The Wooden Mustache

The old man’s cough stirs the sawdust on his work-bench. His green flannel shirt is faded from the fifty years of work. Rustling in the hay above, a mouse kicks a pebble through the small hole in the ceiling. Mr. Jared does not look up from his bench. His eyes drill into the hunk of cedar – sitting, waiting. He cannot wait to release the cedar’s sweet aroma. But how, what design will do this?

Ten-thirty. Moonlight seeps under the barn door. Sebastian thumps his dreaming trail against the outside wall. “I’ll bring you into the house soon,” mumbles Mr. Jared, “by midnight.”

Wooden women’s busts hang on iron hooks around the room, above dark pine legs and crooked limbs. Smooth, well-sanded feet line the dusty floor. Mr. Jared turns to his latest project – a man’s prudently chiseled face. The eyes are shut, the mouth reveals no chompers, and his chin protrudes out like a shelf that would hold a small candle. Waves in the cedar form curly rivers of hair, and a small seashell ear. Mr. Jared sits on his stool, wracking his brain for what is missing. “Facial hair? Did I miss a blemish?” The old man hunches forward, folding like a thin piece of parchment. He removes his silver rimmed glasses, caresses the woodland man’s lip. Slowly he traces the dome above the lip, back and forth as if applying make-up. “Too smooth. I remember now.”

Mr. Jared retrieves his tools, holds the chisel like cutlery, and begins shaving the wood into a petite mustache.

Sebastian begins to whimper. Still dreaming. Then he howls lowly, warning Mr. Jared.

His heart pulses pleasurably in his ears as the wood curls away aned4eec889e9eea34aa70179175630d13d falls to his black boots.

Eleven-thirty. Moonlight filters through the hole. Suddenly, red and blue join the mix. Sebastian thumps his tail louder, then runs down the field. Mr. Jared reaches for his sander, but the lights stop his heart and he hears everything.

The barn door whips wide open. A deep voice demands, “Where is Chris Knight?”


White Washed: New short story teaser

In the six years I spent tracking David Addley, it never occurred to me that he didn’t exist.

Perhaps my friends were too nice and polite every time I mentioned his name. “Has anyone got news about David?” I’d ask over coffee at work.

Martin and Tia would look at each other worriedly. One would finally answer, “No, no sign of David. Sorry.” And then she’d change the subject. “How’s the new deck coming for your pool, Ethan?”

After three years, I stopped talking about my search and pretended I gave up on David – like a kid ending his superhero phase and moving on to something else, except I couldn’t focus on anything else.

“Mr. Addley, the car mechanic? Oh sure, I sure him last month at Better Value. He rang up $80 worth of beer and whisky. Must’ve been going to some party!” Darlene informed me over a tuna melt panini. She remembered my obsession with David. I decided to bring him up again. She had always been the best listener. Maybe the time lapse, oh maybe two years between our last conversation about him, resurfaced memory of David.

Darlene took a gooey bite and leaned across the table so I could hear her better over the street traffic. “Ethan. Are you really still trying to find this guy? He’s ubiquitous. Yes, I have seen him. You have not. You have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is all. How about I call you next time I see him? Even if it’s just a shadow of his shoulder.”

Mr. Addley was last seen at the auto shop six years ago. He closed up for the weekend and never returned for Monday morning. The thing that bothered me most wasn’t that he disappeared, but how no one cared. No police investigations, no questioning. He had no family or friends to question. Zip, zero. A week later, a new mechanic filled his place. No one wondered if David would come back. They completely denied his existence. “Forgettable character, I suppose,” Ethan’s sister reasoned once over the phone.

But Darlene has been by buddy since high school. She’s also the only one to have spotted Mr. Addley on occasion throughout the six years. “Let’s see. David is clearly sustaining himself. Hopefully not all on alcohol alone!” She chuckled. “He likes to exercise. A year ago he jogged along the Charles River in bright yellow runners and short shorts. It was goddamned freezing too. And, I don’t know. That’s about all I got. You’ve checked all homeless shelters and phonebooks for his name right?” She paused. “Silly question.”

Darlene gave me hope that he was still out there. The police disregarded my inquiries and laughed when I insisted about a man I never met.

But how can a man go missing and no one blinks an eye?

“You sure it’s Mr. Addley you’ve been seeing?”

“Positive. What other person walks around with a gun sticking out of his boot?” whitewashupdate2