Sunday Sampler: Tales To Count On by S.R. Mallery
June 5, 2016
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Sunday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Tales To Count On, a powerful and moving collection of short stories by S. R. Mallery.
As one reviewer said: S. R. Mallery takes you on a truly unique, visual journey through time and place, with her imaginative tales and unusual endings, stirring up the reader’s curiosity and compassion.
Curl up and enter the eclectic world of S. R. Mallery, where sad meets bizarre and deception meets humor; where history meets revenge and magic meets gothic.
Whether it’s 500 words or 5,000, these TALES TO COUNT ON, which include a battered women’s shelter, childhood memories, Venetian love, magic photographs, PTSD fallout, sisters’ tricks, WWII spies, the French Revolution, evil vaudevillians, and celebrity woes, will remind you that in the end, nothing is ever what it seems.
When the first call came in that evening, Julia was more than ready. Strategically placed in front of her, her fresh pile of blank intake questionnaires served as the cornerstone to an array of pens, pencils, and resource books. Tools of the trade she called them; open windows to the souls of women crying out for help.
“East Central Women’s Shelter. May I help you?” she asked, glancing at the ‘panic’ button next to her desk. So far, no one had ever had to use it, but being thorough, she had it checked out with the local police once a year anyway, to make sure it still worked.
The voice on the other end had a familiar desperation. “I can’t take it any more! He’s going to kill me!”
Julia assumed her ‘calm’ voice. “First of all, can you tell me your name, address, and phone number?” Taking the correct information was the key. Never rattle the women callers and let them know you’re there for them. Above all, make it clear the shelter is a safe, soothing place. Continuing, she gently probed and coaxed until she had made complete arrangements for the woman to enter the shelter with her children by midnight.
“God, Julia, you’re amazing!” As always, her intern Barbara was visibly impressed. No one could do an intake like her supervisor. No one.
Julia offered a tight, modest smile and got up to retrieve some coffee from the kitchenette, moving slowly, deliberately, like she had all the time in the world.
“How do you stay so peaceful? I’m so wired when I leave this place,” Barbara admitted.
She enjoyed confessing to Julia; it was a chance to get good advice. But tonight, Julia obviously wasn’t in the mood.
“Barbara, life’s not perfect,” the therapist muttered as she turned back to her work.
The persistent phone calls swelled into a tsunami of women pleading for their lives. For most people, it could become oppressive, but Julia took everything in her stride. Sympathetic, yet suggestive, she never faltered.
By 12:45 a.m., the needy calls had definitely slowed down. Barbara yawned, and watching her mentor tidy up, said, “Time to go home soon, no?” She had had enough.
“You go on without me. I’ve got a couple of things to do yet,” Julia replied, reshuffling papers on her ultra-organized desk.
In the pitch-black parking lot, Barbara darted to her car. She would have much preferred having Julia walk with her, but her supervisor never went home on time, and tonight was no exception. Sliding into the front seat, her peripheral vision caught something, but when she swiveled left, there was only darkness. I must be getting paranoid, she thought as she shook her head, locked her car door, and flipped on the ignition. Suddenly, images of her comfy bed and a good night’s sleep trumped everything.
Inside the shelter, the clock read 1:12 a.m., and Julia knew it was finally time to go. But it wasn’t until two seconds later when she stood up that she heard the hammer click on the gun.
Pivoting, she faced the man straddling the doorjamb. “Look at me,” he said softly, coldly.
She tried to shift towards the panic button, but her legs wouldn’t move.
“Look at me, Julia,” her husband repeated. They were the last words she heard.