Monday, April 26, 2010

FFF # 29 - Silenced

A continuation of Between the Curtains, again dedicated to Coaster Punchman.

"I said that you don't have to believe me, and I certainly wouldn't...if I were in your shoes." Mrs. Stevens said as she fingered the silken belt of her robe. She tilted her head as she watched Mrs. Kravitz float above her dining room table.

"Well, I don't believe you!" Mrs. Kravitz snivelled. "Now get me down from here!"

"I'm sorry, I can't do that." Mrs. Stevens replied. "You've seen too much. I'm sorry to have to do this to you, but I can't have you starting up a witch hunt against me. Today my sisters and I are going to have a little prayer group and we will be praying to silence you. Now be quiet and try to find some peace. I've got to finish preparing the punch and finger sandwiches. Everyone will be here soon. " Mrs. Stevens turned away from her and entered the kitchen.

Mrs. Kravitz continued to float on her back above the early American dining table. Tears began to slide down the sides of her face and drip onto the polished oak finish. She was frightened but resolute. This must be some cruel joke. She had to be held up like this by some combination of fishing wire and hallucinogenic drugs. She couldn't feel any specific bonds; it felt more like magnetic force keeping her hovering. She shook away that train of thought. It had to be some kind of parlour trick. There is no natural way she could be suspended in midair like this.

Mrs. Kravitz began to pray. She started with a plea to damn Mrs. Stevens to hell for this. She had suspected the woman was either a circus freak or a whore. Strange people had been coming and going from her house at odd hours. Mrs. Kravitz sometimes didn't even see them approaching, which was unusual, since she kept a daily vigil at her window. Then it was the strange creatures that began roaming the back yard: a unicorn, garden gnomes and dragon.

It was the dragon that drew Mrs. Kravitz away from her window and sent her marching next door. She had pounded on the Stevens's front door and demanded entrance. She would no longer tolerate Mrs. Stevens's interest in unusual creatures. It was one thing to have wierdos in your house at all hours. It was quite another to go to great lenghts to alter God's creatures in one way or another to make them resemble the denizens of hell where all that old mythology was born. She said as much to Mrs. Stevens and the woman just laughed at her.

Mrs. Stevens then led her through the house and showed her the backyard, which no longer contained the beasts. She continued to deny Mrs. Kravitz's accusations and had almost convinced her that she was seeing things until a small, evil little creature dashed out from under the couch and bit Mrs. Kravitz on the ankle.

Mrs. Kravitz shivered at the memory. It was a terrible and vile living version of the little fishing gnome statue Mrs. Kravitz had bought and placed in her own garden. She was horrified and then filled with the glory of God. She fought back the pain and pulled herself up tall and let herself be God's instrument in the presence of the evil woman. Oh, if only her ladies prayer group had been there to hear her preach that day...

She had just been winding up to deliver the final piece of her invocation and damn Mrs. Stevens to hell when that woman wiggled her nose at Mrs. Kravitz and all went dark. The next thing she knew she was floating above this table.

"Ok, Mrs. Kravitz," Mrs. Stevens said, re-entering the dining room. "Everything's all set. Ah, there's the doorbell! Now you keep quiet." She wiggled her nose at Mrs. Kravitz and the latter felt a warm yet invisible hand cover her mouth.

Mrs. Kravitz heard a group of ladies bubbling in from the front entrance. She could recognize the snide tones of Mrs. Stevens's mother, Endorra among them. As she listened intently for any clue that this was a hoax, she began to decifer other voices. Several of them were ones she'd heard as she listened over the Stevens's back yard during their summer barbeques. But wait, was that Mrs. Cooper the minister's wife? And Miss Tibbs, the school principal? She peered out of the corner of her eye, trying to get a glimpse of the living room. It was! She struggled against her invisible bonds and shriek for help. It was no use. She must try praying again.

She watched in horror as the ladies removed their sensible trench coats and hats to reveal they were all wearing matching, black silk robes. Her eyes bugged out as she recognized most of her prayer group among the coven. Help me, Father! She sent this wish to heaven in desperation.

The ladies in the other room turned their attention to the floating Mrs. Kravitz. They smirked at her and began to jabber to each other.

"All right, ladies," Mrs. Stevens called and clapped her hands. "We are gathered here today to take care of a little problem, as you know. We've all been very patient with Mrs. Kravitz and have done what we can within the mortal realm to ease her mind and distract her from our important work. But, I'm afraid we couldn't expect to be successful forever. Afterall, she is a very clever and powerful woman. So let's work together to redirect her energy to something more positive and less interfering. Shall we gather in the dining room? Afterwards, we'll have punch and sandwiches and begin our work on the school levy, as we had originally planned."

The ladies moved into the dining room and formed a circle around Mrs. Kravitz. Mrs. Kravitz felt a strong energy warming and confining her. She began to pray but their words knocked her prayers down like so many sweat bees as they began their chant.

"Zolda Pranken Kopeck Lum Ippity Bippity Zippity Zoom Zoom..." and Mrs. Kravitz fainted.

Mrs. Kravitz shook her head and found herself sitting in an armchair opposite her husband. She glanced over to the window and shivered. It was repulsive to her.

"Are you cold, Gladys?" Mr. Kravitz asked her.

"No," she said, returning to her knitting. "I just can't stand those curtains anymore."


Posted for Friday Flash Fiction.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Uncle Ralph Chimes In: I'd Like to Invite You to SHUT UP!

I'm just sitting here on this park bench, feeding the squirrels, despite what the sign says. Why can't we feed stale bread to park critters anymore? Who decided that? How else am I going to see wildlife up close and personal without dropping sixty bucks at the zoo?!? To hell with those uppity park rangers and their goddamn non-interference policy. This is not Star Trek, chief.

But I digress...

I enjoy my community park. I like to feed the squirrels and ducks. I like to hear children playing from a distance. What I don't like to hear is your big yap flapping in the wind on your cellular phone! I don't care that the person on the other end of the satellite needs your advice. I'm sure he's already up to his asshole in advice, what with all the wiki this and google that! So you can take that loud voice and sanctimony and find yourself a cone of goddamn silence, which we used to call a "phone booth."

You see, sunshine, in my day, people had discretion. If they had personal business to discuss, they'd take into another room and shut the damn door. If they had a personal call to make and they were out in public, they'd find a booth and fold themselves into it. Hell, they'd even turn their backs away from the window so we didn't even have to read their lips. It was private, Jack! And that's the way I like it.

So get out of here and sit in your car, if you're going to fling your dirty laundry all over my park or I'll kick your blue tooth out!

Modern Marriage

Friday, April 09, 2010

FFF #28 Favoritism

The trouble with me is that I never realise how deep in the shit I am until I'm choking on the stuff. My first clue should have been the way she said my name. It was polite with a touch of frost. Usually, I can charm my way past most red tape scenarios, especially with receptionists of a certain age. But Miss Burke was not about to participate in my whine tasting.

"Sir," she clipped through glossy pink lips, "I understand that this is an inconvenience, but you're going to have to sit and wait. Please have a seat. Mr. Louis will see you when he's ready."

I smiled at her and tilted my head. She put her glasses on and returned to her computer. So much for that. I sighed and spun on my heal. I glanced around the room. They say many CEO's decorate their offices as God might: situate them at the top of the building, add lots of white and heavenly objects to their surroundings. The antechamber I was standing in certainly had a pearly gates feeling to it. The walls were white with wainscoting and lots of fussy molding. Niches, inlaid with shimmery gold and lit from within somehow, contained statuary from the classical to the abstract.

I dropped myself into a lush love seat across the room where I could see the office door and Miss Burke. I couldn't imagine what I was doing here. Sure, I hadn't been one hundred percent straight at the tables, but that's hardly a reason for the CEO of Running Waters Casino to bother with me. There was a grand collection of thugs on the payroll that could harvest my small potatoes anytime without the formality of meeting with the guy upstairs.

See, every now and then, I like to perpetute the myth of lady luck, in particular, beginner's lady luck. I don't cheat much, but I do like to ply my sleight of hand to make a young lady's heart race. Usually she leaves the table with a couple of hundred bucks in winnings and a date to meet me later for a fun romp. And no one's the wiser. It's harmless. It's win win win all over the place and it doesn't cost the casino much at all.

It had been a while since I had a go at it. We'd all received a memo about how any favoritism at the tables wouldn't be tolerated. So I decided to cool it. Until last night when I couldn't resist. Her name was Sharon and she was a bright little penny from Phoenix Arizona. I was dealing straight and she won her first hand. Her gasp of surprise and noises of delight when I pushed chips her way were just so charming. I had to hear them again. And again. I made sure others won too. I dealt her a winner about every fifth or sixth hand; everything else I dealt straight. That had been both a profitable and rewarding evening on the green and in the bedroom.

Maybe I'm being promoted, I thought. They must see that I'm a favorite dealer. My table is always full. Tips are bigger for me and the waitresses than any other table in the place. They probably want me to train the other dealers in how best to service our clientele. I began to visualize how I would spend some time with the human resources people coming up with the class materials and a catchy name. I saw myself in the center of the UN style amphetheater the casino has for employee training and development, sharing my wisdom and helping to lift up my fellow man.

I would be smooth and charming. I would keep them on the hook with anecdotes of my superior people skills. Of course, I would have to be self-effacing and shine a light on myself that wasn't favorable, only to lead them to the lessons I learned and how they helped me become the pillar of dealership I am today. I would have them in the palm of my hands...

"Mr. Quinn?" said the insistant Miss Burke.

"Yes?" I asked, breaking free of my plans for the moment.

"Mr. Louis will see you now." she said and swung the door open.

I stood up and smoothed my hair and checked my breath. I nodded to Miss Burke and made my way through the door. I stepped onto the lush white carpet and took in the view from the floor to ceiling windows that surround the office. I could see for miles. Heaven indeed! I moved my eyes over to the desk where Mr. Louis sat with two of his favorite thugs parked at either side of him like bishops on a chessboard. I smiled at them and took a step towards his desk when I was wallopped by the third thug who had hovered in my blindside.

Knocked to the floor, my head reverberated with the echos of his brass knuckles chiming my jawbone. I blinked and chased away the momentarily hilarity I felt when I noticed that the carpet smelled like cotton candy. I tried to get to my knees but thug number three dropped his size thirteens on my lumbar area. He yanked at my hair and pulled my head up so I could see Mr. Louis better.

"Did you read the memo I sent about favoritism, Johnny?" Mr. Louis asked.

"Yes, sir," I said and grimmaced as the pain extended its stay into next week.

"Did you also read the other memo that went out at the same time?"

I blinked.

"It concerned my new wife, Sharon..." he said, trying to prompt my memory. Thug three dug his heel in to my back and farted.

Oh, shit. I thought. So much for the lecture series...


Friday Flash Fiction 28 with a challenging starter sentence from Paulie Decibels

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Uncle Ralph Chimes In: Life Metaphors

Son, sit down and let me tell you about life. Life is just a game of Minesweeper. You ever played that game? Yeah, I bet you have; you look like the type. Do you know that I've played that game 872 times on Expert and I've only won one time?!? And you know it's only like life if you play it on Expert. Don't give me any of that "beginner" or "intermediate" crap. That's not life. That's TV.

You set yourself down sometime and you start that game up and pick the expert level. And I want you to pay attention to what happens. You see, most games are winnable. Those guys that make games want you to win so you'll buy more of their stuff. You win all the time, you piss all your money away. Just look at that MC Hammer fella if you want proof. But this game was designed by someone who knew shit from shinola. Also? He got a contract with Microsoft to include it on all their shitty software. Why should he even bother creating another game for the rest of his life? He's in the promised land, sport.

So, when you play on expert, you have to start out with an absolute guess as to what the right move is. You could click on one of those 999 boxes and BAM! Game over. Or you could get lucky and open up a dozen or two free spaces. And this is just like life. You take that first step out on your own and you either pop on a clear spot and see the way forward or blow your goddamn foot off. And you know what else? And this is the most important lesson: You're gonna lose. No matter what. So get used to the idea, Johnny.

Monday, April 05, 2010

FFF #27 - Between The Curtains

This time, Cormac gave us a list of words to incorporate instead of a starter sentence:


I dedicate this short story to the Coaster Punchman. He'll know why...

Bon apetit!

Mrs. Kravitz twitched her chintz curtains to get a better view of the street below. She peered through the long, thin gap between the two panels to get a view of her neighbor, Mrs. Stevens, as she maneuvered her grand, wood paneled station wagon into the driveway. She watched as the young woman parked her car then leaned over the console to check her makeup in the rear view mirror. She preened at her volumes of golden locks and turned her head from side to side to get a better view of herself in the small landscape the car's mirror provided. Satisfied with what she saw, she pulled the keys out of the ignition and dropped them in her purse. She opened the car door and let one long leg out after the other.

Mrs. Stevens strode to the back of the wagon and opened the hatch as Mrs. Kravitz's eyes bored into her. She reached into the back end and extracted four shiny pink bags. With the bags hooked on her left arm she reached up and closed the hatch.

"That woman has no shame," Mrs. Kravitz tsked.

"What is it now, Gladys?" her husband asked from his easy chair, his mouth full of cashews.

"She went shopping again at that new ladies' department at Macy's. Who needs that much lingerie, I ask you?!"

Mrs. Kravitz took a mental snapshot of the brazen woman as she headed to her front door. She planned to add the details of what she saw to her growing cache of dirty secrets for use later. She would need to ask her Bible study group to pray for Mrs. Stevens. She would make an impassioned plea to them and warn them about turning a blind eye to the beginnings of oversexualization in the marital bed. She had read about the dangers of this somewhere. She wouldn't worry about the research now. The Spirit always led her when she took her place at her own informal pulpit in the fellowship hall at the church. She would find the words to convince them that they must save that woman's soul or to turn their backs and eschew her. Actually, Mrs. Kravitz thought, either way worked for her. If a woman was unwilling to conform to the Lord's Way, then she might as well be dead in Mrs. Kravitz's book. But that scarlet woman certainly couldn't be allowed to continue to strut around in this manner any longer.

"Oh, she's young, Gladys, why don't you leave it alone?" Abner whined.

"Someone's got to keep an eye on these things, Abner!" she huffed. "I'm only trying to do my duty as a Deacon's wife. Besides, you don't want her to burn in hell, do you?" Mrs. Kravitz turned from the window and a put her hands on her hips, arms akimbo. She gave her husband a look that would fry eggs.

No, but you do, thought Abner with some disgust. He grunted and shrugged. He set the nut bowl on the end table and dusted the salt from his hands. He decided to dodge this particular argument and sought cover behind a wall of newspaper. Personally, he thought Mrs. Stevens was a bright new addition to their community and her angel food cake was out of this world. He didn't think she needed to change one blond hair on that pretty little head. And what happened in other people's marital bedroom was none of his concern. He knew better than to take the fight bait his wife was laying before him like an Easter ham.

"Honestly, Abner, you used to be vigilant about maintaining community standards. What happened to you?" But Gladys could see she had lost him for the moment and turned back to the window. She could nearly see the Stevens' upstairs bedroom window from this position, but not quite as well from her own room. Curiousity burned in her heart. She knew her drive to gather knowledge about all the people in her community was her spiritual gift straight from Jesus and she never ignored the urge to witness. God put her here to watch and report and lead those sinners to salvation.

She threw one hmfph towards Abner and turned on her sensible heel towards the bedroom to get a closer look.