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Staying on Track – MidWeek Flash

Once again, it’s been quite a while since anything was posted here.  Writing Flash Fiction is something that I’ve been missing, and not doing it as much has certainly been a sore spot.  There are distractions and challenges aplenty, but like the character in this piece, it’s hard to know when it is best to stay the course and see things through, or find another path.

Over the last few months, another weekly Flash site has started up.  17 weeks now, I believe, and counting for the Mid-Week Flash Challenge.  Each week there is a picture, and several people find enough inspiration for a very short story.  I was able to play this time, and hope to be able to continue to do so.


week17photo

As the two men reached the bottom of the steps, dingy bulbs shone through glass above their heads.  A designer must once have thought the effect would be like sunlight streaming in, but the overall effect cast a sad ochre tinge on the industrial space.  The spotless gleam of the steel tracks was the only indication that this hidden spot had ever been used.

“I don’t get it.  What is it you had to show me?”  Mark scowled.  His mind filled with tasks and lists, there was no room in the schedule for any frivolity or make believe his new acquaintance was offering.  “The future, was it?”

The older man with him smiled for a moment.  “That I did, and here we are.”  His dirty clothes showed of disrepair, not the marvels of the next age.  Wire rimmed glasses sat across the bridge of his nose, held in place by habit more than the uneven hooks reaching behind his ears.  “What do you think?”

Mark looked left, down the empty platform to where it bent out of sight, just as another staircase rose up to the street level.  “Well, it’s very symmetrical, have to give the engineers credit for that.”  He checked his watch, certain that if this took much longer, there was something on his list that wasn’t going to get done today.  “I suppose the train brings the future to us?”

The older man smiles knowingly.  “It might, but in the meantime, let’s just walk down this way.  There’s more important things than that schedule of yours, you know.”  He set off toward the right, slow shuffling steps the only sound in the chamber.

Mark stepped defensively alongside.  “Look, it’s not much fun, I know.  If I can just stay the course and get ahead, then in just a few years, I’ll have everything set up and take care of the important stuff.  Take back my health, finally get some peace, maybe even take up a hobby or two that I’ve set aside.  I’ll be able to make it up to the family, then, too.  Which brings up the point, when does this future get here?”

The older man didn’t answer for some time as they walked.  They passed one stairway leading out of the station, and then another.  Eventually, as Mark’s impatience was growing toward anger, the older man looked into Mark’s eyes with a sudden vigor.  “What about the setbacks?  What happens when a few years becomes a few more and then a few more still?  You’re still waiting for that train to come along and bring the future you want right to you!”

Mark stopped and stared back.  Hands clenched, he just shook his head.  Frustration made him ache all over at giving up his only break, some small bit of peace and quiet before facing the rest of the day’s challenges.  Now there wouldn’t even be enough time to get everything done that he had to today!  “There is nothing to see here, just an abandoned platform and an abandoned old man!”

Mark stormed up the nearest stairway, determined to get back to his routine and make up for lost time.  Taking the concrete steps two at a time, he didn’t bother to care about where on the streets above he came out, just that he got away from this unproductive place.

“Welcome to the future, Dad.  I hope you take a good look, and that it’s just not too late to change tracks.” the old man whispered with a tear in his eye, as he shuffled further around the bend toward the staircase leading to his own time.

Hidden in Plain Sight – VisDare

What’s this under all the dust?  Why, there’s still a bit of life left in this computer after all!  It’s been far too long between postings.  Part of that is due to spending more time on larger projects, but a large part is just, well, the challenges of life.  I’ve missed flash fiction, though, and always seem to be a better version of myself when doing it.

I managed to get to the VisDare prompt this week.  As always, the picture has many stories that it tries to tell.  Here’s the one that I heard.  It’s probably because I believe there’s more to the world around us than we know or admit to.  Did the creatures of fairy tales get better at hiding, or did we just stop looking for them?


ab59b3996a307788a33738ea04269238

(Photo by Benjamin Godard)

Hidden in Plain Sight

“Hey, man, got a cigarette?”

Walter’s attention was jarred from his concerns to the train platform, and to the homeless woman speaking.

“No. Don’t smoke. Sorry.” He tried to soften his response by meeting her eyes and giving her a small smile.

“That’s okay, man, thanks anyway. Careful of the animal people.”

Before he could stop himself, “Animal people?”

“Yeah. They were here first, and they usually look like us. They’re not, though, not at all.” The woman then drifted away through the crowd.

Walter settled into his thoughts until the train came to exchange dozens of people. Just as the doors closed, a young man leapt on and stood against one of the handrails. Only Walter seemed to notice that the man’s head was that of a large rabbit, and he spent the trip downtown trying to decide whether the woman was crazy, or if he was.

 

Sharing is Hard – #LoveBites2016

Once again, it’s been a while since anything has been added here.  There are excuses, of course, but that’s really what they are.  Even as I work on larger projects, Flash Fiction remains a fun way to experiment and grow.

And, luckily, there are opportunities to keep encouraging myself and others to keep going.  The ladies at Ink After Dark put together another little contest to give the darker side of the feelings around Valentine’s Day some attention.  I certainly appreciate the work they do to give us ideas to play with, and all of the writers who join in.  If you have a chance, you should definitely give them a read.  You might even find a new author that you like.

Here’s the bit that grew for me from the idea:


Sharing is Hard
Date night was a success as Will and Patty snuggled on the couch, with candlelight dancing across the walls. Hints of zinfandel wine passed between their lips as they watched a romantic movie. As the loving couple on the screen found each other at last, a similar scene was playing out in the living room.

As the couple on screen gazed deeply into each other’s eyes, the romance in the living room was overwhelmed by a strong odor from the other end of the couch. Patty covered her nose, as the smell of rotten eggs passed across the room.

“Bear, that was nasty.” Will scolded, more amused than angry.

Brown eyes looked up at him from the dog lying upside down on the couch. Hearing his name, his tail started wagging, with the unfortunate side effect of fanning the noxious fumes right at the couple.

“Ugh, I swear. It’s like he does these things on purpose. Like…I’m having to share you with him.” Patty complained as she got up from the couch.

“He’s just getting used to you, and he’s a dog, so he does dog things sometimes. He likes you, really.”

“It’s a good thing you’re cute, and he is too.” Patty scowled at the dog as he flopped off of the couch come sit at her feet, looking up with a grin. “It’s actually fine, though. Much later, and the wait for the bus is really long. Thank you for dinner.”

Will walked her to the stop and waited until the bus arrived. They ignored the bus driver’s gaze during a long, lingering kiss to end the evening with.

The relationship flourished during the next months. The couple spent more and more time together, but most of the little fights they had were about Bear. Patty was adjusting to having a pet in her life, such as having fur on her little black dress. Will and Bear were also making adjustments, like Bear having to share his corner of the bed. Bear and Patty grew close, with her occasionally bringing him treats. All together, the three were settling into a cozy routine.

One evening, though, Bear didn’t come meet Will at the door. Instead, he was lying on the tiles in the bathroom, with vomit around his mouth. Will raced the dog to the veterinarian, terrified and helpless.

“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing we can do.” the doctor said as kindly as she could. “We can give you a little time with him, to say goodbye, but not very much.”

Will nodded speechlessly, tears in his eyes, and called Patty to let her know what was going on. He asked her to try to get to the vet’s office before the dog was gone.

“What happened to him? He was just fine this morning. I just don’t understand…” Will trailed off.

“It looks like some organ failure. Being so young, did he get into anything? Cleaners, antifreeze, anything like that?”

“No, we don’t have anything like that around.”

Will rested his hands on Bear’s side, and on his forehead. He tried to keep from crying, as he looked into the brown eyes. The doctors gave the shots to make the dog more comfortable, and Will stayed with his friend all the way until Bear slipped away. Patty arrived shortly after, trying to comfort Will.

Several months passed, and Will’s house just seemed too empty. It felt like something was missing, especially on the other side of the bed. Toys and bowls were packed away. Patty spent more time there, until her apartment was merely a place to get the mail.

They decided that she should move in officially. Will even started discretely shopping for wedding rings. Just before her lease ended, they spent the weekend packing up her things for movers to bring to the house.

Will was boxing up the last of the beauty products from a linen closet when several bottles toppled over. A plastic one rolled forward, filled with a green liquid. Absently, he reached to put it into the box, but as it dropped heavily, he noticed the label.

“Protects cars from the worst that winter can dish out! Guaranteed past -50 degrees!”

 

Company Claus -#‎IADTS2015‬

It’s been a while since anything made it to here.  There was a little bit of November in the way.  In case you aren’t familiar, that is National Novel Writing Month, better known as “don’t disturb the writers month unless you  have caffeine”.

Breaking out of that shell, though, there’s another flash fiction contest from the ladies at Ink After Dark.   This time the theme involves the icons of Winter Celebrations combined with too much celebrating.

Here’s my submission, but first a pause.  As the nights lengthen in the northern half of this world, many cultures have midwinter festivals.  No matter how it’s called wherever you happen to be, I truly hope it’s a good one for you, and that the next year treats you well, wherever you might be.


Company Claus

“…And the profits of the 3rd quarter barely covered the downturn from the global market in the 4th…” droned the middle manager tasked with giving the state of the company address. No doubt, some transparent excuse for a lack of bonuses for the staff again this year. I stopped listening and made my way to the table festooned with tacky decorations and pot-luck dishes.

In through the conference room door came a late arrival in a red sweater. His white beard immediately ruled him out of the sales team, and as he stepped into the room, he blinked at the faces turned his way, and let out a bellowing belch that seemed to vibrate the air. Unashamed, he drew a flask from behind his back and raised it in a salute to the astonished crowd before raising it to his lips. His upturned face turned crestfallen when it turned out to be empty, and he shook it over his mouth in the vain hope for more.

“I seem to be out of sugar plum brandy. How’s the punch?” he staggered toward the feasting table, and to my horror, closer to me.

The manager whose speech had been so memorably interrupted bellowed over the crowd, anger turning his face crimson and making him shake so hard that his jowls seemed made of jelly. “Of all the impropriety! You’re fired!”

“Impropriety, Nathaniel? You of all people? Shove it, or I’ll tell all these nice people or your wife about how your secretary takes your…” he hiccupped loudly before finishing “…dictation. Hmm, I suppose I just did. Oh well, now what have we here?”

The onlookers froze in shock and horror, before a wave of angry amusement swept through the room. Furtive glances darted back and forth between a pair of people who looked like they wished they could melt away. The executive assistant was the first to react, and left the room without looking anyone in the eye. Due to the speech, the discount holiday music had been turned off, so there was no noise to cover up the different reactions to the internal scandal of the year.

One ambitious man started to approach the sloshed snacker, arms extended in supplication. One twinkling eye turned his way, and he stopped cold. The bearded man started filling a pair of cups with punch. “I wouldn’t, little Francis Walter. After all, you wouldn’t want your bogus expense reports or your tattling to make the Vice Presidents look bad coming to light.” Frank paled and stepped back, but not fast enough to save his path up the corporate ladder.

After taking a drink, he frowned mightily. “Bah, this is kid’s stuff. I’m out of here. But you all, I’m watching you. Not at all in the spirit of the season, let me tell you.”

He leaned closer to me and gave me a wink. Whispering conspiratorially, he nudged me with his elbow. “You, though, should definitely go talk to Natalie. She’s on the right kind of naughty list, if you know what I mean.”

With that, he staggered back out the door the way he had come, leaving a scene of frigid shock and memorable chaos in his wake.

There seemed no saving the company party after his departure. Though some tried, there was no drawing attention back to any speeches or team building activities. I left shortly after, but not before looking at Natalie in a new light. As I was leaving, I heard one voice cut through the din that I don’t believe was quite right. “I guess those IT guys really do know everything that happens on the network.”

 

Breaking Down on a Midsummer Night

As is often the case in fairy tales, we sometimes find ourselves awakening from a long sleep.  Such is the case here, and just in time for the Midsummer Night’s Dream short story contest.

So, without any more ado about such a little nothing…


Alone on the side of the road, Dan turned the key again, knowing that the car wouldn’t start this time either.  No sound from the engine disturbed the crickets’ humming.  “So much for the scenic route.”  He retrieved a notebook from the seat, and began scribbling under the full moon.  Shortly, he scratched out several lines as if they had sabotaged his vehicle, and started a new page muttering “Sounds like a stupid card!”.

The methodical abuse of the notepad was interrupted by a whistle carried on the breeze.  Terrified and delighted to not be alone, Dan looked around abruptly.  A light approached from the distance, and deep rumble came with it, until a motorcycle stopped next to the incapacitated car.  The woman riding it turned to look at him as she turned off the engine, sending her ponytail dancing.

“Enjoying the stars?” she grinned.

“Car’s just dead.” Dan answered, not amused.

“Well, why don’t I take a look?” Without waiting for an answer, she slid off of the machine.  Dan unconsciously stepped back from the leather clad stranger.  As she moved, he could see both a large knife and a hammer on her belt, and the muscles in her arms rippled as she removed her gloves.

“You know, if it’s any inconvenience, I can just wait till morning…” even his voice started to hide as she stepped past him.

The woman raised the hood of the car effortlessly, and was hidden from Dan’s view.  Feeling useless, he simply stood still.  He heard whispering near the engine that sounded almost like singing.  When the air rang with the sound of metal being beaten, his indignation overcame his timidity, and he strode angrily forward.  As he neared the woman, index finger pointed, the car engine started smoothly.

“Better than new.” the strange woman said with satisfaction as she slammed the hood.

Dan’s mouth dropped open as the anger drained away.  “How did…uh…Thank you!”

As she settled the hammer back onto her belt, she stepped toward the motorcycle.  “On that other thing, you’re trying too hard, Slick.”

“What are you talking about?  Who are you?” he asked, bewildered.

“Called Bree, or some prefer Bridgit.” The motorcycle started loudly.  As she drove away into the night, she called back.  “No words as powerful as true ones, and no verse as beautiful as real love.  Write that down, and it’ll be right.  Now, get to it!”.