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Making Connections on the Bus

“I found these on the sidewalk” he said through alcohol saturated breath as he proudly showed off the cellophane wrapped bundle of carnations with their tips glowing hues of red and yellow. “Nice” I replied, hoping that would be the end of it and went back to frying my brain with social media. He wasn’t done. “They’re usually $8.99 at 7-Eleven” he continued. “Do you think she’ll like them?” I barely heard him ask the question and I didn’t answer it, but something compelled me to put away the iphone and give him my attention. I never learned his name, but within just 15 minutes as we swayed, squeaked, and pinged through the many stops leading to mine along the #12 route, I connected with him more than I could have possibly imagined.

I agreed with him when he stated how cold it was and that he should probably get a new pair of gloves. He had lost his at some point, most likely at a friend’s place, but he wasn’t sure. I celebrated with him when he told me that had won $614 playing Keno. I commiserated with him when he taught me that “anything over $600 requires that you find a way to Salem in order to claim it”. I laughed with him when he told me that the lottery officials took his photo, complete with a desert oasis backdrop, for their “winner’s circle” marketing campaign and it was now posted in the bar where he had won. “You wouldn’t believe how many people hit me up for money after that! It was gone fast.” I smiled with him as he reminisced about how he and the love of his life had run off to Las Vegas to get hitched and then enjoyed “a great life together” living in SW Portland. I said “I’m so sorry” when he shared that his wife, who had been an emergency room nurse, died at the age of 49 due to complications from the diabetes she had suffered since childhood. I touched his arm and said “it’s ok” as he apologized profusely for his tears. I just listened as he told me he had fallen into a battle with alcohol and then homelessness after her death.

When my stop came, I stood, put my hand on his shoulder and said “Take it easy”. He grabbed my hand and replied “God bless you. Thank you for listening to me”. As the bus pulled away and I made my way up the street, I started to cry. I cried for him, his wife, and because of what I wish I would have said “Yeah, I think she’ll like them”.

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Flash Fiction

Wrecked

Every Friday writers from near and far are challenged to create a 100 word fiction story from a photo prompt. If you’d like to join in the fun, get all the details here: Friday Fictioneers. Click the frog at the end of my post to see other stories from this week’s challenge and to add your own.

antique boat

Copyright – Georgia Koch

Deep cracks in sun crisped lips now constantly taunted him with the tickle of moisture. His tongue couldn’t stay away from them no matter how many times it returned only their metallic disappointment. His bones ached as the weathered hardwood that would most certainly become his coffin dented and dispersed his increasingly tender and unresponsive flesh. He knew that he had earned this. How many days or weeks had it been since he abandoned them along with his integrity and solemn oath? The vast,shoreless blue surrounding him provided no answer. It only whispered over and over “down with the ship”.

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Flash Fiction

Memory Surfer

Entry for Micro Bookends 1.14 challenge.  The story must be between 90 and 110 words, start with peace,end with prize and incorporate the photo prompt.

microbookends 1.14

Photo credit: Aaron Gilson

(110 words)

“Peace? “How can you possibly believe she is at peace?” I ask my relatives of the extended kind, interrupting their analysis of the mental waves that the body they once knew as a cousin was riding. What their limited appearances didn’t allow them to know is that the ebb into limbs with less dramatic angles and a quieter mind is always followed by a dramatic and painful flow back to the shore of her new normal. The caregiver who now needs constant care.  The mother who is now the child. The life of the party who is now the wallflower. Being swept out to sea for good, that’s her prize.

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Flash Fiction

What To Do About Her?

Every Friday writers from near and far are challenged to create a 100 word fiction story from a photo prompt. If you’d like to join in the fun, get all the details here: Friday Fictioneers. Click the frog at the end of my post to see other stories from this week’s challenge and to add your own.

 

courtyard

He had lived on their periphery long enough and they were well aware that he required starkness, sameness. Neutrality kept his mind quiet and them safe. They knew this. It must have been her, in 1B. The one who greeted him with bigger volume and enthusiasm everytime they passed in the hall, convincing herself that he just hadn’t heard her the last 10 times. It had to be her. Her blood red buds were creating a cacophony in his head, just like she did, and they tore a hole in the beautiful gray tapestry of his courtyard. What to do about her?

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Kid Memories

I’ve Been Grounded For 33 Years

It was like a scene from the Breakfast Club. I was Bender who just couldn’t shut up and my Dad was Vernon doling out more and more weeks of restriction.  I couldn’t control my emotions.  To be fair, I was only 13 so things were a bit precarious in the hormone department at that time. I loved to be right and I refused to lose an argument. If getting the last word in were an Olympic event, I’d have more gold medals than Michael Phelps.  This particular battle of wills took place while bowling. Yeah..bowling.

My dad had taken me to practice one weekday afternoon. The fact that this was a weekday afternoon is probably the only reason that the events were able to unfold as they did.  The center was empty except for Dad and me.  I would rarely lose my shit in front of others. My mom taught me that you never air your dirty laundry with an audience, you hang it all out on your loved ones instead and in private. We had managed to get a couple of games in before things went south. I started missing the pocket and exhibiting other such signs of adjustments needing to be made. As should have been expected my Dad, who was a coach, started to coach me. I was having none of that on this particular day.  Every piece of advice he offered was met with a grimace and an “I know!”. It didn’t take long for my snarky responses to evolve into a full blown tantrum. Complete with me kicking the ball return following a bad shot and a tossing in a few coveted bad words at opportune times. My Dad, bless him, kept it together much longer than anyone should. He finally told me to sit my ass down in one of the hard plastic swivel seats and shut the fuck up.  I didn’t.  “You’re grounded for a month” he said through clenched teeth.  “So!” I yelled back. He anted up “2 months then!”. “I don’t care” accented with a dramatic eye roll.  “3 months.  Do you want to keep going?” he asked with exasperation.  “Yep!” I’m no quitter. “6 months then. Now pack up your shit and let’s get out of here”.

As we drove home, Dad tried to counsel me on the events of the day with topics as wide ranging as my form and delivery while bowling to my horrible bargaining skills. I think he was actually trying to find a way to give me an out from the punishment.  If I could have just brought myself to listen and apologize, things would have probably ended much differently. But I didn’t. I sat silently without looking at him, feeling victimized. When we pulled into the driveway at our house, I wordlessly jumped out of the car and stormed inside heading immediately for my bedroom.  He appeared in the doorway shortly afterwards.  “I have a proposal for you.  Come upstairs and talk to me when you’re ready”. Still not wanting to give an inch I made him wait for at least 15 minutes before I followed the instructions. “I’ll erase the grounding if you take a spanking instead.”  My parents weren’t spankers, so I really had no concept of what the process would entail and, again, due to lack of bargaining skills, I jumped at this offer without establishing any ground rules.

Back in my room waiting for Dad to arrive and deliver the replacement form of punishment, I felt giddy about my victory. A little pain for a brief time or being a hostage for 6 months? No brainer! The bliss faded and my stomach clenched as soon as he entered the room. The “paddle” in his hand looked like a cross between a cutting board and one of those trays that brew pubs use for delivering their sampler platters.  It was equipped with a handy leather wrist strap, holes down the middle for maximum sting, and a cute little title scrolled on it in a beautiful flowery font “Mom’s little helper”.  In that split second of terror, I racked my brain to remember where I had seen that hateful piece of wood. Then it came to me.  For years it had hung next to the wall phone with the 25 foot curly cord in the kitchen.  Although our house was always super clean, the paddle was dusty.  We had all looked at it every day as we grabbed the box of Honey Nut Cheerios from the kitchen cabinet or spun the reel 7 times to connect with friends or family, but never really saw it.

“Pull your pants down” he said quietly.  “What? Really?” I asked with a quivering half laugh.  “Yes and then lay facedown on the bed” he responded.  Even though this was a whole new thing to me, Dad seemed to be pretty familiar with the process.  I did what I was told and without any argument for the first time all day.  “I’m going to start now” he warned.  I could hear him breath a sigh as he prepared to level the first blow. I quickly turned my head to face in his direction and could see the paddle raised above him nearly touching the ceiling and his face clenched in a fierce scowl. And then…FIRE!  The searing pain radiated into my feet.  I buried my face in the bedspread hoping it would be over quickly. After 5 more cracks, it was. Quiet.  I lay motionless, my face still pressing deeply into the mattress. My Dad tried to comfort me by placing his hand on my back and saying “I’m sorry”, his voice shaking.  I violently shook his hand away and pulled up my pants.  I didn’t cry. I wanted to more than I ever had before and not because of the physical pain, even though it was significant, but because I couldn’t believe my Dad had just done this to me.  How could my Dad who was the most gentle and lovey dovey guy I knew, want to hurt me? I snarled “Go away!” and he did.

As quickly as my submission had arrived, it was gone again.  I lay plotting my revenge for the next 30 minutes.  What could I do to get back at him for this indignity?  No matter how disrespectful I had been at the bowling alley, I didn’t deserve to be hit right?  Already forgotten was the fact that I had chosen this option.  Already swept under the  rug was the fact that I had epitomized “spoiled fucking brat” for a good portion of that day. I could have said “nope, I’m good with my 6 month sentence”, but I didn’t.  I searched for some way to hurt him and I found it.  It was at that moment that I began to cry.  I don’t know if it was me just preparing to make him feel as shitty as possible so tears were needed to that end, or if I was feeling sorry for myself and really getting into victim mode.  Either way, the tears set the stage for the horrible closing scene that day.

My dad was sitting at the kitchen table, head in his hands and looking shaken.  I remember that now.  At the time, all I could see was someone I wanted to hurt. I walked right up to him with my right hand clenched.  As he turned to look at me, I extended my arm and opened my hand to reveal the orange single blade pocket knife he had given me several years prior.  It was one of my most beloved possessions and he knew that.  “I don’t want this anymore.  I don’t want anything from you” I said.  As my Dad’s face scrunched up and he burst into tears, I turned and walked away. In that moment I felt as if I had just conquered childhood. I would become the patron saint of spanking victims for centuries to come. Heralded as the foremost “get backer” ever known to man.  What I know now, after years of this memory invading my thoughts, is that I’ve actually been grounded for 33 years.

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Uncategorized

She’s Got A Mouthful of Piranhas

He referred to her as his wife this morning while on the phone confirming her appointment with the doctor. My throat involuntarily convulsed and my head swirled with the beginnings and endings of various stories. Are they really married? My aunt told me that she thought they had wed on one of the many cruises they take into foreign waters. Does that count? Are they really married or was it just one of the “purely for entertainment purposes only” excursions made readily available on those massive floating over indulgence factories?


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I plan to ask him if it is true, that is if I ever get a moment alone with him. Why don’t I just ask in front of her? Continue reading

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