Short Stories

Ragglion


“Why won’t anyone believe me?” Gretchen asked.

“Show me!” Professor Swink said. The impatience at having his lecture interrupted showed on his face. There was a depth to the wrinkles between his eyebrows that the class had never before seen. It was a look that had previously been reserved for his ex-wife alone. She was the last person to aggravate him so deeply.

The professor took out his own set of Acrylic paints, shoved it in front of Gretchen and again shouted, “show me,” to his student.

Gretchen was a tiny sprig of a girl who barely took up half a seat. She was uncomfortable with the emotional response that she had provoked in the professor, but she was not intimidated by it.

Gretchen opened the wooden case. She lifted the paint smeared pallet and dug through the three dozen brushes.

“That brush cost more than your daddy earned last week,” Professor Swink declared smugly. “Don’t bend the bristles!”

Gently, Gretchen laid all the brushes aside on the table. Only then did she begin rummaging through the paint tubes. There were one hundred and twenty-seven of them in various stages of depletion, but she knew before opening the case that she would not be able to find the one for which she was looking. Many of the tubes were identical. She counted five of Chinese White, but there was not one single tube of Ragglion.

“It’s not here,” Gretchen said.

“Look again! I want you to be sure,” Professor Swink demanded.

“I don’t need to. It’s not here.”

“Because it does not exist!” the professor concluded.

“Well…It did!”

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Sarah


"This is the spot."

"Right here?"

"Here!"

Boman took a puff off his Virginia Slim. He would have preferred a more masculine cigarette, but a fourteen-year-old has to smoke what he can get.

Eight-year-old Devin watched the older boy exhale. The light breeze caught the smoke, dissipating it almost instantly. "Can I have a puff?"

"No! You'd lip it. You'd get the butt soggy."

"Please."

"Hey, you wanted to see Sarah's Crossing. Well here it is."

Devin stepped out of the wood line. The long twin rails stretched in each direction endlessly. "I don't see nothing," Devin complained. There was a touch of disbelief in his voice.

Boman flicked his smoldering butt across the railroad tracks. It bounced off one of the large brown cross ties and settled on the ballast of chunky gravel. "She only comes out when there's a train. I told you that already." He sounded exasperated.

"Oh yeah, right. When's the next train due?"

"How should I know? Whatta' ya think I am, Grand Central Station?"

Devin had expected more, burning bushes, spooky lighting, or unexplained weather patterns. There was none of it. The landscape looked, smelled and felt perfectly ordinary. He was beginning to sense a rip-off. "Are you sure this is the spot?"

"What? You think I'm lying?" Boman was offended. He stuck out his chest and took a threatening step toward the younger boy.

"No," Devin answered, sensing trouble. He backed off. "I was just making sure."

"This is the spot. This is Sarah's Crossing all right. Now a deal's a deal. Pay up!"

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