24 June 2010

"Come Together" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com

The flight attendant served 7-Up to Dad, Orange Crush to Mom, and a Hi-C juice box to little Violet. She winked at Violet and proceeded down the aisle.

Violet strained to see over the seat to follow the nice lady with her eyes. It was better than being trapped in-between her parents.

“Of all the impossible things you could’ve come up with Marshall—”

“It’s for the best. I think that if we just work together we can save this—”

Violet asked to be taken to the potty often. It was the only break in conversation; Mom looked distressed and in need of a break. She was pretty, but with lines creasing her brow she looked tired.

“I’m sorry Vi, we can’t get up just yet. You’ll have to hold it.”

Her plot foiled, Violet glowered at the back of the seat afore her. The urge to kick it tickled her mind. Mom and Dad were busy ignoring the fact that they couldn’t talk to one another anymore. She nearly gave in to her last resort, a temper-tantrum, before the plane listed to the right; the sound of a small explosion rocked the cabin’s occupants.

“Ladies and gentlemen, if I may have your attention. This is an emergency. You must remain calm. Please view your emergency procedures booklet and follow the instructions.”

“He’s kidding, isn’t he Marshall?”

“I don’t know.” Dad’s face was dark and pale at the same time. “Violet honey, are you alright?”

Violet nodded mutely. Mom screamed as the masks dropped from the ceiling. Dad put his mask on and helped Violet with hers. Mom hyperventilated into hers.

“What are we going to do Marshall? We’re going to die! We can’t die like this! This is—”

“Cynthia! Stop it! Where is the woman I married?”

Mom whimpered. She was crying. Violet clung to the armrests, realizing that this was all a very bad thing, but something was happening.

“I don’t know Marshall. The job, the money, the pressure to be better and better—”

Dad’s moustache bristled. “You’re already my personal best.” Noise picked up in the cabin. Violet saw Dad’s eagle tattoo cross her chest to reach her mother. A strained smile. “We must work together now. Will you work with me?”

Cynthia nodded, dabbing at her nose with a sleeve.

At Dad’s request, they unbuckled their belts and pulled Violet down between them. The descent was deafening now at a higher pitch. They faced one another, wrapping themselves around Violet, hands clutching arms, and Mom’s perfume soothing.  Their words were lost in the boom as the final engine exploded.


Did they survive? I'd like to think so. I wanted to present the point that in the most dire of circumstances, attitudes can changeoften for the better. Maybe we shouldn't wait til then. Cheers - C.C.

17 June 2010

"The Casket Crew: Folds" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com

They called us the Casket Crew in college, but we were something better than that. Janie was only seventeen, but she was a genius in biology. Thad was a brilliant surgeon in another life. I was just curious. I blame my dad for letting me get as far as I did. He’d slaughter the calves, and leave me the brains. Brains are mushy unless you do something to harden them. Like unset gelatin. Like cottage cheese.

We weren’t sure how long we’d have the formaldehyde so I conserved it the best I could. I boiled the brains, just like I did as a kid. We had to find the one person that wasn’t missing half his folds. Folds make you smarter. It’s like another ring in a growing tree. The ones we split had few folds. Opening them up felt like cauliflower. Pluck that glistening thing right out of the pod. If I cut wrong, the eyes would come out with it and I’d feel guilty in their dead stare.

Janie wore a lab coat. It had stains that looked like rust but it was blood. I think we all had permanent blood caked under our fingernails. It was part of the undertaking, only there was nowhere to take them to. They just kept going somehow, organic and melding with nature. Like a coma walking. They said nothing, ate nothing, and died after a few weeks as the body exhausted all resources.

It was like a death camp, but we weren’t responsible. We had to figure out why. We needed to find out how. I kept cutting brains, and Thad would toss the husks outside. We had to think of them as husks, not people. The only part that looked like people lay hardened in my hands:

Smooth and grey with no folds at all.

10 June 2010

"Eulogy" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: kingofcoleslaw from morguefile.com

Death is a delightful hiding place for weary men. - Herodotus

It rained that day. Damp earth mixed with silvered tears from heaven; drops slithering over the skin of our raised umbrellas to form mud. The red-clayed result fell inwards beneath the hovering casket adorned with a shield of white lilies. Eulogy was cited. Family muttered and sniffled behind black-gloved hands. The breeze collected around ladies’ stockinged ankles and felt up their fluttering mourning dresses. Their heels sank into the muck around this receiving hole that would take him in for eternity. We stood sentinel to a lifeless shell; we stood as wraiths in the storm.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. From earth we came, to earth we return. Amen.

Two of us stayed behind. She was pale as moonstone, delicate as ivory. Eyes of jade, lips curved and soft as velvet pillows. She held an umbrella. I did not. I stood there, shoulders hunched, sopping with wet and grief at words left unsaid. Her approach elicited no response from me. She offered her umbrella. Blood filled my mouth; I bit my tongue to prevent a lash-out. How dare she be kind to me?

The only time before that I’d seen her was in the passenger side of my father’s car.

03 June 2010

"Ruth" #Fridayflash

Photo credit: taliesin from morguefile.com

I remember my very first best friend. Her name was Ruth Smudrick. She was a lady ensconced behind her son's house in a pale burgundy trailer home. I discovered her one day at the same time I discovered her roses. We hit it off and after my parents approved of my visits, I would go see her almost every day. These were quiet times, when kids were pushed outdoors in the morning and didn't come home til it was very nearly dark. In time, I felt a love for this woman like my own grandmother, and learned how many different kinds of roses there really were in the world.

I remember the inside of her house like it was yesterday: dark, cool‑the gentle hum of the window unit as it ran non-stop. She played old-time radio and made fig preserves from our tree that grew on the property line between our yard and theirs.

Her son was flashy and drove a big black Lincoln. Shiny, with leather interior. I got to sit in it once. It was brand new, just like everything else behind their grand white two-story home. But Ruth's house was a modest place, everything in its place: a small table with two metal chairs predating the atomic age, a recliner that she said belonged to her husband. He was in Heaven, she said.

"There isn't a heaven like that," I said. "People wait, like the elders at church teach us." I was raised Jehovah's Witness, and they didn't believe in going to heaven, except for 144,000 people. Mom says those were the old ones, like Ruth maybe. She didn't know.

I loved to hear her talk. She was like a magnet for me. She wore flowered dresses and black orthopedic shoes. She said the white ones got dirty too easy. She kept sales brochures around, and wore an id bracelet that said she had diabetes. She made sugary treats, because I liked them, and I came nearly every day.

Then one day, dad brought home a big, big truck with the ominous "U-HAUL" emblazoned on the sides. Mom told me to tell Ruth goodbye, and that we would come visit. I hugged Ruth and cried. She always smelled good and her hair was always curled. She went into her bedroom, the room I never saw before. I followed her and saw pictures of her husband. I saw pictures of her flashy son when he was still just a kid. She opened an ancient oak trunk and pulled out a carefully-wrapped package. It was a quilt. She said she'd made it from scraps collected over a few years. It was warm, and she wanted me to have it.

I got in the big truck with dad and we drove away, the monster burdened with our house-full of things. Mom and I visited her at her house once, but it wasn't the same. It wasn't just me and Ruth and mom kept telling me not to touch Ruth's things, when before Ruth let me touch her knickknacks as long as I didn't break them.

I wanted to visit again, but mom got a phone call. Ruth was in the hospital. Mom stopped at the store and I picked out some nice orange flowers. They weren't marigolds, but it was the closest thing I could find.

The lady in the bed didn't look quite as plump as Ruth had been. I gave her the flowers and recognized her by her smile. We hugged again, careful not to pull the tubes from her arms. It was the last time I ever saw her.

I hope she made it to heaven.