Monthly Archives: January 2014

This game we play (flash fiction)

My boyfriend and I have this game we play one Sunday a month

one of us blindfolds the other and the one who isn’t blindfolded drives somewhere

the last time it was my turn to drive

Randall tied his blindfold on the driveway and we took off in the Corolla at around 4:30 pm

After about twenty minutes, I stopped to pick some sunflowers I’d noticed along the road

they were someone’s crop, but it didn’t much matter to me

they were the biggest ones I’d ever seen and when I got back in the car I squealed with pleasure

“it smells like flowers in here.”

“Nice one, Sherlock.”

We drove for an hour more

“Cheri, this better be worth it.”

“Shuttup, Randall — last time you blindfolded me, and took me

to the gun range.”

“You said you liked it, baby.”

“’cause I love you. Anyway it won’t be five minutes now.”

“Oh baby, you’re sweet.”

he put his hand on my thigh and tried to get something going

“You like that?”

“Eh.”

He laughed.

Later, I pulled into the deserted Ace Auto Shop lot

Killed the engine.

“Okay, can I look now, buddy?”

“No.”

I parked, grabbed my basket, got out of the car to his side

I took him by the hands and slowly guided him out of the seat

he looked so helpless without his eyes, so I laughed

“Fuck you.”

I laughed some more,

then gently guided him through the lot and across the highway and finally onto a field of grass

I settled for a spot about 40 paces from the barbed wire fence

there was a gravel basketball court without nets on the hoops beyond it

and beyond that a long, low brick building with a lot of windows

Except for this wire, this place could have been a high school, I decided

“Sit down,” I ordered him.

He did.

I brought out my supplies from the basket

and went about setting up the purple and blue blanket, the newly plucked sunflowers, double cheeseburgers from In N’ Out, and a pair of milkshakes

“Okay. You can take off your blindfold.”

“Where the hell…”

Blindfold removed, his eyes went left, and then right

and then they finally saw Scott State Prison

where he’d served five years for B & E not that long ago —

a place that still returned to him in dreams

He might as well have question marks for eyes in that moment

I handed him his burger with pickles and ketchup spilling out the side

“I thought it would be nice to see this place as a free man,” I explained. “Come on, let’s eat some burgers, then we’ll get in the car and drive away.”

He was just staring, expressionless.

It was then that it occurred to me how stupid I had been to bring him to this place.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, buddy.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.”

I didn’t know what to think when he put out his hand.

“Where are we going?”

“I want to give you a tour of the grounds, buddy.”

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First Crush (flash fiction)

From his folding chair in the apartment complex’s swimming pool area, Amir noticed the girl with blonde hair that was nearly white. It reminded him of the snow he played in every December at Lake Tahoe. He didn’t know a girl’s hair could be that white.

It was the beginning of April, and the temperature had climbed to 85 degrees. Amir’s apartment community had a few young families, but mostly college students lived there, and many only used the pool area to tan. So it was always exciting for Amir to come across another boy or girl his age.

Amir watched the girl as she pulled her little sister’s float around the shallow end of the pool. When she emerged from the water to towel off, he studied the rest of her, making silent note of her pale skin, and the blonde hairs on her arms that stood on end. His parents smiled to each other when they saw him looking.

“What are you looking at Amir?” his mother, with a half-grin on her face, asked him.

“Nothing,” he said back.

Later, his eyes followed the girl as she and her little sister walked behind a burly, red-haired man out of the swimming pool gate, and into a weathered, maroon volvo in the parking lot.

For 6 weeks afterwards, Amir thought about the girl with almost-white hair.

Before he went to sleep, he fantasized about ways he could impress her. In one scenario, Amir sang love songs to her from a stadium stage. In another, he imagined himself a movie star visiting the school she attended, ultimately conjuring a meet-cute scenario for the two of them.

Every few days he asked his parents when they were going back to the pool. Unfortunately, the Sacramento area had been experiencing an unusually chilly spring.

When June arrived, the temperatures began to climb into the upper seventies, and Amir’s mother finally agreed to take him for a swim after school. Upon arriving, there were two black boys splashing each other, and a pair of young blonde women lying on their stomachs at the opposite end of the pool.

Amir’s mother told him to apply sunblock. He did as he was told, put on his headphones, and then collapsed into a folding chair, next to his mother. He planned on warming up before jumping in the water. A few minutes later, he heard a man’s voice rise above his music.

“Sasha! Wait for us! Slow down, girl!”

The next thing he heard was a jingle of keys, and then the swimming pool gate whine open. The boy removed his sunglasses and lifted his head to see the girl holding a purple noodle with one hand and the door with the other for her younger sister and father, both of whom were about 20 yards away at the edge of the parking lot. Right away, he noticed the girl’s skin had taken on a darker shade since the last time he had seen her.

“Hi there, are you folks new to the complex?” Amir’s mother, rising from her chair, said to the man as he was setting down a bag about six chairs over from them.

“Yes, we’ve only been here a few months now,” responded the girl’s dad, wearing a red SF 49ers t-shirt. Like Amir’s mother, the man had an accent.

“Oh, how wonderful!” announced Amir’s mother, walking over to the man.

“I’m Neha.”

“Hello, I’m Mikael, and this is Elena.” The man put his hand on the young girl’s head.

“Daddy, can I have an ice cream from the machine?” asked the young girl.

“Ah, well I see you have two lovely daughters,” Neha continued.

The father sighed.

“Much of the time, yes,” the man said, turning to his older daughter.

“Daddy, can I have an ice cream, please?”

“My oldest is in 5th grade. You look about Amir’s age, honey,” said Amir’s mother, turning to the older girl now. “What’s your name? Amir, come over here.”

“Sasha,” the girl answered, standing alongside her father.

Amir said nothing as he slid into place next to his mother, looking past Sasha and into the parking lot.

“Sasha, I’m Neha, and this is Amir. He goes to school at Emerson, down the street. How about you, Sasha? Where do you go?”

“I go to school in Sacramento, at a Catholic school.”

“Oh, how nice. Do you like your teacher?”

“She’s strict.”

The mother looked at her boy who continued to say nothing.

“Well, it was nice to meet you all. Amir, I’ll be right over there. Maybe you and Sasha can get better acquainted.”

“Yes, likewise,” said the girl’s father.

“Sasha, have a good time. I’m going to get your sister an ice cream.”

Mikael pointed to the vending machine on the other end of the pool.

Once the adults left, Sasha folded her arms. Amir stared.

“Do you talk?” she asked the boy.

He didn’t answer.

“What are you looking at?”

“Why do you look different,” he said, finally.

“What do you mean?”

“Last time I saw you, you looked different.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Did I get browner?”

He nodded.

She examined her arms.

“Yours are darker,” she announced.

“I’m Indian, mine are always dark.”

“Oh.”

She continued. “I actually have an Indian kid in my class. People make fun of his accent, but I don’t. You don’t have an accent though.”

“I was born here.”

“I think I read somewhere that India is really poor. Is that true?”

“I don’t know,” he said, somewhat annoyed by this remark.

Amir hadn’t been to India since he was a baby, yet his classmates considered him an authority on the country. Indeed, whenever the country came up in class, nearly every head craned in his direction. Once, he even caught a teacher’s aide doing it.

“I was born in Moscow, Russia. We moved here to the US before my sister was born.”

The boy knew very little about Russia, but he did recall that most of the country was in Asia, just like India.

“We lived with my aunt and uncle in Reno, and then we moved into our own apartment closer to here after Elena was born.”

“Oh. Cool. Do you like it in Davis?”

“I like it. My mother thinks it’s too hot all the time, though.”

“Is it very cold in Russia? There must be so much snow, so different from here,” he asked the girl. He also silently wondered if Russia and India shared a border (he hoped it did).

“It’s much colder than here. And it snows all the time. It’s actually annoying. Well, I guess it’s fun for a while.”

Amir found it hard to imagine snow becoming annoying.

“Okay well I’m gonna go swim,” Sasha said.

“Me too.”

“I bet I can beat you in a race from one end to the other,” Sasha said, her blue eyes wide as she darted toward the pool’s edge, and cannonballed in.

“We’ll see,” the boy called out, before following the girl into the water.

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Anahita and Tim

The woman approached the long, cluttered desk, and waited for a few moments while the man finished a phone call. She was wearing a body length black robe, with a pair of white sneakers peeking out from its bottom. A red leather bag was slung around her right shoulder.
“Hello, I am Anahita,” she said with a slight accent once he had hung up. “I am here to, ah, temp.”
“Hi there, welcome to you. I’m Tim.”
He went to shake her hand, but she took his pinky finger very lightly instead. Shook that.
His face turned crayola pink right then. He remembered reading somewhere that some Muslim women were not allowed to touch the flesh of men who weren’t family. But how could he have known about this, he wondered. The temp agency only listed her name and her previous work experience, saying nothing about cultural mores and expectations.
Years ago the lady would have put on a kind expression, taken a conciliatory tone to explain her action. But, after seven years in America, Anahita was tired of coddling Americans. It didn’t so much bother her that they didn’t know her customs. She was simply tired of their need to analyze and obsess over every little thing that went wrong in their lives. Americans, she decided, could not deal with conflict in the least.
Back in her birth city, arguments were as common as car horns. In fact, you could not leave the house without witnessing at least one shoving match. Drivers would leave their cars in the middle of a busy street in order to butt noses about something.
“We should probably begin with a tour,” offered Tim.
 “But first, tell me how to pronounce your name?”
“It’s Anahita.”
The woman said it quickly and carelessly, barely acknowledging the “ah.”
“Anna…”
“Tim, huh?” said Anahita suddenly, cutting him off. “Is that your birth name?”
“No that would be Timothy,” said the man in a chipper tone.
 “Teemooooothy?” responded Anahita, stretching out the vowels like silly putty.
“I’m sorry,” she spoke in the sweetest voice she could muster. “Say it for me one more time.”
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Signing Off (a YA short story)

It was not long after watching Miley Cyrus twerk that I decided to give up electronic communication and the internet altogether.

I wouldn’t bother reading anything into this sequence of events, except perhaps: something about her gyrating privates said to me, “Facebook, Twitter, the iPhone, it’s all gotta go.”

Mom and Dad loved the idea, of course.

“Oh hon, that’s a wonderful idea,” my mom said.

“Its like you’re Thoreau, heading out to Walden for the first time,” offered my dad.

I didn’t know who Thoreau was but I was pretty sure he was some super famous dead writer, since my dad’s always dropping the names of famous scribes ever since he stopped writing and started working advertising for Nike.

My mother asked me to carry around my iPhone “just in case.”

“Just in case of what?”

“In case you get into an emergency situation.”

“Honey I think that would defeat the purpose of what our daughter is trying to do.”

“And what’s that Frank?”

“She’s reaching back into the past, untethering herself from all the gadgets and gizmos we’re all dragging around with us, she’s taking the metaphorical long way, as it were.”

My mom rolled her eyes.

“Exactly dad,” I assured him.

At school, there were mixed reactions to my decision.

Lindsay, my best friend, struggled to understand the particulars.

“But can we still talk over Halo?”

(Halo, for the XBox had a built-in microphone function, and Lindsay and I had a lot of meaty exchanges while we rained down machine gun fire on our weaksauce competitors.)

I had to think about that one, honestly.

“Yeah we can’t talk on that either.”

“So basically we’re not ever gonna talk again.”

“Um, we can talk like we’re talking right now,” I said.

“I hate talking like we’re talking right now.”

“Lindsay, I love you. Actually, I think I’ll miss your facebook posts the most.”

I wasn’t joking.

Earlier that day, a few days after New Year’s Day, she’d posted: “We should skip a hundred years next year, and call “2015” “3015,” just to screw with historians in the future.”

My boyfriend Harris seemed to take the news okay at first.

“Cool. Cool,” he said.

Then again, that’s pretty much the only thing he says to me ever.

A few weeks later when I missed his birthday after I had not seen the facebook invite, he didn’t seem to like the idea as much.

The only person who wasn’t suffering it seemed was my Nanna.

She and I were exchanging these really long notes with each other.

It was like having a pen pal but she was, you know, my Nanna.

I also began keeping a journal.

The first time I knew there was something to this writing thing was the day I found myself writing about tennis.

I have been playing competive tennis since I was 9. When I play tennis, I become a different person. Let’s call her the Beast. The Beast makes me throw my racquet after double faulting twice in a row. The beast makes me curse out my mother when she’s trying to console me during a changeover in the midst of a match.

It never occurred to me that tennis might not be the best recreational option for me. I had been playing so long I couldn’t imagine not playing.

In the midst of a journal entry about a junior high tennis match I had squandered away after a one set lead, I began writing down all the things I disliked about tennis and all of the things I liked. When the dislike column had 13 things and the like one tallied a big fat zero, I realized something was wrong. It sounds so stupid, but it didn’t occur to me that I didn’t have to keep playing tennis until I wrote it down on the page. “I don’t want to play tennis anymore.”

One week after I penned that, I quit tennis, and took up field hockey instead. I haven’t heard from the beast ever since.

After about a month off the internet, I started realizing the sort of disadvantage I was putting myself during school. My teacher assigned us an assignment where we had to write a report on one animal that went extinct in the last ten years. I searched the library stacks high and low but couldn’t find a single animal to write about. The most recent animal I found in a book was something called the javan tiger, but those died out more than thirty years ago.

Three weeks later, Ms. Reid told us we were to make our own websites in social studies. I raised my hand, and explained to her about my situation. She was understanding, but said I’d have to make an exception for this assignment.

That was truly the beginning of the end. Not 10 minutes after I signed up for a website, I found myself checking my own facebook page for the first time in two months.

I had a little red reminder in the right hand corner informing me of some recent activity on my page.

I clicked my facebook profile, and saw that Lindsay had written a message on my wall.

“Welcome back Thoreau. How was the pond?”

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Two of my stories published!

Over the last few months, two online mags published my writing. Foliate Oak, a Univ of Arkansas publication, put a short story I wrote called “The Third Leroy” in their January 2014 issue. And Asinine Poetry published the silly “The Alleged Ghost” in their Halloween/holidays issue: 

Both web journals are worth perusing. Foliate Oak, as far as I can tell, is good about featuring new writers or writers new to publishing, but they do have a lot of old hands featured alongside as well. Asinine Poetry has an amazing niche, specializing in humor writing. To get even more specific, it seems to appreciate writing that is either (a.) funny (b.) bad on purpose or (c.) all of the above. My piece wasn’t bad on purpose, so I like to think it falls into category (a). Hopefully, anyway.

I’ve never published any fiction before, so it was pretty neat for me!

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For the best (poem)

Sometimes I think every poem

no matter how fine

no matter how ready

should be deleted unsaved

and begun again.

 

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A Mystery I’ve Yet to Solve (poem)

Why do we find ourselves staring at waterfalls as often as we do?

Television

that great timesuck

I can understand

something unfolds

a story

one that’s logical

and linear

but a massive shower cooked up by mother nature

with neither a beginning nor an end?

I’d be hard-pressed to explain the appeal

and yet every other year

over the last twelve

I’ve driven an hour and a half to the very top of a falls

in Mt Shasta

in order to pop out, look down

and then drive all the way back to the warm, dry home

I’ve made with my wife.

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Cemetery in the woods

In the considerable patch of woods

between the condominium complex and the outlets

up on a hill

a small graveyard

we sometimes traveled to as freshly barmitzvahed boys

linked

one body after the other 

though I can’t remember now if there was a trail

my friend Joey would have been in front with a flashlight

my hands on the shoulders of the boy in front of me

 

the graves were a mile or so from where we entered 

and they

bore the names of our Long Island towns

Hewlett, Merrick, etc

the oldest read 1789

 
 
in those days we were too busy scaring the shit out of each other to concern ourselves with history
 
I remember once one of Joey’s older brother’s friends
 
lying down on a stone marker that had been toppled 
 
I watched him light a cigarette after he sat up
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