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.




Thursday, May 2, 2013

Senseless Challenge: Sight


I've been wanting to get back into the #fridayflash habit, and this week I found the perfect motivation from a.m. harte. All the details for the Senseless Challenge can be found at A.M's sight, as well as at FFDO

Eye Contact

David sipped his Beam & coke and watched the Keno screen. His head hurt. The scratches still burned under his shirt. He looked down, but his white shirt was still white. No blood streaks seeping through.

He concentrated on the popping balls. The numbers were at least a distraction from the nitwit two stools away arguing to the bartender. How can you still wear that fucking wristband? He's a doping son-of-a-bitch.

Candy had called David a son-of-a-bitch, as if she was the wronged party. You son-of-a-bitch, what right do you have reading my personal messages? David hadn't meant to see the text. Her phone vibrated next to him. Who wouldn't glance? He never in a million years expected to read I need to see you on his girlfriend's phone. He winced. He couldn't remember exactly what he'd said; some things that he could never take back, he was sure. All he knew now was that at the moment, he'd seen red.  

David picked up a quarter from his change, watched a girl sit across from him. Slight and sort of unkempt, a waif if he'd ever seen one. She seemed to fold into herself until she became an afterthought. He ran the quarter through his fingers until the coin danced and disappeared, the movement mesmerizing him. "Four." The four bubble popped forward on the HD screen before it shrunk and took its place in the Keno grid. Four years together. The quarter reappeared in his other hand.

Candy had gotten all righteous on him. You're such a jealous prick. They say the best defense is an offense. And Candy was downright offensive. So, so offensive. He didn't need that bullshit. He felt the waif's gaze upon him.   

“Twenty-nine,” David muttered under his breath a full second before the number popped forward on the screen. Last birthday, Candy blew out twenty-nine candles, purposely missing the thirtieth one. No woman is ready for thirty, she'd said. He thought it odd the waif hid her brown eye, when her left eye glittered. The light flicked on the wetness, turned her eye into a sapphire.

He spun the quarter on the wooden bar. It hit a warp, bounced to the floor and rolled under the brass footrest. David slid off his stool and searched for the coin. Heads or tails. Candy's game. She'd flip a coin, lick her lips, then say in a sultry tone you better hope it's tails. That was her game. He'd miss that particular game. Nope, Candy and him weren't going to be playing any sorts of games together anymore.  

"There you are." Tails side up. Figures. He reached for the coin, saw speckles of brown staining his Nike swoosh. He licked his finger, rubbed the spots. They smeared.

"How about sharing?"

David shot up, cracked his head into the bar's overhang. Sharp, tiny glints filled his vision, converted into sapphire and chestnut stars, each with floating numbers. He shook his head, rubbed his scalp—an egg was already forming—and blinked his tears until the dancing stars elongated and dripped to form almond eyes staring at him. The girl studied his face under the bar.

"What the...." Her eyes were different colors, one blue, the other brown.

She reached for his face, pulled a tear off his cheek and danced it between her fingers, as if his tear was a quarter. His tear sparkled and blurred as it appeared and disappeared between her slender fingers. "My turn," she said, then backed out from under the bar lip.

"Hey! What the...." David got out from under the bar. She slipped his tear over her brown eye. Instantly, that eye became pale blue. David's used-up blue next to the brilliant sapphire of her left one. She blinked, the way someone does to shift a contact lens into place.

"I heard that crack from over there," the bartender said. "Stopped Skip mid-sentence—he shut up for a full thirty seconds, bless your heart. Or should I say, your head." She forced a white, lumpy towel into his hands. "Ice. Helps the swelling."

David absently placed the towel on his forehead. Numbers swam from the screen inside red balls, stopping inches from his face, a 3-D affect without the cheesy glasses.

The bartender came around the bar. "Here, let me help." She repositioned the makeshift icepack onto the top of his head. "Ice has to touch the swelling. Should I call someone for you?"

He tried to focus on the waif. She was at the Keno kiosk, a pencil poised above a ticket.
"What the hell?" he shouted. She jumped, then turned to face him. Her pale blue eye twitched, back and forth, independent of her sapphire one. She screamed, then clawed at her eye, rubbed and swiped at it. A watery blue tear bounced off her cheek, rolled onto the floor board and disappeared into a crack.  

"You killed her," she whispered.

"No. No no no no no. She attacked me." He tore open his shirt. "See? She scratched me. She was cheating on me and she attacked me!"

"You killed her!"

David held his head so it wouldn't hurt so much as he shook no. He backed away from the crazy-eyed waif, from the bartender shouting at Skip to dial 911, from the 3D Keno screen with the crazy bouncing balls. They were supposed to be blue. He dodged the red thirty, because Candy would always be thirty, but mostly because he didn't want thirty red stains all over his white shirt again.