THE CONSCIENTIOUS WAITER AND THE NASTY CUSTOMERS

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“Are you two together?” the waiter asked, determined to screen Him from Her with his portable transparent plastic wall.

“We’ll see after tonight.” She winked.

Impassive, the waiter inserted the freshly sanitized wall to split the table in two, then joked, “Everybody has the right to date. Still, I’m thinking this plastic wall won’t be the only thing separating the two of you tonight.”

He reacted, but then sat down. She pulled down her mask to get a sip of wine. They had nothing in common, true; except for the unpleasant remarks they left on the portable plastic wall.

In response to: https://carrotranch.com/2020/04/23/april-23-flash-fiction-challenge-2/

IN WHICH A CHARACTER TAKES CHARGE

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Ministry of Health. Under25 Secretary slips into an office, “People are gargling with bleach.” What? “They’re afraid of the virus.” What? (Jokes have been going round because of the pandemic.) Some laugh, flabbergasted. “We need an official communiqué.” Now they all laugh. No one’s sure what’s going on. Typing, calling, “put me through, I said!” Under112 Secretary Never-take-charge-but-follow-orders takes it seriously, though; at her computer she designs a fake news bulletin warning people about gargling with bleach. It goes viral. The crazy are saved. The price of bleach goes back down. Stocks normalize. The world is a better place.

In response to: https://carrotranch.com/2020/03/27/march-26-flash-fiction-challenge-2/

STUFF YOU WOULDN’T FIND ON NETFLIX

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They saw a movie last night. First they discussed which movie; he’s been downloading movies all week – stuff you wouldn’t find on Netflix. Then they talked about the movie for a while before switching everything off for the night. The building across the street: the same; so in the apartments below, above. They appreciate the dialogues of the movies they see, they find the plots credible, they spot holes and admire the cinematography. “Would they like mine?” His eyes go red, he twitches his little-white-rabbit nose, and on the roof he says, “Yes, I’m happy I started this pandemic!”

In response to: https://carrotranch.com/2020/03/19/march-19-flash-fiction-challenge-3/#comment-67117

BRECHT, TOKYO AND MT. VESUVIUS

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In 1956 Bertolt Brecht sent his written contribution to a debate about the theatre taking place in the city of Darmstadt, Germany. In his clear-cut style and well-defined images, he warned the listening congregation (we are assuming somebody else read his words) that if they wanted to talk to today’s people they needed to present today’s problems in relation to their solutions, the world as a world that can be changed. “Years ago,” the voice (not his) continued, “in a newspaper I saw a photograph of the city of Tokyo destroyed by an earthquake. Most of the houses had collapsed, but a few modern buildings were standing, unscathed. ‘Steel stood’ was written over the image.” The voice then invited them to compare this description with Pliny’s description of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, concluding that it seemed obvious which one “our modern playwrights should avoid.” (Alas, we can only imagine the reaction of the passionately debating congregation. In 1956.) “We can no longer present man to man as a victim, as the passive object of an unknown and immutable environment.” The voice finally spoke in stone, “If we put ourselves in the position of the ball, the laws of motion become inconceivable.” (In 1956, of course.)

SEPARATING

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I don’t have a mask. Should I have a mask? There are no masks left at the local pharmacy. A friend has posted a video explaining how to make your own mask, at home: parchment paper, two rubber bands, and scissors. She saw it on national TV. Then a journalist signed in live from a hospital in the north, stood right in front of the two sliding doors separating the virus ward from the rest of the hospital and said, “This is the line separating Life from Death.” Then folks from the more affected north tried to escape to the less affected center and south of the country, returning home, while a horde of outraged folks on social media poured their higher-than-god anathemas “Your mother is going to die because of you!” against them. And while the train is darting through the country, they hear the chants of bored home-forced revelers as if the hills are alive with the sound of sirens and orgiastic mourners, the loudspeakers blasting the death toll for the day gone by, with no explanation – only the sheer numbers.

THE LOCAL SUPERMARKET CONSPIRACY

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What we know, however, is uncertain. In relatively lower-income neighborhoods people talk to each other while standing in line (one meter apart) at the local supermarket; one cracks a joke and the conversations, like a dance, begin; in richer areas no one says a word, almost afraid to talk, the situation must feel odder to them, some of them have clearly never even been to the local supermarket. However, why do we have this? China! in the low, gray clouds in the sky this morning – they want to level the world’s economy!; the US, always interfering!; there’s France, Germany, and the never-old, although quite new historically, European Union. The immigrants because they weren’t getting sick (xenophobia); the Chinese with their restaurants and damaged products (sinophobia); the succession of historical plagues, 1720, 1820, 1920, 2020, the latter option having almost entertained me till the social-media poster was worried about our lives in 2120, like we will all survive for the great catastrophe and at that point, really, you, post-writer, world, all of us, either know too much or know nothing at all.

OVER THE HEDGE

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One thing I Know: I know what happens in the world, I don’t know what happens at the end of my street. Street level, on a hilly road that curves where my building is, a little garden right outside my door, a hedge that lines it on two sides out of three. I can stare at the top of the road, but I can’t see the bottom, and that’s where the buzz is (or might be), the big road intersecting the major thoroughfare further north, the big square, the restaurants (shut), the stores (shut), the bars (shut), the tobacconists (shut? – there was a debate as to whether cigarettes are essential needs in times of confinement, can you walk in the park?, can you walk to relax?, to walk off the tension of living 24/7 with… who had ever been with these folks all this time?) Those who are home alone are spinning monologues to their kitchen curtains, and I wonder if I should see to really know, or whether I really want to know.

DUMBFOUNDED DUPLICATION

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“It’s in that drawer.” He marched to it confidently. “Found it?” He opened the drawer but found various types of tools, of which, let’s see… pliers, a kind of screwdriver… this looks like a hammer with a double blade at one end, it has to have a name, and, hold on, two more. So one is a chisel, the other is not. They do look similar, though. Small chisel and big chisel? “I didn’t know which size you preferred.” She grabbed the small one. “You do know that’s not really a chisel?” “You mean the big one?” “Yes.” “Yes.”

In response to: https://carrotranch.com/2019/03/14/march-14-flash-fiction-challenge/

MISTY PAVEMENT

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I found myself looking suspicious. I was walking to prove that idea of the God of Walkers about whom Bruce Chatwin wrote. I lingered, unintentionally, in the square outside the Concert Hall. It was night, orange street lamps on misty pavement, curtain time for multiple shows. When the three or four audiences came out I stood looking, no phone, no book, no headphones. Two night guards hired by the musical premises looked in my direction, and I pretended to be looking for someone in the crowd. Cars started to leave and their exhaust fumes made someone cough. I coughed, too. The person I was looking for never came. Lack of imagination surely. If just being there could not be substantiated, I could have at least faked a violinist, “Where do the artists come out?”, and thus given myself purpose. Perhaps you can prove certain ideas only in the absence of other human beings.

SCRAPS (CHER IS IN VEGAS)

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Cher is in Vegas and you can fly out to see her. And talk to her backstage. The revolving billboard slides in some nasal spray, get rid of congestion and back to your day; no day seems worth it unless you fly out and see her – Cher, again – light-blue, young, divine. She slides back. Then there are other events in this town and those preferred flyers or paper of cheaper quality, too light not to swirl around in the chilly wind. It’ll be daybreak before Personnel will clean up the crumpled mass of fantastic evenings not to be missed.

In response to: https://carrotranch.com/2018/11/15/november-15-flash-fiction-challenge/