Friday, March 26, 2010

Flash Fiction Story-- Sophia's Return

This is a true story. It didn't happen to a friend of a friend. You won't find it on Snopes. It happened to me. I swear.

But you still won't believe it.

It's hard for me to accept that. Like most people, I like to be believed. I have one of those trustable faces. Yet, if I told you this story in person, you still wouldn't believe me. It hurts a little. See, I was honest again. About my feelings. My feelings you're about to hurt.


The printer was a birthday gift to me when I turned fifteen. I don't know why, since I didn't get a computer for another six months, but I was very happy with my printer. It was pink. I named it Sophia. Here's the part you won't believe: Almost exactly a year after I got it, my printer disappeared.

No. I don't mean someone stole it, or borrowed it, or anything else you're about to suggest that everyone else has already suggested over the years.

I mean, it freaking disappeared. I was printing a report about how Hamlet's main problem wasn't that he was indecisive, but that his actions--when he did act--were rash. For instance, how he accidentally killed Polonious. If he had just looked behind the curtain, instead of slashing first and asking questions later, it never would have happened. Rash, Hamlet, rash.

Yes, I know I remember the essay really well, even after ten years. You would too if it had been printing when your printer vanished. I'm pretty sure I'd remember every item on the grocery list if it had been printing at the time instead. Yes. I printed grocery lists when I was fifteen. Don't make it into a thing. It's not a thing. Plenty of kids type up grocery lists.

Moving on.

I wish I could say "it vanished right before my eyes!" but I can't. I had been up all night writing the paper and I closed my eyes as I listened to the sweet melody of a newly-finished essay printing. And then it stopped. I lifted my head, and the printer was nowhere to be seen. It took half my essay with it.

My teacher didn't believe me. My parents didn't believe me. My friends didn't believe me. You don't believe me.

It's all right. Clearly, I'm used to it. Slightly traumatized, but used to it nonetheless.

Here's the thing: yesterday, Sophia returned. I don't know how it found me, seeing as I've moved since then. Twice, actually. But find me it did.

I was having dinner at the time, and it appeared on my coffee table. Grey's Anatomy continued on while I gaped at the pink memory-incarnate.

And then it started printing. But get this. It wasn't my essay! It was a letter, signed by me! Future Me! Mrs. Me! There was a note about my future husband, how we meet, things like that. And birthdays of my future children. There was something about not taking the job I'd soon be getting a call about. And warnings about crossing the street on the night of September seventh. Didn't mention a year, but that's all right. And there's lottery ticket numbers! I bought a ticket today for a million dollar lottery. I'm going to be so rich!

I know, I know. How do I know it's even true? It knew which house to come to, didn't it?

Oh, there's also a note that says not to tell anyone about it, but I figure no one will believe a story about my time-travelling printer anyway, so what's the harm?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Flash Fiction Story-- Date with a Prince

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful Princess who was waiting for her handsome Prince to rescue her from a terrible fire-breathing Dragon. The call had been made some time ago, the terms were clearly specified, and she was starting to get restless. After all, the moat was rented and the dragon had better places to be.

"He's certainly taking his time," the Dragon said, "Doesn't he know there's a schedule?"

The Princess stopped pacing. "I'm sure he does. He'll be along soon. I am sorry for all this trouble. I'm sure you've someone else wai--"

"That's putting it remarkably mildly," said the Dragon, "You aren't the only princess is in need of such a situation, as you well know. Also, I have plans with my wife after work. And a real gentleman does not keep a lady waiting."

The Princess said nothing. She gazed out at the horizon, eyes peeled for a great white stallion with a gallant crowned rider.

"He'll be here," she said, as much for her sake as for the Dragon's.

The Dragon twisted his head towards her sceptically and snorted.

"Look! That must be him now!" The Princess pointed out the window eagerly.

The Dragon looked where she pointed and relaxed. "So it must be..." he said, warming up his fire-breathing, "So it must be. It seems I might just make my engagements after all."

The Prince leaped from the horse and bounded across the bridge over the moat, purpose in his every step. As soon as he had crossed it, the water evaporated--as per the terms of the lease--and the Princess received the bill, payable to A Rainy Day Inc.

"Dragon!" shouted the Prince, drawing his sword, "I am here to save the Princess! Come out and fight me to the death!"

The Dragon needed no further provocation. He spread his great wings and flew down to where the Prince stood waiting. A moment passed. The Prince's green eyes bore into the Dragon's amber ones. Neither blinked. And then--

"Stab. Stab," said the Prince, "I have slain you."

"Oh, oh," said the Dragon, "I am slain."

The Prince grinned back at the Dragon, who rolled his eyes. Not for the first time, the Dragon considered retiring. He was getting too old for this nonsense.

"Fly safe, old friend" said the Prince, "See you next time!"

"Always," said the Dragon, as stretched his wings, "and perhaps."

With that, the Dragon tipped his claw towards the Princess, who stood watching in the window, and took flight towards the next Princess who'd hired his services. Another bill appeared in the Princess' hand. Deadly Dragons-R-Us, like the others, charged by the second.

True love, she thought, is always worth the cost.

"Hullo," said the Prince, who had climbed the stairs and was standing before her. In his hand was a beautiful rose.

"Hello!" she said, and reached her hand out to accept the flower.

"Oh!" he exclaimed, and pulled back his hand, "No, I'm afraid this rose isn't for you to keep. Look only. But it's quite beautiful, isn't it? Like you."

The Princess wasn't sure how to respond. She withdrew her hand, and her fingers closed around themselves.

"Oh..." she said. "Sir Prince?"

"Yes, my Princess?" he said, flashing her a smile. His teeth were the whitest teeth she had ever seen.

"Please don't take offence to this," she said, "but I was wondering how old you were? Since you and the Dragon are old friends...? And because your hair...?"

"I'm forty," he said.

"Four... zero?"

"Yep. Forty. Why? How old are you?" he asked, "Twenty-five?"

"Twenty-six," she answered. Forty? "I'm sorry, I'm a little confused. The call I put out was for a young gallant Prince, my heart's true love."

"Twenty-six is a good age. You're not so young that you're naive nor too old that you need to settle down and have a family. Twenty-six, I'd say, is the pretty much the perfect age."

"I see," she said, unimpressed, "The perfect age for what exactly?"

"For anything," he said, "Look, we should get a move on... My castle or yours? I'll only be around these parts for a fortnight, until I must go visit my fiancee, so we'd best get to it. "

"Fiancee." She'd heard such tales, about Princes who already had a Princess to call their own true loves, lining up in the que for another anyway.

"Ah..." He flashed her his too-white teeth again, "I didn't mention that to you before, but please don't be alarmed. We have an open relationship, and I'm not looking for anything serious with you. I hope you don't think this all was a waste of time."

"First of all, Sir Prince, what you do with your own life is your business, not mine, so long as I am not a part of it. And, to be honest, the age difference alone is enough for this not to continue. But the fiancee... is far, far too much. Frankly, you're not what I'm looking for at all. And I'm rather annoyed about the moat. I had to specify by number of water droplets."

"Well, here, take this," he said, thrusting the rose unceremoniously towards her.

"I don't want your damn rose," the Princess said, "I think you should leave now."

"I really wouldn't have had a chance with you, even without a fiancee?" asked the Prince, "Well, I can at least give you a lift back to your castle. I have that white steed you asked for."

"Definitely not," the Princess said, "Good day and good luck with your Princess."

The Prince gaped at her for a moment longer, and then clumsily mounted his stallion and rode away.

The Princess shook her head wryly and took out the bills she'd received. The customer support lines were in the small print, but she searched until she found them.

"If I can't get an ever after today," she said, "I'll damn well get my refund."

And she did.

The End.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On The Fence

Okay. So, today, I was talking to a friend who was, metaphorically speaking, stuck on a fence. A conversation about being knocked off fences (not to be confused with knock-off fences, which are a menace to society, and fund drug dealers and terrorism)then ensued.

For some reason, it popped into my mind in cartoon form, and this friend didn't try to talk me out of it. In fact, I'm pretty sure her exact words were: "YOU HAVE TO DO IT. RIGHT NOW." I argued, mind you. I told her I couldn't draw. I suggested that, even if I could, I had no idea how to draw somebody actually sitting on the fence. But she wouldn't have it. So... I drew it.

The speech bubbles vaguely remind me of the old version of the Pepsi logo, or possibly a hamburger. And the critical fence? I really have no explanation for that one. The fence sprouted a mouth, and started talking, and I had nothing to do with it, I swear.

Please comment and tell me to stop drawing the crazy random things that come to mind. Because otherwise.... I might not.

Scary thought? Yes. For me also.

Horse. Cart.

At the risk of sounding like a certain beloved Star Trek character--I'm a writer, not an illustator! In any case, this was born in a Tweet and grew into an image that I felt compelled to produce, my lack of artisitic talent not withstanding. Hope you like it anyway!

"Horse. Cart. No gettin' all disorderly now. And don't think I'm not watchin' neither. I know who's the trouble in this here equation."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Flash Fiction Story: To Make Sense of it

Ever since I saw the dead bird on the sidewalk when I was a child, I knew I wanted to be a writer. More than anything, I wanted to describe the reddish hue of its spread wings, the glassy stones that had become its eyes, the way the natural shroud of death had spread over the bird completely.

So many people see a dead bird and all of a sudden they are infused with an overwhelming, burning desire to be a vet. I can understand this kind of thing inspiring someone to become an coroner, but how exactly would a vet treat a dead bird? Ignore the question mark. It’s not a question; it’s a statement. I don’t need an answer, though I half-anticipate a certain overzealous reader of this blog to explain it in some detail. (You know who you are. Please stop or I will block you.)

Looking back, I think it was actually quite a traumatizing experience. I remember I caught a glimpse of the dead bird as my foot descended towards it. In that terrible moment, I could almost hear the crunch of its bones; feel my shoe sink into its body; feel absurd guilt flow through my veins. It didn’t happen, of course. I managed to avoid stepping on it, albeit just barely. Yet, even as an adult, in the moment between anticipating something happening, and the actual occurrence, I’ll sometimes feel the same sinking feeling and think of that little dead bird.

Today I sit at my computer, watching the cursor blink at me tauntingly, wordlessly daring me to perform some feat of cunning, to transform the unthinkable into something structured, something comprehensible. Words in a sentence, sentences in paragraphs, paragraphs on pages: I’ve always relied on words. I think I’ve done right by them. Words aren’t supposed to fail me--me, of all people, with half a dozen New York Times best sellers under my very well-buckled belt—but today they do.

Today, the words in my head are the doctor’s, as he says he regrets to inform us that Andy doesn’t have much time left—a few days, maybe a week, at most. My wife and I have deathbed conversations in code, the kind you never think you’ll have until you do.

“I should go with him. I’m his mother.” Gingerly, she pushes his hair away from his closed eyes.

“You’re Penelope’s mother, too. You have to stay here for her,” I tell her, “I’ll do it.”

But Joanna’s eyes fill with tears again as she whispers, “She needs you, too. And I can’t do this without you,” and my broken heart shatters even more.

I find people expect life lessons from writers, some kind of translation of horror into normality, so here’s a bit of wisdom for you: no matter how small the pieces are already, a heart can break into smaller ones. I’m sorry if you wanted more from me. Maybe another day I’ll be able to tell you how he fills me with the strength I need to continue living in this world without him. I hope that day will come. But that day is not today.

Today, I watch him sleep. I try to savour the moment, remember exactly which way his hair curls, and how his little fingers clutch the pillow, and I lie to myself. I tell myself I’m like any other father watching his son sleep. I write a happy ending and imagine him all grown up, watching his own sleeping child. My breath comes in synchrony with his laboured one, mine catching when his does. I watch him sleep and I see that little dead bird, feel that helpless in-between moment, and wish, more than anything, that I could take a miraculous sidestep and avoid this completely.

Strange, isn't it? My son is dying and all I can do to make sense of it is write about the dead bird of my youth.