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Archive for the ‘Short Fiction’ Category

Do you know me?

Did you look around the grocery store and see me comparing prices and values and after much deliberation I put the store brand into my cart because it was nine cents cheaper?

Do you know me?

Did you see me sitting in the corner of the coffee shop surrounded by friends, laughing, drinking a much too hot latte on a cold October day as if I belonged there and not in the confines of my own lost mind worrying about how to pay the soon to come gas bill?

Do you know me?

Do you watch me jogging around the block in my designer shoes and my name brand running clothes because I fit into them perfectly and you’ll never know they came from the thrift store you never go in?

Do you know me?

Did you hear me cursing under my breath at the gas station when I realized I couldn’t fill up the tank because somewhere in the world men in suits are arguing over the price of my life?

Do you know me?

I’m the one screaming in the corner of my mind that’s reserved only for me and the voices that keep me sane. I’m the one smiling so big because if you knew how close I’ve come, how much it hurt, how long and steep this road has been… you would run away because you aren’t that strong.

I’m the one writing it all down.

Do you believe in me?

Did you know I believe in me more than you will, ever. I believe I can and I am. I believe the fire was burning so hot and all I wanted was to jump in with both feet… no hesitation. I believe I can move forward without looking back but I believe I need to know.

Do you believe in me?

Did you know I feel a rush of emotions, like I set myself on fire, each time I think about the time I spent thinking about all the things that are scattered across my mind?

Do you know you should believe in me?

Because I am taking a tiny light and I am setting myself on fire with it and you need to stick around when the flame starts to dwindle because I believe you can help me burn.

I believe in you.

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Many thanks to the poets at dverse for all their support!

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She stares in the mirror trying to see it,

… reflections of the girl they all know.

Trying to see what they all say they can see.

She looks deep into her own eyes, nothing.

Just brown… there, in the reflection.

As if there were any more ordinary unassuming color than “just brown”.

She sees nothing.

Her reflection is clouded.

She slowly scans upward to her brow, nothing… still.

She lowers her gaze to her left cheek, just below her eye, nothing… still.

A reflection she can’t see,

A beauty she doesn’t know.

A life she can’t feel.

A small beauty mark, that’s not it, she’s sure of that. Her mouth, maybe her mouth. She looks intently at it in the mirror, her smile… she has a nice smile. She sees it, but it’s not what makes her special. It’s not what they all say they see in her.

What they see is beyond her skin,

beyond her “just brown” eyes,

beyond her obscured beauty mark.

Still, she can’t see it.

She panics, a little.

She squints.

She wants to see her reflection.

 She questions the realness of it… of her.

She blurs her gaze, looking straight through the mirror, keeping her eyes just out of focus — maybe now she can see it. She sees what she always sees — a little girl running away but from nothing to nothing. The same thing every time.

A chase, but she’s never caught.

An enemy, but she never see’s.

The safety, but she never reaches it.

But it’s there… in her reflection.

They all can see it…

and for now, that’s enough.

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Her brakes squeak loudly as she continually pushes them in the halting traffic. She turns the radio up just a bit so she can pretend she doesn’t hear them as she rests her arm on the rolled down window. It’s hot out. Too hot for the window to be open but running the air conditioner will use up more gas and she already put her allotted money in the tank this week. She knows she needs new brakes but it isn’t to the point of emergency yet.

She looks in the rearview mirror at her daughter sitting behind her, she smiles as her daughter pushes her tongue through the empty spot in her gums where her tooth used to be. Yesterday her daughter was crying because the cavity had gotten so big it hurt almost continually. But today, the hole is there where the pain used to be. She used the emergency fund to take away her daughters painful tooth.

She moves her glance back towards the halted traffic and starts thinking about her brakes again — they’re the next emergency. That’s how she categorizes all the things that need her attention, the things that will cause her to re-do the budget for the month… again. The emergencies get taken care of first and today her daughter’s cavity is the emergency, not the squeaking brakes.

The traffic stops again, the same spot every morning, she thinks. Right under the billboard that changes every few days to announce that someone else has just become a millionaire. Someone she doesn’t know and someone who doesn’t deserve the money as much as her and someone who will never need to categorize the expenses by emergencies.

She stares at the sign. Her eyes fixed to the amount, $56 million today. She thinks of that cavity, the tennis shoes she needs to buy for her son so he continues to not suspect anything is wrong, the name brand laundry detergent she wants to splurge on… just once. She sits there in the stopped traffic and thinks of all the things she wishes she could afford — all at once, not needing to space it out in between paychecks. She wants to be that mom that just goes and gets the materials for the class project without adding up the amount in her head at the cash register and hoping it’s less than the amount in her bank account. She wants to place her items on the conveyor belt and talk nonchalantly with the cashier about the weather and the shrimp that are on sale instead of holding her breath hoping to get the “transaction approved” sign from the debit card reader.

She lets her gaze stay on the sign just a bit too long as the traffic moves a few feet ahead. She knows she isn’t going to win the jackpot that’s flashing on the sign above her head because she never plays… and she laughs at the thought of it, for a moment. She knows the five dollars she would spend on her “winning numbers” will pay for her daughter’s lunches that week at school. She thinks someone with fewer priorities will win, she knows it’s not her.

She breathes in deep, her lungs slowly filling with the stale air of this stagnant life, the life where priorities take over — the struggles, the empty bank account, the loss of laughter, the facade. She knows that winning the lottery would screw up the alignment of this life. She struggles to convince herself that she isn’t deserving of this sad but she knows that anything making it better wouldn’t feel right.

She looks around at the other cars stopped in traffic with her. She can pick out the people who think they don’t deserve anything better, who think the lottery will be won by someone else — they look like her… pretty hair, discount clothes, a fake smile — those are the people who think they deserve to be sad.

Still, she looks at the billboard and she wonders. She plans her budget in her head — millions for the kids, a million here and there for relatives, new furniture, a carpet for her dining room, a vacation. She smiles and allows herself to let out a small laugh, then she remembers her daughter’s cavity, her son’s sneakers, the school lunches. She curses the billboard as she finally passes it by because she knows it made her forget about her priorities.

She glances at her now sleeping daughter once again in the rearview. The traffic breaks apart and she continues home. She places a call to the bank to check her account. This months emergency fund will take care of her daughter’s cavity, maybe next month she’ll get a rug for the kitchen. Maybe next month her priorities will change.

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The symbiosis between her and the young girl behind the counter is almost complete, again. They know each other far too well now. She watches the young girl count out the money, she see’s the dollar bills neatly in the drawer and realizes why the plexiglass separates them. It would be so easy to reach in and take what she needs, she could run, she could start her car and be gone within seconds, she feels her blood begin to warm in her veins and she understands impulse and how quickly impulse can take over the actions of your body.

The young girl finishes counting out the money and places it in the tiny hole cut out of the plexiglass separating the two. She takes the money and counts it again, there at the window before she leaves. It’s become her routine. The young girl smiles at her through her over-processed hair that lies disheveled across her face. She wonders how she got here, this place in her life. She thinks about how the young girl has no worries, yet. How she doesn’t have kids and only dates occasionally, how she lives with her parents and is saving up for her first car. She knows all of these things because they chat like that. She talks to the young girl like they are sorority sisters planning ahead to the evenings events — that makes it easier. Small talk surrounding them to mask the real reason she was there. Her son wants to go out with his friends. Her dog is hungry. Her water bill is late. Her car is out of gas.

They say goodbye… again.

She walks to her car gripping the cash tightly in her hand, eyes down so no one see’s her. She jumps in her car, slams the door shut and locks it in one quick move. She always parks far enough away from the door of the business so no one would suspect she was in there… it was a small town, she was sure someone would become suspicious if they recognized her car out front. So, she parks closer to the nail salon. She can say she is just getting a manicure — no one would doubt her. No one knows the symbiosis between her and the young girl behind the plexiglass.

She holds tight to the money for a few seconds and feels her stress leave, briefly. She counts out the twenty-dollar bills until she reaches $200.00, then she stares at it again… there, in her hands. She then begins separating it onto the passenger seat. She can make it last for two weeks, she knows she can, she’s done it before. One hundred dollars for the grocery store — she’ll stick with the store brand items, instant potatoes, a bag of potatoes… potatoes are cheap, at least 5 meals from them she thinks. She’ll get the eggs that are on sale… 3 meals out of those. Chicken legs are cheap too… 4 meals out of those. She goes over her list there in the car and reminds herself she can do it — $100.00 in the grocery pile. She puts $40.00 in a different pile… gas for the car. $20.00 in a pile all to itself — money for her oldest son to go to the movies. He has no idea… $20.00 for the movies once in a while will keep it that way. The rest, $40.00, she hides in the console of her car — for emergencies. Two weeks, she can do this, she’s done it before.

She looks at all the piles and takes a deep breath — still unsure of how she got to this place in her journey. Off in the distance she hears the whistle of the train, picking up the lunch time crowd, whisking them away to downtown to enjoy lunches on terraces and mid-day margaritas on decorated patios. As quickly as she imagined the ease at which her impulses would allow her to reach into the young girls drawer of money, she imagined taking her piles of cash and hopping on the train to enjoy a cold drink at her favorite spot, people watching with her friends, laughing, hugging, telling stories. The whistle blew again as she started her car, pulling away from her innocent parking spot near the nail salon, aiming the car toward the grocery store because that’s where her life is taking her right now, the symbiosis is complete, again — her dog is hungry.

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I am going to try something a little different today. We’re going to play a great big game of “let’s pretend”. The stories I tell on here are stories from my life. So perhaps this game of pretend won’t be such a big stretch, as I’m hoping …

The weather was still and quiet, a perfect sky where all the stars were shining so cleverly on the streets. The temperature on this November night must have been unseasonably warm — no coats required. Of course, with never having been to New York, she really didn’t know what the usual weather was. The walk from the hotel was short and magnificent. The towering buildings, the lights, the people — everything was a new sensation for her.

She stopped in front of the building where the party was taking place and gazed up at the enormity of it all for just a second too long. She became dizzy and stumbled backwards, bumping a couple of passers-by, then gathered her balance and resumed to stare — at that door — unable to go in.

This was a long-awaited night. One that had been dreamt about for the last year. One that had been the inspiration to make a change, to become better. It had started as a joke really, amongst strangers. A vow to meet — in real life. But, something in her made this want to be real. She wanted to have a reason to leave the comfort of her life — just for a little while — and mingle amongst the strangers who had become her strength.

It was the anticipation of meeting those strangers that had finally propelled her in the direction of positive change, of doing something for herself — selfishly. She had spent the last couple of years in a state of constant worry, panic, disbelief. And by all outwardly appearances, she had just stopped caring. She had been content to stay the same. The thought of moving forward was too scary because the imminent failure was all too familiar.

But, there she was, at the door to the party. About to meet those strangers. And all the doubt and worry and lack of confidence was urging her to walk away — back to the comfort of her real life. The anticipation of this event had been so long thought out, that perhaps the end of the journey would pale in comparison to the story she had already written in her mind.

So there she stood — still. A feeling of sickness creeping up her throat, the warm night air turning ice-cold on her skin, the towering buildings falling in on her — the city sounds confusing her. A deep breath, if she could only take a deep breath.

She kept a steady gaze on that door. Her feet, with a mind of their own, tried to begin the fleeing process by turning in the direction of the hotel. There was a real intention to walk — stumble actually — back to the hotel. But, before she could make the move, that door opened to greet her. The laughter was infectious and floated out to her — calling her. She could make out the faces of those that had unknowingly prodded her along. Her breath came, her feet moved towards the door, the strangers were waiting to welcome her.

So, there’s the partial journey to the world of “let’s pretend”. The journey has begun already actually. The outcome of which is not known — like life. You have to decide if the person you want to be is anything like the person you really are. You start the journey and wait for the outcome… waiting for the conclusion.

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