Archive for February, 2009

Short-Short 8: Diamonds and Rough

On the Las Vegas strip, over Exposure nightclub, there’s a smoky VIP Lounge called Diamonds. How I got into this place, I have no idea. Nor do I know whose mouth this is on mine, but the tongue feels like carpet and tastes like burnt eggs. I turn my head to avoid vomiting and spy my friend dancing. He’s rocking his hips in a slow rhythm while his jeans’ zipper swallows a blonde girl’s hand whole; her arm is wriggling, but it doesn’t look like much of a struggle.

I excuse myself from mystery-mouth and teeter to the bar. Two more of my friends are there, watching a pair of fake breasts bounce as their owner laughs. One hand claps my shoulder, another offers a shot of lord-only-knows. We all clink glasses.

I wake up alone on the couch of a Junior Suite.

Lunch is spent comparing stories, conquests. We golf until dusk and shower at the local outlet of a nationwide gym. On the drive home, we stop at a discount shopping boutique. I buy polo shirts, my friend with the predatory zipper purchases a pair of earrings. “Jewelry,” he says, “is the key to any successful marriage.”

At home, my fiancée asks if I brought her back any souvenirs.

-John Lander

Short-Short 7: Watching Porn, 3:47AM

At least she had the decency not to fuck him in front of a camera.

-CP

Short-Short 6: In the Eyes

Black, squirrelly eyes stared back at Doris. On the velvety pillow was a swatch of short, white hair that looked like it had come from the cotton candy machine at a circus. Doris ran her hand over the woman’s pale paper-thin cheek, beset with deep rivers of wrinkles and smaller tributary crevices. Respectable black dresses hung loosely from both women’s emaciated bodies. It was all quite surreal for Doris. Not many people have buried their identical twin sister.

-CP

Short-Short 5: Giving Back

Like all New Yorkers, Maria Santa-Himmelman had grown accustomed to her city’s homeless population. However, she had not yet adopted the normal blindness to their abject poverty. Instead, she had developed an elaborate hierarchy. It looked like this:

[Note: These are Mrs. Santa-Himmelman’s words, as they appear in a journal entry marked May 11, 1994.]

  1. The only kind of homeless of which I approve are those who possess a quiet dignity. They may hold out a cup. They may hold out a hand. But while asking for alms, they do not offer their eternal soul in exchange for your dollar.
  2. I appreciate the minstrels, the street performers, and I will stop to listen to a good one. But I will never give them a cent. First of all, you can never tell if they’re really homeless or if they’re just pretending. Second, if they truly don’t have anywhere to go at night, I find that these people always get the most money from passerby.
  3. Finally, there are those who complain and hound you and tell you their life story. I ran into one of these types today. I dropped some change into his cup, and he yelled out, “Hey, this isn’t going to get me shit. Thanks a lot.” He kept screaming as I walked, as if I were speeding away from the scene of a car accident.

By the time Mrs. Santa-Himmelman came across yet another bum sitting on the corner of 1st and 76th, these three guidelines had become law in her mind.

The bum had pulled his knees to his chest and hugged them, storing up heat on the blustery night. He had a long gray coat and scraggly beard. His breath coiled up into the cold air and disappeared a few feet above his head.

Mrs. Santa-Himmelman liked this man’s silence. She reached into her pocked and emptied several quarters into the Styrofoam cup by his foot.

“What the hell, lady?” the bum called out. Mrs. Santa-Himmelman stopped, silently preparing a defense of her charity. “I was drinking that.”

-CP

Short-Short 4: The Book of Job

Standing in his ratty hotel room, Harold held a torn page of the Book of Job between the thumb and forefinger of his quivering, sunburned hand. He looked down at it and ran his other hand over the bald spot in his crew cut that hid, like a secret oasis, in a desert of close cropped, ex-marine perfection.

A band of pale flesh wrapped around the base of his long, bony ringfinger like a skintight collar. All he wanted was to stop the shaking.

-CP

Long-Short 1: The Job Interview

Sorry, all. I was away for the weekend and didn’t have access to my computer. To make up for it, here’s a nice 1000 word story about a job interview, the reason I was out of town.

The Job Interview

“Come in, Mrs. Friedman,” said Mr. Spector. His voice sounded like air escaping from a tiny hole in a Ziploc bag. “We can get started right away. The sooner this is done the better, eh?”

Mrs. Friedman, a tall, broad-shouldered woman with a thicket of curly gray hair, trod to Mr. Spector’s desk. She walked with determination bordering on malice, as if she aimed to crush several small insects underfoot. She looked down her chin at the much shorter man. After shaking hands, she took her seat. Little beads of sweat glistened on his balding head. Mrs. Friedman thought at once of an uncooked turkey. Tufts of hair sprouted from the open collar of his shirt. She wondered why the man conducting her interview was not wearing a tie. That was unacceptable, she thought, and she considered leaving right then and there. And his five o’clock shadow at nine in the morning? Honestly, what kind of man came into work like that?

“Oh, it would be my pleasure to get started,” she said. “Absolutely my pleasure. I’m really quite nervous. Really, I am. I never did do this before. I’m usually just a busy bee around the nest. You know what I mean, Mr. Spector? You know? I’m just a regular old worker bee. I do my work quietly and efficiently. I’m very quiet in general. I hate to make a fuss. You’ll see.” She controlled her booming, quavering voice with the same care a man uses when beating a dusty rug with a tennis racket.

Mr. Spector rolled his chair back a few feet. He began the Herculean task of carrying his soft voice over the piles of papers on his desk. “Well, welcome to our office. Our last secretary passed away a few weeks ago. But what are you going to do, right? And, so, I guess it’s time we hired a new one. Right?” The left side of his mouth twitched into what could be construed as a smile.

“Oh, well, I’d say so, Mr. Spector if I may. Very smart of you. I never did have such a mind for business, but I can tell you do. That’s for sure. It will be a real pleasure working here. It sure will. A real pleasure, Mr. Spector.”

“Yes.”

A minute of silence passed while Mr. Spector shuffled through the folders on his desk. “OK, here we go, Mrs. Friedman.” He pulled a piece of paper from an unmarked manila folder. “This is what I needed. OK, where to start? Where to start? Oh, this is a good one. Could you tell me about yourself, Mrs. Friedman?”

She shifted in her seat. “Well, I must say that it’s not my favorite topic. I’m rather modest, you see. But if you must know, Mr. Spector, I suppose we should start with the day I was born.” She pulled herself up straighter in the chair. “Did you know, Mr. Spector, that I made Roman Catholic Church history?”

“Unhh?” It was not a word. It was barely even a sound.

“Oh, yes. You see I was real sick. The Devil himself was in me, I think. At least that’s what the doctors said.” She was speaking louder and faster. “Are you a believing man, Mr. Spector? Oh, well, I guess that doesn’t matter. Anyway, I was close to death. I wake up every morning and thank Jesus that I’m still here. Thank you, Jesus.” She looked up at the ceiling and crossed herself. “Just like that. Well, anyway, we’re talking about me, right? Where was I? Oh, like I said, I made history. I’m the only person ever to receive her baptism, first Holy Communion, confirmation and Last Rites all on the same day. Did you know that, Mr. Spector? Completely holy since the day I was born. There wasn’t an inch in me where the Devil could live. There still isn’t. So I made it out of that whole ordeal, and I’m still here.” She paused for a second and panted. “Thanks to Jesus, of course.”

“Of course,” said Mr. Spector, looking up for the first time from his page of questions. He backed his chair up against the wall. “I’m sincerely glad that you made it. I have had my fair share of tragedies as well if I may share. Why, back when I was twelve or thirteen, I was playing baseball and I slid into third base and damn near broke off my hip. I was on crutches for five months. Six? Oh, God, I can’t even remember. It was terrible. I lived on the seventh floor of an old building, and there wasn’t an elevator. I don’t know how I made it through that. The human spirit, eh? It’s an amazing thing. Well, those months sure humbled me. And you certainly seem humbled by your whole experience. I’m sure your level-headedness is a direct consequence of your troubles. That’s how it usually is. We have to suffer first. Yes, I know that for sure. And you’ve definitely suffered. So it wasn’t all that bad, I suppose. Neither of our tragedies were that bad in the end. We learned from them didn’t we?”

“Yes, yes. I’m glad you see it that way. I knew you would, actually. I absolutely did. The second I walked in here in fact, I said to myself, ‘That’s a very respectable man. That’s the kind of man a woman would want to work for. That’s who I want to work for.’”

“Thank you, Mrs. Friedman. I have always said that respectability is the highest plateau to which a man can aspire. If that’s not a tried and true aphorism, I don’t know what is. I like to think that I am approaching it.”

“Oh, definitely, definitely. You’re there, Mr. Spector. You’ve arrived.”

-CP

Short Short 3: The Reigers

Mr. Reiger was reading the classifieds when the phone rang. It was around 5:30PM, and he was alone in the house.

“Hello,” he said.

“Dad?”

“Emma? Where are you? Are you on your way home?”

“No, I’m at John’s.”

Mr. Reiger pinched a zit and winced.

“Is he driving you back?”

“I’m not coming home–not tonight. He’ll get me to school in the morning. Bye, Dad.”

He let the receiver drop out of his hands. A car door slammed and Mrs. Reiger’s heels clacked up the driveway. She turned the key in the front door and let herself in.

“Hi, Richard,” she said.

“Emma isn’t coming home.”

“Again?” She slipped out of her shoes and put the groceries in the kitchen.

-CP


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