"Moored"The abandoned boat bobbed at anchor, rocking heavily when ships lumbered past. Below deck the man labored, hands unsteady and eyesight hazed, cursing as he picked shot pellets from the raw wound in his thigh. Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen. He prayed there weren't more, that the gin would disinfect well enough, and moved in closer with the needle and Trilene he had found.
"Lesson"Waiting, he looks up from a wrinkled magazine, hears the tentative acoustic notes still a half-beat behind the electric, senses those rhythms coming together, smiles.
...is on hiatus for the month of November. NaNoWriMo is ruthlessly devouring all of my creative output, even the tiny 100-word morsels. Micro Monday will resume on December 4th.
Micro Monday: "Peddler"
She looked down with disdain, not even bending to examine the wares spread across the striped blankets, glittering in the brilliant Sonoran sun.
"I like this one."
"Careful," she said. "Could be plastic. Or gum -- my neighbor bought a ring here that ended up being a painted hunk of Doublemint."
"Please, Aunt Jean, he can probably understand you."
She said nothing, in a rare moment of reserve.
"I wonder how much."
"Twenty," the huddled, sombreroed figure muttered, confirming my suspicion.
"Haggle him down to ten," she warned, unable to resist.
I’d listen. It was a long drive back to Scottsdale.
Micro Monday: "Single Dim Thought"
Single Dim Thought
You should drink, his father said. Covers up all of life's woes.
He never drank, unlike his father’s prodigious binges. Never had any interest, never saw the need, never wanted to be like his father. Yet his father pressed on, going so far as giving him an engraved silver flask for his eighteenth birthday.
For James, upon becoming a man.
Four years later, his father gone, he found himself in a bar—or actually behind it, bleeding in piercing pain. Thinking about the flask, empty and safe at home in his dresser drawer, safe as he should have been.
Micro Monday: "Madness With the Bliss"
Madness With the Bliss
She lowered the cup from her lips, disappointed, the coffee already gone cold. She pushed the cup away, noisily scraping the table’s rough surface.
She shouldn’t have kissed him, never let it start. But with that first kiss her brain just clicked off and she was swept away, again. He was gentle, attentive, saying all the right things, though she knew he’d change soon -- distant, aloof, distracted. But she was hooked, absorbed in madness she recognized but couldn’t escape.
Across the room the waitress waved with a hot coffee pot but she failed to see, the spell unbroken for now.
Micro Monday: "Distant Heart"
He’ll get what he can while he’s still young, so for enough cash you can do whatever you want. The pile of singles he takes home from dancing at the Cabana every night won’t cover rent and payments on the Harmon-Kardon and some food, or dreams of the flatscreen he’ll probably never own.
No, he needs the fifty or hundred you give him for slipping into a shadowed alcove or more daringly the back alley, abandoning whatever pride and self-respect he still has. Ten indulgent minutes keeps him alive even while hastening his death. Hardening him, distant while seemingly intimate.
Micro Monday: "Easy As One-Two-Three"
Easy As One-Two-Three
"Accept nothing less than complete success," my father intoned, lapsing once again into the management by adage that won him so many admirers over the years, both in the firm and in town.
"Build it and they will come," he continued, trying another, one which was admittedly not his own. The sentimentality of that one, and the film where he first heard it, had long been favorites of his.
"Could it really be possible?" I asked, to no response. To him the question was small-minded, irrelevant. Of course it was possible, would be built, would be a complete success.
Micro Monday: "Of the Gulag"
Of the Gulag
They called us zeks, inmates. To call us prisoners would imply we were imprisoned, against our wills. But the will is a human attribute, and to the guards we were anything but human.
My name is Pavlo Gregorev but I am called Gulagovich. A child of the Gulag. I was born here, live here now, and in all likelihood will die here. I don’t cling to the foolish false hopes held so pathetically by the other zeks. Even should I complete my term, the Bureau has the power to simply give me a fresh one, for whatever reason they wish.
Micro Monday: "Gathering"
The mouse’s mate needed sustenance for the difficult days just ahead. Were it just him, he could let the hunger go on for a while longer, but for his mate’s well-being, and that of their soon-to-arrive, he had no choice but to venture forth in search of food--a crumb of bread, a kernel of corn, a speck of cake, anything the humans might have left behind.
His nose sniffed the air and his whiskers flicked, but flicked just a bit too much. The sudden motion caught the feline’s vision, leading it to pounce. All went to black.
Micro Monday: "Button"
She hurried along the platform, heels clattering and shoulder bag bouncing off her hip. Ahead the conductor leaned out, urgently waving her forward, his gesture saying she had only a few more seconds to climb aboard. She felt relieved that the bag was her only luggage; anything more would have slowed her down, might have kept her here.
She reached the stairs and stepped up, grasping for the conductor’s hand and knocking loose a button from her cardigan. The button plinked once on the platform and rolled into oblivion next to the tracks. It was all she would leave behind.
Micro Monday: "Men in Black"
Men in Black
The train rattled over 35th Street. Further east, far from view, stood the hallowed ballpark grounds, where fifteen years earlier the worn brick-and-girder relic exhaustedly gave way to a suburban mall of glass and concrete, where nine months earlier a championship, longed-for for decades, was finally won.
Yet here, further west on a ragged corner, where the diagonal cross street cut through a cluster of aged storefronts, where a lone figure stood with shoulders slumped in resignation while still glancing in hope, where a contractor might hire some day laborers, none of that -- ballparks old and new, championships -- mattered much.
Micro Monday: "Orringer & Klein"
Orringer & Klein
The door quickly swung open, banging against the wall behind. I could see, in reverse, the lettering on the frosted glass which read Abraham Klein, Senior Producer, a title which he had claimed in a typically ostentatious show of status. Abe himself stepped out of his office, emerging just steps behind one of the young chorus girls, an aspiring starlet who seemed flustered, her hair awry and makeup smudged, as she urgently hurried away down the corridor.
Abe leered after her, buttoning up his suspenders.
“We have ourselves,” he grinned, “a new understudy for the female lead of Miss Marvel.”
Micro Monday: "Peace to All"
Peace to All
He looked up at me, his eyes sleepy and teeth bared in a gapped grin, uttering, “Soon-gol-yan.”
Peace to all, in the local patois. A blessing or, given the current circumstances, a plea.
“You must do what you can,” he insisted, in English this time, his eyes suddenly opening wide. “I beg you.”
“I’ll do what I can, Neya,” I assured him, or hoped I was assuring. He had every reason to suspect indifference, as I would soon be going back to the mainland, like the others--to my civilized life, with all thoughts of Martinia far from my mind.
Micro Monday: "A Small Greatness"
A Small Greatness
Everything about him suggested wealth and power. Huge mahogany desk, sumptuous leather chair, flurrying assistants, impeccable Italian suit for at least a grand, framed oil portraits of his ancestors and his vintage Rolls, Harvard and Oxford diplomas, his secretary’s voice buzzing in (Sir, the Mayor is still on hold), Civic Club cufflinks, a deep tan from countless rounds at Medinah. And, at home in Lake Forest, undoubtedly, many wooded acres, ten bedrooms and equally flurrying servants.
Yet, behind that desk and sunk into that rare leather, he suddenly seemed so small.
“I have nothing,” he all but whimpered.
Micro Monday: "Harvest"
He looked across the fields, his for one more day. The papers were signed yesterday, the movers coming tomorrow, the grid of streets and sidewalks long since mapped out. The soybeans were already a foot out of the ground, their blossoms swaying in the gentle breeze. It was June, an odd time for a farmer to be moving away, but the developers had insisted on it, just as he had insisted on putting one last crop in the ground.
This land was meant to bear rows of crops, not neutral-colored houses; the soybeans would be harvested one last time.
Micro Monday: "Still Golden"
Frankie didn’t want Molly hustling drinks like she did on Division Street. Too many of those guys had dirty ideas about what a hostess was expected to do.
She had gotten the monkey off his back, so keeping her away from the dives was the least he could do for her. Whatever she might have done to get by in Chicago was all in the past, all of it behind them. He wanted to only look ahead, to start new.
“Frankie,” he had answered the steerer at the door. “Frankie Ma-...Mankowski.”
He caught himself just in time.
Micro Monday: "Failure in Full View"
Failure in Full View
For most people, without a net is mere cliché, but for my family it’s everyday life. Grandpa Karl insisted on it, though Uncle Heinz—business manager and non-aerialist—quietly objected. Grandma, too, who might have been thrilled by it as a young woman but soon came to value their continued life together over bravery and daring. A shared life ended by a strong gust of wind and a wrong step.
Though the act went on, it was never the same after San Juan.
Years later, some rock band called themselves the Falling Wallendas. I never appreciated the humor.
Micro Monday: "Twisters South of Chicago"
Twisters South of Chicago
The words scrolled across the bottom of the screen, barely noticed below the stock tickers and baseball scores. The TV was mere background as Mary tensely pored over last-minute arrangements--the caterer changing the appetizers again, the photographer wanting to start an hour earlier with her family, her cousin saying that now she wasn’t sure if she could sing her solo.
She sighed, leaning back into the well-worn couch and pushing her glasses back up the bridge of her nose. And, now fully aware, it occurred to her.
My family lives south of Chicago.
Micro Monday: "Open Mic"
Who the hell is this guy, she says to herself.
She always studies here, in the basement of the Chandler Foundation, because usually it’s a quiet place to get work done. Yet I’m here, she thinks, two days away from my sociology midterm, and there’s a guy up there singing—if you can even call it singing—and playing a guitar, badly, like he doesn’t know any chords. Mumbling something about his childhood, which itself wouldn’t bother my studying, but also banging away on that guitar, disrupting my thoughts.
She finally looks up at him.
My god, he looks terrified.
Introducing Micro Monday
This coming Monday, I will be launching a new writing project: Micro Monday. Duly inspired by Matt Bell and Josh Maday of Dancing on Fly Ash, every Monday I will publish a new piece of micro fiction (100 words or less). This should be a good exercise to keep the creative juices flowing, and hopefully will be enjoyable for the reader as well.
(As far as writing projects go, it can't turn out much worse than my ill-fated story-in-installments "Arrival", which stalled after just two episodes.)