Tag Archives: flash fiction

Customer Service

* For a brief explanation about this project, please click here.

Good to see you again sir.

Again? Have we…have we met before?

No sir, I just remember you from your photograph.

Oh. The uh-right, you’ve seen my picture because of the, okay. I get it.

Yes. And how can I help you?

I’m here to collect those photographs actually. Jennifer Cross.

 

And you are?

Her boyfriend.

John. Correct?

No.

Oh… Steven?

Darren.

 

Darren! Almost got it. How was your vacation Darren?

Uhh…fine…

Hawaii?

Yes. How did you-

I love Hawaii.

Okay, this is a little strange. You shouldn’t, uh, you shouldn’t really be looking at our photographs.

 

But how can I determine if they’ve been suitably processed?

No, I get that, but you shouldn’t be looking at them.

How can I avoid looking at them sir?

You just can. I don’t know. Just don’t look at them. Don’t interpret the photographs.

Sir, I see a photograph and instinctually contextualize it. Like words. I cannot not read a word.

No. No. This isn’t cool. I’m not okay with you investigating my life.

 

A photograph is a memory. A citation. A bookmark placed on a point of significance during one’s life.

A photograph is a personal memory man. It belongs to me. Not you.

Well, that’s where our opinions differ sir. You handed this memory to me. And I made it so.

What? What are you talking about?

My machine and I brought your memory into the physical world Darren. And in doing so it became my memory too. Such are the consequences. These are our photographs. Our memories.

I want to speak to your manager. This is just completely inappropriate.

 

How is Jennifer?

Don’t ask about her. Don’t even mention her. You don’t know her.

I’m afraid I do. She likes olive oil on her bread and she’s learning the Ukulele. Correct? Of course I am.

Give me my photographs you fucking creep!

They’re my photographs too. Haven’t you been listening?

I’m calling the police, man. This is fucked.

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The Whiskey Wagon and the Wild Women

 

The young cadet that skipped town.

The young cadet that skipped town.

* For a brief explanation of this project please click here.

That hazy blurred photograph was all I had to go on. I’d come all the way up, deep into the Valley, onto that vague carpet of suburbia some hack town planner blindly kicked off into the distance, just to get this photograph. I hate it up here. Awful little fauxdobe terracotta topped building blocks as far as the eye can bear to see all lined up waiting for the Big One to come and spare them the shame of their own crass form. Inside these cubes lies a community that all suddenly decided to tune in, get fat, find God, and sit in front of the tube allowing their bodies to congeal and wilt, and their brains to pickle and stew. They want to prune their little lawns and protect them with obnoxious sprinklers that spray onto the sidewalk preventing you from passing. Like they’ve hired some huge drunken dick to piss through a sieve. Going into the San Fernando Valley was like wading up to your knees in the Mid West.

The photograph in question was an amateur portrait of some soldier. Some handsome young military buck who probably knocked up some young thing and left Pasadena under the mask of the evening, leaving his poor old lady behind to fend for herself. Part of me doesn’t blame him. I couldn’t allow myself to recede like a dying house cat into this tragic gorge, and the tone of voice on the message his old lady left me was pretty God damn irritating. Nasal. I can’t stand a nasal woman, particularly when she’s getting on my wick about something. But the other part of me says that you don’t sneak out like some piece of shit coward. You go out like a man, and take whatever scorn she throws at you on your chin.

She’d left a message around 2am last night. I was snuggly incubated by a near quart of some cheap blushed rye that had left a thick film on my tongue and rasp in my throat. I was out. I might’ve appeared dead from ten feet had it not been for the pungent scent of a good, hard second-hand drunk that filled the air. I woke up at 10:15. My mouth tasted like brined old leather and my head felt like it’d been tumble dried with an ashtray full of loose change. After months of little tastes here and there, the odd stumble and slur, there was now a solid case to convict me of falling haplessly from the wagon.

I saw the answer machine blinking its red light at me through a gap in my fingers. I rolled over and slapped the buttons hoping I didn’t hit delete again. Her nasal voice started up like a tiny little leaf blower. I’ll spare you the peas and carrots and get to the meat and potatoes. Her husband was gone and she needed someone to find him. She looked in the phonebook and that ad I told those pig fuckers to remove caught her eye. She called me crying, scared, and explained what she needed me to do.

So here we are. Driving back from her ghastly place with nothing to go on but this blurred image she left for me in an envelope under the plant pot on her porch. No sign of nothing else. I decided to stop in at the liquor store and buy another quart of that rye. I thought it best to go home at once, wonder at the blurred image of this young cadet while I throw out a towel, kick back and marinade in the petri at the base of this here bottle of sweet, sweet rye.

Ahhh, to be back.

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A Money Hole, Stupid

Image

* For a brief explanation of this weird project please click here.

What do you think it is?

Uhhh….a money hole.

A money hole? That’s stupid.

You’re stupid, stupid.

I’m not stupid, stupid. You’re a stupid stupid face.

……..No I’m not.

 

Let’s get a stick.

Where?

From a tree dummy.

Stop being mean to me!

Okay, I’m sorry. Go get a stick.

What’s the magic word?

 

Thank you.

If you find any money then it’s mine since I was the one who said it was a money hole.

That’s not how it works.

How does it works then?

I keep the money because I found it. You get the stick.

If you find money and don’t give it to me I’m telling.

 

I think I feel something!

Lemme see!

No!

Hey! I’m telling! Let me see!

You’re too little, stupid face.

Shut up! I wish you were dead.

 

Hey, come back. I’m sorry. Tyler I’m sorry.

No you’re not. You’re a big fat stupid meanie.

If you stop crying and don’t say anything to mom, I’ll give you half.

Half of what?

Half of all the money we find.

Promise?

 

Okay, I think I hooked something! It’s probably a tweny or fifty!!

Quickly quickly pull it out!!

Oh….

What is that?

I don’t know, it’s…it smells like…ewwwwww!

That’s it! I’m telling! Mom!!!

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The Tree

The Tree

Myself, and The Tree and the deeds to The Tree.

* For an explanation as to what this project is all about please click here.

I bought The Tree in May of 1959. A Wednesday it was. I recall there being an oppressive, sweltering heat pressing down from above, but it was soothed, consoled, by a delicate ocean breeze that smelled so faintly of a final moment in bloom. It was the perfect weather to cut the ceremonial red tape of a successful agriculture transaction.

The Tree in question was my first, and indeed my last, business venture. I’d been on the market for one like it for several months. I’d been a perfect horticultural pervert about the whole affair. I’d peer through hedges, scale fences under moonlight, consult district planning records and frequent the ghostly corridors of the grand Central library, searching earnestly for the barky creature I so desired.

I came within a half whisker of finding what I needed on several occasions. I would locate a handsome tree, thoroughly scrutinize its potential under the cloak of night, and deem it a good tree. But the problem came when I would attempt to badger the owner into parting with the frivolously bushy accessory to their land.

‘I’m not going to do anything seedy with it,’ I would say, ‘If you’d be so gracious as to allow me that pun.’

That was my line. It would never fail to arouse at least a residual snigger, or a short, nodding nose breath. However they would then stare at me with arms tightly locked and a hard-boiled look of suspicion etched all over their faces. And then they would inevitably ask:

‘Why?’

Of course I couldn’t possibly divulge. They wouldn’t sell me their tree if they knew its darkest secrets. No, no. I would explain that I simply really liked trees, but that I lived in a condo. I would then lie and say that I’d tried discharging my sapling lust with a bonsai tree, but that it was far too small to climb. I never did think of a bonsai tree pun.

The lady that eventually sold me The Tree was an old crow who was more than a tad senile. And in truth, I wondered if I might be guilty of committing a lewd act of shady commerce on her. She explained that she was very fond of The Tree indeed, but that it had cats in it. She said that I was more than welcome to buy the tree for $30 if I took the cats away. We spat the viscous bond of American agreement onto our palms and duly sealed the deal.

Two blissful weeks after this transaction the old lady died of time, and The Tree, allegedly part of the property on which it sat, was taken from me and given to the unsuspecting mailman referenced in her will. I tried to make a terrible stink, but was swiftly informed that a verbal agreement and a spit-moistened handshake between two parties is not recognized as contractually binding in the state of California, and particularly not when one or both of the parties are certified as mentally handicapped. And just like that, my days as a rag and bone and tree man were brought to an abrupt yet poignant conclusion.

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Research – Warm-up

 

Research

 

* For an explanation of this project click here

‘Huh, I feel like I’m being interviewed on television,’ he said, sinking back in the chair. He allowed his shoulders to kneed around the back of the chair for a comfortable space. ‘So what exactly are you going to ask me Julie?’

I smiled at him. He glanced at the notebook in my hands, and then shuffled his shoulders around again against the back of the chair. He crossed his legs, and then uncrossed them again. I glanced at the question written at the top of the otherwise blank page. I dragged a finger down the page, over the lines. I watched his fingers drumming nervously on the padded arms of the chair.

I leant over to the tape deck beside the fireplace and pressed the red record button. I relaxed back in my chair.

‘This is Julie Roth, interviewing Douglas….’

‘O’Hara’ said Doug.

‘Douglas O’Hara. Okay Doug, we’ll start with your earliest childhood memory. Can you tell me about that?’ I said.

Doug looked up to the light and narrowed his eyes to slits. I’d started to notice that people looked to light bulbs for answers deep in their past. Perhaps there was something about the bright light that could expose these dormant memories from the dark corners in which they sat. Doug seemed to squish his face up, even clasp his jaw little, and I could tell that the exertion the recollection of this memory was taking was pushing Doug somewhere he hadn’t been for a while.

‘I was about three, or four maybe-‘

‘Which was it Doug? Three or four?’

‘Eh, three.’

‘You’re sure?’ I said.

‘Yes.’

‘Okay, so what happened Doug? Don’t worry, you’re doing great.’

I gave him a quick smile to reassure him. He was still rolling his shoulders around, doing things with his legs, desperate to find the seated equivalent of crossing his arms.

‘I remember being outside, sitting the empty driveway, in fall.’

‘Whose driveway?’

‘Our driveway.’

‘How did you know it was fall?’

‘There were leaves everywhere. Brown, orange, fall leaves.’

He leant forward and took a drink of water. I could see him shaking a little. He sat back in his chair and looked again to the light.

‘And who was there with you Doug?’

Doug kept looking to the light. He squinted at it again before pinching his nose and ruffling his brow.

‘I don’t recall.’

‘Doug, who was there with you?’

‘I don’t recall.’

‘Try harder.’

‘I, I…don’t….I can’t remember who was there, I can’t. But, but there was, someone.’

I looked down to my notebook and quickly scribbled my thoughts. I kept my exterior completely stoic, but inside I beamed.

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Daily Warm-Ups – A Mouthful of Banana

This is the first in a lengthy series of creative writing pieces based on photographs of dead people. I have been known to frequent estate sales and purchase neglected photographs of the recently department. They’re very good mental stimulants for my writing, and I love the idea of a memory that was saved from the abyss, and interpreted without prejudice or any sense of context beyond its own borders.

I know that it’s weird, but to me there is something endearing about giving fresh life to an expired thought.

Bill and Carson

‘Bill,’ said Carson as he peeked his head around the door, ‘is now a good time to chat?’

Bill looked up from the piece of paper on his desk and turned to Carson, who was now standing in the open doorway. He’d been staring at the same sentence for the last two minutes, and the same piece of paper for the last ten. His eyes gave a clumsy flutter, as if his eyelashes were sweeping the text away. He nodded to the old man in the doorway, and smiled.

Carson walked through the office, taking in all of the jumbled piles of paper and scattered half-thoughts that decorated the surfaces. Bill carefully slipped the piece of paper into his drawer and snapped it shut. Carson gestured to the empty seat across from Bill’s seat. Bill smiled and shook his head.

‘Uh, okay. Bill, this uhm,’ started Carson, shuffling awkwardly from side to side as he looked at the piece of paper in his hand, ‘this uh, request, you made for changes in office policy. You obviously understand that this is grossly unacceptable right? I mean, you understand that right?’

Bill smiled and leant back in his chair. Carson looked to the door. He fumbled again with the paper. He moved towards the desk.

‘Listen, is everything okay at home Bill? I mean, I don’t mean to pry, but you can tell me. I’ve known you for, God, going on eleven years. This,’ he said, holding up the piece of paper in his hand, ‘this isn’t you Bill. You’re a good man. Is Marcy okay? And what about little Lewis? Is everything okay at home?’

Bill held his stare as he leant back further into his chair. He slowly put his hands behind his head, and raised his bare feet up and rested them on his desk between a pile of documents and coffee cup filled with rum. Carson let out an awkward cough. He ruffled the paper and looked back towards the door. Harold, the aging security guard peeked his head around. Below the desk Carson held out his hand to halt Harold from coming any further.

‘Bill,’ he said as he took a deep breath and puffed out his chest, ‘you’re my friend and all, we go back, but we’re gonna have to suspend you with immediate effect. Like, immediate effect. Do you understand?’

Bill’s smile came apart and his teeth appeared, glinting between his lips. He leant forward in his chair and opened his desk drawer. Next to the piece of paper was a banana left over from his lunch. He grabbed the banana, closed the drawer and reclined back again. He peeled it and took two large bites, devouring the entire fruit, leaving only the little heel and the flaccid yellow skin. He tossed the peel onto the desk between them.

‘Go fuck yourself Carson’ said Bill, with a mouthful of banana.

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I read this today-

-and it arranged my emotional clutter into a precise line.

‘I felt like a cloud in someone else’s dream’ – from ‘I Love Bocce‘ by Sean Lovelace

x

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The Grave

When my first hamster Vincent died I asked dad if we could bury him under the tree. Dad said no. My brother and I dug a hole anyway. We took one of my teddy bears and pretended it was Vincent’s dead body. We put the teddy bear in the tiny open grave that afternoon and climbed the tree. As we got higher and higher, we were pulled lower and lower. The branches got younger and younger under the weight of our age, closer and closer to the teddy we pretended was once aging, just like us.

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25 Things About You – Jolene

Can you tell us twenty-five things about yourself that no one else knows?

  1. The doctor told me that I had a weak heart. He meant I should stay away from foods high in sodium and to avoid stimulants like caffeine or amphetamines. I took him to mean I should stay away from bad boys.
  2. I can’t take advice from people without piercings or tattoos. They can’t relate. My mom has her ears pierced. My doctor is as God made him.
  3. I like to wait for like a week before cleaning my ears. I like to see the wax on the bud.
  4. I miss the fact that sex doesn’t hurt anymore.
  5.  When I was a little kid I had an imaginary Chinese friend called ‘Tidy’. He lived in a bush at the back of my mom’s garden. My loneliness started when he went back to Shanghai to be a ventriloquist’s assistant.
  6. I have tattoos of butterflies coming from my pussy. They fly all across my body.
  7. Every time I listen to music on my headphones I imagine it being the soundtrack as I rob a bank and shoot an innocent man in the chest.
  8. I like to wave at CCTV cameras and imagine the security guard waving back at me.
  9. My bottle of wine with dinner was once a glass.
  10. I always dreamed of having sex in a grave, my school’s janitor closet and a big, empty aquarium shark tank.
  11. When I was six I stayed up all night to try and catch the tooth fairy in a net. I pulled out a wobbly tooth and used it as bait.
  12. I learned how to give head from watching gay porn.
  13. I learned how to fuck by doing it a lot.
  14. I imagine that cat and mice are best friends when we’re not watching.
  15. My father was the only man I ever hated.
  16. I got sad when I found out that the guy that works in my local coffee shop that I fall in love with every evening puts hearts on top of everyone’s coffee.
  17. I have sixteen tattoos, nine piercings, eleven pairs of stilettos, twenty-one scars on my arms, nine pairs of sunglasses, two blue eyes and one smile on my face.
  18. Someone asked me once why I dressed in the erratic way that I do: I told him I do it to attract the bees.
  19. I was raised vegetarian but as a kid I always wanted to bite into a piglet’s belly. I thought it looked delicious.
  20. Sometimes when people are talking to me I have to stop myself from kissing them, just to get a reaction.
  21. When I was young I always thought an umbrella should be called an ‘underbrella’. This was the first time I realized that some things just don’t make much sense.
  22. I always dreamed that a boy and I would each take a snowflake home each and keep them forever in the freezer.
  23. I started stealing little things from people’s houses about three years ago.  But I’ve never stolen anything anyone would notice.
  24. I think of my tits as being the armor for my heart and lungs.
  25. After six cries for help, I’m still here crying and nobody’s helping.
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