Stories

Flash Fiction: Glass

It’s been a long time since I’ve written fiction. Life’s been getting in the way–you know how it is–and I’ve been doing a lot of other types of writing (blogging, articles) and lots of editing, so getting back in the saddle has been a little tough. But today, something happened at my day job that inspired this little piece of flash fiction. And so was born this rendering of a young girl’s point of view on family violence in…

 

Glass

The shouting echoes inside my chest; it rings inside empty space. But I am not empty. Inside lives a cold, shivering ache.

From my safe place under the bed, I watch as strangers throw dishes, glasses, books, and the TV remote to the floor. They scream. They threaten. They are oblivious. They are blind. They have become monsters who do not see chaos and destruction; they do not care about the shattered glass and plastic pieces strewn across the hardwood floor.

I used to know those people. Their once familiar faces are now feral, twisted. One used to read me stories at night and chase away the ghosts I swore were hiding in my closet. And the other used to leave me love notes on pink paper in my lunch box. The other kids teased me because of those notes and, to save face, I would make a snide comment, crumple them up and toss them in the trash. But secretly…deep down in the black hole in my chest…I needed what those frilly notes contained; I needed a splash of color to soothe the ache.

That usually ended once I arrived home. I eventually learned that pink splash was like whitewash; it only masked our family secrets, only candy-coated my pain.

The front door closes. It’s suddenly very quiet.

I know what’s coming. The cycle, once begun, must play itself out.

Glass crunches underfoot. Perfectly manicured toenails encased in pink slippers appear outside my hiding spot. She sniffles, then blows her nose. By the time she bends down, her face will once again be one I recognize and love with all my heart.

“Jessy? Come on out,” she adds when I don’t move. ‘It’s okay now. You know how it gets around here sometimes. But it’s all good now. I—”

“Promise,” I finish, whispering to myself.

My mother finally gets down on hands and knees to reach under the bed.

I watch the manicured hand creep towards me.

The same hand that had thrown down our family pictures, leaving shattered glass, shining like clear spikes, on the floor.  

 

349 words

(c) 2019 Dyane Forde

Misc, Stories

My Short Story, Give and Take, Published in Dark Helix Ezine

Give and Take is one of the most viewed short stories on this blog. Recently, I got a chance to tweak the story a tad and submit it to Dark Helix ezine, which features speculative fiction. This edition’s theme is strong women, which is why I submitted Give and Take; the main character features a different kind of strength and resilience than what most people would expect.

So please check it out! It’s free, downloadable, and a great way to discover other female creative voices.

https://t.co/ihpCzGRMxA

https://mailchi.mp/bf7de9629d50/j6j42rgms9

Misc, Stories

Rewrite: The Balance of a Cat

So, thanks to Brant’s comments, I decided to revise the last story, Balance of a Cat. I admit, at first I was reluctant. I like writing in a the first person POV, as I enjoy the sense of intimacy and the unique perspective it provides to a character/story. But, I thought it was important to revise it, for the story’s sake. That’s a writer’s job: knowing when to go against what you want to do in favor of what you have to do in order to write the best story you can. Also worth noting, I did the finishing touches after watching a webinar on dialogue by Kevin T. Johns. I love writing dialogue, anyway, but though it’s late and I’m tired, the inspiration stirred by the webinar didn’t make the revisions feel like work. Anyway, here’s the revised version. 

 

The Balance of a Cat

He’d intended to surprise her, not make her cry. But Lee had always been a crybaby–a fact her cousin never let her forget–and the tears and snot glistening on her pinched, pink face were as expected as the annoyance he felt every time. Still, they were blood, the same age, and in a town as small as theirs, one’s choices in friends were slim.

“You always get me in trouble,” she moaned from behind. She swatted at the tree branches whipping her face, her crying intensifying by the second. “I have a math test second period.”

Max kept a steady pace on the trail, leading the way into the woods. The shrubs were thick, and the ground almost bouncy underfoot from the layers of dead pine needles and dirt. “Then why’d you come?”

“Because you told me to!”

Of course. Like some kind of living robot, docile Lee didn’t have it in her to say no, though Max guessed that’s why he’d dragged her along. Hearing her sniveling behind him, though, made him feel a little bad. Lee was smart. She was aiming for a scholarship and, with her brains, she could actually escape their pinprick of a town. Max handed her a balled up tissue from his pocket.

“You know I like school.” She blew her nose. “You’d better not mess this up for me. I twisted my ankle during last week’s trip to the quarry. I got to school late the next day because of it and barely talked myself out of detention.”

“I told you to be careful scaling those rocks.”

“It was night!”

“The moon was out.”

Max smiled when she choked off a retort. After so many years, she knew it was useless to argue. “Fine,” he said after a bit. “I’ll get you back before your test, OK? Anyway, we’re almost there. You’ll see, it’ll be worth it.” He pushed through the last of the trees and kept going until he reached the cliff’s edge. There, he stood on the cusp, took a deep breath, and spread his arms as if trying to catch the early morning rays. “Isn’t it amazing? You can see everything from here!”

Below, ‘Cow-Town’, or Dunsville as it was officially known, sprawled as far as the eye could see and was more farmland than anything else. But to Max, it was a green stain on the fringe of the unknown. “The world is waiting for me, cousin. I might not have your brains, but I’ll come up with my own way out of here.”

“Dad says you don’t have any talents, either. Aside from finding trouble.”

Max dropped his arms to his sides. “That’s what everyone thinks, isn’t it? That I’m just a dumb, screw up?”

Lee didn’t answer, but came up cautiously behind him to put a hand on his shoulder.

Max turned back to the cliff. “Well? How do our futures look from up here, Brainiac?”

She shrugged. “Kinda scary. Everything looks…so big, so spread out.”

“Makes you feel small, right? Maybe even insig…insignificant? But the potential–!”

“Maybe. I don’t know.” She tugged at his shirt. “Let’s go. You could fall, and I don’t want that.”

She tried to take him by the arm but he pulled out of her grasp. “I’m not going to fall. I’ve got the balance of a cat.”

“You don’t have a tail,” she insisted.  “They use them as a counter-balance, or something like that. I learned it at school, which is where we should be right now.”

“Come on, not even one step?” Max waved towards the great beyond. “It’d be hard to find a better view than this—“

His foot slipped before he ever knew what had happened. It was Lee’s scream and the sudden rush of cold air on his face that stirred the latent sense of fear within him.

But the world fast approached; a growing green patch of grass, looming before Max’s eyes.

In truth, it was probably the only way a dumb, troublesome kid like him could earn salvation.

So, Max closed his eyes. And embraced it.

falling2
By Anka Zhuravleva

 

Copyright @2017 by Dyane Forde

 

Misc, Stories

New Flash Fiction: Balance of a Cat

I’ve had a really rough time coming up with stories. Either the inspiration isn’t there, or I start but don’t have the stamina to finish or the story just doesn’t materialise. It’s so annoying! But today, an old trick helped me out (mentally making up opening sentence one-liners until something felt right) and I ended up having a little fun. The original opener was : ‘I hadn’t intended to make her cry.’ But once the story came together, I ended up modifying it for a better fit.

 

Balance of a Cat

All I’d wanted to do was surprise her, not make her cry. But she was a crybaby–a fact I never let her forget–and the tears and snot glistening on her pinched, pink face were as expected as the annoyance I felt every time. Still, she was my cousin, we were the same age, and in a town as small as ours, choices of playmates were slim.

‘I hate that you always get me in trouble,’ she moaned from behind me. She swatted at the tree branches whipping her in the face, her crying intensifying by the second. ‘I have a math test second period.’

I kept a steady pace on the trail, leading the way into the woods. The shrubs were thick, and the ground almost bouncy underfoot from they layers of dead leaves and dirt. ‘Then why’d you come?’

‘Because you told me to!’

Of course. Like some kind of living robot, she didn’t have it in her to say no, though I guess that’s why I always dragged her along on my expeditions. Hearing her sniffling and sniveling behind me, I felt a little bad. Unlike me, she was smart and could actually one day get out of this pinprick of a town. She was aiming for a scholarship to a good university and had the brains to do it, too. I handed her a balled up tissue from my pocket so she could wipe her snotty face.

‘I like school!’ She blew her nose. ‘You’d better not mess this up for me.’

I sighed. ‘I’ll get you to school before your test, OK? Anyway, we’re almost there. You’ll see, it’ll be worth it.’ I pushed through the last of the trees and kept going until I reached the cliff’s edge. I stood on the cusp, took a deep breath, and spread my arms into the rays of the early morning sun. ‘Isn’t it amazing! From here, you can see the whole world!’

‘Cow-Town’, or Dunsville as it was officially known, was more farmland than anything else but, to me, it was a green stain on the fringe of everything else that lay beyond it’s borders. ‘The world is waiting for me, cousin. One day, I’ll find my own way out of here.’

I heard her quiet step behind me.

‘Well?’ I asked, pointing.

‘It’s kinda scary. Everything looks…so big, so spread out.’

‘Makes you feel small, right? Maybe even insignificant?’

‘Maybe. I don’t know.’ She pulled at my shirt. ‘Let’s go. You could fall, and I wouldn’t want that.’

I waved her off. ‘I’m not going to fall. I’ve got the balance of a cat.’

‘You don’t have a tail. They use their tails to counter-balance, or something like that. I learned it at school, which is where we should be right now.’ She leaned a little closer towards the edge, though her feet remained glued to the ground.

‘Come on, not even one step?’ I waved towards the great beyond. ‘It’d be hard to find a better view than this—‘

My foot slipped before I ever knew what had happened. Actually, her scream and the sudden rush of cold air on my face stirred the latent sense of fear within me.

But the world fast approached. A growing green patch of grass, looming before my eyes.

In truth, this was probably the only way a poor, dumb boy like me could earn salvation. So, I closed me eyes and embraced it.

 

Copyright @2017 by Dyane Forde

Essays, Stories

Ben’s Bouquet: Flash Fiction

It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything on this blog. Actually, I had given up hope that I’d come back to it at all. Life just got crazy, and then there was the whole neck, shoulder, and arm pain thing that plagued me for over a year. Oh yeah, and my computer decided to give up the ghost. But against all odds, I’ve come up with a little ditty of a story, and I posted it spurred by the naive hope that there are still readers out there who still dig my little stories, or that maybe I’ll meet some new ones. I say ‘against all odds’, because up until a few hours ago, I wasn’t even sure I’d write again. Why? I just couldn’t find the drive, the ideas, or the energy to focus. But, somehow, I caught hold of a feeling and decided to run with it. And so, here is my diamond in the rough…

 

Ben’s Bouquet

The bouquet rests in my hands. Its disgustingly beautiful, a brilliant mass of lilies and roses interspersed with feathery greenery. Even then, while holding my heart in my hands, the smell is intoxicating. I can barely think.

I remember now why I hate flowers. Sickeningly sweet, their aroma makes your head swim, and yet, like a drug, their beauty still manages to arouse your heart. And just when you fall in love with their colours and complexity, they die.

“Why’d you bring me flowers, of all things?”

Ben leans against a pillar, watching the buses come in and out of the station. They run on time, each one faithfully carrying its passengers away to parts unknown. The riders look happy; expectation lights up their faces. Men, women, children, singles, and families, clutching satchels and suitcases; backpacks stuffed with snacks for inter-city rides. The constant rumble of voices and the squeals of excited children hover over the platform. They should be holding these flowers, not me.

“I dunno. I thought you liked flowers. Tonight’s a happy occasion, right?”

“Is it?”

We shouldn’t be arguing, not now.

How much time do we have left?

The station’s giant clock looms behind him, but his silhouette obscures its face. I shuffle through my purse for my phone, but he takes my hands in his and sits on the bench beside me.

“You look like we’re at a funeral. We talked about this. You said you were thrilled.”

sad girl

I look at the bouquet resting in space between us. He was right. We had talked about it, but at the time the news was fresh and we were riding high on excitement and the possibility of what could be. But now…

The doors of a nearby bus snap shut. With a roar, it pulls away from the station, the red tail lights flashing as it pauses at the intersection before leaving the lot. Then it drives away into the night. Another bus pulls into its freshly vacated spot.

“I didn’t pick this internship, you know,” Ben says. “They chose me.”

“I know. It’s a great opportunity. You’d be crazy to pass on it.”

He tips my chin upwards so I could look into his eyes. Chocolate brown and earnest, it’s impossible to look away. “It’ll be fine. I’ll get settled in, and once things are in order, you’ll join me just like we talked about.”

The second bus finishes loading. Once the last passenger is seated, the door shuts with a snap and the bus drives away, it too, fading into the night.

For Ben’s sake, I decide to be brave. He was doing this for us, after all. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me. It’s just…so far.”

He pulls me in close for a hug. “Good thing I’ve got all those books on bio-engineering to keep me busy.”

His bus finally pulls up. Ben stands and throws his backpack over a shoulder. “It’s a big change for us, but it’ll be good. Trust me.”

He kisses me goodbye and boards the bus after storing his luggage. In a moment, he’ll leave for a new city, a new home. A new life. And until we met again, I will live on memories that would, over time, wither like a fistful of flowers.

I lean on the pillar as he had done, watching his bus pause at the intersection as if for one last look back. Then the engine revs and it drives into the night, red taillights glowering.

Once Ben’s news had sunk in and the whole picture had become clear to me, I’d told him over breakfast one day that nothing lasts forever, not even love.

“The sun comes up every day, doesn’t it?” he answered. “And even if we don’t always see it, the moon moves along its cycle today just as it’s done since the beginning. Some things might not last, but other things, the important things, do.”

I’d stopped arguing with him after that. He believed it, and that had been enough.

I press the flowers to my chest. They were beautiful. And he’d given them to me. Whether as a parting gift or a promise, I didn’t know. But tonight, before laying down for bed, I would dry one or two in a book. Just in case.

Rose

Dyane Forde July 2017

717 words