214 Extracted Words – The Tease – December 2016

December 2016

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a short story.

 

The lift rumbled forward once again. A newbie tripped trying to make the last ride, he figures. Graphite tinted clouds curl over the divide to the north. A good blow is coming for sure. Perhaps more rain than snow. He’s managed to stay dry, buttoning up the hilltop restaurant for the season’s end. Getting soaked now, just before driving home, would be annoying. With the old Land Cruiser’s weak defrost, he’d be wiping the windshield all the way back to Lolo.

The lift passes by an intermediate tower, bounding over its sheaves, vibrating his molars. After two decades of riding up in the morning and down in the afternoon, he knows those bumps like puddles in his driveway. Another season over, another year until he gets where he’s going, wherever that is. One thing he knows, flipping burgers at sixty-five hundred feet isn’t going to cut it much longer. He’s been telling himself that for twenty years, so it must be true.

He pulls his hat to his sideburns and his bearded chin to his chest. Dropping over the next cliff is a run called the Witch’s Broom, a black diamond rockslide that is more elevator shaft than ski slope. And it’s always windy. When the sleet comes, it’s like opening a freezer door.

 

 

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The Tease – December 2015

December 2015

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels, but the majority of my pieces are short fiction, the classic short story. This month’s Tease is from one such story, and just so happens to be set on Boxing Day.

He would have preferred a room with windows, but a hocked laptop only gets you so much when you insist on the Davenport. He hears rustling in the hallway and cracks the door to the extent of its security latch. A gaggle of old women with bulging bags of Christmas wrap are waddling toward the elevator, proud of their Boxing Day discounts. Even the day after Christmas requires tithing to the gods of retail. He closes the door and presses the do-not-disturb button, invoking its red lamp. Returning to the cartel cart, he opens the peanuts, washes them down with a half-empty glass of Canadian Mist then picks up a slab of cashew brittle. Twelve dollars, so what. He’ll never get the bill.

The nuts are soft and the sugary mix shatters into a mass of sweet splinters. Heaven. Sure, he thinks, the streets of Heaven could be confection laced. Makes more sense than gold. If there was anything Jesus wasn’t interested in, it was gold. He probably would remedy our holiday, consumer orgy with less X-Box and more Tiny Tim. “God bless us everyone,” he smirks.

“You can steal from Dickens to get started, Puppy. But you’ll hate yourself if it’s in the final draft.”

He jumps with the words from the uninvited guest. Brown, syrupy spittle oozes from his lips as he lurches forward, catching the bedpost. His heart drums away.

“Who the hell is that?”

Wordle # 89 – Ethanol

Ethanol.

He raps on the door of the loft, vociferating threats of expulsion until the deadbolt finally slides to the side. The moderately warped door springs open of its own accord.p6260056

“What the hell?” Rays from the dirty sunlight of winter shine on the far wall, revealing an electric mudslide of bright acrylic, launched and lobbed at a sheet of plywood, propped on the ceramic ledges of an unplumbed washbasin.

“I learned how to do this last quarter,” his son beams.

He inhales the scene. His boy is wearing a tattered frock (most certainly salvaged from one of the old boxes in the corner), covered in the same psychedelic velvet that adorns the painting and half the wall behind it.

“They teach this in engineering school?” he rubs his forearm, running his hand over some fresh, tribal ink, still red with irritation. His heartbeat is rapid, his neck bulges from the aerobics of morbid fascination.

“Modern Masters. It’s an art elective. You know, Jackson Pollen. You’ve heard of him, right?” his son asks.

“No, not really. I’ve heard of Jackson Pollock. And this ain’t him either. Just a bored kid on Christmas break.” He thinks back on all the holidays they didn’t share. He spent nearly half of them on the road, the other half on the run, a few in jail. His life isn’t a complete disappointment, just a mild one, like ethanol. It meanders, somewhere between irreversible disaster and unmet expectations, substituting rust for memories. He smiles and backs his tone off a notch. “This ain’t a goddam atelier”

“A what …”

“Never mind. Just clean this crap up, or you’ll have to find a different roof to sleep under.”

He laughs and rubs his shaved head as he closes the door behind him. The kid is thirty-three and he’s still reminding him to clean up his messes.

The Tease – November 2015

November 2015

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels, but the majority of my pieces are short fiction, the classic short story. This month’s Tease is from one such story, and just so happens to be set at Thanksgiving.

She seals the stuffing in a plastic bowl as her mother piles whipped cream on a wedge of pumpkin pie. “Take this to your father in the other room, would you dear.”

She finds her father in his recliner, reading the paper, tossing the Black Friday ads. “All those idiots, getting up at four in the morning. Like cows getting milked.”

“I did it once. Kind of crazy, but fun.” She smiles feebly.

He just shakes his head and continues reading as she sets his pie on the coffee table. She turns, then spins back again.

“Dad, can I ask you something?”

“What?” he mumbles from behind the paper.

“Dad, are you proud of me?”

“What for, bringing me those two bear-faced hyenas that crap boulders? As if I don’t have enough to do around here.”

“No, you know. Proud of me. Who I’ve become.”

He pulls down the paper and looks at her for a long time. His eyes are tired and shiny. He pulls the paper back up, hiding his face. “Ah hell Nicky, you know how I feel.”

She sighs, rolls her eyes. “No, I don’t.”

Silence. The paper doesn’t move. After a couple of deep breaths, she throws her arms in the air and turns. Her mother is leaning against the kitchen entrance, watching. “Put on your coat, dear. I want to show you something.”

They slip out the back door into the crisp night air. She can see twin dog rumps in the moonlight. They’ve chased something into a space behind the steps. Leo looks up, panting and grinning, as if inviting the humans to join the hunt. They decline, continuing down the path to the forbidden shop.

Vapor rises all around her mother’s face as she reveals her secret. “He keeps the key under the door frame, here.”

“Mom?”

“It’s alright. We have an unspoken agreement. He acts like I don’t know and I act like I don’t care.” She rattles the padlock free. “I should’ve done this a long time ago.” The door creaks open, liberating the scent of sawdust and two-cycle oil. “Go on.”

Writing 101 – Day 13 – Editing with a Scalpel – or – Peppermint is the New Menthol

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe tips the ashtray. Stale butts roll out like coffin dowels. Funny, they smell so damn good, when first lit. Breaking the chains of that sweet, seductive addiction requires a resolute chisel, one forged by her newborn eyes. He plunders confections until foil fills the ashtray.

Peppermint is his menthol now.

The Tease – October 2015

October’s excerpt.

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels, but the majority of my pieces are short fiction, the classic short story. This month’s Tease is from one such story.

The air steams with his breath. The odor of urine and burnt polymers greets him as he slips through a gash in the parking lot fence and shuffles down the riverbank to the first span. The belly of the bridge is tattooed with graffiti and swallow droppings. Every crack and defect is subverted by moss or weeds. A number of homeless people congregate on the lee side of the nearest pillars, some standing, others laying directly in the dirt, all faceless until they light a cigarette, illuminating their hollow, hollow eyes. His eyes adjust, detecting three people to his left, a large man, a smaller man and a woman, all sitting around a warped plywood remnant placed on a mound of rock. The lumber scrap is butted against the bridge’s craw, supported between the riverbank and the cement superstructure.

“Well, you gonna get up and say hi or something?” he asks the larger man. “You look like the goddam Fremont Troll sitting under there.” His words echo off the tarnished cement.

“I … err.” The large man clears his throat. “I suppose.” He rises and brushes off his trousers while ducking to avoid the granular surface of the arch. His shaved head shines, even in the dim light of the bridge’s underside. Each step he takes is solidly placed, as if the flesh of his foot is welded to the ground, not out of caution for the grade of the slope, but because Big Jake naturally tramps that way.

They meet a few feet from the makeshift table. Both falter for a moment in that odd, awkward space between a handshake and a hug. Big Jake finally extends his mammoth paw for their mutual rescue. “Heard you might be coming. How’d you find me kid?”

“Not hard. I just asked where the best game in town was. Oh, and where I could find a street goliath with a crack across his head like Valles Marineris.”

Look for next month’s excerpt on the 26th.