Category Archives: Short Story

Old Tree

Old tree
on the rock,
roots gnarled
twisted, exposed.
How long
have you stood
against the coastal wind
on this precipice
alone?

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CONVERSATIONS

My brain skips as I grasp for words. Conversations shouldn’t be this hard. But they are. For me.

I can never hold up the other half. The last remnants dying on another’s breathe.

Uncomfortable silences don’t make it easier. Now it becomes not only ‘what do I say’ but ‘where do I look.’

It’s a basic human interaction. Why do I find it so frustrating? Too many video games as a kid? Too involved parents?

My mother always said I didn’t have enough friends. People talked about me because of it. A loner, is what they said.

Turning my eyes and shoulders to my right, I focused on the conversation next to me. Leaning onto their words and hoping to get a hold of something to drag me in.

These two were really getting at it. Their voices mirroring each others in an escalation about a new property tax and something to do with an election down in Bade County.

I inputted a few slow nods and raised eyebrows but I don’t own any property. Nor do I have five cents of care for anything political. That topic can be tricky. So I began the awkward dance of slowly stepping back and pretending that someone had called my name.

A smile and a quick wave of the hand.

But as with so many of my unfortunate situations – the dance was interrupted by a silver plated tray lined with bubbling glasses of champagne. The waiter wasn’t quick enough to intercept my unpredictable movement. The glasses came flying forward like tiny missiles straight back onto my face and white buttoned up shirt that I had so carefully picked for this evening.

As each missile hit their target, each then made for a steep, shattering plunge to the tile floor below. The sound echoing across the room and my face reddening and tightening with each painful crash.

The room came to a halting quiet as everyone turned to look at me. I scanned the anxious faces, unsure of what I should do next. My shirt was soaking wet and had already began reeking of hangovers and headaches. The glass sparkled at my feet like a shining pedestal.

No words would come from my mouth to ease their surprised emotions. All I could think about was how I had been concerned about not being able to carry on one conversation but now an entire room was waiting on me to give a confirmation to continue theirs on.

Boiling

I am supposed to be relaxing
but the tightness in my chest
has made it impossible today.

I keep replaying that conversation.

My mind is moving in a circle.
Every expectation has been crushed
and all the happiness drained.

The wire is taut.
And you, stranger,
picked the wrong person
on the wrong day.

Your snarky comment snapped the wire
and at that point
I no longer gave a fuck.

Words careened out of my mouth.
There was no controlling them.
The straw had broken the back.
The pot was boiling over.

It was too much for the week I’d had.
And you were an easy target.

Burning Bear

There is a tale ancient as the mountains. About a bear whose coat was the color of flames.

They say he was bigger than boulders. Claws like a set of hunting knives. Eyes blacker than night.

He roamed the ridges and valleys. And bathed in roaring rivers. Gorging on elderberry and napping amongst the clovers.

Many passed along this whisper through the years. The colorful bear became a legend and a mystery tucked in the fleeting sounds and scents of the forest.

But as with anything unfortunate, not too long ago, a group of local men stumbled on him whilst he napped in a grove. They stared in disbelief at the strange reality brought from the depths of their childhood memories.

The bear’s coat was a furious color. Startling and mesmerizing.

Stepping quickly back to town, they told everyone about the animal. About how the fable became a truth. Dollar signs floated in their heads and plans were vigorously set.

Burning Bear. The name for the sublime creature, crawling on everyone’s tongue. Itching at the skin for their own pleasantries to dawn. A prize to be won.

The men began slowly scouting the forest soon after. Careful with every step and breathe. Wading rivers and wandering through the trees. Full of hope. And greed.

Every so often the would become alarmed. Spotting a dot of orange and yellow not to far. Tracing the path, they would only find fields of flowers so intricately designed. But their eyes never appreciated the fields as they would immediately be perturbed. Annoyed that such splendor was in the way and wasting time in getting what they were due.

But one day, they were sure they had him. Streaks of his coat danced furiously through the forest, leaving glints of color in its wake. Smiling at one another, they readied their bows for Burning Bear was headed right towards them.

Confidence soon turned whey they realized their mistake. It was not the bear but actual fire that had charged them and desired to keep them at bay.

Cries rang out as they turned back for the town. How foolish had they been? How had they missed the dying grey mist that followed the disjointed edges of color? How had they missed the smell of death and the swelter and the smolder?

To their dismay, they found their own path cut short. Escape was not an option as they were surrounded. Feelings of dread and the engorgement of fear. They huddled together and dropped to their knees. Begging in prayer.

A great crash suddenly blossomed in their ears as they looked up and over to find a stack of trees laid just above the ruthless tips of the flames. Thinking it their second chance, they clambered onto the logs, running full speed with no stops.

Halfway across the auspicious bridge, they all noticed an unmistakable outline. Each of the men aghast at what they had seen and what it could only mean.

But upon reaching the end, clear of all smoke and flame, they were saddened to not even glimpse upon their protector. The timely beast had already made his way out, blending with the flames. It dare not wait for its foes, even those it had just saved.

The men gleefully spread this story of an unexpected redemption. And the humor of their salvation.

Though many found it hard to believe, there were many still who swallowed every word. And like a seed, it was planted in their memories. Blossoming in dreams and shaping their beings.

And, like me, one day they hope to thank and see the Burning Bear and his coat twisted in beauty and mystery.

Corners

He is on the corner everyday. Eight am sharp. I’m sure to catch the morning rush. Even the homeless know something about customer volume.

Today, he displays the anything helps sign. The crude black letters stretch across a degraded piece of cardboard, the crease lines wearing through from months of folding it. Or maybe years.

I take a long draw on my cigarette, feeling the nicotine plugging into my nerves. Rolling down the window, I blow out the smoke, my mind briefly drifting back to the evening before. The smell of Jon’s cologne on the sheets and the light graze of a touch. My lips curl into a smile.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the homeless man starting to edge towards my car. In annoyance, I realized he had seen my open window as a signal that I hadn’t intended.

I glanced at the light, hoping the green circle would save me from an awkward interaction. But with no luck, I quickly stubbed out the cigarette and started cranking up the window, cursing under my breath about not paying the extra cash for automatics.

I gently shook my head as he continued to approach and mimed a “Sorry.” His dry face slowly morphed into a scowl. I looked back at him with a mixture of exasperation and guilt blossoming in my head.

He stared back; his volatile deep blue eyes seeming to pierce into me.

For a brief moment, I felt compelled to see if I could find change or something to hand over to him. His open scrutiny bared on me like a spotlight with every driver around me watching the show.

But that feeling soon vanquished at the sound of a horn blaring from behind me. I hit the gas without a second thought, relieved to see the bright green burning ahead. Once I made the turn, I could just put the whole moment behind me.

The Seven: Before the Fall – 1

” Sarah?”

A pause.

“Sarah? Are you even listening to me?”

Sarah closed her locker door, revealing April’s wide-eyed, upturned expression. She leaned her head back onto the thin, grey metal door behind her. “Did you hear what I said?”

Sarah sighed and gave her friend a weak smile. “Yes, loud and clear.”

April puckered her lips. “Well being loud is one of my best traits.”

They laughed.

“But seriously,” April snapped back into her direct tone. “The party starts at eight. And everyone is going to be there. Everyone,” she tilted her head down as if to whisper, “including you know who.”

Sarah snorted. “How do you even know that?”

April tossed back her long, black hair over her shoulder. “I have sources. You know this.”

“God, April. Sally doesn’t know anything. That girl can’t tell you what she ate for breakfast – if she remembered to even eat it. She’d feed anyone a story so long as it kept you listening to her.”

April rolled her eyes and tossed her hair to the other side. “Well” she said, holding on the ell, “just let me know alright. I know Sally can be-” she paused, “-a little flimsy on her information, but I think she is right on this one.”

They started walking down the hall. The crowd getting sparse as the class bell loomed.

Sarah bit her lip. If he was going to be there, then she should be there. But if he wasn’t, it was just going to be another typical high-school party with lots of drinking. And lots of gossip.

“Okay,” she said quietly before they entered the science room.

April let out a squeal. “I’ll pick you up at nine on the corner. Lights out as usual.”

The Seven: Chapter One

The clouds break apart high in the sky, leaving frayed edges and trails of white behind them. A warm, red hue blankets the bottom rolls, reflecting the evening’s sun as it begins to dip beyond the horizon.

Sarah looked at the black illumination of the city’s skyline. Ribbons of towers and spires were like mountain’s themselves, like some kind of testament to the power of man over that of the Earth.

Her feet dangled off the side of the cliff while she sat. Hard, rust colored rocks surrounded her, no bigger than couch. A playfield of boulders, as some her friends had called it. But at the edge of the playfield was Marooner’s Cliff. A devastating – or beautiful – three hundred feet drop down into forest below. The lodgepole pines outstretched from the base with their slim trunks trying to meet the edge but falling still over two hundred feet short.

The sky began to take on the nature of fire, orange and yellow streaks slit across the view in front of her. Would this be her last sunset?

Andrew had found a space next to her. He had been noticeably quiet for a while now. She assumed he was giving her some space – a chance to think. Everything had happened so fast. It was all supposed to be a joke, a hoax. None of it was supposed to be real.

He stirred, moving to get up. “Sarah?” he asked, his voice small.

Sarah didn’t respond. She still didn’t feel ready.

He cleared his throat. “Sarah?” he asked again.

She turned her head steadily, meeting his eyes. “We can’t wait any longer. If we don’t do it soon, the sun will have set and then….then…” he shook his head. He looked down and traced his boot on the dusty ground, pebbles scratching the surface as he moved. “We would let them down,” he added.

“I know.” Sarah stood, taking in a long breathe. Her heart was beginning to race again. Could she really be doing this?

“Here –,“ Andrew fumbled with his pack and handed her a small container. The clear liquid sloshed around. “It’s pure, I promise. Picked it up on my way over.”

Sarah nodded; she would never doubt Andrew. He was someone to bet your life on.

“And yourself?”

He pulled another container out. “Covered. I think I’ll just leave my bag here.” He tossed it over one of the rocks to the other side. “I don’t think it would be a good idea to take it with me anyhow. You might want to empty your pockets, too. Anything to weigh you down a little less.”

“Right.” Sarah managed a small smile. Her heart began to feel like it was moving its way up her chest as nerves began unraveling all over her. With shaking hands, she pulled out her cellphone and wallet, tossing them down on the ledge. What would her mother think when they found them?

A pang hit her hard in the stomach. Her mother. Did she say goodbye?

“Ready then?” Andrew asked. He was trying to be brave, but his pallor had gone pale amidst his red-freckles. Poor Andrew, Sarah thought. She was the reason he was here today.

With as much stillness as she could muster, she popped open the lid and drank the liquid in one breathe. It was cold and hinted of metal. She supposed as any water kept in a copper basin would be.

Taking Andrew’s hands in hers they repeated those three sentences. Only twenty words. She had counted them repeatedly.

They both turned to the edge of the cliff and released hands. Taking in the world around her a last time, she stepped out.

Her body felt like a cloud as she fell – weightless and free.