
end

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Voice of Elf Abba

Valerie Abba web Local high School Student to be the Voice of Christmas Valerie Trujillo (15) of Covina has been chosen to voice a popular series of Christmas stories penned by local author Bill Wilbur. For years, Mr. Wilbur has written a Christmas story chronicling the adventures of a clumsy elf named Abba and sent the story as a Christmas card to his family, friends, and a few select fans. Recently a copy of the latest story was made public and fans began clamoring for copies. Mr. Wilbur is probably best known for his western novel, SARAGOSA, released in 1995 and now in pre-production to be turned into a feature film. “I have always had the heart of a child when it comes to Christmas. I think there is real magic in the air around the holidays and that sometimes gets lost in the commercial juggernaut of retail. I try to capture a bit of that magic to share with my family and friends,” Mr. Wilbur said when asked about his unique Christmas cards. In March of this year, students from Northview High School in Covina, CA performed a stage production of Mr. Wilbur’s book, SARAGOSA. They sold out three nights and raised money towards their proposed theatre which is set to begin construction early next year. Ms. Trujillo played the lead female role in the stage production and Mr. Wilbur felt her energy and voice were perfect for his little elf. “Abba needed equal parts of exuberance and stubbornness mixed with a healthy dose of wide-eyed wonder. Valerie embodied all of those elements and added an air of intelligence to her reading that made the words sing,” Mr. Wilbur said. The audio productions of ‘The Adventures of Elf Abba’ will be available this holiday season on CD and for download through Mr. Wilbur’s author blog, The Wordslayer Cometh. Contact the author at gnubill@yahoo.com

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gift

When I was a kid, my parents didn't have much money,
and yet somehow, they managed to make Christmas
special. We always decorated the tree together as a family.
On those nights, a joyous mood wafted through the air
carrying with it the aroma of cider.

First came the lights, those multi-colored blinking
ones. You know the kind. If one bulb was out, the entire
string wouldn't light. And you also know, if you ever had
those lights, that every year at least one strand was dark.
I can remember sitting with my father replacing bulb after
bulb for what seemed like hours until we found the right
one.

After the lights--my mother would always say there
weren't enough--we strung the garland. Silver, whispery
rolls of it wrapped around and around. And then came the
ornaments--dozens of gaudy red balls my parents had found at some discount store. With very little money, they managed to work Christmas magic.

I can close my eyes and still see the exact shade. They were the color of dreams. Candy apple red almost gets you there, but not quite. They were in-your-face bright red. And there were lots of them.

Each year we lost at least one of those red balls.
Some dropped from branches overloaded with cheer, while
others were accidentally stepped on. Once, when I was nine,
I gave one to a friend whose family didn't have much of
their own. We certainly had enough for ourselves, and
wasn't giving the true nature of the season?

As the years rolled past, picking up steam like an
old locomotive cresting a hill, our society became one of
disposability. My siblings and I began buying newer and
shinier ornaments. We made a concerted, though unspoken,
effort to abolish once and for all those bright red
eyesores. We could do better, couldn't we?

Here it is years later, and the child I was then has
become the man that I am now. Did we do better? It's hard
to say. My parents certainly have an eclectic assortment of
decorations for their tree now. Is that better? Who knows? I can only tell you this; with each passing year a feeling
inside me grows just a little bit stronger. The feeling
that something is missing.

I'm not sure when it happened, but finally it did. One
year those red bulbs were gone. Not a few of them, not most
of them...all of them. Gone. Like a dream, we let them
fade into nothingness.

I remember noticing their absence years later. The box of decorations was empty...the tree was full...and there
were no red spheres hanging anywhere. I didn't say anything
then, but each year since I have looked for them. I
searched my parent's house and came up empty. So this year,
just like every other, I look wherever decorations are sold.
And, just like every other year, I keep not finding them. I
can remember that deep, lustrous crimson that looked almost
brown when the light hit it just right. Apparently that
shade of red is hard to come by these days.

I turned Forty Seven this year. My birthday fell on
Thanksgiving and my family and friends sang Happy Birthday.
I received more than my fair share of presents, but it
wasn't until later that I got the gift.

The evening drew to a close and my wife and I walked
slowly to our car. We were sleepy and full from too much
food. I opened her door first, and closed it behind her.
Then I turned and waved to my mom who always stands at the
front door and watches her children drive safely away.

The box, neatly wrapped and held together with a silver bow, rested silently on my seat. I glanced back, but my mother had already gone inside. I looked at my wife, but she only shrugged. With a smile, I opened the box.

Who can know when their world will change? How does a person prepare for the simple things that sometimes mean so much? Nestled among the folds of silver tissue paper was a shiny red Christmas ornament. Tears welled in my eyes. I stared at my wife, who knew some of the story but not all of it, and then up at the house.

There, in the window, was my father. He stood very still as he watched. I waved to him and he waved back, then he turned off the light and went to bed. My dad, who had somehow known when no one possibly could have.

It was the perfect shade of red.

My wife and I drove home in comfortable silence. A
week later, we placed that ornament on our own tree.

All the others paled in comparison.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Saragosa Teaser

cover web

SARAGOSA
by
Bill Wilbur


Prologue
New Mexico Territory, Fall 1873-

The setting sun turned the sky the color of blood oranges as the twelve man garrison from Fort Ord inched slowly forward, their mounts whispering a steady cadence through the tall, dry wheatgrass. Officially, they reported to Captain Dudley, but it was Orin McNeel who led them.

The only man on foot, Orin was a civilian, content to fight his own battles and not those of other men. He answered only to himself--and that had always been enough. The son of a preacher, he’d left home at fifteen, a boy who thought he was a man with something to prove, and now eight years later, had yet to return.

During his years of drifting, he’d learned the natural curves, sounds, and smells of the earth, and how a man’s passing could affect them. Scouting and tracking had become second nature, next to breathing. He’d traveled with Kit Carson for a time and had the reputation as being one of only a handful of men who could surprise an Apache; it was for that particular skill the Army had hired him.

A small, roving band of Mescalero had taken to raiding travelers and small settlements along the Rio Grande. The braves terrorized the settlers with their banshee screams, riding through camp like tornados, kicking up dust and driving off cattle and horses. Only once had someone been fatally injured, and that after he fell in front of stampeding cows. No other deaths had been attributed to the Apache raids.

Two weeks ago, the warriors attacked an encampment of soldiers and left no survivors. According to the Army, the attack had been brutal and unprovoked--Orin had his doubts. But now the Army wanted blood--Apache blood.

The land sloped gently upward and, at the base of a small hill, Orin signaled for the men to halt and dismount. He’d picked up the faint smell of burning juniper an hour ago and it led him here. Just beyond the next rise, a hint of white smoke rose lazily against the darkening sky. These were not the warriors they sought and Orin wanted to be sure Captain Dudley understood that. These people were mostly old men, women and children. The warriors Dudley was after had passed this way about a day before, but their trail turned north through the hills.

At the sound of approaching footsteps, Orin turned and waited as Captain Dudley approached, his great handlebar mustache impeccably waxed and just beginning to show gray. With his back ramrod straight and his arms snapping in time with each step, the Captain walked with the stiffness of a man who considered himself important.

“What is it?” Dudley asked. “Why have we stopped?”

Orin nodded toward the rising smoke. “Small village over this
rise.” He turned his gaze north toward the rolling hills and pointed. “Your warriors went off that way.”

Dudley regarded Orin briefly and then looked up at the smoke. Finally he said, “We’ll wait ‘til full dark, and then we’ll show them savages the strength of the United States Army.” With the crispness of new currency, Dudley turned and started toward his men.

Grabbing his arm, Orin turned him back. “Maybe you didn’t hear me. The ones you’re after went thataway. This here’s a peaceful bunch, old people—villagers.”

Dudley furrowed his brow and cocked his head. “The hell you say?” He glanced at the smoke. “They Apaches or ain’t they?”

“They are.”

“Looky here,” Dudley crushed a beetle with the toe of his boot. “You found ‘em sure enough, but now you jes’ leave the fightin’ to us.” His voice held the stink of hatred and revenge and for the second time, he turned his back on Orin.

Orin’s hand flashed out and landed hard on the Captain’s shoulder, spinning him around.

“Unhand me!”

“Listen, Dudley.” Orin’s voice rumbled with disgust. “You ride in there, you’ll be killing women and children. There ain’t no warriors down there.” Orin moved in close, almost touching noses with the Captain. “You want to be a hero that bad?” He locked eyes with Dudley, and even in the waning light, Orin could see madness.

“Lower your voice, McNeel! You’ll alert the enemy to our presence.”

“Alert ‘em? Hell, they already know you’re here. They had a scout on us for the better part of a day now.”

The change in the Captain was instantaneous. He ducked his head slightly and pulled in his massive chest. Nervously, his eyes darted to the hills around them.

“Damn you, McNeel!” Dudley spat. “You rode us straight into a trap! If I live to see the dawn, I’ll have you hanged.”

“Ain’t no trap, Captain. These...”

“The Hell it ain’t!” Dudley looked up at the hill and felt the first cold tendrils of fear crawl up his spine. Outlined by the rising moon against the night sky, were at least two dozen Apache villagers. “You walked us in here mighty easy. Now we got a whole village t’other side’a that hill, and savages closin’ in around us. If that ain’t a trap, then mister you tell me what is.”

He stormed back to his troops. “Mount up,” he ordered as he swung into his saddle. “Bugler, prepare to sound the charge.” Dudley pulled his saber and held it high. If the men noticed it shaking, they gave no indication.

“Dudley!” Orin stood before the Captain’s horse, his stance wide and determined. In his hand was an army-issue Colt .45 which Dudley himself had given him. “I ain’t gonna let you murder these folks. You still want to ride after them that killed your friends, then I’ll lead ya. If not, the job ends here.”

A murmur started among the men as the seeds of doubt began to take root. Orin turned to them. “You men are backin’ this gent, an’ he’s gonna lead you straight to hell. You willing to murder for him?” A ripple passed through them as their hushed discussions grew urgent. A few backed their horses away from the rest and waited. None of them seemed anxious to move on. Arguments broke out as fear and doubt took hold.

“SILENCE!” Dudley screamed and the troop snapped immediately to attention. “You men will follow my orders or answer to a hangman’s noose.” Slowly he lowered the tip of his sword until it pointed at Orin. “Get out of my way.”

“I won’t”

“I’ll have you court martialed!”

“I’m a civilian.” Orin could see Dudley beginning to shake as his rage boiled within.

With a roar, Dudley spurred his horse and charged, his sword near invisible in the dark. As he came, he raised the saber in a high arc and brought it down level with Orin’s neck.

Twin explosions lit the night as Orin fired.

Dudley somersaulted backward, and landed in the grass twisted at an odd angle. For one full heartbeat, nobody moved, and then from the ground, Dudley raised a shaky arm and let it fall.

Orin knelt near the Captain. The bullets had passed through his shoulder less than an inch apart. The soldiers crowded around them as Dudley tried to speak. Orin leaned close and the Captain smiled.

“I’ll see you hanged,” he whispered.

Standing up, Orin replaced the gun in its holster. As he turned, someone struck him from behind, a crashing blow to his skull. He went down and tried to roll, and another man kicked him in the ribs. Fists began to rain down on him, one after another until they blended together. Someone slammed the stock end of a rifle into the back of his head, and as a cloud engulfed the moon, Orin passed out.

The trial lasted only two days. Captain Dudley testified to his version of the events and his men agreed to it. Orin was convicted of shooting an officer of the United States Army.
Nobody took the stand in his defense.

His ten year sentence at the Sweetwater, Texas jail began October 18, 1873.




Chapter One
Spring 1883-

They were close, but there was still a chance.

Orin pumped his legs, forcing them to carry him up toward a grove of cottonwoods overgrown with mesquite and sagebrush. High above him, the Guadalupe mountains loomed, their shadows reaching farther and farther across the land with the late afternoon sun.

Crawling out onto a ledge of rock that ended in a drop of several hundred feet, Orin peered down upon his pursuers below. He counted nine men and a guide.

From this distance, Orin couldn’t tell much about the rest of them, but he didn’t need a closer look to know who led them. It was Joe Dog.

An Apache tracker with loyalty to none but himself and his tribe, Joe Dog would track only the white man. Once on a hunt, he would sleep or eat only when his body required it. A bloodhound to be sure, the name fit him well, and it was Orin’s scent that he followed.

Working his way backward off the cliff, Orin crouched near a large pine, studying the men below. Suddenly Joe Dog’s eyes fell upon him and he froze where he stood. Their stares met. Orin caught his breath and held it. Here was the moment he’d known would come. Here was death staring him in the face, and then remarkably, moving past. He allowed himself to relax his lungs but nothing more. The tracker hadn’t seen him.
The men below dismounted and began to make camp. It was a sound decision and one that Orin hoped they would choose. The ground at the base of the mountain was gravel and prone to sudden slides. The horses would have to pick their way slowly as the men led them up. They knew, as he had known they would, that chasing a desperate man into rocky terrain at night was a death sentence.

When Joe Dog turned his back, Orin moved. It was a smooth, silent action. Not a speck of dust was disturbed. He squeezed in between a pair of sandstone boulders and then worked his way straight up. The rocks would block him from view for several yards. Covering that distance in a few running steps, Orin veered toward the sound of a small trickling stream to his right.

This was it then. His last chance. The New Mexico territory lay on the other side of these hills and he had but one night to reach it. Tomorrow would find him crossing into the territories. Or dead trying.

Kneeling near the stream, he cupped his hands into the cold mountain water and brought them to his lips. After drinking his fill, he submersed his head completely and then smoothed his hair back quickly. Refreshed a bit, he stretched and allowed his spine to break the silence.

With a fresh wind blowing through his lungs, he pressed on quickly. By morning he would be on the other side and hopefully beyond the posse’s will to follow. For the first time in years, he allowed a smile to spread across the hard lines of his face. Maybe he should have gone south to Mexico, but there were matters to be settled first. He broke from cover for only a split second, but if he had chanced to look back at that moment, he would have stared into the dark, emotionless eyes of the Indian tracker far below as they followed his progress.

* * * *

Private Everson walked with a slow, hesitant stride through the courtyard of the fort. He felt ill and twice paused to suppress the urge to sick up his nervous stomach. Stopping outside the officer’s quarters, he contemplated the first step, which seemed taller than the walls surrounding the fort. Slowly, tentatively, he raised a booted foot and gingerly tested the wood. He looked up at the door. His breathing came in quick gasps and his hands were shaking. The colonel didn’t like to be interrupted during his naps. Everson climbed the steps and approached the door with trepidition. He’d been assigned a post here at Fort Stanton only two months ago, and as low man on the roster, he always got the shit detail. Like waking the colonel with bad news.

Everson looked again at the sealed message, leaden in his palm. He shook his head slightly, at least as a private he couldn’t be demoted any further.

He knocked sharply on the heavy wooden door to the colonel’s private quarters and solemnly wondered if a firing squad would be less painful.

“What in the hell...?” The colonel’s voice came crashing through the door an instant before the man himself.

“WHAT!? What is it Private?” The colonel filled the doorframe and Everson noticed that his legendary handlebar mustache lay like a rats nest on his upper lip, gray and slightly misshapen.

Everson held out the note and saluted. “Sir.”

The colonel’s eyes narrowed. “What’s your name, boy?”

“P-P-Private Everson, sir”

“Private,” Colonel Dudley said, “this had better be the most important message of my lifetime or so help me you’ll be on stable duty for the rest of yours.” He snatched the paper from Everson’s hand and read it quickly.

A smile twisted with hatred crossed the colonel’s face and Everson took a full step back. Dudley turned his face to the sky and closed his eyes.

“I’ve got that son-of-a-bitch now, by God!” He looked up at the nervous private. “I knew that bastard would foul up sometime. You are dismissed, Private.” Everson snapped a quick salute, but the Colonel was already fading back into his quarters.

Turning on his heels, Everson double-timed it for the farthest point he could think of, a cannon post atop the wall of the fort.

“Private Everson!” Dudley called from behind him. Reluctantly, Everson halted and turned to find the colonel walking directly toward him. He steeled himself against the infamous wrath of the colonel. The private drew a deep, nervous breath and braced himself for the inevitable.

“Remind me to have you promoted to sergeant.”











end

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Invasion

I am a man of simple joys. It doesn't take much to make me smile. Llast Summer, while working on a photo prject, I discovered an alien invasion that had gone virtually unnoticed. Since 1984 these little guys have flown their mission. Thousands of cars passed by them every week and virtually none took notice of the alien threat. In truth they meant no harm to anyone. They were there, I imagine to offer a bit of whimsey in a world that moves very fast. These little guys tickled me to death. I loved knowing that they were there. Sometime in 1984 a local artist painted them on the retaining wall of a freeway overpass, and there they remained. Taggers left them alone, though left their marks several feet away. All these years, the city took great pains to cover the grafitti as soon as it would appear, but left these little guys alone...until that is this month. After 27 years of harmless invasion. The City of West Covina has abolished the Alien Uprising. They have destroyed a work of art, something that made a bit proud to live here, and covered it up. They took something fun and whimsical and created an ugly patchwork of dull, industrial paint. I am sad to know that this little piece of coolness has been taken away from me.

spaceships1
spaceships
spaceship cover up

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Trading Post

Gnubill's Trading Post is a new spin on something I did years ago, the idea was stolen...uh...inspired by a local radio station who did this on a late night show.. This is where you come to trade items you don't want for items you might want.

Here are the rules:

The trading post will begin with a random, seemingly worthless item. A classic from the past was a broken shoelace, but we can do better than that this time around. You send an email with an item you want to trade for what we have. Your item has to be worth slightly more than what you are trading for. We will run the trade for three months before we start a new one.

Items in the end will be auctioned off and the proceeds will go to The Heart Gallery, which is a local charity that I support. Follow the link if you are interested in finding out more!

http://www.heartgalleryla.org/

Now you can all get involved, and have a little fun in the process! By the way, that shoelace ended up in the end as 15 acres of land outside Santa Fe, New Mexico and raised $250,000 for charity. Her is the link to the Facebook page:

Gnubill's Trading Post Facebook Page

This doesn't work without all of you so join this page to play, whether you ever trade or not, tell all your friends and I will post the first item on Monday, March 28th

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Audio Short Story Published!

I have been remiss in telling you all about Sniplits. If you are a fan of audiobooks, check out their site! They produce professional, high quality audio short stories. There is truly something here for everyone, including a story by me entitled Kid Bolero! Here is the link:

http://www.sniplits.com/bill_wilbur.jsp

Enjoy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Zelda's Cave

There is a nasty little legend in the town where I live. The legend of Zelda's Cave has been around for a long time here and is a story kids tell each other to scare their girlfriends. Or is it something more? I decided to find out for myself, to search out the ghost. To find Zelda.

In the early 1900's, a young girl of fifteen named Zelda was kidnapped by a local cult and taken into an underground tunnel. After doing horrific things to her, the cult sacrificed her during the night in a ritual of blood. Rumor has it that anyone entering her cave today will be killed by Zelda before making it to the end.

So I thought I'd go. Evelyn and I drove over the the area, and while she stayed behind in the car, I grabbed my trusty camera and headed down into the creek bed toward the location most agreed was Zelda's Cave. I came upon an old drainage tunnel, with a steel grate that had been propped open.

I stopped about twenty feet from the grate and listened to the strange noises emenating from its depths. There were some freaky sounds that reminded me of all the bad horror movies I've seen in my life. I raised my camera and took a picture. There was some murky water left over from recent rains and I didn't relish the idea of sloshing through all that bacteria and so I decided that for now, twenty feet was as close as I would get.

As I turned to leave, my feet were swept out from under me, like those old cartoons of a guy slipping on a banana peel. Both feet shot straight out and for a moment I was in the air, having lost all contact with the ground, and I landed hard on my back and shoulder blades. One minute I was standing there and the next I was laying on the concrete slab, the wind knocked out of me. There is no explanation for my feet suddenly being swept out from under me. I was not standing on an incline, I was not moving. One minute standing, the next lying with a bruised spine trying to catch my breath. I suddenly realized nobody knew where I was.

When finally I could move I staggered up the side of the creek and hobbled to the car.

"What happened?" Evelyn asked eyeing my dirty clothes.

I looked at her and said, "That bitch tried to kill me!"

So for now, Zelda has won the battle, but I will visit her again soon and then we'll see if I can hold my own against her in round two.



Zelda