April Fools

21783582-afc2-4d7c-bfcf-6b726629127aPhoto by Joze

Flash Fiction

APRIL FOOLS

     Today, crisp cool air mingles with a blazing sun as I leave my minuscule apartment on Lexington Ave. The weather has been dreary. This morning is glorious.

     I pull my long chestnut hair into a no-nonsense ponytail, walk and think about the other woman . Damn, I am better looking, appear tall for my height and young for my years.

     Around noon, I stop for lunch at a typical outdoor New York café; the tables are round and small; the metal chairs look uncomfortable, but are not once I sit.

     A waiter fills my water glass, and announces he is my server. The menu choices are unexpectedly appealing; fennel quiche, garlic soup, and more.

     I take time ordering.

     The man on my left, glances my way. His look lingers but reveals nothing, and leaves me questioning if I know him? The feeling we have met and cannot remember where, accompanies the exchange. His thick blond hair is sun streaked and he looks familiar, a little like a friend, Sam.

      Groomed brows frame his eyes. Carefully pressed gray slacks, and a wrinkle-free dress shirt complete his polished look, but I do not know him.

        I sit back to wait for my meal and people watch. New Yorker’s are something, a biker babe dressed in leather, pushes a doggie stroller. The dog wears goggles and rests his paws on the bar celebrity style. I laugh.

       The street is increasingly active as people walk and talk loud.  

        The waiter brings my order and the man who looks like Sam stares in my direction again, his eyes search everywhere. As the tables fill up, the man gives a knowing nod my way, and almost smiles. Although he is facing me, it is hard to tell if he is looking at me, or not.

     I refrain from turning my head to look behind hearing a couple seat themselves. They create quite a stir dragging empty chairs across the concrete and arranging shopping bags. I realize the man who looks like Sam is studying them.

     “Mind your own business,” says a voice in my head.  

     When the waiter takes my empty plate, I order a Cappuccino and the ‘Chocolate – Chocolate’ cake, and listen to the newly seated couple’s angry banter.

     The woman protests, “I didn’t make you come here, Victor, you agreed it was a favorite of ours.”

     “Eve, you’re the one who loved the menu, thought the food so nouveau or something?”

      Her voice rises. “You loved the zucchini mushroom quiche, and what about the gazpacho soup? You raved, said it was the best you’d ever had!”

     His reply is slow and deliberate. “No, you weren’t listening; I said the quiche was good if you like quiche. And the soup ‘the best’ Gestapo! I was being sarcastic.”

     He leaves the table saying, “I’ll be in the men’s room.”  

     I am  stunned.  His voice sounds like Victor’s? My Victor? 

     Look-A-Like Sam rushes to fill Victor’s empty seat, firing off questions that leave no room for a response. “What’s going on? You said you would be at here 12 o’clock, alone. Why did Victor come? Drama? Eve, you thrive on drama. I’ve had enough.”

      Now, I turn my head to see and watch. Coyly, Eve removes her Hollywood style sunglasses, checks her diamond wristwatch, leans forward, and whispers, “Oh, my, it is past noon, isn’t it. Victor’s golf was cancelled.”

    Playing with her blouse buttons she continues, “When he learned I was coming to the city, he said, he would come.”

     Shaking her head, she  continues, her eyes misty. “I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t persuade him otherwise. You know I’m married.”

     Look-A- like Sam laughs, “Do you think I’m a fool, Eve? There are other restaurants in this town! Why bring him here? There won’t be a next time.”

     He takes a twenty-dollar bill from his wallet, presses it in a nearby waiter’s hand, and leaves abruptly.

     Eve shouts after him, “Next time answer your cell, damn it!” As she tosses her hair back and adjusts her sun glasses.

     The husband returns. A tan complements his brown eyes, perfect Roman nose, and romantic lips. Approaching the table, his aloof expression becomes surprise, as our eyes meet.

     Victor sits down across from his wife, tucks in a cloth napkin and questions, “Who was that? You seem upset. Is everything alright?”

     Eve clears her throat, forces a smile, and explains, “Someone who goes to my gym. It’s nothing. I’m tired, and sorry. Sorry we had words.” She reaches across the table to take her husband’s hand, “Can we forget it?”

     Eve appears confident and why not? She is not his other woman.

     I linger to finish my ‘Chocolate-Chocolate’ cake, lick the remains of a raspberry garnish from the fork, and pay the bill.

   Stopping at the couple’s table when leaving, I say, “Victor, What a surprise to see you here . . . with . . . your wife? And move into the passing crowd.

. . . .  just saying

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Acerbic (Flash Fiction/Short Story)

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Polar Fox

“Acerbic” draws on personal experience and is published in FWA, Let’s Talk by Peppertree Press.

The inspiration for this story came after a doctor’s appointment. His nurse is habitually terse and abrasive, so much so that, I asked, “Have I offended you in some way?” She looked at me strangely having no idea she treatment others poorly.

The challenge for the Anthology was to use a dialogue format to present your short story.

The conversation below is between two women in a doctor’s waiting room.

                                                                                                                                                                                    

Acerbic

“This is unacceptable!  My time is of value, too.  Why aren’t you complaining?”

“I was told the doctor was running late when I signed in.”

“This is ridiculous.  I’ve been waiting more than twenty minutes.  My appointment was for nine fifteen.  What time was your appointment?”

“Well, I’m not sure; I think nine thirty, why?”

“It’s better if everyone is out of sorts.  I can complain for you, make something up, like your dog is in the car, sick and needs to be taken to the Vet.”

“Reading here is as enjoyable as anywhere.”

“Boy, you people are annoying, must you be so perky and pleasant?”

“You’re upset.  Why don’t you thumb through a magazine?  There’s a travel article about Hawaii in this one.  Have you been there?”

“You think looking at pretty pictures of places I can’t afford to travel to will help me… what?  Be happy I have to wait for a man, I pay to tell me I’m sick.  And looking at colorful advertisements won’t help either.  I’m Acerbic.  My parents and grandparents, on both sides, were Acerbic and proud of it.”

“Acerbic?  Is that … American or … a religion?”

“Acerbic is a way of life.  You got a problem with that?  Our dispositions are generally crabby.  We find fault in others quickly and enjoy being sarcastic.”

“Golly gee, everyone feels crabby from time to time.”

Golly gee?  Golly gee, we’ve been sitting here over a half hour.  Can’t you pretend you’re a little annoyed?  That wing back chair looks awful uncomfortable.  These doctors are all the same; think they’re better than the rest.”

“His nurse said the doctor had an emergency, it sounded serious.  Are you really Acerbic?”

“Our whole neighborhood is Acerbic.  We don’t like friendly.  People yell, ‘Don’t park in front of my house, jerk’ and threaten, ‘If your dog pees on my grass, I will call the police!’  Although things are changing.  Someone, I can’t find out who, moved my garbage pail out of the street on a windy day.”

“You don’t mind if I read my book?’

“Of course I mind.  I get it.  Why not say shut-up?  Add please if you have to.  It’s easy; watch my lips, ‘Will you please shut-up!’ ”

“No, tell me about your life.”

“Actually I had a great childhood.  We owned a small cabin not far from Route. 95 below the Georgia border.  Dad named it Acerbia.  It was a retreat where we could be sour and discontent on weekends and during vacations.  You know, say nasty things about neighbors and relatives.”

“Was that fun?”

“Are you kidding, of course, the best.  By the way, they call me Unfortunately.  I’m Unfortunately Fortunato.  What’s your name?  Not that I care.”

“Unfortunately is a first name?  And Fortunato your family…?”

“Mom wanted an Acerbic name, nothing cheerful or common like Hope, Joy or Grace.”

“That had to be a difficult name for a child.  Did she think it was a mistake?”

“No, Difficult and Mistake are my brothers.  Mother named them good, too, because Difficult is in prison and Mistake, chronically unemployed.”

“Was that a surprise?”

“They still haven’t called anyone.  All they do is talk on the phone.  Someone else has to complain.  You can do it.  I like your pink eyebrows.”

“My eyebrows are pink?”

“Yea, they match your lipstick, compliment that bluish tint in your hair, and look cool on a woman your age.”

“My hair isn’t blue! I’m not that old.”

“Isn’t that book you’re reading in large print?”

“It’s easier I don’t have to remember my glasses.”

“Most seniors get a little forgetful.  It’s normal, not a problem unless you can’t remember what glasses are.  You know glasses magnify things, right?”

“I know what glasses are for and I didn’t forget them.  I do not need them to read a large print book.”

“Did you hear that?  The receptionist called Ms. Fortunato.  That’s me, Unfortunately.  Doc’s ready for me.  Have a rotten, day”

“You too, and my eyebrows aren’t pink!”

P.S. I welcome your comments.

A Lost Pearl

81070be8-4105-4dda-b88e-eac682dc7c17Picture Male Tufted Humming Bird by Ray

 

A Lost Pearl

Flash Fiction

The last time I saw her, she was young; youth sparkled in her eyes. Now the sparkle is gone, the jade blue color diminished by time; her convictions etched in lines across her face. Her once narrow nose is broader, broken from standing up for others. Her chest sunken with anger, not there the first time we met.

“Pearl is that you?” I inquire.

She strains to turn towards me, her range of motion greatly compromised.

“Yes, I’m Pearl,” Her voice recalls dignity, and she pauses to ask, “Have I had your acquaintance?”

It was 1971; we got on the Concourse Avenue bus each with a child in hand. She took notice of my bruises and we became friends.

I take the seat alongside her and gently touch her forearm, “Pearl, it’s me Rosa . . . . Rose, remember. . . .” I expect her to ooze with gladness, say, “Lordy, Lordy, Rose, how are you?”

Instead, she says “Rose? Can’t recall a Rose, refresh my memory child.”

If she remembers me, she would never mention beatings, and hiding in safe houses. I remind her of Bainbridge Park; how we would meet after lunch, let the children play in the sand box then walk them to sleep in strollers.

“Yes, I remember sunshine and playgrounds, how is your boy . . . ?”

“Danny, Dan, he’s at Fordham University; studying to be a lawyer.

Danny was five when I made the decision to leave the morning after a beating. I phoned my sister, asked her to get him from school, and left a note for John saying I didn’t want a divorce, and wouldn’t fight him for our son.

I worried about leaving Danny behind. Pearl said, “Don’t fret; your boy be fine,” and hooked me up with people.

John was a New York City Police officer and protected by his brothers, but the force would not ignore his beating a child.

Sill, I moved every four months with a new identity.

Three years later, the Richmond Virginia Newspaper reported the hunt for the killer of John McGill, a NYC Police Officer shot in the line of duty. I went home;  stood next to his coffin, widowed with a pension; my eight-year-old son at my side.

John had never mentioned I was gone to anyone on the force.

Now Pearl dozes next to me, and her head bobs from side to side startling herself. “What was I saying?”

“We were talking about the time we brought the boys to the Bronx Zoo and rode the train around the park ten times. You packed potato salad and fried chicken; a stranger asked to buy your picnic lunch.”

The mention of potato salad crystallizes in her milky eyes, “I remember the day you left, bruised and wearing borrowed clothes; it broke my heart knowing I’d not see you again. How you been?”

“I never got to thank you, Pearl. . . .” She interrupts my attempt at gratitude and explanation of regret .

“Hush, Woman . . . tell me something that will make me smile.”

. . . . just saying

Fluffy the Lint-Man

WOS9770

 Aging & Attitude

Meshugana! Yes, I must be meshugana, crazy, a lunatic, or at least a little nutty, for thinking about dryer lint.

Dryer lint is on my mind this morning, and was yesterday as well as intermittently throughout the month. Let me be honest; dryer lint is glued to my brain and with every wash the question raised, “Where does this stuff come from?”

The mystery-grabbed my attention seven years ago after moving to Florida and leaving my clothing line behind in New Jersey.

Close your eyes, inhale, and remember the scent of fresh air mingled in laundry. I enjoyed twenty-five years of this simple life pleasure.

My clothesline was suspended outside a kitchen window across the driveway and secured to a beautiful one hundred year old maple tree. With the window open, I stretched and attach clothing to the line with wooden clothes pins held in my mouth. The clothing stayed out to dry, rain, or shine. Rainwater softened the fabric and decreed a final rinse.

There was no lint in my life.

In Florida, the sunshine state, most communities routinely prohibit clothing lines. Clean clothing flapping in the wind is considered unsightly. There is speculation that some snowbirds hang lines in the lanai.

Factor in the humidity, and the dryer is used a lot.

I remove a wad from the dryer lint catch and finger the lump. It is soft, light, and airy. White in color feels good in my hands. I roll small pieces between my hands. They become pipe cleaner in appearance, and I am constructing a figure; a man, like Frosty the Snowman, that I name Fluffy the Lint-man.

“Where do you come from?” I hear myself said aloud.

Fluffy the Lint-man stretches. His yawn fades, and returns a smile, “You talking to me?”

His tone suggests a Tony Soprano affiliation and I want to respond, “Yea, I’m talking to you, you got a problem with it?” However, I do not.

Instead, I try flattery and say, “You’re a cute clean cut looking guy made from lint, but where does lint come from?”

Lint-man says, “You gotta be kidding me, where does lint come from? What are you stupid; it comes from your clothes.”

Then like Rip Van Wrinkle waking up from sleep. and not having spoken in years, Fluffy gives a dissertation on weaved fabric deterioration when spin cycles work them over, and that hot air exhaust blows out the results we call lint.

He has given me a headache and thinking who cares where lint comes from, I know where it belongs; remove his smile, disassemble his arms, then legs, and toss his sorry self  in the trash.

Lint Man’s final words to me, “You really need to get a life.”

. . . just saying

Wrinkles & Prunes

dorian-gray-portrait

A writing prompt from WordPress:

You wake up one day and realize you’re ten years older than you were the previous night. Beyond the initial shock, how does this development change your life plans?

Wrinkles and Prunes

May Dillard wakes to the sound of a bird chirp coming from her smart phone. A birthday text message appears from her daughter, Melissa, saying, “Happy 76th! You’re the Best.” May is surprised by the time, 9AM, and cannot remember the last time she slept this late. She stretches, flutters her feet to get blood circulating, and thinks, I’m not seventy-six, although I feel ten years older this morning. I am sixty-six.

In the bathroom, she lets the hot water run cold while she brushes her teeth, then washes and cleanses her face once the water is warm. The mirror reflects a ten year older version of her. The famous quote, “Old age is not for wimps!” ping-pongs in her mind. She says aloud, “I’m sixty-six today. I was born November 1st, 1948. Today is November 1st 2014, I’m sixty-six.”

Yesterday’s newspaper touted the benefits of coffee and May brews a pot. Anticipating the aroma, she walks to the front door and retrieves today’s newspaper. She removes the plastic sleeve and spreads the paper open on the kitchen table. The headline, “School Board Candidate Borrows Answers” is bold. Evidently, a member had copied and pasted information from Wikipedia onto their application form,and the media considers it cheating.

The date on the newspaper is November 1, 2024.

She had gone to sleep in 2014.

May retrieves a pair of  eyeglasses from her handbag to check the year. It reads 2024 clearly; aging her ten years. She searches the recycling bin and finds a paper dated October 31, 2024, but no story on the benefits of coffee. She recalls the article’s title, “Coffee’s surprising perks,” and the writers visit to the annual Convention of the Hawaii Coffee Association in the year 2014.

It is possible she slipped off the toilet and hit her head last night, as Hillary Clinton did in 2011 or could not remember due to a stroke or amnesia.

The phone rings, really it is a whistle to announce a call. She answers. Her sister Judy sings Happy Birthday. Then says, “God how did we get so old, in four years you’ll be eighty. We’ll have to do something special, like climb Mt. Everest, LOL.”

They chat freely, Judy doing most of the talking and May pretending to be ten years older than she believes. Later, the family gathers to celebrate and May blows out the chunky seven and six numbered candles that decorated an ice cream cake.

That evening she fears sleep, afraid she will wake another ten years older.

Well, she would still be alive. If life expectancy was eighty-one, she had five more good years. She was going to make the best of them.

There would be some changes..

Saturday morning May is packing when her daughter arrives. 

Melissa asks, “Mom, what are you doing?”

May struggles to an upright position and straightens her back and shoulders with a smile, “I’m going on the road. Do you need a vacuum? In five years I won’t be vacuuming.”

“Mom what are you talking about?”

“I making some changes, selling the house, traveling to all the places I haven’t been to. If you don’t want the vacuum I’ll donate it. How about a Crock Pot? They’re real convenient for one pot meals. On second thought I think I’ll take that with me.”

                                      . . . just saying

Meet Me In Fancy Gap

Rainy_Blue_Ridge-27527Fancy Gap is a small town just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. The name stayed in my head until I conjured up this short story

Aging & Attitude

   The thick boardroom doors to Lion Technology fly open and the boss, Leonia, the grand dame, ceremoniously joins us around the water cooler. We are on break from a strategic planning session. As head of finance, I know to shut up and let Leonia be center stage. Sales representatives, holding paper cups, listen to her important chatter. I linger for a refill as the others return to the meeting room. Leonia whispers, “John, things have changed.”

   She wears a dress of invitation; black and white stripes up and down the skirt, then across the bodice; the zipper concealed in a side seam. She drains the cup with her head thrown back, and runs her tongue full circle around her lips, “Meet me in Fancy Gap.”       

   Still in love, memories of our get-a-way cabin go with her high heel tapping as she saunters away.

   Later in the day, I study a quarterly report conflicted, and anticipate a blind copy of an email Leonia will send to her husband, Hector, telling him her phoney plan.

   In  the past, I have reneged on my ultimatum she leave Hector or else. Leonia believes I am easy prey.  

   Sure enough, late in the afternoon a bcc copy appears saying; What time are we dining with Sandy & Bob on Sat? Have a division mtg. on Mon in Roanoke. Thought I’d leave early Sun morning for some R&R at Doe Run Cabins. Love u

   The email brings back feelings put aside.

   Once, I asked her, “Why do you cheat on him?”

   “Hector?”

   “Yes, your husband. Why cheat on him?”

   “The day I met Hector he wore wool slacks, a blue pin striped dress shirt, a navy sweater draped over his shoulders and loafers. A pulled together look only a model carried off. Hector did.”

   I grew impatient for a real answer mesmerized by her words.

   “Is this cheating? You make me happy. When I’m happy, Hector’s happy, real happy.”

   “So we’re doing Hector a favor? You said you loved me, what about love?”

    “Love? I love everything you do.” Sex ended the conversation.

   On Sunday, the drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia is spectacular, a combination of crimson, gold, amber and tangerine colored leaves compliment the clear blue sky. I stop in Floyd to have breakfast at the Blue Ridge Café.   

   A lively group of men occupies a white metal table near a large front window with the establishment’s name scrolled in black cursive. A waitress greets regulars with, "Good Morning," and saves the "I’m Lorie, your server," for strangers like me. A piece of gray duct-tape across the thumb section of her hand acts like a bandage to protect a cut.

   Time is frozen; it could be 1965.

   I study the menu halfheartedly and listen to the men banter.  

   Jake, a robust man with a white beard and railroad cap makes manly man noises. I imagine him scratching his head and passing gas, it is not pretty. Luther wears suspenders,and his thin curly hair is pulled back in a ponytail. Several other men's stomachs lay beneath the tabletop, threatening to tear their pants. They discuss Obama Care then move on to love.

   Luther clears his throat and says, “What negative feelings do you bring to the relationship?”

   “Are you talking about me throwing the remote at the Giants or Jane catching it?” Jake chuckles.

   “You could’ve cracked the flat screen.” Lorie comments refilling water glasses from a pitcher positioned sideways.

   “No shit, blame Manning, he fumbled the ball.”

   Lorie gives me an are you a good tipper smile, and says, “Ready to order?”

   Her look makes me flirt. “How’d you hurt your hand?”

   “Burned it, you know what you want?”

   I want Leonia to stop jerking me around, but do not tell Lorie, and order the Blue Ridge Everything Omelet.

   Thinking about Leonia, I flip open my smart phone, and access her email account to send Hector an email, subject: Miss you/Meet in Fancy Gap. I write a seductive message about missing him, sign it Love u, and press send, unbeknown to Leonia.

   It is a short drive from Floyd to Fancy Gap, MP 189 on Blue Ridge Parkway. The 2010 census counted two hundred and thirty-seven citizens in Fancy Gap. Doe Run Cabins are on Keno Road. Familiar with the area, I arrive around 2pm, and see Leonia’s car parked outside our cabin. Leonia greets me with a big hug and smile. When I tense, she says, “We’re not at Lion Technology, relax.”

   “What’s changed?”

   Leonia takes my hand; we go inside and sit on the bed. The black granite tops in the galley kitchen, flat screen TV, and the four-poster bed made with all cotton linen are familiar.

   “It’s serious. Hector has inoperable brain cancer and is probably dying. It may not be long. We'll be together, like you want.”     

   I call her nickname, “EL, probably dying? Geez.”

   She cries. I lose control. We are under the sheets making love when her cell rings.

   It is Hector. He has received my email. I squeeze my hands with apprehension, and listen to their conversation.

   “So you miss me.”

   “Terribly” Leonia gets out of bed and puts on my t-shirt juggling the cell phone.

   Hector’s laugh is hearty and robust, “Well miss me no more, I’m outside your door, knock, knock.” The sound is loud and clear.

   Leonia eyes widen in panic. She hesitates waving her arms for me to hide, then opens the cabin door.

   Hector is wearing a big smile, Ralph Lauren jeans, and Rockports. He hugs Leonia and looking over her shoulder our eyes meet. “John? John, from Lion?”

   His happy expression changes to confusion then no need for an explanation.

   “Hector, I’m sorry about your cancer, please understand.”

   “Cancer, what cancer, why are you here?”

   Later, when Leonia is unpacking she informs me. “Hector wants a divorce. It’s ironic how things work out. Why don’t we buy a cabin on Groundhog Mountain, I’ll call that realtor, what’s her name? You know, she advertises on a billboard on route 8 outside of Floyd.”

   The cicadas produce a symphony sound locals say predict tomorrow will be hot and sunny. The sun sets and stillness surrounds me, grounds me. The Blue Ridge Café Men are back in my head with Luther’s question; what negative feelings do you bring to the relationship, as I leave and close the door.  

. . . just saying