Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, before the storm by Alex Sheal

“That room made no sense as a storm refuge, numberless rogue objects lying around and not enough duct tape on the windows. Her housemates panicked up and down the stairs, thumping on the walls, for dawn had turned to day and still the storm roared..”
― Alex Sheal, before the storm

Dallas, Texas

It stormed last night, although it didn’t rain until after I got out of bed. The power went off and I didn’t know it. The alarm went off on my phone and when I silenced it my clock said three AM. I glanced at the window and it was dark (this time of year my alarm goes off in twilight) – so I thought my clock was right and my phone had the wrong time. The thought of my phone being in error filled me with terror – the world has truly gone mad.

But at that moment a terrific bolt of lightning struck right outside my window and I realized it was the thick thunderclouds that made it so dark – hiding the day from my bedroom window.

I decided to take my COVID-19 prerogative and work from home for the day.

An interesting flash fiction for you today:

before the storm by Alex Sheal

 

Short Story Of the Day – An Absolute Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“The old endless chain of love, tolerance, indifference, aversion and disgust”
― Samuel Beckett

Spring Creek, Garland, 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 (#53) More than half way 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.


An Absolute Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex

Paul came out of the second hand store looking around for his car and stumbled over a woman sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk.

“Hey watch where you’re going!” she looked up at Paul.

She was very thin with stringy blondish hair wearing a ragged pair of jeans and a yellow t-shirt. Her dirty feet had worn leather sandals. Paul noticed the book she was reading – a garish orange cover and the title, “An Absolute Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex.”

“I stole this book you know,” she said. She stood up quickly in a smooth sort of unfolding motion, like she had raised herself off of sitting cross-legged on concrete many many times before.

“Yeah, stole it from this store here, they can see me sittin’ here reading it but they won’t say anything.”

“Paperback books are only a quarter,” was all Paul could think of to say.

“That’s not the point… hey, dude, where did you get that scar?”

“Paul’s my name, it’s from a knifefight.”

“Looks pretty fresh, you know, still sort of purplish,” she stepped forward and brazenly ran her fingers across Paul’s face, carefully tracing the line of the cut across his temple, cheek and jaw.

“Sally,” she finally said.

“Hey,” Sally continued, ” you got any beer or anything? I am sure thirsty.”

“Well,” Paul hesitated, his mind was suddenly cloudy and he felt like he was being pulled forward by a violent wind – or maybe pushed across a rough broken ground by forces unseen, a rushing storm or maybe even a tilting of the earth itself.

“Well, nothing… we could go buy something,” Paul said.

“You got a car?”

“Right here,” he said. They were standing right in front of his Chrysler.

“Great, let’s rock,” she said, “Hey, mind if we bring along a friend of mine, he’s a blast.”

Sally grabbed Paul’s forearm and pulled him around the corner of the thrift store. They fought their way through the random piles of old boxes and discarded merchandise that littered the lot, hidden from the street and parking lot by a sun-grayed wooden fence. The flotsam and jetsam of the thrift trade ended up here – the material too broken or filthy to even have worth in the lowest level of the civilized marketplace.

“Beaumont! Beaumont!” Sally yelled as the worked their way around the back of the thrift store and began pushing against the mat of tall thick dead dried weeds that divided the commercial strip from some rusty trash-strewn railroad tracks beyond. After a dozen cries and fifty feet of walking one particularly thick spherical leafless bush began trembling, then shaking as a shape began separating itself from the dead bush. The shape crawled a few feet and then stood up.

It was a tall man, skinny in the same way as Sally, topped with a greying beard and shock of matted dark hair spewing from underneath a plastic farm-implement cap worn backwards. The eyes between the beard and cap were live, blue, and darting. The man wore all denim, old jeans tucking into ragged cowboy boots, and a denim jacket with yellow lettering, “Big Bambu” and a green marijuana leaf over one pocket.

“Hey Beau, this is Sam, he’s got some cash and a car – wants to go get something to drink.”

“Well, then sir, I’m greatly pleased to meet you,” said Beau, ” his beard almost seemed to crack as it moved stiffly aside to adapt to a growing smile underneath, “an answer to our prayers.”

Beau pulled a plastic shopping bag stuffed full of shadowy items out from under the weedy bush and the three walked back around to Paul’s car.

“That’s quite a knife scar you’ve got there,”Beau said, “Looks awful fresh. Be sure and keep that sucker clean, wash it every day, or it’ll get swole up and never heal right – leave a nasty scar forever. Look at mine, here.”

Beau pulled the neck of his jacket aside and showed Paul an ugly puckered wound that slashed from Beau’s ear down across his neck until it disappeared under the jacket. Paul could see Beau wore no shirt under the denim jacket.

They piled into Paul’s car, Sally in front next to him and Beau stretched out in the back.

There was a shabby liquor store at the end of the block.

“How much cash you got on ya,” asked Sally.

“It looks like they take credit cards,” Paul said, pointing to a decal on the door, “I’ll use that.”

“Even better,” said Sally.

They bought a case of beer, some plastic bottles of vodka, a couple boxes of wine, and three giant bags of Funyuns.

Sally directed Paul out of the neighborhood maze and onto the frontage road of the interstate highway.

“Should I get onto the freeway?”

“No, stay here on the side road.”

“Here, pull in back here,” Sally indicated a dirt branch that led to a hidden spot behind an overgrown tangle – a bit of forgotten landscaping gone wild.

“This is our place,” said Sally, expectant, with a little bit of what sounded like pride leaking out with the words,”It’s pretty comfortable, the bridge keeps the rain out, and nobody, I mean nobody ever comes down here.”

It turned out to be a long day, a longer night, and an even longer morning, because morning always comes. The sun always comes up and it reaches everywhere, even into a pile of smoky, filthy rags under an interstate bridge.

Paul woke up naked and crusted with dried vomit. He remembered nothing from after he walked into the camp. His brain felt like it was swollen to twice its usual size and still stuck in the same head. The pressure felt like it would separate his skull along some jagged line, exploding his brain in sweet relief. Every nerve in his body was firing and the light pouring in from the end of the bridge was toxic.

His elbows and knees were scraped bloody and his tongue felt torn on the underside, like it had been half pulled out. He scrabbled around for his clothes, keys, and wallet and found nothing except a filthy pair of green shorts and an old jacket, a nasty stain coursed across the front.

He put those on and slid down the concrete slope back to his car. He wasn’t really surprised when he found the Chrysler missing.

Paul sat and cried for over an hour. He could not figure out how to get home. He considered hitchhiking but couldn’t imagine anyone stopping for a horrible apparition like himself.

Then Paul realized that the creek at the bottom of the interchange was the same system that coursed through his apartment complex. There were a couple branches but he thought he could follow the way, make the correct turns. He limped down into the stale slow-flowing water, the mud feeling good on his feet, but stinging his wounded knees and elbows. He noted the direction the water was flowing, turned into it and began trudging upstream.

It took him most of the day and his feet were cut and bloody from broken glass hidden in the mud at the bottom. He was seen only by a few children from the shelter of an organized pea-gravelled playground, telling their daycare sitters about the “funny man” that went running by.

Paul reached his door, dug the spare key out of the flowerpot… and was home. The hot shower wasn’t enough to get the smell out of his hair, his skin – the night had diffused through his whole body and was oozing out his pores.

He ate some aspirin, drank some apple juice, and burrowed naked into the deepest corner of his bed. There he tossed and turned and tried to fall asleep until that day slowly melted into dreams and nightmares and a stink he alone could smell and could never seem to completely wash out.

A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 22 – before the storm By Alex Sheal

Have a drink.

Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. 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 – In September this time… because it is September.

Today’s story, for day 22 – before the storm by Alex Sheal
Read it online here:
before the storm by Alex Sheal

Then we slept, our storm-scattered raft adrift in the afternoon sun, mouths parched, detritus trailing us across the lifeless ocean. Or did fish school beneath us, flashing like bonfire sparks in a bottomless night?

—-Alex Sheal, before the storm

There is this comedian, Larry Miller (he’s the obsequious clothing salesman in Pretty Woman) that does this comedy routine about drinking in bars – it’s called “5 Levels of Drinking.”

He says:

You crawl outside for air, and then you hit the worst part of level five ~~ the sun. You weren’t expecting that were you? You never do. You walk out of a bar in daylight, and you see people on their way to work, or jogging. And they look at you, and they know. And they say, “Who’s Ruby?”

Let’s be honest, if you’re 19 and you stay up all night, it’s like a victory like you’ve beat the night, but if you’re over 30, then that sun is like God’s flashlight. We all say the same prayer then, “I swear, I will never do this again (how long?) as long as I live!” And some of us have that little addition, “……and this time, I mean it!

Truer words have never been spoken.

Today’s story reminds me of that bit, somehow.

This woman, a bartender at the NYLO Southside, asked Candy, “Is your husband a professional photographer?”
Candy answered, “He thinks he is.”

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 11 – Mirrorball

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. 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 eleven – Mirrorball, by Mary Gaitskill.
Read it online here:

Mirrorball

Over the years I have read a lot of short stories. A lot of short stories…. Maybe a story every other day (with a lot of gaps, of course) since I was ten years old. That comes out to over eight thousand stories.

Obviously, that’s too high – but still, I have read a lot.

They all get mixed up – I’m always reading something that sort of feels familiar and then when I get to the end I realize I have read it before. I get authors mixed up, collections, anthologies and now with this internet thing… it’s so confusing.

One author that has always stood out is Mary Gaitskill. Her stories are full of desperate characters involved in all sorts of nasty trouble. She seems to know what she is writing about – she claims to have spent time as a stripper and a callgirl. I guess she is best known for writing the short story that the movie Secretary is based on – although the two are very different. She claims the movie was too charming and nice.

I know I’ve read the collection, Bad Behavior, that Secretary was in, but I don’t particularly remember it – I’ll have to read it again.

At any rate, today’s story is very different. This one is from her newest collection. Mirrorball is the story of a woman that has a one-night stand with a second-rate rock star and loses a piece of her soul in the process.

It’s a very unusual piece of writing.

I enjoyed the story, even though it isn’t really my cup of tea. It’s sort of an anti-Hemingway story in that nothing much happens (a couple of sexual encounters… and that’s about it) but a lot of words are spilled upon the page.

It’s a story told of a world inside of yet unknown to the characters; the world of their own souls – split, tortured, stolen, released.

It takes some skilled wordsmithing to go with something as ethereal as that and make it real to the reader. Read it, you decide.

He was a musician, well regarded in his hometown and little known anywhere else. This fact sometimes gnawed at him and yet was sometimes a secret relief; he had seen musicians get sucked up by fame and it was like watching a frog get stuffed into a bottle, staring out with its face, its splayed legs, its private beating throat distorted and revealed against the glass. Fame, of course, was bigger and more fun than a bottle, but still, once you were behind the glass and blown up huge for all to see, there you were. It would suddenly be harder to sit and drink in the anonymous little haunts where songs were still alive and moving in the murky darkness, where a girl might still look at him and wonder who he was. And he might wonder about her.