Archive for March, 2012

27th March
2012
written by amber

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

My wife and I have nothing in common. She is cautious and I throw caution to the wind. She keeps our home organized and tidy; I breeze in, drop my things all over the floor, sweep her into an impromptu polka, eat the meal she’s prepared with great appreciation, then rush off without helping with the dishes because I have people to see, things to do.

She knew what I was like when she married me. She used to find me charming.

Life’s too short. What does it really matter, when you finally need to wash all your clothes, whether you pick them up all over the bedroom, or grab them out of a hamper? And it uses less water to wash dishes when you have a really big load. You wipe the table, you make it dirty, it needs to be wiped again. You could spend your whole day doing that.

Naturally she does not agree with me on this.

I am a musician. I was a musician when we met. We both knew that my chances of ‘making it’ were slim. Perhaps she was more ambitious for me than I was for myself. She talked me out of the way I was living, crashing at one friend’s house or apartment after another, staying until I wore out my welcome.

“You’ll never be able to set up a professional practice schedule until you have your own place, and you’ll never get ahead unless you practice a lot. That’s the only thing that’ll take your natural talent to the next stage.”

I found her charming then, too. I was touched by her faith in me. But after we moved in together, and she showed me the room where I was expected to slave for five or six hours every day, I had an inkling. I mean, I like playing music because it’s fun. Five or six hours a day is not fun.

But I tried. And, to give her plan credit, it paid off with better gigs. And when she said we should get married because it made financial sense, I knew it was her round-about way of saying she loved me. I didn’t know she was casting herself in the role of wife/manager.

Now she wants us to go for counselling. But my friends have been giving me advice, and I kind of think they’re right. It’ll never work out, no matter what we do. We married across species boundaries and that’s why we can’t get along. She can’t help being an ant and I can’t help being a grasshopper.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

26th March
2012
written by amber

Voices

My devices have started talking to me. My microwave says, “What’s your problem? This would have taken an hour in the oven.” My GPS says, “I have no idea how you ever got along without me. You have absolutely no sense of direction.”

My Kindle mocks me. “What did you do before me? Buy over-priced first editions at book stores? Or dog-eared seconds at the Book Nook? Or, better yet, germ-infested loaners from the library?”

I am not going crazy. I knew the devices weren’t really talking to me, that it was really my own imagination. And at first, I thought it was funny. I thought it was clever. I posted about the stupid things my electronics said to me, the snide remark my DVD player made, the whinging from my outdated cell phone when I bought a new one and relegated the old one to a drawer. Everyone bought into the joke, posted me back with their own interactions with appliances.

Then I got bored with it and tried to shut it off. And it didn’t stop. At every turn, there were voices in my head proclaiming the superiority of machines and the helplessness of humankind. Specifically, of the kind of human that was me.

So I thought perhaps I was going mad in a modern subtle way. Perhaps I had a new syndrome, inferiority by Rube Goldberg proxy or some such thing.

But my friends who were posting and tweeting about it began to complain to me that I’d infested them with voices from their devices, that they also could not stop hearing the taunts, the boasting, the scorn.

Last week a bunch of us met in a basement room in the dark. We didn’t bring our smart phones, or Ipads, or even digital watches. We discussed the problem, learning far more than any of us wanted to know about the effect of this on-going harassment. Some people are becoming dangerously depressed.

And when I returned to my apartment, my computer would not work until I’d suffered through a long mental tirade about the ubiquity of the ‘world mind’s reach.’ World mind? This is not something I would have made up.

I’ve written a note with a pencil. On paper. And I hand delivered it to my friends. Next week we’ll meet in a field, as far from power lines or cell phone towers as we can get.

I’m actually not very optimistic.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

25th March
2012
written by amber

Special Delivery

He got the blue shirt, he got the apron, he got the button that says, “We Deliver.”

Don’t ask how he got them.

The woman in the parking lot was older, maybe late 40’s, but she still had a good body, still took an effort with her hair and make-up. She said, “But I didn’t ask for delivery.”

He said to her, “But ma’am, I can see that all those boxes for your new shelving unit won’t fit into the back of your car. Delivery is free.”

“I can’t afford to tip you,” she snapped. The rusted out car had already told him that. He didn’t care about a tip anyhow.

“Company policy doesn’t allow tipping, ma’am, so you don’t need to worry about that. And this week, we’re having a special. We’ll put that unit together for you. Or would your husband prefer to do it himself.” Just a touch of sarcasm there. If the woman had a husband, which he doubted, the man would not be a ‘do it yourself’ type.

“Got no husband,” she snapped again, but not as ferociously. She was slow to trust, but he was getting around that. “My son’ll come by this weekend and do it for me.”

“No reason to wait that long, ma’am, but it’s up to you.”

“If this is a special feature, why didn’t they tell me about it, inside?”

He put on his best bewildered face. “They didn’t? Some of those young people don’t think about the customer at all, I’m sorry to say.”

This drew a reluctant smile. “I know. What are they, 14?”

He chuckled, conspiratorially. “Seems like it, doesn’t it?” He wasn’t nearly as old as she was, but was happy to put himself on her side. “So,” he pressed, “do you want me to deliver it or not?”

“Okay,” she said, and then added, sounding a bit angry, as if he’d forced her, “and you can assemble the thing too.” As if she was doing him a favour.

He got his note pad out to write her address down. It said, “Home Depot.” He thought it was a nice touch.

She said, “I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

He rolled the dolly over to his truck while she wheeled out of the parking lot. He was smiling.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

Today’s story and yesterdays were both written at a small writing workshop that I held at the Black Cat Guest Ranch yesterday.

24th March
2012
written by amber

Moving Again

He’s moved again, which is just as well. He knows it’s time to move when the changes start – when the cupboard doors fly open on their own and the knocking sounds seep up from underneath the floorboards and the wallpaper comes to life. He might be able to put up with it himself, but before long the neighbours are bothered. He likes to leave before that happens.

The first time, all those years ago, he didn’t realize it was anything connected to him. He thought it was the apartment, and he moved out with a feeling of relief. He told the landlord about the odd occurrences, not that he was believed or given his deposit back. He worried about the next tenants, and so he kept in touch with his former neighbours in that block, but no one ever mentioned the new tenants complaining about being haunted.

And then it started up in his new apartment and he knew that it was aimed at him.

And he knew why.

She didn’t like to be hidden. Morna.

“Don’t call me your invisible friend,” she’d told him when he was seven. “You can see me, so how can I be invisible?”

Morna had liked it best when he talked about her when she was right there, seen only by him. He told his mother that she was a school friend, and shared all her strange opinions and unusual tales. “She sounds like a very unique little girl,” his mother had said.

He nearly replied, “Oh, she’s not a little girl,” but he stopped, not knowing how he would describe Morna. She was no girl, he was certain, and she wasn’t little. She was tall and very old, and she looked different ways at different times. “She’s my best friend,” he told his mother, and Morna smiled.

He told the kids at school that Morna was his cousin, and they begged him every day to tell them a new story about her. Morna loved the attention, and made sure he had plenty of stories to share.

But he outgrew her. “I’m too old to talk to imaginary people,” he’d whisper beneath his covers, trying to conjure her into extinction but afraid that she’d hear him. And she always did. “I’m real! You know I’m real.”

After he started university, he ignored her for years, talking to her only when he was drunk or half-asleep or alone on long bike rides, Morna gliding along beside him, not walking, not flying, just moving quickly and without effort. When he graduated and started working, he gave up alcohol and his bike, brought dates home frequently to drown Morna’s weeping out with the sounds of human passion. When he slept alone, he used sleeping pills.

But she would not stay hidden.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

The first line of this story was borrowed from Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Blind Assassins.

23rd March
2012
written by amber

Sine of the Elect

When Mary woke up, they were lost.

They’d been lying beside her on the park bench, and now they were gone. Her two children. Vince, age 4 and Sadie, age 2.

She heard the cries of children, not too far away, so she ran there, as quickly as she could in her weakened state. A fence with golden chains stopped her, but she could see what was beyond the fence. Children were playing on swings and in a sandbox, children played with balls and balloons and wonderful toys, children dressed in silks and satins galloped around on ponies, children guarded by men with guns.

“You can’t go in there, ma’am,” one of the soldiers told her.

“But my children are missing. I can’t find my boy and girl.”

“Did they have Sines?” Already he was shining his sensor over her forehead, already he knew that she had no Sine.

“No, they didn’t.”

“Then they won’t be in here, ma’am, will they? Go away now and look for your children elsewhere.”

Mary trudged back to the bench. The slats were warped and splintered. She wondered how she could have slept so deeply on that uncomfortable resting spot, so deeply that she lost her children. She looked around but had no idea where to search. Everything attractive was out of limits to such as Mary and her children.

Beyond the dry, neglected park, crystal towers soared in the midst of tropical gardens. A bright bubble soared overhead, full of laughing teenagers on their way to yet another party in the parts of the city dedicated to the Sined. Heaven on earth it was called, a heaven of unlimited power and generous resources. But the man who discovered this bounty had his strict beliefs and only those who could prove they shared his creed were allowed to wear the Sine and share in the wealth.

Mary heard a familiar cry. Scuffed and bruised, Sadie ran into her arms, Vince running after his sister with a worried look.

“It wasn’t my fault,” he proclaimed. “Sadie wanted to climb that tree.”

Mary hugged them both. Vince was such a good liar. If only she could keep him alive until he was 12, he’d be able to fake the oath and get his Sine.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

The first line of this story was borrowed from Stephen King’s anthology, Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

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