Short Story (Poem) Of the Day, My Pen by Bill Chance

“You want to be a writer, don’t know how or when? Find a quiet place, use a humble pen.”
― Paul Simon

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 (#23). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


 

My Pen

I hear

there are boutiques where

people buy pens

from expensive European designer’s

designs

exotic wood

and space-age metal

 

Mine is cheap bilious plastic

translucent tube generic refill

but it does say

“#1 DAD”

in bad printing

on the side

bought at a PTA sale

 

It’s a good pen

and expensive

I worked long and hard

for it

.

 

Short Story, Flash Fiction, Of the Day, Spaceliner by Bill Chance

This was twenty years before there would be a bicycle shop on every corner, and forty before you could have one delivered the next day from the internet – the only place his father knew of was Sears and Roebuck. They drove to the massive featureless brick rectangle at the edge of an endless parking lot.

—-Bill Chance, Spaceliner

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 (#3). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Spaceliner

It took the boy a month of courage collecting and the prodding of his mother to get the nerve to ask his father to buy him a bike. He expected the usual answer, “Christmas will come in only a few months, we will see about it then.”

When his father snuffed out his cigarette, stood up and said, “OK, let’s go,” the boy almost fainted.

This was twenty years before there would be a bicycle shop on every corner, and a half-century before you could have one delivered the next day from the internet – the only place his father knew of was Sears and Roebuck. They drove to the massive featureless brick rectangle at the edge of an endless parking lot.

The boy was jealous of his friends because they all had bicycles they called Spiders. These had huge curved banana seats – with purple plastic metallic sparkling covers. The handlebars rose straight up with a curve on the end – hopelessly unstable, but it looked cool. One friend had a bike with an actual round car-type steering wheel. He was the coolest of all.

But his father marched straight to the Sears Spaceliner model. Chrome and red, gigantic, heavy as a steel boulder – these had streamline art deco style curved tubes and a thick red console behind the handlebars that contained a light, horn and silver plastic control knobs. This was a careful design of an impractical transportation device that looked to a father from the fifties like something a boy from the sixties (on the other side of the vast cultural divide) would like.

“Let’s get one plenty big,” his father said, “So you won’t outgrow it too soon. I don’t want to be back down here in a year buying another one.”

The sales clerk had one already put together and he let the boy try it out in the back parking lot.

He had to push it along until it gained enough speed to roll upright on its own and then climb on to it as if it was a boat without a ladder. The thing was so large – so too big for him – that at the bottom of each stroke the pedal would disappear past his foot. He could not reach them at that point. He’d have to fish around with his foot as the pedal rose to get back on it.

Near the front door of the cavernous Sears was a little stand selling hot nuts. The vendor heated them on a little stove and sold them in paper bags. The odor of roasting peanuts, walnuts, and cashews filled the entrance and spilled out into the parking lot.

“Can we buy some cashews?” the boy asked. He was shocked when his father bought a bag. His father wasn’t one for impulse purchases. But this was a special day.

To this day, the boy, now an old man, loves cashews and splurges on a can every time he goes to the grocery. Sometimes he gets out an old cast-iron skillet out and heats them up before he gobbles them down.

 


This story is, of course, mostly true. It is a little simplified from reality – I didn’t get to test the bike out in the store. It turned out to be very frustrating – it was so big It took me a month to learn to ride it. In the meantime, my brother, who was three years younger than me got a small bike (what we would call a BMX style today) and immediately began scooting around the neighborhood. I thought it was my own incompetence, instead of the size of the machine.

I finally learned by lugging the thing to the top of a long, steep hill, standing on one pedal while the thing picked up speed rolling downhill. Then I would climb on. As you can imagine, this process resulted in a lot of crashes, skinned knees, and thumped heads (no bike helmets then).

If you know me, you might think that this is the origin of my love for cycling. That would be wrong. A few years later, back on a base, I went down to the Post Exchange and spotted a ten speed racing bicycle, what we called at that time an “English Racer.” It was the first time I ever saw a bike with dropped bars. I was addicted to Popular Science Magazine and had read about the new invention “derailleur gears” and amazed to see them in real life.  I was entranced.

Again, I was shocked when my father bought the bike. This one was perfect. I rode that bike everywhere and learned how to work on it (the early derailleur system was crude and needed constant adjusting). That has continued to the present day – 55 years later.

Not too long ago, I saw a Sears Spaceliner for sale at a vintage bicycle show. It was in mint condition – it cost seven hundred dollars. I didn’t buy it.

Short Story (flash fiction) Of the Day, Havenless by Emily Marcason-Tolmie

The sea of black umbrellas swirls and ebbs around me

—- Emily Marcason-Tolmie, Havenless

Statue on top of a crypt, Saint Louis Cemetery Number One, New Orleans

Read it here:

Havenless by Emily Marcason-Tolmie

from Every Day Fiction

Emily Marcason-Tomie blog

 

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day eight – Tiny Smiling Daddy

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day eight – Tiny Smiling Daddy, by Mary Gaitskill

Read it online here:

Tiny Smiling Daddy

Mary Gaitskill is a polarizing writer. Either you like her or you don’t – but you can’t say she lacks courage.

Today’s story, Tiny Smiling Daddy is from her second collection of short stories – Because They Wanted To.

It isn’t as “out there” as a lot of her work – even though her favorite theme – female characters dealing with sexuality and fitting in somewhere – is here. What makes it different is the point of view. It’s told by a father that has had a phone call from a friend to tell him that his grown daughter has published a confessional piece about him in Self Magazine.

The father then goes on a quest, first to find a copy of the magazine, and then to think back over the years and his turbulent relationship with his daughter. He is clueless, he doesn’t understand how much damage his lack of acceptance of her has done… for everybody.

Even though the story is told through him, and by him, mostly in remembering, his daughter is the most memorable character in the story. You can feel her, through her father’s eyes, in her struggle to find herself and her place in the world.

Instead, he watched her, puzzling at the metamorphosis she had undergone. First she had been a beautiful, happy child turned homely, snotty, miserable adolescent. From there she had become a martinet girl with the eyes of a stifled pervert. Now she was a vibrant imp, living, it seemed, in a world constructed of topsy-turvy junk pasted with rhinestones. Where had these three different people come from? Not even Marsha, who had spent so much time with her as a child, could trace the genesis of the new Kitty from the old one. Sometimes he bitterly reflected that he and Marsha weren’t even real parents anymore but bereft old people rattling around in a house, connected not to a real child who was going to college, or who at least had some kind of understandable life, but to a changeling who was the product of only their most obscure quirks, a being who came from recesses that neither of them suspected they’d had.

There is real life in this story. I read it on my Kindle, stretched out under a tree in the park and it was able to pull me in from the warm, pleasant surroundings around me.

What more can you ask?

Short Story Day Thirteen – A Father’s Story

13. A Father’s Story
Andre Dubus

Click to access FathersStory.pdf

This is day Thirteen of my Month of Short Stories – a story a day for June.

This Sunday is Father’s Day – so I should rearrange my story order and have this one, A Father’s Story, moved to that day. Fuck it. I don’t hold much to the commercial holidays, the ones that are created simply to get people to buy gifts, stir the retail pot, make some cash – so I won’t stoop.

One interesting tidbit about Father’s Day – if you want to know where we stand. From Snopes – While Mother’s day is the biggest holiday for phone calls, Father’s day is the busiest day for collect calls. Yeah Dad, we’ll talk with ya, but you’re gonna have to pay for it.

Andre Dubus is a master of the short story. He writes without artifice… without messing around – he tells tales of humanity, of ordinary people faced with extraordinary moral choices and coming through them, without a perfect solution, but at least doing the best that they can. Then they have to wait and see if they can live with themselves.

Today’s story, A Father’s Story, is very good, read it and understand.

To add depth to the tale, read and understand a little bit about the author’s life. There is something to be said for the writer – like Pynchon or Salinger, that remains private so that his creations can live their lives on their own and you can judge them fairly and independently. But there is also something to be said for getting to know a little bit about the author, and trying to feel a bit about how he must have felt about putting the words down on paper.

Watch the youtube below and listen to the words of Andre Dubus III, the writer’s son (an author himself – he wrote the acclaimed House of Sand and Fog) as he talks about his father and compare him to the Luke character in the story, his love of opera, and open space, and his thoughts on being a human being.

In 1986, Dubus stopped on his way home to help a brother and sister. Their car had been disabled after hitting an abandoned motorcycle in the road. As he walked the injured sister to the shoulder, another car slammed into the three of them. The brother was killed and his sister survived because Dubus pushed her out of the way. Dubus himself was critically injured. He survived and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

I thought about how the accident had influenced the story, especially the harrowing scene when the father is trying to find out if the blonde boy in the ditch is alive or not. Then, I looked it up and realized the story was written three years before the author was involved in the accident.

A Father’s Story is about the author’s relationship with his daughter and how far he is willing to go to spare her suffering. It’s interesting what he says he would have done if it had been his son instead. But it is also about his relationship with God, and love, and imperfection, both human and divine.

It is not hard to live through a day, if you can live through a moment. What creates despair is the imagination, which pretends there is a future, and insists on predicting millions of moments, thousands of days, and so drains you that you cannot live the moment at hand.
—A Father’s Story, by Andre Dubus