Posts Tagged With: short story

Short Story: The Soft Goodbye

I was lying on the floor, thinking about death. I was gazing vaguely out the window and all I could see was the sky, full of clouds, just fat with big puffy fluffy clouds, and I wondered if death was more like a cloud or more like lying on a floor that was a little dusty and apparently needed vacuuming. I sneezed.

by lucylu

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Out another window there was nothing to see but trees. A leaf fell, and that was like death. You appear suddenly out of nowhere on the tree of life, pushed out to the outermost edge, and dangle, flimsy and helpless, and the wind blows you around and it’s all you can do to hold on to the branch until, someday, you fall.

I looked at the ray of light pouring through the window and a fleck of dust that blew up into the middle of it, passing in and out of sight in the shadows between the panes and then finally blowing out of the light into the darkness of the room, and that was like death.

There was a table beside me and there was a book on the table, and that was like death. Once it had been a part of something full of life and energy, a tree, a great whole. Then one day death had come to the whole and torn it apart; and some parts had gone on to become this book, something else entirely, something perhaps better.

I looked at the floor beside me and saw a spider and screamed. I jumped up, ran out of the room, and grabbed a tissue. I came back, kneeled beside the spider, looked away, and jammed the soft tissue down on the spider. I crumpled it up, squeezed it tight, and held it for a minute, looking at it between my fingers. That was like death. That was how life ends, not with a bang but a whimper. Strangely the whimper was mine and I wasn’t dying.

After a long time kneeling there I got up and went outside, I dug a little hole, I put the spider in the hole, and I buried it. Then I sat for another long while staring at the little freshly-pressed mound of earth.

“Goodbye,” I said softly.

The End

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Philoseophia Venereum: Ignis Amor Patriæ

Ignis Amor Patriae

Boom.

It began.

Bang.

The sky was instantly filled with fire and smoke. Down below, shouts and screams joined the din of the bombs bursting above. A distant dog barked and somewhere a child was crying. The breeze carried the smells of various burnt substances–probably fireworks, charcoal, and hamburgers.

“Our first fourth,” I whispered, fourth punctuated by another ear-thrumming pop.

“That’s not true. We’ve seen fireworks together before.”

“Sure, but not as a couple.”

Wikipedia

1936 – Credit

“I still remember our first ever.”

“I remember either our first or our second,” I said. “Red shirt with a glittery flag, braided hair, red-white-and-blue bow?”

She shrugged. “I don’t remember what you were wearing.”

Boom.

“Ha, ha.”

She giggled.

Bang.

“Ooh!”

“Ah!”

“Did you know,” I said, “that fireworks were originally conceived as an Independence Day celebration for their resemblance to flowers laid on fallen patriots’ graves?”

“No, I’ve never heard that. I thought they were just meant to be like, you know, ‘bombs bursting in air.'”

Zing. Pop. Crackle.

“Eh, you’re probably right. I only made that up.”

She laughed.

Pop. Bang.

“Wow! Did you see that one?”

“Amazing!”

In the background, a stereo playing The Star-Spangled Banner shook the ground.

“Did you know the anthem was originally written by a soldier during the Battle of Saratoga? In the middle of battle he wrote down half the lyrics but died before he could finish them. His friends finished it in his honor, and General Washington got wind of it. The rest is history.”

“Is that true?”

Zing.

“Yeah, not at all. I think the anthem was written past 1800.”

Boom.

She trilled. “Well, aren’t you an encyclopedia of imaginary information?”

“For example,” I said, “Betsy Ross got the inspiration for the American flag as we know it today when she was watching a fireworks display during the War of 1812. There was a shortage of explosives due to the war, so they only had three, which happened to be red, whi–”

Bang.

She groaned. “Okay. First, Betsy Ross didn’t design the flag we know today, a high-schooler did in the 1950s. Second, as the legend goes, it was in 1776 that Ross designed the first flag. But third, it really wasn’t Betsy Ross who designed the first flag. I think the basics were given by congress, and there were actually a lot of different designs all over for a while.”

“Is that true?”

“Fact by fact. At least, I‘m pretty sure.”

“You have my admiration.”

Zing. Pop.

“That I did know.”

Crackle.

I sighed. “My knowledge of American-themed trivia facts is pretty sad.”

“You have the right spirit. Flowers in commemoration of fallen soldiers, and a songwriter who died for his country . . . I don‘t think the facts count so much when you‘ve got the right spirit.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well . . .”

Bang, bang. Boom.

“So you don‘t remember who came up with celebrating with fireworks, or who designed which flag. You were still thinking about the things that matter–the people who fought and sacrificed themselves so we could sit here today and watch fireworks. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. You and I might never have met. They fought for that. They didn’t fight for facts or dates. That’s not what patriotism is about.”

“It‘s about love?”

“Yeah. Love for your country. Exactly.”

Our conversation was interrupted as the finale lit the sky. I watched in hushed awe, marveling at the display, and out of the corner of my eye, at the woman beside me.

When it was over, and we had clapped our hands and cheered ourselves hoarse, she shifted on the picnic blanket beside me. She rolled onto her side to look me in the face.

“Ah,” I breathed, “now that’s a spectacle.”

She giggled. “Charmer.”

“Charming.”

“So,” she said, “you were surprisingly quiet about philosophy tonight.”

“You did that pretty well for me.”

She beamed. “But I was sure you‘d be bound to go on and on about symbolism in all the shapes of the fireworks, or what it meant to be sitting here watching them, or how there was something meaningful about lying on a picnic blanket instead of sitting in a chair.”

“I was just thinking.”

“About what?”

“Well, I was thinking about the anthem. We sing it so often that we don’t think about it much, and it begins to evoke nothing but fireworks and football. But as I thought about it, I realized there wasn‘t much I could say that would be more beautiful or meaningful than, well–O say, can you see . . .” I looked at her. “Sing with me?”

She nodded, and closing her eyes, sang in a seraphic soprano: “By the dawn‘s early light . . .

We rose our voices together in harmony. Here and there around us, other voices chimed in as we serenaded our love to our nation:

“What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
“Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
“O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
“And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
“Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
“O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

The End

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To all my fellow Americans,

I think that far too often we’re too busy complaining about what’s wrong with our country. I know, I do that a lot, too. Sometimes political problems get in the way and we forget to appreciate what’s right with our country. Days like this, we celebrate those things. There are a lot of them.

I hope you had a happy, fun, safe Independence Day!

Categories: Philosophia Venereum | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Short Story: The Job

A light rain was falling but I walked anyway. Maybe what I needed was to soak my head.

I pulled up my collar and pulled my hat down over my eyes and started down along the street. I probably cut a suspicious figure like that but I didn’t care. Let people think I was anything they liked.

I’d never had to do anything like this before. I ran a hand over the lump in my pocket. Could I do it? That pocket was worth a lot of money, but even more if I did my job right.

With each passing car I was doused by a spray of water, but personal appearance was the last thing on my mind.

By the time I reached my destination I was soaked to the skin. I felt cold and shivery and shriveled. Each step was heavier than I could carry, but I’m not sure it was just the weight of water. I was miserable—no more miserable than I had been for the past few days.

The rain pounded down around me, sparkling under the streetlights. Cars roared through the water on the roads as they crawled back and forth. I looked across the street at the square of light overhead and the figure standing in it.

Target spotted.

Watching her silhouette, I asked myself again if I was doing the right thing. The right thing—maybe, but who for? I reached into my pocket, opened and closed the casing, fingered the little circle that would finish this whole business soon.

I had to do this.

Ready, aim, fire.

Just cross the street.

I’ve done it a hundred times before.

Climb the steps.

Take a deep breath.

Ring the doorbell.

I reached into my pocket one more time just to remind myself it was there.

A large, broad-shouldered man opened the door.

Deep breath. “Good evening, Mr. Jones. Is your daughter home?”

 

The End

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Categories: Short Stories | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Short Story: Gay Paris

Photo Credit: Twitchphoto via Compfight cc  (altered)

Photo Credit: Twitchphoto via Compfight cc (altered)

Gay Paris

 

The wind whipped into the compartment. Passengers screamed as papers ripped themselves out of their hands and briefcases and bags and hats tumbled along with the rushing air, joining tumbling books and empty cups and expensive fur stoles in a whirling dance. I shattered the remains of the window and heaved half my body through. An attendant grabbed me by the foot, but I kicked him in the face. The momentum propelled me out the window and I plunged downward through the sky.

I slung the parachute over my back, fumbling with the harness while struggling to keep it from flying out of my grip. It worked itself free of one shoulder and I barely caught it before it absconded into the blue yonder. It probably would have been smarter to put this on before I had jumped through the window, but I might not have fit that way. Besides, I like to work on the fly. Or rather, on the fall.

I managed to strap on the pack and pull the ripcord. As soon as I was descending at a safe speed and my heart rate had a chance to slow, the view of the city strangling the Seine was actually quite beautiful.

I was right on course to land in a lovely little park, but the wind had other ideas and I descended on a church spire instead. I guess it was a spiritually uplifting experience.

Apparently I had attracted a lot of attention, because a large crowd of people were pointing and shouting, but I couldn’t be sure because they shouted in French and pointed in French too, of course, and they might just have been admiring the architecture for all I knew.

Pretty soon I started hearing sirens. I was surprised the sirens didn’t siren in French, but I guess you can’t have everything. Wait, is siren a verb?

After the fire department got me down from the spire, the police started asking me questions. I tried to communicate yo no hablo francés by gesture, but that got us nowhere. I tried to translate his French—something, I thought, about passing harbors or possibly wine, and maybe something about a crazy, stupid derriere—but one year in high school Francais didn’t cut it.

I was taken downtown, talked to someone who spoke English, I was asked if I had a passport, I said No, and all said and done I ended up in a cell.

And as the French say, voilà! A holiday in Paris without having to pay for reservations.

The End

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Philosophia Venereum: Speculum Pulchritudine

Speculum Pulchritudine

Smiles are the foundation of beauty.”

— Edgar Rice Burroughs

 

“You know,” she said suddenly, “your grandmother says I have your smile. And she’s not the first, Sarah’s told me the same thing.”

“I hope you thank them both on my behalf?”

“On both our be—behalfs? Or is it behalves? Anyway, I was complimented too, you know.”

“Complimented? That’s like saying you’re as cute as a bug, which is something my grandmother would say.”

She gave a jingling laugh. “She has. What’s your point?”

“Well, it may sound sweet, but when’s the last time you saw a cute bug?”

“Are you saying it wasn’t a compliment?”

“I’m sure she meant it like one, but she might as well have told you that you have a smile like a warthog.”

Photo Credit: Jack Fussell via Compfight cc  (altered)

Photo Credit: Jack Fussell via Compfight cc (altered)

“You don’t think our smiles look anything alike?”“Were that my smile were half as marvelous as thine!”

“I thought it was a sweet thing to say.”

“Oh, it was! And don’t think I’m not honored that my grandmother thinks my smile looks anything like yours. It’s probaly the highest compliment I’ve ever received. And I do think I will agree, insofar as our smiles are structurally, physically, similar.”

“Then what makes them so different?”

We came upon a bench and she suggested we sit. The bench gave us a perfect vantage point to admire the gilded trees; even the streets which seemed to be paved with gold. The world had become a reflection of the sun’s light, shining like the treasure trove it is.

There was a brief pause as we sat, and the world seemed hushed for a moment, bracing itself, like she was, for my answer. I turned to her, and she turned to me, and the corners of her lips twitched up, and her eyes sparkled.

“And that, that exactly,” I said, framing her face with my hands, “is the difference. That’s the difference between our smiles. Do you want to know something? You can’t see yourself, except in mirrors, so you’ve probably never noticed it; and I doubt if most eyes would notice it, anyway, and so probably you’ve never heard it. You never smile.”

She tilted her head questioningly, but said nothing, waiting for me to go on.

“And that’s the difference! That’s the secret. You never smile. Me, I smile all the time. I can’t help myself. But you—never. You’ve looked at me several times today, but you didn’t smile once. Not once. No. Every time you glowed.

“Your face sort of contracts, and each of the features gathers close to the center with the others to enjoy one another’s company. And then your eyes . . . how can I describe it? They brighten, they shine, they twinkle; they narrow, they wrinkle; they quiver, and—vibrate. And most amazingly, this incredible expression of joy—so far above anything as base as a smile—doesn’t even involve any movement of your lips! Not always. Your lips don’t always glow with the rest of your face. They’ll just tighten and bend up, but they won’t glow. When they do—when they part and widen in what is known to the vulgar tongue as a smile—they open on an absolute wonderland of euphoria and delight, through a portal that reveals to the humble human eye all the beauties to be found within a glorious paradise where love alone can tread. Like a curtain opening on a fantastic play with a story you wish were real but can’t believe it could be.”

She threw her head back and laughed, a high-ringing sound like a wind chime. I just watched in admiration. You should have seen how she glowed.

If I ever commit the sin of saying that she could stoop to something as crude as a “smile,” it is only for the sake of brevity, because the English language doesn’t have a better suited word. Even glowed doesn’t qute capture it. I can’t use an entire paragraph to describe it every time she glows, mainly because the majority of this barbaric “modern civilization” is tragically revolted by the smallest degree of beautiful language. If you are one of these philistines, then please, bear with me a little longer.

When she stopped laughing and glowed at me I said, “You find it funny?”
“I just wish I was half as beautiful as your words,” she replied.

“But you’re not,” I agreed, “because you’re ten times as beautiful.”

She just shook her head, glowing.

“And I am blessed to be a witness to it, and I am honored that my grandmother thinks I bear a resemblance to you. You know, the more I think about it, the more I understand why she would think so.”

“And why is that?”

“Simple logic. You stand in the sun, your face gets rosy, right? It’s a natural reaction; a reflection of the sun’s energy. Take the moon. The moon has no light of its own; we would never even see it by itself, but thanks to the sun, its beautiful. Well, so—”

“So you’re the moon,” she interrupted, “reflecting the sun’s light.”

I frowned. “I was going to say that. But I’m glad you agree. Yes, any similarity my smile has to yours is just the reflection of my joy in being with you.”
She rolled her eyes. “But I don’t agree.”

“You don’t enjoy being with me?” I sobbed.

“Of course not. Why should I?” She trilled. “I’m kidding. I meant that I don’t agree with what you were saying about just being a reflection of the sun’s light. There are more important things than being pretty.”

I held up an index finger. “That’s very true! And I’m glad you brought it up. Don’t you see? Of course you’re more than just a pretty face. You never smile. I never said you had a pretty smile. Take what our society typifies as a ‘beautiful’ woman. That archetype emphasizes all the wrong things. So-called beautiful women may have slim bodies and well-shaped noses and thin eyebrows and red lips, but you have even more, because you have true beauty, inner beauty. You’re a charming, kind, sweet woman, and that’s three of the many, many things that make you beautiful on the inside. That inner beauty always shows on the outside. It’s something you don’t always see in a societally ‘beautiful’ woman. You’re both societally beautiful and truly beautiful; that’s why you glow. That glow is your inner beauty shining, and that is something that can be seen.”

Her eyes gleamed suddenly with triumph. “Exactly!”

“Exactly what?”

“Exactly that,” she repeated. “That makes you the most beautiful man I have ever met. That’s what you don’t see. Because you can’t see yourself. So let me tell you. All the sweet, beautiful things you’ve been saying are reflections of your own beauty.”

“Beauty?”

“Yes, beauty! Don’t be sexist, men can be beautiful.” She trilled again, and continued, “Anyway, my beauty, all this beauty you’ve been talking about, is just a reflection of your beauty. And the beauty I see in you is a reflection of my beauty.”

“So,” I said slowly, “are you saying humans are inherently egocentric?”

“Not at all! Exactly the opposite. It’s giving something to someone else. You’re giving them a part of yourself. That’s why your grandmother says we have the same smile. Not just because our smiles look the same, because she saw something else—the something we gave each other. She saw the same something reflected in both of us.” Glowing brighter than ever, she leaned toward me. “And do you see what that something is?”

I felt the birth of a grin on my lips. “I’m beginning to. You’re something special, I’ll tell you that.”

“And you’re very sweet”—she kissed me—”even if you’re only as cute as a bug, poor little boy!”

“Hey, you’re the one my grandmother thinks looks like a bug, not me.”

“True—but if your beauty is a reflection of mine—”

“Right, right.”

She trilled. I thrilled. She scintillated. I cachinnated.

The End

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Categories: Imagining a Better World, Philosophia Venereum, Short Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Short Story: A Romantic Dance

“I told you never to play that song again, Sam.”

“I didn’t.”

They looked up from their books and looked at each other. There was no one else in the room as far as they knew. Sam was almost afraid to look over his shoulder. James, his younger brother, wasn’t but wished he was.

Behind them, across the room, a cloaked figure ran bony fingers over the keys of the piano. Bony? They were the same color as the ivories.

It was a scene straight out of The Phantom of the Opera, just without Lon Chaney or intertitles. Overacting was still to be determined.

Sam had fainted and slumped to the floor. Maybe James would convince him it was all a dream later, if James could convince himself first.

He got up and timorously crossed the room a step at a time. His fingers reached for the back of the cloaked figure’s head. In another moment the Phantom would stop playing and point an accusatory finger at James, if James didn’t faint first.

Photo Credit: Rasimu via Compfight cc (altered)

Photo Credit: Rasimu via Compfight cc (altered)

Suddenly the Phantom spun around and smiled as well as a fleshless face could smile. James gasped and stumbled back. The Phantom blushed as well as a skeleton can blush, which is more—much more—a matter of body language than a color of the cheeks.“Well! I didn’t expect to see someone so handsome here tonight.” The she-Phantom batted her eyelashes as well as a skeleton can. James noticed she was pretty, for a dead, fleshless woman.

James just stared. He tried to speak, but it was only a weak groan in his throat. The she-Phantom giggled.

“Living people are so cute when they’re shy! You don’t have to ask—of course I’d like to dance with you!”

Before James could answer, the she-Phantom lowered her hood and put James’s arms around her.

“Does he play? Can he play for us?” she asked, pointing at Sam and then looking up pleadingly into James’s eyes.

James groaned in his throat.

She-Phantom giggled. “Do you speak English?” She pointed at Sam. “He—play? Il – jouer?

James shook his head.

“Oh well! I can fix that.”

The she-Phantom pointed at the piano, waggled a finger, and it began playing on its own. She dragged James out into the middle of the floor and started twirling with him; he wasn’t a very good dancer, it seemed, but she hoped he would get the hang of it.

“You seem dead on your feet, don’t you?” And the she-Phantom giggled wildly. “Oh! But isn’t this fun? It’s our own little dance macabre!” She giggled wildly again, then leaned her head on James. She stared coyly up at him with big, round, hollow eye-sockets. “Isn’t it romantic?”

The End

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Categories: Fun, Short Stories | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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