Short Story (flash fiction) of the Day, The Jungle Banshee by Jim Gibson

The oven was thick with grot and whenever you opened it to get your food, it would flood the room with smoke. I’d long ago taken the battery out of the fire alarm to stop that fucker going off whenever I made anything. And then it was back up to my room, to my games.

—-Jim Gibson, the jungle banshee

Old School Video game inspired graffiti, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Today’s bit of flash fiction is the jungle banshee (not sure if it should be capitalized or not – I like how it looks without caps) by Jim Gibson at 3AM Magazine

the jungle banshee

In the last thirty-odd years I’ve only had two jobs. I only remember once going on an interview and not being offered a job (it turned out they were interviewing me simply to gain information on the company I was working for). But, then again, I never spent that much time shut in playing video games. Of course, Pong showed up my freshman year of college and it cost a quarter and a quarter was a lot of money then. I remember you could get a pint of milk from the dorm vending machine machine for a quarter – I remember that because it was faulty and thought nickles were quarters – for a nickle you’d get a milk and a dime back (which you could take to the front desk and get two nickles for two more milks and two dimes… in theory you could be rich, especially if you could find someone to buy all that milk)… but I digress. I guess my point it that it was tough to get addicted to video games if all you could do was play Pong for a quarter. Pong was fun and in 1974 it was pretty amazing – but it wasn’t exactly addicting.

By the time video games became addicting I was grown and old and had kids and my memory was fading and my fast-twitch abilities were shot. I guess I was lucky.

When I was young people played Poker, Monopoly, or Chess. I did play a lot of chess, but I would get a headache if I played too much – it was never what I’d think of as fun – it was too serious. As I became more than a fairly good chess player I had to quit because it was stressing me too much. I never had enough money to play poker. And Monopoly – well, you couldn’t get addicted to that – that’s like getting addicted to watching paint dry.

The guy in the story has a video game problem. Or maybe it’s something else and the video gaming just falls into the hole.

It’s surprisingly affecting – I really feel sorry for the guy and wish him well. Probably more than I would if I knew him in real life. And I guess that’s a sign of a good story – if you care more about the character than you would if he was actually a real person.

 

 

Short Story of the Day – Big Blonde, by Dorothy Parker

Men liked her, and she took it for granted that the liking of many men was a desirable thing. Popularity seemed to her to be worth all the work that had to be put into its achievement. Men liked you because you were fun, and when they liked you they took you out, and there you were. So, and successfully, she was fun. She was a good sport. Men like a good sport.

—- Dorothy Parker, Big Blonde

Deep Ellum Brewing Company – Dallas Blonde

Big Blonde is considered Dorothy Parker’s best, most literary work – as opposed, I guess, to her usual stuff that is considered witty.

You can read it online here: Big Blonde at Project Gutenberg Canada. It’s still under copyright in the US, so don’t print or distribute it.

Under the thin veneer of Dorothy Parker’s signature sparkling prose – this is a very sad story of a very sad and very hapless woman.  It is a well-known work (it won the O. Henry award as the best short story of 1929) with a lot of discussion about it on the internet. A lot of modern discussion is about the story’s criticism of traditional female roles and, of course, its harrowing description of alcoholism (or at least drunkenness) and depression. It is these things in spades, but I think it is more.

Hazel Morse is a hopeless drunk that is used and abused by men – but I don’t think she is an idiot and I think she had some choices. She is depressed to the edge of suicide, but is she depressed because of her life or does she live that life because of her depression? Probably a little of both. It’s also more than a little autobiographical – though I don’t think Hazel Morse would inspire so many people after all these years as Dorothy Parker does. Hazel’s parties aren’t quite up to the intellectual quality of the Algonquin Round Table.

I have been reading a bit about how struggle gives meaning to life… to the extent that life is the struggle. A corollary of this is how having happiness as the main goal of life is a recipe for disaster. Hazel and all the people in her life seem to have moment to moment happiness as their only reason for getting out of bed in the morning and as a consequence sometimes don’t even do that. They avoid struggle at all costs and end up in a hopeless struggle against the ever-present void.

The story was written and is set in 1929 – the last year of the roaring twenties. I can’t help but think about how different the story would be if it took place a couple years later. How is the Big Blonde going to make it through the Great Depression? It’s not a pretty thought.

Here’s mud in your eye.

Short Story of the Day – Hall of Small Mammals, by Thomas Pierce

We were at the back of a very long line that began near the Panda Plaza and wound all the way around the Elephant House. Nobody was very interested in the elephants or the pandas at the moment. Everyone was at the zoo for the baby Pippins. If just one of the three Pippin Monkeys survived to maturity, it would apparently be a major feat for the zoo, since no other institution had been able to keep its Pippins alive for very long in captivity. The creatures came from somewhere in South America. They were endangered and probably would go extinct soon. But before they did, Val wanted to see one up close: the gray fuzzy hair, the pink face, the giant empty black eyes. Val wanted to take a picture to show his friends.

—-Thomas Pierce, Hall of Small Mammals

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Another Short Story available online:

Hall of Small Mammals, by Thomas Pierce

from Literary Hub

The Author:

Thomas Pierce

The following is the title story from Thomas Pierce’s collection, Hall of Small Mammals. Pierce was born and raised in South Carolina. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Oxford American, and elsewhere. A graduate of the University of Virginia creative writing program, he lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his wife and daughter.

The Story:

A man and a slightly obnoxious diabetic twelve-year-old boy are waiting in line at a zoo exhibit. The line is going slow and the boy is not the man’s son. The boy’s mother is beautiful, but the man has his doubts about the relationship.

We all have to wait in line and we all have to decide how much we are going to take. We always have to wait too long. Sometimes we take too much. Every day. Every damn day. And that line moves to slow, until you need it to wait and then it speeds up.

I looked up “Pippin Monkeys” and they don’t exist outside of this short story. Shame, I’d like to see one, though I never really liked monkeys. I wouldn’t wait in line very long, however.

Short Story of the Day – Three Friends in a Hammock by April Ayers Lawson

We lay in the hammock at the end of summer. The uncomfortable sense of feeling pressed into the body of my friend by the slope of the hammock was also very pleasurable. I hadn’t chosen to sit that close. She and I had slid into that position as we submitted to the physics of the hammock situation.

—-April Ayers Lawson, Three Friends in a Hammock

I have been very busy with some things I can’t write about… and that makes it tough to keep cranking these entries out. So today… an online short story. Read it at Granta here:

Three Friends in a Hammock by April Ayers Lawson

 

A well-written and finely crafted story about… well, three friends in a hammock. The dynamic of this troika is examined in detail. One of them (The one in the middle, of course) is best friends with the other two – though the other two were not best friends with each other and… “but I knew from day to day and even moment to moment alliances shifted. You can’t be equally close to two people at the same time.”

I enjoyed this story. However (well, not really however however, this may be why I liked the story so much), I have trouble relating to the characters in the story. They seem like alien life forms to me. They think too much. I feel the same way about people I see (either on TV or in real life) having long lunches during the week at sidewalk cafés. I mean I would really enjoy doing that – but who has the time? There are horrible disasters that have to be averted, Herculean tasks to be undertaken… how can you get away with spending your life at a sidewalk table gossiping with friends?

I feel more than a little jealousy towards the three friends in a hammock… though their lives are very far from perfect. They might not be spiraling into disaster, but they definitely are closer to that than they imagine.