8thdayfiction

…and on the 8th day, micro fiction was published on some dude's blog.

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

The Whole Story

When people asked Ben why he was going to clown college, he didn’t tell them the whole story.

He didn’t tell them that he knew that someday companies would start sending crews into space to mine asteroids, and on that very first crew who got sent on the first ever asteroid mining expedition they’d surely want a clown on board for entertainment, and that he would be that clown, and that he’d come back from that successful mission the world’s most famous clown, and that he’d go on the Today show to talk about how there was a point during the expedition when things weren’t going well and the crew was completely demoralized and it was at that point that he sprung into action and performed his “pulling a ridiculously long chain of tied-together, multi-colored handkerchiefs out of the shirt sleeve” routine which completely turned things around and basically saved the mission from complete failure.

No, Ben didn’t tell anyone that. He just told them he liked making people laugh.

After all, it was the truth–he did like to make people laugh. And he didn’t want to jinx the rest of the plan by talking about it too much.

The Gelato Parlor

Shannon stood there, surveying the pans of different flavored gelato in the refrigerated case.

“Let me know if you’d like to try a sample of anything”, said a friendly voice from the other side of the case.

“OK, thanks–still deciding right now”, Shannon replied, not looking up. Then she noticed something odd.

“Excuse me?”

“Yes, have you decided?”

“No, not yet. I just wanted to let you know,” she said as she leaned forward, subtly pointing down at the case, then whispered, “I think something’s wrong with your Chocolate Mousse Swirl. I think it’s moldy or something, it’s…fuzzy.”

The young man behind the case looked down, smiled, then looked back up at Shannon. “Oh, no–that’s the way it should look. That’s not Chocolate Mousse Swirl: It’s Chocolate Mouse Swirl.”

Shannon stifled a gag, then stammered, “Are you serious? But…who would–?”

Just then the bell attached to the parlor’s front door jingled. Shannon looked over, then looked down as a boa constrictor slithered its way inside.

“Humphrey! What’s up? You want the usual?” The man behind the case grabbed a waffle cone and scoop, dug out two huge mounds of Chocolate Mouse Swirl, plopped them into the cone, grabbed a paper bowl and tipped the cone upside down into the bowl, made his way out from behind the case, and set the bowl down in front of the snake. “Enjoy!”

Well that answers THAT, thought Shannon. She stood there watching Humphrey unhinge his jaw in preparation for devouring the gelato cone whole, when an older woman burst through the door holding a cone and pulling a chocolate Lab on a leash behind her. She made a beeline for the refrigerated case; the young man had taken his place behind it again, waiting for Shannon to order.

The older woman shook her cone at the young man. “What is IN THIS GELATO?!”

“What kind did you order, ma’am?”

“The Banana Almond Sliver.”

“Ohhhh…ma’am, I am so sorry. That flavor is actually Banana, Almonds, Liver. I thought you were buying it for your dog.”

“OH MY GOD!”

The woman hunched herself over the nearest waste basket and started melodramatically dry-heaving. She had let go of her dog’s leash, and he was running in circles around the parlor, howling.

The young man ran out from behind the case to comfort the woman. Shannon sat down amidst the chaos and thought some more.

She decided she was probably going to go with vanilla–no surprises there. And she was going to make sure the guy used a new, clean scoop.

Ambulance Service

Gretchen gasped and grabbed her finger. There was blood–a LOT of blood.

She tried not to hyperventilate as she grabbed the nearest kitchen towel and applied pressure. Her first thought was to panic, because Joe had not yet come back from work with their only car, and she wasn’t within walking distance of the hospital or even the family doctor’s office. Had she been thinking clearly, she would’ve called Sue and asked her to take her to the ER, or she at least would’ve run next door and asked the neighbors for a ride.

But she wasn’t thinking clearly, so she awkwardly fished her phone out of her purse and dialed 9-1-1 with one hand. She was proud of herself for calmly telling the dispatcher what had happened; she was told to keep pressure on the wound and that someone would be there shortly.

She was in the middle of writing a note to Joe, sloppily with her non-dominant hand–At the ER, almost cut my finger off, LOL! Be back soon! Love, Gretch–when there was a knock at the door.

With the tea towel still wrapped tightly around her injured hand, Gretchen rushed to the door and slowly unlocked the dead bolt and turned the knob.

“Hi, I’m Tom! You called for an ambu–WHOA! I guess that WAS you! Holy cow!  Well, why don’t you go ahead and come with me, we’ll get you to the ER.”

Tom motioned for her to follow him. She already had her purse, so she followed, closing the door behind her. Tom did not look like an EMT; he was dressed in khakis and a polo shirt like someone you’d see working at Best Buy. He didn’t dress her wound, or even look at it.

“OK, let me get the door, and then you can hop on in the ambulance.”

Gretchen looked up; she realized she’d been staring at her towel-wrapped hand the whole time she’d been walking.

And there she was, in front of a…red Prius. With a light bar. And the words “TOM’S AMBULANCE SERVICE” crookedly spelled out in reflector tape on the passenger side door. Before Tom had swung the door fully open, she also caught what appeared to be the “ambulance service”‘s motto, spelled out in smaller, even more crooked letters below the business name: “DON’T DISPATCH US IF SOMEONE’S DYING OR IT’S SOMETHING REALLY SERIOUS BECAUSE WE’RE NEW TO THIS AND STILL TRYING TO FIGURE IT OUT”.

“OK, hop in.” There was a stack of loose papers on the passenger seat.

“Oh, gosh, sorry.” Tom swept the papers onto the floor in front of the passenger seat. “OK, NOW hop in. You can put your feet on those papers. It’s work stuff, nothing important. I mean, work meaning my day job. I wouldn’t throw ambulance papers on the floor.”

Gretchen got in and Tom shut the door behind her, then ran around to the driver’s side. Gretchen looked out her window back at the house, just in case this was the last time she’d ever see it.

Tom got in, started up the car, and started fiddling with buttons and knobs on the dash. He was covered in flop sweat.

“All righty, one of these doo-hickeys here turns on the lights and the siren, and…”

There was an ear-piercing wail.

“OK, THERE’S THE SIREN. LET’S GET THE LIGHTS ON AND WE’LL HEAD TO THE HOSPITAL, WHAT D’YA SAY?”

Tom fiddled some more as he pulled out of the driveway and Gretchen covered her one ear.

“SORRY. I’M STILL GETTING THE HANG OF THESE CONTROLS. MY WIFE ABOUT HAD A CONNIPTION FIT WHEN I FIRST GOT ALL THIS STUFF ADDED TO THE CAR, BUT I THINK SHE’S USED TO IT NOW.” Tom suddenly looked over at Gretchen. “OH HEY, I’M SORRY–WHERE ARE MY MANNERS? DO YOU FEEL DEHYDRATED? DO YOU NEED AN IV? I THINK I HAVE ONE BACK HERE, WE CAN PULL OVER AND I CAN GET YOU HOOKED UP…”

Tom turned and half fumbled around in the area behind his seat and half paid attention to the road. “OK, HERE’S ONE.” he said, holding up a bag of IV liquid that appeared to be covered in mud. “SORRY ABOUT THE DIRT. MY SON AND HIS FRIENDS SIT BACK THERE WHEN I TAKE THEM TO SOCCER PRACTICE AND THEY PROBABLY STEPPED ON IT WITH THEIR CLEATS.”

“You know, that’s OK. We should probably just get to the hospital”, Gretchen offered.

“WHAT?”

“WE SHOULD PROBABLY JUST GET TO THE HOSPITAL.”

“OH, OK. SURE.” Tom tossed the IV bag back over his shoulder. “WELL, IF YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND, IT’S BACK THERE. OH, AND BEFORE I FORGET, IT’S GOING TO BE ONE HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS FOR THE AMBULANCE SERVICE TODAY. UNFORTUNATELY, WE DON’T TAKE CREDIT CARDS, BUT WE WILL TAKE A PERSONAL CH–YOU KNOW, WHAT AM I SAYING? YOU DON’T NEED TO PAY NOW! JUST WRITE DOWN YOUR ADDRESS AT SOME POINT, AND WE’LL BILL YOU.”

Gretchen just sat there and closed her eyes, hoping they were close to the hospital. She knew one thing for sure: When she got home, Angie’s List was going to hear all about Tom’s Ambulance Service. And that wasn’t going to be a good thing…for Tom, anyway. The rest of the community, however, would owe her one.

The Keller Family Memorial Day Picnic

It was the first time since the infamous Keller family Memorial Day Picnic of 1987 that both sides of the family were celebrating the holiday together.

At that last all-family picnic so many years ago, what started as a good-natured discussion between the two sides–those who believed any decent potato salad HAD to include hard-boiled eggs, and those who thought eggs in potato salad were gross–escalated throughout the day into something much more serious. Both factions dug in and refused to concede to the other, and that evening, things came to a head between Uncle Phil (a hard-core “Egger”) and Uncle Mark (Phil’s brother, a passionate “Anti-Egger”). The screaming match that broke out between the two ended with Phil grabbing Mark’s bowl of homemade eggless potato salad off the picnic table and emptying its contents onto the ground one slotted spoonful at a time while yelling, “Potato salad without eggs is unfit for human consumption! It’s DOG FOOD, SO COME AND GET IT, PUPS!”

In the Keller family, the incident came to be known as “The Slop Heard ‘Round The World”. And since then, the Eggers and Anti-Eggers in the Keller family had held separate Memorial Day picnics. It was the only way to ensure the family picnics remained peaceful.

Until this year. It was shortly after New Year’s Day that a small group of Kellers started to discuss the previously unthinkable: A united Keller family Memorial Day picnic.

It was the right time. Most of the Kellers talking unification were of the younger generation who barely remembered, or, in some cases, hadn’t even been born yet in 1987. The battles of the past just didn’t make sense to them: Brother against brother, cousins who barely knew each other, husbands and wives attending separate Memorial Day picnics, forcing their children to take sides. These kids were raised believing potato salad was potato salad, and different types were OK: Eggs, no eggs; red-skinned potatoes, white potatoes; paprika, no paprika–really, who cares? Just eat up and have fun!

And so they’d done it. The young ones convinced the elders on both sides to break bread together.

As they sat there–Eggers on one side of an extra-long picnic table, Anti-Eggers on the other, separated by a demilitarized zone of two-liter soda bottles lined up at the table’s center, each side with a big bowl of their preferred potato salad recipe–the mood was tense.

But also surprisingly cordial, given the circumstances. There were actually some pinched smiles and polite nods exchanged between the two sides. Uncles Phil and Mark even attended and looked like they weren’t entirely miserable.

The young Kellers smiled and gave each other knowing looks. Sure, it wasn’t ideal, and it was going to be a very long, weird, and awkwardly silent picnic. But it was a start.

Dinner

Natalie was hungry again, which meant she felt guilty again.

Natalie felt guilty about enjoying many aspects of the bleak world in which she lived. She felt guilty about liking her clones because she could try out new hairstyles on them before trying them herself. She felt guilty about dating an android, even though Spencer 2.0 was by far the best boyfriend she’d ever had, particularly since most of original Spencer’s flaws had been remedied in the new model.

And eating was probably her favorite activity, which meant it was also the one about which she probably felt the most guilty.

But she couldn’t help herself. She always looked forward to every meal, and every in-between snack, because she absolutely LOVED Soylent Green. Especially the Southwest Chipotle flavor, which was on tap for dinner. Her mouth was already watering just thinking about it as she pulled the Soylent Green Chile Sauce out of the kitchen cupboard in preparation. It had been many hours since she had gorged on the French Toast and Shrimp Cocktail flavors at brunch that morning, and as much as she hated herself for feeling this way, she was ready to dig in.

Smoke Break

Travis headed outside for a smoke. He couldn’t light up inside; Felicia barely tolerated his habit at all, so she surely wasn’t going to allow it in closed quarters.

He sat down on the stoop and placed his ashtray and lighter next to him.

It was raining. Perfect. He scooted as far back on the stoop as he could get so he’d be as far under the awning as possible. The awning didn’t do much, though. He was still getting wet, and it was starting to rain harder.

It was a lousy moment to be a smoker, and as Travis reached up to his shoulder for his cigarettes, he realized this was all Pat Harrington, Jr.’s fault. If the guy hadn’t been so cool as Schneider on One Day At A Time, Travis never would have wanted to imitate the character’s “pack of smokes rolled up in the shirt sleeve” look, never would have bought that first pack of cigarettes to make the look happen, and never would have thought to himself, “Eh, I bought the cigarettes–it’d be a shame for them to go to waste.”

Travis took a long drag off the cigarette, shivered against the cold, and looked down at his denim vest. He knew two things for sure: His vest was getting tattered and needed to be replaced, and if he ever met Pat Harrington, Jr., he was going to give him what for.

Old Skool

Bill gave Jared a weird look.

“Whoa–what’s up with that?”, he asked, pointing to the notch shaved into Jared’s left eyebrow.

“Oh, this? I’m kickin’ it old skool style, yo.”

“Oh. OK, then. Later, J.” Bill headed back to his desk, glancing back at Jared every few steps.

Jared knew it was a dumb thing to say, but he figured that explanation was better than the truth: That he’d had a little mishap with the eyebrow trimmer attachment on his hair clippers.

And as for the lines shaved into the side of his head, the sprayed pompadour hair with bleached stripe, and the American flag design sequin-festooned jacket and matching Hammer pants? Well, Jared figured if “I’m kickin’ it old skool style, yo” was the story he was going with, he might as well go all in.

There Would Be A Time

By the time Jenny arrived, they had already moved him to his own room. He was asleep when she entered.

“Ethan?”

He opened his eyes slightly. “Jen?”

She rushed to his side and hugged him. “Ethan, what happened?” She pulled a chair from the corner of the room over to his bedside.

“I, um, accidentally shot myself in the leg”, Ethan mumbled. “I was trying to pull my gun out of its holster because I thought maybe I had forgotten to put the safety on and it got stuck and I yanked on it and the safety wasn’t on and…Jen, I’m sorry. You were right, I–”

“Shh. Don’t worry about it. Just rest, sweetie. I’m just glad you’re OK.”

He smiled and closed his eyes as she grabbed his hand and squeezed. She really was glad he was OK, and they could talk later, after he was sent home and he wasn’t whacked out on painkillers.

There would be a time for her to give him the “I told you so” lecture about how starting his own security company–when he had, obviously, never even owned or handled a gun before–was a terrible idea. But now was not that time.

Squeaky

Once the squirrels around the forest started talking to each other, they realized many of them had two things in common: They had invested acorns (in some cases, large amounts of them) with Squeaky, and they had found it nearly impossible to get a hold of him since doing so.

Their stories were very similar. Squeaky talked a good game and was undeniably charming. He always had a business card or glossy brochure at the ready, and he spoke convincingly about how he could double your acorns for just a modest investment in his high-rise city park tree hollow developments. There was something about him that just seemed legit; he really gave the impression that he knew what he was talking about. And he was certainly living the high life himself, so he must have been doing something right.

As it turned out, he was (allegedly) doing lots of things, none of them right. He was (allegedly) paying old investors with the acorns of new investors, and his lavish lifestyle was (allegedly) being paid for with investors’ acorns, including over-the-top purchases like a gold-plated squirrel-sized treetop Jacuzzi and a chipmunk fur coat for his wife (items which, if nothing else, were tacky).

The last straw was when no less than five different squirrels showed up at the same city park tree on the same day and realized they had all been “sold” the exact same high-rise hollow property. These squirrels, after unsuccessfully trying to reach Squeaky to find out exactly what the heck was going on, contacted the authorities, who in short order obtained a warrant to raid Squeaky’s corporate offices.

Squeaky knew the gig was up the minute they entered. “I’m in trouble, aren’t I?” said Squeaky.

“A world of trouble”, said the officer leading the raid, who coincidentally had entrusted Squeaky with his life savings and was seeing him for the first time since transferring his acorns to Squeaky those many long months ago. “A WORLD of trouble.”

THE MORAL OF THE STORY? Never trust a squirrel who owns a gold-plated squirrel Jacuzzi. Obviously.

A Little Low On Coffee

Nancy did a quick survey of the kitchen, peeking in the refrigerator, the freezer, and a few cabinets, then called into the living room.

“Honey, on your way home from work tomor–”

“Wait, wait! Waitwaitwait!” Gabe shouted as he came barreling in from the other room, pen and steno pad in hand. He sat down at the kitchen table, clicked open the pen, and flipped the pad open to a new page.

“OK, go ahead. And remember: Talk at your normal rate of speed. DON’T slow down for me, OK? All right, go ahead.”

Nancy rolled her eyes, then decided to have a little fun with him.

“Honeyonyourwayhomefromworktomorrowcanyoupickupmilkandbreadandalso
we’regettingalittlelowoncoffeesogetthattooifyouwantsome.”

“OK, OK…talking fast on purpose. That’s all right; I like a challenge.” Gabe said, scribbling furiously. “Aaaand…let me read that back to you: ‘Honey, on your way home from work tomorrow, can you pick up milk and bread. And also, we’re getting low on coffee, so get that too if you want some.’…so?”

“Well, I think I actually said ‘a little low on coffee’, not just ‘low’.”

“So you think you said it that way, or you know? You need to KNOW, Nance. I can’t go on what you think you said.”

“Fine–I KNOW I said it, I know. Geez Louise, Gabe.”

“In that case: Aw, crap.” Gabe shut the steno pad, clicked the pen closed, and got up from the table. “See, this is why I start training early. Two words can be the difference between a championship and an early elimination. Well, anyway, I’ll be in the living room–call me if you want to talk some more.”

Nancy didn’t want to talk any more. Not tonight, at least.

She hated this time of year, and couldn’t wait until the annual Dictation Bowl was over and done with so she and Gabe could go back to having normal conversations that didn’t double as training sessions.

She got some scrap paper and a pen out of a kitchen drawer and scrawled out BREAD MILK COFFEE on it for herself as a reminder for tomorrow–Gabe obviously wasn’t going to remember–then poured herself a glass of wine and went upstairs to watch TV. With the volume low, so Gabe wouldn’t come up and join her and attempt to transcribe every line of dialogue on NCIS.

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