Posts Tagged ‘ Fiction ’

In Reflection

{by Stephen Parolini at Counting On Rain}

In the mirror across the bar she is twelve. She is standing in the wings of the Big Top, breathing the scent of hay and earth and animal with deep, happy inhales. She hears the crowd’s cheer rise and fall in waves, pictures a man and a woman flying through the air in matching blue and white costumes. She looks at her own costume. It is pink. Color, Maya, color! The circus is all about color! It is the voice of her father, a voice she has never known but somehow recognizes. I want to match you and mom, she says.But you match Kimba!

“Another?” She is back in the bar, her elbows leaning on the mahogany counter, her fingers wrapped around a sweating glass. The man she has been dating for three months touches her hand. He is a handsome man and she wonders if that’s why it was so easy to say “yes” to his dinner invitation all those weeks ago.

Maya looks down at her empty glass. She doesn’t remember the last sip.

“Okay,” she says. He lifts his hand from hers, and her whole body aches in the absence of his touch.

In the mirror across the bar, Kimba lifts her gray trunk, tickling at the edge of the curtain, playing with a fraying cotton rope that hangs from the exposed metal frame above. Kimba is wearing a pink ruffle around her neck. Kimba doesn’t like the ruffle. She endures it. Maya thinks this is how she feels about her pink outfit, too.

The applause becomes a symphony. Spotlights flash by the entryway. Her father sprints past, blowing a kiss to Maya. Her mother slows, reaches up and wraps her fingers around her daughter’s pink-slippered foot. Stand tall, her mother says, then follows her father back into the darker rooms where circus acts are stitched together with sawdust and magic.

“You seem quiet tonight,” he says as her drink is refilled. He notices things. She wonders if this is why it was so easy to say “yes” to spending the night after that first dinner. She had never done that before. Not so soon.

“I’m fine,” she says. He knows this means she needs the quiet; that she’s daydreaming or remembering or sorting. He will touch her again to acknowledge this. And he does, his hand on her shoulder.

In the mirror across the bar, Maya is atop Kimba, carefully adjusting her stance to stand tall as the elephant marches behind a parade of clowns into the biggest ring of the three-ring circus. Fireflies spark from the crowd when the youngest star makes her entrance. The flashes don’t really help, she hears her father say later, on the drive home in a rusty brown station wagon. The cameras are too far away for the flashes to matter. Maya leans against the car door, watching the blurring trees. They matter to me, she whispers to the clouds.

There’s nothing shiny here

{by She Was}

Cylence Gray was 12 years old when she stopped believing in god and started believing in love. Standing alone, and to the side, slender pale arms wrapped around her black waist, Cylence watched the magpie, head cocked, watching her. Cylence liked that her face was turned to the sky. It meant that she didn’t have to look at the spring wet hole they were slowly lowering him into.

Cylence had been cracked open by grief and from that opening faith flew. Many years later she remembered. The tugging was the worst part. Being forced to look, to acknowledge, to know. As if somehow she could unknow. The tubes and the rattle rattle death breath, the corridors, closing in on her, as she waited, as they all waited. The mashed potato and gravy portrait her mother painted on the white wall. Her mother’s anger, at her, at her, for being there, for having held his hand and for having heard his heart beat when it stopped. She would never not know. Never unknow.

What Happens After The Happiest Day of Your Life

{by Jonniker}

She picked up the glass, twirling the crystal stem in her fingers, holding the paper-thin bowl up to the light. They were the perfect glasses–Baccarat, not Waterford, as everyone knew Waterford was too fussy. All those facets, she thought bitterly. I don’t want to drink out of the Chrysler building.

She remembered the day they picked them out–well, the day she did, anyway, whirling around Neiman’s with the glowing red gun. He resisted initially, insisting that they were too expensive.

“Babe, I don’t want my grandmother forking over $300 for a single water glass,” he said. “Can’t we get these instead?”

He’d pointed to a display of Lenox glasses. Goddamn LENOX. She rolled her eyes at the memory. As if I’d be caught dead entertaining with a $36 glass. She won him over by insisting that the glasses were an investment.

“An investment in a lifetime of memories,” she cooed.

Stupid. I’m so stupid.

She turned the Baccarat upside down again, watching the light bounce off the rounded stem. She put it back on the table and twisted her hands for a moment before letting them fall into her lap. They rustled in the folds of her tulle slip, and she realized with horror that she was still wearing her wedding dress.

Her hands smoothed the fabric as she glanced down at herself admiringly.

Cheating at Golf

{by Joe Flood}

That morning, Ted got dressed, picked up his clubs and headed for the links. At the club-house, he had a drink, a Bloody Mary reeking of vodka and Tabasco. The TV played CNBC, news of the financial storm overturning all boats. Ted ordered another drink, handing over his credit card to the bartender.

“Charge it while it still works,” he said.

The first golfers were heading out into the humid dawn air. A group of vacationing orthodontists were looking for a fourth. Ted fell in with their group, a little tipsy from the vodka.

Ted sent his first shot racing into a drainage ditch, a line drive that sent up a big splash in the early morning mist.

“I’m taking a mulligan,” Ted said.

“Yea, it’s practice!” the shortest of the lot said. He was the oldest, the richest, and was the leader of the group. His name was Danny.

Ted’s second swing wasn’t much better. He seemed to slip on the dew-wet grass, his left leg jerking out, as if it had been yanked like a marionette. The ball overflew the drainage ditch and bounced over the neighboring fairway.

“I should’ve hit the driving range,” he explained.

“Hey, it’s early,” Danny said.

Ted took another mulligan and, on his third try, sent a decent drive down the middle of the fairway. Danny then launched a ball high over his, by a good fifty yards. His colleagues congratulated him.

“It’s the Bertha’s!” Danny exclaimed, holding the oversized driver in his hand. The club was nearly as tall as he was.

Ted scooped his ball out with a nine iron and sent it arcing onto the green. Danny did likewise.

The men lined up for their putts. The orange sun was just over the palm trees, starting to heat up the day.

“Did I tell you?” Danny said. “Winner buys drinks.”

“Got it,” Ted said, aligning himself with the hole. He was short by a good ten feet. Danny sunk his ball, a smile alighting on his face.

Heart Masks Mind

Heart Masks Mind

{Originally Published on Secret Agent Mama and originally featured right here on November 20, 2008}

Oh fiery colors, how short your stay,
Merrily tantalizing my sense of sight.
Against the blue sky, as if to blaze the way,
Towards the promise of a new day, bright.
It is in autumn that I reflect the most,
The end of the year spinning my mind around.
Like the trees that wait again to host,
My thoughts pause to absorb the sound.
Through the standstill, I look forward and back,
Considering past, dreams turn to a future of hope.
I wonder: Are the trees hopeful while they lack?
Or have they just found a way to cope?
My mind it is filled with worry and doubt.
Though my heart, a hopeful tree, dreams about.

Lessons in Living, Dead.

{By Zombie Daddy}

Some days I’m better at getting out of the house than others. I bring my daughter with me to the grocery store or to the mall while I browse. I don’t buy anything; any cash I pick up here or there goes straight to rent; I don’t work and we need the apartment so that it at least looks like we’re normal. (Aside: Those idiots who hang out in graveyards all day and all night, slowly rotting from the damp and never giving a thought to staying clean and inconspicuous just give me a headache. Make an effort. Fuckers. Take some pride in your being; you have been given a second shot at existence.)

As I was saying, I don’t buy anything. That isn’t the point of the trips to the store. The point is to care. Complacency will be the life of us. If I don’t care enough every day to get up, get out, and keep track of what is going on in the world then I will wither. The doldrums will win, the hunger will dominate, and my daughter and I will get caught as we rampage down a suburban street picking off soccer moms. So, activity, involvement. Playing among the cattle. Keeping track of who is divorcing whom, and whether or not Bat Boy has finally had a kid of his own; noting the changing fashions; watching books climb and fall from the bestseller lists; I pay attention to all of these things and pretend they matter until I almost convince myself. I train my being to react as though they are important, to behave effortlessly normal.

She thinks it’s a big waste of time, of course. “Daddy, can we eat now?” she asks every time we go to the store. “No sweetie. Not now. Now we learn.” I’m teaching her that there is value in normalcy, even if it’s only self-preservation.

Only self-preservation. It’s so hard to get through to her sometimes, to teach her that this existence we have is precarious and precious. She’s young, and impulsive, and driven by the now.

What Happens After Impact

{by Two Busy}

And in that instant

I am aloft in a way I’ve never known before, a growing cushion of air rising to fill the space between my skin and my seat, the wheels and the road, my head snapping back with effortless, eyeblink ferocity and colliding with the headrest (the crush of my hair against leather, pressing through the foam to touch the steel within) then a whipcrack snap forward, vertebrae compressing and releasing like pistons firing at neural speed, the engine still running strong and loud and my heart surging with adrenaline and

in the periphery of my vision I can see the earth spin and turn, as if the axis of the world has shifted

I think: how odd

and the sound, the sound, it’s incredible, that terrible squeal and crush of metal bending and tearing, iron wrenching from iron and glass and the compression of air in my lungs and those seconds – one, and two, and the long heartbeat stretch to three – when it all dissolves to echo and gravity fades to myth and I become aware that I am still pressing down on the accelerator, as though I might catch up to this impossibly swift rotation of earth and sky and in matching its speed slow its pace and return to the world I’d known and all I hear is the engine the wheels freed from the restraints of physics straining to catch hold on this cool evening air and

then a corner connects – I cannot tell which one, and in not understanding I lose some illusion of control – and there is a new eruption of torque and velocity, of moving so many different ways at once, and I am the tail of a kite arcing and spiraling in a strong wind, diving and soaring and fighting against myself and this thin brace of fabric that cuts deep across my waist and the forgiving skin where neck and shoulder meet

where you had rested your head, seeking solace and comfort and this

is all

it’s all happening so fast

and the adrenaline fills me with strength and fury and my arms and chest swell — with will, with purpose, with terror and defiance and

something catches

Insult and Injury

Fiction and Poetry Blog Nosh Magazine{Originally posted in The Slow-Cooked Sentence}

She asked for my bag to search it for stolen library books, and she wanted me to come back inside too. I refused. As if I would willingly walk back into the library with a toddler throwing a tantrum. Stupid woman.

“Feel free to take it,” I spat out, struggling to hold on to my angry son.

She blinked at me from behind her glasses, than picked up the bag and marched back in.

“Are we in trouble, Mom?” my older son asked, shrinking himself into the shadows of the building.

I shook my head, silently willing the small, stiff child in my arms to calm down. Instead, he arched his back into the curve of a scorpion’s tail and wailed.

I’d hunted scorpions as a kid. Armed with an empty mayonnaise jar, I’d wander out into the vast stretch of sandy desert that was my backyard and start kicking over cow patties. Scorpions burrow small holes under the dung, flat as a Frisbee, and hide out during the hottest part of the day.

Sometimes, my brother and I would capture five or six at a time. From pincer to tail some of them were longer than my dad’s thumb. Others were small enough to fit on a dime. Of the hundreds of scorpions we captured, grew bored with and released, I remember two: The one found under plywood, whose body alone measured three inches and whose tail was thick as jute, and the mother with a million babies on her back. She got away.

That’s what I wanted to do now, just crawl into a hole as people gave my toddler and his meltdown lots of space. A bitter, angry brew boiled in my belly. I’d been taking my children to this library long enough for a few of the librarians to know us by name, but I didn’t know this one, nor had I paid attention to her face when she stamped our books. Instead, I studied her hands, studded with rings that squeezed her flesh and forced it to ooze around them. Those pale, sticky hands usually busy with musty books and cups of sugared tea were poking through my things, pulling out water bottle, bike helmet, knitting.

“She’s taking out your wallet, Mom,” my older son reported from his hiding spot near a window. “She dropped it.”



fiction-poetry-200{Originally Published on BHJ}

I’m in no hurry. You know that guy on the highway? You can’t get into the left lane because it’s a swarm of caffeinated speedsters and you’re trapped behind some fool going 5 under. That’s me. Good morning.

I had a friend. Skip. Every time we parted, without fail, he’d say “Take it slow”.

My path to work winds through a cluster of yawning mountains. Just before the sun rises, the top, just the bare tip, of the jagged horizon’s all lit with the glow of a faint orange hum that aches to be something – looks like the mountains are about to have a big idea, like something’s about to happen. You know what I mean? You know that weird feeling you get when something’s about to go down? Your kid is walking with a glass of juice. A man stares too long at a woman’s purse. You take the first drink. Something’s about to happen.

There’s a subtle negotiation between the black sky of last night and the sleepy orange morning waiting for its time. A deep staggering blue, stumbling, confused. Sometimes it’s blood purple. In some vague space between words, it doesn’t know what it is. But it’s not bothered by this. It’s in no hurry.

I may have missed my calling as a cab driver. Can you imagine? I would look in my rear view, check out my passengers, write little stories about their pasts and futures. That guy. He keeps checking his watch and calling someone who doesn’t answer. I’m taking him to a part of town where only a couple things happen. The crying lady. Going to the airport. And those two, kissing, groping, wearing wedding rings that don’t match. Everyone’s going somewhere. They start out here. I take them there. But me? I spend my days in between. Lingering between what just went down and what’s waiting to happen.

The Deep End of the Shallow Water

Fiction and Poetry Blog Nosh MagazineOriginally published at Storytellersunplugged.

Richard Dansky’s short story, besides being an intriguing story about monsters and possibilities and what hides in the dark, challenges the reader to think about our preconceptions and how they affect what we see.

He introduces the story with this tidbit:

There are a lot of lakes and ponds in the Triangle, many of them man-made. There’s one I pass driving to work every day, and another that sits across the street from my office. You can go there on your lunch break and see people fishing or sailing or throwing frisbees into the water for their dogs to chase. I’ve even availed myself of the facilities a few times, and am pleased to report I’ve only fallen out of a rented canoe once, and briefly.

An admittedly unscientific sample suggests that most of those folks have no idea that Lake Crabtree (and the “lake” part is purely an honorific; it’s about as deep as a Bret Michaels interview and covers only slightly more territory) was dug out with backhoes and bulldozers in the not-too-distant past. Even the signs posted at various semi-prominent points don’t get the point across. Maybe they’re ugly signs. Maybe people have come up with their own stories about where the lake came from and how long it’s been around, and if things are otherwise, they don’t want to know. Either way, it works for them.

Which, I suppose, is the point of the story.




We got out of the car just before sunset, a half-mile down a gravel service road that we shouldn’t have been able to access. The spot where we’d stopped was a pretty one, a clearing in the second-growth pine woods that ran up the edge of the body of water we’d come to investigate.