Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, A Quick Dip, by Neeru Nagarajan

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

The river and the Hwy 90 double bridge from the Crescent Park Bridge, New Orleans

From my Online Journal – July 3, 2000 (almost twenty years ago – yikes! – my kids were nine and ten at the time) written during a camping trip at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas:

We came back down to Balmorhea in the late afternoon and decided to go swimming. We talked to Lee about his fear of the fish in the pool and, as I suspected, it was mostly that he was tired and hungry yesterday. Some rest and some food and he was ready to hit the water.

He didn’t really do any swimming. What he preferred to do was to put on his goggles and stretch across his inflatable inner tube and let me swim and pull the tube around the big pool. He’d take a deep breath and stick his head into the water and look at the bottom. The pool is very large and there was a lot to look at. He would have requests like, “Swim me over to that end,” or “let’s go out to the deep part,” and I’d oblige. He’d plunge his face and come up with a report of what he saw: a school of fish, or some rocks, or a turtle, or a place where some kids had inscribed their names into the algae growing on the bottom.

After the crowded holiday that day before, only a handful of swimmers and some scuba divers were there. As I pulled Lee around Nick dove off the high board and swam until it was his turn. Lee wrapped up in a towel and walked back to the campsite. Nicholas put on his goggles and I started swimming him around on his tube. We went into the deep end to try and spot the place where the copious flow of water erupted in a bed of white bubbling sand.

We came up against the stairs on the far side. I was getting tired and cold, the spring water is very chilly, it was late, I’d been swimming a long time and it was taking its toll. I asked Nick if we should walk back, around the pool or swim across. We did have his inner tube – I felt confident we could make it across one more time. We decided to swim. It was a mistake.

Nick looped his goggles around one shoulder and took hold of one side of the tube while I grabbed the other and we started to swim. Not too far from the side, but at the deepest part, maybe thirty feet deep, Nick called out, “Oh, oh, there go my goggles.” In retrospect I should have let them sink; but I took a big gulp of air and took off underwater, diving as deep and as quickly as I could. Maybe twenty feet down I saw a sinking orange blur, frog-kicked over to the goggles and grabbed them. Then I swam back up to the surface.

When you start reaching well into your forties, like I am, there is a fundamental change in the relationship between you and your body. What has been a good friend over the years, a partner, something you are… well, attached to – suddenly turns traitor. Abilities you have taken for granted for decades disappear. No one tells you about this. As a youth I could swim underwater with the ease and comfort of walking across a field. I took this for granted, the ability to hold my breath, come up for air and refresh myself. I discovered tired, and cold, and old, and fat… this is no longer true.

When I came up and handed Nicholas his goggles and put one hand on the inner tube and started kicking and swimming I realized that I was not going to be able to catch my breath. It came on with awful speed. No matter how hard I tried, my breathing became more and more labored, shallower, moving my arms and legs in the cold spring water was becoming extremely difficult.

It was horrifying.

With amazing clarity of thought, I knew I was not going to drown. I did have that inner tube for a float, even though I was rapidly becoming so weak I could barely hold on to it. There were some scuba divers in the pool that had finished diving and were sitting on the steps talking over the day’s sights and I knew I could call to them and they would haul me out of the pool. I came within a hair’s breadth of doing that.

The main fear I had was I thought I might be having a heart attack. I had never felt like this before. There was no pain, but I simply could not breathe, I could not get enough oxygen into my body to keep my arms and legs moving.

I don’t know what Nicholas thought, holding on to the other side of the inner tube, my son’s face only a few inches from mine. I must have scared him a little because I know I was flopping more than I should, trying to hook my arm into the tube and was unable to get it done. I didn’t want to frighten him unnecessarily so I kept my rising fears to myself.

Slowly, we continued to move across the wide pool, and finally I was able to reach down with a toe and touch the bottom. That didn’t help as much as you’d think because I was too weak to stand in the water and the energy used to hop and get my face above water made my breathing more impossible. Finally, the floor became shallower and shallower and before I knew it I was on the steps.

I released the tube and the brisk wind blew it away. “Could somebody get that please,” I asked, and a scuba diver caught it with a couple strong sure strokes and brought it back to me.

I didn’t have to sit beside the pool for very long before I felt fine. The fear and panic quickly drained away and left me with a slight elation even though I was still a little tired. I told Nicholas to take his towel and walk back to the popup at the campsite, I’d catch up in a minute.

Looking back on it now, I realize what I was feeling, in addition to simple exhaustion, was hypothermia. The spring water was cold and I had been in it for hours.

Walking slowly back to the camp, enjoying the last purple glow of the set sun, following the channels that the water followed as it coursed out of the pool, roaring down the irrigation ditches on out of the park, I felt fine. But the memory of those minutes of fear, the feeling of helplessness and drowning, are still with me. I had never felt like that before and I don’t look forward to feeling like that again. Unfortunately, I’m sure I will.

And today’s flash fiction:

A Quick Dip, by Neeru Nagarajan

from Middle House Review

Neeru Nagarajan Twitter

Neeru Nagarajan homepage

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Charity Auction by Bill Chance

sound of a cicada
Shape of the Spitfire’s wings
yellow firefly light
taste of daycare peanut butter
industrial grape jelly
sanding dust from balsa wood
beige and fine
light as air
pins in cardboard
white glue
a path through the nettled woods
ending at a rope swing
over a dry creek bed

—-Armando Vitalis, From Hell’s Heart I Stab At TheeShape of the Spitfire’s Wings

I donated five dollars to the North Texas Food Bank. You swipe your credit card, push the button. There’s an artificial splash and the cash projected on the fountain swirls around in a virtual splash

Charity Auction

The two kids, Sandy and Simon had a charity auction for the new Quest program at their school.

“We’re supposed to bring stuff from home in to auction off,” said Sandy.

“It’ll be really cool,” said Simon.

A week before the auction, their mother helped them pick out possessions they didn’t play with anymore, digging around in their closets for old toys. There were plenty to choose from. They each filled a small cardboard box and off to school they went, proud and excited.

The day of the auction their mother gave each one a ten-dollar bill to spend at the auction. Sandy immediately lost hers (it turned up a few days later in a never-used pocket in her backpack) so Simon gave five to his sister. He was not happy.

They were able to buy some stuff and were anxious to show off their purchases to their parents.

“I bought this Darkwing Duck movie!” said Sandy, “I remember seeing it years ago and liking it!”


“Sandy, that’s your movie, you donated it last week,” her mother said.


“I bought all these Batman Action figures!” boasted Simon.


“Simon, those are all yours, you donated those too!”


“I know, but I remembered how much I liked them and figured they were in there by mistake.”

The two kids had bought the same stuff they had donated to the auction.

Their parents explained they didn’t really understand how a charity auction worked. They suspected that a lot of the kids had bought their own donations.

But later, thinking about it, they decided that the kids understood more than it appeared, maybe they understood more than their parents or their teachers.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Wild Horses, by Deirdre Danklin

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”

― Rachel Carson

Crystal Beach, Texas

Wild Horses, by Deirdre Danklin

from Longleaf Review

Deirdre Danklin Twitter

Deirdre Danklin homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Recall, by Sara Crowley

I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.

The Shawshank Redemption, Final Line

Fence around the campus near my work. With remaining wood that has grown into the fence.

Recall, by Sara Crowley

from Bull

Sara Crowley Twitter

Sara Crowley homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, The Stone Girl, by Lucy Zhang

“They must take me for a fool, or even worse, a lunatic. And no wonder ,for I am so intensely conscious of my misfortune and my misery is so overwhelming that I am powerless to resist it and am being turned into stone, devoid of all knowledge or feeling.”

― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Hall Sculpture Garden Dallas, Texas Background: Reflection Series XI Deborah Ballard 2011, Cast Stone, Mixed Media Foreground (blurred) The Stainless Internet George Tobolowsky

The Stone Girl, by Lucy Zhang

from Cheap Pop

Lucy Zhang Twitter

Lucy Zhang homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Fizzy, by Erin Lyndal Martin

Inventory:

“Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things I’d been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.
Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.”


― Dorothy Parker, The Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker

Have a drink.

Fizzy, by Erin Lyndal Martin

from Tiny Molecules

Erin Lyndal Martin Twitter

Erin Lyndal Martin homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, The Exceptional Properties of Sea Glass, by Katy Madgwick

“These people were the first to master a new kind of late twentieth-century life. They thrived on the rapid turnover of acquaintances, the lack of involvement with others, and the total self-sufficiency of lives which, needing nothing, were never disappointed.”
― J.G. Ballard

Chihuly glass sculptures in the creek, Dallas Arboretum

My journal entry from Thursday, April 29 1999, comparing the beach in South Texas to the one I had just visited in North Carolina.

Galveston vs. Carolina Beach

Carolina Sweet, thick iced tea, coming to your table sugared. Mint and Magnolia blossoms.

Galveston is a Mezcal town, Bitter and Crazy, with a worm.

In Galveston the seashells are common, piled in drifts. They are all bleached white. In Carolina they are rarer, but beautifully multicolored.

At Carolina Beach the waves slide in with a low rumble and a hiss, moving from glossy patches of reflected sunlight into green walls of translucent glass. They fall lazily onto the sand to fade as lines of white melting foam. Green waves – White foam – Amber sand, Undulate back and forth under the civilized Deep South Sun.

In Galveston the Gulf waves are angry, crashing, powerful violence – smashing with an incredible din. The sun beats mercilessly on it all. The surf stirs the fin dark sand into a gray soup carrying all sorts of flotsam and jetsam; salt smelly Sargasso seaweed, telephone poles, ship’s trash, detritus of the continent brought thousands of miles down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Texas seabirds are loud, insistent, relentless; packs follow a poor morning visitor with his breakfast muffin – cawing Hitchcockian mass of beaks, claws, and wings – waiting for an opening – a chance at a snack.

In Carolina even the gulls are polite and discrete. They float on the breeze or caterwaul in the distance waiting ’till they can eat in private. Maybe behind a dune.

And today’s piece of flash fiction:

The Exceptional Properties of Sea Glass, by Katy Madgwick

from Ellipse Zine

Katy Madgwick Twitter

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Omar’s Food Mart by Bill Chance





“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”

― Orson Welles

Decatur, Texas

Omar’s Food Mart

After a long morning of soul-sucking meetings and conference calls where he felt this IQ dropped ten points after each one, Craig decided to go out for lunch. He needed something non-corporate so he decided to go to Omar’s Food Mart.

OMAR’S FOOD MART was a little place at the end of a strip of auto repair shops on a corner of bad asphalt not far from where Craig worked. It was a monument to capitalism. Operated by five brothers from Syria, it crammed an impressive array of services into what looked from the outside to be a tiny gas station.

There was no place that served bigger, nastier, or greasier hamburgers than Omar’s.

Craig hadn’t been in there for a couple years but it hadn’t changed. They had a bewildering array of exotic food (Craig used to buy Semolina flour there when he still had time to make his own pasta). Crammed into the tiny space were aisles of gewgaws, a display of Hookahs, chewing gum and motor oil. Plenty of merchandise looked pathetic: obsolete cleaning supplies, faded greeting cards, suspect canned goods, and a single tiny green cardboard cylinder of Parmesan cheese with a thick coating of greasy dust.

The only active merchandise was an entire glass wall of cold drinks, a couple rotating racks selling candy, Slim Jims and beef jerky (Slim Jims are NOT beef jerky), and a wooden stand holding a generous selection of pornographic magazines.

A full array of financial services was offered: a Pick-Six machine and several Plexiglas Scratch-N-Win lottery ticket dispensers, a private ATM with astronomical service fees, money orders, and two slot machines. They were video multi-line bandits, Cherry Master and Fruit Bonus. The slots had stools in front of them so the customers could sit in comfort as they stuffed the dollar bill slot.

Even though it looked like a gas station or convenience store Omar’s biggest business was food. The narrow space behind the front counter was crammed with grills and fryers. There was an extensive menu on the overhead plastic lighted sign: eight different kinds of hamburgers, including the Texas Jumbo Cheeseburger (Craig ate one of those once, he felt like he’d swallowed a football) BBQ, BLT, Chicken Breast, Grilled Chicken, Chicken Fried Steak, Fish, Extra Bacon $1.00.

There was a long list of “Specials” which come with a drink and fries, and “Baskets” which include a salad: Chicken Strip, Catfish, Hot Wings, Shrimp, Gyros, Grilled Cheese, Ham and Cheese, Tuna Salad, Chicken Salad, Corn Dogs, Burritos, and Hot Dogs (small and jumbo). Side orders of: Fries, Onion Rings, Tater Tots, Hot Wings, Chili, Jalapenos, Stuffed Jalapenos, Toast. A breakfast menu of sausages, eggs, bacon, cheese, and ham in all sorts of combinations.

Craig had no idea how they could cook all that stuff in such a tiny space; but he’d never seen anyone order anything other than Hamburgers or Gyros. Three or four guys worked back there, one taking orders and the others scurrying around gesticulating and shouting in some unknown language. The only word Craig could understand was “Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger!” It sounded exactly like the old skit on Saturday Night Live. The meat and cheese sizzle on the griddle; clouds of blue smoke were sucked out overhead. One guy stands in front of a sizzling, dripping brown vertical rotating cylinder of some mysterious meat, constantly slicing off strips for Gyros. These were served in fat pitas with onions so strong you can smell them a block away.

At lunchtime there was always a line at the register. The customer in front of Craig had a graduated plastic bag Velcroed to his ankle and a tube running up his leg. Dingy yellow urine was filling the bag, it had a little valve on the bottom. It wasn’t that hot and Craig wished that guy wouldn’t wear shorts.

A guy was sitting next to the line playing the slots. An older man, thin, short, unsteady and using a cane, came in; they knew each other. They exchanged loud pleasantries, then the man with the cane leaned over and showed the slot machine guy the top of his head.
“Look,” he said, “I’ve got a couple new plates, here and here.”
“Jeez! Did you get your license back?”
“Nope, after a head trauma, they send you to a New-Rologist for an E-Val-U-Ation,” he replied slowly. “Then you have to take the tests.”

It was Craig’s turn to order. They gave him a numbered slip and he stood off to the side while the grease flew. After awhile they called his number out but handed an order to someone else.
“I though I was 256?” Craig asked.
“Oh, we had two orders with the same number, what did you have? Cheeseburger basket?”
He immediately reached down and stuffed a burger and fries into a brown paper bag and handed them to Craig. Craig noticed that practically nobody ever received exactly what they ordered the first time.

The baskets come with large drinks, which you fill yourself from a fountain in the back. There was a big sign that says, “Pay for your Refills!” Craig decided to eat in, he was in no hurry to return to the corporate rat-race. That he considered this to be a tiny vacation depressed him even more. They had some wood-grained plastic booths scattered around a back corner, a place to sit down. Craig still had his lab coat on, somehow it seemed appropriate there; almost every customer had some sort of uniform, many had metal chains between their wallets and belts.

It seemed like everyone there knew each other. The seating was close, which made conversations between patrons inevitable. A lot of asking for directions, “How do you get to Arapaho from here?” At the next booth some guy was smoking and ranting about fast food.
“I dunno why anyone ever goes to McDonalds! They can come here and get better food cheaper. That Damned McDonalds! The only thing that puts them over is advertising. I dunno why anyone ever goes to McDonalds! Costs more – Get less. People don’t think about stuff! You can’t tell them anything! The only thing I ever buy is senior coffee and maybe an egg McMuffin.”

The general conversation then turned to the extensive menu.
“They have Catfish?”
“Yeah, but it’s no good.”
The McDonalds hater added his two cents, “How can it be no good? Either it’s Catfish or it isn’t!”
“I don’t know,” another guy piped up, ” but it’s no good.”
“How about the shrimp?”
“I don’t know, I can’t eat shrimp. I’m allergic.”

The other diners then began talking about folks they had known that were allergic to shrimp and had eaten some by mistake. Tales of swelling necks, choking, hives, and respiratory distress.

Craig finished his cheeseburger and noticed there wasn’t anyone at the front. On his way out he ordered a bag of gyro sandwiches to take home for dinner. Back at the office, he stashed them into his desk drawer.

All afternoon folks walked through Craig’s wing of the building and complained about the smell. It was those powerful Omar’s onions hidden away in Craig’s desk. He never said anything.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Attraction, by Deirdre Danklin

“They waited for the elevator. ” Most people love butterflies and hate moth,” he said. “But moths are more interesting – more engaging.”

“They’re destructive.”

“Some are, a lot are, but they live in all kinds of ways. Just like we do.” Silence for one floor.

“There’s a moth, more than one in fact, that lives only on tears,” he offered. “That’s all they eat or drink.”

“What kind of tears? Whose tears?”

“The tears of large land mammals, about our size.

The old definition of moth was, ‘anything that gradually, silently eats, consumes, or wages any other thing.’

It was a verb for destruction too. . . .”

― Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs

Trees reflected in a pond, inverted, with Chihuly, Red Reeds

The last paragraph of my journal entry from April 4, 2003, describing how I felt when I returned from a long work trip cleaning up a toxic waste site in the swamps of southern Louisiana.

I remember how I felt when that job was over and I flew back home. I had become so used to the swamps, to the green and the water – to the alligators and the snakes – that it began to feel like it was the whole world. I gazed out the window of my plane at the hard concrete and the terminal buildings of DFW airport, the metal planes and the masses of people – a sight I’d seen a hundred times but that seemed suddenly strange and alien after being in the swamp for so long. It took me a long time to feel normal again… or at least as normal as I ever feel.

And today’s piece of flash fiction:

Attraction, by Deirdre Danklin

from Tiny Molecules

Deidre Danklin Twitter

Deidre Danklin homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, It’s Okay to Want, by Ashley Jeffalone

“Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to be. But a great artist-a master-and that is what Auguste Rodin was-can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is…and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be…and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart…no matter what the merciless hours have done to her. Look at her, Ben. Growing old doesn’t matter to you and me; we were never meant to be admired-but it does to them.”

― Robert Heinlein

Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas

It’s Okay to Want, by Ashley Jeffalone

from Ellipsis Zine

Ashley Jeffalone Twitter