Out-take | from a story which will never be written

“Do you ever wonder why some people become doctors?” Samantha asks the question with a serious look.

“Money,” Daniel replies without hesitation.

My eyes flicker to the steam rising from my cup of coffee. Ernestine leans forward, glasses almost reaching the tip of her nose, as she presses her elbows into the table.

“Love for humanity,” she whispers with determination.

Samantha smiles at her a little sadly. I can feel Benjamin shift behind me, out of my line of sight. His silence motivates me to speech. Keeping my eyes on the coffee, I murmur,

“Pressure.”

Samantha nods; I can feel Ben’s eyes trained on my back. Rene, however, plucks the cigarette from her lips and fixes me with a disregarding stare.

“Nobody’s forcing you to be here,” she says nastily.

Rene and I have never gotten along; I disapprove of her suicidal bent and she takes umbrage with my warped morality. So I barely even react to her outburst.

“Nobody asked you, Ren,” Ben growls. Like a protective papa bear. He’s like that these days, and sometimes I’m curious enough to see where it will lead. But not today. I offer him a slight smile and, ignoring Ren, and turn to face Samantha. She looks like she regrets opening the discussion.

“People don’t always get to do what they want,” I tell her gently. “Being an adult is about doing what you have to do.”

From behind her cloud of smoke, Ren sneers but offers no other comment. Samantha sighs. She’d like to believe we all get along in this circle of half-friendship but the truth is that our personalities generate an uncomfortable friction. A static electricity that puts everyone on edge.

“Which all boils down to money,” Daniel reminds us triumphantly and launches into a tirade on the dire straits of world economy.

I let his words wash over me as I sink back into my seat. Daniel is content to listen to his own voice for hours, and I . . . well, I would rather not think about anything much for a very long time.

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A silence grew when he walked into the room. Not a hushed, anticipatory silence but a silence of exclusion. It was a silence that wrapped its silent cloak tighter around its silent mouth and watched him with silent, screaming eyes.

Mi Hija

I flipped the switch but the lights didn’t come on. Unsurprised, I stepped across the threshold into the dark, let my eyes adjust. My feet fell onto soft carpet, making no sound as I advanced into the room. Just as it should be. Noise would be most unwelcome at this juncture. My heart pounded even as my armpits tingled and I wondered at my nervousness. Such a small thing, I reminded myself. Yet so important. My anxiety turned to determination and I continued to cross the floor.

Guided by the sliver of moonlight that crept stealthily into the room, I approached her where she slept by the window. My fingers itched and trembled. I hesitated. Doubt warred within me – what was I even doing here? At any moment she would wake up and the crying would start and I would be helpless. Again. Of its own accord my hand moved to hover above her sleeping form, its intent unclear.

My breathing hitched.

Her eyes opened.

I froze.

She blinked at me sleepily and gurgled once before nestling down in her blanket and returning to slumber. Tears pricked the back of my eyes. I would have stroked her cheek had I not been afraid to wake her. By day she was a holy terror, but by night – like fairies dancing in moonlit rings – she was a tiny miracle.

SS2: Interview of the Year

The actress was sitting on a chair. Pale, slender fingers curled seductively around the cigarette a dozen men had fought to light and her chest moved in time with the delicate wisps of smoke leaving her throat. The camera panned away from her face, focused a fraction of a second longer than appropriate on her bosom and skimmed the length of her body to shapely legs and feet encased in designer heels.

The interview was staring, entranced, at the intimacy between her lips and the Marlboro. His notes lay on his lap, forgotten, until she smiled, the corners of her lips lifting like the crew’s collective blood pressure. There were no teeth.

“Are you quite ready?” she murmured, tapping ash off the end of her cigarette into the dime-store silver ash tray the cameraman had to avoid getting in the shot. He panned to the cigarette, giving the interviewer time to collect his wits.

He began the scripted tirade of questions, vetted by his people and hers, so as to avoid any uncomfortable discussions. The cameraman kept his focus above their waists though he himself was drawn to the ceaseless rustle of the silk taffeta dress against her thighs. Her eyes told the same lie to every man in the room and her laughter, when she indulged, boiled their blood.

The interviewer was laughing with her at a joke he did not remember telling, his laughter discordant with the richness of the actress’ voice. In high spirits, he glanced at his papers. One question remained, a pencil scribble he had added himself only hours before that hadn’t been seen by either of their managers. But surely she wouldn’t mind if he asked it. She’d been so nice.

The laughter died away naturally to leave a patient silence.

“Mrs.–,” he began pleasantly enough, “There are some rumours that I am sure you’ve heard. Come now, tell us. Did you kill your late husband?”

The question shattered the silence like china. There was the sudden feeling of ice slicing through one’s veins, none so chilled as the unfortunate upstart . The actress uncrossed her legs. The look she gave him was deceptively lethal.

“Why, Mr. –,” she fairly purred, “tell me: do you think I killed my late husband?”

The remaining crew shifted uncomfortably in jeans that were suddenly slacker than they had been moments before. The interviewer was sweating uncontrollably. Dimly, the cameraman heard the thundering steps of an irate producer but he kept the camera focused firmly on the actress who was sitting on a chair, smiling around the flickering end of her last cigarette.

Sunday Short 1: My wife, the beauty queen

My wife, the beauty queen, he used to introduce her, on account of that one time when they were sixteen and she won a high school pageant. She would blush and give him a stern look, and he would smile at her until she relaxed again.

They used to hold hands all the time, too. Now all he holds is a brandy snifter full of the good stuff while his rheumy eyes keep a liquid watch on the blue gilt urn atop the mantle, nestled between the silver-framed pictures of smiling grandkids and a woman who used to be a beauty queen.

Every Sunday I’ll be posting a little bit of flash fiction to keep me on my fingers. Inspired by S. Asher Sund.

the little voyeur that could

one of my favourite and possibly worst habits is looking into other people’s rooms as i pass by. you could say that the writer in me is a naturally curious soul, but jamaican people would just se mi faas.

to me, that’s what flash fiction is like. it strips away context and background, leaving behind a uniquely isolated moment.

it is art elevated to purist ideals.

it is life stripped of its frippery.

it is the human soul that flares briefly in a stolen glance.

{flash fiction} A Girl and her Squirrel

Based on this painting: http://www.kellyvivanco.com/index.php?section=available&pt=meeting-place

Alice waited until the moon had fully risen before walking out the back door of the kitchen and following the little trail that led into the woods behind her house. The night was quietly breathing. She heard crickets and the scampering of tiny mice feet and the hoot and flutter of owls overhead. But only when she really listened. Otherwise, like when she focused on the trail ahead, all she heard were dim rushings and thuddings. The sound of blood in veins.

Alice’s dainty feet took her quickly and quietly across the leaf-strewn track. Her destination: the tree stump in the middle of a clearing where she and her friend Fariel met fortnightly. She was almost there, the withered old stump was in sight. Alice walked very calmly to the centre of the clearing and waited, hands folded neatly in front of her. Almost instantly, Fariel appeared and capered up the stump to twitch his inquisitive nose in the general direction of her face. Alice smiled.

“Hello.”

Fariel, being a squirrel, did not reply in the accustomed manner. Rather he twitched his whiskers a fair bit more and blinked at Alice once or twice to let her know he was happy to see her as well. It was Fariel who had decided on these twice monthly meetings, Alice remembered as she put a hand up to stroke one of his delicate ears.

They had both been wandering the forest that night, and it was the first time Alice had discovered the clearing. She had sat by herself on the stump for some time, tucking her feet under her dress very demurely and staring up at the moon which huge brown saucers for eyes. The glimmer of movement had caught her attention, and she spied Fariel at the edge of the clearing. Only then he had just been a squirrel to her, and she just a human child to him.

Alice was not like the other human children her age, and it would have been fair to say that Fariel was not like the other squirrels either. After taking note of Fariel, Alice drew her gaze back to the sky but she continued to keep watch of his movements out of the corner of her eye. She noticed when he stood on his back legs, twitching his nose and whiskers and blinking at her with unfathomable black eyes. And she noticed when he fell on all fours, creeping steadily forward to investigate this strange creature.

Alice noticed, and was silent.

When he was close enough that she could touch him, Fariel rested his forepaws gently on the edge of the stump, just out of reach of Alice’s skirt and peered up at her. In return, Alice peered down at him. There was a moment of silence until Alice said simply,

“Hello,” with a reserved kind of politeness used for meeting very important strangers.

His whiskers had stilled with her first breath, but now he scurried quickly up the stump and onto Alice’s knee, looking directly at her face. His whiskers twitched once and he blinked. Alice smiled slowly in return.

“Hello,” she said again with warmth.

Alice pulled herself away from that memory to notice Fariel rummaging through a small pile of nuts at the base of the stump. She helped him sort through them, all the while speaking softly of the things that had gone on since the last time they had met. Her mother’s teaching, her brother’s meanness, the way her father still didn’t seem to pay any attention to her. She told him about the cook chasing the pig, and about the spider she rescued from Mother’s broom. Fariel’s whiskers quivered as he listened.

When they were through with the acorns, Fariel climbed back up on the tree stump where he could look Alice in the eye as she stooped. She reached a hand out toward him and he grasped her forefinger between his delicate paws, nipping her affectionately. They remained like that for a while, a girl and her squirrel, until the steady gusts of wind bespoke the lateness of the hour.

They left as they had come. Fariel, scurrying away to his home-tree, and Alice, treading quietly back down the trail to home.