Tagged: flash fiction

How Hot Was It?

“It’s so hot, it melted butter!” H- exclaimed as we entered the car after the service.

He immediately and uncontrollably voiced aloud, “Why is there butter in the car?” While silence filled the air, he recounted the latest and most butter filled experiences of their past.

Sure, there was the camping trip to the mountains wherein they stopped at the convenience store to pick up the butter necessary for successful and tasty breakfasts which he forgot to pack–the convenience store who’s possibly-attractive-enough-to-turn-men’s-heads-nine-years-ago-in-high-school-blonde-haired clerk suggestively asked him, “Whaaaaaaa-tcha makin’?” as she rang up the butter-

(A suggestion that he might have accepted if first, he were younger, second, he was not presently reconsidering leaving his daughter alone in the car for so long, and third, he was less aware of divine commands against extramarital fornication with heathen women.)

-But no, he could distinctly picture that box of butter and its remaining three sticks in the door of the refrigerator at home.

The salacious and provocative memory addressed, he now returned to the warm car and continued his interrogation of H-, asking, “H-? Why is there butter in the car? What are you talking about?”

Unperturbed by the question, H- answered, “It’s just a little bit, here on the handle.”

Without turning to view the location, he asked, “Okay, but where did it come from?”

Then he remembered that her bagel was simply buttered–no schmear.

“H-. I still don’t understand,” he rejoined, “Why is there butter on the handle? Where did it come from?” he continued.

“It’s not a lot, daddy,” she said. “I just, you know, had a little extra butter on the bagel and used the napkin to wipe it off and put the napkin in the door handle.”

‘Okay,’ he thought to himself. ‘So we’ve got the origin of the situation explained. Now we need to discuss the how-and-why of the fact that butter does not quite possess the right attributes to base exclamatory remarks intended to indicate uncomfortable realities of life in a car without air conditioning.’

“Yeah, well next time, H-, just eat the butter. Okay?”

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The Look

“Ah, what’s going on here?” he said, upon seeing the “Road Closed” signs ahead.

Our pair were on their way to their downtown church, and as often was the case, some Sunday mornings more people chose to use the city streets to communally run/walk in circles than travel to worship the LORD.

“Daddy, why don’t you use your phone?” H- suggested from the back seat.

In previous and similar situations H- must have noticed that her father fared better when he let the voice of his GPS keep him oriented to the church’s location as he attempted to navigate the detour.

“Well, H-, here’s the thing. I feel like one day I am going to really understand how to navigate downtown Denver,” he paused for effect. “And today, well, today just might be that day.”

He looked into the rear-view mirror and saw what can only be described as volumes of doubt.

Let me pause this tale to ask you, the reader, a question. How many words can a little girl’s look contain? By my count, at least fifty. For H-‘s look said, clearer than any voice can utter, “You think today is going to be that day, daddy? Of all days, you actually think the day you understand downtown Denver is today? When we’re already late? I cannot tell, daddy, if you’re joking or not? So I’m asking you directly, ‘Do you really think that day is today?'”

Suffice it to say, it wasn’t that day.

Eve’s Grief

Harsh wind enraged remnant embers

 

No

“Cain, my love!” his mother cries

She bids him, “Here!”, she scrambles near.

 

 

****

A Sestina is form of poetry–a restrictive form of poetry.  It has six stanzas of six lines, then a three line stanza.  The last words of each stanza are the tricky part.  After the first stanza, the last words have been chosen.  The full pattern is as follows:    

  1. ABCDEF
  2. FAEBDC
  3. CFDABE
  4. ECBFAD
  5. DEACFB
  6. BDFECA
  7. ECA or ACE (called envol or tornada–it must also contain the other end-words, BDF, in the course of the three lines so that all six appear in the final three lines.)

Commercial Break

We now pause our regularly scheduled programming (three more Cain and Abel re-writes on their way) to bring you some of Robert Louis Stevenson’s best sentences.

From Treasure Island

Silver was roundly accused of playing double–of trying to make a separate peace for himself, of sacrificing the interests of his accomplices and victims, and, in one word, of the identical, exact thing that he was doing.

From Prince Otto

(This first one hits strikingly close to home–perhaps ol’ Bob stumbled upon Ecclesiastes?)

Do you not know that you are touching, with lay hands, the very holiest inwards of philosophy, where madness dwells? Ay, Otto, madness; for in the serene temples of the wise, the inmost shrine, which we carefully keep locked, is full of spiders’ webs. All men, all, are fundamentally useless; nature tolerates, she does not need, she does not use them: sterile flowers!

And this one (Prince Otto, too) persuades whatever inner-workings lie behind the long development of some men’s seemingly hard, dark faces to rush to just beneath the surface the brightest and rosiest hues of red.

There is nothing that so apes the external bearing of free will as that unconscious bustle, obscurely following liquid laws, with which a river contends among obstructions.

The Inquiry

Of all creatures, man is set apart by his ability to respond at length. Other creatures appear to be able to make inquiry and even reply through a series of grunts and gestures, but man alone has been endowed with the responsive power so-called reason.

****

Lowering his chin almost imperceptibly, Adam slowly closed his eyes. With an increase of force likely to be noticed solely by his closest family, he exhaled the entirety of the deep breath he had been holding as he watched his sons. He leaned his head forward until his chin rested on hand, which was on the top of his staff, as he reopened his eyes.

“What?” Eve asked.

He didn’t look at her. Though his eyes were open, he did not see anything but the garden.

“What?” Eve repeated.

Worried by Adam’s silence, Eve did not notice the look on Cain’s face. Adam did not have to.

“Abel!” he called at last. “Here,” he motioned for his son to come close.

As Abel listened to his father’s words, he looked towards Cain only to see that Cain was staring at him. Some new feeling arose in Abel, one whose name did not yet exist but which he wished would never have surfaced.

The next month was not pleasant for the family. Adam would not let his sons out of his sight. Eve worried.

“What are you saying, Cain?” Abel asked when the two brothers were in the fields, some distance from Adam.

“I’m saying He-” Cain motioned towards the entire sky, “-He spoke to me after that day.”

“And what did He say?” Abel replied.

“He told me If you do well, will not your face be lifted up?

Relieved, Abel said, “That sounds true.”

“But then He said,” Cain continued, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you.

Alarmed and looking for Adam, Abel said, “Why wouldn’t you do well, brother?”

Adam awoke from his daydream and did not immediately see his sons. Scanning the horizon with growing panic, he soon calmed down. The two men were seen facing each other, apparently talking about something. Then Abel took a step backwards, as if to place some distance between Cain and himself. Adam grabbed his staff and began to run, cursing himself that he did not stay closer.

“STOP!” Cain commanded Adam, Abel lying lifeless on the ground. “Do not come any closer, father.”

Adam stopped and closed his eyes and saw the garden. Cain bumped Adam’s shoulder as he left him there with Abel’s body. Then Adam buried Abel.

That night, Cain had nightmares of the voice saying, “You must master it. You must master it. You must master it.”

He awoke to the sound of thunder, soaked in sweat.

Then Yahweh said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”

The Voice of Your Brother’s Blood

I don’t post as much as I used to. My studies have kind of skerred me away from writing anything which carries an implicit, “If you only read what I write about Scripture THEN you’ll understand it.” For I cannot see how most theological writing is any different than every poor soul who does willfully add their own writings to Scripture. However, I still love reading and writing (am into some Robert Louis Stevenson at the moment), so I’ve decided to go a different route. To challenge myself literarily and spiritually, I am going to re-write some Old Testament stories that have caught my attention.

To be clear, what follows are totally for enjoyment. There is no added value or significant meaning. It just helps me to remember Scripture if I can discern between something that is not Scripture and the real deal. To begin, because a friend of mine has me re-examining the story of Cain and Abel found in Genesis, I am going to see if I can re-write it five times–each in a distinct genre. As “fabulism” or “post-modernism” or what I think is just as aptly labeled “anything goes” is essentially the latest genre to emerge–certainly not present in Moses’ mind–I will start there. Enjoy.

#######

she was not quite awake as he pawed her legs apart dawn had not yet broke they were alone somewhere in the middle of another barren land where the few nearby leaves rustled she soon caved to his passion it frightened her she bit his lip and was rewarded she bit harder he responded harder he slowly twisted her long hair around his hand and suddenly jerked her head back roughly she dug her fingernails into his back seeking blood in return he leaned his face towards hers again he held his foul breath in and by this she could tell he was close she bit his lip almost clean off as he finished tasting his blood he recoiled and instinctively smacked her hard seeing only the shadow of him through her own dark arms she screamed with sheer terror he had only witnessed such fear once before and that time he didn’t stop on this morning something was different on this morning he stayed his fist then his hands favored her soft chest to the hard ground and he squeezed violently one last time before he pressed himself to his feet food he thought catching his breath he walked towards his fruitless garden in the morning darkness

****

i do remember said abel i remember yahweh looked well upon my offering and did not look well upon yours then cain said i heard the voice of yahweh he spoke to me then abel said what did he say then cain said yahweh said to me if you do well then your face will be lifted up but if you do not do well sin is crouching at your door it wants to devour you you must rule over it then abel said to cain what are you going to do

****

the distant thunder slowly rolled closer as if weary from the journey as cain tore into the flesh of his brother abel and the blood of abel began to mix with his sweat on his skin and the thunder grew in speed and strength only yahweh saw everything but had you been there had the skies not become as night you might have seen that it was precisely when the first blood of abel landed on the earth that the deafening thunder clap stopped the intoxicated fury for one moment cain cowered in fear but abel was already asleep then cain completed his murderous act with renewed heart and vowed to never be interrupted again

****

cain wrapped his cloak around him as he sat alone on the side of the rocky mountain cain gazed far beyond where the heavens touched the earth the wind squinted the eyes of cain and then yahweh said to cain where is abel your brother cain was still as the mountain he sat upon then cain said i do not know am i my brothers keeper

****

then cain said to his wife who was with child there is no more food here

 

One Sentence Writing Challenge

I’m still in Tolstoy’s short stories. Again, one particular sentence just struck me as perfect. So here’s the challenge: In the below comments, let’s see if we can write with similar excellence. (One sentence.)

The bonfire was extinguished, the forest no longer looked as black as before, but in the sky the stars still shone, though faintly.

****

Here’s my attempt: The young boy stopped running, the city moved even faster, but he still felt her hand in his, though now she did the squeezing.

Piles Equal Happiness

If by ashamed you mean ‘to chuckle’, then “Yes” I am ashamed when I see your eyes notice all the piles as you enter my home.

Immediately to your right, you see what is quite possibly the most random pile. It consists of a bowling ball bag, winter gloves, hats, and ski goggles. You next notice a kitchen table and chairs that reorient the word ‘messy’. As you gather your bearings, you see that under the kitchen counter there is an overstuffed book shelf, upon which sit more books and beside which rest two stacks of even more books. Recoiling a bit, you scan left and conclude that there must be at least one child living here because there is a small chair surrounded by children’s books and a panda bear and a remote control car with two pony passengers. The 88-key electronic keyboard and its bench have items upon them, as does the adjacent Steinway B and the instructor’s stool. Somehow that piano’s bench is without pile.

(Before walking down the hallway you pretend not to notice one more bookshelf and end table too ceased their resistance long ago.)

If your visit surprised me, I may not have had a chance to close the bedroom doors. In my bedroom you won’t see a massive pile of clothes at the end of my bed, because it is under a king size comforter which H- recently managed to place on top.

(If she’s anything like me, carrying something that big and soft from her room to mine was probably a delightful chore.)

In disbelief as you roll your eyes, H-‘s room snags your attention. Though admittedly more pink-themed, her bedding is likewise piled on her bed, and at every spot where the walls meet the floor there are piles. They are either piles of books and papers, piles of junk, piles of stuffed animals, or they are piles of clothes. Piles, piles, piles.

Why? you wonder. Why so many piles? You speculate that surely one of the books has to include both teaching on the importance and the ‘how to’ of cleaning.

Well, you asked, so I’ll tell ya. For me, piles equal happiness. Here’s the mathematical proof. If I begin to clean my piles, I’ll eventually decide to clean H-‘s piles. Half-piles do not exist. It’s all or none. And therein lies the problem. You see, H- and I spend very little time together in this junked up home. But when we do, she behaves like a Tasmanian angel. Whether coloring books, stuffed animals, reading books, or dolls, she is constantly relocating everything as she plays inside. To suggest that she “put them away” as you might think, is not really an option she would understand. And I wouldn’t know how to answer her striving for obedience, though honestly inquisitive, response, “Where, Daddy?”

This entire situation is adorable to me. Just watching her play is endlessly fascinating. How is she determining what to play with and for how long? Does she get a thrill out of not having to “clean” like I do? I’ll never know.

Anyhow, the point is, when I’ve tried to clean these piles in the past, it’s unbearable. I cannot touch her toys without thinking of her and I cannot think of her without remembering, as strongly as fire remembers hot and as ice remembers cold, that she is not here. And I cannot think that, without being sad–very, very sad.

So I maintain piles and I maintain that piles equal happiness.

We’re Looking For Chocolate

He listened as H- dryly read, “And what was my life like? The heat burned me in the daytime. And it was so cold at night that I froze. I couldn’t-”

“Hold up, H-,” he interrupted at last. “Remember how we are focusing on reading with gusto? This is a good place to put some gusto into how you read the story.”

Partly frustrated by his broken record, partly curious, H- watched her father. His eyes widened and as he drew in a breath, his head bent back as well. Then he snapped it forward, his open hand slapping his chest.

“And what was my life like?”

H- smiled, beginning to understand.

“The heat,” he continued, feigning to wipe sweat from his brow, “burned me in the daytime.”

H- couldn’t remove her eyes.

“And it was so cold,” he began, shivering.

They both laughed.

“Or maybe it’d be better like this,” he offered. He then looked at frost-bitten fingertips which he rubbed together furiously and blew hot breath upon.

Laughing, she joined him.

“No, you should have done-” she began; then she huddled over, shivered and said, “Brrr, I’m sooo c-c-cold. Let me pour some hot chocolate.”

His laughter almost scared her.

“I don’t think they had hot chocolate back then, H-. Remember Jacob and Laban lived a long, long time ago,” he corrected, chuckling. “But you’re getting the gusto right. Good job. Now let’s keep reading.”

H-, now seven, turned back to the sacred words and promptly struggled to locate where she left off.

“We’re looking for ‘chocolate’,” he proposed, unable to resist.

H- laughed with her voice, but her eyes seemed to say something else.

Writing So Good You’ll Want To Quit

I’ve been reading Tolstoy’s shorter fiction and almost each story contains writing so good that I want to never make the attempt again. Here’s a few examples.

From The Death of Ivan Ilyich:

Ivan Ilych knows quite well and definitely that all this is nonsense and pure deception, but when the doctor, getting down on his knee, leans over him, putting his ear first higher then lower, and performs various gymnastic movements over him with a significant expression on his face, Ivan Ilych submits to it all as he used to submit to the speeches of the lawyers, though he knew very well that they were all lying and why they were lying.

From The Kreutzer Sonata:

“What is wrong with education?” said the lady, with a scarcely perceptible smile. “Surely it can’t be better to marry as they used to in the old days when the bride and bridegroom did not even see one another before the wedding,” she continued, answering not what her interlocutor had said but what she thought he would say, in the way many ladies have. “Without knowing whether they loved, or whether they could love, they married just anybody, and were wretched all their lives. And you think that was better?” she said, evidently addressing me and the lawyer chiefly and least of all the old man with whom she was talking.

From The Devil:

During coffee, as often happened, a peculiarly feminine kind of conversation went on which had no logical sequence but which evidently was connected in some way for it went on uninterruptedly.

Well done, Count.

****

As for myself, I had a coffee date with a young lady the other day, something I have not made an effort to do in years. As is often the case in situations like mine, I told myself that I was willing to re-enter the dating world for several clear and distinct reasons. Firstly, it is not good for the man to be alone. Secondly, the idea of sexual congress with a woman has not yet become altogether repulsive. Thirdly, and ever present, there is in me still some remnant of fire, quite incapable of scientific scrutiny, that wants to prove–or fail trying–that I might yet possess some quality desirable to a member of the fairer sex.

As for her, she was highly educated, well-spoken, and cultured. And beautiful. On these points there would be no dispute. Not wholly unlike the much publicized cases of celebrity progeny, however, her parents’ more modest wealth still seemed nearest the root of her inability to properly arrange cause and effect. On this point there may be dispute.