#1MinFiction: Stuck in the Drain

Jesse told Robert not to touch the kitchen light switch. Not until she could figure out which one controlled the garbage disposal. Not until she could snatch her fist out of the drain after she stupidly shoved it down there trying to catch a chicken bone. Crazy kids couldn’t just throw it away. When had they ever seen her wash a paper plate?

—Nortina


For a new flash fiction challenge: Monday’s One-Minute Fictionwrite a story in one minute, no more, no less, based on the prompt provided. This week’s prompt hints at a lesson to be learned: Don’t touch. Click the link to join in!

Breastfeeding Mannequins

The mannequins at Macy’s are often naked. I’ve complained to a manager twice. Display clothes that actually fit or buy bigger mannequins. No woman is that size anyway.

Harold’s mother gives me money for formula. She doesn’t agree with our plan to wean Ryan after six months, but he’s already teething, and he bites.

The formula’s on sale, so I have extra money to stop by Macy’s and try on jeans I know won’t button. The baby weight hugs my hips; I’ve gained more since giving birth.

While checking the price tag on a pair of Kim Rogers, I notice Ryan leaning over his stroller. He’s sucking on the nipple of a bare-breasted mannequin half my dress size.

He’s just like his father, I can hear my mother-in-law saying, but I’m sure you know that already.

—Nortina


moral_mondays_logoJoin Moral Mondays, a new weekly challenge to write a 100-word fable or story based on the moral/lesson provided in the prompt. This week’s moral: look, don’t touch

Dialect

Cut off the lights. Come
to bed. My British girlfriend
stares at me, raises an eyebrow—
“You want me to use a knife?”

—Nortina


frapalymo#frapalymo (the German version of NaPoWriMo) is hosted by FrauPaulchen and translated from German into English by Bee at Just Fooling Around With Bee. Today’s prompt is: “ cut off.”

Phantom of the Subway

“What’s up, Doc?”

She thinks she’s so clever, smacking that gum around her tongue. If the train bounces the right way, maybe she’ll swallow it.

“I’m hunting wabbits!”

She mimics Elmer Fudd’s ear-ringing laugh, and it dances around my head inside my mask.

Shut up, shut up, shut up! This is New York. I know she’s seen stranger people on the subway — like the man lying by my feet. He looks like he hasn’t showered in weeks. He conspicuously hides a malt liquor bottle inside his faded army jacket.

“It’sss rabbit ssseassson!” she spits.

I check the running screen above the doors. Three more stops to Tremont. What are the odds she’ll get off at one of them? The train lurches forward and she slides off the edge of her seat, holding the pole in front of her to keep from falling. She’s so close to the doors; I think about kicking her off at the next stop.

“Say yer prayers, varmint!”

Maybe she should say hers. I raise my arms, grab the tips of the rabbit ears and pull the mask over my head.

She jerks back, coughs, pounding her chest. Yes, yes. She’s swallowed her gum. It sticks to her throat, preventing her from screaming at the webbed skin on one side of my face. To add fuel to the flame, I pop out my glass eye and toss it just as the doors open and she tumbles out onto the platform, my eye rolling behind her.

—Nortina


Benjamin Godard - “Catch Me If You Can”
Benjamin Godard – “Catch Me If You Can”

Written for VisDare, a weekly challenge to craft a story based on the provided photo in 150 words or less . . .

One of these days, I’m actually going to write 150 words! 😉

Forgetful Fred

We sat silently in our circle for several minutes, the only noise being the steady creak from the rocking chair as it teetered under the nurse’s shifting weight.

Grandma plucked at a string dangling from the hem of her dress, stalling while she gathered the details of her next story in her head. Had she run out of material? It had to be hard keeping up with twenty-six men—all who had apparently died their own unique deaths.

Where did the stories come from? I tried to remember the years of my childhood when I’d come to her and Pawpaw’s house after school to do my homework while she watched her soap operas. Many of those characters died mysteriously; crashed off cliffs on motorcycles, shot by evil twin siblings, cursed by witches to other dimensions, buried alive. I searched my memory for scenes reminiscent of Andrew, Burt, Carl, Deek, or Elliot’s deaths. Was there a winded jazz musician on All My Children? Maybe an inattentive mechanic on One Life to Live? General Hospital was sure to have had a patient with bulimia checked into a room. No soap opera was without at least one emotionally unstable character, contemplating suicide, but nothing rang a bell. The fork in the outlet trick—I’ve seen that done on America’s Funniest Home Videos, or World’s Dumbest. A silly prank gone horribly wrong, but no one was seriously hurt, right? They wouldn’t show that on TV, would they?

Finally the woman with the eight-year-old hair style spoke. “I don’t remember that at all.”

“What don’t you remember, Tammy?” Grandma asked.

“Any of it. You never married a man named Elliot.”

I surprised myself at how quickly I laughed. Elliot was probably the most believable of all her husbands, if not for the simple fact that his story was so similar to Pawpaw’s.

“It’s just, well, I’ve been listening to you talk about your husbands for years, and I’ve never heard you mention the name Elliot.”

“That dementia’s catching up with you, Tammy,” Thomas said with a smirk.

“Don’t you call me old.” She bit down on her lip and turned away, as if embarrassed to have said anything at all. I wanted to back her up, assure her that her memory was still in tact, but the truth was Grandma had mentioned Elliot, at least enough times for the nurse to remember him—so much so that her enthusiasm to hear it again helped to drive the story since Grandma was also getting slow in her memory. Even as she recited the deaths of her husbands, she took frequent breaks, either to sip water from a glass, swat at invisible flies, speak to nurses, visitors, or other seniors walking by. Then we would have to remind her of the place in the story where she’d left off and wait again while she collected her thoughts to continue.

Age was catching up with all of them, and they fought it ferociously, knowing that if they were to lose their memory, there would be nothing else to live for.

“I married a man with Alzheimer’s once,” Grandma spoke. She was back on focus, using Tammy’s forgetfulness as the base for her next tale. “Right after Elliot.”

“How old was he?” I asked. Grandma couldn’t have been no older than eighteen at the time. That young, what husband would she find suffering from an old man’s disease?

“Well if he was dealing with Alzheimer’s, he was pretty old, Meg,” Grandma said condescendingly. “You gotta remember, by this time, no man my age wanted anything to do with me. Fred didn’t care ’cause he was so close to dying anyway.”

“Did y’all  . . . ” the nurse raised one eyebrow, ” . . . do it?”

“You ain’t married if you don’t.” Grandma said.

“Oh god, Grandma, too much information!” Bile rose up at the back of my throat, and I swallowed down hard, feeling the heat and tasting the acid on my tongue. I wanted to gag, but I covered my mouth and held my breath as my stomach settled. We didn’t need another reminder of Burt. The linoleum tiles under the wet floor sign were still a faint pink hue from the other nurse’s haphazard cleaning. Looking at it made me sick all over again, so I turned to Winifred, who had quietly camouflaged herself into the purple couch once again.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Grandma was saying. “It was quick, but when you get to be Fred’s age, you’re lucky to have the stamina to be doing it at all. Gotta take what you can get.”

“I was fucking Mildred all the way up until she died,” Thomas declared proudly. He stood with his knees apart and thrust his hips forward, insinuating his wife bent over in front of him.

“Sit down. Keep it in your pants.” Grandma pushed him away from her. “Nobody wants to see that shriveled up old thing!”

“Careful now.” Thomas turned to me and smirked. “I might become your next granddaddy.”

“Oh, hush up! I’d marry Marcos before I’d ever think about touching you,” Grandma said.

“Yeeeeeaaaah!” Marcos upper lip curled under itself as he grinned from ear to ear, his mouth the shape of a cantaloupe slice, and we all burst into laughter.

“Whatever happened to Fred?” Tammy asked amidst everyone’s cackles and howls.

“Damn, Tammy, you don’t remember Fred, either?” Thomas thumped his temple. “Glad to know I still got my brains.”

Ignoring him, Grandma leaned across his lap to talk to Tammy.

“Careful, there’s a snake in there.” Thomas put his hands behind his head and reclined in his chair.

Grandma only rolled her eyes. I suspected she might have secretly enjoyed his teasing.

“I don’t know what ever became of Fred. He told me one day he was going to the store for milk. He hated it when I did stuff for him. He said it made him feel like an invalid.” Grandma paused. “You know, it was actually my birthday that day.” She closed her eyes, counting silently to herself, then shook her head as if confirming the date. “Yep, and dammit, he was gonna make me some blueberry pancakes, even if it meant walking to the store to buy the ingredients,” she said giggling, mimicking how Fred might have spoken. “I never saw him again.”

“The whole, ‘I’m gonna buy some milk’ ploy,” I said sarcastically.

“Say what you want.” Grandma pushed herself off of Thomas’ knees. “I know for a fact he was telling the truth.” She wagged her finger in my face. “He just forgot who he was on the way.”

—Nortina


I hope you enjoyed the story of Fred from 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths. Be sure to check out other “F” posts from the A to Z Challenge.

Electrocuted Elliot

Marcos returned wearing a new pair of starched khaki pants and the slippers to match. The nurse rolled him into the space between me and Frank and set the anchor to keep the wheelchair in place.

“There you go,” she said. “Nice and clean.”

“Yeeeeeaaaah!” Marcos said.

Then the nurse walked over to Frank and turned his chair to face us, making our circle complete.

“I was fine the way I was,” he said. His voice was deep and hoarse, as if something was caught in his throat and he couldn’t clear it out.

“You don’t want to hear Mrs. Millie’s stories about her husbands?” the nurse asked.

“I’ve heard these stories at least a million times.”

“But you keep coming back, hmm.” Grandma tapped her chin with her finger. “Must be something you like.”

E“My favorite is Elliot,” the nurse said. “He was such a clown!”

“Well come have a seat, baby.” Grandma slapped her palm down on the seat of the rocking chair. “Let me tell you about him.”

The nurse side-stepped by Frank, tip-toed around the puddle of water—which had since dried to a sticky consistency that crunched underfoot—and flopped into the rocking chair.

“I met Elliot in the supermarket,” Grandma started. “I stood behind him at the checkout. The line was really long that day for some reason. Maybe one of the cashiers didn’t come to work. Or maybe the whole neighborhood decided to go grocery shopping at the same time. We waited in that line for hours, it seemed like. The woman in front of Elliot must’ve had a litter of kids back home, all that food in her cart.

“The whole time we waited in line, Elliot would look back at me and smile. I knew he wasn’t from around here. Most men would take one look at me and run in the other direction. Four dead husbands in two years. Nobody’s luck was that bad.”

“Tell ’em about the quarter trick,” the nurse said.

Grandma nodded. “When the cashier finally got to ringing up his food, he realized he was twenty-five cents short. He patted down his shirt and pants pockets and checked his wallet again. Nothing. Then he looked at me. I thought he was gonna ask me to borrow some money, but he felt behind my ear instead and found the quarter. ‘What do ya know. And this whole time I thought you’d stolen my heart,’ he said. The kids today would probably say his pickup line was lame, but after Deek, I really needed something that would make me smile.”

I twisted my mouth. She had to be lying. I couldn’t count the number of times Pawpaw had played that same trick on me when I was little, so much so that I expected it whenever I came to visit. “Get the quarters outta my ear! Get the quarters outta my ear, Pawpaw!” I’d shout. He’d smack my ear with his massive hand, and the change would tumble out on the other side into his palm. My ears rang for days after with the sound of clinking silver. To this day, I still don’t know how he did it.

“My grandpa did that to me all the time,” the nurse said proudly.

“Whose hasn’t? I’m pretty sure that’s how Pawpaw proposed to you, isn’t it?” I said. He’d asked Grandma to marry him on her birthday, and every year, he recounted the story. Originally from the coast, Pawpaw took her back to his hometown of Kure Beach for a picnic. Unfortunately, it was mid-October and all the fishermen were out. The pier was crowded and reeked of dead and gutted fished, and all along the beach, fishing lines extended out into the ocean from poles planted in the sand, just past where high tide had ended. With the smell of raw fish filling her nose on the wind, Grandma lost her appetite, and to save the afternoon from total ruin, Pawpaw thumped her earlobe and drew back his hand, spinning the ring around the tip of his finger.

“Nothing your Pawpaw did was original,” Grandma said.

“Well you blushed every time he told us the story.”

“I didn’t say he never swept me off my feet.” Grandma shook her head. “But everything he did he got from Elliot.”

“He knew about him?” I asked.

“He knew about all of my husbands before him. They weren’t a secret.”

Why had he never said anything, I thought. If any of this was true, at some point, Pawpaw would’ve mentioned it. He was a jokester, and Grandma was always the butt of his jokes. I could only imagine how often Pawpaw would’ve brought up something about his twenty-five predecessors, predicting how his inevitable demise would befall him. How would it happen? By cinder block or school bus? He would’ve bantered Grandma endlessly, calling her cursed. I could hear him now—no man would ever live to tell the tale of being married to Millie Jones. He wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to tease Grandma about Burt, or even Andrew. How does one choke on a saxophone mouthpiece anyway? How could one hundred people in the audience sit there and watch it happen? Did they think it was part of the show?

If only Pawpaw were alive today for me to ask him. But anyone capable of refuting Grandma’s stories was long dead.

“The quarters behind my ear, the whoopee cushions in my chair, the bloody fingers in my cup, the floating Jack-o-lanterns at Halloween. All of these were Elliot’s pranks,” Grandma said. “Your Paw just took them and made ’em his own.”

So Elliot was the reason I had nightmares about conjured severed body parts, why I wet the bed for two weeks straight when I was ten. Pawpaw had squirted ketchup into a Styrofoam cup and stuck his middle finger through the bottom. He’d covered it with a lid and called me over to show me something he claimed to have found in his backyard. When I looked inside, I saw a finger, detached from its hand, wiggling around in a pool of blood. I ran out of the kitchen screaming at the top of my lungs, locked myself in my bedroom and wouldn’t come out until he and Grandma had gone home.

“Good thing he never tried the fork in the socket trick.” Grandma sighed. “That’s what did Elliot in.”

“Didn’t he know he would get electrocuted?” the nurse asked.

“Well, yea, if the light switch was on. That was his plan. He’d turn it off and pretend to get electrocuted to scare me.”

“So how’d it get turned on?”

“I might’ve . . .” Grandma shrugged her shoulders. “I’d just bought a new lamp that day. I wanted to see how it looked in the living room.”

“You killed that man, humph,” Frank groaned.

“If I’m being honest,” Grandma said, and I chuckled at the hypocrisy of her statement, “I was a little relieved not to have to walk on egg shells anymore.” She turned to Frank. “I was ’bout sick of all his dang pranks.”

—Nortina


I hope you enjoyed the story of Elliott from 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths. Be sure to check out other “E” posts from the A to Z Challenge.

Father of the Year

2014-11-03-bw-beacham“He certainly had quite an attitude!”

The mechanic knocked on the front bumper of Dave’s pickup. “Can you blame him?”

“It was only a joke.” Dave smiled, lightly kicked the mechanic’s knee.

“I don’t know. That were my boy . . .” The mechanic lay back on the skateboard and rolled under the hood of the truck.

“The spray paint will come off. And the teeth are just cardboard.”

“You chased him five blocks!” The mechanic’s voice was muffled under the hood.

“I’d hardly call driving 1 mile an hour chasing.”

“And the way your motor pops and rattles, it already sounds like a goddamn monster’s roar.”

“So can you figure out what’s wrong with it?”

“Other than its driver being a somabitch?” The mechanic rolled from under the truck, his face smudged with oil. He tossed a gold Rolex watch at Dave’s feet.

“So that’s where it . . .”

“Looks like your boy knew it was you all along.”

—Nortina

Grandma’s Confessions

2014-10-27-bw-beacham1
photo by Barbara Beacham

“Little did we know that Grandpa was a collector.” Jessie read, wiping tears.

“Would you believe we only did it once?” Grandma, drunk, smacked her lips. “That’s how we got your Mama.”

I didn’t want to tell her to shut up, but we were on the front pew, and Bishop Jorge kept looking our way.

“He left his screwdriver in my panty drawer once.” The whisky was hot on her breathe. “I thought it was one of those toys you kids fondle yourselves with.”

“God, Grandma, too much information!” I shrieked.

Bishop Jorge stood and tapped Jessie on her shoulder. “Mrs. Winklestaff, is there something you’d like to add?”

“Sure do!” Grandma’s legs wobbled as she walked to the podium. Jessie glowered at me for interrupting her eulogy she’d spent all night writing.

“Hubert was good with his hands.” Grandma’s lips nearly touched the microphone. “But I wouldn’t know. He spent all his time working on his damn trucks.”

word count: 150

—Nortina

The Sock Family

French Open’s in May.
Jack has his black socks
on the court in red clay.

The twins are running busy.
Mr. Snuggles is at teatime
on the patio with Christy,

and Junior . . . Lord heavens—
Where is Junior?
That boy always goes missing!

(Featured Image: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Three Line Tales: Rags to Riches

Betsy escaped the
slaughterhouse, rose to fame as
Chick-fil-A spokescow.

—Nortina


photo by Annie Spratt
photo by Annie Spratt

Written for new challenge 3LineTales, hosted by Sonya (Only 100 Words). A picture is worth three lines. What tale can you draw?