Boots

They were nearly there, near the sunlight-glinted theatre doors. An overhead clock pointed to ten-past starting.

She looked back, down the warm-yellow sidewalk. Slowly but always steadily, he came with his slanted plodding. He’d never had an impeding injury; she teased that he walked in unknown imitation of his own, flat-flooted father.

Sinking sunset rays flared an occasional reflection from his eyeglasses as he turned to look behind: at their parked car across the street, to either side: interesting geological landscape, and forward (finally): to his waiting wife.

She held out a hand; smiling, loving. “Let’s go, Boots.”

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge

Wet Ink

Neon Dragon

“Nearly done, darlin’.” Her makeup-lined lips pursed over prominent, yellowed teeth; a purpled tongue-stub protruded in concentration.

“Sue’s the best,” they’d said, in town. “Just ask for Sue.”

I flinched, involuntarily. “I wouldn’t do that,” she warned. Her potato-skin face never changed expression. Cataract-blue globes never strayed from the machined needle beneath her age-veined fingers.

“Just don’ get the snake,” an old-timer warned. “You’re not gettin’ a snake, are ya?”

A stool creak, a whoosh of compressed vinyl stooltop, and Sue was done. I peeked, tentatively, and gasped in amazement. Slowly, I shifted my shoulder and neck-view forward and backward to see the deep golds, reds, and blues of the dragon’s ink-birthed scales.

“Tommy got the snake,” the diner owner supplied, not looking up from her countertop rag-wiping circles. The group all shuddered and returned to their lunches. Morbidly determined, I’d headed out the door and down the single-lane road to the flicker-light neon of the town’s only tattoo parlor.

Sue looked …the same. Her shriveled glare-stare blinked once or twice as she methodically cleaned the tip of the needle. “Don’t you forget to let ‘im dry,” she scolded, wagging the tool my direction.

Who was Tommy? Why did it matter that he’d picked the snake?

I nodded to Sue, paid, and left through the tinkle-ting of the chipped-paint shop door. A light snow was beginning to fall. Absentmindedly, I slipped on my jacket. It was cold, everywhere except my still-wet arm…

 

This is my fuller-length version of Wait for It to Dry.

Photo credit: Mendar Bouchali on Unsplash

“If I am to succeed, the sooner I know it, the less uneasiness I shall have to go through.
“If I am to meet with a disappointment, the sooner I know it, the more of life I shall have to wear it off…”

-Thomas Jefferson, On an Affair of the Heart, to John Page, July 15, 1763

Skinwalkers, I

Nathan’s watch beeped a warning chirp of impending tardiness; a friendly, authoritative sound. Frowning, he glanced down at its innocent display. He smoothed errant arm wrinkles near the expensive band, and returned to his mirror-task.

Cool, panicked eyes of blue looked out from a handsome, even-tempered face. He tried a confident smile, opening a seam near his cheekbone. Hastily, he brought large, artificially-fattened fingers to press at the sides of his neck.

Confidence was always a difficult one for Nathan to master.

He closed the worried eyes, gripped the stuck-down edge of countertop in both hands, and began his meditative-breathing exercises.

*Thumpety, thumpety, thumpet, thumpe, thump, thump, thump* slowed his heart’s percussion-nervous beat.

“I am the boss,” he whispered to the Formica. It dully echoed the end of his words.

Nathan cleared his throat. “I. am. the. boss,” he spoke aloud.

He opened his eyes again, telling himself they now looked self-assured. “I am the boss!” He loudly told them, the chipped sink, the splotched mirror, and himself.

“You sure are!” Came the muted reply from his wall-neighbor.

“Thanks, Franks,” he called, sarcastically.

“No prob, Boss!” Franks yelled back drunkenly. “Now, go to work and let us lazy asses sleep!”

Nathan took a breath in through his nostrils, and out slowly through his lips. Realizing a tingling feeling in his actual fingers, he released the countertop. He yanked convulsively at the top bathroom drawer; revealing toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, eyedrops, and sundry hairs and paint chips. He withdrew the bottle of drops, dusted it, removed its stopper.

Carefully tilting his head back against its facial folds, he inserted a single drop into each twitching orb.

Immediately, a burning pain filled his ocular sensors. He tried not to wince nor rub at his eyes; resisted crying or yelling. Franks was trying to sleep off a hangover, after all.

Almost as soon as it had begun, the pain receded. That, or Nathan had acclimated. He was never quite sure. He glanced, again, in the mirror. A hazy reflection stared back at him with very solid, somewhat red-rimmed eyes.

Nathan tried to smile. Perfect.

 

Are You in There?

Are you in there? In
side the echo of
sedgewater walls amplifying
rhetorical
sounds

I can’t stop the
SHOUTING! SHOUTING! SHOUTING!
queries of noise
infiltrating my
emptispace!

GO AWAY!
I came here to get away;
to not hear you
SHOUTING
What’s wrong?

Probably just
everything.
Else, I’d be outside
in the garden, in the sunlight
laughing
blissfully thinking nothing
happily feeling nothing

But a different nothing:
an actual not-a-thing
of
no concerns
of
stand. alone. happiness.

Outside of
empty echoing walls
dark spaces
a corner
out of the way

where
I
will
not
be
hurt
by
you

Diet and Ex-orcism

Track

Within the past half-year, I have been participating in a cruel and unusual recreational activity known as exercise.

Don’t get me wrong; I love some exercise, like sprinting. I especially love the challenge of racing out of the blocks, elbow-to elbow with contenders, barreling toward a long row of impenetrable hurdles.

Those last few sentences should have been past tense. I haven’t had the physical ability to hurdle since creating human beings. Baby production takes your nutrients, smooth skin, ability to sit on a metal chair, and sprinting capabilities.

To be honest, I still have enough youth left in me to be able to sprint. That’s one reason why I’ve been participating in YouTube aerobic sessions and occasional gym visits: to be able to move.

Whenever I get impatient about being fit, I feel like I’m trying to drag a fat body (mine) with me around the track.

Not one to settle for one form of masochism, either, I’ve recently added dieting.

If bottom-shaping exercises online are led by twisted, pain-driven persons; and my adherence to such a thing is a form of crazy cultism; then voluntary sugar-starvation only cinches my questionable sanity.

Why? Why, universe? Why did I ever give up the wonderful delicacy that was sugar; most especially, chocolate?

I hate to say it, but it seems to be working. I’ve noticed a difference.

Cutting refined sugar and white bread out of my diet has been the most-effective weight loss I’ve ever done. Like, 2 lbs lost a week.

It definitely works better than my past plan: eat really healthy until around 3:00 p.m., then consume whatever’s edible until bedtime. (Coincidentally, 3:00 is the time my grown offspring return from free, educational, public babysitting.)

I may want to kill someone for a chocolate chip at the end of the first day or two, but it’s worth it to push through past that hurdle. I’m really only competing with myself.

And the end result? A winning figure.

Recurring Story: Thirty

Wil contemplatively chewed on what may have been a carrot.  She was happily absorbed in the remainder of her crossword, and ate without tasting her least favorite meal the school provided: meatloaf with mashed potatoes.

CENTRAL connected with FLOWER and left space for AB and BOTTLE. Lower down, however, SEED wasn’t working with HAND. She hadn’t heard whatever quote was listed for that clue. As such, Wil would have just skipped those few blank squares and moved on. Unfortunately, the beginning letter was important.

After reading over the paper in the locker room before Gym class before lunch, Wil had noticed that some squares had a darker outline. She guessed they formed key letters of a puzzle that would give her a message once she had them all.

She absentmindedly scooped up some instant potatoes, and tried to think as she slurped them off her spoon. “One in the hand is worth two in the what?” She said quietly.

The barely glinting sunlight outside the tinted doors shone randomly on the courtyard beyond. She watched its dance and remembered stepping around the silent area just yesterday. Wil cut off a piece of soggy meat, placed it in her mouth, chewed a bit, and swallowed.

Slowly, she repeated, “One in the hand is worth two in the …?”

“Bush,” an old woman’s voice near her finished.

Startled out of her reverie, Wil looked to the speaker. To her left hunched one of the lunch ladies who patrolled the cafeteria. The woman’s face looked just like the pre-packaged croissants they served sometimes, if one added two beady eyes and gray curls under a hair net to the top.

“Oh,” Wil stammered. “Uh, thank you.”

The creases turned upward as the older woman’s small eyes lit up slightly. “Oh, you’re welcome, dear.” Lunchlady Croissant turned thick-soled off-white sneakers around, and went back to her usual duty of glaring at irresponsible teenagers. Wil heard bits of something about kids these days and old sayings.

Remembering her task at hand, she turned back to her paper. “B-U-S-H,” She intoned as she wrote. Her key letter was B.

Excitedly, she penciled in more and more answers. The contents of her lunch tray diminished as the spaces filled with letters and Wil’s stomach filled with substance. She washed the bad taste down with milk and viewed the results happily.

Capitals boldly filled every black square, interlocking and completing chains and paths of words. The crossword was finished; at least, she was fairly certain it was.

She scanned the chart in traditional Arabic writing fashion of left to right and wrote the key letters at the bottom of the page: T, M, E, E, Y, B, R, R, L, I, A, B, Y, R, E, F, A, T, S, C, H, O, O, L.

The bell and the recognition of yet another puzzle punctured Wil’s spirits like a small cut near the base of a latex balloon. She stuffed the paper and her pencil into her binder, and gathered her lunch things together.

She carried her tray over to the washing area, where she once again saw the helpful worker. “Thanks, dear,” Lunchlady said, and Wil was more certain of a smile this time.

Smiling a rare, truly pleasant response, Wil went back to collect her things from the table.

Wait for It to Dry

Neon Dragon

“Nearly done, darlin’.” Her purpled tongue-stub protruded.

“Sue’s the best,” they’d said, in town.

I flinched. “I wouldn’t do that.” Her potato-skin face was expressionless. Cataract-blue globes never strayed from her age-veined fingers.

“Just don’ get the snake,” an old-timer warned.

A stool creak told me Sue was done. I peeked, gasped, and shifted my shoulder to view the deep golds and blues of the dragon’s ink-birthed scales.

Sue looked …the same. “Don’t you forget to let ‘im dry,” she scolded.

I nodded, paid, left. Absentmindedly, I slipped on my jacket. It was cold, everywhere except my arm…

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge

Photo credit: Mendar Bouchali on Unsplash

Ideas

When do you whisper these well-formed words,

The thought-strung wishes your mind made?

They’ve been dancing round a life-numbed brain

Awaiting a chance to alight.

 

Why won’t you hear their fluttering feelings,

Their pleadings, in soft-spoken thoughtspeak?

Why turn an eager mental ear-hear

To angry-loud worldshout wailing?

 

Who else will gather these bent-broken fairies,

Wearying, slowing; near-dropping?

Their language extinct, their toe-dust unsparkled

Your brainstem a graveyard of art.

Petites Boîtes

When I was but a francophiliac teenager, we learned a song titled “Petites Boîtes.” The first stanza of lyrics is as follows:

Petites boîtes très étroites
Petites boîtes faites en ticky-tacky
Petites boîtes, petites boîtes
Petites boîtes toutes pareilles.

Translated, which I will not attempt in a reasonable English stanza for the sake of not killing Graeme Allright’s fun-sounding word-rhymes, it says:

Little boxes, very narrow; little boxes made of ticky-tacky; little boxes (x3) all the same.

The obvious gist of the song is that everyone goes through life staying in these boxes that look the same, that they’ve always been in: growing up in the same neighborhood, attending university, making children, their children follow exactly the same path; we even die and are put in boxes in the ground.

I hate boxes.

When I converse with people, I begin squirming at social categorization. Ironically, I have (of course) already placed the other person into neat little groups in my mind. Ah, he’s wearing a camouflage coat and just got out of his jacked-up pickup truck. As he strokes his mustache and stubble, I can tell he must be in favor of: hunting animals, no gun control, and (perhaps) being suspicious of all authority figures.

Meanwhile, I feel like parking down the block so no one sees that I came by minivan. I dislike discussing religion or politics. When asked about favorites, I sweat.

Thing is, I may fit into many of these boxes (petites boîtes -it’s so fun to say!). I just don’t like the idea that someone places me immediately into one, only one, and assumes I’ve all the associated characteristics of someone else who also might behave in a way that places him or her in there.

So… I tend to introduce myself in a way that shakes up typical introductory patterns. “Hi, I’m Chelsea and I can write with my toes,” or “My favorite food? Good food, definitely.” Or, most often, I’m going to just sit and nod and pretend I also like what’s-her-name-Gaines and that I actually watch TV and so they assume I can hang out in their little corner of interests.

Mature, I’m sure. Perhaps you, the reader, have a better approach.

In the meantime, I’ve got to get into my mom-van and pick up children from school, as part of a carpool. I’ll be listening to alternative music on the way and acting like I own a much different vehicle.

I’ve always wanted a lifted pickup truck and camouflage jacket…