Flash: Is the Sky Blue?

Photo: Person against Night Sky

Unsplash provided by photograph Greg Rakozy

“Is it possible?” Gary asked, standing in the cubicle entrance, laying his hands on either post so he spanned the opening like a door or barricade.

Eugene stared at his computer screen, struggling to find the appropriate words to answer. Internally, he felt shaking from the constant stress start again. “Well, with the deadlines and personnel available–”

“I asked you a yes or no question,” his boss and company owner gritted out. “Why do you always make it complicated? I want this done. The client, one of our best, wants this. Your job is to make it done. Understood?”

Gripping his hands under the desk, Eugene froze his face before turning toward Gary Bergerson, “Yes, sir.”

“Great, I want to see the budget on my desk by three so I can present the numbers to Naylor Holdings tonight.”

“Yes, sir.” Eugene responded, mentally canceling his lunch and two other urgent tasks in his head for people other than the owner. As soon as Gary walked away, he called the beta team supervisor and the accounting manager to rearrange meetings.

He had the printout on Gary’s desk five minutes before three. It would have been faster to email it, but the owner hated email, insisting on the personal touch. Privately Eugene wondered if the boss had dyslexia since he refused to read anything longer than a few sentences. Eugene had been reprimanded several times with, “I need the bottom line, not explanations.”

“What the hell are these numbers?”

Eugene’s developing ulcer, which worsened whenever he skipped meals, twisted at the explosion. He squeezed his hands to control the shaking. “The budget you requested for Naylor Holdings, sir.”

“Are you kidding me? They just want a small tweak to our basic program. It shouldn’t take longer than a couple weeks at best!” Gary roared.

“Sir, the change is hardly small. At least 200 lines of code will need changing. Then program will need to be tested. And they have backward compatibility built into their contract–”

Gary interrupted. “Twelve weeks? They need it in four.”

“I understand the time frame sir, which is why I made two budgets. The first was least cost scenario since you were doing this as a favor.” Eugene gestured to the report, and Gary started turning pages. “If you look at the second budget, that includes rearranging personnel from other projects–”

“And we lose the early finish bonus on the Birt contract. What the fuck? Getting it done in three weeks basically will cost us a year’s profit? You told me this was possible.”

“Sir, as I tried to explain earlier, our personnel are stretched at the–”

“You know Rando, I am tired of your bullshit. You are fired.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Get the fuck out of my office.”

“Yes, sir.”

Hands still shaking, Eugene walked out thinking, Well that wasn’t so bad. He nodded to Gary’s secretary, then stopped a second. “Could you ask Mike to meet me my desk immediately?”

“Certainly Mr. Rando, what shall I tell him it is about?” The immaculate secretary pushed a button, turning on her hands-free phone.

“It’s a security concern. Tell him it would be good if he got there before me.”

Mike was still huffing when Eugene strolled into his cubicle where he had been managing the three programming teams and the quality testing department, forty people in all. Only the owner and his brother-in-law, the head of sales, rated rooms with doors.

“What’s up, Gene?”

“I’ve been fired and thought you would like to see me pack up.” Eugene put down the empty box he picked up when he passed the copier on his way back.

“Fuck, and congratulations.” Mike shook his head. Programming, accounting, and security were at odds with sales, and they all hated being there since the original owner had retired and passed on the company to his youngest son two years ago but the economy meant the resumees most of the managers have been sending out hadn’t received much in the way of response. The Director of Human Resources was the most recent to successfully jump ship, but then Gary treated all of the women on the management team like crap, so she was willing to take a pay cut to switch companies. “He hasn’t even called me, and he let you walk around unescorted?”

“Yep. Guess he didn’t pay attention during the discussion we had after Angeline left?” Angeline had been the HR Director. At that time Programming and Security had sat down with all the managers to develop an exit strategy procedure. Requiring escort, locking out passwords and user names, and collecting equipment all had been covered. HR could have done a lot of damage with access to wipe out all payroll and personnel records. And that scenario didn’t come close to what Eugene could do since he had overseen the programming of all the security measures. And unlike Angeline, he had been actually fired instead of resigned.


“You’re home early.” Jordan gave Eugene a quick kiss on the cheek when she came into the kitchen where he was washing dishes. The clock only showed six; usually Eugene pulled twelve-hour days plus a commute, leaving home at six am and getting home often after nine.

Eugene nodded, his face still frozen from the morning argument and his voice deadened. “Got fired today, so thought I would make lasagna. Should be ready to come out in another hour.”

“Oh, honey.”

“I’m okay.” He said, scrubbing the saucepan. “Really.”

“No, you are not.” His girlfriend stated, putting her hands over his in the suds. “Let that soak.” She pushed gently on his hands until he let the pan sink to the bottom of the water. “Let’s go talk.”

Eugene looked over at the timer. On top of the stove was a baking pan lined with sliced bread covered in butter and garlic to put into the oven when the lasagna come out to rest. His eyes darted around the room, taking in everything there and the nearby dining room visible from the kitchen.

“The wine on ice.” Jordan opened the fridge. “The salad is ready. You got everything ready. Even the table is set and the candles are ready to go. Come on.” She pulled him to the living room.

“I just wanted everything good.” He explained as she leaned against him on the sofa. “You do so much. Making the food, cleaning house, everything. I thought I could do something.”

“It’s okay. You were working sixty and seventy hour weeks.”

Eugene looked down at his lap where his hands were gripped together. He still felt like he was shaking. “And now I’m not.”

“We have money saved. It’s okay.”

“I hate job hunting.” Eugene whispered.

“I know.” Jordan pulled her feet on the couch and leaned closer. Eugene wasn’t much for touching in public, but he would hold onto her at night.

Releasing his fists, his arm went around her, pulling her head into his shoulder. “I hate working…for people.”

“What happened?”

“Same as always.” He told her about trying to explain the juggling of priorities to the owner, the interruption and demands, and the end result of the budget. She responded with all the appropriate sighs and sympathies, asking questions to pull the teeth of the story.

After Eugene had finally wound down, Jordan asked, “Why do you think you have so much trouble?”

“People say they want precision and truth in their analysis, and they really don’t.”

“Well, do you think you could learn to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’? It would help soothe things.” She suggested, having run into the issue with him at home.

“I’ve tried.” He kissed her on the forehead. “But people think they are asking a yes or no question and they really aren’t. I’m an analyst; my job is to make certain the management has the tools to make an informed decision. I would not be doing my job if I didn’t make sure they understood the question they were really asking.”

“That kind of arrogance really puts the management on edge, hon.”

“I know.” He shrugged, bouncing her head a little. “But I just can’t be a ‘yes’ man. If you were management, shouldn’t you know what things really cost? Not just in money, but time and resources?”

“Yes, I guess so.” She changed position so she could watch his face better, putting her feet in his lap to keep physical contact he needed even if he wouldn’t admit the comfort of touch. “But don’t managers know how to ask the questions? After all they are the managers.”

“No, they don’t.”

“How so?”

“Well, they ask bad questions.” He started removing her shoes, looking pensively down while she tried to read the emotions on his frozen face.

“Okay, so give me an example.”

“They ask questions like, ‘Is the sky blue?’” He frowned at her slightly swollen ankles.

She worked museum and spent most of her day on her feet. They had met just over a year ago when he reported a display description was incorrect. He had been right to the annoyance of her management. Two things he excelled at, being right and being annoying. But he had paid for the new plaque, and then asked her out on a first date … a year ago today. How had he remember when she hadn’t? That had to be what the lasagna was about. She had remembered the day they had met two months ago, and he had gotten her flowers the next day as an apology. Guess he didn’t want to be caught out again on another anniversary.

“Yeeesss?” She stated the obvious answer to the question, not sure where he was going.

Eugene looked over at her, and his face finally unfroze enough for a twitch of a smile. “Except when it is not.” His hands wrapped her ankles and started massaging. “Is it blue right now?” He nodded at the picture window in the living room.

“Well, yes–no, it’s sunset. Wow, the sky is spectacular right now.”

“Yeah, in another hour it will be black. And then there are clouds, so the sky can be blue AND white, or just white, or gray if cloudy enough, even black. During tornadoes, it is green.” He glanced up at her again as his voice gained its usual cadence. “So, really, the sky is usually a color other than blue. It is black at least half the time for night, and may be any of a number of other of colors during the day. So, is the sky blue – yes or no?”

The alarm buzzed. Gently moving her feet, Eugene got up and went to the oven.

Standing up, she followed him into the kitchen. “I get it.” She watched as he pulled out the lasagna. “So questions like, ‘is the sun shining?’ really bug you.”

“Actually that one is a yes.” he said, putting the garlic bread in for a quick toast.


“Is the sun shining? It is always yes.”

She sputtered a moment while he handed her the salad and dressings. “What about night?”

“Just because we can’t see it, does not stop the sun from shining.” Eugene’s brown eyes twinkled as he grinned.

Following him with the food, Jordan shook her head in disbelief as he placed the lasagna on the table. “Because it is a star. So for rhetorical type questions where people expect a yes-or-no answer, you can’t give one and ones where they really are asking a question about status about if it will rain soon, you give them a yes-or-no which really isn’t the answer to the question they were asking.”

He held out her seat, and she sat down.

“People don’t know how to ask questions.” He went back into the kitchen just as the garlic bread smell entered the dining room.

“You are a crazy analyst; you know that right?” Jordan yelled after him.

Bringing back the bread on a serving plate, he placed it on the table before grabbing her ponytail and pulling back her head then kissing her thoroughly. “Yes, and you love me.”

After she remembered how to breathe, she responded while he poured the wine, “Yes. Lord grant me patience, I do.”

“And I love you.” Eugene sat down across from her at the table. “Will you marry me?”

“Is that a yes-or-no question?” She smirked at him.

He burst out in true laughter for the first time in months. The job had been killing him inside-out. “Yes, it is a yes-or-no question.”



(words 2,103 – first publication 1/31/2016)

Flash: Monsoon Inspection

Woman in Red Chair

Image courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

“I’m okay mother.” The young woman opened the phone conversation after the other line picked up and waited while the electronic stream bounced up to a satellite and returned from orbit to station to feed into her mother’s archaic landline on the other side of the planet.

“Why on Earth wouldn’ t you be?”

“The monsoon. geez, don’t tell me American news didn’t cover it.” She raised her galoshes-covered feet to rest on the red plastic chair and laid an arm over her knee, then answered herself. “Of course not, it wasn’t like it was a big–”

Her mother interrupted, or more accurately, the stun of her child being in danger and the time delay caught up. “Monsoon! Dolores, I told you that foreign job was no good. If you stayed here you could have married that nice boy from college…”

Whom you never bothered to learn the name of because he was totally forgettable, and a drunk … but I didn’t bring up that part of his sparkling personality with you. You did not need to know everything I got into while in college. His frat did throw the best parties.

“…and have you met any rescue workers. They do have rescue workers there? And food drops like you used to help with. Oh, do I need to send anything to you?” Her mother asked finally winding down.

“No mom. We are set up for this weather. My house is on stilts and everything.” Dolores closed her eyes and crossed her fingers for a small white lie. “I’m totally dry.”

“So no cute rescue workers?”

“No, mom, no cute rescue workers.”

Someone laughed. Dolores eyes popped open. Florescent orange waders rose out of the floodwaters, followed by a dark blue t-shirt with a logo related to some construction sites she had seen around, and topped by a very cute face of the male persuasion. “Got to go mom, the inspector is here.”

Doing the small hand twist which locally translated to the American equivalent of holding up a finger for ‘wait a second,’ Dolores waited for her mother’s response. “Inspector? I knew something was wrong.”

“No, nothing is wrong. Just got to officially get the house looked at. Happens after every monsoon. And no, before you ask, this is my first inspection; my work just told me to expect it. I love you.”

The man face arranged in a pleasant waiting expression. Nothing like the rush-rush the Western world, but also lacking the ever-present fake smiles she would have seen back home too.

“I love you, too. Send me an email when you can.”

“Will do. Good-bye.” Dolores clicked off her phone. Taking a second to change her thinking patterns to Burmese, she stood, putting her phone back into its waterproof sling. “Thank you.”

“To support mother and father, this is the good luck.” The man responded in Burmese, before switching to her native tongue more quickly than she was capable of. “Would you be more comfortable in English?”

“If it is not too much trouble.” She smiled, then bit her lip. Smiling wasn’t always good here. She didn’t make that mistake in Burmese mode. “The last couple of days have been a strain.”

“Mynmarr sends me the foreign housing since I speak languages. My name is Salim.”

“My name is Dolores.” She dragged the plastic chair over to a stilt and bungeed it to the house. “I speak several myself, but the weather took a lot out of me. I’m surprised to see you so soon.”

“High ground this is, houses well built. First inspections always here.”

Ah, Salim has some constant phrases well memorized, like she could ask “Where is the bathroom?” in a dozen languages, but new sentence construction was based on his primary tongue’s structure of subject, object, and verb. When her brain was translating instead of straight hearing, everyone sounded like Yoda. Well, he talked faster even with that then she could translate or hear Burmese right now. She felt mostly okay, but her inner self was curled in a ball shaking from living through a natural disaster. In her life, she had always been part of the rescuing, not one of the rescuee. “Yes, the company told me they put these houses in well. Drilled down into the bedrock to drop the stilts.”

“Good company. They bring lots of jobs. You agriculture instructor?” From one of his many pockets of his mid-chest waders, Salim pulled out a telescoping metal prod and started pushing the foundations around each of the stilts.

“No, I am system admin.” She switched languages. “Computers I work and fix.”

“Smart girl.” He moved to another stilt. “You speak Burmese well. Where did you learn?”

“I picked it up while in India on summer work-studies. Along with Hindi and a few other languages.” She double-checked the sling; she didn’t want to loose the satellite phone. “Where did you learn English?”

“We are taught English in school, then I went to Memphis University on an exchange program for a year. Okay to climb?” He motioned to the ladder leading up to her house. “Need to check floor…” The inspector mimed sliding sideways, his sun-darkened face animating surprise while his black eyes sparkled.

“Pitch of the floor.” Dolores translated. “Slant.”

“Yes, yes, slant.” He motioned at the ladder again. “Climb okay?”

“Please do. Do you want me to come up with you?”

“Yes, good would be.”

Dolores waited until he got to the top before following to avoid the drips from his waders then climbed quickly up the wooden planks. “The front door is unlocked.” The twenty-something inspector did not move until she opened the door for him. She could see everything in her one-room house from the door, so she did not follow him in as he poked around and hopped up and down along the various walls.

“Roof good, no leaks. You no lie to mother about dry.”

A light blush rose in Dolores’ cheeks. “She worries.” In his world, this dry would count since half the people around regularly have their houses flood. Her mom would have problems with water being as far as the eyes could see.

“Mothers worry.” Salim walked over pulling a green card out with numbers in a big block font. “I will put this outside to indicate the house has been inspected.”

Dolores watched as he tucked it into a small plastic square outside her door. She had never figured out what it was for since her house wasn’t numbered and all mail went to her work. “Do I owe you anything?”

“No, no payment needed. Your company pays for the inspections.”

That answer was firm and clearly rote. So the normal additional gifts she had come to expect with all government dealings would actually get him into trouble. Maybe she should offer some simple hospitality. “Would you like anything to drink?”

The man tilted his head considering. “I houses inspect. Three. Can I come back in an hour?”

“Yes you can.” Dolores let a full American smile light her face. “Would you like something to eat as well?”

Salim smiled back. “Yes, I would.”

(words 1,192 – first publication 1/24/2016)

Flash: Used Tissues

3D Green Tissue Box Stock Art

Image courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Melissa looked at the pile of tissues. Another headcold, maybe. She bit her lip. Then turned and trod determinably to the living room where her sons were studying.

Grabbing the remote control, she flicked off the Japanese cartoons before announcing, “Family meeting!”

The boys groaned and rolled over, setting aside the books they had been nearly reading. Attentively, well, as attentive as a 12- and 14-year old can be, they looked towards her.

“I’m no longer picking up the tissues beside your bed.”

“Mom!” LeVarr protested.

Alijah, her younger son, grabbed a couch pillow and buried his face.

“Just letting you know how it is. From now on you want things washed, they go into the hamper. You know that green thing in the bathroom you put your muddy cleats on. If they are not in there, they don’t get washed.” Melissa tucked the remote in her back pocket. “You want the trash emptied, you empty it. You want your bedsheets cleaned, you strip the bed. I will teach you how to wash your linens. Your bedrooms are now your own chore.”

LeVarr’s blush had subsided. “Cool!”

Knowing exactly what LeVarr was thinking, Melissa continued. “That does not mean I rescind my right to enter your room whenever I want. You are still my kids, and I will inspect the room. If we have guests over, the room will be clean.”

“Geez, it’s not like they go into there.” Alijah complained.

“Don’t care.” Melissa smiled grimly, while inside she both laughed and shuddered at what she was about to say. The adult in her loved teasing the boys; LeVarr developing understanding of adult humor made his sarcasm as sharp as hers, and he finally was getting to the point of being funny instead of just needing to be smacked. The mother in her wanted to run for the hills at the next bit of truth. “Someday you may have a girl in your bedroom,–”

“Mom!” LeVarr blushed deep enough to show through his dark skin.

“– not under my roof, but someday you may actually move out and get your own place. Before you are forty if I’m lucky. And when you do, you will be grateful for the habit of cleaning up everything before guests come over. Clear?”

“Yes, mom” Alijah’s reply overlapped with the teenage LeVarr’s affirmative, “As mud, my mudder.”

“Right. Finish your homework, and, Alijah, I want to look over that math assignment. LeVarr let me know when you are ready for your research paper so I can boot up the laptop. I’ll be cleaning the dinner dishes.” She paused a moment before adding. “And thanks boys, I love you.”

“Love you too mom.” They responded in unison before reaching for their schoolbooks.

She took the remote into the kitchen and wondered how long it would take them to realize it.

(words 476 – first publication 1/17/2016)

Flash: If you love me …

Photo: Running Faucet

Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rating: Mature (Language)

Kassandra kept her back to the whiny drone of her boyfriend, digging her hands deeper into the suds. Finally the line “If you loved me, you would …” pushed her over the edge into interrupting his self-serving pleading.

“Stop! Just stop the fuck right there.” She said shaking the bubbles from her hands into the sink before grabbing the towel.

She turned around to see Dewayne’s startled expression. At least he had stopped talking.

“Do you know the last I heard that line ‘If you loved me’?” Kassandra asked as she threw the towel aside. “Two hours ago … at the grocery store. You son tried to pull that on me to give him candy. No way was I going to deal with him on a sugar high right before bed. He threw himself on the ground in a tantrum after I said no – should I expect that next?”

Dewayne’s handsome face twisted in anger. He was model beautiful, although he was beginning to run towards fat. “You don’t fucking love me!”

Kassandra rolled her eyes. “Damn, how did I know that was the next thing you were going to say? It’s déjà vu.” She muttered to the heavens as she went into their bedroom and grabbed Dewayne’s backpack. “At least Terrell comes by it honestly.” She started grabbing his clothes from the floor and shoving it in the bag.

Following her into the bedroom, Dewayne asked, “What the fuck are you doing?”

“Doing what I should have done years ago,” Kassandra explained, “kicking you the fuck out.”

She shoved the backpack into his chest. She was relieved when his arms circled around it. He had never hit her, but she had never kicked him out before. Immediately she went for her purse and cell phone.

“Now leave.”  She said as she started to dial with one hand while using the other hand to push him towards the front door of the apartment.

Always one to have the last word, Dewayne yelled, “I hate you.” as he went down the apartment stairs. Several other curses and mostly inaccurate descriptions about her sexual habits continued until the apartment’s foyer door slammed shut.

Hearing the other end answer, Kassandra closed the door and leaned on it. “Yes, Mr. Nguyen. Could you come by and change the locks on my door?”

“I’lll be right up.” Kassandra heard the click as her landlord disconnected.

(words 400 – first publication 1/23/2013)


Find out what happens next in the book

(click on the cover below to be taken to the Amazon page)

Honestly Cover - Small Size

Flash: Light It Up

Photo: Man in rumpled suit

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rating: Mature

Trey Warden came from old money. His hundred-dollar haircuts and thousand-dollar suits always looked stunning, and overdone for the bureaucratic agency he and Angela worked at. Those brave enough to pin him down had passed to the rumor mill he felt an obligation to give back to the society that help his family for so long.

Angela tolerated him only because his solution was never just to toss his money at the problem, but really solve the issue. Emergency planning didn’t need money, it needed strategy and tactics – both of which Trey had in abundance … when he deemed to come into work.

Yesterday, with a rare blizzard about to hit and the Queen’s City to prepare, he had graced them with his presence. That was twenty-two hours ago and God knows how many coffees. He lost his tie somewhere yesterday afternoon and the shirt came untucked after the cold pizza was finally consumed.

They had ordered the mushroom and onion pizza while putting final touches on the indigent housing; it arrived when one of the shelters where they were going to put hundreds of homeless burned to the ground. Around midnight they remembered their dinner.

Now as dawn broke, Angela looked out the window of the board room to see the first of the flakes flying by. “You can go home if you want.” She said. Her voice creaked with exhaustion.

Taking off a jacket worth more than a year of his token hourly pay, “No, some of us need to stay here.” He placed the jacket on the back of the chair beside her and sat down.

Her head dipped up and down, maybe in a nod, maybe in nodding off. “Just, you, me and the dozen of others sleeping in the cafeteria.” She had sent the single parents home once everything was back in order from the last minute emergency. The balance of her staff would man phones, help the department of transportation, and keep the plan moving for the next two days. Thank goodness the blizzard was polite enough to hit on a weekend, so no schools were in the mix.

Spinning the thin leather-like chair so he faced her, he commented. “You could catch some z’es in the waiting room.”

Angela grimaced, “Have you tried those seats? Besides, it doesn’t matter, I am light activated. I will be getting my second wind soon. You?”

“I am emergency activated.” His black eyes danced. “I won’t need to sleep for several days.”

Her mocha eyebrows met as she tried to process that piece of information. “Ex-military?”

He shook his head. The man was a miser about his past, and Angela’s review of his HR jacket didn’t come with any juicy bits. Not like the juicy bits of his muscles bunching and loosening as he stretched beside her. Technically she was his supervisor, but she was not in charge of his reviews or his continuing employment. He was hired at the mayor’s request five years ago, and she wasn’t certain anyone had the power or daring to fire him. She had no clue how far in he was with the present mayor.

“So what do we do now?” he asked. His long legs remained stretch across her egress and she could feel heat radiate through the expensive fabric. For a moment she fought the urge to stretch her legs underneath the bridge he had created, then she gave up. No real reason not to go with the flow. The red rays of dawn filled the room rejuvenating her.

“The press releases are delivered. I’ve already prepped the mayor and Jerome to be talking heads for the morning shows. The sand trucks are running, and the E Team is working the streets to get everyone into shelters.” She thought a moment as she moved her legs up a little until they were skimming the bottom of his trousers. “Did we touch base with the oil and electric utilities?”

“At six, ten, two and six again.” Trey responded same business tone she had been using. But his mouth tilted in a half smile. His coal black eyes lit with embers, meeting hers. He causally sat a little more upright in the board room chair, bringing his legs in solid contact with hers. “Is that it?”

“About everything that needs to be done for the next hour or two except bring the generator online now that the wind has started. Kassandra is covering the phones.”

His smile widened and slid his legs down hers before leveraging himself out of the chair. “Well then, off to the basement to light things up.” He offered her his hand to help her stand.

Angela felt the moisture begin to pool between her legs as she took his hand. God, this is just what she needed to get through the next two days. She hoped Trey wouldn’t be whiny about it afterwards.

She glanced over her shoulder as they entered the stairwell. He was watching her ass with abandonment. Nope, the man was not the whiny type. Rich and privileged, but also competent and strong. And definitely all male. Her breasts tightened in anticipation.

(862 words – originally appearing in Sunday Fun on Breathless Press 11/14/2012)

Kassandra, mentioned in passing in this flash, went on to have
her own story in “If You Love Me…” on January 23, 2013.

And then that flash expanded into my first book

(Click on the cover below to be taken to the Amazon page)

Honestly Cover - Small Size