We all have our ways of blowing off steam and mine’s in the writing, particularly in the hula-hoop rockabilly break-the-blog revival going on at JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination. Maybe you’ll join us next Friday for a little two-minute (give or take) flash fiction. Here are a few of my pieces from this week. I hope you’ll also roll on over and check out what the other writers threw down.
Sparkle bright headache inducing light blasted over a sea of shiny disposable things, acres of uselessness making her feel disembodied from the pulse of what the world had become. All she wanted was a toothbrush. Simple, small thing. But when did it become part of a cult of dental hygiene, when did it take a back seat to seventeen kinds of flosses and rinses and implements of gum care? And where did all these younger people come from, phones plastered to their ears, pushing carts in robotic lockstep, hair the same style, teeth all the same shade of white? Maybe there was something to be said for stepping off the planet, making room for the new generations to take over and multiply and strip every last bit of bacteria from their teeth. What would he make of this? He hadn’t been out for years, and who knew what sifted in from the drone of the television, all day long? And where were the toothbrushes? The soft kind, the ones Dr. Feldstein had been giving her for years? Her shoulders sank. Where, at least, were the people who helped her find things in stores? No longer a requirement of modern life, she decided. But worried about her closing window of freedom, she grabbed an approximation and returned to the quiet, not-bright house filled things she understood, some too well. “Honey, I’m home” stopped being amusing years ago, so she closed the door quietly behind her. For a long moment she watched him, the machines pushing his chest out and in, and went off to brush her teeth.
The apartment grew too small. Or maybe it was the space in her lungs. Maybe her cells had crowded too closely together, and her veins needed some time out. Perhaps the lights were too bright and the dust settled too thick and the moon pulled too hard on her blood. So she grabbed the keys and left, slipped into the dark, starless night without a word over her shoulder to tell him where she was going because even she didn’t know that yet. Point the car in a direction and see where I end up, she thought. Two states later she was still driving, her eyes sticking together and singing Captain and Tennille songs to keep herself awake. When she saw the name of the town, she smiled. She liked the way the syllables rolled off her tongue, this combination of something that was probably half Iroquois and half Dutch. It felt like home.
She sits in a cubicle and types enticements to other people’s futures. Paid by the word to make them look taller, more beautiful. Employable, take-home-to-mother-able. From their scrawls on un-auto-corrected emails full of emojis and lower-case words she makes them into smooth-talking Ivy League graduates, the winners of tomorrow’s jackpots. Three of the overhead lights have burned out and the fourth is lined with dead bugs and grime and there she sits in her ill-fitting polyester slacks and cats-eye glasses that keep slipping down her nose, photoshopping the shines off foreheads and the pimples off chins. And when she’s done for the day, she clicks off the lights and goes home and drinks cheap wine and tells their real stories, changing the names to protect the guilty.
“Did I know her? Well as anyone, I guess. She was just another one of them braless, beer-drinkin’ girls hung out down by the river. Don’t even remember her name. Naw. I wasn’t there that night. My where-a-what? You mean where I was? Hell. Gotta take the fifth there, chief. Not that I was doing anything against the law, just kinda…well, it wouldn’t look too good to say. But the girl? Nah. That wasn’t me. Hey, nice mug shot. Yeah. I know him. Wouldn’t be at all surprised…treats the girls like shit. Hell, you gotta drive ‘em home after. Least you can do, right? He said what? Aw, no, man. Like I said. I was somewhere, but not…say what again? You found what in my truck? Little frilly things ain’t my style, man. No, I don’t know whose. I don’t do girls in my truck, man. That’s just wrong. Someone planted that there, make me look bad, you know. Her sister, maybe. She always had it in for me, ever since…well, never mind about that. The blood…what blood? Blood on… Hey. What the hell? Get those friggin’ cuffs out of my face, chief. Least let me call a lawyer.”