Saturday, March 2, 2013

Life goes on: microfictions


I looked out at the grass, which was perpendicular to my car. Other cars passed. The breeze they left behind them ruffled the blades. I thought how strange, they just kept going.

I could only move my eyes. I could see my dashboard, and the little bobble-head dog on it. The dog hadn't come unstuck. Its head wagged up and down, nodding yes yes yes, life goes on, yes it does.

Come on, Irene

The old man had started something that he couldn't finish. It was going to be the grandest garden-gnome village the world had ever known. But after just four trips to Wal-Mart's garden section, he realized he couldn't afford as many of those little chumps as his vision demanded. He stopped at about 20 gnomes.  

It was an underwhelming sight. The gnomes almost blended in with the grass and bushes. None of the neighbors said anything. Even the neighborhood kids, whom he'd imagined lining up to tour his grand village, didn't comment on it. It just looked like he had left a bunch of crap in his yard and forgotten to pick it up.

So when the hurricane came, he looked out his window at their ridiculous imp faces. They seemed to mock him. He left them out there as the trees began to rustle and the birds all flew for cover.

"Come on, Irene," he sang softly, his breath fogging up the glass, invoking the name of this particular storm, although the song was really "Come on, Eileen." He had never been good with song lyrics, either.

He wanted the wind to take them away. He wanted the wind to erase everything his life had never been.


The geeky freelance pop-culture blogger with Asperger's often wondered why he wasn't a hit with the ladies.

His folks had a lot of dough, so they bought him a condo.

They gave him a little allowance, too. He saved up so he could go to the Bunny Ranch, that famous brothel in Nevada where it's legal. He was determined to lose his virginity before he turned 30.

He saw his life as a romantic comedy that was only sometimes tragic.

He pulled his rental car up to the house where the bunnies lived. He tried to calm his breathing. He sat in his car in the hot dry sun. He never got out. He drove back to his hotel. He never went back. He wrote a funny blog post about it.

Alone in my mountain tower with my worst enemy

They found the Japanese literary master dead in a mountain tower. He been holed up there for months, and then he had killed himself. When his fans heard this, they grew morbidly excited. Had he been completing a final masterpiece? Had he woven together his accumulated insights into a tapestry that shimmered with ultimate truth? Did the police find a manuscript, or at least some notes? A computer disk containing a precious file? But no, all the police found was issues of People magazine from the U.S. and empty Hostess chocolate cupcake boxes. There wasn't even a suicide note.

His fans couldn’t reconcile this with their idolization of the late master. They expected the police to at least find something heroic, poetic: a samurai sword, a goblet of wine. But I know how he felt. A suicide note, a symbol – a final poignant act – would have brought him back to life, through eternal analysis and worship. And he wanted to be dead.  

The man with the stutter

The man with the stutter sat in the front row of the theater. He looked at a galaxy of stage lights thrown onto the walls and ceiling. Gods and goddesses appeared and spoke in tones of crystal clarity, their words shimmering like epiphanies.

A wood nymph bestowed flowers on a few in the audience. She stood before him in a halo and reached into her basket. The flower was yellow and real.

After the play, he stood in a circle with friends in the parking lot. He had thrust the flower into his coat pocket at the end of the show, not wanting to be seen, not wanting people to think he was being sentimental. His friends talked and smoked, and stomped and laughed and breathed cold frost. He listened; he had known most of them since childhood and they protected and included him like a family member. He put his fist into his pocket and felt the petals, velvet and silky. The petals felt like all the words he couldn't say.

Country song

She had been reduced to a faint twang drowned in radio static on the road through the country where nobody lived and nobody listened. It was her worst fear.


There was this dog I heard about that had OCD, and he kept jumping into this pool and then getting out and then jumping in and then getting out, and he didn't know why, but something impelled him to do it forever, so he whimpered and obeyed his body's lunatic commands long after he was tired.


I stopped at the ghost town on my drive home from your place.

It was called Calico. I saw a sign and thought I should stop there. Shouldn't I not be the kind of person who just passes an Old West ghost town by?

I thought it would just be ruins and ghosts and me. But there was a parking lot full of tour buses. There was a lady in a booth asking you to pay admission. There was pizza, and there was face painting.

So I left Calico. I left it, just like the original townsfolk did.

There is such a thing as wearing out your welcome.

When even the ghosts have left a place, you should, too.

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