Friday, October 30, 2009

Flash Fiction Story: Destiny

His hand closed upon my shoulder. I lifted my head at his touch, but
didn't look back. I knew him well enough not to have to. The dark
flowing robes, the sickle. It could be only one.

"It's time," he said, "I'm sorry."

The words echoed ominously in the air as he withdrew his hand.

As he laid a scroll upon my outstretched palms, he looked almost
regretful. I unrolled it and read the single printed line without
reaction. "This is a death sentence," it proclaimed.

"Destiny to be met and all," he said in a voice that was barely
audible. Even so, I heard a smile in his voice, a hunger in it, that
belied his apparent regret.

I opened my eyes then, rubbed the sleep from them, and put on my
favorite wig--the one that looked even better than the hair that once
flowed luxuriously from my now-bald scalp.

"Destiny," I said, "The name's Mirabelle. Nice to meet you."

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Flash Fiction Story - Worst Case Scenario

"What's the worst that could happen?" she asked, in her best I'm-being-reassuring voice. It sounded vaguely familiar, like Mom's, before the stroke.

I paced around the room another time for good measure before answering, "He tells me he's put fast-acting poison in my coffee and I'll be dead before I can stand up?"

She pursed her lips. "Don't drink the coffee."

"He could put it in lemonade, too."

"For Heaven's sake, Marcia," she said, "you don't have to list every possible drink they sell at the cafe that could be poisoned. All I'm saying is don't do anything you're not comfortable with."

I blinked back tears. "I'm not comfortable with this. With any of this."

In one smooth motion, Pamela left her chair and was immediately beside me, shrink-wrapping me with her arms.

"I know, baby sister, I know," she murmured into my hair. "Do you want me to go with you? I could, you know. Or I could go instead of you."

"I haven't been your baby sister for a couple dozen years now," I said, "and no, I have to do this alone."

I tried in vain to disentangle myself from her all-encompassing arms. She always turned into such an octopus when she hugged. She hugged like her hug was the only thing keeping the hug-ee from being swallowed up by the earth. I'd say her hugs brought out my claustrophobia, but that would be a slight exaggeration.

Pamela squeezed me even tighter before finally releasing me. "You'll always be my baby sister. Even when you're as old as dirt. Hey, remember when Pluto was a planet?"

I awarded her a a subtle upward tugging of my lips that only she could have caught and she grinned triumphantly back at me in response.

"Okay. Here I go. Moving. Anytime now. See you after the Last Great Meet-up. Bye-bye." But my feet didn't obey my words and I looked at Pamela helplessly. "Well....this is me going..."

"Careful, don't get whiplash..." Pamela shot me one of her infamous looks, again reminding me of pre-stroke Mom. I may have been the one to resemble Mom the most when it came to looks, but Pamela had definitely inherited her mannerisms and intonations. I never told her this, though, in case it made her stop.

"Right. I can do this," I said, "I'll just go. Tell him in the end, love just wasn't enough. Tell him it was fun. Tell him I'll always remember him. Not tell him what he has to change because there's no point. Give him back his jacket and that random orange sock. And then get the hell out of Dodge before I pull a Niagara Falls."

She smiled wryly at me and handed me my own coat. With one last lingering look into the mirror, I strode semi-confidently to the door.

"Hey, kid?"

I turned around, eyebrow raised.

She paused, poker-faced. "Don't drink the lemonade."

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Flash Fiction Story: Silent Treatment

So she's sitting there again when I come in. On the floor, cross-legged, facing away from me. At first I think she's doing one of those exercise things, whatever you call them. Pilot-eez or Yoda or something. I know she's not, but I try to pretend.

"Hello, dear, I'm home..." I say.

I put down by bag and take off my coat before I glance back at her. Sure enough, she's still in the same position. If I had some fraction-measuring ruler, I doubt it would have registered even the smallest change. I hate how she just sits there. She does this now. I come home, and she doesn't react. She robot-ifies. It's a thing.

"Did you make anything for dinner?" I ask.

Again, no answer. Last night I had to eat emergency rations. I tried to give her one but she didn't even blink at me. When I got up in the morning, she was still sitting there, the un-opened rations bar same as where I'd placed it. If it keeps up this way, I'll probably starve. A man can't survive on emergency rations forever. He'd die of culinary boredom. It happened to a friend of mine. He wrecked his shuttle on some human-forsaken planetoid and when rescue found him, he was dead
as the 'toid. There were still plenty of Emerations so it's not like he ran out of supplies. They did an autopsy but afterwards, all they could say was he should be alive today. I knew the guy: he lived for food, and Emerations just couldn't cut it. Don't want to end up like him, but with her sitting there like that, I think I might be on the same damn 'toid, emergency-rationing myself to death.

When we first got married, things were different, things were simple. I got home, she was there, dinner was made, love was made, sleep was slept. That was before my promotion. We were young and in love and all that. Things were different afterwards. She couldn't support my work,
she said. It's wrong to de-ecologize a planet for our own use, she argued, there are other beings to consider. Well, excuse me for trying to provide for her, for the family we were supposed to have. And those beings? Not even sentient. She wants to sacrifice our livelihood, our futures, for insects and rodents and plant life! Ridiculous.

"Okay, dear, I'm going to bed then. You coming?" I say, grabbing an Emerations shake for variety. Same awful substance, in liquid form. I can't decide which is worse, so I alternate.

She doesn't say anything. She's probably waiting for me to go into the other room before she moves. She's probably sitting there wishing I would just leave. These days, even though I know she hates my job as much as ever, she probably wants me to stay there all the time, not come home at all. She's probably glad she couldn't have children now.

"That's it," I say, "The final push of my abort-mission button!"

So I get back into the room where she's sitting and tap her on the shoulder. I'm not going to stop until she reacts. Took a couple of minutes, but then she turns her head and opens her mouth, and her eyes lock onto mine.

"Three days, five hours, twelve seconds since I left this robot in my place," a strange electronic version of my wife's voice says, "and you have failed to notice the difference. Should have done this long ago. Have a nice life."

I stand there, this robot wife of mine still sitting cross-legged, staring up at me and all I can think is how amazing technology is, that it can look like real anger in those computerized eyes.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Flash Fiction Story-Recipe for Love


• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 shallots, minced
• 1 cup vodka
• 1 cup chicken stock
• 1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
• Coarse salt and pepper
• 16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn
Serve with:
• Crusty bread, for passing

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic and
shallots. Gently sauté shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their
sweetness. Add vodka to the pan (3 turns around the pan in a steady
stream will equal about 1 cup). Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2
or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and
reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked
to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad
or other side dishes.
Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from
heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass
pasta with crusty bread.*

It was that recipe that made her fall in love with him. She still
liked to look at it from time to time, to remember the dream of it--
the fantasy of that first night.

Two years after her husband had left her for the pretty blonde dental
hygienist, the seed that was her loneliness had grown into a tree
whose shadow she lived in daily--until one morning when she found she
no longer took comfort from its shade.

"What do I have to lose?" she said, with a laugh, to a friend that

"Meet your Match: A Match Made in Heaven!" proclaimed the site, but
the repetition and play on clichés did nothing to encourage her. At
first she debated each question at length. Some (Would you describe
yourself as introverted?) were easy to answer while others (If you
were a part of a pineapple, which part would you be?) perplexed her.
After a while, she clicked responses without thinking, without even
reading the question in its entirety. If she happened to catch a
mistake, she often didn't alter it--for reasons which alternated
between skepticism and fatalism.

When she bit her lip, took a deep breath, closed her eyes and clicked
"finish", she nearly passed out. Almost immediately, her matches
started flowing in. Caroline skimmed the matches, eliminating the ones
with the more unsavory words or pictures. Of the ones that remained,
most were so formulaic that she passed over them too, their printed
words devolving into "blah blah blah" in her mind's ear.

Just when Caroline had given up hope of finding anyone worthwhile to
"wink" at (wink? she thought, Seriously? I'm supposed to "wink" at men
that interest me? Maybe it should be "honk". How crude!), his profile
caught her eye. Oh, he was attractive, but it wasn't his photo that
captured her.

Instead of writing about himself (as most self-centered men seemed to
enjoy on this site), he'd posted a recipe. What a strange thing to do,
she thought as she tapped "print" repeatedly.

In the car, for the first time in years, she found herself excited for

At the grocery store, Caroline searched for the ingredients with
relish, pausing each time she saw someone plucking the same items off
the shelves to wonder if she had seen the same profile, and was
preparing the same dinner. Somehow, it made her feel far less alone.

In her kitchen, sautéing seemed sensual; turning simmering into
boiling was almost climatic. And eating it did things to her pallet
she hadn't thought possible.

By the time Caroline had finished savouring the last bite, she was a
little surprised to find herself thoroughly in love. Only that, after
all, could have made her rush to her computer before even clearing the
table or washing the dishes.

Scanning all the supposed heavenly-made matches, she desperately
looked for her love, "Cooking4U". Caroline could scarcely wait to
"wink" at him, to tell him how much she had enjoyed dinner, to find
out his real name, to meet him in person. If he was anything like the
pasta, she thought, she really had found her match. Visions of a
spokeswoman-future flooded her thoughts. She could see an image of
herself with her handsome new husband, and a quote, "I met my match,
and you can too!"...or something more original, some clever play on
words that would melt the hearts of naysayers and bring love to the

Oh yes, months later, she could remember the fantasy of it all, could
still taste it on her tongue. It wasn't unlike her first marriage.
Perhaps it always started that way, before diminishing into reality.
Maybe there was a biological reason for it; there usually was for such
things. Or maybe the heart was simply funnel-shaped, closing off until
but a trickle might escape into it.

She'd still make the pasta, of course, it was too good not to. Not for
herself, but for others, and then afterwards, when her friends and
family would drone on at length about how amazing it was, she'd
readily hand over the recipe. When they'd ask where she'd come across
it, though, Caroline's lips would curve into a bitter-sweet smile.
That was the one secret she'd never tell, the one story she'd keep to
herself. After all, she'd die before letting anyone know she'd fallen
in love with an ad for a cookbook.

*Recipe passed along to me years ago by a friend; original source

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