Thursday, June 28, 2012

Charlene

A flash written for the +Flash Fiction Project based on the below image. This has also become an excerpt of a large piece and is based on an older story of mine. 540 words.




by aThunders


Her eyes open to greet me, good eyes, eyes I want to see when I wake. My big tough puppy, my little wolfie, still cowering in the hall, same spot all night, when she sees me coming her bent-down tail starts to wag. Ears folded, tongue hanging loose, Charlene belly crawls, paws gripping into the floor, up t the bedroom threshold but not further – she won’t come in, not anymore.

“Come Char.” I say as I walk past, out the room – I don’t like it anymore than she does, don’t care how sunny the walls are, I know they’re still there, still watching, waiting for the dark to hide them again.

Mom is awake, coffee pot gurgling, frying pan sizzling – her usual sausage, peppers, and eggs – and she grunts at my entrance. Charlene is my shadow, just beside my legs as I move through the cramped ‘L’ of the kitchen, elbows bumping, wet nose painting streaks down the back of my legs.

“Sleep good?” Mom asks out of habit.

“Just okay.”

I lie, she doesn’t need to know, doesn’t care to know. What would I tell her? Ramble on about the tiny demons that invade my room, cackle in the night, and threaten to suck out my soul, tell her all that while she nervously – obsessively – fingers the rosary hanging from her neck? No, that just earns me a trip to see Father Rodas, in the back office, breath smelling like mint and his office like dirt and dying flowers. We keep quiet and out of her way.  At the breakfast table, Charlene gets a piece of toast crust for her silence.

Dread school but dread going back to that room for clothes more. Got to be quick in and out, give mom no reason to pause, no reason to ask questions. Charlene knows better than to keep following me once I reach the short hall, only once place for me to go and she ain’t going. Without a noise she’s back in her place, head on the floor with a sad stare looking upward and hopeful that I make it back out alive.

Charlene always seems to know when something bad will happen, she’s been that way since she was a puppy. Always knew when we were taking her to the vet or going on long trips away from – back when there were still family vacations, dad singing in Polish all the way to Chicago – or she’d know whenever a bad storm was coming before the sky even started turning black. 

Get an outfit for today, anything, I’m beyond caring about looking cute or looking at all coordinated. Just clothes to cover and I’m out, head down, wanting to see that tail wag again for me like I was gone for three years. Almost out and I see something strange on the floor, dark stains on the wood, droplets going all across from the bed to the far wall.

I look closer, bend down, and see that their not just random drops of something but footprints, tiny prints like three-toed lizards or maybe birds – prints dark colored, almost a brown but red too. Charlene whines from the hall. Blood, has to be, blood ruining mom’s wood – her first concern – but whose?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Northwest Side Night


This is a flash piece done for Nina Pelletier's Prompt-and-Share. The prompt in question was to describe your hometown setting in short fictional piece - my town is a big town, and I focused, here, on my favorite slice of it.


Outside, the night is suffocating, air heavy with heat though the sun’s been down for hours. The street is awash with motion: cars flashing by to make the next light, young couples moving from the bar on the corner to the pizza pallor across the street, gangs of high school kids hovering in the convenience store parking lot down the street.  A few steps from the yellow light of the store, a kid on a BMX bike rides up, knees hitting handlebars, and in soft Spanish asks us if we want to buy any weed. Luis laughs and says no, his shoulders tense as we watch the boy ride away.

“Alright, you had your walk, got your pop, let’s go home.”

Luis looks left to right, out at the pockets of orange street lights and more closely at the gaps of dark between them. He hadn’t been very comfortable out at night ever since the incident a few months ago – the “smelly grocery cart guy” he called the man, the one who sang incomprehensible songs to himself, the one Luis claimed tried to mug him then kill him, swinging around a half-broken baseball bat at one in the morning.

“Luis, calm down, for real.”

There were other reasons for his anxiety, though. He’d learned long ago, with painful lessons, to act a certain way on certain streets, to play the part of a man with machismo if he wanted to make it through certain neighborhoods alive.

But this isn’t one of them, least I don’t think so, and it’s a beautiful night, the cool breeze from the lake cutting through the humid stillness. It reminds me of nights running around the block after dark, chasing each other with sparklers and playing tag through the alleys. We walk past the white-glowing liquor store and the Mexican restaurant with the smell of slow-cooked carnitas riding on the breeze, we walk dance studio and Luis can’t help but stop and watch the late-night dancers in their black tights and thin sweaters moving and stretching behind the glass front, until at last we have to round the corner to go back home.

“Know where I’d like us to live if we had money?” Luis asks, same question he always asks.

“Boystown.” Half the time that’s the right answer, but not tonight.

“No, I mean, for real, like if we got real rich somehow, like lotto rich.”

Anywhere but here, where we both grew up, street names we knew better than we knew our presidents, corner shop owners like family – I knew he just wanted to put it all behind him.

“Up high, way up high, that’s where I want to live.” He says, his eyes up past the trees shading the side street from lamp light, up to the purple sky. “Up on the lakefront, in one of those fancy condos, way above the city and everyone else, where I can look out on the city and see how small our little life was.”

Bushes and weeds grew in dark clumps across the black iron fences and stone steps now.  Away from the big street it was quiet enough to even hear a few crickets making their noise. Luis is calmer, smiling even at me while I drink the last of my orange pop, belching “like a gross boy”, as he would say, when I finish.

“We’ll get there someday.” I say to him, arm around his bony shoulders while we feel our way past the gate into our building. Someday sure, but hopefully no time soon. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lost

Okay, I will admit up front that I have not done my 5000 words for this week. I do have an excuse though.

You see, I've been lost - lost for quite some time actually.



It's not like I got lost on purpose. In fact, for the longest time, I was sure of where I was going. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Sun-Polished Dome

Today's story is brought to you by the good folks over at The Narratorium, a growing digital literary journal.

The Sun-Polished Dome is a story about two siblings on the run from a blood-thirsty terror, finding solace in an old tale about a long lost god...

Artwork by David Grigg


And for those of you keeping track, I actually forgot to do my first update on the weekly word count.  While it wasn't quite the 5,000 count I was shooting for, I was able to finish up the above story which came in at just under 2,500 words.