Zer0flash Fiction: Absolute Camouflage

Assignment from Zer0flash: create spine-tingling flash fiction inspired by this tranquil video of a dam in Cambridge.

Absolute Camouflage 

The lake floor was crusted over with garbage and cans and the slimy brown bones of a dying tree. Long, leafy willow locks writhed over the water’s edge, and even the gentlest breeze could slough off a confetti of brittle branches.

In the shade crouched a grasshopper, stock-still until a boot slammed into the spongy ground beside him. Startled, the creature performed his usual crescent jump. Not even the boot-owner noticed: at the highest point of the arc the insect crashed into an invisible obstacle. His cracked and oozing exoskeleton plopped into the water.

No one noticed the frogs either. Right off the lily pads a phantom hand plucked their shiny bodies and squeezed until their insides burst from their mouths in a sticky cornucopia. Ducks dipped their iridescent heads, popped their spade-shaped tail feathers into the air where they bobbed on the surface. And were abruptly sucked down.

You’d have to be looking dead on or you’d miss it.

At sunrise a jogger noticed swan feathers floating like opals on the dark ripples. He shrugged and continued on his way. Later,  Jimmy came with his mum to float his paper wax boat. By then the feathers were blown to the shoreline. Jimmy pushed them into the mud with his shoe.

When he got too close to the edge, chilly water seeped into his shoes. His boat, his very own creation, gloriously heaved and dipped. With a bounce he tugged on his mum’s coat, thrilled by his own awesomeness.

Then he frowned and yanked hard on his mother. The vessel caught a gust of wind and headed toward the curling punch of overflowing water.  Just before the boat crumpled under the force, Jimmy’s mum snatched it and held it high. The water reached her thighs.

“It’s ok, Jimmy,” she said.

 

 

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Dante’s Barn: A Short Story About the Gauntlet of Adolescence

Publication. That great Other reads your writing and deems it worthy to print. I’m pumped to share with you my short story is out today on Fiction on the Web, the oldest internet short story platform in existence (since 1996). They have a feedback field for readers. No sign-up necessary. I hope you’ll read my story (3 minutes) and click a reaction (3 seconds). Please! I’d be so grateful. To read it, click here.

The story originally came out on my blog, but I reworked it extensively and had my beautiful writer’s group give it a make-over. “Dante’s Barn” explores a pivotal evening in a young man’s life when a snow storm and a flat tire become more than just annoyances. They are prisms through which he sees his world afresh. I’ve always been interested in coming-of-age stories because they teem with metamorphosis moments, the cocoon magic we all hope will play upon us and make us better people.

But I also like ambiguity. Jude, my protagonist, my son of humiliation– it’s unclear whether or not he learned the lesson. Even I don’t know if he learned it, and I wrote him. Jude has become real to me, and like real people you can never tell just what they’ll do with information.

Some other flash pieces: horror, metafiction, and a piece I dusted off.

 

The Gift: Fiction for Microcosms

Cal feared the new garbage truck: its dinosaur bellow of steel on steel as the automated arm plucked the blue plastic containers like weeds, flipped them upside down, and dumped the contents with an explosive crash. The engineering marvel rescued lower backs and killed jobs, but Cal wouldn’t know anything about that, being seven.

All he knew was the men were gone.

Until the horrid business was done, Cal stayed inside. No amount of cajoling would get him out on garbage day. One day the truck never came. Lucky it was summer.

Cal’s dad decided this couldn’t go on.

On top of the can was a gorgeously wrapped box tied with a purple bow. If Cal didn’t take it, the garbage truck would.

“What is it?”

“Go find out.” Dad winked.

Cal feared. Feared and coveted and the warring emotions dueled inside his young mind for preeminence. Desire began to get the upper hand; it moved slowly down his skin like a finger hesitant on a trigger. Cal placed his hands around the doorknob.

“Better go, Son. I hear the truck.”

The sound of squeaking breaks in the distance. The sound of dinosaur arms.

“They wouldn’t throw it away?”

“They would.”

The dinosaur was on his street. Cal could see its scalpel blade slide through the loops of a can. Still fear rooted him.

At the neighbor’s.

Something in him broke. He gripped the doorknob fiercely. Then realized: the bolt. Frantic, he jammed his fingers in his haste to undo it. The monster was right in front of his house now, about to take his present. The bolt slid free. Cal threw open the door and sprinted like a jack rabbit.

The blade came screeching out. It grabbed. Cal grabbed.

Just in time.

“Hey kid, watch it,” said the driver.

Metamorphosis. Fiction for Microcosmsfic

The little boy. I never considered him a target until the day of the falcon. That’s what I called it anyway: the day of the falcon. See, I pass this kid every day on my way to school, but on this day a peregrine falcon had landed on his head. I expected the bird to flee, but both just stood there like time was a DVD, paused.

I’d gladly trade my acne for those majestic black and white striped feathers and steel-blue crest. My life for the falcon’s, stuck fast as I was between desk and chair and subjected to what was essentially a manufacturing line. We were tubes. They bent us, punctured us, riveted their ideas into us, never gingerly, never tried to coax anything in. No. Teachers slammed their convictions into us with a press brake and slid us on to the next grade. My life was not my own.

A peregrine falcon soared above. Or sat upon a toddler’s wayward tresses. Whichever. Still, he sat.

Like he owned the boy. No one bothered to shew him off. The boy, of course, could do nothing. I thought, if that bird could get away with it, so could I, right? Yes, the more I considered it, the more certain I became.

I began to see myself anew. Above. The. Law.

The boy. Three years old. I could take him. I could get away with it. Just like the peregrine falcon with a mouse.

The boy never blinked. He never spoke. No one would hear.

I felt the serrated blade of my hacksaw. With my mind I felt it.

His days were numbered, this brazen pissing boy of bronze. If a peregrine could abuse him as a perch, he wasn’t beyond my reach.

Manneken Pis, Dutch for “little man pee” Brussels

Disturbed teenager/Brussels/Memoir – those were my prompts for this flash fiction piece. This time I had to do some major amputation on my word count. When I got to the “end” of my original story, I had 387 words. I could only keep 300. Talk about killing your darlings…

I love memoirs. I love disturbed teenagers.

Brussels was the only part of the trilogy I didn’t have down, so I did a little research. Writers have to do research. I’m not against work. It’s just that writing on a subject I don’t know is frightening. Even after researching, I could get something embarrassingly wrong… an author must be willing to fail. I am willing.

Rather quickly I found a delightful statue called the Manneken Pis. Sounds like mannequin piss, doesn’t it? Uhem, well, the shoe fits. Of course my next vision was of a disturbed teenager wreaking a little havoc with said statue. And bam! Inspired. I thought I’d chronicle my process. Sometimes I get a prompt that does nothing for me. The original elements of this contest were: driver/race course/tragedy. I tried to find a story in those three. It was me, mentally groping in a black cave, never finding any light. After a time of trying and not succeeding to plot a story, I gave up and spun the handy spinner they provide at Microcosmsfic and hallelujah!

I hoped the boy would seem like a living boy at first. This famous statue is often dressed in outfits that communicate a message or a celebration, sort of like dressing one’s yard geese. He seems to be the rivet between culture and its fleeting colors. What struck me was how bold the little boy is, and how audacious it would be to defame such a work of art. What kind of mind would do it? How would a person get there mentally? These are the thoughts that inspired me.