Category Archives: 52 Story Project

Flash Fiction: The Bottom Shelf

Everything would be over at midnight. The parties were winding down, the shops were empty, the people who just couldn’t wait were lying in the gutters. There had been a pervasive miasma of alcohol, sweat, and vomit all over downtown for the last week, and Richie was reminded of that when a stray breeze blew across Peachtree Street and almost straight into his sinuses. Like with everything else that had happened that day, a little voice in his head piped up and said “That’s the last time you’ll ever smell that.” Like with everything else that had happened, he ignored it.

He could hear drunks in the street, occasional sirens, a random sound of maybe a cat rummaging through the garbage. Pets had taken over the city; people who knew they didn’t have more than a few days left on the planet apparently didn’t care about making sure Rover or Boxy or Colonel Kittypants was comfortable. That still offended him a little, but he had other things on his mind.

The front doors of the Central Fulton County Library had long since been shattered, probably during the early days of the riots before everyone realised there was nothing anyone could do about it and everyone… and everyone was damn near a literal description… shifted into drunk orgy mode. Richie had walked past three couples, a triple, and some permutation he’d never seen out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting, just in the last block. He’d been invited and propositioned in more ways than he could count. And if he was being perfectly honest with himself, he might have considered it a couple of days ago. But now, he only had an hour left, and he knew exactly whom he wanted to spend it with.

The third floor, general collections, was mostly untouched. Some of the computers had been ripped out, but by the time the looters got to the library, everyone had figured out that they couldn’t take anything with them to Heaven, Hell, or Detroit, wherever they wound up. He angled his flashlight off to the right, but not too far. Regardless of what was going on, he didn’t want to step on anything like broken glass or a book that someone had knocked off a shelf. Especially not the latter.

The card catalog had of course been moved to the cloud and was therefore completely useless, but that didn’t matter. He’d long since memorized the number that he was looking for. 821.17. And even before he learned that everything was going to blow up, he would have been able to find this shelf in the dark. Faced with a half hour left on the planet, there was only one thing that he wanted to do. And he had nothing else on his mind until he turned the corner and pointed his flashlight right into a woman’s face.

She was sitting crosslegged, across from the shelf he needed to go to, and had a camper’s flashlight strapped to her forehead. To her credit, once she blinked a few times, she adjusted to the new lighting and looked back down at her book. She kept at least part of an eye on him, though, something he did when he was reading in public and was worried someone might start talking to him. He really didn’t want to interrupt her reading, but he didn’t think there was anything else he could say in this situation.

“I’m Richie,” he said.

“Kristen.”

He slid over to the 820s and ran his light along the spines.

“I didn’t think anyone else would be doing this. It just seemed like too good an idea.”

“There’s no better one.”

“What are you reading?”

Canterbury Tales.

He turned around, careful not to point the light directly in her face. “Me, too. At least, that’s what I came here for.”

“Good choice,” she said.

“I’m looking for the original, though. The Middle English version.”

“They only have one copy,” she said, and held up her thick brown tome.

He walked across the aisle and crouched down next to her. Something crashed outside but neither of them jumped. Things had been crashing for weeks, and it it was ‘the big crash’ neither of them would have time to think about it, anyway.

“And no, you can’t read it when I’m done, either,” she said, and smiled at him.

“I’ve always liked the original,” he said. “It was a little tricky when I first tried to read it. Okay, a lot tricky. But…”

“…it’s part of English heritage. It’s like reading the DNA of our language.”

He looked at her, amazed. “Exactly. And what better way to spend the last hours of the English language than reading the first hours?”

She looked up at him. She was smiling, but there was something else in her eyes as well.

“Which one were you going to read?”

“‘The Pardoner’s Tale,’ probably. It was a toss-up between that and the Prologue. You?”

“‘The Miller’s Tale.'”

“That one? That’s nothing but a long medieval fart joke.”

“Oh, kiss my nether eye, okay? I like it.”

“Well, maybe I can just read one of the translations, then.” He was almost standing up again when he heard the most horrifying, godawful ripping noise. Then she handed him the first half of the book.

“I can’t believe you did that,” he said. “You… ripped a book?”

“I’ll buy them a new one tomorrow,” she said. “Anyway, this kind of literature was meant to be shared.”

He stretched out one hand and gingerly took the book fragment. She did have a point. And there were many worse things one could do at the end of the world.

He sat down next to her and leaned against the shelf. Without saying anything, she leaned against his shoulder so her camper’s light was pointing at their book. After he set the flashlight down, he took her hand and settled back and waited for the end of the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flash Fiction: The Knitting Helper

Hello, Ma’am. My name is Chuck, and I can fix that for you. Yes, we do offer help for people who buy yarn at our shop. Yes, I know you’ve bought yarn here before, but this is obviously not ours.

Yes, that is indeed one of our bags, but we’ve never carried that particular yarn.

Since you asked nicely, Ma’am, and since there’s no one in the shop, I can help you, today. Yes, honestly, this is my favourite part of the job. I like helping people who are willing to learn. Please, have a seat and let me look at your project.

Yes, Ma’am, you did indeed make a mistake here. And here. And here. And this stitch is dropped. And this one. And this. I can…

No, Ma’am, please do not say you’re just going to start over. I can show you how to fix that. It’s very easy to fix.

Ma’am, please… you’re doing it backwards.

No, I’m doing it the way you need to do it. Copy my movements exactly. That’s what I meant when I said “copy my movements exactly.”

No, Ma’am, now you’re knitting more. You need to be pulling out those stitches.

No, Ma’am you don’t have to…

Yes, Ma’am, that is indeed the proper way to take all two hundred stitches off the needles at once. Yes, those words were the proper curse words one yells when doing this. No, your project isn’t ruined, Yes I can show you how to…

Ma’am, let me just fix that for you. Please hand it to me.

Please, don’t throw your knitting.

Please, don’t throw my knitting.

Yes, Ma’am, this will take about five to ten minutes, but afterwards, you’ll be ready to start knitting again.

Yes, this is a little tricky. Whenever I do this for my own projects I have to block out all distractions.

Yes, I do this for my own projects all the time. And I do this in the shop for customers, when they’re actually customers. Let’s just say I’ve had a lot of practice fixing mistakes. Now, give me another few minutes.

Yes, I have been knitting a long time. No, I don’t think it’s that hard.

No, I don’t think it’s that strange for a man to knit. I enjoy it, and that’s the important thing, right?

No, I did not know that you don’t know any other male knitters.

No, I did not know that you’ve never heard of a male knitter.

Yes, Ma’am, I agree that it’s strange that when you first came in the shop you didn’t know I knitted. Even though I had two needles in my hand, with part of a sweater attached and a knitting bag next to me.

Oh, don’t worry about it. When you said “Well, I was hoping to get some knitting help but I guess I’ll have to wait until the lady who owns the shop comes back” I did not mind at all. Just the other day I was pulled over by a female officer and I greeted her with “Are you sure you’re a cop? I mean, it’s awful strange for a woman to carry a gun.”

Yes, this is indeed the tricky part. Like I said, when I do this myself, I turn off the TV and block out all distractions.

Yes, I try to tell everyone else to be quiet, too. This is indeed a…

Well, duct tape if I had any. Unfortunately, I usually just ask politely.

Yes, now I’m backing up becase I made a slight mistake, fixing your mistake. I have to concentrate.

No, I usually don’t talk when I’m concentrating.

No, I usually don’t listen when I’m concentrating, either.

Yes, I can fix this.

Don’t worry, the rest of your project looks fine.

Yes, I’m through the tricky part. Now it will just take a minute and you’ll be ready to go.

Why, yes, I also go to school. I want to be a teacher.

Well, thank you for agreeing that I would be a good one.

Why, yes, I think I do have a lot of patience. I haven’t yet told you to stuff your knitting up your ass and hitchhike to the back door of Hell.  Though I may have to ensure all the sharp pointed objects are on the other side of the shop the next time you come in.

You too, Ma’am. Have a great day. Thank you for shopping… err, thank you for coming by for free help and then buying your yarn online. I’ll not be seeing you again soon, I hope?

Story 9/52: Note To Self —

Today’s story is more a character exploration than a full story, somewhere between a vignette and flash fiction. The seed came from a prompt on the excellent Reddit writing forum, Writing Prompts, though I have yet to read any of the other submissions to that prompt. (I will once this hits the streets.)

Coming up in the next week or two is my next foray into Southern Gothic. About a year ago I read a tweet on an agent’s wish list that said she’d love to see a YA Southern Gothic novel. It’s taken a long time for that spark to truly ignite, but my next few stories will be my way of fanning the flames. I always have considered William Faulkner and Eudora Welty to be two of my influences, so it wasn’t too difficult to encourage my Muse to focus her efforts in that direction for a little while. And my sword and sorcery novella, featuring, in the role of brawny manly-man Nordic ultra warrior hero, an overweight teenage black American girl who was taught to scrap and survive by a friend of the family, is about ready for public consumption as well. I’m somewhat excited about that one; that novella forced its way out of my head in just over four days, and now that I’ve cleaned the blood and brains off of it and made it somewhat sensible, I’m eager to go back to her world and write some more.

Story 9/ 52:  Note To Self —

Story 8/52: For Love of the Game

There are a couple of things you can blame this on. One is the collections of American noir and mystery fiction that I’m plowing through. Another is the week I took off from the blog to straighten out a few things and get ready for another birthday. (Which is today, by the way… yay…) And third is the comments of at least one of my readers (you know who you are) complaining about frequent fantasy elements in my stories. Well, this is one of the darker stories I’ve written in a while, and it also has no magic. Perhaps it could use some.

Story 8/52:  For Love of the Game

Story 6/52: Welcome to Realityish

Today’s short-short story is more of a flash vignette about my (and perhaps everyone’s) writing process. Feel free to leave feedback. The topic is one every writer (and perhaps every creative artist) has had to deal with since time immemorial. I really would not be surprised to learn that the artists in the caves in France had to explain to their other cavepeople just where they got the idea to draw what they did, and what it meant.

Story 6/52:  Welcome to Realityish