This is a continuation of my forays into Quickfiction writing. I am also completing an entire collection of my quick stories over at Hypertextopia and I hope to share that project and reflection out tomorrow. It has been another interesting adventure, to be sure.
Here are the latest stories (click on the little arrow to hear the podcast of the stories):
It was on his walk to work one morning that Jack noticed the white ghost bike propped up against the tree. A long thin chain held it against the aging Elm that looked bent from the weight of its mission. As if it might just topple right over. A rusty padlock dangled from one kink in the chain. Jack was sure the bike had not been there the previous morning. Sometime in the night, someone had placed the bike here. It spooked the hell out of Jack, this ghost bike. It was Tiff all over again. A little placard was attached to the handlebars. This was not just a bike, he realized. This was a memorial. He didn’t dare get any closer. Fear kept him back, although he was aching to know what the little sign said. Would it be a memory of some stranger he did not know, nor ever would. A tribute, perhaps? Or would it be another reminder of the past life he had tried so desperately to leave behind so many years ago. Tiff, and her bike, and how he had followed her everywhere, falling in love so many times over as he watched her legs in motion. Everything back then seemed to be in motion. He could still see Tiff, in the white athletic suit that she always wore on outings, as if riding a cloud in the midst of civilization.She was pristine perfection. Back then, he would follow her anywhere. Even to the end of the world. Or so he thought, but when the time came to stand at the brink, he had hesitated, and she had disappeared from sight. Tiff had never glanced back, never even acknowledged that he had stopped. She just kept right on pedaling. Then, she was gone. To think of this now brought on the pain all over again. Jack shuffled past the white ghost of his past and, again, he tried to not to remember.
It’s true. I went to Big Sur for answers. I had gone to Lowell, too, and felt lost among the brick facades of the old mills that had become nothing more than monuments to the past. Everything seemed abandoned and set to rust. I even sat on the edge of the river that snaked through the worn-out downtown, listening for the prose that had long since been extinguished by time. I wanted to hear echoes. All I heard was silence. So it was on to Big Sur. My car complained the entire time, the muffler spoiling any sense of silence and contemplation I might have otherwise had or wanted. There was no Dean to keep me company. No bottles of booze littered on the seats. No scroll of endless white paper on which to scribble my dreams. My America was not Their America. My America was shopping malls, neon lights, and long stretches of conformity. Route 66 had become just a long stretch of traffic lights. You could not gain momentum or traction anymore. Still, Big Sur beckoned and I answered. It became yet another false promise, however, and in the forests and isolation of the California coast, I found little of anything of value. Nothing other than my own preconceptions of him in this place, writing with abandon. I, on the other hand, am always too careful. Too precise. Instead of gaining illumination, I left Big Sur with a deep-seated impression that my own writing days were over. So it felt strangely comfortable to finally leave Jack behind and descend into the smog of Los Angeles and begin my life anew.
The wait is endless. Yet you can’t help but notice that the stream of people continues unabated, hour upon hour upon hour. Is there this much suffering, you wonder? You shift in your seat. The movement does little to ease either your pain or your boredom. Your head still hurts. Next to you, the man in the brown jacket nurses a finger, wrapping and unwrapping a bloody bandage. From time to time, he, too, shifts and bumps into you. This makes you uncomfortable — like the crowded feeling of the middle seat on an airplane — yet there are no other seats to move to. If you get up, you know you will lose the seat. All eyes covet the row of chairs. People are sitting on floors, leaning against walls, pacing the floor. The nurse just stares straight ahead. She seems to have perfected the art of never focusing on anyone. Her glassy, sleepy eyes just move forward in time. You feel another jolt to your temples. The force of it almost knocks you out of your seat. Your fingers clench the armrests to hold on. They all thought it was nothing. They all laughed. You can tell. You remember the accusatory looks they gave you, questioning your intentions. If only that were the case. You know the truth: your brain is in a state of severe disfunction. The little girl, in her mother’s lap, moans again. You watch the mother pull the girl’s head closer to her chest and she whispers some soothing words into the little girl’s ear. You wish that were you, that the words were for you. You wish someone would hold you and absorb the pain. All eyes look up as a doctor enters through the double doors. He beckons for the little girl and her mother. Brown jacket man swears under his breath and re-adjusts the bandage again. Another jolt hits your head. Stronger this time. The world that was once nothing but light is now darkening, and still you wait.
He knew the time would come when he would die in an elevator. How many closes calls had there been? Too many to count. The most dramatic had been the time when he and his sister had gotten stuck in-between floors in their aunt’s low-rise. He had not meant to leave his toy truck in the gap. And he had been horrified to watch how the fireman, after dragging both of them up through the emergency exit in the ceiling, had presented their father with the mangled red fire truck and suggested that elevators did not make good play zones for children. There was the false alarm, too, in the office building and the scrambled rush to cram into the elevator to get to safety. He knew that had been dumb — no one rides an elevator in a fire — and it was that very stupidity that scared him. He did not trust himself to make the right decision in these situations and it was only a matter of time that the end would come in a vertical death machine. His sister had feared escalators. But at least on a moving stair, you can jump. You can’t jump to freedom from an elevator. He read books that reassured him that elevators were safer than cars. That engineers designed them to use counterweights. That it was rare than anyone might die in an elevator, as long as they stayed calm and were smart about it. That, of course, was what worried him. Panic made him stupid. And so, when the job he had dreamed about for years finally came his way, he was disappointed to learn that he would have to travel 45 floors up and down every day, in a so-called “smart elevator,” and after a nail-biting trip up to the interview and a harrowing trip back down, he decided he could not handle this. This tension was too much. The time might come when an elevator ended his life, but he would be damned if he would be a willing accomplice to the crime. His world was flat and level and he intended it to stay that way.
Peace (in stories),