“Remember, you never knew me. I never woke you up. Promise me!” The gangly kid’s wild eyes shone behind Harry Potter glasses as I tried standing, holding on to my tombstone. My legs wobbled terribly like a baby colt’s.
But my body…
So. Much. Pain.
The young kid shakes his head sadly, then peers back up at me. His black hair is everywhere on his head as he takes his time watching me.
“This fulfills our contract.” He says, just as a fat rain drop hits my face. The nameless boy who called me from my grave shivers visibly.
He pulls a hood over his head, me as he jogs over to his car, snatching his neck around to see me once or twice. My vision is skewed: black and white. Like an old movie but with bad static or something.
He speeds off in his car, kicking dust everywhere. I know I will never see him again.
I am left with gifts by this stranger I hired while alive: a bookbag filled with Slim Jims, knives and my favorite-handcuffs.
I pull the bag over my shoulder. It takes at least a dozen tries. My stomach hurts so bad and my head is splitting…but I make the short trek home.
See. They never know when you’ll pull a stunt like this. When he says my name, he will fall in shock. You can never rid yourself of a good woman…
I knock once. Twice. Three times before a light pops on and blinds me. Now I see a shock of brilliant white.
The pain in my belly increases. Feels like razors on my entrails.
” K-K Karma? Oh God! Karma Lee?”
My lover stands with just his boxers on and a long arm rests on his broad shoulders. He seems to have lost even more color now. The new girl finally peeks over him and she sees me too.
She shrieks. “A ZOMBIE!!!!!”
I slowly step inside my home…
As soon as lightning and thunder cracked the sky I made my decision. With just a single thought, the door slams. Perhaps this is a new power?
If you’ve ever wanted to take that Master’s course in creative short fiction writing, I recommend none higher than DeMarinis’ The Art and Craft of the Short Story. This is no short book with quick, easy clichés to get you writing better. On the contrary, you will learn the anatomy of the short story and how to tell the difference between a good one and bad one.
What makes this book so good?
It is straight to the point with explanations of the tools of creative writing.
Lots of exercises.
Examples of amazing short stories written and published.
As someone who loves reading poetry and short stories, I had to pick this one up. I needed a book from an expert who will not only tell, but show me what good writing looks like.
DeMarinis breaks down beginnings, endings, plots, imagery, theme and more.
You realize he is speaking to you as a gentle instructor, showing you what you already realize as a reader: that a story has to grab your attention from the get go.
Here is just a few of the sage advice you’ll find:
“If there is a thematic point in a story to be made, it would have to emerge organically-not forced”(pg.59) meaning as you are writing, you may not want to focus on theme, just tell the story. Readers will have their own thoughts on what the theme truly is.
The contemporary short story is mostly character driven.
Shifting points of view may bring the story into sharper focus.
Closing a short story is similar to closing a poem(really loved this topic!)
The weird yet glamorous world of meta-fiction writing.
I think the biggest take away from this book is the breakdown of stories. As DeMarinis puts it:
“In fiction, every sentence is innovation.”(pg. 135) Stories are made up of Narrative(voice that tells the story), narrative summary(moves story forward), and scenes(place characters on stage).
Seeing it condensed like that after reading his book, really nailed it.
His hands crushed mine, not tenderly, but tender in love and fiercely. The honey brown orbs that were his eyes, pierced mine as he grabbed hold of me, already feeling me slip away.
I never seen my boyfriend cry before. But I am now. It hurts like no other pain.
Everything was growing blurry…two of him, twin tearing men. His white shirt, rumpled with a few paling brown coffee stains splattered on the front, probably from rushing into to see me in my final hour.
“NANINNNNNE! Don’t you dare leave ME!” He growled, his hands no longer felt tight on mine. Was I slipping from this world to the next so soon?
I said something, I think. My lips moved, a tear raced down my cheek as my truly handsome boyfriend stared in terror.
Did not matter how often we prepped for this moment.
All the prayers and all the research of my breast cancer. Late stage, lead us here. I guess, the Final Act cuts deep.
My grip suddenly felt ghost to me. Foreign. My hold loosened on it own as Eric leaned closer to me. My family were all crowded around me, their hands touching my legs, my stomach. Praying. Weeping.
A door slammed in the distance. Another reaction to my dying.
Adin’s warm breath reached my eyelids. My heart began a lub….DUB….lub…..so achingly slow. My lungs couldn’t catch up to any natural rhythm either. The pain meds wore off long ago.
“Nanine.” He slides his hand up the side of my arm. “Don’t. You. Leave. Me. I will chase you across worlds. Remember? I will-” My poor man choked up. I gather strength enough to look into his eyes.
What I saw shocked me.
Shocked me enough to make my heart hit a few beeps.
His eyes, pupils dilated, were deep pools of black. His full lips leaned down over me and my gaze stuck to his as his hot lips landed on mine sensuously in front of everyone.
Only Adin can make me feel this way. Even with my bald head, body nothing but bones from the chemo that ravaged my body, he made me feel sexy. Alive. Always have.
His hot gaze, fierce, determined, supremely angry, swallowed me whole. I believed for a full minute that he literally could chase my soaring soul to wherever.
Our connection have always been so strong.
After the kiss, he only moved an inch from my face and ran his hand down my cheek. “I will find you.”
Suddenly, I couldn’t chase air. My heart’s rhythm, a normal drum in my chest, ceased it’s beat.
I can’t! I can’t breathe! My heart won’t tick!
The room, Adin, my family their echoes of pain sounded so far away. I mentally clawed for life. Clawed for it.
Adin’s face of anguish, his honey eyes were the last things I saw before complete darkness overtook me.
My lips were kissing something wet and very cool. Smooth.
My eyes were drawn so tight, they felt like lead at this point and I was afraid to open them. My memory slipped from me. Where am I ?
I risked opening my eyes slowly, shocked at the clarity without my glasses. In clear, HD panoramic view, there were lush trees and bushes everywhere, birds chirping.
Some cherry blossoms, floated by me and landed near my face. My face was hovering above clear, beautiful liquid, too amazing to just call water.
My body felt so…clean and lightweight.
Staring at my reflection, I was shocked my skin seemed to glow whereas it was usually pale. It had a hint of gold to it, but the ripples in the water from my movement caused my shimmery glow to vanish.
I finally pushed myself up and on the bank, startling a small squirrel prancing around, chasing its own tail.
The squirrel seemed more orange than brown.
Where am I?
A deeply male, familiar voice made my heart race. I look down at my slightly sun kissed skin and was terrified at how I could see through hands, as though through a veil.
The male approached me.
He was as naked as I am. Shimmering like me. Barely solid, barely ghost.
Oddly familiar too.
His eyes were large, his body designed and perfected in some lab probably and his lips had to be fashioned in supreme love by God himself. I felt nervous, giddy, confused.
He approached me but kept a safe enough distance. “Welcome home, Nanine.”
He reached out to me with his hand. Feeling lost and so utterly confused, even with all the beauty surrounding me, I take his large hand.
“I told you I would chase you from one world to the next.”
Familiar words. Familiar face and lips. Those eyes.
Why did they look so familiar?
Why do I feel…connected to him somehow?
Stay tuned this week for the short conclusion to this love story!
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Today’s Prompt: Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.
There is a catch in her voice. I hear it from behind my bathroom walls. It is unmistakable that she is crying and then the slam of a door and the loud screech of tires from her driveway…
A few hours later, I stand behind my cash register and I have a long line. My heels hurt, my back aches and I can’t believe the assault that the hot crispy chicken sandwich has on my nostrils. The lucky customer I hand the change back to is about to tear open the silver foil packet and chomp into the chicken when I hear that familiar voice again.
“You said you were leaving her!” The voice was more a roar than actual speech.
My hand freezes over the register as I turn slowly to my left. The chicken customer dashes out the exit.
I notice it is such a beautiful day. The sun literally spreads gold dust over everyone’s vehicle making it look richer than before and a few couples walk barefoot to the store.
“Can you believe that woman?” A white woman with short brunette hair said in front of me. She holds a cute, small child in her arms.
But it doesn’t end.
I see where she is looking.
A tall, dark woman with long braids and the tiniest jean shorts on ever, has her hands on her hips and the man is muscular, clean shaven and has on sunglasses. He is the color of sand.
Even his voice is gritty when he says, “I told you I ain’t leaving family for no ho! You knew the deets, woman.”
My heart triples as I quickly ring up the lady with the baby. Her eyes are as round as saucers. The baby is sucking harder on her small, pink pacifier. The child is too young to understand matters of a traitorous heart yet…
Managers are just as clueless as we are and honestly want the good show to continue unfolding before us.
The dark woman’s hands fall to her sides. Realization must have hit.
“Hey! I said I want two Marlboro lights and some lighters ma’am.” I bite the inside of my lip as I rush to grab the cancer sticks and hand them to the impatient man with the long pick handing from yellow teeth.
I ring him up in record time too, but we are all hoping the couple will continue their argument inside.
But they storm off outside where it is sunny and gold.
And now it is time for me to let you know that only the morning foreshadowing actually happened.
Today’s Prompt: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.
I know I didn’t just cross Mrs. Steven’s path.
The grandmother of my ex.
After five years and all this time, why is the woman here? Out of all places! I clench my fists and try not to let Lettie know something is wrong.
But she knows.
She was born into a family of psychics and empaths and from the moment I spotted Mrs. Stevens, her hands squeezed mine, like she does her little puddy ball when we are watching Law and Order.
And then I can’t help it. The images blob before me.
Beautiful Linda. My Linda. Her stomach round and stretched hard, a cocoon for our first child. A seed we made together. It would have been our first…but then.
The fatal car crash where I survived and they did. Not.
Mrs. Stevens is still knitting. Probably thinking we are just your normal park walkers in love and everything is right as rain.
Then the cloud burst from behind my eyes…
“Aren’t you going to speak to her?” I ask John. His palms are sweating and are those…those. “John. Are you crying?” I whisper.
“Let’s go over here for a minute,” I let him walk me in the opposite direction of the older, pale woman with white hair. Her fingers work quick magic on that little red sweater.
“There is something I haven’t told you.”
I am quiet.
John wipes his eyes with the back of his hand. I’ve known him a year but I never seen him shed a tear. Although at times while we’re at the beach. At home in our garden. Or when I ask him about starting a family, he’ll get this far away look and I fell alone…
And then those dreams I have of him with red hair and green eyes and there are children around him…
“I do know her. Well, she is the grandmother of my- my ex.”
Then John does something even I could not have predicted. He pulls out a stray cigarette and lighter and lights the end of it. “Linda was my girlfriend. I was going to marry her.” He takes a long drag on the cigarette.
“Okay,” I touch his hand. “Did something happen?”
His chocolate eyes peer into mine. “Yeah. She died. And our baby did too.”
I place a hand over my heart. I did not know! He told me he never wanted children. I guess I see why. But what horror! Now my eyes are misting.
We walk over to the old woman…
The Old Woman
Not now. Not that cologne. It can’t be! Only that mix of sweat and cologne and soap would make me remember…
“Kristina? Kristina Stevens?” John comes over to me looking as handsome as always. His eyes are sad and there is a young lady by his side. A raven haired beauty with cerulean eyes. Her hand is wrapped up in John’s.
I stand up and lay my work down. The boy would be five now. Five…
John grabs me up and hugs me tight. The girl stays behind and watches us, but she is not my Linda. I am sorry to have mean thoughts. And I know it is five years now, but I sense he still cares for my daughter.
How silly is that!
I know she is not with us.
“It has been long, Mrs. Stevens.”
“Call me mom or grandma, son. Please.” I kiss his cheeks and acknowledge his mate with a small nod. She waves.
We chat very little. About safe topics: weather, my knitting, and his girlfriend’s job as an LPN at the local hospital.
This post is in response to Writing 101 Day 7 Challenge: Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.
“You salty, crass, fake monk of the globe!”
“You mimic a strong tower but you are weak, brittle- they rape you too.”
Land became silent.
“If I stay back…just a little, will you tell them to come back home?” Water said.
Land, shrugged, causing a ripple among trees in Africa, sway of palm trees in Florida. “Maybe. You’ve changed over the years.”
“I do cherish them. Give them back to me and I will recede. Only when the moon serenades me will I dance with you and cover you. Deal?”
Land huffed before replying: “Didn’t know you could bargain.”
Water said, “I learn very quickly. Know what else I can do?”
“My thoughts are hurricanes and monsoons-loud, but I am quiet enough to inspire haiku and even Scripture. I am not completely bad.”
“You never were bad, water.” Land sighed. “You are just…too much. You are what. 75% of this rock and who knows? Your parts are floating elsewhere in the galaxy. So am I, but, you know, here you are overtaking me.”
“Remember the pact?”
“The pact. There will never be any more worldwide floods.” Water paused. “I will not drown you.”
“Alright alright.” Land, with old age and many, many years tacked on suddenly yawned, stretched its knuckles, straits and islands- his knuckles hands and arms.
And with Water pulling back, not a lot but just enough for earth to convert to its original form: