Flash Fiction #74 – Dog Days Are Over

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Don’t panic…you’re in the right place. I just did some remodeling over the weekend. What do you think? Anyway, on to the post.

This month’s song fic was inspired by “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine. You can read the lyrics or watch the video and listen to the song. Or both. Or neither. Totally your call. But anyway, here’s the story it inspired.

Lizzie’s phone lay on the couch between her and Cilla, vibrating almost constantly with missed calls and ignored texts.

“What do you mean you told him no?” Cilla stared at her best friend in amazement. “Literally all you’ve been talking about this past year is how you couldn’t wait for Grant to propose. You were going to be so upset if he didn’t. I can’t believe you turned him down.”

Except that she kind of could. She’d had a feeling this would be how it would go if Grant ever asked Lizzie to marry him.

Lizzie  wiped her her eyes and nose. “I don’t know. One minute we were having dinner at that little pub down on on Cherry, and the next, he gets up and starts singing, and a bunch of diners got up and started dancing–”

“Wait,” Cilla said. “He proposed with a flashmob?”

She sniffled and nodded miserably.

“But you love flashmobs. You…you have a whole Pinterest board devoted to them.”

“I know.” She sniffled again.

“What happened then?”

“He did the whole getting down on one knee thing.”

Cilla covered her face and peered at Lizzie through her fingers. “I’m afraid to ask,” she said, her voice a bit muffled. “but then what happened?”

Lizzie grabbed a throw pillow off the couch and wrapped her arms around it, doubling over as she leaned forward. “It’s awful. I don’t even want to tell you.”

“Too late now,” Cilla muttered.

She buried her face in the cushion. “Mraphaffal nramd.”

“What was that?”

Lifting her head partway, she repeated, “I hugged him, and then I ran.”

Cilla’s mouth fell open. “Oh, honey…”

She felt bad for Lizzie, but goddamn, right now, she felt worse for Grant. Normally, Cilla would be going down with the ship of sisterhood, But it wasn’t like Grant had just proposed out of the blue. Lizzie had been dropping hints for months. Showing him flashmob proposals and talking about how Art Nouveau was the most gorgeous era for jewelry.

“Did he also happen to propose with a nineteenth century style ring?”

“Actual antique from the looks of it,” she murmmured, staring at the floor. She look up at Cilla, eyes swollen and red from crying. “Why do I do this? Why can’t I just be happy? That was everything I ever wanted.”

Cilla scrubbed her hand over her face, dread and frustration tightening the muscles in her shoulders. “How long have we known each other,  Lizzie?”

“What?”

“How long have we known each other?” she asked again.

“Since freshman year of college, so…what–nine…ten years?”

Cilla nodded. “Okay, I need to know…do you want comfort? Or do you want the truth?”

“I want a big cup of do-over.”

Cilla frowned at her. “But would you really change anything if you could do it over?”

“I don’t know–yes, I do. I would have canceled lunch today.”

“That’s not making a choice–that’s avoiding one.”

Lizzie scowled at her. “Fine. Since you seem to know all about what’s in my head, give me the truth.”

Wondering if their friendship would survive this, Cilla took a deep breath. It was too late to stop now, anyway. “You don’t want to be happy.”

Lizzie opened her mouth, but Cilla cut her off.

“Before you say you do, I want you to think for a minute about every relationship you torpedoed. It’s like once you start feeling comfortable with a guy, you start picking fights with them until they break up with you. Except Grant didn’t go anywhere–so you had to.”

Lizzie didn’t say anything. She just stared.

“I love you, Boo, but it’s like you’re afraid to be happy. You want it, but you hide from it. And if that doesn’t work, you kill it however you can.”

Lizzie sat there for the longest time–not speaking, not crying, not moving. Finally, as if she were a living marionette and someone else was pulling the strings, she grabbed her phone and stood then walked toward the door. Cilla watched her go, wondering if her calls and texts would get answered or if they’d just vibrate into nothingness on someone else’s couch.

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ stories.

Jess  *  Kris  *  Siobhan  *  Deelylah  *  Gwen

Flash Fiction #72 – Chances

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The last song fic of the year was inspired by Chances by Five for Fighting. Here are the lyrics and video if you want to take a peek.

Heads up: this story is probably going to be the shortest of the short. Unless you’re super new here, you know the drill, I’m averaging three – five hours of sleep a night as I frantically try to finish sewing and knitting Christmas presents. To be honest, I can’t even promise it’ll make sense since I’m pretty sure I can see through time and space at this point.

I scooped Jordan’s clothes out of the dresser drawers and tossed them into garbage bags.His games and movies were already boxed and ready to go. He was coming to get his stuff today. And if he didn’t show, I was donating all of it.

It wasn’t that I wanted to break up with Jordan–not really. What I really wanted was for him to just magically disappear from my life as if he’d never been there. I just wanted to have a do-over on the last nine months or so. It wasn’t that those months were horrible. They just could have been better.

Jordan wasn’t a terrible human being, but as it turned out, he wasn’t my favorite, either . About three months ago, he had a really bad cold, so he’d bailed on going out with the the rest of our friends. I think he was pissed that I didn’t stay home and fawn over him. But if I had, I’d probably be in jail for homicide with one of those little plastic medicine cups that comes with the jumbo bottle of Nyquil. I don’t know how I would have killed him with it, but I would have found a way, because nothing is more annoying than Jordan with a cold.

Once I was out with my friends, I realized that I was having fun for the first time in months. The rest of the time, it was like he just kind of sucked the joy out of everything. Even sledding. How the fuck can someone make sledding awful? Jordan could. And did.

I thought about all of the other times he’d cast a pall over my life. It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even enjoy having gotten into grad school (he didn’t have the money to go) or a raise at work (his boss doesn’t like him) or running her first 5K (he gets blisters when he runs.) He hadn’t started out that bad, but he’d gotten there quickly.

I finally had the last garbage bag filled with his stuff, and I dragged it out to the porch. I dropped it next to the box that had his toiletries and a bottle filled with sand and shells that he’d collected on the beach during our one and only vacation.

He’d already arrived and was loading everything into his brother’s pickup truck. He returned to the porch and looked up at me. “Do you think someday you might consider giving me another chance?”

I shook my head. “I think it’s better if we both move on.”

His brother picked up the box with the toiletries, and Jordan grabbed the bottle with the sand and shells, pulled the cork, and began dumping the contents on the ground.

“What…are you doing?” I asked.

“You can’t expect me to keep this reminder of us if you won’t give me another chance.”

I stared open-mouthed at my ex, and his brother muttered, “Jesus fucking Christ, dude. Dial back the melodrama, already.” He turned and started back toward the truck, but I heard him mutter, “And you wonder why you can’t keep a relationship.”

Okay, so that’s it for me, today. Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ stories. 

Jess  *  Siobhan  *  Kris  *  Gwen

 

 

Flash Fiction #70: Flaws

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Today’s flash fic song is Flaws by Bastille. Here are the lyrics and the song.

Despite the cold, damp weather, the minister at the graveside service droned on and on. It was almost as if he were part of her grandfather’s habit of making his descendents as uncomfortable as possible. Clutching a small stack of photos, Angela shifted from near-frozen foot to near-frozen foot, willing the feeling back into them. The wind shifted, and the sleet slashed sideways beneath the protective canopy, pelting her face to slide miserably down her neck.

As Becca, one of her cousins, stepped up near the casket to read a poem, Angela flipped through the small stack of photos she held. His voice whispered through her head with each image.

“You’re too old to run in the sprinkler.”

“Sure you need that second piece of cake?”

“I can’t believe your mother let you go out looking like that.”

“What did you expect wearing a skirt that short?”

“Why’d you cut your hair? You look like a boy.”

“What do you mean, girlfriend?”

Angela’s mom elbowed her then nodded toward the open grave where casket had just been lowered into the hole, and the rest of her cousins were gathering around the edge. Swallowing hard, Angela stepped forward to stand at Becca’s side, pictures clutched in her hand.

At the pastor’s nod, her cousins each scooped up a handful of dirt from the mounded pile, and one by one, threw it in the hole. The partially frozen earth hit the top of the coffin with a hollow-sounding thud. When it was Angela’s turn, she tossed in the photos, watching them flutter and land like dying butterflies.

Her flaws could be buried with his.

That’s it for me, today. Be sure to check out Kris and Siobhan’s stories, too.

 

Flash Fiction #68 – Call Me Crazy

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This month’s flash fiction song is one I’d never heard before this challenge. It’s called “Call Me Crazy” by Travis Collins. The video is here and the lyrics are here if you’d like to give a listen/read.

Content warning: some violence and allusions to abuse. 

The dirt was clay. She fucking hated digging into clay. It was wet and cold and almost slimy. It sucked at her shovel, stuck into the treads of her too-big, borrowed boots, and made it difficult to get any real power behind the tool, but she’d manage.

Despite the damp chill of the October evening, she was starting to break a bit of a sweat, but that’s what digging a three foot deep hole would do to a person. Dusk settled like an old musty blanket, muting the changing leaves, and dulling the sky. Soon, the only light would be the running lights on his truck.

He’d be pissed if he knew she was letting it run with the doors open so she could hear the music while she worked. Of course, it was so old, it didn’t even have a cassette deck. And it was stuck on that fucking country music station. But, it was better than the eerie near-silence of the rapidly approaching winter–nothing but small animals rustling through the dried grasses and the honking geese up and leaving this desolate place, flying to warmer climes. She’d always wished she could do the same. But, maybe now, she wouldn’t need to.

She straightened as she surveyed the hole. It was finally deep enough. A shiver snaked down her spine as the chorus of one of his favorite songs drifted to her from tinny-sounding speakers. An audio ghost haunting her from a lifetime past. She pushed through the chill. Maybe it was appropriate this song was playing tonight. Though, it was more of a eulogy than he deserved.

Planting the shovel in the mounded clay, she walked to the back of the truck and dropped the pickup’s gate. Thankfully, the tarp-wrapped body hadn’t moved much on the drive out here. Rolling it to the edge, she dragged the deadweight over her shoulder, and hoisted it in a fireman’s carry. Bastard was heavier than she would have thought, but she’d gotten him this far, she could move him a few more yards.

A muffled groan startled her, and she nearly dropped him, but she kept going until she could fling him into the hole. There was a sickening crack as he hit the bottom, then nothing but the tail end of his favorite song and her harsh breath. She filled in the hole then drove over it, repeatedly, for good measure before shifting the fallen tree to cover the signs of disturbed earth. The same one she’d moved to dig the hole in the first place.

Sure, someone might find him someday. If they cared enough to look. But they’d also find the evidence of everything he’d ever done to her–every photograph, every video tape–all sitting in the middle of his kitchen table. Along with his muddy boots on the mat by the door and his truck parked in the driveway.

And she’d be gone. Long gone where the ghosts of the past had been laid to rest.

Okay, that’s it for me this week. Be sure you check out the other stories by clicking on each blogger’s name. 

Jess * Siobhan * Gwen * Kris * Deelylah

Flash Fiction #66 – Criminals

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This month’s song fic is inspired by Criminals by Ms Mr. Here are the lyrics and video if you want to give it a go.

 

Doug looked around the conference table, not letting his gaze settle anywhere for too long–not even on Vanessa. How in the hell had they ended up here? Christ, he wasn’t even sure if he meant the two of them or the nation as a whole.

“Look,” Tony said. “I’m just saying, it’s hurricane season. There’s probably not a better time to roll this out.”

Vanessa nodded. “And it’s the start of the school year. According to our our studies, anxiety for both parents and students–not to mention teachers–is at an all time high.”

Doug’s skin crawled, and he shifted uneasily in his chair. That uneasiness grew when the guy from marketing, whose name he could never remember piped up.

“With all of the on-campus protests and demonstrations, not to mention the rise in shootings, we’re golden.”

“Don’t forget all the marches held by the general public,” Katy said. Ticking them off on her fingers, she added, “Trans rights, women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, healthcare, LGBT rights, marches for and against white supremacy. Eddie’s right, we’re golden.”

Eddie. That was his name.

“And there’s always the threat of nuclear war,” Tony said. “I don’t know anyone who isn’t worried about that. ”

At least eight people frantically scratched notes on pads of paper or typed rapid-fire on their laptops, others nodded thoughtfully.

Someone Doug didn’t recognize added, “We may have to work with the media to amplify the coverage some of these, but there’s really no better time to roll this out.”

Murmured agreement flew around the table.

Vanessa leaned forward and smiled at Doug, then addressed the room at large. “I’d like to introduce you all to Doug Freeman, one of our top scientists and developers here at PharmaCaresNational. He’s going to explain how the drug affects brain chemistry and neurotransmission.”

How was his wife–the love of his fucking life–sitting here, completely at ease in this meeting? How was he still in his seat, let alone in this company?

Tony gestured toward the wall. “We’ve got a whiteboard here, if you need it Doug.”  Turning to the others, he said, “Pay close attention everyone. If you have questions for Doug, save them until the end. And remember, if you’ve got an idea for marrying the effects of this drug with any of these specific fears, jot them down. There’s a lot of money to be made here, people.”

Doug’s stomach lurched violently, and his hands began to sweat. Jesus-fucking-Christ. They were all criminals.

_________

No…I’m not feeling cynical, this morning. Why would you even ask that? Anyway, be sure you check out Kris and Siobhan’s stories, too.

Flash Fiction #64 – Ghost

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This month’s song fic was inspired by Ghost by Halsey. If you’d like, you can read the lyrics here and/or watch the video here. 

“What are we even doing?”

Ryan sighed. “We’re trying to get some sleep because we have an early flight.”

A car drove slowly down the street, its headlights bouncing around the perimeter of the bedroom, and I shifted against the pillow I had propped up against the headboard. In the temporary illumination, I stared down at the man in my bed. My husband, I supposed.

It was weird. Like I was looking at him from a distance despite the fact that if I shifted, I could feel him next to me. But it was still as if I were looking at him through inches-thick plexiglass. Trick of the light or trick of my broken heart? The car fully passed, plunging the room into darkness again.

He wasn’t the same man I’d married. Though, to be fair, I wasn’t the same woman I was ten years ago, either. I knew why I’d changed. If you spend long enough kissing someone whose mouth is always full of lies, it poisons you. Changes your perception of everything around you–even yourself.

I missed the guy I’d fallen in love with, but more and more lately, I was wondered if he ever existed. The soul I’d loved had vanished, and in its place was an empty shell I didn’t recognize. And even more important, I didn’t like him.

His breathing had deepened and evened out as another car passed, illuminating the room again. The white fabric of his t-shirt seemed to glow. He was a ghost sleeping next to me.

But I was done trying to sleep. And I was done swallowing lies.

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ stories. Hopefully, they’re a little more upbeat.

Jess * Kris * Siobhan * Kayleigh * Gwen * Deelylah

Flash Fiction #62 – Breathe In, Breathe Out

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This month’s song fic inspiration is Breathe In, Breathe Out by Mat Kearny. Here are the lyrics if you want to check them out. And here’s the video.

Sweat stood out against his almost waxy-looking skin as he sat slumped forward on the edge of his bed, elbows balanced shakily on his thighs. Every part of him shook, and his sheets were in a sour-smelling tangle behind him.

He looked up at me, eyes completely bloodshot around irises that were still the darkest blue I’d ever seen. “Go away.”

I know he’d meant to growl it, but it had come out weak and almost lifeless.

Lowering myself to the floor, I sat cross-legged in front of him. He was older. So much older. And frail. Like I could break bones without trying. An amber-colored glint under the bed caught my eye. I reached beneath the bed and grabbed the half-empty bottle of whiskey.

“That’s mine.” He reached out for me–or more likely, the bottle as I stood and walked to the sink. I didn’t bother looking at him as I poured it out. I didn’t want to see the expression of desperation mixed with hate that I knew would be on his face.

After I washed my hands, I returned to my spot on the floor.

“Fuck you.”

There wasn’t as much heat behind it as he’d intended because he’d started shaking violently again. His hands clenched and unclenched, repeatedly curling into painful looking fists as his breathing turned jerky and panicky.

Reaching out, I grasped his clammy hands and held on. “Breathe with me, Dad. Breathe in. Breathe out.  You can do this.”

That’s it for me this week. Be sure to check out the other stories, too!