Story For The Week 4-13-2021

Solitude

Solitude didn’t both him, that wasn’t it, but his brother, Silence, was a different story. Nights when he was the only person alive and the vast silent expanse of the sky cupped over him like a giant’s hand. Those nights he curled up in his blankets and shivered, eyes tight closed, not wanting to see the Nightly Things creeping up on him. If he didn’t see them, they couldn’t see him, no matter how close they crept. Nightly Things couldn’t peer inside closed eyelids, that was the rule.

The Doctor didn’t look over at Mrs. Marshall as he spoke.  “As you can see, he hasn’t gotten any better.”

“Do you know why?”

“The workings of the mind are still mostly a mystery.  There  is so much we don’t know about mental illness.”

“He isn’t mentally ill.”

“Look at him, Mrs. Marshall. He has no connection nor concept of the world.” He paused, feigning sympathy and patience. “He isn’t going to get better. The best thing for him is to put him into an institution so he gets the care he needs…” Droning on until his words turned into blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Care for him yes, but not love him. Not like a mother.

Mrs. Marshall stared through the window at her son. She knew so little about him, his world, but one thing she did know was he was not mentally ill. Those words he scribbling over and over – Nightly Things – scared her. What did he mean? What was he trying to tell her, his mother, the one person who loved him unconditionally?

She thought his words were a cry for help, for protection; to be heard. Something somewhere terrified him. Something, real or not, chased him in his silent world.

On the drive home, she thought about being a mother. Mothers didn’t give up. They didn’t leave their child behind.  She stroked his hair, silky even at ten. Mother’s protected against Nightly Things, whatever they were. Mothers loved. Mothers listened even to the silence.

Mothers didn’t walk away.

Response – JSW 4-12-2021

The JSW Challenge is open to anybody who wishes to participate. Using the writing prompt, write a flash fiction no longer than 500 words and post to your page. The Challenge starts on Monday and runs through Sunday each week. Please remember to link your story back to this post so everyone can read your entry.

Copyright csk 2020

He stood on the bank, just beyond the sea grasses, staring out at the rolling ocean beyond. The day was grey, promising a rain he hoped would never come. He needed sunshine and brightness, not rain and gloom. Either way, he’s survive, he supposed, though there were times he wanted to not survive. Times he wanted anything but to survive.

Another marriage down the tubes. You’d think he would have gotten good at it by now, but somehow things always got screwed up. Usually him, but this time her. She’d lied to him since the day they met, claiming love, but in the end she’d just wanted his money.

Stepping over the sea grass, he walked out onto the wind-swept beach, shoes squeaking in the sand. Loosening his tie, he pulled it over his head and dropped it to the ground, shucked his jacket.

What good was love when it could never be trusted? What good was life without love? Why couldn’t he just get it right?

He stopped on the edge of the surf, foam washing up and around his shoes, dampening the edges of his trousers.

Overhead, seagulls called his name. A Sandpiper scurried along the edge of the surf. Beyond the breakers, pelicans rode the waves.

Alone, he walked into the sea.

JSW 4-12-2021

The JSW Challenge is open to anybody who wishes to participate. Using the writing prompt, write a flash fiction no longer than 500 words and post to your page. The Challenge starts on Monday and runs through Sunday each week. Please remember to link your story back to this post so everyone can read your entry.

Copyright csk 2020

Response JSW 4-5-2021

The JSW Challenge is open to anybody who wishes to participate. Using the writing prompt, write a flash fiction no longer than 200 words and post to your page. The Challenge starts on Monday and runs through Sunday each week. Please remember to link your story back to this post so everyone can read your entry.

I dropped my head, groaning. Why couldn’t one day, just one day, with him be normal?

“You seem unhappy.”

“To say the least.”

“Why are you unhappy?”

“Because you just shot our chance of being normal.”

“They weren’t going to think we were normal anyway.”

“But you didn’t have to go drop fire on their heads?”

“Why not it was pretty.”

Pretty!

“Look, idiot, pretty doesn’t keep us alive. Pretty doesn’t help us blend in with the normal folk.”

“Why would you want to blend in?” he asked.

I could see he was truly curious. “Because I want to live for one thing. And I’d like a normal life like any normal being.”

“Not all that it stacks up to be.”

“I don’t care,” I screamed. “I want to be normal.”

He was silent for a long time, watching the burning village in the valley below. “I’m sorry. I’d take it back if I could.”

“Humph. Little good that does us now.”

“Sor-ry.”

“Well, let’s move on before they start to look for us.” It didn’t any good to get angry at him. As much as he said sorry, he really didn’t understand the meaning of the word. He thought just saying sorry made all things better.

He followed me back down the hill and away.

“But can you please not drop fire down on the next village?”

“Sor-ry.”

“Can you?”

“No.”

“No what?”

“I can’t drop fire on the next village.”

“Good. Now that’s settled, let’s hope we find another village soon.”

We trotted away, tails wagging, hoping we’d find a master over the next hill.

Response – JSW 2-22-2021

The JSW Challenge is open to anybody who wishes to participate. Using the writing prompt, write a flash fiction no longer than 200 words and post to your page. The Challenge starts on Monday and runs through Sunday each week. Please remember to link your story back to this post so everyone can read your entry.

“That’s what they all say.”

He didn’t look over, wasn’t anything more over there to see than in front of himself. Mud, mud and more mud. He lived in a suit of mud.

“So who is the enemy now?”

Daniel looked up, across the calm office to the man sitting behind the desk. He thought they were supposed to come out from behind the desk to seem more open, more approachable, more friendly, but what did he know? He looked at his hands as if the answers lay somewhere in the creases in his palms, but all he could see was the mud.

“What do you see?”

“Mud.” He gave the same answer everytime. Nobody believed him about the mud, how they’d lived in it and breathed in it and died in it as the battle wove all around them. Different mud different times. Same story.

His socks had rotted away and now they were mud. His pants, his coat, his rifle…. all mud. The trench sank deeper and deeper into the mud. They wallowed to their groins in mud.

“What is beyond the mud?”

Daniel looked at him for a moment, head cocked, jerking once. “Mud.”

It was all mud. Mud. Mud. Mud. Mud. Squishy. Crawley. Madding mud.

“It would help if you could wipe the mud away and see what is beyond.”

“There is no wiping away the mud,” he said with a shake of his head to dismiss the distant toll of bells. “The world is mud.”

The therapist sat in silence for a moment, looking at him. Daniel looked back, eyes tracing the mud along the man’s trousers and cuff, coating his desk and living on the wall beyond like a shroud.

The therapist tapped a finger on his notebook, glanced at his watch. His muddy watch. “We’ll take this up again next time.”

Careful not to slip on the mud, Daniel rose, flicking away mud oozing down his sleeves, onto the chair and the floor and the world. He squished out without speaking because if he opened his mouth, the mud would fill him, too. The enemy crawling inside.

The therapist went home and had a nice dinner with his wife and friends.

Daniel drowned.

The Blame Game 2-13-2021

Dan strode back and forth in his tiny one-room apartment, teeth clenched, fists opening and closing.

What had he done? Nothing!

Nothing! He’d done nothing to make her treat him like this.

He stopped at the far wall, staring at once blue wallpaper.

What had he done?

Nothing. He’d done nothing to justify this, but he’d also done nothing to avoid this. To make things better between them.

He dropped his head, forehead touching the cold wall.

This was his fault. What had happened to the flowers he’d once given her daily? The odd card now and then? The dinners… the nights out dancing.

The truth was, he’d forgotten as the years passed by. What with work and kids and a house to pay for and maintain and upgrade whenever she felt the need for something new.

So why was this his fault? It wasn’t really. She’d forgotten, too. What happened to the nights of passion? Coming home to find her wrapped in a bow and nothing else? The nice dinners on the table at 6:00.

Kids were what happened. This was their fault. They would have been just fine if they’d never had kids. Plenty of nights for passion without the endless loop of ‘I’m tired,’ or “I have a headache.” Dinner out every night maybe. Candles on the table. He would have been able to afford the flowers every day. Could have afforded nice vacations, trips to Mexico or England.

No kids to slow them down, to take their focus away from each other.

All that money down the drain.

But he loved his kids. Sarah and Tommy. God, the day they were born. Delirious with joy and fear. Where he’d expected one baby they now had two. Could he afford two? How was he gonna pay for the house and the bills and food and diapers and…

So he’d worked longer hours. Had to, really. He couldn’t let his family live on the street. He was the man. It was his responsibility to take care of his family. To feed and clothe and support them.

Long hours worked. A second job for many years. Too tired when he came home to play ball with his son. Tea parties with his daughter. Damn too tired to talk to his wife. Eat dinner and collapse in front of the TV for the night while she bathed the kids and put them to bed. And then went to bed herself.

So it was her fault. She’d never come down, never tried to engage him…

But she had. Night and night after night and he’d been too damn tired to try. Snapped at her enough to give up.

Somewhere between one kid and the other, they’d gotten lost.

Tears burned his eyes, pain stabbing through his belly all the way to his toes, flowing out around him to envelope him in a greater loss than he’d ever known before.

Who would have thought the one thing they’d wanted more than anything would destroy them?

Maybe he could blame it on the dog. Just one more mouth to feed, one more responsibility on his plate. Not like he’d done much with the dog. It was her dog. She walked it and fed it and took it to the vet and spend money they didn’t have on teeth cleaning and removals, medicines for kidneys and stiff joints, and things for which he’d never received medicine. Couldn’t afford it so he went without.

Now his kidneys didn’t work very well and his joints were stiff. Hurt like a dickens when it rained but the damned dog didn’t suffer. Not even dying.

There was a knock at the door and he turned, terribly afraid. She stepped inside in the blue dress she’d been wearing the first time he’d seen her. So beautiful. Long thick brown hair. Brown eyes sparkling like sunshine. Full lips.

“It’s okay,” she said with the smile which had won his heart. “It isn’t anybody’s fault. It’s life. We did okay.”

All he wanted to do at that moment was hug her. Hold her tight and close and never let her go. Take back all the years they had lost, all the moments which could never be replaced. But, as he held her, she slipped silently away, to sunbeams then to smoke, and then gone.

He had buried her that morning.

Response JSW 1-11-2021

It wasn’t like the water I was in was boiling hot, steaming might be more appropriate. Nonetheless, it was an uncomfortable situation.

“It’s rude to hold a gun on somebody,” I said, leveling my voice as best as possible.

“I didn’t do it,” I said, using the distraction of my voice to inch my hand towards my coat pocket.

It’s a weird thing to stare down the barrel of a gun. You’d think you wouldn’t see much, the barrel being so small, but it’s like your vision, your life, telescopes down to a single pin-point of being. I imagined I could see down the inside length of the barrel, the spiraling lines which might soon striate the bullet.

“Can we talk?”

I stared down the darkness of the barrel of the gun, imaging I could see the bullet nestled deep inside.

“Look, I wasn’t the one.”

Just a little more time.

“I wasn’t there.”

My hand inched closer.

“”You have the wrong guy.”

My fingers closed around …