Thursday, August 29, 2013

NOT ENOUGH TIME

Taylor tried to act casual. The fresh brewed coffee, usually a welcome smell, was making him slightly nauseous. He got his feet to stop tapping the floor; his fingers still drummed against the cafe table. Not that he could hear the sound. Cups clattering, the low hum of conversations, chiming and chirping cell phones all contributed to the rolling din. Taylor forced his hands flat, spread his fingers, tried breathing only through his mouth. "Where is he?" he murmured to himself.
He backhanded the sweat off his forehead, wished he'd worn something other than fleece to hide the manila envelope. A timer buzzed. The barista rolled her eyes at the woman texting. A man at the table next to him laughed, leaned across the table to wipe the whipped cream mustache off his girlfriend.
A bald man wearing a long leather coat slipped into the chair across from Taylor, laid a briefcase on the table. Taylor didn't know his name—he'd only called him "the guy." During their two brief phone calls, they'd only discussed the transaction: one hundred thousand dollars, do the exchange, the end. In Taylor's case, maybe not the end. If this worked, the money wouldn't matter.
The briefcase looked unremarkable: faded black leather, worn handle, chrome flaking off the clasps. "Is it inside?"
The guy snorted. "You could say that. Got the cash?"
Taylor started to unzip his fleece jacket, hesitated. "Th-this is my life's savings."
The guy looked expectantly, said nothing. Taylor pulled the manila envelope out, passed it across the table. "Will it work?"
The guy peeked inside the envelope, then slipped it inside his coat. "If you don't believe me, go ahead. Open it."
Taylor pulled the briefcase closer, pushed his thumbs against the clasps. The locking tab clicked. He hesitated.
The guy got up. Taylor lifted the lid.
"Good luck t—"
Light glowed from the interior. Silence descended. Taylor looked up. The guy's coat flared behind him, frozen in place. Behind the counter, baristas stood still as statues. The man at the next table seemed transfixed by the sight of his girlfriend, who in turn seemed mesmerized by her Iphone's blank screen. Taylor turned. Every patron was frozen in place. Everyone, except Taylor.
He checked his own cell phone, watched it, counted to sixty. It worked!
Time had stopped.
Taylor closed the lid.
"—to you." The coat tails fell against the back of the guy's legs. He left the coffee shop.
Taylor slammed the clasps into place, tucked the briefcase under his arm and ran out the shop. He ran all four blocks to the hospital, ran through the lobby, slipped into an empty elevator just before the door slid closed.
A chime announced each floor. Taylor waited for the fourth chime, got out on the oncology wing, went straight to Room 442.
Lizzie's eyes were closed, the IV bag dripped into her bruised, thin arms. Dr. Patel put away his pen light, greeted Taylor. "How is she?"
Dr. Patel shook his head. "It won't be long now." His expression filled with sympathy. He cleared his throat. "I suggest you say your goodbyes."
Taylor only nodded, waited for Dr. Patel to leave the room. He sat gingerly on the side of Lizzie's bed, stroked her forehead. Her eyelids fluttered open.
"You're here," she whispered.
Taylor swallowed the lump in his throat. He set the briefcase on his lap, unlocked the tabs. He took her hand in his, closed it around the handle. "I love you, Lizzie."
Taylor lifted the lid. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

My son's newest project for his video editing class is to create a story, then shoot and edit it into a 2 minute film. The prompt is a briefcase. Him and I brainstormed, and this is the story. 
I hope his classmates like it enough to film it. That would be a hoot for me. For now, enjoy it as a #fridayflash

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kitchen Help

Not as consistent in coming up with a story each week as I had hoped, but I managed to find the creative juices to share a #fridayflash this week. I started this story some time ago expecting it to be a much longer story. In rediscovering it, I believe it works better as a flash. Funny--most stories I intend as flashes insist on growing. I appreciate this one for waiting until I figured out its true nature. 

Oh yeah, this may be a bit creepy. 


Kitchen Help


Trudi sucked on her index finger as she waited for Jay to answer the phone. The paper cut still stung; she'd opened the gift hours ago. She wished she'd never opened it.
"Hello?"
"Hi, it's me."
She heard fumbling through the phone. "Trudi, it's 2am."
"Like you're asleep?"
He didn't respond. She could feel the clove eyes piercing from the kitchen to her spot on the couch.
"Jay!"
He sighed. "I'm here. Why are you calling me?"
"I'm scared." 
She heard a tiny flick, his inhale. She visualized him, feet planted on the floor, one elbow leaning on his knee, phone to ear, sucking on a Winston. "You shouldn't smoke."
"You shouldn't drunk-call your ex."
Trudi gently placed her wine glass on the coaster. She missed his scent, faint tobacco mixed with Kenneth Cole Black, spicy and woodsy and nothing like the apple smell that now cloyed her nostrils. Trudi rose from the couch, peeked into the kitchen. The witch-doll dangled from the ceiling hook, right where her aunt had hung it.
"There's a witch in my kitchen."
"You hung a mirror."
Trudi refused to be baited. "It's a doll. It keeps looking at me. Aunt Sarah gave it to me, said it's supposed to stop burnt toast or bad food or something."
"She's had your cooking."
"I'm serious! I know it sounds crazy, but she's scaring me."
"Your aunt?"
"Can you come over?"
She heard Jay clear his throat.
"Please?" 
"Trudi. Throw it away."
"Don't you think I've tried? Every time I get near the hook, she... shivers."
Aunt Sarah had beamed when she gave Trudi a huge basket of fresh-picked apples and the shoebox-sized gift, covered in apple tree paper. Trudi tore through the wrapping of the "no-reason-at-all" gift. It was a burlap witch doll sitting on a broom, its face a carved, dried apple.
Trudi heard Jay's heavy exhale, a quick ahem. "Listen, I'm not your go-to guy anymore. You're the one who needed space."
Trudi watched the witch suspended from fishing line continue a lazy turn toward the doorway. Trudi's gaze darted to the windows. Shut and locked. "Please Jay."
"No Trudi. Either I'm a part of your life, or I'm not." She heard a severe exhale. "I can't do this now, no-how, no-way."
"Jay? Jay!"  He'd disconnected.
Why had she broken it off? Steady, dependable Jay. Because she'd grown bored. Dependable wasn't exciting. She sucked on her throbbing finger. Right now, she'd give anything for boring. How stupid was it to be terrified by dried fruit?
"What! What do you want?" Trudi shouted.
The witch had dimples. The face looked less...apply. More fleshy.
Trudi hurried back to the couch, refilled her glass. Her hand shook. Red drops beaded on the polished oak coffee table. Beads of wine. Beads of blood. Her blood.
What's this? she'd asked Aunt Sarah. Her aunt laughed, explained how she made one of those when she was a kid. A drop of blood from Trudi's paper cut beaded into a wart on the apple nose. She watched the red wart vibrate for a moment, then seep into the apple face while her aunt mumbled a rhyme about cooking pots and riding a broom and good fortune. The shriveled pointy nose rounded and softened.
 Trudi drained her glass, stared at the empty bottle. Another was in the cupboard. In the kitchen.
A thump came from the other room. Trudi didn't want to see the creepy thing. On the other hand, she couldn't see the witch. What was it doing?
The witch faced the doorway. The kitchen seemed normal. The stove clock switched to from 2:13 to 2:14. Less than fifteen minutes since she'd spoken to Jay. She glanced back at the witch, then did a double-take.
The overhead shone on the clove eyes, gave them a life-like twinkle.
Trudi felt wobbly. She returned her gaze to the stove. The digital numbers read 2:48. How long had she been standing in the doorway?
She raised her hand to wipe her face, hit herself with the empty wine glass. The cupboard. That's right.
Trudi side-stepped the apple on the floor. That would have been a nasty trip. She opened her new bottle, took a long pull, then slammed it on the counter. An apple rolled toward the edge of the counter. Trudi caught it before it fell onto the floor. "Gotcha!"
Trudi turned to the suspended witch. The witch's gash of a smile widened. So... malicious. Rhymed with delicious. Was it a Macintosh or Delicious? "I think I'm tiss-py," she told the witch. "Blame Jay. He shoulda come."
The witch's straw-colored hair bounced when the broom stopped, business end pointed at the stove.
"We should cook the apples!"
She could make a mile-high, cinnamon-y and I'm-sorry apple pie. "Th'way to a man's heart iss through his stomach!"
Trudi rummaged for a paring knife. She brought the bowl of apples to the table. Poising the knife, she focused until she saw only one apple, and peeled. The knife slipped.
She dragged a chair to the corner, climbed onto it and yanked the witch down. The body quivered in her grasp. Trudi touched her bloody thumb to the apple face. The cheeks plumped. The red-smear gave the cheeks a rosy blush. Apple of the apple cheeks. Trudi giggled as she laid the witch on the table. She began to peel another apple.
Trudi felt a little dizzy. There were too many apples. Auntie Sarah's rhyme said something about the witch helping the cooking. "Well?" Trudi asked.
The witch sat up. Trudi gave it the knife, wondered how it grasped the handle with such mitten-like hands.  
Trudi let her blood drip onto the cloth, impressed with how quickly fingers formed, then even more impressed with how deftly the witch slashed the apple that Trudi held up for it. She yawned as the sun shone through the curtains. The job would be over in no time. The witch cut so smoothly. Trudi's wrists didn't even hurt. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Summer of My Disco Tent or How I Sprayed Beer All Over Tom Perrotta

This #fridayflash was inspired by an event I attended a couple years ago, where I got to hear Tom Perrotta read from (at the time) his soon-to-be-released book The Leftovers. This is (mostly) fiction. 


The Summer of My Disco Tent or How I Sprayed Beer All Over Tom Perrotta


I blame my ex that I'm pretending to follow the argument of whether Gatsby or Tom is a better lover—the plot synopsis on Wikipedia didn't mention sex—so my answer to "Rosie, what do you think?" is "Did anyone fuck in that novel?"

Kaitlyn, my best friend, follows me to the kitchen. "Are you trying to get us kicked out of book club?"

"Come on, that was funny."

Kaitlyn pushes me aside and yanks open the oven. I wrinkle my nose as she flaps a dishtowel, dispersing the smoke. "Why'd you agree to this if you aren't into it?"

"And throw away rotting bananas?" I'm sort of proud of my tone—two-thirds incredulous and one-third sarcastic. "That's wasteful."

Kaitlyn rolls her eyes and flips the loaf pan. She rummages in my cutlery/flatware/old cork/shoelace drawer, finds a knife, then amputates the banana bread's burnt bottom. "You said yes." I hear the reproach in her tone.

Problem is, I did agree to book club; I just wasn't paying attention. When she prattled on about what "summer of my disco tent really means" I was watching my ex Jason, sitting at the table across from me at Barnes & Noble cafe with That-Whore-Andrea. He slid his hand under her skirt. T-W-A lowered eyelashes as fake as her rack and reciprocated by licking whipped cream from the corner of his mouth. In front of me! I was so pissed that I answered yeah whatever to Kaitlyn's question. Her I thought you'd never agree! surprised me, but I dismissed it. I was staring at the book on Jason's table. T-W-A got 50 Shades of Grey; I joined a bunch of sexually frustrated women in a book club.  

"But we're reading Gatsby!" I say to Kaitlyn. "We're only reading this because Leo's in the movie, not because it's a classic."

Kaitlyn stomps back to the living room. Before she can offer anyone a slice of my mediocre baked goods, Marta stands up. The other ladies look at their feet, their manicures, the covers of their books until Marta clears her throat.  

"Thank you Rosie, Kaitlyn, but I don't think book club is for you."

I smile sweetly as they leave. Once the door closes, Kaitlyn whips her head around and almost spits. "You owe me," she says.  


# # #

"Did you punch in the right address?" Kaitlyn asks. We're going to a Boston Book Festival fundraiser. It's my make-good to her. I'm driving, because Kaitlyn gets all panicky if there are more than two lanes. We're lost. The bitchy GPS voice is no help—she's the one that told me to turn left onto a dead end.  

I get onto a real road and stop next to a cabbie at a traffic light. I roll down my window. He seems to be ignoring me, so I shout. He shakes his head and rolls down his window. "What is it mon?" he asks.

"Do you know how to get to the Middlesex Lounge on Mass Ave?"

His eyes widen. He looks at the traffic light, looks at me, opens his mouth, snaps it shut. The light turns green. "Dis way," he says.

"You're not going to follow him, are you?" Kaitlyn says.

"Um, yes," and I punch the gas.

She clutches the oh shit bar with her right hand, braces her left against the dash. I do my best to keep up with a Boston cabbie in a ten year old Ford Escape.

Sixteen turns and surprisingly only four "sstts" from Kaitlyn later, we stop in the middle of our lane. An empty space is on my right. The cabbie leans out his window, says, "You are here," then executes a u-turn, leaving tire marks and a chorus of blaring horns. Sure enough, Middlesex Lounge is across the street.

"See? We weren't raped or anything."

"Lucky us." Kaitlyn smiles wanly. At least her sense of humor is returning. So is her color.

We pay the cover charge, then help ourselves to "free" hors d'oeuvres. Kaitlyn gulps a glass of Chardonnay, holds it out for a refill. I order a beer. A woman at the front of the room asks for silence, then welcomes us. She blathers on about all the ways we can help the Boston Book Festival, encourages us to purchase BBF swag before we leave, then thanks us and hopes we enjoy tonight's get together.

"I thought this was a reading," I say to Kaitlyn.

"Later. Right now, just mingle. Look! There's Hank Phillipe Ryan!" And Kaitlyn leaves me at the bar to try to blend.

I hear a man say he was in a wedding band once. I turn and realize, I'm standing next to Tom Perrotta. The guy talking to him is wearing a vest that is screaming 1988. So is his mullet. He says, "How did you research 'The Wishbones?'"

"That's the first one I read. I loved it," I pipe in. Mullet gives me a withering look, but Tom smiles at me.

"'The Wishones' was good to me. It got 'Election' noticed and produced as a movie."

"Loved that one too!" I say.

Mullet sort of harrumphs and says, "Tom, so were you or weren't you in a wedding band?"

Tom adjusts his glasses on his nose, then says, "Only for one gig. The bride and groom wanted Faithfully as their wedding song. I learn the song by ear, never bother to get the lyrics. My band is at the reception and it is time for the bride and groom's first dance. I go up to the microphone, croon my way through the first couple verses and the chorus. So far so good. I begin the third verse with—"

—I take a swig of my beer. I'm listening to an anecdote from Tom Perrotta!—

"—and I sing circumcised by the big time lord."

—and beer shoots out my nose, all over Tom Perrotta. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Senseless Challenge: Touch

Well, I did it. Five Fridays, five senses. For#fridayflash and #flashsense, the featured sense is TOUCH. (Now what will be the prompt to get me through June?)

By the way, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to #fridayflash. I've been a sporadic participant, but man, have I met some great writers during that time. I look forward to another four years of reading. 

New Sensation


The left side of the double doors remained locked, forcing audience members to greet Bruno before entering the theater. Bruno extended his hand. Some shook gratefully, excited to meet him; others gingerly, wary of his touch. For those that tried to sidle by him, Bruno made a point of touching them, even if he "inadvertently" swung out an arm. He then apologized for being so clumsy and bumping into their arm or their cheek, or in one case, an exposed thigh. After all, it didn't have to be hands, as long as he touched skin; then that person could get the full, Sensation-Al Experience.

Bruno nodded to the usher, asked him to bar the door. "Is that locked?" a woman in the back row half-whispered, half-squealed. Bruno gave her a warm smile and stroked the air between them. "It's open, feel the gentle night breeze?" he said. The woman lifted her chin, half-closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. She shook her head, as if getting strands of hair off her cheeks, a contented smile overcoming her panicked leer.

Bruno spread his arms wide, waved and circled his arms as he ran down the left aisle to the stage, ran in front of the center front row and up the center aisle to the back wall, ran down the right aisle, then leapt onto the narrow stage. The audience ahhed.

Bruno removed the mike from the stand and stood in front of the screen, facing the audience. "Thank you for coming this evening. I was just commingling all our cells so we may share a Sensation-al Experience. I'm Bruno...don't you feel as if we're friends already?" He looked pointedly at the balding man in the middle seat, fourth row. The man had reluctantly shaken Bruno's hand upon entering. Bruno made a show of flexing his right hand, faking a grimace. "Nice grip there buddy." The man smirked, the audience tittered.

"Instead of showing credits, I thought I'd take a few minutes to explain and demonstrate what will happen. I promise you a full, three-dimensional cinematic experience. My niece once compared 3-D movies to being inside someone else's imagination. I love that description. Wonderful images popping in front of your eyes, making you gasp, or cringe, or laugh, or jump, or sigh. But, is that enough? It is such a visual experience—how can we consider a 3-D movie, even in IMAX, a full experience with only one sense?

"Dolby sound, you say. Yes, and this theater has the latest in state-of-the-art sound, Dolby Atmos. Multi-directional sound will fill your ears while images float and zoom before your eyes. You will feel as if you are in the movie—or will you?

"Can we really consider popping images and surround-sound a complete movie-going experience? I say two senses: 2-D. What about...." Bruno fluttered his fingers. He felt their anticipation.  

"Touch?"

He let his gaze roam the room. "You've felt things watching movies—boredom for some of you." Bruno waited for the titters to subside. 

"Joy. Sorrow. Fear. Anger. Dread. Anxiety. Euphoria. Wonder. Desire." Bruno raised an eyebrow at a beautiful woman in the left aisle seat. "Feel that?" She twisted a strand of hair, re-crossed her legs.

"You've felt emotions, but have you felt anything else? Warm, gritty sand during a beach scene. Cold ocean during a deep diving mission—or how about the rubbery texture of that wetsuit? Or maybe, a soft kiss between lovers?" Again, Bruno looked at the woman. She caught her breath.

Bruno walked the stage. "How this works. When you entered the theater today, I touched each and every one of you. Your cells are on me, my cells are on you. We've shut the doors, and I ask all of you to remain in your seats during the entire show, so we may not lose any of each other." Bruno exaggerated a wink. "Now you know why we didn't offer concession-fare."

"So I've comingled our cells and we are now connected, at least for the duration of this film. This allows me to facilitate 'touch.' Group hug!" Bruno circled his arms. "Feel it?"

Startled expressions spread through the audience, along with a couple nervous laughs. "You will feel everything that happens on the screen tonight."

The bald man's arms were crossed, doubt emanated off him. That doubt ricocheted between them. Bruno couldn't allow it to permeate the room; the group experience relied on belief—his "touch" gift only went so far.

Bruno pointed at the doubtful man. "Sir, what would you like to feel?"

The man snickered. "No offense buddy, but I ain't buyin' what you're selling. My wife dragged me here tonight." His wife punched his arm, then huffed. 

Bruno smiled. "What would you rather be doing?"

"Ridin' my Harley, feeling the open road—"

—Bruno squatted slightly, placed his hands in front of him as if he were holding handlebars—

"—the wind in my face, the power of the bike under me...."

The man trailed off as Bruno twisted the throttle, allowing a revving sensation. 

The audience gasped. "What the fuck?" exclaimed the man.

"We are on a country lane, passenger is squeezing your waist. Slow, easy curve." Bruno leaned his body slightly to the right. The audience leaned to the left.

"A bug hits our helmet, jerks our head." As one, every audience head jerked. Quite a few people rubbed their crowns, others tittered. A female voice exclaimed, "Is this dangerous? I don't want to feel a phaser blast!"

Bruno straightened. "When a 3-D image seems within reach, can you grab it? The same principle applies."

Bruno waved to the projection booth. "Space, the final frontier." Bruno shivered; the audience felt a cool blast.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, here is the 3-D IMAX, Dolby Atros and now, Sensation-al Star Trek, Into Darkness."


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Senseless Challenge: Taste


The idea came to me on Monday, but it took me well past Friday to get this one on the page. So much for a timely #fridayflash, but at least I met the #flashsense challenge. Better late than never...right?

Taste Test


Claire watched Didius walk off the trail, admiring his muscular calves. His clinging tee accentuated the inverted "v" of his back. He had promised incredible views when he'd invited her to go hiking for their third date. He had delivered.

Her stomach rumbled. The only negative so far—and she felt petty—was that they hadn't eaten together. Not that she expected a free meal, but dating involved food. Meet over coffee. Let's have lunch. Dinner and a movie. If a relationship evolved into something more, it was time for a home-cooked meal. Once she cooked for a man, Claire considered them "together."

She wanted to invite Didius to dinner, but he didn't eat. Their first date they'd seen a movie. She'd felt awkward eating alone, even if it was only popcorn. Their second date he'd brought her to an art show opening. He'd stayed by her side, introduced her to friends, offered her champagne and canapés from the circulating trays; she'd felt desired. It wasn't until he'd left her at her front door that she realized he hadn't eaten anything.

He emerged from the woods holding the hem of his shirt, exposing his washboard stomach. Claire fervently wanted to feel his body against hers. Instead, she cleared her throat and asked, "What's in your shirt?"  

"Wild blackberries," he said. "This should stop your rumbling stomach."

"You heard that?"

Didius grinned, revealing dimples and laugh lines around his eyes, accentuating his maleness rather than aging him. "I try to pay attention. Can't have you fainting from hunger. Then I'd have to carry you home." He winked at her. "Not that I'd mind."

"Oh, so there's a method to your madness." Claire returned his grin and took a handful of the blackberries. "Oh my god, these are amazing." She took another handful. "Aren't you having any?"

Didius popped a few berries in his mouth.

"Oh, thank goodness," Claire said. "I was beginning to worry about the not-eating thing."

"Not-eating thing?"

Claire's cheeks flushed. "Well, you haven't eaten anything around me."

Didius stared at her, light blue eyes unblinking.

"I, er, I didn't mean to offend—"

He stepped closer to her, caressed her cheek, then gently lifted her chin. He kissed her, tenderly, his full lips tasting of berries.

"Apology accepted," he said.

Claire caught her breath, knowing she wanted him to kiss her again, over and over. "Would you like to come over for dinner?"  

# # #

Didius had arrived early so that they could "cook together." Claire didn't know if he intended the double entendre, but was glad to see him. He opened the Malbec he'd brought, told her he fermented it himself. Before long, she found herself tipsy, a combination of his wine and his proximity. She sat on a stool across from him and let him take over.

"So, tell me about you," Claire said.

"What do you want to know?"

"Um...start with your parents."

"My father is a chef, and my mother's a psychic."

"A psychic! That's quite a combo."

He smiled, giving her the full dimple-and-crinkle action. "You could say that."

Didius closed his eyes and appeared to meditate for a moment, then poured stock into a pot and heated it on the stove. He picked up her butcher knife. His long fingers move deftly, pushing the chopped mushrooms aside as his knife-hand chopped.

"So," Claire said. "A chef dad and a psychic mom. What does that make you?"

"A taster," he said.

"You...taste things?"

"Yes. I taste everything."

"So you figure out secret ingredients."

"Not quite."

Claire swirled her glass. "If 'not quite' then what do you taste?" she asked.

"Everything a cook puts into a dish." He gave her an intense look. "I can't eat at restaurants because even if the chef creates a world-class dish, he doesn't prepare it. I taste the sous chef worrying about orders and cleaning the walk-in and resenting her salary; I taste the prep cook thinking his girlfriend is a whore and wondering if he should see a doctor about the itching; I taste the grill cook thinking he'll hurt Mario if the son-of-a-bitch shorts him on the blow again."

Didius sipped his wine. "That's what I taste."

"How do you taste all that?"

Didius shrugged. "Some of my dad's and some of my mom's genes, I suppose."

"I mean, what does all that taste like?"

"Like bitterness."

"Oh." Claire understood the popcorn and canapés now, even if he seemed delusional. "How does someone cook for you?"

Didius offered her his hand. She took it and joined him at the stove. He placed her before him, then reached around her to turn up the heat. "Before you cook, clear your mind. Think only about the food."

She took a couple deep breaths. He smelled faintly of soap and shampoo, a clean, sexy smell. Claire reached for the olive oil; his hand covered hers as she coated the pan. He added the mushrooms, then gave her a wooden spoon. He slipped his arm around her waist.

"I'll burn this," she murmured.

"No, you won't." She could feel his heartbeat against her back. "Keep stirring," he whispered as he added the rice, his warm breath making the fine hairs rise on her neck. She felt her knees wanting to give. The food, think about the food.

Claire leaned into him. Didius added stock a ladleful at a time; she kept stirring. His fingertips lightly stroked her arm, he lifted her hair and kissed her shoulders. She found herself gasping, wishing she could stop stirring and really start cooking when he let go of her.

"It's ready." Didius filled a spoon with risotto, blew gently on it, then held it to her. "Taste." 

She let him feed her. "Wow." It was the most amazing risotto she'd ever tried. She filled a spoon, blew on it gently, then fed him.

"How's it taste?" Claire asked.

Didius gave her a slow, teasing smile. "It tastes like you."  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Senseless Challenge: Smell

I'm proud of myself. I've managed to write a #fridayflash for the third week running, thanks to am harte and her #flashsense challenge. This week's sense is smell.

Private Nose

Floyd poured the last of the coffee into his mug. I love my job, it's the work I hate. Behind him, Barry told Elaine, "It's going to rain today, mark my words. I can smell it."

"You can smell rain?" Elaine asked. "What's it smell like?" Elaine's tone implied she thought Barry was king shit. Floyd smiled to himself. Shit alright. Barry had suffered a bit of intestinal discomfort earlier this morning, but Floyd wasn't sure if it was from yesterday's fried-onion-and-sauerkraut street dog, or from conscience twinges plaguing Barry after balling the boss's wife—lingering whiffs of her blu mediterraneo arancia left an aura around Barry, even though he'd used every product from the Axe Dark Temptation line. Floyd smelled even more than that, but he was paid just to sniff out who was sleeping with Mr. Thompson's wife. Maybe it was time to buy a new coffee mug. Floyd did like the work.

"It's difficult to describe," Barry said. "A freshness in the air, but a heaviness as well. Kind of like a filled pool with a hint of ozone." He smiled expansively at Elaine. She twirled a coppery strand and blinked coyly. Floyd hoped Barry avoided her—she lived with three cats, a parakeet and had a pickling hobby, which she tried to mask by burning raspberry-pomegranate candles. Even her Obsession didn't eradicate those odors; they were melded into every fiber of her clothes. 

But Floyd wasn't here to advise Barry and his lust choices, though if he'd met Barry a few weeks earlier...nah. Floyd actually appreciated Barry's poor judgment. Right now, he owed Barry's libido a big fat thank you.  

Floyd took the empty chair next to Barry. "Maybe your next job could be at Ion Television, the new weatherman."

Barry shot Floyd a look. "What's that supposed to mean?" A bead of sweat popped above Barry's brow. Floyd sniffed. Maybe Barry had an acute sense of his own; he sure was scared.  

"Nothing, buddy. Nothing at all." Floyd sipped to mask his spreading smile. He bet Barry used more than three squares this morning during his bathroom break. Poor Barry, he didn't have a chance. But man, ten grand for two weeks undercover. Within three hours on the job, Floyd had learned that Mrs. Thompson was a bit of a cougar, preyed on the young executives. She was the bosses wife, but she was a VP in the company too. Hard to ignore for the likes of Barry.

His report was on Mr. Thompson's desk. Floyd would set up shop in the empty office two floors down. Floyd Webber, Private Nose. Not as romantic as Private Eye, but it beat working for perfume companies. He sniffed, letting the heady scent of ink from the one and four zeroes drying on the check in his shirt pocket erase the memory-smell of whale puke. Thank god that was behind him. He drained his mug. And this god-awful scorched coffee.

Floyd clapped Barry on the back, nodded at Elaine. "Have a good one." He got to the break room door when he heard Barry shout, "Hey Floyd!"

Floyd turned around. Barry sniffed. "Don't forget your umbrella. It's going to storm."

Floyd nodded and thought, it sure is buddy. It sure is.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Senseless Challenge: Sound


This week's senseless challenge is Sound. Here's my contribution for #fridayflash and #flashsense. 

Deaf Ears


Jack kept his eyes closed and listened to the ocean. Not the ocean from his childhood,  with the roar and whimper, crescendo and crash. Gulls squawking, snatches of honky-tonk carried on the sea breeze, squeals from the carnival, the train horn of the Boston-to-Portland as the conductor sped through Old Orchard. On Thursday nights, the boom and crackle of fireworks. No, what he heard was a constant hum, a facsimile sound of the ocean, like a conch shell against his ear.

The watery sound lulled him. Despite himself, he sniffed, hoping for salty air laced with coconut oil and grilled hamburgers, but all he smelled was antiseptic. Jack opened his eyes.

The wall clock's hands pointed to two-thirty. He hadn't heard the ocean, couldn't hear it at all. It was his mind playing a trick on him. Though he had a right to hope. Dr. Patil said the prognosis was good, almost seventy-percent good. He'd done many of these inner ear operations. In a few short hours, Jack should hear again.

Jack wished Dr. Patil had said would.

Jack eased the hospital bed's rail down, slipped out of bed. The tile floor chilled his bare feet. He found his robe and slippers, then walked the few steps to the bathroom. God damn, if he couldn't still hear that ocean-like murmur. It swelled then faded as he relieved himself, then swelled again. The murmuring changed into whispers.

Come on, Scott, I saw you deal from the bottom—

No daddy, it doesn't hurt—

Mares eat oats and does eat oats and damn I hate the IV—

Jack whipped his head around. He was alone in the tiny hospital bathroom. He stepped back into his room. Empty.

The male voice shouted Scott you fuckin' cheater.

Jack covered his ears, formed a suction, then pulled his hands away.

Nothing popped—not that he expected it to—but the child-like voice screamed Daaadddyyyy and a female voice sing-songed Needle-ee dee and bumble-ee bee and oh, fuck is me.

The nurses station was empty. The door to the nurses' break room was ajar. Jack saw legs clad in scrubs, sensible shoes. He hurried past, hoped he didn't make any noise, then stopped at the elevators. The door opened. He didn't hear a ping.

He rode the elevator down a floor, got out at ICU. Here there was more activity. A nurse was on the phone, another nurse pushed a cart into a patient's room. An orderly frowned at him. He smiled and slipped into the next room.  

The sing-song voice got louder inside his head. A woman lay on the bed, hooked up to several machines, tubes in nose, on her arms. Jack watched one monitor that seemed to pulse in time to her breathing. Another one must of tracked her heart rate.

Hi-dee ho!

Jack whipped around, but no one stood behind him. The woman on the bed did not move.

Mares eat oats and I does eat oats and damn I hate the IV, needly dee and bumbley bee and oh, fuck is me.

Jack touched her arm. The sing-song stopped. Aren't you going to say hello?

Jack thought, Hello.

Oh my goodness you hear me? You really hear me?

I guess I do.

Well slap my ass and call me Sally!

You're Sally?

Nah, I'm Annabelle. And you are?

Jack.

You really hear me?

Her lips did not move. Her eyelids did not flutter. Nothing twitched, nothing moved. Jack moved to her chart, learned she was in a coma. Diabetic coma.

A hand descended upon his shoulder. He jumped. He read the nurses lips, "May I help you?"

Jack put down the chart, made the motions to show he was deaf. He then pointed at the woman, raised his eyebrows. The nurse shrugged, then exaggerated "Go back to your room."

The woman's voice shouted in his head. Don't go! Why can't anyone else hear me?

The nurse grabbed his arm firmly and led him to the doorway.  

Please!

I'll come again.

In the hallway, Jack heard the other two voices again. He let the nurse bring him to the elevator. The door opened, revealing a security guard. He led Jack to his own floor.

His nurse settled him in, gave him medication. He heard Annabelle's sing-song again. And the man's voice shouting Scott was liar and a cheater. The child-like voice told her daddy she could be brave.

Damn, he had communicated with a coma patient. All this time he'd been deaf and never heard anything. Tonight, of all nights, he heard someone. Someone that no one else could hear. He concentrated on the ocean-like murmur. It separated into the voices again. He could hear three someones that no one else could hear.

Why now? Easy, he told himself. It was because he hadn't been in a hospital before now. He was only here to, well, to hear again. Middle ear operation, nine am. Later this morning, he should hear again. Dr. Patil said.

As the drowsiness overcame him, Jack wondered if he'd still hear those other voices tomorrow. He wondered if he should.