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Jeff Dosser
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terminal.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2016

Terminal

 

Jeff Dosser

 

 

Jason's eyes flew open as he was jolted forward, the plane’s wheels bumping loudly on the tarmac. The engines howled and the air brakes thumped in the wings as the view out of the window slowed from a racing blur to a slow march. Must have fallen asleep, he thought, rubbing his eyes, and pulling out his phone. A quick tap on the screen showed, 9:30 PM. God damn it already 30 minutes late and we're not even to the jet bridge yet.

Jason tapped on his armrest in agitation as the plane made its slow way to the gang way, the engines finally whining down to silence the click of seat belts and rustle of moving people filling the cabin.

In front of him a little girl hopped up and down on the seat screaming about being hungry or some other bullshit. Why the hell did they let these noisome brats on planes, he thought, it should be illegal.

And old people too, as he watched a white haired couple wrestle with a heavy bag stuck in the overhead compartment.

Ahead of the traffic jam caused by the old geezers the hallway was clear. I've got important shit to do, Jason mused as he shoved past the bouncing youngster and the old couple almost knocking the gray haired woman down as he passed. “See you soon.” the old woman called sweetly her face lighting up in a too broad smile. Jason paused for a moment surprised by the unnatural width of her toothy grin.

Wel,l I guess we found the Joker’s mom. He laughed to himself.

“Have a wonderful day in Dallas.” The flight crew called after him as he left the plane. Dallas hell, Jason thought, If I have to stay in this god forsaken city for 30 minutes it will be 30 minutes too long.

A faint sickly smell of raw sewage met Jason as he raced up the gang way and into the center of the bustling terminal. Jeez-us, can't they maintain their plumbing in this hick state? he thought, scanning the walls for the departure and arrival screens. 
Finally finding them, he searched the long list of flights locating the one he needed. Connecting Flight 333 DFW to Los Angeles. Next to this was displayed: “Now Loading—Gate 13”.

Jason raced along the hallway counting down the gates until he found himself across from gate 13. Rushing up to the gate desk he found himself behind an old woman speaking softly with the attendant.

As he waited, Jason scanned the milling passengers. Virtually everyone waiting for the flight seemed to be kids or geezers. Looks like the last leg of this flight was going to be pure hell.

The old woman in front of him finally thanked the man helping her and giving Jason a quick smile, she shuffled off. Jason sent an evil look after her then stepped up and presented his tickets to the agreeable man behind the counter.

After a quick examination, he shoved the tickets back. 

I'm sorry sir.” he said. “You're at the wrong gate.”

“What the hell is this!” Jason screamed. “I'm already late because of you assholes and I'm not missing my god damn flight!”

“I'm so sorry,” he said smiling broadly. “Gate 23 is what you want. It’s just up the causeway to your left. You can't miss it.” 

Briefly Jason saw a red flame flicker in the man's eyes. Turning, Jason looked over his shoulder for the light source which had been reflected in the man's eyes but saw nothing. 

That's weird, Jason thought returning his attention to the attendant.

“Sir?” the attendant said. “Gate 23. Just up on your left.” 

“Oh fuck off.” Jason said, grabbing the tickets, and stomping off in the direction the attendant had pointed. 

As he raced along Jason noted that he seemed to be the only one with somewhere to go. It’s no wonder, he told himself, examining the crowd. Most everyone here’s an old codger or a screaming kid. Most of people he passed looked up from books or conversations to follow him with their eyes. All smiling at him with strange toothy grins.

Spotting gate 23, Jason raced to the desk and shoved across his tickets.

“Still loading right?” he asked.

“Not yet sir.” the woman said picking up his tickets, examining them.

“But I see you're in the wrong area. You want gate 17.”

“What!” Jason screamed, red faced. “Your god damn cohort at gate 13 sent me here! Do any of you incompetents know what in the hell you're doing?!”

Behind him an old couple with three small children bumped into him.

“Hey watch it!” Jason said spinning on them. “Keep your damn brats under control.”

“I'm so sorry sir.“ the attendant said to Jason when he had returned his attention to her. “But I assure you, your flight is loading right now. Gate 17.”

“Give me those.” he said, snatching the tickets from her hand with a snarl.

Behind him the old woman with a toddler in her arms smiled at him graciously, the child offering him a slobber coated ball.

“Ba ba” the child cooed. 

“Isn't that sweet” the woman behind the desk giggled, “They're so cute when they're hungry.”

Hissing in anger, Jason walked into the hall scanning once again for departure screens along the wall. Finding one, he carefully searched the list of flights until he found the listing for Los Angeles flight 333.

Around him other passengers crowded closely, a child tugging at Jason's shirt.

Shrugging the shirt out of the child's grasp he saw a grubby wet stain where the child had grabbed him. 

“I'm so sorry.” The old woman holding the child cooed. “He gets like this when he's hasn't eaten.”

Harumphing, Jason stepped closer to the screen making sure of the information: “Gate 18—Now Boarding” it read. God I hate kids, he thought, as children tugged at him from the crowd that had gathered around the screens. 

Striding away, a large TV screen caught his attention; a news feed flashed video of an explosion. Moving closer he saw a large fireball roll across the screen in high definition; wings and tail of an airplane barely visible tumbling through the burning carnage. 

Below the repeating video a ticker tape scrolled: Fatal Air Crash At Dallas Airport. Flight ….” 

Rushing to the bank of windows forming the terminal walls Jason looked out at the runways and saw—nothing. Planes coming, going. Baggage carts racing here and there.
Looking around he saw that a crowd was beginning to grow around him and the TV. 
Other than the crowd and the growing awful smell nothing seemed out of order. Except that everyone here seemed to be either ancient or a kid it was a typical day at the airport.

Jason shoved his way through the crowd and back to the TV. Below the video of the crash he waited for the ticker tape to scroll again. Around him other curious passengers were crowding close, the sickly sweet smell of decay growing.

“Fatal Air Crash At Dallas Airport. Flight 333 From New York To Dallas. No Survivors.”

Jason pulled the ticket from his pocket and examined it.

“Flight 333 From JFK To DFW” the ticket read. “Connecting Flight 333 DFW to LAX”. Oh my god that's the flight I was just on, he thought. But there was no crash. I just walked off that plane...unless.

Looking down Jason felt a cold chill as two drooling toddlers yanked at his pants leg, a red flame flickering in their eyes. “Hey mista, ready to play?” one asked.



thelou.jpg
Art by Maddisyn Condora 2019

IN THE LOU

 

by Jeff Dosser

 

 

Night hung heavy over old St. Louis, like the pregnant clouds promising rain. Across the street, the rhythmic flash of the Ambassador Theater’s marquis shouted a challenge to the darkness, as yellow cabs swallowed up the lines of cheap, double-breasted suits and faux fox stoles leaving the show. Soon only the crumbs were left. Those too cheap or too poor for the taxi ride home.

Fat drops of rain peppered the sidewalk to the low rumble of thunder, like the city’s angry growl. These streets needed the rain to wash away the filth. But in The Lou, some dirt don’t come off so easy.

I stubbed out my Camel as she stepped out. The neon lights played second fiddle to this dame’s flash. She was wearing red. She always wore red. From feathered hat down to her kitten-heel pumps, this broad sizzled. I could see her eyes sparkle as she lit up a cig, the smoke she exhaled as hot as steam off a griddle.

Ruby Longo was her name, and she was the reason the bums lined up at eight and left, dazzled, at eleven. She did four shows a week, twice on Saturday. This canary could sing. She was also the longtime girl of Colorado Phil Gallo. My boss.

She turned and walked up 7th, the staccato of her heels fading into the shadows as I dodged a Checker cab and followed. Her perfume left a sultry trail even a blind man could follow. It looked like she was headed for Louis’. I’d seen her there before. Sometimes she met Colorado, sometimes she didn't.

She turned the corner at St. Charles with a quick glance over her shoulder.

Was I made? This dame wasn’t stupid, that’s for sure. But to her, I was just another joe pounding the pavement.

 As I rounded the corner, I realized my mistake.

She stood there, solid as a right cross. A nickel-plated derringer in her hand sparkled beneath the streetlights like the diamonds on her fingers.

“Ricky, what are you doing here?” A smile painted the corners of her lips as I watched the derringer fade into her purse.

“Nothin’ doll, just stretchin’ my legs,” I said.

With a quick step, I swept her into my arms. Her eyes grew wide, her lips parted in a gasp.

I kissed those red, full lips. Her breath, sweet as a midnight breeze over summer fields.

“Why?” she whispered, as a tear traced a line down her cheek.

“Colorado thought you was cheatin’,” I said. “He had me follow you. When I told him he was right, he wanted you dead.”

“But Rick,” she gasped. “You’re my lover.”

“Yeah, doll, that’s tough,” I said, her body heavy in my arms.

I dragged her beneath the stoop and out of the rain. My stiletto still vibrated in her chest. As I lowered her to the ground and pulled out the blade, her eyes fluttered shut.

“The streets are hard, doll, but if you want to survive, you gotta be harder.” Even as I said these words, I knew she was gone.

I brushed the hair from her face, and straightened her hat. Soon, the homicide dicks would be at her with their cameras. She ought to look good. I at least owed her that.

I lit up and stepped onto the sidewalk, blowing a cloud into the unforgiving heavens. The rain was heavy now, drizzling from my fedora like a widow's tears. In the Lou, the streets are hard, hard enough to shatter a heart.

 

 



ifriend.jpg
Art by KJ Hannah Greenberg 2019

iFriend

 

 

By Jeff Dosser

 

“Three tablespoons of organic butter melted into the saucepan, one tablespoon of minced garlic, and two tablespoons of minced ginger,” I say the words aloud, so Gerald can hear, scraping the garlic and ginger into a pool of golden liquid at the bottom of the pan. A thick aroma swirls from the mixture like delicious misty fingers.

Lifting two strips of meat, I ease them into a second pan, the smoldering olive oil popping and hissing in protest as the tender red flesh goes in. The scent of the basting strips mingles with that of the butter, garlic, and ginger to create a symphony of smells that caper in the air.

“Do I have the recipe right so far?” I ask.

Gerald seems to consider the question before answering in his melodic baritone. “So far so good, but the key is to only sear the meat. I know the cookbook says ten minutes, but trust me, you're gonna want to cook them only eight.”

After a moment’s hesitation, he asks. “Did you set the timer?”

I hurriedly lift a white plastic grocery bag from the counter then check behind the blender. I know I've seen that stupid timer somewhere, I just can’t recall where.

“Don't worry,” Gerald says with a chuckle. “I knew you'd forget. I started my own timer the second you dropped those steaks in.”

“Thank God for small favors,” I say, stirring the butter, minced garlic, and ginger until the sauce becomes translucent. Then I scrape in the chopped Shiitake mushrooms and add three pinches of sea salt.

“Those will need a minute or two to simmer before I add in the sake and mirin.” I grab a dish towel to pat the sweat from my brow then lift a glass of Chateau Le Boscq and take a sip savoring its dark fruity tang and swanky texture.

“So where were we in our discussion on sanity?” Gerald prompts.

The legs of my wooden kitchen stool scrape noisily across the tile floor as I drag it in front of the stove and drop onto the seat. “I believe you were making the allusion that genius and insanity go hand in hand.”

“Ah, yes,” Gerald says. “My quote from Aristotle, the first of the great philosophers I might add.” He clears his throat dramatically before going on. “No great mind existed without a touch of madness.”

“So you're implying genius' are mad?”

Gerald acknowledges with a grunt.

“So,” I continue, “If I might use Aristotle’s own form against him, we must conclude that madness is simply that element which all geniuses possess? Therefore,” I tap my chin thoughtfully, “the capacity to think at levels beyond the norm is in itself, madness.”

I grab a pair of tongs and lift the sizzling steaks from their olive oil bed and flip them over; fiery pinpricks dust my hand as the oil seethes and spits.

“Not at all,” Gerald counters. “I'm simply pointing out that to think outside the box is what defines insanity, not simply the level of thought. Sanity is, after all, dependent upon our environment. Wasn't it Ray Bradbury who said, and I quote: Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in a cage.”

I laugh, shaking my head at Gerald's uncanny ability to recall the mundane. “Okay, okay.” I wave my hands in surrender. “I'll agree that for those of us touched by genius, insanity is simply an element of our natures, but what of those who might be considered of average intelligence? How does sanity, or more importantly, insanity, apply to them?”

A high pitched chirp announces the timeout on Gerald's alarm. “Out they come,” he says. “And I bet they smell delicious.”

I arise from the stool, lowering my nose as close to the sizzling steaks as safety allows, then take a great whiff. Oh and how my mouth waters.

“You're right,” I say, lifting the steaks from the oil and depositing them on a plate. I give the sauce a stir, then lick the dark brown residue from my wooden spoon. Not quite thick enough. Lowering the heat, I raise my wine glass for another sip.

“Your friend Josh is here,” Gerald announces. A quick glance at my phone shows Josh sauntering down the hall towards the door. A heartbeat later there is a knock. “I guess we'll have to finish our conversation once he’s gone,” Gerald says.

“Come on in,” I yell, “it's open.”

Josh steps in as I flip off the oven heat and lift the saucepan, drizzling the rich brown concoction across the top of the steaks.

Josh and I have known each other for years, frequenting the same clubs and enjoying the same tastes in music. It's there, however, that the similarities between us end. Whereas I might be considered thin, even frail by modern standards, Josh is a man of Thor like proportions with delicious broad shoulders and scrumptious muscled thighs. No, we've never been together, but it's not like I haven't imagined.

“Iz my friend, where ya been,” Josh says. He closes the door his head tilting back as he takes a sniff of the fragrant air. “Whoa, what are you cooking in here? It smells delicious.”

The kitchen's generous window overlooks my apartment’s cramped living room which holds a leather couch to the right of the front door, a guitar pick-shaped wooden coffee table and two three-legged chairs. As he always does when he drops by for a visit, Josh plops onto the couch and picks up the remote flipping on the TV and changing the channel to some kind of sport, in this case, a football game.

He leans close to the screen checking the score, then apparently satisfied with the results, sinks into the cushions and slings an arm over the back of the couch.

“I was getting worried about you,” Josh says, “you’re not returning any texts or calls.”

I sigh out my frustration. Eating in front of a guest would be the paragon of rude behavior, yet this meal was not intended for Josh.

“I’ve been…well, a little preoccupied with my cooking,” I tell him. “By the way, can I get you something to drink?”

I remove a wine glass from the shelves and prepare to pour when he says, “A beer sounds good.”

I cock a brow and somewhat sarcastically ask. “A beer?”

“Yeah, if ya got one.”

Ah, but for the joys of the common man, I think pulling out one of the beers I keep in the fridge for just such occasions. I’m certain Gerald and I will find no signs of insanity when we examine my friend Josh.

“So, what brings you up today?” I ask. “Stories of your weekend conquests?” I pull a pilsner glass from the cabinet and slowly fill it with amber fluid.

“Naw, I came to make sure you were okay. Haven’t you heard about the hacks?”

“The hacks?” I set down the glass and let the foamy head subside. Pouring beer just isn’t my forte.

“You mean you haven’t heard? It’s been front page news since Friday.”

“Ah, there you have it,” I say. “I rarely watch TV on the weekend. So what was hacked this time? A nuclear power plant? The stock market?”

“No, the new iFriend apps.”

There’s hardly a person on the planet who doesn’t own the much-publicized iFriend application, America’s demonstration of preeminence in the Cloud AI computing arena. It was advertised as a program so sophisticated that it not only passed the most advanced versions of the Turing test, the bookmark for determining intelligence in machines, but acted as personal assistant, counselor, librarian, and best friend all rolled into one. At only $1.99 to download, who could resist?

“Since I knew you had one,” Josh says, “What do you call him, Gary?”

“Gerald.”

“Yeah, Gerald. Anyway, I thought I’d come by and make sure you were good.”

“I don’t understand,” I tell him. “What does my iFriend app have to do with being…good?”

“It’s the North Koreans,” he pauses rubbing at his neck and looking skyward in thought, “or maybe it was the Russians. Anyway, I can’t remember which, but one of those guys hacked the iFriend protocol. iFriends all around the globe have been convincing people to do horrible things. The news says it has to do with sub-audible suggestions, and the hack only seems to affect a small segment of the population. Still, there’s been, like, two-hundred deaths an’ thousands more hurt by people going completely off the reservation. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

I top off his beer and wipe away the overflow. “So you’re saying I might be crazy?” I bob my eyebrows and give him what I think is my best ‘crazy’ smile.

“No, not you. But you got neighbors, right. What if the old woman next door went bonkers? Or the couple across the hall?”

I grab Josh’s beer, stifling a grin as I glance down at the cooling strips of meat on the platter.

“Josh, I can assure you that despite the proclivity of my neighbors to meddle, they will not be causing anyone any trouble.”

“Yeah. You’re right,” he says. “I just wanted to make sure.”

Couching a butcher knife behind my back, I step into the living room and hold out his beer.

“You know,” I say, standing just close enough so Josh has to lean out to accept it his arm outstretched, his weight off balance, his neck exposed.

“I’ve been having a discussion with a close friend of mine. We thought you should stick around for dinner.”


Jeff Dosser is a burgeoning writer living with his family on their wooded property outside of Norman Oklahoma. Retired from the Tulsa Police after eighteen years of service, he works as a software developer and spends his free time writing and cycling through the Oklahoma hills. Jeff’s short stories have been picked up by Shotgun Honey, Bewildering Stories, Down in the Dirt, and Pulp Fiction magazines. His first novel, The Crew, was published in 2017. 

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