Friday, April 27, 2012

Dan shut the refrigerator door and, for the hundredth time, the picture magnet fell off.  It struck the toe of his shoe just right to send it skittering under the refrigerator.  He kneeled down and felt under the front edge of frig for the magnet, but only swept up lint.  His wife kept a magnetic flashlight stuck to the side of the fridge, which he now grabbed and turned on.  Kneeling again, with his cheek smooshed to the linoleum floor, he squinted with his left eye under the frig, scanning back and forth with the flashlight beam.  The magnet had slid all the way to the back side of the fridge, just in front of the wall.  Dan’s wife didn’t keep any coat hangers convenient magneted to the side of the fridge, so scanning around the kitchen and dining room for something long and skinny, he found his wife’s red umbrella in the stand by the closet.  He grabbed that and headed back to the fridge.  It was a tight fit, but managed to wedge the umbrella under the fridge.  Alas, it was one of those dainty little umbrellas.  What he needed was something closer to the length of a golf umbrella.  He yanked the umbrella back, but it was caught.  The ends of the spines that stretch the fabric open when deployed had caught the underside of the front of the fridge like a fishhook.
Sigh.  It’s definitely a shoe-shopping day.  I’m going cross-eyed reading all these damn affidavits.  The attorneys are all being whiny little bitches.  The bailiff is out sick and his sub is an idiot.  Lunch sucked.  I spilled my coffee all over my credenza.  Sigh.  Why can’t this day just be over?  Maybe something red with straps.  Macy’s had those cute little black heels.  Maybe some new tennies.  The cat has probably puked all over the new couch by now, or missed the litter box again.  Maybe I should start smoking.  I could probably score some weed off one of the defendants.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The backhoe groaned and clanked and scraped as its bucket plunged into the earth, clearing out a neat rectangular space for the funeral that was to happen later that afternoon.  The gravedigger that was operating it was soaked through.  His yellow slicker and wellies had stopped being helpful about an hour ago as the rain had finally crept down his collar and through his jeans and into the tops of his boots.  He made a squishing noise every time he moved his arms or pushed a pedal.  He was a walking swimming pool.  Mary was making applesauce in the church kitchen.  It would be warm and fragrant as he sat down to sample it.  Just one more grave to dig first.

Friday, April 20, 2012

It was a sunny, breezy day--sweatshirt weather--as Steve sat on the park bench, typing his sales report and eating a sandwich.  A bit of lettuce had broken off and dropped onto his computer and was now lodged underneath the spacebar and now the spacebar wouldn’t space.  It was funny, he thought, how people’s brains seemed to check out the moment they walked into the store.  They asked him all kinds of questions about this refrigerator or that dishwasher, as if he had owned each one and knew intimately each one’s strengths and weaknesses.  He responded as if he were an expert, and customers seemed to sense he was full of shit, but usually they’d take his suggestions anyway.  If he weren’t concerned with seeming to provide quality customer service, he’s simply say, “You get what you pay for, buy the one you can afford,” and walk away.   

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ntemba looked down at his bare feet, not knowing how to answer the question just posed to him: “Where did you get those sunglasses?”  It was one of the those questions the mine owner liked to ask not because he wanted to know the answer, but because he already knew the answer.  Ntemba had found them on the ground two days ago, and decided to try them on.  The feel of the glasses, and the look of himself in the window glass made him feel amazing.  So amazing he couldn’t give them up.  He knew he should have, but he couldn’t give away that feeling of well-being, confidence, and yes, even style.  They were sleek and curvy black Oakleys with polarized lenses, and the white oblong “O” on the temples.  “I found them in the dirt outside the mine,” Ntemba finally managed to mutter.  “I meant to give them back but...but...I liked them so I tried them on.”  The shouting that followed from the pale-skinned man in the pinstriped suit stuck with Ntemba for many years afterward.  All his inspiration and high hopes of ever seeing a different life drained away as the verbal berating washed over him, in awful, dreadful waves.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tina decided to learn ballet.  She didn’t stick with it more than a day, but she was thrilled for the week leading up to her first lesson.  She picked out the cutest pink shoes, found a leotard just her size, and even found leg warmers (against all odds) at a thrift store.  On the big day, she pulled her hair up into the tightest, most painful bun she could manage at the top of her head.  She put rouge on her cheeks.  She packed her new duffle bag with a change of clothes, water bottle, powder, and all the accoutrements a proper ballerina should have.  By the end of class though, Tina had come to realize that she was 30 years too late and 50 pounds too heavy for learning ballet.  Her illusions shattered, she went back to court-reporting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fish and chips wasn’t really what Sam wanted for lunch, but he had the burger yesterday and it wasn’t any good.  Neither the fish nor the chips were any good either, but oh well, too late now.  He had spent every morning for the past three days scanning the bottom of the Thames to find two bodies.  The effort was futile.  You can’t see anything in the Thames.  Too much pollution, algae, and silt.  He resented that he was going to smell like the Thames for the next week or so.  But the police chief wanted to show that he was doing his due-diligence to solve a crime, so Sam was swimming around in sewer water every morning.  He hoped the fish he was choking down now didn’t come out of the Thames...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Flippy the Fish was a butterfly fish, which is a silly name for a kind of fish because fish can’t fly, and everybody knows it.  But Flippy wanted to fly.  Ooooh, Flippy wanted to fly.  At the dock there was recently a birthday party for a little girl.  Left behind with the yummy bits of cake that had fallen into the lake were several helium balloons left taped to the wooden mooring posts on the dock.  Flippy could see that those balloons wanted to fly, too.  “Those balloons want to fly as much as I do.  Look how hard they strain against the string that’s holding them down!  Maybe if I strain as hard as they do, I can fly.”  So Flippy jumped and hopped all day, trying to free himself from gravity.  But even though butterfly fish do have long fancy fins, Flippy just couldn’t flap hard enough to get airborne.  All of Flippy’s jumping practise helped him get strong enough to jump as high as the string that was holding the balloon down. “Maybe I can jump to the string, bite the string, and then ride the balloon into the sky!”  So he jumped and grabbed the string with his fancy flippers, tied it in loop around his tummy, and then Chomp!  He snipped the string with his little mouth.  ZOOM!  The balloon and the fish zoomed away farther and faster than little Flippy ever imagined he could.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

An afternoon romp in the hay with Janine was just what Gary needed to mentally prepare himself for proposing to Janette later that evening.  Everything had gone off without a hitch.  Claiming he was going on his usual Saturday golf outing, he said goodbye to Janette that morning.  She would expect him to play a round, then hang with the fellas for drinks and dogs afterward. Then he would drive home in time to shower and dress to take Janette out to dinner.  This had been their routine every Saturday for about a year and a half.  Gary did play golf, but he never hung around for drinks and dogs.  Instead he’d take a leisurely drive to Janine’s family’s farm, where he’d spend most of the afternoon frolicing with Janine, usually in the hay, and drinking lemonade.  So now, kneeling before Janette in the middle of the restaurant after having made exactly the right confession of his undying love for her, he thrust his hand into his pocket and realized, too late, that he had left the ring in the barn.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ernie’s pre-flight ritual was to sit in his old brown Chevy Nomad parked under the bridge and eat a breakfast.  He loved the car because the driver’s seat had molded itself over the years to conform perfectly to the shape of his ass, and so was even more comfortable than his La-Z-Boy at home.  The car was not reliable.  He hated repairing it, and it had cost him a fortune over the last 30 years.  He never did any more work than he had to, and he wasn’t aware of the idea that doing periodic preventative maintenance would probably have saved him a great deal of headache and cash.  This was ironic because, as a pilot, he could see daily the scurrying of airplane technicians and mechanics doing exactly that type of preventative work to make sure his plane didn’t drop out of the sky.  He often considered ridding himself of the beater and buying something more modern and sensible.  But his routine was more important.  Watching the water, the barges, the birds, eating his everything bagel with salmon cream cheese, sitting in this perfectly shaped throne, was so satisfying and calming that he couldn’t get himself to change a  thing.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Looking out from the polycarbonate bubble as it floated among the skyscrapers, he reflected on how he got here.  Divorce.  The death of his son.  The loss of his job.  The prospect of a one-time influx of cash that would allow him to live in peace, and an offer to cut him in on the action.  Just a few days ago he was gliding in a different vehicle through a different landscape: a twin engine prop plane and the Everglades.  “Well, there isn’t much to say now.  What’s done is done.  I’d undo it if I could, but it’s over now.  I don’t suppose I’ll get back to the Everglades for a few years.”  His stomach lurched as the chopper dropped down, preparing for its landing on the roof of the justice building.  His steward was wearing a Kevlar vest.  Now he wished he had been handed one of those a few months ago when he left the donut shop on the morning of the robbery.  He looked away from the window and down at his handcuffs.  “Fucking Kevlar.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

“Why do I live in Alaska?” Walter asked himself, for the millionth time.  Slogging through the snowdrifts to and from work every day guaranteed that he began and ended his daily routine in a foul mood.  He longed for Rome.  Pierre, the French baker next to the hotel, used to set out bread first thing in the morning.  Walter would select the loaf with just the right amount of crispiness, and then a small brick of cheese, and eat them together on his way to the factory.  Sunshine every day, coupled with a cool breeze.  Beautiful women, nothing like the heavily clothed, shapeless, slush-sloggers here in Alaska.  Bicycle bells jingling as the delivery boys sped by...  “Why do I live in Alaska?”
Marvin lay under the park bench, shivering, his knuckles white with cold and grasping his trusty old Nikon.  He’d been visiting this park every day for the past two and a half weeks, hoping for a shot of the Baird’s sandpiper that was rumored to be visiting this small lake.  Odd that the bird was alone, and odder that it was here so late into the fall.  For the first week, he spent his time sitting on the bench under which he now huddled.  But the bird had not shown itself, so Marvin figured maybe the sight of him might be keeping the piper away.  After lowering his creaking bones to the ground and crawling under the bench, he realized he was less exposed to the fierce wind that had been chapping his face and hands all that week.  And so, every day between the hours of six and eight in the morning, Marvin lay hunkered there with his thermos of strong bitter coffee, shivering, waiting for a bird that had already flown south the day before he began his uncomfortable vigil.