Friday, January 31, 2014

Girl on the Bus 2.0

It's been a long time since I've taken the bus... I don't mind it, you get such a great chance to people-watch, but it's a bad combination with my poor immune system.

Plus, I do love driving stick.

I spent way more time than usual writing this flash fiction piece. Nearly an hour. I actually ran over 600 words before I stopped and had to pare it back to get it to the 500 word max. The paring always takes more time than the actual writing, and in the end, I'm not as happy with the final result. I don't think the 'idea' behind the story comes across as clearly as I'd like it to, perhaps because it's messier/more complex than most of the other flash fiction I write.

Well, it'll have to do. Have a wonderful weekend!

And yes, I know I was very bad to write something this long and tax my poor arm... don't tell my physiotherapist!

I watch as she steps off the bus. Long tartan skirt, oversized knit sweater, frayed bun, hooked glasses. A girl in the guise of an old woman, with the eyes of a child, and the walk of a man. Fifteen contradictions at once, yet somehow harmonious in her cobbled flaws.

Faded daisies in one hand, worn canvas messenger bag on her shoulder, she stops at the intersection, looks left, looks right, looks straight, then right again.

I follow. Or I don’t, I just happen to be going in the same direction. She clomps, footsteps too loud for her ballet flats and thin, over-dressed frame, but pauses, rethinks her direction, her destination, at every cross-street and alley.

Nerves? Or is she lost? She can’t be going to a job interview dressed as she is, or holding a ten-dollar bouquet of cheap flowers. It can’t be a date. Surely not a date.

The weather isn’t bad to walk in. No sun, but also no rain or wind. The clouds are high and grey, watching over, but not threatening, a drizzle of clear sky on the horizon.

Off the main street of shops and bus routes, we walk down, down, down, framed in by leafless trees and a wide, grass boulevard.

Left. Now I’m following, killing time, I suppose. I wasn’t out for a walk, since that word suggests an errand, or goal of some sort. A wander, perhaps, would be more accurate. A moment to clear my head, out of the noise of my small apartment, away from the squalling bicker of voices through thin walls with not nearly enough insulation.

Up, up, up a long, winding hill. No boulevard, no trees. Instead, a regiment of iron posts, a spiked fence, and through it, rolling green hills and a series of squat mausoleums and chapels mourning in their own corners of a large cemetery.

She turns left, though the gates and under a row of naked trees, dutifully planted at precise intervals between the graves. Not cherry, or another friendly, hopeful spring tree, or even evergreen to break up the marked and measured containment of death. There is no room for emotion in the clinically spaced rows, the uniform headstones, and the hushed stillness of bare, mid-winter branches. Most of the markers are simple, inset plaques, as if by hiding them, visitors can pretend the clean, well-manicured lawns are unmarred by loss and decay.

I stop before the gate, and turn to go. When I arrive home, I stare at the blinking cursor on my screen, at the partially complete spreadsheet. Rows of numbers, names, and information to dissect and erode humans down into raw data.

With purpose, I walk, not wander, and return with a ten-dollar bouquet of flowers and a five-dollar vase. I set them on my squat, lifeless desk and reopen my client-list. Not account numbers, not simple risk-calculations to grant or deny credit. People. Humans. Emotional, messy and alive.

Girl on the Bus

A fine Friday morning to you all.

(no more alliteration, I swear)

I pondered this line, and the direction it was going to take, a couple weeks ago when I chauffeured a friend around and spent some time waiting in the car.

Here's the prompt, enjoy:

I watch as she steps off the bus.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ghosts 2.0

I went in... a way different direction than usual.

Oh, and I wasn't trying to rhyme or be neurotic about having the same number of beats in each sentence... more, I was trying to get it to 150 words, and couldn't quite do it, so I settled for 175.

And then my arm was hurting, so I just stopped :) Yeah! I get needles shoved in me tomorrow! Acupuncture is kinda awesome.

In an old wooden house behind an overgrown hedge, where shutters lay rusted and breezes still. As the days’ light grows tired, that’s when ghosts come to play.

No spooks in the graveyard, no poltergeist tricks, no crawling of nerves, or in the traipsing cross of black cats. It’s in warm summer twilight that ghosts like to play.

A rattle like bones, a bird-sharp laugh, a tumble of dried ferns, and a wind-stolen hat. That’s how you know the ghosts are at play.

The scratched caw of a raven on the mazed bark of a tree, the tip-toed song of a rainbow, the rustling chatter of grass. That’s how you hear ghosts while they play.

In the kneaded tread of crushed moss, in the rings of small stones, in the scratched painted fence, and snapped boughs of young firs. That’s how you see where ghosts play.

Between tumbled-down tree-forts, and buried treasures of old, rotted rope swings and long-outgrown shoes. That’s how you remember when ghosts came to play.


What? Two Friday posts in a row? No, you're not crazy or delusional... though, then again, maybe I'm not the best person to authenticate any declarations of sanity...

Well, who cares?

I sincerely hope the post's title doesn't skew your decision of where to take the prompt for today:

In an old wooden house behind an overgrown hedge, where shutters lay rusted and breezes still.

...and I'm not 100% sure I used the word 'lie' correctly...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Calico Sky 2.0

Here's my 100 word offering on this grey winter morning:

The sky was calico with its longing for rain. A haze of stillborn clouds loitered like an unfaithful lover, all bright autumn colors and empty promises as I kicked my feet through crackles of mummified leaves and dunes of thirsty dust. 

Between scarred ash and cypress, the whir of cicadas rose and fell.

Hands drawn into too-long sleeves, I didn’t drink in the late September air, or taste the smoke of early-season fires spilling from chimney tops. Instead, I choked on the stale tobacco and minty aftershave asleep in his scarf. 

Parched, my eyes waited for the rain.

Calico Sky

Yep, I'm slithering back into writing, one shuddering hitch of my shoulders at a time.

Ready for the first Flash Fiction Friday prompt in... a while...?

The sky was calico with its longing for rain.