Giant Steps

Giants fill the firmament.  Good or bad, they go unseen.

1970s rain falls on a 1950s apartment house – a gawky kid watches the rain fall.  Still in high school and devoted to the Velvet Underground, he walks past the Stop & Shop.  A radio’s on, music streams from an open window, and he hears snatches of songs mixed with the falling rain – it sounds better like that and he hardly notices how wet his clothes are getting or how his sensible haircut’s plastered to his head at awkward angles.

Gawkiness suits him, he says.  He doesn’t mind.

It’s cold outside, walking about with no real aim – Massachusetts always gets cold at this time of year but he’s in love with Massachusetts, all that old world he grew up in – it’s his parents’ world, really, but he still loves his parents and wants to keep his place in that old world of theirs.  It’s a reassuring place to go back to, now and then – but whether he can or not is maybe another matter.

Traffic on Route 9 sounds bleak and nearly dying.

But the modern world’s not so bad.  Suburban trees provide some shelter from the shower – huge drops of rain roll off the leaves and splash down, making him shiver when they fall inside his collar.  It’s not pleasant but at the same time it’s a little bit pleasant.  He looks up at the soaked branches, notices the moonlight streaming through.  It’s late – how long’s he been wandering – can’t say?

Moonlight hits the puddles and he splashes through it.

The moonlight looks ancient and modern at the same time – it helps him feel less lonely late at night, picturing all the ghosts from the old world who went splashing through that same sidewalk moonlight, once.  Though ghosts don’t stop and chat or hold you, much.  So, when a girl in an avocado coat hurries by, trying to keep her hair dry by holding her purse above her head, a decision’s got to be made – try to pick up girls and get called an asshole?  Or stay alone, eat health food back at home?

Ok, decisions aren’t his forte.

The girl in the avocado coat disappears round the corner while he watches her go.  Each breath he takes mists in the rain for a second and turns to nothing, like most of the decisions he makes – he shrugs, doesn’t get it.  You know, sometimes it’s like twenty-eight misguided souls struggling to get control inside that sensible head of his – but one day it’ll get easier, right?  Right.  And if you can’t find any friends, well, you can always try to form a group – another rock’n’roll band?  Or some cult that gathers round you?

Giants fill the firmament, good or bad.

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Fairytale Prompt #34 at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, in which all the stories relate to giants. I don’t normally do a lot of explaining after a story, cos it is what it is, but in this case I’m inclined to make a bit of an exception. Presented with a fantastical prompt, and having written lots of fantasy characters since I started blogging, I felt like writing about mundanity; then I didn’t fancy writing about my own mundanity cos, y’know, that’s too mundane; so, since I’ve been listening to The Modern Lovers debut album a lot recently, I thought I’d write about the character in those songs. And that’s the reason for this little explanation, since the story paraphrases snatches of the lyrics throughout, and credit where credit’s due. It’s a great album, by the way: the (nearly lost) link between the Velvet Underground, Iggy & the Stooges and the Ramones, Talking Heads, etc. So, here’s a song.
 

Realpolitik and Paint

Amidst the backstage politicking of a mediaeval state Machiavelli sat for an official portrait.  He was poised, serious.  “How do I appear?” he asked the painter, who craned around the easel.

“Austere, astute,” the painter remarked.

“Very good,” whispered Machiavelli, barely moving his lips.

“Although… sometimes I long to stop painting surfaces,” the painter moaned.  “Imagine the art I could create if I captured the inner workings of a man for all to see – his beliefs, his conscience!”

“Pah!” Machiavelli almost cracked a smile.  “Then your canvases wouldn’t sell.  A conscience looks like vomit.  So, paint lies and get paid.”

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This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday. Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is below, copyright Madison Woods.

grapevine2bgoo1

What Sparks

Everything hurt.  The sight stunned the boy and almost knocked him senseless.  His bones shook and his head span; his eyes watered and his skin flushed beneath the sudden flare-up of heat, then shrank under the icy blast of cold that immediately followed.  He stammered out incoherent words in an unending stream – was he trying to apologise for intruding?  He hadn’t meant to intrude.  Was he asking for help?  He wasn’t sure if he needed help.  Or was he trying to express wonder and welcome?

The angels watched him with unblinking eyes.  Their taloned hands clutched the branches of the trees and they hung there, gazing down.  The boy stared up at them and scanned their faces – he saw smiles and he saw frowns.  He wanted to run.

With an effort, the boy stopped himself from speaking that incoherent language he’d never heard in his life before.  At once, he regretted it; the silence that closed in around him felt fathomless and eerie.  Turning, cautiously, he made to go.  Home was nearby and he needed to get back there, but all the while his teary eyes stayed glued on the towering angels, searching for any hint of what to expect.

Seeing the boy’s intention to leave the angels launched into the sky, wings howling with every beat.  All the fields of Peckham Rye shimmered beneath their bright wings, bespangling the clouds like stars.  Dazed, the boy tripped and fell; scrambling along on his hands and knees, eyes clamped shut, he hurried on with his escape.

An oppressive burning smell choked the boy and brought him to a stop.  Sounds of scraping metal clanged heavily about.  Flinching, expecting some impact to come clattering down on his head, the boy’s eyes peeped open, anxiously.  Thick reams of smoke drifted across a landscape he didn’t recognise anymore.  Dense and tangled foliage blocked his path wherever he looked.  The air was cloying in his lungs, tasting sickly and decayed.  He gagged and, with an effort, found his feet again.

Bewildered, he pushed his way through the forest with difficulty.  The angels who had first awed him, then spooked him, were nowhere to be seen.  He scanned the sky for any sign of their blistering wings but it was still now, silent, and suddenly night.  The shadows engulfed the boy’s senses and swallowed him whole.  Arching above him, the symmetry of the bleached tree trunks formed a ribcage that locked him in; the black and orange leaves rustling as they knitted together, tighter and tighter, like a skin.

The boy ran wildly in circles, searching after an exit.  In his panic he tripped and fell over the dreadful heart that lay shrivelled and dormant on the forest floor.  At the impact a spark fizzed across its surface and made the blackened flesh glow red.  Thunderously, it started to beat.

From the dark sky spears of torrential rain flooded down.  The sound of roars filled the forest.  Blinded by confusion, tears streaming down his face, the boy turned and ran directly towards the source of the roaring and there found the only exit before it snapped shut at his heels.  Looking back over his shoulder as he sprinted towards safety he saw nothing but ravaging fires and teeth and claws.

But it was over – the fields of Peckham Rye loomed about him again, sedate and unchanged and welcoming him back.  Returning home with a dazed expression and blood caked on his hands and knees, his parents scolded him for the mess he’d gotten into.  The boy stammered as he tried to explain, tried reporting the tremendous vision he’d seen of bizarre flocks of angels that roosted in every bough.  At that his mother shook her head, sadly, while his father swore and grabbed the boy by the collar. Angrily, the old man said it was too much to stand and listen to those excuses, and it was only through his mother’s desperate intervention that he escaped being thrashed for telling lies.  He didn’t tell about the tyger yet.

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 This story was written in response to the yeah write challenge #176 – The following sentence must be the FIRST line in your submission: “Everything hurt.   You must also include a reference to the media prompt.

 

The other stories in the link-up can be read by clicking on the image below.

speakeasy 176

Hippy Trippy Schadenfreude

Inhale.

“Assembly line of existence whirring on and on, units of humanity rising and falling along the way – punching in, punching out, punching in, punching out…”

“Whole cosmos embraced mass production and planets end up consumed like all the rest.”

“Oh man, homo consumeia!”

“Henry Ford!  See his beady little eyes seething, glaring out from the grill of that old abandoned truck that stinks like piss and depleted ozone.”

“Yeah.  Weeds and thorns and nettles sprouting up inside his entrails.  Gnawing family of rodents burrowing deep, deep, making their home inside his rectum.”

“Karma’s a bitch.  Love it!”

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This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday. Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is below, copyright Roger Bultot.

parked (1)

Ivy Ivy Ivy

Ivy will never forgive me and why should she? That girl’s a looker, a definite work of art. And yet every time we get together I can’t help but drag her down to my level. I cradle her adorable curves against my body and I try hard to perform. Sigh… It goes wrong.

Johnny introduced us a few years ago. That guy’s one hell of a matchmaker. But I wonder if he ever holds his head in his hands, mortified, when he comes across stray echoes of the damage he’s done?

Like with Ivy. That girl could’ve been a wow, had her pick from the very best; seen the bright lights and led fashions. All that potential for grace and invention that lay coiled up inside her, humming with anticipation at its eventual, inevitable, ecstatic release…

Instead, when my trembling hands clutch her close, fingers blistered and stumbling with schoolboyish eagerness, I can only eke out the worst version of Bigmouth Strikes Again in history.

Sorry, Ivy. Sorry, Johnny.

 

Ivy

Ivy

 

This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Daily Prompt: The Name’s The Thing

Have you ever named an inanimate object? (Your car? Your laptop? The volleyball that kept you company while you were stranded in the ocean?) Share the story of at least one object with which you’re on a first-name basis.