Every Friday, a bunch of eager and intrepid scribes write two-minute flash fiction with atom-splitting fury over at JD Mader’s website. Why, you ask? Because it’s there. Because he gives us the space and has the best snacks. And his writing makes grown men and stout-hearted ladies cry. Our numbers are growing like crazy, and something like magic happens when we write together. Maybe next week you’ll join us? Or add to the fun any time you’d like. Just take a deep breath, close your eyes and write. We’ll break that blog yet. Here is what this week’s alchemy inspired for me.
The girl—more woman than girl, at least more woman than any of the other female creatures in the junior high school where I’d barely been enrolled a week—leaned toward me, as if she could penetrate my soul with her dark, laser-focused eyes. “What’s your philosophy of life?” she asked, and then leaned back, as if she’d won. The hour, the week, our academic careers. She crossed her muscular arms over her ample chest and smirked. Her sidearms, two taller girls who wore lipstick and eye makeup, nodded, as if to say, “Yeah. Make something out of that, new bitch.” I quivered a little. Pressed my lips together. Then said, “When I’ve actually had a life? I’ll tell you then.” And, feeling a little taller, walked off to my next class.
The man slept through the morning, unaware of the angry paws de deux, cat adieu dance Phineas and I did while I was getting ready for work. My fault for choosing nylons that day. Or sneakers with trailing laces. Or trendy pants with drawstring cuffs. Fodder for cat to bat, his limited method of expressing his fear and displeasure at being left alone with the sleeping man, who would, at some point, wake. When I caught Phineas eyeballing my beloved parakeet, I knew it was only a matter of when. With one freakishly opposable claw, he flipped the latch on the cage and left his quarry at the front door for me to stumble over, bleary from a late shift. Welcome home, Mom.
Once bustling with children and weekend beer bashes, the neighborhood is on life support. Occasionally someone will pass us as we walk, talk of things that used to be, vague promises to get together, rueful smiles at some doctor’s suggestions to exercise more or cut down on the drinking. One has his arm in a sling. Another house, everyone walks quietly by, afraid of the frozen woman on the porch, who, depending on the day, will say hello and call us in to see pictures of people she no longer remembers, curse us out for nothing, or will need help getting her car out of the ditch again, the car she is not allowed to drive. The children of the flatlining neighborhood are gone, return begrudgingly to mow a lawn or fulfill an obligation; they smile in conspiracy when you see them in their hand-me-down pickup trucks, hauling big boxes home from the big box stores. A new TV the parents won’t understand how to use. A gadget nobody needs but is a substitute for love and time. We slide off, nodding, only wanting to get back home and assure ourselves that we still have beating hearts and skin covering our bones.