Category Archives: flash fiction

Writing Group Angst

Let’s say you’re in a hotel conference room, attending your very first meeting of the Low Country Writers’ Group (Mount Pleasant Chapter). It’s a panel talk on “Getting Closer to Getting Published.” While you wait for the guest speakers to arrive, you look back through the notebook you’ve brought with you – the one you always bring to things like this – and, becoming aware of wetness under your arms and realizing how appallingly ineffective your new deodorant is, you see that the two-word notes you’ve been leaving for yourself, snippets of story ideas jotted down in your almost illegible shorthand, meant to inspire future writing, are utterly worthless. “Cherry Pie = Pizza Pie”, “Baby, not Piano”, “Aqua Velva and Farts.” Seriously? You can’t even be sure if those are references to personal experiences or things you saw on late night comedy shows. Who knows.

The moderator cheerfully kicks off the opening ice breaker: “Tell us your name and what you’re working on,” she says. You take a quick look around the room. In so doing, you identify a group of thirty-two people, of which you are in a minority, the minority comprised of three attendees under the age of 50. As the introductions go around the table you meet a woman with three books published, another woman who is trying to decide which agent she wants to go with, and a man – one of the men in your under-50 group – who has a PhD and teaches creative writing at the College of Charleston. You think of what you will tell these people when it is your turn to speak. You have about twenty-five short stories in various stages of completion. Your mother says they’re really good, always adding, “… and I’m not just saying that because you’re my daughter.” Head down, you smell a funk waft up from your armpits as evidence of your deodorant’s epic fail. You look up to tally the people who will talk before you have to, and this glance reveals you to be in another minority, a minority of one: those who are grossly overdressed. And, although your mother has always said that it is better to be overdressed than underdressed, you begin to formulate the rebuttal you will give to any of the shorts and flip-flop clad strangers when they ask why you are wearing a floral wrap dress and heels – you will tell them you are on your way to a baby shower, a wedding, a bris… something important, something adult, anything that might lend credibility to you – the most uncomfortable person in the room.

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Cigarettes, Darth Vader, and Crows

Every morning, as I drink my tea on the back porch, I am at one with nature. Today the new neighbor two doors down was out on his porch, too. He smoked his first, second and third cigarettes, scaring away the birds, the deer and the squirrels, as well as chasing away the crisp, clean smell of evergreens. I channeled my inner Darth Vader and used The Force to explode his head. Then the crows came and ate his brains.

Moral of the story:
Watch out for crows. They’ll eat anything.

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Mr Bubble, Boiled

“Why don’t you go home and relax. Take a nice, hot bath?”

“Yeah, no, I can’t take baths.”

“What?”

“Yeah, I can’t take baths. Fifteen years ago I did, I stuffed my hair up in a shower cap, got the Mr. Bubble going, slid in there with a paperback novel… I like the water really hot, you know? Hot. So, after a little while my glasses were streamed up and I was sweating like a pig and the book was getting all soggy so I got out. I put the book on the vanity, pulled off the shower cap and was toweling off when I must have passed out or something – when I woke up I was on the floor and I was all red and puffy.”

“That sounds awful!”

“Yeah. I’m pretty sure I poached myself.”jenny fish

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Crest Fallen

Okay, Proctor and Gamble, I’ve used your “Crest 3D White Luxe” toothpaste in Glamorous White (with Whitelock Technology) three times a day for the last five days and I don’t see any indication that it has “removed up to 90% of surface stains” as advertised.

I went on a couple of vacations last year, one to visit my friend Bridget in The ‘Lu (which, she tells me, is what everyone who is anyone is calling St Louis these days), and then one with my friend Susan to Princess Island (which is what we call anywhere we go on vacation together). These trips both produced copious photographs, all of which were posted to Facebook, Dropbox, Instagram, and Flikr. Many people saw these photos, as evidenced by the overwhelming number of ‘likes’ received (an 85/15 split between friends of theirs and friends of mine).

The photos are nice. They’re black and whites, which are always lovely. In every single shot the sun is bright, I’m having good hair days, and Bridget/Susan and I are smiling widely. However. Bridget/Susan’s face is aglow with the shimmer of their clean white teeth, but not mine. My face, sparing the part of my eyeball that isn’t iris or pupil, is all the same color – except for the darker gray slash between my lips. That’s my teeth. To their credit, my teeth are admirably straight. I wore braces and headgear for five years to earn that honor.

Curious, I waited until I was home alone one evening, looked in my bathroom mirror and grinned at myself. There they were, side by side like little soldiers, perfectly aligned and decidedly yellow teeth. More yellow on the sides than on the front. You know, yellow isn’t quite right. Staring at my teeth, the first thing that came to mind was the weathered, fading slats of plywood that Ben used to build the fence around my tomato garden last summer. Functional, yes. Appealing? No.

Hence, my need for the Crest. I read your label, I felt hope, I brushed three times a day for five days. Nothing. Of course I can go see my dentist for laser whitening, but that’s not the point. You let me down. In addition to being out $6.49, I’m really disappointed. I was counting on y’all.toothpaste

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good googily miss moogily

Just a quick “hi” to those of you who have been kind enough to pop over from that other blog I’ve been posting to when I meant to be posting here.  As mentioned, I thought I was clever having more than one blog but then I figured out I was spreading myself too thin, confusing myself, and possibly befuddling others.  Thank you for coming.

For those of you who have been here from the start, please ignore the preceding paragraph. Thank you for coming.

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Funny Pharm

“Jennifer?”

It’s my boyfriend, standing in the doorway of my studio and speaking softly. “Jennifer?”

“What?” I say. I had left the studio door open. He’s allowed to talk to me if I leave the door open. If I close the door it’s understood that I’m in the ‘Red Zone’ and he has to leave me alone unless the house is on fire. ‘Red Zone’ is supposed to mean that I’m deep in a groove with my painting and shouldn’t be disturbed. In reality it means I don’t want him bothering me. Today I forgot to close the door.

“Jennifer?” he says again, his voice still soft.

“What?” I say, looking up from my magazine.

“Well, I think there’s something you ought to see.” His voice stays soft, but his tone rises in urgency. It sounds panicky, fearful.

“What is it?” I ask.

“You better come downstairs.”

I follow him downstairs to the kitchen. He walks around to the far side of the breakfast bar and points at the counter. “See?” he asks.

There on the counter is a tiny white pill. It’s one of the many pills I take every morning. There are the supplemental vitamins and minerals, and there is the medication for my glaucoma. There’s the blood thinner, the cholesterol lower-er, and the one to stave off my IBS. And that’s just the starting line-up. The really heavy hitters don’t even make sense. First, I’m not epileptic, but the anticonvulsant levels out the swings of my bipolar fairly well. Second, I’ve not been diagnosed psychotic, but it’s an antipsychotic that picks up the slack where the anticonvulsant leaves off.

And there, on the counter, is the latter, the one that kept me out of the hospital last winter. That bad johnny is $125 a month, but last winter the cost wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I really didn’t care if I took it or not. When the shrink said, “But it will make you feel better, Jennifer. Don’t you want to feel better?” my response was sullen silence. Ask a manic depressive who’s scraping the bottom of the ‘will to live’ barrel if they want to feel better and that’s what you get. A non-answer from someone who doesn’t give a damn about feeling better.

You’d think such a life changing pill would be bigger. It’s even smaller than the flea pill we give Mr. Buckles. It’s tiny. So tiny that an extra one could easily slide out of the bottle when I tipped out my dose, so tiny that it could slip right out of my hand when I popped a fistful of meds into my mouth. Either way, the pill had landed on the kitchen counter this morning.

So which was it? Was it a wayward extra that I didn’t need to take? Or was it the one I should have taken? If I took this pill and I’d already taken one, I’d be doubling up for the day. If I didn’t take this pill and I hadn’t had one already, I’d miss a day. There was a 50/50 chance that I’d guess correctly, and my action based on that guess would have serious ramifications. How I chose to proceed would determine on whom disaster would fall. It would be me, or him.

If I took the pill twice, it would be hell for me. The known results of doubling up on this particular drug were well known. There had been medical studies done, and there were warnings on the package. I would experience dizziness, uncontrollable shaking in my extremities, blood in my stool, and an urgent need to pass said bloody stool.

In contrast, if I didn’t take a pill at all, it would be hell for my boyfriend. I would become ‘irritable’. Last time I missed a pill was on Valentine’s Day. I wanted to serve fresh grapefruit for brunch, but grapefruit is out of season in February, so it was impossible to peel. I couldn’t get a grip on it, and the tiny shards of rind got all up under my fingernails. It hurt. It made me angry. My boyfriend walked into the kitchen whistling ‘happy days are here again’, so I hurled the grapefruit at his head. It grazed his shoulder, bounced up, and smashed against the wall above the bay window. I had to pay the maid an extra twenty to climb up on the table and clean up the pulp and juice that had splattered on the glass.

So, my choices were to either inflict bodily harm on myself or to traumatize someone I cared about. It was a tough call. I stared at the pill and pushed it around the counter with my finger. I picked up the bottle and looked into it. I thought about sitting on the toilet all day, and then, as I looked into the eyes of my anxiety ridden boyfriend, I considered the certain end of our relationship. I knew what I needed to do. I picked up the pill, lifted my hand, and

 

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Seam Ripper

It’s cloudy outside, so I don’t mind spending my Sunday ripping seams out of my favorite red t-shirt. Besides, it gives me something to do while I sit here in front of my sunlamp, which I have to do from August ’til March lest I tumble down into that depression place where I want to tear my eyes out with a seam ripper.

My boyfriend popped in a few minutes ago and asked why I didn’t just buy a new red t-shirt. I told him that this is my favorite red t-shirt. He said he saw one just like it at Target last week and that he’d buy me one. I told him I don’t want another one, that I like the way the ragged edge around the neck hole curls up and looks interesting. He said that there is nothing interesting about a woman wearing a torn-up t-shirt. I told him that there is nothing more interesting in this entire world than such a woman, and that he had better leave. He left, but I suspect he’ll be back in time for dinner.

So, I’m ripping seams out of my favorite red t-shirt. It has always been my favorite for the exact same reason that has me ripping out the seams. This t-shirt is flattering in the way only a flat-chested woman can understand. It’s tight. And form-fitting. In fact, it is so tight and form-fitting that I have to tear out the seams around the neck because half of them tore out the last time I put it on. The reality is that my head will always be bigger than my bosoms, and the fate of the neck hole was imminent. But I can fix it. I am fixing right now. I am sitting here ripping the seams out of my favorite red t-shirt.

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