Thursday, March 17, 2011

FAKE REAL WOMAN

FAKE REAL WOMAN


Diane smashed the portrait she'd painted of Tim and herself against her knee. She pulled drawers, swept the night stand, got rid of every memento and gift that reminded her of him. The anger still boiled. I'm just not attracted to you anymore.

She yanked clothes he bought for her from her closet, ripped each into rags. No loss on those; he still bought her clothes from two sizes ago. For when you get back to yourself, he'd said. She slid the wedding gown from the back, but stopped herself in the nick of time. Mom's wedding gown. Diane's first fitting was supposed to be Saturday. I'm just not attracted to you anymore.

He had yet to promise for better or for worse. He had opted out. Her finger throbbed from tugging off the engagement ring. He'd slid that on her finger two sizes ago.

Just when she thought it couldn't get any worse. I'm just not attracted to you anymore.

Tim got her through mom's funeral. So what if she spiraled a bit after that. Missed classes, lost her art students, lost the downtown studio. Lost her figure. She caught her reflection above the bureau.

Frizzy auburn curls framed her splotchy pale skin, lids swollen over hazel eyes, mascara sliming down puffy cheeks—and two chins, neck folds, the beginning of a matronly uni-boob. She couldn't erase his expression from her mind. There was no remorse. Only pity. I'm sorry, I'm just not attracted to you anymore.

She could handle not being pretty to him anymore (though it hurt). She could handle him not loving her anymore (she'd try). But she could not handle him believing her insignificant (a non-person). If she bumped into him on the street, he wouldn't say hello. Only people who thought themselves superior doled out pity. To him, she would be invisible.

She could show him. She mattered. She could be thin again. Pretty again. Diane raced to her attic studio, slammed a blank canvas on the easel. She slipped on her apron, tied her hair into a ponytail. She'd show him the real her, the perfect Diane.

She mixed paints, brushed bold lines across the blank white. First the hair, blue-black and flowing. She added dots of white then blurred them to give shampoo-commercial shine. She outlined a heart-shaped face, widow's peak a point on the smooth forehead.

Her arm tingled as she shaped eyebrows, arched and haughty. Not something she'd felt before, but yes, if she could feel haughty, she could get over the hurt. Cerulean irises under luxurious lashes, only the faintest hint of laugh lines.

Diane watched her hand fly across the canvas. The collar bone, sleek, visible, not cushioned by fat. Sculpted arms, graceful wrists, elegant fingers all appeared. She hadn't felt such inspiration since her mother started chemo. Painting felt good again. She added flesh tones, filled in shadows, gave the Diane in the picture dimension. A warmth spread from her fingertips to her hands, from there to her entire body, exciting her, arousing her, spurring her to give life to the woman on the canvas. Show a part of herself that Tim....

Diane lowered the brush. In her artistic frenzy, she had forgotten. He had dumped her. Pitied her. Deemed her insignificant.

She stared at her self-portrait, the portrait of the better self she wanted to be. The one Tim wanted her to be. One that Tim could be attracted to.

The woman was not Diane.

From the eye color to the erect nipples on melon-shaped breasts, to the perfect cheerios navel dotting the pilates-structured stomach, to the curly black triangle between full hips, to the muscular legs....

Diane could never be the goddess on the canvas. The nude woman looked too real. The woman was taller, shapelier, bolder—Diane realized she had painted a nude Wonder Woman. Diane reached for more blue pigment to cover the nudity. She couldn't believe she had painted every hot-blooded teenaged boy's fantasy woman. Her fantasy.

Tim's fantasy.

How could lines and paint be more attractive than flesh and blood? Diane stared at the statuesque image. Her fantasy, his fantasy—regardless, not real. Not Diane.

She put down her palette. This hurt too much. What was she doing to herself? Before she could become jealous of this non-person, Diane turned around to look for the gesso. Start fresh, begin again, all that happy horseshit—as long as she didn't have to stare at someone she could never be. Gesso—artist's white-out.

Something yanked her ponytail.

Diane screeched and slapped the arm holding her hair. It did not let go. She slammed into the canvas. Another arm reached over her shoulder, snatched the gesso. She recognized the hand. She had just painted it.

"You're not real" she shouted. Diane twisted and pulled, tried to free herself. In a flash, Wonder Woman's leg grew in dimension until it kicked Diane.

She crumpled to the floor. The canvas ripped as Wonder Woman pulled free. Diane crawled toward the door, but the comic heroine was bigger, stronger. She pinned Diane as she coated a spatula with gesso.

Diane balled her fist but before her punch made contact, it disappeared in a smear of white. Two more swipes and Diane's body was gone. The thick white goo touch Diane's cheek. Then she felt nothing at all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

CARRY THAT WEIGHT

Thank you to all who read this story at this spot. I have sold it to Golden Visions Magazine and hope you will go and read (or reread?) this story there, along with the other terrific content. I am keeping the comments here, because on down days, these keep my writing.

Golden Visions also published "Memories Captured", another flash story I debuted in this forum, then felt confident enough to submit elsewhere. Thank you for your encouragement, and for supporting me, as well as the independent publishers.


I am addicted to weight loss shows; Heavy, The Biggest Loser, even MTV's I Used To Be Fat--I can't get enough. On almost every show, after the final weigh-in when it is time to cheer success, someone says "I/You lost a person." I would think, yeah, cool, that is a whole other person but it never inspired, you know? On a recent show, the trainer said, "you lost xxx pounds, that's what I weigh." It was my weight too. Inspiration hit, hence the story above. Oh, and the title meant I had to get the appropriate song. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

FLASH AND FADE

He didn't recognize the phone. Or the number on the screen. He answered it anyway. "Hello?"

"Who is this?"

He opened his mouth, but a name didn't blurt. He shouted louder than he intended. "You called me."

The other voice took on a nasty tone. "You’re not Angelo. Who the hell are you?"

Angelo. The name didn't ring a bell.

"Tell Angelo I'm coming." The line went dead.

He looked around the room. Bare. Colorless. Windowless. Doorless. Just him, a table, two chairs and the phone. He checked himself. White tee shirt over a slight paunch. Blue jeans, right knee ripped. Pockets empty. Feet bare. He ran a hand over his head. Smooth. He wondered when he became bald. He wondered when he had hair. Shit, he just wondered.

The phone gleamed under the solitary bulb. The bulb wasn’t here a minute ago. Trauma. He’d experienced a trauma, that’s why his senses were scrambled. He cleared the lump from his throat, fidgeted with the phone. He cleared his throat again. Rubbed his neck. Maybe he was coming down with something. Why couldn’t he come up with his own name?

He scrolled through the contacts, hoping a familiar name would pop. The bulb swayed. Angelo's phone. Angelo's contacts. Angelo knew thousands of people. He scrolled to the M's. M...something. He concentrated, tried to pull a name. Mel—, Meli—. A song replayed in his head, a nostalgic melody, no words until the chorus. Sweet Melissa.

Melissa pregnant, rushed into delivery. His reflection in a security mirror, blue scrub hat covering his bald head, nostrils distorted into caverns on the convex surface. He bent to kiss her perspiring forehead, her grip crushed his knuckles. He brushed dark strands off her cheeks, could not recall her face. Nurses firm, signing forms, scalp itchy under the elastic band, sweat trickling over the goose bumps along his spine.

Pictures. Angelo's phone must have pictures. Maybe Melissa. Maybe... bells tinkled. A text message loaded. A newborn, slimed and bawling, legs curled, umbilical stump clamped. A baby's smile inside smashed peas. A toddler boy pouting on Santa's lap. Picture after picture of his son flashed into view, a slide show of Christian's life.

Christian. Living with Melissa's mother. He saw his son on weekends. Bought him a trike. Took him fishing once. To the movies. They saw one of the Shreks. They shared the bucket of popcorn. Christian puked in the car. He never got the smell out. Melissa's eyes, Melissa's pointy chin, Melissa's two sneezes in a row—weekends with Christian hurt. He didn't visit often. He just couldn't.

Complications. He signed the release. No kiss, no touch, just Melissa screaming, screaming save the baby, please David, DAVID....

She never said goodbye.

David dropped the phone on the cheap wood. A hexagon table, came with two uncomfortable spindle-legged chairs. Something to fill space in the apartment. A breeze. David turned to the window. A stained shade covered the top half.

He jumped away, knocked the chair over. The doorbell rang. Someone pounded his apartment door. This was his apartment. Not a colorless room. The bare bulb shone over the table, because the chandelier broke. The visitor pressed the doorbell, the discordant buzz blending with bells tinkling from the cell.

"Angelo! Open up."

David read the text.

Hold on.

From Angelo.

Black smoke billowed from under the door. David choked. White smoke swirled before him. There was no dangling bulb.

A rope.

The door splintered, then crashed onto the floor. A sigh cascaded from the window. A man-shape burst from the black smoke. A man-shape formed in the white smoke. David's vantage point changed. The ceiling smoke detector's red light blinked at him. He looked down to the visitors.

"Suicides are mine Angelo."

"He's not dead, Nick."

"No one's coming for him."

Angelo glanced at David. David swung, first towards Angelo, then toward Nick. David heard a car backfire. A child's squeal. A dog's bark. Garlic and onions floated on the breeze underneath the smoke and over his own acrid stink. The rope chafed his neck. He couldn't gasp.

Angelo reached toward David.

"Uh-uh, Angelo. The rules."

Angelo smiled at David, nodded toward Nick. "Just giving him his show. Remember the life flashing part?"

Angelo gestured at the table. The phone floated to David. Pictures filled the screen, pictures he'd never aimed or snapped, but pictures of four-year-old him, dad holding him safe and pictures of eight-year-old him sliding into home plate and pictures of him with cousins and friends and at school and at parties and in uniform and feeding Melissa wedding cake and watching the heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor and all the people at her wake and each simple picture of his daily routine so mundane yet profound because it was his last view ever of every thing he had ever hoped or regretted or loved or—

—Christian's face filled the screen—

—despaired. Despair shrouded the rest.

Yesterday he called his son, but the boy never answered. He tried again from True Value, where he bought rope. He tried again after he tested his weight against the hook in the ceiling, the one that used to hold the chandelier. He never said goodbye.

Nick wiped his mouth. Drool sizzled on Nick's knuckle.

Angelo twitched.

"No Angelo. No divine interference."

"Stop me."

Angelo rose. Nick flashed from the doorway, rammed Angelo. Nick's fingertips flickered. Angelo blew. Flames flared to the smoke detector. The alarm bleated.

Alarms sounded in the entire building. The door splintered, then crashed to the floor. A firefighter shouldered between the disappearing Nick and Angelo. Black spots filled David's vision. The room faded.

Melissa's face appeared. He remembered. Freckles on her cheek, gold flecks in hazel eyes. Her easy laugh. Her soft lips. Goodbye David.

Her face blended into his. Mouth agape, cheeks slack, a glare bounced off his head. His reflection transparent on a firefighter's mask. David took a breath.



The End


a co-worker passed this week. he was not only a consummate bartender--he honed techniques, studied the history, and made every single guest feel special--but he was the first person to ask me for permission to quote and post a story I wrote. joey made me feel like a writer.

if only we all could understand the myriad of ways we touch others. he is missed.