A slight slip of fiction, 58-style

The task is to create something using just 58 words. Lots of thoughts, ideas right now. Angst is a muse.

An Itch You Can’t Scratch

She knew nothing of redemption.
The itch kept her anchored to the streets, back alleys where the dark hid the sunken cheeks, sallow skin.
A fickle snow kept traffic light, panic tight. Wind tears muddled mascara, widening the natural circles under eyes.
A memory sparked thoughts, painted nails, clean sheets homemade soup, friends, family.
Pushed aside.
That itch.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are corpse, damage and knife. A salute to All Hallow’s Eve.

Urban Hunting
A corpse, drained of its blood, its other fluids, takes on a translucence that is unmatched in nature. Especially when it’s lit in a darkened alley by a building floodlight – and especially if there’s a mist that dews droplets on the cold flesh.
I know. I do the draining. I cause the damage.
The first was a cluster-fuck, blood everywhere. A decent Burberry suit burned in the trash incinerator, along with a cheap pair of Thom McAn shoes I was happy to part with.
The second was better, the Ka-Bar knife doing its job with wicked efficiency. And no blood on the clothing, not with the cheap plastic raincoat I found (in bulk) on 51st.
The third, well the third is where I hit my stride.
I’m a known commodity. Ask and you shall receive. I know how to acquire things. The things you have no earthly idea how to get.
The little fuck actually called it blow – seriously, who calls it blow these days? – and I told him to meet me at 11 around the corner.
“You don’t have any on you?” he whined.
A tilt of the head, raised eyebrows and he was off.
Just enough time to get another Ka-Bar.
What? You think I reuse, recycle? You know how many Ka-Bars are out there in so many shitty pawn shops – where an extra deuce makes the memories fade?
“Dude, you don’t know how happy I am that you’d hook me up,” he says as a way of greeting. “Big night tonight, need to be on my game.”
“Oh, don’t I know it,” I say. “Follow.”
The manhole is already open, but the rain has already stopped – and that has made me a bit melancholy. Wet paper is stuck to the asphalt and it shines wet with the light from the lone spotlight.
“Nice raincoat – looks like a giant condom.”
And the Ka-Bar pierces his chest, just below the sternum through the transverse abdominal muscles and I twist to sever the abdominal aorta. My lambskin-gloved palm muffles his surprise.
And the guy drops where he stands – to the left of the open manhole.
I drop the Ka-Bar down the hole, produce a pair of emergency scissors that I swiped from the ER (these I keep) and cut away the dude’s cheap suit. Down the manhole they go, along with the raincoat. The body I move to the open hole, position the body spread-eagle, like Da Vinci Man.
And watch the skin cool to its spectacular translucence.

A slice of fiction that is dark

Granted, this came out really dark. It started as a joke between a friend and an idea got fleshed out on a notepad in the dark. I couldn't sleep, so here you go.

Solace, Distilled

I’m three-fifths into my second gin & tonic, mixed haphazardly in a pint beer glass. As I sip, the wind sends crisp leaves skittering across the cracked concrete in front of my flat.
That fancy atomic clock, with it’s digital thermometer, says the ambient temperature is 21 degrees.
And I know what you’re thinking, “Bub, time to put the summer drinks away, aim for something a bit more seasonal-appropriate, maybe a rum and Coke or most certainly a Manhattan (down, in a highball, two cherries, just the way you like it).”
And to conventional wisdom, I say fuck it. And raise my glass in a silent toast to non-conformity.
I’m not out for my junior alcoholism merit badge, honorable mention, second place.
I’m drinking myself to death.
Plastic gin and vodka bottles packed in the freezer, party jugs of bourbon, rum, Scotch on the counters, cases of beer in the fridge, which have crowded everything else out but the condiments in the door.
My third gin & tonic is gin, ice and lime. Tonic? I’m fresh out - besides, it just gets in the way.
I rest my head in my palm, elbow resting on the wobbly two-chair kitchenette in my shitty, one-room flat. A cancer patient died here before I moved in, and I swear sometimes I can smell his last, sour gasps that somehow got trapped in the cracked plaster.
Absently, I spin the gold wedding band, pick up my drink, gulp.
It took me 20 minutes and some steel wool to erase what you had engraved into the gold.
Still falling.
Fell right out of my life – and into his arms.

I was on 60 Minutes

I was on 60 Minutes Sunday night.
Albeit briefly.
The 12-minute segment on T. Boone Pickens aired and if you look closely at the 7:36 mark, that's my ass in the background, over Pickens' left shoulder.

See for yourself:

Watch CBS Videos Online

A leave of absence from Sunday Scribbings

I chose not to participate in Sunday Scribblings. Nothing against Meg and Laini, but I just found the prompt…less than inspiring.
So I constructed a Six Sentence instead.


So often when he thought, the image of rust, flakes of corroded metal, came to mind.
There were times, late at night, when he wrapped himself in that old wool Army blanket, a candle burning on the mantle, that brought flickers of clarity.
He rarely slept more than three hours at a stretch, his prostrate now in complete command of his bladder, so it was just as easy to sit in the murky darkness near the crapper and play the memory games his doctor had suggested – the ones he remembered, anyway.
He sighed, long and heavy, as the many forms of rust – like a Kodak slide show – flipped grainy across his mind.
He squeezed his eyes tight, concentrated as the therapist had taught him, and ran the set of three numbers that now took on various forms – hands on a clock, brass apartment numbers on doors, that dates on his leather-bound desk calendar – over and over again.
He had “committed the numbers to memory” (ha!) – 31-9-39 – and knew the time was becoming short where he would be able to put the digits together and unlock the black metal hardcase where he stored his .45-caliber sidearm.

Some thoughts on being a mentor

"I don't know why, but I got from your application that you were a strong, confident man, so I set you up with Seth. His mother and I decided that he really needed a strong male influence in his life."
I'm in the counsellor's office, reading the dos and don'ts of mentoring at the school, getting my mentor I.D. badge and setting up a cafeteria lunch account. I'm a few minutes away from meeting Seth, who is described as a quiet, shy blond-haired boy.
"We don't expect much today, just have lunch, tell him what you do, and we'll see if he'll talk back. Don't be surprised if he sits quietly. He is rather shy."
Seth and I shake hands.
"Seth, why don't you give Thom a tour of the school, then go through the lunch line."
We walk out the door, and for the next 15 minutes, I can barely get a word in edgewise. Just questions, which Seth answers in great detail. It's like he was corked, and just needed the right opener. He's articulate and he's funny.
He shows me his little brother's room, pulls him out of first grade. We talk and the boy starts to follow us.
"Hey, bud, what are you doing on first grade?"
"Makin' stuff."
"Well, you need to get going making stuff."
He turns to go back, the teacher hides a smile with her fingers and Seth grabs the arm of my jacket and says, "Let's go get your lunch now. I bring mine, but sometimes I don't. They have three kinds of milk."
And he's disappointed, I think, when I pick white.
"Me, I like chocolate."
We're in his second-grade room, and he's telling me about his life, his move to Sioux Falls (he's been here less time than I have), pets that got left behind, likes and dislikes.
I tell him what I do, I pull out my reporter's notebook, my mechanical pencil. I show him my scribble of notes that only I can read.
At the end of our hour, I pull a pocket-sized reporter's notebook out of my jacket.
"Hey, this is for you, I want you to write words down that you're having trouble with or write me questions. Maybe you can take notes, and we'll write our own story."
"Can I draw in it?" he says as I take a Sharpie and write the date and his name on the cover.
"Buddy, you can do whatever you want with it."
The teacher says he's quite the artist. It's never been encouraged.
It will, now.
He purposely holds me back as the rest of the second-graders file into the room. He makes the introductions.
"So I'll see you next week?" I ask.
"You'll be here next Thursday?"
"And every Thursday after that?"
He puts a hand on his head and smiles.
"You've got a fan," the teacher says.
And as I walk to the truck, I'm filled with a happy heart. Sixty minutes of my life spent making a difference.
But there's a sadness, too. The sadness of some of the stories this little 8-year-old boy has shared about his life.
And the knowledge that in Sioux Falls, nearly 1,000 students need mentors.

To find a way to make a difference in your community, click here.

Winter boots

The company circulated a memo that they'll give any employee $35 toward a new pair of winter boots.
I thought, "Hmmm, strange, but pretty nice."
Then I thought, "How cold does it get here that they have a program to kick in money for new kicks so your feet don't freeze?"

(Yet $35 off my new Doc Martens - just needed to turn in the receipt - is pure bonus.)

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are ache, difference and suffer. Let’s keep this little ditty to 100 words.

Medicare Denied, Existing Condition
Eldon Peele cast quick, wary eyes outside his window, the drapes scrunched into a balaclava to hide his features.
“So Much To Suffer” was scrawled, over and over, across eggshell walls. Blood ran down his arms, pulsed from cuts made by a yellow metal utility knife; the pain kept Peele from passing out.
His heart held the ache of indecision; elevated beats that tried to equalize the tempest of rage that spewed from his cancerous brain.
“That’s the difference!” he screamed to the walls, as he staggered, spun. “I’m the difference!”
Drops of blood made teardrop splatters on markered walls.

A Drabble for a Tuesday

A Drabble, 100 words, one story.

Organic Farming
Frost crystals danced on a frozen crust of snow and filled the wells of her feet. Her gloveless hands were white and she flexed them against the cold.
Smoke tendrils rose from paint-crusted slats; when the propane bottles exploded, so did the cracked and dusty windows.
The barn where her father and brothers had so often called her.
Neighbors whispered of a curse. So many accidents. So much death.
She saw it as progress; once the barn was gone, she’d be free to sow her vegetable gardens come spring. The land finally freed of the toxins of her youth.

Turn the page, I've turned a corner

I turned an important corner. It didn’t happen all of a sudden like, but gradual. And thinking back on a day filled with family on Sunday, it finally sunk in.
I no longer miss California.
Oh, I miss the people I left behind, my friends, my favorite haunts, trails, creeks, peaks.
But not the place. Not the overall pull of 11 years spent there.
And I think there’s an importance to that.
Because I have this new place.
I was asked if I ever wanted to move back to Cali and for the first time I can honestly say that I do not. It’s moved to a place of “Been there, done that.”
(Hey, if that sounds harsh, it isn’t; it’s just the best way I can explain it.)
I’m here, in the Midwest, and I want to be here.
Next week, I’ll start mentoring a second-grade boy. I’m signed up for hospice training. I’m meeting new friends, new contacts, new sources. Good stories are coming my way – and I have the time and freedom to write them. I have family close.
I have a whole new world that’s beginning to open up (or, at very least, I am open to being open to it opening up).
If I choose to step into this newness.
To march into this new future, I needed to put the past to rest.
Which I feel comfortable doing.

Sunday Scribblings: Style

Let's pay a little homage to Brent Easton Ellis:

A Sense of Style

Baxter and I were at O’Malley’s drinking car bombs – Guinness with a shot each of Baileys and Jameson – waiting for Carson to get there so we could go to dinner (10 p.m. reservations I secured at the new Somaliland place) then out to Ultra for drinks.
Baxter’s dressed in what looks to be the entire fall collection of Burberry Prorsum, heavy on the wool. I’m in Bruno Pieters, mostly blues and grays.
And in walks Carson.
In faded, peg-legged Levi 501s, black, eight-hole Doc Marten boots, a black Gap T-shirt, nondescript gray zippered hoodie and a black motorcycle jacket he either got out of a dumpster or at a yard sale in Jersey. He’s got a red bandana sticking out the back pocket of his jeans.
Carson pulls out a chair, turns it around to lean on the back (he knows it bothers Baxter) gets Maggie’s attention, circles the table with his index finger, hoists three fingers and deals his platinum VISA like an opening hand of Texas Hold ‘Em.
“Bitches,” Carson says.
“Slumming it tonight?”
“Jealousy is a really ugly trait Bax.”
Maggie brings the round of car bombs and as we pound the half-pint glasses on the tabletop, in walks Christa Samuelson, Sara Drapier and Keiko Imura. Baxter has been in love with Keiko since she made junior partner and I’d been trying to puncture Christa’s defensive posture for months.
Carson gets Maggie’s attention, circles the girls with his index finger, points at his chest, the silver VISA on the table.
“Carson, hey, thanks,” Sara says from the bar, and the girls raise a trio of lemon drops. “C’mere a minute, say hi.”
As he rises to leave, he flips us off, both hands, held closely to his chest.
Baxter looks at me and I shrug.
Carson’s back in five.
“Any way to grow that reservation from three to six?”
“They want to come along?” Baxter says, nearly panting.
“They want to hang, all night,” Carson says.
“OK, how did you do it?” I say.
“Look boys, anyone can buy off the runway to look like Heath Ledger’s Joker – which, by the way you both do – but honestly, smart women don’t see the suit. They see the man.”

Some words, 58 to be exact, woven into a story

I’ve got just enough time for a Fiction in 58.

A Siren’s Crush

She wore slippers like ballerina shoes, white satin. When the sirens started, she touched up her lipstick.
A full moon cast clouds in silver; confused and concerned faces shuffled. The satin went gray as the concrete. She tip-toed to view the street, looking for him.
Knowing it was the last time she’d get away with tripping the alarm.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are delicate, jaded and night. Here’s a bit of verse in Six Sentences, another great place to read, write – and grow. What can you say in Six Sentences?

Night Creatures Union 763

Of course they gathered at night, the fairies, pixies, the imps, your assorted goblins, trolls and Korrigans, beneath an arena of wild nightshade that grabbed at trees with sticky vines.
Ever since they voted to unionize, these meetings had grown fractured, tedious.
There were the diminutive and delicate fairies, who always pushed for more entitlements to the children who ventured into the forest; more, more more, always granting, never taking – opposite of the trolls and goblins, who voted in a block, and as always wished simply to eat the young interlopers.
Just getting the pixies to sit – quietly – stretched Roberts Rules of Order to breaking; at their worst, they’d shower the imps with sparkling dust in a kaleidoscope of colors and then cackle in tiny voices that sounded like the constant crinkle of crushed Christmas paper.
Then there were the Korrigans, who sat in the back on a rotted stump, jaded, and mumbled all-encompassing insults in-between spitting sunflower hulls into their stunted hands, their wrinkled palms.
Control, console and cajole the Korrigans, the fairies knew, and their agenda would win.

It would creep me out, a little

This began with two words written in a notebook sometime in the dark of the early morning.

Lunch Lady
The Lunch Lady had a mustache, and we’re not just talking about a few dark hairs under her lip or anything, this thing was full, black and curly – a real ‘stache.
She actually groomed it, trimmed and cared for it in the style of a young Billy Dee Williams as if she were playing Lando Calrissian herself in Star Wars.
You’d walk with your tray through the line and there she was, always waiting to dish up whatever the main entrĂ©e was and you’d look anywhere but at her upper lip.
Sarah Sanderson, who was the most developed – and thus the most adventurous - of the eighth-grade class, told us what it was like to kiss someone with a mustache.
“It tickles, but not in a good way; it’s creepy and you have to get used to it.”
After that revelation, more than 60 quietly homophobic boys decided that brown-bagging it was just about the coolest thing they’d ever come up with – and took their meals in the commons, even on the days when rain threatened to chase them into the cafeteria.

Sunday Scribblings: A different time in history

A Prairie Life
Leaves, golden and spade-shaped, fell with the hubris of a light rain shower; he paused in his deliberations to watch the shower, leaves falling into his unkempt hair, swept up against his mud-caked boots.
Fall announced its intentions boldly, raking to nakedness the only tree for miles – the old cottonwood that stood at the bend in the creek – with a chilly breeze that carried on it the promise of frost.
He’d done much since he arrived on the prairie that spring, building a house of sod, a stable where the horse and cow could be contained – it opened onto his home’s 14-by-16-foot room that was lit with one oil lamp and the two window frames he’d brought West.
The pot-bellied stove would keep the house warm this winter, fueled by the buffalo chips and manure from his stock, as well as the stack of polished-white driftwood he’d scavenged from the creek. On the floor, under the thick carpets that once covered polished wooden parlor floors, was sand from the creek, tamped down and smoothed with a rake. He’d have the most level floor on the prairie, and smiled at his ingenuity.
He’d paid too much for the rough-sawed lumber for the roof, but made up for it by trading one of the rocking chairs for enough tar paper to keep the roof leak-proof. He’d relished the barter, feeling his oats, as it were, in coming out ahead, confident.
Where the plow had bit into the prairie to provide the bricks for his home, the fall stubble of a garden lay in fallow. Everything used, used up, or like the corn stalks, dried for kindling.
Even though it wasn’t proper, he pulled his shirt over his head, still buttoned, and readjusted the suspenders of the pants he’d have to again take needle and thread and adjust down. He ran dirty fingers across the chestnut-colored hair on his stomach, marveling at how the muscles twitched at his touch. There was no more of the fat of eastern living, just brown skin and the sinew of muscle.
He walked to the top of a small rise that marked his eastern windbreak and scanned the open prairie. He was a new man, a stronger man. No longer bed-stricken with consumption when his mother told him so, no longer taking orders from his father, his wife. He turned to the soddy and his heart swelled at what he was able to accomplish on his own, alone on the prairie.
Yet a single tear ran down his face. Not a product of the biting wind, but the for the memory he allowed himself every so often. He whispered a prayer that carried on the breeze.
A prayer that offered The Divine a thank you for the life he’d been given.
And a prayer for the memory of the wife and child, a quiet damnation of the scarlet fever that took their life.
And drove him into the Great Plains, alone and in pain.
And to this, his salvation, these 160-acres.
He crossed himself and bowed his head as the wind send another torrent of dried leaves that pelted his bare skin.
He never before had felt this alive.

A slight slip of fiction

A Fiction in 58.

Confidence Man

A haze of cigarette smoke hangs as he walks through the door to the bar; the cloud parts and ripples like water.
He orders an expensive whiskey and places both elbows on the bar. Scans the crowd, sizes it up.
She’s playing pool. All angles and elbows, self conscious behind glasses.
Little did they know their destiny, entwined.

Mutual admiration - and a new Six

We "met" online, faithful readers of one another's Six Sentence contributions. Quin and I.
When I decided to leave California for a big unknown of South Dakota, she had blogged about moving West. We exchanged emails:

" love your 6s and was curious about Rob's mention in the last one. I've been to your blog a couple of times, but confess I don't know much of what's going on. Too preoccupied in my own soup. You are moving west? We should write a 6 together. Alternate sentences."

"a quick answer, before you cable goes away... until last july, when my first six went up... i'd never written. rob encouraged me from the first one, and always believed i had something somewhere. we'll see. then, he had me do that awful YouTube video of one of them (my best in my opinion) that i plan on redoing... lol i'm moving back to the house i own in Utah (where i lived with my kids and father before he passed) to do theater for the summer and ride out the recessi..sorry, work slowdown. no sense paying rent when i can pay mortgage, right? yes, that would be fun, to alternate sentences... i tend to come up with an idea, write a six (or a short) in around an hour or so, and i'm done. i need to hone some skills... if you are willing to work with me, i'd be honoured. shall we wait until we both settle in?"

We've both settled into our new lives. And Rob was good enough to put up our story, Internal Combustion, over at Six Sentences. We indeed alternated sentences, wrote a piece of flash fiction without deciding a plot first. We just built from each-other.
It's cool to see what humans are capable of, when we create, rather than destroy.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday at effortless, thrash and vindictive. Some short fiction for a weary world.

Lady Killer
She liked when they thrashed against the plastic handcuffs, the duct tape, the black silk hood. It reminded her of the time her brother had captured the a giant silkmoth and put it in a peanut butter jar with some grass.
She watched, enthralled, as it beat itself to death against the cold, curved glass.
Her passion for destruction, the thirst for death grew from there.
She hunted within her own ethnic group, and because she was pretty – long and lean – she was able to attract the attentions of men who tended to be older. As she became, the minivan became part of the ploy, part of the trap. She attracted her prey as her brother had captured the helpless, slow-moving moth – effortless.
The acreage she bought offered room to work, the quiet of the orchard, where bugs flit and screams went to be buried. A barn where she had a neighbor bring in a backhoe and dig a “root cellar,” but where she had hung acoustical tiles on the walls, the ceiling.
In the end, there was nothing vindictive in her kills, at least that’s what she told the profiler. She sat on her cot in isolation, flipped her auburn hair that had now begun to show streaks of silver, and recounted the day her brother took the moth from its delicate perch from the underside of the branch of a pear tree.
Where he had grown tired of its feeble attempts to escape.
And she became enthralled in its arc toward death as it desperately tried to escape.
“It’s the same feeling I get, when I hold a still-beating heart.”

Using song lyrics to explain my mood

The Replacements, "Unsatisfied"

Look me in the eye
Then, tell me that I'm satisfied
Was you satisfied?
Look me in the eye
Then, tell me that I'm satisfied
Hey, are you satisfied?

And it goes so slowly on
Everything I've ever wanted
Tell me what's wrong

Look me in the eye
And tell me that I'm satisfied
Were you satisfied?
Look me in the eye
Then, tell me I'm satisfied
And now are you satisfied?

Everything goes
Well, anything goes all of the time
Everything you dream of
Is right in front of you
And everything is a lie (or) And liberty is a lie

Look me in the eye
And tell me that I'm satisfied
Look me in the eye
I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied
I'm so dissatisfied
I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied
I'm so unsatisfied
Well, I'm-a
I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied
I'm so dissatis,dissattis...
I'm so

A shock to the system

I dreamt I was struck by lightening.
I was in the park at dusk. I watched black clouds roil overhead.
Cold sheets of rain began to fall, huge droplets that hit the asphalt trail with a smack.
I took refuge under a walnut tree, its canopy kept me dry.
The rain was heavy, steady and then just stopped.
The flash was white, blinding.
I awoke as if something did shock me. I drank water thirstily and lustfully, got up, looked out the window and repositioned myself in bed.

This morning, my joints ached. Along with the morning routine, the shave, the deodorant, toothpaste, I downed three Ibuprofen.
And wondered how the mind creates such realistic situations.
Then I pondered what it all meant.

Sunday Scribblings: Forbidden

All she wanted was an apple.
But being told no, she did it anyway. And they were banished from Eden.
Now, we’ve bailed out corporate lenders, greedy players who were never told no – but encouraged to select the low-hanging fruit, not matter the consequence.
Nobody wanted this. But yet, it happened.
Even when the public said no.
Forbidden fruit, indeed.

Angst is my muse

The Queen's right, of course. Angst is the mother of all inspiration.
And when I am feeling angst - manufactured or otherwise - the muse of fiction and poetry speaks to me.
The past several nights, I've filled the nightstand notebook with ideas, snippets of dialogue. Good stuff that I plan to flesh out, construct something more than 58 words or 100 words.
Real short fiction.
It'll appear on The Tension, at Six Sentences (OK< yes, I still like flash fiction) as well as trying to get some placed in literary journals.
On Monday, I'm having lunch with an author and poet, the writer-in-residence at a university. It's time to move forward with this part of my life.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The word prompts over at Three Word Wednesday are deliberate, intervene and nourish.

The lie he told was perpetuated without explanation or denial.
It was told, deliberate, in a crowded barroom where no one dared question him. They heard it, yes, they heard him, but they all looked around, looked at the floor, looked as if they wouldn’t intervene. Call his bluff, call bullshit.
He did it, said it there at that time and place, to bolster a reputation. It carried with it the desired effect; people talked and the lie would ripple like waves from a pebble dropped in a lake.
All he had to do was sit back, keep his mouth shut.
Fine. He was down with that.
But what he really did with the lie – and he knew it down to the gristle of his soul, the lips-pressed-thin smile – was nourish an identity.
Hide a secret.