Archive | my pitiful attempts at fiction… please stop laughing. RSS feed for this section

bowling

28 Aug

After being shown some wonderful “Don’t judge too quickly” commercials by my fabulous cousin Kay, I was inspired to write about people meeting for the first time for this week’s trifecta challenge. We had to use the word turkey in the bowling sense. Word count: 333
•••
Finally, some me-time. It’s been too long. But… What to DO?
The TV boasts a couple going bowling. I realize I haven’t been since that disastrous double date with Jerky Jim. I wonder if I really hate bowling, or if the game was tainted by my company.

Within the hour, I find myself donning rental shoes (thick socks: a must). I don’t let the mid-fifties man leering at me from two lanes down skeeve me out. Tonight is about me, me alone. No crappy ex-boyfriends, no work, and definitely no creepy lurkers. Me.

Clueless which ball to choose, I pick the prettiest one. I lug it back to my lane and throw it, ungracefully, with two hands. It hops into the gutter, then bounces out and touches one of the mocking white pins, which quivers for a moment (I’m holding my breath) before it, shocker, stays upright.

Sheepishly, I check if anyone saw. A dark-haired man, early twenties, looks my way; I blush. His eyes, an annoyingly penetrating green, remind me of Jim. He smiles. I grimace and turn away. Another lousy attempt (hey, I got a pin!) and I glance at Greeneyes… spotted. Crap.

“I could help you with your form if you want.” Why do I only meet guys with sexy voices on my didn’t-even-bother-to-shower, no-men-allowed-me-day? “I’m Matt, by the way.”

“Sandra. And I think I’ll be fine.” I see his smile fade and add a hasty thank-you (just too late to sound natural). I wince back to my ball, and endure endless crashes of (his) pins clattering to the ground. I’m fed-up with his strikes. He gets another. Three in a row… not that I’m counting.

“Fun fact,” he leans over a counter at me, a stupid grin across his face, “three strikes is called a turkey. Just thought you should know.”

“Why’d ya think that?”

“If I bowl a turkey again, we go to dinner. If I don’t, you bowl in peace. Deal?”

“Done.”

Turns out, bowling’s pretty fun.

questioning apathy

2 Aug

Why does the
skinny, pretty thing watch?
He sulks away from his virgin and child; abandons the bundle of his life’s possessions.
So why (WHY?) does the skinny, pretty thing watch, silent, still?

Trifecta Weekend Challenge

golden

8 Apr

He placed it on the ebony bookshelf and walked away.

*********

“George. Darling. Don’t be like this! You knew it was coming sooner or later.”

“Oh, so that makes it alright? Really, Sally, can you honestly say you feel no guilt for this? Look at me–” he locked her chin between his palms and stared her down, then growled, “LOOK at me, right in the eyes, and tell me you feel no remorse. SAY IT! SAY IT NOW!”

Salt water streamed down his palms as Sally sniffled pathetically. Huge lumps of mucus threatened to leak out her nose. He released her puffy red face and wiped damp dark mascara-smudged hands against his pants. He turned away from her, closed his eyes and breathed in and out.

“George. You and I both know that what we have–had–was never going to last.” Her timorous voice grew confidence, and she even dared to give a blunt laugh. “I mean, Lord, it’t not like either of us thought we were soul-mates! I know what I did was wrong, but can’t you just forget about this? Forget all of this.” George heard her take two steps toward him, then felt her cool soft skin caress him. She stroked his arms and head and finally wrapped her arms around his waist. She spoke with her right cheek leaning against his back, like a pillow. “Remember that night at the river? How you sang to me songs about the stars? How the boat lights in the distance made the river look like it was made of gold? Do you remember that, hon?”

George nodded slowly.

“I do too.” She was quiet for a long time after that. They both just stood there, wondering what was to come. Then her voice came back, lilting and melodious, whispering. “I’ll always remember the… the golden days.” She paused to smile to herself, then continued, “No matter what happens from here on out, nobody can take away what we two had.”

George inhaled deeply, and gently unwrapped himself of her embrace. He reached in his pocket and withdrew a ring, simple and unadorned. Sally couldn’t help but gasp as the modest golden morsel glimmered. He looked at her for a moment without saying a word.

He placed it on the ebony bookshelf and walked away.

secret burdens

31 Mar

A man shuffles through the door with a bundle on his back. He stoops so low his nose whispers to his knees as he bends one knee

after the other

after the other. He drags his way to the front desk, where the concierge’s eyes skim his baggy sweater, his muddied jeans and his hole-riddled sneakers. With a sigh of relief, barely audible, the man gingerly slides his pack to the floor.

thud.

The concierge sneers in disgust as the straightening man involuntarily releases cracks and pops reminiscent of crepitus. Nearby, a woman in a satin dress covers her child’s ears, squints at the man pointedly, then turns her face away. Within moments, the lively hotel lobby turns silent. Nobody dares to face the filthy man in rags.

“A room, please, sir.”

“We’re booked.”

The man cocks his head, and the concierge notices a few crumbs falling from his beard. Perhaps they were the crumbs of stolen bread. Will he be sorry that they’re gone?

His eyes, a soft brown, search the concierge for truth. “What,” he asks, “every single room in the hotel is booked?” As he speaks, a tall man in a fashionable suit strolls up behind and joins the line. The concierge squeezes his thin, pale lips together, perhaps in the attempt to squeeze an idea out of them. A moment later, he gives up, shaking his head and eyeing the ceiling.

“No, SIR, I was mistaken. We do have a few rooms left. But I’m afraid they’re rather out of your…” he glances down at the ill-fitting outfit in front of him one more time before completing his thought. “They’re quite out of your budget.”

The man with the warm brown eyes smiles, sending a shiver down the concierge’s back. “I’m quite sure it isn’t, actually.” The homeless man bends over slowly, deliberately, to rummage through his bag. The satin-clad woman in the plush chair nearby peers at the man out of the corner of her eye. Her head snaps in his direction and her jaw drops as he rises, grunting softly.

The concierge’s eyes bulge at the sight of so much cash. He balks, silent. Then he talks too much and too fast as he tries to cover his tracks with false apologies. The man nods slowly and asks for his keys.

“Please, allow me to take your bags–er, bag– up to your room. Just wait here, sir!” says the concierge, fleeing into the elevator with the man’s giant burden. The man watches him go, and the corners of his mouth curl upwards. He sits in a small wooden chair a little way from the woman and her child.

“Don’t stare at the rich man,” she scolds her boy. “It’s impolite.” She smiles affectedly at the man until she realizes that he isn’t paying attention. Not to her, anyway. She addresses the man, “What do you think of my little Charlie? He’s an ugly kid, to be sure. But he behaves well enough, I suppose.”

The man’s smile fades as he looks up from the child. His brow creases. “How could you say that about your own boy? I may not be much to look at, but at least my mother loved me. Does his father allow you to demean your offspring so?”

The woman looks at the cracks in the floorboards. She says nothing for a long time. The man eventually closes his eyes and rests.

“It’s not my fault,” comes a small and shaking voice. The woman continues to study the floor as if she had not said a thing. “I didn’t want… how can I love an abomination? I’ve tried, he knows I’ve tried.”

Gently, the man asks the question he knows he shouldn’t. “Why can’t you?”

A salty drop hits the floor below the woman’s face. “My child’s father is mine as well.” The man opens his mouth as if he’s about to speak just as the elevator door opens and the concierge beckons. As the man stands, he puts a callused hand on the lady’s shoulder. They look into each other’s eyes for no more than a second before he starts toward the elevator. Silently they part ways, each contemplating the mysteries of the other’s burden.

My homage to Sandy Hook

11 Mar

I grew up in Newtown, partially. I went to elementary school there, though not in Sandy Hook. I still go to church there, every Sunday. Many of my friends there were directly affected by the attack, including one family who lost their daughter. I wrote this as I was trying to deal with what had happened. It is a series of bleak flash fiction, all based on the events of December 14, 2012.

Image

 *****************************************

All is well. Jeanie just got accepted to UConn, and her father David is up for promotion. Mary is a beautiful child, with flowing honey hair and eyes bluer than her mother’s. Janet is at peace; moments ago, she drove Mary to Sandy Hook. Finally, there is silence in the ancient house. Janet sits a moment on her white leather couch and sips a glass of red wine. David always scolds her for drinking so early, but to Janet a single glass is the only thing that can ease her through the commotion of family life.

Janet closes her eyes and basks in the sound of silence. Her muscles melt into the cushions and her breathing slows her heart. A smile spreads across her careworn face and makes familiar wrinkles around her mouth. She decides to get up, but her body has yet to respond. Before it does, a crow’s call interrupts her tranquility. A black shape blurs across the window, and Janet’s eyes search for the bird to no avail. Whatever had ceased her peace has disappeared as suddenly as it came.

Janet stretches her legs and grabs the remote. She continues her morning ritual by turning on the news so she can listen as she cleans her home. The quiet house welcomes the soft noises of footsteps, of hands rifling through cupboards, of soapy cloths hugging tables. Janet stirs up the silence as she presses a button on the vacuum cleaner and hums Christmas hymns to herself. Joy to the World, she sings, and the phone rings. Her humming cuts short, the vacuum silences its song. Janet mutes the TV, and in the instant that she picks up the phone, there is complete hush in her home.

Janet doesn’t speak, but listens. Tears stream down her cheeks, and nonsensical words stream in banners across her television. She sees reporters and police on the screen, but the setting is too familiar to understand. Those people seem incongruous, to Janet, in a school parking lot she traverses (traversed) five days a week. Nothing is right. All is wrong. Hours later, David comes home and embraces his wife. No words. A few times, the phone rings, offering condolences. The doorbell, too, sounds at times by cookies left on the porch. Jeanie’s car blasts sad country songs as she arrives at the house. But Janet never hears these noises. All she hears are the words Mary would never speak again.

*****************************************

In Sandy Hook that morning, children were quietly fearful as they hid in corners. Then there were boom boom booms and then there was silence.

With effort, I drop the soggy tissue. I have to think about every motion. I have to think to breathe, think to lift my foot. Now set it down. Now lift left. Don’t think about the crunch each step makes, or the acid that noise engenders in the back of your throat. Stop that bloody shaking, woman! Lift your head—don’t look at the floor. Don’t look at the floor. Lift right foot. Lift left foot.

I see myself in the mirror. I look like a stranger in my own home—is it me that’s changed or the house? My eyes, usually a shining hazel with three smiling crinkles at the corners, are red and puffy and lifeless. My lips are frozen in an unattractive pout. The stiff work clothes beneath my face seem slightly damp.

Stop trembling, stop that stupid shivering.

The woman in the mirror is not the woman I was before I came home. That woman was at least content, excited for dinner with her loving husband and little son. The woman in front of me is alone, and she stands in the middle of a ransacked home. Everything around me is in disarray, strewn about in search of something valuable. Papers lay everywhere. What used to be my possessions are dead objects, broken, defiled, violated. Random bits of wood stick out from crushed kitchen chairs. Shards of glass threaten me from below, pining to return to the windows.

And there is paint, paint all over. It coats the floor and the piles of paper with a sick gurgling crimson. I could trace the edges of the curvy pool of paint. With my eyes, I follow it inward, inward, innard. At the center of the paint, there lays a pale blue doll, the color of the sky on a cloudy day. It’s a big doll, dressed in a white and red collared shirt, and black and red slacks. The blue doll has my husband’s face. Who would do this to him, to us, after all that’s happened? I’d thought I’d escaped tragedy, escaped death.

I vomit again. Stop shaking, lift your left leg.

Something shifts from far away. I try my best to turn my head, to listen, but the sound is gone.

Left leg, right leg, left leg. Lift your arm, grab something to fight with. Climb the stairs, one leg at a time. There’s motion in Junior’s room, oh God my God. Open the door! Do it! Don’t think about finding another pool of paint… just open it and hit the offender with the bat, and don’t look at the floor. Stop shaking and turn the knob.

I walk into my son’s room, and am paralyzed by what I see.

Junior’s head peeks out of the closet. “Momma! Did I win? Dad said we had to play hide and go seek until you came home! There were lots of strange noises…”

My cheek is wet again. “Yes, baby, you won. Nobody could find you.” As I embrace my son, I’m not shaking anymore.

*****************************************

“Ma’am, could you describe what happened in your own words?”

“Certainly. You’re my favorite news service, you know.”

“Thank you.”

“Ahem, I mean… would you mind describing it?”

“Would I… oh, I suppose you mean now. Right. Umm, where to start…”

“If you’re not comfortable speaking, Ma’am, you could write it down or simply tell me after a short break.”

“No, no. I’m fi—I’ll be fine. Well, it started off like any other day at work. I—“

“Sorry to interrupt, but would you please state your official title one more time?”

“Ah, right. I’m Diane Tiney, the K-4 Art Teacher, Head of Department. The kids call me Missus Teeny, isn’t that something? Me, six foot two—me, ‘teeny!’ Well. Right. What happened. I arrived at 7:00 and began prepping for my first class, the children in 2 F. Need me to slow down?”

“No, I’ve got it. 2 F, Go on.”

“Right. Well. Class started and I was helping the kids with their watercolor projects. It’s really the sweetest thing, the little darlings all picked a fish to paint and—oh, well after class I had a free period during which I always clean up and get ready to teach the next class. After the empty block, I had the other second grade class. They have the same fish assignment, so I was just going around the room answering questions and cleaning up spilled paint and such when I heard a commotion outside. It sounded like angry voices and scuffling shoes, but it wasn’t loud like shouting. That was when I heard the lockdown alarm, and my heart just flew. Let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than hearing a lockdown announcement when you know the belligerent on the other side of the door can hear just as well. I put on a happy face for the kids, and that was the hardest part.

“And did the ‘happy face’ work?”

“Maybe. You always think you’re going to be the strong one in such situations, you know? You always hope you’ll be calm and composed. But when it happens there is no such thing as calm. Peace is a foreign word, familiar yet undistinguishable, at times like that. No peace, no calm, no nothing but acting.

“Well. I pretended to know what I was doing, and I guess to an extent, I did. It felt almost like the drills we do—lock the door shut the window shut the blinds turn off the lights get the kids in the corner and keep them quiet. I could almost fool myself into believing it was a drill, that it would be okay. We waited for what felt like hours. I kept checking the clock and my watch, but they had both slowed down. When I thought it had been five hours, they said it had been five minutes. I guess I was just anxious, but I nearly got up to change the batteries on the clock.

“After about ten minutes, I heard… loud booms. It took me a few moments to register that they were gunshots. I tried to keep the kids from crying, but the best I could do was keep them weeping silently. Then we heard sirens. The police came, and we were hustled out of the building. I saw… bodies… on the way out. Little artists.

“ I’m still acting. I’m acting as if I’m not dead inside, as if time and clocks and art still matter.”

*****************************************

Me and Jessie sat next to each other on my favorite purple poof. I told her she could stop crying, that it was over now. She nodded and wiped her eyes, but they just got wet all over again as soon as she did. I took her hand and showed her around my room. I showed her the poster on my wall of Dora and Boots and Backpack.  I showed her my bed, and Jessie helped me make it because we know how my Momma gets to yelling when she comes in and the toys are out and the green polka dotty comforter is all over the floor and candy wrappers everywhere make the room look like a cupcake with rainbow sprinkles. I got out my toy train and together we made the train go round and round and round until it couldn’t choo choo no more. When we finished, her giggles started to stop and her eyes got droopy. She got real quiet, and I got afraid that she’d cry again. I hated to hear her cry.

I jumped up with another idea. “Come on, Jessie,” I said, “let’s go on a trip! I asked Map to tell us where to go. First we have to go OVER purple volcano, then we’ll go UNDER the green tunnel, and then we’ll get to the big red train!” But Jessie wasn’t in the mood for exploring. She shook her head no, and kept staring at the carpet. Her quiet reminded me of the quiet that comes after Momma tucks me in and the room is dark and I can hear nothing but the quiet monsters under my bed and in my closet. I shivered and felt my goosebumps on my legs and arms.

“MOMMA!” I yelled, and burst outta the room. I runned into the kitchen, but it was empty. It smelled like cookies left in the oven too long. The smell made my stomach turn around. “Mommmmmma?” I yelled again. I runned upstairs into Momma and Daddy’s room.

“Oh, hello Daddy. I didn’t know you were taking a work holiday today.”

“I just got home, hon. What’s wrong?”

I asked why Momma was sitting on the floor with her arms hugging her legs and her head down. Momma said baby I’m fine, why were you yelling?

When I telled them that Jessie was sad and quiet in my room, they looked at each other in that grown up way that means they’re afraid. They make it when they open the mail sometimes, that’s how I know. They’re afraid of some boy named Bill. Anyway, they looked at each other for a long time before Momma started talking real slow.

She said, “Baby girl, you remember what happened at school today?” I looked at the carpet and nodded. Momma made a weird sound when she started to talk again, and when she finally made words they were high and fast. “Your friend Jessie didn’t come home from school today, baby, and she isn’t going to come home tomorrow or the next day or ever. Do you understand? Honey, you won’t be angels in the Christmas pageant together. Baby, where are you going?”

I runned back downstairs and into my room. I threw the gross green sheets on the floor and looked in the bed. I lifted up the purple poof and searched underneath. I dumped the train set on the floor.

Jessie wasn’t there. There was nothing but quiet spilled on the carpet.

*****************************************

April 27, 2062

Dear Diary,

I’ve just remembered because someone mentioned it,

that shooting almost 50 years ago in a small town in Connecticut.

It’s funny what we remember about such things. I remember being in school, probably 8th or 9th grade,

and everyone finding out from that old internet site we used all day…

it was called Twittey or Twattey or something like that.

I was in biology, with Mimi and Matt,

and I remember crying and going to the bathroom with one of my girlfriends.

And we watched a lot of news. The news wouldn’t end.

Aside from that, I remember nothing of that day. I guess I might have remembered better if I’d lost someone close.

It’s human nature to forget, I suppose.

But I don’t like it. What bothers me, too, is how much we care when it happens to us or near us

or right nextdoor—

but how often do we shed a tear for

those kids exploded in Africa or South America or West Sambentria?

Life is life. How come human misery is so egocentric?

I do remember the aftermath of the shooting.

Condolences poured into Newtown via Facebook and the mail and even some real people, too.

It’s hard to believe now, but back then, I believed in God. I went to church in Newtown, and one of the little girls who died had just moved into our church a few months before. We, as a community, hadn’t been welcoming—neither nice nor mean, just… disinterested. Then their kid was gone. The family got a lot of support, but nobody could help.

And then the holidays came and were gone,

and school returned, and things just sort of went on. That’s how these things are.

By the time of the shooting, I’d been through several natural disasters already.

They all had the same pattern of caring, moving on, forgetting.

Hurricane Sandra, for one, was just a few months before.

I remember going down to Queens on the weekends and shoveling sand out of people’s homes. There was always more

to be done.

The earthquake and tsunami back while I lived in Tokyo… that one

I’ll never forget. As a leader of the service organization at my school,

I watched, first-hand, the sudden pool

of volunteers and donations. Then everyone remembered they had their own lives to be living,

and stopped giving.

That’s what I love and hate about public tragedies. They truly do bring people together in love and compassion; there is always an immediate surge of almost too much care. And if you’re in a first world country, then support comes in from everywhere. But what I hate is that the compulsion to serve never lasts.

What I hate is that after a month or a year, all love has passed.

 Your pain, though omnipresent, becomes news from the past.

Cracked

6 Mar

Slowly, I roll my head to the right. I hear nothing, so I readjust my arm. A quick roll to the right —a sharp twist back to the left —and my shoulder pops audibly. I use the momentum and bend my neck violently so my ear almost touches my right shoulder.
There it is, that sound of sweet release. It calms me so, this noise. It’s unassuming, unashamed, reliable. I can count on its presence, its soft-spoken quiet.
Sometimes they look at me when I stretch. They get that horrible half grin and those no-good eyes, until I pop and crackle like rice krispies. Then their smiles melt into sneers and their eyes are hidden by their creasing brows. They’re disgusted by my little cracks.
I once heard that you crack due to brittle bones. I also heard that the noise is simply a release of gases trapped inside your body, between your joints. I wonder if, if I die here, if any of the little gases will return and thank me for setting them free.
I crack my toes and see how it bothers my captor. The first few times, I did it to alleviate the pain. After a while, I felt the familiar pressure again and I
well, I mangled my toes to let loose that noise. I heard the guard give out a harsh breath, a menacing mixture of groan and exhalation. I couldn’t help but smile to myself. I timed it out perfectly with plenty of space between each pop so I could get him when he least expected it. The syncopation really got his goat —I shoved my hand down my throat to keep from laughing when he turned around in exasperation. The look on his face!

I twist my wrists at night. All night long. It helps me fall asleep. It kills him. I see him twist and turn and tug at his hair. It’s positively hysterical. What’s more is that the lack of sleep is starting to get to him. He fears me, I know it. His muscles tense when I look him right in the eyes and pop, crack, pop. He pretends to be okay, but my eyes are far more acute than one might think. I can see each bead of sweat on his scalp, and yes, I notice the tremors he gets when I dance around the cell.

Oh, if only you could have seen his reaction today! He yelped when he saw me, I swear it! What I did is this. I pretended to sleep while I watched him come. I hardly moved a muscle as his cohort packed his things. I waited a full hour into his shift while I lulled him into a false sense of security. It was brilliant, don’t you see? Then I moved slower than Poe in his hunt for the eye as I, humble I, crept ever closer to where he sat. He just sat there, dozing, unsuspecting! The fool. From my side of the bars, I looked down over his curly brown hair to see his eyelids, firmly shut. A tiny dribble of spit hung from his cute little lips, that pig. I bent myself down right next to him (my knees popped, what joy!) and just
breathed. I breathed on his neck. Haha!
I breathed on his neck for a good five minutes before I escalated. I opened my mouth wide and breathed as loud and warm on his exposed bare neck as I possibly could. Oh, how he jumped! I laughed myself to tears when he called for backup. They all looked at him as if he were insane. They also looked at me with their half grins and chuckled, muttering to each other about how some loony chick had the hots for Ben. Well.

My patience paid off. The sirens are blazing, oh! Let them sound. Pop. They’ll never find me now; I’m too far and I was too clever. Last time, I was clumsy. I left trails, I let them find me. The body led them right to me. But this time, ha! I’m invisible now. Crack. It almost makes me sad that they’ll never know just how clever I was. They’ll never know how deftly I stole the keys to my cell as I breathed, breathed, breathed on his neck. They’ll never discover what happened to him after I used his own sock to strangle him in his sleep. They’ll never know how I set all the gases in his perfect body free, as I popped and cracked every one! Pop! Crack! HAHA! The mallet wasn’t liberating enough for him, so I threw him off a cliff. What a wonderful noise. Pop. And now, to free myself, finally, finally!
Cra — aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!