Tag Archives: short story

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.

Flash Fiction Friday Guest Author I.V. Olokita

Israeli author I.V. Olokita has translated his flash fiction “Three Stories” so that I might share it on my blogblogblog. Enjoy! Look for an Artist Interview with this wonderful author soon!

Three Stories

I.V. Olokita

Three stories stand between you and the end of this day. Three more stories, and if everything goes according to plan, you’ll exit the elevator, enter your home within a step and a half, to your prince charming who is waiting for you at the same spot for the last eight years. You married him at the age of twenty and wanted to have a child right away, but this job, this important job, you got in a far-away city forced you to push back the decision to turn the passive into active by making the dream to have children come true. Meanwhile, he’s scratching his balls, and waits for you to come back from work every day, bearing baskets of money. You’re not angry with him, just disappointed in yourself that out of all the places in the world, you compromised for a house in the suburbs, and couldn’t convince him to move to the big city.

Stomping your feet, you think—Just three more stories and this awful day will be over. It’s not the work that’s killing you every day; it’s the drive, the long distances, and the long line for the elevator, especially during the summer. Sometimes you feel like you stew in your own juice. You know there are surveillance cameras everywhere, but it doesn’t bother you. If there’s an unpleasant smell, you’ll make sure that it’s not you, and even if there are zillions of other people at the elevator, you’ll still spray your cologne all over yourself peacefully. They can go fuck themselves; it’s definitely better than their stench.

You smile. Theoretically, the elevator’s screen shows that you’ve reached your story, and the door will open in a few seconds, you know that it’s the end now—you’ve finally arrived. So you smile. The door opens while exciting scripts are running through your mind of how you’ll enter your home, how he’ll run toward you and scoop your body into his arms. Maybe later he’ll take you to bed to make a dream of yours come true, or he’s prepared a romantic dinner to make it up to you for the awful day you had, although it wasn’t his fault. Your smile widens a little more, and your eyes are closing when the elevator door completes its divide for you. Taking one more step with your head bowed, you suddenly stop.

You’ve never loved any girl. In the locker rooms at school, you were always one of those who said “yuck,” but this woman that stands in front of you now—her smile does something completely different to you. For a moment, you can’t take your eyes off her, and you lower your gaze again. I wish I had such a lovely smile—you think to yourself, and fall in love with her even more. It all happens so quickly; she throws a shy “hello,” and enters the elevator in your place, and the door slides closed. You’re left there, standing alone, right at the entrance to your home, and you think if only you had the courage to shoot your hand into the closing gap between the doors and ride down the three stories with her.

But you don’t have that kind of courage. You just go home. He sits there in his briefs on the couch and doesn’t even mutter “hello” to you. The remainder of the shy smile you had is wiped off your face. You remember that during the last few years, there were countless smiles wiped off your pretty face. Once upon a time, it was different. Eight years ago you had an alluring smile, just like the woman from the elevator, and now all you have left are the scripts running through your mind during the three-story ride on the elevator. You think again about the smile of the woman and fall further in love with it, hoping you’ll meet her again tomorrow at one of the three stories on the elevator.

You don’t know, or maybe just don’t care, that this smile she wears, is the smile you lost a long time ago.

Flash Fiction Friday: Day Job

“Have you ever been in a lockdown?”

I raise my hand. It was a code yellow years ago at my first elementary school. A man with a gun was walking around the neighboring school. Police had it under control within the hour. No injuries. A domestic dispute. A disgruntled husband.

Evan from HR then explains, “When there’s a lockdown, you’ll hear lockdown, lockdown, lockdown,” as he counts on his fingers, “lockdown, lockdown, lockdown,” and once again, “lockdown, lockdown, lockdown. Nine times to make sure everyone hears and reacts, especially those in noisy environments, such as the cafeteria and the gym.”

No sound, not even one of the squeaky chairs, breaks through his pause for emphasis. We’re rapt.

He continues, “Lock the door. Now is the time to make you and the children. Invisible. Search the room for another egress, most likely windows, should the door be breached. If an active shooter is coming through your door, and you have no choice of flight, you must fight. Pick up a chair and”—here he positions himself to the side of the door, feigning holding a chair over his head—“come hard and heavy. He won’t be expecting it.”

My horror grows with each word. I am now planning to take a self-defense course. Most likely, though, I will take a lengthy nap when I return home, and try to pretend our world doesn’t now include active shooter training for substitute teachers.

And yet there’s more. Evan lets us know that the natural instinct to gather students together must be ignored should we find ourselves outside during a lockdown. “Run, scatter, make a wide range of moving targets. Run into the woods. Hide in the ditch. Hide under bushes. Hide behind houses. Run. Scatter. Hide.”

Then it gets even worse, and I want to walk out, but I know I would be the only one. I don’t need this job. What’s the likelihood, really?

Evan adamantly states, “Once you lock that door, do not touch it. You will hear things. You must remain quiet. Invisible. If you hear me tell you to open the door, don’t do it. If the principal asks you to open the door, don’t do it. If you hear a student screaming to be let in, don’t touch that door. You don’t know who might be behind that employee or student. If you touch that door, you’ve compromised yourself and all the students in that room.”

So I’m really looking forward to working with children again…with just a little pinging in my brain of such current events and unlikelihoods happening. I won’t even allow myself to think about narcan, which I consider the holy grail of fuckening.

Flash Fiction Friday: A Fish of a Different Color

Jake pulled on the line reeling out. “I got one!”

“I see that.” I placed my pole in the holder and moved over toward him. He gets so excited, no matter how old we get. The kids are all grown and having kids of their own, but Jake still acts like a kid at Christmas every time he hooks a fish. I love going fishing with this man.

He grabbed the fish, a decent size, not one I could name. It was a color and shape I couldn’t quite place.

“What is it, Jake?”

He held it up and looked closer, the fish inexplicably still in his hands.

And then it spoke, “I will give you three wishes if you throw me back.”

We froze, gawping at it.

Finally, I took a breath and whispered, “Did you hear that?”

Jake nodded.

We looked at each other and frowned.

Jake stated firmly, “I wish this fish to be gone.”

I swear the fish grinned before it replied, “You cannot wish me out of exi—Aaaaaaaah!”

Jake threw it as far as possible.

I hugged my man hard and whispered, “Thank you,” into his ear.

He sighed and retorted, “That shit never works out well.”

Prompt: an explorer with multiple personality disorder, a widow, a house in the woods

She looked at the ad for a long time.

Small house $1,000 / month. Follow the path into the woods at mile marker 72.

It had been up in front of Dale’s Grocery for a week. A jeep was needed to follow the path into the woods.

So she bought a jeep. A Wrangler, 13 years old, bright orange. Stan would have loved it. The ache balled up in the center of her chest. She lay down and kneaded the ache flat. It was easier to bear then. Nine months. All her friends had disappeared, as though Stan’s death might be contagious.

Mile marker 72 stood at the end of a dirt pathway into the forest. Without hesitation, she drove right in, until the path opened up into a small meadow of wildflowers in various hues. In the middle sat a small house with a scalloped roofline, like a tiny Victorian. A man sat in a rocking chair on the front porch. He approached her car when she drove up. They exchanged pleasantries and went inside. She exclaimed aloud her delight and signed the lease laid out on the table.

Though the house came furnished, she placed accessories throughout to make it her own. The second week in her new home, she woke to singing and followed it to the source, the guest bedroom. The owner of the house was dressing in her home. When she knocked on the door jamb, he startled.

He called her Evelyn and told her to get on with it then. She snake-eyed him, but decided to get dressed before resolving the situation. The front door slammed and his singing moved into the woods behind the house. When she finished, she followed his voice to him. And she helped him carry the firewood he was cutting for the fireplace.

“Winter’s a’comin’,” he said with a grin and a wink. Speechless, she carried her armful dutifully. At the back of the house, he stacked his and then hers meticulously. They finished before sunset, he cutting it up and her stacking as shown. Then he left with promises to return later, told her “no worries.”

I should probably get a dog, she thought as she sat in her front room staring at the empty fireplace that night after supper alone. After locking all the doors and windows, she slept with her bedroom door locked. Three days later, she ran into her landlord in town, acting like her landlord, not calling her Evelyn, but informing her that he would be out of town for the next month, exploring several islands south of Australia.

It was a quiet month. The woods grew chillier, the wind whistled, and she used the fireplace almost every night. Just before the month was up, she visited the animal shelter to pick out a ferocious canine. But the one who called to her was a Jack Russell terrier mix. She took him home. He roamed the woods with her. She mailed her check as usual, seeing nothing of the landlord after the month was up.

Until a few weeks later, in a pub in town, she looked across the table and saw him come in the door. She waved. He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes as though he couldn’t place her. He halfheartedly waved and moved away to the left. She finished her wine and told her friends goodnight, grabbed the terrier and drove home.

The next day, at the grocery store, she saw her landlord again, and he asked if he should know her when she said “good day” to him. She stammered that he should, that she was his tenant. He shook his head and backed away. She put chairs against the doors that night and let the terrier sleep with her.

He arrived on foot the next day from the woods at the rear of the house, called out “Evelyn, I’m home” before he reached the back door and knocked. She peered out the kitchen window and hollered at him to say his name. He gave her a different name than the landlord’s. He even acted in a manner dissimilar to the landlord, yet it was him. She let him in and gave him tea. He slept in her guest room. The terrier slept on her bed.

Over the years, he remained a good landlord, making repairs in good haste, maintaining the house and yard. “Evelyn’s” guest never overstayed his welcome, routinely going off to explore parts of the world. The stranger met her one day, but never took a liking to her as the other two had, but still, he seemed harmless, keeping to himself when he saw her, nodding a quick hello. He eventually said a “How ya doin’, Evelyn” each time he saw her.

Prompt: someone goes to extreme lengths to return something borrowed.

Begrudger

“Mother, I swear!” I looked around the pantry, though there could be no one to hear me. Who else would willingly clean up after my mother? She had so many grudges, and she kept everything related to them. In every room of her home, I saw the evidence of her inability to let go of circumstances, accidents, basically any incident where someone disagreed with her perception or somehow slighted her by not following her expectations. This book in my hand had to be the longest running grudge in the history of grudges, with more animosity on both sides than the Hatfields and McCoys.

That may be why I decided to return the library book that my mother had vengefully held onto for 52 years to the librarian who refused to let it go. If she was still alive, I would find her and hand her the god-damned book that had boomeranged around my childhood and beyond. Everyone else had let go of whatever trophy Mother chose to keep to emphasize her point, socks that actually did belong to my cousin and my mother had accidentally packed with my stuff, the lighter she said my father had given her, though he’d not recognized it and asked her to return it to his friend, so many other stupid, little things. Letters were written and phone calls were made, where arguments ensued, with no one as relentless as my mother.

I went directly to the address on the most recent letter in the box on which the book sat. Miss Habscomb apparently still lived in our town. Alas, this was not true. The new tenant informed me that she had moved three years prior, but gave me the name of her son, who lived in the neighboring state. The next weekend, I knocked on his door. When I explained my mission, he gave me the name of a cousin in Germany who’d taken her in, since he and his mother weren’t close. I took an indefinite sabbatical from work to fly to Germany. The cousin passed me on to his brother in Amsterdam, who sent me back to the US, Ohio specifically. Three weeks later, I had traveled most of the country.

Suffering signs of early dementia meant round the clock care, but her family passed her around like an unwanted pet. I was feeling sincerely sad for this woman. More than once, I had doors slammed in my face and thus returned to the previous kin to brainstorm her next possible move. Once I found out that she was in a nursing facility, I thought my journey was over. But they had sent her to a specialized hospital for an acute something I couldn’t pronounce. She then moved around from assisted care facilities and various nursing homes, depending on which relative was paying.

I found her in a California rest home, sitting in a bay window, scowling at the sunny beach. She waved me to sit down.

“I don’t like people hovering over me.”

“Sorry.” I set on the sofa next to her wheelchair.

“Do you need something?”

She still scared the little girl in me returning a book late. I swallowed and persevered. “Miss Habscomb?”

“Mrs. You’re not a child. Call me by my proper name, please.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I found this book in my mother’s pantry. There were several letters between the two of you.”

“I don’t know your mother, child. I don’t even remember you.”

“Oh.” I tapped the box on my lap. “Of course.”

“May I see the book?”

I opened the box and handed her the book. “Here you go. She kept all your letters, and even the ones of hers that you returned.”

Miss, er, Mrs. Habscomb’s eye widened and brightened. Lucidity shone like beacons.

“This book! This book! I do remember this book!”

“You do? That’s great. I’ve spent a long time and traveled a long way to return it to you. My mom died this last summer.”

She gripped the book tightly in her arthritic hands and held it up, looking at it with glee. “It’s too bad your mother died, dear.”

“Thank you.” I sniffled, holding back tears I hadn’t expected.

The book floated down to her lap and she pet it as though it were a cat. “But I have to tell you something.” She leaned forward, holding herself in the chair by placing her forearms along the wheelchair arms. The twinkle in her eye was alarming. “I win!”

I snatched that damn book from her lap and hissed at her, “No, you don’t!” and drove home.

Visiting Mom

The prickling at the back of my neck started about twenty miles from my destination. Though I’d been driving through the night, I was wired as though on triple espresso. Anticipation kept me wide awake. Mom’s threat to haunt me literally came true. She was waiting at the gate to Everton Cemetery, shimmering in the moonlight, just like last year, and the year before, and the first year before that.

The moment I stepped from the car, she was calling to me, “Honey Bear, you made it!” I hate that name, and now I would hear it for the rest of my life, not just the rest of hers. Asking her meant absolutely nothing. I may as well have asked my cat to stop meowing. She loved that name. Ugh

“Mom. Hi.”

“Come in. Come in. I’ve missed you so much.”

“How does that work exactly?”

And then she was hugging me, ghost style, moving her diaphanous self through me like ice water. I shivered and clenched my teeth.

“Stop clenching your teeth. You’ll give yourself a headache.”

“I can’t help it. You’re freezing me.”

“Oh, you’ll get used to it. Eventually.”

“I don’t actually think I will. Ever.”

“Sit. Sit.” She patted the stone at her grave. “I feel so much ‘more’ closer to my resting place.”

“I don’t even want to know what that means.” I set the ledge of my butt across the top of the stone. “Tell me again how this happened.”

She sighs. “Must we go over this every year?”

I nod vigorously. “Yes, because this is so far outside of what I believed was reality. It still feels like a dream.”

“You’ll get used to it, I swear.”

“I don’t think I will, Mom. I can never tell anyone. Who would believe me?”

Another sigh and she attempts again an explanation. “I panicked. There was so much confusion. You have no idea how confusing dying can be.”

“Yes, I can only imagine.” My hands are on my head pushing my hair back. “Except I have you to tell me from firsthand experience, which shouldn’t be happening.”

She reaches for my hands to pull them away, a familiar gesture, but this time eliciting only the shivering and teeth clenching. So she puts down her arms, steps back, and gently shakes her head.

“The choices offered made no sense until my kids were mentioned. After that, I kept nodding until I signed a contract.”

“Really? Signed a contract. Tell me again how that worked.”

Another sigh and she twirls in a circle, which honestly was fun to watch, the shimmer spiraling. “The paper appeared in front of me and I signed with my finger, just like magic, you know, in that show about that witch that you liked when you were a teenager.” I nodded, recalling my favorite after-school show.

“Did it sparkle, like a magic wand?”

“We go over this every year.” Her hands lay in front of her, palms up, beseeching. “We have only two hours. Please let’s talk about your life.”

“Okay, okay.” She leans back as though against something, in a reclining position on air, an action that makes me inexplicably jealous. “I’m still working at the same place, which is why I get my birthday off still. So no worries.” I give her my best ‘anything for you’ look, pouting just a touch.

“I’m not going to apologize again for having you at 3am. That was not my choice.” She reaches up and behind her, as though around a giant ball, in a melodramatic gesture. “The deal is made. You have to be here at 3am. That is also not my choice. You’re the one who moved so far away from home.”

The stone is making my butt numb. I’ve been here only half an hour and the sandman is sprinkling me. I yawn.

“Don’t you dare fall asleep. You know I cannot control the consequences.” My hands return to my head, pushing back my hair.

“Put your hands down.” I stand up and do jumping jacks. That helps. I try not to think about the wailing in my dreams, reminiscent of my night terrors as a child.

“Okay, if I start to nod off, hug me.” She nods, tight-lipped.

I tell her more about my life, which really doesn’t change all that much, especially in only a year. Then I ask about my baby sister.

“She doesn’t come. Still. I guess night terrors for only half an hour are not enough to convince her.” Her sigh this time sounds more wistful. “She was such an easy birth. Half an hour. Boom!”

Halfway done, I think, as I look at my watch. Fortunately, I am more awake now and enjoying the company of my deceased mother. I’m feeling a pang of guilt, and a little mirth, at the though of my older sister whose birth took 21 hours.