Mainstream Short Stories:
A Horse Named Banner
Excerpted from A Horse Named Banner – a heart-warming story about a girl and her father riding their horses on a full-moon night:
Silently, they shared the Nebraska summer evening. Suddenly, Daddy spurred his horse into a canter, and then a run.
Minute spurred Banner madly, running full open in the moonlight, unsaddled, the horse, herself, the wind in her hair, hair and mane streaming out in a great long sweep. It felt like flying, and Daddy, ahead, with the black sky, black earth blending, looked, too, as though he and his horse were flying.
Banner flowed into the night, his hooves pounding, and everything poured together – the horse, the fields, the fence posts alongside, the moonlight streaming like water over everything.
Ahead, on the top of the hill, Daddy stopped and turned his dark horse profile to her, watching them advance. They came thundering up the hill, as if possessed….
Minute gets lost at the State Fair when distracted by a hive of bees, and learns about the kindness of strangers. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Something caught Minute’s attention across the aisle glimpse after glimpse through the shuffling throng. Finally she braved the current, and forged her way to a display of honey bees. There, inside glass, was a nation of bees, each working fervently. Cards taped to the glass gave vital information about the world inside – “QUEEN BEE” in front of a fat and lazy creature being attended on all sides, “LARVAE” above white shapeless objects.
After studying the bees for awhile, Minute wished Daddy would come so she could ask him questions about the bees. She looked where she’d left her family but saw nothing but legs. Finally she decided she’d have to shuffle her way back to them to get their attention. But when she got there, they were gone!
Blind terror struck her. She stood at the side of the mingling flow of pedestrians, her eyes stinging with tears she tried not to let out, trying to look nonchalant.
Shortly she noticed a uniformed man watching her. She wondered if there was a regulation against standing by the aisle. For sure no one else was standing still. He began to walk toward her. She stood watching the people as if they were sights so fascinating she couldn’t take her eyes from them.
“Are you lost?” he asked very quietly.
“Well,” she hesitated. She couldn’t say another word. A tear came out, unbidden. “Well,” she tried again, “yes.” And then she began to cry in earnest….
What Heaven is Really Made Of
Discover What Heaven is Really Made Of when Minute goes shopping with her father. Brief excerpt:
When they got in Cheaper Drug Store, Minute started browsing for little tools. She always looked for tools that fit in her hands. Right away she discovered a pair of little slip-joint pliers.
“Hey,” Daddy said, “those are cute!” He put down the hatchet handle, and Minute handed him the pliers. “Don’t think I’ve ever seen any slip-joints so tiny, and good quality, too.”
“Yeah,” Minute said. She looked up and saw Daddy was thinking about getting them for himself.
“This little guy could get into a lot of knuckle-busting corners.” He turned the pliers over in his big hand, then put them down.
“You’re not getting them?”
“Well… I’d better stick to the list.” He went back to the hatchet handles.
“I’m going to look at fabric,” Minute said. In the sewing section a sign over the pattern books declared: “All Patterns – 50% Off” Too good to believe!
But the slip-joint pliers for Daddy wouldn’t leave her mind. She went back down the aisle and turned the corner. There Daddy stood, holding the little pliers.
Right then the pharmacist called his name. Daddy set his sack of nails down and put his other hand over the little pliers – they were safe between his two calloused hands. He sighed as he put the pliers down, picked up his bag of nails and headed to the pharmacy in back.
Minute scurried up and grabbed the little pliers. Then she rushed to the check-out counter, squirming from foot to foot while people in front of her paid for their goods. Her surprise would be ruined if Daddy came up front before she paid for the pliers.
Excerpt from Bread Day:
“Is it going to tornado?” Minute asked.
“Well,” Minute’s mother looked out the big kitchen window. The light from the black, evil sky reflected a strange yellow on her face. “I don’t know. Nothing to worry about – we’ve got our basement.”
“Yeah.” Minute had hoped she’d say, “No, there won’t be a tornado,” even if it wasn’t true.
Minute wandered to the front door. Suddenly patters and splashes of rain plopped down on the dense purple and lavender iris and the cement doorstep.
“It’s raining!” Minute shouted with glee. She leapt through the doorway and pranced in the grass. “Rain, rain, rain,” she chanted, flinging her arms out, then holding them close, as if she could hug the rain right to her.
Aurora Borealis – Curtains to Heaven
A gentle story about Minute watching the Northern Lights with her father on a Nebraska summer evening. Excerpted from Aurora Borealis – Curtains to Heaven:
The house was perfectly still. Minute and Daddy stole down the back stairs. When they stepped outside, the night air hung still as a picture.
Daddy took Minute‘s hand and they stole through the tall grass, around to the back of the barn. Then he stopped, and she could just barely see him pointing to the sky in the delicate light of the moon. “Watch there.”
Shivering, Minute watched. A wave of undulating green light, high in the sky, came down to the earth‘s surface. Then the colors moved and changed – white, lavender, pink.
“Oh, Daddy, what is it?” She clutched his hand.
“Aurora borealis. Curtains to heaven.”
Curtains to heaven, Minute thought. What if they shove aside and there‘s heaven? I won‘t be able to stand it.
The light across the sky was so beautiful but so awesome, so vast, that she felt as if there was nowhere to hide. And yet, while she watched the colors became more and more faint. Finally, nothing remained of them at all. The sky returned to its cavernous darkness, the stars resumed their prominence.
“The northern lights,” Daddy said as they walked back toward the house. “It’s unusual to see them this far south. They‘re caused by an electrical charge at the north pole. Wasn’t it beautiful?”
“Yes.” Minute’s heart filled with happiness. Daddy woke her in the middle of the night when even Mother was asleep, to share this with just her. “I never saw colors like that,” she said. “Not even lightning.”
“I thought you seemed a bit frightened.”
“Not really. I just didn’t know what it was. Those northern lights.”
The screen door hinges whined a plaintive tune when Daddy opened it. Minute looked at the skinny moon hung like a rag in a leafless branch, then stepped into the house.
The 4th of July
Excerpt from The 4th of July:
Daddy put the ice-cream freezer on the picnic table. He poured the custard into the metal center, set the beater in place and screwed the lid down tightly. Then he positioned the container in the wooden bucket and packed ice and salt all around it. At last he fitted the handle on and began churning.
Minute went inside to bring out the huge bowl of strawberries. Coming out the back door, she gasped. The sun, setting in the west, flung orange and golden rays against the myriad windows of the city, spread out in a valley ten miles to the east, sparkling like a village from heaven.
“Oh, look!” she cried.
Her parents looked up in alarm to where she pointed, then smiles settled on their faces at the sight of the beautiful golden city on the prairie….
Minute Stories are available at Amazon individually, and in the short story collection: 5 Minute Stories
Genre Short Stories:
Excerpt from Stone Face:
Alesia’s attention became captivated by the gargoyle at the corner of the building. It had a blue cast to its cracked stone body, a furrowed brow with deep, deep set eyes – so deep, as if what it knew would be too much for any other creature to see without the protective protrusion of its bony brow. Its high cheekbones, tall, pointed ears and thin-lipped grimace pulled at Alesia’s kind heart, its limbs contorted around it’s torso, holding up the corner of the building. Never a moment’s rest! she thought.
The little gargoyle haunted her as she returned her attention to her work. His deep stony stare seemed to fix on her. Finally she pulled on her dark gray trench coat. She took the elevator down to the street, joining the few people who scurried about in the downpour. She crossed the street and took the elevator to the top floor of the building across from her office. Then she stole down the empty hall to the end where a sign read, “To Roof – No Admittance.”
Ignoring the sign, Alesia pushed the door open against the force of the wind and stepped out on the gravelly roof….
Stone Face was first published in Barnes & Noble’s anthology, Horrors!
Genre short stories by Blythe Ayne