The wedding that afternoon of Giselle Crumley and Myrtle Sansox would be Nelie’s last chance to win the affections of Lance Boulder, for tomorrow Lance would be thousands of miles away fighting a war. At times Nelie thought Lance’s military duties were just an excuse to delay their marriage. It seemed odd that a war would break out every time she mentioned marriage and the men wouldn’t know what to eat unless Lance was there.
The sudden loud rattling of chains and beer cans made Nelie recall a long-forgotten memory of her first love, Guy Deepinpoo. They’d met on a train platform on one of those long and easy summer afternoons when it looks like rain and everyone’s carrying an umbrella except you. Nelie was waiting for the local. It was late as usual, and Guy made a little joke that Nelie didn’t understand at the time, but now, as she thought back, still wasn’t funny. It wasn’t even humorous. In fact, it was merely clever. Worse, it was high-brow clever. The kind of remark no one laughs at because it would be impolite to spit out the caviar.
She couldn’t stand guys like that, clever but not funny. They took up your time with long and painful anecdotes (they were never jokes), so dry you choked on them.
Never funny. Always, “Oh, yes,” nod, nod, “Yes, that was clever, very clever.” Yawn. Let me get back to my annual report.
All the while, you’re saying to yourself, what a bore, what a monumental tsunami of a bore. As much fun as a weekend nap. As witty as dustballs. As playful as rug burn after a bath. As entertaining as a windless day’s smog.
What was it he said when they first met? Oh yes, that he came from a long line of waiters.
Eye roll. That was Guy.
Still, he had it all. And he kind of did something for Nelie.
He was about to start his first run as a conductor. Although she wasn’t attracted to him at first—he needed to lose the hat—he helped her solve a crossword puzzle she’d been working on for days. At least that’s what she told him. Little did he know she’d been working on the tattered and yellowed crossword since twelfth grade.
They made love that afternoon and again during the evening news and afterward ate spoonfuls of rocky road ice cream while playing scrabble until dawn. They ate a light breakfast, made love again, (first brushing their teeth), and enjoyed a long, leisurely round of scrabble, although both their scores were pitifully low because several of the high-numbered tiles were mysteriously missing.
Nelie had never seen a man as deft with a pair of dice as Guy.
And Guy thought he knew the pleasures a beautiful woman could bring to a man in a conductor’s hat, but here was something else. Something his long-dormant heart had not experienced since he discovered night-vision goggles.
Nelie wasn’t sure how it felt to be in love. Was it like a toothache, hunger pangs, or a paper cut? An eyelash in your eye, a leg cramp, or a stubbed toe? Maybe like none of these. Maybe it was like being first in line at a concert, or getting dismissed from jury duty.
Everything she knew about love and Scrabble could be inscribed on the inside of a greeting card, but she knew one thing for certain. The wooden tiles left a mark.
Excerpt from Love in the Time of Rising Gas Prices, A Romantic Spoof, available now on Kindle $0.99
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The FREE Kindle promotion for my novella: “Love in the Time of Rising Gas Prices” – a spoof of love, second chances, and prison breaks–runs until Sunday 11/22/15.
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Love in the Time of Rising Gas Prices http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KZJVGSQ
What’s it about?
Nelie Calip lives alone with her half-sister/maid in a 200-room mountaintop mansion overlooking the quiet village of Blind Peaks. She has just about given up finding true love. Ray Norsi is an escapee from the maximum security penitentiary at Quincy who’s just arrived in Blind Peaks. He’s just about given up making sense of the glass half empty, half full paradox. Will they meet? Fall in love? Sell books?
Continuing with the Flash Fiction stories I wrote this year for the Writer Unboxed FF Contest (Round 4). Here’s one that didn’t win any awards. Enjoy the day, and please feel free to comment.
After Peters lugged the rooter out to the schoolyard drain, he cleared the debris from the grate, removed it, and pushed the cable down the drainpipe with the hope if everything went as planned, the snake would clear the line without a problem, and he could get to the dozen other maintenance jobs marked urgent on his list.
His mind drifted.
Had it been that long? He couldn’t help smiling, remembering Andrea’s face when she told him the ring fell down the bathroom sink.
He pulled the line back. His left knee acting up again. “Damn,” he said. “These drains.”
It’ll get easier, friends said. Give it time. To them, time was appointments and places to be and slots to fill. Peters saw time for what it was, a place without light.
“How’s it coming?”
Peters didn’t turn. Not Reynolds’ inquiries, not now.
“Listen,” said his supervisor. “Finish here and get that broken window by the teachers lounge fixed. If you can’t clear this, don’t waste time with it.”
The rooter cable caught. Peters jerked the line. “C’mon, dammit.”
Andrea had always said his temper matched his determination.
He yanked the line, sent it through again. Nothing. “C’mon, dammit.” He tried again. “C’mon.”
He explained elbow joints to her, but seeing he’d retrieved it, she never let him finish. “Needs a good cleaning,” he’d said, handing Andrea the smudged wedding ring.
The line clear, Peters coiled the cable, and crossing the schoolyard, sought that place of light.
Here’s the first of the Flash Fiction (250 word) stories I wrote back in January in response to the Contest on the Writer Unboxed site.- Enjoy
Two of their neighbors brought the tabletop lantern into the living room.
“Perfect spot,” Adele blurted, quickly rubbing her arms.
Royce kept silent. It made the room obscenely bright, even revealing strands of a lifeless cobweb floating near the ceiling.
“Well,” said the taller neighbor. “Candle’s battery-operated. No fire worries. It’ll burn two weeks. Be back Saturday. Next neighbor’s turn. Y’know, set by the window like that, even passersby may notice. Bless you both and may you find peace in the light.”
Peace in the light? What a line of crap. Royce had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. But look at this. Adele on the verge of tears. And when wasn’t she?
“It’s beautiful,” she told the two neighbors as they were leaving, and afterward stood transfixed before the table and the lantern’s light.
“What’re you simple-minded?” Royce yelled from across the room.
“So pure, so peaceful,” Adele answered.
“Yeah, pure stupidity.”
“Not true. Something . . . more. I feel it. You must believe me.”
“Been snookered’s what I believe.”
The light reflecting off Adele’s face at that moment was like nothing Royce had seen before. It wasn’t simply that she looked suddenly younger, although that was part of it, but that she wore an expression of such innocence it made his muscles limp.
But the feeling passed, tightening as quickly as it came.
“Move away!’ he shouted, reaching Adele. But she remained transfixed by the light, and unmoving, despite his relentless punishment.
Today’s the birthday of short story writer Katherine Mansfield 10/14/1888 – 1/9/23. Back in the day studying the short story, I became interested in Mansfield’s writing not only because she’d been influenced by Chekhov but her style, like Hemingway’s, was lean. Something I admired then, and now.
A sampling of her writing: from Miss Brill:
Although it was so brilliantly fine–the blue sky powdered with gold and great spots of light like white wine splashed over the Jardines Publiques–Miss Brill was glad that she had decided on her fur. The air was motionless, but when you opened your mouth there was just a faint chill, like a chill from a glass of iced water before you sip, and now and again a leaf came drifting–from nowhere, from the sky.