Fractured Fragment Friday: “Bugging Out”

In “Bugging Out” I was exploring a couple of disturbing observations about impermanence – the way that buildings seem to instantly appear (yes, I know they were probably being built for weeks and I just wasn’t paying attention) and also how common objects that I know I just saw simply vanish (where did I put those keys?). What if these Beetle

things involved some sort of extra dimensional space or creatures? Maybe some strange, blue beetles? (Coincidentally, soon after I struggled to find a photo of a beetle that I could use for the eBook’s cover, I encountered dozens of these beetles flying in my backyard – this was the first time they had ever appeared in the twenty-plus years that we have lived in this house. I’m still waiting to see if something comes of them.)

Here’s the blurb for “Bugging Out”:

Change is hard to deal with under the best of circumstances, but what do you do BuggingOutCoverwhen everything you know is disappearing around you? A lonely, cantankerous shopkeeper struggles to keep what’s left of his world. Will he succeed? Read “Bugging Out.”

And here’s the excerpt:

Cyrus stood behind his battered formica counter and pressed his finger on each of the scattered coins.

“One-fifty-seven, one-fifty-eight, one-fifty-nine. That’s a dollar-sixty.”

Gabe scratched his short white beard as he ran his eyes over the change, his lips moving as he counted under his breath.

“I see a dollar seventy. Maybe you need some new glasses.”

“You think these aren’t good enough?” Cyrus asked, tapping his jelly-jar-thick lenses. “I’m closing up soon. You need another dime.”

Gabe leaned over the counter and moved the change into fifty cent piles.

“You should get contacts like me. Maybe you wouldn’t look so old.”

“Who are you calling old? You’re no younger than I am.”

“That may be, but at least I can see,” Gabe said, and he straightened up from his counting. “Hmmm…bugs.”

“Gabe, if you think you’re going to jew me down on that banana just because…”

“They’re not on the banana, you old fool. It’s those bugs Viv complained about; behind you, there; on the counter.”

Cyrus turned around and looked, but all he saw were the stacks of cigarettes and lighters.

“I don’t have bugs; Viv was just joking. I keep my store clean.”

Gabe snorted, “I haven’t ever seen you clean anything in here. You always said that was Viv’s job, and she’s been gone…”

Cyrus got a hard look on his face.

“You keep that up, I’ll sick Moses on you.”

The grey-muzzled black lab lying behind the counter lifted its head at the sound of its name.

“That old dog has less teeth than you do,” Gabe said, “He’s something else you ought to replace.”

Moses put his head back down between his paws.

“I don’t need a new dog,” Cyrus said, “and I don’t have any bugs.”

“I know Viv saw them; doesn’t matter to me if you can see them or not.” Gabe said, and then pointed from one group of coins to the next, “Fifty, a dollar, a dollar-fifty, and ten, fifteen, twenty. That makes one-seventy.”

Cyrus stared down at the coins, then started picking them up, pennies first.

“I’ve got to close up,” he said, waving Gabe off as he deposited the coins in the tray of his antique brass NCR register.

Gabe picked up the banana and walked away shaking his head.

“World’s leaving you behind, and you can’t even see it. Get some new glasses,” he said. He wrapped his scarf around his neck and opened the door; the bell mounted on top jingled as he stepped out into the night.

“Crazy old coot,” Cyrus said as he finished putting the change in the register. He pushed the drawer closed, and kept his hands on the satisfyingly solid metal.

“He probably thinks I should replace you, too, with one of those electronic things. But you work, even when there’s no power, don’t you?”

Cyrus patted the register, then turned to look at Moses, who was sleeping again. He bent slowly at the waist to touch the dog’s head.

“And there’s nothing wrong with you, either. Us old folks need to stick together, don’t we?”

As he straightened up, a flash of blue among the cigarettes caught his eye. He bent forward to where he was close enough to see the warning labels clearly, but there wasn’t anything moving, just a small, shiny blue spiral etched onto the packs of Marlboro Lights.

“When did they start doing that?” he asked Moses.

He hobbled to the door, locked it, and flipped the old metal sign around to read CLOSED, and when he did it he saw a flash of blue on the sign. He thought it was a bug, and let go of the sign quickly so that it popped against the door. But the blue didn’t move

“Damn that Gabe; now his bug nonsense is getting in my head.”

He bent closer to the sign and saw the shiny blue spiral on the corner.

“Damn kids messing with my things again.”

Cyrus tried rubbing the mark off with his thumb, but it wouldn’t budge, so he gave up. He turned off the lights, and then, as he’d done in the dark every night for thirty-six years, he took the cash drawer from the NCR and the Smith & Wesson Model 29 from under the counter, and slid both into the gap he’d built under the old wooden Pepsi cases in the corner. Except now it wasn’t as dark as it used to be; the lights from the new 7-Eleven across the street were peeking through the gaps in his floor to ceiling window ads. He wondered if he needed to change his hiding place.

Cyrus gripped onto the assuringly solid wooden railing and worked his way up the narrow stairway to his apartment, with Moses plodding along behind him. He put a frozen pot pie in the oven, then sat at the kitchen table waiting while it cooked, staring across at the chair Viv had smiled back at him from for all those years, until she had to go to stay in the home. Until she just vanished off the face of the earth.

How the hell could they go and lose her?

The oven timer dinged.

After he ate, he sat in an armchair in the quiet of the living room, and Moses lay down next to him. Cyrus glanced at the empty spot on the other side of the lamp, where Viv’s matching chair used to be, before it went off to the home with the rest of her things so the place wouldn’t feel so alien. He imagined her, sitting there working her crosswords, and wished he at least had gotten the chair back from the home, something to help him feel like he hadn’t just imagined her for all those years, but, no, they said that somehow all her things had disappeared with her. The thieving, lying…

Cyrus shook his head and opened his large print Reader’s Digest, but the words blurred more than usual. He took off his glasses, closed his eyes to rest them, and dozed off.

What happens when Cyrus wakes up (or does he)? “Bugging Out” is a speculative fiction short story, and is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/337935



Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E0EB8LC

“Bugging Out” is also included in the collection Still Even More Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/489509

CollectionNext3CoverAmazon:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZP64

Which is itself included in the mega-collection The Next Three ‘Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND’

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/784952

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079CNM1L5


William Mangieri’s writing – including his most recent release “Cats Out of the Bag” – can catsoutofthebag2coverbe found in many places, including:
• Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NoTimeToThink
• His Amazon Author page:  http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008O8CBDY
• Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/william-mangieri?store=book&keyword=william+mangieri

• His site on WordPress:  https://williammangieri.wordpress.com
• “William Mangieri’s Writing Page” on Facebook at:  http://www.facebook.com/NoTimeToThink
• His Goodreads author page:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6893616.William_Mangieri
• Or on twitter: @WilliaMangieri

2 thoughts on “Fractured Fragment Friday: “Bugging Out”

    • Yeah – I wish they had shown up sooner so I could have put them on the cover of “Bugging Out” (and not spent so much time searching for the one I did use.) That was the only year they showed up. I believe they may have been some sort of tree-borer (I don’t have trees, but bad news for my neighbors.) Nothing else has come of them – not like it did for Cyrus, at least…


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