#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Sunset

“I’m supposed to cry, right? Every inch of my body is telling me to cry. But I can’t…”

It’s a somber Throwback Thursday today. I don’t normally get personal on this blog (though some of the stories I’ve posted here have been deeply personal…you just don’t know), but it’s been a difficult few weeks for me, and I’d like to talk—or rather, write—about it.

I’ve always turned to writing as a sort of therapy session, to push through the hurt and pain when it’s too difficult to express it vocally. I’m not the type to talk about my feelings openly, so I put them into my stories.

Lately, I’ve been thinking… Thinking about things I’ve lost, things I’ve let go, things I’ve had taken from me…

This story reminds me that though the sun sets, it also rises. 

For those of you who, like me, are mourning (or perhaps, regretting) a lost love you thought you’d always have. I hope this story brings you some peace. 


Sunset

Danny dragged Amanda up the hill behind their old elementary school to see the sunset. When they were children, they used to race each other to the bottom, drawing their knees to their chins and rolling like human balls, head over toes, until they reached the brick wall of the school.

Lying on their backs, side by side, they cupped their hands behind their heads and gazed up at the violet and peach colored clouds in the sky.

“Beautiful,” Danny said. Amanda didn’t answer. He turned to her and saw tears welled up in her eyes. “Tell me what you see.”

“He married her today.”

Danny didn’t need names to know who she was referring to—he, the man Amanda had been in love with for most of her life; her, the woman he’d left her for.

Danny had been there to pick up the pieces of Amanda’s broken heart, combing her hair off her face with his fingers as she cried into his lap.

“How do you feel?” he asked, readying himself to pull her into his embrace once again. That comforting friend available always to hold her when love betrayed her.

“I’m supposed to cry, right? Every inch of my body is telling me to cry. But I can’t.”

They lay in silence. Danny opened his mouth to speak, but Amanda cut him off.

“I see a face.” Her voice was clear, unwavering. “What do you see?” she asked smiling.

“A woman who can finally let go.”

—Nortina


Copyright – Joe Owens 2015
Copyright – Joe Owens 2015

Originally published February 22, 2015 in response to the Sunday Photo Fiction prompt.

#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Once Upon an Alcoholic’s Dream

Dear Craigslist,

I never thought I’d get this lonely. That you and this half-emptied Jack Daniels would be my only companions. My pint of Coke fizzled away after I mixed it all, downed it with whiskey. Now I throw back straight shot after shot until my words blur on the screen and the burn fades to a smooth glide like water.

Don’t send me any more boys who think my alcoholism is cool. Who take me to parties where my eyes burn red in the THC-induced clouds and my liver ferments in yeast. Where they pull out their cellphones to film my head hanging low under a funnel of foaming beer, shouting, “Worldstar! Worldstar!” Sideline the daddies who string me along while they decide if they want me or their kids’ mom. And Craigslist, use your promised anonymity to hide me from the men with anal fetishes, the men who don’t believe in love and marriage but wish to impregnate me with their fifteenth child, the men who, at age thirty-five, are still trying to get on their feet, the men with credit card debt, the men who aren’t looking for a relationship but will screw me anyway, the men who say I remind them of their ex-fiancé… or their mother.

Where is my Renaissance man, Craigslist? Send my ad, scribbled on parchment, by way of carrier pigeon to his bedroom window. Tell him to meet me at the Barn House Theatre where they put on morality plays in the winter. The final showing of Doctor Faustus begins at eight. I’ll be waiting in the lobby, wearing a ruffle, black dress, a wilted rose pinned in my hair. Direct him to blow on it, Craigslist, the magic from the cool breeze escaping his lips causing it to bloom three months before spring.

Sincerely,

Drowning in Sorrows


spf11-23Originally published November 23, 2015 in response to the Sunday Photo Fiction prompt.

 

Coal Ash Spill

“Get out of that water! It’s not safe!” Heather shouts from the porch.

Timmy hops to the front yard, splashing all the way. His pants legs are soaked through to his shins.

Heather runs to the curb and scoops her son up out of the flooded street. She rushes back inside, carries him to the bathroom.

“Mommy, what’s wrong?” Timmy whines.

Heather snatches off his flip flops, runs the hot water in the tub. The steam quickly filled the room, fogging the mirror. She rolls his pants legs up to his knees. “Get in,” she commands.

“But the water’s hot.”

“Do you want to end up like those children in Flint? McCrory doesn’t care about you.”

“I don’t know what you—” Timmy jumps when Heather suddenly slaps her hand down against the side of the tub. The hollow sound echoes.

“Do what I say!”

Timmy quickly climbs in and sits at the end of the tub furthest from the water slowly rising. He draws his knees under his chin, curls his toes as the water approaches.

Heather drops an oatmeal soap bar under the running faucet. She grabs Timmy’s ankle, yanks it down into the water, and scrubs his leg, building bubbles as she goes.

“Mommy, it hurts!”

“That water outside will hurt worse. You stay out of it, you hear me?” She starts on the other leg.

“Yes, Mommy.” Timmy winces. Heather doesn’t stop scrubbing until his skin turns red.

—Nortina


coal_ashSunday Photo Fiction is a weekly challenge for writers to create a 100-200 word story (sorry I went over😦 )using the provided photo prompt. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

Afterschool

Mrs. Johnson checked her wrist watch. Twenty past three. It had been snowing for almost 2 hours now. Looking out the window behind her, she could barely see the playground across the court through the thick white flakes of snow, falling in a slanted direction under the northeastern wind gusts.

Rake was sitting alone at her desk, flipping through the pages of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Her thin jacket was zipped up to her chin, the hood pulled over her head. The pink straps of her Dora the Explorer backpack slid off her shoulders as she slouched in her chair and swung her feet—in pink and green polka dot rubber boots—back and forth.

“Maybe I should call your mom again?” Mrs. Johnson said.

Rake shrugged her shoulders. “She don’t get off work ’til six. She won’t be here ’til six.”

“Surely with the weather this bad—”

“Mama don’t like being called out early. She say it mess with her paycheck.”

What kind of mother, Mrs. Johnson thought. She sat her chin in her palm and drummed her fingers on her desk. Hank should be home with the boys by now. She picked up the framed picture of them at the beach last summer, Hank buried up to his neck in the sand, her youngest, Trey, balancing his red pail on top of his father’s head.

Why did the board even schedule school for today, knowing a foot of snow was in the forecast? It was bad enough they included Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a snow make up day in the school calendar, having to make up last week’s snow fall. At this rate, the kids would be in school all through Spring Break, and possible deep into their summer vacation.

Mrs. Johnson looked out the window again. The roads were already treacherous. Another hour, and they’d have to spend the night at the school and more than likely freeze, as the heat was already struggling to stay on.

“Do you live far? Maybe I can drive you home?”

“Don’t got nobody to watch me.”

“Not a grandparent? Your father?”

Rake shrugged again.

Mrs. Johnson sighed. Is this what Dr. King’s dream has come to, she thought, innocent children being abandoned at the schools during a blizzard—the parents too poor to leave their minimum wage jobs to pick them up?

Mrs. Johnson took her coat and scarf from the coat hanger. “Come on. We’ll have a sleepover at my house.”

Rake closed her book and put it under her desk. She hopped from her chair and tightened the straps on her backpack.

Mrs. Johnson took her hand and lead her out of the classroom. “Do you like hot chocolate?”

“Oh, yes!” Rake licked her lips. “With marshmallows!”

—Nortina


spf_1-18Sunday Photo Fiction is a weekly challenge for writers to create a 100-200 word story (sorry I went over 😦 )using the provided photo prompt. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

Rummage

“Water! They have water!” Linda shrieks. She yanks the dusty lamp from the cardboard box, squeezes it against her gut, and bends over to twist the glass cone from its base. Her stomach rumbles violently, shaking her entire body. She drops the lamp, and it rolls to the attic door, falling through the ceiling.

“Ouch!” Ryan whines from below.

“See if you can open it!” Linda yells, breathing heavily. “Did you find any food?”

“Just moldy bread.”

Linda sighs and crawls back to the ladder. Her hands can barely grip the steps as she descends. When she reaches the bottom, her foot slips, and she collapses into Ryan’s side, causing him to drop the lamp. The glass shatters on the hardwood floor.

“Shit!”

“Aw, there was only a few drops in there anyway,” Ryan says. “Enough to make you mad.”

“I don’t know how much longer I can last,” Linda croaks.

Ryan cuffs his hand under her upper arm, grasps her wrist with his other hand and pulls her up. “We’ll try the next house.” He drapes her arm over his shoulder. “Maybe they have Twinkies. Those never go bad.”

word count: 190

—Nortina


rummage Sunday Photo Fiction is a weekly challenge for writers to create a 100-200 word story using the provided photo prompts. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

Twinning

The twins are destructive, tossing Ma’s china saucer back and forth as if it were a Frisbee. I snatch it out of the air before Tommy can make the catch.

“Interception!” Timmy shouts.

“This isn’t a football!” I return the saucer to the coffee table and sit the tea cup, with matching Chinese symbols designed on the rim, on top of it. “You drink your hot cider then you put the cup back on the saucer.”

“Like this?” Timmy sits up straight, arching his back. He takes the saucer in one hand and pinches the handle of the cup with two fingers. He sips twice, extending his pinky.

“What are we, British?” Tommy scoffs.

“Would you like a spot of tea, dear brother?” Timmy asks, feigning a British accent that sounds closer to Canadian.

“Jolly old chap, toss it hither!”

Timmy shoots the cup in the air, flicking his wrist as if making a jump shot. Cider spills onto the polished wood of the coffee table and onto the carpet. Tommy catches it with both hands. Just as he raises his arm over his head to spike the cup, I dive down to his feet, and it lands hard on my stomach.

“Ah, faulted again!” Timmy shouts.

“You two are unbelievable.” I roll over and take everything fragile back to the safety of the cupboard.

—Nortina


spfWritten in response to this week’s photo prompt for Sunday Photo Fiction. This piece is also dedicated to my wonderful little cousins who thought it was a great idea to throw around my mother’s fine china during our Christmas family social. They are also fluent in Mandarin, but during that whole night, we were only successful in getting them to say one word, which ironically meant “idiot.” As they were quite the handful, I hope this post will make up for Days 24-27 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans. 😀

Too Many Santas

“Alright children, don’t forget that Santa will be visiting our class tomorrow. Make sure to bring your Christmas wish lists!” Mrs. Benson announced.

***

At home, Lulu wrote My Little Pony, Princess Tiana doll, and Easy-Bake Oven on green construction paper. She folded it into two halves and sealed it inside a red envelope. She wrote For Santa’s Eyes Only on the front of the envelope and decorated it with drawings of candy canes, gift boxes, bows, and stars.

“You know Santa Claus isn’t real,” her older brother said, looking at the envelope over her shoulder.

“Yes he is!”

“Then why are there so many of them? At stores, on street corners. And how can one man deliver presents to kids all over the world in one night?” He crossed his arms over his chest, cocked his head to the side, believing he’d had her beat.

Lulu covered her ears and shook her head. “Just because you’re naughty doesn’t mean you have to make stuff up!”

***

At school the next morning, Lulu was the first in line to sit on Santa’s lap.

“Ho! Ho! Ho! And what would you like for Christmas, little girl?”

Lulu took the envelope out of her back pocket and stuffed it inside of Santa’s jacket. “Don’t open it until you get back to your shop,” she said, patting his chest.

“Ho . . . ho . . . . ho?” Santa looked about nervously. “Usually I get these in the mail, but I guess mail does get mis-delivered sometimes,” he finally said.

“I know how you do it. Deliver all the presents. I admit, it never made sense to me before, but my brother made it all clear last night when he said that there’s a Santa Claus on every block!” Lulu winked.

Again, Santa was taken aback. “We have a very clever girl here.” He laughed and waved his arm, signaling for Mrs. Benson to move the line along.

“Lulu, Santa’s only here for a short while. He’s a very busy man. Is there something you’d like to ask him?” Mrs. Benson asked, bending over in her too tight pencil skirt, hands on knees.

“I know you’re real, Santa,” Lulu said, and the jolly man sigh audibly. “And I know your secret.” His breath caught. Lulu leaned forward, cupped her hand over his ear, and whispered, “You cloned yourself.” Then she hopped off his lap, as he relaxed again, and proudly marched to her desk.

—Nortina


santaThis piece of flash fiction makes Day 21 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans. It is also in response to this week’s photo prompt for Sunday Photo Fiction. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

 

A Christmas Dare

They made it look so easy in A Christmas Story. He’d played the movie five times that day, fast-forwarded the tape to the specific scene, slowed it down, analyzed each step…

  1. Stick out your tongue.
  2. Press your tongue against the pole.
  3. Pull back head to confirm attachment.

He’d been standing at the corner of Market and Church street. His mother sat on a bench in Center City Park with her head behind the latest Alex Cross thriller, unaware that he had wandered off from the display of decorated Christmas trees lining the pathway an hour ago to walk a block down to the next crosswalk sign and triple dog dare himself to lick the pole. Pedestrians briskly walked by him, pretending not to stare as the green walkman flashed across the street.

“Is that kid retarded?” he heard someone whisper too loudly.

“Have you never seen A Christmas Story?” he yelled to his back.

As the bright lights of the snowflakes and bells attached to the street lamps began to flicker on, he knew he only had a few more minutes of sunlight before his mother closed her book and discovered he was missing. He pressed his tongue against the pole one last time and counted to five.

“You know it’s not cold enough for that, right?” a voice said from behind.

He swung around, disappointed that his tongue slid across the smooth metal and slipped back into his mouth as he spun. A short, gray-haired woman, no taller than him, rested her elbow on her cane decorated with red swirls like a candy cane. She grinned widely, showing off yellowed teeth and deep wrinkles in her cheeks that resembled gills.

“But it’s December,” he said.

“It’s also 70 degrees.”

He hung his head and kicked his foot at the patch of grass growing between the crack in the sidewalk.

“Tell you what. You help this old lady across the street, and I’ll buy you a popsicle. You’ll have better luck with that.”

He hurriedly stood next to her on the opposite side of the cane. They locked arms and waited at the curb for the signal to flash, giving them the OK to meet the man with the ice cream cart on the other side.

—Nortina


walkmanThis piece of flash fiction makes Day 14 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans. It is also in response to this week’s photo prompt for Sunday Photo Fiction. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

The Bottomless Pit

Benny’s mom got down on all fours and leaned over the mysterious hole in their driveway. She picked up the flashlight next to her and shined a beam of light into the darkness.

“I can’t see anything.” Her voice returned to her in low, grumbling echoes rising from the unseen bottom.

“I have this burning urge to shout, ‘This is Sparta!’ ” Benny said from behind her.

She sat up on her haunches and frowned at him over her shoulder. “Boy, I will whip your behind if you kick me into this hole.”

“I’m just joking, Ma.” He slapped her back, and she jerked away losing her balance, teetering over the hole momentarily before digging her nails into the concrete edge and pushing herself backward. Benny immediately threw his hands up, professing innocence to attempted foul play.

“If I had a belt,” she mumbled, shaking her head. “Get one of those rocks,” she directed, “throw it down there, listen for it to hit the bottom.

Benny did as he was told then dropped to his stomach and held his ear over the hole. “I can’t hear anything.”

“It can’t possibly be that de—”

“Wait! There’s something. It’s…it’s…a chirping? No, wait…a buzzing? Like bugs…big ones. It’s getting louder, like they’re coming up to the top. Oh, my god, there’s gotta be like a million of them!”

Benny fell back on his rear. Kicking up dust and rocks, he speedily propelled himself backward, away from the hole. He scrambled to stand and run, but his feet were like lead plates in his shoes. He tripped and rolled down the driveway out into the street.

Benny’s mom crawled to the back step. Believing the strength in her legs had abandoned her, she used the post to lift herself to her feet, only to realize the ground beneath her was shaking. She turned around just as what appeared to be a cloud of black smoke burst from the hole. She brought her arms to her face to shield her eyes.

A large cricket, the size of her hand, landed on her wrist. A second on her shoulder. A third clung to her shirt at her hip.

She looked up. Her son stood frozen at the end of the driveway, mouth agape.

“Benny! Benny, run!” she screamed as the swarm of locusts engulfed her.

—Nortina


128-11-november-1st-2015This piece of flash fiction is in response to this week’s photo prompt for Sunday Photo Fiction. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

 

Penny For Your Dreams

I never cared for the taste of coffee. It was like blending dirt, boiling it in rain water collected in a rotted barrel, and drinking it for breakfast. Three days ago, I wouldn’t have imagined myself swaying in front of the coffee maker as the grinding of the beans lulled me to sleep. The rich, dark espresso shot down my throat, through my arms and legs down to the tips of my fingers and toes. I stood erect as it warmed my stiff body, loosened my muscles.

“I never took you for a coffee drinker,” said my coworker who had just entered the break room. She opened the refrigerator and took out a container of Yoplait Greek yogurt.

“I’m not.” I shoveled ten spoonful’s of sugar into my mug, poured the creamer until my coffee turned beige.

“I can see that.” She leaned against the counter, peeled back the seal of her yogurt and licked it. “So what’s the occasion?” she asked, smacking her lips.

“Can’t sleep.” I took another sip. I could still taste the bitterness, a smudge of mud lingering on my tongue. I added two more spoonful’s of sugar, poured the cream until it reached the rim of my mug. “I’ve been having this recurring nightmare.”

“What about?” she asked, mouth full of yogurt.

“You’d laugh if I told you.”

“C’mon, no I won’t. I promise.”

I turned my back to her as I recounted the horrors of last night. “I keep seeing this man. He’s wearing trousers, a gray vest and a bowler hat. He has a monocle over his eye, but I can’t see his face, and he’s—” My breath caught.

“He’s what?” She was standing behind me now. I felt the warmth of her hand lingering over my shoulder, but she hesitated to bring it down.

“He’s riding a penny-farthing.”

“A what?”

“You know, those bikes from the 1800’s with the big wheel up front, and the tiny wheel behind.” I looked at her over my shoulder. She was pressing her lips together, trying to hide a smile. I pulled away from her. “I knew you would laugh.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. But you gotta admit, it does sound kind of ridiculous.”

“No. It doesn’t.” I shook my head, fell into the chair at the round table against the wall. “He rides past my bedroom window. Back and forth. Waving. Taking off his hat and nodding at me with no face. He does it all night. And it’s so real, I don’t know if I’m dreaming or sitting there on my bed watching it happen. All I know is I wake up the next morning exhausted, and my curtains are pulled back nearly off the rod.” I cleared my throat, a weak cough and tearless sob.

“This has really got you frazzled, huh?” she said, pulling out a chair and sitting next to me. She folded her hands in her lap, still afraid to touch me.

“I’m being tormented by some demented 19th century ghost.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?” A hint of a smirk was still on her lips.

I rose from my seat, retrieved my coffee mug from the counter next to the maker. “Please don’t tell the whole department I’m crazy,” I said as I exited the break room.

—Nortina


127-10-october-25th-2015This piece of flash fiction is in response to this week’s photo prompt for Sunday Photo Fiction. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.