Tues. 10/23 Day 9 – 900 words two or three “super-short” stories (I have 3 separate stories below)
The flyswatter was in the kitchen, hanging on a hook he thought he’d put there for oven mitts–hot pads, his wife called them. The book he was reading in his lap was for graduate school, but this fly in the room could care less if Tommy’s paper was done on time. Swoosh. Land. Fly near face. Scatter toward TV. Read a paragraph. It’s back. On page 62. The book is over two hundred pages long and the fly hates it almost as much as Tommy does. Getting up, retrieving the death device, seemed like it would interrupt his reading flow even more. Then, Tommy considered if he was hungry. If he’s hungry, he won’t be able to concentrate on the book. He’ll read a few pages, swat the fly away again, come across a word like ‘souffle’ or ‘tapioca’ or ‘whisky’ and think of reasons he should probably just get up and go to the kitchen. Get the damn flyswatter. End this fucker’s life. Pour two fingers of Jameson. Try to get through this atrocious, pretentious novel. A dog barks outside. He thinks it’s Jasper, their mutt, but then he remembers that he had to bury Jasper two springs ago while his wife Dana cried in the bathroom over their divorce papers.
Barney ordered his coffee and didn’t move out of the way for the next customer. He just stood there, staring at a picture he’d been sent on his phone. The cashier talked over his shoulder, assuming he’d click back into humandom and move the fuck over. He didn’t. The woman behind him was kind and almost too polite to make the person behind her upset that this is not what society has become, is it? Minor acts of civility and manners fall off each day–today from this jackhole who’s too busy looking at his five-inch screen with hair screaming out from under a baseball cap. The second customer takes the longest possible path to avoid Barney and waits patiently near the area underneath the large Pick-Up/App Orders Here sign.
But no one but Barney knows what the picture is. No one cares either. Even if he explained. It was her calf. It was Lindsey’s calf, surrounded by gray bed sheets that he remembered buying for his sister Marie. Of course, when Lindsey didn’t come home, he assumed she’d stay with someone. She’d stopped texting at eleven or so, and he went to sleep. But the fact that she ended up at his adopted sister’s apartment across town made him wonder for the next forty years if his lesbian sister screwed his wife and proudly sent him evidence of it while he stood, waiting dumbly for his white chocolate latte with skim milk.
So my neighbor knocked on my door seconds after I settled a fight between my two children that began when one of them threw spaghetti noodles at the other’s face. Gina, collected as always, discussed appropriate behavior with them in her authoritative voice while I stuffed meatball after meatball in my mouth so I wouldn’t blow up. She doesn’t like it when I yell at them; she thinks it sends them the wrong message about maturity. Instead of saying or doing anything, I just washed the one-inch think, canned-sauce-slathered meat spheres down with a Michelob Ultra, a beer my wife thinks will help me lose weight.
I answered the door and Dave, my neighbor of ten years and friend of five months, stood there with his hands linked together. He wore a plaid shirt that was tucked into pleated tan pants. He’d probably just arrived home from his job at the high school my kids were destined to attend. “Hey, Rick,” he said as I pushed open the squeaky screen door. I eased out after he backed up a step. “Didn’t interrupt dinner, did I?”
“Just finishing. What’s up?”
“Catch that Mets game?”
He always did this. He always begins a serious concern by getting me to think about sports or my motorcycle or something nice my wife did out in the lawn. It’s a great technique to prepare someone for bad news, don’t get me wrong. I’ve done it at work for as long as I can remember. It’s a little insulting, however, because I know exactly what he’s doing, and he knows I know it.
“Yeah. Close one. That closer may not have a job next week though.”
He agreed. “Listen, I wanted you to know something. I know you don’t have Facebook anymore, right?” I nodded. “Somebody in the neighborhood group said something that I thought you should be aware of.”
“What, another complaint about kids walking in the grass? Trash getting picked up too late?”
He chucked, nervously. “No, not this time. Someone said something about how sad it was that people didn’t put out their flags on holidays anymore.” Without realizing it, he glanced to my left to where the owners before us had placed a slot for flags to be displayed. They’d even left one carefully placed in the garage along with a note about the rules of flag flying.
I just sighed. I wanted another beer at that moment. He knew I wasn’t going to change anything about what I believed or how I chose not to put a flag out while every other house on the cul-de-sac did so, ceremonially. I could tell he didn’t want to tell me, but he thought I should know.
“Well, thanks for telling me. I hope you and Carla have a good night.”
“You too, buddy,” he said. “Go Mets!”
“Go Mets,” I said, as I stepped inside and closed the door.