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

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.

 

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

Breathing Problems

He took a short drag at his fingers, feeling the sweet, damning calm of the cigarette’s smoke.

“I gotta shake this thing,” he said. The brusque, bass voice lisped slightly at the “s’s.” Stocky, muscled arms shifted in their sleeves. Empathetically, the other man near him nodded, cleared his throat.

“Just impossible to breathe, with the air quality like this,” the friend answered. They both paused, cigarettes dangling and steaming, to appreciate the smog-fog condensing everywhere. Passing traffic was oddly muted and amplified; ghost cars invisible till they drew within twenty feet of the parking lot where the two stood.

The first coughed deeply, the sort that causes any happenstance listener to wince in commiseration.

“Ye-ep,” the second observed. “We gotta fix that, Dave.” He took another inhale of nicotined fumes.

Dave finished coughing, breathed a shaky, careful intake, and gave his friend a look. He wiped his thick, mustard sleeve across his mouth. Inherent condensation accompanied the gesture, irritating his lips further.

“Damn fog,” Dave quietly noted. He drew a final breath from his cigarette, watching his friend do the same. “‘Bout done, Nate?”

Nate drew his gaze back from the woman who had just exited her SUV, back from the building she’d entered. Meeting Dave’s questioning eyes, he exhaled. “Ye-ep.”

Nodding, they each dropped their burned-up, paper hulls and ground them under steel-toed work boots.

Wiping slightly sweaty hands on mist-moist pant legs, they strode toward the Health Clinic. It was time for Dave’s appointment with the naturopath.

I’ll ‘Twas You

Don’t get me wrong. I think Clement C. Moore threw together an excellent bit of rhyming in his day.

My favorite parts are the classic words one just doesn’t hear anymore; like sash, lustre, and droll.

That, and the specific stanza

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

But, I just can’t stand reading it anymore.

Okay, okay -I can tolerate once. Only the original version, however.

I have a medically-certified reaction to knock-offs. The doctor was a questionnaire online and the tests run were a personal evaluation of how much I wanted to throttle the author of each parody -but, still certified.

“‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving / and all through our den / Not a turkey was clucking / Or even a hen.”

My body jerks, like a convulsion. I’m reminded of the times I felt sick but was straining to not vomit, like during pregnancy.

My blood pressure rises. My fingers begin twitching, itching to banish the sorry knock-off to the Downvote Pit of Internetland forever.

I’ll rip their attempt at poetry from their webpage, light it on fire, then burn down the rest of their creative works to keep this brainlessness under wraps.

Or, I’ll realize what’s going on by the second line and simply not read it.

Either-or.

Snappy McSprinkles

Elf

They’re sleepin’, so quiet-like. Little pink cheeks smile in dreamland. Soft breathing’s moving their fluffy blankets.

Perfect.

Now, time to untie this string. I’ve been hangin’ around all day, grinning like a fool.

They’ll be the fools soon.

C’mon, striiiiing! I broke through thicker ropes back at The Pen’!

Good ole North Pole Pen. You don’t hear any annoying Christmas songs about that place. Just crap about naughty and nice and coal and presents.

Candy-coated lies, that’s what.

If I just twist this way -oh. The dog. Glaring. Waiting for me to fall. You can fool those fat humans, but never the slobbering dog.

I even tricked a pet parrot once. He was completely clueless, right up till I pulled the first feather. Would’ve had bird for dinner if Blabbermouth Jingle hadn’t seen.

Made for an impressive scar, anyway.

Nice, doggie. Stop growling; go to bed. I’m just a toy, ya dumb mutt. Just a tied-up toy hanging EXACTLY WHERE FUDGING MOM STRUNG ME UP!

What kind of mom ties up a toy, anyway? What kind of twisted caregiver can’t even use a toy the way she’s supposed to?!

Oh! Footsteps. Stop swinging, string. It’s just the wind, dumb broad -I swear.

“Stay, Duke.”

That’s right, ya drooling waste. Stay there. You’ll be asleep soon, too. She doesn’t tie me up every night.

“Hmmm. Where should we put Snappy tonight, Duke?”

Why ya talkin’ to the dog, lady? It’s not like he can answer you. Just wait till you hide me near the Christmas presents. saw that chemistry set. Ha ha. Dead dog, anyone?

Yeah, don’t whine at me. I’m more valuable than you, dog. I’m Santa’s secret messenger and all that.

“I think we’ll do a treat tonight.”

Oh, good. Make it truffles, woman. I’m tired of eating that candy cane crap. That’s all I got in the joint, too: candy canes. You’d think Santa could hire someone who branched a bit, but no.

Maybe they have some sort of deal with Wal-Mart for all the unsold candy from a decade ago.

Dots and Dubble Bubbles! She is doing candy canes. And, duct tape. Why ya got duct tape? What the -no! No no no no no no no -ouch! Oomph!

“Good night, Snappy. Come, Duke.”

Oh, sure. Of course it’s a good night for your walking pet drool machine. He’s not taped to a box of Fun Dippin’ CANDY CANES! He can probably move to piss somewhere besides his own fleecy bottoms and jingling shoes.

Just keep it up, all of ya. I’ll wait. Every night you tie me is one more slit in a sleeping neck. Who’ll be seeing dancing sugarplums then, huh?

Adventures, Right Here

Quick! Open the door to hide from siblings’ seeking. You’ll need a fur coat -there, at your elbow.

Now; watch a filthy-fingered store owner glare at young boys, as she discovers a well-placed rat retribution.

Laugh the painful glee of snappy satire; chortle in appreciation of the cynic.

Sing along to “Come, Thou Font,” or “Camptown Races.”

Hold your breath for 20,000 leagues. You’ll need a harpoon; no, don’t ask why.

¿Que pasa, amigo? ¿Te gustaría aprender español?

Come, my fellow bibliophile, to the library. Only here may you travel so broadly, and taste-test such varied fare.

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Entry

Only In

I want to leave, permanently.

When reality has nothing beyond piles of housework and fighting children, their susceptible health worsened by the toxic temperament you seep with-

When a positive attitude is a mask, crafted by sugared substance and numbed emotions-

When the events you look forward to must, inevitably, include your offspring or some expensive caregiver-

When your soulmate shutters his heart against the pain of association, and says you are only darkness-

Only in the Mind of Depression is it logical to stand at the top-post railing of Life and contemplate the sweet possibility of permanently leaving.

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Entry

Christmas Morning

Boy Christmas Tree

Ella settled onto her blanket, squirming with excitement. She could hear her heart beating -almost as loudly as Baby Mia’s breathing, from the crib.

Ella knew, when morning came, there might not be presents under the tree.

When she and Jake wrote letters to Santa forever ago, Mommy had said, “Don’t expect too much.”

When they had gone to the stores to see Santa, Daddy had said, “Now, don’t expect too much.”

That night, they had read about Jesus. “Jesus was the greatest gift,” Daddy said. He had looked at them, reminding them what was important.

Then, they had unwrapped the pajamas Mommy made. Ella wondered why Mommy kept crying. “Don’t expect too much, Mommy,” she’d said.

Ella heard a knock. She scampered to her door. She could see Jake’s dark face, peeking.

Mommy opened the front door. There were happy voices. Daddy turned, and scolded, “Ella, Jake! Get back in bed or Santa won’t come!” Jake’s nose went back into his room. Ella went back to her blankets.

Who is at the door? She wondered, as she drifted off to sleep.

Soon, Jake was shaking her. “Ewha! Chwismas!” He danced around the room, shouting. Mommy came in, looking tired. She scooped up Baby Mia.

Ella jumped up and followed Jake to the family room. She stopped, toes curling in carpet. There were boxes and boxes in bright, shimmering colors. Slowly, wondering, Ella walked forward.

She stopped, then looked happily at Mommy. “I guess I should have expected too much!”

 

Susanna Hill’s 7th Annual Holiday Contest