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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short Story Contest 109: Flashback - Submission & Details Thread

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Jan 3, 2012.

    Short Story Contest 109
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Flashback"

    This contest is open to all wf.org members, newbies and the established alike. Please post your entries as replies to this post. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a separate thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. Sadly, there is no prize on offer for this contest except pride. The winner may PM/VM me to request the theme of a subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Theme: "Flashback" (courtesy of member Pythonforger). Any interpretation is valid. Entries do not have to follow the theme explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.
    Wordlimit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Monday 16th January 2012 10.00 am (UK local)

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. As below, any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    There is a maximum of 25 entries to any contest. If there are more than 25 entries to any one contest I will decide which are entered into voting based on adherence to the suggested word limit and relevance to the theme, not on a first-come-first served basis.

    The next contest will be themed "The Catalyst" (a contest with a prize courtesy of member TheSpiderJoe - his latest novel straight to you!), the one after that "Alias" (suggested by SSC107 winner mootz), the one after that "Attic Treasure" (Tessie), and the one after that "Insanity" (Bran). Be free to prepare an entry for any or all of these contests in advance, but do not submit an entry to any of these contests until instructed to do so.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece manner to decide its legitamacy for the contest.

    Submissions may not have been previously posted on this site, nor may they be posted for review until voting has closed. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permissable.

    Please try to refrain from itallicising, bolding, colouring or indenting any text to help avoid disappointment. These stylistics do not reproduce when I copy-paste them into the voting thread. You may use visible noparse BB code to preserve style if you wish by placing [ noparse ] and [ /noparse ] (without the spaces) around the entire text.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please leave me a visitor message or PM me. Please do not clog up this, or any other thread, with your questions.


    Please note that only current members are eligible to win.

    Thanks and good luck.
     
  2. mootz
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    mootz Member

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    Hairy Junior, Detective Chimp and his Chipmunk Friend
    mootz (2523 words)



    January 15th 2012 9:00 am

    When I woke up, my pointer finger smelled like feces. My clothes were dirty, my head hurt and I was super thirsty. Naturally, I called Detective Chimp, my most trusted confidant. He's actually a walrus, but please don't call him out on it.

    He rang my doorbell five times, after entering my apartment. I think three before that. I didn't answer the door on any ring, so he could have his fun.

    “What's today, old timer?” he asked. He seemed sad, sadder than usual.

    I smiled as he waddled his large mass in my direction, not caring for his feelings. I was lying on my couch waiting for him, and I can cheer him up. I stuck out my finger, the one that smelled, and laughed.

    “First mystery of the day,” I said.



    May 4th 1993 12:25 pm

    “Yeah, dad, but I don't think you should fight over a dollar fifty,” he said.

    He'll never learn. You just have to fight, always have to fight. The second you accept whatever has been given to you is the second you become less than a man.

    “It's not the amount,” I said.

    I grabbed his shoulders on both sides. He smirked embarrassingly. He was never proud of his short height and stout body. He couldn't become taller, but he could lose the weight. He just isn't a fighter like me.

    “This is one of your moral victory things,” he said messing with his handle bar mustache with his index finger. “I get it, dad, I do. But, the problem with moral victories is, no two people share the same morals. So, you usually only end up winning in your head, where no one else can see.”

    “That is where all the best victories are won,” I said. “I've never given up, with everything I've endured. You better not, with so much more.”



    January 27th 2012 8:47 pm

    It's the damn duck.

    There is no pond around here, no bodies of water at all. Don't know why there is a duck. Sure, detective chimp can survive the dry arid climate, but the duck was no detective.

    “Perhaps, I should be leaving now,” detective chimp said.

    “You don't have to,” I said. He didn't listen. Aquatic creatures have a hard time around me to begin with. Their combined demand for water would cripple me. It was probably best I dealt with one of them at a time

    “Quack quack, quack,” the duck said.

    Of course, I was mad. Still, ever composed, I offered some of my jiggly desserts of assorted colors. Red, blue, green, yellow, preuckt and others. A fine treat for any creature, especially a bird.

    The duck declined the offer.

    “Don't give me that look,” I said. My eyes started to swell with the feeling of tears collecting. I thought I was going to cry, I felt a waterfall behind my eyeballs.

    “Quack quack qu' quacky, chipmunk,” Duck said.

    “The chipmunk knows I don't care about what she eats, let her be a cannibal,” I said with tears falling uncontrollably from my face.



    September 13th 1998 5:13 pm

    “It has nothing to do with you,” I said. She was crying, but I couldn't look at her.

    “Dad, why can't you just say you love me?” she asked.

    “I love you,” I said bluntly. “I am going to Phoenix because of the climate, a climate I like and your mother can't handle.”

    “But, you said it after you found out,” she said. It was true, but she wasn't the reason.

    There was nothing for me left in Portland anymore. A police officer son who is afraid, despite his talents, to try out for the CIA, FBI or even homicide unit. An ex-wife with a twenty year old pool cleaning boy toy. And, of course, my daughter. My little squirrel-faced chipmunk.

    “That was two days ago,” I said. “Do you think I could sell this place and find a home in two days, while mad?”

    “So, you are mad?” she asked.

    “No, disappointed,” I said.

    She nodded her head and went silent. She starred back at me as I looked at her, her eyes red. Finally, I walked over to hug her. She sunk into my arms, still daddy's little girl. I squeezed her in my arms for all the years she was innocent and sweet, for the years in which she rebelled as a teenager and for the person she is today. I tried to squeeze the gay out of her. But, I didn't think it will work.



    February 2nd 2012 9:01 am

    “Detective Chimp!” I said enthusiasticly.

    I sat up in my couch, slowly. He waddled over, I had a grin on my face watching him come closer.

    Today was the big day of exploration into the surrounding lands. You see, outside my apartment was a prison. Outside that, a jungle. It's hard to imagine why any prisons are inside cities when jungles offer a much better deterrent for escapees. I am not a city planner though, I don't know any city planners either. I'd surely let them know about my idea though, if I were to meet one. It's a great idea.

    “You feeling good, old timer?” he asked.

    “Yeah, it's black hysterectomy month,” I answered. “I am sure you didn't even know that, it's not something people want you to know about. I know because I knew a black surgeon in the war, he only seemed to want to do one kind of surgery. I want to say that they were all hysterectomys, but I don't want to be stereotypical and I can't remember exactly.”

    The detective laughs and then shakes his head. He waves his hand in my direction and I start to stand up on my feet. He comes closer to help me, but I wave him off.

    “Chipmunk is here,” he said.

    I almost stopped moving but kept going. The door opened to my apartment, and there she was. She was taller than detective chimp, and in much better shape. There was another chipmunk with her, her friend wasn't as cute as her, but what real man can look at any chipmunk and not find something he likes.

    “I haven't seen you in awhile,” I said forcing a smile. I was light headed, from not standing much, and swayed a bit in place. The detective grabbed me to steady my stance.

    “It's been a few months,” chipmunk said. Her friend smiled and then looked away.

    I always loved animals, all creatures. How could I be mad at anything or anyone? It's the round line of existence, uh... the circle of existence...of uh... life. The round line of life!

    “We have to see the director today,” the detective said.

    I pushed him away from me. I couldn't stand the betrayal, but I nearly fell from my stupid violent act. He grabbed me though, showing quite the physical speed and talent for someone his size.

    “Sorry,” I said.

    “It's okay, dad,” he said.

    Him holding me so close, I could see he had shaved his mustache. I didn't like it too much to begin with and I was glad it was gone. His two front teeth seemed to be shorter as well, some type of metal on them. He reminded me of my son, he finally tried out for the homicide unit but he never told me if he passed the test.

    “Dad?” I asked. I started to laugh but felt wheezy. He laughed too, but not very much.

    “I-I-I'm going to wait outside,” chipmunk's chipmunk friend said.

    She had her hand over her mouth and chipmunk let her go with a peck on the cheek. She didn't take a big bite, her cannibal nature came into question in my mind. Still, I was more concerned with the director.

    “Come on,” chipmunk said.

    “Let's just go on an adventure, let's forget the director,” I said pleading.

    They didn't say anything. I couldn't fight them though, not about this. It wasn't in my nature to fight anyway, not since I got this couch. I sit in it all day long, I enjoy myself. I can't fight anymore.

    “We're going to see him,” the detective said.

    “Will the duck be there?”

    Once again silence. Finally, the chipmunk said something.

    “You always have to tell him, I'll tell him this time,” she said crying. “Mom's been dead for three years, Dad.”

    She cried and sobbed there and I felt sick. She was so vulnerable and it ate me up. I was glad the duck was gone, but not if it meant my chipmunk would suffer. I sputtered over to her with the help of... of the chimp. Yeah, the detective helped me. He looks like my son.

    I placed my arm around her. She sunk into my grasp. It was a natural feeling. Perfection. There wasn't a single thing I wanted to take from this moment. Not a single thing that could be taken away from my chipmunk that would make it better.

    “I'm sorry Mary had to leave,” I said. I don't know who Mary is. I don't think I know her, don't think she is important. I think chipmunk does, though. She smiled but she still seemed a little sad.

    “I shouldn't have asked her to come,” chipmunk said. “It probably upset you.”

    “I don't care if your a cannibal, chipmunk,” I said. She shook her head and then laughed it off.



    9:23 am

    Walking the hallways, the detectives feet became humanoid. The chipmunk shed some of her fur and there was a beautiful young woman underneath who looked like my daughter, in a way. In a way she didn't. I found that odd.

    The detective opened the a door. One of the many in the prison, though it held no patients like the others. Medical prisoners. Criminal patients. I forget which one am I.

    “I am a medical prisoner or a criminal patient?” I asked as we entered the room.

    “Not really either, dad,” chipmunk said. She peeled her face off. Underneath was a mask that looked like my daughter.

    “I love you, chipmunk,” I said. A tear came rushing down her cheek and I raised my hand to wipe it away, but her own got there first.

    “I love you too,” she said. She grabbed my hand and helped me into the seat opposite of the director.

    I avoided looking at him, but caught myself doing so after a few seconds. When our eyes met, he smiled at me. Some of my hatred for him melted away, but I still didn't feel warm for him.

    “I'm glad the two of you could make it,” the director said.

    “Can we not play around,” chipmunk said.

    The director looked at me and I looked away.

    The detective was still standing, there were only two chairs available. I thought to stand so that he could sit, I felt like protecting him, but I didn't. My legs felt tired just from the journey here. He walked forward and placed his hands on the desk of the director.

    “The medicine isn't working; he is still flashing in and out,” he said, almost like a question.

    “Unfortunately, yes, and it's just getting worse,” he answered. “His pre-existing condition makes things that much more difficult for him, and for us. We'll need to start talking about twenty-four, around the clock care.”

    “We can't easily afford that,” the detective said.

    I started shaking my head as they spoke. I got madder and madder and I started to do it faster and faster. My head was spinning, and if not for my son, I wouldn't have stopped doing it.

    “I am not going to become a burden for my children,” I said crying. My head stinging from the electrical impulses in my brain, unused for some time now, zipping about firing off memories and pockets of information. I saw my wife die, through the retelling of my children's tears. I saw the moment where I broke my only girl's heart because I was disappointed by her choices. I relived my first child's birth. I was overwhelmed with emotion, and scared for the moment when it would leave again.

    “Daddy?” Diana called.

    “You guys have your lives,” I said still tearful. “Leave me in a ditch, put me on medicaid or anything else. It's bad enough you may inherent my memory loss, you don't need my debt as well.”

    “Dad, now you don't want us to fight?” Harry asked. “Now we give up, old timer? No. I was scared shit-less to take the test for homicide but when you dived, I took it to pass and make you happy before you were gone. And every time you find out, you're ecstatic.”

    “I didn't know you passed,” I said fighting back even more tears. He was crying, and so was Diana. I was so terrified of the thought of when this moment would leave me and I would be alone in the jungle again that I started to shake again. Still, I felt it fade away.




    July 4th 1972 11:05 pm

    “Have the tests come back? Is Harry Junior okay?” I asked nervously.

    The doctor smelled strongly of the color blue with hints of red. There was blood on his coat, it seemed to jump out towards me. I hadn't eaten in hours because of the intensive labor process and I think the LSD is wreaking havoc on my weak body.

    “We did the tests, but for the last time, your physical condition can't carry over to your son, it's not in the sperm,” the doctor answered. “It's like passing on a broken leg.”

    “What do the tests say?” I demanded.

    “He is healthy, big and strong, ten pounds,” he answered.

    “Can I see him?”

    “Sure, you'll be pleased at his full head of hair, I think.”

    There is a price to everything. As a 'hippy', I indulged a time or two. Some marijuana that was secretly laced with LSD sent me on a terrible trip down a magical journey. I showed up to work the next day tripping like a bow-legged gymnast and was fired as a zoo keeper. I could have hurt something, it was deserved.

    The only problem was that the effects don't go away, it's been seven years and they haven't exactly let up. I can control how I act, mostly, but it's always there. The price is high and steep, but it's one I'll pay alone. My first and only child can't be punished for my follies.

    “Here he is,” the doctor said.

    He had a full head of hair. He was big and strong, a ball player in the making I am sure, if not president. My little monkey boy. Harry Junior, my baby boy, my chimp.

    “I'll never let you pay for my mistakes,” I whispered. The doctor turned and looked at me to see what I said, but I just shook my head and looked at my boy.
     
  3. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    Back to the Flashback Again (2945 words)

    If only he could have kept it in his pants. He had really tried, damn he tried, but Lewiston Maverick’s daughter was just too fine to ignore. Kent had worked for Maverick’s law firm as a paralegal for three agonizing years. He liked the work, sure, but having Sierra taunt him with that gorgeous body of hers every chance she got, well, shit, it really wasn’t his fault.

    He finally gave in, a few times in a row actually, after she lured him up to the rooftop at the company Christmas party and stripped down to nothing right there in two feet of snow. Got down on her knees, buck naked mind you, unzipped his pants with her teeth, and when he tried to back away and almost fell off the roof (he was a bit blitzed at the time), she held him down and mounted him while he partly dangled from the twelfth floor. Hell, what man could resist that?

    So, needless to say, it didn’t go well from there. She got all serious on him, even though she knew about Jenny, his girl for the past four years. When Kent told her in no uncertain terms their first night together was their last, Sierra spilled the beans to everyone. It got back to Jenny, through a coworker whose sister was in Jenny’s yoga class, and she dumped him right off. Even the barrista at the coffee cart in the lobby knew and winked at him. And of course, it got to Sierra’s father, that night in fact. When a security guard went to lock up the roof access door on Christmas Eve and found the boss’s daughter and an unidentified man in the heat of passion partly hanging off the ledge, he told his supervisor, who then told Maverick, and he came to the security office in time to witness on all the monitors his precious daughter in a very unladylike position with his top paralegal. Maverick didn’t fire him as he expected. Kent sort of wished he had, even though jobs were hard to get in this fledgling economy. As he drove past the sign that read “Entering Peecok, Georgia, Population: 502”, Kent realized this punishment was far worse.

    What the hell am I going to do here for a whole year? Kent wondered as he drove past the “downtown” area faster than he was able to blink an eye. A diner, a drugstore, a hardware store and a grocery, a rundown movie theater, a few offices and that was about it. He slowed to the curb at a gas station past town, got out and looked around. Fields of unknown harvests stretched as far to the right as he could see, and beyond the town the way he’d come in on the left, the very same. Just a block of stores and nothing else? This couldn’t be right. How could anyone exist here? He was used to the bustling city of Atlanta, with a wide variety of shops and restaurants for every taste or mood. This just wouldn’t do at all.

    Kent got back in his car, drove on to the little motel about a mile down where he’d arranged to rent a room, and figured he’d better get his resume spruced up to apply for a new job.

    ***

    After two days barricaded in his one-room hovel, subsisting on chips and candy bars he found in the motel’s only vending machine (which was almost out of everything, thanks to his failure to go get some groceries), Kent decided he might as well go into town and get a real meal. He’d already put together a stellar resume and sent it out to as many firms as he could find online (amazingly, he got a signal even from the middle of BFE, otherwise known as his new home), unpacked his few belongings, called his mother to tell her he arrived and was fine (she’d leave endless messages, filling up his voicemail box, and probably call the state sheriff’s office if he didn’t), watched a few stupid movies (what had Hollywood come to producing that garbage?), and wondered about the meaning of life. He was bored shitless, and more important, he was hungry. So, he showered, dressed quickly (he thought a plaid shirt was appropriate and wondered if he should break out his cowboy boots he’d bought as a gag when visiting Texas last year) and decided to walk the mile into town. He needed exercise. He certainly didn’t see a Bally’s or TotalGym anywhere in this dump.

    It wasn’t hard to spot the diner. It was separated from the other shops, not physically but by appearance, because it was clad in shiny metal that gleamed brightly in the afternoon light. He looked up at the neon sign, which read “ashback Diner”, and he saw that the “F” and the “l” were burned out. As expected from the name, as he entered, he saw a typical throwback to a fifties diner, with black and white checked linoleum floors, red pleather stools on chrome bases, diamond plating on the walls and counter, and an old jukebox in the corner playing some doo-wop tune he’d always found annoying.

    So, this is where I’ll be eating from now on, he thought with a grimace. He sure hoped the food was decent. He was already a bit thin, and he didn’t want to waste away to nothing. The room he was renting didn’t have a kitchen, so maybe if the food was terrible, he’d have to get another place with one and teach himself to cook. Hopefully, a better job in a bigger town would come through before he’d have to go through all that trouble.

    “Hey, Kent, I’ll have your order up in just a minute,” a waitress called as she whizzed by.

    Huh? How did she know his name? Or his order, for that matter? The waitress set food on a nearby table, dropped the check, and rushed back to the kitchen before he could call her over. He hadn’t even seen a menu.

    “Here you go,” the waitress said a few minutes later, appearing out of nowhere with a tray full of food. “Country-fried steak, cooked medium-well, baked potato with sour cream and no butter, green beans with almonds, two biscuits, and an iced tea with three lemons. Just the way you like it.”

    Kent looked at her and down at his food, his brow crinkling as his mouth watered. How the heck did she know exactly what he was in the mood for? And how he liked his steak, or how he took his potato, for that matter? And she even knew he liked three lemons in his iced tea. He shook his head, wondering if he was in an episode of the Twilight Zone or something. As he ate, he watched the waitress scurry about, chatting with patrons and bringing huge trays from the kitchen. The food was better than decent, so although he was puzzled by the waitress and how she knew his order, he was glad to have a good meal for a change.

    ***

    The next evening, after working his first day at the new office, which was a sister company to Maverick’s firm serving the southern counties in the state, he headed over to the Flashback Diner for another meal.

    He sat in the same booth as the day before, and this time, he found a menu at the cashier’s stand before seating himself. He decided on a linguini and clam dish, with a side salad with French dressing, a Coke with two lemons (he had a preference for the number of lemons depending on what he was drinking), and a dessert of warm apple pie with vanilla-bean ice cream and caramel sauce. The same waitress approached. She opened her pad, smiling at him, and scribbled down his order. As she walked away, he realized he hadn’t told her what he wanted!

    Of course, she brought him exactly what he craved, but on the salad, she gave him Ranch dressing instead of French.

    “Excuse me, ma’am?” he called as she raced by.

    “Be right with ya, Kent,” she said. She returned after a trip through the kitchen and two deposits of plates to different tables.

    The waitress, whose nametag read Florine, looked at him expectantly.

    “Um, I’m sorry, but I had hoped to get some French dressing for my salad,” he said, pushing the plate toward her.

    “But, you always get the Ranch. Why the sudden change?” She looked down at him with a frown, tapping her foot impatiently as he wondered how he could always do something when this was only his fourth day in town.

    “Um, er, my mistake. Must’ve been thinking of something else,” he muttered, and he picked at his salad awhile as he wondered how this woman knew so much about him. She must be a psychic, he decided. Maybe he’d ask someone at his new office if they knew her. He was curious about their experiences at this diner. Something weird was going on, and he was damned if he could figure it out.

    ***

    “Hey, Barb. Can I ask you something?” Kent said to the woman next to him as she typed away at her desk.

    “Yeah, sure thing. Just a sec,” Barb said, finishing what she was doing. Finally, she spun in her chair to face him.

    “You ever go to that Flashback Diner?” he asked, but of course he knew the answer.

    Barb rolled her eyes. “Course. It’s the only place to go, unless you wanna drive 20 miles into Marburg to go that greasy Mac’s or forty-two miles south into Sperling to go to that horrible biker bar, Dewitt’s, where they’ll paw you or beat on you, dependin’ on if you was a gal or a guy.”

    “So, you know the waitress over there, think her name’s Florine?”

    “Yeah. Me and her went to school together. She was a little loosey goosey, if’ya know what I mean.” Barb winked, and Kent smiled. God, he couldn’t wait to get out of here. He was working with a woman who said “loosey goosey”, for Pete’s sake.

    “Did she ever get you your order before you even told her what it was?”

    Barb studied him for a moment, her brows arching in concentration. ‘Is this a trick question or something?”

    “No, nothing like that. I just wondered.”

    “How could she do that? You’re sayin’, she just brings you whatever you want without even telling her?”

    Kent’s face turned red. “Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. So, that’s never happened to you?”

    “Sheesh, no. That would be nice though. I can never decide on stuff.” A call interrupted his inquisition, and as Barb picked it up with an enthusiastic “Howdy, you’ve reached Bailey Law Offices”, Kent returned to his research while simultaneously wondering if he’d lost his mind.

    ***

    The next morning, before work, Kent decided to go to the Flashback for breakfast. As he drove into town, he thought up an unusual order, just to see what would happen. He was in the mood for blueberry pancakes with sixteen pecans on top, not on the side but right on top in a crisscross, with strawberry syrup, a side of grits with brown sugar, and a coffee with two creams and one sugar. He was anxious to see how Florine would do with that.

    This time, he sat in a booth far away from the one he’d sat the previous times. He also wore a baseball hat. As soon as he settled in, Florine rushed over with coffee.

    “How’ya doin’ this fine mornin’, Kent?” she asked.

    Before he could answer, she rushed away. He looked for cream and sugar, but he did not see it on the table. He looked up to get her attention, but he jumped slightly when he saw her standing over him.

    She put some items on the table. “Sorry, almos’ forgot! Where’s my head today?” She laughed and raced off again. Kent looked down to find two creams and one sugar.

    This time, as he stirred his coffee, he noticed Florine taking orders at other tables. The people were actually saying what they wanted and she was writing it down.

    Why was he so special? Somehow, she knew exactly what he wanted every time. Well, almost. Last time, she got the dressing wrong, but she insisted that he usually ordered Ranch.

    A few minutes later, Florine brought his breakfast. He looked down and counted. There were only fifteen pecans on top of his pancakes, but he’d be damned if they weren’t in a crisscross just the way he’d pictured. His grits had a few chunks of butter and syrup, but no brown sugar. He ate, wondering how she got it almost all right again.

    Boy, I’m cracking up in this god-forsaken place! Kent thought with a scowl. His favorite pastime had become wondering if the waitress would get his stupid order right.

    ***

    Each day Kent went to the diner, he varied the times and his orders, and Florine got them almost all right without ever taking asking what he wanted.

    Each time, a few things were slightly off, but he never complained. He was still amazed that no matter what he decided on, she brought it to him without batting an eye.

    On a Saturday afternoon, after seeing a movie at the poor-excuse-for-a-theater if he’d ever seen one (they didn’t even have Mike and Ike’s, his favorite, and played two movies, both of which he’d seen on cable already), he decided to go to the Flashback for a quick lunch before heading home to watch the big game. The Lions had actually made it to the Superbowl, and even though he didn’t normally root for them, he hoped they’d beat the pants off the Packers. He liked cheering for the underdog.

    The diner was quiet for a change. Only a few others were at various tables, talking softly or reading. The jukebox had a sign on it that read “Busted”, which ended the smattering of fifties classics he’d been tortured by for the last few weeks.

    “Hey, Florine,” Kent said when the waitress came over to his table.

    She looked over the rim of her glasses at him for a little while. “Sorry, do I know you?” she asked.

    Kent wondered if he’d waken up from a dream. What was with this chick? Maybe she had Alzheimer’s or something, and it was quickly taking over. Suddenly, she didn’t know him anymore. When she didn’t know him, she did. And now that she knew him, she didn’t.

    “I’ll have my usual,” Kent said. He’d been ordering the same steakburger and onion rings, with a strawberry malt and a side of coleslaw, since he’d had it a few days before and decided he loved it more than anything else they served.

    “And what would that be?” she asked, her pen poised over her pad.

    Kent told her, not wanting to start up trouble by asking her if she just fell out of a tree or something, and when she brought it, the burger was too well done, it was covered in chili, which he didn’t ask for, and she gave him mashed potatoes instead of onion rings. His strawberry malt turned into a Cherry Coke. He ate quickly, thinking he needed a break from this place. It was consuming too much of his thoughts, way more than it should, and he hadn’t come any closer to figuring out what was going on than the first day he’d gone there.

    He drove to a town fifty-three miles away and found a K-Mart, where he bought some groceries and a two-pot burner. He picked up a small fridge, the kind you put in a dorm, and splurged on a fancy coffee maker. He would make do for awhile. He’d been cranking out the resumes every chance he got, so hopefully he’d hear something before he went totally nuts.

    ***

    Two weeks later, Kent was ready to jump out the nearest window. Problem was, all the buildings in town, including his motel, had only one story, so he’d probably just break his leg or something. His boss, Shaker Bailey, was celebrating today after winning a big case, and he was treating for lunch.

    Kent tried to beg off, saying he had a touch of the stomach flu, but the man, who wore white suits even in the dead of winter, clapped him on the back, almost causing him to dive headfirst into a potted tree in the lobby. “Course you’re comin, Kent. We’re a family here, and when I say we celebratin’, well, we celebratin’!”

    So, of course the only place to go “celebratin’”, was the Flashback Diner, which was across the street. In this rat’s ass town, everything was right across the street cause there was only one street. Shaker, Barb, and Janie the receptionist, all sat around him as he huddled in the corner booth, trying to avoid Florine. He’d had odd dreams about her for the past week, and when she looked over at them and signaled she’d be right there, he winced. He expected fangs to sprout from her mouth, or wings to erupt from her back or something equally as disturbing.

    “Hey, ya’ll,” she said, coming over with menus. “How ya’ doin? My name is Florine. It’s my first day here, so please bear with me for a spell while I get it all down. Okay, you start.”

    She pointed to Kent, and he told her his order. She asked him to repeat it three more times. She brought something else instead.
     
  4. Immy
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    Ghosts

    I slowly span, my eyes taking in everything around me. I’d been here before; I knew it. Everything seemed familiar to me from the lush green fields dotted with black sheep, the group of trees, their branches bare, huddling together in the centre of the field as if trying to protect each other from the rough, bitterly cold wind; the moss crawling over the crumbling stone wall by my left calf.
    No, I shook my head, my hair swiping into my eyes. I had never been here before. I was imagining things, I tried to convince myself, but as I peered around, I knew that was a lie. Instead, I determined that it was deja-vu, something that happened to me a lot. That makes more sense, I decided, contently.
    I started to walk again, my boots squelching on the sodden grass by the side of the road. There weren’t many pavements here, I noted with a sigh at my muddy boots. I had bought them especially for this trip and had spent a decent amount of money on them, so I had sort of hoped to bring them back home in one piece and preferably clean. I should have known better.
    The mountains seemed to be moving closer as I walked, as if they were looming in on me. They were bluish in colour, where they weren’t enveloped by forestry. To my right, there was a patch of trees, perfectly sculpted so that they stood in a neat rectangle. Between the trees, I could see deer pondering, picking their way through the crisp autumn leaves to find the freshest saplings, completely unaware that they were preventing their growth.
    I watched the deer with curiosity. I had never seen deer before but I didn’t have that ‘first time’ feeling that I’d gotten when I’d travelled up to Edinburgh zoo to see the Pandas for the first time. Living in London city centre had its perks; easy travel, lots of shops, great social spots and restaurants, but it was completely devoid of any wildlife except for birds and rodents, which usually ended up as road kill, anyway. I definitely never had seen a deer in London, especially not out in the open like this.
    I shuffled to the edge of the thin path of grass to let a family of hikers past. They all wore match khaki trousers, the kind Indiana Jones would approve of, and expensive looking water proof jackets. The parents, as I assumed they were, held hands as they walked while the kids tagged along under their careful supervision. They were happy and enjoying their day and although I should have felt glad, I couldn’t summon any kind feelings. I wanted that so badly. My desire for a family wasn’t a new revelation. In fact, I’d thought about that ever since Dad left and took everything with him.
    I shouldn’t be angry at him and if he knew my thoughts, it would agonize him. After my Mother’s death, two years ago, he fell slowly in love with a woman he’d bumped into in a supermarket. I understood that people can fall in love again after they’d lost their life partner, but it still hurt to see him with someone else. When he brought Elsie home for dinner, I had had to admit that she seemed like a genuinely nice woman. Not only was she kind, but she was exciting too and she loved to travel. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that it would do my Dad good to start afresh and I encouraged him to join her on her travels. He did so hesitantly, worried about leaving his nineteen year old daughter to fend for herself. I argued that I did most of the cooking and shopping anyway, and that if I could take adequate care of Mum when she was ill, I could take care of myself.
    Dad was a new man when he returned from his trip to Australia. He had always been a workaholic, the kind of guy who only cracks a smile half way. His heart was in the right place – he had used his wages to pay for private treatment for Mum, in the hopes that it would improve her condition – but he didn’t realise that he was slowly secluding himself from his wife and daughter. When he returned with Elsie, his smile reached all the way to his blue eyes and he had approached me sheepishly. After a two hour metal-tour of his trip, he finally told me what was on his mind. He wanted to do it again…and again, and again. The world had opened his eyes up and he was going to retire early and travel the world. I was welcome to go with him, he had said, but I had kindly refused. Dad needed a chance to live again, but I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I loved travelling but I had a job to hold up, studies to consider, a future.
    Now, my studies were over and I had graduated and Dad was somewhere in Asia. I didn’t know what to do next – that’s why I was here. After studying grievously for long hours on end for the past few weeks, and going through the torturous papers that teachers called ‘exams’, I had finally graduated and I fancied a rest. A few days relaxing in the house and I was restless again. I had no other family and my friends were too busy sorting out the next chapter of their lives or celebrating. Last night, I had been watching television when a commercial appeared, advertising cheap rail tickets. I had used the company for my trip to Edinburgh with Mum last year, so I decided that maybe I’d revisit. I logged on to the website, filled in my details but then changed my mind at last minute. Edinburgh zoo would bring too many raw memories. Instead, I’d booked a return ticket for somewhere I’d never been before; the Lakes.
    That was the most spontaneous thing I’d done in a long time. The next train had been due within four hours of me booking it, and I’d taken that one. It had been cheaper at short notice and I couldn’t bear to sit around in the same scenery, getting no exercise. I had popped into my closest camping store, just as it was closing, and bought a squeaky clean, reliable-looking pair of walking boots. And then I was gone.
    Now, I was wandering around, feeling healthy with the fresh air and walking. I told myself that I would have walked anyway even if I had brought my car along. The beautiful scenery went by too fast in a car.
    Eventually, a path formed on the opposite side of the road and I crossed over. A stream ran along by my side as I walked. I wondered where it had come from, and then spotted the waterfall gushing down from a mountain behind me, far in the distance. I shook my head in wonder - this place was surreal.
    I reached a little town, consisting mostly of camping stores and little cafes. I wandered aimlessly, until I reached a car park shadowed by trees. In it, was a small cottage-like shop. Out of curiosity, I ventured inside. It was an ornament shop and upstairs was a gallery. Ornaments and paintings didn’t interest me much but the homemade fudge at the glass counter did.
    I approached the counter and studied the labels stood in front each delicious slab of fudge. Chocolate and vanilla; orange and chocolate; mint; caramel…
    “Can I help you, dear?”
    I held my breath when I heard the voice. It was kind and well-spoken, but what bothered me was that I recognized it. I couldn’t put a face to the voice but when I eventually looked up to meet the voice of the stranger, I recognised her, not as somebody I knew but a little part of somebody I had once known.
    “I knew it” I grimaced, my voice low enough to avoid embarrassment. The rectangular shaped trees, the crumbling stone walls, the sheep, the deer… it wasn’t déjà vu. I had been here before – if anything, the dark brown eyes of the woman standing if front of me was hard evidence of this.
    “Scarlett?” she raised her perfectly plucked eyebrows, the skin on her forehead wrinkling a little, then her thin, lipstick red lips tweaked at the corners, pulling up into a wide smile. Her teeth were perfect, just like my Mum’s, I realised.
    Her eyes were the same, too. Well, almost. They seemed to lack that sparkle of excitement, the craving for constant entertainment that my Mum’s had held but just by looking at this woman, I could see that she had that edge of determination about her. It must run in the family.
    “You know me?” I asked, then wished I never had. Of course she knows you, Scarlett. She just said your name.
    She shook her head, smiling at me. “It’s been so long! You know who I am, don’t you? I know your Mum didn’t want us to speak but surely you must remember. I don’t think you were that young”.
    In that moment, I realised who she was; Mum’s half-sister whom she hadn’t spoken to for years for some unknown reason. She had always told me to never speak to her or get involved, without giving me a reason why, and I felt guilty now as I stood in front of this woman that my Mum hated but if she knew that it was only because she reminded her so much of her, she might forgive me. I didn’t know whether it was the familiar voice or the eyes, but for a few seconds, I was stood in front of my Mum, watching her smile and breathe and live. I felt tears fill my eyes, and the blurriness added to the illusion. But it wasn’t an illusion at all, I realised now, as I looked around. It was a flashback.
    Mum was stood by her desk at the law firm. The walls around us were glass, and outside of the office, the lights were dim and the desks empty. Everybody had gone home to their families and their homes. Mum had been working late again, and I had popped into the office to check on her.
    “You’re so overprotective, Scarlett” she shook her head, smiling and tucking a loose strand of blonde hair behind her ear. I spotted the diamond earrings that Dad had given her after her first dose of chemotherapy. “We should switch places. You be the Mum, and I’ll be the daughter”.
    “But then I’ll have to cook” I groaned, perching on her desk.
    “Heaven forbid you might have to put something in the oven!” she laughed, rolling her eyes. I stuck my tongue out at her while I doodled on a yellow sticky note. “Seriously though, Scarlett. You should learn to cook” when I looked up at her, her face was serious. “Just in case”.
    “Oh, Mum! Don’t say that. You’ll be fine” I slipped over the desk to give her a hug but I couldn’t help from worrying myself. She had always been so strong and determined. When she’d been told she had cancer, she had been adamant that she would beat it. This was the first time I’d heard her voice the worries that I had never known existed.
    I think that was the day when I finally grew up. I was only seventeen and I’d just left school but ever since I realised that my Mum was struggling, I took it upon myself to look after everything and everyone. Dad was constantly feeling guilty for working so much, and I was the one to reassure him. When Mum started to be seriously ill from the treatment, I was the one to hold her hair over the toilet. When both my parents were worn out, I’d make the dinner. It was a whole new world of responsibility.
    “You’ve changed so much! I’m surprised I recognised you. Well, with that vivid red hair, I would have probably recognised you anywhere” the woman’s gushing and a touch to the arm brought me back. “Oh, dear. You’re crying. What’s happened?”
    “Mum” was all I could croak. There were so many thoughts running through my mind at that moment but they all centred around one person. It was as though, after a year of being impossibly busy, the curtains of distraction had opened and revealed everything that I was supressing.
    I would never see Mum smile again, or hear her laugh. I would never talk to her again, never care for her. It felt so impossibly wrong that I had nothing to hope for. But I had just seen her, I reminded myself. Although it was just a flashback, a vivid memory, it had been like she was back again, if only for a few seconds. As the woman held me, patting my hair, I looked up at her eagerly, squinting my eyes to bring back the illusion of my Mum. But it didn’t work, no matter how much I tried and for the first time, I realised that she really was gone.
     
  5. Immy
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    Sorry for the lack of indents - I originally wrote this on Word and when I copied it over, I didn't realise I lost the formatting.
     
  6. Afterburner
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    Afterburner Active Member

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    Ashes (489 Words)

    The harsh wind bit at Shaun’s face as he trudged down the broken road, pulling his cloak up higher on his neck as he went.

    It’d been five years since the outbreak of the denegovita virus had essentially wiped out the human race. A “lucky” few turned out to be immune to the pandemic, but were they really lucky? They had to watch, helpless, as the virus tore apart the bodies of their family and friends, only to be left alone to wander and scavenge the remains of human civilization. The dead were the truly fortunate.

    But Shaun fought death. He didn’t know why he kept on, but the will to live remained nonetheless. After the virus had struck, and he had nothing left to live for, he simply began walking. And he kept walking. He trudged across the nation, dodging looters and bandits and rabid animals.

    Shaun was now entering a town long devoid of life. He shuffled past gas stations pumped dry. He passed a grocery store that had been picked clean by scavengers; both human and animal. He passed hotels and movie theaters, and all of them were the same. Empty.

    When Shaun came to the crest of a hill, he saw below him a sprawl of similar looking buildings. As he came closer, he saw a charred and broken sign, but he could still make out the last word words – University.

    Shaun picked his way through what was left of the old campus. Trash and paper blew from building to building. Nature had already reclaimed its territory. Grass grew tall and young trees, growing from within the classrooms and dorms, reached up to the sky through the broken windows. Bicycles and cars, abandoned by their owners in the aftermath of the outbreak, littered the street. Shaun was absorbed with the atmosphere of this place. It was almost as if he could hear the students’ youthful laughter in the wind.

    Eventually, Shaun came to the foundations of what had once been a massive building. For purposes unknown, or perhaps in a freak disaster, the structure had been completely burned to the ground. Shaun sifted through the ashes and wood, wondering what building used to stand there. Suddenly, a splash of color amidst the ruin caught his attention. He walked over and picked up a damp, stained, and slightly blackened book. He carefully opened the first page, and stamped in clear black ink were the words “Property of Knollwood University.” It had been a library. The history of the human race had once been contained there. And where was it now? The pages of the books were now but dust in the wind. No one was left to keep the records anymore. The denegovita virus had made sure that there would be no future for humans. And now there was no more history. Shaun, overcome by emotion, dropped to his knees in the ashes and simply wept.
     
  7. Daisy
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    Daisy New Member

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    In the past, present, and future
    The Chronicles of Del
    (2932)

    “‘That’s not a good idea,’ were the first words she ever said to me.”

    The only other occupant of the small white room was a decrepit old man who did not even lift his head to acknowledge that Del had spoken. Nor did the pen in his hand pause in its scratching, the sound of ink flowing to paper a chalkboard irritation in the near silent room.

    The old man sat behind a battered brown desk in a creaky leather chair with tufts of batting protruding from the armrests. He was dressed in a pitiful three-piece blue suit, out of style by at least a decade in Del's estimation. Del frowned at the old man, who didn't notice, bent over his scribbling as he was. The old man's hair was unfashionably long, gray as mist, and bound at the neck by of all things, a pink rubber band. A pair of horn-rimmed glasses slid periodically down his long narrow nose and it irked Del to no end when the old man’s attention strayed from his scribbling to push them back up. A stack of paper sat on one side of the desktop while the other side held two empty wooden trays, typically entitled – In and Out.

    Del did not like the white room. Del did not like the old man either. A pretty young assistant had led him here, sitting him down in the cushy wing-back chair he now occupied. The old man had immediately risen, bade him an awe inspiring “Good Afternoon” followed by the usual type of engagement Del had heard most of his life - “Tell me about yourself, son.”

    At that moment, Del had nearly laughed in the old guy’s face. ‘Good God, did this ridiculous old man think that line would get him to bare all?'

    The old man had not introduced himself, by either name or title, but Del suspected he was another one of the doctors his family continually forced on him. 'Waste of time. Waste of money.'

    He'd taken his seat and promised himself he would remain silent. Most definitely silent. That always drove them nuts.

    Now Del was surprised and mortified too that he'd spoken. Such a thing had never happened to him with the other doctors. Usually they talked and talked and he ignored them. This old guy simply sat down, picked up his pen and ignored Del. ‘The bugger.’

    The wrinkled old hand pushing the pen slowly ground to a halt as the old man slid back his chair, pushed his glasses up his nose, pale blue eyes translucent, and Del thought, oddly tranquil.

    “So you remember the first words she said to you?" the old man asked.

    Del smiled, knowingly flashing his gleaming white teeth, "Yes. I make a special effort to remember."

    Why?” the old man asked in a voice so gentle it was like a caress.

    “I like it, " Del said.

    "No, no. Why did she say 'That’s not a good idea?’”

    "Oh." Del shrugged, intending the motion to be his answer, but a compelling need to speak pulled the words from his throat. “She had a dog with her. I thought it would help if I petted it.”

    “And?”

    With his index finger Del pulled his shirt collar to the side revealing an old scar on the side of his neck.

    “Ah. So you didn’t take her advice.”

    “Obviously,” Del said scornfully, muttering under his breath, “Damn dog.”

    “How old was she?"

    Del contemplated the old man. “The girl? Hell, I don’t know. Fifteen. Sixteen, maybe.”

    “Hmm,” the doctor said, bending his wrinkled old face to retrieve the pen, his gnarled fingers scribbling along the single sheet in the center of the desk.

    Del pulled his shirt back together subconsciously patting it in place to make sure the ugly scar was completely covered. It was his only flaw.

    Scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch…

    Del thought about the pretty young assistant who’d brought him to the office. He hoped this meeting would be over soon so that he could see her again, perhaps flirt, cajole her into going out with him. He was not unaware of his appeal. His countenance was exceptional and the sum of his parts resulted in an undeniable male beauty that proved virtually irresistible. He couldn’t take credit for the face, it being little more than the coalescence of his parents prime gene pools. But he could and did take credit for the impeccable style he’d cultivated, the honing of his body, and the charm he employed to turn the heads of even the most hardened and cautious of females.

    Del fidgeted at the irritating scratching of the old man's pen. He knew from past experience these interviews rarely lasted beyond an hour. He’d lost count of the number of times the doctors his parents had forced upon him as a very young man had said, ‘Well, Del, our hour is up.’ Del glanced around for a clock, but there was none. He narrowed his eyes at the old man. It was strange the doctor had not introduced himself. It was usually the first thing they did before endeavoring to convince him that they were going to be the best of friends.

    “What’s your name, old man?”

    When the old man continued to ignore him, Del smirked, “I'll just call you Doc, then.”

    Doc straightened, his needle-sharp eyes piercing Del like an ice pick. Eyes like an eagle, Del thought, marble-like, yet deep and sagacious; as if the secrets to every mystery ever questioned was there for the seeing.

    “And then?”

    “Then?” Del repeated, cocking a questioning brow.

    The old man raised his index finger pointing at his own neck.

    “Oh, you mean after the dog…”

    “Yes,” Doc said. "After that."

    A number of plausible lies lit up Del’s mind. Choosing the best of them, he met the doctor’s gaze, opened his mouth and listened as the truth spewed out. And out and out. Del surprised himself with the minutia he was able to recall and how meticulously he told the girl's story.

    “The dog too?” Doc asked, quite pleasantly and with a friendly smile.

    “Yes, of course,” Del said, his tone and the nonchalant wave of his hand indicating the stupidity of the question.

    Doc stared at him. Del advised himself to look away, but no matter how he tried, he couldn’t drag his eyes one iota from where they were. He began to question his sanity in coming here and tried to remember why he had. Had he even come on his own? He didn't remember it. Had he been drugged? Had his meddling parents had him committed? Again?

    “Do you regret it, son? Are you sorry?” Doc asked.

    Was he sorry? Beneath the doctors penetrating gaze, Del contemplated the question. Would the doctor be horrified if he said no? Or would he be impressed? An inner voice urged him to tell the truth. Was he sorry? Yes! Hell yes, he was sorry. So very sorry...

    “No,” he answered.

    Doc leaned back in his worn out chair, his eyelids closing halfway, as if in deep contemplation.

    Released from his gaze, Del lowered his own eyes to where his hands rested on his knees. He noticed a hangnail on his manicured pinkie and lifting it to his mouth, he gnawed the bothersome edge.

    “What were the first words the next one said to you?”

    Del sighed audibly in exasperation. He was not going to look at the Doc and he would not say another word.

    “Del?” Doc's soft melodic voice flowed through Del so that his blood rushed hot. The pride he’d always felt in his accomplishments inexplicably simmered to a boil, raging for release, and the opportunity to share it at last overcame him. Ah, to have his greatness recognized engendered an exhilaration so heady within Del that he was nearly undone. All of the deeds he had yet to speak about flashed through his mind, fresh as if newly committed, when in actuality, it had been over two decades since he’d started collecting participants for the Chronicles of Del.

    “I picked the second one up not far from a grocery store,” Del said, smirking. “She was walking beside the road carrying two heavy sacks and when I stopped, she thanked me profusely for the ride.”

    Del chuckled. “Later, I thanked her for the same thing but she never did say you're welcome." He told the rest of the story, minute by minute, act by act. Lord God, his clarity of mind was amazing, Del thought. He remembered every word spoken verbatim, every nuance and sound she’d made during the weeks he’d kept her, before capitulating to her pleas for an end.

    Del was pleased to see the doctor nodding his head and he basked in the glory of himself in another's eyes.

    “Go on,” Doc urged.

    'Gee-Sus. The old man was getting off on it too.' Del puffed up with pride and the tales were told, one after another, each chronicle special in its own right. A tale for each woman he had blessed with the self inside of him that only they would ever know.

    “And so Doc,” he said with pride. “What do you think?”

    The doctor slid his chair back, laying his pen aside as he gathered the furiously scribbled sheets of paper together. "Do you regret any of it, Del?" Doc asked in a resigned tone.

    “Regret? Not in the least,” Del said with a satisfied smile.

    Doc rubbed his forehead and then casually slipped the stack of papers into the Out box, before picking up his pen.

    “Now, Del, tell me about the last one.”

    “Didn’t I say already?”

    “No, you didn’t.”

    “She was an angel,” Del said with a long drawn out sigh.

    Del thought he heard Doc mumble under his breath, “Not quite.”

    “Huh?”

    Doc waved his hand dismissively, “Continue, if you please.”

    “Ah, well, she was walking down Colfax in six inch heels and she had the longest legs I’ve ever seen. She was wearing a short polka dot skirt that the breeze kept hiking up in back displaying the goods. You know what I mean, old man?”

    Del laughed at the flush creeping up the Doc's neck.

    “And so you asked her if she needed a ride?”

    “Absolutely,” Del said. "Wouldn't you?"

    “Just go on,” the doctor prompted.

    Del thought it odd that he suddenly had to struggle to remember this one. He described her in more detail. He spoke the words between them from their first meeting up until he had turned his car onto the road leading to his special place. But after that, his mind was a blank where the rest of the tale should be.

    The doctor laid his pen down. Del was suddenly bereft, sorry that he had no further deeds to tell. But he could remedy that. This very day if he had a mind to; and he thought of the Doc's pretty assistant.

    “Our interview is at an end now, Del.”

    “Is it? Oh well, too bad you’re restricted by doctor patient confidentiality to repeat any of this, Doc.

    “Hmm, too bad, yes,” Doc said, rising from his desk and motioning Del towards the door.

    “Cindy will see you out now, Del. I'm only sorry I cannot escort you out personally.”

    Del grinned. “Quite alright, Doc. I much prefer Cindy’s company, if you know what I mean. Del smirked and winked at Doc, before sticking out his hand, but the old man took a step back into his office and shut the door in Del’s face.

    Del shrugged, dropped his hand and turned to grin at Cindy. She stared at him through emerald green eyes. A memory of similar eyes, bright and sparkling, then dull and sightless flashed fleetingly through his mind.

    “Well, Cindy. I have no notion what brought me here today, but I’m happy for it.”

    “Are you?” she asked, taking hold of his arm and leading him towards a long hallway.

    “Absolutely! Otherwise I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting you,” he said with just the right amount of bonhomie.

    Grinning, he patted the hand she held tentatively to his arm as they walked along. She glanced at him, the green of her eyes vibrant, breathtaking. Silky auburn hair surrounded a heart shaped face, innocent and lovely. He’d always kept snippets of their hair, selecting various ones at odd times, rubbing the silkiness between his fingers, reliving the moments of his triumph.

    “Would you like to go out with me tonight, Cindy?" He gave her his best smile, the one that was just a little sheepish, the kind that said ‘you can trust me.’

    She didn't answer and Del realized he was running out of time. They'd reached the end of the hallway where two doors stood side by side. Cindy stopped in front of the door marked Out. “Here you are, Sir," and then she smiled brilliantly and said, “I’m so happy you could come today.”

    “Not nearly as happy as I am," he said. “What time do you get off? I'll come back.”

    There was a gleam in her eye when she tilted her head towards him and a slow enigmatic smile lifted the corners of her lips. Del easily recognized the acquiescence he’d seen so many times before.

    "Six," she said.

    “You won't be disappointed,” he said, his mind already spinning with the prospect. He smiled again, allowing his eyes to sparkle. “I’ll see you at six,” he said as he pushed open the door.

    Cindy backed up a step.

    He knew a momentary pressure before he felt himself sucked off his feet into a floating space of shadows and the last bright sight he ever saw was the Out door slamming shut behind him. He swirled for a moment before he felt the first licking tongue of misery. For the fleeting second that his mind remained his own, he told himself it felt as if he’d fallen into what his parents had once described as the pits of Hell. But that thought and all rationality fled, and he knew no more of himself, or of time elapsing, nor any pleasure could he remember. He knew only the constant of rending flesh and bones cracking, and the instantaneous re-knitting, and repetition, and worst of all, the only knowledge allowed to him was that no amount of begging or pleading would bring it to an end, that this was and always would be, his eternity. And though he didn’t know it, he screamed the same words his victims had always screamed, over and over again, and like them, he never received an answer. “Why, Why, Why…”

    Cindy drew the drapes back from the observation window as he swirled off into the hell of his own making. The sisterhood of his victims stood beside her. She placed her arm about Megan’s shoulder, her fingers stroking the head of the dog nestled there. They did not speak of it. They did not feel avenged. Revenge was not an emotion for angels. They felt only gratitude and love for the one. The one who had guaranteed that the totality of their number as the Chronicles of Del was and would forevermore be finite.

    In his white room, Peter sank into his old battered chair. Although he was cognizant of earthly deeds prior to these interviews, it was the nature of his job to provide for confession and the opportunity to repent. There was no need for judgment. Without the ability to lie, the interviewees made their own choice between In and Out.

    It had been all Peter could do to listen to Del describe his heinous acts as if he were describing a hero saving the world. Fourteen pages were filled and noticing the last page still sitting in the center of his desk, Peter picked it up.

    The details of the last woman Del had picked up.

    The one walking down Colfax in her high heels and short skirt.

    The one who was not an angel… yet.

    The one who had sunk her six inch spiked high heel into the top of Del's skull.

    Peter suddenly laughed out loud as he re-read the final words Del had dictated describing the first words she’d ever said to him.

    "'These shoes are killing me,’ she told me the first time we met.”
     
  8. Candz
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    Candz Member

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    The Best Way to Live (899 words)


    I leave the dispersing crowd getting ready to leave, and walk and walk until the dark mouth of the forest swallows me.

    As I plunge further into the darkness, a quietness descends, coupled with a sense of danger, but fear cannot touch my sorrow right now. The sorrow of that look on his face when I told him there was someone else. Someone who had my heart before he did, and who always undoubtedly would.

    “Ava!” comes the only voice besides his that could make me stop. The someone else.

    He strides toward me with a cigarette in his hand, which he quickly puts out when he realizes I notice it. His expression is aloof but I can see the concern in his dark eyes as he dashes toward me.

    “You shouldn’t be out here alone,” he admonishes.

    I look away so he won’t see my embarrassingly tear-filled eyes, but he’s quicker than me and he notices.

    “Come here.” He enfolds me in his warm embrace. “Tell me what happened.”

    I lay my head against his leather jacket, turned away from him so he can’t see my face. “It’s nothing.”

    I can’t talk to him about it. I can’t tell him it’s about him. That seeing him tonight brought a nostalgic surge of old memories and feelings. I remember the definition of nostalgia- the longing to return to a place you never can. How tragic to think of our love as being a place of no return.

    Without words, without knowing what he’s saving me from this time, he calms me. His aura, his intoxicating scent, the tenor of his voice and his strong, reassuring arms around me engulf me in a deep sense of comfort.

    He pats my back gently and doesn’t let go of me until he thinks that I won’t cry.

    When he lets go, I look up at him, realizing that we haven’t really talked tonight. “So how are you?”

    “Good as always,” he says simply.

    “Sober?” I tease.

    He grins. “For now.”

    He looks into my eyes and I try to think of the person I promised to spend the rest of my life with, I try with the desperation of a drowning man to conjure the vague image of his eyes, but in this moment he does not exist. For a brief moment, the lateral logistics of time have crumbled and we go back to that place of no return.

    A guitar squeals in the distance. They’re probably messing around onstage. Besides that and the distant hum of noise from the final trickles of the crowd from the concert, we’re quite secluded.

    He plays with his lighter, flicking it on and off with an intensity in his stare, and I think he’s thinking about his next cigarette, eager to smoke it, but knowing he’d have to leave me to do that. In the small, sharp light of the flame, the white scars on his arm are highlighted.

    I unconsciously touch mine.

    “Wanna know a secret?” I ask him, my heart thumping.

    He looks up and his eyes rest on me, a shadow crossing them, and I swear I can almost hear longing in his voice as he whispers, “What?”

    I trace the criss-cross of scars across my arm. An infinite landmark of my past. They’re not half as many as his or half as deep and for a moment, I feel absurdly jealous. Jealous of his scarred, pierced, inked, fucked body and his smoke-filled, contaminated lungs, and how inexperienced and smooth and undestroyed and unlived I am. Jealous of the darkness that fills his eyes that hints of wonders and horrors seen, of the anger that roughens his voice that suggests a lifetime of pain. And that’s what makes me say it.

    “I’m afraid that someday I’m going to self-destruct.”

    I want to alarm him. I want him to look at me with pity, with concern—with awe. I want him to look in my eyes and see the same deep, enigmatic sadness that contains the Buddhist philosophy he once taught me was his motto: that existence was suffering. And suffering was caused by desire.

    But when does he ever live up to expectation?

    Instead, he replies, “Me, too.”

    A moment later, he adds cryptically, “But it’s the best way to live.”

    I look into his eyes and wonder what kind of great sadness I’ve stumbled upon.

    I want to ask more, to continue down the road of this conversation, to have him explain to me what is the best way to live? Teach me how to self-destruct, how to make my life burn so fiercely that it leads to my own disintegration along the way. How to be like you. He looks up at me with eyes that blaze with a self-consuming fire, and reaches out his hand for me, and I hope, hope for just a second--

    “Come, let’s go find your guy.”

    There lies in his gesture hopelessly false promise- I want to take his hand but it’s going to lead me to someone else.

    I slide my hand into his anyway, feeling his rough, worn fingers wrap around my tender hand. And as we walk together hand in hand out of the forest, out of that brief moment where time lapsed and the past became present again, the furious beats of my heart remind me of what suffering is.
     
  9. AxleMAshcraft
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    AxleMAshcraft Member

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    Death Within Life (Approx. 770 words)
    The sound, the noise, was throbbing, loud, like the soundtrack to a horrible concert. The ones that all the grandparents and parents think are just screaming. He felt glass shatter into his face, the blood dripping down his face so quickly that he didn’t even have to raise a hand to it for it was already far to visible. The car stopped moving, his body jerked tight in the seatbelt, a crunching sound reaching his ears every time he tried to take a breath. He coughed, choking a little bit, blood splattering from his mouth to the steering wheel in front of him.

    ~He looked down at his legs, stretched out, the legs of his pants dark against the browned grass that spread across the rolling hills. A woman was in the distance, the wind taking to her hair and sending it out behind her. She wore red, a plaid shirt tied around her small waist and shorts cropped high on her leg, raveling across her pale skin. He could see her turning, looking at him. The only feature of her face visible from so far away was the red of her lipstick. He staggered to his feet, running up the hill until he was close to her. She turned around, smiling at him, the clear blue of her eyes iridescent.

    The sound of sirens was so faint that it almost didn’t penetrate the darkness. He had his eyes closed, but even if he had them opened, he wouldn’t have wanted to see what was out there. There was a pounding on the car, although he couldn’t tell whether or not it was just his head throbbing, or his heart beating against that inevitable darkness. He heard voices too, dashing in and out of his semi-conscious mind.

    ~He walked into the room, his hand resting on the doorknob longer than it should have. But he was innocent, his mind thinking of all the horrible things that could happen in the world but never thinking of one thing. He wanted to surprise her. He had been gone at work for so long now. His tie hung around his neck, untied, the top buttons of his shirt unbuttoned, cufflinks thrown onto the kitchen table. He remembered how his coworkers razzed him about the ring that now sat on his finger, just a shadow of the gem that sat on hers.
    The door swung open, and he just stood there. Unable to move. She was on the floor, her hands spread around her, her legs splayed. Her eyes were open, the blue clearer than ever. But now they weren’t inviting. They were cold, heartless. Gone. Her skin was lighter than he had ever seen it. Her body skinny, the bones protruding from her hips even through the dress that clung to her body.
    The bottle was open. An orange container with small printed writing around it on a blue and white label. And it was empty. The lid was on the small table that sat at the side of the bed. There was foam around her mouth, hanging on lips that he used to kiss but that were only blue now.
    His hand clung to the doorknob still, his eyes blurring so he couldn’t even see. He whispered to himself, pleaded that he was wrong, that this couldn’t possibly have happened to him. But…he knew. He knew the minute that he saw her eyes, that she was gone. Forever.

    He could hear it before he could see it. A consistent, annoying beep. It would repeat itself and return moments later. Beepbeep. Beepbeep. Beepbeep. The light was blinding, his eyes blinking three or four times trying to take it all in. The room was sterile; the walls white, the floor white, the only color were the light blue curtains that surrounded him. A woman wearing a blue facemask glanced up from what she was doing in a drawer on a cart next to his bed. She said something to him, although he couldn’t make out her words, just the high-pitched sound of her voice.
    And he coughed again, the blood splattering across the white bed in which he sat wearing white clothes with white blankets. The beeping was speeding up. The woman turned, screaming something into the hallway and sending doctors and nurses into the room on the run. His eyes scanned the room too quickly to take in any sort of detail.
    The last thing that he heard in this world was the beeping, growing faster, faster, faster and then suddenly, it was going so fast that it was just one sound. One consistently long beep.
     
  10. salparadise
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    salparadise New Member

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    If I could change one thing about the world I would build more swing sets. Good swing sets though. Ones that have more than four swings on them so that there would always be a spot for everybody. All the swings would be in good condition. They would never hang too low, so you wouldn’t have to worry about your feet scraping up against the ground. And the chains would never get rusty or squeaky or anything.
    They would be everywhere. Parking lots, farms, hotels, golf courses, college campuses, museums. They would all come with swing sets.
    And if I could build swing sets all over the world, I would also make sure to build rope swings everywhere that there’s water. There aren’t enough rope swings, and every time you go to use one there is always a crowd. Everyone should be able to enjoy a rope swing in peace. But it never goes that way.
    Take last spring for instance:

    I stood on the cliff and gazed down into the deep water. The drop wasn’t all that intimidating or anything—it was the group of people all along the edges of the water that was really terrifying. Oh, they acted like they weren’t watching me. They sat on the cliffs with their picnic baskets and footballs and acted like they were minding their own business.
    But no. Everyone was watching me like a hawk behind their reflective aviators. The guy rubbing sunscreen on his girlfriend’s back definitely had one eye on me. And so did his girlfriend. And the frat boys pounding Keystone to impress the girls in bikinis were also watching me. And so were the girls in bikinis. They were all watching and whispering things to each other. Things like, Look at this jackass about to go on the rope swing. I hope he dies.
    It wouldn’t be so bad if they would offer a little support. It wouldn’t kill them to root for me, would it? The whole rope swing experience would probably have been a lot of fun if there wasn’t such a condescending crowd. It would probably would have been a blast. I could have ran up to that rope and grabbed on with one hand and swung through the air like Tarzan. I would have splashed into that water oh so perfectly, and caused a nice little rain shower for my audience. They would have stood in silence under that gentle rain, holding their hands to their mouths, refusing to breathe until I could breathe as well. Mothers would have held their children tightly against their leg. Children would have peeked through fingers that covered their faces. Then I’d dart out of the water like a dolphin and raise my arms in victory. The audience would erupt.
    That would have been fun.
    Instead I scurried up to the rope and grabbed on and swung back and forth about five times, too scared to let go. The rope slowed to a stop, and I plopped off and stepped back. I glanced around at the people on the other side of the dam who were pretending not to notice. They all sat there acting like they were minding their own damn business.
    But they weren’t as frustrating as the growing line of little girls behind me who clearly felt like they could do a better job.
    “Ya know, this is tougher than it looks,” I said.
    They stared at me awkwardly. There’s nothing like defending your acrobatic abilities to an assembly of twelve year old girls.
    “I’ll figure it out though, don’t worry.”
    I stepped back and looked at my enemy swinging in front of me. The top of it was tied to a branch about twenty-five feet above the edge of the rocky cliff and the bottom of it dangled about fifteen feet above the water. To the left of it I saw the dam and kids who were swimming on the edge of it to get a better view of the hundred foot drop. To the right of it I saw the green lake and the green forest surrounding it and kids jumping up and down on the fallen tree which was suspended over swampy parts of the water.
    Behind it I saw a great multitude sitting on the opposite cliff, staring at me with their big old eyes.
    In front of it there was nothing but the warm summer breeze.
    It was me and that damn rope.
    I breathed deep. I ran.
    Every journey to fame starts with a small step. People rarely notice a hero’s routes though. At least not at the time. I suppose that’s why when I darted out of the water with my hands in thrown up in victory, the people were far too stubborn to celebrate and instead tried to appear nonchalant and pretend that they hadn’t just witnessed the most magnificent spectacle of their lives.
    I know that if I had stuck with my rope swinging career I would have to deal with all the people making a big fuss and shouting flattering things at me. Things like, There he is. The first boy to ever master the Tachanaqua Rope Swing. Let’s steal his clothes! And who wants that? No one.
    So until I can gather miles and miles of rope and cut it up into thousands and thousands of pieces to hang from trees all over the world so that everyone can have their own personal rope swing, I think I’ll stick with regular swing sets.
    Regular swing sets can have a few problems too though.
    Take last summer for insance:

    The summer morning was warm and the sky was patchy with clouds. I swung back and forth, up and down, singing songs that my parents listen to. Looking past the soccer field I saw the trees bending in the wind near the archery field. It was one of days when you feel like you are on top of the world. Nothing really gets to you. And you don’t even really know why. All you know is that you finally realize, even for just a minute, that life can be wonderful even if it’s not perfect. That’s when you really, really know what it means to be happy. And plus, after a month of recuperating from that rope swing, and trying to forget everything about it, I was feeling damn happy.
    The chains were squeaky and my feet scraped against the ground with each passing swing. That’s what happens when your three buddies beat you to the swings and you’re stuck with the goofy rusty one that hangs too low. It was all right though anyways because all you really need to have fun on the swings are aviators and your favorite pair of jeans.
    Oh my. Hold on a second. Let me take a minute here to tell you the meaning of life. If you’re ever in a bad mood or whatever, put on a pair of aviators and a pair of jeans, and head to the swingset.
    But you can’t grab any old pair of aviators and any old pair of jeans and call it good and run off. There are rules.

    The Aviators:
    They cannot be reflective. Sure, people can’t see your eyes when you’re wearing reflective glasses. You can stare at whoever the hell you please all day long and no one would know. But for some reason people always assume that you are staring at them, and they get all paranoid. It’s really a mess and not even worth it.
    They cannot be transparent. There needs to be a happy balance here. If someone can see right through the shades and see your eyes as clearly as they could if you weren’t wearing glasses, then theres a problem. Semi-transparent is what we are looking for here.
    They cannot excessively protrude from the face. People typically have a difficult time wearing aviators because often they’re too big. There should not be a full inch between the outside corner of the eye and the rim of the glasses. That is ridiculous.
    Stay away from orange. It doesn’t work, no matter what people say.
    Never leave them on the ground because they are without a doubt the most breakable item in the world.
    Don’t feel like you’re being a haughty asshole for wearing aviators. It’s ok. Really. They’re only sunglasses.

    The Jeans:
    Don’t wear medium-blue jeans. Make sure they are light or dark. Either is fine, just make sure you can easily tell if they are more light or more dark.
    The pockets must be at least three and a half inches deep. There isn’t much in the world that is more obnoxious than shallow pockets.
    Better longer than shorter. Let your jeans drag on the ground so that they rip and fray at the bottom. It’s more comfortable, trust me.
    There are only two places where holes are not acceptable.
    Make sure you wear a belt. This is essential.

    Except for maybe getting the good swing, I don’t think that there is much out there that is better than good aviators and comfortable jeans. If I could build swing sets all over the place, I would also build giant sheds next to all of them and fill them with semi-transparent aviators and long jeans so that people could always have the best time.
    As I sailed through the air I felt the wind fly through my hair. The earth was a tinted haze through my glasses and the bottom of my jeans were muddy and grass stained. They say that you are only as old as you feel, and if that is true, I was far younger than the masses of children running over to the swing set to ask me what was for lunch. Kids at summer camp are always asking a counselor what’s for lunch.
    Swinging with friends is nice, but I quickly learned that it isn’t quite as good as it gets. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful. A beautiful day, sunglasses, a good pair of pants, friends, hungry campers running up to you during your time off and asking stupid questions. It’s all great. Honest. And it’s far better than being stared at like a circus monkey while on the rope swing. But still, it isn’t as great as night swinging.
    Take last autumn for instance:

    I couldn’t stop looking up, staring at all those leaves waving in the sky. It was one of those cold clear nights, you know, and you love to breathe in deep and everything feels so clean. I looked up and saw the moon and trees and stars spinning around me in circles.
    Oh, they spun and spun all night long.
    I stopped to spin for a little bit too. And to listen.
    This way. We’re going to the swings. Her voice was unique, but so is everyone’s I guess. Still, it stuck in my ears as something really profound.
    I turned down the sidewalk and began to walk toward the playground.
    Come on. We’re not going to conform to the sidewalk.
    She cut through the grass. As I staggered all over that long grass her voice grew louder in my mind. Her words poured through me and I followed her.
    And there we sat rocking back and forth on the swings at night together, not much more than strangers.
    Her hair was black as the night and her pea coat was orange like the leaves. She drifted on the swing and talked like she was going to die tomorrow and had to get every final thought out. She asked me why people were so selfish, and why people were so bad to each other. She asked me how to fix all of the problems of the world. She asked me questions that I didn’t know the answer to and questions that I didn’t understand. So I sat quietly and rocked back and forth and listened.
    “I just feel like it’s all so hopeless. Sometimes I wish I didn’t study globalization and international affairs. Then I wouldn’t even know about any of this. What’s the point of being educated about human trafficking if I can’t do anything about it?”
    I listened closely and didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything at all. And everything was quiet except for the endless echoes of her voice and the breeze making the leaves rustle and the squeaking of the swings as we tried to synchronize our pumping.
    It was all really beautiful, too. Just sitting there in the dark. If I could build swingsets all over the world I would also make sure that they weren’t near any streetlights so everyone could see the stars spinning around up there.
    “Did you know that over three billion U.S. dollars are spent on prostitution and sex tourism a year in Thailand? And almost half of the prostitutes working in the country are children that are sold into sex slavery by their families because of poverty or debt. Can you even imagine that?”
    She cruised up to space staring wide-eyed at Orion or something and then gently fell back to earth. And that’s when I decided that I will never again go to the swings with a girl after midnight because before I even knew what was happening I found myself crazy in love with her. Have I only talked to this girl once or twice before? Yup. Did I know almost nothing about her? Absolutely. But, you know, people are stupid about love. And love is stupid when it happens to people. Trust me. So I decided that I would rather still be sitting in a bar thinking about school, sleep, money, work, whatever--than be swaying back and forth next to a dark-haired girl with nothing but wedding bells in my head, feeling as giddy as a schoolgirl.
    “What are you going to do about it?”
    I could barely see the outline of her head in the darkness. But I could see that white wedding veil gently hanging over her face just fine. In fact, the whole dress stood out in the night like a blinding light. It was shining so bright and I wished I had my aviators. And it wasn’t even getting dirty on the bottom or anything because she got the good swing. So the dress glistened in the dark brighter than the moon, and the train flew through the air behind her like a kite.
    She looked beautiful sitting there in that dress and I stared like a kid in a candy store.
    You see, this would be fine and dandy and all if marriage didn’t look so damn bleak. If divorce wasn’t as common as dirt I would tell everyone to go to the swings at night with their sweetheart. I would shout it from the rooftops. It’s the only advice I would ever give to anyone. Nothing else would matter too much.
    If I could build swing sets all over the world, I would also hire at least one person per swing set to sit in a nearby bush at night and shoo away all the naïve couples. It would have been nice if there was someone sitting in a bush near the swings for me, throwing rocks or something at me. Anything to get me out of there.
    But the guy could have shot cannon balls at me and I wouldn’t have moved. I was a moth to the flame and a fish to the hook. I knew what was happening the whole time. I knew I should have gotten up and booked it down the street without waiting for her to answer or looking back or anything.
    “I really don’t think I can do anything. I’m only one person.”
    I looked down at the ground, at my crooked feet, at my dirty jeans, and mumbled something pretty silly.
    “Well. The way I look at it, is that since you’re only one person, all you need to worry about is one other person. I’ve always thought that if I can have a good affect on one person, even in the smallest way, if I can make one person’s day better somehow, everything will be okay.”
    She had a nice smile. So maybe what I said wasn’t all that silly. Who knows. But it made her smile really big.
    And that’s when I knew for sure that I should have ran away. Having a strange girl smile sweety at you on the swings at night is never good news if you’re trying to avoid some sort of devastating heartbreak down the road.
    But I stayed at the swings. You would have too, though. Try it. Really. Next time you’re at the swings with some girl that you barely know, and it’s just the two of you, you’ll see.
    You will fall in love. There is no way to stop it. The swings will get you.
    And you know, it would have been a completely different story if I was on the swings with her in the middle of the afternoon listening to car horns and sirens and babies crying. It also could have been a completely different story if I was sober. But at the time I thought that all it had to do with was the girl sitting next to me talking about how to save the world.
    She went on about feminism and told me about the problems in Africa and Asia and wherever the hell we were. She wanted to figure everything out. She wanted to understand everything. All I wanted to do was understand her. But if I could stay with her and somehow be an exception to all those damn bleak statistics, I wouldn’t care if I ever understood anything.
    I wouldn’t care if I ever had aviators or jeans.
    I wouldn’t care if I ever got to build swing sets all over the world.
    And I wouldn’t even care if I ever got to swing again. After all, the only real point of swinging is to feel young and happy again. And she did that for me just fine.
     
  11. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Being an amateur drunk in Iowa City had finally lost its romance. The regular customers at the Starbucks he played guitar at every Thursday night were learning to stay away, and he didn't blame them. Even he was bored of the bad songs about New York being a boat carrying away his ex-girlfriends.

    At least the writing program was keeping him afloat. Getting facetime with famous authors, even if they regarded him and his equally inept classmates as one would regard a pre-cancerous mole, kept his spirits up. But he probably knew even then that the novel would never be finished and his sole, unfortunate contribution to the literary canon would be a song containing the line 'SS NYC, come back to me.' But his craft beer-induced writing sessions did afford him the opportunity to recreate his tragically short time with her, and so, with willful self-indulgence, he wrote:

    Lauren-Marie stepped into my bookstore and cocked her head with a smile, like a Parisian girl stepping into a boulangerie. Once her eyes had adjusted to the relative gloom, her expression shrivelled into one of expansive disgust that she masked with a small cough and a shake of her hair. If I'd ever seen another girl that beautiful, I dropped the memory of her along with the pile of third-hand Proust novels onto a bottom shelf and left it for an unfortunate lit major to find years later.

    Of course I wooed her, I was bookish and charming, and she was, well, receptive. But as it turned out, she was a politics major and asked me about things like my stance on immigration and whether it was acceptable to call yourself a Leninist if you ate sushi (mid-nigiri, she decided it was, so long as one felt at least a little guilty while doing so, and loudly exclaim at the next opportunity how right Marx had it). I, on the other hand, took her to poetry slams and art galleries, and read her passages of Burroughs and Ginsberg in parks.

    The sex was fine. It was regular, she was enthusiastic, I was reciprocal when it came to oral. But by the end of Autumn, it had become abundantly clear that eating pussy and reciting beat poetry wasn't enough, and she left me for an assistant professor who spoke three languages and was a little too interested in Hegel.

    And so I ran away to write, to Iowa, to join a lofty-sounding MFA program and novelise our romance. Too late, however, I discovered that I lack the conviction to fictionalise my history, so my pieces always end the same: the other guy gets the girl, the protagonist is alone and tortured. But at least there's beer, and coffee addicts who carry too much cash and don't care if the good ship NYC drifts over the horizon and disappears.
     
  12. Tre676
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    Tre676 New Member

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    As the Fires Burn (790 words)


    It was after the calm of summer, yet before the harsh blizzards of winter when my gang-brothers and I celebrated the Treaty of No-Torment that officially put our gang and our rivals from all the streets of Richmond in a period of purgatory. We all felt deep down the suspension of raw nerves; determined we fought hard against the urge to eliminate the enemy that shared our spot on the neutral ground: the creek. Nonetheless, we shoved the feelings of animosity lower inside our bellies so that we could enjoy what remained of the peaceful afternoon beside the creek. After all, not a single one of us knew at the time when the war to preserve the Union would turn its sights back upon our city.
    The day was uneventful and quiet; quiescent and tranquil. All ten boys that made up the ranks of our gang were present, resting atop the giant rock that looked over the shaded creek. In full view of the Sun, we laid out half-naked, letting the warm rays dry our shimmering skin. Looking back on the situation now, I remember thinking how peaceful the moment was; far too peaceful. Not long after my body began to dry and my skin tighten as the chilly water of the creek absorbed into my torso, the winds started to change. I rose from my nest on the rock and looked to our leader, Austin.
    Austin watched with a crooked smile as the boys from our rival gang, the Somerville Cats, splashed and hollered with an increasingly joyous air about them.
    “The creek is neutral ground, Austin; we all agreed.” Wyle reminded our leader.
    Austin’s smile faded to a point between a frown and a sneer. “I know, and I regret making that pact.”
    We all watched as Austin stood up from his resting spot on the giant rock we called the Goliath Jump. He walked to the edge letting his toes hang over; he knelt down like a bird perched above its prey in a field. What little clothing he had on must have contained some form of a pocket, for when he slid his hand down the length of his thigh; he removed a long, slim knife.
    “What is that?!” cried Juny, the youngest of the group.
    “Austin, what are you going to do?!” Dakota asked worriedly whilst brushing the yellow hair from his eyes.
    At the time I attempted to voice a complaint; however a catch in my throat silenced any voluntary noises that may have been expressed. Austin stood once more like a deity accepting praise from the masses, yet the reflection from the knife’s blade in the setting Sun shattered all relations. With a graceful dive, he splashed into the creek below with the Somerville members.
    Shivering with anxiety we all crawled to the edge to watch Austin as he swam his way towards the leader of the Somerville Cats; his knife hidden just below the surface of the green and yellow water. The cold breath of autumn wrapped around my body forcing me to convulse uncontrollably.
    “Maxim, what should we do?!” Wyle asked looking at me with feverish eyes.
    “I-”
    “No!” Dakota cried out interrupting me.
    Through decaying eyes I glanced down to bear witness to the water below. Its color, once a fusion of green and yellow, began to flow red with the blood of the Somerville Cats leader, Aaron Evans. A long, slim knife extruded from his chest; attached to the grip of the knife, was the hand of Austin.
    After that moment by the creek, all of our lives would change. What petty violence we used to cause quickly transpired into all out war with the other gangs. We were kids, stupid and arrogant, yet we killed like the soldiers in blue and gray that affected every aspect of our lives in one way or another during the tense days of the Civil War. It is not until now when I have the knowledge of life to look back, that I realize how much I missed the days by the creek. Days before child murdered child in senseless violence over territories we thought we owned. When our protectors, the Confederate sons and fathers, torched our city months later, everything we fought over, every life lost…was insignificant. The moment the gentle orange glow of the fires lifted towards the heavens, meeting the dying crimson light of the Sun, I realized that gangs no longer mattered. Saving each other did. My childhood spent in the days of violence ended with the days of the Confederacy, and my time as a leader to my brothers who watched with me the burning embers of our city lift skyward, had begun.
     
  13. pinkgiraffe
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    pinkgiraffe Member

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    Trapped (888 words)

    You have to help me. I think I’ve been kidnapped. I’m in a strange place and they won’t let me go.

    I don't remember how they got me here; it must have been chloroform. They've done something strange to my body; it doesn't move like it should do. It feels stiff and heavy, like a old plank of wood that I'm carrying around.

    This isn't me. I’m not heavy like a sack of potatoes. I can dance like a feather in the wind and my shoes wear out before I do. My favourite red plimsolls have been resoled three times. I wonder what happened to them. I've got these beige velcro things on my feet now. Not my style.

    My name is Ethel Whitestone, née Harrison. I grew up in Shipton, in West Yorkshire, where I helped my mother in the shop, except on Friday nights when I would crimp my hair in waves around my face and dance until 10 o'clock at the town hall.

    I met my husband Joe at a town hall dance. I was watching the band - Billy Holly and the West Yorkshire Swingers - and he came over and tapped me on the shoulder. "Would you care to dance?" he said. Well, I liked the look of him: pressed suit, shining shoes, hair combed so strict you could have used his parting as a ruler. So, I said yes.

    The music was real up-to-the-minute jazz, and he swung me around the floor until I was dizzy. Afterwards, as I was catching my breath, he said, "What's your name?" and I said "Ethel". He said, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Ethel". And we danced again.

    My name is the one thing they haven't tried to take away from me, these captors. They're always calling me by my Christian name as though they're old pals. Oh, they pretend to be kind. "Ethel," one of them is saying, "Ethel, there's someone here to see you."

    I thought I wouldn't see him again, but he called by the shop one afternoon. My mother called through to me - I was in the back doing the accounts. She said, "There's a young man here to see you," and so I went out, and it was him. He said, "I hope you don't mind me turning up out of the blue like this, but there’s a certain young lady I would very much like to take to lunch."

    And that was that; we were courting. After about 6 months he asked me to marry him and I was so happy I thought I was going to be sick. We got married in the village church - I wore a long-sleeved dress with white lace sleeves and a train and a veil and we moved into the house on Garden Terrace. I wish they'd let me go back there, go home. What if the war's over and he's come back? I need to be there to welcome him home.

    Nothing is as it should be in here. My clothes are all frumpy and my hair has been permed into lumpy curls without any real style. It’s old lady hair, like my grandma's. My family must be worried sick about me. I don't know how long I've been here; they make it hard to keep track of time. They don't let me out, you see. I don’t even know if we’re winning against Hitler.

    “Ethel,” she says again, louder this time. “You have a visitor.”

    I look up from the chair. I can't see properly - that's another thing that's not right. My vision is 20/20 and yet everything is fuzzy and is accompanied by a kind of shadow of itself. But I can make out a second woman standing in the room. I don't know her.

    "This is nice, isn't it Ethel? It's your daughter here to see you."

    No, it isn't nice, because that is not my daughter. I don't have a daughter. If they let me out of here, I might. When Joe gets back from fighting the Germans we want to have a kiddie, and I'd like a girl. A beautiful little girl, with long blonde hair like I had when I was that age, that I could brush as she sits in front of the fire after her bath. And the clothes - little dresses and tiny shoes. Every time I handle them in the shop I wish so hard he was back with me. But he will be. And then the children. That's all to come, just as soon as I get out of here. I’m sure there’s been some terrible mistake.

    Of course, I'd be happy with either, a boy or a girl. We've already picked names; we did that before he went away to fight the Nazis. If it's a boy, it'll be Jack, after Joe's father. And if it's a girl, it'll be Sarah.

    The woman comes over to me and picks up my hand. That doesn't look right either; the skin's all wrong. Dry and crinkly.

    Oh, I do miss him. Hurry up, Joe.

    "Hello, Mum," the woman says. She looks sad about something but I don’t know what. She leans in close to my face and looks me square in the eyes. "Mum?” she says again. “It’s Sarah.”
     
  14. Tessie
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    Tessie Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rouge (1279 words)

    “Ellie, you better get your behind out of that seat, or Momma’s gonna get you!”

    Boone knew he was too late as he ran toward me and jumped onto the running board of the car. His arm bent over the window, and he tugged my golden pig tails, wrenching my hand from the steering wheel.

    “You never let me drive! Leave me be!” I hollered, red–faced and indignant. I hit him with my black shoe, didn’t feel a bit remorseful, and turned the key. After a putter and cough, the engine roared to life. I shifted Daddy’s Ford V-8 into drive and yelled, “Whoo-hoo!” as it zigzagged down a dirt road in the hills of North Carolina.

    Boone had fallen off when my shoe smacked him in the face, but as I hit the gas, I saw him running behind me, waving like a skivvy set out to dry in the wind. I stuck my tongue at the rearview mirror. I knew he would never see me in the small, reflective disk, but the pleasure that action alone afforded me was all I had gotten from that dismal summer.

    Daddy had been called up by the draft in the fall of 1940. He didn’t make one complaint even though times were tough and life was difficult in our little town. After kissing Momma and the baby, he picked me up in his arms and told me he was going to learn to serve his country. He said he was going to drill for President Roosevelt, be a good soldier for President Roosevelt, and that he would to see us all again in twelve months, and not a second later.

    As I turned the car left at the fork in the road, rushing past a gurgling brook and over a small bridge, tears swelled my eyes. I missed him, and I needed him. Looking back into the mirror, I noticed Boone was nowhere in sight. I imagined him somewhere on the side of the road, kneeling breathless, and I wasn’t sorry.

    I knew if Daddy had been home, he would have left me drive. He wouldn’t have refused me, not like Boone had done. And that was why I needed to drive alone that day. I was eleven, and I could operate the car just as well as Boone, if not better.

    The July heat began to make the car unbearable. The leather seat seared the back of my legs. Momma would really worry if I had stayed out too long, so slowing the car, I decided I was going to turn around at the next opportunity.

    Suddenly, I heard a noise. It was a horse, but not a happy horse. Leaning to take a peek out the back window, I saw Boone canter from behind some greenery. The horse was wide-eyed with nostrils flared. My brother’s look of unwonted contempt was even more frightening, however.

    I stamped the gas pedal and roared down the road. Boone was sure to given me a licking then, and what happened next is more of a blur to me. I remember seeing a tree, then trying to swerve to miss it, but either something hit the car, or the car hit something, and all I heard was an awful crash.

    From behind closed eyes, I could hear Boone screaming. I groaned and tried to move out of the seat. The door was stuck fast, and when forced, a trickle of water came through, chilling me to the bone. I banged on the door, throwing my whole weight against it.

    “Boone, help! I can’t get out!”

    “Don’t move. I’m coming to get you!”

    It was some minutes that I waited. I didn’t know where I was or what had happened; I was in darkness, and nothing around me seemed familiar.

    Finally, I sensed movement near me. I moved closer and then found myself in Boone’s strong arms. He pulled me out of the mud and maneuvered over to the embankment. We plopped ourselves down onto the grass like beached fish. I looked at Boone and saw that he was covered in mud up to his neck.

    Motioning to the car, he said suddenly, “Eleanor Grace, what have you done?”

    I wasn’t prepared for his sternness. I began to whimper and then balled like I never had before. Attempting to stand, I tried to run, but fell. I was caked in mud and shivering. As angry as Momma would be, my favorite dress being ruined was just another thing to add to my misery.

    I lifted my watering eyes to the sight of the car, willing myself to look at my misdeed. It laid there half in the mud and half out, the rogue back-end being the only part of it still in intact and in the condition Daddy had left it in nine months before. If I could do the day over again, I would have then in a heart-beat. But it was too late, and Daddy would not have his clean car to come home to.

    Again, I lifted myself to stand. Boone lent me a hand. He pulled me up and brushed what he could of the mud off my dress.

    “Momma got a letter today.” Boone said, while staring at the ground.

    I gasped, quickly throwing aside my misery. Clapping my hands, I shouted, “He’s coming home! Oh, he’s coming home!”

    Boone shook his head, placing a hand on my shoulder. He was tall, and he towered over me as I looked into his sad expression. “No, it’s different news. President Roosevelt has extended the training time.” His mouth quivered as he added, “Six more months.”

    I began to cry. Boone picked me up in his arms, and he carried me the whole length of the walk home as the sun began to set.

    *****

    When I recall that day, the intensity of the summer heat, and my own adolescence, I can’t help but laugh. At eighty-five years, I can still remember that day as if it had been my wedding day. You remember every minute detail, especially the sight of that rouge bumper pointing in the air, as the rest of the car’s body lay nestled in the muddy ditch. It took three of our draft horses to pull it out, and then a day and a half of tinkering on Boone’s part to straighten out the axle.

    I wish I could say he never forgave me for that day, which would make me feel better for giving him a black eye with my shoe heel, but he did. Boone was four years my elder, and he might as well have been an old coot as far as my standards went, but he did treat me better from that time on.

    Daddy returned home a year and a half later. Pearl Harbor had extended his time of service indefinitely, but shrapnel from a mortar shell had taken a good portion of his left leg and made a speedy end to his term. Even with a prosthesis, he still had difficulty making it up the stairs at night, but by then Boone had taken over the management of the farm, and he didn’t need to concern himself so much with manual labor.

    For a while, the old Ford sat in the front yard, a sad relic of my folly. Boone never did get around to fixing it, although he repeatedly promised he would. It will always remain in my memory, though, as the day I learned to drive. And it didn’t matter anyway, as Daddy told me the day after he arrived home; he never was fond of that color.
     
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