Friday, June 15, 2012

Left Behind

The world isn't always a fun place.

Beth and I played at crowned jacks. Her skin was puffed around the ring finger to bulge over her wedding band as her finger played with the kingpiece, a wadded piece aluminum sparkling with an aura of potential movement. She let the flickers glimmer as they showed all possible positions where her piece could move and when she finally let go, it moved into a throwaway position.

I moved my counter in an attack, the aluminum collapsing to the table, the sparkle of the power joining my counterpiece, leaving her queenpiece weakened. Long ago she'd shared my hunger. That competitive drive to win. Everything had changed.

I took no thrill in the ease with which I marched towards victory. I glanced at her, seeing the same pain as she glanced away, neither of us willing to speak of the memory of our daughter.

The daughter who'd left two days ago. The daughter who every time I saw her I still remembered her baby flesh, mottled, red, just as I'd first seen her when the midwife brought her to me. It was hard to let go.

My aluminum tokens chased Beth's queenpiece across the board. Inevitable. I won.

Beth reset the pieces in the opening patterns. The game would continue, neither of us speaking of anything of importance, letting us ponder our memories.

I'd stood on the porch when our daughter left. The silver-green of the pine needles behind her. She pointed at them, telling me that strength was earned not given.

She hadn't listened to any of my words. She had believed that one could learn to live and receive support from others. Instead, she took the meaning of the tree that we had loved as it grew ramrod straight as a cattail stem. Unlike, most twisted pines. We'd planted it in a shielded location where it grew straight not twisted into geriatric postures. But when it grew above the height of our house, the wind had caught it's heavy boughs and knocked the top two thirds of it to the ground.

Beth coughed.

Maybe she was right. Instead of trying to win, I grabbed any old piece and moved it. The game wouldn't end. Our daughter wasn't coming home.

No. I tilted the game board onto its side. One must eventually learn when one is lost. Beth twitched. Searching out pieces of aluminum, moving them over the table.

I left her, without a final glance and traipsed into the yard. My hands pressed against the rotted flank of the twisted pine. The tree reminded me of my daughter. The memories weren't enough. I wished she would come home.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Explosions wake me. I rollover, convincing myself it's thunder.

Louisa pinches hard. "Your job."

I stumble down the stairs, taking it personally, hating the bitterness between us since Janice's birth, but this silliness of checking downstairs is pointless. We no longer live in Amsterdam's De Wallen. The suburbs are safe.

A click pings against teak flooring. Something skitters. A bug? It flies through my hand. Pain blossoms. It's torn my plam, exposing bone.

The flesh throbs with a sunflower seed wedged within. It pops, roots uncurling.

I grab a meat tenderizer and hammer until it pops.

Seeds ping the window.

I'm traveling in Sweden this week. I'll blame jetlag for the reason I don't have a fresh flash written. Instead, I'm recycling a drabble I posted to Lily Childs' Friday Prediction. This was the winning entry that week and was a reprise of my The Flower Apocalypse's Seeds, set in the same world but with different characters. Lily Childs has retired from her Friday Prediction, but it has been continued at Phil Ambler's place, check it out.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fish Stories

The rod jerked in Nori's hands. His fingers squeezed the grip more from the ingrained reflexes of years at sea than the expectation of catching anything in the sacred waters of Sagami Bay.

The fish -- for it could be nothing else -- fought against the line. It zigged in staccato bursts, stubborn as the man who held the far end of the line in his crinkled hands. He looped the line over an oarlock and watched the line's tension. The line dipped as the fish must have redoubled its path to create slack. He unwrapped the line and pulled in the slack, bringing the fish closer. The morning sun rose high in the sky, finally reaching its zenith at the same moment a silver fin splashed in the water.

With one hand holding the secured line to keep it from slipping, he leaned over the side of the boat and grabbed the line close to the fish. The water boiled with the fish's thrashing movement. He lifted and a fist hit him. He flung the tangled mess of rope and string and an arm to the keel side of the boat and backed away to balance himself on the walls of the prow.

The fish had the fist-sized black markings over silver of a Masu salmon, but a man-shaped torso stuck out of the mouth, a Hakata doll. But it was no doll. The fish thing flapped against the bottom of the boat until it righted itself, its hands levering the torso into the air. Nori shrugged, amused at the priest's secrets. It wasn't as fearsome as he thought when he had flung it into the boat.

The hook had caught over the edge of a fin and the string looped around it many times, ending in a knot that constricted the scales underneath. It dragged itself towards the gunwale.

"I wouldn't do that," Nori said.

The fish turned, its body bent, its hands flopping too short to reach the knots or the hook over its fin. "Why not?"

"Because being stuck in the boat isn't your problem. You won't escape my line."

"My brothers will unwedge this." He jerked a hand to indicate the hook on his fin.

"And will they come so near my boat?"

"Release me."

Nori lowered himself from the lip of the boat's prow. He unwrapped the loops of the line from the oarlock and tied it to a cross bar instead. He settled his oars into the oarlocks. Waves expanded from where his oars dipped into Sagami Bay's smooth waters. "Why should I release you?"

"I will grant you a wish."

"An old man has no need for wishes." A wise man knew where wishes led. Nori wouldn't have considered himself wise, but age sometimes sufficed.

"A man needs food. I can provide an everlasting larder."

"The villagers leave me food." He hadn't been fishing because of need, but rather because that's what his body did when it was on the water and that's where he felt most calm and centered. Now, that he had the creature, whatever it was, he felt a great curiosity.

His back twinged. He released the oars and moved his arms in a slow circle, gasping at the inflamed spot behind his shoulder blade. An old injury that had never healed.

"I can heal your pain."

"Why should I compete with young men?" He smiled. The creature's offer was tempting. But the stories were not ones he wanted to live. "These creaks are a part of me."

The fish ran a hand through its hair. "Is there nothing you desire?"


It tottered on a combination of arms and fins to stare into Nori's eyes. "You've never seen one such as I."


"I can tell tales of my origins."

The oars slapped like feathers against the water. He leaned forward. "Now that is interesting."

"You'll release me?"

He grabbed the oars again, settling into the rhythm. "No; but, I promise not to cook you if your story satisfies."