Shivani suffered from anger, Shashank from the lack of it. While she lost her temper at the smallest of things, even an earthquake could not ruffle Shashank's composure. It is said "Opposites attract" but in their case, their differing temperaments were the cause of their marriage woes. They decided to separate. "Don't think I'll miss you," screamed Shivani, as he moved his boxes out. She flung a vase at the wall. It shattered. A sharp shard ricocheted off the wall, cutting Shashank on the forehead. Wiping the blood, he looked back at her and said, "I'm glad it missed you."
I returned with the shopping to find my flatmate using the laptop.
'What you looking at Linda?'
'Gym membership? Why?'
'A young lad on the bus offered me his seat.'
'He pointed at my belly!'
'Pregnant? Well, you have put on a little weight lately,' I said, as I unpacked the food.
'Well, it's humiliating and I'm taking action right now.' Her eyes then fell onto the packaging on the side. 'Ooh, chocolate eclairs, they're my favourite.'
'I know, but what about the gym?'
Her mouth was already crammed with cream. 'Tomorrow', she said. 'I'll start tomorrow.'
Fred was sick of his eating routine. He longed for chicken, turkey, and other delicacies, from which he’d been deprived for too long.
“Feed me the good stuff!” he demanded. “I’m sick of these dry, round excuses for food.” He put his heart into his request, but the guy in charge smiled and said, “Aren’t you cute?” Fred’s blood boiled.
“Must ... resist ... urge to destroy,” he fumed silently. “I WILL find a way to ditch pellets and join my idols at a beer company to spread better diets to my kind. Never surrender.”
Hey--life as a ferret ain’t easy.
Shirley stepped quickly between the two children in her class.
‘Stop it. Be nice to each other now.’
Stopping by to see her old friend after school, Shirley hoped Betty would know who she was today.
‘Can I help you?’ Betty asked.
In the stuffy lounge sat a wrinkled man wearing a thick coat and hat.
‘I need my gloves,’ he exclaimed suddenly, wandering into the hallway, returning moments later.
‘They’re mine!’ Betty shrieked.
Shirley stepped quickly between the two elderly people.
‘Stop it. Be nice to each other now.’
The waiter’s name was Luis. The old man, named Bill, came to the restaurant for dinner every Tuesday, and Luis would wait on him each time.
Bill said nothing about himself but took a keen interest in Luis.
“What is your goal in life?” Bill asked.
“To give my children a good education,” Luis said.
One Tuesday, Bill didn’t show up. The next day, Luis’ wife called him at work. She was crying. They’d just received a letter from an attorney on behalf of his late client to let them know the cost of their children’s education had been covered.
The rain was always in the back of my mind. When will it rain? I kept asking the sky, hoping dark clouds would appear.
The rivers and reservoirs were bone dry, farmers abandoned crops, and the trees lit up like perfect kindling.
People panicked and left their homes, but I stayed. I waited for the rain.
I imagined water gushing from a drain pipe, wind blowing rain onto my parched body. I saw the rain dancing on the asphalt like ballerinas.
I imagined lying in a pool of water, feeling its coolness, its comfort, and, finally, quenching my desperation.
We joined our households in matrimony. Dishes my obsession. Pastel. Floral-edged. His plain.
Mine glowed at candlelit dinners. His were the staple of our rushed workday breakfasts.
Washing up we shared until he let a plate slip. Its rose petals shattered. Anger fired words never imagined I’d say. Resonating with insomnia in our nighttime bed.
One broke. Another. More. The tremors continued.
He watched from a kitchen chair as I filled the sink with water, added soap.
His dishes. No longer plain. They spoke of a new understanding. Enduring love.
Dishes I would wash.
Dishes illness prevented him from holding.
We each have one hand on the pram handle. Pacing in parallel, like stags in rutting season, we monitor each other from the corners of our eyes. My son and her daughter walk behind in silence. The pram wobbles over a crack in the pavement. My free hand grabs the handle to steady it. So does hers. We simultaneously lean in, white knuckled, to coo at our perfect, sleeping grandson, snug in his stripy blanket. We watch to see who’ll be first to relinquish their grip. Our children move to either side of us. We look like a happy family.
“My feet are freezing,” the homeless man wailed, “I need shoes.”
I stopped there and undid my laces. When I took them off, the snow crushed and melted against my socked feet, wetting then freezing them at once. In the time that it took to hold out the pair, I was already shifting my weight from one foot to the other.
“Take mine.” I said. “It’s been ten seconds and I’m already miserable. I can’t imagine how you must feel.”
But he turned me away.
“No.” he said, “I prefer to steal them.”
The smell assaults him as Lew passes through the doorway.
He needlessly whispers, “Goddam smell,” for June is no longer conscious of this world.
She lays sunken-faced breathing heavily; snorting really.
The attendant arrives to flutter about, possibly a ruse to assure relatives the patient is receiving the best of care.
“What the hell is that smell?”
“Anti-bacterial disinfectant keeps June safe.”
“Why’s her breathing labored?”
“Has the flu.”
“So much for the anti-bacterial, you folks’ve any idea how much longer?” asks Lew.
“No way to judge, we keep her comfortable.”
“Goddamn smell,” Lew smiles when touching June’s crepe skin.
“How’s Mum?” Denis walked towards his sister, sitting quietly outside the ward. Carol looked up, biting her nail.
“Touch and go, Den. A massive dose of a new antibiotic seems to have done the trick. Do you want a cuppa? You’ve been driving all night.”
“From that machine dispensing instant tea and coffee? No thanks. So, why did she come in to hospital?”
“To see Uncle James who’d broken his leg...”
“…twenty-four hours later, she’d contracted the virus.” Carol pulled down her face-mask. “They come in healthy and go out sick.”
“He’s got the virus too.”
"Please take a break today," Elsa says, walks over and massages his neck. "Visitors to the flash fiction site can wait another week."
"But I have another story to tell," Oliver says as he glances at his notebook. "My readers need to see it."
"I am sure they can wait." "You have been writing continually for the last several months."
"Of course, sweetheart," "How can you even ask me something like that?"
"Come here," Oliver says, pulls Elsa onto his lap and kisses her on the cheek. "Show me the ways I can make it up to you."
Unaware that they were being watched, the poacher and his guide stealthily approached the pride. The hunter was looking for the rare black-maned lion that roamed the wildlife preserve.
He had paid the guide to sneak him into the protected area so he could get the trophy of a lifetime! The bribe had cost him a small fortune!
“He’ll occupy the place of honor above my fireplace.”
As the poacher raised his rifle, he and his guide were attacked by the rest of the pride that had circled around behind them, learning too late that lions indeed are skilled hunters.
On the day I died, I woke up, a bounce in my belly, a smile on my lips.
“You’re looking chipper,” she observed.
“Haven’t even had my coffee yet,” I said, hugging her the way I once did.
“What brought that on?” she asked.
I continued to grin like a school kid in the moment, finding lost pleasure, remembering the way I had imagined my life, my love would unfold.
After breakfast I made to leave.
“Where are you off to?” she queried.
“I’m thinking a hike up to the Falls,” I said.
“Be careful,” she advised.
“Always,” my love.
The wind blew directly in his face and it sang with a dozen voices, each one belonging to a past victim. He kept them with him always, recalling their faces, how they died and how he killed them: the closest the man ever came to making friends. On the hunt now, he searched the streets for prey.
An accomplice breeze showed him the way, insistent and impossible to ignore. It told him to kill and drove his compulsions, fuelled the fierce rage against a world that had rejected him – always room for one more in his collection of bound souls.
Harry and Geoff were discussing their favourite topic, home-cooked food – cooked by someone else; their wives.
“Can’t stand garlic,” announced Harry. “I’d tell Delia to shove it if she put it in my food.”
“Me too. I’ve told Christine never to use the stuff.”
Delia looked through the open hatch towards her husband and smiled. She took a second garlic clove, an extra-large one. Carefully, she peeled and crushed it then stirred it into the lasagne.
“And you’ll be shoving garlic – again – where the sun don’t shine, sweetheart,” she whispered as she reached for a third one.
For those unfamiliar with Burns Suppers, this isn't quite so far from the truth as you'd imagine.
The 159th annual Burns' Supper was an eagerly anticipated event. It opened with Tae a Haggis, followed by the Selkirk Grace. Once the haggis had been killed and cooked, the guests ate well, washed down with liberal quantities of whisky.
Entertainment followed. Tam O'Shanter, of course, followed by To a Mountain Daisy, To a Louse, To a Mouse and finally To a Penguin. Mercifully, the Reverend Bob Thompson forgot The Immortal Memory.
The evening concluded with Burns Song Karaoke and the traditional pitched battle in the car park. Police were called and everyone spent the night in unco' happy custody.
It was a cold, windy, bleak, rainy day. The wind howled, making all plans seem irrelevant. He looked at his wife, seated across the work table in their library/study/workroom, and wondered what they should do. They’d started the day as usual, checking email and sorting through work at hand, but today was supposed to be a “special” day, not for work, but for celebrating. He got up from the table and walked to the window to watch as the weather increased its ferocity. No, he thought, not a day for going out. Not a pleasant day to celebrate his birthday.
He was old, bent and gnarled. This was his last chance.
Digging his feet deep into the sand, he pushed his boat out to sea one shove at a time.
Balancing carefully, he climbed over the prow.
His fishing net lay limp in the back of the boat. He didn’t need it where he was going, but he didn’t want to part with it.
Alone on the water, he could hear every creak of the boat and his back, the rasp of the oars against their casings, and the chuckling lap of the water against the sides.
This was home.
I hold down the backspace key and watch as the words are gradually erased from my screen. The characters exit left; a ballet troupe leaving the stage.
Honesty dictates that they are words I never really wanted to say. Anyway, I've decided it's no good to ignore the signs.
Click, click, click. All gone. Start again.
In its place I compose another message which says: Your bitterness doesn't just come from all that coffee you drink.
A subtler and more sophisticated approach, don't you think?
No regrets. There's no going back.
One final stare. Then press Send.
And start again.
‘Tis an unforgiving place. Directionally confused, every way the same. The madness of regularity, row after row, pattern repeat after repeat, two this way, two that, two up, two down. A log pile of packed-tight, pointed bevels. Lying flat, I’m nudged across, grazed by their crevasses, a restless guru on a bed of nails. Outer walls encroach at a slow, steady, inexorable pace. Resolutely, this advancing army of swords prods me, their prey. Their double edge serrations shave my soul. This machine annihilates all in its path. Stripped. I am but dust.
Cyril moved to the edge of the diving board and looked down.
So this was it; this was the outcome of all those years of early mornings at the municipal pool, of all that practice in the front room every evening - honing the shapes and curves his body could make. The months of dieting, weight-training, running and stretching until his body was pushed beyond endurance.
This was what it had all been for - a few seconds of ‘elegant falling then minimal splash’ and just the outside chance of a medal on a ribbon for all that hard work.
Despite seeing the photographs of emaciated bodies it was the pink ballet shoes which tore his heart apart the most.
He wondered which poor doomed child they belonged to and knew their terrible fate. Did her parents survive, forever tortured by this awful time?
The shoes were all shapes and sizes, as plentiful as fallen leaves after an autumn storm but a much more gruesome sight. What hopes had all these people had, which for many would have ended in such despair?
That night he dreamt of a young girl dancing...and awoke with a start.
“They will yield a fine harvest,” rustled Father Oak to Mother Maple. “Fur-less, they strip other animals; claw-less, they fashion stone claws, to hunt their prey and to slay one another!”
“Abominations! Fratricides!” Mother Maple withdrew from the creatures, horrified. “Cast them out now, say I!”
“Nonsense! We shall nourish them well, so that they may ripen quickly.”
“If they turn their claws upon us –”
“Oh they won’t do that. They know they die the day we do.”
“Well, I hope you’re right.” Sighed Mother Maple, and lowered her branches to the feeble paws reaching up for her leaves.
Nine o’clock Sunday- breakfast: He said he wouldn’t and couldn’t, do it
As was she. “Same thing.”
“No it isn’t.”
Twelve-thirty- lunch: “Why not, It’s Monday tomorrow.”
“Sore feet. Doctor’s orders.”
Seven o’clock- : A change of tactics, even though earlier he had said he wouldn’t, not couldn’t, which irked.
“How are your feet? Still not great?”
With dignity and forbearance, he limped outside.
She settled on the couch accepting that she was to hear, again, the sore foot saga: the tenderness the podiatrist, the ointment, now that he had put the rubbish out.
That was the deal.