The Stomach Abides

As my stomach recovered from the last few days of pure and unadulterated gluttony, I felt like Mr. Creosote.

Then I started to drift off to sleep and was thankful that no only was I able to provide the feast, I was able to share it with my family. This leads me to the Lost Children. As described on its website:

30 powerful stories from around the world to benefit two children’s charities: PROTECT: The National Association to Protect Children (www.protect.org) and Children 1st Scotland (www.children1st.org.uk).

Stories by David Ackley, Kevin Aldrich, David Barber, Lynn Beighley, Seamus Bellamy, Paul D. Brazill, Sif Dal, James Lloyd Davis, Roberto C. Garcia, Susan Gibb, Nancy A. Hansen, K.V. Hardy, Gill Hoffs, Fiona “McDroll” Johnson, J.F. Juzwik, MaryAnne Kolton, Benoit Lelievre, Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw, Vinod Narayan, Paula Pahnke, Ron Earl Phillips, Thomas Pluck, Sam Rasnake, JP Reese, Chad Rohrbacher, Susan Tepper, Luca Veste, Michael Webb, Nicolette Wong and Erin Zulkoski.

It began as a flash fiction challenge when Fiona Johnson and Thomas Pluck donated $5 to PROTECT and £5 to Children 1st for every story at Ron Earl Phillips’ Flash Fiction Friday and Fictionaut. Now we have collected the 30 best stories to benefit these two charities.
Join us and make a difference while you read 30 great stories genres by writers from the U.S.A., Poland, Hong Kong, Portugal, India, Scotland, England, Canada, and one told by a Lost Boy of the Sudan to his teacher.

Approximately $2 per e-book sale and $4 per print book sale, depending on retailer, are donated for each sale. The full royalty paid by the retailer goes to these causes (50% to each). Ordering from Createspace gives the greatest donation of $5.49, and Barnes & Noble the least, $1.94. The first week of each month, detailed sales and donation reports will be posted here.

The anthology is now available in trade paperback at Amazon and Createspace for $9.99

Available for $2.99 in e-book form, for: iPad in the Apple iBookstore Amazon Kindle (read it on your computer with Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader, or on your phone with the Amazon Kindle App) Nook at Barnes & Noble Kobo, Sony e-reader and download as PDF, epub, mobi or Viewable Online at Smashwords

If you don’t have an e-reader: you can download the Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac app, the Nook for PC App, Nook for Mac App or view it online at Smashwords, or download it as an Adobe PDF file. You can also read epubs on the Adobe Digital Editions reader for PC and Mac.

Truly a good cause and great stocking stuffers.
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Rock on

Many of you may remember that for a long time I was doing a story and song on the blog. Yes it was a simple idea by a simple man: connect a great story with a great song. I even met the enigmatic Matthew J McBride doing it. Great times.

Storychord had the same idea but with a different audience in mind.

So, I found a few things that just seemed to fit together so nicely that I had to bring them together in one spot.

First is the story Terry Yaki and while you’re reading enjoy RJD2, The Horror.

I also want to share the F3 series to you. A community of writers and readers sharing creative work and impressions of their creations. A lot of really good authors are putting up fantastic stories. Best thing, it’s open to everyone.

 

Flash Fiction Friday #2

Here we are on the second installment of FFF. We are given a first sentence, this time suggested by me, and our mission was to write a 2000 word or less story based on that sentence.

So here goes my attempt — feel free to comment if it so moves you 🙂

Mom Is Always Right

Mom always said I would amount to something.

I amounted to exactly 5’11,128 pounds and 3 ounces not including clothes. When Slacker cut off my digitus mínimus mánus, or commonly referred to as pinky finger, I might have amounted to less, but indiscernibly so. A person really never considers the beauty of a pinky until he no longer possesses it.

Slacker was my wife’s brother who earned his name by selling dope and living off the girls he fucked. He fucked a lot of girls and lived pretty well. He amounted to about 6’3, 248 of unadulterated muscle.

Slacker was not a nice guy. Cheryl, my wife, said so herself. She said it was the juice, but I thought there was more to it. His shocking blue eyes were a little closer together than the average person which to me seemed somehow predatory. He could enter a house and you’d never know. Scared us a few times like that. We’d be eating our mashed potatoes or whatever and he’d be standing in the doorway just staring at us like he was studying us. When we’d notice him and jump, he’d laugh and give Cheryl a hug his huge paws draped over her shoulders.

Mom, Cheryl’s mom, was the only real mom I ever had. When I was 17, my father killed my mother then put a bullet under his chin with the family’s .38. While one cop said she thought it was homicide, all the others assumed murder suicide. Case closed. I asked them why and they said, “shit happens, kid”. After that I was in counseling for about a year; that is, until the counselor unexpectedly ran off with some newspaper editor from Reidsville.

I started dating Cheryl in high school and her mom took pity on me and saved me from the foster care system. I was able to finish high school, and Cheryl and I were married right after. I took three years of pre-med at the local state college. Cheryl waited tables at Crawford’s Racks and Ribs where the girls wore pasties while serving cheap beer and bar b-que to fat townies. I didn’t like her working there, but the money was putting me through school so I couldn’t bitch too much.

Mom said I’d be a doctor from the day I met her. Mom believed in me. She said a psychic three towns over in Harrison told her in no uncertain terms that her daughter would marry a doctor. One of the only reasons mom said yes to the marriage was because I agreed I was going that doctor in her prophecy. If I lived through this, I’d have to find that psychic and give her a piece of my mind – I hated sick people. But I did love Cheryl.

I’ll admit it, when Slacker took my thumb with his gardening snips, I almost passed out. I know he tried to get between the metacarpus and the palm, and I appreciated that, but it was just too hard to get in there with the thick blades. He put his massive frame down on the handles, his forearm muscles straining, and the snap of bone made my stomach lurch. It was the sound of it more than anything.

I was probably down about, what, 10 grams. If not, blood loss would definitely put me there. What a mess.

A couple of hours before I found myself there in Mom’s basement, a guy up at Crawford’s told Cheryl he’d seen me with some “hot little thing wearing a state T-shirt and painted on jeans”. Slacker was me downstairs within about 30 minutes.

“I’m telling you, Slacker, I mean, shit, look at me, I didn’t have any hot little thing. Ever.”

Slacker was pulling a piece of my flesh that got caught in the snips when he suddenly stopped what he was working on and cocked his head like a dog hearing a door knob rattle. “Ever?” he asked.

“Your sister, I mean, that, that goes without saying. She’s always been really hot.”

Slacker was wearing a black mesh wife beater that showed off his sculpted frame, jeans, and Wolverine work boots, which made no sense since he didn’t work. Through the mesh I could see his freshly shaven pectorals and wondered just what kind of man actually did that.

“Come on, man, I didn’t do anything with some other woman. I wouldn’t. Let’s go find the bastard that said this and get it straightened out.”

Slacker wasn’t in the mood to talk that was clear. He bent down and reached under a worn workbench that hadn’t been used since their father died 4 years ago.

Slacker slid a 40 pound bag of fertilizer to the front of the bench and opened it up. A stench like an overflowing factory farm filled the room. Slacker reached both hands as if he was a chef, and then he seemed to clasp something inside and hauled it out. He wiped specks of fertilizer off the top of the package, then set a kilo of coke on the workbench. Turning on the radio, Hank Williams Jr.’s “Family Tradition” emanated from the miniature speakers.

Slacker fished a pocket knife from his pocket then carefully cut a hole in the wrapping. Quickly he produced a gold-plated metal straw from his other pocket, dipped it in the powder, and inhaled deeply. There was a half cough, a sniff, an exuberant “yes”. I could see his neck vein pulsing as he leaned his head back letting whatever was still in his nose drain down the back off his throat.

“Slacker, buddy,” I begged, “even if I did cheat, which I didn’t, why all this? It’s a bit extreme, isn’t it?”

Slacker opened a rusted toolbox from on top of the bench, grabbed something, and turned toward me.

“For years she’s worked and gone into debt for you. You took her years, her money and more important my sister’s trust. Fuck, Oliver, you took my mama’s trust. How do imagine the scales of justice would weigh that? A finger? A thumb? Maybe a hand?”

A human hand weighs about 300 grams, give or take. Trust is hard to measure. I knew for a long time scales of justice were not always balanced.

That’s when I noticed he had a hatchet in his hand. It was something you would use for kindling or cutting small branches. It was something that could easily go through a man’s wrist.

“You’re crazy,” I groaned trying to wiggle out of my bindings.

Slacker strode toward me, a gleam in his eye. A gleam I have recognized in my own at times. I was terrified.

He raised his hand above his head, striking a pose that reminded me of the Indians in the old westerns right before they killed the poor settlers.

“Sit still,” he said, “you don’t want me to miss and take half of your forearm.”

At that moment we heard a women’s commanding voice declare that Slacker should drop his weapon. I had my eyes closed, so I didn’t see her and when I opened them Slacker had already turned and was rushing toward the stairs.

Two loud pops didn’t stop him as he lurched forward. A third seemed to stun him and his body jerked back like he was shot with a jolt of electricity. A fourth cause the hatchet to fall to the floor with a thud and a gasp of air leave his lips. He dropped to his knees, and then sprawled forward onto his face.

In front of him at the bottom of the steps was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, all 5’8 and 120 pounds of her. Her chest was heaving, sweat dappled her forehead. She took her State T-shirt sleeve and wiped her face. Her hands were shaking.

“I’ve never been so glad to see you, Detective.”

“Looks like I owe you an apology.”

Detective Hicks kicked the hatchet away, checked Slacker for a pulse, then holstered her weapon. She fumbled with my bindings for awhile before getting me free. She smelled like Lilacs. Probably a Lilac scented deodorant; it worked great.

“I’ve been telling you,” I grimaced holding my bloody hand, “I had nothing to do with my parents’ deaths or counselor’s disappearance.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“You said you owed me an apology.”

“We knew he was dealing,” she said looking at Slacker’s body on the floor, his blood pooling on the concrete. “We just could never get anything on him; but this, we never guessed this.”

“Clearly,’ I said looking for my digits hoping that a doctor would be able to sew them back on. “There’s coke over there.” I jutted my chin toward the workbench. My hand was throbbing.

“Why you, Oliver? Why’d he come after you?”

“Shit if I know. Could I get an ambulance? Christ?”

Hicks called in for a bus while I tried not to pass out.

“My guess Hicks, I’m just throwing out ideas here, he was an overprotective big brother. He never liked me I mean I invaded his house when I was 17, and married his sister, all while his mom had more hope and expectations for me than her own son. But you know the thing that really set him off?”

I heard sirens in the distance which was good because my adrenaline was dropping and the pain was hitting.

“Someone told him I met this ‘hot thing’ today.”

Her face blanched.

“I, I was…”

“I know, trying to get under my skin. See if I would lose my cool, even though I didn’t have anything to lose my cool over. Ah, fuck you very much Detective.”

She looked at Slacker’s body, then at my bloody hand.

“I guess I deserve that. For what it’s worth I’m truly sorry.”

I nodded. For some reason, I really felt bad for Hicks. She looked so vulnerable, so innocent. Strangely it was the first time I ever hoped she’d find the counselor, all 5’10, 263 pounds of her.

Show Some Love

FFF, Friday Flash Fiction, is back and there are some stories you will want to check out.

Here’s J. F. Juzwik‘s My Brother’s Keeper

and Matt Potter’s In The Hot Seat

FFF is a community writing project. Anyone interested in writing, whether an amateur or a seasoned professional, is welcomed to join.

Our goal is to encourage writing by providing bi-weekly prompts for participants. This can come in the form of a sentence, a group of words or a photo. New prompts are posted on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month and due the following Friday.

A message from our good friends at Dark Valentine:

If you haven’t checked out Dark Valentine’s “Fall Fiction Frenzy” (31 stories in 31 days) now is as good a time as any. We’re on day #5 now and today’s story is a cautionary tale about love by Jennifer Lyn Parsons:http://darkvalentine.net/index.php/2010/10/fall-fiction-frenzy-5/

Artwork is by Pamela Jaworska. Coming up…tales by Cormac Brown, John Donald Carlucci, Brian Trent, Christine Pope and Barbara Emrys. Art by Jane Burson, Mark Satchwill, Joanne Renaud and Laura Neubert.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t send you over to Julie Sumerell’s site where she touches on Hilary Davidson’s new book The Damage Done.  

FFF is baaaack

Friday Flash Fiction #40 edition. It has been some time since I entered into the foray. It’s run by Cormac Brown and he says:

THIS IS A BLOG WHERE A STARTER SENTENCE IS GIVEN EVERY FRIDAY@12PM PST. YOU WILL THEN HAVE UNTIL THE FOLLOWING TUESDAY@9AM PST TO COME UP WITH SHORT STORY OR POEM. I ONLY ASK THAT YOU KEEP IT; FAIRLY NON-POLITICAL, THAT THE VIOLENCE IS NON-GRATUITOUS, THE SEX IS FAIRLY TASTEFUL, AND THAT YOU ARE RESPECTFUL OF THE OTHER WRITERS THAT POST HERE. ENJOY! IF YOU ARE STILL CONFUSED, PLEASE CLICK THIS HEADER FOR THE RULES.

Now before I get to my story, I think you should head over to Twist of Noir and check out Hilary Davidson’s story. Very, very good.

You want a song too? Ok. Mmmm.

Now my story — please feel free to share your comments.

Karma Backlash

“I heard footsteps on the wet sidewalk and the sound of keys.”

I heard an engine; I heard my dog’s collar rattle as she trotted off; I heard the exhale of smoke.

It had to end like this. Always had to end like this.

Not to get philosophical or anything, but screw it. All I know is I had dreams. Most nights I’d wake up with a metallic taste in my mouth and sweat on my upper lip. Even a corner preacher who sported a thick beard and dark coveralls told me the end was near.

That night, after hearing his words, I knew it to be true. I lost my appetite. I even had to throw my damn Gyro away, but some stupid mutt was sniffing around the trash so I gave it to her instead. Stupid four-legged creature stayed by my side ever since.

I should amend that; she stayed by my side until the very moment that I found myself lying in the gutter’s embrace, my side aching, feeding the metal grate my hemoglobin and plasma.

She was a good dog. As good as I always imagined a dog to be. This is according to the fact I never actually “owned” one myself. What a piss poor thing to say anyway. “Owning”. As if we can ever “own” a living, breathing thing.

Like, let’s say there is a God or whatever. Does God own us? If so, are we getting trained? A big cosmic newspaper to our ass in the form of a hurricane flooding our community or a fire burning down some  kid’s house? If we ain’t owned, and we can wander on down the road without ever looking back, which is fine by me, what the hell we need God for? To wear some collar that proclaims us his?

It’s strange what a man thinks when he’s about to be done with thinking forever.

I ain’t got no regrets. The life I had was fine by me. I had a good sense of intuition that saved my ass more than once. I had some girls. I finally got a dog to walk.

I knew this was coming so I settled into my routine, and gave structure to the skittish bitch. The boys knew right away I had had enough. I never had a routine, and then to have such a regimented clock, well, I think they were relieved. At the bar, I’m sure they said I was a real man. A stand up guy. Braver than most.

I heard the shoes scrape the pavement close to my head. I heard the hammer pull back. I heard a scream and a growl, or a growl and a scream, and an explosion of noise as the bullet pinged off the curb. I turned just in time to see Earl shoot my dog. The bullet entered the chest, but the blood and bone matter exited the back. My dog, she didn’t whine. She didn’t whimper. It took a few second for her to realize she was dead and to release Earl’s forearm from her mandibles.

It was just a mutt, not some fancy German Sheppard or Rottweiler or Pit Bull. It wasn’t supposed to come back. It wasn’t supposed to lay a rotten fang into human flesh, let alone the man sent to kill me.

The next shot entered below Earl’s chin, but the blood and bone matter escaped from the top of his head.

Nobody hurts my dog.

Friday Flash Fiction #33

Another five days have passed and another Friday Flash Fiction is complete. If you’re not familiar, we get a sentence on Friday and the story is due Tuesday. The starting sentence was given to us by David. And you should check out the site for the other fine contributors.

Back In the 50’s Miles Played Something New; It Still Is

“It was a shortcut that I would regret for the rest of my life.”

It was May and my beater of a Chevy barreled on down the highway toward Pittsburgh. I was going to see my girlfriend. Well, barreled may not have been the best way to describe my car chugging along. And although technically speaking Kristy broke up with me, I didn’t think it counted because I didn’t accept her “I want to be friends” death knell.

My car started acting up in the middle of the sloping hills of nowhere Virginia. The countryside was beautiful I guess. The Beech and Oak trees pushing against small farms while cows grazed in fields that shot into my vision as I rounded a corner. I suppose I could see someone wanting to have a family in a place like that: removed, quiet, simple, a place that would keep the kids safe. To me, it seemed more like a place a person would want to come and die in; I mean I could see my grandma saying “this is perfect” and then the next time I saw her she’d be a painted mannequin laying in a box.

My car was getting low on gas, and even though Slipknot pushed me on, I edged off onto the exit and headed for the Mom & Pop station. The station was a plain cinderblock building with a large front window. A Coke sign flashed next to their “2 Hotdogs a Dollar” followed by a smiley face. It was written on a poster board and hung with duct tape. I kid you not.

No one was there when I pulled in. These pumps were so old they didn’t even have the card readers so I wasn’t sure what to do. Shit, I figured, I’ll give it a go and if it’s a problem, someone will come out. I pumped and no one came out.

Inside a squat woman sat behind the counter. She had deep purple pits in her face probably from bad acne when she was growing up. Too bad too, cause she wasn’t ugly besides that. Dark hair, blue eyes, perfect little nose. Kristy always said you can know a lot about a person just by the shape of his or her nose. I thought she was crazy. Then one day we were at the mall and she pointed out this guy and asked what my first impression of him was.

“I don’t know. We’ve never met.”

“That’s why it’s a first impression.”

“Don’t you have to meet to get an impression?”

“You believe in love at first sight?” she asked leaning into me and making me blush. I admit it. I’m an easy blusher. She would say I want you inside me and my face would light on fire.

I looked at the him. He was a completely average, nondescript guy. Slacks, shirt, tie, crew cut, name tag, a little scruff on his chin.

“I dunno. He looks like a jerk,” I say.

“So not a nice guy?” she asks. I shake my head no. “Why?” she responds.

“I dunno.”

“Look at his nose. It’s turned up just a little.”

It was.

“He could be the best guy you ever met, but the nose.” She tapped her beautifully shaped nose and smiled.

“I guess.”

I paid the woman and headed back for the interstate, but the interstate wasn’t there. I drove a mile down, then back and I could see the exit for whatever town I was in, but no ramp to get back on. I knew it had to be a bad practical joke.

When I walk back into the gas station, the woman doesn’t seem surprised at all.

“You’re looking for the interstate,” she said.

I started blushing because clearly there was something she knew and I did not which ultimately made me look like an ass right at that moment.

“There isn’t an on ramp. Only an exit.”

I looked out the window in disbelief, and I have to admit, hoping that it would magically appear.

“Happens all the time. There’s a sign, but people miss it or have to get off for the gas. Here,” she says pulling out a photocopied map of roads through town that would get me back on.

“Oh, thanks,” I said. “Who does that? Puts and exit without and entrance?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “You want a hotdog?”

“I have somewhere I have to be.” I imagined Kristy out with her friends and newly free of me, of us. They are egging her on to go to this club or that party. I imagined other men sliding up to her with false smiles and beautiful eyes. My stomach was a ball of dirt.

She looked out the window then turned back to me saying, “There’s a shortcut.”

“Yeah, that’d be great.”

She started writing directions on the photocopied map. It seemed silly they wouldn’t just put the shortcut on there in the first place.

Back in my car, I followed the map closely. The sparse houses came closer and closer together and soon I was passing stereotypical named neighborhoods: Red River, Foxborough, Blue Haven. At least the outskirts had some character, but here it was the exactly like suburbs where Kristy and I met, kissed, snuck off to screw in our respective basements while our parents were working.

When my car jerked and sputtered, my stomach followed suit. It chugged again. Popped a bit and I glided it roadside. I sat there for a minute, mind racing, and tried to crank it again. Nothing. Not even a grumble. First my girlfriend and now this, I thought. How could I show her I loved her and we belonged together if I couldn’t even get to her? Hitting the steering seemed like the only thing I could do, but that only left me with a throbbing palm.

I got out and felt the sun on my face. It was warming up. I opened the hood and stood there staring down at the Chevy’s innards as if I knew what I was looking at. It was a dead carcass for all I was concerned and I wasn’t Jesus.

So I trotted off toward the closest street, Plum Rd. Houses lined the streets and a few cars squatted in the driveways. The first house had two black men sweating in the sun in front of it. One man mixed and wheel burrowed mortar while the other layed brick upon brick, his belly sweat soaking his T-shirt while he finished what looked to be a mailbox. I figured one of them had a cell or the owner would let me use her phone to get a tow.

As I got closer, I could hear his whistle stealing the silence. It was Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” and it was fantastic. It was the type of talent that immediately makes a person want to learn how to do it. Passion counted for something and he made tune sound like springtime itself. Kristy would have loved it.

“Hey,” I said interrupting his melody.

“Hey.” His voice was deep and his eyes were gentle.

“You have a phone? My car died and I need a tow,” I said pointing to the road. His eyes followed my finger but the car was just around the corner.

“Yeah, yeah, my man. I have ya’ back,” he said reaching into his pocket and handing his phone to me.

I called AAA, something my mom forced me to get when I started driving, and handed his phone back.

“Thanks,” I said. “I can’t believe this happened.”

“Such is life.”

“I guess it could’ve been worse, I could’ve been stuck on the interstate.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said wiping the sweat from his forehead. “So you just passin’ through?”

“Heading to see my girlfriend. Well,” I started then trailed off. His booming laughter caught me off guard.

“Oh I knows those ‘wells’ too good, my man. Where this girl at?”

“Pittsburgh.”

“Where you from?”

“Georgia.”

The man nodded, laughed to himself, and grabbed a cigarette from his pants’ pocket. “Usually them girls ain’t worth it.”

“Mine is,” I said all too quickly.  He didn’t know Kristy, or me, so I didn’t feel like hearing his advice.

He lit the cigarette and took a deep inhale. “Can I tell you sum’thin’ my daddy tole’ me a long time ago?”

I looked down the street. I didn’t want to listen but it was better than sitting in my dead car. “Sure.”

“There are no more stories, my man, not like we used to hear anyways. No beginnings, middles, ends. A young man doesn’t have to be afraid of change.”

Interrupting him, I turned my gaze back on his soft features. “I’m not afraid of change.”

He nodded and took another drag on the cigarette. “I didn’t say you were, my man. You ever see dem chairs made sticks?”

“Yeah.”

“And people say, don’t sit on ‘em cause they afraid it break under your weight.”

“Yeah.”

“You ever wonder why they make that chair if they afraid it will break as soon as a man sits in it?”

I looked at his partner sitting in the shade. He was a scrawny man with tight muscles who seemed too slight to do the work he did and he seemed glad for the break.

“That ain’t a righteous fear,” he continues. “You hear me, my man?”

The simple things with Kristy kept pushing into my mind so it was hard to concentrate: the finger dances we had when sitting in the dark movie theatres; the way she would turn toward me, hair falling across the side of her face, eyes smiling; the way her  chap stick smelled when we kissed.

“Fear is thinking a story falls into a place where it can’t rise up again. A righteous fear is the lack of meaning, and maybe this girl of yours ain’t your meaning.”

I didn’t know what to say. “Thanks for letting me use your phone. The truck should be here soon.”

A broad smile appeared on his face and he threw his cigarette butt into the street.

“No problem, my man,” he said, then coaxed the scrawny man up from his break, “Yo Perry, let’s git.”

As I turned to walk back to my car, I heard him break into song again. It was a simple tune, something Kristy would’ve fell in love with. The melody diminished with each step toward my hulking car, until I was left with nothing but the sound of my own syncopated breath and the tow truck rumbling to save me.

BTAP Rolls It Out

One thing that always frustrated me about books is that everyone I know would read a book, recommend it to me, but by the time I finished they were on to the next read. Or I rec something because I want to talk about it, and when they’re ready to discuss it I forgot the cool little complexities and details that excited me (I’m a bad memory dork that way).

One of the many reasons I love film is because it is communal. Getting lost in a story for two hours then immediately being able to discuss it with others is fantastic. Themes, characters, plot twists, and more technical stuff like lighting or editing and how it added (or not) to the story can be explored right away while it’s vivid in the mind.

A few days ago, I committed myself to write this story for Cormac Brown’s Friday Flash Fiction and did my usual thing — put it off. Usually when I put something off long enough, I’ll get a brainstorm and I’m good to go. This time not so much. I started to surf the great wide inter-tubes for inspiration and ended up at BTAP where I expected a story but found a wonderful short film One Good Turn instead.

The writing gods must be smiling since the starter sentence for this week’s Friday Flash Fiction challenge is: “It was a shortcut that I would regret for the rest of my life.”

If I were witty I make a quip about driving and turns and stalled writing, but I’ll leave that to the dude’s like @steveweddle, @matthewjmcbride, @johnhorner, @dboshea and so many others who are actually good at it.

Go check out the film and let’s talk — though I may be a little late to the discussion — I have some ideas for a story I need to get down.

FFF Love Hurts

Cormac’s FFF is on again. The first line is given on Friday, then we have our attempt done by Tuesday morning. If you haven’t tried it, get in on the next one — it keeps you going. And even if you don’t check out some of the other folks; real fine writers over there. Anyway, below is my attempt for this week.

Love Hurts

“What do you see when you close your eyes?” she asked while tracing my temple to jaw-line with her index finger. I thought about pretending to be asleep, but we had just finished making love and I was just starting to breathe normally again.

We had met at a diner set up by a mutual friend of ours, Ernie. He was a light-skinned Indian with an Elliot Smith look on life. For some fucking reason we hit it off in the pen. Funny guy, that Ernie, when he wasn’t completely stoned out of his gourd; it was too bad the dudes he ripped apart in the cage didn’t get quite the giggle I did over his antics.

I stopped having beers with him when he stopped being funny. Cheap vodka and pills I never knew the name to were Ernie’s breakfast while dinner consisted of even cheaper whiskey. Some kind of blackness took hold of him and never let go. When he called about Tally, I almost didn’t answer. Guess fate works that way, since my hands seemed to work on their own accord.

Louie’s Diner made the best damn Huervos Ranchos this side of Mexico. They splashed homemade spices on the plate hash browns that was so big it needed its own plate. It was a wide-open place so a person could watch the boys cook and talk and laugh trying new tricks with spatulas, spins, twists, tapping out beats. The cooks all knew me, so it seemed the logical place to meet someone for the first time.

Tally had me with the wave of her hand.

She was one of those natural red heads with striking blue eyes. Not what I expected. Ernie said I know a dog by its mange – funny guy was losing his punch.

In bed I could feel her eyes on me, waiting for an answer I wasn’t prepared to give. I turned on my side to face her. I moved my fingers along her hip, up to her the lattice of rib-bone, and back down. I felt her breath on my lips, my cheek.

At the diner we talked over dinner. We talked over Key Lime pie and coffee. We talked till it was almost breakfast. The way she laughed made me think of sunshine peeking through clouds and I’m sure as hell not a romantic kind of guy.

Over the next couple of weeks I followed her husband. She said he was abusive. She said he was screwing his secretary. She said the cops wouldn’t do anything because of his daddy, which was probably true since his daddy just happened to be Senator Garbeneaux who played a defining role the finest circus on earth or as otherwise known as the Louisiana legislature. The kind of guy who always knows what’s going on.

Over those two weeks I knew she wasn’t lying. I’d watch the stupid bastard take “meetings” during all hours of the day. One night as I rinsed the soap off Tally’s back, I gently touched the new bruises appearing there. The Friday I was going to fulfill my end of the bargain, I had to hold myself up off of Tally’s body because of her broken rib.

Ok, I admit it, I was incensed. My number one rule is not to get emotionally attached, but this was more than a man could handle.

That Friday I followed him from that upscale place just past Spanish Town. It was a warm evening and Baton Rough seemed simple and wonderful even though I knew dark things were happening and would happen again.

After it was over, she begged to meet me. I told her it was an awful idea, but she was insistent. She said she needed my arms wrapped around her; and to tell the truth, my body was aching for her too. We met at a motel and showered together, as was our ritual, and then we lay together, like married people finding lovers, or young lovers desperate to be married.

For about a month we would sit at opposite ends of Louie’s Diner and stare at each other while drinking coffee. We might steal a kiss outside the bathrooms, but nothing else. And then we started “seeing” each other. It was off and on at first trying to make it seem like we had just started dating. After about 6 months, we didn’t try to hide it.

And here, now, she stroked my forehead and whispered, “Tell me. Tell me what you see when you close your eyes?”

I rolled on top of her and wrapped my fingers around her throat. I squeezed as she cried out. I felt my muscles shaking as her nails dug into my skin. Her legs thrashed. Whimpering, her body slowed, sinking into the dark sheets. I never opened my eyes but let the tears fall from my cheeks without blinking. “I see myself a shell of a shell of a shell.”

The next day I met the Senator, took his money.

That night Ernie joined me at the local dive where stupid college kids and wannabe middle-aged men got on stage to make fools of themselves in the amateur comedy night.

Neither one of us laughed.

Flash 1/25

So as you all know, Cormac set Friday Flash up for a community of writers to keep the creative juices flowing. We vote on the first sentence and then write a story, poem, whatever. We have from Friday to Tuesday to get something in.
As the sixth shot of whisky burnt its way down, I suddenly remembered what I left the house for.
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The first shot was 2 fingers in a Gravity Hill shot glass. Gravity Hill in Pennsylvania was one of those places my ex took me to on a regular basis. She’d see this on Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and had been on me for weeks to bring her up here.
When we got to the bottom of the hill she was bouncing up and down, smiling like a school girl about to ride a roller coaster, not that she could fit in one of those now. “Let’s see, let’s see, take your foot off the gas,” she says. And I think she’s nuts and give her a sideways glance to let her know as much.
“Now, Gordan G. Bisson,” she scolded, “this ain’t the time to be getting’ smart with me. We drove all the way up here fer a reason and if you ain’t got the sense to enjoy the moment, step on out the car and I’ll fetch you when I’m through.”
I gritted my teeth and nodded. The dentist told me I have ta stop grittin’ my teeth for the simple fact they were about flat as Northern Ohio and I wouldn’t be able to eat soon.
So I brought my right knee towards my chin in a grand show and, honest to heaven, the car kept going uphill. It was the damndest thing I ever saw.
“Ain’t this somethin’, Gordan? My the world is a wondrous and mysterious thing.”
“How’s it work?”
“What work?”
“The hill? How’s it work?”
“Cain’t you just accept that there are things in the world that are unexplainable?”
I couldn’t and that drove her crazy. She popped the can of Mountain Dew, unrolled the window, and stuck her fat arm out the can gripped in her chubby fingers.
“Watch this.”
And she dumped the can. I was about to yell at her since we just bought it up the road a piece at the Seven 11, but then I watched the yellow liquid go uphill. “You see that?”
She damn well knew I’d seen it. I opened my mouth, shut it, then opened it again letting only air escape. She giggled, her Gerbil eyes looking at me with a gleam and sparkle.
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After the second shot I got caught up watching some crazy mother fuckers on TV. A woman just shit on the floor. I shit you not. And everyone was walking around, pointing and cursing, blaming one another, and I was thinking they ain’t nothing but untrained animals shitting on the floor and fucking like they do.
Then Sheila came in with a grilled ham and cheese, chips, and pickle in one hand and a glass of Mountain Dew in the other. I hadn’t eaten since lunch and it smelled mighty fine.
“What the hell you watchin’, Gordan?” she growled lowering herself into her lazyboy.
“Dunno.”
Then she leaned over her plate of food, her breasts practically smashing her sandwich, and she asks, “Gordan, is that shit on the floor?”
“Yep.”
“Human shit?”
“Yep.”
“What’s the hell’s wrong with you?”
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I was in my truck when I did my third shot. I just needed a little peace. I looked at the trailer, well kept considering, and listened to the wind. The windows down, my head leaned back on the headrest, my right arm along the seat like I was pulling in some woman real close like.
Of course I weren’t out there for two damn minutes before I saw Sheila open up the front door, the blue TV glow behind her, with one hand on her rolling hip, the other in some weird salute as if it would help her see me in my truck.
“Whatcha’ doin’ out there, Gordan? We gots things to do.”
This was code for she has chores for me.
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The fourth and fifth shots were done in the bathroom sitting on the shitter. I had been under the sink fixing a small leak that had started to stain the cabinet and who know what it doin’ to the subfloor. I could barely fit in the cabinet and considered ripping the whole cheap thing out and chucking it right through the window, but then I’d have to hear Sheila nag me for weeks.
A little thread, putty, and cursing got the leak fixed in no time, but I wasn’t in no hurry to go back out to the living room where I could hear her guffawing through some sitcom rerun. When she called me to tell me I was missing all the good parts, I couldn’t help but agree.
So I snuck out the house as quiet as I could considerin’ I was drunk as shit. I got in my Ford, fumbled my keys into the ignition, and pulled out. I think I saw her wave to me as I drove out of the driveway, he mouth jawing something of course.
It weren’t but a mile down the road that I figured my lights needed to be on, and another before I could find the bottle to get another swig of Jack. As the sixth shot of whisky burnt its way down, I suddenly remembered what I left the house for: the old Jackson Bridge.
When the old rusted thing came into view, I didn’t feel like jumping anymore. Probably just screw it up. I’d get halfway there and pass out, or fall the wrong way and wake up with a hell of a hangover and a bump on my noggin’.
Naw, I decided to just run my ole Ford right off the embankment. I swear, as I went down the world rushed right up past me like some great miracle.