The Revenge of Micro-Fiction Friday

No contest or challenge, this time…just “navigating small” and writing the words that come…

1) “Dreams of Smoke”

I tried so hard to hold it, the memory of the dream.

Even after everything, the dreams were still there…the dreams we had shared.

But so was work, and family, and all the trappings of life the way it was supposed to be. But supposed to be doesn’t include dreams. Supposed to be doesn’t leave room for could be.

I stood in that room, surrounded by white and green, surrounded by all the little lights and the beeping machines. Surrounded by fear, and by loss. I tried to hold on to her, tried to hold on to the dream.

A touch on my shoulder, and a gentle voice. One last squeeze of her hand, then. One last chance for the dream to come true…but the harder I held, the more the dream turned to smoke, drifted away.

I turned and left, broken. Like what could be, she was gone…and so was the dream.


2) “If Only You’d Known Me Then”

The endless summer of my younger days. Nights under the stars, sharing dollar-booze and thoughts that cost the world. Trysts under the overpass, tearing at each others’ clothes. Days under the sun, before the coming of autumn and winter. When I was invincible and immortal…when I was young.

“If only you’d known me then…” I whispered.

Before life took its toll. Before reality and consequences. Before regrets.

She reached a hand — her touch was light, barely there. I hesitated, stopped, trapped by what I was at that moment. Broken and frail, weak in ways my younger self would never understand. Could never understand.

I couldn’t help her, couldn’t help myself. If only she’d known me then…

There were no tears: I remembered enough of the strength I once possessed to be strong one last time. There were no tears…but no words, either.  I wasn’t that strong.

Her frail hand was shaking almost as much as mine. “I know you now,” she said gently, lovingly.


3) “The News”

“I have money — you don’t have to worry about that,” he stammered, his mind several steps behind reality.

Her hand on his arm, a smile that was no smile. “It’s not that, and you know it.”

Laughing screams from the nearby playground brought a flinch. A look over, a glimpse of those kids, and it all came crashing home.

“But…what can I do?”

A shake of her head, then. “I just wanted to give you the news myself, before you heard it from someone else. I’ve already been to the clinic.”

The news changed everything.


Behind-the-scenes notes:

1) “Dreams of Smoke” started as a very different story. What I had originally envisioned, however, just didn’t come together, so I put it aside. When I came back to it, a few days later, I had 125 words and a broken story. I put on an album and got working to “fix” it. The only part of the original I truly stuck with was the limit of 200 words, and the “vision” of dreams disappearing like smoke. I’m still not sure if it worked.

2) “If Only You’d Known Me Then” is a story about age…about getting old, and everything that goes with that. It is, to be honest, intended to be the opposite sentiment to Springsteen’s “Glory Days”, but drawn from the same well. Trying to do all of that in 150 words may have been over-ambitious…

3) “The News” is autobiography. The moment that changed the universe for me…and that’s all I’m going to say about it.

Micro-Fiction Friday


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.


3) Better

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.


Behind-the-scenes stuff:

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.


A Call For Challenges…And For Rut-Breaking


Ruts suck.  They suck in life, and they suck more in writing.

I need to break out of one.

No, really — I need to break out of one!

One of the new(ish) things I have adopted to break bad momentum is micro-fiction.  For those of you who don’t know, micro-fiction is defined as very short stories.  In my little corner of the universe, they are stories of roughly 100-300 words or so.

Heck, I’ve even posted a couple of them: here and here.

The micro-fiction that I’ve written to-date — err, well, that which I have admitted to, anyway — has all been the result of “flash fiction” contests…which is just a writer-nerd way of saying that I had only a day or two to actually write and submit the damned things.

Honestly, as scary as it is, I enjoy that.  I like the dynamic, and I like the challenge.  Shit, I need the dynamic and the challenge, if only as a change from my normal writing.

I don’t have any contests on my radar at the moment…but I need a change nonetheless.  Today isn’t a post so much as it is a call: give me a challenge.

7a5bd3060b9401733137efc9e9117070Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is this: send me a topic and a word-count (100-300 words).  I honestly don’t care if your subject is a lyric or stanza from a song/poem, an image, or a general thought/emotion…just find something that has some emotion to it, and challenge me to write the story.

Put your suggestions in the comments, put them in an email, put them on my Facebook page…I also don’t particularly care about the source. I will accept & consider everything I receive by the end of Sunday night.

From your end, that’s pretty much it.

From my end?  That’s where the work — and the fun — begins.  I will tackle as many of the submissions as I can, and then let all of you judge the results.

Judge the results…that’s the joker in the deck!

I will post everything I manage to finish (and be happy with) next Friday, March 30th.  After that, it is up to you folks to give me feedback on the various pieces.

Honestly, it is up to you to pick the best.  Just like the submissions, I don’t care if the results come via comment or email or Facebook, just let me know what you think!!