Flash Fiction of the Day, Father and Son by Flavia Company, Translated By Kate Whittemore

“His mother, long dead, always told him: your father will outlive us all, but not before he makes us suffer as much as he wants to, and more..”

― Flavia Company, Father and Son

(click to enlarge) Sculpture by Jason Mehl, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

One of the things in my life that I am ashamed of is that my Spanish is so bad. After all, I lived a few of my formative years in Spanish speaking countries – you would think I would be fluent. There is no excuse for that, but there are a few explanations (people have difficulty understanding the difference between excuse and explanation – it is a critical distinction).

  • When people realized I was North American, they didn’t want to speak Spanish with me – they wanted to practice their English. And if I just shut up – I could pass for a shy speechless native teenager.
  • English is so important to me, I have trouble switching into other languages.
  • Nicaraguan Spanish is significantly different (especially in slang) than the Mexican Spanish I hear every day in Texas
  • Most important – I am lazy

Most people in my high school were completely fluent in both languages. It was fascinating to listen to them switch back and forth. When discussing something concrete – like giving directions or instructions – they would use English. However, if there were emotions involved, or relationships, or food – then Spanish was the language of choice. For example, there were a dozen different terms that translated as “girlfriend” in English (like the myriad Inuit words for snow) and I was always using the wrong one – to my constant embarrassment.

The difference between literature written in Spanish and English is fascinating. The most obvious one is the success of “magic realism” – which works in Spanish (and even in translation) but feels odd and disjointed in English.

Today’s story is a translation – both languages are at the link. It’s an interesting comparison.

Father and Son by Flavia Company, Translated By Kate Whittemore

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Like Regular Chickens by Bill Chance

Mr. X: Mary usually does the carving but tonight since you are our guest, you could do it, Henry. All right with you?

Henry Spencer: Of course. I’d be happy to. So I just, uh… I just cut them up like regular chickens?

Mr. X: Sure, just cut them up like regular chickens.

—-David Lynch, Eraserhead

Commemorative Air Force, Wings Over Dallas, Dallas, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#85) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Like Regular Chickens

I raised another basket of legs and thighs out of the fryer and hooked the wire to let them drain back into the sizzling oil. When the buzzer went off I dumped both baskets out onto the steel tray, shuffled everything around and slid them under the banks of heat lamps.

“Dark meat up,” I shouted.

Chuck had set this job up for me after they fired me down at the country club. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, though I hated the smell of greasy chicken, the uniform and especially the hat. The days went by fast and after my dad had cut off my allowance I needed the cash for walking around money. Actually, my father had offered me my allowance back. I don’t think he liked telling his friends that his son worked down at Chick’n Lick’n. I told him to go to hell.

With my paycheck the week before I had even been able to make the last payment on my car. It was a rolling piece of crap, the air conditioner had never worked, it make a strange growling noise whenever I made a left turn, and I had to put in two quarts of oil a week, but it was mine.

“Hey Sam, get over here, there’s something I want to tell you.”

“Elena, what is it?”

“Sam, what was your mother’s maiden name?”

“Decker. She was Brenda Decker. Why are you asking?”

“That’s what I thought. My dad has known her family for ages. Sam, there’s some guy out front. He’s been in for a couple days now. Says he’s from out of town. Says he’s looking for Brenda Decker.”

“That’s pretty weird… But maybe not. Brenda Decker, that’s a pretty common name.”

“Not that common, not around here.”

Elena and I walked out to the front. She pointed out an old, fat man, his head shaved. He was wearing overalls and sweating something awful, sitting in a booth off to the side, shoving fried chicken into his face.

“Elena, I’m taking my break, I’m going to go talk to him.”

I walked out around and up to the guy’s booth.

“Mister, I hear you’re lookin’ for Brenda Decker.”

“That’s right kid, ya know ‘er.”

“An old friend of the family.”

I’m not sure why, but I didn’t want this guy to know that Brenda Decker was my mother.

“I’m Sam,” I said.

“Brush, Brush Holland.”

He stuck out his hand. I gave a quick shake and sat down across from the guy. He still had bits of chicken in his mouth.

“I’m on break, I don’t have much time.”

“Well, where is she?”

“I’m not sure right now, but I can find out, maybe. First, how do I know that this is the right Brenda Decker. There’s a lot of ’em out there.”

“Sure, son. That’s her maiden name, her married name is Holland.”

“Well, then that can’t be her. The name is wrong.”

The Brush guy then described her. It was my mother, exactly. He had her age right, her height, weight, even the way she talked and walked. He said he hadn’t seen her in a long, long, time, that she’d be older, a lot older now. But he knew her, I was sure of that. It was my mother he was looking for.

“Well, I don’t think I know the Brenda you are looking for,” I said.

“Are you sure of that, boy.”

He stared close and hard. I don’t think he believed me.

“You hear anything, you give me a call, now, you hear. I know where you work.”

He handed me a slip of paper with a cell phone number and I told him I had to get back to work. It was hard to concentrate and I burned myself on a fry load of gizzards. The day went slow, I kept sneaking a look out front to make sure Brush Holland wasn’t back. He didn’t show.

—————

“Mom, I met someone down at work. He said he was looking for you. He called you ‘Brenda Holland.’”

My mother looked like someone had hit her in the back of the head with a baseball bat. Her mouth opened and her tongue came out a little, her eyes grew wide.

“I need to sit down,” she said. “Sammy, can you bring me a glass of water, some ice. Maybe put some vodka in it.”

I went to the kitchen and when I came back she was sitting on the couch, her shoes off, her face ashen. She took the drink wordlessly, raised it and drank the whole glass down.

“Do you need some more?” I asked.

“No, I’m fine,” she said, pulling a cube out of the glass and rubbing it across her forehead. She did not look “fine.” She did not open her eyes or raise her head but asked me in a strange, calm voice, “Was it Brush?”

“Yes, Brush Holland. Mom, why did he use his last name for you?”

She was silent for a long time, but began to shake, slightly at first, but her hands began to tremble more and more until she couldn’t even hold the sliver of ice that remained in her fingers, with a tinkle it fell and shattered on the hardwood floor. Then she said is a low voice, so quiet I could barely hear.

“Because he is my husband.”

When she said that she let out a long low moan. I had never heard a human being make a sound like that before, it was like something an animal makes, maybe a farm animal, maybe when it realizes what is in store, mabye when the slaughterhouse is in sight. She moaned and trembled and then wept.

I didn’t know what to do. I sat there, across from her and couldn’t stop staring at her there. She didn’t look like my mother any more. She looked so sad, but so beautiful, like she had been dropped there, crying, on that couch from some spaceship, dumped on this planet with her sadness and grief as her only baggage.

Slowly, the weeping slowed, then stopped. My mother sat motionless for a while, then she seemed to relax. Her head raised and her shoulders unhunched. The color returned to her face. Finally she opened her eyes and looked straight at me. He eyes grew wide and she looked surprised, like she was seeing me for the first time, like I was a strange boy that had showed up in her living room. Finally, her face relaxed and I even saw a little flash of a smile for a second. Then she sighed a little exhalation and began to talk.

“Oh, Sammy, I never thought this was going to happen. Or, actually, I knew it was going to happen. It’s just that, I guess I hoped it wouldn’t, though, deep down, really deep, I knew it would.

You see, Sammy it was so long ago, so long ago. I was only sixteen. Things at home were, oh, Sammy, you can’t imagine. I was so miserable; I was scared all the time. I had a boyfriend, it’s been so long, even his memory, Sammy, I can’t even remember exactly what he looked like.”

“Brush?”

“No, no, he was later. This was Dwayne, a boy from school, we ran away. He had a car, we barely had enough money for gas. We were going to Las Vegas, we were going to get married, he was going to work in construction and I was going to dance. We made it to Arkansas, and the car broke down. And then… Dwayne was drinking, he was being stupid, it was dark, the fog… the train, it was so fast. Well, see, he died. I had nowhere to go, I was alone, I could not go home.

So I did the best I could. I got a job in a chicken plant. It was awful. The chickens would come down and a machine would cut their heads off. I had to take the bodies and plop them down on a cone, so the rest of the machines could cut them up. Thousands of chickens, tens of thousands. The smell. It was cold, too, my hands would ache. At night, I couldn’t wash the chicken smell off.

And then. And then there was Brush.”

“What kind of a name is Brush?”

“It’s an Arkansas kind of name. He was the supervisor, the manager. He noticed me right off. You’ve met him?”

“Yes, mother.”

“Well, then you know. I guess he’s old now, he wasn’t all that young then. But I was. I was young, I was pretty. He had his eye on me. I was trapped. I had to get… had to get out of there. He had his eyes on me. I had no choice.”

“You married him, didn’t you.”

“Of course I did. I had no choice. No choice. You can’t imagine.”

“How long were you married?”

“Oh, almost two years. I thought the chicken factory was bad. It came to a point I couldn’t stand it, could take it no more. All I thought about was killing myself. Finally, again, I ran. I paid cash for a ticket and when Brush was out cold drunk I hitched a ride to the bus station and was gone. I switched buses at the next town, and switched again at the one after that. I knew he’d try to find me, but I figured if I ran far enough…. So I came here, started some junior college. Then I met your father.”

“When was that?” She saw me starting to count on my fingertips and actually let out a clear chuckle. I realized it was the first time I had heard her laugh in years.

“Sammy, don’t worry, Brush isn’t your father.”

“So you left and you divorced him. That’s not so….”

“Well you see, that’s the problem.”

“What?”

“I never divorced him. I just ran. I just ran.”

And then she looked sad again. She looked so so tired.

“Mom, you look awful. You need to get some sleep.”

“Sleep? How can I?”

“Go upstairs and forget about it. Forget for now. I have an idea. Let me try something.”

My mother looked hollow. I took her by the hand and led her up the stairs to her room. She drifted through the door and I pulled it shut. She looked so worn out, I knew she’d be able to get some sleep. I didn’t want to think about what dreams she would conjure up.

I didn’t have time to think, I had things to do.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Racing With the Wind by Bill Chance

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”
― William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#82) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Racing With the Wind

Roger and Annette had to rush to the van from the basketball court. Annette ran with her oldest daughter’s hand in her own while Roger brought their young son, no more than a toddler, carried in his arms. A huge black angry cloud was building rapidly to the west and the boiling thunderstorm was beginning to kick up a cold fast wind.

As they piled into the van the humid heat of the Texas summer was shoved aside by a blast of cold storm outflow air. The second they settled in, locking the toddler into his car seat and making sure the girl had her belt fastened the wind rose to a howling gale. Dust and leaves rose in a shooting cloud and the van rocked from the power of the wind.

To watch their daughter’s game they had had to park across the street in the lot of a small shopping center. It was anchored by a big hardware store and the wind suddenly began grabbing the hundred shopping carts piled out front and sent them shooting across the lot like rockets, right toward Roger and Annette’s van.

They flew in a wheeled phalanx, upright and racing, some swerving a bit due to a wonky wheel, but most moving straight with amazing speed. Roger and Annette could do nothing but watch them come. Most were driving in a rumbling mass to the south of the van, where they watched them pass, hit the curb, and then tumble out into the street.

A few veered to the left and came close to the van, but due to a lucky act of providence, not actually hit them, although some only missed by inches. Roger, Annette, and their daughter sat there helpless, and felt a great relief and the sudden windstorm died down and was replaced by fat, pelting rain. They felt very lucky they had not been hit, though it would have been a nasty dent at worse.

The toddler, of course, thought the whole thing was a blast and laughed as hard as he could as he watched the shopping carts fly by.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Clambake by Bill Chance

“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
― Anais Nin

Lee walking in the surf at Crystal Beach. I checked my old blog entries – this was December 29, 2002. Fifteen years ago, almost to the day.

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#81) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Clambake

Andrew was a senior in high school. He had a brother, Sam, who was a freshman. Andrew didn’t really like going places with his family, but he loved hanging out at the sea. So when he parents insisted that he go to the beach with the three of them and Sam’s friend Wilbur he hemmed and hawed and complained but agreed to go. Actually, he was looking forward to it, but knew he couldn’t appear too eager or it would betray his brand.

“Sam is bringing Wilbur for the day, don’t you have a girlfriend you could invite?” asked his mother. Andrew flashed his best combination face of exasperation, embarrassment, and fury before he turned, huffed, and stomped off. “If I had a girlfriend I wouldn’t have to go to the beach with my family,” he said to himself once he reached the privacy of his room.

The drive was two hours and getting all those people into the MiniVan and on the road was like herding cats. Andrew crammed himself into the back seat with his eyes closed hoping he could stand it until they were there and all this noise stopped. A split second before it became too much to bear they pulled into the parking lot and the whole crew piled out and ran for the sand.

It was a warm day and the ocean was like bathwater. Andrew swam a little and body surfed the waves a bit. His favorite thing was simply to walk the beach in the shallow water between the surf and the dry sand. He was of a curious nature and loved to look at the water, sand, and the creatures that lived in the tidal zone. Every time he came, he wondered at the smell of the sea – salt with a note of rotting fish. The strong breeze from offshore threw his hair around and the sun dried the wet sand on his ankles as he walked. Above all, he loved the rumble and crash of the surf – though it was partially ruined by the constant yelling and screeching of his little brother and Wilbur as they scampered around, causing as much trouble as they could.

The sun was beginning to settle towards the horizon when Sam ran up to Andrew and aroused him from his reverie. Sam was clutching a plastic bucket and toy shovel. Wilbur was grinning a few feet behind.

“Andrew! Look!” his brother said, holding out the bucket.

Andrew peered in and saw a single smooth brown clam.

“So?”

Sam handed the bucket to Wilbur.

“Wilbur and I dug it up! We’ve figured out how to find where the clams are buried.”

“No. That’s crazy.”

“Here, I’ll show you.”

His little brother began walking Andrew along the sand, looking carefully at the strip where the waves ebbed and flowed and the water was a fraction of an inch deep.

“Look down carefully. You just look for a place where these little bubbles are coming up…. There! Right there!”

“I don’t see anything.”

“No, right there. Dig.”

Sam handed Andrew the plastic shovel and he poked at the wet sand. Immediately another clam popped up, only an inch below the surface.

“Wow, another clam!” said Andrew.

“I told you,” Sam said. “Wilbur come here.” Sam flipped the clam into the bucket with the one they had found earlier. “Let’s find some more.”

They continued to walk along the beach and after a bit Sam would point and Andrew would dig up another clam. They would hand them to Wilbur who would drop them into the bucket. Andrew was confused because he could not figure out how Sam was finding the clams.

“What are you seeing that I can’t?”

“It hard to explain, it’s more like a feeling.”

Andrew couldn’t argue though, because every time he’d dig, he’d find a clam. He began to get more and more excited. Visions of filling the bucket and having a clambake began to grow and fill his imagination. He didn’t notice the sky going golden as the sun crept down.

“Hey, guys. Finish up, it’s time to go,” said his father. Andrew hadn’t noticed his parents hanging around next to them.

“No! Dad! We can’t go! Look at all the clams!” Andrew gestured toward the bucket in Wilbur’s hand. “We’re going to have a clambake!” He could barely contain his excitement.

“Just a couple more minutes, then we have to go,” said his father.

Andrew was confused at his father’s lake of enthusiasm for the clambake. He chalked it up to age and continued to walk along with Sam, stopping every few feet to dig up another clam. Wilbur kept putting them in the bucket.

“Ok, that’s it, time to go,” said his father. He was right; it would be dark soon.

“Wow, I hope we have enough to cook up,” said Andrew. “Hey Wilbur, let me look at the bucket. It must be full now.”

Wilbur started to twist away but Andrew was excited and quick and grabbed the bucket. Barely able to contain his excitement he pulled it close and looked down to see the pile of clams they had collected.

“What the hell!”

Andrew was shocked to see in the bucket only one clam rattling around alone in the bottom.

Confused, he looked up to see his parents, impatient and aggravated and his brother and Wilbur down in the sand rolling around laughing so hard they looked like they were going to get sick.

Andrew suddenly realized what had been going on. There was only one clam. Sam must have simply stumbled across it somewhere. Wilbur was walking ahead of them while they were looking down and he was re-burying the thing, over and over. Sam would point to the spot Wilbur had buried it and they would dig the same clam up, again and again.

It took the younger kids a long time to stop laughing and then they all walked back to the MiniVan. Andrew, of course, said nothing and heard nothing. It was especially humiliating to realize his parents could see the whole thing, hear his excitement, and let it go on.

The drive home was the longest trip in Andrew’s life. He was so ashamed and also disappointed – he had been really looking forward to a clambake.

The only thing that made him feel a little better is the thought that at least he didn’t have a girlfriend. If she had been along… and seen what happened. He wasn’t sure he could go on living.

Short Story Of the Day – Pain of an Injured Child by Bill Chance

“Goodbye, Hari, my love. Remember always–all you did for me.”

-I did nothing for you.”

-You loved me and your love made me–human.”

― Isaac Asimov, Forward the Foundation

 

Bikes and Robots
Hickory Street
Dallas, Texas


 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#73) More than two thirds there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Pain of an Injured Child

Last week, Sammy slid and tumbled off his new bicycle and skidded through the gravel on the road shoulder. He picked himself up and gingerly hopped back on, riding slowly home. The skin was torn and broken with some tiny pieces of stone imbedded in the flesh. He tried to conceal it from his father by giving it a half-hearted washing and gauzing.

That was not enough to fool the old man. He pulled the bandage off and roughly scrubbed the skin under hot soapy water. His father reached up onto the top shelf of the medicine cabinet and pulled down an evil-looking ancient bottle of some awful dark reddish-purple liquid.

MECURICHROME, it said.

His father poured the bottle over the disturbed skin, which sent Sammy into howls of pain.

“That hurts!” he said, “That really hurts… that really burns!”

“That’s how you know it’s working,” said his father. Then he pulled out gauze and tape, wrapping everything tight with experienced, calm hands.

Today, Sammy was trying out his folding knife, whittling sticks he picked up under the trees around the back yard. His father had told him when he opened the knife on his birthday, “Always cut away from you.”

Sammy did not understand why he said that, or exactly what it meant.

Today, cutting on a thick pine branch covered with knots, the knife slipped and he suddenly discovered what it meant and why it was important.

The cut along his forearm was deep and Sammy gulped a deep panic of air when he saw how far the knife had plunged. He stumbled into the house and the arms of his mother. She took one look at the injury and called her husband.

“Take a look at this.” She said, “See what you can do and I’ll call the doctor.”

Sammy’s father led him into the bathroom to clean the wound.

“This looks like it might need stiches,” said his father.

“Oh, no! I don’t want stiches!”

“Can’t be helped.”

Sammy’s father held the arm under the flowing faucet until the water washed most of the fluid away. Pulling on the wound both father and son peered deep into the gash. Around the titanium struts, the maze of fine wires and delicate tubes spiraled by under the skin. It was obvious that the bundles had been disturbed and a few tiny wires coiled upward out of place, cut.

“Stitches aren’t going to be enough, dear,” he called out to his wife. “Better call the electrician.”

Short Story Of the Day (Flash Fiction), ‘Speriment by Bill Chance

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.”
― Paulo Coelho, Brida

20 Elements
Joel Shapiro
Northpark Center
Dallas, Texas

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#38). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


‘Speriment

Who and What are easy.. How and Why aren’t. Faith and Science. I have very little of one and none of the other. At six, though… Faith and Science can be conjured up from thin air.

I walked past the hall bathroom and something caught my eye. It was, not surprisingly, Little Sammy, hanging his tummy on the edge of the counter stretched out so he could reach the sink. He was filling a cup with water. The liquid was brown and foamy, it looked like it had Coke in it, and something else, something dark. I figured out the “something else” when I noticed the chocolate syrup spattered on the counter and smeared on his face.

“Sammy, what are you up to?” I asked, cleaning up some with a rag.

He calmly plopped a soft well-worm sliver of soap into the mixture which he still held in his hand. The soap floated, it must be Ivory.

“It’s my ‘speriment.”

“Sammy, What kind of experiment?”

“I have a book, it has the recipe. If I get the mixture just right, it’ll work. It’s a formula.”

This was technically a lie, but six year old boys live in a world where reality and fantasy are strangely mixed. As a parent this is the kind of statement you are better off letting pass.

I guess he came up with the idea of a “’speriment” after we dragged him to his big brother’s science fair – a horrific series of gaudy pasteboard displays of random information that had nothing at all to do with science. The middle school kids must have opened a musty encyclopedia in the back of the library at random and written up what fell out. Our oldest son Wally had a crude display on “Delirium Tremens” – which, after Uncle Percy’s performance last Thanksgiving… well Wally must have had some curiosity.

Usually Sammy’s public behavior is like a bomb going off. But at the Science Fair he strolled up and down the lines of kids with their crude, inane posters enraptured. He could not take his eyes off of the exhibitions of “The Fungus Among Us,” “Your Mighty Pancreas” or “That Will Leave a Stain.

Now, with Sammy, I didn’t ask what the “mixture” was supposed to do. He stirred it a little and then walked into the kitchen and began piling up chairs to reach the freezer above the refrigerator.

“Help me make room, Daddy,” he asked, “It has to be freezed all night.”

“Sammy, there’s more room in the big freezer in the garage.”

He pondered this for awhile and then relented, deciding that the garage deep freeze was indeed in the proper temperature range for his formula.

I thought to myself that sometime soon I was going to have to deal with a frozen chunk of diluted pop and chocolate, with some Ivory soap and God only knows what else added for a little extra kick. I think my wife would have made him throw it away right at the start – if she had been home. I let him mix it up, though, and he froze the whole concoction. I figured he’d forget about it and I’d throw it out the next day.

I went to sleep wishing I knew what the secret formula was supposed to do.

What happened to the muck in the freezer? I don’t know. The next morning the kids found that puppy on the front stoop. The kids had wanted a dog more than anything. My wife and I put them off – expense, hassle, the new carpets, that sort of thing. But a puppy on the stoop. You can’t say no to that, can you. So the ‘speriment was forgotten, by me at least, in a flurry of trips to the pet store, rearrangements of furniture, new sounds, new smells, and the excitement of a new member of the family. After a week I remembered, looked in the freezer, but it was gone. I don’t know why it was gone… maybe my wife found it – but she never said anything – and she would have said something.

It was the next morning after the ‘speriment, though, that we found the puppy… wasn’t it? A coincidence… I’m sure. Maybe. I wonder, sometimes, though, what a six year old knows that the rest of us have forgotten.

Short Story Of the Day, No Keepsies by Bill Chance

“The tongue may hide the truth but the eyes—never!”
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

The Dallas Eye,
Dallas, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#26). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Does everyone know what “keepsies” is?  When I was  a kid, (and I know my father did in the 1940’s) children played marbles. You had a circle, everyone’s marbles went in and you took turns with a “shooter” – a big marble you would flick in there. You won all the marbles you knocked out of the circle. Some kids only did it for fun… but if you kept the marbles you won…  you played keepsies. The school administration was always trying to get the kids to not play keepsies. This story assumes kids still play marbles.


No Keepsies

Evelyn Bronson breezily tore into the manila envelope from her son’s school. She unfolded the single sheet letter and pulled off the thick brochure paperclipped to it. She started to read.

“Donald!” Mrs. Bronson yelled. “Donald! Come down here right now!”

There was no answer. Mrs. Bronson clutched the letter and stormed up the stairs. She grabbed the knob and stepped in. Donald was stretched out on his bed, eyes closed, head bobbing back and forth, with a huge pair of headphones covering his ears. Even so, she could hear a pounding beat leaking out.

“Donald! Turn those down. That’s going to damage your hearing.”

Mrs. Bronson stepped forward and yanked the phones off her son’s head.

“Hey! What the hell! I’m listening here.”

Turning blue with apoplexy she thrust the letter from the school at him.

He read for a minute then started a low, guttural chuckle. This began to rise until he was laughing out loud when he reached the end. He crumpled the paper and threw it onto a pile of dirty clothes and empty fast-food containers against the foot of his bed.

“Oh, mom, give me a break, it’s just a form letter.”

“Donald, be serious,” she said as she dug around for the letter, uncrumpling it and trying to smooth it on her knee, “This is serious. Have you been playing marbles… playing keepsies?”

“Playing keepsies? Ha! Oh, God, mom, what planet are you from? Give me a break.”

Mrs. Bronson didn’t know what to do so she left the room and returned to the kitchen and sat down. She hoped this would be the end of it, but she was mistaken.

Two days later, while she was in the kitchen finishing up a tray of deviled eggs for her Bible Study group, she asked her son if he was still playing for “keepsies.”

“As a matter of fact mom, take a look at this.”

Mrs. Bronson looked across the kitchen table at her son. Slowly she saw him reach into his pocket and pluck something out. He set his knuckles next to his plate and used his thumb to flick it out onto the table.

“I won this playing marbles, mom. It’s the coolest thing ever.”

The object kept rolling, between a bowl of boiled eggs and a pile of peeled shells, until it came to a rest with a clink up against the tray of finished deviled eggs. With a swirling mix of trepidation and curiosity she reached out and picked the thing up.

It was a large, heavy marble, white in color. She began to move it in her fingers until the back side came around and she saw the black center circle and the brown and green striated ring around it. She jumped in her seat when she realized what it was.

“Mom, I won Johnny Truman’s glass eye. Playing keepsies. Isn’t it the coolest?”

A wave of horror washed over Mrs. Bronson. She looked at her hand and almost heaved the glass eye away in revulsion, but she was worried it might shatter. She quickly picked up a cloth napkin and wrapped the eye, protecting it from breakage and her from its blinkless stare.

“Donald! That’s the most terrible thing I… Ever!”

“Aww, it’s no big deal. He don’t need it, he has a patch. ‘Sides, it doesn’t work anyway. It’s only for looks.”

Mrs. Bronson was shaking, speechless with horror. Suddenly, she let out a little squeal as the doorbell rang – once, twice, insistent.

Like a robot, Mrs. Bronson went to the door. She opened it and there, standing on the stoop, was a young man wearing an eyepatch.

“Mrs. Bronson? I’m Johnny Truman. I’m here to see if I can get my glass eye back. May I come in?”

Johnny pushed past her into the living room.

“Please, ma’am, can I have my eye back?”

“No way,” Donald said, “I won it fair and square.”

“I have twenty dollars,” Johnny said calmly, “I’ll give him twenty dollars.”

“Twenty dollars, forget it! It’s worth way more than that. Have to do better than that. Mom, tell him he’ll have to do better.”

Evelyn Bronson began to sway as the world began to spin. She tried to think but had no idea what to say. She walked over to the table and picked up the napkin, holding it and the eye away from her body as she returned to the living room.

“Aww mom, don’t give that to him.”

She looked at Johnny Ransom. Something had changed, something small, while she had walked to the kitchen table for the eye.

“Johnny,” she said, “Wasn’t your patch on the left side when you were at the door?”

“Mrs. Bronson, have you been tested for dyslexia?” Johnny asked her.

At that point, Donald fell onto the floor laughing hysterically. He rolled towards Johnny who gave him a good kick and then started laughing himself. Donald grabbed Johnny’s leg and the two tumbled into a hysterical pile of teen aged legs and arms, punching and grabbing.

She jumped in horrific anticipation as Donald plucked Johnny’s patch off of his eye and hurled it at her. But there was no gaping hole, just another ordinary eye.

“Oh, Jeez mom, you really fell for it!” Donald said as the two of them kept wrestling across the floor. “That was the damn funniest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“You’ve been punked ma’am,” Johnny said.

“Where did you get this horrible thing from?,” Mrs. Bronson asked.

“Ebay!” both boys shouted in unison.

The two boys let out a long double peal of evil laughter and then, spent, stood up and shook themselves.

“We’ll be upstairs, Mom,” Donald said as if nothing had happened and the two boys ran up the stairs.

Mrs. Bronson still was clutching the napkin with the glass eye as she walked into the kitchen. On the counter was the tray of deviled eggs she had made for the Tuesday night Bible Study. The plastic tray had lines of little indentations to hold the eggs. They all were filled. She stared at the rows of white ovals each holding its little pool of yellow congealed yolk, spattering of paprika dust and crowned with large cocktail olives.

Absentmindedly, she reached out and plucked an olive off of a random deviled egg and popped it between her lips. She rolled the sour sphere around in her mouth, sucked the sweet pimento out and felt the gap it left with her tongue. Looking back at the plate, she realized that she had left a space where the olive had been. It made the whole presentation look uneven.

“That won’t do,” she said to herself, and unfolded the napkin in her hand. She plucked up the glass eye and carefully placed it into the concave depression where the olive had been. She had to rotate the glass sphere a bit until the brown and green flecked iris was pointing directly upwards. She then switched the glass eye egg with another in the exact center of the tray. She smiled at the symmetry this gave the whole presentation.

“That’ll give those Bible Study women something to scream about,“ she said out loud as she fitted the frosted plastic cover over the tray, hiding the glass eye among the rows of identical eggs. She pulled her keys out of her purse, hooked it around her shoulder, and carefully lifted the deviled egg tray with both hands. Walking out the door she yelled out, “Boys! I’m going to Bible Study. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

There was no response from upstairs but Evelyn didn’t care. She strode out to the car, kicking the front door shut behind her.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction), The Convenient Straw Hole by Bill Chance

It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing. And there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it, right? And this bag was just… dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid ever. Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember…I need to remember. Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it…and my heart is going to cave in.

—- Alan Ball, from American Beauty

Campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#24). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


The Convenient Straw Hole

The dreams were just there a split second ago. But they fly away too fast to even get a glimpse, let alone remember. I wake slowly, painfully. Getting old is not for the weak of heart. For a minute I struggle to remember where I am. I open my eyes and look around.

The early morning sun wanders down through the pin oaks – still green but looking like they are thinking about turning. The canvas windows are unzipped and the cool breeze filters through – the children are making too much noise and it makes it hard for me to go back to sleep. “Let’s wake Frank up!” one calls out.

“No, let him sleep – he had a long day yesterday,” I say.

I hear a sound outside, gurgling and bubbling… what is it? It is water running? No, it’s too crispy sounding for that.

“Is that bacon frying?” I ask.

“Yes,” My wife says.

“Do we have any bread? Lettuce? Is that tomato still hanging around? Do you know what I’m thinking?”

“Yeah, it’s a big tomato. Do you want some orange juice?”

“That sounds good.”

She unzips the door and hands me a little cold waxed cardboard box of Tropicana Pure Premium, Made from Fresh Oranges – Not From Concentrate.

On the top it says “Convenient Straw Hole!” With an exclamation point. The straw is stuck to the side of the box and cunningly designed – it’s actually two-piece, with an inner, ordinary translucent plastic straw and an outer sheath that telescopes so you can reach the bottom of the box. You pull the two parts until they lock together full length. I imagine a gaggle of industrial packaging engineers sitting in a conference room projecting a PowerPoint of the straw configuration in front of some executive that has to approve the design.

The Convenient Straw Hole! is hard to find, it’s only a little curved dent in the cardboard, but the end of the two-piece straw is cut at a violent angle and cuts through the box with ease.

What will they think of next in this best of all possible worlds?

Short Story Of the Day, Just After the Wave by Sandrine Collett

 

But now this is driving him crazy, this ocean creeping closer, especially at night when no one can see it, at dawn the sea surprises them with its silent waves, ever higher, and the hens squawk because there is hardly anything left to peck at on the last bit of land that is holding out—for a few days the children fed them potato peels, but now there’s nothing left.

—-Just After the Wave, An excerpt of the novel by Sandrine Collette, translated from the French by Alison Anderson

 

Trinity River
Dallas, Texas

Read it here:

Just After the Wave, An excerpt of the novel by Sandrine Collette, translated from the French by Alison Anderson

from Guernica

 

Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, Auntie Cheeks by Renée Jessica Tan

Back then, any woman with white hair was an auntie, but no one could tell me how we were related. My dad said she came from my mom’s side, and my mom said she came from my dad’s. My parents rarely agreed about anything.

—-Renée Jessica Tan, Auntie Cheeks

 

Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas

Read it here:

Auntie Cheeks by Renée Jessica Tan

from Flash Fiction Online