309 Extracted Words – The Tease – February 2017

February 2017

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

 

He looks out at the hills across the lake – dark, static mounds that lay waiting for the North Idaho suburban concrete that creeps closer every year. The mammoth, green-gabled condos squatting below on Arrow Point fade between the folds of wandering mist and sleet. A kettle corn glow radiates from the walkway of the nearest timeshare. Electric moose.

He returns his tools and runs a bath for Danny. The little boy usually loves a warm bath, but today he protests, stiffening his legs and then flopping like a wet fish, turning over and over in the tub. He must be pinned against the far wall to finish the rinsing. The anxious child slaps his own head repeatedly and screams – a shrill bellow that simultaneously infuriates and saddens Aaron.

His ears ringing, he tries to remain calm. “Hang in there little guy, we’re almost done. Just a little more. I don’t want it to get in your eyes. Oh buddy, don’t hit yourself.”

He swaddles Danny in two large towels and rocks him on his shoulder until the boy calms – a wilted mass of wet hair and tear-streaked cheeks. He dresses him in a pull-up diaper under sweats, rewinds the video in the VCR, pulls a small globe down from the hallway closet and points to Uzbekistan. “Santa ought to be right about here now. Above the Aral Sea. Probably head west from there.”

The little boy reaches out and whacks the globe, spinning it on its axis. He kicks his feet in delight as the multicolored nations of the world blend in a dizzying blur. When it stops he whacks it again, kicks and whacks it again.

The phone rings. Wrong number. He looks outside at the cross, unwound into the portrait of a one-armed, one-legged stickman, his head bent, lights twisting brilliantly against the black, paintbrush trees and darkening sky.

“I should call her, just to check.”

 

 

 

557 Extracted Words – The Tease – January 2017

January 2017

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a novel in progress.

As they approached the sleek Swedish-made supercar, she wondered if she still had time to bail, just run, truck on out, get on her Ducati and scorch the canyon road. Or she could take Austin up to his favorite place, Crater Lake. He called it “park”, when he requested it with his computer. Her big boy, always with her, even when he wasn’t, a byproduct of her guilt for leaving him with the Harris family on a day when she could have been with him. But he didn’t mind staying one night because Mr. Harris always made egg toast for breakfast. And she needed her time away, periodically, for their mutual sanity.

Perhaps her escape fantasy was hatched from anxiety about this trip to the ocean. She really didn’t know Max Mann and was taking a chance. Of course, some would say, he was the one taking the chance, letting her drive, letting her near his wallet. Let them talk. When was the last time she cared what other people thought?

They started down the road toward Eagle Point, then followed the river toward Upper Table Rock where they pulled off onto a gravel wayside and switched seats. He had taught her what she needed to know and she took that knowledge out on the interstate.

“Instead of the ocean, we should take this thing east, around Steen’s Mountain. It could open up some real possibilities,” she jibed, gaining a feel for the supercar’s handling.

“And if you get arrested, you won’t have to worry about tonight’s sleeping arrangements,” he warned.

“Not my concern at the moment,” she smiled, crooking her crooked nose.

“Oh really?”

“Hold on to your belt buckle, counselor,” She downshifted, jerking him forward against the three-point harness.

“You’re riding a horse per kilo. Don’t be flippant.”

“No shit?” It was the first time she remembered seeing anything but cool control in his face. She considered backing off for a moment, then slapped the carbon shift knob with a hard palm and pushed it into sixth. They swung south out of Grants Pass towards the state line and then up the grade past the Oregon Caves, toward the Siskiyous and California. They were higher than Deadman, and with the windows down, she felt cooler and lighter than she had in weeks. The Koenigsegg launched them over the divide and as they dropped over the south side, she throttled down and cruised just above the speed limit, knowing that the state bulls tended to gather near the junction with Highway 101, just outside Crescent City.

“Smart girl. You’ve driven this way before?”

“Not for a while, and on the bike. It’s a little different. No shotgun,” she smiled, catching some sandy strands in her open mouth.

“Shotgun? Yeah, I guess I’m not used to sitting on this side either.” He pushed his sunglasses up his tan nose.

As they approached the ocean, she felt the temperature continue to drop. Even with August heat, the air grew dense, almost visible. She wanted to run into the surf, chase an Irish setter, screech like a seagull, skip a sand dollar, sidestep a crab, see her reflection in a tide pool, light a campfire, spot a whale spout, listen to a seal bark and eat clam chowder. Unfortunately, most of California had the same idea, and they were greeted with a traffic jam as they headed north along the coast.

 

 

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.

 

 

91 Extracted Words – The Tease – November 2016

November 2016

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

Under murky skies, on a labyrinth of trails laced between boulders, bogs and the West Branch of the Little Spokane River, one can explore the DNR land southeast of Horseshoe Lake. In Autumn, tamaracks light the way, flaunting their acid-yellow diversity against a chalkboard of evergreens. Cross paths with white-tailed deer or dusky grouse, thumping their escape through the misty forest. Discover a beaver pond, complete with lodge, built by the flat-tailed woodland engineers.

 

 

176 Extracted Words – The Tease – October 2016

October 2016

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a wordle titled “Ethanol”.

What’s a wordle?

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 wash basin.

“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.

 

 

 

177 Extracted Words – The Tease – September 2016

September 2016

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a work in progress.

It started the way most manmade disasters do, with the best of intentions. The root cause was eventually traced to the ventilation system of a lab tasked with developing experimental vaccines for mutated avian flu. Not three generations later, the entire human population had lost the ability to smell. Taste had been reduced to the thin edges of salt and sour.

Aside from the obvious challenges to the perfume industry, the dining industry and the movie-theater-popcorn industry, the greatest disturbance from the emergence of Scent Detection Deficit Disorder (SDDD) arose in a way never hypothesized by the para-governmental World Science Agency empowered to battle the crisis. Their narrow thinking, at the outset of the epidemic, allowed a far more dangerous crisis to arise – to the point that now, the very survival of the human race was threatened. The short-sightedness of a small, yet powerful, group of scientists and government officials had led mankind to the edge of extinction.

 

 

535 Extracted Words – The Tease – August 2016

August 2016

I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a novel in progress.

With a look of disgust and a belly of the same, he turned and walked away. Before he knew it, he was on the road east, jogging as much as walking out of town. A dump truck whipped by, its tailing vortex tugged him dangerously close to the pavement. A BMW cruised past, honking twice. He came to a bridge rising over the boulders and mud of the reservoir’s main inlet. Hard to believe this mosquito-laced trickle would evolve into the torrent that notoriously crushed bone and spirit on its way to the ocean. As he dropped off the other side, he noticed a couple using the brace of the bridge as a shelter. Their clothes were oversized and stained, but they smiled so he nodded back.

He felt lost, so very lost. Aside from the many honks he had garnished from passing traffic, he might as well have been invisible. Unseen, lost and stumbling.

A county patrol car passed him. He watched as it pulled into the gated entrance to a forest service road, then spun its tires backing up into its own dust to block his path. He was keenly familiar with the abrupt halt of local law enforcement vehicles. It conjured feelings of being busted smoking in high school, that frozen moment of fearful excitement, deciding whether or not to run. (Is this really happening?) Next came the realization that it was happening, usually followed by his ejection from the latest village he had terrorized. But he was already leaving, as far as this cop knew. As far as he knew, as well.

“What’s your name, sir?” the officer asked after stepping out onto the shoulder in front of him.

He had never been rousted by a woman cop before. A bad morning was getting even worse.

“Bart.”

“I recognize most of the locals, especially the young, good-looking ones. But not you.”

He was surprised to see a grin on her face as she looked him up and down. She seemed friendly, for a cop, and self-assured. The confidence to patrol alone, in these hills, spoke volumes. He assumed she could handle herself, and him, for that matter.

“You here for the Turtle, Bart?” she asked, pulling her hair behind one ear.

“I was. Turned out to be a bad idea.”

“Why’s that. Don’t recall any 415’s last night.”

“415’s?”

“Disturbances … fights.” She looked at him closer, her large eyes almost comforting him with her gaze. “What you running from then? Is it a girl? Somebody break your heart?”

“No, nothing like that. Just kind of wondering what I’m doing here.”

“Hah,” she let out a laugh, revealing dimples with her wide grin. “You and every other a-hole coming up from Ashland or Portland or wherever you’re from. No offense.” She looked him over again. “You know, there’s not much up this road except locals and wildfires. Some survivalist nut jobs, too. Walking through the hills in your Dalai Lama outfit might not be the best idea. Got some ID on you, lost Bart?”

He slipped a weathered hand into his pocket and then, with a sinking feeling, realized he had nothing with him. Not his ID, his money. Nothing.