Briefs of Fiction, May 7, 2010 at 08h36

“I’m so sorry, Laura.”

I was honestly crying but I don’t know if I was honestly sorry. Maybe I felt guilty. I definitely was.

She had no idea. I shouldn’t have said anything, but I had to. I had to.

“When we started dating –- actually seriously dating, the second time around –- do you remember when I surprised you? You got off work early and found me in your house and I said I was there to make you dinner?”

“Yes,” she said. She was nervous. Of course she was. She had every right to be and she didn’t even know why yet.

“I wasn’t there to make you dinner.”

We had a big fight at her place, in her bedroom, and she stormed off to the bathroom. I was so angry. I didn’t think I’d see her again, so I took something. I didn’t have to tell her what it was, she knew me well enough now. And then two months later we were dating again, and she gave me a key. I had to put it back.

“Forgive me.”

Her face went dark and unreadable. I didn’t know who she was anymore. She didn’t know who I was. And this time when I left, I had nothing.

Helter Skelter

Briefs of Fiction, April 15, 2010 at 08h00

In an old tattered magazine was a full-page black and white ad that read: THE BEATLES LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY. Then, in smaller print: ENTER TO WIN. John and Paul were in the ad, but not George or Ringo — who knows why. And underneath everything, in tiny print at the bottom, the part that Dom couldn’t take his eyes off, was the fine print. It read: CONTEST CLOSES MAY 12.

No year was specified. Misprints and errors amused Dom, so what the hell, he cut the form out, filled it in, and mailed it away. He told his girlfriend. They laughed.

The String

Briefs of Fiction, April 9, 2010 at 10h43

Immediately from the moment Tay saw the frayed end of string at her bedside, she knew she had to follow it. It intrigued her. She walked beside it out of her room and down the hallway and out the front door. She didn’t have any idea who had left it or why it was there. All she knew was that there was something important at its end.

The string went down the same street she walked every day and it ended at the corner where she waited for the bus that took her to college. When the bus pulled up and opened its doors, the string continued onto it, and Tay followed it to an empty seat. The bus stopped at her school and the string lead her inside the building and to her class.

Many years later, she was used to seeing the string everywhere. It always seemed to be where she was going, always ended where she waited, always went on when she had to move next. At times she wouldn’t notice it for days, but it was there. She followed it to the end of college, to her first day of work, to where she met her husband. The string was there when her kids were born, when they graduated college, when she was diagnosed with cancer. She lived a long time after her illness, ignoring everyone’s urgent suggestions for chemotherapy and instead following the string elsewhere.

Nobody but Tay ever saw the string, and she never told anyone about it. It was her secret.

Looking out Into the Universe

Briefs of Fiction, March 26, 2010 at 09h02

A hundred years from tomorrow, Cristofer Banks will finish assembling the most powerful telescope yet. With child-like eagerness, he engages the rotator cuff and sets it into position. He hurries to the Observatory Bay and waits impatiently for the generators to warm up. The Earth will be so far below him that he will lose the satellite radio link from time to time, but it’s nothing he will worry about. As soon as the telescope is fully operational, he will stare eagerly into the monitor.

In the drawer beside him is a tedious manual. In it are specifications of the telescope’s machinery and a detailed breakdown of the quantum physics that make it all function, including the photon nanolens. Cristofer will never refer back to this manual, however, because he remembers exactly how he designed it, and of course because it works perfectly.

The magnification of the telescope operates by supercharging and speeding up the wavelengths of light, which travels at infinite speed — (proven by this experiment; Cristofer will win his second Nobel Prize for Physics) — and is affected only by core universal gravity — (which is how he won his first). A supercharged wave, of course, is not stopped by mass and can travel further based on how much energy you apply. This is why Cristofer will find himself zooming in as far as he can through everything, pushing the telescope as far as it can.

Something curious will catch his eye, though, and he will stop for a moment. He will not know what he’s looking at, not exactly, not while he’s dumbfounded and still.

He will raise one of his hands. And the figure in the Observatory Bay of the space station on the monitor will raise one of his hands too.

Cristofer will turn around, then laugh when he realizes that of course he could never see his own face. Of course he can only look out into the Universe in but one direction.

Gambling in the Garden

Briefs of Fiction, March 11, 2010 at 09h29

The drive was a batshit crazy I-want-to-scream tensionfest. Alan made it in six hours. Vegas was supposed to be fun. Like Hell it is. Maybe if the Devil –- in this case, the beloved Mrs. Alan Johnson — isn’t there. You could say that their trip went badly. You could also say that the Grand Canyon is really just a little crack.

“Really Alan. Do you have to drive that fast? Why do you insist on getting us there dead. Slow down. I swear to God, Alan. You slow this car down to the speed limit or I will get out and walk!”

Alan gritted his teeth and drove a little faster. Funny, the Devil swearing to God like that.

When they got home, his wife hurried to the bathroom and Alan hurried to the garden. In one of the far corners he started to dig. Alan didn’t want to hear one more damned time about Gamblers Anonymous, or about Alcoholics Anonymous, or any of the million other Anonymouses that his wife so-lovingly suggested. He had a bad night at the tables, that was it. It’s not like they won’t be able to get it back.


Briefs of Fiction, February 18, 2010 at 06h20

John’s son didn’t sleep well Wednesday night, and neither did he. He stood by the crib for hours watching his son cry. John didn’t know if it was from hunger, or fear, or pain. The noises were all the same.

At work, too, the noises were the same, just louder. Sometimes the prod wouldn’t discharge completely and the calf would cry. He’d prod it again, and sometimes again, until it stopped. The other calfs would cry too, the ones waiting to see him. Were they hungry, maybe? Or scared? It was just noise. And when he prodded it enough, the noise always stopped.

John used the prod on himself once. A small one he brought home, just big enough to stop a calf’s crying. He did it in the garage. It hurt, even on the lowest setting, but he didn’t make a noise. He didn’t sleep well that night.

It was the noise that kept John awake. He heard it all day, he heard it all night. It was all the same.

All he wanted was for it to stop crying.


Briefs of Fiction, January 27, 2010 at 05h01

Abdul Kalam did not jump. He did not swim, he did not fly, or roll, and he ran only when he had to. He had not been doing these things since he was seventeen, when the blind man told him not to. There were great possibilities awaiting those who walked. The blind man gave Abdul his glasses. And a warning.

These were the glasses of a man gone mad by them. A man beyond his life who had followed his steps backwards so often it consumed him. A man so tempted by seeing that he took his sight. A man who did not jump or swim; a man who would only walk.

For a time, Abdul was amused. The glasses showed every step that he took perfectly, and as the blind man said, when they were followed perfectly backwards, so too would that time pass backward. When he stopped walking, his life would resume as it was before all those steps were taken. It was a gift of many second chances.

Abdul excelled in his life. He made many poor decisions although things never went poorly. Eventually he would always have the best possible outcome. He succeeded in school, in business, and in love. Everything at his fingertips, he wondered how the blind man could have ever gone mad. Abdul must have been, in all his accounts, far wiser than the man who had given him this gift.

As the end of his life approached, though, Abdul wandered the same dusty street where he had met the blind man. Now he was walking backwards, himself blind. He tripped and fell to the ground, then began to weep. This was it. A dozen years since his life had been so wonderful, Abdul could no longer follow his poor steps. Most of his life was spent going back to relive it. Just as the blind man had discovered, there is no future in the past. And this was all he had.

The Accused

Briefs of Fiction, January 11, 2010 at 06h55

I know that man under that black mask. His name is Henry. My wife and I were at his daughter’s wedding. We were also at her funeral. I wore the same hat to both. My knees are sore, so is my back, and my wrists are tied together much too tight. It’s irritating.

I ask Henry how Marie is, if she still has the bad knee. He stares at me with angry eyes, and if they could speak, they might say, this is supposed to be anonymous! Well, what do I care? What do I have to lose except this little bit? Continued…


Briefs of Fiction, January 4, 2010 at 06h55

He’s late, she thought, looking at the clock radio by the cash register. His hot chocolate and banana-chocolate chip muffin sat on the counter, untouched, unmoved. She imagined why he might be late, avoiding worst-case scenarios as if that might make them come true. He was usually among her first few customers; some days he was even there right as she opened. And it wasn’t a vacation because she would have known that. He must have slept in.

He finally came in around nine o’clock, and she smiled immediately.

“Running late this morning?” she asked. Continued…

Sudden Love on a Back Road in the Country

Briefs of Fiction, October 23, 2009 at 09h49

“Just say yes, say you’ll marry me,” Justin gasped.

Speaking was difficult, getting softer.

“Honey, where’s your phone? We need help. I need your phone.”

Rebecca looked into the glove compartment. It was empty. Most things were on the roof anyway, and it was too dark to see anything there except for the reflection of the moon in the growing pool of blood. It was quiet now that the front wheels had stopped spinning needlessly on their axel.

“Marry me…” he said again, repeating slowly. Continued…