Short fiction, 2/9/12

I was born here.

The door creaks and moans its protest as I enter. The floorboards cough dust upon my bare feet with every step. I lay my hands on the old furniture, still covered in the yellowing bed sheets, looking like so many corpses, and wonder why I bothered protecting sofas and chairs that I thought never again would receive guests.

I was born here.

I pull the curtains back from the dirt-coated windows and turn to see the now illuminated living room and, for a fleeting moment, it looks as it did once upon a time. The cat stretches on the new carpet, the Christmas tree blinks and shines in the corner, my family gathers around the television, my nephew thumps across the floor in search of new adventure. When I bat my eyes the years reassert themselves, and the cold clenches down upon the house once again. It takes me several seconds to realize that my mouth was open and my breath was drawn, ready to speak to these old ghosts. A loneliness the world has never known settles into my chest.

I was born here.

I light the candles. I remove the sheets. I clean the windows and the floor. I make everything come to life again. I sit down in the old recliner, preparing the stories I will tell. The door creaks and moans its protest as you enter. Come in. Sit down.

I have so much to tell you.

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Short short story – 2/6/12

Redecorating

 

Mom painted the living room wall again. Of course she painted the entire room, but she always starts with that wall. She keeps coming up with reasons. Nicotine stains were getting bad, a new color will make the room look bigger, a new décor for the new millennium. Each time she does it, I watch her. It gets easier after the first wall. But I can see the pain in her face as she moves the roller up and down that side of the room. She pushes harder, adds an extra coat that she doesn’t need. It is because in her mind she still sees what was there before.  So do I.  But I’ve learned to control it.

 

We see Dad, sitting on the floor. The blood on the wall, almost dry, paints a trail from his head up to the six foot high smattering of holes in the wall, made by the household shotgun he used to keep in the hall closet. Self-defense, the police decided. Dad attacked her after she discovered obvious stains on their bed. The white stains were from him. The red stains were not. She defended herself and, at the same time, got her revenge.

 

I like the new wall color.

Short Short Story – 1/28/12

 OOPS…

You people make me sick! I mean it. If ever there was a group of people so pathetic as to make a man break his jaw rather than speak to them, it is YOU! How your kind could ever survive without daily bludgeoning is beyond me. If it were up to me you would all somehow become dead before leaving this room; slowly, excruciatingly dispatched in a manner that makes continental drift seem like a brisk pace. Mind you, while this is happening, I will smile and grope my biblical erection.

Honestly, of all the depraved and unconscionable things a person could do you people have taken the cake and, sickeningly, eaten it too! What’s this?!? Do I hear a sniffle? Two sniffles? Come on now, I expected more from you. Considering why you’re here I would have thought it would take more to bring you to tears. Like, perhaps, visiting a righteous and unparalleled act of mutilating violence upon your collective genitals, to such a degree that God himself would wonder why he even created such a thing as genitals in the first place! Perhaps then you will have the vaguest idea of what it feels like to be a victim of child molestation!!!

 

…….what?

This isn’t the lecture to convicted child-rapists?

Then where the hell am I?      …oh

Uhh, hello. Well, my name is Simon, and I am an alcoholic. Tomorrow I’ll have 281 days. Thank you.

Short short story – 1/27/12

Good Cop…

“Close the door. Sit down. Put your hands on the table. We have some questions for you. You will answer them quickly, you will answer them plainly. Do not embellish, do not digress. Keep your hands on the table.”

“Did you kill him yourself, or did you have help? Answer the question. Alone or assisted? Loud and clear now, you are being recorded! Oh stop that bloody simpering and answer. We have the body. Downstairs, right now, we have the body as well as your car. You stuffed him in the boot, dead as Caesar, then you passed out drunk on the back roads with the engine running. You’re done. It’s sorted. All that’s left is for you to say the soddin’ words. Give it up, lad. Answer the question, and keep your hands on the table.”

“Stop the recorder.”

“Right, then. I know you’re clean, lad. I put that bloke in the boot myself, after I took me hatchet to his back-brain. But now, you’re gonna confess. You’ll admit you did it alone, then beg forgiveness and mercy and all that shite. If you don’t; I’ll rape your sister and cripple your Dad. Now, keep your hands on the table, because I’m gonna shoot you through both of them in four seconds. Three. Two…..what? Alright. Alright, lad. Well done.”

“Start the tape again.”

“Were you alone?  Good lad.”

“You can put your hands down now.”

A short little story

FIRST SIGHT

He put down his binoculars and sighed. He knew for a fact, in his heart, that he could be happy with that woman for the rest of his life. The spark in her eyes, the flash of her smile, the flow of her body’s curves made up absolute beauty. She was all he ever wanted. In his own apartment complex, no less. All he had to do was walk downstairs, across the parking lot, and knock on her door. Then he would be happy, forever.

He thought about that for a while. What would he say? “Hi, I’m sorry to bother you, but I think you’re beautiful.” “This is going to sound odd, but would you like to go out to dinner?” “I’ve been watching you all day from my window. Are you busy tonight?” He thought about their date. He thought about after their date. He thought for a while. When he was done he grabbed his binoculars again and looked at his soon-to-be love.

She was clothing the curtains. There was a man in the apartment with her.

So he put away his binoculars and his lotion, threw away his tissues, and crawled  into bed, gathering the sheets around him.

It was alright. He’d fall in love again tomorrow.

The Last Winter

The key to eternal happiness was in the backyard.

When I was very young, my favorite spot in the backyard of my house was a tall, glorious tree, with deep green leaves and a thick climbable trunk.  Spring would see it call me to its higher branches and show me the world, it shaded me from the summer sun, and the autumn wind would help it shower me playfully with gold and red.  When winter would come it was my turn to help it.  I would gaze at it through the window, letting it know I missed our time together.  When the heavy snow weighed down its branches I would venture into the cold and shake the limbs I could reach, to relieve its burden if only a little.  It was the least I could do, really.

As I grew closer to being a teenager I saw more and more of the details that made the tree what it was.  The things you don’t notice when you’re too young.  I followed the sap up to the rifts in the bark where it issued from and marveled at the fact that trees wept.  Leaves would be blemished and incomplete, and I discovered that insects were feeding on my friend.  Dad told me it was the way of things, that a tree so large was glad to offer food and shelter to the bugs, the birds, and even the boys who would sit beneath it.  I even began to see the knots, the holes, the little nooks within the tree trunk.  It occurred to me that one could hide things in them.  Whatever you wanted to keep from the world around you, and have it be yours and only yours.  Put it there, in the tree, and nobody would ever find it.  I thought I could use them to hold my magic green penny, or the necklace I got from the girl in my spelling class whose name I couldn’t remember.  But it was clear to me even then; this tree was too important for those kinds of things.  When I was older, and had things truly of value, I would hide them here.  Not before.

I was 18 years old when I discovered the key to eternal happiness.  It was not the tree itself.  The tree held the key.  Like the young man I used to be, it kept its secrets inside the knots, the holes, the little nooks.  I looked inside them in the spring and saw the tiniest of glimmers.  A blue spark in one, a red glint in another.  So many colors in so many places.  I watched them grow, and in the summer they were glowing pulses of light that looked back into me as I gazed upon them in the shade.  Autumn saw them evolve into ethereal flames, as though the birds kept a spectrum of campfires within the tree.  My tree.  Every color imaginable burned brightly inside it.  Burned only for me.  Even the cold and winter snow could not douse them, and they continued to shine, with their heatless fires telling me that I would soon understand why they were here, waiting for me to divine their secrets.

To this day, I cannot explain how I came to learn the truth about the fires in the tree.  It was as though the knowledge simply grew within my mind as the flames grew in the tree.  Wandering out to my backyard in the summertime, shortly after my 22nd birthday, I went from one flame to another and, as though I had always known the truth, I recognized what each dancing light truly was.  Closest to the ground, nestled within the mossy bark, Patience glowed a soft amber.  Above it burned Motivation, the green haze looking for all the world like a ghostly emerald.  Each in turn showed me a different trait; Creativity, Passion, Empathy, Ambition, Wisdom, and even Humility.  All of them waiting patiently, so still and so close I could literally reach out and touch them.  I knew that with the slightest gesture I could pluck these fantastic gems from the trunk and branches, as if they were fruit, and take them into myself, to become the kind of man that so many people wish every day they could become.  I could be armed with all the characteristics that successful people take for granted, and use them to shape my life in any way I wished.  The key to eternal happiness was the sum of these mysterious, shimmering orbs.

And they wanted me to take them.

I will never really know why I waited.  Perhaps I didn’t want to give up my chance to live a carefree life for just a bit longer.  Perhaps I thought that with the fires waiting for me in the tree I could save them until I truly needed them.  Maybe I was scared to succeed in life, and leave the comfortable cocoon of mediocrity I had built around myself.  Regardless of the true reason, I trudged my way out to the backyard the morning after a heavy winter storm.  I was 30 years old, and still enjoyed knocking the weighty snow from the branches of my ever-present tree.  The morning was bitter, bringing that kind of cold you can never deflect.  It cuts through to your bones without caring how many layers you’ve put on.  When that monstrous wind reared up from the west, howling as though the sky itself despaired its fury, I was surprised, but still I knew what was going to happen moments before reality was shown.  It was the sheen of ice that gave it all away.  Every branch, every fencepost, house, mailbox, and car gave a mottled reflection of the streetlights and houselights around them.  The sun had not yet shone itself that day, but it was clear to see.  It had been an ice storm.  For the briefest of moments I looked down at my feet, at the holes my boots had punched in the shell that sat atop the snow.  Although the wind sounded like it was leaning in close and shouting directly into my ear alone, it could not drown out the sound of the impending disaster.  Like a gunshot, sharp and horrific, I heard the surrender of one of the largest limbs on the tallest tree in our neighborhood.  That tree was next door.

Moments expanded into years as I silently watched that massive arm, broken like the weakest of twigs, descend toward the tree, my tree, like a hammer swung by a malicious God.  It looked as though my friend were made of paper, toppling almost without resistance as the branch slammed down upon it, sending shards of their icy skins scattering to the ground.  I barely noticed the power lines pulling from their poles as the body of my tree, the oldest friend I had, crumpled to the snowy earth.  Every light on the block winked out in unison, and the true darkness of that winter morning took a vicious grip on my world.  I gazed across the yard, unable to bring myself to move, to run, to release the panic and disbelief of what I had just seen.  All I could do was stare, unblinking, at the key to eternal happiness, with all its various shades and hues, slowly growing dimmer in the dying tree.  Within what felt like a heartbeat and a lifetime at once, the flames had gone out, and I knew that I would never be able to shed the complacency that I had become so used to in my life.

I had arranged for the stump of that tree to be left untouched when the rest had been removed.  It would have felt too much like forgetting, if I had allowed it to be taken away completely.  The ice melted in time, and the snow began to retreat for another year.  Inch by inch the grass began to advance on the remnants of winter as it waged its battle for spring.  Before too long the nights became warmer, and the first buds began to appear on the surviving trees.  Darkness settled over a surprisingly mild evening when I walked to the back door and took a moment to look upon that tree stump, still unaccustomed to the look of the yard.  I could not believe it when I first saw it.  It was too early in the year for fireflies, yet there, across the yard, was the faintest of glows.  I almost feared opening the door, knowing that if I took even a step toward the tree stump I would be allowing my hopes to rise.  When I decided to go take a closer look, I realized I was already halfway across the lawn.  Kneeling down next to the stump, my eyes sparkled with the reflected light of a single, white flame.  It was not like the fires that burned before the last winter.  They had told me, somehow, that they were waiting for me, ready when I was.  But as this guttering flare sat nestled in the remains of the once magnificent tree, it told me, with utter clarity, that I was waiting for it, and that I had always been ready.  I asked myself what this flame represented, and the answer sprang forth like it had been inside me my entire life.

It was the key to never again making the mistake I had made.  To never settling for what I had.  To never allowing anyone or anything to decide the course of my life, other than myself.

It was a dream.

Wolf Hunt

I’ve been running for days. Sometimes it is one man, sometimes a mob. They have been chasing me constantly, with no chance for me to catch my breath. The forest has helped me as much as possible, tripping and entangling my pursuers while I lithely bound ahead. It hides me under exposed roots and behind thick foliage. It covers my tracks in the dirt but leaves my hunters’ footprints untouched, letting me know where they have and have not tread.

My heart feels like a hummingbird beating its wings. Impossibly fast pulse pushing my blood to every inch of my muscles. My veins feel electrified. I can see the adrenaline coursing through me. My eyes are taking in everything, in detail that flatly defies all reason. Forty feet away, I see a strand of brown hair floating on the cool night air. I smell the sweat on it and know that the hair came from the village blacksmith, who has always feared me. I know in an instant that he will die first.

I can’t spend any time trying to devise the most gruesome manner in which to end him. The mob, which I can now hear has grown to twenty three people, is quickly closing in again. I turn my back to a steep rise of loose dirt, too treacherous to consider scaling, and open my ears and nose to all the forest can tell me. The peasants smell of fear and murder. They approach on…dear God, three sides? I was lost in the flood of senses and did not account for their being skilled enough to hunt more than a scared rabbit. They have me at a disadvantage, carrying weapons and cornering me. I cannot climb to an escape, and I cannot go through the oncoming hunters. At least not quite yet. But my advantages are more than enough to tip the battle back into my favor.

My legs, stronger than those of any five men, launch me straight into the air. I grasp the thickest tree limb within reach, and look down upon the forest floor, crouching on a bough higher than the tallest home in the village. I can detect the whisper of air filling the lungs of the hunting party’s leader as he prepares to signal their charge. That damnable blacksmith. He brought them after me. Now he brings me upon them all. The shout, from the blacksmith and immediately from the entire crowd, echoes through the wood. So loud in their own ears they do not hear my howl soar above their own. Within moments they are facing the empty rise, absent their prey.

Their bloodlust turns to stark terror when they hear a chorus of howls sweep through the trees, answering my call. My advantages have served me well. Stealth, power, senses, and friends they did not expect to face. Rather than scattering in a panicked attempt to flee, the villagers huddle and shrink in fear as they become prey. A pack of wolves, hungry and furious, stalk toward them, hemming them in as they meant to do to me. I open the flesh of my palm and let my blood flow, dripping onto the head of the blacksmith. He looks up, wetting himself instantly upon seeing my smile. I leap out over the mass of frightened fools, landing between the two wolves leading the rest. We outnumber the humans, but the rest of the wolves know that no matter what else happens, the marked human is mine, and mine alone.

The blacksmith dies first. The rest die just as surely, and just as quickly. My final advantage, the full moon, came just in time.