Posts Tagged 'very short fiction'

Zuzu’s zippy hour

 “The martini special tonight is hot tangerine – made with fresh-squeezed tangerine juice, lime, vodka and ginger. Six dollars until 6:30. “

Zuzu orders two. It is 6:15 already. And the sweet potato shoestring fries. She likes the colors, she likes the sweet and salt tastes on her tongue. She wishes her friend would get here already, instead of leaving her on this crowded patio bar at happy hour, surrounded by people in groups, work groups, mostly, but also social groups. Social groups. She rolls her eyes at herself and swishes the tangerine juice at the back of her mouth, where it stimulates a little flood of salivary excitement.

“Good,” she says out loud, then looks around to see if anyone noticed. No one did. The volume on the patio is increasing steadily, exponentially, as the end of happy hour approaches. The men in the lawyer suits have their ties loosened or removed and they roar like elephants, heads back, trunks exposed. They must be funny, she thinks and puts a sweet potato fry in her mouth.

“Mmmm,” she says, and wipes her lips. The ladies in the floral dresses at the next table over are handing gift bags to the head of the table, a red headed woman wearing a pale blue sleeveless dress. They are all laughing.

“They are all laughing,” she says. The waitress, walking by, sees her mouth move and leans over.

“Can I get you another?”  She waves her finger at Zuzu’s glass.

Zuzu nods her head sympathetically, not really meaning yes, just acknowledging her presence. The ginger gives this martini such a nice zip, she thinks.

“Nice zip,” she says to the men at the table with their big laughs. They wave their glasses at her. Her cell phone, sitting in her purse at her feet, begins to vibrate, but the ginger is more zippy than the phone, and she misses her friend’s call.

When the man with the best figure and the zippiest smile gives her a ride home later, she talks him into stopping at the Sunflower, where she buys Chunky Monkey ice cream,  a frozen soy dessert called White Creation, and some butter and eggs. They eat ice cream and soy cream and drink whiskey and fall in a sugary haze into bed, where their relative receptivity is fair but not stellar, as Zuzu has found to be true often enough with stranger sex.

In the morning, she finds ice cream dribbled on the 500 piece puzzle she’s been working on every Friday night for the last six months, and the man with the zippy smile is in the kitchen, making coffee and humming a song that might be comforting in someone she knows well, but is irritating to Zuzu, who prefers to be left alone in the mornings, as well as most evenings and some afternoons.

“Some afternoons,” she says out loud, wiping White Creations off of her puzzle, an English garden that is heavy on lilacs and trellises.

“Coffee?” says zippy man, sticking his head out the kitchen door.

She takes the coffee from him and gets out her cell phone, picking up her message from Angela, an apology, an explanation. She doesn’t listen to it all the way through.


I expired on the day of my death. It had been my aspiration to move others, to lift their eyes, their voices, their hearts. At times I may have failed, and I may have succeeded at others. It is not my place to make that judgment.

My death.  I was talking about my death, wasn’t I? Leading one to question my presence here, on this page, letters crawling across the screen from a dead man. There are certain things that are hard for me to perceive, from this side of the expiration. For instance, whether or not my typing can be heard. There is no physical keystroke, you see, no finger pads, no fingerprints. I have no fingerprints. I find that wondrous.

I hope and pray that the little ones on the other side of that thin membrane that separates us will continue to learn, will continue to do right because that is what is in their hearts. I know, of course, from human experience, that the will to do right begins as a set of rules and gradually becomes a part of the body and mind, bred in the bone, as natural as breathing.

It does not matter now, wherever now is, but I was not an old man when I died. It was my job to hold still, as an old man does, to listen and to offer what solace I might. The church gave me the means to learn this, and the living, and for that I am grateful.

There is a lingering part of me still hovering there in that stone building, listening to the choir, preparing the sermon. I even imagine that I can feel the polished wood, smell the incense. There is an echo in dying; I did not know that, and I listen to it repeat, reverberate, and dissipate gradually in this timeless place. I wonder if timelessness has no beginning or end. I wonder that even as the sense of time falls away from me. The children will be singing now, in the fields where the bluebells wave in the damp green grass. A song I taught them, to comfort them, to fill their lungs, to give them all the breath they might need to live well, with or without me.


Mr. Meek’s calling

It is not right to call the vice president the spare tire. Mr. Meek did not know much about politics, but he knew something about manners, good and bad, and this was a clear case of bad manners. He’d also heard the vice president called bad seed, the Dark Lord, Satan, Pure Evil, and so on. But the one that bothered him the most was the spare tire. Mr. Meek did not know much about politics, but he knew that a spare tire was one that was rarely needed, dead weight, so to speak, and this sat wrong with him. One Sunday after the morning news shows, after months of thinking about it, he got into his Ford Focus and started on a road trip to talk about bad manners. Not about politics, which Mr. Meek did not know much about, but about ways to address one another. Even if, he reasoned, the vice president were the bad seed, the spare tire, Lucifer or the King of the Damned, it was still surely not politic (in the sense of not being polite, you see) to say so and to say so so repetitively.

Mr. Meek’s road trip took him through many towns, cities, states and regions. He’d thought originally of having a rally, if he could gather with him enough people of like mind, people who did not want to batter and chew on the heads of states or on anyone else, people of mild and sensitive dispositions like himself, and so he started by interviewing people in parking lots outside of grocery stores, malls, movie theaters and quick oil change garages. He asked as many questions as he dared, but found, to his disappointment, that people didn’t want to answer many questions.

In Lima, Arkansas, he found that he was lonely, driving through the American freeways night after night, and so he stopped in a pet store and bought the first of what was to be a long line of iguanas, which he raised in a terrarium in the back of his Subaru Forrester. Each night he brought the terrarium in with him to the Holiday Inn Express or the Comfort Inn, and each morning he returned the iguana to the back of the wagon. Iguanas do not like to travel, but they do like warm window seats in the sun belt, and this first iguana, as with all the others, liked to stretch out on the back of the back seat, basking in the bright American sun. It was inevitable that she would lose the tip of her tail to negotiations with windows and hatchbacks, and this too, became a feature of his road trips, from town to town the minstrel of modern etiquette, trying to find the standard by which we might be known, whether it be rustic but well-meaning manners, or polished but insincere, or some hybrid of the two. But what he found, in town after town, was a pattern of disregard thicker in the heartland than corn had been in his father’s time. He started to think of it as an accident, somehow, like the windows that snicked off the ends of his iguanas tails over the passing years. Something had snicked off the civility in public discourse, and it was almost rude now to say anything nice. If you can’t say something nasty, don’t say anything at all, he said to himself in an over-staffed car lot in Phoenix. The iguana bobbed her head and lay down in the sun, admiring Phoenix, admiring the back seat, and iguana had no rude thoughts at all.

Deep fried


Colonel Sanders was fired late in the day. The official reason being that his business plan was antiquated, quaint, pointless. Truth be told, though, Colonel Sanders had taken against chicken. Never wanted to see another chicken again as long as he lived. He’d spent more than one horrible night in the slaughterhouses, up to his armpits in giblets and chicken feet. He began to have nightmares of claws and beaks and wattles flapping, gobbling in his face. Colonel Sanders was fried.

They owned his face, his image, his snowy white beard, his ice cream suit. Colonel Sanders was fried. His words clumped together like lumpy gravy, his thoughts were murky and thick with transfatty acids. He was no longer the glib young Kentucky boy with the way with the ladies, the smooth girlish skin, the seventh grade Casanova who even then had a dream of hot crunchy thighs.

Colonel Sanders was fried, searching his myelinated neurons for words like translucent, like persimmon, like blasphemy, like gelato. He was fried, like potato bits at the bottom of an unwashed frydaddy.

Mrs. Sanders took pity on him, gave him coleslaw in vinaigrette, dressed his grilled salmon in pesto, with shredded daikon and light dry whites. But it was too late. Colonel Sanders was fried, and then he was fired, and then he was retired, and then he died, and then he was cremated, and then he was sent up to foot-washing heaven, where he made his peace with the fast food gods and returned to his slow-cooking mother, with her bowls of grits and greens, and there he was able to rest honorably at last.

(Afterthought: this little piece was completed in 13 minutes, on my laptop. Funny what the brain can do with a deadline.) 

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July 2020