“Always be a poet, even in prose.”
― Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
“Always be a poet, even in prose.”
Short Stories, Poetry and Prose
“Always be a poet, even in prose.”
― Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Rats continue to plague my short story. This is the conclusion to my original brownie fiction. If you would enjoy reading it from the beginning, please click here. Enjoy.
“Call me when the brownies are ready?” Michael was running toward the TV room.
I made a quick recovery. “Come back here.” The toilet flushed and Clay slid open the pocket door to the bathroom and headed down the hall toward the TV. “You too, young man. I want some answers.”
Clay dragged his feet in an exaggerated death march behind his little brother. “Aw, Mom, it’s no big deal. We didn’t hurt him.” He stepped on the heel of Michael’s shoe, sending him into a dive.
“Booger Face.” Michael whirled around ready to punch the taller boy.
“Stop it, immediately. Get over here.” I pointed to the dining room table. “Sit.” My finger jabbed toward Rick and Anita, indicating them as well.
“I didn’t do anything.” Anita sat with a harrumph.
“Yes, well then you don’t have anything to hide.”
Anita’s feet swung back and forth. Shoulders hunched, she sat with her chin on the table. “Rick told me not to tell.”
“I’m sure he did.” I looked at my oldest whose knuckles were still in the metal mixing bowl he’d brought to the table. “Give me that.” I whisked the bowl over to the sink. “You were supposed to be in charge, Rick.” The clang of metal to sink punctuated my point. “You need to set an example—both of you.” I looked from one older boy to the next. “He looks up to you.” I pointed at Michael.
“He was having a good time.” Rick grinned at his youngest brother. “He was getting into it, too.”
“It was different when you were picking on Clay?” Michael stuck his nose in the air and sniffed. “Can we eat?”
Clay looked indignant. “Yeah, you guys only tried to set me on fire!”
“What?” I stood over the table of defendants.
Clay pointed to Michael. “He got the fireplace lighter while she got Mom’s hairspray.” He turned on his sister.
“Hairspray, for what?” I looked at Anita.
“I didn’t know what it was for. Honest, Mom. Rick just told me to do it while he held the door shut.”
“I didn’t hold the door shut. He had it locked.” Rick pointed toward Clay.
“Locked why?” I looked from one boy to the next.
“I was trying to go to the bathroom, and they wouldn’t leave me alone.” Clay squared self-righteous shoulders.
“You were trying to keep Michael from hitting you with the spoon.” Anita giggled.
“He tried to pull off the towel, Mom. Out there …,” Michael pointed toward the front door, “in front of God and everybody.”
“What did you do with my hairspray, Anita?”
“I didn’t do anything.” Anita’s lower lip trembled. “Rick made it spray fire through the bathroom keyhole,” she wailed.
“RICK.” My eyes bulged like a cartoon character.
“I didn’t know it would work, so well.”
“It was a good thing I was sitting on the toilet.” Clay’s hands flew in the air. “Fire shot right through the door past my face.”
“Rick,” was all I could manage. “What…, How?”
“We learned it in Science class. You put fire in front of the spray and it turns into a torch.”
“They taught you that in school?” My mouth hung agape, waiting for oxygen.
“The teacher used different propellant, but it was really cool.”
“I’ll cool your butt, Mister. You could have really hurt your brother or set the house on fire!” I walked in a circle, rubbing my forehead, while Anita began to sniffle.
Eight-year-old Michael bounced in his chair. “I smell the brownies. Can we eat ‘em?”
“Hell, no. I may never make brownies again,” I bellowed. On cue the timer buzzed and Anita began to cry. Grabbing the oven mitten, I stepped to the range. “I may donate these to the church,” I yelled and pulled out the 9×13 inch pan, placing it on the stove top, so smooth and practiced the motion resembled a dance.
“Aw, Mom,” Clay and Michael chimed in a chorus. “Please, please, please don’t give them to the church, again; can’t we eat the brownies?”
“No! Go play,” I waved a red mitten in the direction of the back yard. “Not, you.” I pointed a long finger at Rick; my eyes squinted, trying to look fierce. He sat down while the younger boys ran out the back door. Anita stayed, her hands in her lap, forehead resting on the table.
I leaned on the counter that separated the kitchen from the dining area, allowing the quiet to settle into the space. My eyes rested on the broken spoon, as I regained my composure and decided how to dispense justice. “So Rick,” I picked up the two pieces of wood. “What happened to my spoon?”
The fourteen-year-old looked at his sister. “I think it was rats.”
Although the short story, “Rats,” is indeed fiction, it has occurrences of truth while the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
This was originally published as a two-part story. You may read it in its entirety here: Rats
I pulled the well-worn wooden spoon from the jar of utensils on the counter. The handle dangled for a precarious moment before it bounced several times and came to rest on the Formica. “What happened to my spoon?”
Anita, my six-year-old, giggled, “It broke.”
“I noticed that.” I picked up the dowel and scrutinized what I hoped was a gob of rubber cement, “but how?”
Anita leaned against the cabinet in front of the unfilled brownie pan. Her blue eyes stared up unblinking. I could see the turning gears.
Clay, Anita’s eleven-year-old brother, crossed the room quickly. “Wow, brownies. What’s the occasion, Mom?”
“A funeral for my favorite spoon, do you know what happened?” I fished out a plastic spatula from the jar and frowned at the warped head, melted in a previous bake-off.
“Ah…, I think Shane broke it.” Clay recited our oldest boy’s common excuse for unexplained broken or damaged property.
Anita giggled at the family joke. “Shane breaks everything.”
I stopped the mixer and handed Anita a beater. “Maybe we should stop letting that clumsy neighbor kid in the house.”
Clay shrugged. “Can I have a beater, too?”
While the two kids smeared chocolate across their faces, I attempted to spread chocolate around the pan with the bent spatula.
The back door slammed. “Ohhh, brownies.” Fourteen-year-old Rick sauntered into the kitchen.
I sighed and opened the cupboard door to the wastebasket. “Rick, do you know what happened to my wooden spoon?” I threw the chocolate covered spatula into the trash.
Clay shrieked, “Mom, I could have licked that.”
“Sorry.” I frowned and held the two pieces of wooden spoon for Rick to see.
He looked from his sister to his younger brother. “No clue. Can I lick the bowl?” Clay hip-shoved his brother away from the mixing bowl.
“I wasn’t here.” Anita weaved her tongue in and out of the beater.
“What do you mean?” I picked up the Pyrex dish. “Where were you?” My words sounded off-hand, as I turned to open the oven door.
“I was down the street at Meagan’s, remember?”
I slid the pan into the hot oven. “Was this yesterday, when I went grocery shopping?” I had left Rick in charge of his two brothers, Clay and Michael while Anita went to visit her friend. “You were here when I came back.”
“I came home when I heard Michael screaming.”
“Screaming?” I bent down to Anita’s eye level.
“No.” Anita backpedaled, looking at her oldest brother glare. “Just hollering … a little.” My eyes widened as she spoke faster. “He was using the spoon, to get his underwear out of the pecan tree.”
“What?” I looked at the older boys who shrugged in unison. “I don’t understand, Anita—explain.”
“It was just funny, Mom. After they “pants” Michael they threw his underwear up in the tree where he couldn’t reach.” She pointed at the front door.
On cue eight-year-old Michael ran in from the TV room. “Are the brownies ready, yet?” He ran by the family crowd to look in the oven window. Michael turned to see my mouth hanging open. “What?”
“You were in the front yard naked?”
He looked at the audience standing at the counter. “I had a towel around me.”
Clay snorted a laugh before Rick elbowed him.
“Clay.” I turned to the weak link.
“I can’t help it, Mom. It was those leopard bikinis.”
I turned my head with a cough, knowing the youngest boy’s fashion obsession. I pursed my lips to stifle a smile.
“I gotta use it.” Clay ran towards the hall bathroom.
I turned to Rick. “So you pulled off your brother’s pants, took his underwear, and threw them up in the tree—in the front yard—for God and everybody to see?”
“They gave me a swirly too.” Michael stood looking in the oven window. “Are the brownies done, yet?”
“A swirly—is that what I think it is?” I grimaced with visions of Michael’s head in the commode.
Gastrocolic soundings rumbled down the hall. Rick tipped his head in the direction of the bathroom. “Just be glad he didn’t use it first.”
“I heard that.” Clay yelled from his throne.
“So did we,” Anita chimed in. Laughs erupted all around.
I scowled. “That’s enough, young lady.” Anita pouted her lower lip at me.
I turned to Michael. “What started all this?”
“I don’t know.” Michael glanced from his older brother to the oven. “It’s no big deal.”
“It was a big deal if your sister could hear you all the way down the street.” My voice rose with my mental mortification. “I’m surprised the neighbor’s didn’t call me.”
“Maybe they’re not tattle-tails.” Rick ran his finger around the empty chocolate bowl.
I shook my head. Eyes closed, I could only imagine the tailwind from the neighborhood mom’s. “Oh, God.” I bit my bottom lip.
To Be Continued…,
What do you think? Will Mom hear it from the neighbors?
What happened to the spoon?
Does chocolate attract Rats?
See you here next week. Chris
The theme of time and eternity continues this week in my original flash fiction, “Waiting.” My imagination is stirred with the intersection of the concrete and kingdom come. Do time and dimensions overlap? Does the waiting in life stop at death or move beyond?
She was 102. Her husband had passed twelve years ago. Their only son, David, had been gone some forty-eight years. She grimaced. She had outlived everyone—her siblings and friends. The Hospice nurse offered her some morphine.
“No, thank you. My mind is all I have.” Memories floated on a hymn sung long ago in a little brick church. A hum crossed her lips as a wave of pain stole her thoughts.
“Hello, Mama.” He kissed her cheek.
“David?” He was such an inquisitive boy. Grew-up to become a scientist.
He pulled at her hand. “Come on, we’re waiting.”
“Yes, of course.” There was an explosion of evergreen and cinnamon apple cider—Christmas! Cataract free, she blinked. Vibrant hues cuddled her warm. She ran. Laughter burst from her chest.
“Sarah!” She swung her little sister round and round. They hugged for a week.
On the porch, her husband kissed her again for the first time over and over.
David sat in her lap for a month. He moved a little toy car up her arm. He placed his hands on her cheeks, pinching them gently into a fish mouth. “Bye, Mama.”
“I’m going to explore the Universe.”
Her head cocked to the side. She didn’t understand.
“I’ve been waiting. You were the last one who remembered me. Now, I’m free.” Immediately, a comet tail of vapor swished toward the sun and past the stars, two thousand years.
Her hair flew in the breeze as she waved. “See you.”
She turned and followed her path back to the party.
She had stepped back into his life as quickly as she’d walked out. He knew he should be angry, but as he pushed her chair to the table, the scent of Chanel seemed like springtime flowering in his winter.
After introductions were shared, Walter ordered a round of martinis. George amended his, “I’ll have mine shaken, not stirred.”
Sylvia leaned forward. A hint of cleavage whispered from her tailored silk blouse. “Mr. Wang, I’m so impressed with Shanghai. It’s beautiful and so rich in culture,” her head dipped slightly, eyes wide, “yet, it has its mysterious side.”
Walter looked at George. “Yes, we are a very diverse country?”
Sylvia placed her hand on her husband’s. “And even more so now, with an American as Shanghai Oil’s chief of engineering.”
“We are excited to have such a renowned engineer as your husband on board.” Walter looked to the phone vibrating on his belt. “If you will excuse me,” he nodded with Asian propriety and stood. “Corporate is calling.”Continue Reading
Here’s a short fiction I hope you’ll enjoy. Chris
“You’re such a bore, George,” Sylvia said with a toss of her head.
And just like that, she was gone. Of course, the runner-up for Miss Texas 1978 didn’t leave with only the diamonds on her left hand. The next day while George was at work, Sylvia returned with a moving van, packed everything except his undershorts and the clothes that wouldn’t fit Teddy. Thank God she took Teddy.
That was two months ago.
A week after Sylvia’s departure, Shanghai Oil had called with an offer. It wasn’t hard to accept the job. There was nothing in Houston for him—literally. He didn’t care. It was just stuff. The condo was Sylvia’s idea. The white leather sofa and floating bed suspended from the ceiling were fun because Sylvia was there. George had been warned not to get sucked in, but a wife and family had seemed good after all these years. He had to admit though, when she left, it hurt.Continue Reading
This is totally a fiction. The diary’s changed to protect my innocence.
“Where did that pillow come from? I’ve never seen it before.”
Ellen sighed. “Mom, I told you. That’s mine. That’s where it belongs.”
“What’s that?” the old woman pointed to the scar on her left forearm.
“That’s where you got hit with a shovel when you were twelve. Remember?” Ellen pulled a photo from the packing box.
“Did you do that?” Indignation rose in the woman’s voice.
“No, Mom. I wasn’t even born, yet.” Ellen sat gently next to her mother. “Uncle Larry was digging a hole when you ran in front of his shovel. You always said he did it on purpose.” Ellen smiled at the family joke and patted her mother’s leg. The old woman stared at her arm.
“Are you hungry?” Ellen rose from the sofa and looked at her watch. “We’re having fried chicken for supper.”
“It smells good.” She looked around her daughter’s spacious living room.
Ellen shook her head, wading through crumpled newsprint and bubble wrap. “That’s promising, since I haven’t picked it up, yet.” She returned to the half emptied packing box.
“Where did this pillow come from?”Continue Reading
Here’s the conclusion to the short fiction I began last week. I hope you’ll enjoy.
Laundered Money (part 2)
He watched her face. So, she didn’t recognize me.
“My God, what have you been doing? With yourself, I mean.” Her face turned red. “You still live around here? Well, I guess you do, here you are.”
“Guess I’m just living the glory life, and you’re still watching me work.” Her face paled. She’d watched him plenty back-in-the-day. Got a beating from her staring. Dad said I’d screw us getting paid. It was always Brant’s fault when the old man had been drinking.
“I heard you got out of Dodge.” He leaned against the washer and crossed his arms, exaggerating his pecks. “But you just couldn’t stay away.”
“Not exactly my idea.” She turned toward the house. “Well, I’ll let you get to work.”Continue Reading
This week I’m sharing the first half of a short story. Stay in touch for next week’s conclusion.
Linda didn’t have to worry about picnic ants or drippy ice cream cones. It was the Fourth of July, ninety-eight degrees, and she was sitting cool inside reading last year’s May issue of Cosmo. She found the dog-eared prize abandoned on a folding table. The name on the cover indicated it was borrowed from the doctor’s office next to the laundromat. The optometrist was most likely boating or barbequing, whatever docs do on their days off, so she didn’t feel guilty not returning it.
She stood and checked the perma-press in the dryer. Who’d have figured this many people washed clothes on a holiday? Probably, like her, this was just another day. She had hoped to speed the process with unlimited machines at her disposal, but some woman toting six baskets and two toddlers must have beat her in the door by fifteen minutes. They sprawled across the right side of the washateria.Continue Reading
A response to last week’s flash—Uncommon Bond, I enjoyed writing this piece from the “kid’s” point of view. Give me your thoughts. Chris
The driver’s side door extended like a wing, enticing James like a mocking bird draws a cat away from her nest. As the valet next in line to park, he couldn’t believe his luck. Back in Indiana, he drove dirt tracks and raced modified stock cars. To drive a Jaguar had always been a dream.
The concept car spewed the aging executive out, like a wrinkled bug. “Good morning, sir.”
The old bug didn’t respond, but stamped the winter sludge from his snake skin boots with a curse. James was used to the piss-ant attitude. Moneyed boomers who frequented the Palmer Hotel usually expected their backside cleaned. Minimum wage alone wasn’t getting him through design school. James knew how to kiss ass, but today this was his tip.Continue Reading
This flash was inspired from a magazine photo. Next week I’ll share the valet’s point of view. Hope you enjoy.
The silver CX75 concept car sliced to the curb of Chicago’s Palmer Hotel. The Jag’s door swung up like a wing. Bill cursed. His nine hundred dollar boot drowned in a puddle of gray slush left by the last vehicle. He stood with a grunt. His disheveled black trench coat clung to the seat unwilling to leave the warm leather.
“Good morning, sir.” The valet smiled, drool practically running down his chin.
Bill squinted through his round Lennon glasses. A steely blue gaze, known to wilt boardrooms, was wasted behind fogged lenses. He pulled his Cubs cap from his pocket and mashed it down over his large forehead that reached back to a nest of white hair.
The kid stared at the car. At least he looked like a kid to Bill, but he towered over the CEO’s five foot nine frame. His red short waste jacket accentuated his height and the gold trim reminded Bill of an organ grinder’s monkey.Continue Reading