Fiction: Richard Compson Sater

I've been writing short stories for nearly thirty-five years. I've posted four of them here, so you can judge for yourself. After you read a couple of paragraphs, click the link to find the whole story. (Yes, I do prefer one-word titles.) You can also read the firstfew chapters of my debut novel, RANK, just published. Check back now and then; I'll be adding more. Thanks for taking a look. Comments? Submit via the "Contact" link in the main menu above. (All stories copyright 2016, incidentally.)

     HOUSE

    By Richard Compson Sater

 

    He was a doctor, but his wife always said he was stupid – stupid about things like how to polish shoes or grill a sandwich for himself. I was in awe of him, partly because he seldom spoke to children, even his own three, except to scold.

    Even his name intrigued me – Harris Braxton – because it sounded like two last names and seemed twice as final. But like the military extremity of his haircut, it suited him. The snapshots caught him this way: scowling, six-feet-and-something tall, edgy and precise as a pair of scissors and built the same way.

    But I was seven, and then eight and nine, with no words to explain him, and so I kept him secret.

    Wasn’t it a time?

SOLDIERS

By Richard Compson Sater

(Note: This story won first place in the annual Christmas writing contest sponsored by the Honolulu ADVERTISER back in 2004. The link will take you to the newspaper site.)

    He might have been a figure in a snow globe, violently shaken so that the flakes whirled inside, frantic. Skinny and severe as a pocketknife and folded hard against the frigid night, he shivered under the pale gleam of the street lamp overhead.

    The storm had caught him unprepared and improperly dressed for his task: guarding a red kettle chained to a tripod, a hundred yards from the mall entrance, this last night before Christmas.

    Instead of ringing a bell — The Salvation Army collection-pot tradition — he had rigged a portable cassette player to do it for him. At his feet, the volume turned up high, the tape deck rang out a monotonous jingle louder than the real thing could be.

RANK (an excerpt)

By Richard Compson Sater

 

Chapter One

A week of leave at Christmas had done little to reverse my impression that I was not aiming as high as the U.S. Air Force intended.

I arrived at the personnel building a few minutes after seven on the second day of the new year. As I walked through the lobby, I barely noticed the mural on the wall spelling out the mission: FLY, FIGHT, WIN.

That to-do list would have to wait.

      DITCH

    By Richard Compson Sater

    Cut to fit and paint to match, my dad always says.

    When I was a kid, I used to think he meant fixing something that was broken so the cracks wouldn’t show, but he never was much of a handyman. After I grew up, I figured out it’s the just viewpoint of a guy who gave up trying to fight the system. All he wants is a little peace and quiet, and he’ll do anything to get it.

    Cut to fit and paint to match. It will probably go on his tombstone.

    I used to think it was funny. But just now I hear myself repeating that same thing under my breath as my wife Barbara and I head east along Interstate 80, where there is nothing but straight road and flat land for miles in every direction, more Nebraska than you’d ever want to see. 

    We’re not speaking, Barbara and I. 

    

      CHANGE

     By Richard Compson Sater

 

        Word gets out. Always does. Party. Tonight it’s over on North Chauncey, left at the four-way and follow your noise.

    The house looks tired and beat up from the outside. Inside is hard-packed with students blowing off steam after mid-terms. At the door a guy collects three dollars from each of us and gives us plastic cups for the keg (in the kitchen) that was full twenty minutes ago, the guy says. But no guarantees, he says.

    A band threshes away in the dining room. The bass drum says “Bent Moped” in day-glo green and orange. The band’s name, I guess, which makes about as much sense as most band names. It takes me a minute to recognize the bass player because she has shaved her head since I last saw her. Can’t remember her name. Over and over, she’s shrieking something at the microphone that sounds like “I crucify your milkshake.”

I'll add be adding more stories one of these days, so please check back. If you've got questions or comments about any of these, get in touch with me via the link above. Thanks for reading.

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