Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction: Window

I was shocked that he did it. Threw himself out of that window and landed with a thud on the pavement below as people with dogs walked by. He was dressed to go out that night, in a suit coat and red tie, and he had his cane in his hand even as he lay dead on the street. Did that cane somehow help him to keep his balance as his body floated down 12 stories?

I came to my window when I heard the commotion. I threw open the curtains when I recognized his face, though I was half-naked. My husband asked from his chair in our bedroom what was happening. I couldn’t even form the words. I stood frozen, wondering why I hadn’t said what could have made the difference.

I couldn’t help but note that his face looked happy. Was that a smile, I saw? His perfect teeth shone in the glow of the street light. His arm was up, his hand open, as if he was waving a firm good-bye. I saw red everywhere I looked, as if his blood had soaked into the street and buildings and even the passersby. The only thing that glowed white was the church far off in the distance, as if his blood had not touched that establishment with its fenced grounds and tall bell tower.

A dog wandered up, sniffed the body, then turned away. No interest in investigating this new corpse that awaited the coroner’s pronouncement. People diverted their eyes as they passed by, choosing not to acknowledge that death waved at them from the pavement. I heard the moan of a siren and knew an ambulance was winding its way through the streets. A hearse was more appropriate, but hope was not to be scorned.

“Cover yourself!” my husband barked, not moving from his chair.

“What for? No one sees me anymore.”

My husband heaved himself up and came to the window. He gasped when he saw who it was. “Dear God. Who would have ever thought?”

“Certainly not I,” I lied.

My husband leaned back in his chair and sighed. “Poor chap. He confessed to me in the elevator just last week that he had at last found happiness.”

I watched as the ambulance drivers covered the body with a sheet. “Did he say why?”

“Love, I expect, but who knows? Maybe he’d had a run of good luck with the horses.”

I picked one dark rose from the nearby vase and dropped it down. “What a loss,” I muttered as I pulled the curtains shut. “What a loss, indeed.”

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Flash Fiction: My New Stepmother’s Tear

Dad gives me a wink, like we are pals or something. We’re sitting in our kitchen having eggs and waffles on a Sunday morning. I’m not sure why he winked; we haven’t said a nice word to each other for weeks, not since he married that witch that is now supposed to be my new “mother.” She wants us to be friends and that makes me want to puke. Worse than that, her heavily made-up eyes light up whenever she sees my dad, like he’s a puppy or something. My dad is definitely not in the puppy category.

I know that Dad wants for us – him and me – to make up. He is not such a bad guy, really, but this woman, where did he find her? She is just the opposite of him. She’s skin and bone, like she might eat once a week, and her hair is the color of strawberries, for God’s sake. It isn’t that I don’t understand that older people sometimes need each other, but I just hadn’t expected a stepmother who darts around like some brightly colored cartoon character with a look of love in her eyes.

But here we are in the kitchen, a month after their stupid wedding, with Dad winking at me again and nodding his head in the direction of Edith when her back is turned. Yes, her name is Edith – the worst old-lady name ever – and I realize that Dad is trying to get me to notice the tear in her dress. I see it, a jagged three inches that she must have done on the edge of our old kitchen table, and beneath the tear I can see a glimpse of her pink underwear. Not gross sexy underwear, but just normal cotton underpants like regular women wear. I can’t suppress a chuckle, which makes dad chuckle and then Edith looks at both of us with a surprised expression. God knows we haven’t been laughing much around the house since she arrived.

Dad points and she turns her skirt so she can see the tear and that’s when she realizes that we’ve been able to see her underwear. Her eyes get wide and then she does something I would have never expected: she lets out the deepest belly laugh I have ever heard, especially from a woman who can’t weigh more than 90 pounds. Dad and I exchange a shocked look, then all three of us start laughing and can’t stop until tears are running down our cheeks.

At that moment, I realize maybe Dad has understood something about Edith that I couldn’t have known. She may have stupid hair and she may be a tad too adoring, but she definitely can make fun of herself. That is a decent human trait, and one that I can respect. Besides, cotton underwear means she doesn’t see herself as a diva. That alone makes me breathe a lot easier.

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Flash Fiction: Jacob’s Search

Jacob reached for a cigarette, lit it, sucked in the smoke then blew it out through his nose. Good grief, what was he going to do today?

He considered his options. Watch more CNN? No, that was making him agitated and depressed. Take another shower? How many did he need and besides his skin was getting too dry. Think up a friend to call and talk? Ugh. That sounded like work. His wife was busy working in the garden. His kids were all at their jobs. His grandkids were in school.

He stood up and walked to the window. The sun was shining, the temperature was mild. A woman in a pink running suit jogged up the street. Cars passed filled with people who had somewhere to go and something to do. What had happened to him and his destinations? He took another draw from his cigarette. Who needed a retired man in his late sixties for anything? That was what younger people were for, to try new things, fill new vacancies. They had a life ahead of them to build; he had built his, lived it and was now watching the world go by.

The phone rang, he ignored it. More solicitors. Nobody who knew him called on the main line anymore. Not many people called his cell phone. Just his kids for a duty call every couple of weeks.

He ground out his cigarette and stared. What now? He thought he could go to the beach and get some fresh air. Or out to eat just to be around people. Or to the library to get a book. None of those things appealed to him. Instead, he sat down and took a deep breath. He thought of a line he’d often taught to his patients, breathe in calmness; breathe out anxiety. In calmness; out anxiety. Over and over again he did this, breathing deeper each time.

After a few minutes, he noticed the cool air from the ceiling fan, the deep shade of green of the hedge outside the window, the rich smell of the coffee from his cup. “Maybe I’ll go for a walk,” he muttered, then saw his dog’s ears perk up. He sighed, went to find his socks and tennis shoes and the leash. Maybe life wasn’t all that complicated after all.

Just before heading out the door, he walked to the kitchen sink, pulled his package of cigarettes from his pocket, dumped them out and turned on the water. “At least, for right now, I’m not going to smoke.”

His dog was barking with excitement as Jacob fastened the leash. As they stepped outside, he stopped for a moment and felt the warm sun on his face. He took another deep breath. “What do you say, boy, let’s go meet the day. Who knows what we’ll discover if we’ll just slow down and look.”

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Happy 3rd Birthday, Sweet Luna

Today is my beloved granddaughter Luna’s 3rd birthday. We are officially celebrating on Sunday, but I wanted to reflect for a moment on the presence of this child in my life.

Since Luna is my first grandchild, I certainly didn’t know what to expect. I thought, of course, that I would love her and have the chance to enjoy her as she grew. I certainly didn’t know that her presence would bring such complete joy to my life or that I would experience such a bright spot in what I thought was already a happy life. Having access to a little person again was also something that surprised me. I didn’t realize until she arrived that I had been missing hugging and kissing and loving little people. Alas, I had and now I have the chance to enjoy the benefits of little warm arms hugging my neck with a passion. That produces an indescribable sense of joy.

So, happy birthday to my little jewel of a granddaughter. I am graced by your presence and grateful to have the opportunity to see you on a regular basis. How lucky I am to have you in my life. I hope to live long just so I can enjoy watching you grow up.

I love you very much, you and your new little brother too. But I will talk about him on another day. Today is YOUR day.

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Revisiting a Flash Fiction Story Written 11/15/2012

Out of the Dark

Mary Theresa was tired. Tired of feeling out of control; tired of feeling lost. She went out to the porch of her house on the lake and stared at the dark night. She couldn’t help but wonder why she had been put on this earth, particularly now that she was out of a job, out of a place to live in the city she loved, out of luck.

The air was chill, the smell of rain in the air. A storm was brewing off to the north and with it would come freezing temperatures. Mary Theresa pulled her coat tight across her thin shoulders and was glad that she had plenty of wood already chopped. At least she would not be cold tonight.

A sound across the lake caught her attention. It was a single whistle, long and shrill, and she knew that it was John. He must be standing on the porch of his cabin wondering if she was receiving guests tonight. She smiled to herself. John was her childhood friend who she’d seen over the years when she came to the cabin on vacation. He had been the first to welcome her when she moved in just three months back as a full-time resident. He was an old-timer; a grizzly bear kind of man who laughed too loud in the house and filled a room with his big presence. A man who was so self-sufficient that all the neighbors called him Iron John, the man on whom everyone else could lean. Yes, seeing John would surely cheer her up. She whistled back, long and low, and returned inside to put the kettle on for tea.

Fifteen minutes later, there was a knock on the door and there stood John. Mary Theresa was surprised to see, however, there was no smile on his face. Instead, his blue eyes, usually cheerful, were dull. And his voice – usually booming with such excitement – was barely loud enough for her to hear his hello.

“What’s happened,” she said as she led him into the living room.

John sat down heavily on the couch and shook his head. “My sister. A drunk driver broadsided her out in Arizona where she lives, and she died at the scene. Forty-three next week and a better driver than I am. I just can’t believe it.”

“Oh dear Lord,” Mary Theresa muttered. “John, I am so sorry.”

John put his head in his hands. “She was just about to get re-married,” he said. Her fiancé was in the car, too, but he made it out fine.”

Mary Theresa got up and went to the cupboard. “We’ll have a little supper and then you can sleep on the couch. This is not a night to be home alone.”

John shook his head. “I have Marty in the truck. I know you don’t cotton to dogs, especially big ones like golden retrievers. It’s all right. Just let me stay for a little while tonight, Mary Theresa. I’ll be fine.

“Suit yourself. But now, come to the table and let’s have a little food.”

The evening was quiet; the fire bright in the wood stove. Mary Theresa and John didn’t talk much. Instead they played hand after hand of gin rummy and drank cups of hot ginger tea. As the clock struck 10:30, John got up to leave. He waved a good-bye to Mary Theresa from across the room and then headed for his truck.

Mary watched the red tail lights bounce in the dark night as John’s truck navigated the dirt road. She shivered at the thought that his dear sister, a woman she’d met many times, was now dead and gone. A woman who had been decent and good and who had planned on living to 100, “If the good Lord is willing,” she’d said.

But her time was up now, whether the Lord was willing or not, and John was sad. She was sad, too, for the lost of a good woman in the world. A woman who never pretended to be more than she was or seemed to expect more than she had. An enviable quality, Mary Theresa thought.

Just as she was about to settle into bed for the night, Mary Theresa heard the whine of an engine on her road. She pulled back the curtain and looked outside. Sure enough, she could see far-off headlights. She slipped her robe on over her gown and slid into her house shoes. She was standing on the porch by the time the vehicle pulled into her driveway.

“I couldn’t do it,” John said as he lumbered back down the path to her cabin. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to take you up on that offer.”

He walked in and stopped. The hide-a-bed was already pulled out and made up. He turned to her with a look of surprise. “How did you know I’d be back?”

“Go get Marty out of the truck,” Mary Theresa said. “I’ve made a bed for him, too, right on the floor beside you.”

John’s blue eyes filled with tears, which he wiped away with the sleeve of his corduroy jacket. “Bless you, woman,” he said, as he headed to the door.

Mary Theresa smiled as she watched him go back outside. No longer did she wonder why she’d been put on this earth. For the first time in a very long time, she understood.

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Intersections

Jacob Peterson stared at the tall taupe vase with its intricate pattern of circles and lines that held a bouquet of purple and white lilacs. He loved that vase that he had made with his own two hands; the pattern on it reminded him that life had dozens of lines and intersections, places to connect and disconnect. The flowers, with the tiny blossoms and sweet scent, helped him to remember that no matter how difficult life could be, there was always beauty to be found in nature that could salve the soul.

Now was the time that his heart needed salving, having just learned from a phone call that his beloved best friend from childhood, Kit, has died in a motorcycle accident. Ah, how cruel life could be. He and Kit had planned a white water rafting trip in just a few weeks to celebrate their twenty years of friendship. There would be no fun trip now; only Jacob traveling across the country to his hometown for Kit’s funeral. He sat staring at the vase, wondering about those intersections and let the tears flow down his cheeks.

Five days later, Jacob sat surrounded by family and friends, in the familiar old Episcopal church where he and Kit had met. Everyone was there to commemorate Peter John Kitman, the best and most adventurous person most of them had ever known.

Jacob listened as old Father Morgan spoke loving words of the boy he had watched grow up; someone the old priest certainly had not expected to bury. “I am looking over the congregation here,” Father Morgan said, spreading both arms to include everyone, “and I see open and loving faces. Faces of people that only our Kit would have had in his life.”

He paused, then laughed. “Oh, how well I remember the antics of a few of you out there after being trained as altar boys, along with Kit. What a lively bunch you all were, sneaking a sip of the altar wine and rearranging the kneelers just to have a little fun.

Now Kip, of course, went on to become a gifted botanist, someone who felt driven to learn more about the world around us. This came as no surprise to all of us who knew him. He was always stopping to examine the petals of an unusual flower or what type of moss it was that was growing on a wall. He had a power of observation that made him special.

Kit was a person who could “see” in the best possible way. He lived in the present moment and focused his attention on the particulars in the world around him. That is one of the reasons we are all here. That same focus extended to his family and friends, and made him one of those people who everyone could count on to be right there with you in your time of need or if you just wanted to have fun.”

Jacob felt the sting of tears. That was so true. Yes, Kit was always right there no matter what the circumstance.

Father Morgan went on to describe Kit’s many accomplishments, then added that God had him now in his loving arms and, because of that, everyone could feel at least a measure of comfort. He smiled at the congregation and said, “I am hopeful that Kit’s untimely death helps all of us to remember not to waste another moment pondering, “What if?” but rather to listen to our hearts and strike out in the direction God’s leads us.” His eyes lingered on Jacob.

Jacob shifted in his seat. He knew that Father Morgan was giving him a little prod from the pulpit. The last time they had spoken – just a year back over the phone – Kit had admitted to the old priest that he was lost. He had enjoyed college and the first couple of years of his corporate job, but then it had all gone cold as he began to long to do something more meaningful. He had remained in his job, but he wasn’t inspired. He was still searching and now Kit was gone, the one person who Jacob relied on to provide some support and guidance. But now he heard the old priest’s words from a new perspective. It was time for a real change.

After the service, Jacob hugged Father Morgan at the back of the church. “Thank you for that inspiring sermon. I believe I know where I’ll be going now.”

The old priest’s blue eyes lighted up. “And where might not be, Jacob?”

“I am going to open a ceramics studio, Father. It’s been my passion my whole life, but I’ve not pursued it because everyone has always told me I can’t make money being an artist. But I have decided as of today to take my savings from my corporate job and use it to head in a direction that will make me happy. I don’t need much to live and I want to live instead of just exist.”

Father Morgan opened his arms and pulled him close. “There you go, dear boy, that’s the ticket. Live your passion! Money is highly overrated, let me tell you, son. I know a lot about that.”

Jacob smiled as he headed for the reception. The intersection of circles and lines. Yes, that was indeed what had brought him to right here, right now and a realization that was going to change his life. He knew Kit would be very proud. In fact, he felt proud, too, in a way that was new and different and made him happy even before this adventure began.

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Flash Fiction: Out of Time

I can’t say how it happened. One day I was willing to stay and the next I wasn’t. No big bells and whistles. Not even the infamous toothpaste cap out-of-place. Just done. All the juice drained from the relationship like a lemon accidentally left in the car for too long in a hot summer. Desiccated is the word that comes to mind: all dried up.

My husband was shocked. “What are you talking about? We have plans to go to the movies tonight with John and Mary.”

“You go,” I said. “I’ll be gone by then.”

I know it sounds cold – frozen, no doubt – but I have been patient in this marriage. Fifteen years and five jobs for my husband while I’ve plodded along at the bank, rising from teller to officer. That is not the primary reason for this drying up, but it certainly didn’t help any. That, or his quick temper or tendency towards depression. All of these pulled my time and attention away from anything I was excited about and towards ‘helping’ my husband cope with his less than perfect life. I knew, of course, what he was like before I married him. We courted for five years and there was no question in my mind on my wedding day that I was not marrying the stable doctor or lawyer that my Jewish mother had hoped for. But at that point Jacob’s creativity had pulled me in and I found it a welcome relief from the stodgy thinking of all the more suitable men I knew. And I would still feel that way about his creativity if he, in fact, ever displayed any these days. Instead, he’s gotten more and more conservative and worried about money and job stability and all those things that he scoffed at back so many years ago.

But Jacob is not the only one who has changed; so have I. In fact, I am a different person than when we married. I, always the more serious one, have come to realize that fun is something not to be taken for granted. It can disappear like mist in the morning sun. It is not a basic of life, but a wonderful adjunct and one that has been sorely missing from my life for far too long.

I think that’s how everything got the life sucked out of it – no fun.

So, call me a cold, unfeeling wife. Call me whatever you like. I’m going to shift my life to what will make it worth living – good ole merrymaking with laughter thrown in for good measure. And if that makes me a villain, then so be it. At least I’ll be a happy one.

And who knows? Maybe Jacob will smile again once I’m gone. I hope so anyway.

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