Posts Tagged ‘ micro fiction ’

An Affliction

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Of course, when the night of the recital came, there was no thought of him actually attending–at least, not for his parents.

For the last six weeks whenever his scheduled session with his instructor had come near, he had buckled over with sharp, piercing pain in his abdomen. The first night they’d been sympathetic. It had been so sudden that they had had no time to call off the lesson. They politely met his tutor–a matronly crone with an unmoving face and a sterling reputation on the Upper East Side–at the door with her requisite fee in hand and a mouthful of apologies. “Too ill to practice?” she had said dubiously, but they assured her that they would make sure he did practice on his own as soon as he was better.

But the second time this occurred, they forced him to endure the lesson anyway, with disastrous results. “Now, Michael,” they said–and actually failed to finish the sentence. They simply set up his sheets on the piano and poured his tutor the glass of water with no ice that she always expected waiting for her.

Michael marched up to the ivories with a grimace and sat down for his lesson. They left the room, convinced they’d done the right thing.

Fifteen minutes later, however, the tutor summoned them. With the same didactic tone they heard echo through the hall while she instructed the boy, she told them to tuck him into bed and to monitor his temperature carefully and not to let him drink for at least an hour and which name-brand soda to give him when he finally was ready. Then she left, the lesson incomplete. To her credit, she did not insist on payment that time. She did though say, “Not to force the boy to endure something like this again.”

So when the next week came and Michael once again complained about his stomach, they placed a hasty phone call to the tutor and, with quick glances at one another, said they would take him to the doctor and let her know when he could resume his lessons.

The doctor, though, seemed unnecessary. By the morning, he was spritely and game for adventures in the tiny garden behind their brownstone or a romp over to the park. They thought they had his number pretty squarely down at this point and decided that, admitting defeat, they might as well just pay out the rest of the contract with the tutor and not renew for the next year. The piano, after all, had been mostly a decorative item before they’d thought to have him instructed on it; it could be simply that again.

But on the night of the big recital, Michael dressed himself and came downstair two hours before, nervously flexing his fingers and bobbing his head to an inaudible melody.

“What are you doing?”

“It’s the recital.”

“But Michael, you haven’t practiced in weeks. You’re not ready for the recital?”

“You didn’t tell Mrs. Gerbacher to take me off the program, did you?”

“No, but we…”

So they dressed and caught a cab to the recital hall.

And he played beautifully, growing greener with every strike of the keys, and just before the end of the second movement, he vomited upstage and finished the piece with an orange smudge on his shoulder.


Plato said that the/democratic man was a/ship adrift at sea

I’m thinking about doing everything in haiku.

You know, spend six months, maybe a year really just doing haiku. Not just in writing. I thought perhaps I’d try to make everything I say fit a 5, 7, 5 syllabic pattern. I’m not quite sure about that, though. I don’t mean that strictly speaking some of what I’m likely to say would be senryu instead of haiku, I mean that I may, in the interests of maintaining my prosaic flexibility in this new mode of communication branch out to tanka.

You know what else would be really great? Only sonnets for a week or two. Imagine giving next month’s sales report in 14 line chunks with a volta in each section. That would turn heads at corporate, I’m sure.

Or maybe just haiku after all. For consistency’s sake. That’s what Sheila always said about me, that I lacked consistency.

So maybe if I do this and she gets wind of it—maybe Brenda down in accounting would mention it to her when they have yoga class together—then she’ll think twice about having left me.

Of course, if I was really serious about this, I guess this line would’ve already been 5-7-5.

Wait, maybe it is. Is it? I’m terrible at scansion.



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Barry–whose real name isn’t “Barry,” but is actually “Ralphie,” though one has to wonder just who would pick “Barry” over “Ralphie”–leans out the drive-thru window down at the face staring sullenly forward at the chip in the blue vinyl of his own steering wheel.

“Hey, man,” Barry says with that bluster of a former high school football player who hasn’t quite yet come to terms with a world that really doesn’t care about high school football players. “Weren’t you here just a little while ago?”

“Yes,” the man replies. The sunken gray pits beneath his eyes tremble like turkey gobbles. “And yesterday also. And several times before that.”

“Man, you must really like the new burrito line-up, huh?”

“No,” the man in the car answers firmly. “This is just the only place I can get to for any food.”

“This is the only place you can afford food?”

“No,” he says again, still looking forward over the slope of his dash. “This is the only place I can get to.”

“Get to? What do you mean?”

“I’ve been stuck in traffic for the last eight days.”


“At least…I think it’s been eight. I can barely keep time straight at this point.”

“What do you mean stuck in traffic?”

“I leave this parking lot and I go out on the street there. Then, no matter what I do, I…can’t…get…anywhere.” The man’s whole face shakes with each word. “I try to change lanes, but I’m always blocked. Traffic merges around some traffic cone or I’m just cut off by a big SUV. Something’s always getting in my path. A barricade or a police siren with an officer directing me back in a circle. No matter what I do…” He finally lowers his gaze and says to his own lap, “I haven’t been more than a quarter mile from this spot in eight days.”

“You mean you’re lost?”

“No. I’m not lost. I know exactly where I am. I know exactly where I’ve been. I just can’t leave.”

“Dude,” Barry says, his heart full of pity. “I got off at five yesterday and I got home just fine.”

“Just give me my damned burrito.”



caveat venditor

Frank–as his friends knew him–leafed through the three page script quickly while leaving make-up. He stopped just before stepping into the white glow of a stage light. His face contracted into a squint and he popped his head up looking for Janice, his agent.


“Yes, Frank?”

“What’s this?” he said, waving the script at her.

“The commercial.”

“Have you read it?”

“Why? Is there a problem.”

“Um, yeah, it’s filth.”

“Filth? What do you mean?”

“It says I have to talk about licking dead babies while slapping a semi-nude model’s buttocks,” he replied. “Look, there she is!” Sure enough, a tall, lanky blonde wearing only chaps had just made her way onto the stage.

“Hmm,” Janice cooed.

“What do you mean, ‘hmmm?’ Get me out of this!”

“Okay, Frank, hold on,” she told him, holding up one finger and click-clicking her heels toward the director’s chair, where the client’s reps were hovering in anticipation of the shoot.

Frank paced just outside the light, watching in his peripheral vision as Janice flailed arms about angrily and pointed to the script with the sharp talon at the end of her index finger. He eventually just turned and watched as the clients, seemingly apologetic, nodded to her and said something. Janice smiled at last, and he saw her lips form an “okay then” before she came back across to him.

“Are they going to change it?” Frank asked.

“No, they don’t want to change it.”

“So we walk?”

“Um, no.”


“You pretty much have to do it.”

“What? Why?”

“They have this whole plan. They know the commercial will disgust people, but they’re just going to release it on the Internet, then they can deny ever knowing about it. You know, there’s no bad publicity.”

“But…but I’m a star! I can’t do something like this.”

“You are a star, baby. That’s why they want you. They know it will get way more hits online with you in it before they have to yank it down.”

“Jesus! But why can’t we just walk.”

“Well, the contract you signed is pretty tight. You forfeit everything if you walk.”

“So what? I don’t care.”

“We flew here on their dime, Frank,” she reminded him. “They paid for the hotel. The dinner last night. Even the girl, Frank. You remember the girl last night.”


“You’d have to reimburse them for all of that.”


“Plus a 20% fee.”

“20% of everything we spent last night?”

“No, Frank, 20% of what they were going to pay you.”

“Jesus, that’s–”

“Exactly. Not to mention the clause that would prohibit you from doing any other promotional work for twenty-four months.”

“I signed that?”



“So, you see…”

“I have to do it…”

“Exactly,” she said, grinning back. “So, tell me all about those dead babies, Frank.”