Oh what a glorious time we are living in when there are so many talented writers of flash fiction. Episode 18 is full of twists and turns infused with individual interpretations of “salvation”. As with each episode it is my hope that you will read all of the stories in a row for the full effect of the dream I have tried to weave out of eight separation pieces of flash fiction. If a single piece tickles your fancy, then go back and enjoy it again. They are small blasts of fiction….go ahead and consume them all at once! I would like to welcome new writers Danica Green and Michael D. Goscinski to the fold as well as some familiar faces: Len Kuntz, Robert Vaughan, Kyle Hemming, Kristin Fouquet, Cheryl Ann Gardner and Jodi MacArthur. Enjoy being saved…one word at a time.
Category: Episode 18
She says, “Your kisses are starting to give me paper cuts.” She says she dreams in black and white now, no different than a dog.
In bed we stare at the walleyed moon but it does not look back at us. A sheath of cloud cover sleets by like a lost ghost.
“Tomorrow we should look for lost children,” she says.
The little girl went missing on Tuesday. Neighbors have formed search parties. Tomorrow is Saturday, a day off for me.
“It’s not your fault, you know,” I say.
“No, of course not.” But she looks worried. Her pupils have no light left in them. I’ve been wrong all along: my wife dreams must all be in black, not white or shaded spots at all. I try to coax her. I say, “We could stay in bed and make love all day. We used to do that.”
She eyes me like a disappointed moose. “Yes, we did.”
“We should look for the girl.”
“Yes, we should.”
Behind the AM/PM, the lot gives way to a field of crunchy brown ground and weed grass. Thistles catch in my socks. Brush rakes spiked leaf tips across my calves and I wish I’d worn long pants.
“What if we find her?” she asks. What if she’s dead when we find her, she means.
“It will be horrible but it will also mean the start of closure.”
“Do you always have to be a shrink?”
I don’t answer because I’m not sure what that answer should be. I wish I could turn it off. It’s no picnic being me.
We look for hours. We call out the girl’s pretty-sounding name. We take turns.
That night we sit on the porch under the belly of a bleak, black night, a smattering of itching to glimmer. My wife has her knees drawn up under her chin.
“We should make up a new version.”
“A better ending?” I say, realizing after the words are out that they could be taken as uncouth and cruel.
As she rocks back and forth, the moon arrives and seems pleased.
“You’ll have to start.”
I know what she’s thinking, that if she begins, the story will end badly. The girl will have died a gruesome death. She’d gotten close herself when she was a little girl. In a way, my wife went missing, too. She and her sister were playing Hide N Seek in a field. Laura, my wife, was older but slower. Laura called “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!” over and over, but the tall wheat grass had got her, taken her someplace, and Laura’s sister was never seen again.
I reach out to hold Laura’s hand now and she lets me. This is good, I think, a resetting.
I pull my wife close; breathe in the smell of her hair which is like warm bread. I kiss the scalp where she’s parted her hair.
I begin. I whisper, “The girl came out of the tunnel dizzy but happy to see so much earthly sunshine.”
Every Friday night we play cards. It’s better reality than TV, sliding into a couch potato couple, waking up a decade later to expanding waists and tunnel vision. Up to me, I’d toss our TV out with the recyclables.
Tonight we’re drinking beer out of shot glasses on our living room rug. I only need a queen. Peggy looks hot in her blue tube top, shuffling her cards around, as if that’s going to help. Her latest habit, yoga, seems to really be helping her esteem. She stares, narrowing her eyes.
“Any time now.” I drum my fingers, feign like I’ve been waiting all day. She discards exactly what I need: queen of hearts. I snatch it, display my cards in front of me: a royal flush. I can’t recall ever holding that. “Rummy!” I shout, lifting my other fist in the air.
“You’re a cheater,” Peggy blurts. She tosses her cards onto mine, scoots further away on the carpet.
I stare at the rummy flush, the red hearts pulse like those cinnamon candies that crack your teeth. “Am not.” I chug the shot of Dos Equis, refill it. Our usual rule: winner drinks both. Shots. Instead, I say, “Drink up,” trying to make her feel better.
But Peggy isn’t playing, her lips tremble, looks near tears.
“What?” I ask. I wonder if it is her usual stuff, but sense it might not be.
“I didn’t…” she starts. Her neck becomes patchy, a tear slips down. “I never meant to–”
“Just drink your shot.” I shuffle the cards, won’t look at her.
Slowly, I deal the five cards for the next hand.
New York City is in the grips of a heat wave. White smoky demons rise from car radiators. Old women feint from dehydration, fall through manholes in the streets, sewers below sewers. Kat rescues one such woman. In the back booth at a McDonald’s, the woman paper-crowns Kat as Princess of the Speechless. She promises to be Kat’s hidden guardian. Kat has a dream of the woman turning into a Persian with emerald eyes, the same one she drew for Manga class. Slowly, the heat lifts from the streets. The sky is not a hollow drum. Kat is seized by a mania for lanky boys with green eyes. There is a space between night and day where New York City resembles crystal. Words are too heavy to float. Victims jump from windows and live to grow tall. In his apartment over a narrow street of stunted elms, a boy with rubber soles dances for Kat. In her new love, she stretches beyond sunrise and winks at a familiar cloud, as clear as her own sky writing across city walls.
Some identical twins want independence. Not Francesca and me. We were indistinguishable on the outside and on the inside, we shared an identity. Before the accident, we communicated telepathically.
We should have taken the bus home that day. When Byron offered us a ride, I couldn’t resist. His car didn’t have seat belts and it was always breaking down, but there was nothing wrong with Byron. I thought he was perfect.
Without a word, Francesca climbed in back. I knew she disapproved.
As he drove, Byron continually turned to me. He flirted and I responded. Our eyes were momentarily locked as he ran the red light. Francesca leaned forward and grabbed my shoulders, violently pulling me back, as we crashed into the driver’s side of a car. I would have gone through the windshield had she not clung to me. As we made impact, the metal lever on the back of my seat ground into her shin and her right patella shattered against the door.
The morphine gives her relief and she now walks with a cane. Yet, our connection is lost. As I ran my finger over the indentation on Francesca’s tibia, I knew what I had to do.
I grip the hammer over my right leg. We will be identical again. This will save us.
Weak as a kitten from anemia and all I can see are the colors above the door swirling round my head and settling themselves on my skin. That’s where they fade. Nothing kills the boredom like lying a hair invisible on my palm and pretending it tickles because something inside lets me feel the essence of things. The mattress feels soulless and the static tells me that my stomach harbors a dark resentment, though I couldn’t say why. It’s where all my heat is, deep and lasting, but I can’t pretend my fingers are cold when they leave warm circles on the lips I touch them to. Warm lips. That point is always when I take the walk, as physically as I can for the time being, and the trees aren’t watching me because they like to face into the forest. Nothing concerns them out here. Or me. Nothing concerns me anywhere, I’m just a cage of flesh that fights drooping eyelids and feels the static emanating from my wrists, wrapped in brunette strands and internal manacles shaped like veins. The road is never empty, old debris and diary pages on fire. An overturned bus with a dozen passengers. Thirteen shattered skulls.
The dismal blue light of the moon splintered through the window illuminating the slab. Gus, the night attendant at the morgue, couldn’t believe his eyes. His Georgia-peach of a high school crush lying stiff, slightly mangled in front of him. A car crash: broken jaw, twisted arm, a once recognizable face. Never able to pry open her vice of a cunt, he now had his chance.
The metal clipboard rattled on the floor, freeing both hands. Running his tongue up the mannequin-stiff cadaver straightened out his shriveled pigtail of a cock as he lunged into her with the zeal of a child ripping open presents on Christmas morning. While he fucked away her broken jaw clicked; a metronome keeping time for the gods. They couldn’t have her until he was done. He’d waited for years to taste her. Kissing her face, avoiding bone fragments and stomaching the saltiness of her dried blood, his cock pulsated. His dream girl, soul-less, love-less, all to himself . Gus would never again simmer in her heated rejection. Finally, he was in control, she was the obedient shadow like silhouette he had longed for. Jackal-esque he devoured his prey. Drooling, growling, clawing.
Holding back as long as he could, it was time to explode. His body shook, drops of sweat rained down on her. Cumming harder than he’d ever imagined, he’d found his way into heaven. Spreading his seed in a vessel of the gods.
The air smelled of saffron crushed under foot, the clouds of white smoke and jungle prayer, filling the empty spaces as the sun dripped heat down the sides of your opium pipe. At dawn, you might venture into the street like a spider creaking out from a crack in the folds of time. You might visit a cafe and pass the morn idly by. Later, you might dance, sure-footed, along the wet cobbles only to find yourself at the market. You might even trade some spice for a cupful of soiled leaves, or bestow a kind word upon a stranger — a stranger whose sad siren song made you think of the postman three days past, and the letter you had wished would never come.
Jerusalem kicked the body into gasoline. She crossed herself and prayed to the Holy Virgin, ending the prayer with a kiss on her tiny gold cross. It glinted in the neons, then reflected a single flame. She dropped the match and ducked behind the stolen SUV.
Light exploded in darkness. The SUV’s alarm screamed. Jerusalem heard sirens in the distance. Time was short. The bastard’s bitches would be back. She pulled a spray can out of her long leather jacket. Shook it. The alley was filled with Santa Muerte’s shrines and images. She sprayed white X’s on as many as she dared.
Revenge was not the way of the sisterhood, nor the way Father Gideon had raised her, but this wasn’t revenge– this was redemption. The convent had taught her the only atonement for blood was blood. Slaughtering her adopted sister sealed the gang’s fate. Jerusalem would not rest until every member was dead. Killing would be easy, keeping it from the sisters and Father Gideon would be the hard part, especially with a half hour until sunrise and morning prayers.
She turned and looked one last time at the burning body. She spat at it and leapt down the empty street, her heels echoing into the distance.