Tag Archives: short story

The Leak (Advice Requested)

You know when you just have to get something off your chest? Yeah, I am having one of those days.

Let me back up. I realize I never talk about my family life here, but you know, #NewYearNewYou, and New You is going to hear all about it. We’ve been having a good winter. Visited with family. Partied with friends. My husband had the last few weeks off from work, so we got in some good quality time. And, homeschool life has taken a dramatic turn for the cozy. I always schedule less meet-ups and classes this time of year, so school is more likely something done snuggling under blankets than bumping along the A train. Sounds pretty nice, huh?

However, just recently I noticed a slight downhill trajectory. For one, my kids, Thing One and Thing Two, are starting to exude the maniacal and malicious energy of two things locked in a box by a fox wearing socks, which is to say they are going a little stir-crazy. And those weeks of no work have now led to no paychecks, which surprisingly have not stopped the bills from arriving. And then, there’s the leak.

I first noticed it one morning when in the bathroom putting on eyeliner. Staring into the mirror, I thought I saw a drip behind me. But listen, glasses are in my near future and I had bigger fish to fry, namely getting eyeliner on in a way that did not make me look like a raccoon trying to make a few bucks as a prostitute. Focus was required.

Later that day, sitting casually on the toilet, (not doing anything mortifying, probably sipping a finely-crafted Old Fashion while perusing Hemingway and adjusting my tweed slacks and Annie Hall vest accordingly,) I saw it again. A drip. Clear as spit-shined crystal. Starting from the floor and falling up to the ceiling. Shit. I followed the next drip up and there on my ceiling was a slimy green puddle, a sort of radiating green, the kind of green that gives the impression that some other dimensions have definitely been involved in it getting there.

So I put down my whiskey and my…Hemingway did I say? And I called my husband, who you will remember was still at home despite both of us preferring that he not be. We looked up at the puddle on the ceiling and trying to look on the bright side, he noted that at least the puddle was growing slowly and not rapidly. Then, we got onto our hands and knees and tried to see where the drip was coming from without getting hit in the eye by a goopy green drop. There was no obvious hole. My husband taped off a 3 inch by 3 inch perimeter so the kids wouldn’t step on it and went to look for the super who was shockingly no where to be found.

Also, shockingly, my husband was called into work the very next day, so the possibly toxic and definitely otherworldly puddle became my responsibility. I spent almost the entire day looking for the super. I will call the super Turtle from here on out. I like Turtle a lot, but Turtle is the world’s worst super. Here’s the deal: Turtle has a mangled spine for one reason or another. He has had countless surgeries and walks so curled over that the hat he wears is balanced on the back of his head. Obviously, the pain and curled shape of his spine means he walks extremely slowly as well. Because of this, once I did find Turtle, it was another half an hour before he made it upstairs to our apartment. Also, because of this, by the time Turtle reached Stair Two, I felt guilty for asking for his help at all and was already trying to beg him off checking things out.

But, checking things out he did. Turtle has a very grumpy voice, as you would if writers referred to you as Turtle, and he uses lots of frustrated moans as he talks. So, his explanation went something like this: “Ehhh! I don’t know what they expect me to do about it. Ahhh! Ehhh! Ahhh! Happening all over. Ehhh! I don’t know. Ehhh! Ahhh! Ahhh! I’ll walk to the hardware store and see if I can get a good cleaner to scrub off the puddle. Want me to… Ehhh! Ahhh! …do that? <Me promising him we will do it ourselves and begging him not to make the trip> Ahhh! Ahhh! But I don’t know what to do about the drip. Ehhh! You want to call management. That’s what I’m telling everyone.” Following this enlightening monologue, Turtle let out a series of soul-wrenching grunts and groans as he processed through my apartment and out the door to a chorus of my most sincere apologies. I promise here and now I will never ask for Turtle’s help again and I will deliver chicken soup to his door every Tuesday.

So. Management. Except Management does not speak English. I don’t mean this facetiously. I live in New York. I know thick accents. Management does not have a thick accent. Management does not speak English. I do, alongside a mediocre amount of Spanish. As it turns out, Management does not speak Spanish either. I suspect Management of speaking a dead language, perhaps ancient Sumerian, that no one but Management understands. Because of this, all calls to and from Management progress from normal language to louder and slower language to even louder and even slower language on both sides until the issue is let go. And so it went with the inter-dimensional puddle in my bathroom.

So now, here I am, with a pulsing green puddle on my bathroom ceiling…oh, I didn’t mention it started pulsing? Yes! It has! I did go to the store as Turtle suggested and get a jug of bleach, but after setting up the ladder, I couldn’t bring myself to touch the puddle, let alone wash it off my ceiling. And now, the damn dripping sound is keeping me up at night. Night Two, Day Three. I would pull my hair out if I didn’t have to walk past the puddle to throw it in the trash.

So anyone out there that has dealt with this?

Serious advice only in the comments please. Follow up to come.

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Whoopsie

The idea for this story has been nested in my head ever since I was a child, a child who had the very particular fear outlined below. As a adult, I took out the idea often. I knew there was a story in there. But, I could never quite see it. Credit must go to “B Is for Beer” by Tom Robbins for lending me the pink and flowery X-ray glasses through which I could finally glimpse it.

 

When Olivia awoke on Sunday morning, she knew. She had been impregnated by God in the middle of the night. Now she was going to have to tell her parents.

They weren’t going to believe her, of course, which was completely unfair seeing as though they were the ones who had told her about the Virgin Mary in the first place. Olivia was young, but she was old enough to know that there was a disconnect between things grown-ups purported to believe around Christmas tree time and what they believed the rest of the year. Or maybe they believed certain things about Biblical times, but didn’t think the rules applied to this Wednesday morning. Or maybe, Olivia suspected, being particularly bright, they didn’t really believe those things ever. Regardless, her predicament remained the same. They were not going to believe her now.

But what else could she say? They were bound to notice a beach-ball stomach sticking out of her overalls. She would have to tell them something. And while Olivia would not have wanted to lie about her immaculate conception, she was a kid after all and if there had been a good lie, she certainly would have been tempted.

Part of the trouble she ran into when trying to imagine a lie was that she didn’t know that much about the birds and the bees. She had been handed a book by her mother that very year, which explained among chapters about body hair and breasts, the comingling of male and female body parts necessary for reproduction, but she still wasn’t sure she had the full picture. The measurements and angles of what was required to fit where seemed improbable. She was clear on one thing though: the topic was mortifying and certainly not one about which she wanted to talk with her parents. Furthermore, while the exact mechanics remained dubious, she was positive that it was the kind of thing for which she would be in big trouble. Possibly the biggest trouble of her life.

Before Olivia could decide what to say, (no amount of swallowed pumpkin seeds, she discovered despairingly, would result in a pumpkin in the womb,) Olivia was visited thrice by angels. The first angel was almost as young as Olivia herself and showed up swimming in Heavenly light, somersaulting around the room until she caught sight of Olivia watching and straightened up.

“Are you an angel?” Olivia asked, to which the angel child nodded.

“Are you here because of what happened?” Another nod.

“Is this like when the angel came down to talk to Mary?” Olivia cringed at the comparison. Again the angel child nodded.

However, it turned out, this was not like that. Instead of a Heavenly explanation, the angel child opened her mouth several times, meaning to say something, but would then shut it promptly looking puzzled. Clearly, if there was a message, she was not entirely sure she remembered it. After much time had passed, the angel child curtsied with an embarrassed smile and left. Olivia tried to roll over and fall asleep.

Two nights later, a second angel arrived, older and male. “It’s like this,” he said, “God doesn’t make mistakes. First, you have to understand that. God doesn’t make mistakes.” This angel too seemed to lose his train of thought, but before Olivia could interrupt, he spread his hands and said, “Olivia, have you ever had the experience where you meant to do one thing, but did something else instead?”

“Like a mistake?” Olivia asked, scrunching her nose. Obviously, she had made mistakes but she felt sure the angel had just hinted that this was the wrong answer.

“Maybe it almost seemed like a mistake, but then it turned out to be for the better?” the angel asked her, nodding his head encouragingly.

“I guess,” she said. She could not really remember a time when this happened to her off the top of her head, but she didn’t want to contradict an angel. She was already in enough trouble.

“Well, good,” he said.

Olivia stared at him, waiting for more.

“So…” His hand beckoned her next thought forward, but Olivia’s head was as empty as her uterus had been two weeks ago. Finally, grasping at straws, she said, “Amen?” The angel vanished.

And so it was the third angel, who showed up two nights after that with a neat bun under her halo, who set the record straight.

“But that’s not fair! I’m going to get in big trouble,” said Olivia. She pouted and crossed her arms and stamped a mean foot onto her carpet, and then, inspiration struck. “You could tell them! My mom and dad!”

“Well,” the angel said with a stern tilt of her head, “no. Angels cannot go around to whomever you see fit with explanations. It’s undignified.”

“But, what do you want me to do? I’m just a kid. I don’t want to grow a big watermelon stomach and eat pickles in my ice cream. And,” she said, now finding her voice, “I don’t even want a baby! I don’t know how to change a diaper, and my allowance is only two dollars a week.”

“Well, what do you want?” said the angel, with a less-than-patient smile.

“A puppy.”

“A puppy?”

“A puppy,” said Olivia, her eyes growing wide. “The tiny black hot-dog kind.”

And so it came to be that Olivia had to face her parents’ horrified glances as her stomach became rounder. She was pulled out of school and forced to endure several long-winded child therapists and two sets of police interrogations. But she stuck to her story. And when nine months later, she delivered a beautiful baby Dachshund, her parents had to admit she seemed to be telling the truth.

Reluctantly, they began attending regular church services again, though they refused to dress up. Both had imagined the irrefutable knowledge that God existed would be a little more comforting than it turned out to be, and wrinkles blouses and ripped jeans were their way of showing their disappointment. The name Olivia had given to her dog, Whoopsie, only served to underline the issue, but the dog was given to Olivia by God, so if He didn’t like it, they decided He could talk to her.

And so, Olivia and Whoopsie lived happily ever after for the sixteen years that Whoopsie lived, and when he died, Olivia was quite proud of the foresight she had shown in also demanding a Doggy Heaven.

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The Boot Collector

Space Squid is a deep, dark, lurking online zine operating out of Austin, Texas. I had to adjust my tone a bit for this one. A dash grimmer. Inclined more sharply towards SciFi. Go ahead and check out my piece, “The Boot Collector,” and two great shorts here at  Flash Fiction Frenzy.

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Marshmallow

You have forgotten to food shop again. Or rather, once again you conveniently let the thought slip your mind. It was late and you had worked a double waitressing at the truck stop. You smelled like grease and burnt coffee. The change from your tips weighed you down. You just wanted to get home.

Who could blame you, sweetheart? Things have been rough lately. You had been spending the night at Larry’s, but after starting to suspect he was growing bored of you, you had a heavy ashtray launched at your head and that was that. You should have known better with him anyway. You can never trust a line cook. And then, of course, the day after that your dog died and the day after that, your mother. It just hasn’t been your year. So, who could blame you for taking one look at the men standing outside the convenience store at 2AM on a Wednesday and conveniently forgetting to go in and pick up something to eat the next day?

Of course, now you’re in a pickle. You open the cabinet doors to find one can of kidney beans, a large amount of pumpkin purée, a very old bag of half-eaten marshmallows, and a box of bow-tie pasta. For formal pasta dinners, you think, when your ordinary pasta just wouldn’t do. You consider that there may be some way to combine the pumpkin purée and the marshmallow, but you quickly decide that you are not the one to figure it out. You know your fridge is empty so you grab the marshmallows, jumbo-sized, and stick one in your mouth. It is stale and chalky. It sucks all the moisture out of your throat as you swallow it. You throw the rest of the bag away. Trying to ignore the rumbling in your stomach, you check the clock and realize despite getting up on time and skipping dinner, you are running late for the night shift at the diner.

You have two choices: You can rush to work, knowing that you have already been given three warnings about being late. You will potentially waste the little money you have left on bus fare just so that you can be fired in person. Or, you can call it a day, hell, call it a year, and take those last ten bucks down to the bar for happy hour.

You choose Choice A. You have always been responsible. You decide to head to work. You take the M6 bus uptown. You get off one stop early. You always vary where you get off the bus because you don’t want strangers knowing your schedule. Your mother taught you that. You walk quickly with your head down along the main boulevard and then you duck onto the one-way side street that will dump you out behind the truck stop. Just as the building comes into view, you notice a man midway down the alley standing completely still and facing you. He is wearing jeans and a neat button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His hair is carefully-slicked back. He is probably just one of the truckers but he looks too neat to be a trucker. You notice that he is looking at you intently. As soon as you notice this, he begins to move towards you. As he does, he loses the tiny smile that had been on his lips. Your instinct is to run, but you are aware that he is too close for you to get away. For a split second, you realize that you should have chosen…

Choice B. You are so sick of this job that for once in your life you decide not to do the responsible thing. You pull off your name tag, strip out of your uniform, and zip yourself into a black dress because you are in mourning after all. You head outside and cross the street. The cheapest dive bar you know is a block from your apartment. As you approach, you notice two men outside in a heated argument. They look ready to throw punches, and you worry about walking past them in order to get to the door of the bar. You are not interested in becoming collateral damage. You decide not to cross the street. You continue walking. As soon as you do, you hear the pair conclude their shouting match. You can also hear that one of them has jogged across the street and is walking behind you. He asks you if you have the time. You ignore him and head to the convenience store. At least you can get your shopping done, you think. While inside you buy cereal, milk, and two boxes of macaroni and cheese. You then decide you deserve some candy. The girl at the counter makes you wait while she finishes a phone call, but soon you are heading outside again. The instant you pass through the doors, you realize the guy from the bar has stood nearby waiting for you. You turn back towards your apartment quickly, hoping to lose him. When you cross the street, you no longer hear his footsteps, but you don’t want to check behind you because you don’t want him to know that you’re scared. You think that if he knew you were scared, he would be even more likely to try something. Instead, you walk a little faster, though still casually. It is dark but you can see your apartment. It is the next in line. You are passing the small inset where the garbage cans are sheltered between the two buildings when you feel a heavy hand on your shoulder. You instinctively wish you chose…

Choice C. After glancing yourself over in the mirror, you unzip the black dress and choose a less form-fitting purple dress, which never looked that great on you, but you really don’t want to draw attention to yourself tonight anyway. It doesn’t matter. You still end up being dragged into the alley with a hand over your mouth. And you have dropped your groceries. Even the candy. Which landed in a filthy puddle and is now utterly inedible. You get in one good punch to the gut, but you just know he’s going to take the change in your pocket too. The worst part is you can still taste that awful marshmallow.

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