Story For The Week 4-20-2021

The sadness was all persuasive, wrapped around them like a blanket of fog, holding them all together. Alone they would have fallen and quickly. Together, they managed to prop each other up and hold the grief at bay.

“Why?” was Susie’s endless question.

“How?” Macy’s.

He just wanted to go home and be alone. This was something he didn’t like or want to share, this sorrow. It filled him full, leaving no room for kind words or reassurance of hope and continuation. Dead was dead. The mere fact of the matter took away the last traces from his life. Soon even the memory would be gone, the sadness over.

Maybe, if he hung on tight enough some sprinkle of memory might remain; colored sugar on a cake.

“He was a good man,” Macy said, wiping raccoon eyes. “He never judged me like the fathers of some of my friends.”

“He always supported us in everything we did,” Susie agreed.

They both looked at him so he nodded. “Never said a word when I bought my bike.” The bike that lived in his living room so he didn’t forget. The father who lived with him so he remembered.

“He was hoping you’d get over stupid on your own,” both of his sisters said and laughed.

If only they knew. He hadn’t ridden the bike in over ten years, not wanting to risk more loss. The Doctors couldn’t tell him why the accident wiped away only part of his memory, only that he was lucky.  At least he had something left, some memories, some hold on the world of his past. Not people, but events. Some didn’t. Some people with similar brain injuries simply forgot everything. He might have been left with only 15 minutes of everything. Or 15 seconds. Or nothing.

Lucky meant he only forgot people once they faded from his life. Like birthdays. He remembered the day, the cake, the presents but not the people. He knew people had been there, but they no longer existed. Bare walls bracketed the memories; he the last person alive. Childhood. Christmases. Lovers. Nothing.

The funeral was over. They hugged, kissed, promised to keep in touch before another funeral brought them together again. They wouldn’t, but they pretended for him. He looked at them, his sisters, aching to commit them so deep in his memory he would never forget but eventually, inevitably, he would.

Turning, he walked away.  Why the heck was he in a cemetery anyway?

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.

Story For The Week 4/6/2021

The Author        

Author sat at his deck, rubbing his forehead. It seemed he’d been rubbing it for days, waiting for inspiration to come. Maybe, just maybe, he exhausted all the fairy tales available. Maybe there wasn’t anything more to write about.

                “You could have written a nicer story about me,” Little Red Riding Hood said from behind his left shoulder. “I could have gone to the mall or something, like really.  Going to Grandma’s House with a wolf dressed as Grandma!”

                “That’s the story,” he said, somewhat impatiently. She’d been whining about her story since it had been written.

                “Do you see what I’m wearing?” she asked, holding out the sides of her dress in each hand, looking down at her checkered frock.

                “It’s how you dress,” he said. “It’s how girls dressed in your time.”

                “But you didn’t write me in my time,” she protested.  “You wrote me in your time but you still put me in this stinking dress. Like why?”

                “At least you aren’t perpetually in a nightgown,” the wolf growled, slinking in from the living room. “And a night hat.”

                “It’s called a ‘kirchief,” he said, more impatiently. “You know that.”

                “Still doesn’t mean I like it. You could have written me eating Little Red here,” he continued. “That is the moral of the story, you know.”

                “We know the moral,” Red said with a roll of her eyes. “Really!”

                “And you couldn’t have made me a nice wolf, you know. Sophisticated. Well-liked.”

                “Nobody likes wolves,” Little Pig # 2 piped up.

                “I ought to eat you,” snapped the wolf, “and I would have if you hadn’t run into Little Pig #3 house.”

                “Speaking of that,” Little Pig #2 said, “Why did my house have to be of sticks. Why couldn’t I have had the house of bricks?”

                Author slid around in his chair. “I wrote you all in your own stories. And that’s final.” He looked at Red. “No mall for you.” At the Big Bad Wolf, “No sophistication for you. You’re a big bad wolf, for crying out loud. And you, Little Pig, have the house you build. You aren’t smart enough to build the house of bricks.”

                Little Piglet #3 snickered. “Like I always told you, Millard,” addressing Little Pig #2. “Author has the story right. I’m the one smart enough to build from bricks.”

                Big Bad Wolf growled. “I’ll blow your house down eventually,” he said, lowering his head to stare right into Little Pig #3’s eyes.

                “All right, you all,” Author said, waving his hands. “No wonder I can’t write. All of you arguing all the time.”

                Snow White stalked in. “While we’re griping,” she said, “why put me with 7 short, dour, grumpy men. How about 7 Princes, huh? Did you think of that?”

                “Seven?” Prince Charming shot back. “How about me. Aren’t I enough? I have a hard enough time with you running off into the forest to sing to all the animals as it is,” he continued. “Just think what I’d have to worry about if you had six more of me around. I’d never get anything done!”

                Snow White rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, if you weren’t so insecure…”

                “Insecure! You’d make anybody insecure,” Charming shot back and would have continued on if The Big Bad Wolf hadn’t sidled up to him at that exact moment.

                “I’ll eat her for you,” he said smoothly, “no charge and all your problems gone!”

                Prince Charming thought for a moment.

                Snow erupted. “You have to think about it? Really, Charming? You’d throw me to the Wolf?”

                “No, no, of course not,” Prince said, pulling his sword. “I’ll cut his head off for you, my dear.”

                Big Bad Wolf howled. “My head? How dare you!” He leapt at Charming and the two went down, tussling across the floor.

                Author sighed and turned back to his blank page, head in hands, as behind him the argument spread among the Fairy Tales until all of them were screaming and fighting.

                “I told you the troubles you would have,” Hans Christian said, seating himself on the edge of the desk.

                “I know, but you really didn’t make it clear how horrible they all are.”

                “Fairy Tales were horrible,” Hans pointed out. “A product of their time.”

                “Then why aren’t they bitching to you?”

                “Oh, back then they were content with their roles. It was all they had, after all. What else was a Little Pig or a Big Bad Wolf going to do?”

                They were silent for a moment, watching the fights. Prince Charming had pinned down the Big Bad Wolf and was trying to saw his head off with a dulled sword.

                “Good thinking, making his sword dull,” Hans commented.

                Author shrugged, pleased.

                “So what do I do?”

                “You’re just going to have to rewrite their stories again,” Hans told him, “to fit this new world.”

“I did that with Red and she’s still not happy.”

                “Oh for crying out loud, just let her go to this thing she calls the mall. Let the Big Bad Wolf eat somebody. That is all he wants you know, just to win once.”

                “But I can’t let him eat Red or the Little Pigs,” Author protested. “What would happen to their Tales?”

                “They would disappear, of course,” Hans replied thoughtfully. “An interesting idea. I wonder how many tales you could make disappear?”

                Author looked at the battling Fairy Tales again and then said, “I bet I can make them all disappear.”

                The Little Pigs were punching and kicking each other.

                Hans nodded. “There you go. They have become so sickly sweet in your age that I’m ashamed to have written them.”

                “Have no fear,” Author said, eager to get back to his writing. For the first time in ages, he felt the words stirring in his mind, eager to spill out onto the paper. Turning back to his empty page, he picked up his pen and started to write.

                “Once upon a time, there was a Big Bad Wolf who had never eaten anybody…”

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.

FFfAW Challenge – Week of November 22, 2016

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This week’s photo prompt is provided by Footy and Foodie.

Guide for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

1. A prompt photo will be provided each Tuesday to be used as a base to your story. Please include photo prompt with your story.

2. Linking for this challenge begins on Tuesday and runs to the following Monday evening.

3. Please credit photo to photographer.

4. The story word limit is 100 – 150 words (+ – 25 words). Please try to stay within this limit.

FFfAW

 

The travelers reached the ridge line by dusk, greeted by the last lingering sight of the sun.

“Think it will come back up in the morning?” Gustav asked, horse fidgeting beneath him.

“Best come,” snorted his companion. “Didn’t make no deal with my money,” here he glared over at Gustav, “to have it skip on me.”

“True,” Gustav reflected, ignoring the look. Who was to say he hadn’t left his wallet at home this morning?  It was always best to get the other man to spend his cash rather than spending his own. He liked cash and he liked to keep what he had. Small habit, but important.

They both stared down at the decrepit… what had they been called? Trucks?  Every once and again, they’d run into a reminder of the distant past. Musta been miserable.

“He’s gonna come back.  Can’t stand the world in darkness.  Piss’em off, I’d think.”

Gustav laughed.  “Oh, yes, I’m sure he’ll be back. And soon if I’m not mistaken.”

Life… and money….and the hook ….what else could a man want?

 

 

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