The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Month: July 2015

“Worth Noting,” a short story by Scott MacAulay

Worth Noting

By Scott MacAulay

A woman at St. Vincent de Paul knows me. I’ve been going to the store since late January, since spring wasn’t too far off and I could start to think about sleeping out of doors again, in a quiet spot, in a spot where it gets dark because the sun goes down, not because the rules say it’s time for lights out. I’ve been giving her twenty dollars a month in case a good sleeping bag comes in and she can put my name on it and set it aside for me. She said I could trust her. Her name is Virginia. It’s a wonderful name. It’s wholesome. It makes me think she lives in house with a large, welcoming veranda—a two-story house with rose-coloured wooden shingles and chestnut trees in the yard. Virginia is great about my plan in another way, too. She puts aside too imperfect donations of cutlery, pots, dishes—stuff that wouldn’t make it to the sales floor. She puts them in a box with her name on it, told the other staff she’s gathering some things for her little niece to play with in her backyard playhouse. They’re for me, of course. When she offered to help, I already had a note in my pocket which listed some things I’d need.
lamp, chair, futon mattress, big
pot for spaghetti, fry pan, forks and
knives and things, a dish towel
Virginia is my age, fifty. Both of us fifty. Imagine. She’s got long, thin brown hair that’s usually pretty tangled. She wears peasant skirts and knee-high knitted slippers (or socks)—I’m not sure what they are—with leather soles, long-sleeve crew-neck shirts and turtlenecks underneath. Her face is not old, not fifty. It is narrow and smooth, no wrinkles, just hints of freckles. Her eyes are tawny. If I could love again, it would be her I’d choose.
But that’s just nonsense. Love is not on my mind. My mind is busy, busy, busy with other things. I note the things that are important to me, using stubby pencils and little squares of paper from the library. Getting to Shepherds, the Mission, St. Luke’s, St. Joe’s on time for free meals, buying my tobacco in bulk at the first of the month when my cheque comes in, before I start to drink, and protecting it from people who would steal it or would reduce it faster than you’d think by borrowing a smoke every second day. (Who borrows a smoke?
Lots of borrowers at the Cross Mission.
Monday Joe, Shin Bone, Susie are the worst.

You can’t return it except for the butt, I suppose. It’s not like a lighter.) I write down times, places, warnings to myself, and other really important things I should remember.

Virginia is lonely Be nice to her. She
told you she never married. Her niece is
named after her, Virginia.
I look at my notes at least once a week, to update them, to make sure they are current; my pockets are stuffed.
I make notes to myself. I forget things

if I don’t. I’m a note-maker. I mock notes.

I’m a note-mocker. Oh, I don’t know what

I am. I do like notes, though. I like them

so much I could lick them. That wouldn’t

be good, however. The writing would get

smudged and I’d forget what I noted. I’m

glad I wrote this down.
I bunk in shelters now. After roaming free this coming summer, I think I’ll get my own room again, so I’m going to a lot of places, dropping in on people I know or asking people I meet hanging around the streets or in the parks if I can take a look at their places. Not everyone obliges, scared I’m strange or I might roll them. All I want is to be sure I get a place with NO bedbugs. There are no guarantees, but if you find somewhere where people have been living for a while, no huge turnover, and the shared bathroom has lots of toilet paper and the shared kitchen has a clean pot on the stove, you might take the chance.
Shelters are a necessity. There aren’t any good rooms around. I’d freeze to death outside at night. Come mid-spring and for most of the summer, till the third week of August or so, I’ll use them only for the really rainy nights. There’ll be some decent rooms open by then, especially ones on the upper floors. People will have abandoned them, been driven out by the heat that’s built up over the previous three months and the cockroaches and other creatures that invade from garbage rotting along foundation walls, up through cracks in concrete and humidity dampened ancient drywall, through radiators and open windows without screens. (I can take these little guys, just NOT the bedbugs.) But these late summer fleers from upper floors are short-sighted. However endless and godless the heat seems, minus 30 degrees comes too quickly to Ottawa. Well before you can find a decent winter coat that fits and has no rips, no stains, it seems equally endless and godless. I’ve noted it in my list of things worth noting.
I’ll probably be sleeping close to some of the rooming houses that will have the fleers fleeing. My favourite place is Dundonald Park because it’s small, only one small city block square, manageable—you can see who comes and goes, who lingers. Its southwest corner is dark and the grass around the benches there is soft and clean.
I don’t drink too much when it’s hot because I get dehydrated. And I don’t drink too much when I sleep outside: I need to be alert. I should be able to save a lot of the little bit of social assistance they give to people with no fixed address. I’ll still get around to free places to eat. When I get a room, I’ll do it up well and be ready for fall and winter to do their cold and blowy business—FIRST I need a sleeping bag from Virginia at St. Vincent de Paul.
I want a good one, good to minus 20, at least, so I can start sleeping out as soon as possible. I won’t be sleeping out in minus 20, but it can get chilly at night in late April and in May, even early June sometimes. I want one with lots of room up top so I don’t feel trapped, and tapered as it goes down with lots of space beyond my feet for a thermos or cans of beer, spare socks, my watch, my glasses case, tobacco.

 

This day at St. Vincent de Paul, Virginia says, “Guess what, Mark.”
“What?”
“No, close your eyes. No, open them. You’ll have to follow me.”
“I’m no mind reader, but I’m guessing this has to do with a sleeping bag.”
“Shhh!”
Virginia’s peasant skirt is decorated with peacocks, crazy blues and greens. From grades seven to nine in Sydney, Nova Scotia, I watched a peacock and a peahen in the small park behind my junior high school. They had a small, red wooden shelter in their enclosure for rain, I guess, or for privacy. I don’t know where they went every winter. They couldn’t fly.
Virginia is excited. She’s leading me through the “Employees Only” door and down white concrete stairs, badly chipped and in need of a coat of paint. The ceilings are low. The basement is full of donated items from books to clothes to dishes to kitchen utensils, big things like mattresses and sofa combinations, and a special section for furniture that had been upstairs but just wasn’t selling and will now have to go to a landfill. It’s marked “DISPOSE”. This is where she leads me.
“Sit down, Mark.”
I sit on a scuffed-up plastic patio chair that wobbles.
“NOW close your eyes.” Virginia is standing behind a white, velour sofa, which appears to have urine stains on its cushions.
I do as I am told as she ducks behind the sofa and counts dramatically to three.
“LOOK! Tah Dah! This is yours! It came in three days ago with your name on it, literally.”
She is holding a bulky, rolled-up bundle, wrapped in clear plastic. “A sleeping bag, a really, really good one. We had something like it two years ago and the manager priced it at $120.” Virginia seems shy now that the surprise is over. If I could love again, it would be her I’d choose.
“You’ve got what, sixty dollars of mine? Can you hold the bag a while longer? Maybe the manager will let it go for eighty or something.”
“You don’t understand. Some woman came in and said she was putting an end to her boyfriend Mark’s camping expeditions. That was his name. It’s sewn in the bag. The woman said camping was an excuse for boozing, maybe a whore or two with his buddies, pardon my language. I did the inspection and reported the sleeping bag was damaged, a rip, and a zipper that needed replacement. I wrapped it up and put it here for you. Dump run is next week.”
I am grateful, but feel awkward. “Virginia, you’re nice, but I don’t’ need a ripped bag without a zipper. I’ll be sleeping out…”
“Don’t be a goofus, Mark. The sleeping bag is fine. Practically brand new, I’m telling you. You take it! You come to the basement exit an hour after closing time. Your money is wrapped in the sleeping bag.”
“You’re giving it to me. And my money?”
“It is marked for disposal.”
“Yeah, but you’re all churchy and everything aren’t you.”
“Look, some college kid would’ve grabbed it in a snap and used it for god knows what. You don’t take things now and then?”
“Well, I like to be anonymous about it.”
“Well, consider us both anonymous about it.”
I arrive at the basement door at the right time. It is at the back of St. Vincent de Paul and I feel like a sneak because all around me it is quiet and Virginia is doing something wrong, for me. And I know it. Light from the yellow bulb above the door casts my shadow and makes me want to confess, but I knock. She is waiting there, on the other side: With one knock the door opens and I’m inside. My eyes cannot adjust. It is too dark, though a candle burns a short distance behind her.
Virginia puts a finger to her lips, then a hand over my mouth.
“Shhh,” she says.
She lowers her finger, then lowers her hand.
Soon I am naked.
When you get a room, get the box of
things Virginia put aside for you.

Remember that she loved you in your new sleeping

bag on a sofa in the basement of St. Vincent de Paul.

 

**********

Scott MacAulay is a former educator and community development worker. He now devotes his time to learning the art and craft of good story telling. He resides in Ottawa, Canada.

“The Flower Shop,” by Dee Gallagher Boyd

The Flower Shop

by Dee Gallagher Boyd

Angie and I loved making deliveries. She drove the truck well, and I didn’t, so we made a good team. We had worked at Keller’s Flower Shop since high school, and were closing in on college graduation, so the place didn’t bug us as it sometimes did when there was no exit in sight.
Mimi Keller inherited the shop from her parents, and she added the pizzazz and charm the place needed. Her nimble fingers picked through flowers with an artist’s eye. Her baskets and vases meshed color and form into masterpieces. The shop was busy.
The owner hired Angie and me as a package deal. Newly sixteen, we arrived at job interviews together, brazenly insisting they needed us both. When we met Mimi she hired us both right away. She had twin daughters, so maybe she didn’t find dealing in twos unusual.
Rachel and Jody had been urging their mom to let them work at Keller’s since we started. Mimi put the twins on clean- up duty, a job that was losing its luster as they entered high school. We didn’t know their dad too well, but there was no mistaking they were his. Their thick auburn hair and aquiline features bore little resemblance to Mimi.
“It’s as if I weren’t even there,” Mimi would say, “they look so much like John Randall.” She was clearly in love with her husband, and often used his full name. Angie and I knew she was also proud of keeping her own name. She was a Keller, and everybody in town knew her as such.
Most people knew we worked at Keller’s and called out ” Angie! Chrissy!” when they saw the truck go by.
“Chrissy, there is nothing wrong with being a townie,” Angie often reminded me.
“Yeah, but the boarders think we’re scum,” I would tell her. “None of those pampered creeps could ever work like we do.”
The pampered creeps were our classmates at Chester College, which was in walking distance from the Flower Shop. Angie felt no shame driving the truck through the streets of the college. I ducked down in the seat when we passed the campus Starbucks, until Angie mocked me out of it. It was the week before Valentine’s Day. We were surrounded by roses, exquisite and fragrant. Angie yelled out to the crowd at Starbucks, and my slouching days were over.
Not only was Mimi Keller a fair boss, Angie and I liked her, and shared her love of flowers. She would ask our opinion while pulling together an arrangement, her pink rubber gloves in the air. We told her the truth, that the white lilies needed something colorful,like African violets, or the lavender orchid was wimpy. She respected us and eventually trusted us with a key to the shop.
“I’m going to be prepared this Mother’s Day,” Mimi told us pursing her lips as she did when determined. “You girls may have to let yourselves in around then. If I miss the twins’ recital another year, there will be no living with them.”
Angie and I exchanged a look, finding the twins hard on their mom. We noticed their Michael Kors bags and hair styled at Sensations, the cost of such things beyond us. Angie’s Uncle Tony sometimes hooked her up, no kids of his own to spoil. And Angie often split the spoils with me, like the time she gave me her gift card to Sensations for my cousin’s wedding.
“They mark John Randall on a curve,” Mimi continued. “I guess it’s how kids are with their dads. John can do no wrong.”
That very day we saw John Randall, as we thought of him, going into the bank, his charcoal suit adding to his dignified carriage. The shock of auburn hair was so like his daughters. He was truly handsome. I could see how Mimi was wacky over him.
I mentioned this to Angie and she said, “I think he’s too stiff. Not my type.”
“You don’t get a vote on Mimi’s taste,” I told her as we were gearing up for the Easter rush.
“We’ve got to let Mimi know Easter is exam week,” Angie said as we approached a two story colonial with a vase filled with orange and yellow tulips, so spring – like, so special. Mimi screened the recipients of our labor, the town’s being so known. She didn’t risk our safety when her full-time guys could venture into parts unknown.
“Chrissy, please warn Mimi. You have a way with her. Tell her if we keep busting our butts for her, we won’t graduate.”
“Yeah, I’ll wait for her husband and the twin brats to be there when I say that.”
“Listen to you, talking trash, like that,” she said, and I felt chastened and guilty for trying to be cool. More seriously, Angie grabbed my sleeve and made me look at her.
“Chrissy, you’re good. Don’t lose that,” she said, and I had to look away.

 

When we returned to Keller’s, we inhaled the scents of gardenias and lilies of the valley. Mimi gestured to the bundles and said, “A fresh shipment. Heavenly, aren’t they?” None of us tired of the magic of flowers.

 

While adding a bow to a baby girl arrangement, Mimi asked, “Could you two clip the ends of the lilies before storing them?”
Angie handed me the cutting shears and blurted, “Mimi, Easter week is a problem.” I rolled my eyes, like she took my job of telling. I had been rehearsing my lines in the truck as we skidded across a few icy patches.
Angie explained how busy we’d be with school, and Mimi told us her husband could help out. “He does the books, collects the sales, and makes bank deposits, so he knows the shop… and the neighborhood.”
“I don’t want to think about losing you two when you graduate,” Mimi said affectionately.
I felt myself tear up, and I think Angie did too, though she’d never admit it.
Bringing a burst of cold air with him, John Randall brushed by us and pulled Mimi aside. She smiled at him, hugged him, and they spoke quietly. He’d never taken the time to get to know us, but Angie and I didn’t expect him to.
Cutting shears resting in my hand, I let myself picture being with a John Randall of my own. I realized I was staring at Mimi’s husband, and continued to trim the lilies laid out before me. Keller’s cutting table needed a replacement. Too many nights left me fighting with a splinter from my work.
We survived the exams with lots of late nights at the campus library or Angie’s house. Her family was so proud of her scholastic life, her mother set up a work/study area in the den. Her Uncle Tony stuck his head in to cheer her on, including me in his pep talks.
“You kids are doing us proud,” his face often smudged with soot from the fires he fought. When we were too shot to sit up, we sprawled on Angie’s bed, our lap tops and books spread about us. We didn’t do this too often, as Angie respected her mother’s feelings about the study den.
We were in the den on a crisp spring day, our graduation invitations stacked on the table before us. “Is it pushy to invite people, like we’re looking for presents?” I asked Angie.
“Leave it to you, Chrissy, to worry what people think,” she said, as she looked up at me, her pen in hand. “I’m about to address Mimi’s. Should I just put the Randall family?”
“I think Rachel and Jody would like to see their names on it. Kids don’t get much snail mail,” I said, careful not to talk trash about them again. Angie was a tougher boss than Mimi.
“Too many names. I’m putting the Randall family.Do you think they will come?”
I told her I couldn’t imagine Mimi’s missing it, and the twins might be singing at the ceremony. When we arrived at Keller’s after school the next day, Mimi was in a great mood. “The twins’ recital will be a week before Mother’s Day, so this place won’t be such a madhouse. I may just ask you to pick up a few deliveries the night I’m busy.”
We took pride in our work, but we were relieved that Mimi would be with us for the Mother’s Day crazies.
The evening of the recital, I arrived at the shop before Angie. I decided to let myself in and place the flowers in the truck. The flower shop was as quiet as a church at dawn. I took a few steps and bumped into the cutting table. It was then that I saw John Randall looking tenderly down at Mark Collins. His right hand cupped Mark’s jaw, and his left clutched the buttons of Professor Collins’s jacket. I couldn’t breathe. I almost screamed.
Stricken. The word that entered my jumbled brain. Mimi’s husband looked stricken when he saw me. Mark had moved to another part of the shop, leaving John and me together.
“Deliveries,” I managed to say.
“My job tonight,” he said.
I made my way to my car, grateful that Angie was late. I trusted her, but needed time to absorb the shock of what I’d seen. I thought of Mimi and started to cry. And yet, I had never seen her husband look so comfortable, so at home with himself. I was horrified and moved by the loving embrace I stumbled upon.
Angie’s car pulled up, and I had visions of one of Uncle Tony’s pool hall buddies making little of John Randall. I tried to pull myself together to keep this to myself.
Angie knew me too well.
I hugged her fiercely, and said, “Your car. Your room.”

 

“I’ll kill him.” she growled, when I could bring myself to talk.
Never being a fan of his, Angie continued in this mode till she caught the look on my face. “What is wrong with you, Chrissy?” her loyalty to Mimi as big as her heart.
I was too stunned to say much. “He looked happy, Angie.”
“Don’t you care about Mimi?” she said.
This pierced me in a way that only Angie could. Like wind whipping up before a storm, Angie’s mood changed. She saw she had hurt me, and was beginning to accept what I saw.
“I’ll bet she knows,” Angie said. I let this sink in, knowing I would never reveal it to Mimi. In the way shock lets normal thoughts through, I realized we had never been so quiet in Angie’s room.
“Why do you think she knows, Ang?”
“Simple. Because she loves him.”

 

Dreading my next shift at work, I practiced looking normal in the mirror. I applied my make-up with care, hoping Mimi didn’t see any change in me. Mimi pulled me into her office as soon as I arrived. She looked haggard. She knew…… but I was sure…. she was just as shocked as I. “John told me.” Three words with the power to explode her universe.

 

“It’s new to me. . . We’re talking. . . He does love me, Chrissy, ” she whispered.
Straightening her shoulders she switched gears, realizing she had said too much.
“John and I accept the invitation to your graduation,” she said with a weak smile.
“Angie and I would be honored,” was all I could manage to say. I grabbed her hand with both of mine and said. “Only Angie have I told. Nobody else, I promise.”
After a few awkward days at work, Mimi and I had an unspoken understanding. If I said I hadn’t told Angie, she would have seen the lie, and there would be little between us. As the days grew into weeks, we accepted each other as two women who knew the other well. And she trusted I said nothing to others.
There was also among the three us, Angie, Mimi and me, the melancholy of an ending, and the memories of our time together at Keller’s Flower Shop.

 

Graduation day was spectacular. Chester College Commencement was outdoors on a sunny June evening. Angie picked me up in the new Jeep Uncle Tony had given her. We arrived amidst a sea of flowers surrounding the stage. They were hauntingly familiar, all those flowers.
We stood together on the stage looking out at the guests, and I saw Mimi and John.
They were smiling at the twins, who were to our right in gold choir gowns. The sun was setting behind them, and I saw the blend of color, vibrant, complex, yet simple in its beauty, much like love itself.

 

Dee Gallagher Boyd is former French teacher and a graduate of Temple University. She grew up in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, the youngest of the seven Gallagher children. She is the author of “Dr. McGill,” “The Baldwin Inn,” and other short stories. Dee and her husband live in Jupiter, Florida.

Loving M., by Brian Burmeister

Click here to read Loving M, a short story by Brian Burmeister.

 

Brian Burmeister is Program Chair of English and Communication at Ashford University. He co-wrote the nonfiction play, Farmscape: The Changing Rural Environment, published by Ice Cube Press, and his writing has appeared in such publications as Cleaver Magazine, Eunoia Review, and Wilderness House Literary Review. He can be followed @bdburmeister

And Clouds Made of Bones, a play by William Orem

And Clouds Made of Bones

A play in one act

By

William Orem

AND CLOUDS MADE OF BONES was originally produced by Firehouse Theatre, at Boston Theater Marathon XII, with Jeney Richards and Dan Krstyen.

Click here to read Clouds Made of Bones by William Orem.

 

William Orem's first collection of stories, Zombi, You My Love, won the GLCA New Writers Award, formerly given to Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, Richard Ford and Alice Munro. His second collection, Across the River, won the Texas Review Novella Prize. His first novel, Killer of Crying Deer, won the Eric Hoffer Award. Poems and short stories of his have appeared in over 100 literary journals, and he has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in both genres. His short plays have been performed around the country.

Currently he is a Senior Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College. Details at williamorem.com.

 

Ant-Man left me irrationally Furious- A review rant (minor spoilers)

hope antman

 

Marvel’s Ant-Man gives us a woman, a man, and an ant-suit. Both want to wear the suit. The woman knows martial arts, can talk to ants, and already has the high-tech secrets to a master plan to save the world. The man is likeable thief Paul Rudd. The movie is called Ant-Man. Guess which one gets to wear the suit?

While still enjoyable and fun, Ant-Man left me with one burning question: why couldn’t Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Hank Pym’s (Michael Douglas) daughter, have been a hero?

Early on, Hope brings the stirrings of an evil plot to her father’s attention. Hank Pym starts looking for a new person to wear the Ant-Man suit he created and save the world. When Hope first confronts her father about how she should be doing the job she sums up in one sentence why she is the best choice (I’m loosely quoting here): ‘I know everything about everything gimme the suit.’ Pym’s reply: “Nah I’ve got a complete stranger in mind…he doesn’t know shit about my insanely weird tech but he’s a pretty qualified thief.”

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Poetry by J. Lewis Fleming

burls and bird’s eyes

it was not supposed to rain today

none of the mourners

has brought an umbrella

 

gentle mist

is beads up

on black suits

polished shoes

 

runs down the sides

of a mahogany casket

tracing manic patterns

across its burls and bird’s eyes

 

giving way

 

tracing a serpentine

path through a forest

of nicked up chairs

and tumbledown couches

he finds his way

out to a decaying deck

standing still

his mind consumed

with nothing

 

he begins to wonder

how many times

he would have to jump

before the wood

at his feet

gave way

 

she is marvelous

while most folks

would lean

on a stubbly brick wall

welcoming all casual

Observers to bask

in their carefully

crafted casualness

perhaps a cigarette

burning forgotten

in their hand

 

Sophie looks

to the untrained eye

(and those schooled

in observational technique)

as though she is a critical

component of the building

as though the architect

has placed her thus

with great intent

form following function

 

poor Sophie

it appears

has been tasked

with holding up

that damn wall

 

J. Lewis Fleming, a graduate of Michigan State University, lives in a house on a hill in the fog with nine other mammals. He was poetry editor of: nibble, Cranial Tempest, and CannedPhlegm. Fleming has seven chapbooks to his publishing credit. The first: Delirious and Purple, from Kitty Litter Press. The best: Shades of Green, from Alternating Current Press. His favorite: it is winter, from nibble press. Tweets @nibblepoems.

“Dee-Cab,” by Carra Leah Hood

July. Atlanta. Well, not Atlanta exactly. A suburb, north and east. DeKalb. In New York, you’d pronounce all the letters, but down here, it’s dee-cab. Our car stops in front of a ranch house. Beige aluminum siding; maroon vinyl shutters. A row of hostas lines each side of the walk leading to door.
His sister, Marjorie, stayed behind in our 13th Street apartment to pet sit our Siamese cat, Dino. So it’s just the two of us, sitting in the car parked in front of his parents’ house. Robert visits at least once a year, but this is my first since Robert and I got married. Marjorie always finds some reason not to make the trip. This time it’s the cat; last time, she’d made plans with a friend; and the time before that, she had PMS.
I want Robert to read my mind: “Can’t we just do a U-ey and head back to New York?” He turns off the car, pulls the keys out of the ignition, and opens the driver’s-side door. A thick, wet, hot vapor wafts in, throwing my head back against the headrest.
I grab his arm, “Come on; put the keys back in.” He’s out of the car by then, definitely not reading the text I’m composing with rapid-firing jolts of acetylcholine. I just sit there, as if bolted to the seat. I despise them already; truthfully, I despised them before we left New York. I never met them before; they didn’t bother to come north when Robert and I got married. But I’ve heard stories.
A knock on the window. I look into a face, powdery from a dusting minutes before. Pearl pink lips moving, smiling, moving again, probably letting me know it’s hot. Grey hair done up yesterday at the beauty shop in the mall, tight curls sprayed so they don’t move when she does or flatten out from the humidity. Bent at the waist, her pink and red flowery house dress falls away to show her cleavage propped up by what looks like a white Playtex Cross-Your-Heart bra, size triple L or something like that. She tries the door handle, but the door’s locked, so she straightens up and starts waving me out of the car with both hands. Her hands just a-going, and then her mouth starts moving, and her head bobs from side to side. I watch her for too long carrying on like that. And then I finally pop the lock, open the door, and step out. She rushes me, arms stretched to either side. Boom; I’m in a tight hold. Head clamped against her neck; breathing talc and lilac cologne. I want to gag. I really do, but I swallow 10 or 20 times before blurting, “Hi, you must be Robert’s mother; I’ve heard so much about you” without blinking or inhaling or unclenching my jaw.

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Spain in the Spring, a short story by Evan L. Klein

Spain in the Spring

by Evan L. Klein

They walked along the sidewalk in the small town they grew up in. Owen was still young and Lenny was younger. Owen told him stories about the times he had been to France and his intentions of moving to Spain in the Spring. Lenny, who was only ten, had never heard of such things. He was new to the whole world being as small as he’d been. Owen told Lenny that on his twenty­-third birthday he left for Europe and dropped out of school. He had, as he said himself, both wanted and needed to leave, no matter where he was going. The simple idea of always moving away kept him from sitting around.
“I’ve never been on a plane before,” Lenny said to him.
“That’s alright. I remember my first time.”
They got to a small bakery on the main street of town. It was the only place you could get fresh croissants and muffins which Lenny always loved.
“This feels like we’re in France, doesn’t it?” Lenny asked as they sat by the window.
“Not really.”
“Oh,” he said, embarrassed that he had said anything about it.
“France feels newer but older at the same time. It’s sort of the best place to go. But I’ve been there already.”
“We should go there together,” Lenny said, “you and me.”
Owen thought about it for a moment. “I could take you before I move to Spain. Unless you want to go to Spain instead?”
“Spain is dirty, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Spain is beautiful, even more than France.”

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Flash fiction by Michael Prihoda

Excerpts from “The Years,” a collection of interrelated flash fictions

by Michael Prihoda

 

The Year of Problems

Our parents have problems.

The man bagging groceries at the local Meijer has problems.
Steven has problems.
Gary has problems.
I think one time you mentioned how the dental hygienist attending the initial cleaning of your front molars referenced her recent, razor-edged divorce, which, I have to say, makes me think she has a host of nearly illimitable problems.
Joanna has problems.
The last barista I ordered a drink from (please, not Starbucks; whatever I am I am not that) didn’t pull the ristretto correctly and I tasted the off-ness in every sip, probably would have enjoyed the drink otherwise, but just knowing the mess-up, the goof, was enough to put me off from the whole coffee drinking enterprise but then again I didn’t go up and complain, realizing somewhere subconsciously that I should have ordered a Gibraltar or even a café miel because at least the honey would take the edge from whatever mistake could have been made (excepting, of course, an over-eager dusting of cinnamon, which definitely happened once, though I let it slide because the barista that time was cute and yeah, standing, waiting for my drink, I thought about how exactly I might tip her head just so to meet my lips and how much tongue I would use and if she wore chapstick/lip gloss what kind it might be and if that would somehow be a turn-on or else perversely anti-arousing because it magically reverberated with the same natural flavors in my body wash, purchased from the health store down the road from the coffee bar where they faulted my ristretto). All of this meaning the barista who served me my ristretto has, at least, a singular problem.
Vincent has problems.
You have problems.
I have problems. Lots of them. Since the year of my birth.

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