Fiction Section: Fancy Fiction
With our first issue of the New Year, we have three riveting pieces of flash fiction for a nice, quick leisurely read. Writers Janet Yung, Thomas Healy, and Kim Farleigh takes us on a journey as they help us at Write From Wrong by submitting these wonderful short stories. Our New Year’s resolution is to bring our readers nothing but the best possible literature out there. After you read through these three stories, I’m sure you’ll agree with us when we say, we’ve stuck to our resolutions so far this year.
Make sure you get comfortable when you begin to read these stories. You will not want to be disturbed.
Oh, and enjoy!
1. “Revolving Doors” by Janet Yung
2. “Caught in Two Worlds” by Kim Farleigh
3. “Catch of the Day” by Thomas Healy
Many readers will sympathize with the protagonist of Janet Yung’s “Revolving Doors” as she frets over a nagging fear that gradually tightens its grip over her. Yung’s smoothly flowing pace and attention to the subtleties of Amanda’s concerns make this an enjoyable read.
Amanda’s irrational fear of the unseen drove her out of the Romanesque style structure before they even had the opportunity to enter and inspect their assigned accommodations.
“What’s wrong?” James asked, but Amanda had no explanation other than that she felt “itchy” the moment she set foot inside the worn looking lobby.
“But it’s highly recommended,” James protested as they passed through the revolving doors, suitcases in hand, the doorman, who’d greeted them less than fifteen minutes earlier, looking confused.
“Where do you suggest we go?” James dropped his bags at the curb and a cab slowed down, James waving him off.
“I don’t know.” Amanda was in the habit of letting James choose their out of town quarters, carefully researching each place before making a final decision.
The Adams Arms had looked charming in travelers’ online candid photos in spite of the clutter some occupants spread out for the shoot. “You’d think they’d pick up the room before taking any pictures,” Amanda commented. James was quick to remind her she needed to look past that.
“See, they love it. The rooms are big, the service is good. And,” this was the big plus, “the place is clean.” Studying snaps of the tiled bathroom walls and shower, she agreed.
“Clean is important.”
“Clean and quiet.”
Amanda felt anger emanating from James who’d turned his back on her, watching the traffic whiz by them. Lifting his left arm, he checked his watch and cleared his throat. “We can’t stand here all night.” He turned up his collar, a sudden chill in the air. “We could spend one night here,” nodding towards the front door. “We’ve already paid for it.”
“That’s true,“ Amanda shivered in her lightweight jacket. Looking over her shoulder, Amanda caught the doorman’s eye and quickly looked away before he misunderstood the gesture and made a beeline for the door, opening it with a flourish to readmit them.
The bed bug idea would never have crossed Amanda’s mind except for an overheard conversation at the airport baggage carousel.
“Did you hear about Jodie?” A young woman’s voice rose above the chatter of weary travelers, either glad to be home or begin their vacation, whatever brought them to the city. Then, the woman lowered her voice, causing Amanda to strain to hear the rest of the conversation.
“Bed bugs,” Amanda mouthed the words while James struggled with the overstuffed bags. Who imagined bed bugs in modern times?
“Sorry,” one of the women apologized bumping into Amanda while retrieving a black bag.
“No problem,” Amanda smiled and the two disappeared before they could elaborate on the sorry state of affairs at their mutual friend’s. Amanda trembled with the feeling something small was burrowing into her ankles and bent over to inspect them as James appeared, bags on cart.
“Nothing,” Amanda lied as they grabbed the next available taxi.
Amanda squirmed in the deep bench seat, convinced something had invaded her jeans, and was marching toward its dinner at her waist. She wished she’d stopped at the airport when James offered, but the idea of what lurked in the public restroom made her more uncomfortable than what might be crawling all over her body now. Still, she could have done a cursory inspection.
James studied the map posted on the glass partition, following the cab’s progress to their destination as Amanda rubbed her left ankle with her right foot and scratched at her waist. When they hit a pot hole, an “Oh,” escaped Amanda’s lips and James looked at her for a moment.
“Are you okay?”
“Fine,” she assured him.
The cab came to a stop in front of a large, old building on a busy corner. “Here you are,” he said, springing from behind the wheel to collect their bags and monies due.
“It looks nice,” James observed, more of a question than a statement, while helping Amanda from the cab. Amanda’s gaze followed the lines of the stone walls and, turning around, it seemed as if they’d been deposited into a canyon of steel and concrete.
Already, I’m not having a good time, was her first reaction and the gloomy exterior of the building in the fading light of the afternoon wasn’t helping. “Yeah,” she said while the cab sped off in pursuit of its next fare.
The lobby was dimly lit by fixtures designed to instill a mood of intimacy, but all it did was convince Amanda that management was trying to conceal poor housekeeping.
“Welcome to the Adams Arms,” the neatly attired desk clerk beamed, impressing Amanda that anyone could be so cheerful in such an environment.
“I need to stop,” Amanda said once they’d settled all the details of their stay.
“Can’t it wait till we get to the room?” James asked and when Amanda assured him it couldn’t, he waited in the lobby while she made a made dash to ladies’ room.
Inside a stall, she raised her shirt and studying the flesh above the waistband of her jeans, couldn’t find anything. She undid her fly with the same results, wishing she had a mirror in her purse for a closer inspection of parts not readily visible.
“Okay?” James asked when she emerged
“Yeah,” she smiled. But her comfort was short-lived, shattered by the state of the hallway carpeting as they stepped off the elevator and James pointed them in the direction of their room.
“I don’t like this,” Amanda stopped halfway down the hall and then had to explain what it was that was making her uncomfortable.
Outside the hotel where the clerk, retaining her happy demeanor, assured them they were welcome to return, the cost of their first night non refundable with such short notice, Amanda realized James wasn’t too happy.
“I thought by now, we’d be sitting down to dinner, making plans for tomorrow and enjoying a relaxing evening.”
“I’m sorry.” Amanda wasn’t sure exactly how many times she’d said that since they’d vacated the premises. “It’s the bed bug thing.” The excuse sounded weak as she repeated it, shuddering against the cold.
“Did you see any bugs?” No matter how many times he asked the question or whatever way he phrased it, Amanda didn’t seem capable of giving a more detailed answer than the interior felt “itchy”.
She admitted the place was grand at one time, but showing signs of age made her uneasy. She danced around the subject without being able to admit, “I heard someone at the airport talking about bed bugs.” Then, it began to rain.
The sad sojourn around the neighborhood yielded nothing better in the way of lodging. The one place with a pristine appearance matching Amanda’s standards had a price tag James refused to pay.
“We’ll sleep in the park,” he said in a way that convinced Amanda he meant it. They were walking in circles. Disoriented and pelted with rain from the darkening sky her feet began to hurt and she wished she’d worn more comfortable shoes.
“Okay, we’ll stay at the next place we come to,” Amanda vowed.
“You promise?” James asked and Amanda nodded, committing to the unknown as they paused near a familiar looking wire trash can. A neon sign flashed erratically overhead and James looked up to find they were back where they’d started and grinned.
BIO: Janet Yung lives and writes in St. Louis. Fiction has appeared in “The Shine”, “The Camel Saloon”, and “Fast Forward.”
Caught in Two Worlds
Kim Farleigh’s words rush forward like a fast-flowing river of poetry that pulls the reader along in its current. His treatment of the contrast between the primal violence and gore of bullfighting and the naively eager audience is starkly illuminating.
The crowd roared, the sword thrust into the bull’s back, skill, under injury’s threat, admired, a pre-historic appreciation that made modern killing virtuous, emotions springing from unconscious memory.
The bull spun, swaying, capes cast into its face, the matador raising a triumphant arm, the bull losing interest in the capes and in the territory that was once his, blood-ridden bull sides brushing the arena’s barrier, leaving dark-red stains on the arena’s barrier, stains, wet and shiny, on the arena’s barrier, the bull collapsing on its knees before the shining stains that were glinting on the arena’s barrier, the matador shouting, his assistants surrounding the bull, the bull trying to keep its head from falling, an assistant closing in with the puntilla, stepping forward carefully, the bull getting up, its skewed legs unstable, a black, unstable mass swaying on supports that now looked strangely thin, the assistant backing away from a wobbling black mass that was perched on legs that now looked wafer thin, the matador now no longer shouting, the bull swaying as if drunk, going down again on bending knees that bent in legs that now looked strangely thin, going down before the red stains that looked like iridescent paint, eerily shining on the arena’s barrier.
A woman who had applauded the sword’s exciting entry into the bull’s back, as if this event had been a scene in a play laden with profound, classical abstractions, now said: “This is terrible.”
She clutched her handbag’s straps. Her facial lines deepened. Her blue eyes were clear with shock. Her heavy period was now making her feel faint. Blood dripping from the bull’s mouth was leaving red strings on the sand, the crowd quiet, hoping that this suffering would be short. The woman felt faintly nauseous. It didn’t look natural, this lonely, gory, prolonged death; it felt unnecessary and artificial; but it couldn’t have been more real. Millions have died exactly like that on the battlefield.
The conscious realm had started exerting its held-back interest.
The free-flowing blood made the woman’s eyes stark with shock. This primeval dance between man and animal had previously been strangely exotic, like something admirable from a distance. Now it felt unnecessary and unreal – like a warped mind’s gratuitous invention.
The assistant, holding a dagger, touched the bull’s nose, the bull’s head directed down, enabling the assistant to line up the spine, the puntilla then being smashed into the back of the bull’s neck, the bull leaping up as if the dagger had given it an electric charge, the bull shaking with shock, the shocked crowd gasping, the woman, who was clutching the handbag, raising her hands and saying: “Oh, my God,” no audacious skill involved in plunging daggers into dying bulls’ necks, the assistant scurrying away, the bull thrusting forward, collapsing on its knees again, shaking its head, the matador’s arms now by his sides, not raised as before, a man quiet like the crowd, uneasy contemplation now filling the ring, unplanned tragedy’s emotions clashing with those generated by ancient concerns, the assistant gingerly approaching the bull, the woman with the handbag saying: “How many times is he going to have to do this?” The bull ejecting blood from its mouth in spurts that came out with the pumping of its heart, the woman grimacing silently, her blue eyes, like slithers of sapphire, glinting with fearful dismay, the assistant raising the puntilla again above the bull’s head, “Come on, toro, please go,” he said, the dagger thrust into the bull’s hide, the bull shaking and leaping up and charging, the crowd gasping, the assistant backing off, the woman with the handbag saying: “They can’t kill it!” Her fists tightening around her bag’s straps, the bull collapsing to its knees again, people in the crowd whistling, high-pitched shrills unsettling, “For Christ’s sake, get it over with,” the bullfighter hissed, the assistant with the dagger saying: “What the hell do you think I’m trying to do?” “Get it over with,” the bullfighter demanded, blood spilling in bucket-load spurts from the bull’s mouth, the woman looking down, averting her glittering, troubled, blue eyes from this prolonged agony, from this menstrual exaggeration, from this reminder of the present, the assistant approaching, the quietness like a silent gasp waiting to be exhaled, the sombre quietness of pity, no triumphant shouting now from a matador whose silence was now more salient than his previous chanting had been, now no aesthetic appreciation of the virtues of graceful killing under the threat of horns, the quietness of worry coming down over the ring in tense silence, eerie passivity’s moral compromise laying its sombre veil over the ring, the assistant raising the dagger, bringing it down again, the bull leaping to its feet and staggering into the fence, the woman saying: “They’re not going to be able to kill it!”, the bull’s eyes, dazed with pearly dismay, exposed and covered and exposed again by flickering lids, flowing blood staining the white paint on the barrier’s base, the crowd gasping at this unsettling contrast of hues, the woman with the handbag saying: “How long is this going to go on for?” The bull collapsing onto its knees again, sitting like a cat, the assistant approaching, carefully stepping forwards, awkward, pre-mantis, bullfighter limbs stretched, stretching out awkwardly, those thin-stick limbs now denuded of their previous elegance, made ungainly by unexpected death’s threat, the bull straining to keep its head up, the head bobbing under the strain of being kept up, the puntilla crashing into the bull’s spine once more, the bull’s head smacking the ground, its final resting place against a blood-stained barrier, the crowd applauding in relief, the woman with the handbag saying: “Thank God. I couldn’t take anymore of that. I’ve got to go to the toilet. I’ll see you outside,” the matador stroking the bull’s head and saying: “Sorry, amigo,” stroking his lost friend, immediacy overriding unconscious drive, minds in conflicting worlds.
“I quit,” the bullfighter said later. “I’m too civilised for this now. It’s time to go.”
BIO: Having a taste for the exotic, Kim has worked for aid agencies in three conflicts: Palestine, Kosovo and Iraq. His stories have been published in magazines in the US, Australia and Europe.
Catch of the Day
Thomas Healy’s succinct and descriptive prose augment his thought provoking story, in which the plot unfolds in a most unexpected way.
Hunched over his handlebars, the chinstrap of his helmet fastened as tightly as he could get it, Lanier hurtled along the wood chip path that wound through Powder Springs Park. Every couple of weeks, early Sunday morning, he rode his mountain bike on the bumpy trail. Sometimes he was joined by friends from work, but usually he rode by himself, which he preferred because then he could go as fast as he liked and take more chances.
“You’re delirious, Dennis,” one of his friends remarked after riding with him one morning. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were possessed.”
About a quarter of the way down the path, careening around a sharp turn, his back tire caught a tree root and he spilled off the bike and plunged into a hawthorn shrub. Its sharp points stung his hands and scratched the sleeves of his windbreaker.
“Damn it,” he groaned, futilely trying to rub the sting from his hands. “Goddamn it.”
He squeezed his eyes shut, as if hoping he had only imagined the crash, then opened them and saw his bike sprawled against a cedar tree. Slowly he got back on his feet and limped over to it, and as he did he noticed something lying behind the bike in the bushes. Still a little groggy from his spill, he thought for an instant it was a hand but then realized it was a baseball glove—a large one with a thumb the size of a cucumber. He picked it up and slipped his hand inside it, sure he could fit a couple of his fingers into one of its fingers it was so large. It was a pretty old glove, the pocket was very thin and a couple of loose threads hung from the web, so he assumed the owner wanted to get rid of it. He was not surprised. Lots of things were scattered along sections of the path that were adjacent to the lone road in the park. Still, the Rawlings glove appeared to have a few more catches left in it and he slipped it off and looked for some identification. And there under the strap, the same place where he used to put his name and address on his gloves as a youngster, he found the name Krumholz printed in black ink. There was no address or telephone number, however, so it was unlikely he could return it to the owner and started to toss it back in the bushes, then hesitated.
Maybe some kid in his neighborhood might like it, he thought, strapping the glove over his handlebars, and if not, maybe he could locate the owner who might regret having got rid of it.
The three kids Lanier offered the glove to weren’t interested because soccer was their game, not baseball, so he set it aside on a shelf in the kitchen. There it remained for nearly a week, collecting dust and the occasional paper clip, until one evening he decided to see if he could find its owner. Eighteen Krumholzes were listed in the telephone directory, three times the number he expected, but he was determined now to find out whose glove it was and proceeded to call one name after the other.
The sixth person he called was ecstatic when he told him he found a Rawlings glove with his name on it. Indeed, before he had a chance to ask, the guy described it in considerable detail, including some of its imperfections, to prove that it was definitely his glove.
“Someone swiped it last Saturday when I was at the park,” he explained. “It was in my backpack, which I’d put under a bench for a couple of minutes while I helped some woman look for her dog. When I returned, it was not there.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I had a lot of valuable things in my pack, including my wallet and car keys, but what I missed most was my glove.”
Lanier was surprised by the admission. “Is that so?”
“It belonged to my father, you see, and is one of the few personal items of his I have.”
“And I was sure I’d never see it again.”
“Well, then, I’d like to get it back in your hands as soon as possible,” he said. “So is there some place where we can meet?”
Krumholz thought for a moment. “What about the park?”
“Sure, that’d be fine.”
“Say, at noon, this Saturday.”
“I’ll be there.”
“I’ll see you then, sir, and again thank you for calling. You don’t know what a relief it is to know that I haven’t lost my father’s glove, after all.”
After dinner, Lanier took the scuffed glove from the shelf where he put it shortly after he brought it home and set it on the drain board beside a bowl of hot soapy water. Then he picked up a sponge floating in the bowl, squeezed the water out, and slowly wiped it across the sweat-stained heel of the glove. Then across each finger and all around the web, determined to scour away every bit of dirt and grime. He wanted the glove to be as clean as possible, not the filthy rag it was when he found it in the bushes, figured that would show that he understood how much it meant to its owner. After he was through, he hung it on the clothesline on the back porch.
He never really had a father, not someone he knew anyway because his father left his mother when he was an infant. One of her brothers sometimes came by with his glove and they would play catch together but that only happened a couple of times in the summer. For as long as he could remember, he’d wished he had a father like Krumholz’s who played catch with him all the time, someone who would pass his glove on to him one day.
He agreed to meet Krumholz at the east end of the Fly-Casting Pool, which was located almost in the middle of the park. He arrived a few minutes before twelve, not wanting to be late, and, according to the description Krumholz gave him on the phone, looked for a bearded man wearing a faded Dodger cap. Soon after he got there, he thought he spotted him, jogging from the direction of the tennis courts, but then realized the guy was wearing a Cubs cap so he continued to scan the park.
Some twenty minutes passed, and still there was no sign of the guy, so he was about ready to return to his car when he saw a Dodger cap bobbing above a swarm of children at the west end of the pool. At once, he held the glove above his head and waved it back and forth until the guy saw it and headed toward him.
“That’s right,” he said, handing him the glove. “And you must be Krumholz?”
The bearded man nodded. “First of all, I want to apologize for being late. My damn car wouldn’t start and I had to wait for someone to charge the battery.”
“No problem. There’s probably not a better place to be than in a park on a day as warm as today.”
“I can’t disagree with that,” he said, slipping on the glove and pounding his right fist into the pocket a couple of times.
A fisherman strolled by them, a scarlet rod poised on his left shoulder.
Again, he pounded his fist into the glove. “I never thought I’d ever see this again so I can’t tell you how grateful I am to you.”
“I’m glad I was able to return it to you.”
“You know, I’d like to give you something for your trouble.”
“Thanks, really, but that’s not necessary.”
“Are you sure?”
He nodded, jangling the change in his pocket.
“Most of the kids who come to the park couldn’t be nicer but there are always a few who are troublemakers and I suspect they are the ones who stole my backpack.”
“But you don’t know for certain who took it?”
“No, but I’ve got a pretty good hunch,” he said, tucking the glove under his arm.
“Well, maybe you should stay away from the park for a while.”
“What?” he snapped, his green eyes flaring in anger.
“I mean, just until whoever took your glove is found and arrested.”
“No one can keep me out of the park,” he said defiantly. “Some people might think they can but they can’t.”
Lanier, startled by his sudden flash of temper, wished now he had kept his opinion to himself.
“I don’t have any children of my own, you see, so I often come here with my glove and invite boys to play catch with me,” he explained, almost in a whisper. “Maybe there are some people who don’t like to see a grown man tossing a baseball with their kids but I don’t mean any harm.”
Lanier felt a little uncomfortable as he listened to Krumholz insist that he was not a threat to anyone. Not ever, not at anytime.
“You believe that, don’t you?”
He glanced across the casting pool, not sure what to say.
“You do, don’t you?”
Nodding weakly, he wondered now if some father stole his glove to keep him away from his child, wondered too if he was right in returning it to him.
In another minute, the guy spotted “one of his boys,” as he called them, and thanked Lanier again and went over to ask the boy to play catch while Lanier walked away in confusion.