Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction Friday: delving into the past to fill out the rest of the year

faith in humanity

i am invisible

like all the other cogs in the machine

each time I extend a kindness I cannot hide

one time I gave a homeless man my Chinese takeout

a dozen teenagers posted the exchange on social media

once travel and animals, my facebook page exploded

became a dumping ground for any and everyone

finding renewed “faith in humanity”

it was just kung pao people

i went back for more

i ate

Flash Fiction Friday: delving into the past to fill out the rest of the year

Revenge Serves None

He looked out the window once more. She’s not out there. She’s gone. What had the note said, something about making him wait 710 hours? Looking at it in writing, it did seem an awful long time to wait for someone, but he hadn’t done it to her all at once. Not as she was planning to do. How many days is 710 hours? Divide by 24 . . . . . he was never very good at math, and she had left a PS that if he wanted a calculator, he’d have to go out and buy one. Dammit.

It took all the discipline she could find within her to stay away from him. He was a drug to her. She’d never tried drugs, other than alcohol, and now not even that. She didn’t smoke. She didn’t even eat chocolate like she used to. But a man that couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give her what she needed — this is what kept her hanging in there, day after day, in misery.

I want to do something, but there’s nothing I want to do. If I leave, she’ll return. If I stay, she won’t. As though my behavior has any direct connection to hers. Tomorrow’s Saturday. I’ll just act normal; tell everyone she’s at her mothers’. What’s normal for me? When was the last time I was home on a Saturday? Oh.

She started calling her friends Saturday morning. One by one, she sent them over to the house to ask about her. She wanted to hear the lies he could create upon demand. Her justification was that it would help to get him out of her head, though she knew he was so deeply entrenched that he overshadowed herself.

Saturday started early with a phone call from her most emotional friend, wanting to know if she was ready. What do you mean she’s not there? We have to leave in an hour. She told me to call her early. She changed her mind? But she doesn’t even like her mother! I’ll call her there. Bye.

This friend went to breakfast with her, the first lie to give.

Two hours later, her shyest friend rang the doorbell and waited quietly. He explained to her that she’d gone to her mother’s. She hesitantly said that she would check there, but she wasn’t so sure.

This friend went to lunch with her, the recycled lie to give.

By noon, and with her most neurotic friend standing on the doorstep, he knew he had to cover this one with a story that couldn’t be checked so easily. So he explained very carefully that she had gone away for the weekend to a work-related seminar that he had forgotten about, his being so busy and all.

She saw a matinee with this friend, who had a much better story to share.

Mid-afternoon, the gay friend called for her, refused to believe that she had stood him up, and showed up anyway, said he’d wait for her; he had faith. This man kept talking and moving closer to him, until he suggested he try her mother’s, whose home was close enough to the seminar she might have gone for a late lunch. Okay.

She treated this friend to dinner, and received the extended version of the story.

Just before dinnertime, her brother came to take her to dinner as planned. The only one with genuine plans, he questioned him without mercy, not knowing how cruel he was being.

Remembering dinner plans, she phoned her brother to tell him she was okay. He’d learned not to ask her questions, because she’d learned that from him.

He went to bed and stared at the ceiling for hours. He hadn’t realized how social she was, how busy her life. Perhaps he hadn’t spent enough time with her. He didn’t know any of her friends, and now he’s sure they all think him a bastard. Doesn’t even know where his live-in girlfriend is. He prayed none would come Sunday.

Two years she’d lived with him, he’d built up those 710 hours away from her when she needed him to be with her. Pre-empted by work, sports, beer with the buddies. She loved her friends, but she longed for the intimacy that came with spending time with him, learning to know him, understanding him. Now she just felt mean.

Sunday morning sunrise set on curtained windows, hiding a man with dark circles under his eyes and dishes in the sink. The phone rang. He sat there. The neurotic friend screamed into the answering machine that he was a liar, as she asked co-workers who knew of no seminar. Tell me where she is! He knew not.

Sunday morning was the hardest, without the Sunday comics spread across his nude chest, laughing together. When was the last time he had been there for it? She wondered if he would come to her work Monday. She hoped not. She hoped so. She hoped not.

Late Sunday morning, his friend who’d married her emotional friend began talking to the machine, but finished making lunch and racquetball plans in person. He played badly and ate poorly with a man who had no clue what was going on. His confused friend dropped him off just in time to see her shy friend retreating from the dark house. He went in the back door.

Sunday afternoon, she went to her mother’s to tell her what a wonderful life she had. No, there’s no need to call. I’ll visit again next weekend. Yes, he’s fine, busy as usual. Bye.

Her emotional friend used her key to enter the uninviting house. She found him sitting on the bed, gin bottle in had, country music blaring. She turned off the music. Without looking at her, he said with such pain she knew they’d gone too far, “she’s gone. I don’t know where she is. I’m sorry.” She hugged him.

This friend, who had witnessed the pain on both sides, gave her the plain facts. She called in sick Monday morning, then drove to his work to find he’d done the same. She discovered his pathetic self, curled up, not on the bed, but beside it, newly emptied gin bottle clutched.

He awoke to what he thought was a dream. He was ashamed to be drunk, and said so. He then apologized. She apologized. They lived happily ever after.

No, not really. But he did learn a lesson. Women can sure be mean.

Flash Fiction Friday: delving into the past to fill out the rest of the year

rattle rattle rattle

we waited for a dark and stormy night to trespass

a little shed behind overgrown brush

passed every day on the way to work

turned out to be a tiny house

lightning served as our flashlight

kudzu blocked every window and door

we leaned onto the vines and broke through

inside the air was still

belying the wind whistling past

rattle rattle rattle

hush i whisper-screamed

it wasn’t me

rattle rattle rattle

i swear to zeus it wasn’t me

it had to be

frantic voice his

frantic voice mine

rattle rattle rattle

footsteps his

footsteps mine

centered in the room

waiting for lightning

listening

rattle rattle rattle

directly under us

curiosity stronger than fear

lightning startled

tension ignited

jumping back

a board flipped up

he’d found a hiding place

throwing the board aside

peering through the dark

lightning showed us bones

we gasped

we hopped up

bones

whose bones

why bones

why bones here

we have to tell the police

he snatched me back

we’ll have to confess to trespassing

yes we will

let’s go

wait

is there another way

rattle rattle rattle

no

i dragged him to the police station

we confessed

we professed

statements were made

suspicions aroused

dawn

weary of inquisition

rattle rattle rattle

you hear that sarge

i’m going to say no

come on did you hear that

i’m not going to say no

im not going to say yes

they took us in separate cars

to the tiny house reclaimed by nature

broken kudzu corroborated our story

the opening in the center of the room

looking down at the bones

we see now that they are child size

we are hustled out and returned to the station

where we await news and consequences

together in a small interrogation room

hours pass

lunch is brought

more hours pass

sarge returns

you guys can go

we go

unfulfilled

such a mystery

will they tell us

two days pass

sarge calls us

please come to the station

we come

sit in sarge’s dark crowded office

he shows us a photo of a blonde girl maybe 5

you found her bones

missing 5 years

a year missing for each one alive

rattle rattle rattle

i didn’t hear that

sarge says

we did

on the way home we talk to her

rattle rattle rattle

you’re welcome

Flash Fiction Friday: delving into the past to fill out the rest of the year

Questions Live On

A lithe, unassuming young girl walks down her street. She sees a dirty old man who grabs at her skirt. Bastard! They never grow out of it. She sees a man giving flowers to a woman on her doorstep. Sweet, but sure it’s only surface sugar. She sees a starving artist painting picnickers in the park. He doesn’t know from angst. She sees a boy smacking his dog for disobeying. He won’t grow out of that either. She sees a military-uniformed man on a park bench, much-loved letters scrunched in his hand, staring into space. She feels no sympathy.

They are all her father. His art, his military service, not even his love for her mother, compensates for making her feel dirty, and forcing her to live in the dark end of the tunnel, at 14. Her mother was lost to her, just a woman at the other end of that tunnel who regulated her day. Feeding and clothing must equal love, or is it merely obligation? Would love allow pain to continue, and knowledge of it to slip into fog? A drowning man can’t save a drowning man. A woman in pain cannot save a girl in pain.

Look to God then. Such a small prayer over and over for lightning to strike him down. God brought him back from war. War! So much more convenient than lightning. Keep your God! My mother will not become a person, for God’s sake.

The quiet young man of 15 writes poetry for her; she refuses flowers. She wonders if he lies. He says everyone does. He lies? She wonders if he ever could be guilty of her father’s sin. This question remains unasked. He touches her face. She flinches. He cries at night for her.

He writes:

Blue skies

Blue eyes

So big they take you in

The Blond flows long

Forget the pain

Sadness dies

For you so sweet

Dreams are real

Dreams are true

Everyone lies

Not you

For you believe

That Truth one day

Will make people

Bigger than they are

Ideals die hard

Love remains

Despite experience.

Her diary reads:

Cliché — understanding or manipulation? If I did not believe that one day my life will be elsewhere, courage would fail me to continue life. Yet, I’m allergic to pain — hah!

Even the screaming, the touching, and the nonsense cannot belie the fact that I was meant for greater things. If hardship builds character, then I am indeed of great character. I just hope it’s not a cartoon character, and God is not a comedian.

Tuesday, she meets a Jewish man, who explains to her that Jesus was just a man, a great prophet, maybe, but a simple mortal nonetheless. She meditates on this for two days before belief settles in. Thursday, she meets a philosopher, who expounds upon Plato’s shades of gray. Nothing is real. It is all perception. In one afternoon, conviction of Plato’s theory solidifies in her mind. Friday, she meets an old woman who outlines men’s evils. Her father’s sin makes the list. Such a sweet young thing should not have to live in a world of such men. The old woman’s revelation brings her no comfort.

Her father comes to her Saturday. Sunday, to spite God, she steps in front of a bus. Her parents weep, but the young man grieves dry-eyed, knowing the Truth.

Flash Fiction Friday: delving into the past to fill out the rest of the year

Golden Years

Suzanne and Harry had enjoyed their first day on safari. Their resort cabin opened to the outdoors on two sides. The guides assured them that they were safe from all creatures, but to remember to sleep under the mosquito netting. Harry brought drinks onto the deck, where they watched what wildlife they could see at dusk. It had been the best trip so far since their retirement four years ago. They had even met two couples from their state of Minnesota, Joanne and Don, and Mitzi and Harold (another Harry even!).

#

I may be hard pressed to leave Africa, Harry. How can I go back to reality? It’s gorgeous here.” Suzanne reached for his hand across the small table between them.

That it is, sweetheart. But go back we will, and then onto our next adventure. We’re too young to settle down just yet.” They laughed together, holding hands.

Susan’s smile drifted and she asked Harry, “Do you believe the guides? Do you think they’ve really had no unusual animal attacks here like at home? I can’t imagine it’s isolated. I wonder who’s not telling us what. Remember the Canadian moose herd overrunning Picksville? How frightening. I’m glad Jonathan moved away from Alaska last year.”

Well, I did read about black mambas attacking a professor in South Africa, but that was in a newspaper here. And it was a poisonous snake to begin with, so I don’t know how unusual it was. Yeah, I’m glad Jonathan moved. He wishes his friend Robert had moved. You know his family included him in the mass funeral—there were so many. Weirdest thing I ever heard.” He squeezed her hand and lifted it to his mouth for a kiss.

They shook off the memory, drank their wine, and toasted the tail end of the sunset. On the way to the bedroom, they embraced and smooched. When they settled into bed, Harry made sure the mosquito netting was encircling them completely—no sense getting malaria. They slept the sound sleep of the truly satisfied and wine satiated. They did not hear the driver ants entering their abode, not even when they started crawling up the bed by the hundreds, by the thousands, by the millions. They woke when the insects covered their bodies, but it was too late. Ants stung them endlessly. They passed out from shock and were invaded in every orifice.

Their new friends were next in line, being right next door. No warning was given throughout the resort, as the ants smothered screams with the multitude of their bodies. By the time they reached Harry and Suzanne’s other new friends, they had silently killed 37 couples on safari in their retiring years. Had they not continued on up to the main office, the hostess and guides would have had a lot of explaining to do to quite a few American families. As it was, the Kenyans would have to be identified by dental work as well. The ants ate everything they covered. Not a word made it to the newspapers.

###

Flash Fiction Friday: delving into the past to fill out the rest of the year

Come one Come All

Life as a clown ages you in ways regular life don’t. Grease paint removes your identity, humor replaces your personality, and the big shoes are just plain heavy. All towns blend together till I’m not sure where I am anymore. I just sleep in my rollicking cot as they drive us to the next little burg.

Oh, but when I’m in full costume, under those lights spotlighting me—Me! The forty-five minutes I’m entertaining hundreds of children, those laughing faces are pure gold, a far better payment than the mere pittance they call my wage.

Afterward, I’m reminded of my reason for being here, makeup covering the scars that changed my life, the fact that no woman would want a man who frightens children and could never give her any. The circus is my only opportunity to observe those beautiful treasures. I people watched to my heart’s content—townies and cirkys.

Jenina, the horse trainer’s assistant and wife, cried nightly as a routine. As I said, it’s a hard life, brings the worst out of some. Franco prided his horses. She came to me one night in an unusual state, meaning she was naked as a jaybird, holding a toga in her hand. She’d been duped. Franco had bragged all day of his prowess as a lover, that he would sure be galloping tonight. We all could clearly see that it was young Lorraine, the Acrobat, who was in heat. But poor, sweet Jenina was blinded by love.

I led her into my carriage and put the toga around her. We drank some hot tea together quietly. I ignored that fact that she let the toga fall. Her eyes were blank. When she finished the tea, she dropped her cup, leaned over and started rubbing makeup off my face. Now no-one has ever seen my face in all its scarred ugliness since I joined this traveling caravan. So I jumped up and backed away.

Just as startling, she spoke, “Let me see. I have shown you my real face.”

I sat down, legs twitching, fingers jumping. She used her toga and the rest of the tea to reveal me. I felt nakeder than her, as though she had peeled my skin back and was even now counting my thoughts. She ran a finger down the daddy scar, over my nose and across my left cheek.

When life happens to circus folk, we don’t fix it, we don’t talk about it. We deal with bumps in the road and keep moving on. So when she came to me two weeks later in her usual lovely birthday suit, toga in one hand and two eyeballs the same grey-blue as Lorraine, the Acrobat’s, in the other, I told her to put her little things in a jar I opened for her. I then said we might go swimming in that pond nearby to get that red grease paint off her. I asked if she was done painting and everything was put away safe. She nodded.

She came to me looking like a snake had bit her. She left me with the relief that I had sucked the poison out. No one blinked. Circus folk run away all the time. Acrobats come and go. We had no fear of punishment from regular society. One less circus performer was nothing to them.

Flash Fiction Friday original

Be Quiet…Don’t Breathe

Suhatra can move only her eyes. In her peripheral vision, she watches him flip switches like a mad scientist. Frankenstein images come to her, unbidden, terribly unwanted. The tingling begins in her fingers, moving up. This is so nerve-wracking, she’s afraid of farting right out loud. This thought causes her to make the tiniest little hiccough. He spins and leans into her face. “Be quiet. Don’t breathe. We’re very nearly ready to begin.”

He explains the anesthetic effect of the ionization process. The tingling continues, spreading throughout her body, then down to her toes. When it reaches her face, she absolutely, positively wants to scream, “Stop!” She lies completely still, keeping her eyes open, waiting for the cue to focus on that dot on the ceiling. This is supposed to hold her eyes in place long enough for the molecular rearranging to settle her new features without error.

The horror stories she’s heard. Wandering eyes causing a living nightmare of a cubist face make her want to focus now. Yet she’s been told that everything must be still at once, no breathing even. The eyes must focus on the dot at the proper time, as concentration may wane if held too long. She wants no cubist look, just to walk free again as an unrecognized individual. He whispers, so as not to disturb her stillness, “it’s time now to focus on the dot. In 7 seconds, your molecules will rearrange to create a new you. You won’t recognize yourself. Ready . . . 7 . . . 6 . . . 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . Voila! You are no longer gorgeous. You are normal. Normal, I say. Sit up, dear. Look. Look.”

Flashback Flash Fiction Friday (sending old stuff out to the universe, because I’m on vacation)

I Started A Joke

It was only a joke.

I know. You told me.

I didn’t know you had done anything.

I didn’t know if I had done anything.

I didn’t mean to hurt you.

And yet here you still are.

(Nurse) “I can actually see two people having a conversation.”

(Doctor) “Now that they’ve finally met, we can work on integration.”

Flashback Flash Fiction Friday (sending old stuff out to the universe, because I’m on vacation)

Drew’s Cousin

Drew stood on the beach, savoring the moment. He was still processing that he was doing exactly what he wanted, and at only 19, starting his chosen career. At 19. He sent his thanks out to the Universe as loud as he could.

“Thank you!” he screamed out across the ocean.

“Yo, bud. What’s up with that?”

His new best friend and right hand man seemed intrigued at his fervor.

“Counting my blessings, friend.”

“Cool.” They hung together side by side absorbing the moment.

“Who’s that chick? Is she with us? I thought I knew everyone.”

Drew responded by waving and yelling, “Hey, Linda!” To Garret, he explained, “It’s my cousin.”

As Linda came closer, Garrett stood taller, straightened his t-shirt, and pressed back his hair.

“No way, man. She’s off limits.”

“Why? She’s hot.”

“The less you say to her, the better. She won’t understand. Her brain takes things literally.”

Watching the staircase tilting in the wind, Linda whispered to herself, “I’m not going up there again. It’s too scary.”

“Why would you? It’s dangerous,” responded a voice from the crowd.

Drew had said every scene could be viewed from the top, yet Linda hesitated. She’d been torn between the years of her mother admonishing her to never touch the stairs and her favorite cousin including her in his movie production.

“No, I can’t do it today.” Tears raged behind her eyes as she raced home to release them into the comfort of her own pillow.

“Hey, brah, your aunt’s on the phone. Does she want you to come to the big house? Shall we hold our breath as we tremble in fear for you?”

“Nah, she’s not like that. Maybe we should quiet down a little, though. Can you pass that around?”

“Sure thing.”

His crew watched as Drew’s face transformed into a visage of ultimatum expectation. After replacing the phone, he scanned the group.

“Did anyone do something I need to know about?”

Quiet faces with wide eyes stared back at him with no sign of guilt.

“Tremble in fear, my friends.”

The longest mile, he thought, as he walked from the carriage house through the dusk to see his aunt. He entered and went toward the light to stand in the doorway of the front room.

“I trusted you.”

Her voice slashed his brain. With no clue to his transgression, Drew considered a general apology, but determined that it was too soon.

“I’m sorry.” Automatic response. He mentally crossed fingers that he didn’t just imply guilt.

“Sit.” He took a chair nearest the egress, eyeing his aunt carefully. Her eyes seemingly riveted to the fireplace, she stated in a soft, yet damning voice, “You broke that trust.”

“What can I do?”

“You’re ignorant of your egregious error.” He stared at the fire with her. Tears brimmed his eyes. “My daughter climbed one of those rickety staircasees every time your crew hit the beach to film.”

“Why?” Names raced through his mind. Who would tell her to do that?

“At your request, Drew, according to her.”

“What? I never . . . fuck . . .”

“Please, Drew. There will be no fucking in this conversation. We’re both educated adults with intelligent vocabularies.”

“Yes, Aunt _____.”

“Those staircases have remained on the beach for over five decades, the last two against my wishes.”

“I know, I know. They’re from that movie. They bring tourists.”

“Tourists.” She said it the way he’d said ‘fuck.’

Flashback Flash Fiction Friday (sending old stuff out to the universe, because I’m on vacation)

Black Mambas Attack

South Africa

Tuesday, December 14, two black mambas attacked Dr. P–, biology researcher with the University of S–, as he was observing the behavior of the reptiles. Black mambas are normally shy, and they will turn away from human contact. When they feel cornered, they can rear up four feet in an attempt to frighten an attacker.

In a rare event, two snakes worked in a tag team effort to bring down a human being. Dr. P–’s assistants, L– and J–, biology students at the university, watched the first snake bite him on the left thigh, then chase the researcher toward them, when they saw a second snake bite his other thigh. Dr. P– first told them to help him to the car, but at the second snake’s appearance, urged them to run.

The two assistants stated that they sat in the car, and every time they opened the door, one of the two snakes would race toward them. The most deadly snake in the world, the black mamba’s bite is 100% fatal without antivenin within minutes. Therefore, it was too late to help Dr. P– when they arrived with help an hour later.

Dr. P– was the procurer of reptile species for the university’s natural history museum. He also produced articles for their scientific journal on reptile behavior, including a recent article on antivenin procedures. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.