I am continuing to explore the world of Quickfiction, reducing down a narrative to its essentials and creating characters and motivations as concise as possible. It’s quite a challenge.
But here are my latest stories:
The week there was no email, Chantel almost killed herself. Later, she would joke about it and laugh about it with her colleagues. Susan, who worked in the cubicle next to her, was astounded. “Come on, Chantel, you wouldn’t really kill yourself just because no one emailed you for a week, would you? That’s just ridiculous.” Karen cultivated the social gossip at the water cooler every day and she offered, “I wish I could go a week without email. I hate weeding through that junk.” Another one, Sam, who fixes the copier when it breaks down, added, “What did you do before email?” There was no life before email. Although Chantel played along with them, and even made detrimental remarks on her own sanity in order to feed the laughter, inside her head, she was, indeed, quite serious. Her lifeline had somehow come to rely on short missives on her computer from family and acquaintances. Friends might be too strong a word. She didn’t really have friends, just acquaintances. An empty inbox was some sort of coded message: she wasn’t important. She wasn’t needed. It had come to the point where she was now finding herself reading Spam, just to convince herself that someone out there was trying to communicate with her, even if the garbled words did come from some computer farm somewhere in the world. And so the week with no email was traumatic and it was only later that Chantel even thought to look behind her computer. That was when she realized that an Ethernet wire had come undone — it just dangled there like a noose — and she had been physically disconnected from the world the whole time. She breathed a sigh of relief as a flood of messages entered into her inbox, giving her a sense of relief not felt in many days.
He watches me from just outside the window, nose pressed against glass. I stare back. He opens his mouth to make a sound and yet, I hear nothing. It’s not cold outside today, not if you are wrapped up in a fur coat as he is, and I know he is in no danger of freezing. I find myself entranced by this creature that depends so much upon me for survival that I wonder, if the tables were reversed, would he keep me on the outside looking in? I smile at imagined acts of feline revenge against me. The cold nights. An unreliable source of food. Long hours of disappearance. No respect for gifts on the doorstep. None of this is likely, though. If I were the pet, and sometimes I think this may be true anyway, he would no doubt rush to the door, let me in and curl up on my lap just to keep me warm. He would understand that I just don’t have the stomach or fortitude for the world of rodents and Mother Nature. He has a different kind of spirit than I do. Me? I just stare back through the glass and write a story about him looking in at me and do nothing more. I have a story to write. He’ll just have to wait.
No one noticed me. They never do. I was dressed impeccably in my best suit, hands in my lap, a mournful gaze on my face. I was respectful and in a funeral, no one questions those who are properly contained in the skin of emotional reserve. The body looked handsome, given the circumstances. How it is that they can prepare such things is beyond me. Perhaps we would be better off if this weren’t the case, if we had to look at the dead as they are and not as we imagine they should be. The mother was weeping in the corner, being held together by what looked like one of her other children. The father was in the back of the room, drinking coffee with other men. All of them removed from action. I nodded silently to a few other people in the seats near me. We were in this together, our collective nods seemed to say, acknowledging the loss. The service was short and to the point. Life lived. Too short. Grief. I waited for the tears and again, they didn’t come. They never come. Two years gone and still, I could not shed a tear for her. What was wrong with me? I made a slow route around the room, drawing in as much of their sadness as I could and silently offering to be the one to hold it all in for them, to feel the weight of loss for them, to give them a moment’s reprieve. Such sadness and yet, for me, nothing. I left as I had come, with stealth and beyond the field of vision of anyone in the room. The obit crunched as I fingered it in my pocket. There was another up the street. A woman, age 52, cancer. I was already dressed and ready and hopeful, truly hopeful, that I would find some tears where tears had not naturally come for me two years ago this very week.
A life in miniature. That was the answer Stephen would give when asked why he spent so much time with his trains. It’s true that by the age of 32, he should have outgrown them, placed them in a box for storage in the attic and be happy with the memories. Still, here he was, crouched down low with a piece of broken track in one hand and a blue engine in the other. Curtis looked on, almost antsy with anticipation but respecting his uncle’s request for both silence and stillness. Not easy for a seven year old. Spread out before them in the basement studio was the largest railroad track that Curtis had ever seen. It seemed to go on for miles and miles, twisting through tunnels and moving over mountains and careening around buildings, slicing off at various junctures to create two trails out of one and then one out of two. Stephen ignored the boy. He was angry at Karen for allowing his nephew to come down here. The boy had no business here. So Stephen kept at his task of restoring order through repair. A life in miniature and also, a world completely under his control. Curtis, though, could feel something rising inside of him. He kept it contained, whatever it was, and continued to eye the tracks. Everything seemed so perfect. Everything in its place. Curtis’ world was never this neat and ordered and despite his love for his uncle, the only thing Curtis could think about was ripping up this entire world and feeling the power of destruction. It would be like King Kong! Or Godzilla! Stephen remained patient with the track. A small screw was coming loose. “I need to get a screwdriver, Curtis. Upstairs. Don’t touch a thing.” Curtis nodded and watched his uncle go up the stairs. It was the moment. The moment when Godzilla came alive and wreaked vengeance on an unsuspecting world.
Peace (in stories),