Category Archives: flash fiction

Fro Youth

(509 words)

29 degrees outside, pelting sleet, but what I needed was frozen yogurt.

So, I left the motor running when I jumped out of the car and crossed the parking lot, whispering profanities as I found myself torn between moving slowly while being sliced by silvers of ice, or dashing across the tundra with the risk of falling and splitting my chin on the pavement.

“Welcome to Zinga!” the little girl shouted from behind the counter. I recently discovered that, in my estimation, any female under 25 was a “little girl.” This one had curly black hair and a smile that was possibly reflective of her true personality, or the result of having had one too many cups of coffee, or both.

“I love frozen yogurt,” she said. “And it’s not just because I work here. Can I help you?”

“No thanks, I’ve been here before,” I said. I picked up a “medium” tub and walked over to the vanilla machine, hoping that she’d recognize my familiarity with the process and leave me alone.

“Seriously, it’s not because I work here. I really love frozen yogurt. I always have the same thing, every single time. I have Triple Chocolate and I put on some raspberries and then I drown it all in whipped cream. That’s what I always do. Except last week when I had Mocha Mist and did the Oreo Dirt with hot fudge and rainbow sprinkles but I didn’t get whipped cream, which was too bad because that’s when I found out how much really I like whipped cream. Whipped cream is the bomb, isn’t it?”

I looked down and found myself in the act of squirting whipped cream on my sundae, so I couldn’t keep ignoring her. “Yes,” I said. “Whipped cream is very good.” I put down the can and waited for her to start talking again. She took a deep breath, clearly revving up for another raucous soliloquy, and during the pause I heard Rick Springfield on the Musak. “Rick Springfield,” I said. “Wow.” I picked up a pair of tongs, plucked a red cherry from its basin of goo, and plopped it on top of my sundae. “I haven’t heard this one in a while.” That was a lie. I’d heard the song the day before yesterday; it was in one of my playlists, the one I listened to every morning on my way to work.

“Yeah, right?” the girl said. “What’s this song called? Oh, yeah, “Jessie’s Girl.” I guess he was like a one-hit-wonder?”

“Actually, he had a couple of songs, and he was a soap star…,” I said.

“Oh, yeah, sure,” she said. “I remember now. You know what other song I like? I like ‘Dancing Queen’. That’s one of my favorite old songs.”

I set my cup on the scale. “Now, that one is really old,” I said. “My Mom used to listen to that one.”

“They’re all old to me,” she said.

I handed the little girl a five, told her to keep the change, and raced out to my car.

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A Frog to Remember

“Tell me you seriously don’t remember.”

Stacy is sitting in a lawn chair on the deck of her three-story townhouse, looking out at the colorful autumn leaves in the woods. Breaking her gaze is the banister of the railing, even more so, the two foot high resin frog sitting there.

“You are actually telling me that you don’t know where I got that thing,” Stacy says, jutting her chin toward the frog.

“Yes, I am. What’s the big deal?” Karen asks. She’s visiting from Fort Lauderdale, grateful for Stacy’s guest bedroom and the chance to sit outside in the cool air of Charlotte in October. “You going to tell me?”

Stacy raises an eyebrow and looks at Karen. “How long have you been divorced now?” she asks.

“Two and a half years,” Karen answers, involuntarily wrinkling her nose. “What does Thomas have to do with it? Wait, I know, Thomas looks like a frog.”

“Rude,” Stacy says. “No, I’m talking about how that frog got there.”

“Did he give it to you? Figures he’d give you something. He never gave me anything. Except now, now he gives me alimony, child support, and grief. Other than the grief I’d say I’m getting a better deal than you got with that damn frog,” Karen says.

“Bitter much?” asks Stacy. “No, your in-laws gave that frog to y’all. For a wedding present.”

“Really? I don’t remember that at all.”

“Yeah, you got married on a Saturday and you put that frog on your front stoop on Monday and you complained about it every day for six years. I’d always liked it, so when y’all were breaking up I asked if I could have it. But you said ‘no’; you made a big fuss about how it was the ‘last bastion’ of your marriage and how you couldn’t possibly part with it.”

Karen stands up and walks over to the frog. She reaches out and strokes its plastic head, running her hand over its smooth haunches and webbed toes.

“When I visited you a year ago I took it,” Stacy says. “It’s been sitting on my banister ever since. You’ve been here twice since then,” she sighs. “You never even noticed.”

“I never even noticed,” Karen repeats, looking out at the trees and wishing there was an autumn in Fort Lauderdale.

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In the Pits of Pain

Ladies:
Do you ever wake up on a Sunday and decide that you’re not going to take a shower but the prickles in your armpits are uncomfortable so you scrape them with a dry, twin-blade, Venus knock-off and all seems fine until about 15 minutes later when your pits burn with the intensity of a white-hot sun?  And then later in the day you decide to go ahead and take a shower and while doing so absent-mindedly drag that same razor across your pits again and scream with the sensation of having smeared wasabi on an open wound?

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Her Stinking Promise

I had smelled my way through every airplane-bottle-sized vial of scented oil in the St. Louis Galleria’s Bare Escentuals store. My head pounded from the onslaught of floral, dusty, musty and rainwater-fresh fragrances. And still, nothing.

The strategy of the store was to lure you in with the essence of redolent oils and then for a perky sales clerk to sell you a scent blended into every kind of body wash, shampoo, conditioner and hand soap she had stocked on the shelves.

They all stunk to me.  And there was only one left to smell.

It was called simply, “JM.” Those are my initials. “This could be perfume kismet,” I thought as I closed my eyes and lifted the bottle to my nose. It smelled soapy and clean. It smelled like fresh starts and new beginnings. It smelled the way I wanted to smell, the kind of smell that I thought, if it were exuding from my pores, would make me hopeful and happy. I wanted to smear it all over my body, and Ingrid, eager for her commission, was more than willing to work her alchemic magic to ensure that I had enough product to drench myself in morning, noon and night.

“And,” Ingrid said, “the owner’s daughter’s initials are ‘JM’, so you can be sure it’ll never be discontinued.”

“Thank God,” I said. “I haven’t been able to count on anything lately.”

Ingrid had promised.

She lied.

 

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to my office-mate: A Warning

Dear Colleague,

As you know, we’ve recently had to consolidate our office space. Please know that I am thrilled to have you as an office-mate. I think you will find the room pleasant – it is close enough to the coffee that some of our co-workers stop in to say hello, but not so close that all of them do. I think the windows, with their view of the courtyard, sell themselves.

Full disclosure, as I do believe honesty is the best policy in every relationship, last evening I enjoyed a dinner of macaroni and cheese (gluten, dairy) with steamed broccoli (cruciferous). To that end, today might be a bit uncomfortable – I believe it will prove to be a crying shame that the aforementioned windows don’t open.

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to market to market we go, but why?

Grocery stores confuse me.

Cappuccino flavored potato chips. Blue yogurt in a squeeze and eat tube. Dog food made of vegetables and grains. I had a dog, Beastie, and sometimes he’d eat a carrot or a green bean that fell from the dinner table to the floor, but only if it had been previously soaking in a bowlful of beef stew. I never did see him eat grains.

Speaking of grains, grocery stores now carry beef from cows that were grain fed (it’s what’s for dinner), but I’ve never seen a cow in a field, chowing down on stalks of wheat or ears of corn. Cows eat grass. The stores have recently started carrying beef “from grass fed cows,” but it’s really expensive, and from what I hear, it tastes like grass. I, for one, don’t like the taste of grass. I tasted it once, after Brian Posner knocked me down while we were playing football. It was supposed to be flag football, but Brian said he was so used to playing tackle football that he instinctively took me down when I had the ball. I would have believed him, but his excuse didn’t explain the next few minutes of his rubbing my face in the grass.

Back to my point, it is reassuring that some beef comes from cows that ate grass, but in fact I don’t want to know that what I eat came from anything. I don’t want to know that the beef I eat used to be a cow. I don’t want to know that bacon had been a pig or that sushi was previously a fish. Food comes on anonymous Styrofoam trays wrapped in benign plastic for a reason. Sometimes the packages exclaim that what’s enclosed came from “Happy Cows/Pigs/Fish,” and I don’t believe that for a second. If my friends and I were hanging out and then one day Jason went missing and the next day a truck drove by with a sign painted on its side reading “Fresh from the farm to you,” I wouldn’t be happy at all.

Grocery stores confuse me. I’d stay away from them, but I get so damn hungry.

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Brisk Walk: dirty

Once outside the building, Jessie took a walk around the parking lot. She pulled out her phone and dialed her Mom’s number, but then hung up. She took a step up onto the curb and pointed her phone at a clump of sod the landscapers had turned up and tossed aside. She snapped a photo and smiled to herself. This was the kind of art she liked now: destruction art. Her friend, Laura, had dragged her to a show by that name over the weekend. Jessie had been sure she’d be bored by room after room of framed images depicting destroyed buildings and wrecked cars, but afterwards she decided that this was who she would be: a destruction artist — edgy and mysterious. She texted her photo of the chunk of soil and grass to Laura and then called her.

Laura sounded annoyed when she answered. “I only have four minutes to talk,” she said. “I’m walking to my car and there’s this new Nazi law that I can’t talk on the phone while I’m driving.”
“No worries; I just wanted to say hi. Did you get my photo? Why don’t you just get Bluetooth?”
“I refuse to kowtow to the man,” Laura replied. “Why should I have to spend extra money just because a few idiots don’t believe that I can use both hands at the same time? I tell you what; if someone can’t drive while they’re talking on the phone it’s unlikely that they can drive when they’re not. It’s just another way for the government to tell us what to do.”
“Yes, I’ve heard your rant before,” Jessie said. “And I still think you should get Bluetooth.”
“And that attitude, my friend,” Laura said, “is why I’m hanging up on you.”

Jessie stuffed her phone into her pocket and kicked the dirt clod into the street. It was too damn early to go home.

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