Tag Archives: fiction

The Secret Conversations of Kids

Alice sat in the café in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and sipped her coffee, watching her daughter Priscilla romp around, burning off excess energy. The other moms were discussing toilet training, but luckily Alice was through that by now.

“Mom, I want my cell phone,” Priscilla said. Alice pulled the plastic flip phone from her purse and handed it to her four-year-old daughter. It was a dollar-store variety that didn’t even take batteries and had a sticker for a screen.

Priscilla grabbed the phone and flipped it open with one hand. For a while, she went around the café, holding the phone up and pretending to take pictures of the display of baked goods, the walls, the cups for sale, even other patrons.  A few stopped to flash smiles and pose while Priscilla squinted at the sticker screen, moving the phone until it was in just the right position. Alice tried to keep an eye on her as she moved around.

Priscilla wandered back, flipping the phone open and shut. Then she looked down at it, flipped it open and put it to her ear.

“Hello?” She listened a moment. “Oh, really? I’m at the coffee shop now. Where are you?”

One of the other moms asked Alice a question and she turned to answer. Priscilla continued to talk and listen for a long time. She started to pace back and forth, her frizzy hair bouncing. At one point, she held the phone between her cheek and her shoulder to use both hands to gesticulate.

“I-O-WA,” she said, making lines in the air with her finger as if she were spelling the word. “I-O-WA.” She stopped and listened for a bit. “No!” she exclaimed. “Oh. My. Goodness.”

“They start early, don’t they?” one of the moms said, and the others tittered and agreed. They were all watching Priscilla’s antics now. A two-year-old of one of the other moms toddled up to Priscilla, reaching for the phone. Priscilla made a shushing gesture and turned away, cupping her hand around the phone.

“It’s amazing the things they pick up from us,” Alice said. “It makes me worried what else they notice.”

“Okay, bye!” Priscilla snapped the phone shut.

“Have a good talk?” Alice asked. Priscilla only nodded happily and bounced away to take more pictures.

*     *     *

“That’s quite a talk you had,” Subin said to her son Hojun when he stopped talking. They were walked from his preschool back to their apartment in Pohang, Korea.

She put the toy cell phone back in her purse. “I don’t know where you come up with this stuff sometimes. Honestly, I don’t even know where Iowa is.”

 

This was inspired by sitting in my local coffee shop today, seeing a little girl carry on a similar conversation on her toy cellphone.

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Rebirth

I tried to think of a pithier title and couldn’t come up with anything.

Rebirth

You can’t know what happens after you die. The piano feels screws loosening, feels a crowbar somewhere underneath. Wood cracks, splinters. It’ll be soon. They’ve already pried off its ivory keys.  At least it doesn’t hurt.

There’s a pling sound as its strings are cut, the last music it will ever play.

Consciousness fades.

* * *

“What a unique table!”

The table feels a hand run along its glossy surface.

“It looks like it was made from a grand piano top.”

Was I ever a piano? the table wonders. It can’t remember. Unfortunately, you can’t know what happened before you were born.

 

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McGonagall’s Delivery Service

Pamela pushed through the driving snow, balancing the cup carrier on her back. Why hadn’t she started this business in the summer? She had always been impulsive and starting her own delivery business had seemed like a great idea when she was lying by the heater behind the counter of the bodega with her friend Maya.

Maya knew all about business, having lived in the bodega her whole life. She had advised Pamela on all parts of the business, from advertising to hours to invoicing. Maya could even use a computer and had helped Pamela set up a Paypal account to make payments easier. However, even Maya could not deny that it would be an uphill battle starting a business in New York City as a cat.

She had decided to name the business McGonagall’s Delivery Service after the Harry Potter character who could turn into a cat. She figured that people would trust her more if they thought she could turn into a human if she wanted to. If nothing else, the name would appeal to the Potterhead demographic.

Pamela consulted the smartwatch strapped to her paw. She was almost at the address. She ducked under the covered entrance and scratched at the door until the doorman opened it. She resisted shaking her fur as she walked in, as not to spill the coffee she was carrying.

“Shall I push the button for you, miss,” the doorman said after she showed him the address on the smartwatch. She liked doormen like this, professional to the marrow and deferential to all woman, regardless of species. She gave him a meow of thanks as the elevator doors opened and she darted inside.

The customer was waiting outside the apartment door when Pamela stepped out onto the 12th floor. She plucked the cup of coffee out of the carrier and took a sip. “Ugh, it’s not even hot anymore.”

Pamela typed out a quick message on the smartwatch and held it up. I apologize, but you did order a cup of coffee from 10 blocks away in a snowstorm. It was catty, but Pamela couldn’t help it. She resisted the urge to add a certain canine-based insult to the message, about the worst thing a cat could say.

The woman grumbled something and went into her apartment and shut the door, not even saying good-bye. Without the coffee on her back, Pamela could leap up to push the button for the elevator. The doorman tipped his hat to her and held the front door open as she left. She hesitated under the covered entrance as she prepared to brave the storm again to go home.

I can do this, she thought as she trudged home. Life was never easy as a catrepreneur, but she’d get her break.

I can do this.

 

 

Read more about Pamela’s friend Maya here.


Rare Steaks

I got this idea for last week’s Friday Fictioneers, but couldn’t fit it satisfactorily into 100 words, so I am posting it as a stand-alone with a different picture.

Rare Steaks

The driver backed the truck inexpertly up to the loading dock of the meat market. The manager was waiting when he got out. “I got a shipment for you,” the driver said.

The manager nodded. “You’re not the regular guy. Where’s Todd these days?”

“This is a special load. I thought I’d come by and see if you were interested in it.” The driver fumbled with the latch and opened up the back.

“Hey, it’s all fresh. Is this locally sourced?”

“Yep, it’s from the area.”

The manager picked up a package and inspected it. The meat was cut into irregular pieces. Whoever processed it must have been new on the job. “You know, we usually cut it up here. What is this, veal?”

“Uh, yeah. Veal.”

“Sure, I’ll take it. I can sell it at a discount. Lemme get some guys to unload it. Just hold on.” The manager called for a few employees to start unloading the truck, then sat down and picked up a newspaper. The driver stood by uncertainly.

“What do you think about that boy scout troop that disappeared a few days ago?” the manager asked conversationally. “Crazy, eh? You think they’ll find them soon?”

“I’m sure they’re fine. They’ll turn up,” the driver said.

The manager pointed to the picture of the missing troop in the paper. “You know, you kind of look like their troop leader.”

“My . . . twin brother. We’re all shook up about it.”

“Well, thoughts and prayers and all that.” The manager looked up and pointed. “Geez, what’s that?”

A strip of dark green cloth lay on the floor of the truck, uncovered as the men unloaded the truck. The driver stepped over and snatched it up. The manager caught a glimpse of merit badges sewed in rows on it as the driver pushed it into a plastic bag.

“My nephew’s,” the driver explained. “He was going to a scout meeting when I was loading the truck. Must have left it.”

“Well, he’s going to miss his sash,” the manager said. “You’d better wash that good before you give it back. It looks pretty fouled with blood and juice.”

“So, how can I get paid?” the driver asked tentatively.

“We’ll send it to you by next week,” the manager said, going back to his paper.

“Could I get it now, in cash?”

The manager looked up, frowning. “In cash? No, that’s not how we work.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, they’ve got the truck unloaded. I’ll just go now.”

“See ya.” The manager flipped a page. What a weirdo, he thought.

 

Breaking News! The local TV station’s chyron screamed the next day. Carnage at Santa’s Village!

“Police uncovered a grisly scene this morning at the local Santa’s Village which is closed for the season,” the reporter said. “The entire herd of reindeer that is housed on the grounds was found slaughtered. The culprits were soon found in the area, the missing scout troop 3245. Their leader has been arrested for child endangerment, theft, and illegally trying to sell the meat to a local market. He insists it was all for a fundraiser so the boys could attend the national jamboree.

“Scout officials confirm that the boys have been reprimanded, but will also receive their merit badge in poaching.”


Carving at Hades’ Chains

FF198 J S Brand

copyright J.S. Brand

 

“It takes patience,” the lunatic had said. “A sledgehammer won’t work. Only beauty overcomes death.”

By the light of a bone-white moon, I felt my way to my mother’s grave, carrying a purloined hammer and chisel. I started carving swirls into the marble, then starbursts and graceful figures until I transformed that baleful guardian into revivifying craftsmanship. I prayed I would see her again—not some ghastly reanimation, but really her.

“There was a grave robbery,” my dad said at breakfast. “Someone destroyed a headstone. The body is missing.”

My soul leapt.

“It’s the one right next to your mother’s.”

 


I, Pawn

FF197 Jeff Arnold

copyright Jeff Arnold

Even pawns can become queen. Just keep moving forward.

I may only be a lady-in-waiting, but over the years, across the chessboard, the queen has taught me everything until I am sure I know more than that hapless prince.

So one night I take a large pillow and go to the queen’s bed.

Just get to the end.

Regicide? No, promotion.

I put on the crown and march to the hall.

“The queen is dead! Long live your new queen!”

I don’t see Sir Geoffrey until he stabs his sword into my side.

I always forget how the knights move.

 


Big Sister Loves You

FF196 Roger Bultot

copyright Roger Bultot

The phone rang immediately. Of course.

Be strong. I picked up the receiver.

“Josh,” the female voice said. “You covered your camera again.”

“Look, I’m just not comfortable—“

“Josh.” She was chiding. “It’s for your own good. How many lives does SIS save?”

Everyone knew the statistics. Special Interior Surveillance saved 47,000 lives a year. They said.

“What if you have another panic attack? Like last month? We need to see to help you.”

My chest was already tightening at the thought. “Okay,” I mumbled.

She made a kissing noise into the phone. “Thanks, Josh. SIS loves you, remember?”


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