Sneak Pique

Today, I offer you a free preview of my story, “Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!” If you read it and are intrigued, you can purchase the full electronic version here

Other stories are also available:

Note: When you purchase one of the stories, you can download and read it on the Kindle app on your computer or phone; you don’t have to own a physical Kindle.

Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!
By Jay Colle

Chapter One
Adam Mahoney was a tall man, too long for his bed, which reduced sleeping to a necessity and rarely a joy. He had developed a habit of waking up one minute before his alarm released its peal, a habit so ingrained into his daily routine that he had forgotten what his alarm sounded like. That explained why one particular morning in August the piercing whine that woke him sent a shock through him so complete that he lost control of his senses as well as his bladder and, subsequently, soaked his sheets. He was so disoriented that he had said “hello” three times into the phone receiver before he realized the racket was coming from his alarm clock. After slapping the night stand aimlessly for another few seconds he finally found the box and mashed every button until the screaming stopped.

It took him several minutes to calm down, aided by deep, cleansing breaths and several long draws on a cigarette, at which time the full impact of the wake-up call registered and, as his heart rate calmed, he began the process of cleaning up. He stripped his bed of all the linens and was relieved to see there had been minimal soak-through on his mattress. He gathered the large wad of sheets and headed toward the washing machine that was sharing space with the kitchen pantry on the other side of the house. As he crammed the offensive mess into the washer’s opening, he stripped off his clothes and added them to the load. He dusted the soap powder on top, closed the lid and moved toward the kitchen, naked and in dire need of coffee and another cigarette.

He started the brewing process, pulled a chair away from the dining room table and dragged it into the kitchen, setting it in front of the counter where the coffee was starting to gurgle and hiss. He sat down, lit a cigarette, leaned forward and rested his chin on the countertop, watching the slowly filling glass canister two feet away. As he stared, the adrenaline from his earlier scare finally released from his body and a flood of tired washed over him. He drew on the cigarette but its usual medicinal effects weren’t enough to cut through the haze. His eyelids began their shutting flutter and he gave in, just for a few seconds, until the final growl and wheeze of the coffee maker alerted him it was time to drink. He stood, ground out his cigarette in the sink and opened the cabinet door directly above the coffee maker, grabbed a large mug and reached for the sugar. He liked to add the sweetener first and let the hot liquid obliterate the crystals when they met at the bottom of the cup. He thought the sugar never evaporated as well if you dropped it into a full cup although he had no proof beyond his experience to prove it was true. Instead of his fingers hitting the metal of the sugar container they grazed against paper, an envelope resting against the container, white and clean, the size of a greeting card. It startled him not because he rarely received mail, which was true, but more because he hadn’t left the card there. He was sure of it.

He picked up the envelope and saw his name on the front in a fancy script, obviously handwritten with care and skill. “Mr. Adam Mahoney,” he read aloud. “Well, that’s me, but where the hell did this come from?” He rifled through his memory, trying to remember if he had been handed the envelope elsewhere and had absent-mindedly left it on the counter but he knew even as he walked through that mental exercise he had nothing to do with the letter or card or invitation. That meant someone had snuck into his house and placed it there, which wasn’t that big of a surprise since his hometown was small and his neighborhood was safe; locking the house was more of an afterthought than a necessity. He turned the envelope over and chuckled as he saw that it had been sealed with red wax, an unintelligible imprint of an official looking seal embedded sloppily off center. “Fancy,” he said as he turned it to a severe angle, manipulating the light to hit it in such a way that he could see it better and possibly read it. Unfortunately, there had been too much shift when whoever created it had mashed the seal into the wax. It offered no clues about its origin.

He set the envelope down, dropped two spoons of sugar in his cup and poured the coffee. He wasn’t one to rush into a mystery and this definitely qualified, at least in his life. Ever since his divorce he became even less spontaneous, a process his ex-wife believed was emotionally impossible. His lack of improvisation was, according to her, one of the contributing factors to their breakup. She never could understand that, after spending full days in a cubicle answering phones at the customer service desk at the plant, he had no burning desire to stretch his wings, go wild, cut loose. She was much more social than he and it had been a constant struggle to please her. But even she might agree this seemed like a great situation to practice some discipline. So he enjoyed his coffee and was content to just stare at the paper intruder.

He finally set down his nearly empty coffee cup and picked up the envelope again. He turned it over and gently pulled at the flap, cringing as the paper lost the battle with the wax, ripping between the seal and the crease. As he lifted the folded sheet of paper out of the envelope he caught a faint whiff of strawberries and assumed the papers were scented. “Must be from a girl,” he thought and that brought a slight, knowing smile to his face. “Not bloody likely.” He set the envelope down and unfolded the paper that had been stuffed inside. The contents were not at all what he was expecting, if he was expecting anything at all.

Dear Mr. Adam Mahoney,
This letter is to inform you that you are now the last man standing on earth. As of four this morning (E.S.T.) your planet has been wiped clean of all human life by a small group of extraterrestrial beings, aliens if you must, though we prefer the term Squatters. We were bored and wanted to see what would happen if we left only one person on a reasonably functional planet such as your own. You can consider it a science experiment except that we aren’t scientists, just satiated, super-intelligent beings looking for something to do on a Saturday night. We did you a huge favor by disposing of all of the bodies because to not do so would have been uncivilized and, quite frankly, a bit gross. One other thing, when we referenced “human life” earlier in this note we, unfortunately for you, are including the female of your species as well as all animals. Yes, you really are “it.” You are on your own and we wish you the best of luck as you survive. Good luck and we’ll be watching.

P.S. In case you were wondering (but why would you?) there is a small wager amongst us on how this little experiment will conclude but we will try to refrain from influencing your decisions. Our sense of fair play will, hopefully, overrule our competitive and individual desires to win. You can only hope…

Adam was confused and then amused as he read The Note. It was handwritten but he didn’t recognize the script, which was beautiful and meticulously rendered. He was convinced it was a joke but he could not imagine anyone in his life clever enough to come up with the idea much less pull it off. Certainly no one at work would have done it and, unless the delivery guy from Tony’s suddenly had a burst of motivation—and he could barely look him in the eyes during transactions—that crossed off the people from his anemic social life. He glanced at the clock over the stove and realized it was too early to call anyone and see if they had been included in the joke so he decided to take a shower and deal with it after he was clean and dressed. On the way to the bathroom he stopped to turn on his computer so he could check email before he left for work.

After showering, Adam lit a cigarette, walked over to his desk and sat down to see if he had received any overnight emails. He double-clicked his browser icon and was surprised how fast it loaded onto the screen. “It’s not that early,” he thought. “But no complaints. Good for me.” His inbox flashed up on the screen almost before he had finished selecting the link. “They must have upgraded the lines,” he reasoned. “This is damn fast.” He finished checking his messages in less than five minutes and glanced at his watch to make sure it wasn’t too early to call someone and ask them about the prank letter. It was 7:30 so he felt comfortable contacting a co-worker considering they all had to be at work at eight, just like himself. He tried Peter first but he had apparently left for work early so he left a message on his answering machine. Blaine didn’t answer either, but he usually went to eat breakfast at the diner before work so there was nothing unusual about that. As a last resort he called his mother, sure she would be home because she never went anywhere. His heart rate began accelerating with each unanswered ring and for the first time a small finger of dread reached up and poked his belly. “This is ridiculous,” he said. “I can’t believe I’m feeling like this. Mom’s probably in the bathroom.” He hung up the receiver and lit another cigarette.

He moved through the house and out the front door, deciding to check in with his neighbors. It was now less about the letter and more about seeing a smiling, familiar face. “Hell, at this point I’d accept someone grumpy.” He walked through his front yard, ignoring the damp grass coating his bare feet and hopped over the two-step landing to the front porch of the Harrison home, his long time neighbors to his right. He knocked on the door and waited. There was no sound coming from inside the house, a strange silence for a family with three children under eight, but he pushed down any negative thoughts and rang the doorbell; he would apologize if he woke up one of the babies. After two long minutes and several doorbell rings he decided they weren’t home. “I think they mentioned to me they were going out of town,” he thought. “I just didn’t realize it was this week.” He walked quickly to the neighbor’s house on the other side of his property, knocking politely and waiting. After two more knocks and three doorbell rings he started becoming concerned. “Why didn’t anyone tell me they were leaving town?” he asked out loud, a little too loud, not expecting an answer.

As he jogged across the street to see if the Broughton’s were home, something stopped him, an internal brake that sensed things weren’t right. He stood still and listened for a moment and realized there was nothing to listen to. No dogs barking, no trucks on the interstate, no churning of school busses or squealing delivery vehicle brakes. He had never heard it so quiet, anywhere. It wasn’t right, the silence, it was too thick and still. Something was wrong but he refused to let his mind drift toward the contents of the letter and sprinted to the front door of Phil and Sue Broughton’s home. He rang the doorbell, pushing it over and over with his thumb, simultaneously banging on the front door with his fist. “There’s no way this can be true, it’s ridiculous. There has to be a logical explanation.” He kept repeating that thought, trying to convince himself but knowing with each beat on the door it wasn’t working. Then, just as the quiet had stopped him in his sprint, a brilliant thought flashed into his brain and he dropped his hands, turned and looked toward his house. “Television,” he thought. As he ran across the Broughton’s yard and into the street he yelled “Television! Television!” unconcerned about waking any of his displaced neighbors, convinced that seeing live, talking news people would finally poke a hole in the charade.

He bounded through his front door and threw the sofa cushions onto the floor, searching for the remote control. When he found it he wheeled around and aimed it toward his television, hands shaking, ready to be right. The black screen flickered and light grew from the center to reveal a commercial for floor cleaner, its existence proving nothing. He fumbled with the numbered buttons on the remote, trying to push the correct sequence for one of the 24-hour news channels but he was flustered and it took three tries before he was successful. In mere seconds he wished he hadn’t been. On the screen was an empty news desk, no anchors, no people on the phone behind them in the newsroom and obviously no one manning the camera which had tilted to the left, creating a strangely cropped view of the empty studio, cutting off what would have been the tops of the heads of the happy anchors. The only sound was the remote control hitting the hardwood floor as it slipped out of Adam’s hand.

© 2012 Jay Colle


Stories to Tell

Beginning today, three books I have written are available through Amazon’s Kindle Owners' Lending Library program. This allows members of Amazon Prime (who own any version of a Kindle device) to check out and read my stories for free, much like a brick and mortar library. Of course, you can still purchase the eBooks at any time, but the lending library is another option and I wanted you to be aware of it. Below are the links and brief descriptions of the books that are available. If you read one, please let me know how you liked it. Any feedback is appreciated.

Note: When you purchase one of the stories, you can download and read it on the Kindle app on your computer or phone; you don’t have to own a physical Kindle. (Note: If you use the Lending Library you have to read it on a Kindle device.) See? There really are no excuses to not check out one or more of these stories...

Thanks again for your interest. Now, go read!

Back, Again
Length:  215 pages
“Back, Again” is the story of a man who spent his life doing right and, at 45, finds the results wanting. He makes a radical decision in response to his disillusionment and turns his back on his life-long faith, shirking Christianity and denying the existence of God. This isn’t brought on by tragedy or some earth-shattering event; it’s a sober decision based on doubts and disappointments. On the surface, the story deals with the ramifications of his decision and the toll it takes on long-established relationships, mainly with his wife, children and parents. It also works on deeper levels. It’s a love story between Earl and Ellen. It’s a story of a man in search of himself and it’s a story of redemption.

Store: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0046A9SXA

Two Short Stories
Length: 20 pages
“Two Short Stories” is … well, two short stories. Truth in advertising is alive and well. The first story, “Save Me, Black Jesus,” is a sober look at the prospect of dying told through the eyes of a patient in a hospital. The second story, “Oh, Tanner Baum,” is a humorous look at selecting a Christmas tree told through the eyes of a young boy. The stories are so far apart in tone and concept that they cannot see each other even if they use binoculars. Which is why it makes perfect sense to bundle them together. Seriously. Stop staring at me…

Store: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0046H9I9C

Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!
Length: 106 pages
Adam Mahoney enjoyed a normal existence in a normal town, minding his normal business, okay with being normal. He wakes one morning to discover his new normal is a life that has never been lived, much less successfully navigated. Everything he has known and is comfortable with is taken away. Faced with unlimited possibilities, what will he choose? How will he respond when he knows that no one else could possibly be affected by any action he takes? Can any choice be labelled selfish when he's the last man standing on the face of the earth?

Store: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007V2SEXA



From day one she made me happy. Yes, there were the shallow reasons—the smile, the dimples and the attitude. But there was something deeper at work from the start. I sensed it but wasn’t smart enough to analyze, just smart enough to leave it be and see if it stuck.

It did.

She continued to make me happy. Happy she noticed me. Happy she said yes. Happy she agreed we were worth fighting for. Happy she thought having three kids was a great idea. And that deep something that started small took over and burrowed to levels that I could not have imagined.

Yes it did.

Today we celebrate thirty years of marriage.  Today I celebrate thirty years and eleven months of happy. Deep, God-given, inspiring happy.