“Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug.”
“Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug.”
Stan heard his door’s assailant before the knocking; a shush-shush against the cement leading to his flat. He rose; walked; opened; stared. There, upon his stoop, was Death himself.
“Er,” Stan managed. What does one say to Death?
In what should have been an anticipated reaction, Stan’s guest only stared.
Stan scuffed a foot against his carpet. He bit his lip. Swung his arms.
Death still stared.
“So….” Stan tried. “May I help you?”
A nod. Silence.
Stan hadn’t thought Death would be so awkward. *Ahem* “How so?”
Impossible as it seemed; Stan knew, somehow, that his somber companion frowned in thought. Death reached a skeletal hand from draping cloak-sleeve to internal robe and withdrew a scrap of parchment. Hand and paper extended toward Stan.
Stan received the paper; declined the hand. Stan Dubrough, 17:00, he read. His palms felt chill and his body followed right after. Both jumped at Death’s bony finger, tapping to point at the name. His name: Stan Dubrough.
“That’s-” Stan squeaked. “That’s me.”
His guest’s other hand appeared from near the door-post. It gripped an awful, glinting scythe.
“The time’s not right, though,” Stan said, as though observing the weather.
The scythe paused. Stan sensed confusion. He also, inexplicably, recalled his mother’s exasperated reprimand, “Always a stickler for accuracy, aren’t you, Stan?”
Death stared. Asking.
“It says ’17:00,’ right?”
A slow nod.
“And, that’s 5 p.m.; yes?”
“Well,” Stan concluded in a cheery tone, “It’s now going on 6.” He chuckled a bit till he recalled who his visitor was, and then wisely swallowed. “Hm; yes. Thing is: you’re a bit late.”
If a dark-cloaked being without voice could look gobsmacked, Death did. Without a word, he extended his non-scythe hand. Stan returned the paper and watched it disappear within the cloak folds. Then, just as silently, Death and his scythe turned and left.
Stan listened to the shush-shush of departure turn the corner before shutting his door. Returning to his couch seat, another of his mother’s oft-spoken sayings came to mind: “Stan, you’re so bent on being right you’d tell Death himself if he were late.”
“Well, mum,” he said, looking to the urn atop his mantel, “Looks like you were right after all.”
Submitted, at the last, for The 2019 Bloggers Bash Competition.
The pictures people post of life are beautiful, artistic, happy, and well-framed. They are also less than a second of time, and 4×6 inches of a multi-perspective panorama. Better make them the best, right?
So, when you see this pile of mess I’ve included, you may wonder where the beauty is. Why would I post this?
For the story. For the reality.
This pile is what was left after my two youngest (ages 6 and 4) mixed and baked a chocolate cake completely by themselves. They did so after making grilled cheese sandwiches and (somewhat charred) tomato soup for dinner.
I’m not certain why the “cakes” boiled over into the oven since I was returning from martial arts at the time. My twelve-year-old suspects they severely over-measured the baking soda. My husband was with them and told me how excited the six-year-old was for me to come home to a surprise dinner and a whole cake!
If I were aiming for artistry, I could pose the bakers’ chocolate-stained faces in front of a symmetrically-messy counter. I could write that my darling, budding chefs made dinner and dessert. Then I could elaborate, saying we ended the evening singing songs of family unity and went to bed before sundown.
The problem is that the evening did not end with dessert and singing. The problem is that I tried to clean up the remains of amateur baking with the oven’s self-clean option. That method didn’t last long.
As I sit in our smoke-scented house and listen to the roaring fans downstairs, I can’t help but consider how much easier this day would have been if I’d not allowed them to create their dessert surprise.
Then, I remember what my husband said about our budding baker. “That was so sweet of you!” I tell my six-year-old as we tuck him in. “I am so impressed that you made dinner and a whole cake by yourself!” As he swells with self-pride I suggest gently, “Let’s make it together next time.”
I just love life aphorisms. I love them about as much as the daily grind of housework that regenerates every five seconds.
“Don’t worry; everyone feels that way.”
Really? If everyone felt the way I do, the world would be on fire. At the very least, I would not see so many smiling people getting out of the house and purchasing avocados for their lunch break.
In an actual session, my counselor voiced this advice. “I don’t think that’s true,” I countered. “Most people, when asked about a recent vacation, don’t go on about world disparity.” She laughed, and I noticed she didn’t disagree. Face it: everyone does not feel the way I do.
“People will love you for who you are.”
No, people will not. People sense or see or smell the negative vibes emanating from my socially-anxious person before I even speak about world disparity. I see it in the falter of their smile (if it was there), in the excuse to go… anywhere and get out of the conversation.
Close family members are the only ones to use “love” with me, and do so with hesitation. I can tell they expect that world-burning explosion part of me to bite them in response. I probably ought to stop doing that…
“You can do anything you set your mind to.”
Yeah, maybe after the laundry is done. Even then, ‘anything I set my mind to’ is probably going to be an uninterrupted trip to the bathroom.
I’ve thought of writing a bestseller, but that requires daycare and emotional stress on family life. I’ve considered a job outside the house, but that requires daycare and emotional stress on family life. I’ve also toyed around with going back to school, but that requires an insane amount of debt and daycare and emotional stress on family life.
“We only regret the chances we didn’t take.”
I regret everything. I second-guess myself before the chance, during it, and after it’s passed.
Besides, in my profession as mother, I can’t simply decide to be a roving gypsy. Child Protective Services frowns upon decisions like that.
Perhaps good advice works; you know, for ‘everyone.’ For me and others who may view things similarly, what do you say? “Tomorrow is another day?” Of course it is, stupid. Yesterday was another day, too.
There’s got to be an evolutionary advantage to cynicism, right?
One of these parent teacher conferences, I’m going to turn to my abdomen and say, “Well, Ovaries, what do you have to say about this?”
A fine mist dances across the dark street gutters. A cat calls. An angry woman answers it. Besides these, nothing.
Just the way Julias likes it.
He checks his watch, knowing full well what time it is by the nighttime noises; playing at patience in an impatient mood. Where is that boy?!
Just then, in the absence of cat and woman mewls, his keen ears make out the soft pattern of Wal-Mart sneakers on misty sidewalks. He pulls against the cool stucco of the nearby house, pulls out of view of any wandering streetlamp circles.
The sneakers draw closer, stop, scuffle, squeak, scuffle again. Julias hears a hissing, whispered, “Julias?”
Won’t the kid ever use the code names? He steps out; Sneaker Boy nearly yelps out of his skin. Julias gives the youth a look. “Use the names, Squirt.”
A nod, barely perceptible in the drifting fog. “Right.”
Julias sighs, slouches. “Did you get them, or not?”
Squirt grows animated, and pulls a rustling, bulging grocery sack from his jacket. The contents nearly spill all over the dirty, cracked, moodily-lit gutter.
“Shhhhh! Careful!” Julias admonishes, almost losing his normal, chill demeanor. Man, I really need my hit.
“Sorry, Juli- I mean, Sorry, Emperor-Maul-of-the-Alleys.”
Julias stares at the runt for a full five seconds, and then sticks out a hand for the bag.
Gulping, Squirt appeases the empty palm. He watches Julias (AKA Emperor Maul of the Alleys) close his fist on the handle and withdraw his arm. Squirt gulps again. “So… erm, about payment….?”
Julias fixes the boy in another silent stare. The cat and woman from a few alleys over converse again in the silent, swirling air. Slowly, Julias sticks the other hand into a deep pocket. It returns, bearing $40.16. Squirt lifts his own hand to receive it; counts the full amount in the dim lighting.
“Hhh- how’d you know the current exchange rate?” Squirt asks, his voice full of awe.
Julias looks up from rifling through the grocery sack; pauses. “I always do,” he says, in a mysterious way. “Now, get outta here before I use yesterday’s rates.”
Just remembering not to yelp again in fright, the boy jumps and takes off down the dark sidewalk, down the fog-lit alley of night. His retreating sneakers echo a more rapid pace than the percussive song they played at their entry.
Smirking beneath the guise of darkness and mists, Julias pulls out his prizes: 1 packet of Fox’s Glacier Mints and 24 cans of Diet Coke. It’d been a steep price to also pay for the kid’s gasoline, but a man doesn’t haggle when he needs his fix. Thinking on this, he sets the cans and package at his feet and carefully withdraws an empty bottle from yet another pocket.
For the first time that night, he hears only the occasional passing car or burst of wind. The dame and her pet must have gone to bed. Uncapping the bottle and opening the package of mints, he fills one with a few of the other. Next, he removes a can of soda from its plastic ring and tilts the tab till it opens in a satisfying *ptissssh*. He pours the Diet Coke into the bottled mints, caps the top, and allows himself a few seconds’ pause.
With an expression of pure bliss, he suddenly shakes the contents like a madman. He uncaps the bottle and dances, grinning fully, in the sticky shower sparkling down amongst the mists and streetlights.
Laughing, quietly, he dumps the remaining solution down the gutter and turns again to his purchases. One down, 23 to go…
In response to Fractured Faith Blog’s Flash Fiction Challenge.
Good day, fellow art-lovers. On this fine morning, as you are all well aware, we gather to consider the latest artistic offerings one might find in his local market. Our pieces this day are all found in a curious shop named KSL Classifieds.
Without further ado, then, ladies and gentlemen, let us begin.
Our first sample is titled “Orange.”
Yes, yes it is. ‘Twould seem the artist felt no other explanation was necessary, and the seller as well. For $45, this… erm, orange, may be yours for the picking. (So sorry; it was too tempting.)
If obvious statements are your cachet, then our second item (for a mere $10) will leave you feeling …fabulous.
No, madame, I will not pronounce it as written. Anyone who cannot spell, nor include a photograph instead of a screen shot deserves to be shot. What’s that, sir? No, no. I was simply mumbling about the weather. Terribly hot day, this.
Of course, we are not simply purveyors of paltry paintings at this establishment. Those who wish to open their pocketbooks slightly wider may appreciate an original …print of an artwork, crafted by a man known as The Painter of Light.
I can’t help but feel the vendor did little to forward that reputation, by want of a clear lens for photographing. Ah, well, perhaps you may all picture its beauty, and thereby feel compelled to pay the $250 price tag.
Although I have studied and promoted creative works for many years, I’ll admit that some popular items still elude my personal preferences. Therefore, if any here express interest in Colombian paintings for their bathroom (as suggested by the seller), I’ll do my best to back them up.
I’d say to move quickly on this $135 oil painting, but I imagine she’s not going anywhere in a hurry.
Our organizers thought this wall “art” might do well to follow the woman at her toilette; I can’t imagine why.
But really, what better place to rid oneself of an entire paycheck than on secondhand art? Take this print, for example, at $300:
“(B)eautifully framed urn artwork in pristine condition” advertises the owner. I agree. Tai Pan Trading did an excellent job purchasing framed and glassed-in Chinese merchandise, selling them to willing buyers, then closing down once said buyers could pick up their own through Amazon dealers.
Esteemed collectors such as you fine people know the value of a good piece. You know, for example, that a Renoit or Rembrandt is worth its sticker -provided one may prove its authenticity.
Therefore, you also know that a piece by an up-and-coming artist no one has heard of (and a name the vendor himself will not list) is most certainly worth $7,000.
Since it is also un-titled, we will refer it is as Bird Merchant with an Extra Hand in the Shadow of Random Nudity. Don’t be shy, now; step up and part with the minor sum post-haste.
All you fine patrons who have held out for true genius, this final artwork will not disappoint:
Twenty-five dollars, ladies and gentlemen. Twenty-five United States currency is all that separates you from artistic perfection.
As our session draws to a close, I wish to thank you all for your kind patronage and generous manner. Please feel free to join us in future, whenever we may have material enough to promote once again.
“Don’t worry. In a few years you’ll have dried up and it won’t be a problem anymore.”
“You have one every month. Shouldn’t you be used to the pain by now?”
“It’s better than the alternative, right?”
“Well, that explains things.”
“Hi, honey. I happened to be at the store during lunchtime and they had your favorite chocolate on sale. Here’s a case of it.”
“I’m so happy to see you! I was just thinking, ‘I haven’t made dinner in a while.’ How about you go take a nice, hot shower for a few hours and I’ll take care of dinner and cleanup.”
“Hi, sweetie. I have great news for you: I just read about this surgery they can do to remove a woman’s uterus and place it inside her husband -but only during that time of the month. I signed us up for today; let’s go!”
A lovely new faucet and sink
Decided to drip through a chink.
“Look, ma: a pool!”
Cried the poor mother’s fool.
The plumber charged $699.
I began the summer following the Pre-Romantic Vacation Diet and have now hit the I Forgot I Have Children All Day Diet.
Hopefully I’ll find more self-control come September.