I discovered pocket-sized stories during a course on writing sudden fiction in college. Later, between diaper changes and feedings, penning abbreviated stories gave me freedom from my child-focused world. My over-scheduled, abundant life and the years I spent editing press releases also factor in to my propensity for writing these snippets of fiction. Well into another draft of my epic novel, these pieces satisfy my need to create new characters and chronicles. I thank you for taking the time to read them and hope you are transported and entertained.
Posted on May 12, 2016
They’d been traveling west since the snow melted in Galesburg. She noticed the first green buds on limbs back in Missouri. The trees provided much needed shade in Iowa, and in Nebraska territory she began to bleed. Her mother told her what to do with the rags and how to conceal the filth from the men.
“Won’t do to remind them you’re a sinful woman. They’ll be sniffing around you like dogs.”
Patience’s breasts ached and grew round under her pinafore and her stomach cramped as she was jostled around in the wagon. Sometimes it helped to get out and walk beside the oxen. It took the pressure, which built up, and moved it through her body. Besides, her siblings with their chatter and tapping and nonsense became so annoying she thought her head would pop.
But the trip grew long under the baking sun and the load they carried to their new life in Oregon began to slow them down. A broken wagon wheel could cost them days. The fallen ox meant they had to leave the dining table in the tall grass to crack under the endless sky, but it also meant a hearty meal for them and for other families passing by. Mother set the table properly, for the last time, with the candle sticks and fragile china unpacked from the straw in the barrel. The family bowed their heads in thanks, sitting in their regular places.
Indians be damned.
Posted on May 10, 2016
The air was warm and thick with lightning bugs and mosquitos. She’d slathered her long legs and bare arms with bug juice before she escaped the stifling confines of the cabin. She hoped Joey wouldn’t mind the smell and wondered if his girlfriend back home wore perfume.
Twigs cracked beneath her feet as she made her way down to the far dock where they’d agreed to meet. Before she snuck across the grass, she checked to make sure the coast was clear. All of the lights in the cabins were off, which meant the counselors were asleep. Nevertheless, she ran across the wooden dock, her sneakers living up to their name and sat down quickly on the far side of the stack of overturned rowboats.
“I knew you’d come,” Joey said and reached his hand out to cup her head. He pulled her toward him for a kiss.
It was happening so fast. No build up. No awkward pause; well, do we or don’t we? He knew what he wanted. He was seventeen. Practically a man.
She surrendered. He kissed like a man, or what she imagined a man would kiss like. It wasn’t one of those pecks or a what do we do with our tongues kisses, it was a real, honest to God, this guy really likes me kiss. And then she felt his hand on her leg and his fingers move swiftly up the inside of her cut-off jeans.
It was happening too fast.
A bright light shone in her eyes.
“What are you kids doin’ sneakin’ around? If it wasn’t the last night, I’d call your parents to come get you right now. Joey Camora, I thought I told you last week I wouldn’t put up with this hanky-panky. Get back to your cabin.”
Posted on May 7, 2016
Sarah stood over the toilet bowl and emptied her bladder, being careful not to get pee on the seat. She heard their loud and sharp voices near the restroom door. She felt their anger enter with them. Ruby Dolores, Mindy Skirwin and the rest of their teased hair crew came in, dragging the smell of cigarettes with them.
“Fucking Bitch! Who does she think she is messing with me?”
Sarah could imagine Ruby’s posturing, the way she popped her neck side to side and put her talons on her hips. She saw her leather jacket, black heavy metal tee shirt and skin tight jeans with the comb in the back pocket.
“She shouldn’t a done it. She knows Jimmy’s your boy,” said Mindy, the ever present girl thug. Some of the other gang members chatted about their lipstick and another entered the stall beside her.
Sarah wiped from from front to back and pulled pulled up her pants. She zipped them quietly and stood still, weighing her options.
She grabbed her backpack and pulled out the small knife she had concealed by the metal support bracket.
“She think she so smart, that little rich bitch. Thinks she can have anything she wants.” It got very quiet in the echoing room.
Sarah thought back to second period, when her lab partner knocked their petri dish on the floor and it rolled beneath Jimmy’s desk. He handed it to her. That was all.
“Ha!” Lisa Braganolo’s head popped up over the stall just as Ruby kicked in Sarah’s door.
“Bitch, Git out here.” Ruby grabbed Sarah’s hair and pulled her from the stall, swinging her into the radiator under the window. She felt a sharp pain in her thigh and cried out.
Ruby came at her again, the other girls circling behind her and Sarah drove the knife up, under her ribcage.
“Bitch cut me!” Ruby yelled. As soon as they saw the blood, her posse turned and ran out the door.
Posted on November 11, 2015
“Danielle! Danielle!” Gerard called through the fog blanketing the Seine.
She had left their apartment hours earlier, before sunset. Because of their row, he hadn’t asked where she was going. He had to look like he didn’t care. If she knew how much she meant to him, it would make him vulnerable. The thing was, he was vulnerable.
And now she had left. The very thing he was afraid of.
He came across a waiter sweeping leaves from the sidewalk into the gutter in front of Le Roi Café. Inside, a few stragglers held up the bar. The gaslights were turned up to encourage the patrons to make their way out into the night. Danielle was not inside.
“Pierre, have you seen Danielle tonight?”
“She passed by. Looked like she was headed to the Pont Neuf.”
“Merci.” Gerard clapped him on the shoulder.
At least she wasn’t headed to Montmartre. He’d hate to find her back at Madame Boucher’s. But where else would she go on a cold night like this? There she’d have a bowl of stew, some wine and a warm bed. And company. She’d have company.
Maybe he should check Madame Boucher’s. He started walking briskly toward the hill. No. He stopped and turned back toward Rive Gauche. Danielle wouldn’t go back to that kind of life. Not after knowing what real love was.
Was what they had real love? He tightened his scarf and pulled his waistcoat close, heading into the wind and across the river.
He knew she loved him. She showed him every day. The way she nibbled his ear to wake him up. She made his lunch and wrapped it in a clean cloth for him to take to the apothecary. She played nicely with his drunken mother and was respectful to all of his siblings. She even helped to cover his board when he fell ill last spring. Most of all, she told him how important he was to her, how much she loved him, how she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.
And what had he done? “Imbecile!” He yelled out loud, scaring an old woman hurrying along the bridge.
“Pardon.” He doffed his hat.
“You are in trouble, Messieur?
Posted on November 5, 2015
Entering the corner store, the beeper announced my arrival with too much gusto. I reached to take off my sunglasses, but thought the better of it.
“Hey, Ali.” My voice cracked in my gravel encrusted throat.
“And how are you today, My Friend?”
“How do I look?”
“Like you need your usual.” His voice lilted up at the end of his sentence, which made it sound like he was asking a question, but he turned to the shelf behind him, grabbed a fifth of Popov vodka and set it on the counter. Damn that was loud. I wanted to reach for it, crack the seal, and chug it down, but I rubbed my hands up and down the sides of my dirty jeans, dancing a little, while he got me my 2 packs of Marlboro Reds. I reached into my pocket and pulled out some rumpled bills and change I’d scrounged from various table tops and sofa cushions at the cafe down the street last night.
“Have a nice day, My Friend. See you tomorrow.” Again, with the question statement. Ali was from Bangladesh or some fucking place like that. I don’t know why he’d choose to come to America to own a liquor store and deal with the likes of me day in and day out. We’ve had the exact same conversation for almost two years now. He calls me his friend, but he’s selling me the shit I’m poisoning myself with. How could he be my friend? Everybody’s his fucking friend. I bet he doesn’t even know my real name.
“Hey, Man, you remember my name.” I said it like a statement with the end going up.
He paused and searched through my scratched glasses. “Of course I do. It’s James McClurg, but you like it when people call you Jimmy.” He nodded his head.
“So why do you call me ‘My Friend?’”
“Because we are friends and neighbors.” He smiled a wide smile in his skinny cheeks.
“Ali, I need help.”
Posted on September 22, 2015
The librarian, named Miss Understanding, opened a can of worms when she pulled Lady Chatterley’s Lover out of the book return. A letter, used to mark a page perhaps, fell from its yellowed pages. She scanned the less-than-quiet library to see if anyone had seen her make the discovery. Being a curious woman, she unfolded the paper and read its salutation.
The passions contained within these pages pale in comparison to the fire that burns within me when I think of your peach sweet kisses.”
She looked around to see if anyone saw her blushing and then scanned to the bottom of the page to see who had written the love letter.
Alfred? Why that must be Madge’s Alfred, thought the small town librarian. I’ll just call Madge right away and return her letter.
Clever Miss Understanding. It was, indeed, Madge’s Alfred who penned the letter. Unfortunately, however, it was not written for his dowdy wife, but rather for his darling donut baker.
Since the misunderstanding, Madge has lost fifty pounds. She no longer eats the donuts her ex-husband brought her on Saturday mornings.
Posted on September 17, 2015
“I do wish they’d move more swiftly.”
“Georgiana, you know you can’t rush a good tea.”
She sat, her back rigid and removed from the moss green velvet upholstery. Her silk dress with its dizzying geometric pattern clashed with the regal elegance of the Regency settee. She should have known better than to have worn it, let alone bought it. Perhaps it was an unfortunate gift from that banker husband of hers. He had wretched taste.
“It’s Rodney,” her voice cracked.
Of course it was. It was always about him. Her wretched taste has been unquestionable since she began seeing the brute.
She twisted her hand in her lap and looked at me. A tear began to puddle in her lower lashes.
“Don’t make a fuss. The tea will be here soon. Look at the light.” I pointed to the glass ceiling.
Imagine crying at The Orangery.
She looked up and I saw her swallow. Her chest heaved up and down. My equilibrium flew off kilter from watching the pattern on her blouse swell and recede. I wish she’d put on, and for God’s sake, button her jumper.
“Shall we walk to the gallery, or call for a cab?”
“Georgiana, don’t change the subject. Just control your emotions. Be irate, but do not be a simpering ninny.”
“Right.” She looked around and then lowered her voice. “There is a great deal of money missing from one of our accounts.”
“Maybe he bought you a gift.”
“Highly unlikely, unless he bought me a Rolls Royce or a small boat.”
“Have you spoken with him about it? Maybe he’s made an investment. You know how bankers play with money.” And other women.
The server appeared, rolling the tea trolley laden with finger sandwiches and lacy cakes. She reached for the plate he stretched to set before her as if she hadn’t eaten in weeks. I should have known better than to suggest we meet at Kensington Gardens.
Posted on September 15, 2015
“I love you, Cam. Even when you don your cloak of darkness.”
She didn’t budge, but kept her head buried under her arm as she sat on her deep carpet, leaning against her single bed.
I wondered why she still had such a juvenile bedspread, when she was trying to be so deep and goth. The cartoon characters had to go.
I scooched back against the wall, used a stuffed bear or something to prop myself up, and lit a cigarette.
It was weird, sitting in her room, smoking, wondering what would happen if her parents caught us up there, alone. Not that we were likely to do anything, what with Cam on the rag and all. That had to be it. She was always extra moody, I mean beyond the thick black eyeliner moody, when it was her time.
“Fuck you, she said into the pink bedspread.
I could take that.
“What’s with the powderpuff girls? Should we get a Sharpie and turn them goth? Give them black capes?”
“What? Like my ‘cloak of darkness?’ You’re such a dweeb.” She pulled the cigarette from my fingers and took a drag. “Get your boots off the girls!” She swatted my feet.
“You shouldn’t let Mr. Butterfinger give you such a hard time about your writing. I mean what does he know? He’s a fucking high school English teacher. How many best sellers does he have?”
“It’s just that I worked so hard on that piece. I liked it.”
“Okay, so like it some more. Help it grow.”
“What do you mean? I turned it in. I got a B. It’s done.”
“Are you kidding me? Consider that a starting point, an early draft. Was there anything he said that was helpful?”
“Yeah, ‘this is a cliché.’ Of course it’s a cliché, it’s about fucking vampires. Vampires are cliché.”
“So make your vampires different.” I pulled the Sharpie out of the cup on her desk and drew fangs on the powderpuff girl.
“What, like super hero vampires? Pink, big-eyed bloodsuckers?”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Give me one.” She nodded her head toward the can. I gave her the pen I was holding and took another for myself.
After we gave her comforter a makeover, she gave me my first blowjob on top of it.
Posted on September 10, 2015
Emily stood behind Isaac in the long line snaking its way through the gymnasium. She slowly stroked her crossed arms, savoring the feeling of her soft cardigan.
“Emily, do you think it’ll hurt?”
She turned to look at Zoe, her best friend since kindergarten. Her face was tight, her green eyes wide. Emily reached out and ran her closed hand down Zoe’s long copper braid.
“Probably. Shots always hurt.”
Zoe’s forehead crumpled in, her eyebrows lifted and a pool of tears formed in her lower lashes.
“I’m sorry, but you want me to tell you the truth, right?”
“This way, we’ll be prepared. Mother says to take a deep breath and then to let it out slowly as they give the injection.”
They moved forward in the line and watched as Mary Jane walked away from the table where the nurse was administering the vaccines. Aldo was up next. His face was like a rock.
They watched him lift his sleeve, and then looked away.
“Maybe we should talk about ballet class.” Emily suggested.
They fell into an uneasy discussion and half-hearted demonstrations of the positions and routine for their upcoming recital.
Then, Emily was up.
“Move your sweater,” the nurse said. No, ‘Good morning. This isn’t going to hurt a bit.’
Emily pulled the cardigan off of her right shoulder, exposing her tiny, muscular arm. The nurse pulled the plastic wrap off of a new syringe with her stained teeth and then watched, with her beady black eyes, as a drop of liquid oozed from the spike. The nurse grabbed Emily’s arm with her blue latex glove and pulled her closer, causing her to loose her balance.
“Stand up straight.”
Emily did as she was told and felt the pinch.
She hadn’t had time to take a breath. She sucked in air.
“Don’t cry. The other kids didn’t,” the nurse said as the heavy medicine pumped into her muscle.
She turned her head and looked down. She hadn’t meant to do that. She felt sick. She watched as the long needle came out of her skin, leaving a bulge behind.
“Take him into the office,” the nurse yelled across Emily to another nurse standing near the gym door. Isaac was lying in a fetal position, on the half-court line, gripping his stomach and shaking. His eyes bulged and saliva dripped from his mouth.
Emily turned to Zoe.
“Run!” She whispered.
Posted on September 8, 2015
I was resting against the stone wall in the shade of the old oak, three of the lambs curled beside me when I heard the noise. The jingle of harnesses, the clomp of hooves, and the unmistakable sound of wagon wheels on the rutted road. It had been a while since a wagon had come our way.
Perhaps the Lord of the manor was back from Londontown. It wouldn’t do to have him find me sleeping with the sheep when there was work to be done.
I waited until the wagon passed to poke my head above the wall. My unruly hair fell forward across my face. Pushing it back to the side, I tamed it with the tattered straw hat my aunt had made for me when I was small. It was time for a new one.
It wasn’t the Lord’s coach, at all. I rubbed my eyes to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was a bright orange wagon with a green door and trim around the windows. It had an arched roof decorated with flapping flags. A man wearing a short, colorful cape with tassels drove the team of grey horses.
I hopped up and whistled for Sheep. He looked up from the flock on the other side of the pasture and then bolted toward me.
“Come on, boy.” We hopped over the wall, leaving our flock behind, and trotted along beside the wagon.
“Hello, there,” the man looked down at me and doffed his hat. “You must be the welcoming committee. Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?”
“What’s your name, boy? Name.”
“Peter, who do I have to befriend to settle my wagon and entertain the town for a fortnight?”
“Oh, this isn’t a town, sir, barely a village. A hamlet is more like it.”
“Well then may only stay a few days. But, you’re missing the point.”
“Who gets the purse so that I can tell some stories and make a living here?”
“Ooh, that’d be old Perkins I suppose. Never heard of no one charging money to tell a story before.”
“That’s because you never heard a real good story, I’ll wager.”