FLASH FICTION: Somewhere Else

7

We were somewhere else. The walls. We were living, in the walls.

If I moved, my mother’s voice, her whisper, grew serious. The instant I was still, she resumed her listening.

I was uncertain why she listened. For fear of what, she would even quit breathing.

I too began to listen.

One evening…

The door. It opened. We both heard it. Then the tread, the cautious tread of someone. She was stiller, my mother, and more silent, than when she slept.

Her heartbeat. I could feel my mother’s heart, in her harm. It beat faster, as the footsteps moved closer. They were soon so close…

It quivered. My mother’s heart quivered.

Someone touched the wall. I felt her hand, my mother’s hand, slide over my mouth, and hold it. Her forehead touch my own.

Her tears filled my ear. They ran, at last, down my back.

And the wall cracked open.

                                                                                                                                                          

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FLASH FICTION: Adventures with Writers

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Every writer I’ve ever met was scared to death.

“What are you so terrified of?” I asked Gordon (a writer).

“The world is terrifying,” he said.

“Could you be more specific?” I asked him.

His eyes got wider.

“I could if I had some paper,” he said.

We crossed the street.

“Coffee time?” I said.

Gordon grabbed my arm.

“I would kill for a coffee,” he said.

I could tell by the way his eyes quivered that he meant it.

*

Two men live below me, in the basement suite. They don’t go anywhere. Their conversations float up through the floor vents.

“Writing,” the one said, “is dying. Fast. By the end of the month, we’ll have no idea what to chisel into its headstone.”

“Bullshit,” said the other man. “It’s dying slowly. We have a few good years left. Then a few not so good years.”

I can sometimes smell marijuana coming up through the vents.

*

A man was lying in the street. I rolled down my window.

“Where are you headed?” I asked.

It was my friend Richard. Author of Payday Poems.

“Do you need a ride?”

Richard sat up. He took off his glasses. He cleaned them on his shirt. His shirt was filthy. He slipped his glasses back on. He lay back down.

“No,” he said.

I was about to drive off when my friend sat back up. He waved his hand. I rolled the window back down.

“What time is it?” he asked.

“Almost midnight,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said, lying back down.

I waited a few minutes. Then I rolled up my window and drove off.

*

Words floated up from the floor.

“I need peanuts, swim trunks, golf balls and coffee.”

“You can get all that at the bookstore. I need to go anyway.”

“What book are you getting?”

“I just need some hand lotion.”

No one said anything for over an hour.

“Why is it still 7:00?”

“I was wondering about that, too.”

I couldn’t even smell marijuana.

*

Richard’s funeral was a sad occasion. Two or three friends went. His publisher went, but left early. “I wish I could get this many people at a reading,” said the woman next to me. I laughed.

An important writer gave the eulogy. I’d never heard of him.

They passed around sandwiches, after. The woman next to me filled her purse with them. “These should last me all week,” she said. I laughed again.

*

“What are you working on these days?” I asked Gordon.

He crawled under the table.

I guess we’re all terrified. Most people bury their terror under houses and Christmas trees and wives. Not writers. They can’t afford any of those things.

“Beer o’clock?” I said, crouching down.

Gordon crawled out. He grabbed my arm.

“I would kill for a drink,” he said.

A few days later, he did.

                                                                                                                                            

Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave

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THANK-YOU: Free Story

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As a thank-you present for my loyal readers, here’s a never-before-published short story. It’s about writers … and the future. Click here to read or download.

                                                                 

Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave

Buy him a coffee.

FLASH FICTION: An Ostrich

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When Dad died, I talked to an ostrich.

In the waiting room, an ostrich sat down.

“Who let this ostrich in?” I said.

The janitor stared at me.

The ostrich stared at me.

The surgeon walked into the room. He tore off his white mask and put on a serious one.

“You don’t even have to say it,” I said.

The ostrich put his wing around me.

*

We didn’t have the greatest relationship, Dad and I. We didn’t talk. He treated me like shit. I loved him. I realized that after.

When he got sick… I walked closer to him, I sat closer. We still didn’t talk, but…

Then he died.

*

I wrote a letter. It said, I COULD REALLY USE A FRIEND. I mailed it to my friends.

No one got back to me.

One afternoon, there was a knock on the door.

I got out of bed. I got dressed.

I opened the door.

It was the ostrich.

He sat down on the sofa.

“I’ll make some coffee,” I said.

*

“I don’t remember Dad ever playing with me. He was always too old. Even when he wasn’t. He loved me. He never said it. I said it a lot when I was a kid, but … I didn’t mean it. Not really.”

You can tell an ostrich anything.

*

I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t open my eyes. I kept falling asleep. I kept dreaming.

I dreamed I was the last person on Earth. I felt so homesick. Even though I was home.

I crawled into bed—in my dream. I lay there.

Something touched my hair. Something tousled it. Like Dad.

I woke up.

I looked over.

There was something on the pillow, next to me.

An ostrich feather.

*

One morning…

I looked out the window.

The sky was blue. I hadn’t noticed that. Not in a long, long time.

I made breakfast.

I swept the floor.

I opened the front door and closed it.

I heard something.

I ran back to the window.

I saw the shadow of the ostrich, on the lawn.

Just the shadow.

Then it was gone.

                                                                            

*First published in The Walrus.

*From an unpublished collection, Dream Museum.

Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave

Buy him a coffee.

FLASH FICTION: Vivian Jackson Bean

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I have written over two hundred novels. Two hundred and five, or six. It always startles me, the number.

When I was young and dreaming, living in the museums of books we mistreat, in libraries, both there and in my imagining, I dreamed a thing that escaped my dreams. An amphibian idea. For a year of my young life I followed it, for a mad year, a brilliant year, catching it, at last, between leaves of a book, my own, which was placed in the museums of books, for others to mistreat.

An idea begins … as a spot on water. A dark spot. If it is not washed, by a wave, away, if it does not simply change into nothing, then when the tide stands back at last, when you have done with waiting, it remains. A glistening animal. A real thing, born of nothing, and yours—to capture, if you can.

I have always dreamed so easily. In a million nights of life, there have been a million dreams. But ideas… There has been only one.

I have waited by the side of water, forever. I have watched, these nights of life, for the dark spot to reappear. I have seen the deceiving shadows of gulls, above, and the roaming fish below. And when the waters retire, finally, when I am half mad of waiting … there is nothing. There is only sand.

This is my secret. It is the secret of many. One in a million, perhaps, one in so very few, is more fortunate. Such a one will sit by the sliding water again and again, and each time will see first the spot, then the animal. Will reach for the last with that shaking, trepid reach. Will hold it. What life must be for such a one… It is beyond my imagining.

I have written over two hundred books. But really, I have written only one.

Perhaps one is all one needs.

                                                                                   

Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave

Buy him a coffee.

FLASH FICTION: The Sweet Stripener

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The children don’t understand. What they live and scream for is not squeezed from the machine with stripes intact. No—they must be painted on, by hand, with so much care. It it almost unimaginable, the care.

My partner is a sweet turner. He holds the sweet, and turns it. I apply the stripes. He is my partner. But also, we are in love.

We work and live in the Cormack Candy Factory. Our region is Green Region 3, where sweets are painted, and nuts are shelled. At day’s end, we sweep up the shells, lay down blankets, and sleep. Mr. Cormack charges not too much rent. It is difficult to afford anything, at present.

Mr. Cormack is a powerful man. He is a great and a terrible man. But also, generous. Without him, we would have nothing. Not even a floor on which to sleep.

He is like a magician, this Cormack. I have never before seen his face. I have heard his voice, and when I turned … there was nothing. Is his a pleasing or a nightmarish face? When I gaze at the intercom, I wonder.

One evening, after the sweeping-up…

I was returning my broom to the cabinet in Hall 7. At the end of the hall was a man. His back to me. A black suit, he wore. There had been rumours of a black suit.

I moved forward, though slowly.

He was admiring a painting, this man.

I felt weak, but proceeded.

I was a few feet from him, now.

And suddenly, he turned. Hearing my light tread, he turned. The man in the black suit turned.

I looked at his face. But I did not see his face. For he wore a mask. A jewelled mask.

I trembled. And quit the hall quickly.

In the past, it was my duty to paint one hundred sweets per day, to keep my position. Now Mr. Cormack is insisting on two hundred.

My art is taxing. There is so little time. But if I cannot keep up, and work and live in this factory…

I do not even want to dream of that.

                                                                   

Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave

Buy him a coffee.

FLASH FICTION: London Fog

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I love London fog.

Yesterday I was walking in the fog and thought why not open your mouth wide and swallow the whole bloody lot of it?

So I did. Just one huge sucking in, and I ballooned up with fog.

I floated above the city. I was light as a cloud. The view of London! The Thames was the signature on a prescription. St. Paul’s was a cold breast.

Everybody squinted at everybody, rubbing their eyes. My god, they could see London. They could see each other.

A young man was walking with a youngish woman dressed like a young woman.

You’re not seventeen!” he cried, dropping her hand.

“Tee hee!” laughed the woman, lifting up the skirts of her gown, and running off.

Two men were committing a lewd act against an alley wall. This became the Heimlich Manoeuvre. “Are you still choking, my friend?” cried the one man. “Mmm hmm,” said the other. “Just a little more, please.”

The prostitute was a good deal cleaner and prettier than the man from the bank thought she was. “I should be getting back to my wife,” he said, slinking into the shadows.

Long ant-lines of rats tracked through the streets, up the walls, across men’s brightly-polished and laced-up shoes. One rat wrapped itself in the folds of a lady’s fur coat and stuck its head out—like it was wearing a fur coat, too. This made the lady so nervous that she started chewing on her furred sleeve. Like a rat.

The ghost of Winston Churchill was chasing the ghost of a cigar. It slinked into a man’s left nostril, and out his right. When Churchill tried to follow it, he got stuck. Ghost legs dangled out of the man’s nostrils, like a phantom stache.

People were screaming and passing out, now. They were vomiting and slipping in vomit. Some of them hit their heads.

This was no good. No, no, no.

So I spat a fog ball at the youngish lady. “Hello, gorgeous,” said the young man, taking her by the hand again. “How about some sex?”

I spat another fog ball, a nice big one, at the men in the alley. They breathed faster and faster.

A ball for the prostitute, balls for the rats, a ball for Churchill’s ghost.

I belched up every last scrap of fog, patched every last crack. Then I plopped back down onto the street.

Everything was exactly as it was before. People were happy again. You could feel the happiness. It felt like sunshine. Even though it was fog.

I love London fog.

                                                                                

Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave

Buy him a coffee.