Monday's Fiction in 58

Time for a Fiction in 58, an exercise in brevity.

Growing Old

He feels it in every creaky joint, the pains that radiate up his spine – the sins of his past. He limps into the bath, urinates while reaching for a bottle of pills. Both are a response to growing old. He doesn’t turn on the light. He’s fearful of the reflection, the old man that’s replaced his vigor.

Sunday Scribblings - Game

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “game.”

The Game
Counting to 5,000 is a little excessive, he thinks.
He’s blindfolded with one of her bras, a black number that makes her breasts rise and shine. He also has one hand tied behind his back – his left hand, since he told her once that he masterbated with the right – and he sits naked in a comfy chair, counting to 5,000.
(Using his right fist to its full advantage.)
Of course, she spends the first 1,000 counts teasing with her nipples on his warm flesh, teasing him so much that when his erection begins to twitch, she moves there and teases him some more with a strand of pearls, rolling them around the base of his member and then wrapping the whole strand on his pole and walks away without so much as a whisper.
“Four thousand nine-hundred and ninety eight, 4,999, 5,000, ready or not here I come,” he shouts as he releases himself from the grip of his fist and pushes the bra cups up onto his forehead.
She’s not on the couch, in front of a crackling fire.
She’s not waiting in a warm bath in the ancient claw-foot tub she’d insisted on (and remains grateful she did).
She’s not on their bed, which is caressed in satin sheets and sprinkled with rose petals.
There’s a glow coming from the spare bedroom, a flickering of candles. He pushes the door open with a noisy flourish and is amazed at the mass of tiny flames that illuminate the room.
She lays naked on rumpled sheets, one arm tossed across her eyes. She works her other hand in the dark patch of hair between her legs. The candlelight catches the slick sheen of sweat that covers her body.
On her taut belly is a black-and-white picture.
An ultrasound. He stares and slowly, a realization crosses his crinkled brow. There, in the fuzzy triangle, is the unmistakable Sea Monkey squiggle of new life.
His erection begins to waver, deflate.
She peeks from beneath the crook of her arm and quickly, with damp fingers, grabs him a little rough by the manhood and pulls him toward her.
“Hold on there, cowboy,” she says in a hoarse whisper. “Nothing changes.”
He clears his throat to speak and she cuts him off, using her fingers to excite him in a way that drives him wild.
“OK,” she says, “nothing changes for the next several months.”

Memories

We’re dismantling the house my parents built in 1962.
We’re plucking it of stuff.
We’re stripping memories.
For me, it’s small stuff. Mom’s electric typewriter, her rocking chair. Bakeware, her recipe box. Old pictures of my dad, books he and I shared, a wallet caddy, a medallion. Two pieces of their wedding crystal, part of their Department 56 Christmas village.
We’ve laughed, cried.
It’s been good.
It’s been bittersweet.
Another step.

Thanksgiving

What are you doing here? Go spend time with family and friends. It's that kinda day.

But here's a Thanksgiving prayer from Johnny Cash:

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are give, obvious and thanks.

Thanks

I go down to dinner, expecting to suffer through another meal where my parents mine me for information about my day while they ignore one another.
Instead, I hear laughter and a low chattering.
Around the table are six children, a bit younger than I, piling their plates high with one of mom’s overblown feasts.
Each has a different skin color than our own and each jabbers in a language I don’t understand.
“What’s this?” I ask.
“We’re celebrating,” dad says, pretending to walk turkey legs across the table and onto a plate of a little dark-skinned girl with a red dot between her eyebrows and a boy with black hair and pale skin that’s kinda yellow.
I sit and the boy next to me tugs on my shirtsleeve. His hair is a tight weave of curls and his skin the color of dark roast coffee. His smile is a picket fence of teeth, mostly missing. He’s trying to pass me a heaping bowl of mashed potatoes.
I roll my eyes and get up to leave.
My mother walks behind me and puts her hands on my shoulders.
“I think it’s obvious that he wants you to join us and give thanks,” she says, pressing gently. “You could at least try and be civil.”
The boy laughs and hands me the potatoes, from which I plop a mound and make a reservoir with the spoon, to hold mom’s gravy, which is in the hands of a brown-skinned girl, her dark hair woven into pigtails.

OneWord - Spotlight

The prompt word over at OneWord is "spotlight."

He felt like he was under a spotlight, the brightness making pinpoints of his irises, raising beads of sweat across his forehead, down the middle of his his back. The questioners were back there, watching, waiting for the tiniest slip. He felt like he would crack, but wouldn’t show it.
This was, after all, his first Thanksgiving with her. And she’d warned him about the harshness of the cross-examination from the family.
His payback, he knew, lay in her childhood princess bed later that evening.

Monday's Fiction in 58

Fiction in 58 is something I came up with to test ways to write tight, but write smart. With description. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes it fails. Still, it's a good exercise.

Fearless

“There’s a certain risk, I think, to live fearlessly,” she says
Mosquitoes awaken from the cooling grass, buzz overhead; tequila shots warm in the sun, which sets slowly, blazing a last colorful trail.
“There’s a certain risk to living, period,” he says.
“Yeah, but fearlessly. For yourself. Unburdened and alive.”
He slides his sunglasses down and in that moment, wishes.

Sunday Scribblings - Beauty

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “beauty.”

Skin Deep
The package comes to the house via a guy in a brown shirt and short brown pants, driving a big brick of a truck the color of dog shit.
Mother jumps from her knitting when the man in dung hits the porch, waving at us to stay where we are as she takes care of the delivery. Father’s right eyebrow cocks into a quizzical arch over the book he’s reading.
Mother skips into the dining room with a box the size of a footstool. She goes to the kitchen for a knife and carefully slices the packing tape and bends back the cardboard flaps.
Inside, there’s a heavy Styrofoam container. She carefully pries off the lid and it’s accompanied by a hiss and a cloud of frost.
“What you got there, Hon?” father asks.
“Beauty,” she says, nearly breathless, as one hand sifts through the box, the other holds an itemized packing list.
Father and I join her around the table and peer into the box. It’s stuffed with sealed plastic packages, lightly coated lightly with ice crystals from a layer of dry ice in the lid.
Sculpted ears, an upturned nose, full, pouty lips, layers upon layers of wrinkle-free, tanned skin, some of it touched by a smattering of freckles.
“Hon, it’s what’s inside that counts,” father says, poking the end of his pipe through the packs of flesh and parts. “This stuff can all go back to the factory.”
His eyes go wide and he pauses. He puts the pipe bit in his mouth and digs out a package from near the bottom of the box.
It’s a pair of the most spectacular breasts I’ve ever seen, large, pert and perky, tanned with perfectly round, pointy nipples the color of pale rose petals.
“These are spectacular,” he says, nearly breathless. “It would be a shame not to at least try them on.”

OneWord - Overflowing

The word over at OneWord is "overflowing."

The sink was overflowing, a cascade of water across the lip of the counter and onto the floor. She stood there, apron getting drenched, with her hands clenched into fists, which she pressed to her chest. Tears cascaded down her face as well, dripping onto those clenched hands that had turned white with pressure.
He watched from the table, making circles with his index fingers. He opened his mouth, fumbled for the words.
“Pink is positive, right?”

Frustrations

The frustrations grip and pitch like a vise. The pressure builds and there’s a…void. It’s odd, this space. There’s force, you feel it, but it’s like you’re doomed to not care.
And you muddle through. Screw a smile on your face and play nice with others.
Still, pressure flairs ignite every so often, and you let people see a little glimpse of the angst.
There is no moving forward without sorting out the past.
There’s concern from friends, who tell you to give it more time, things will change. But you’ve been waiting for a good time already and slow and steady has lost its luster. So you think about a tumultuous and colossal shakeup that just might do the trick. Hit the big, red reset button.
But you look around at the responsibilities and remember that you’re tied to things. The creep of accountability squeezes the life out of daydreams, plots, plans.
You finger the packets in your hand, in line at the Post Office and wonder if you’re trading one situation for another. Where there’s still the current situation to explore, you’re told.
And it all circles back to frustration. And it mounts. And the heart grows ever so colder.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are accident. Loyal and obscene

Crash

It was a game she liked to play, all the while they dated. He loathed it, but considered himself a good sport for playing along.
She’d name a calamity, a series of jarring events where she’d be maimed, burned, brutalized or irrevocably broken, and asked, “Would you still love me?”
“Yes.”
“Feed me and scoop food off my chin?”
“Yes.”
“Take me to the bathroom and wipe me after going to the bathroom?”
“All of it, yes. I love you.”
Two months into their nuptials, he’d been clipped by a drunk driver. The impact severed his spine at the T12 vertebra, rendering his legs, his bowels, his cock, useless. Months of therapy.
All to learn how to live in a chair with wheels.
He decided to make the best of it, All of it. The pitiful looks of sorrow. Dealing with the bag hidden in his pant leg where his piss collected. Feeling arousal, but staring at his flaccid member.
And in that time of recovery, he needed help to eat, to bathe, to take a crap for chrissakes.
She was loyal for almost a month. And then she fled, saying she just didn’t have it in her to take care of a cripple.
A year after their divorce, she’d run into him at the grocery, exiting a Cadillac Escalade and into a custom wheelchair he helped design.
“Looks like you’re doing well for yourself,” she said, shyly.
He smiled. Remembered the game she played. And it emboldened him.
“Funny, but I got an obscene amount of cash in the settlement,” he said. “I’m semi-retired now.”
She fumbled for something to say as his girlfriend rounded the mass of expensive vehicle and jumped into his lap.
“Hey, stud, looks like you need to pee,” she said, patting his chest.
He looked at his ex and winked.

Some words for a Tuesday

Losses
He hooks his fingers through the hurricane fencing, rests his head against the cold metal. The crush of the crowd keeps him warm, even though it’s cold enough to turn breath to vapor.
They’ve come to watch the soldiers march down Main Street, mustered in neat, orderly rows. Each individual boot-step creates a chorus with the rest, and it is a chant of death.
Past burnt-out cars and piles of smoking tires, they march.
The crowd does nothing to stop them.
His fingers go white, he’s gripping so tight. The mob has been neutered into submission.
Slowly, deliberately, he begins to rock his fists, sending waves of chain-linked metal to compete with the crush of footfalls.
“Liberty!” he cries, as the mass of sheep move to separate itself from the spectacle.

Monday's Fiction in 58

Life in Real Time
Her Cheshire Cat grin made him weary,wary.
In equal proportions.
“What?”
“Nothing.”
She blew on her coffee through that smile, eyebrows raised into twin furry peaks.
He cocked his head and sighed.
“I’ve got it.”
“What?”
“The solution to all your problems.”
“Hallelujah. You going to let me in on it?”
“When you promise to stop being so poopy.”

Sunday Scribblings - Oracle

The prompt at Sunday Scribblings is “oracle.”

Oracle

There’s a peak out west of town, slightly forested with an odd outcropping of rocks near the top. It’s the highest point in the county.
There’s a trail to the top, but it’s mostly overgrown with disuse. The kids would rather play with video games, text their friends, than break a sweat.
But a glint coming from the top, like a piece of glass tilted toward the sun, has grabbed my attention. I cross a field, jump the creek and begin to pick my way up the trail. The going is tough and sweat begins to make the trek uncomfortable. But the flash hasn’t stopped and that alone is reason to keep going.
There’s a slight climb on sharp rocks to reach the pinnacle and as I pull myself up, I see what’s been making the twinkling.
There’s an ancient dude with a long gray beard wearing what looks to be a diaper. But it’s the color of orange sherbet.
He wears low hat of red velvet with crystals sewn into the brim and I realize that each crystal has been sending flashes across the countryside. He sits with his legs crossed, his hands pressed together at his chest.
“Ah, David, I have been waiting for you to visit,” he says. “And I look forward to our discussion.”
I fall to my knees, dizzy with the questions that swirl in my skull.

OneWord - Acting

If she thought about it, closing her eyes, but not squeezing so as to muss up her makeup, it was acting. There was a director, sound guy and a script. Granted, it was two pages scribbled on yellow legal pad, but still. They called, saying they were ready for her. The heat was up, so that was good. She opened her eyes, walked a few steps and dropped the robe, careful not to get the fuck-me pumps caught in the terrycloth.

Complacent

She asks if it’s complacency that keeps you grounded in this place.
More like fiscal conservation, you say.
“Bullshit. Are you afraid of change?”
Not afraid.
Life-altering events need time for reflection.
Sure looks like complacency, or the surface.
The ability to shake things up vs. the desire to be smart about such quick moves is what grounds you. Even while the boredom grows and work has lost its luster due to things completely outside your control. You're not happy.
And you are free to go.
Now of course, you’re set up to pay for such adventures as the heart sees fit.
It’s the gut, however, that holds the checkbook.
So you wait, plot.
And look complacent.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are errant, hanker and murky. Something in the way of social commentary.

Glutton
I am the shadow that crosses your mirror when you start to look away; I am the smoke, the errant vapor, which disappears when you turn your head slightly on murky street corners.
I am doubt, indecision. I feed on your fears, mistrust. And I hanker for more.
These days, it’s a banquet, a smorgasbord out there. So much fruit of the vine, the work of human frailty, that I am nearly stuffed.
Nearly.
See, a glutton’s work is never quite done – and you’ve all driven yourselves to a sweet ripeness that cannot be denied.

OneWord - Headband

Early morning meeting, so there’s time for a OneWord. And that word is…Headband? Ooffah.

She thought she looked swell in her headband, just like Olivia Newton-John in that video for “Let’s Get Physical.” It was the right color to set off her eyes, even if she might sweat, or even go flush and rosy with exertion. And it so matched her tights and the leggings she ordered online. It was all part of a makeover she’d never asked for. Part of an awakening that happens in a 20-year marriage. When the bastard makes eyes for his much younger secretary.
“I’ll show him,” she says.

Monday's Fiction in 58

It’s Monday, time for a Fiction in 58.

Scene of the Crime
When their conversation grew tense, she tossed a glass of wine at him and ducking, they watched the burgundy stain spread across the carpet. For a time, they simply stepped around it, blissfully ignorant. Until one day, he took tape and masked it off like a crime scene.
“Why would you do that?” she asked.
“Clarity,” he said.

Sunday Scribblings - Interview

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “interview.” I blame the three hours I had in the car, crossing the Midwest, for this.

Interview

After 20 years with the same firm, I’m let go from my job as a CPA – a “downsizing of staff due to these tough economic times.”
More likely, it’s a cost savings for greedy partners; they immediately promote my underling, for a lot less. The senior partner doesn’t have the balls to look me in the eye, as I make my way to the elevators with a copy paper box full of my shit.
Six months into unemployment, and I’m forced to take whatever jobs I can find. Food service nightmares, temp jobs filing and answering telephones, even a short-lived stint as a night desk person at a motel that’s begun to sink into seediness. Anything to pay the bills. Anything to get by.
I’m at the pub, watching a stack of crinkled dollar bills dwindle into a booze-fueled stupor. A client from the firm notices me across the bar, waves and slides up beside me, and signals the bartender for a round on him.
Looks like the recession is treating him well. Tailored summer wool suit, buttery leather shoes that looked like they saw a shine man once a week.
We make small talk, I tell him the unpleasantness of my firing. He shakes his head, truly concerned.
“Looks like you could use a break.”
And slides a cream-colored business card with block Gothic lettering toward my fist, the one wrapped tightly around the highball glass.
“Good firm, plenty of work for a numbers pro like you,” he says as he stands to leave. “Just keep an open mind, huh? I’ll let them know you’re sending a resume.”
A week later and I’m called in for an interview. The offices are in Chelsea, in what looks like an abandoned warehouse. The entrance is down a flight of trash-strewn concrete steps, the old iron handrails a thick coating of glossy black paint that I'm almost afraid to touch.
The reception area, however, is well-appointed. A little dark for my taste, and everything seems to be covered in black leather, with chrome accents.
“Mr. Jenkins will see you now,” the receptionist tells me through pouty lips painted purple, like a bruise, and leads me to a conference room that’s filled with various hard points and pulley systems on the walls and ceiling. The table is modern, made of industrial-grade stainless steel.
As I take a seat in a high-backed black leather chair, in walks who I assume is Mr. Jenkins. The dude’s dressed head-to-toe in leathers, including a full head mask with chrome zippers across the eyes, mouth, ears. He shakes my hand and as he passes, I notice that his pants are actually assless chaps, which frames the white flesh of Jenkins’ flabby butt.
As he sits, he unzips the heavy zipper across his mouth, releasing a monstrous pink tongue that greedily wets thin lips.
“Thank you for coming down on such short notice,” he says, as he offers me a selection of pastries on a silver platter. “Care for an espresso?”
I decline the pastries, but accept a coffee, which the receptionist brings to me and winks as she sets it before me. I notice she’s got a tear tattooed in the corner of her right eye. Her fingernails, also painted purple, are filed to talon-like points.
Non-pulsed, I sip my espresso as Jenkins goes over my resume, talks about their client roster, needs and such.
I nod, smile confidently as I answer his line of questioning. We reach that awkward moment in the talks when everything has been covered and he coughs lightly into a closed fist.
“Well, so barring a mandatory drug test, there’s just one more thing we have to know before I can make an offer,” he says. “We simply must know your thoughts on spanking.”
I adjust my tie for effect, crack my neck bones.
“If there’s a steady paycheck in it,” I say, downing the last bit of cooled coffee, “I’d slap your grandmother’s weathered cheeks to a rosy red glow.”
“Outstanding,” he says, and offers me a studded-leather clad hand.

OneWord - Oven

Ouch. Tough word. You wait to click, then a word pops up. Sixty seconds to write something. That's the prompt over at OneWord. Here goes nothing...

Her desire fired like an oven, a box of heat she wore without shame. Flipping her hair and crossing and uncrossing her legs, she craved the attentions of the boys that dared look at her undulations and teases. She’d dip a finger into her wine, trace her lips with it. When her lover returned with the check, the boys faces fell. Her lover noticed, smiled a sly smile, and wagged a playful finger at her…

Tweet fiction (or nano-fiction)

I resisted Twitter for years.
In the end, it was work that asked that I Tweet during an assignment. Once everything was set up, it was a logical step to continue that into daily life (you can follow me at @tgabrukieiwcz)
Sure, there are more than a few people who tweet the mundane of their lives. But there's really some great ideas out there:
@shitmydadsays
@fakeAPstylebook
And great writers. Yes, people taking 140 characters to the limit. Telling stories in just 140 characters. Certainly, an inspiration:
@peggywriter
@quinbrowne
@arjunbasu
@veronicawords
Anyway, Peggy has inspired me to post one tweet fiction a day on Twitter, as well as keep up with the work here on The Tension.
Today's nano-fiction:

He sat in a sunny place, squinting. "What are you doing?" she asked. "Crows feet. I'm making crows feet." "Why?" "On men, they're so sexy."

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are karma, obey and wither.

Obey
On the corner near my building, there’s a street musician playing a mournful tune on a battered violin. The case is open at his feet, a catch-basin for a little change and a whole lot of folding cash.
A cardboard sign hangs around his neck with rough twine. On it, written in a child’s hand, is “wither.”
Tears stream down the man’s weathered face as he plays.
It’s a busy corner, near a subway entrance and the neighborhood market. People uncomfortable with the man’s tears obey the music, the sign, and drop their crumpled money without making eye contact and hurry on.
Many stop and are moved by the haunting tune he plays. They too, feel the swell in their hearts, find their eyes going wet. Absently, they take out $5s, $10, $20s and place the cash in the red-velvet-lined case with a quiet devotion.
The man stops and the spell is broken.
People return to their busy ways in the evening rush, bumping shoulders, avoiding eye contact, stare at the uneven concrete.
The man scoops up the cash, smoothes out the crumpled bills on the bow, places neat stacks into a zippered bank bag that’s fat with donations.
I go to him, curious how one street musician who wasn’t particularly good, could make that kind of scratch.
He feels my presence, and anticipates the question.
“It’s a matter of karma,” he says. “Some people feel obligated to contribute out of a sense of forgiveness. Others, out of a sense of guilt.
“But in the end people give to cleanse their withered souls. The sign’s just good marketing.”
He smiles as I hand him a crisp $20 from my wallet.

Tuesday's Carry On Tuesday

The prompt over at Carry On Tuesday is the title of Sarah McLachlan’s song “In the Arms of an Angel.” The idea for Carry on Tuesday it to write something containing the exact phrase. Could be the opening of a famous book, a song title, or lines of a poem.

Solace
Sixteen and alone, he thought the streets offered the best escape from the beatingsand the hassles at home.
He’d learned more in two weeks then he ever did at school:
*It you ball up newspaper before stuffing it down your pants and between layers of grimy shirts, it insulates better.
*Avoid large groups of homeless men who are gathered with nothing to do – and have been medicating their plight with alcohol.
*People increase their handouts if your fingernails are clean – and you don’t smell like urine.
*Smell always dictates whether the food in the dumpster is OK to eat.
*Plastic between layers of corrugated cardboard will keep the concrete’s chill from your bones.
*A box of condoms and a smile in the financial district always is good for a quick $10.
But there are gaps in education, even on the streets.
He tore a hole in leg scrambling over a chain-link fence to avoid an overly excited rent-a-cop. The puncture wound never bled very much. But the damage was done.
He tried to curl up as tight as possible under a bridge abutment, nearly delirious from the chills, the sepsis in his blood too advanced.
And at the end, he found solace, a sense of peace, in the arms of an angel.

Agnst

Angst
Time shifts and through the windows bleeds the first light of the day across a trio of windows. Oranges first, then gold, reds.
It’s a beautiful site, but it does little good to lift the spirits. The angst seems to be deepening, the confusion, the anger, the wishing to know what’s next.
The light signals the start of another day.
Just another day.
He knows there’s no timeline for any of this, but sooner would be better than later. He lets it all wash over him, through him, to see if there’s direction in the sadness. And there is not.
Just a waiting.
A wanting.
Wondering.

Sunday Scribblings, Adventure

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is “adventure.”

Pirates
I go down to breakfast to find my parents dressed as pirates. The smell of rum and grilled meat hangs heavy in the air.
“Little early for Halloween, isn’t it,” I say. “And I know it’s much to early for Miller Time.”
“Arrrgghhhhh,” dad says, raising a pewter mug to his lips.
“Hold yer tongue, laddy,” mother says, crossing her throat menacingly with a jewel-encrusted dagger. “Our you’ll be feeling yer mother’s wrath.”
I shrug and fill a bowl with cereal. Crowding the milk in the fridge are all sorts of provisions – dried beef, citrus fruits, a cask of lard. Near the back door are sacks of flour and sugar, as well as several barrels labeled rum.
“Going somewhere?”
“Arrrrgggghhhh,” dad says as his head makes a meaty thud as he passes out.
“We be fixin’ to put to sea, just as soon as thee breakfast dishes be done,” mother says. “The high seas be callin’ to us.”
“Well, isn’t that going to be a little tough?” I ask. “Considering we live Kansas?”
“Aye, we be takin’ the minivan.”
I look out the window to the drive and see that my mother’s Chrysler Caravan as been outfitted with a deck, sails and replacing the emblem on the hood is now a scantily-clad woman carved out of oak.
“Count me out,” I say. “Way out.”
“Ye have no sense of adventure,” mother says. “And to think, you be a work of me own loins.”