Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Spring Fever Dreams, by Suzanne W. Vincent

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”

― Pablo Neruda

Artwork, Dallas Area Rapid Transit Spring Valley Station, Richardson, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Monday, August 6, 2001 – Almost Exactly twenty years ago.

Spring

A long time ago I noticed a sign along the Interstate Loop along my drive to work. The sign promised “Pure Texas Spring Water” and sure enough, by the sign, water ran out of the ground, bubbling up and then running down to stain the gutter of the highway and down to a street curb drain. I parked and walked to the spring, taking a picture of the sign and writing about it in my journal.

In the time since, almost a year, I have driven by that spot almost every day (though I’ve changed jobs, that part of my commute is the same). I allowed myself the fantasy of imagining that it really was a spring, an old relic of geology, a fold of shale, maybe an ancient beach, forcing a bit of water to the surface, surviving the excavation and grading of the giant loop road.

Now, the illusion has been shattered. There are four little tiny blue plastic flags mounted on short wires stuck in the ground – squaring off the spot where the water gurgles up.

Now I know that it is a leaky pipe and someone is getting ready to finally dig it up and fix the thing. I’m glad they will stop the waste but somehow, my morning commute will be even a bit more dreary.

Some humor concerning a water leak on the highway.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Spring Fever Dreams, by Suzanne W. Vincent

from Flash Fiction Online

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Everything They Are Running From And a Few Things They Are Running Towards, by Matt Kendrick

“Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak!”

― George Bernard Shaw

Running of the Bulls, New Orleans

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday July 27, 1997 – Exactly twenty four years ago.

Pissing in the Street

My house is a set of two rectangular blocks. One for the main residence and another, set at right angles, for the garage. Simple, cheap, boring. The only break in the monotony is one corner of the house is missing; a space carved away for the front door. This space also is a cube; a square negative room. We put a little bench there, I’m growing English Ivy up the brick wall side and around the edges on the ground. Crape Myrtles line the west side, bushes line the front. I have been letting the plants grow, trimming them when necessary but mostly letting them find their own way; painting in with green. The Crape Myrtles are now big enough to develop the smooth, curvy bark that is so attractive. I am trying to create a little restful garden spot here; a connection with the outside world.

Late Saturday night I sat out there on the bench to do some writing. I had put in an outlet for Christmas lights, it powered up my laptop so I didn’t have to worry about batteries. It was after midnight and surprisingly warm and muggy. I was sweating through my T-shirt but it was still nice to get out into some more or less fresh air. I expected some peace and quiet out there.

The entire neighborhood is a fractal expansion of my rectangular house. Rectangular lot; rectangular block; rectangular subdivision. It is set on a bias. Parallel to the closest Interstate. All laid out for the maximum profit for the long-bankrupt developer; subject to the sacred call of the auto. The suburb was literally thrown together, get ’em built, get out. Now it is a boring, sleepy village within a city. Full of families (who would live here if they didn’t have kids?). Lawns mowed, identically edged, trees, shrubs, cars, trucks, boats, RV’s.

I expected silence out there. The walls of the house are a powerful barrier; more mental than physical. Within the cocoon, the illusion of suburban life is complete; kitchen (fridge and microwave), couch, TV, (computer) the stops on the limited journey of an illusion of life. The background A/C hum supplies the white noise that destroys any vibrations leaking in from the real world. Simply walking through the door and sitting outside the walls is subversive, against the tenets of American Suburb Family Law.

I expected silence out there. There was a rumble in the distance. The isosceles triangle of Interstate Highways that mark out the area where we live provide a clamor of rubber on concrete, creaking steel, squealing tires, booming horns, the hiss of eighteen wheel compressed air leaving brake cylinders. The call of a race of steel giants racing along; my presence unknown and unimportant; life itself rushing along the asphalt, going to God knows where.

Against this rhythm in the distance the symphony of my neighborhood was completed by the melody and accompaniment of local sounds. Someone was having a hell of a fight. I couldn’t tell where it came from; it sounded like the house directly across, but that house was dark; sound does travel on a calm, warm night. The sounds of battle might be coming from a long way off. Male voices, female voices, maybe six or so in all. Screaming, cussing (I couldn’t pick out individual words, but somehow the shouted obscenities could be identified for what they were), the sound of tinkling glass. This went on for ten or fifteen minutes; then the sound of squealing tires and it ended.

I expected silence out there. A house across my street has some teenage daughters, there are always guys in cars hanging out there at night; like alley cats or dogs in heat. A pickup truck roared down the road and screeched to a halt in front of their house. As the truck rumbled the horn honked on and on. Then it sped off, returning in a couple minutes with another car. The honking resumed. I couldn’t see much, I was screened by the bushes, but I could tell by the sounds that a bunch of people were out milling around. Nobody paid any attention to me as I typed; I’m not sure if they saw me or not but I’m sure that if they looked I was visible, my face lit by the screen on the laptop.

I expected silence out there. I heard a noise, liquid, running. Someone was pissing in the street. It was a lot; I know that kind of a piss, beer piss. Looking out through the leaves all I could see was a bare stomach and chest; young, slim, bejeaned; illuminated bright red from the filtered brakelights of the still idling pickup. The cacophany didn’t lessen with the urinating. I couldn’t tell how many voices were mingled in a melange of obscenities, lies, boasts, teasings, the usual testosterone late night drunken summernight pickup revelry.

The little impromptu party continued. It sure didn’t sound like fun, or sexy, or youthful. It was almost tired, frustrated, even mean. There was some stupid shoving, the house door slammed twice, tinkling of broken glass on the sidewalk, and the vehicles roared away. They circled the block twice and were gone.

I finished my typing and found that Candy had woken up and discovered the front door unlocked. I rooted around in the ivy for a half hour until I found the hiding place for the extra key. I didn’t want to ring the bell, It would wake the kids and scare my wife.

Candy says that all kids hang out like those folks were, it’s harmless. She’s right, of course, twenty-odd years ago I spent more than one night hanging out near some cute-young-thing’s house, drinking beer and boasting. They must be out there a lot; it’s not unusual to find beer cans or brown broken glass in our yard, the Mazda has an extra dent where someone bounced a quart bottle off the hood, a couple times there’s been tire tracks in our yard.

Maybe I’m being an old fuddy-duddy but I’m not entirely at ease with those kids out there, only a few feet and some sheetrock and siding away from my sleeping sons. Or maybe I’m jealous, wishing my days of hanging out weren’t receding so far into the past, that my stomach doesn’t look like the one on the guy pissing in the street.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Everything They Are Running From And a Few Things They Are Running Towards, by Matt Kendrick

from Cheap Pop

Matt Kendrick Homepage

Matt Kendrick Twitter

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, End of the Line, by Matt Kendrick

“Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak!”

― George Bernard Shaw

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Conjoined, Roxy Paine

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Tuesday, September 22, 1998

Ground Stump

We had this big ash tree in the back yard. Not a very good tree. It had obviously been cut down once before and sprouted back with these multiple trunks splayed out in all directions. A “junk tree,” it grew fast and weak. Invaded by borers, several big limbs had already fallen off.

The final straw was the summer’s drought. This ash had a shallow root system and was way too close to the house. It sucked water out from under our foundation, helping to worsen the cracking and moving as the drying expansive clays pulled out from under the slab. The tree did provide some nice shade, but the live oak I planted a few years ago is growing up, it will be a stronger, longer-lived tree.

Ordinarily, I would cut it down myself. About a week of work. But I don’t have the time or energy. We gave in and hired a crew to remove the tree and grind the stump, three hundred fifty bucks. Today was the day.

Poor Lee was upset. He is still young enough that all things, especially living things have personality and soul and are valuable. Lee didn’t want us to kill the tree. I explained about the foundation and the fact that it would give us a lot more room in the backyard, but he wouldn’t give in until I agreed to let him plant an acorn.

I came home from work to find an enormous pile of wood and leaves along the front of our house, waiting for the city to come pick it up. It is amazing how different the back yard looks. Bigger and wide open. Almost naked. Lee was out there collecting sawdust, the soft remnants of the ground up stump, in a big bowl that he conned Candy out of.

And digging a hole for his acorn.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

End of the Line, by Matt Kendrick

from Splonk

Matt Kendrick Homepage

Matt Kendrick Twitter

Short Story Of the Day, The Wave by Bill Chance

“Can’t we haul them up with us somehow?” the youngest asked.

“Llamas can’t climb trees,” the old man replied.

—-Bill Chance, The Wave

The Wave that Washes us all

The Wave that Washes us all

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 (#18). 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 Wave

They pushed the llamas faster than they wanted to go but they knew they had to reach the tree. The bare brown ground was covered in a spiderweb of cracks for miles and miles and miles – from one horizon to another. The rise that had the tree on top of it was barely perceptible but the old man could feel it in his bones, having made the crossing so many times before.  Finally, the great tree appeared on the horizon and they knew they were going to make it.

They removed the packets of salt and sulfur from the backs of the llamas and hauled them up into the tree. The llamas were then let free to wander – to tie them would mean certain death. As it was, they would be lucky if half survived the wave… llamas can’t climb trees.

“Can’t we haul them up with us somehow?” the youngest asked.

“Llamas can’t climb trees,” the old man replied.

“But they can swim,” the youngest said.

“To a point.”

They climbed and tied themselves to branches and slept as best they could.

The wave came not as a wall of water at first but as a swelling of the ground until the cracks all closed up. Then the water began to deepen. Then there was the sound and the wave and the water. The cries of the llamas were pitiful as they were lifted and tumbled and struggled to keep their heads above water.

And then it was over. The water receded back over the horizon as quickly as it had come.  The sun baked the ground until the cracks reappeared. The old men lowered the packs of salt and sulfur from the tree as the young men gathered the surviving llamas up across the plain.

There were enough to continue, although for each of them, their loads would be heavier.

Everything That Was Not Death

“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.”
― Jack London, The Call of the Wild

A tree fell in a bad spot, downtown Dallas, Texas

I saw this waiting for the streetcar to Bishop Arts district. What really sucks is that tree didn’t fall by accident, it looked like it was cut down (though it was dead and probably going to fall anyway). I guess once it fell on the meter, they were scared to move it. Somebody is not very happy.

A Forest Wilderness

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
― John Muir

Bald Cypress stump, Downtown Dallas, Texas

Like all big evil cities – Dallas, in an attempt to add a little more “green” scatters trees along it downtown acres of concrete – mostly bald cypress – poking out from metal grates set in the sidewalks. But a city center is not a lush swamp – where the cypress feel at home – and they will eventually fail. Hopefully, this happens because the tree outgrows the little metal hole it is cursed to live in. The men will come along and break out pieces of the grate – but eventually the tree grows too big and has to be cut down.

I have mixed feelings about this. The trees do make the city more liveable. And you can’t really mourn a tree – it is only a plant. And the stumps do have an interesting look – sort of a mini-history of man’s failure to corral nature.

A nearby tree still growing, but doomed to be cut down soon.

Die of a Sort of Creeping Common Sense

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Sculpture, Tree welded from cable, DCCCD Bill J. Priest Institute for Economic Development, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Honor thy error as a hidden intention

After a long day of not getting much done I found myself bereft of ideas. My computer has thousands of text files that I have typed up to remember things, going back twenty years, and I decided to peruse them and see if I could find something useful.

I came across this quote about a Chekhov short story by one of my favorite writers, Tobias Wolff:

There’s a wonderful story of his about a soldier who’s returning from Manchuria, dying on a troop ship, but too ignorant to realize he’s dying. He was a brute, and that comes through, but he also has a very tender side. So he dies, in this state of longing and unredeemed ignorance, and most stories would end there. But Chekhov has the burial at sea, and then he follows the body, the weighted body going down and down and down. And a shark comes up, and nudges it, and swims away. And then he moves the vision back up to the sea and the sky where just at that moment the sun is breaking through the clouds and he talks about the light dancing on the water — and I’m trying to get this right — with a sort of joy for which there is no word in the language of men. So you get this tragic thing, this man dying in complete ignorance, a man with all the goodness in his heart that was never realized, so you have that incredible focus on the individual. And then suddenly he opens it up so we can see where we fit into this and how small it is. It doesn’t diminish your feeling for the character, but it gives you a sense of the finitude of our duration here and our problems. He’s an amazing writer. I love Chekhov. I could go on all day about him.

What an amazing story review. I, too, love Chekhov, but I doubt that the story will be as good as this review.

I don’t know, maybe it’s better. A quick Google search and I found the name of the story is Gusev.

It’s readily available online. Here’s one translation:

Gusev by Anton Chekhov, translated by Constance Garnett

I’m going off to read it now – I suggest you do likewise.

The Mean Reds

“You know the days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds. You mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?”
― Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

streak1

“Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgandy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

streak2

Streaks from Tree Mural by Eric Mancini.