Tag Archives: short short story

For a Free Day

 

My cat sits on my computer and yowls in my face. She is smashing the letters. 

“Diva, let me do my homework,” I say, pushing her aside and commencing the deletions. 

Undeterred, she sidles back up to me, puts her paw against my thigh, and cuts her claws into my leg.

Enraged, I stand up, and she skitters a safe distance away, conspicuously near the food bowl.

I sigh and go to feed her. She always gets her way.

As I dole the food into the dish, Diva twining around my ankles in smug self-satisfaction, the phone rings.  It’s Gina at the steakhouse.

“Yes?”

“Hey… will you come in today? Kirk was supposed to but it fell through.”

“I have homework to do.”

Diva meows her agreement.

“Please? I’m really in a bind.”

I massage my temples. “Alright… alright, but you owe me.”

I grab my keys, put on my work clothes, and head out. They still smell like the restaurant from last night.

As I shut the door behind me, Diva takes advantage of my distraction and streaks outside.

Fucking cat. 

 

I get to work, put on my apron, and start taking orders. Of course Gina gives me more of the shit tables; the old church ladies who keep their change and never tip. The two-top tables, women who share a flatbread and drink a mimosa, then talk for two hours, picking at their crumbs. A poorly-dressed man with feral eyes who I suspected might be homeless. He asks for his steak cooked rare.

Wednesday afternoons at the steakhouse are never very busy, I don’t understand why she called me in. The way she was talking you’d think the place was on fire.

I go into the kitchen to find Gina gone. Gone. She’d just left without a word to me. I have to host now. It’d actually be an improvement, if I weren’t so angry at her. She might be my supervisor, but that doesn’t mean I don’t deserve a fragment of respect.

I run the whole damn front for the next six hours, until Mina arrives. 

“She just left you?” Mina says as she ties her apron on. Her terse lips tell me she’s been treated this way, too. She shakes her head and punches in.

“Yeah. I’m pretty worn out, so you don’t mind me leaving you with my tables?”

“Tables? You mean table.”

I glance out of the kitchen. The feral homeless man had dashed while I was talking to Mina. Bastard had gotten a free dinner out of me.

Well, that was coming out of my paycheck. I just made $34 for six hours of work.

 

I come home, Diva is waiting for me. She zips back into the house when I open the door.

At least I get tomorrow off. Thirty-four dollars. What’s the point. 

I climb miserably into bed. I’ll shower tomorrow.

I wake up at eight AM. Diva demands food. I feed her, go back to bed, and luxuriate in my blankets, the warmth, the soft sheets. Diva lies in the patch of sun on my bed. I curl around her to share the rays. I’ll get hungry soon, and have to get up. But now, this is where I want to be. Today, I am free. It is a delicious sensation.

The phone rings. I look at the name. It’s Gina again.

Diva slumbers on my chest. She cracks a questioning golden eye at me, which catches the sunlight, lighting her iris in glinting amber flame. I am lost in admiration of her. 

Maybe I’ll skip class today.

The phone rings again. I won’t answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Palingenesis

 

Stepping off the curb to cross the street, his foot lands on a piece of cardboard, and it slips under his feet. Everything goes off-center. He is falling backwards.

He slips into a familiar, momentary lapse of time. Weightless. Maybe like being in the womb. Maybe like death. 

He remembers, in that one second, being someone else, a tiny child, whom his parents would toss in the air, eliciting delighted giggles. He feels again what it was to be a grinning kid who went sledding, who rode amusement park rides, who loved the loose sensation of roller skates under his feet, the dizzying slide of tennis shoes on a frozen pond, closing his eyes and jumping off the swing at its apogee, leaping from the monkey bars. As he got older, he needed to make bigger jumps: from the second story window of his bedroom, the stomach-dropping fall from the front car of a roller coaster, perilous speeding car rides down mountain back roads.

He used to seek that. The sensation of being stunned. The joy of getting turned up-side-down. Thrilling in the unexpected. Always finding a bigger risk. 

Gravity returns with a vengeance. It knocks him flat, kicks the breath out of him. 

He can’t breathe. There is something wrong with his tailbone. His toes tingle. This is the kind of fall that will leave traces for the rest of his life. Drawing lines of pain through his bones, down his nerves, trailing in his new limp, slowing him down. His routine will change. His shoes will change. The content of his conversation will change.

A college kid hunkers down beside him, concerned. “Are you OK?” She says. 

He sees himself reflected in her eyes, distinguished gentleman with graying temples, ass over teakettle in the gutter, and finds his breath, taking in a great gasp of air.

He can’t answer her for his own wheezing laugh. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

The Hell Show

This is a nightmare I had, so it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.  I often dream in third person.

This a horror story! Turn away, ye faint of heart!

 


 

Before she went to war, she saw her doppelganger in the crowd. It was hiding something bulky under its cloak. Its eyes had a peculiar shine to them. It felt her gaze and looked at her, and she sensed great hate, warning her of things to come. It disappeared in the crowd.

Later, when she tried to tell others about it, they wrote her off as afraid of battle.

Years passed…

She was hanging up laundry to dry late at night. Her stepson was watching TV and she made small talk as she worked, the way mothers do. Gradually she noticed that something was wrong with the channel he was watching. It was a picture of hell. Twisted flesh illuminated in violent orange. Heavy screams.

It leeched all light from the room around her. 

She tried to maintain normalcy, changed the station. “Let’s not watch this scary channel,” she said. He waited until she set the remote down and changed it back.

The atmosphere of the room was sapping her. This was the end of her peace. The same darkness she had seen that day in her doppleganger had returned to claim her. She could barely move.

Rolling her head to tear her eyes away from the TV, she focused instead on a coat rack leaning against the wall which she’d planned to mount in the entryway, for visitors. All the wet laundry she had yet to hang. Simple household things which she’d held on to and tried not to take for granted.

A self-protective instinct kicked in. Weak with horror, she staggered to her feet and stumbled into the bedroom next door, throwing herself onto the bed on top of the covers. Absentmindedly she wondered if she wasn’t going to get cold, falling asleep this way. It didn’t matter. As long as she wasn’t forced to watch that channel. As long as reality held fast.

Her stepson followed her. His eyes shone in the very same way her doppleganger’s had. And something else had entered the room with him: the stifling, odious presence of another being, more felt than seen.

“No, no no please,” she managed. It was hopeless. Fear sapped her limbs; paralysis suppressed her fluttering will into hopeless, taut submission.

The room darkened.

Thick, strangely humid air settled into the room. A small buzzing gnat of mad rationale whispered in her ear, at least it’s warm

The room was opaque with darkness. There was no TV in here, but he didn’t need one. He was going to bring that hell to her anyway.

The boy went to the window. An ominous brimstone glow limned the solid blackout roller shade. 

He raised the shade, and hell was there. An enormous corpselike thing looked through the window at her with dead eyes, a boa constrictor jammed down its throat and wrapping its fetid body in torturing coils. It screamed, impossibly through the snake. The sound was deep, low, primal. The sound of pure evil. 

She screamed back.

She screamed until she ran out of air, kept on spasmodically screaming. Paroxysms of wordless pain and terror tore through her, leaving actual tatters. She screamed until every blood vessel in her eyes burst. She threw her head back and screamed until her neck broke.

Her body jittered unnaturally. Her face was changing. She would be one of them soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Why it’s important to respect nature

 

Jeb was a park ranger. Bill was a sheriff.

One day Bill took Jeb out to lunch. They had a nice time. They fell in love. Marriage it wasn’t legal for them yet, so they moved to a cabin in the woods and taxidermied simple woodland creatures together. It was a happy life, until Jeb blew up.

Bill was in the cabin going through his glass eye collection when it happened. When he heard the blast, he immediately knew that Jeb was gone.

He sat quietly for a long time.

Then he got the keys to the Subaru, he got his shotgun, he got all the leftover dynamite, he packed himself a nice salami sandwich with mustard, and went to get his revenge.

The only recognizable thing he found at the site of the explosion were Jeb’s boots, standing upright in the center of a crater.

The remains of the truck were in orbit over Manitoba.

But Bill wasn’t sheriff for nothing. He was smart. He used his senses. He sniffed, he scratched, he dug, he burrowed, at last unearthing an ancient bunny burial burrow. Jeb must have unknowingly trespassed, incensing the wildlife, sealing his doom.

Bill stuffed all the dried up bunny mummies into the Subaru, loaded the burrow with dynamite, and blew their sacred area up the rest of the goddamn way.

Then he went home and feverishly worked on taxidermying the ancient bunny mummies all night, gluing them into embarrassing poses for all eternity, as he waited for the retaliation of the forest.

A scratching sounded at his door, but it was nothing. Only a stray mountain lion.

Just when dawn touched the horizon, the bunnies came for him.

Bill was prepared.

They tripped a wire in front of his cabin door.

BOOM.

Up went all the bunnies, Bill, his cabin, and six acres of woodland besides.

He got revenge. He left his mark. But he did not win, as he knew he wouldn’t. No man can defeat the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Gardening Against the Future

 

“DON’T TOUCH THE MYOPATHIC SYCOPHANT PLANT!” The sign read.

The plant was a sickly purple-green. It had wobbly knobbles everywhere, broad leaves, and a great big flytrap mouth. It grew in a cowering shape, looking up at her from its position on the floor.

The little girl wanted to touch it.

She touched it.

It opened its mouth and screamed in pain. Then it collapsed. Upset, the child kneeled and cradled its head. Once this attention was received, the plant immediately started complimenting her and begging for money for its gardener bills.

The exasperated gardener approached. “Who touched that damn thing!” She said, one fist balled angrily on her coveralled hip, the other leading a hose.

The child screamed. She collapsed. She started complimenting the gardener and begging for money.

“You want to act like a plant, you’ll get treated like a plant,” the gardener said. She took the little girl by the shoulder and watered her thoroughly.

The girl stopped complaining and made gurgling noises instead.

When she considered her lesson well administered, the gardener pushed her back in the direction of her mother. “Learn to read,” she said. “Save you a world of trouble.”

The child tottered away, coughing and gasping.

The sycophant plant had seen what just happened. It huddled obscenely at the gardener’s feet in fear until its stem gave out and it collapsed completely.

“Oh, oh, oh,” it said. “You’re so strong and patient, won’t you help me up?”

“Ugh. I’ll get something to help stake you up,” the gardener said. As she headed toward the supply closet, she questioned her life decisions. Plants were getting to be too much like people. Why couldn’t she just garden roses? Roses were beautiful. They didn’t whine or moan or beg. They didn’t even think.

Sure, there were roses in this garden. But they had to be defended by increasing measures from the floral predators. Genetic engineering had gotten really out of hand here. The garden was a noisy place. The plants got into a lot of arguments.

She unlocked the shed and popped the door open. A slight resistance and then a tear. Oh no.

One of the plants and migrated into here and was rooting across the door. She knew which one it was before she even saw the tattered ficus leaves.

“Wandering Masochist! How many times do I have to tell you. You have a home.

“But I like doorways,” the Masochist said.

“You don’t have to torture yourself like this. You have a home. Go where you belong. You have supportive friends there.”

“I don’t want to.”

“If you don’t want to… then isn’t that all the more reason to do it?”

The ficus’s leaves turned upward cheerfully at that, and it wandered off. Hopefully it would go where it was supposed to be, but she doubted it. It was sure to find a new doorway to root across and wait for the tearing roots again. That thing…

She grabbed a stake, a few ties, and a towel, then locked the door behind her. She stuffed the towel under the crack in the door. That might keep it out, for a little while at least.

On her way back, she tripped over the Deciduous Package Hauler, who, for lack of a job, had grabbed a handful of Panic Pansies and was attempting to haul them to the other end of the garden. She stopped to free them from its clutches, then gave it the stake to deliver to the Sycophant. Package Haulers were working plants, bred for factory life. They struggled in a lush botanical environment.

Letting the Hauler go ahead, she paused to take in an abundant overgrowth of peaceful pink blossoms. Beautifully formed, quiet, unassuming plants. She hung her fingers on the chain link fence before it, careful to avoid the electrified wiring. The fence couldn’t keep out their perfume.

Life used to be simple, back when she gardened with her grandfather. They would pull the biting weeds and spend a guilt-free evening watching them writhe instinctively on the burn pile. They would give graham crackers to the Ghost Cactus. It loved chewing on graham crackers. And as for the roses, all you had to do was plant and water them.

When she sighed and let go, she turned back to work and saw with a shock that the Orange Lynx Fungus had been watching her. Its eyes were dark spore holes, its teeth black drips. It knew the fence was electrified and had been staying away, but now that it had seen her touch the weak spots in the fence, it was sure to figure out a new way in. This thing’s life ambition, it would seem, was eating roses.

Along with everything else in the world.

So what if roses were things of the past. So what if they could no longer hold their own against a rapidly changing environment. She would remain a gardener here as long as they, too, remained. She would protect the roses, even if she could only ever see them through an electrified chain link fence, through razor wire, through impact-resistant terrarium glass if it came to that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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