Fiction: Fading Innocence

Writers Barbara Villemez, Christian Rees, Letitia Wells, and James Rose introduce us to the power of prose with their “Flash Fiction” pieces for our second issue. Everyone has a story to tell. Read on to see how each writer’s story is unique. Enjoy! 🙂

    1. “Dancing With Hannah“- Barbara Villemez
    2. “Scrub Pines“- Christian Rees
    3. “Spider Web“- Letita Wells
    4. “Free Jazz: with Call and Response Solos by The Kiss, Those Lifted above the Trails, and Killing One House Finch with Two Ancient Stones in the Vapor Cave (Pt. 2)“- James Rose

Dancing With Hannah
“Throughout this story, the author alternated between first and third person. I made all of the first person lines italic to distinguish the two perspectives. However, in this story, the author successfully captures the meandering journey of this man’s mind through his past.”- Hayley, Fiction Ed.

Small spots of light from the machines clustered by the bed flickered, casting weird shadows in the dimness of the room. Soft hissing and bubbling noises added to the eeriness.

The old man, body immobile, mouth open, breathed heavily. He moved his head from side to side, opened his eyes and looked around. Confused, and overtaken by a sense of panic, he tried to sit up. Cables and cords attached to his arms and chest imprisoned him. He felt something in his nose, reached up and touched it. Soft, cool air was entering his nostrils.

A sense of where he was and what had happened slowly came into focus. He remembered driving to his daughter’s house, not feeling well. As he got out of the car, a sharp pain in his chest radiated down his left arm and brought him to his knees. He vaguely remembered Ginny helping him back into the car. He thought back to the scene. She must have taken me to the hospital. He looked around. I’ve had another heart attack. He moved trying to see the monitors. Shit, I can’t see a thing. He shifted his body as he tried to find a comfortable place. He mumbled to himself. “Damn hospital beds.”

His mind drifted back to his last appointment with Dr. Goldstein, his cardiologist. “Mike, we’re going to have to take your legs. There’s no other choice. I have to be honest with you; it doesn’t look good. With your heart, the operation is risky.”

He remembered as Goldstein spoke, he already knew what was coming. He thought, I may not know medical stuff, but I’m no dummy. I don’t want to be a burden, especially with no legs. He sighed. Never thought Hannah would go before me. I sorely miss that woman, mouth and all. He smiled. She sure could try my patience, but what a beauty. He remembered the way she looked the first time he saw her. Strawberry blonde hair waving around her shoulders, slim waist, firm breasts that moved in concert as she hurried past him into Liz’s beauty salon. He had dated her older sister, Liz, but had never met or seen Hannah until then. And he was smitten; had stayed smitten all these years.

His mind drifted back to their life together. They’d had a good one overall. Most of it spent traveling from army post to army post. He knew it had been hard on her and the girls. During the depression he had worked whenever he could; he did any kind of menial labor to make money for his family. Then with the war in Europe, the best thing to do was enlist. The army took care of them. They had a place to live and food on the table. He had gone up the ranks pretty quickly and decided to make the military his home. And that was okay with Hannah. She wanted him to be happy. He had liked his job in the Food Service, especially running the enlisted men’s clubs, then the officer’s club when he made Chief Warrant. That job suited his personality. He enjoyed the people and the socializing. He was good at it.

He sighed. I would have liked to have had a son. He always regretted not being there when Hannah had the twins. Maybe if he’d been there instead of in the Philippines, the boys might have lived. But, again those things were in God’s hands.

He had five beautiful, intelligent girls and they’d given him sons-in-law who liked to play golf. Who could ask for more? His grandkids were growing up healthy and seemed like pretty good kids. He didn’t think they were involved in drugs, but again it was hard to tell what kids were up to nowadays. He smiled as he thought of 12 year-old Sonny. That kid was going to make a great golfer. Too bad Hannah never wanted to learn how to play.

A snatch of an old song from the forties played in his mind. Oh, how he and Hannah could dance. People would comment on how smooth they were together. He missed that. He missed her. Guess it doesn’t matter anymore, since I’m gonna lose my legs. Hell, I wish I’d taken better care of myself. He remembered the last time he and Hannah had danced. It was their sixtieth anniversary. The kids had put on a big bash with old pictures from when he and Hannah were young made into huge posters for the walls. That was quite a party. He and Hannah had danced so much his legs had trembled when they stopped. I’d just as soon leave this world now. If I don’t have my legs, I’ll just be a burden on the kids. He grimaced. I don’t want that. He lifted his head. I wonder what the time is? He could see the nurse at the desk through the glass across from his bed. Another white-coated figure came in and spoke to her. She got up and they both left the room. Probably gonna make rounds. He knew the routine. It seemed like only yesterday that he’d been in a similar room, but it was over a year ago.

He licked his lips. My mouth’s dry. I could use a drink of water. He coughed. Damn, I need a cigarette. I promised Goldstein I’d quit, but I can’t. It was unreasonable to ask a man to quit who had been smoking since he was thirteen. Let’s see, I had just turned thirteen when Jack gave me my first cigarette, a Camel. I thought I’d never stop coughing and choking. I was twenty when Hannah and I got married and we were married for sixty-four years. She’s been gone almost a year. So, I’ve been smoking for seventy-two years. That’s a hellava long time to expect a man to give up something that gives him pleasure. Everything else’s been taken away. Can’t have sweets. Have to have that sugarless shit. Haven’t had sex for a long time. Course, I haven’t been capable either. Takes your manhood away when you can’t get it up anymore. The reminder of sex brought a smile. Hannah and I never got tired of each other. She was a sensuous woman and faithful to the core. She really loved me. He frowned. I don’t know what I saw in that little blonde in Germany. It must have been an ego thing. Hannah knew, though she never said anything. I feel guilty when I think how I hurt her.

The ache in his heart swelled as he struggled for breath, tears in his eyes. Oh how I would love to dance with Hannah again. His breathing became more difficult and the pain in his chest was overwhelming. He arched his back and thrashed under the constraints gasping for breath. The monitor made a loud beeping noise. The nurse came rushing into the room. The pain was more than he could bear, a flash of light – then it was gone.

He was standing beside his bed. He felt light, no pain. In fact he felt wonderful. He watched as the nurse pushed the emergency button and a white-coated intern rushed in with a small metal cart. Behind the intern he saw the silhouette of a woman standing in the doorway. He looked closer as she came into the room. “Hannah?… Hannah, is that you?”

She smiled and flipped back strawberry blonde waves from her face. “Yes Mike, it’s me.”

“My God, you’re beautiful. You look like you did when you were twenty.”

“I am twenty Mike and so are you.” She took him by the hand and led him in front of the mirror over the sink. “See, we look just like we did when we got married.”

He looked at the two of them in the mirror. “I must be dead.”

She threw back her head and laughed, delighted with his amazement. “Honey, we’re in spirit.”

He turned from the mirror and gazed into her laughing brown eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“Why, I’ve been waiting for you. Come on.” She took his hand and pulled him toward the door.

He gave a glance back at the bed and grinned. The doctor and nurses were frantically working on his inert form. “Damn, if I’d known this would happen I’d have left sooner.”

“Come on, Mike, you promised to take me dancing.”

Hand in hand they left the room.
(Barbara has received a couple of awards from Writer’s Digest Writing Competions for several of hercompositions in the literary fiction genre, making it to the first 100 in this catagory.)

Scrub Pines
This story reminds me of a modern-day Waiting for Godot. Two brothers are engaged in a circular dialogue, touching on topics like cold and loneliness.”- Hayley, Fiction Ed.

The small service station stood by the side of the interstate in a copse of scrub trees. On the shoulder of the highway a whirl of dust rose and fell with each passing car or tractor-trailer coating the gas pumps with grit and streaking the small convenience store’s window with beige. It was cold and dusty and racks of magazines and stacks of cigarettes could be seen through the blotchy plate-glass. There were two gas pumps separated by a small enclosed service booth. A small black and white TV flickered in the fading light and an elderly man was sleeping in its light. The green sedan sat by a stand of scrub pines to the left of the convenience store and adjoining garage. The young man and his brother sat in the running car, headlights casting long shadows in the quickening darkness.

“Do you want anything?” his brother asked. He was pulling on his gloves, his wool cap sat on his lap.

“I’ll stay. Keep the car warm for you.”

“Maybe some Cheetos? Or an energy drink? How about a twinkie?”

“Whatever, it really doesn’t matter.” The young man reached for the volume dial on the radio and clicked it on. “I’ll eat whatever you get, you know me.”

“Yeah. So I’ll be back in a minute.”

“Okay.”

His brother pulled on his wool cap and unbuckled his seat belt. He paused and put his gloved palms against the blowers and turned them over.

“It’s cold out; cold enough to crack glass. That’s just about how cold it is; my fucking ears are turning red just thinking about it, you know. That’s just how cold it’s got to be.”

“Yeah, just might.”

“Real cold.”

“Yeah.”

“And all that dust, Christ I mean I thought cold like this’d freeze up the dirt not loosen it. Look at the front window of the store.”

“Must be turned loose by the passing cars or something.”

“Must be, Christ.”

He pulled is hands away from the blowers and rubbed them together. “Look I’m going inside and I’m gonna get a few things, then I’ll see about gas.”

“You said that.”

“Not about the gas.”

“Right.”

“We need some, more like more than just some. We need near half a tank.”

“Sounds right.”

“So I’ll do that you just keep the car warm.”

“I said that’s what I’d do,” he shifted his weight to the side. “Do you want some cash?”

“No, I got the stuff covered.”

“I mean, no for the gas, that’s what I mean.”

“Don’t sweat it, this tanks on me. Okay?”

“Sure,” he shifted back. “How about a hotdog?”

“What?”

“A hotdog, see if they have any of those in there. Look for a roller.”

“A roller?”

“Yeah, one of those glass cases with a heat lamp and a hotdog roller in it. You know.”

“Oh, yeah, sure.”

His brother adjusted his hat and stared out of the front windshield. “I’ll check if they’ve got any in there for you, okay?”

“That sounds wonderful.”

“Right.” He coughed softly. “The scrub pines look so lonely out here, don’t they?”

“The pines?”

“Yeah, they look so lonely, like an old women or like a rundown old property. All bent. Kind of sad I guess, if you think about it hard enough.”

“It’s all kind of lonely out here. It’s not just the pines.”

“Yeah but like they remind you of it. Like old ladies, how they have nobody left and they get all crooked and bent and then die. Like that.”

“Not every old lady is lonely. They’re not all alone.”

“Yeah. I guess.”

“Yeah. You guess.”

“Look, okay, I’m going to go in now, I’ll check if they have hotdogs or whatever. You still want one?”

“I think it’s more the gas station that makes this place lonely.”

“What?”

“The station. The pines are all huddled up together, they’re with each other. The station, well, it’s all it’s got. Some glass, pumps, junk food, dust. That’s lonely. Or more lonely then the pines.”

“Yeah. The station’s more lonely. I guess you’re right.”

The young man shifted again and pulled out his wallet. He took out a ten dollar bill and held it out across to the passenger seat. “Take it.”

“No I’m fine.”

“It’s just ten bucks, take it.”

“No really, it’s cool. I got this one.”

“Please.”

“No.”

“Please take the money.”

“No really it’s-”

“Fuck just take the money.”

“Alright.” He took the bill, tucked it in his coat pocket and opened the door. “Fuck it’s cold. Shit.”

His brother swung his legs out of the car and sat with his shoes in the dust. He stared out over the lot towards the store in its copse of scrub pines.

“Look. I’m going to go in and get some gas and stuff then when I come out could we talk for a minute?”

“I thought that’s what we’ve been doing. Talking.”

“Like really talk. You know what I mean.”

“Right. I know what you mean.”

“Well fuck if you don’t want to you don’t fucking have to.”

“Good, fine. Go get the gas.”

“Shit. I didn’t mean it that way. We need to talk.”

“Just go see if they have hotdogs.”

“I am, I’m going.”

“Go then.”

“No, wait we need to talk.”

“Now, we just did. Pines and stations and lonely old ladies. Shut the door, you’re letting the cold in.”

“You know what I mean. We need to talk, not just, you know what I mean.”

“Either go in or shit the door, we’re wasting the heat.”

His brother swung his legs back into the car and shut the door.

“So you’re not going in anymore?”

“I will in a minute.”

“Okay.”

“It’s not a big deal you know.”

“What’s not?”

“It’s really easy, I did it. It just takes a little time. You just sit there that’s all. He does most of the work for you.”

“You know what I think about it.”

“It really isn’t too bad. Just an hour. Time’s cheap anyway.”

“So you think.”

“You know what I mean. Just do it.”

“It’s not.”

“It is, it’s easy.”

“No, I mean time’s not cheap. That’s not true. It’s just not.”

“What?”

“Time is pricey. I can’t just waste it on something like that. It’s not fair to me.”

“Fair?”

“Yeah. Fair.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“What? Jesus Christ what?”

“Fair? Are you serious? Fair?”

“Yeah. I am. I know a dozen people, more, who would tell me that.”

“Yeah tell you that. Fuck I could find a dozen people who would tell me that JFK was never killed and that they keep him wrapped up in a freezer in Boise, Idaho. Fuck, people will tell you anything.”

“Just like you.”

“Fuck, just like me. You know exactly what I mean. This isn’t for you.”

“Then who’s it for?”

“You know who the fuck it’s for.”

“Yeah I do. But that’s not worth anything.”

“The hell it is. Where the fuck do you get off saying what it’s worth and what it isn’t. It’s not for you, it’s for him.”

“Him? Fuck him.”

The young man reached over to the volume nob and turned it up. His brother pulled at his gloves finger by finger and tossed them onto the dash.

“I’ll give you that. He was a bastard. To you, to me, to all of us.”

“Then you understand?”

“No. I don’t. I’m sorry.”

“Why?”

“Why? I don’t know why. Just go see him. That’s all I can tell you. It’s all I’ve got.”

The young man pulled on his hat and opened his door. He swung out his feet, resting his heels for a moment in the dust then stood. He turned back and gripped the door and looked at his brother.

“I’m going in. You don’t have to. I’ll get the gas.”

“Sure.”

“I’ll see if they have hotdogs.”

“Sounds good.”

“You want one?”

“No, thanks.”

“Alright. I’ll be back in a few.”

The young man walked across the lot, past the pumps and into the convenience store. He walked down the aisles and picked a bag of chips off of one of the shelfs. He grabbed a pair of waters from the freezer case and walked back to the counter. He stopped at the register and deposited the water and chips on the counter then walked back down the front counter towards a glass case of hot dogs. He picked out two and slide them on to rolls. At the register he payed the old woman with a twenty. She counted out his change on the counter and he swept it into his palm and walked out past the pumps and to the car.

“I picked up a hotdog for you.”

“Thanks. Gas too?”

“Shit, no. I’ll go back-”

“Alright. I’ll pull the car around.”

“Keep it warmed up.”

“Sure.”

“Back in a few.”

“Sure. I’ll see you in a few.”

The young man turned and stopped, his hand on the door.

“I’ll see him. I will, soon.”

“Okay.”

“I will, let me do it the way I do it. Alright?”

“Sure. Sure thing.”

“I will, ok? I will.”
(Christian grew up in a small Pennsylvania town clustered along the Delaware, not too far away from Philadelphia. This aspiring writer (heavy emphasis of aspiring) currently attends Loyola University in Maryland, majoring in Writing and Theater. He also appeared in the poetry section of our first issue.)

Spider Web
The smooth narrative of this story places its readers right into the car with the two characters and then coasts through the narrator’s doubts and insecurities regarding a relationship that is slowly unfolded before out eyes“- Hayley, Fiction Ed.

She placed her hand on the parking brake and leaned her body towards me as the seatbelt stretched across her chest trying to constrict her. I looked away and sat nervously in the passenger seat, my hands fiddling with the purse resting between my legs.

“Did you hear me?” She asked, leaning even closer. “What did you tell your parents—about us?”

“Nothing.” I answered, not looking her way. My gaze rested on, first, her garage door, then on the door leading into her house. My eyes shifted between the two, as I tried hard not to look at her.

“Why are you lying to me?” She asked.

“I’m not lying!” I snapped back.

“Then look at me.”

I turned my head in her direction and we made eye contact. She gave an exasperated sigh and sat back in her seat, turning her gaze towards the garage. Her left hand was curved around the steering wheel and it began to tap incessantly. She sighed a bit more, as though she was a kettle letting out small puffs of steam, before shifting the car into reverse and backing out of the driveway. In one quick motion, she shifted it into drive and we were on our way to the restaurant.

I stared out the window, watching the trees travel past us in a blur of green. When I heard her turn on the radio, I almost made a comment but stopped. She moved through the stations, settling on one of my favorites. I glanced over at her and, out of the corners of her eyes, she saw me and smiled. It was slight, but I knew she was trying not to let the previous moment ruin our whole evening. I looked, once again, out the window, searching my mind desperately for a conversation starter.

After she parked her car, we stepped out and began walking towards the restaurant, Sakura. She matched pace with me and held out her hand for me to take. We intertwined our fingers. She—walking tall and proud, black hair flowing behind her; I—gazing around, lost in my own thoughts. We entered the restaurant, the pair of us, and in that moment she let go of my hand. I noticed its absence but thought nothing of it.

“A table for two, please.” I heard her say and, as I lifted my head, my gaze followed her body. She wore black Puma shoes and matching slacks (she refused to wear jeans) with an untucked white dress shirt. Her hair reached the curve of her back, which she began to run a hand through. She scratched the side of her head, and teased her fingers through her hair. I was so enthralled that she surprised me when she turned around and asked, “You cool sitting at the sushi bar?”

I nodded my head and we were led to the bar that was located in the center of the restaurant. I took a moment to take in my surroundings. There weren’t that many people here, but there were enough to show that this restaurant was popular. White shoji lamps littered the restaurant, and oriental wallpaper lined the walls; dark red tables were arranged on top of large tatami mats. This restaurant had a real Japanese feel.

We sat down at the sushi bar and were handed our menus. What happened next was a matter of habit:

“I’m really feeling the Dragon Roll,” she said, letting out a moan. “Eel is SO GOOD!” Her foot, which was resting on the bottom ledge of the bar, began to tap.

I let out a chuckle, “Well I’m feeling for shrimp tempura.”

“Then I suppose we are also getting some nigiri.”

“Eel?”

“Eel.” She confirmed, and our order was done. In an instant our drinks were delivered. As we waited for our appetizers, she began to talk:

“So I created a new character but I’m still trying to come up with a good name for him. He’s half demon and totally badass! I’m planning on making him a bounty hunter that has to go after Yuei – you remember my character Yuei right? Well Yuei, after recollecting the shards of his sword from around Ieban, now has a bounty on his head. And I just can’t have any boring person going after him ‘cause of course, Yuei would destroy them in a heartbeat. But this new guy will give him a challenge. Oh hey you remember Shelia? I used to role play with her—well she finally got back on the forum after such a long hiatus. I was so happy to see her, so I’m creating this character for her – the bounty hunter I mean. But I still can’t come up with a good name…” She continued on, but in my mind she trailed off.

And this was how our conversations would go. She would talk my ear off while I sat there and nodded at the appropriate times. When did this happen? Why am I silent only when I’m around her? I took a sip of my coke, letting the bubbles tickle the inside of my mouth before slowly sliding down my throat. I turned back towards her and her mouth kept moving, but I heard nothing—or at least I chose not to. She had a huge smile on her face as she talked, and I smiled back, but I didn’t mean it. To this day I don’t think she knew that I too wanted to be a writer. It’s probably because I never talked about myself.

“You’re so cute.” She said, leaning across the parking brake once again. We sat in the car, parked not too far away from my house, in a similar situation from before. “I’ll be seeing you Friday, right?” She asked.

“Yeah,” I answered, an impeccable smile plastered across my face.

She leaned in closer, “Kiss me.”

Everything she asked for, everything she wanted, I was there to give. I unbuckled my seatbelt and leaned towards her, closing the gap between us. And she gave me nothing in return.

The kiss done, I exited the car making sure not to forget my purse. As I stepped up onto the curb, I looked back at her. She waved before reversing the car from the parking spot and driving out of the neighborhood. She was long out of sight, but I stood there a bit longer, my purse dangling uselessly in my hand. I was happy, but I wasn’t happy. I walked down the sidewalk, passing townhouse after townhouse before reaching my own. I retrieved my keys from my purse and opened the door.

It’s a good thing that when I make a new friend I become obsessed with them, trying hard to spend every moment with them and planning outings almost every day. So when I began dating her no one questioned the continual visits or the many times I slept over at her house. We were just friends they all thought— just close friends. But still I was surprised by my mom’s reaction:

“So how’s Sara doing?” She asked, walking into the room with a book in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. She was dressed in pjs, and it was only 6pm.

“I don’t know.” I replied. I was sitting in the living room flipping channels on the TV.

“Really? Have you not been talking with her?”

“We don’t talk anymore, Mom.” I looked up at her.

A confused look crossed her face. “Why!?”

I almost didn’t reply because her reaction surprised me so much. I fumbled for an answer, “We got in an argument…” A big one. “She said some things that hurt me.” I finally talked back to her. “So I’m not talking with her anymore.” She dumped me.

“Oh…oh okay…” She paused a bit, hesitant; searching for the right words I’m sure. “Well, I was going to invite her mother to the movies…Is that still okay?”

“Yeah, that’s fine Mom. I’m sure I’ll be talking to her soon enough.” When I give in and beg her to take me back.
(A Writing Major at Loyola University in Maryland, Letitia just recently decided to take writing more seriously. [She’s more of a playwright than a short story writer]. This is her first serious submission.)

Free Jazz: with Call and Response Solos by The Kiss, Those Lifted above the Trails, and Killing One House Finch with Two Ancient Stones in the Vapor Cave (Pt. 2)
The author’s illuminating descriptions and relatable, realistic characters bring this story to life…“- Hayley B.

“Improvisation means real time composing…
 Improvisation means composing new ideas…”.

Part 2
The flowing slopes of the San Juan Mountains, like many parts of the Rockies, lent themselves to a more commercial use. Lift number fourteen brought tourists, locals and those in-between to the highest skiable point of the mountain where nature had cleared off the trees, over 12,000 feet above the distant sea. Two skiers pushed off the lift and after Mark pointed Tommie in the right direction, the two swooped behind a sign that read Telluride Mountain- a protected part of Uncompahgre Natural Forest. It was very cold and dry and although the wind was hammering against the large oak sign there were brief intermissions.

“Do I have it?” Tommie, the rookie, asked. He had taken off his gloves and unzipped his jacket’s right pocket.

“Well I don’t,” Mark said.

“Wait, wait!” the rookie exclaimed.

“Did it fall out on the lift?” the Mark asked as he leaned forward into the front of his boots and firmly plant his poles in the loose powder by the tips of his skis.

“Got it! It was in my other pocket.”

Tommie Fowler produced a small glass pipe that was the same shape of a cigarette and only slightly larger. The outside of the glass was painted with purple and green swirls and the inside was now stained dirt-green. The paint gave it a scratchy texture and the inside residue gave off a pleasant stench that was some combination of burning tar, pine needles, and a nostalgic scent that could only be described in reference back to a childhood memory of a fresh grass stain on your newest pair of jeans.

“It won’t light with all this wind,” the rookie said.

“Because you cup your left hand too far away. You’re too scared to get close enough.” The veteran lit a cigarette.

“Bullshit. We are five feet away from the edge of a cliff and you are telling me I’m scared?”

“Yep. And I’ll bet you the first round of beer tonight that you can’t get it lit.”

“If you can light it I’ll buy you, and the girl you are trying to bring home, the first two rounds!” Fowler exclaimed, and then added, “Not like it will help your cause.” Fowler lightly jabbed his companion in the ribs with his elbow and then passed the glass—contents already packed. The veteran of the mountain put out his cigarette in the snow and accepted the pass with the grin an athlete gives an unworthy opponent.

“One, Two, and it’s lit,” the veteran said from the side of his mouth that the piece wasn’t on.

“You have too much practice,” Fowler said.

“Whatever. It’s top shelf for me tonight.”

“Booze maybe, but not girls.”

“Jerk.”

“Are you ever going to pass that?” Fowler asked.

“Maybe,” Mark said after he exhaled.

The two looked out across the Colorado Rocky Mountains and down at the outskirts of the village that was being converted from dilapidated shacks left over by the silver miners to time-share condos and more elaborate cabins.

“I don’t know if we will get away with this,” the Fowler said.

“We will be fine; I did it last year too. They don’t check that close.”

“Yea but still, what if they find out?”

“They won’t find out,” Mark said.

“But what if they do? Your cousins will be screwed.”

“Andy and I look enough alike. Plus the lifties are lazy as shit, they won’t notice.”

“Yea but I don’t look anything like Tim,” the rookie said and scratched his chin where a beard should have been.

“Just chill. Here take this.”

“Would we be kicked off the mountain for good?” Fowler asked before he took in a deep breath through the chillum.

“Maybe.”

“Then what would we do?”

“Find another mountain.”

“How far away is that?” Fowler asked. “And how the hell would we get there? The shuttle only runs to the airport”

“I don’t know, but it has got to be bad luck talking about it this much.”

“Ehh I guess. I don’t really believe in that Karma bullshit.”

“Do you believe in anything?” asked Mark.

“Yea, that Tupac is alive, in Cuba, smoking some good cigars with Elvis, and the landing on the moon was some political propaganda.”

“Ha-ha, you better pass that back here before your head is all messed up,”

“I’m just kidding, but do you think we can actually ski sometime today?” Fowler asked.

The rookie brushed out the inside of the glass and put it in his pocket. They both buckled their boots up tightly and duck-walked towards the top of the trail.

“Enchanted Forest sound good to you?” the Mark asked.

“That goes to lift one right?”

“Yep, now don’t make me wait too long for you.”

The two descended down the mountain and weaved in and out of turkeys (the unskilled skiers, who had on entirely too many layers and had to open up their jackets, creating a round figure with a wide tail trying to take off, but only able to maintain an unattractive wobble.) They both skied on the balls of their feet, knees bent, weight forward, shins pressed to the front of their boots, and their feet, legs and skis close together.

“So who was waiting for who?” Mark asked.

“Let’s just get on the lift.”

“Lift tickets gentlemen?” the lift operator asked in a French accent.

“Of course,” Mark replied.

The operator scanned Fowler’s first and then Mark’s, but seemed to hesitate when he was letting go. The two quickly skied up to the loading station and jumped on the next lift while the operator yelled something in French, waving his arms after them.

“Did we just get caught?” Fowler asked once they were up in the air.

“I don’t know; let’s just book it to the lodge once we get off anyways.”

“I knew this would happen. I knew, knew, knew it!”

“Chill out we don’t know anything yet. Just stay calm and don’t blow it,” Mark said.

The rookie didn’t reply.

The lift creaked into a complete stop when the two skiers reached the unloading dock and a man in a red ski-patrol jacket approached.

“May I see your season passes?” the ski-patroller asked

“Of course,” Mark replied again.

And again the man checked the Fowler’s first. “What is your name sir,” the patroller asked.

“Tim. Umm Tim Henn,” the rookie said and clinched his jaw to try and stop the rattling.

“Can you lift your goggles?” the man asked, and made the corresponding motion. The rookie lifted his goggles and didn’t say anything. The man gave the rookie a nod. “Alright,” the man said.

“And your name?” the man asked Mark.

“Andy Check,” the veteran firmly replied and lifted up his goggles without being prompted.

“Can you give me a big smile—like the one in this picture?” the man asked.

Mark grinned.

“No I mean one where you show your teeth, like you did right here.”

The man pointed to the season pass.

“Nah I’m too tired,” was his simple reply. “I have been skiing all day, I’m exhausted.”

“Can you tell me why your hair is brown in this picture and it is blond now,” the man asked.

“Well actually sir, I just got back from volunteering in Africa and the sun there, it lightened up my hair.”

“Oh really? Do you think you could come to my office to verify some of your information then?”

“Of course, not a problem,” Mark replied. The veteran gave the rookie a quick glance and a low wave, the way a crossing guard holds off a child in busy traffic.

“Alright Mark, I’ll wait for you in front of the lodge,” the rookie said to the veteran and then very swiftly shifted into the crowd.
(James Rose is currently a senior at Loyola University Maryland and Social Affairs chairperson for the Greyhound Collective Poetry Revival. When he’s not busy with accounting, Rose loves to write in his spare time.)

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2 Responses to “Fiction: Fading Innocence”
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