Act of Contrition

In the deep-rooted shadows upon which the forest stands, where nothing grows but moss and the debris of winter-felled branches, Scott Lang and his brother Tony heard the stuttering k-r-r-r-k like someone opening the door to a derelict shack.

But near all around them, there were no such homes except last spring’s birds’s nests and the torn-up insect domicile buried within a pine upon which a woodpecker hammered another k-r-r-r-k.

“This noise where there’s nothing around creeps me out, man,” Tony said.

“Some of us, little brother, find such ‘noise’ a blanket of comfort, the caress of natural music far from the crash and soul-crunching violence in city life, the promise of peace,” said Scott.

“Okay, I get it, but does it take sloshing all the way out here just to find your precious quiet? Besides, it’s so damn dark here, how the hell am I supposed to see anything well enough to shoot it?” Tony said, swinging his rifle in carefree arcs.

“Your life always comes down to noisy violence. It killed Mom. I don’t want to know who else. Can’t you just enjoy some serenity for once?”

“Yeah, but where’s the fun in that? Now where to something I can enjoy?”

“You’ll never get it, will… Wait, what was that?” Scott said.

“Where?” Tony said, swinging the muzzle of the 30.06 toward the shadows.

When the echo of the k-r-r-r-k made by four rapid shots from the .22 Scott pulled from his pocket faded, he sighed. After a few seconds, he heard the birds begin singing again. He could actually hear his heartbeat settle down as the wind strummed the tall pines like harp strings. And he was pretty sure there had been only two witnesses to what he’d done.

He made a silent Act of Contrition to one.

“Peace, Mom, just like I promised. At last, some peace,” he whispered to the other.

Something About This

We need to do something about this.

I know. If this goes on much longer, I doubt he’ll ever be able to – you know – again…

Don’t even think that. If he stops for good he’ll just lose the will to go on…with anything.

Then we need to do something.

He’s tried almost everything, walks, music, reading. God, look how he just sits there. A blink, blink, a sigh.

I caught him crying the other night.

No you didn’t!

Yeah, in bed, alone, staring, like he was expecting someone to come to him from out of the ceiling. Or past. You know how he likes the room totally dark and cool.

So how do you know he was crying?

Heard him. Like a stage whisper. Said her name and then…well, a sobbing sound. Like he couldn’t catch his breath.

No kidding! Maybe we should suggest he reach out to her. And yeah, we both know she’ll eventually make him more damn paralyzed with misery than he is now. Humming away in his chair one minute and then…

I know. But he can’t go on like this. I’m afraid he might just…you know, POOF, gone. And what about us?

Okay, you go to his right and I’ll go left.

Wait. Listen. The laptop. Is he writing her? Think she’ll answer? I mean kindly? What’s he say?

Let me check. Oh… Well at least he’s trying.

Okay, but what’s he written?

It says, “We need to do something about this.”

(This is pretty much the only way I can write fiction these days. I imagine two characters speaking and then my imagination follows their conversations. But I’m miles ahead of where I’ve been for months.  In this case, I’ll let your imagination discern who – or what – these two speakers are.)

Our Side of the Fence

“Can I touch one, Mama?” Cody asked.

“I don’t know if that would be wise,” I told her as I pushed the hair back from her eyes.

“But she’s so beautiful. Look how the wind blows her hair just like mine.”

I looked them over, watching how they moved around the enclosure and finally said, “We don’t know if we can trust how tame they are. There’s a good reason they’re behind this four-wire fence. I’ve heard the mothers can be pretty protective of their babies.”

“Pleeeze, can’t I just once? I’ll be careful,” Cody pleaded in that whiney way of hers. I noticed her edging closer to the fence, just as one of the colts ambled nearer to us.

“Cody, I said wait. You don’t know them and they don’t know you. It’s like we’re from different planets, far from home. Lord knows we are.”

I never liked it when we went on these summer trips, even when I was younger. I remember one year my cousin…

“Look, she likes me,” Cody said as she and one of the young ones reached through the fence for one another.

“Cody!” I screamed, just as the colt’s mother came running over. Both kids jumped and scratched themselves on the fence. The mare pushed her little one away favoring a cut on her floppy little white forehoof.

“See? And that’s why they keep them on the other side of the fence,” I told Cody as I licked the blood off her nose.

Here’s a tortured (and whinnied) 250-word first draft bit of flash fiction written for Cara Michaels’ #MondayMenage thingy. A triple-header of prompts here. One: that photo. Two: the phrase “far from home.” And three: The concept of Trust. Someday I’ll figure out if there’s something deeper involved in what my imagination spit out in these words. (I think there might be.) Well see, if I ever cross its fenceline for a proper revision.

Crumbs

Photo by Jody McKinney

Becky loved her brother, Ben, but hated how he’d chase guys off from dating her.

“He’s not good for you, Becks. You deserve so much better,” he’d say.

So Becky would look for solace in the kitchen, baking — and eating — cookies and cakes that would drive Ben crazy with their seductive aroma.

“Oh, man, Becks, that smells incredible. Lemme have a piece,” Ben would say.

And Becky would slap his hand, replying, “It’s not ready yet. It needs time before I can make it pretty.”

“But, Becks, it’s pretty enough now.”

“Sorry. And Coach Babbitt will pitch a fit if you can’t make weight this week. Besides, it’s not good for you,” Becky would remind her wrestler brother.

After a match, he’d burst through the door looking for whatever Becky had made. “Did you leave anything for me?” he’d always say. But, inevitably, he’d find Becky had finished most, if not all, of her creation.

In April, Becky started seeing Art Linski. He was looking for some of Becky’s delights, too. Just not the baked kind.

“No, Art, I’m just not ready,” she said.

But Art wasn’t to be denied and violently took what he could.

In an alley the next night, Art Linski looked up with his one good eye at Ben Stenson, and whined through swollen, bloody lips, “I’m sorry. Please, please, no more.”

Then Art heard a girl’s voice from the shadows. “Thanks, Ben. Did you leave anything for me?”

“Just a crumb, babe,” Ben said.

A super-quick flash story in response to this week’s Thursday’s Threads friendly competition on novelist Siobhan Muir’s website.  The story was prompted by, and must include, the phrase, “Did you leave anything for me?” I’d say not too bad a first draft batter of words. Fluffy, bittersweet and ready for a little more to make it pretty.

Orbital Eccentricity

The sun will shine today,
walking its way horizon to horizon
across my provincial little plot,
taking its longest time until next year.
But I know it’s not really moved.
This dust mote rock on which I stand
is the one actually spinning daily
along its elliptical path ‘round
our own little star.

And in our arrogant, top-of-the-foodchain,
in-God’s-own-image way,
we actually prefer to think
the largest entity in this
insignificant portion of the vastness
of the Big Banger’s creation
is the one trudging like a burro
around the mill grinding out
our oh so historic days.

You know that Earth has spent
its millennia trying to escape
from this cosmic servitude, don’t you?
Sun’s tether is just too strong.
keeping our servile ball
of egocentric existence
situated just-so, so Man can believe
the Sun’s the one in Our thrall.

But really, when one day,
out in the indistinct future,
when the great curveball in the sky
goes black, our planet
will slip it’s gravitational leash
and could be hurled, a giant snowball,
into the void. In light of this,
who gives a shit if I mispell “misspell,”
wash new jeans with white sheets,
eat room-temperature potato salad,
or short-hop a bases-loaded 3-2 fastball?
Not the Sun.

I tell you this because
I care about you.
Still.
A little.
On a summer day,
when the Sun takes its own sweet time
walking horizon to horizon.
And here’s the pitch…

Writer’s Digest’s Robert Lee Brewer suggested writing a “summer” poem today. So I sat down and turned loose my creative wolf for the first time in too many months. And along the stream-of-consciousnous way, I remember a story my friend Steve Adamek and I eavesdropped on in a Montreal bar many years ago. A gaggle of Philadelphia Phillies. Late season pennant clinching time. I’ll attribute it to relief pitcher Tug McGraw, but I’m sure he heard from an old pitching coach of his. I’ve always called it the “Tug McGraw Frozen Snowball Theory of Life.” Steve will know better who should get attribution. It’s funny how life and lessons come back to you once you remember life is more than the time spent worrying about what you did yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. Or sooner. Thanks, Steve. Don’t know how I’m gonna integrate “No one sucker-punches Roger Freed,” into a poem or story. But I’m not going to worry about it. Someday I will.

Sorry

He’s not too bad a guy. He has feelings as deep, sore and soaring as anyone else’s, I guess. Maybe even more so, we just don’t know. Few have ever seen them as he moved through the vacuum of his days.

I once caught him in one of his brooding moods, the ones maybe you’ve seen or you’ve felt. He broke through the 1,000-mile stare and wall of his self-imposed isolation to look up at me, half-grinned and raised his chin in greeting. He hummed his shrugged-shouldered humph when I inquired how he was.

“So how you doing?”

“I’m doing. Wondering if all this is worth it.”

“All what?” I asked.

“Just doing, being, thinking. You know, like that Descartes guy said, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Maybe I should just stop thinking so much.”

“That’d be no fun.”

Then he surprised me with, “I’m sorry.”

“What are you sorry for? You haven’t done anything to me,” I said.

“I’m sorry because I’ve never expressed to anyone my regrets for my sins and omissions, never cried at their funerals, never spoke up about how I truly felt, never professed my love to those I should have and never moved on from the ones I shouldn’t,” he said.

“Why are you telling me this?” I asked.

“Because you’re the only one I can and that’s what I lament the most,” he said as we each turned away from the mirror and switched off our bathroom light.

From St. Pierre aux Portes to Bayou Enfer

Credit: Dreamstime

“You’re sure you know the way? For thirty silver dollars I’d hate to get lost in this damned place,” Amos Adams said.

The old man had little more than grunted since they left St. Pierre aux Portes, bound for the other side of Bayou Enfer.

“Quiet, boy, or you’ll wake the dead, or worse, the living who might lie ahead,” finally came from the tobacco-stained hole in Bub Renard’s beard.

“Listen, Bub, which way out of this infernal wilderness? Seems we’re going in circles, with no rhyme or reason.”

“Rhymes? Sonny, ask me what I knows of the to’s and the fro’s, the gives and the takes, the misses and the makes, and I’ll say, ‘That’s a good question’,” Bub replied.

“Look, there’s a price on my head and I’d just as well put YOU under as listen to anymore of your nonsense. Just get me away from here, okay?”

Then came the howls.

“What was that?” Amos said, eyes wide.

“My children be callin’, with hunger they be bawlin’,” Bub said as the sound of little feet danced toward the man judged for respecting life not enough by the one didn’t respect Amos’ so much.

When they were done, Beelzebub Renard, the guide into but never from this dark place, told his children, “If they ever ask, in earnest or in passing, mine would never be the face they’d see the last thing. They never suspect my smile’s vestigial. And their sins? Hell, mine was the original.”

My 250-word bit of flash fiction (with a poet’s splash of rhyme) for Cara Michaels’ #ModayMenage challenge.