Fiction Friday – Not a Good Day

I wrote this flash fiction a while ago and it appeared in The Fieldstone Review which is the University of Saskatoon publication. 

Calvin Harrison turned down the dirt road and braked.  He listened to the throb of the big diesel and sighed.   He was going to miss his new truck. It made him feel like someone else—not the friendly neighbourhood pharmacist, not the hen-pecked husband and definitely not the doting father.  Someone you saw in commercials—a little taller and straighter.  Someone with flinty blue eyes, whose tight Wranglers bulged a little bigger.

He didn’t mind the doting father image.  He and Natalie had had one of those perfect relationships where they laughed at each other’s jokes and knew what the other was thinking.  He’d spoiled her and if he had it to do again, he’d spoil her worse.  No regrets.

Pale light fingered the horizon and touched the clouds that had gathered to greet the sun with pink gold.  Mim would have a name for the colour, something from the new palette of paints at Home Depot.  Pink Desire, Reef Rose, Peach Parfait, Pink Abalone.  Mim—so tied in to things that didn’t matter.  She’d be happy choosing the new colour for the walls and happy while she squabbled with the painters.  Almost before the paint dried, she’d start getting restless again.  It was the same with her hair.  Cal had loved her shiny blonde mane.  She could have modeled for l’Oreal or Clairol.  God knows she used enough of their products over the years.  He never knew what the tint of the week would be.  Wild Irish Red, Mahogany Fire, Ebony Ice.  Then there was the chunking and streaking.  Mim said no one had a natural hair colour any more.  When Cal tried to summon up the shade her hair had been when he met her, he couldn’t.  He was living with a stranger.  Sometimes he watched her when she wasn’t looking and by narrowing his eyes and squinting tried to conjure the image of the girl he had married.  Occasionally, he thought he caught a fleeting resemblance.

The horizon burned gold fire now where the sun began its shallow ascent into the fall sky.  The clouds radiated gilt light.  The air was still.

It was as good a day as any, Calvin thought.

He would have liked to take Mollie for a last walk but it wouldn’t have been fair to the little mongrel. He couldn’t leave her in the truck even though someone would find her…just like they were going to find him.

Light raced across the hilltops, casting the hollows into shadow and outlining the dark limbs of aspen trees with tinsel trim.  Time was getting short.  His father used to say, no time like the present.  Already the siren of lethargy threatened to mire him in inaction

He lifted the shotgun from the truck seat.  Its double barrel glinted in the early light and the handle felt cold.  The acrid scent of gun oil hung in the air and there was a sharp snap as Cal broke the gun to load it.  He slid two magnum shells into place and there was a quiet snick as he closed the breech.  Magnums…he would only need the first one but he didn’t want any mistakes.

He tried not to think about Jim Craddock who botched the job and actually needed the second shell.  He must have lost his nerve at the last minute and only his jaw had been blown away. He’d staggered around his game room splattering blood and howling in outrage.   Then he finished what he had started.

Cal killed the truck’s engine.  He wasn’t about to destroy the interior.  Maybe Mim would get a decent price for it after…even with its unfortunate history.  He climbed out and closed the door quietly.  No need to slam it; the truck wasn’t yet a year old.  A breeze sprang up and carried the spicy fall air up the hill to Cal.  When he looked out across the valley, he saw a doe standing next to a stand of willows.  She had seen him and was testing the air cautiously but it was another month until hunting season opened and she was more curious than scared. He watched her for a minute.  A yearling stepped into the clearing and Cal could see it was sleek and healthy.

When he started down the slope the white-tails turned to step delicately into the bushes.  Cal headed west.  There was a small lake…the locals called it Schubert’s after an early settler—and at this time of the morning, the bright yellow leaves of the poplars would reflect perfectly from its cobalt depths.  Those same poplars protected it from errant puffs of air and it made a picture perfect enough for a calendar.

Cal stood for a couple of minutes.  Maybe if things were different between him and his wife…… but they weren’t.  Maybe if Tallie…but he couldn’t think of her; he just couldn’t.

Minutes later the shot gun blast sent the doe and yearling deeper into the bush, their white flags flashing once as they disappeared.  On the hilltop, Cal’s Dodge waited in splendor, silhouetted against a cerulean sky that promised early snow.

The silence was absolute.  Then the breeze brushed dried grass blades against each other.  Aspen leaves like gold foil coins rattled in the bushes.  A crow flew up and landed at the top of a tree, cawing raucously.

Cal emerged from the western woods.  He was a dark shadow against their colour and it was him the crow was scolding.  He held the shotgun gingerly and broke it to remove the remaining shell.

“Damn it, shut up,” he muttered.  The crow cocked its head as though listening.  “It’s just not a good day to die.”

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Fiction Friday – Some Time Soon

This is a piece I wrote sometime ago. It was published by Transition Magazine. 

Sometime Soon

Coma: the patient is in a state of prolonged deep unconsciousness

Jennifer listens intently to the doctor.  One thing stands out in her mind.  David is awake.

She thinks, “He’s not in a coma.  That’s good news.”  She looks at him on the hospital bed and her husband is suddenly diminished; his strength lost.  His eyes are open and the doctors say he doesn’t see her.  She knows he does, maybe not really clearly or maybe not totally understanding what he sees but he does see her.

Vegetative State: the patient is awake but is not aware.

“It’s me, David.  I’ve brought you some flowers.”  She thinks she sees awareness in his smile.  More than she has seen before.  A feeling of great hope floods her being. Jennifer calls the nurse but by the time the nurse arrives, he is blinking and nodding at something in the farthest corner of the room.  The nurse is irritated.

“I have patients with real needs,” she says.  When she sees the look on Jennifer’s face her own expression softens.

Jennifer hates the discreet pity of the professional caregiver.  David was almost lucid.

     Persistent Vegetative State:  the patient has been awake but unaware for a month.

Jennifer comes every day at the same time. She always says, “It’s me, David.”  And then she tells him about her day and about the kids.  She is careful to explain how busy they are and why they can’t come to see him as often as she does.  David, Jr. is on the hockey all-star team and Kelly is going to a gymnastics tournament.  They both miss him, really, really miss him.

She never cries.  That is, she never cries when she is visiting him.  She refuses to give up and she is sure that David can feel her determination.  As long as she believes there is hope.  She has strong faith in positive energy.

     Permanent Vegetative State: the patient has been awake but unaware for a full year.

Jennifer is very upset with David’s doctors.  They want her to let them remove his feeding tube.  “But, he’ll starve,” she protests.

“He has no quality of life.”

David Jr. and Kelly stand looking on.  David, Jr. shifts uncomfortably and then he says, “The doctor is right, Mom.  Dad wouldn’t want to live like this.  You’re not being fair to him.”

Even Kelly agrees.  “This isn’t Dad.”  She cries silently, tears streaking her cheeks.

Jennifer looks at David, Jr. and she wipes her tears away angrily.  She does not cry when she is with David.  The doctor leaves.  David, Jr. and Kelly leave.

She wants to scream.  She wants to shout that it isn’t fair.  She wants to punish her disloyal children.  She wants David to wake up and come home.

David is smiling and he is drooling.  His eyes are blinking but he does not see.  His hands make spastic grasping motions at the edge of his blankets.

“Oh, David,” she says.  “What should I do?”

“Hmmmmph, huhhhh,” says David.  His right hand paws at the air.

“It’s beautiful outside today,” she says.  “The birds are singing and the sun is melting the snow.  Spring is here at last.”  She sits with David a long time, longer than usual.  She holds his hand and strokes it.  When she kisses him good-bye, she looks deep into his faded blue eyes.  She looks for David and can not find him.

‘It is a beautiful day,” she thinks. She knows she will have to give the doctors’ permission soon but not today.  Sometime soon.

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Fiction Friday – What Are Friends For?

This piece is a flash fiction that I first entered into an Edmonton Journal contest (a few years ago; there’s no budget for such things now.) I’d like to say it won but it didn’t. I edited almost half of the words so that it made the word count for the Writers Union flash fiction contest. There it won an honourable mention…and now to the story.

  Isabel arranged the combs and brushes on the terry cloth towel she had laid over the stainless steel tray.  “Well, Iris, what would you like today?  No, don’t say anything.  I know just what you want.”

Isabel moved one of the combs and set it nearer the edge of the table.  “What did I do with the scissors?  Don’t tell me, I’ll find them.”  She rummaged through her satchel and after a couple of minutes produced them with a triumphant flourish.

“I knew I brought them,” she said.

Isabel looked at Iris’s long, graying hair.  She took a brush and pulled it through the thick straight mane.  It wasn’t easy to get the knots out.  “I’m going to wash this, Iris.  It’ll make it easier to cut.”

Isabel had Iris’s hair washed in record time.  As she toweled it dry, she said, “I think it would look better short.  Short hair makes a person look younger.”

Isabel hummed as she cut great swaths from Iris’s thick hair.  The overhead light flashed silver from the sharp blades of the styling scissors.

Soon most of Iris’s heavy hair lay in a pile on the floor.  Isabel stepped around it and picked up the hair dryer.  “Do you like it, Iris?  No… don’t say anything. I’m not done yet.  Wait until I blow it dry and it has more body.”

The dryer whined as Isabel styled Iris’s new bob.  She drew the brush through the hair and curved it gently at the ends.  When it was dry, Isabel stepped back.  She took a hand mirror from the tray and held it so the back of Iris’s head was in view.

“I told you, you’d look younger.  I never did understand why you were so vain about that long hair.  I’ve wanted to do this for ages.”  Isobel flicked an errant lock into place and picking up the scissors trimmed some uneven hairs from Iris’s bangs.

“There, that’s your hair done.  Let me see your nails.”  Isobel took her hands and inspected her nails.  She shook her head and clucked at the bright polish.

“I can fix these, too,” she said.  “They’ll be easier to keep when they’re short.  You won’t need polish, either.  I’ll just buff them.”  Isobel hummed in a tuneless monotone as she took the nail scissors from the tray.  Snip, and then snip.  As each scarlet nail was severed, tiny silver sparks leapt from the scissors.  Snip, snip.  Iris’s nails joined her hair on the floor.  When Isobel was satisfied that they were short enough, she buffed them carefully.

She sighed with satisfaction.  “Just look at you, Iris.  You look great, so much younger and more stylish.  You should have let me do this, years ago.”

Again she held the mirror so her old rival could see what she had accomplished.  She added, “I know you want to look your best tomorrow.  You’ll never have another funeral.”

 

 

Nanowrimo- National Novel Writing Month

Fifty thousand words in 30 days. Since 1999, the first year of Nano, would-be novelists have accepted the challenge of writing a novel in November. Starting at midnight, 12:01 Nov. 1-midnight Nov. 30, authors set the goal of writing every day to create a minimum of 1, 667 words, and by doing so accumulate a 50,000 word novel.

So- it’s 2018 and I’m going to give it another try. My novel is one that I started and let dwindle to nothing last year (not a Nano novel.) I have thought about it and still like the story but not the way I had written it so Nano 2018 is a total re-boot, rewrite.

How am I doing? 1,831 words as of 8:30 AM yesterday. That made me behind 3,169 words already. Not an auspicious start. For me, working full time (and only for a month) interfered. I’m not used to regular work hours and I was tired. It’s an excuse, not a reason because people with full-time jobs, children, and way more responsibilities than I have, accomplish it. So I’m going with the idea, that I’ve made a beginning and I have “won” Nano once in 2016. Winning means I wrote 50,000 words. I had tried in 2013 and 2015. Those efforts stalled around the 25,000 word count.

Nano Novels have been traditionally published and some have become best sellers. I assume that it wasn’t without more hard work and a lot of editing. But as the saying goes, it’s impossible to edit something that doesn’t exist.

Participating in Nano can be a bit of fun and a lot of motivation. Updating your word count each day shows your progress and the numbers are translated to a graph. There a forums to join, write-ins (real and virtual), writing buddies and more.

If you’ve ever considered writing a book, this is one way to dive in.

Good Luck.

night-circus
Erin Morgenstern started The Night Circus in Nano and completed it over another two.