Category: Episode 28


Episode 28

Hello lovers of flash fiction.  The summer is coming to an end and what better way to celebrate that than a host of stories that deal with the idea of obligation.  We have all dealt with this feeling in one way or another.  Please enjoy the following 8 stories from 8 different perspectives.

I am please to welcome five newcomers to the IBAS family:  John Riley, John Grochalski, Denis M. Sheehan, Bud Smith, and Bruce J. Berger.

I am also pleased to say “hello to my little friends” that keep coming back for more:  Misti Rainwater-Lites, Maude Larke, and Timothy Gager.

I want to take this time to say thank you to all the great writers who have made this project possible.  I get such great support from the fans of this website and your energy keeps it all going.  After Episode 31 (which comes out in December), I am going to be going to a new format.  I will be putting out new episodes only once every two months instead of monthly.  I love to keep my deadlines and the monthly format has me feeling rushed sometimes to put out the best possible group of stories.  I want to deliver a great product so the new format will start in January of 2013.

Thank you for your patience and support.  Enjoy this episode.  Comment.  Writers love to know what you think.

Aleathia Drehmer
Editor

Advertisements

It was my mom that sent me over to see Mister Doss. Said he had nobody to feed but one crazy brother and if I stayed long enough and was agreeable Mr. Doss would make sure we got fed. Mr. Doss kept his crazy brother leashed like a dog to a wrecked Packard. Said he had to if he wanted to get any work done. The Packard didn’t have doors so his brother could scamper inside when it rained. When it was hot and dusty all he could do was sit on the running board with brown spit drooling out of his mouth.

In summer when the garden came in I’d go home with some fresh beans or maybe a tomato or two and a couple of potatoes. Mr. Doss showed me how to dig up the potatoes after the row had been furrowed. He held my little hand in his and guided it through the dirt. He said dirt was magic. In the winter at hog slaughtering time I’d help salt the meat and when it was cured Mr. Doss would send me home with fresh hamhocks and some beans he’d canned and maybe some beets or a jar of peaches. I went over there when I was told and stayed until he said I should run along back home. He taught me that some things don’t need to be talked about. Then I got too old and he said for me to not come back anymore. It wasn’t long after I left home. Stayed gone until I was grown. Never thought I’d have reason to go back.

Kassie sat at the bar drinking warm whiskey. Her bowels were protesting the greasy fern bar vibes. The others would arrive soon and there would be ice to pick axe, bubbles to burst and mountains to dynamite. Nothing would be solved.

Kolton showed up, sure enough, and ordered a light beer. He told Kassie she was “looking sexy.” Kassie grimaced. Kolton laughed and said, “Baby, I can see the worms squirming in your eyes.” Kassie saw her opening. She took it like a football. “Anais Nin and Henry Miller had something beyond sex. I’ve read their correspondence. Goddamn it, Kolton. I ache for that sort of thing.” “I know, baby. I read ya loud and clear. I liked those pictures you sent me last week. You were so sexy in those surgical gloves and clean white panties. Really got me going.” “Yeah. Precisely. I’m going to start charging you for the photographs and dirty text messages. My new job title is Fetish Facilitator.” “That isn’t very nice. You should facilitate my fetishes for free.” “I’m not feeling it. It was exciting at first. The boob shots. The cunt lollipop. But now. God.”

Jasmine and Elliott showed up. They smelled like piss saturated sex. They were smiling like wine cooler drunk teenagers. Jasmine ordered celery sticks with mustard. Sprite to drink. Elliott ordered turtle cheesecake. Black coffee to drink.

“I like the pictures you sent of you pissing into a bowl of cereal,” Elliott said, slapping Kolton on his back. Kolton’s face turned bright pink and he laughed. A James Taylor song was playing. Kassie puked on the bar.

She obsessively watched and watched the You Tube video.  Even after she stopped listening to the gooey pop songs.  Even after she stopped drinking.  The several creations of a similar wedding went apace.  The dresses were all sumptuous.  Tulle for one, satin for another, an incredible smoky-white lace for yet another.  She chose thirty-three bridesmaids’ gowns, in rainbow colors.  She ordered five sets of engraved invitations and two different wedding cakes.

She made payments for three different halls.  One had the right acoustics for a wedding band (she had found six really good ones), one had a good, wide space in which to leave open a dance floor, the third had a garden in which to serve the champagne (twelve different brands ordered).  She had festoons of lily orange, tender green, rich purple on order in order to decorate them.

When the bank blocked her account and she went to them to discuss the problem, she found them strangely unsympathetic.  Even after she showed them the video.  All the tears and all the different lists and plans that she had written down had left them as stone. They refused to finance any more wedding plans.

Apparently they would have been more resilient if she had produced a groom.

Tracy got up.  She grabbed the scotch.  How much is left?  About half, I said.  She said we just bought this bottle yesterday.  Then Tracy said anyone could get a job if they wanted.  She said that she got a job.  I told her, yeah, at Wally’s Grocery.  Tracy shook the bottle of scotch.  Wally’s pays for this, she said.  Then she stood at the kitchen sink and cried.

I put the game on.  I heard Tracy messing around in the kitchen in that familiar way.  I heard her getting the glasses.  She prepped our drinks as my team kept losing on the television.  I said to myself, here we go, things are all right now.  Soon she’ll come in with the drinks.  We’ll bullshit a little.  I’ll tell her how I’ve been looking for a job again.  Things will be square between us.

Tracy came in with one glass and the scotch bottle. She set it in the middle of the coffee table, and then sat on her side of the couch.  She looked out the window.  There wasn’t anything outside but people and their loud dogs.  There was nothing but life out there, and it was nothing like the life we had going on in here.

I downed a drink.  I sighed and acted like it gave me the ultimate in joy.  In truth, it felt like an ongoing obligation.  After I poured another one Tracy got up from the couch. She came back with her glass full of ice cubes.  Tracy slammed it down.  There were a few tears in her eyes.  Then she went back to looking out the window while I poured her a generous one, knowing that we’d both made an importance choice that night.

If I wanted that I would have stayed married. There have been other things since the spring, such as the summer, the fall and the winter. Anxiety. I lose track of time and dates, not because I’m feeble-minded but because one day seems to run into another. Life is all about events which get filed like index cards in a small metal box. Even when I’m profound, I date myself.

But as I said, I don’t date. I have events. Last spring I had an event. It was a panic attack. Demetri Martin says in his comedy act, “When someone asks you the question, are you ticklish, it doesn’t matter if you say yes or no. They’re going to touch you.” When the wiry red-head touched me last spring in the middle of the night, she didn’t know what to do when I screamed. When you don’t know why you do things, it makes you panic.

So I pray. God will keep me calm. It’s a lot to ask. Mostly, these days, people only ask me to “like” and “share” things. It’s a simple world, when you don’t leave the house. It is God’s way of answering my pleas for serenity, he tells me, “Don’t leave the house.”

This is how I lost my job. It wasn’t much. I parked cars at the wharf. I tried not to think of someone loving those cars, giving their cars names and such. My panics got so bad, it was all I could do to not to freak out and drive the cars into the water. It’s never been as bad as this.

It’s why I don’t drive anymore. That and the time I forgot my dog Chi-Chi on the roof. No, this was no Romney move as the dog was not strapped on. I needed to remember to get an inspection sticker so I went into the glove box, to check if I had my paperwork. I mean, I was distracted. Then I started the car.

Now I walk when I can, but when can I? It’s crazy when I stay inside. I use positive imaging. The sun shines brightly on the blazing sidewalk and the green buds have started on the trees. My neighbors start lifting their hands a full block away to say hello. Someone rides a bike with a bell that rings. Ting-ting. Smiles all around. Smiles. There’s a coffee shop on the way, where the workers, know my name but also my drink called “The Usual”. If everything was this simple it would all be fine.

But it’s not fine. I’m sweating through my shirts. I am still inside my house. I have visions of the girl from last spring inside my head. She’s downtown walking toward me. Her red hair glows in the sun light and her round sunglasses are as dark as a welder’s. She says, “Beep-beep. Beep-beep. Yeah.”

I say, “Baby, I no longer drive” but it doesn’t matter what I say to her at this point. More cars drive by and I can hear the music from their radios. “It’s a Beatles song,” I say to myself. I hope more cars drive by. I wait. Here one comes now.

It was a four-year puzzle, really, the kind you must tend to everyday and even then, it’s never finished. Now, it lies strewn in pieces. In silence he retrieved the pieces to place them together; how they belonged and had once been. The instant callousness in his fingertips rendered the pieces’ texture numb. He pushed together the easy pieces while the unrecognizable ones were kept off to the side, but still very close. People tried to intervene and disrupt his task, but he would have none of that. Others just watched or walked away. He stood up and looked over the puzzle. One piece was missing. Frantically, he looked around, spotted it, and picked it up. Longing for its softness, he lifted it, gently rubbing it on his cheek and smelling a hint of fingernail polish as part of it brushed just under his nose. Before connecting that last piece, he looked at it. If only, he thought, he had held this little hand like he held it now, perhaps she wouldn’t have run in front of the speeding car.

I’m driving my Ford F250 down a steep hill in the rain. The bed of the truck filled to the brim with sand and stone. As I play the drums on the steering wheel, I find out rather horribly that the brakes don’t work so well on a wet road. 2 tons of shit weighing down the back end.          Screeching. Screeching. I Fish tail and slam into a silver Mercedes at the bottom of the hill. Glass explodes. Plastic shatters. Shovels fly out. Dirt and stone spray everywhere. The smell of rubber, radiator hissing.

Two strange machines now unhappily wed in a definite contract. The old woman pops out. Blood oozing, just above the eyebrow..

“Oh…oh, fuck!” She says, fixing her hair.  She’s in a big hurry to get away from the scene. You know, no license. Drunk. Something…

I’m at fault, so I’m happy when she says, “Tell you what you’ll do. Come to my house tomorrow night.” She writes her home address on the hood of my truck with bold metallic lipstick. Copper.  I get the sense the lipstick isn’t hers either.

When the  Mercedes peels out and disappears forever, I’m left looking at the address in disbelief. It’s just a few houses down from mine.

I know what they do there.

The next night, I make myself go to that house.  The door opens on a large family dinner. Corned beef. Potatoes. Cabbage. Soda bread.

Walls of blue smoke.

Nephews. A lot of nephews. The old woman introduces me to all six, staring hawk eyed beyond the smoke.

She doesn’t want my money. As it turns out, it wasn’t even her car, but I’m going to wish it was her car.

Her nephews are in need of a favor. I’m there to help them with it.

Clayton kept his eyes closed until sure that the others in his filthy bunkroom slept.  When he heard their snores, he slipped out into the night and looked about to see if any of the guards were around.  Seeing none, he walked towards what he hoped would be freedom from the labor camp.  He’d been told that he couldn’t leave while he “owed money” to the boss, an obligation he knew he’d never incurred.

He kicked a beer can, which scuttled amongst the stones.  Clayton froze, then heard the barking of the boss’s pit bull shattering the stillness.  Shouts from the boss’s house galvanized Clayton to abandon the rutted lane and dash into the tobacco field.  The earth gave way with each step, making it impossible for Clayton to run well.  Within seconds, Clayton gasped for air.  He heard the barking and shouts grow closer, surrounding him.  He kneeled to catch his breath, then tried to run again too quickly.  Blood drained from his head and he toppled.

The boss stood over Clayton, holding a shotgun, then kicking him and pushing him over.   The dog bit him in the leg through his jeans.  “I warned you, man.  Nobody leaves camp owin’ me money.”  He spat on Clayton and kicked him again.  To a guard, he said “You know whatcha gotta do.  Do it quick.”  He pointed towards a nearby copse of trees, then handed the shotgun to the guard, leashed the dog, and marched off.

“Come on, asshole.”

Clayton thought about trying to run again, but knew that he couldn’t get away.  He’d given escape its best shot.  Clayton was pushed to his knees near the pines and felt the cold press of steel against the back of his neck.