Category Archives: Flash Fiction

An Agreement

Waking up takes a while: a vague awareness, followed by some dozing in and out, then taking stock of surroundings before opening my eyes. It is the sounds you notice most in that moment, not the feel of the sheets, or the weight of your head on the pillow, or the feel of the air conditioner, or whether you have a foot sticking out from beneath the covers. No, it is noise that reaches your consciousness first. In this case it is a faint beep coming from behind by head, regular and constant.

Opening my eyes presents me with a lot of beige and white; white ceiling, beige walls, white sheets. There is one splash of color, the blue shirt of the beauty sitting next to the bed, facing me, close enough to be holding my hand, a sensation just now making itself known. I know her…..yes, of course. I feel she should be younger, that is the memory that first presents itself. Not young, but before the small wrinkles and the grey hair. I give the hand a squeeze and I am rewarded with a smile.

“You look tired.”

She holds the smile and gives her head a slight shake. “Must be your eyes, I feel fine.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Not too long, just enough to watch you nap for a while”

“You need a hobby.’

“This one will do me fine.”

Some thought nagged for a moment, tugging from somewhere in the background but not allowing itself to be grasped. Something I should be remembering, something that needed to be done. It was gone. She still smiled, still trying not to be tired.

“How long have I been here?” I glanced to the window, trying to determine a time. Day time was all I could be sure of. Based on the greenery and flow of conditioned air I would assume late spring or summer.

“Not so long. Nothing to worry about.”

My pause was longer, chasing other thoughts that would not be caught. A couple of faces managed to stay long enough to be recognized. I turned back to find her watching me.

“How are the kids? Catch me up.”

The smile came back, slowly, and she gave my hand a squeeze and settled a bit into her chair. “Thomas is doing well, recently promoted. He and Elizabeth are happy with their new home, and the children seem to really enjoy the new school. I do wish it was closer though.”

“Grandchildren….yes. Two? Yes. And one other.”

“Yes. Two for Thomas, Maggie and James. And Renee has Joseph”

“My baby girl. And she has a son. The time does not seem to fit together right…. She is good too?”

“Yes. She and Joe are very happy”

“Just the two of them?

Her look became stern for a moment, then softened again quickly. “Yes, just them, for now. I think she is seeing someone, but she will not speak to me about it. Maybe you can get some info out of her.”

She talked for awhile, going on about the routines and trivialities of family lives. She covered school activities and milestones and the comedies life will provide. As she spoke things seemed to align in my head. The cogs reengaged in the gears of my mind, and there was clarity. Memories surfaced, some still fuzzy, others amazingly clear.

“Jamie.” I met her eyes. She smiled, nodded slightly and held my gaze. “My wife. My love, mother of our children. How could that not have been my first thought upon waking?”

I thought a saw a tear, quickly brushed away. And more memories crystallized. Less pleasant than the ones before.

“Oh, Jamie, no. How long have you been here. How long have I been here?”

“Not long, really. Just a little while”

“Dear one, you were never very good at lying. You are tired, I can tell. We talked about this, we had an agreement.”

“No,” she shook her head, “we are not going to discuss that.”

“We shouldn’t have to.” I met her stubborn gaze, though it was hard. “We discussed it ahead of time so that we would not have to now. So that decisions would already be made when the time came.”

“Not yet,” she said with another slight shake of her head.

“Jamie, love. I can tell it has been a while. I don’t know how long but I know it is longer than we discussed. And agreed to, many times over. You did not give them the documents, did you”

“No, not yet.” She was no longer staring me down, a slight quaver to her voice.

“You have to. We agreed to it, we signed the living will and the DNR, just for this situation. This is not life, for either of us. This is not the living you are supposed to be doing. You should be traveling. You should be spending every possible moment with our grandchildren, not sitting around waiting for me to wake up and wondering if I will remember you today. That is not what either of us wanted.”

“I know.” She looked back up and matched stares again. Then gave the slight shake of her head again. “But not yet, I cannot yet.”

I nodded, and reached for her hand, raised it and pressed it to my lips before speaking. “Okay, I understand. But you cannot keep this up, you cannot continue to neglect living. Promise me you will give them the document. Tell me you will do it tomorrow.”

It took some time before she answered. “I will.”

“Good. I love you, and I would never have wished this for you. It hurts me to know I have caused you to be here so long already. Now, tell me some more things I am not remembering, about when the kids were young.”

She smiled.

 

When I woke I was facing the window. It was dreary outside, a tinge of frost on the panes. I turned back to the room and found the only color other than beige and white, a red shirt beneath a beautiful face. She was not as young as I thought she should be, and she looked tired.

We exchanged pleasantries for a while before I remembered the questions I should ask.

“How are the kids?”

She smiled, took my hand and gave it squeeze.

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Two Sides – A Friday Flash 55

You left me.

I asked you to come, you chose to stay behind.

I wondered where you were, what you were doing, who you were with…I worried.

I called, but you would never answer. I sent for you, but you would not come. I wanted you, but spent my days alone and wandering.

I worried.

 

 

Posted to Verse Escape

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Night Noises – A 100 Word Story

Autumn came late this year, the leaves seeming to fall the same day they turn, and all at once.

For weeks you cannot walk outside without the crunch of them underfoot. Each passing car and stray breeze releases a sound like pencils scratching on vellum.

I sit outside and listen late into the chill night, trying to tie each sound to the dead leaf making it.

I know what I seek is not out here in the shadows, but the only thing inside is her broken music box, which only plays late at night when the world is still.

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Alice

Well, I do not really know what to call this. Let’s say it is an experiment. It started with a word list from Mrs. X (whom I love writing for) at the Imaginary Garden. It contains poetry, prose poetry (I think) and outright prose. So, lets just call it “writing”, I will leave it up to you to tell me if it works as … well, as whatever it is.

 

ALICE

I could feel each nerve fraying as I read
the passages from her diary,
each page revealing the deceit of innocence.

Alice was a twin — the surviving one. Her sister, Abbey, died four years ago at the age of nine. She fell from their treehouse, oddly alone in the sister’s favorite spot. Their parents passed a year later to the day, victims of apparent mourning and an previously unknown nasty addiction.

The writing starts the year Abbey died,
she is not mentioned at all.
The writing is the concise script of a perfectionists.

Alice went to live with her doting grandparents. They were well past child rearing age, but had a nice home in a decent neighborhood. Alice was the golden alpha-girl; last remnant of their only child. Their every joy was found in watching her blossom. Four years passed in a blink.

The first two years of entries were typical pre-teen
illusions and silvery imagination.
No reference to parents, sister of grief.

She was superficially social at school; friendly when required but not particularly close with anyone. Her teachers attributed it to her circumstance. It was understandable that a girl experiencing such loss would find it hard to make friends. At home she was a loner, elderly guardians lacking as companions.

Year three notes become more random, razor-sharp
bitterness and loneliness mingled
with endless optimism, anger and hope.

Alice missed three days of school before anyone was sent to their home. Alice was nowhere to be found; her room was pristine, a diary left on her bed. Her grandparent were found in their bed, peaceful in their repose. The coroner reported them suffocated in the sleep.

The last essays become an unspooling of reality,
a messy scrawl of dangerous thoughts
and the intentions of a killer, each one signed “Abbey.”

 

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Litter

My flash fiction piece, Litter, has been placed with The Book Times today. It is a story about the potential and power of poetry. Stop by for a read and let me know your thoughts.

Sticky notes on the wall of the Wikimedia Foun...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Litter

(Photo credit: Hannah Gosselin ©2012 Phippsburg, Maine)

Two of my aunts used to run a country store down at the lake. It was more than that really; you could get everything from an ice cream cone to a new wig made on site. The ice cream was more popular.

My Uncle Bill and Uncle Fred would man the porch. They were pranksters by trade and both had retired from their hobby of teaching. They spent most of their summers, even before they retired, in rocking chairs on either side of the stairs leading to the front door. No one could enter the store without going by at least one of them.

They were harmless and fun and part of the reason people stopped in. Both of them always carried a notebook and a pen. One of their favorite pastimes was to write short little poems about everyone that came by, especially tourist and anyone new. They were usually funny, or cutesy, and short. Occasionally someone would justify something serious, but never hurtful. Mostly they were along the lines of:
Red in her hair
and on her toes,
but neither as cute
as ice cream on her nose.
They would tear them out of their notebooks and give them to the person they were written about. Occasionally, someone would keep one and cherish it, but mostly they ended up in the trashcans inside or blowing across the parking lot.

I worked there summers growing up; me and Big Tony. We were the only employees. Big Tony was about forty, deserving of his nickname, and a bit slower than most folks. In thinking that is. He was a hard worker. We would take care of the trash, sweep the floors, restock shelves; whatever my aunts needed. I liked working with Tony, he smiled a lot and never had a harsh word for anyone or anything.

Years later, after my aunts and uncles had passed on along with the store, I would stop in and check on Tony as often as I could. He lived in an assisted living place and seemed to enjoy it. We would take walks and occasionally go back down to the lake and fish.

One day he decided to show me his room. It was neat and clean, just like he had always been; bed, chair, table, TV. The usual set up. But covering the walls were hundreds of pieces of notebook paper that I remembered so well. Each one had a small, hand written poem about someone that had passed through that store: discarded, left behind.

“Tony, how did you get these?”
“I used to pick them up. Out of the trash, off of the parking lot.”
“Why?”
“Besides you, they are the only friends I have.”

My visits to Tony become more frequent. When the time came, I collected all of his ‘friends’ into a scrapbook and made a copy. The copy I kept, the other was on Tony’s chest when they closed the lid.

Written for the Flashy Fiction photo prompt.

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The Neighbors

I rarely sleep through the night anymore. Sometimes I cannot get to sleep, other times a wake up early. When this happens I usually end up in the front room so I do not disturb the rest of the house. I will read occasionally, but typically I will sit in the dark and watch the nights activities. This night I was watching.

The Johnson’s were the most active late night house on our quiet street. I had been watching their marriage fall apart for some time now. He had stated coming home late once every other week or so. No big deal; everything seemed normal the next morning. He would leave for work at the normal time with her waving from the door.

Once every other week soon turned into a couple of times a week. I would see her standing in the window watching for him. Initially, she would wait there until he came home. Many a silent night was shattered by loud arguments from their garage. After a few weeks she started going to bed before he got home. Sse was not visible when he left for work anymore.

Something was different tonight. She had left earlier with the kids, did not come back with them. Not too unusual; they frequently stayed with her mother. She was also back at the window. Even from here I could tell she had been crying. She was also still dressed as she was earlier; no robe or nightgown as was normal for this time of night.

I saw the headlights of his car out of the corner of my eye, but I could not turn away from her. Her eyes got a little wider and her back seemed to straighten a bit. Other than that she did not move until he had pulled into the garage, then she slowly turned and headed back into the house.

It was less than a minute later that I heard the muffled explosion of a gunshot. I did not jump, no surprised intake of breath; I guess I was actually expecting it. There was no sound of an argument, no shouting, no screaming; just a single shot.

I suppose I should call the police, but I think I will give her a few minutes more.

Written for Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday Prompt.

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How Did I…..

Oh, wow. Damn! That is a doozy of a headache. What in the hell? Ok, eyes open, have to get to the aspirin.

“Good morning. Glad you could join us today.”

“Um, yea. What….?”

“I am just here to get your vitals. Someone will be along shortly for anything else you need.”

Why am I in a hospital room? I hurt like hell, but a nurse? Tubes in my arm? Everything is fuzzy. What do I remember?

Ready for work as usual; oh hell. Big fight before I left, bitchin’ at me for drinking again. Great start to the day. Work was usual except for the phone calls; three if I remember correctly. All still complaining about the night before.

Met Tim and Rick at the sports bar after work, damn sure was not going home after being yelled at all day. She needs to give it a rest, I don’t drink that much. Watched most of the game, had a few beers, headed home. Nothing unusual there except that I stopped answering the calls. We would talk when I got home.

Then she started texting; she knows I hate that. Most of them I ignored, finally could not stand it anymore. I texted her that I would be home in a minute, looked up at the road…..

Dog, swerve, tree. Damn. That is the last thing I remember. How bad am I hurt? I seem to ache all over, but nothing seems to be moving when i want it to. Wait a minute.

Why isn’t she here?

Day Services Unit waiting room

Image via Wikipedia

Written for the Flashy Fiction prompt of ‘one thing leads to another.’

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Blood in the Snow

We rode the fence at least once a week in the summer. When the heavy snows came it was more like every other week. Breaks were not uncommon; usually it was a stray deer or other wild animal not quite clearing the top strand of barbed wire. Occasionally a post would fall from either the rot of age or the weight of snow.

This was different. The ground on both sides of the fence was tore up more than usual. A lot of mud mixed with the snow. Both of the top rows of wire were sagging, more like they had been fallen on than catching something jumping over.

There was more blood than usual too. A few spots trailing off we were used to. This looked more like someone had a paintbrush dipped in red and flicked it overhand out towards the field. A splattered trail leaving holes burned into the snow.

What we found in the barbs was wrong too. The usual tufts of fur we would find were not there. Instead we found strips of clothing hanging from the fence, dancing on the bitter February wind like the tattered robes of a ghost.

We were a long way from anywhere. The falling snow was beginning to hide the footprints and cover the blood.

Witten for the Flashy Fiction photo prompt.

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The One

The prompt at Flashy Fiction was to write a piece based on the first line of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “I am always drawn back to the places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods.” 

“So who would it be?”

I crushed out my cigarette and took another sip from my beer before glancing sideways at him. “Really, have we sunk so far as to be reduced to these juvenile pursuits?”

“What do you want? We are sitting in a bar on Sunday afternoon, football is over, baseball has not started yet, it is raining and cold outside and neither of us have a girl to go home to. What else are we going to talk about?” He waived his empty at the bartender and held up two fingers. Guess we are staying for a while.

“Yeah, pathetic aren’t we? All right, what the hell. If I could go back and find one girl that got away….? It would have to be Holly from Houston.” I exchanged my empty for a full and lit another cigarette.

“Seriously, sounds like a porn star.”

“No, not this girl. She had way too much class for that. Sophisticated, you know. Read a lot, quoted old movies all the time. She lived three doors down from us in high school for about two years; we talked some waiting for the bus, but never much more than that. She was hot, but I always thought she was a little odd.”

“Odd? How?”

“Well, she always dressed too nice for one thing. Never saw her in cut offs or an old t-shirt. Always a dress, nice shoes, that kind of thing. I finally figured it out right before they moved. I went over to their house with my folks one Saturday night. She was in the basement watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s; sitting on the edge of the couch and hardly breathing. I stood in the door and watched for about thirty minutes. I figured out pretty quick that she was into the movie. I am not talking about ‘she liked the movie’, I mean she knew it by heart. It also hit me how much she looked and acted and talked like the girl in the movie; she wanted to be THAT Holly. Now I think of her every time I see Audrey Hepburn. A sophisticated girl like that would have been good for me.”

“Audrey who?”

“Oh for the love of….. We have seriously got to spend some time in a library or something. Check please!”

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