1) Blue Eyes
He’s falling apart. He’s late, and he hates it — late because the work never stops, and because the traffic is nothing but worse. The stress makes him reach for a cigarette, even as he stomps the accelerator.
This is too important to be late.
The car’s controls are worked like a maestro. If he’s late, he’s ruined.
A screech of the tires, and a winded sprint up the stairs. His heart hammers as he runs.
He bursts through the door, flustered and sweaty and mouthing apologies. The others simply shake their heads — his foibles are well known.
The job at hand is thrust at him, a package to be unwrapped and tended to.
He hesitates, afraid. Afraid to touch, afraid to commit. The “what ifs” wrack him, the visions of everything that could go wrong. But the package won’t wait. Not for him, not for anyone.
A twitch of his fingers and the wrappings are pushed aside.
The eyes open, tired and confused…oh so confused.
He is frozen, dominated.
Those blue eyes hint at everything in the world: at commitment, and at the pitfalls and emotions to come.
The eyes close, and he is released.
“Welcome, son,” he whispers.
2) Crossing the Line
Dozens of tattoos, Agwe had. Every single one was a memory, a moment in his life. And with every one, he’d felt the pain of the needle and ink as it marked his flesh. Drunk or sober, every tattoo was a memory that included the suffering of its creation.
Except this one.
This one was different.
For this one, he’d sweated and worked. He’d suffered and been shaved. He’d been covered in oil and sludge. He’d kissed the Chief’s belly. He’d earned his citizenship in King Neptune’s court.
The outline of the turtle on his arm was simple: incomplete and basic.
He remembered sitting on his bunk, remembered the hard-won pint of moonshine he’d paid to Schwartzie to memorialize the crossing.
The klaxon sounded, then, in his memory. The pounding of feet, the sprint from his bunk to the gun.
A plane…grey and green and far too fast.
The noise, and the flame. The frantic scrambling for Schwartzie’s arm.
His tattoo would never be finished, now.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Desperation and hopelessness. The bitter taste of failure. It was supposed to be better than this.
Wearing a cap and gown, he was told it would be better.
When he put the ring on her finger, he thought it would be better.
When he signed the divorce papers, he hoped it would be better.
When the layoff notice came, he prayed it could be better.
In the news, he heard all about how it was better. Better, he knew, for someone else. For everyone else.
It was supposed to be better than this.
1) “Blue Eyes” came from a one word challenge, to write about “elation” in 200 words. I wanted to play with expectations and characterization, especially given the darker microfiction pieces I’ve posted before. It’s hard to do a concluding “surprise” in under 200 words, but I did want to TRY.
2) “Crossing the Line” was a challenge from someone who knows my passion for naval history. Most folks hear the title phrase and think of doing wrong. But to a sailor…to a sailor it means something VERY different. I had 150 words to talk about pride, and tradition, and the camaraderie of those who sail grey-hulled ships in harm’s way. Agwe’s story is stuck at 170 words…so this one, I failed. I still like the story, however.
3) “Better” doesn’t really belong here, but…what the hell. It doesn’t belong because, well it’s not a story…not really. That being said, I wrote it in response to something I was given for this microfiction challenge, so I figured I would include it. In this case, it was in response to a photo of a homeless guy. What stood out to me in that photo was not the dirty clothes, nor the sign the guy was holding. No, what truly stood out was his wedding ring.