I – WHERE TO LOOK

I

It is the day Ethiopia will plant 250 million trees to tackle climate change and yet another boat of refugees will sink in the Mediterranean; posts are viral with the reactions of Italian Navy officers rescuing dead bodies, of mothers, of infants, of newborns wrapped firm in their mother’s denim leggings; (globalization for all of us, baby; or the impression of safety you think denim leggings will give against the very blue waters of the Med? I was staring, spellbound, at the same sea only yesterday afternoon, from the soothing shores of Cape Posillipo, the ‘respite from worry’ of ancient Greek seafarers – this would have struck a discordant note with the death bulletins from south of Sicily.) This morning Vesuvius shows the bay and the city its sinuous flanks and round top, the middle ground being wrapped in clouds, white and light blue, like the clouds can steal the hues of the morning sky – anyone can wax poetic when it comes to the bay of Naples – guide books informing the impression-thirsty traveller where to look at dawn and where to look at sunset, where to be as the sun rises and where as the sun sets (then do whatever you like in between, explore what’s in between sunrise and sunset, like the vows some exchange at a wedding, for better, for worse, for rich and for poor, in sickness and in health, till death do us part – who’s us? – the Baroque absurdity of existence coming out in the crumbling palazzi, some wonderfully restored, which you will just stumble on, not visit, as they come to you unexpectedly. You can’t feel it unless you’re here.)

PRINCE CHARMING

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The little girls, four to eight years old, form a line backstage, demanding a kiss from Prince Charming. Prince Charming, a gay guy, texts his fellow – “How did I get talked into this? Got to kiss all these girls! I’m an actor, for god’s sake!” Pay is good, though. Before the show, the little girls were restless already, fidgeting in anticipation, no idea Prince Charming is not who he is, no suspension of disbelief. PC hides his phone, flips back his golden locks, and his charming smile opens the door to his dressing room. The little girls fire up.

In response to: https://carrotranch.com/2019/04/18/april-18-flash-fiction-challenge/

AS THE FLAMES FLING HIGH

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In the smoky gray courtyard, the firing squad is lined up, awaiting those to be shot. The former smoke while the latter lit candles in the night on their windowsills. But a section of the confiscated buildings is on fire and firefighters are trying to tame the ever-spreading flames – those who live in the area are out firing questions at officers ill-equipped at this fired-up injustice. The morning sun rises firing the tops of burned-out trees. “Fire! Fire!” a second of hesitation too many, “Fire, fire!” And all, at present, is gone up in tiny little bits of smoke.

In response to: https://carrotranch.com/2019/04/04/april-4-flash-fiction-challenge/

THREE PLASTIC BUCKETS

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They must both work downtown, but downtown is big. So the suburban rail carries them both in, briefcases and all. They must see a bit of the country in between the dark tunnels, which is “quite something” now that the sun rises early. Once off the train at the Northern Junction they go their separate ways. A have-a-good-day kiss never seemed so week-daily real amidst the morning rush, dusty litter swirling in the breeze and the three (red, blue and green) plastic buckets where the dripping water off the humid station walls sets a rhythm nobody pays attention to.

In response to: https://carrotranch.com/2019/03/21/march-21-flash-fiction-challenge/

THE BOOK AND THE FLIGHT

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On 30th November, 6 years ago at the very least, G. Mur[…]sy flew from Europe to warm Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. So says the faded stub of an airline ticket found in the 2013 reprint of a French book, a classic, written some seventy years ago and set roughly ten years before that. The book has nothing to do with Egypt and would make a few hours’ light reading only of a highly educated passenger, or one suffering from the same existential maladie the book is about, or one whose fear of any possible turbulence only deep philosophical absorption might help to ease. On the plane, G. Mur[…]sy was in class Y, seat 6A – takeoff occurred at 10:55 pm. Lots of people keep their ticket stubs because they forget about them so we can’t suppose G. Mur[…]sy would want this back, or the book either, which a dog ear on page seventy-three signals she might not have liked.

BACK TO THE COUNTRY – THE GOLDEN CITY

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Through the woods, at the end of a track that goes along a stream (mom swears she used to bathe in it as a child with her friends) there’s a mill and the modern-day idea of a quaint cluster of small farmhouses – a B&B proves the point, and so does an old shed, of mossy bricks and rotten beams, untouched by the renovating fury, showing a massive wooden plough, stuck in time and dust and cobwebs. In El Dorado somewhere in the Andes, ploughshares were made of silver, and this gripped the imagination of a farmer who might have heard of the legend. One morning, as he went about his day, he must have stopped and pondered whether it was worthwhile to send at least one of his nine children to check if that was true. (Mom says they would rest under that giant oak after bathing and then run back to the village before sunset, so no one knew where they’d been.)

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.

IT’S EASY TO SMILE AT THE MOON

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It’s easy to smile at the Moon, harder at the Sun. The reflected light of the former gently hits all kinds of eyes, stars dotting the dark expanse all around it, or clouds passing through, their real color unknown to our spectrum. The Sun makes it all much harder, your face ends up all scrunched up, eyes squinting, as if something else was there to decipher. Is Love a Sun or a Moon? What do I want Love to be in the end? Galehot brought Lancelot and Guinevere together and he thought he was doing his friend a good turn, but they never should have kissed, and those old novels are mostly incoherent in their development from beginning till end. Then while Streisand defended her right to be a woman in love, it was over timeless songs in a castle in southern France, there to recreate the Middle Ages, without the wild, without the irrational, for dazed travellers. Time never cuts it quite right, does it?, and the longer a kiss is held, the more it seems to us to be of any worth. But if eternity is in the moment, as we’re gratified to quote from Spinoza, then duration shouldn’t matter. It’s a trap we like, apparently.

OUT TO DRY (CORA)

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Warm and cold weather she recognized by the time it took her laundry to dry, although she could never tell exactly when each item of clothing was dry; it had been pointed out to her that something can be humid but not necessarily wet – (“Never trust linen!”) – so she needed another hand to check what her touch told her, which was the light-hearted excuse for the forthcoming marriage, which is how neighbors and passers-by found out her friend had passed, clothes out in the wind for days on end, at the stretch of new balances, just to be sure.

In response to: https://carrotranch.com/2018/12/14/december-13-flash-fiction-challenge/

OUT WITH THE CLASS

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“This is obviously not art.” “Because they changed Best of Luck with Best of F…?” “Please!” He was making another point. The giggles died down, outside the station, writings everywhere; they thought those fonts were not available in Microsoft Word. It was also the, well, artistic process: at night, on the sly, “how can they see the colors if it’s dark?”, “it’s not legal, you know.” Surely writing that This City is Anti-fascist & Always Will Be was a cliché, but the unassuming flower next to it, thin black stem, red petals starting to wither, welled up an inexplicable tear.

In response to: https://carrotranch.com/2018/12/06/december-6-flash-fiction-challenge/