Friday, April 26, 2013

FFF: 1.762 Seconds

Every Friday, Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

1.762 Seconds
Word Count: 590

I open my eyes. Cocktail weenies float around me in the air, wrapped in little crescent rolls. Pigs in blankets floating, bouncing off the windows and the dash. The lid must have come off the tray when the car went airborne. So, that’s weird.

Something tells me I’m not going to make it to the party on time. My car has rotated about a third of the way over. From its trajectory, I think it’ll land on its head for sure—assuming it doesn’t hit that tree first. But… I’m guessing it’s gonna hit the tree.

I’d dozed off, I guess. I opened my eyes when the car hit the curb, but it was too late and I was going too fast. There’s nothing I can do about it. At this point, I’m just along for the ride, rotating in space in a hurtling juggernaut that’s inching me closer and closer towards death or a substantial hospital stay.

Personally, I’m hoping for the hospital stay but, as previously noted, I don’t have a whole lot of say in this.

I’m sideways. I feel weightless. Like I don’t exist in the world. I’ve escaped its grasp as it tries to hold me down on the ground. I’m free, in a way. I wonder if this is what being born feels like. Or dying. Or traveling in space. Or falling. That tree is getting bigger. So, yeah, I suppose this is what dying feels like, in a way.

Time doesn’t really slow down, you know. It only feels like it. Your brain measures time in the number of memories it makes. When you’re in distress, you make a lot of memories. So when you remember that time, it feels like time has slowed down. But when you’re actually living it, you’re not genuinely thinking any faster. So, while it feels to me like this ordeal is taking a long-ass time, it only feels that way in retrospect.

Noodle that for a while.

Three-quarters of the way around, or so. Maybe I won’t land upside-down. Maybe I’ll keep spinning, land on the side and roll. I’m still weightless. God, that’s weird. The tree is getting bigger, despite being almost completely inverted. Roots climbing to the sky like branches, and vice versa. Pigs in blankets everywhere.

Do you want to know why I fell asleep at the wheel? I stayed up late watching a movie on TBS and then had to wake up early for a conference call. Went home to grab the pigs in blankets and now this. Stupid.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I suppose regrets are, at this point, a waste of time—time being something that is in imminently short supply for me. But what else can I do but lament? I can’t even move my arms fast enough to brace myself. They’re flailing like empty sausage skins. Might as well be boneless.

That tree is getting bigger and bigger, spinning round and round. Soon it will fill up the windshield. Soon it will be the only thing I can see, filling my entire field of vision. Then the car will collapse around it, and all of my forward momentum will instantaneously stop. My chest will be crushed by the seatbelt and steering column. Twisted metal. Shattered glass. Soon.

Why bother being afraid. Fear of death is a luxury for people with time. And, frankly, I don’t think I’m going to walk away from this.




Fractions of seconds adding up to an eternity.

Oh my god…

Edited by Carolyn "I Shall Noodle It" Abram.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

FFF: Horoscope

Every Friday Kurt posts a new flash fiction story. This week...

Word Count: 595

ARIES (The Ram) March 21 - April 19 Aries and Pisces are at odds with each other this month. Old rivals threaten you, but you can triumph if you act now. Enlist the aid of kind strangers.

TAURUS (The Bull) April 20 - May 20 The stars entreat you to commune with your fellow man. A stranger might approach with an intriguing offer. Trust him, especially if that he is an Aries. The stars foretell that other signs are going to be interested in your goal. Pass it on, and you all may be rewarded.

GEMINI (The Twins) May 21 - June 20 Jupiter waxes in your sign. It is time to throw off old habits and look to the new, especially where rivalries are concerned. You will need some new gear. Seek the Lion’s assistance.

CANCER (The Crab) June 21 - July 22 Saturn lingers in your sign this month, telling you to be mindful of goings on around you. There may be an opportunity for gains, if you act with haste. Consider enlisting the help of air signs to undermine a rival.

LEO (The Lion) July 23 - August 22 The Lion gathers his Pride. A Gemini may come asking you about tools and collaboration. There may be some mention of enemies. There may be some under-the-table dealings. There is much power to be gained in exploiting this, if you play your cards right. When the time comes, consult with an Aquarius.

VIRGO (The Maiden) August 23 - September 21 War is all around you, but it is not without opportunities. Look for a Capricorn with a plan. You won’t find one, but maybe you can coax one into tagging along. If you’re approached by an Aries, he’s going to sound hostile, but it’s all right, he’s cool. The stars can vouch.

LIBRA (The Scales) September 23 - October 23 The Scales so often seek justice. If you run into a Cancer, a Leo, a Virgo, a Taurus, a Gemini, or a Virgo, you’re going to want to get in on this action. That goddamn Pisces has wronged you for the last time.

SCORPIO (The Scorpion) October 24 - November 21 The stars are hazy and brimming with consternation, but not towards you, per se. Honestly, Scorpio, things are going to get hairy this month. It’s probably best if you just stay out of it. Take a vacation or something.

SAGITTARIUS (The Archer) November 22 - December 21 The Archer will be approached by many people with plans to deal with a certain fish that we don’t feel like we need to point out by name. That melon-farmer is going down. Aries is the instigator, but we’re going to let Aquarius do the planning, so try to pass that along.

CAPRICORN (The Goat) December 22 - January 19 The Virgin will approach you about an arrangement. And not the Virgin Mary. The stars are talking about a Virgo. As in Astrology. Try to keep up. And don’t get too worked up about the “virgin” thing, either. Anyway, stuff is going down, you’re going to want in. Just go with it. The stars foresee, etc.

AQUARIUS (The Water Bearer) January 20 - February 18 The water-bearer has many friends this month. Unite them in common purpose. But before you can strike, you must plan. Join together at a place where water flows freely to discuss an arrangement that may benefit you all.

PISCES (The Fish) February 19 - March 20 Mars is prominent in your sign. Your enemies are at the fountain. You know what must be done. Show them no mercy.

Edited by Carolyn "A Sound Beating Because I'm Scrappy" Abram.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

FFF: Open And Shut

Every Friday, Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

Open And Shut
Word Count: 600

“We’re canvassing the neighborhood,” said Patrolman Barnes.

“Waste of time, if you ask me,” said Detective Jezelnik, flicking away a half-smoked cigarette. “Wife dead. Husband found trying to move the body. We’ve got our guy. Who called it in?”

“Neighbor,” said the patrolman.

“Yeah, this one’s open and shut,” said Jezelnik.

“Procedure, sir,” said the patrolman, but Jezelnik had already started walking towards the suspect.

He stood next to the husband—Ray Constapolis, who was sitting on a step, running a bloody hand nervously through his hair. “Mind if I sit?” asked Jezelnik.

“If you like,” said Constapolis, staring at the giant red stain on his living room carpet.

“I looked at your statement,” said Jezelnik. “When you found your wife dead in the living room, I’m curious why you didn’t call the police.”

“I’d rather not answer questions without my attorney present,” said Constapolis.

“Your decision,” said Jezelnik. “But you know how lawyers are. They just confuse everything. If your story’s true, then you’ve got nothing to hide.”

“Are you suggesting that I would be in a better legal position without someone who actually knows my legal rights?” asked Constapolis, casting a sideways glance at the detective. “Color me suspicious.”

Jezelnik chuckled. So, this guy wants to be a wise-ass, eh? “Just remember that we’re all on the same team,” he said. “We want to find whoever killed her. If I miss something important because we’re waiting for a lawyer for you, then that’s time lost hunting down the killer.”

“Lawyer,” said Constapolis.

“I just want to ask two or three questions,” said Jezelnik.

“Well, fortunately, I’m only looking for one lawyer,” said Constapolis.

“If that’s the way you want—”

“Do you know what I do for a living, Detective?” asked Constapolis.

“Yeah, you’re a librarian,” said Jezelnik.

“At a university library,” said Constapolis. “Free from traffic, free from construction, free from cubicles, free from telephones, and virtually devoid of students. It’s calming, relaxing, and very, very quiet.”

“Is there a point to—”

“The point, Detective,” said Constapolis, “is that my hearing has not been completely destroyed like most people’s in this city. So when you stand fifteen feet away from me and tell another officer not to bother investigating anyone else because you’ve already got your man…”

“Your neighbor did see you dragging the body across the carpet,” said Jezelnik. “What else are we supposed to think? You tell me.”

“I’m sure my lawyer can tell you,” said Constapolis.

“Fine,” said Jezelnik. “You don’t have to answer, but all I want to know is why you didn’t call the police when you found your wife murdered. That’s all I’m going to ask. Answer or don’t, it’s up to you.” He stood and turned and jammed a hand into his breast pocket, looking for a pack of cigarettes. Let the forensics team deal with it.

“Detective,” said Constapolis, quietly.

Jezelnik froze. “Yeah?” he said.

“I wasn’t dragging her,” said Constapolis, “when my neighbor saw me.” Jezelnik didn’t say anything. “I was holding her. I didn’t call the police because, when I found Alice, I couldn’t do anything except hold her. And cry.”

Jezelnik started walking again and flagged down Patrolman Barnes. “How’s the canvas going?”

“You said not to bother,” said Barnes.

“Just do it,” said Jezelnik.

“I thought you said we had our guy,” said Barnes. “Open and shut.”

“It’s back open,” said Jezelnik, lighting a cigarette. “I asked him to clarify his story, and I buy it.”

“Oh,” said Barnes. “You know those things will kill you.”

“Yeah, well, what the hell doesn’t?” said Jezelnik.

Edited by Carolyn "I Have Decided To Let It Live!" Abram.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

FFF: Codger

Every Friday Kurt posts a new piece of a original flash fiction. This week...

Word Count: 598

The old codger sat on a rocker on his porch, staring out at his land. He had a tall, sweaty Arnold Palmer on the table next to him, and a shotgun laying carelessly across his lap. His house guest, a fellow named Tyrone, sat on the steps a few feet in front of him. The old codger smiled. He so rarely had company.

“That windmill,” said the old codger, pointing, “my father built that when I was five years old.”

“That right?” asked Tyrone.

“Mm-hmm,” said the codger. “Cut the wood himself with a handsaw. We didn’t have table saws back then.”

Tyrone nodded.

“Put his own blood and sweat into that windmill,” said the old codger. “He loved it. It was an accomplishment, something he made. To the rest of us, though—my brothers and sisters—it was just another part of the farm. Hell, it was almost as old as we were. Hard to imagine a time when it didn’t exist.”

Tyrone nodded.

“It’s funny,” said the old codger. “All this stuff around us, somebody made it. You ever think about that?”

“Not really,” said Tyrone.

“You should,” said the old codger. “This house, that windmill, this porch—somebody made all of those things. To somebody, they were projects, and they were special. Nobody builds a house without it being special to them. Don’t you think so?”

“Sounds right to me,” said Tyrone.

“A house is unique,” said the old codger. “A house has personality—just like that windmill. But we forget about that. We treat everything in the world like a commodity. You know what I used to do for a living?”

“No, sir,” said Tyrone.

“I was an ad man,” said the old codger. “I didn’t inherit the farm until my dad died. Before that, before I retired, I spent forty-three years in advertising. Loved it. I was good at it. But, when I look at that windmill, I can’t help but wonder if I wasn’t making the world a worse place. I didn’t build anything; I took things other people had built and turned them into commodities.”

Tyrone nodded.

“You want to hear something crazy?” asked the old codger.

“Okay,” said Tyrone.

“In ad copy, you never call a house a house. You always call it a home. That makes it seem more personal to the buyer. Houses are expensive and require upkeep; homes are where you raise your kids. A man’s home is his castle; a man’s house is his mortgage. So what I was doing was taking things that people made, wrapping them up in a box to make them easier to sell, and then prettifying the words on that box to make people actually want to buy it.”

“Huh,” said Tyrone. “That does sound a little crazy.”

“Anything worth buying was created with love once,” said the old codger. “You can’t ever forget that.”

Tyrone nodded.

“You see what I’m getting at with all this?” asked the old codger.

“I think so,” said Tyrone.

“That all you got to say?” asked the old codger. “You’ve been awful quiet all evening.”

Tyrone turned back and looked at the old codger and the shotgun in his lap. “Look, Mister,” he said, “I’m real sorry I tried to jack your car. If you let me go, you won’t ever see me on your property again. I promise. You gotta believe me.”

“I believe you,” said the old codger.

“So, can I go?” asked Tyrone.

“Not just yet,” said the codger, adjusting his grip on the shotgun. “Now, that barn over there…”

Edited by Carolyn "Glare At It With Your Shiny Eye Lasers" Abram.

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Monday, April 1, 2013

March Mystery Theme Revealed

Okay, it's been fun. There were five short stories, all linked by some unspoken theme, and now it's time to let you know what it was. But first, an overview.

  • Teacher - a young woman at a bar is recognized by a former student, but things aren't what they seem
  • Living In The Past - a woman announces to her sister that she is no longer practicing Daylight Savings Time
  • Rainbow Blues - a leprechaun tries to cheer up a friend who's down on his luck
  • Fat Man - revolutionaries try to break a legendary hacker out of prison
  • Bungle In The Jungle - a game tester finds glitches in a virtual safari

What do they all have in common? All of these stories are named after songs by the British prog-rock band Jethro Tull. For bonus points, all of these songs can be found on the album M.U. - The Best of Jethro Tull.

And, for what it's worth, if I could have figured out a way to write a story called Aqualung, I totally would have.

There were a few clues sprinkled throughout. Song lyrics were obliquely referenced somewhere in each story. In order: "Then the teacher told me it had been a lot of fun"; "Now there's revolution but we don't know what we're fighting"; "So we'll slip behind a rainbow and wait until the show is done"; "Roll us both down a mountain and I'm sure the fat man would win"; "The monkeys seem willing to strike up the tune". Lyrics were also quoted directly in Carolyn's editing credit.

Despite the relative lack of participation, I had a lot of fun with this, and I will undoubtedly try something like it again in the future.