100-word story

I’m happy to have one of my 100-word stories featured today at Microfiction Monday Magazine. I’ve pasted my story below, but if you love microfiction as much as I do, please check out the entire issue here.

A Departure



As he boarded the train, she drew a tissue from her pocket, thinking the tears would come any second. They didn’t.

Numb. I’m just numb now, she thought, dabbing at the corner of her eye anyway. In case he was watching.

“Last trip for the year,” he said on the drive to the station. “Then it’ll be just us together for months.”

“I can’t wait,” she said, grateful he was looking at the road instead of her face.

After his train pulled away, she stepped up to the ticket booth.

“One way for whatever gets me the farthest,” she said.

“Dead Sky Man” in The Rusty Toque

Super pleased to say that my strange little piece, Dead Sky Man, was awarded 2nd place in Kathryn Mockler‘s Flash Fiction contest! It’s posted in Issue 13 of The Rusty Toque. It’s an amazing issue, featuring some of my favourite Canadian writers, which is extra sweet icing on any publication cake.

Drabble Challenge — My Word

I decided to take Chuck Wendig up on another challenge because a) it’s fun, b) it gets me writing something and c) this one was short and tricky! Write a little piece of fiction in 100 words or less. It’s called a “drabble”, and here’s my drabbling today:

 

My Word

“I give you my word,” he says.

What a leap of faith we take — to trust words. I took the leap with Jake, five years ago on our wedding day. I believed my Mom, when she swore I wouldn’t always feel as hollow as I did the day our baby died.

Then there’s this man, with his rotting teeth and red rimmed eyes. Even through my blouse I can feel the cold blade against my belly.

“Give me your purse and I give you my word, I won’t hurt you.”

I have no choice but to leap.

Monk’s Hood

I needed some writing motivation this week and decided to try another Chuck Wendig challenge. This time it was to put together three things chosen with the random roller. I got “poison”, “a shopping mall” and “a box of photos.”

Monk’s Hood

Charlene wasn’t good at much, but she never forgot a face. That first day he turned up at her counter, ordering a cinnamon raisin bagel, toasted, and a hazelnut coffee, she knew it was him.

“Just opened up the hat store down at the end of the mall. Think yours is the only place in here that has flavoured coffee, so I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.” He winked, and pushed his fifty cents in change back towards her hand. “A tip.”

Charlene couldn’t speak, but she nodded and he sauntered away, whistling.

When she got home that afternoon she kicked off her boots, threw her coat on the floor and thundered downstairs to the storage room. It had been years since Mom died, and she probably had the will now to sort through the boxes and suitcases without too much wallowing, but today she was on a mission for one particular box. She ripped tape and cardboard, tossed garbage bags full of clothes to the side, and finally found the grey shoebox. The lid was taped on all four sides, and written with black marker, in her Mom’s neat printing, was the word “photos”.

Her Mom only showed the photos to her once, that she remembered, and that was only because she needed a few pictures for a school project. She begged, and her Mom relented, but as she pried off the lid, it was clear she wasn’t looking forward to a stroll down memory lane.

It surprised Charlene that her Mom kept the photos at all — or specifically the two she had of him. But she suspected, hard as it was to think about, having those photos kept it real and present. Knowing his face was down there, locked away safe, but with her nonetheless, made it easier to keep the hate alive.

Charlene rifled through the pictures. Some had water stains and stuck together. The two of him were piled on top of one another, stuck between Charlene’s own grade one photo — the one where she had the missing front tooth — and a photo of her Mom and Aunt Joan, posing at mile zero on the Alaskan Highway. She’d taken that photo herself, the summer she turned fifteen and her Mom decided the three of them needed a northern road trip.

She gazed at the unbreakable sisters against the vibrant blue sky, then set it aside and turned her eyes back to him. She’d been right. Decades later and he still had the same crooked nose, cleft chin and deep blue eyes.

In the first photo, he stood with one arm draped around Aunt Joan, beer bottles in both of their hands. Aunt Joan was caught with her mouth open, in the middle of saying something, but he donned an easy grin.

The second photo was of Mom and Aunt Joan, their faces pressed close together. Back then, with Mom’s hair dyed blonde, they almost looked like twins. It would’ve been a beautiful photo if he hadn’t stuck his head in at the last minute. Cut off at his shoulders and hovering at the edge. He didn’t fit the photo. Just like he didn’t fit in their lives.

Charlene kept the two photos out, then closed up the box and threw it back on the disorganized stack. She looked again at his face and wondered how long after these pictures were taken that it had happened. Even when her Mom finally came clean with what he did to her, she didn’t give many details. And knowing how hard it was for her to talk about, Charlene never pressed.

But then, and a few times after, she said to Charlene, “It was an awful thing that happened. Awful for me, awful when Joan found out, but you were what came of it and I always focus on that. You are the beautiful flower who grew from a terrible place.”

She wondered if Mom, wherever she went after her death, could see into Charlene’s own brain and heart now and know what she was planning. She wouldn’t like it, but maybe she’d understand why it needed to be done.

Charlene went back upstairs and turned on her computer. It was time to do a little research. There was no doubt she wanted to shatter him, just like he shattered her mother. But she didn’t want to get caught doing it.

Monk’s Hood. So pretty and blue. She knew exactly where it grew, in the mountain park a little outside the city. Her Mom had pointed it out on their hikes, and always told her to stay away from it, but she had no idea it was so toxic.

She waited, and like she figured they would, his morning stops at her booth became regular. It was hard for her to hide her disgust, but if her smiles looked fake or strained, he never seemed to notice.

After a day or two, he asked her name. “It’s Charlie,” she said. No one called her that, and she was sure he didn’t even know she existed, but just in case his appearance in her life was more than coincidence, she tried to cover her tracks.

“And yours?” she asked.

“Darryl. You sure do make a good cup of coffee, Charlie. And I always like to start my days by looking at a pretty face.”

She nearly threw up at that one.

On his twenty-second appearance at her counter — and yes, she was keeping track — she did it.

“Oh, looks like the hazelnut ran out. Got some more brewing in back.” She took his styrofoam cup with her. She didn’t need more than a few drops, and mixed with all the cream and sugar he put in there, she knew he wouldn’t taste it. In a minute she was back with his full cup, and the new carafe of coffee.

“Have a great day, Darryl,” she said, flashing a genuine smile. She watched him walk back towards his store, sipping his coffee as he went.

Forty-five minutes later she heard the sirens outside, and watched as paramedics rushed through the door with a stretcher. A small crowd gathered as they wheeled him back out. His face was grey and twisted in pain. He clutched his chest.

“Looks like a heart attack,” an older woman next to her commented. “The poor man.”

“Yes,” Charlene said softly. “the poor, poor man.”

Park Bench

I saw this writing prompt to compose a story completely with dialogue — no narration allowed. I figured that would be an interesting challenge. I mean, in a way, this is what playwrights and screenwriters do all the time, but there’s always the idea that it will be brought to life by actors. It’s interesting to think of a dialogue existing only on the page, with characters who will never be more or less than the things they say. So, I decided to try it. I don’t think my first attempt (below) is very successful. Not a lot of conflict here, and nothing much “happens” in the story. But it was fun to write anyway. The idea came from a friend of mine, who years ago, asked why it wasn’t socially acceptable to just tell people when you think they’re beautiful. I am not sure if he ever tried it, but I hope it worked out well if he did.

Park Bench

“Excuse me, I know this is very forward of me, but I just saw you sitting here and I wanted to come over to tell you that I think you’re beautiful.”

“Wow. Thank you, I guess. Is this a pick-up line or something?”

“No, not at all. I’m actually married. Happily. I just think sometimes we need to spread a little joy in the world. Looking at you made me happy. I thought it might make you happy if I told you how beautiful you are. It’s nothing more than that.”

“Have you done this before?”

“What? Told a strange woman she’s beautiful?”

“Yes.”

“No, it’s the first time.”

“Well, you’re very smooth. It seems like something you’ve done before.”

“I am not trying to be smooth. It’s sincere. Is this the first time someone has told you you’re beautiful?”

“No, but it’s the first time a strange man has ever waltzed over to me while I am eating my lunch, trying to read, and so obviously worked to pick me up. I find most people are more subtle.”

“You don’t believe me that I am not trying to woo you here. Listen, you can go on smirking and thinking I am creepy or silly or whatever, but the truth is the world is a dark, sad place, and we don’t take enough time to appreciate things that are beautiful or that make us happy.”

“You are probably right about that. But, do you think your wife would like it that you approach women and call them beautiful?”

“I think she would understand. I’ll probably tell her I did this, actually.”

“You’ll tell her?”

“Yes, when I get home I’ll probably tell her about this whole conversation. Including the fact that you didn’t believe a man could chat with you, and feel gratitude at your beauty, without there being some ulterior motive involved.”

“This is very strange. Honestly, you seem like a nice guy, but this is all just weird.”

“It makes me sad that you’re so taken aback by this. It just proves how wrong things are with our society, that people can’t share a compliment, have a conversation without it being something more.”

“Are you some kind of philosopher or something?”

“Philosopher? Ha, no, I’m a Java developer.”

“Like coffee? Is that what they call baristas these days?”

“Ha ha! No, I work with computers. Web programs.”

“I know. I was kidding.”

“Oh! Very funny. I didn’t get that. You seemed too put out by me to be making jokes.”

“I am less put out now. More intrigued.”

“Well, that’s progress, I suppose. I didn’t necessarily think you would react favourably, when I decided to come tell you, out of the blue, that you’re beautiful. But I didn’t expect you to be so cynical. Surprised, maybe. Embarrassed. Awkward, but not so skeptical.”

“It’s kind of rude to call me cynical. You don’t know me at all.”

“That’s true, and I am not saying you’re always cynical. Just that, in this situation, in the few moments we’ve interacted and I’ve known you, I would describe your nature as cynical.”

“I would describe your nature as batty.”

“Is that another joke?”

“Only partly.”

“What’s your name?”

“Why do you need to know that? I mean, if you have no intention of knowing me after this moment, or trying to persuade me into anything romantic. Why does it matter what my name is?”

“Well, it’s just common courtesy when you meet someone and exchange a few words with them to ask their name.”

“It’s Carrie. And yours?”

“Horatio.”

“No it is not.”

“Yes! Really, I swear. It’s actually Horatio. I knew you wouldn’t believe it.”

“It’s not a very common name. Seems like part of your charming ruse.”

“Again, this is not a ruse. But it is proving to be quite interesting. I didn’t expect that.”

“You keep mentioning expectations. Is this something you considered for a long time, before actually coming over to talk to me?”

“Not today, no, with you specifically. But I have considered for awhile what a situation like this might be like. How a person, a beautiful, strange woman, would react to being told so.”

“I am sorry I didn’t make it easier on you.”

“I’m not, this is a perfectly exciting way to spend a sunny afternoon in the park. It’s refreshing. Makes me feel…optimistic about the world.”

“It’s starting to have that effect on me too.”

“You’re very clever, Carrie. Confident. I can tell all this about you. More than just a pretty face.”

“Now you’re going to make me blush.”

“I don’t think so. I think you already knew that about yourself.”

“You know what’s odd, Horatio? I think you might be able to read me better than people who’ve known me for decades.”

“Maybe you’re more yourself, right now, than you are with people you’ve known for decades”

“It’s possible. Something to consider.”

“Are you leaving?”

“Yeah, I have to get back to work. Thank you , though. For this, chat, or whatever.”

“Happy to do it. Good story to tell now, too. For both of us.”

“I’ll never tell a soul.”

“Really? That weird, huh?”

“No. It’s turned out to be nice. I want to keep it, just for me. My own happy story to hold in my heart when the world seems too dark. Too sad, like you said.”

“That makes me happy. I might do this again sometime.”

“You should, Horatio. You definitely should.”