Short Fiction

Lost Lens

I married a girl with the most beautiful eyes but the worst vision.  That’s obvious when you look at us together and she tells you I’m her “dream-boat” without irony.  But she’s like that.  We’ve been a couple for so long now that I when I remember my childhood she’s there alongside my siblings and I know that can’t be true, can it?

She wears thick glasses now but she used to wear those hard contacts that would sometimes pop out unexpectedly.  We’d freeze and slowly drop to our knees to softly pat the ground to find the lost lens, sometimes laughing and sometimes cursing.    That’s pretty funny to think about now.  We’re frozen upright, in the sense that we are standing, but we’re supported by canes, walkers and grand-kids.  As far as dropping to our knees, we pray (while standing up) that won’t happen today.

But in my mind we’re not old, not old at all.  She still laughs at my jokes and I try to grab her hand whenever she’s near me.  And when we lie down at night side by side we don’t need walkers or glasses to hold each other tight and feel the breaths and beats of  this steady, sturdy love.

 

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creative non-fiction, Short Fiction

Interior Reality Star

It’s the Homemaker’s interior landscape, the house.  The Sahara of the carpeted public living spaces is dry and barren — no kids allowed.  But the kitchen is the pumping, quivering, juicy heart.  It alternates between hot and cold, furious work and rest as the sun rises and sets each day.  It’s her command center and the war room for bill triage and high-level negotiations of every stripe.   The bedrooms each hold their secrets, but the kitchen is the village square of her life.

If you’re fortunate enough to be invited to the inner sanctum after the school bus leaves but before the vacuum comes out and the coffee’s still hot, you’ll be invited to pick out a mug from the family cabinet, not the china cabinet.  Oh, don’t worry about judgement, that’s already been dispatched.  You know where the milk and sugar are, too, so help yourself.  Match your mood or make a statement, sit and bitch or just sit and sip.  You’re the lucky guest of the interior reality star.

 

Short Fiction

Her Old Tee Shirt

Old ShirtHe toppled them out of the closet, a heap of old tee shirts from 5K races, college events and concerts from their collective past.  This one had caused an argument because she used it for work.  She argued that Bruce sang about working men and women.  She wore it to paint the family room, a bathroom or two and some old deck furniture.  He thought concert tee shirts should be kept pristine, folded and preserved.  Some day they might be worth something.  It was a fond memory of a good night from their past and now it was decorated with parts of her real life, too.  Colors from the spaces and things she made new with just her imagination and a coat of paint.

He stuffed all the other shirts into a black garbage bag like old rags, but he kept this one. Despite the paint splatters it was soft and smelled a little metallic ~  just as she did.

 

Short Fiction

At Loose Ends

CHOMP

She felt raggedy, unraveled.   She looked it, too.  But once she started working she couldn’t stop; wouldn’t stop.  Didn’t matter if she couldn’t finish in just one sitting she wanted to get as far as she could.  Maybe it was her obsessive, excessively competitive nature that made her count the rows of stitches?  Or perhaps she just liked to see the thing materialize, soft between her fingers.

Too much coffee and a restless leg made her stop around three thirty.  She rubbed her neck and then her eyes as she looked at the pieces.  Knitting is creation — there’s a reason it’s used to describe healing for broken bones —  making something new exist in an open, fractured place.

So she knits all night to fill up the broken, empty place. Thinking about the sweater, socks, blanket, hat takes up the loose yarn and energy she would spend on thinking and crying. Mourning is for the daytime and knitting is for the night.

 

Short Fiction

Squirrel In The Grill

The baby was up all night, poor thing.  Poor new mother, her night clothes covered in snot and sour milk, standing over the sink.   Too tired even to decide if she wanted a shower or a cup of coffee.  And nobody around to care.

They were new settlers in a new suburb.  Great big house with no furniture in it yet, only one baby (so far), now standing on a patch of cold brown sod.  It was so nice when they moved in last August.  A ticklish breeze and the smell of fresh grass made them feel like adults — or maybe it was the mortgage and the big-ticket lawn mower?  They closed the season with a Labor Day barbecue for their friends.    It was right before her last trimester and she felt so happy, ready for their life to really begin.

Now the winter was ragged and rough.  He forgot to cover the grill the last time they made steaks back in November.  Then snows covered the yard and grill covering wasn’t as much of a priority as being a new father and revving up his new snow blower. She sighed and chewed at her chapped lips. The baby’s crackling snores came out of the nursery monitor and she stiffened just a bit.

She wasn’t sure what she saw.  It was just a sensation of movement outside, maybe a bird?  She watched.  It was a fat squirrel squeezing out of the side vent of the grill.  Its bushy tail made a flourish as it hopped on the rounded stainless steel top.  Its eyes were bright and it moved with the agility of a creature used to the luxury of deep and uninterrupted sleep.

She looked down at her mismatched, dirty pajamas and noticed her clinging, greasy hair. She wondered if that squirrel was a mother, leaving her babies to get a breath of fresh air and something to eat.  Or maybe to just be a squirrel again for a little while.  A warm tear rolled down her cheek.  This wasn’t how she thought it was going to be.  No, not at all.

 

 

 

 

Short Fiction, Uncategorized

I Knead Words

The dough is still tough, cold but in a little while it will be elastic, warm.   My hands will pull, throw, twist and fold until it glistens and obeys my commands.  I’ll make sure it will look forward to its rest in the warm buttered bowl.

But now I focus on the work and anticipate the earthy smell of the yeast, the chewy crust and the warm crumb.  A story turns itself over in my mind as I knead. Words are like bread.  They rise and sometimes they turn out tasty.  Sometimes they don’t, but like my less-than-perfect loaves, I’ll enjoy them anyway.

 

Short Fiction

Ruby Caught Red-Handed

The stacks feel so close. They stretch so high that they appear to meet.  It feels more like a cathedral than a library.  The colors of the books are so bright, and the sunlight pours down on Ruby though there are no windows in the stacks.

Ruby is looking for a book to hide the money and she feels irritated, rushed to complete this task though she doesn’t know why.  She pulls a blue book off the shelf, is it Moby Dick?  Even in her dream she thinks this is a poor choice.  The book is old and some of the pages have been mended with yellowing tape that’s making them stick together.  It smells funny, too.  Not musty like old paper, but antiseptic, like a hospital.  There are pictures in the book, drawings, really.  An old, tired classic long forgotten on the shelf.

She presses the bill into the center of a page, closing it with finality and pushing it back onto the shelf — squeezing it a bit because the shelf is so crowded and the books are so tight together.

A warm breeze brings a sweet, yeasty  smell, like bread rising and Ruby turns to see Artie, her late husband standing next to her.  He’s twenty-five years old, his face sunburned like the first time they met.  He’s holding his old, sun-bleached Red Sox cap in his hand.  Ruby’s frozen to the spot, hand to her throat, afraid that her slightest movement will make him shimmer away.

“Ruby, my jewel.”  He slides the cap through his fingers.  A small motion, unguarded and odd for a ghost.  “Always with your head in a book.  Too smart to end up with the likes of me, and yet….”

Ruby knows she’s dreaming.  Artie died five years ago and despite all her lonely nights of wishing this is his first appearance in her dreams.

“Artie, why now?”

“Just wanted to keep you on your toes, but you don’t need me anymore, Ruby.”  He smiles.  Light pulsates around him.  Ruby struggles to keep from squinting.

“Have you been playing ball, Artie?”  This is all she could think to ask.  She’s so much older, does he see?

“No ball playing, but we watch.  We watch over, and I watch over you, too.  You’ve always been good, Ruby.  They’ll never see, and they’ll never know, but that’s the point, isn’t it?  Life can be hard sometimes — even in the little ways”

Ruby wakes to the grey pre-dawn, hears the sound of rain against the window, feels Pinsky’s light cat-weight warming the bed’s edge.  She pulls the covers close around her and says quietly, “Artie, love of my life, you have no idea.”

Looking to catch up with Ruby, Viv and their friends of Benjamin?  Links below. 

Chapter 1 Introducing Ruby, Viv and St. Benjamin

Chapter 2 Boychik Luis and Bubbe Bev

Chapter 3 Bright Lights and Big Bev City

Chapter 4 Ruby and Viv Find Their Big Girl Panties

Chapter 5 Mother’s Little Helper — Part 1

Chapter 6 Mother’s Little Helper — Part 2

Chapter 7 Rich or Poor, It’s Nice To Have Money