Flash-fiction

Burnt Match

Image Credit: Januz Miralles
Image Credit: Januz Miralles

Matt arrived late. When he entered the church it was already crowded. Numerous colleagues and students sat on the benches and looked at the coffin where the Dean lay. Matt breathed in thick air and felt overwhelmed with the suffocating vibe of death. He made a hasty step to leave but then changed his mind and only loosened his tie. He leaned against the wall near the entrance door and looked at the widow. As always, he couldn’t take his eyes off her face.

Wrapped in a long black dress that accentuated thinness of her body, she seemed more fragile than ever. Her red curly locks, which usually hung loose to her shoulders, were now hidden under the strict black hat. Her stiff, straight posture and a slight tilt of the head made her look like a burnt match. She stood near the coffin and shook hands with people that kept coming over to her to express their condolences.

“She doesn’t hear them,” Matt watched her force a mechanical nod. “She doesn’t see them. She’s barely there.”

Last time Matt saw her at the Dean’s birthday party. She laughed at her husband’s awkward jokes holding onto his shoulder, and the flame of her hair danced along the rhythm of her laughter. Matt chuckled too, not able to resist her contagious joy.

“What does she see in him?” Matt looked at the Dean’s bald head. “His thick glasses? His false teeth?”

“Well, it’s not fair,” he said to himself. “He’s not so old to have false teeth. But he’s too old for her.”

Now he was too dead. Matt looked at the corpse in the coffin. There were no glasses on the Dean’s nose; and he didn’t smile to show his horse teeth. He looked calm and secure as if he knew that, even dead, he still owned her, as if he was sure that now, leaving this world, he would take all her warmth and brightness with him so that she could never look at anyone else the way she used to look at him.

Matt wanted to come up to her and look into her eyes and say something nice and encouraging. He wanted to try and erase the lines of pain destroying the beauty of her pale face. But he kept standing next to the wall. He was afraid to meet the dark emptiness of her look which replaced lively sparkles that had always flicked in her smiley eyes. For the first time he didn’t want her to know he was there.

He left the church, not waiting till the end of the ceremony. She won’t notice anyway. She won’t care. He had always been in the shadow of her love for another man. Now, he will stay in the shadow of this man’s death.

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

The Daily Post

Flash-fiction

The Red Date

calendar

The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in. He stared at the calendar in despair, “There’s no hope here. The future is empty, there’s no way to fill it in.” He touched the red date of Sunday. The smell of blood hit his nostrils. He jerked his hand as if to wave the smell away, but it stayed. He shivered, his memory brought him there again.

He came back to that weekend where time lost its meaning, where the whole world stopped, where he couldn’t feel anything but the pain of burning regret and remorse, remorse, remorse. That weekend when he knocked at the door of his son and didn’t hear anything in response.

“Stupid boy, playing his games all day long, can’t hear anything but the shooting in his headphones. Open!” he knocked stronger. “I need to talk to you.” The room behind the door stayed silent. “Jerry, if you don’t open I’ll come in anyway.” Silence again. “Enough! I’m fed up with your childish behaviour.”

He pushed the door and entered. The room was empty. The computer was off, and the bed was neatly made.

“Finally, somebody came to his senses,” he thought with relief. “I hope he also washed his hair.” He knocked at the bathroom door. “Can I come in?” He heard nothing but running water. “Jerry, I’m sorry I yelled at you, but I’m your father, I know better. And I see that you have agreed with me.” He looked around the clean room and smiled: even the bookshelves were dusted.

“Jerry, I’m coming in.” He stepped in the bathroom, and his foot sunk in the pool of water. “What the heck, Jerry!” he wanted to say, but his eyes received the answer already. Jerry, dressed in his Sunday-church suit, floated in the opaque red water flowing over the brim of the bathtub.

The hysterical ambulance siren pulled the neighbors out of their houses to the street where they watched in silence the car carrying the body away. “What are you staring at?” he yelled. “There’s nothing to look at here, don’t you see? Nothing to look at!”

“Nothing to look at here.” He turned away from the calendar and wiped his tears. “I’m sorry, Jerry. I thought I knew better than you, and it’s too late now. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Flash-fiction

The Art Lesson

He waited for an hour, and he felt hungry and pissed off. He and Meg agreed to meet in the park and then go to have lunch somewhere before the class started. He called her a hundred times, but she never answered.

“I’m sure she forgot to recharge her phone again. So typical!” He came up to the college and watched students, entering and leaving through the big oak door. “Why is she always like this? It was her idea, after all, to take art lessons, and now she isn’t here.”

“I won’t wait anymore,” he finally made up his mind. “She will be angry, but it’s not my fault that she never arrived. I will go there by myself.”

He didn’t know anything about art, and, truly, wasn’t interested. But she said, “Stephen, you need to develop your creativity,” and he bought brushes, oil, pencils and a couple of sketchbooks and signed up for this course.

He entered the classroom and sat behind one of the easels that stood near the window. Every now and then he threw a glance outside in hope to see her hurrying in. The teacher talked about importance of seeing things the way they are and not allowing common prejudices and tricks of mind to prevent you from portraying life that flows in front of you. Then she explained main principles of chiaroscuro and put a cube and a ball on the table in front of her. “Now, take pencils and draw what you see,” she said.

“Art is even more boring than I expected,” he thought and looked through the window. “Why is she doing this to me?”

“Is something wrong?” The teacher stood behind him and looked at the sheet of paper he hadn’t touched yet.

“Ah, well… I don’t know where to start,” he said.

“Start with the main forms, try to grasp the proportions. Then work on details, ok?”

He nodded ok, lifted his hand with a pencil and watched the teacher check other students’ work. “Something is wrong,” he thougt and looked through the window again. This time he saw her. Meg was standing at the stairs and was not in a hurry at all. She was talking to Matt, the guy they met once at the Halloween party. Matt was a football team captain, and she was impressed with his biceps and giggled when he offered her to touch it.

Stephen got mad at her for this shameless flirting right in front of him and rushed out of the party. Later she called him and said that she was sorry, that she was drunk and that she could never be seriously attracted to someone like Matt. “He’s a sportsman, they all so shallow, you know. You are smart.”

He forgave her then; he thought it would be stupid to break up over something so insignificant; he even blamed himself for being ridiculously jealous. But now she was kissing Matt.

“Importance of seeing things the way they are,” he gloomily looked at the teacher. “This is what I should draw instead of these stupid shapes. The betrayal that flows in front me.”

He turned away from the window. He didn’t want to see anything, he didn’t want to think about anything. He only could sit and stare at the white paper.

When the teacher came up again to check on him she saw “Fuck off!” written in the middle of the sheet. She frowned but didn’t say anything and passed by Stephen who was sobbing now, hiding his face behind his hands.

Flash-fiction

Why?

Everything hurt. His finger the hammer hit when he got distracted with a sudden noise. His foot on which the damn hammer fell from his trembling hand. His head the elephant smashed with his rubber trunk in a paroxysm of unexpected rage. But most hurting of all was the burning question, “Why? Why did he allow all this to happen?”

He knew now, only now when it was too late, what an insane idea it was to play Frankenstein and bring them to life. He thought it would be amusing to see how his favorite toy, his dwarf of a robot, would interact with a pigmy-sized elephant. “A puppet playing with a puppet. How brilliant!” He couldn’t help grinning at his own wittiness while working on the hinge structure of the animal. And it could be amusing if he hadn’t overstepped the line.

Who could know that the old magic, those few strange words from an ancient book he read out loud partly for curiosity but mostly for a joke would have a real power and transform artificial things into live creatures?

He froze up on the floor gazing at two of them, the clock-work elephant who became mad and destroyed the whole workshop throwing instruments and the finest equipment at the walls and his robot, his best work he was so proud of that now was jumping up and down on the broken glass and whose bulb eyes glittered with malicious joy.

When the shock of first seconds was gone he realized in what danger he was and hurried to crawl into the cage for experimental animals. He locked himself in and clenched the key in his fist. They got quiet, those two, came up close and stared at him first and then at each other.

“They can destroy me along with the cage,” he thought and shriveled up in the corner yet knowing it made no sense, no corner could hide him now. He had a strong wish to pee. Shrunk into a spasmodic knot of fear, he screwed up his eyes and waited, for a blow, for a shriek, for anything. He waited for three infinite seconds but only heard crackling of broken glass moving away. In disbelief, he opened his eyes. The door stayed half-open after two steel beings were gone.

The abrupt relief made him wet his pants. “What a shame,” he thought but didn’t feel it. Two heartless, ungrateful creations of his left him alone. He opened the lock and crawled out of the cage. He had no strength to get up and stayed sitting on the floor. He was smashed.

It was painful enough to see them, these metallic toys, overpower him, but oh, how it hurt now when they left. He breathed in heavy loneliness of the old workshop where he spent all his life. He had no one but these two who had neglected him with such ease and disdain. He had no one at all as he never believed in the power of heart which now betrayed him and ached.

All his life he avoided people, those strange, talkative, fussing about creatures with their feelings and passions and ridiculous ideas of love he never took seriously. He stayed away knowing that they would only disturb him with their sorrows, their worries, their human mess that distracts from work. He hid himself here, surrounded with metal, the perfectly cold, predictable, obedient material. Why on Earth did he bring to life his flawless mechanical creatures when he knew that life means pain and betrayal? There was no one to blame, he did it himself. But why?

Flash-fiction

Not So Simple

The blue dusk embraced the quiet evening behind the window. She sat on the sill listening to the rustle of the tree branches whispering to each other.

“They understand each other,” she thought. “Not like us. I wish we were as simple as leaves.”

She pressed her cheek against the cold glass and closed her eyes. She still hoped he could forgive her and come back. She imagined him entering, shrugging his shoulders and making an awkward step towards her. “It’s ok,” he would say. “It was a misunderstanding. It was silly of me to overreact this way.”

“I’m sorry too,” she would say. “I should have never danced with him; then he would never have kissed me.”

She sighed. It was all not so simple as she didn’t really feel sorry. She enjoyed the kiss. But she wanted him to come back and sit next to her on the sill, and listen to the trees, and look at the dark, moonless sky, and be like a leaf that is trembling in the wind not asking any questions.

“Maybe not tonight,” she sighed again and got off the sill. She threw the last glance at the tree, “Maybe tomorrow.”

 

The Daily Post

Flash-fiction, Sketching

Autumn Retreat

ocean-at-night

She felt autumn breeze with all her skin, every pore welcomed its refreshing touch after the infinite hot summer.

She sat on the porch of the tiny cabin watching how big, noisy waves hit the shore again and again. She greeted each one and said goodbye to each one. She breathed along with the swaying water that, far away, played with reflection of the moon, breaking it into sparkles, juggling them and gluing again into a shaky bridge to another world.

She was all alone, far away from her family, friends, city hastle, far from everything that made her life hers. She was far away from him.

“I don’t miss him,” she realized. “I don’t miss anything. I’m in peace here, with the waves covering one another and disappearing one in the other. We were like waves; we were like these waves all the summer. Now it’s autumn, and I don’t miss him.”

She sipped martini from a tall pink glass and looked at the small sparkling circle bathing on the bottom of it. “I hold the moon in my hand.” She smiled. “I hold the moon.”

She heard a seagull; its harsh and abrupt cry cut the dark sky. “The bluebirds don’t live by the ocean,” she thought. It was the only thing she regretted.

Sketching, Writing 101

Lost and Found

She bumped into him at the party. He was hugging a girl and looked happy. She said, ”Hi, nice to see you”, then went away and cried on the bathroom floor.

A year ago he didn’t show up at the wedding, his and her wedding. She came home and found a letter that said “I’m sorry. I can’t do it. Jack.”

She wanted to burn the letter, but put it in the night table instead. She wanted to burn his cloths, but they all were gone. She wanted to burn her memories, but they kept reviving.

She wished to see him again, and there he was, smiling and hugging and kissing someone else.

A year ago she lost him, she lost herself, she lost everything. Tonight she found the truth: he never loved her. She suddenly felt free.

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