Here is a preview of next month’s patron story.. All $3+ patrons signed up by the end of February will get the full story on Friday March, 8th, and will get a brand new story every month after that (as long as they remain $3+ patrons).
Also, the next 3 patrons who sign up for the $3+ tier will have the option of being written into a brand new short story. I will write you either as a heroic badass, kill you horrendously, or both (your choice). Once I reach a total of 5 $3 patrons I will write the story.
Now, on to the story preview!
by J. W. Donley
On his last night of bereavement leave, Benny worked on drinking himself to sleep in his battered recliner. He hated the silence, another reminder of his daughter’s absence, which is why he muted the ten-o-clock news. He deserved the torturous thoughts, thoughts propagated in silence for not saving Adrianna from her murderous ex. He would’ve ridden up to the holding cell in Port Angeles to put a bullet in Tom Dawes’s head, but he was robbed of the satisfaction. Tom had started a fight with a cell-mate, who then strangled the pip-squeak. Not so tough without a gun.
Benny kept out of Adrianna’s personal life. She was an adult, twenty-two years old and supporting herself with a job down at the diner. He didn’t want to drive her away, he liked her company, and he liked to think she liked his. They’d put up with each other for many years on their own. Adrianna was only seven when her mother had passed away.
Together they had moved on.
Together they had survived.
She was a good girl. Twice, she almost lost her job for using her tips to buy meals for the homeless. They would slip into the diner to beg patrons for change and extra food. She would interrupt their begging, find them a booth, and pour them a cup coffee. A few minutes later she would bring a full plate of eggs, pancakes, and sausage.
When Benny’s paychecks were short, she would bring home a box or two of food from the diner that would, otherwise, have been tossed at the end of the night. She was his angel in a blue-checkered diner dress.
After high school Adrianna had a few offers for some colleges back east. She and Benny talked about it only once before she settled on staying behind. They were good for each other. They were a team.
Though, now, Benny was on his own.
In silence, the talking heads argued from both sides of the screen. Benny alternated pointing his left, then right, foot toward the ceiling from the extended footrest, blocking the left then right heads. They took turns yelling at his feet, which triggered an unexpected chuckle. Benny almost dropped his beer, as his hand hung over the edge of the recliner, but instead only splashed some down the side of the chair and onto the cracked linoleum floor.
Back on the television, the heads were laughing. He threw the half empty can at the screen, slammed the foot rest down, and rolled out of the chair.
He lumbered towards the kitchen, using the ethereal light of the television to find his way to another beer. That’s when he saw the light in Adrianna’s bedroom. Benny was sure he’d turned it off earlier. Looking through the length of the faux-wood-paneled 70s-chic mobile home, he noticed the curtains on the back window flutter, framed by the darkness of the hallway. He could understand forgetting to turn out the light, but he’d definitely not opened the window. Flashes of television light licked the unclean clothes strewn along the floor almost reaching the carpet of Adrianna’s room. The skewed picture frames, hung along the hall, reflected fragmented bedroom light. Each was cracked except the center one: a photo of the whole family before Adrianna’s mother, Benny’s wife, died. The others were portraits of Adrianna, documenting her years through pre-school, grade school, and high-school, now obscured by the damaged glass.
He bypassed the kitchen, forgetting the beer, and eased towards his daughter’s room. With each step he felt his heart thud a bit harder and more sweat run from his pores. The curtain continued to flutter in the draft, tantalizing him forward. Daring him to question his own wits. Was he still all there? Or, now that he was completely alone, were his faculties drifting away? Her room was the only part of the home with carpet, and when he was sober enough to stand, he made sure to vacuum. Each day the room stayed as clean as the day before.
His feet sunk into the lush carpet, eliciting a sigh of beer-tinged breath. Heart rate relaxed slightly, sweat slowed.
Adrianna’s peach-colored vanity was a tableau of any young woman’s morning make-up routine. Beside it, lace curtains reached like wanting arms, lonely and missing the girl who grew up in the room at the end of the mobile home.
Glass shattered behind Benny in the hall, sending his heart racing again. He turned and saw the central photo on the floor surrounded in glass shards reflecting the flickering television light.
A familiar voice spoke from the vanity, “Hey Benny. Old man Benny. How you been?” The voice of Tom Dawes, but different. More raspy, but still cocky as ever.
Not possible, no way, Nuh-uh.
Benny turned to verify the source of the voice and was shocked to find a black cat sitting among Adrianna’s makeup and barrettes…
Want to read the rest? Then become a $3 Patron by the end of February and you’ll get the full story on March 8th.