Tag Archives: flash fiction

Abstract Expressionism—in Writing

There has been an explosion of flash fiction in recent years. Flash fiction has been around a long time, parables and fables go back to ancient times. Some writers berate it by claiming that modern readers have attention deficit disorder, hence the popularity of Twitter, but I don’t believe this is entirely true.

If I want to read a book, I’ll read a book. I don’t have Kindle or any kind of e-reader, can’t afford to keep up, and seem to survive just fine without them. So, when I’m at my computer, which is often, there’s just no way I can sit here and read 1000 word stories, posts, or articles unless it’s part of research for work, writing, or my own curiosity. It would have to draw me in immediately, and there are a few who do, but they usually pertain to a subject I’m interested in.

I believe in the principles of flash fiction and wish all writers would apply these to their work. There are so many longwinded posts, articles, and bestselling fiction, full of superfluous text or boring or irrelevant details that I want to bleed a red pen over them.

But there’s something else in flash fiction that is just as cumbersome, and that is fiction so surreal it defies explanation. Reading a short story ten times trying to figure it out takes just as long as reading a long story once. I keep getting told it’s all about the reader’s interpretation, but stories aren’t dreams nor should they resemble a Jackson Pollock painting. Even a very short story should give you some basic facts and have a beginning, middle and end, even if it’s just 100 words. That’s what a story is. This is done by choosing each word carefully and not assuming the reader knows what’s inside your head. A page from an imaginary novel is not a story. By leaving out important pieces of information, writers think they are being profound but they are simply leaving many readers asking “huh?”

Bloggers can write whatever they want, it’s no one’s business but their own. But I would like to see writers of surreal fiction ask their readers what they think it means. I would like to see the commenters who write “awesome post” explain why they think it’s awesome. I love puzzles—cryptograms, crossword puzzles, Scrabble, jumbles, and hangman. I don’t get the same enjoyment from a puzzling piece of fiction. You can be just as profound without leaving the reader bewildered.

My Alleged Life and Loves

My father owned a hotdog stand—but he had a footlong chip on his shoulder. At Christmas we would garnish the house with mustard greens, something us kids didn’t relish. Sometimes he would lock me out of the house—he was a deadbolt dad. One day he hurt his back coming out of a record shop, turned out he had a slipped disk—every time he moved Bad to the Bone by George Thorogood would play. It didn’t help that he also had digestive problems and ended up with a semicolon.

Only my parents could make a spectator sport out of a card game, they played contact bridge. Whenever my father won a hand, my mother would deck him.

I needed work so I took a position as an artist’s model, but the arrangement was very tiring. I tried to tell the artist I was just a prototype. I cleaned the large homes of wealthy people, even the toilets were commodious. I worked in a butcher shop for a while but had a visceral reaction. Trying to stay employed was frutal, even the car I drove was a lemon but at least it smelled good.

I’ve always had trouble sleeping. When I finally fall asleep the dream team of Ayatollah Khomeini and Satan are nightly visitors. Another dream I have involves a three-eyed monster who demands a pair of trifocals. I try to exorcise but realized I was on a treadmill to hell. Why go through the hassle of body-building when you can just stay home and masticate? I’m a terrible cook though, my deviled eggs are evil, which may explain a lot. I stay powered by transgressed fats and Miracle Whip.

I like to get dolled up now and then but never should have let that hairdresser talk me into the salmon mousse, now every cat in the neighborhood is after me. She lent me a book on skincare and pockmarked the page she wanted me to read. My boyfriend has male pattern baldness, I think it’s argyle.

I had a string of boyfriends in my younger days but could never get the knots out. One eggbeater who was part of the illiterati once decomposed a sonnet for me which I had to throw out. He got mad and left. I scoured the earth for him and went through a lot of sponges which I think he should reimburse me for. He still harbored a grudge, but mooring me with the OED was uncalled for. I said thanks for dredging up the same old shit. He said muck you, I said my sediments exactly. Later he sent me a bouquet of listeria from which I’ve never fully recovered.

An accountant I dated made a killing by filing fraudulent IRS returns for wealthy clients. He was sentenced to life in prison where he gave taxonomy lessons to other classless crooks. I was an accessory, they suspected my velvet choker. When the cops came to arrest him at his office, he tried to pretend he was on the phone, but they insisted on just the fax. We tried to keep the whole thing quiet, but everyone had just returned from a liquid lunch so there were a lot of media leaks. Everything went wrong—figures I’d end up a fugitive from Murphy’s Law.

I dated a black guy back in the ’70s. I loved his hair, it was a real afrodisiac.

In high school I went out with this dyslexic guy. One day he reached for his gnu and got expelled, I think it was through a third floor window.

Another chump who was religious asked me if I was an atheist, I said I’m really more of a diagnostic. He also liked guns—it wasn’t easy to come to grips with the fact that he was a smoothbore skinflint.

I’m done with men, though I still enjoy boys…and raw recruits, when properly prepared, are pretty tasty.

Postcard from Hell

Stephanie at BeKindRewrite has once again provided her weekly prompts for Inspiration Monday IX.

Dear Jimmy,

Well, it’s pretty much what I expected. There are many rooms and levels here. I’m in the TV section, where we are shuttled back and forth between soccer and CNN. We are given plenty of fluids but there are no bathrooms. Nobody talks about why they’re here because we’re not allowed to speak, but each of us knows our sins. We are not allowed books, pencils, or paper. I have to hand it to him, it’s all pretty ingeniously planned for ultimate discomfort. I guess this is permanent, but since no questions are allowed I assume it is. If we fall asleep we are shaken and shown pictures of honor killings and have to praise Allah. Complete attention to the televisions are strictly enforced—at the end of each day we are tested, and if we answer a question wrong the volume is cranked to maximum. This creates dissent among the inmates, which the guards enjoy. If I am caught daydreaming I am singled out to clean the game show room while cranky retired people follow me around describing in detail their recent surgeries while I am forced to politely feign interest. I believe these people are apparitions but they are real enough to me.

Well hon, gotta go. They’re repeating the same tragedies on CNN for the umpteenth time today, but claim there are updates, so I’ve got to pay attention. I don’t want to tell you what I had to do to the guard to smuggle this message out, it’ll just piss you off and I know you have your own problems.

Love,

Debra

Husband No. 3.5, a Typographical Terror

I wasn’t big on the institution of marriage, especially since I had just been released from some crackpot’s idea of an asylum. I wasn’t ready for the holy state of acrimony, but he was sick of being my insignificant other. He really wanted to integrate—on my nerves. He talked me into it when he installed a built-in closet with me in it. When he finally let me off the hook, we sealed it with a hiss and became officially engaged—in a brawl. He had a nice smile though and I was quite enameled with him, and a cute pencil mustache which I would sharpen every night.

His name was Bob Kaic and he was an old-fashioned guy. His email address was rkaic@ slomail.com. At my wedding I wore a queasy-colored dress infestooned with carbuncles and everybody got nauseous. It was a blustery day and it was hard for guests to hold down their food so I was glad we had opted for the bag lunch. For our honeymoon we went paraphrasing at Lacuna Beach, where he told me to jettison any big ideas I had. We tried swimming but I was so polluted I dissolved into brackish tears. Then we hiked through a petrified forest but I was more scared than the wood. I forgot to pack my camera and he sniped at me for being unfocused. Afterward we threw pennies in the soda fountain and watched them corrode, then ambled down the boardwalk but found it tedious. The hotel offered us the bridal suite but I bucked at that, just because I have saddle bags and was wearing a halter top is no reason to be mean. I should have paid more attention to my reservations, but it was spur of the moment.

Bob wouldn’t shut up though and gave me a communicative disease. His philosophy of life confused me, not surprising since he was born in Farrago, North Dakota. He lived up near the Indians in Mishmash for a while, then traveled overseas to Gallimaufry and Pastiche. His family came from all walks of life—his father limped, his mother waddled, and his brother had two left feet. His dad was a Doctor of Scatology down at the free clinic, where he was head of Janitorial Services. Bob had an Italian uncle who would never let him do anything—his name was Veto. He once smacked poor Bob with a waffle iron, it left quite an impression—he had hot cross buns for a month. His sister, Compass Rose, was a Girl Scout leader, and his grandfather, Mort, sat in front of the TV impersonating the living. Not his fault though, he had brain surgery by a doctor who was operating under the influence and accidentally installed a dinner plate in his head.

Bob claimed he was an upstanding guy but I usually saw him horizontal. He was a musician, he liked to play the strumpet and was a patron of the tarts. He was short and fat so I called him a jumbo shrimp and he yelled “don’t call me that you oxymoron!” I said come on, we’re all adulterous here. Sometimes I would get engrossed just looking at him.

When we were packing to move into a bigger apartment it turned into a boxing match. One night he came after me with an axiom but it was so illogical I laughed. He chased me outside in the rain where I lost a shoe in the mud. I was hopping mad. When I tried to get back inside he pierced me with his eyes but it was just an entry wound. Once we argued over who ate the last apple—but the core of the problem went deeper, I was a fruit loop. We had no money and lived on Ramen noodle soup, a low-viscosity solution. I told him I couldn’t live in a vacuum but when he showed me how roomy it was inside I said I’d try to pick up the pieces.

But he turned into a bitter man and the smell of vinegar was overpowering. We finally came to a fork in the road but realized we needed it for our potato salad. We labored under the delusion that things would improve, but it was a thankless job with no benefits. The union finally got busted and I’m back to being self-deployed. That seven-month itch really burns.

Better than Tuna?

____________________________________________________

Better than Tuna?

What a bunch of dopes. Look at them down there, always making a big commotion about every trifle. A gnat flies by and they gotta let you know they’re on Stupid Patrol. I get to go outdoors but I don’t need no stinking fence. I’m sitting here on the ledge out of their sight, but my route to the branch that goes into the park is a well-marked course. I like to sit here for a bit and meditate before I go in. I’m quite Zen, you know.

I leap smoothly to the branch and wind my way through the tree into their territory. All it takes is one little meow and here they come. Look at them all barking and howling around the base of the tree. Though my own dogs are much better trained and know they’ll get a sharp slap if they chase me, they just can’t resist acting like a bunch of barbarians when they see me in a tree. Some primitive instinct to corner something I guess. Idiots, will they never evolve? Now their owners are all yelling at them to quit it. Ha ha. Whoa, was that the sound of a can opening? Gotta go!

______________________________________________________

Stephanie’s responses to prompts at BeKindRewrite are exploding. It seems like a lot of work for a person who has a busy life. She puts a lot of thought into these prompts, and it doesn’t seem fair to her to combine her excellent prompts with others from different sites. Also, all you have to do is pingback somewhere in your post to Inspiration Monday VIII  or whatever number it is. You don’t have to print your entire story on her website or bug her to look at your story. She’ll be notified of your pingback and give you credit on Monday night. I’m afraid we’re going to lose this wonderful opportunity if we don’t respect these simple rules. I’m not trying to be a dick, but she is just one person, and I for one do not want to overwhelm this brilliant woman who has a full-time job, a book she’s writing, and a lack of sleep she has written about.

Prompt is A Cat in a Dog Park.

Death’s Artwork

I promised Miss Stephanie at Be Kind Rewrite that there would be no evasion of assignments this week. These two pieces of short fiction are inspired by Inspiration Monday VII   and the prompt “Death’s Artwork.”

_____________________________________________________

Queen for a Day

Josie fiercely protected a shopping cart abundant with the priorities of her life—newspapers, cans, tattered old coats, and bags filled with carefully chosen bits of shiny detritus—castoffs from a world of excess. She had a life once, a husband, children. But that was before the illness and one by one they abandoned her, or maybe she abandoned them. She was not so much old as she was shrunken into a wizened floating sylph—life sucks and then you live. Though she muttered and raved, sometimes pure reason would erupt from her cracked lips, heard only by those who sensed the value of words spoken in cipher.

When I found Josie one morning stiff and cold in an alleyway behind my apartment, I knew there was one last thing I could do before they came to bury her in a pauper’s grave. I bathed her and brushed her tangled hair, discarded the rags and dressed her in a simple blue shift. With her face made up, the years dropped away.

The state provided a simple wooden box, in which I arranged her priceless treasures. A small funeral was held. Other street people came, and they all said that Josie never looked so beautiful.

______________________________________________________

Interview with a Lepidopterist

Oh those butterflies are so beautiful! You must have worked on this collection for a long time.

I have. It’s my pride and joy.

You must know so much about butterflies. How do you catch them?

I use the traditional nets. I know just where to find the best specimens. I’ve been all over the world and have some very rare specimens—sometimes I even sell them to make money to further my art!

Wow. Are you a scientist?

No, it’s just a fun hobby.

What happens after you net one?

Well, we have these special pins we use to mount them for display.

No, I mean before that.

You mean how do I arrange them?

No, I mean how do they go from alive to dead? You don’t stick pins in live butterflies, do you?

Of course not, that would be cruel! I euthanize them first.

How?

There are a couple of ways. The most common is to squeeze their thorax. The force breaks their exoskeleton, but sometimes you have to do it twice if they survive the first attempt. The other way is the killing jar. I usually add a few drops of ethyl acetate to asphyxiate it, otherwise they beat their wings against the glass trying to escape, and that damages the specimen.

Oh.

What?

Why not just take a picture?

______________________________________________________

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Once again Stephanie at Be Kind Rewrite has invoked another short piece of fiction from me with her weekly prompts, Inspiration Monday V.

____________________________________________________

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

I’m a real people person. I think everybody is entitled to their way of life, no matter what. When people do bad things, it’s not their fault and it’s not fair to judge them. Who says they’re bad anyway? It’s our birthright as humans to act in any way we wish. Who are we to tell people how to behave? Sheesh!

Why should people have to follow some dumb law they didn’t make? We don’t need laws, we need complete freedom to do as we please, it’s a free country! And any religion has the right to practice any level of it they want, in any venue—it’s their religion and we must respect that.

Everybody deep down has a good heart. When we think people are mean or hypocritical or phony, that’s just their nature. It’s wrong to have expectations of people! We should strive to be accepting of every single person or group, and help them express themselves in any way we can.

The kids that killed that dog and hung it from a flagpole in town last year are so misunderstood, they were just having a little fun! And the hoarder in Phoenix who had 200 starving dogs in her house, each to his own! Jesus, people, have some compassion!

_____________________________________________________