Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Graciously

The old dining room table was immaculately set with a cream-colored silk tablecloth and a complementary candelabra with burgundy candles.  Sandra had been preparing for tonight’s dinner since the afternoon prior, first clearing the dust and choosing the roses that would grace the table.

The guest was not a close friend, but an acquaintance she met through a friend.  No matter how much time she spent with her– which had accumulated over a period of two years at many different events and parties– Sandra could never reach a level of friendliness and comfort with her.  But she had invited her over for dinner tonight regardless.

She was done being nice.  Being nice, she realized, was boring, and for the past several years, she’d been disciplined, but she came to a realization that politeness caused stress and anxiety, and if there was a solution to get rid of it all at once, it would be to cause a scene involving red wine, fire, and the easily offended.

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Fatigue

My dog most always knew when I’d be sad before I did.  Hours before, even when I would be in a burst of excessive cheeriness that would prove to be too much for even a Kindergarten teacher, she would mope about, hardly moving, staying in her bed in the corner of the cool kitchen.  Attempts to engage her were strictly declined.  Later, I realized that she did this so that I could save my energy to recuperate.

When Maggie was around, this was a regular occurrence and we were all tired but we kept going.  On one particular day, my eyes ached like they were dehydrated– like they’d been soaked in salt and clipped to line dry in the harsh Santa Ana winds.

Relief does not come by shutting my lids.  They hurt; they weigh down.  When closed, I can feel the fatigue dripping behind my eye sockets, slithering through my veins, traveling to my head.  I felt fur moving against my neck.  She’d revived and come to relieve me.

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Ersatz, maybe.

Gone are the days of brick and mortar photo albums.  Concrete versions of transient memories have been eclipsed by ease of use and I wouldn’t expect it to be any other way.  We don’t need to wait days, or even an hour, to see what just happened.  We don’t wait for anything anymore.

We never looked through our photo albums after the fact like before, when we would flip through thick books, falling apart from the constant touching; the three-hole standard ripped and doctored with masking tape.

Usually I’m not this sentimental.  I didn’t lament the onslaught of digital cameras.  (Nor the end of Polaroid, but that wasn’t really about the end of photos, but the culture.)  I wasn’t a Luddite about it like how I am about digital books.

When Elisabeth told me she was shopping– online, of course– for a digital book, I tried, futilely, to dissuade her.  You can’t cuddle with a book in bed as it storms outside.  You won’t be able to bring an electronic gadget in a bubble bath– you’ll electrocute and die.  Won’t you miss admiring cover artwork?  How would we swap books?

She didn’t care and I simmered in world music, with words I couldn’t understand but emotions that clearer than any song in English.  Look, it’s like this– a blind person has heightened senses of hearing due to his lack of eyesight.  For me, international music magnifies mood.  I was sentimental, and now I’m maudlin– a silly, silly joke drunk from the sounds of unfamiliar instruments and syllables.

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Vanity

The emergency room at Mercy West Hospital was small and crowded, like most emergency rooms across the country.  The seats were worn and frayed; they must have been peach and sea green at one time.  People were sleeping and strewn about lazily as if they were on their leather couches at home, watching competing nighttime talk shows.  They had makeup-free faces with messy bird nest hair.  Some wore pajamas.

About 15 folding chairs were pushed in where space was available; three were empty.  Lana signed in at the front window.  A nurse grabbed a clipboard briskly.  “What’s the reason for your visit today?”

“Possible poisoning.”  She lingered.

“Sit down.  Might be a four-hour wait.”

Lana sighed.  She guided Dean to a folding chair and they both sat down.  The metal was warm and slightly sticky like melted lollipop.

“We’re not even real, we’re like feathers,” Dean finally said. He hadn’t spoken for the past three hours.  “Mystical feathers.  I can’t feel my face,” he added.

“That’s why we’re here.  I wish I had a pillow.  The nurse said we’d be here for hours.”

Dean looked peaceful.  His eyes were placid pools of blue and green and he barely blinked.  “I feel terrible.  I would kill for a pillow, except I’d have to ask you to kill for me since I can’t move.”

“It’s enough that I drove you here instead.  I warned you—that stupid party—it isn’t something that comes with a ‘Don’t do this at home’ label screaming at you.”  She shut her eyes and hoped to nap.  “Try going to sleep.”

“My eyes won’t shut.  I tried last night and it never happened.”
“What’d you do instead?”  Lana asked, hardly trying to conceal the lack of inquisitiveness in her voice.

“I contemplated life—my life.  I was thinking—why’d we do this?  So stupid and vain.  There are people worse off.  People in America—AMERICA, who can’t even afford to eat out!”  Dean attempted to gesticulate for emphasis, but his face was frozen.  Lana didn’t respond.

“Life is so crazy, and we’re just a slot machine, you know?  It just keeps spinning and spinning and we can’t control it.”

Lana’s eyes opened and she glared at Dean’s pale lifelessness.  “You think your life is spinning.  Get a grip.”  She had a wonderful day-long date scheduled with a handsome television editor she met at a brick-walled bar last Friday.  They chatted all night and were very drunk.

“One more thing—you’re a guy.  You do not need botox.  Ever.  And if you somehow think you do, go to a professional, not some clown who does birthday parties.  You’re thirty.  Face it, we’re getting old.  Wrinkles happen.”

Dean’s forehead was as smooth as velvet.   “Why do you have so say such mean things?”

He willed a frown but it didn’t work.

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Amorphous

In the pottery studio he was not the lonely man who couldn’t keep a promise to his woman, who ended up losing everything in a late-spring Missouri flood.  In the pottery studio he reached out of his cracked mold and became amorphous and yielding.

He taught beginner pottery on Wednesdays because he worked late on Monday nights, catching from the work that piled up over the weekend, and he was busy on Tuesday nights at band practice.  Teaching was a must at the studio; if he didn’t teach, he’d have to skip lunch a couple of times a week.  It wasn’t a source of contention; pottery was more important than eating.  The membership was expensive but there were plenty young kids who could afford it.  After the banking crisis in the naughts every parent wanted their kid to become an artist.

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Rug

Upstairs was quiet.  They were in a bad spot.  Picked the wrong apartment, or as Teresa would never fail to say while taking her first sip of caffeine in the morning: “Hardwood’s trash, but the neighborhood’s golden.”

Peter didn’t concur.  The floors, barren, without carpet or rug, amplified each tinny into a rage-inducing issue for the single woman who lived downstairs.  She banged on the door one night at 3 am, yelling shut-the fuck up already-I can hear when you fucking pee for chrissakes-and when you fuck and-I know the bad tv shows you watch-do you have a goddamn meth lab up there or something, why are you always moving around and banging shit everywhere.

They had a rug once, an ancient white shag bequeathed from Peter’s grandmother they later abandoned in Yosemite during an impromptu camping trip, caked with dirt, crushed mosquitoes, and mashed potatoes.  It was for Teresa’s artistic endeavors– she brought a cheap video camera to record making love amongst the redwoods and on the luxurious shag, intending to glorify man’s proverbial juxtaposition between nature and material necessity.

The shag was not as soft as it looked, and while Teresa moaned for performance’s sake he couldn’t help but realize that he could smell his grandmother’s scent on the rug.  He never wanted to revisit that thought so he didn’t give her a hard time ruining it.

Teresa was a bitch before coffee.  Peter wasn’t sure if coffee had an actual effect or if it gave her free range to turn into a werewolf in pajamas for 10 minutes.  Day after day and week after week and months.

“You’re on a road to hell.  Why do you have that look on your face?”  She cupped her mug with freshly brewed coffee, just black, with her left hand as she leaned forward on the counter, towards him.

“I’m leaving today and you can keep this,” he gestured to the sink and hardwood floor.

She threw her coffee in the sink and said whatever, she doesn’t give a shit what he does, he could have cut off his leg, and as long as it was before caffeine, she didn’t give a flying fucking goose.

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Boots

I make coffee that tastes of boots and brick, and no matter how I change the measurements, some days using less ground and more water or less water and more ground or more or less of both it turns out the same. No matter if it’s already ground from the grocery or instant or whole beans from the most remote country sold at the most unique coffee shop in Seattle I’m grinding myself with a very expensive grinder that’s hardly used, it comes out tasting like boots. With that, I’ve taken a liking towards tea (not loose) and weaned away from so-called caffeine addiction. Now there are people who claim that they cannot live without coffee, that they are so addicted that they waive their responsibility to be polite and civilized before having their first cup—those people, who are willing to drink my coffee that tastes like it’s brewed in the desert mid-day, beneath a scorching red-flamed sky, next to a cactus, in a goddamned sweaty, creased and faded leather boot, are those that need to embrace the convenience of a tea kettle.

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