Sunday, June 1, 2014

What happened in May

This past month of May, my friend Rebecca, who you'll remember for our Poetry Project in April, and myself set ourselves a different challenge. In May, we each began and finished a very short story, the result of which is below. Each of these tiny stories are exactly 50 words each, the first 25 words by one of us, the second 25 by the other. I won't tell you who started, which 25 words of each is me and which are Rebecca; see if you can tell! There is a pattern, but I think toward the middle I messed up our chart so it might have gotten mixed up. Anyway, I meant to post a new tiny story each day in May, but clearly that didn't really happen, so here are all 31 stories all at once. Some are pretty silly, but that's what made it so much fun to do!


The liquid dripped down her face.  Staring straight ahead, she willed herself not to flinch as it curdled her mascara. Hearing a sound, she turned. All was blackness around her. What she could only distinguish as an indefinable sound turned to voices. “They lived,” she smiled. Her eyes gently closed.

He looked for her in the crowed, but was distracted by the incessant jingling of dancers and contrasting floral prints. He had to tell her…that she had the hem of her dress tucked into her knickers.  It was just what a nice guy did.  She scowled and slapped him.

“This might hurt,” was not what Claire had expected to hear.  Her shoulders shook but she stayed still, gripping the floral patterned chair for support.
“I think we should see other people,” he continued, casually folding his napkin in his lap and straightening the silverware. Claire called for the bill.

His music shook; he placed the crumpled sheets on their stand. Her words rang like a gong in his ears as he positioned his bow.  The screaming barely registered as the first arrow hit her.  Scattering, the orchestra ran for cover.  He stood over her.  Now she was paying attention.

The woods were silent.  The only sound the soft tread of footfalls over dew dampened grass.  A patch of sunlight hit the stone circle’s centre. We saw it; light spread at an unearthly speed, flecks of gold shooting from its core like liquid light. We tensed- this was our reason. 

Twisted fingers stroked the crystal ball as a light turned on inside. You’ve got to be kidding me; I can’t believe I paid for this. The woman glowered.  Oops, had he said that aloud?  He smiled, covering his embarrassment. She left and sent her son in to discuss his disrespect. 

She heard the baby screaming.  Should she walk past or acknowledge it? It was nothing to do with her really.  She was late for work. She’d heard of stories. Her mother told her, as she’d told her everything important and true. A baby’s scream isn’t always coming from a baby.

He blindly reaches for his keys by the door, but he finds her set instead. They drop to the floor; a whisper tickles his ears.  “Stand up and don’t act crazy.” The whisper is harsh against his flesh now and the metal digs into his palm.  An unexpected date indeed.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.  Nobody makes a sound.  Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.  Everybody keeps their eyes downcast.  Tick tock, tick tock. Summer vacation minutes away, Sally is passed a note. Do you like me? Check yes or no...Suddenly Sally’s summer got a whole lot more interesting.

She’d read it a million times, her phone full of frantic finger prints. She cursed her English degree as she read meaning into every word. He waited for her response; nervous fingers tapping the table.  Maybe he shouldn’t have asked for a hook up by text.  She might misread it.

The fire was spreading quickly around Rosanna; she did nothing to stop it. She watched as it ate the curtains she’d always hated and smiled. The orange flowers licked up against the cheap material as it blackened, sending ash flecked smoke spirals high.  Nobody in the busy street below noticed.

The computer screen was suddenly full of static, the figures that contained her fate disappearing in a pixilated storm of electronic hisses. Her mind flew.  She felt alive in a way that was totally free of thought or memory, pain or joy.   Her name became something lost to her again.

Storm blown leaves crunched beneath the tyres slowing in the driveway.  A door slammed, full of purpose.  The porch steps creaked and then grew silent. Inside the weathered house, the floorboards groan under the pressure of heavy footsteps. Bathwater fills a claw-footed tub, a lifetime of exhaustion mixing with suds.

 “I’ve been told I’m beautiful enough times by enough people who I respect to know that I can be, depending on who’s looking. Your turn.”
 “So come on, what do you have to say to that?”  His smile looked different under the scarlet lipstick.  The silent mirror remained stoically impassive.

 “It’s my choice.  Mine. Don’t you get that yet?  After everything?  You’re still pulling that crap on me?”  The voice on the other line crackled. It was the same conversation they’d had exactly 143 times. Every time was well documented; but no astronomical word count was enough for her imagination.

 “I can count the amount of times we’ve hung out in real life on one hand. One hand: don’t you see? Four years, one hand.” She tried hard not to let a wobble capture the strong voice she had in her head and turn it into something weak and stupid. 

I’m going to pretend to be Armenian from now on.  Why?  What a stupid question.  Why do you think?  Do I have to explain everything? The immigrations officer could smell the stale stench of alcohol as she spoke. “Actually miss, you do. I’m afraid pretending never works at the border.”

The rain hit the roof at 75 beats per minute- healthy heart rate for an adult. His medical text book closed: his fingers played along.  As the syringe dug deep into his arm, he counted the beat of his blood as it slowed down and down.  The rain kept falling.

 “Bird watching at 4.30? That okay for you all?” The irrepressible enthusiasm in her voice made Kate want to punch her square in the face. But, surprisingly, she didn’t. With the memory of their last ‘bird watching’ expedition, she calmly gathered her things and left the room. She’d had enough.

Who you are on the inside doesn’t matter. You can’t be a bitch all the time and justify it, saying you’ve a heart of gold.  At least that was what Father Peter whispered.  But he had his hand up her skirt at the time, so she hadn’t paid much attention.

Suddenly the mud was everywhere; in her eyes, mouth, ears, nose.  Scrambling desperately to higher ground, she tried to shout but no sound came out. His former threats rang in her memory, but the clarity of hindsight would not stop the mud from covering her. Little brothers were the worst.

The button on the left shoulder of his overalls hardly filled its corresponding button hole; the edges were frayed- he kept playing with it regardless.  He sat hunched in a corner of the classroom watching the backs of his friends.  He wished he hadn’t got the non-uniform day wrong.

Climbing through the rose garden now seemed a big mistake.  Her red tights shredded around her knees.  Should she stop and take them off now? No; no time. The secrets in the roses, she remembered his words clearly as if he were with her. But that’s the problem; he’s not.

They’d heard the same story so many times, in so many places, but always the same. Debbie found the implications staggering. She sipped her wine. She tapped her red nails on the table top and sighed.  Sitting around listening to dull conversations was not why she had become a spy.

“Come on, what are you waiting for?  Don’t be so boring!  Jump in!  Its fine, nobody’s looking.  Who cares anyway?  Just jump.  Jump!  Do it!”
“FINE,” he spluttered, turning to face her. “Will you marry me?”
 “That’s not what I meant by jump,” she said, grin erupting on her face.

Another car flew past her 100th floor window. She sipped her coffee and ignored her beeping communicator. Closing her eyes, she dreamed of grassy fields.  But dream was all she could do.  Or was it?  What was it that crazy guy had bawled at her from the street corner earlier? 

This is just too hard.  I can’t do it.  Not this time.  Why do they always make me be the one to say this stuff?  “Hey, Short Straw,” I hear. Dave grins at me malevolently. “Those families won’t console themselves.” I wonder why we’re friends and enter the waiting room.

The sun blazes down on white shoulders, creating lines where none were requested, bringing life to winter wasted worriers and the promise of never-reached beauty. Happy now, she placed her fountain pen carefully on the desk and closed the school book.  A higher mark for that alliteration this time, surely?

He hadn’t meant to hit it that hard.  This time, he had taken a breath first and thought of his happy place. It hadn’t helped. Closing the door was an effort- couldn’t look at it anymore. That life that became it moved him, but not where he wanted to be.

A pigeon landed on her windowsill. It was purple with silver tail feathers. She watched as its wings spread apart and eyes glowed red. Panic.  She imagined the hilarious headlines and ridiculous youtube footage – somebody was bound to be filming this somewhere, somehow.  Decisively, she slammed the window shut tight.

Midnight had always been the best time for this.  Stifling a giggle, they snuck, shoes in hand, through the damp grass towards the lit barn. Faded youth disappeared, only the sound of crickets and their memories shaping every moment. Better than time travel; it was all they had ever wanted. 
 

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