And The Winner Is...

From last week’s Footrace of the Maladies, a fight to the finish for the Championship of Underling Causes of retina-searing special effects, eyelid twitches, and otherwise annoyingly exhausting symptoms.

A death-defying photo finish, sorted out by the outstanding modern medical community:

Ding, ding, ding.

The winner is:


Declan’s not your run-of-the-mill medium. Word down on afterlife avenue has it that Dec will only work with certain kinds of undead, and he keeps only a selective few on his payroll. And tonight, Declan’s atypical team meets his parents…

Thanks to the standard American diet, the junk food offerings of Millburg Minimart consumed five of the seven aisles in the store. I gave a half-hearted effort to wipe the wet leaves from the bottoms of my boots on the worn entry mat, grabbed a lime green shopping basket with a tennis-ball-sized hole in the side, and headed toward all-things-cheese flavored.

Dad’s favorites.

Mine, not so much. But tonight’s reunion wasn’t about me. Snacks for two. Or four. I glanced over my shoulder at Bev and Sol, unsure what the final headcount would be, so I erred on the side of plenty and headed for the checkout. Twice, the Cheezy Whippy can toppled through the basket’s hole. I picked it up once. Solomon caught it midair the second time and returned it to the basket. I glared at him then around the shop. No one saw. Thank goodness.

The fall raindrops were still trickling from my scalp when I reached the register. I heard a couple of lady shoppers moan about the drop in temps and that the rainstorm has ripped nature’s organic oranges and reds from the oaks. I’m glad for the change in weather. I used my free hand to zip my winter coat up to my Adam’s apple, glad to no longer explain my choice of wardrobe or endure the curious stares when I choose to bundle up no matter the Fahrenheit level.

I sat the basket sideways on the counter for the clerk, a gaunt, tattooed young kid who couldn’t make eye contact with me if his life depended on it. With each reach into the shopping basket, I watched the gooseflesh rise and multiply in ripples on the skin around his sweatshirt collar—despite the space heater’s orange radiation stale warmth around us. Despite his long sleeves, double-layered shirts, and cut-out finger gloves. Despite the beanie on his head.

He was cold.

Thank you for hanging out for a bit. Check back on the first Monday of every

month for a free fictional short, and be sure to visit my Amazon page.

Copyright © 2019 by B.A. Paul
All work is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed herein are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. All work published on this site, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Beth's passion for writing started in grade school with an epic outer space adventure scribbled on 158 sheets of wide-ruled notebook paper with not-sharp-enough pencils. That manuscript was lost in a basement flood.

Thirty years, marriage, two kids and several dogs later, she's garnered enough story fodder to resurrect her passion—and this time she backs up her work!

She currently resides in Indiana with her family and a couple of meowing fur babies who enjoy walking across her keyboard.