flash fiction: simulacrum, parts two & three

thanks to those of you who have read and liked the first part of my short story, simulacrum.  below are parts the second and third of my melodrama-meets-mystery-meets-tragedy.  enjoy!

simulacrum (part II)

Frank was sitting at the dining table, photographs spread all around him.  He held each one gingerly as he sifted through the piles, taking care not to smudge them.  The prints were fairly well organized by year, but he was looking for one in particular.  He wanted to blow it up and frame as a present for Octavia; it was their twentieth anniversary, and finding china was just not his cup of tea.  Maybe he could take the modern route and find a platinum frame?  He chuckled at the thought.

“Did you find something funny there, Frank?”  She had come up behind him, breaking his moment of introspection.  Octavia rested her chin on his head, her hand skimmed his right shoulder as she reached down.  She came away with an older picture, one that was hidden in the stack near his arm.  It was sepia-toned and a bit faded:  Three children standing side-by-side.  The two older girls stared directly at the camera, their mouths upturned in prepared smiles.  The third, a toddler, had turned to face the sister on her left, her head tilted back, eyes squeezed shut with laughter.  They all wore what looked like matching Sunday dresses and white lace trimmed socks, shiny black shoes.  Frank could feel Octavia tense as her left hand gripped his shoulder, the fingers digging almost painfully into his clavicle.

“I love that picture of your cousins, ‘Via,” Frank said, gently releasing her hand from his shoulder and pulling her down so her chin found a place in the crook of his neck.  He could feel her soft breath, quick with anxiety, as she relinquished the photograph and let it fall to the table.  “But I know it troubles you, so let’s put it away. I was looking for our wedding picture, do you think you can help me find it?”

She kissed his cheek as he slid his chair a little further from the table to accommodate her on his lap.  Her curly hair brushed his nose and he breathed in her comforting smell.  For the next few minutes he allowed her to look, contented to take a break as she searched, listening to her running commentary about why did they have so many photos of trees and who was that person in that photo and could they just toss out the blurry ones.

“We can’t toss any of them, doll,” Frank grabbed her around the waist and squeezed gently, “because you would have nothing to remember me by when I’m gone and you’re a crotchety old granny telling her grandchildren about their ridiculous harabeoji who could never take a focused photo.”

“Ah, yes,” she laughed, and then “Eureka!  Here it is, buried beneath thirty blurry ones, a photo most definitely not taken by you!”  She waved it in his face triumphantly, her teeth white against the blushed-brown of her lips.  She stood up abruptly, turned around, made as if to hand him his prize, and then stopped.  “I require a fee,” she smirked, pointing to her cheek, “and you must pay up!”  Frank kissed her quickly, grabbing at the memento held just out of his reach.  Octavia relented, muttering that she expected a richer reward.

“You’ll get your just desserts this evening,” he teased, shooing her away, “But now I’ve got some business to which I must attend before the kids get home.”  Octavia gave him the side-eye as she sauntered to the kitchen.  When the door closed behind her, Frank let out a sigh.  He had some planning to do, and very little time before evening.  He was so preoccupied that he didn’t notice that the photo of the three little girls was gone.

(part III)

Annette meticulously followed the instructions she had received; no one could describe her way of completing tasks as anything but meticulous.  Even when the tears in her eyes made a blurry wash of her computer screen, she managed to efficiently find and purchase the most reasonable ticket from Minneapolis to Boston.  Snow had just started to fall, and Annette was convinced that this time it would stick to the ground and cover the cars with thick shrouds by morning.  She felt a mild irritation that she would have to wait for the taxi in knee-deep drifts at 6 AM.  She wrapped her fringed shawl more tightly around her shoulders and took a sip of tea as she blinked back her emotions.  Annette was all business now, and read the flight and hotel rules carefully before entering her credit card information.

*     *    *

From a café across the street from his office building, Annette watched him as she sipped her tea.  She hadn’t bothered to remove her coat or get too comfortable, but her gloves and phone lay within easy reach on the hardwood table.  She had been watching all morning as he sat in his window office on the third floor, and had been lulled into a reverie.  Her mind was momentarily calmed by the smells of coffee beans and foamed milk, and she closed her eyes.  The sound of the bell above the door alerted her to the fact that her mark, a man named Mr. Hahn, was entering the café and she was still inside; this was not part of her plan.  But it was too late to do anything, she would just have to wait and see what happened.

At first, Hahn walked up to the counter, lost in his cell phone, probably checking his email or text messages.  He made his order and stood off to the side as he waited, massaging his neck absentmindedly.  Annette looked out of the window.

“Is this seat taken?”  Suddenly, Hahn was there, looking down at her, his black hair falling into his dark brown eyes.  He smiled, his hands gripping the back of the chair as he pulled it out.

“No, knock yourself out.”

“Thanks.”  Hahn sat down, placing his ceramic cup on the table across from her paper one.  Annette gathered her gloves and phone, preparing to take up her position somewhere in the nearby park so that she could continue her mission.  “Please, don’t leave–you haven’t finished your drink,”  Hahn looked concerned as he touched her hand lightly, with an uncalled-for familiarity.  Annette pulled away, but didn’t move.  She sighed and quickly weighed her options; if she left, she might just run into him again, but if she stayed, she could revise her approach to the job she had to do.  She was prepared for this possibility, but now she had to switch gears on the fly.  She took a breath and smoothed her features as she looked him squarely in the eyes.

“Okay, why not?  Strange man, strange city, I’ll take a chance,” she gave him a skeptical look as she removed her coat and hat, “As long as you can assure me that I’ll leave here in one piece.”  Hahn’s eyes revealed his bewilderment at her statement, but when he realized she was joking, he relaxed.

And in that moment, when she laughed with her mouth slightly open, when blushed-brown lips revealed straight white teeth, he was assaulted by a wave of nostalgia and shock.  Luckily she didn’t notice, he thought, so he gulped his coffee to recover.

“Well, since we’ll be sharing a table for the next ten minutes, might as well introduce myself,”  Hahn held out his warm right hand to take her cool one.  “I’m Frank.”

“I’m Annette.”  She smiled again, and his heart and stomach flipped in a way Frank didn’t believe possible after almost five years.

It was lucky that Frank was the boss, otherwise the ten minutes that turned into two hours would have lost him his job.  Annette had ordered another tea and a sandwich, and he had consumed two more cups of coffee before finally looking at his watch and realizing that it was almost time to head home.  Joanie would be back from practice and the boys had promised to stop by for Friday dinner and he still had to go shopping.

“I’m sorry, but I really should go,” Annette started to gather her things, reaching into her purse for her card case.  “I know it’s old fashioned, but I still carry a business card.  I’d love to meet up again sometime.”  She gave him her best smile as he took the proffered card and glanced at her information.

“You’re new here in Boston, I’d be happy to show you some of the sights worth seeing.  But more likely, I’d end up taking you to watch basketball at my favorite bar.”  Frank laughed nervously as he found his own card.  He was self conscious and aware that his ears felt hot and the heat spread to his cheeks.  Annette touched his hand.

“Well I can’t say that I enjoy basketball, but I’ve never been known to turn down a beer.  Please call me.”  Like a wintry breeze, she hurried out of the café, inventing an urgent errand to hasten her departure.  Once outside and a few blocks away, she leaned against a brick building and cried.

Advertisements

no. 23

sunday music

the people downstairs are singing

their piano thrums through my floor

maybe it is a rehearsal for they are far from perfect

still, it is endearing, the hint of harmony

the love that resonates in their vocals

the pianist slowly sheds performance anxiety

for authoritativeness as the holder of the

rhythm, tempo and dynamics

i listen, i imagine myself there with them

from my upstairs chair

i open my mouth and harmonize with

ooohs and aahs even though i know the words

but then, their music peters out:

i wonder did they hear me and take offense

next time i will just listen, an imaginary audience,

and wrap myself in the music of their lazy sunday afternoon.

(written 28 january 2018)

mundane musing the thirteenth

punctuation

sometimes i think it would be nice

to abandon all typographical symbols

above all i am frustrated with the stupidity of the

exclamation point

which in no way expresses the right level of enthusiasm

always too much or too little

the comma

separating ideas pieces parts

why not just let us eat

grandma

the question mark

only demonstrates my embarrassment at insufferable ignorance

my favorite is the semicolon

the colon and comma portmanteaued

sad and underused already

quotation marks and dashes

apostrophes always misused

and for crying out loud

what is the difference

between the bracket and the parenthesis

this poem survives without them all

maybe we should all just write

poetry

(written 28 january 2018)

no. 22 solitude

quiet

it is a small apartment;

i roam from room to room in seconds

at times, the only sounds are the grinding

of the washing machine

and the intermittent click of the keys

or the scratching of a pencil

when i record my soul and its ruminations.

there are times when i get what i want,

but still find room to wallow woefully

in the satisfaction of the result:

it is too quiet here now;

it is too loud otherwise.

i wish to disappear into the

quiet

each day i recite a soliloquy

in the silence of these rooms

and never fail to simultaneously

love and hate the solitude.

(written 17 november 2017)

flash fiction: simulacrum excerpt

so i wrote this piece as flash fiction initially.  after sharing it with some fellow writers, i was encouraged to flesh it out into a longer piece.  but here, i will tease you, my audience, with the excerpt i first wrote–let me know if you’d like to read the rest…

simulacrum (part I)

He would never tell her the truth.

However, he could not lie to himself; she was perfectly lovely in all of her imperfect glory.  His eyes lingered on the uncanny way in which her body was simultaneously youthful and ageing:  Her curly black hair, soft and surprisingly silky, was streaked with grey; her brown skin devoid of wrinkles.  Her breasts were pendulous and yet diminutive, a testament to the child she had nursed over the span of three years.  The muscles of her arms, legs and upper abdomen were strong and defined, but she still carried a small pouch below her navel, striated with stretch marks.  She was unashamed of the wispy pelt of hair that covered her arms and legs and crevices in the wintertime, when she refused to shave.

He wanted to paint her portrait, but he was no artist–even his photographs were mediocre at best, satisfactory enough only for the closed photo albums in the den.  All he could do was marvel at her presence; she was a kaleidoscope of movements, emotions, expressions.  She hummed with vitality and it made her all the more beautiful to behold.  Her brown eyes were sharp when she turned to him, her back to the mirror.

“Why do you have no photographs in your bedroom?” she asked, stretching a curl and letting it spring back.  He was silent, almost apologetically so, and his eyes broke from hers to find something less brilliant to rest upon.  “I mean,” she revised, “of your wife?”

He sighed, and his heart felt heavy with the weight of despondency.  He had dressed more quickly than she, but his feet were bare.  He pulled on his socks slowly, looking down as he lined up toes and heel gussets.  “I decided that I couldn’t stare at her face anymore.  I have enough memories to keep me content,” he picked at a loose thread on his ankle, “Anyways, the kids took all the best ones for themselves.”

She nodded, but he wasn’t sure that his answer was satisfactory.  The set of her shoulders as she turned away to resume her toilette informed him that she was ruminating, trying to make sense of his response.  She pulled on her bra, doing up the clasp without difficulty. Now half-dressed she turned around again as she pulled on her dungarees.

“What was she like?” Wool socks pulled up, silk camisole settled into place.

“She was a force of nature,” he replied, using the most hackneyed and undescriptive description he could muster.

“You mean, she is too difficult for you to describe in one sentence,” she replied perceptively.  “Can you tell me what she looked like?”

“Let’s go and get some coffee,” he tried to dodge the question, wishing it were late enough for a real drink, like bourbon.  “We have the whole weekend ahead of us, and I don’t want it to be about her.”  He grunted as he pushed himself up from the bed and inspected his clothing in the mirror.  She pulled her hair into a topknot, oblivious to the few unruly curls that escaped.  The snap buttons of her plaid cowboy shirt reflected the bureau light.  She grabbed her watch and earrings from the dish.  Her fingers were bare.

“I know it’s hard, Frank,” she started, as she fastened her earrings, “both of us have lost the person most important to us, and now we have to start over again.  But that doesn’t mean that we have to remove their residue from our lives.”  She always had an unusual way of explaining things, but he found her thought processes fascinating.  He didn’t know if he agreed, and he certainly had no problem discussing his wife with others, just not with her.

Before they left the house, she declared she had to pee.  While he waited, he pulled his wallet out of his back pocket.  He quickly pulled a worn photograph from its folds: it was taken on their wedding day, 25 years ago.  He stared at his late wife’s face for a second, and then closed his eyes.  When he heard the powder-room door open, he hastily slid the photo into its hiding place.  When he looked up, that same, beautiful face greeted him with a smile.  Her name almost escaped his lips as a sigh.

He would never tell her the truth.

(written 17 november 2017)

brief test

hello out there,

so i’m just doing a little test here; i am such a blogging novice that i’m still learning how each of the features here works.  since some of my followers were not getting notifications of new posts, i am also sharing my posts to facebook.  of course, when i did that, my whole post was visible, rather than an excerpt…how frustrating.  i guess nothing can be too simple in life.

hopefully i’m getting this right:  i can enter a small excerpt under the customize message in the drop-down for sharing?  or perhaps i need to enter under the “more options” drop-down?  maybe someone who shares their blog to facebook can enlighten me?

eventually it will work out, i suppose…

mundane musing the twelfth

persimmon

may i present to you, my friends,

the humble persimmon.

except in my opinion it deserves

ebullient praise;

it is the food of my gods.

unashamedly, unabashedly

i will gorge:

crisp or slightly soft,

juicy and mildly sweet;

i usually prefer my fruit tangy.

but not these delights,

worthy of the most sentimental of poetry.

(written 30 october 2017)