03 December, 2021

Fiction Friday - Chasing Chaos


Skylar was running. She didn't know where she'd run to, but she couldn't stay in town. She was one of the fortunate ones. Or smart. When the screams broke the night and woke her, she'd grabbed a hoodie and pulled on her running shoes that were waiting for her by the door before going out to join the mobs of people trying to find out what part of governmental collapse had broken the city center.

And then she ran in the opposite direction.

In fact, while others were already rushing through the downtown to the civic buildings and the vigil at the memorial, she had taken a minute to throw some necessities into a backpack. Whatever it was, she had waited long enough. It was time to leave. Past time.

She didn't really care which side was at fault. Everyone expected the collapse - news,  social media, customers in the shop where she worked, buddies at her gym, everyone. It was inevitable. She wasn't going to wait for the morning news to find out.

And now, here she was, running over the ranging hills of farmland in the early dawn while the city burned behind her. 

Maybe everything would be fine.

Yeah. And maybe my grandmother is going to rise from the dead to chastise me on my life's choices. Again.

Now as she settled into a long-distance stride, she thought again about her luck. No doubt the city exits were closed off already. All those people who ran in toward the city center to get answers were stuck there. Whatever happened next, they could deal with it. 

Or not. Whatever way the politics fell, she was out of there.

And the fake identification she'd had prepared months ago would help officials in other places trust that she was not one of the troublemakers from this horrible place. She'd be free to start whatever chaos she wanted in whatever place she'd land.

It's FICTION FRIDAY!

Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

26 November, 2021

Fiction Friday - Front Lines


Kim was exhausted. These days were long. 

She knew she should be grateful. One of her former classmates from nursing school was stationed in a hospital way up in a high infection area. Here, Kim had had it easy during this pandemic. She knew that. She counted her lucky stars that the disease had not hit this area as hard as her friend was seeing it.

Still, now that the vaccinations were rolling out in full force to the general population, her days were long. It was a lame thing to gripe about, so she didn't. 

"165!" She heard her boyfriend calling through the megaphone outside. Sign in and sign up were outside, and he had volunteered. He knew how stressed she'd been these days and wanted to be helpful. It was very sweet, and he was a help, standing at the sign in table and directing people to the open triage nurse, but she never saw him.

Kim waved in the next patient. "Please verify everything on this form..." she said to the faceless person in front of her.

"Yes, please. That's all correct. Thank you."

Kim looked up. It was the "please" and "thank you" that was different. She had seen dozens of faces so far this morning. Hers was one of three injection stations in the room, so she'd probably seen all of the faces, not that she'd know them. She hadn't heard one thank you. It was only 9:30. There would be hundreds today.

She smiled at the little, elderly lady in front of her and accepted the form back from her. "Which arm please?" she asked. She never asked. This was like a conveyor belt. People came in, they checked the form, nodded, handed it back, and exposed a shoulder of their choice. Everyone sitting in the waiting area saw all the patients doing it, so they all knew what to do. But this time, she requested politely if the the woman had a preference.

"Oh, sorry. Here." The woman had to slip out of her cardigan to expose a shoulder. It was cold in the processing facility and older people often had poor circulation. Kim thought of her own gran and felt indulgent. 

"That's fine," she told the woman before the cardigan was all the way down to her elbow. Kim's work partner for the day swabbed the area and made the jab while Kim input the data from the form into the computer.

Kim smiled at the old lady. "You may wait in the next room, please," and she motioned with her hand. to the doorway. "We will bring you your certification shortly." It was a gimmick. Every injectee was to be observed for 30 minutes. There weren't enough staff to honestly observe all these people, so they took some time printing the certificates. If anything went wrong, there were enough bystanders to witness any problems.

As the woman passed out of her view, Kim took a moment to pray that someone would give this old lady a seat. Then, her attention was required of the next patient. "Everything on this form correct?" she asked the person taking the stool in front of her table...

At 11:00, she saw Jay passing by the injection room, walking slowly, looking in. Kim shrugged at him. He got his breaks at regular intervals, being a volunteer. Kim would have to wait until her relief arrived. Could be soon, could be in an hour. She hoped the vaccination initiative would be over soon so that she and Jay could go back to their orderly lives. But from what she heard from the hot spots, it could be months.

Will this pandemic never end?

It's FICTION FRIDAY!

Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. Today's self-indulgent little micro-fiction was inspired by the hard workers at the hospital where we got our second dose of the Covid vaccine.
If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

19 November, 2021

Fiction Friday - Awake


The system was down.

The system was down and Marcus didn't know what to do about it. Trouble was ahead, that much he knew, but what kind of trouble, coming from where, and in what proportion? Those were the unknowns keeping him awake tonight.

He listened to Vanessa not-snoring next to him. Vanessa didn't snore. She had a throat-goblin that practiced rolling its R's while she slept. The throat-goblin occasionally accompanied the rolled R's with a tiny nose-whistle. She didn't snore. And Marcus had never accused her of doing so. He loved her little night noises when he was awake to hear them. Usually he was asleep. He wished he was asleep.

Tonight was one of those nights he got to take comfort in his loving wife's noise, and he was annoyed. Not at her noises, but at the fact that he had inadvertently brought work home with him. He didn't do that! Sometimes he worked late, but that was specifically so that he could walk in the door unfettered from the office. He had come home unfettered tonight, but his subconscious had poorly hidden the recognition that "the system was down." 

There was nothing to be done. Nothing he could do. He had told Vanessa, because they gave themselves a few minutes each evening to decompress about any issues from the day, but then they got on with their night. Dinner, TV, a childish game with Aiden, a couple stories at his bedtime, watch the news - but in the kitchen on the tiny portable TV while they did dishes - and comfortable chit-chat before bed about the coming weekend.

But when all was said and done, how long would he keep his job? It hadn't been a question or conversation for tonight, but he'd need to talk to her about it soon. Maybe over breakfast, before going in to see how much damage was done.

It wasn't his fault, but the way the company was floundering these days, anyone might be targeted as a scape-goat. He hoped it wasn't him. But he hoped it wasn't anyone he worked with either. What a mess!

Vanessa gave a grunty snort and rolled onto her other side, facing him. Her hair was pulled back behind her and her face glowed in a stray beam of moonlight from their bedroom window. He watched her sleep with a smile, and placed a hand on her hip, feeling a gentle squirm under his fingers as she wriggled into a better position.

It would be fine. It had to be fine. He'd give her the heads-up tomorrow. Everything was better with coffee.

It's FICTION FRIDAY!

Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

13 November, 2021

Fiction Friday - Found Out


Jax stared into his fireplace for a long while after Tressa left, mulling over the things she had said. Their relationship was fairly new, but he'd been optimistic. Tonight changed things. Now he had to be cautious.

"Well, my brother and I bonded over true-crime," she'd said. "We're addicted to reading about it, listening to podcasts, and then we get together and rehash what's going on and what we think what really happened."

Fine. Normal. Jax was not a known criminal. People died all the time, and he was good enough at his job that no deaths had ever been attributed to him. 

"I used to have that kind of passion about gaming," he'd confessed in return. "Not as much time to follow it, now, but I still love it. I think I understand where you're coming from."

He was trying to connect with her. Tressa was always so open about everyone, any interests, any beliefs, she never shut anyone down and that made her even more attractive to him. He'd even thought that one day he might be able to tell her what he really did. But after tonight...

"My brother's been digging into all kinds of deaths. There were a few cases he'd read about that were attributed to natural causes or suicide, but didn't ring true for him. So he's been reading past obits and medical cases. You think I'm obsessed? He's insane over this." She had Jax's attention, for sure. "We think some of these might be mercy killings, or even unsolved murders. Isn't that cool?"

"Cool? Uh, yeah, mercy killings. Cool." He made a point to show his sarcasm. No one could approve of murder, right?

Tressa laughed at him. "Not the killings - cool, but that we're the ones to find out! I mean, at least three of these happened right here at Mercy Hospital down the road! If we've actually found anything, someone local is doing it." Jax tensed and his smile tightened. "I'm not as convinced as my brother is. Yet."

"But you're looking into it." This could be bad.

"I will be. He's compiling everything into a document and I'll see if I can connect the dots. It seems pretty random so far."

"Huh. Well, good luck with that." Bad luck for him.

They'd eaten and the conversation moved on as Jax rewound the tapes in his head, wondering if there was anything at all that might lead her to him. If there was, he was in danger. Now that she was gone, Jax was arriving at a hard conclusion. He set down his empty glass and told the crackling fire, "I may have to kill my girlfriend."

It's FICTION FRIDAY!

Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

07 November, 2021

Missed the Mark

I'm trying to get stuff done today, but I can't take it anymore and this is my safe space to vent.

We stayed up late last night to watch my Dad's memorial service (live-streamed, of course) and it was terrible. SO awful! Solemn, slow, dirge-y...

Not that funerals are meant to be fun, but I've been to enough of them that I feel like a connoisseur. And this one was way less than he deserved.

In a nutshell, the pastor - of the church they've attended faithfully for at least 15 years - sounded like he didn't know my dad at all. If I was a visitor I would have thought that. Pastor Nameless mentioned two things that showed he knew my dad: 1. The trees he planted when he moved in so long ago seem to need a trim (judgy, much?) and 2. My dad is stubborn. Okay, my whole family is stubborn. Dad's stubbornness is not judgy opinion, but fact. (I had to get it somewhere!)

Other than that, anything mentioned about my dad could have been pulled from the obit or Luther's Small Catechism. Seriously. He believed this, that, all the stuff we profess in our confirmation at 13, and then basic life facts: Lived in these places, surviving family includes these people, blah-blah. No celebration of his life, at all!

And no one got up to speak except the pastor. Which would be fine if he said anything warm or kind or with any sort of feeling!

The focus was on the resurrection, which I get. We are Christian, and the knowledge of being reunited in the hereafter is a cause for celebration, but so is my dad's life! It just seems like the bigger focus should have been on the life that had just ended.

No talk about the numbers of lives he touched ALL around the world; no mention of his passion for education or his dry wit. Possibly because the pastor didn't get Dad's humor. Or maybe because he was intimidated by him? My dad has a lot of letters after his name, and I recall friends telling me, after meeting him, "Well he's not scary at all!" as if I had somehow said he was.

But to the right crowd, Dad could be entertaining. Once he and Mom came out east to see me in a play, and happened to be there on the night the director was hosting a cast party. The next day when I got to the theatre, my director asked if my dad was still in town and looked crestfallen when I said they had left that morning. "That guy is like a party trick!" he said. I'll never forget that. 

But he wasn't all high-brow. I've seen him exchange dad jokes with the best of them. They are so groan-worthy I won't even quote them.

The main photo used - on the funeral home obit, on the table in the front of the church - was one of him wearing a granddad cap and a grin on his face, holding a big stein of beer (maybe in Turkey? Maybe in a local steak house?). That photo alone says more than the pastor did.

I left the virtual memorial service feeling let down. It should have been more. He deserved better.

But if my mom was happy with it, that's all that matters. Funerals are for the living. The dead don't care anymore.

Thanks for listening.

05 November, 2021

Fiction Friday - Moon


There was once a little girl called Moon.

That's how these stories always start, isn't it? "There was a ..." boy, girl, queen, king... In this case it was a girl. Of course, Moon wasn't her real name. It's what everyone called her. She had big saucer-eyes and her head in the clouds. A girl with big dreams was Moon.

Just her luck, she was born in the wrong time and place. Moon's parents didn't know what to do with their dreamy-headed offspring. In an effort to bring her ambitions down to earth, her mom and dad kept Moon busy.

School, then after school more extra lessons in everything under the sun. Everything except what she wanted.

Moon could sing. She wanted to learn how to sing better.

Moon could draw. She wanted to learn how to be an artist.

Moon's neighbor played the piano beautifully. Moon wanted to learn how to play.

Instead of all these "flighty" pursuits, her parents filled her days with science, computers, languages. Book learning was the only way they knew to succeed in life. They had no idea how useful artistic talents could be and they did everything they could to squash it out of her.

Still, Moon sang. She studied hard and got good grades. She excelled in school, while singing, and drawing on every scrap of paper she could find. 

She sang while she studied. As she grew up, she had less time for even small drawings, but singing was innate. She couldn't help it. She sang walking down the street. She sang between classes when she went to university. She sang in the lab as she studied to be a scientist. 

Moon's parents were very proud of their rocket scientist daughter. They decided her nickname "Moon" was perfect for a woman working to send people to the moon. When her parents died, Moon sang at their funerals. They would have been surprised to hear how good she really was after all this time.

~~~~

After the funeral, I quit my job at the space center and began working as a cabaret singer. Because I was that girl. That little girl did her duty to her parents, made them proud within their lifetimes, but now that they're gone so is she. Now it is my time. Watch out for the bright light of the Moon!

It's FICTION FRIDAY!

Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. Today's self-indulgent little micro-fiction is actually inspired by one of my online English students (not my life).
If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.

29 October, 2021

Fiction Friday - Following Her Gut


Desiree looked up from her magazine article, over her coffee cup, and out the window to the street. Nothing looked different.

But something felt off.

Without turning her head, she glanced to her right and left. There didn't seem to be any change in the cafe's patronage. The same old guy in the corner to her left, and a younger guy - grad student, maybe? - tapping away at a laptop two seats to her right, oblivious to his surroundings.

But something felt off.

She took a sip of coffee and moved as if trying to pop her back over the chair she was seated in. As she twisted, she looked around. Barista leaning back, scrolling on a phone. Barista cleaning the cappuccino machine. (What were those things called?)

She could see the backsides of a few people in line by the restroom in the rear. That was new. No one fixing drinks, no tables looked occupied, but a line for the restroom? As she turned back around, the door opened and a new patron entered, crossing straight back to the restroom line.

Desiree pulled out a compact from her satchel and feigned powdering her nose while she watched this newcomer nod and exchange words with a couple of the others in line. This cafe had a gender neutral bathroom, so it was no surprise to see the mix of people back there, and Desiree had to acknowledge that although not her practice, chatting with strangers in line was not uncommon. 

The compact now rested by her coffee cup and she continued her reading. Moments later a man in a cable-knit vest over his buttoned shirt and bow tie entered. College professor, Desiree thought as he crossed the corner of her vision.

At last, coffee shop noises. Maybe that's what distracted her before: it was too quiet.

"Hey, professor! The usual?" she heard a barista ask, and smiled to know her assumption was right about the man.

"Thanks, Troy. How long until you'll call me Jay?"

The barista laughed. "Probably at least until graduation."

The drink didn't take long to make, and she heard Professor Jay thank the barista. Her peripheral vision expected him any second, but then she heard murmurings from the bathroom hall. She flipped open her compact as it sat on the table in front of her, and witnessed this new person shaking hands with several people as he moved, unquestioned, to the front of the line, opened the door to the gender neutral bathroom, and held it open for the small crowd to enter before him.

What on earth? She had a split second to make a decision. Thrusting her magazine and compact into her satchel, Desiree took one last gulp of coffee and moved to the back hallway just in time to smile at Professor Jay, whose eyes registered confusion above his noncommittal smile before he allowed her to enter  and closed the door behind them.

It's FICTION FRIDAY!

Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.