This was written for the First Saturday Writers.

Fool was the key word to be used in any way, shape or form.

This is my contribution.


Singing Fool

Sergeant Evans heard the rattling sound of a bullet hitting some loose stones nearby. A full second later he heard the sound from the rifle. “Zeke, I thought you said there were no snipers in this area. Where in the hell did that come from?”

Zeke shrugged his shoulders. “There wasn’t any yesterday. He must have snuck back in during the night.”

The sergeant pulled his steel helmet strap tighter under his chin. “Well, take care of him while I check if anyone was hit. He’s probably in that old farm house across the valley.”

Zeke held his rifle over his head enough for it to rest on the ledge of rocks. He fired a two second burst in the general direction where he thought the farm house stood.

“What the hell good did that do?” The sergeant crouched lower behind the large boulder. “You didn’t even come close to the building. Stand up there and aim at the building. We can’t let a lone sniper pin us down all day.”

Zeke slammed a full clip into his rifle and began filling the empty clip with bullets. “Do what! You want me to stick my head up and look for the sniper? What kind of fool do you think I am? He’d blow my damn head to smithereens.”

Another bullet hit close by. This time the sound was steel on steel followed by the retort of the rifle. Sergeant Evans looked down the narrow path between a mountain and a field in Northeast Afghanistan. “Get that damn sniper before he hits somebody.”

“Sarge! Sarge!” A young soldier poked his head around a boulder. “Jack has been hit. The dumb fool stuck his head up looking for the sniper.”

Sergeant Evans crawled along the stony path on his hands and knees. The stock of his rifle hitting rocks on the side of the mountain. Two soldiers were pulling a body to a secluded area behind a tall rock pile. “What in the hell happened? Where is he hit? Is he alive?” He crawled to the body and stared at Jack’s face. “I don’t see any blood. Where was he hit?”

One of the soldiers moved a helmet toward Evans with his foot. “Look at Jack’s helmet, Sarge. The bullet hit his helmet a glancing blow and bounced off.” He knelt down beside Jack. “I see his chest moving so he’s still alive.” He felt of Jack’s neck. “I was crouched right beside him. It made a noise like a clap of thunder and poor ole Jack fell like he had been hit in the head with an ax. His helmet flew off and bounced against the mountain side.”

“Why in the hell didn’t you warn him?” The sergeant rolled Jack’s head back and forth. “You knew it was dangerous to be sticking your head up when there’s a sniper around. Did you tell him?”

“I did. I did. I called him ever kind of fool in the book. Just as I called him a dumb fool, the bullet knocked his helmet off. Dumb fool were the last words he heard.” He pointed at Jack’s face. “He just blinked. Did you see that?” He slapped Jack’s cheek three times. “Jack, old buddy. Can you hear me?”

Jack opened both eyes and nodded. He rubbed the right side of his head. He sat up and pushed himself against a rock. He began singing.

“What in the hell is wrong with him?” The sergeant shook Jack’s shoulder. “Why are you singing?”

Jack closed his eyes and kept on singing.

“What is he singing?” Evans kept his eyes on Jack’s face. “It sounds like a lot of nonsense to me.”

The soldier stood. He leaned his rifle against the rocks and listened to Jack’s plaintive monotone for thirty seconds. “I think I heard parts of Fools Walk In, A Fool in Love and Fool is a Dangerous Thing.” He stopped and listened for fifteen seconds. “Now he’s singing Send in the Fools.”

Sergeant Evans listened for ten seconds as Jack changed to Deep in the Heart of Fool. “All right everybody, listen up. We got a wounded comrade here. We are taking him back to camp. We’ll let the medics look at him.” He waited as Zeke crawled into the clearing. “We’re going back to camp in a few minutes. So revive Bing Crosby there and get him ready to walk. You stay close to him.”

Zeke prodded Jack with his rifle stock. “Hey Jack, on your feet. The tavern is open. Let’s go get a nice cold beer.”

Jack opened both eyes, smiled and began singing I’ll have a nice cold fool from St. Louis. He staggered getting to his feet and leaned against the boulder.

The sergeant handed Jack his helmet. “You stuck your damn head up and the sniper nearly blew it off.” He pointed at the dent. “Look at that. Another inch or two to the left and it would have been right between your eyes. Put the damn thing on and let’s move out.”

Jack lovingly caressed the dent. He held it up and looked at the helmet from all angles. He sang My fools got a hole in it. He put the helmet on three times. Each time he tightened the strap a bit more. He started singing Big Eight Fool Coming down the track, your true loving fool ain’t coming back.

The sergeant shook his head in sorrow. “That bullet must have hit his helmet at the exact same time Bill was calling him a dumb fool. Somehow fool is imprinted in his brain. I don’t know why he wants to sing.”

Zeke waited a second. “What was Jack doing at the time of impact besides looking for the sniper?”

“He was singing.”

“Well, what the hell was he singing. We don’t have time to play twenty questions.”

The soldier shrugged his shoulders. “Jack was singing I was a fool when I enlisted in the army. It was his favorite song.”

“I don’t care what he was singing or what was said when he was hit.” The sergeant looked first at Jack and then at Zeke. “You take care of him and get him back to camp.”

Zeke stared at Jack for a moment and then at the sergeant. “I don’t know if I can stand this all the way back to camp. He’ll drive me crazy and attract the Afghans. We should make him stay about a hundred yards behind us.”

Sergeant Evans picked up his rifle and checked his watch. “That’s OK with me if you want to stay back there with him.”

Zeke shook his head emphatically. “No way I’m bringing up the rear with the singing cowboy. What are you going to say to the captain when we return without finishing our mission? We are supposed to go five more klicks and check for enemy activity.”

“Hell, we got an soldier wounded in the line of duty. He was injured in an enemy engagement. He may get the Purple Heart out of this.”

Zeke slowly shook his head. “All Jack has is a slight concussion. He may be fit as a fiddle by the time we get back to the captain.” He shook Jack’s shoulder. “How are you feeling? Can you walk back to camp?”

Jack broke out singing I could fool across Texas with a fool in my arms.

“I take that to be an affirmative answer. If he can waltz across Texas, he can certainly walk back to camp.” Sergeant Evans dropped to his hands and knees and began crawling away. “Keep him quiet. I want to get back as quick as possible. I want Jack to sing a few tunes to the captain.”

Zeke crawled behind Jack until he thought they were far enough away from the sniper to be able to stand. They walked fifty feet and heard a single shot a half mile away. Jack fell to the ground and began singing I heard the fool a coming right around the bend.

“Get up, dammit.” Zeke kicked Jack’s boot. “That shot was at least a mile away. If you fall down every time you hear a shot, we’ll never get back.” He kicked again, leaned down and whispered harshly. “Git the hell up. Here comes the sergeant. He’ll kick your ass all the way back to camp.”

“What in the hell is wrong with him?” Sergeant Evans kicked Jack’s boot. “Why is he on the ground and holding up our return to camp?” He kicked Jack’s boot again. “Get your sorry ass up. We don’t have time to fiddle dick around. I just got a radio message from the captain. There’s a small Taliban unit off a few klicks to the north. We are to engage and destroy.”

Jack jumped to his feet. He pointed his rifle straight up and fired fifteen rounds, emptying the clip. He started singing Praise the fools and pass the ammunition as he slammed a full clip into his rifle.

“Holy shit, what in the hell is wrong with him.” Sergeant Evans grabbed at Jack’s rifle and missed. “You dumb fool, you just alerted every insurgent within five miles of us. Let’s get the hell out of here. I’m not going any klicks out of the way to engage insurgents. They’re probably on their way to engage us.” He walked away, stopped and turned around. “If Jack does that again, hit his head as hard as you can with your rifle butt.”

Jack broke into song. He began singing Ghost fools in the Sky.

The sergeant broke into a trot getting away from Zeke and Jack. “All right everybody. Let’s move out. Double time. That dumb idiot Jack has told the insurgents where we are. Get a move on before they get between us and the camp. First round of beer is on Jack if we all get back safely.”

Zeke crawled behind Jack for a hundred yards, alternating between whispering shut up and hurry up. He stood up and prodded Jack into a trot to keep up with the sergeant. “Get a move on, Jack. If you don’t, we’ll be late for happy hour.” He started to say no singing but was too late. Jack began singing Happy fools are here again.

Sergeant Evans was waiting around the next bend. He fell in behind Jack at a trot. “Jack, if you sing again I’m going to stomp the living shit out of you. Do you understand? Or did that bullet mess your mind up worse than it all ready was?”

Jack sang Make the fools go away.

Sergeant Evans shook his head and sprinted away from Jack and Zeke. Twenty minutes later, Zeke and Jack trotted into a clearing protected by rocks and trees. The other members of the squad were on the ground resting except the sergeant. He was using his binoculars. He beckoned at Zeke. “Come here and look.” He handed the glasses to Zeke. “See the insurgents on the other side of the valley. They are even with us. I want you and Jack to give us a five minute head start, then open up on them. They are too far away to do any damage, but you will slow them up enough for all of us to make camp safely.”

“What! Have you lost your mind again? You want me to stay behind with Elvis.”

“It’s only going to be five minutes. Empty a few clips in their direction and take off after us. You’ll probably catch us after a quarter mile. If not, run like hell. We are only five miles from camp.”

“I still don’t like it. Jack may decide to stop and sing.”

Sergeant Evans pointed at Zeke’s arm. “Do something brave and earn those stripes. You are the only corporal here and second in command.” He turned back to the men still sprawled out on the ground. “All right men, let’s trot. We’re not going to stop until we hit the beer parlor.” He nodded at Zeke. “Remember, five minutes.”

Zeke grabbed Jack’s arm. “The sarge wants us to stay for five minutes as a rear guard.” He waited while Jack sang a few lines of There’ll be a fool time in the old town tonight. “In five minutes, we are going to open fire on the Taliban across the valley. Are you ready?”

Jack touched Sergeant Evan’s arm. He sang I loaded sixteen fools and what did I get.

Sergeant Evans shook his head in sorrow. “Poor boy, he’ll be in a section eight hospital the rest of his life.” He started trotting away. “All right, let’s move out.”

Zeke waited until the last soldier was out of sight. He pointed at Jack’s head. “Did you understand what the sergeant said?”

Jack nodded. He sang Here’s a quarter, call a fool you know. His voice echoed around the valley.

Zeke slumped back against a rock. He glanced at his watch. He realized Jack only sang after someone said something. He held up four fingers to indicate they had to wait four more minutes.

Jack quickly aimed his rifle across the valley and fired a four round burst. He grinned at Zeke and sang Let’s have a fool for the road.

Zeke pulled Jack to the ground as a thirty round burst from a heavy machine gun raked their side of the mountain. Pebbles seemed to explode and chips of stone rained down. A few short bursts from about ten of the lighter AK47s sprayed the area a hundred yards behind. Zeke hugged the ground for an eternity as the heavy machine gun sporadically alternated between three round bursts and four round bursts. He waited until after a ten second lull before getting to his feet and peering gingerly over the rocks.

“The hell with waiting three more minutes. They are starting to run in our direction. They are still too far away.” He stopped as Jack fired the entire clip in one long burst. He laid his rifle on the rock and fired his entire clip. Jack was singing Great Balls of Fools. Zeke watched Jack crouch down and fire another clip straight up into the air. “That’s enough, dammit. Let’s catch up with the squad.” He bent low and began running down the path toward camp. Jack brought up the rear singing I met my fool on Blueberry Hill.”

They stumbled into camp two hours later, tired, thirsty and nearly out of ammunition. The captain met them at their squad’s area.

“Sergeant Evans said you two sterling soldiers volunteered to stay behind in a rear guard action. Your heroism and devotion to duty is outstanding. How many of the enemy do you think you two brave soldiers killed?”

Jack broke into one of Jerry Lee Lewis’ hit songs, Thirty-nine fools and holding.

“Is that right.” The captain rubbed his hands in satisfaction. “I’m going to put you both in for the Bronze Star.” He held up four fingers. “The first four beers are on me.”

Jack aimed at the sky, fired a four round burst and ejected the empty clip to the ground. He began singing Willie Nelson’s old song. Turn out the lights, Fools, the party’s over.

2600 words. April Fools Day 2017 is the place to go

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Our son went somewhere. It’s been so long ago, I’ve forgotten where he went. But the thing of it is, he left us his new Tandy 2000 computer. A big heavy thing with separate computer, keyboard and monitor. It had 640 kilobytes of memory.

I had been loafing for a good while. I was getting tired of it. So, I told Jeanne, my wife, I was going to write a book. No short story or a poem. I was going to start at the top and write a novel.

Jeanne showed me how to turn on the Tandy, get to the word processor, how to save and exit. She turned the computer off and left the room. Ten minutes later I was looking at the beautiful blue screen of Word Perfect. I sat there staring at the little white light blinking in the upper left corner of the screen.

I leaned back and ran all the different kinds of novels through my mind. I was leaning toward writing a science-fiction story since I had always been interested in astronomy. Loved Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers as a kid. But after twenty minutes, I decided to write an ordinary murder mystery.

I kept my plot simple. A woman was missing for six months. All my main characters were in their forties or fifties. The Berlin police chief and his sergeant were searching. The Worcester County sheriff and his chief deputy were also looking. The sergeant wanted to run for sheriff in the next election and the sheriff wanted to run for the Maryland House of Delegates. Whoever found the missing woman would be a shoo-in at the next election.

To make the book appealing to women, I brought in Madame Z, a fake fortune teller retired from Army CID (Criminal Investigation Command), and Martha, the sheriff’s wife.

After one day of writing, I had five hundred words. I was shooting for a hundred thousand words which is a little above average. I did a little arithmetic. I had one half of one percent done in one day. If I could keep up this pace, I would be finished in two hundred days.

The next day, I wrote another five hundred. After only two days, I was one percent finished. It would be a walk in the park.

I kept my character’s names simple. There were Sheriff Abel, Chief Deputy Baker and Mr. Charlie. I named some by colors. Mr. Green, Mr. Black, Miss purple and so-on. I would use “find and replace” later to change names to fit.

I printed whenever I finished five thousand words. It was a nice feeling to see what you had accomplished in print. The printer had a black, red and green ribbon. Later, I would have a green version, a red version and a black version.

I didn’t do an outline so I didn’t know where my story was going. I had fifty thousand words before I knew where the missing woman was located and who was her killer. Once I had my murderer, I could go back and change things and add clues that would eventually point my sleuths in the right direction.

I kept the story local. It was set mostly in Berlin where the crime occurred and in different areas in Worcester County.

An ending that makes sense and explains the crime and motive is hard to do. I muddled through with a shoot-out in a blizzard, a blood hound chase and hostages.

The title was the last item. Madame Z was constantly threatening to talk with Edgar Cayce and find the woman. The sheriff was afraid this was true. So, I titled the novel, Edgar Cayce and the Sheriff.

600 words 1/25/17 is the place to go

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The queen was agitated. The workers had fed royal jelly to a developing embryo and a new queen would soon emerge from her cell. The queen with her entourage of attendants went to the nursery. She repeatedly inserted her stinger into the embryo, killing it before it ever had a chance to fly. The workers stood by and did nothing to hinder the queen. It wasn’t the correct time.

A few weeks later, she sensed another queen bee was ready to emerge. Again she went to the nursery with murder on her mind. But this time the worker bees would not allow her to kill the emerging new queen.

The hive was overpopulated and the workers had decided to start a new colony. There would be no fight. Sometimes the new queen leaves, other times it is the old queen who starts a new colony. It was decided the old queen would leave.

Dad noticed the activity in the morning. Bees were flying around the kitchen window; thousands were crawling all over the old hive. The queen had not left the hive. Dad was ready.

A new box or super was at the end of the row of hives. Frames were in place for the bees to build their honeycomb.

Lois and I were off to one side of the flying bees. Both of us had an old pot and a large spoon. We were hitting the pot and making as much noise as possible. I have no idea if this did any good.

The bees were so excited about the queen’s soon departure from the hive that they didn’t sting anyone. Bees were everywhere. Lois and I stepped back a few more feet.

We didn’t see the queen leave the hive but suddenly a ball of bees began to form on a low hanging limb close by the house. The ball grew as the teeming mass of bees increased. The air was empty of bees. They were all clustered around the old queen in a mass the size of a basketball.

Luckily it was a lower branch. Dad approached the ball slowly. He held the branch with one hand and with his knife or snippers severed the branch. He took the ball of bees to the empty hive and gently shook the bees loose. If all goes well, the bees fall into the hive. At other times he leaves the branch and bees in the hive. He placed the top on and we have a new populated hive.

Sometimes things do not go according to Hoyle. The queen may fly to a top branch and the swarm forms there. She may fly completely away to the woods. Scouts find a hallow tree and she forms her colony there. We are out of luck.

465 words 9/26/16

January is here.

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“It’s got to be a boy. Who ever heard of Joseph and Mary having a little girl? Nobody will believe it. You’ll be the laughing stock of Berlin.”
Dolores shook her head. “She’s going to be a queen. Just wait and see.”
“You are all dumber than Balaam’s Ass. What’s going to happen now?”
“We have to go soon.” Joseph stepped over and shook my hand. “The Romans will soon be looking for us.” He stopped and listened to a noise approaching.
Two Shepherds, three Kings and three Wise Women quietly entered the barn. The other Shepherd was backing a large cargo van into the barn. In ten minutes the barn was empty except for me. Jeanne and Dolores had jumped into the van and had disappeared along with Joseph, Mary and the baby girl.
Betty was typing fifty words a minute. “Great story, Nelson. The newspaper will love it.” She lowered the lid of the laptop. “But what really happened to Jeanne and Dolores? No one in their right mind is going to believe they went off with Joseph and Mary. What did you do with their bodies?”
“I told you. They went off in a ratty old van with the farmer from Ironshire.”
Betty looked down the lane. “You have more company. It’s three men in uniforms.”
“Oh my God, it’s the Romans.”

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. It was like Clinton and Trump. So, we ended up talking about the weather and the farm while Mary laid on the quilt with her eyes closed.
Then Dolores stood. “Time to go. Mary needs peace and quiet.”
The rest of the day they sat on the deck steadily talking. In the process drinking the rest of the wine and beer. It was dark when Dolores left telling Jeanne she would be here for an early breakfast.
I asked three or four times when was the baby due. I shook my head disgustedly. They had no idea and they weren’t worried. They checked the barn after the sun went down and all was OK. That was when Dolores went home.
That night was really weird. At midnight, there was a terrible lightning storm. No thunder at all. I got up and went to the window. The whole yard was lit as bolts of lightning flashed. Sheet lightning was everywhere. Ball lightning was dancing on the roof of the barn. A screech owl wailed, another owl was hooting in the distance and a coyote was howling from our deck.
I didn’t know if anything had happened so I was going to go back to bed. But Jeanne was up and throwing clothes on. “What are you doing getting dressed this early? It’s just after midnight.”
“Something is going on. Did you see all the lightning? The wild animals are going crazy. I swear I heard a donkey braying down in our yard.”
Before I could comment that we didn’t have a donkey, the phone rang. Who in the hell do you think would be calling at midnight. As soon as Jeanne picked up the phone, I knew who it was. It was Dolores and she was on her way over.
I started a pot of coffee as Jeanne flew out to the barn. Ten minutes later I was taking my first sip when Dolores trotted through the yard without even stopping. I took the pot and four empty cups and walked slowly to the barn.
Was I in for a surprise. Jeanne was handing a little baby to Dolores. “It’s a baby girl,” they cried in unison. I tried not to get excited so I poured four cups of coffee as everyone smiled and touched the baby. Mary was on the quilt, wearing a happy smile.
“How come it’s a girl? I thought it was supposed to be a boy.”
Dolores swayed back and forth with the child. “Whatever gave you that crazy idea?”
“It’s got to be a boy. Who ever heard of Joseph and Mary having a little girl? Nobody will believe it. You’ll be the laughing stock of Berlin.”
Dolores shook her head. “She’s going to be a queen. Just wait and see.”

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She was fully dressed at six o’clock. I cringed. Something cataclysmic was about to happen because Jeanne usually doesn’t even think of getting up before nine.”
Before I could say a word, they were sitting on opposites sides of the table and talking.
The whole day was a total disaster. Jeanne and Dolores were constantly running from the deck to the barn. I’d try asking a question and they would be running and singing to the barn. They did tell me Joseph and Mary were still there and the baby was imminent.
I asked how eminent. I could see it now. The whole farm would be an encampment like Woodstock. People everywhere.
I asked them if they were going to get a doctor? All they would do is shrug their shoulders, give me a dumb grin and say, maybe today, tomorrow, the next day, this week or maybe next month. They didn’t have a clue. Then the dumb farmers from Ironshire returned.
Guess what? They were bearing a gift. A little lamb.”
You would have thought Jeanne and Dolores had won the super jackpot worth $100,000,000. They nearly had a fit right on the deck. Finally, they pulled the three farmers out to the barn and presented the little lamb. After the farmers left, here came the three people from the contest.”
You would think since they were supposed to be three kings bearing gifts, they would have something valuable. They had stopped at Pizza Hut and had a huge pizza with everything. They gave me a slice and ran to the barn. Twenty minutes later, they were gone and in no time the three dumb women came.
They had a bottle of wine and a twelve-pack of beer. I took a beer and on they went to the barn. After a while they left empty handed. It was fairly calm the rest of the day. Looking back, I can see it was the lull before the storm.”
After the three women left I took my time and walked to the barn. Joseph, Dolores and Jeanne were sitting at an old card table and Mary was lying on a big pile of hay with my prize quilt as a shawl. I was hoping for another slice of pizza but they had eaten the whole thing.”
I stood in the entryway for ten seconds. The girls ignored me. Finally, Joseph said, “Come join us and have a seat. What will you have? A bottle of beer or a glass of wine?”
I asked a lot of questions: Where were they from? Where were they going? When was the baby due? I never got a straight answer. It was like Clinton and Trump.

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“Oh my God, Jeanne, it’s the Three Shepherds.” Dolores looked at Jeanne questioningly. “Can we take them to the barn?”
Jeanne was off the deck beckoning the three men to follow. She was pulling on them and Dolores was pushing. I watched them trot to the door but go in very slowly.
Three Shepherds. Where did they get that crazy idea? They were just three dumb farmers from Ironshire who had lost one of their lambs.
Twenty minutes later, all five came out of the barn and started prancing across the yard. They stopped by the deck. The farmer nodded at me and then talked to Jeanne.”
“If the little lamb shows up, keep it for Joseph and Mary. They began walking out the lane singing Joy to the World off key and sounding terrible.”
“What are we going to do?” Dolores cocked an ear at the ebbing music. “We should be out telling the world.”
Jeanne was shaking her head. “Both Mary and Joseph said not to. We can’t do anything they don’t approve.”
You won’t believe the rest of that morning. Three men came saying we had won gifts from some clearing house. Dolores nearly had a conniption thinking they were the Three Kings bearing gifts. They followed the same routine. Take them to the barn and send them home singing carols.
Then three women arrived with pamphlets describing the birth of the cosmos. Of course, Dolores knew right away that they were the Three Wise Men. When they left, they were singing Silent Night.
Dolores and Jeanne fell into their chairs and started on another slice of melon. I was tired of this nonsense. I talked mainly to Dolores.
“They were women, you idiot. How can they be Wise Men? This whole thing is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.”
Dolores ignored me. She started talking to Jeanne saying she would be here early tomorrow. She gulped down the rest of her melons and waltzed down the lane.”
The next day was even worse. I had just finished enjoying my first cup of coffee on the deck. It was still dawn; everything was quiet except for two hoot owls calling each other. I leaned back at peace with the world. Then I sensed someone else was in the yard. Dolores walked up on the deck with her tablet. Before I could say anything, Jeanne appeared at the table with two cups of coffee.

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