Tag Archives: tiny fiction

No. 7 – the bees

3 Feb

You can’t stop looking. It is obvious that looking is the exact opposite of the proper thing to do. But you can’t quit. And every time you look, it makes you so nervous that you light another cigarette. The smoke temporarily kills the bees that are buzzing and swarming in your gut, but when you look at her photograph again, they just come back to life.

You smoke Lucky Strikes because that’s what you heard Kurt Cobain smoked. You used to fantasize that you’d die at 27, the way he did and the way Janis Joplin did and the way Jim Morrison did, but nobody even knows your name and wouldn’t care anyway. You know this deep down, but you still couldn’t help the surprise when your 28th birthday arrived and you lived through it. Then you were 29 and 36 and 42 and death never came for you and you never got famous.

In fact, if I had to title your autobiography, it would be called Death Never Came & I Never Got Famous. Or something. Anyway, you aren’t memorable for anything except being extremely odd and acting creepy around women. You stammer and clear your throat repeatedly in line at the A&P when the checkout girl is remotely pretty, even if she’s obviously a high school student working after school shifts, and you’re nearing middle-age and starting to go bald around the temples. She’ll hand you your change and politely decline the offer of your idea of a witty joke or maybe even your phone number. She’ll smile and tell you to have a nice day, but her eyes are full of terror.

The same thing happens with the Starbucks barista. Every time you leave the establishment, the conversation is the same. The pretty girl with the dark, curly hair turns to her co-worker and complains that you’re the guy who always comes in and mistakes good customer service for a come on. They talk about how you give off a serial killer vibe and start quoting lines from “Silence of the Lambs,” then laugh. The baristas agree it’s totally gross when a customer takes advantage of the situation they’re in and makes the entire transaction creepy. They both roll their eyes, but you never see this. At Starbucks they believe in good customer service.

You’ve been stalking this girl on the Internet for a while now. It is stalking, but you call it “being interested.” You visit her blog more than 10 times in a day. You have looked through all 2,071 photos of her on Facebook, twice. You know her home address, her cell phone number, where she went to college, what the outside of the building where she works looks like, her parents’ names and social security numbers. This information is all readily available and easy to procure. Other information is more difficult to find, like what her favorite color is, for example and what she throws in her trash. However, you could find that information out with a bit of determination. When you’re interested in someone, the determination flows.

You look at her photograph again, the one you printed at Staple’s and taped to your computer monitor. The one where she’s smiling for her husband who is behind the camera, but you know it’s secretly for you. She’s never said it and you’ve never actually met in person, but you know she’s in love with you. Her eyes are so blue.

The bees swarm.

You’ve lost track of how many hours you’ve spent trying to decide if her eyes are blue or actually green, a fact that disappoints you since you fantasize about conversations you’ll have with her someday, in which you present to her statistical data on how much you’ve thought about her over the years. You think she’ll be impressed with your dedication.

The bees begin to sting and fly into your throat. You light a cigarette and smoke them back down to your stomach where they lie in wait, a dull, moving hum.

In your email there’s a new message. It’s from her. It’s not good news. She says she feels uncomfortable with your friendship, that some things you’ve said have really bothered her and creeped her out. She prefers you stop contacting her. She’s afraid of you.

The bees rage.

Once a girl broke up with you in high school. It was your first girlfriend ever. You went out for a little less than six months and she wrote you a letter asking you not to call her anymore. You went home and chased a bottle of Advil Migraine with a bottle of whiskey. You thought that would show her.

When you woke up in the hospital the next evening, you called your mom and asked if she had explained to your girlfriend what had happened. She said yes, she had but that your girlfriend had hung up on her. You lie in your hospital bed feeling dazed. You wonder why she hasn’t come to see you, begging you to take her back and feeling terrible for what she made you do.

She never comes to visit and never talks to you again. She’s afraid of you. When she sees you in the hallways at school she tries to ignore you, but her eyes are full of terror.

The bees are in your throat now, choking you. You light another cigarette and stamp it out on your arm. You tear the girl’s photograph from your computer monitor, fold it up and swallow it. It presses the bees back down to your stomach, but they’re eating through the paper. Your pulse throbs in your temples where you’re losing your hair and you light another cigarette.

I’ll make her sorry, you think to yourself. You pick up your cell phone where her phone number holds the prominent place of first in your favorite contacts list. Hands shaking, you type out a text. It’s hard to type because the bees are getting through the paper of her photograph that now sits in your stomach. One by one, they’re darting toward your esophagus. The entire world seems to have turned into one pulsating, electric throb.

“By the time you read this I’ll be dead,” you type out and touch the send button. You crawl into bed, bees buzzing inside you, your whole world seeming like a carnival ride that’s gone out of control, but no one pulls the lever to stop the spinning. There is no hope anymore. You pull your sheet up over your head and grind your teeth until you fall asleep.

When you wake up, it’s morning. Something is crawling across your forehead, close to your eye. You slap it away and it buzzes toward the window. It’s a bee. It reaches the window and rams itself into the glass over and over again with tiny thud thud thuds. It is trapped. It’s nature tells it to go toward the light to get outside where it will be free again. The only light in the room comes from that window. The bee flies in circles, always ending up at the window, continuing to thump against glass with its fuzzy body. You watch it for six hours before it drops into the windowsill and stops moving.

 

© Ashley Noelle, 2012. All rights reserved.

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No. 5 – the party

22 Jan

 

The party wasn’t my idea of a good time. Full of low-grade celebrities, reality TV show participants, and flocks of supposed fans. I fit into exactly zero of these categories. I tried to look amused as I was introduced to a stream of people, all with Crest White-stripped smiles that said, aren’t you happy to meet me. It wasn’t a question, it was a fact. At least, they all thought it was a fact. No one had ever told them any different. No one had ever gripped their hand, shaking it up and down, looked them dead in the eyes and said, “hi, go fuck yourself.”

I pressed my sweaty palm into hand after hand, smiling and smiling, moving down the line the way you do at weddings and funerals.

Congratulations, congratulations. I’m sorry for your loss.

The most obnoxious of all the evening’s guests was a blonde girl by the bar. She was pretty in that way your second cousin who lives in Kansas is pretty. Ruddy, farm girl cheeks and a face that hasn’t changed since eleventh grade. Not glamorous, not sexy, just girl-next-door-who-sings-at-church-pretty. Yet, I dreaded my arrival at her outstretched little hand. Of everyone there, cameras swarmed and flashed around her the most. Her smile never wavered. She made enormous gestures with her hands when she talked, like she thought that’s what famous people do. Her wrists were both covered in many colorful Bollywood-style bracelets, which I happened to be wearing, too. I was immediately embarrassed, hoping she wasn’t going to see them and shout something like, samesies! or think I had bought them to be just like her.

As I approached the blonde girl, she smiled and looked into my face with her sparkling, yet dead eyes. It was the first time I’d ever seen someone with eyes a color so nondescript that I couldn’t tell if they were a mottled green-gray like the little rocks in the bottom of my fish aquarium, or just varying shades of dark gray over medium gray. I kept staring into them, wondering how she managed to make them sparkle. She must have thought I was enamored with her beauty. She giggled, her cheeks turning up into round little apples, pink and fresh.

“Hi, I’m Amanda Grace, it’s so nice to meet you!” It felt like she was shouting at me.

Amanda Grace. Was that her first and middle name or was her last name actually Grace? I took note of the trace of a Georgia accent in her voice. It sounded like “they” were attempting to beat it out of her with speech therapists, acting coaches, and voice lessons. Up close I noticed she had a ridiculous amount of makeup on, so much so that she may have actually had to use paint thinner to get it off. Her hair was dark at the roots and fried at the ends. More evidence of a lab-created star. I wondered if that was even her real name.

Cameras continued to flash in Amanda Grace’s face, making her eyes grow wider and her gestures become larger and larger until she was practically waving her hands wildly in the air like she was on The Price is Right and had just spun 1000 on the Big Wheel, her bracelets ringing and clanging together.

“I’m Carolyn,” I muttered. Amanda Grace beamed at me.

“Thanks for watching!” she cried into my face, leaning in as though she thought I were hard of hearing. As though her status as a reality TV star and my status as absolutely no one made some cavernous distance between the two of us she actually had to shout across for me to be able to hear her.

I just stood there, looking confused. Watching what? I thought to myself. I wanted to blurt something out, like “I don’t even know who you are,” or “oh, I don’t watch television,” or “I had these bracelets before I met you,” but I couldn’t bring myself to that level of rudeness. I was annoyed and uncomfortable at the party, but I hadn’t lost the ability to maintain some semblance of my fine upbringing. My extremely proper British grandmother would have been proud at the way I smiled politely instead, took her hand in mine and said, “You’re so welcome, best of luck to you in your future endeavors, Amanda.”

I looked down at our hands clasped together, our bracelets jangling and banging into one another to create strange music. And there between the many colorful bracelets I saw we both had scars on our wrists.

I moved down the line, shaking hand after semi-celebrity hand, in a bit of a daze and mumbling into each firm grip.

Congratulations, congratulations, I’m so sorry for your loss. 

 

No. 3 – the way mothers do

4 Jan

Violet was the prettiest waitress at the truck stop cafe. You may not think that is saying very much, but trust me, Violet had an angel’s face. She stood out partly because she was the only one who ever smiled. Violet smiled through the foggy haze of the smoking section, emptying ash-trays and taking orders. She smiled as she scrubbed extra hard at tables sticky with maple syrup. She even smiled as she ran the carpet sweeper with its rhythmic zip, zip, zip, erasing cracker crumbs crushed into the floor by the chubby little fists of toddlers in high chairs.

Violet didn’t have any children, but she loved them. It was easy to tell she loved all her customers, too. There was never a request Violet did not at the very least try her hardest to fulfill and always with those beaming cheeks of fresh pink rose.

The truck stop was located on the edge of a town where the census three years prior had recorded that only 423 people were living there. It was 1955 and Violet was one of those 423, living in a small two-bedroom house along with her mother and her mother’s dachshund, Marty who the census did not count even though he was just as spoiled as any child you ever saw. Violet’s mother was a widow who stayed at home and did all the cooking. Violet wasn’t fond of cooking meals after having to serve them all day on tired feet, so she was grateful to her mother for her willingness to slave over a hot stove night after night, the way mothers do.

Everyone in town loved Violet. Even those who were prone to gossip only spoke of her to say it was a wonder she hadn’t married yet, a girl of twenty-six and so pretty the way she was. Such a hard worker, too, they’d say. Eventually they’d grow tired of gossip and start chattering about what their own children were up to, bringing out brag books and photographs to show off, the way mothers do.

One Saturday night at the little truck stop cafe, among the usual patrons of truck drivers who always ordered coffee and tipsy high school kids who never left tips, Violet saw an unusual sight: a baby all alone in a high chair in the corner, wrapped in a pale green afghan blanket. As Violet crossed the room toward him, he reached toward her with tiny fingers the color of seashells.

“Where is your mother?” Violet asked the baby. Her words were formed within a gasp. The baby just looked up at her with sweet blue eyes. He didn’t have an answer. Violet put her index finger in his little outstretched fist and he clasped it and shook it a bit. As the baby boy shook Violet’s finger his blanket fell down from his shoulders. This uncovered a note attached to his tiny shirt with a diaper pin. Violet handled the note and the pin carefully, her slender fingers holding just the edges of the scalloped paper as she read.

Violet’s eyes looked sad for the first time maybe since her Pa died. The baby–Charlie began to cry and she scooped him from his seat. Though she wasn’t a mother, Violet instinctively snuggled him close to her shoulder and patted his back with her right hand, swaying back and forth in place the way mothers do.

“It’s okay, little one,” Violet whispered and kissed the baby’s sweet smelling hair. “I’ll take care of you.”

Charlie’s mother watched through the big front window of the truck stop cafe as the waitress held her little son, rocking him from side to side.  She had driven two hours from the next town that night to give him up. Violet had the face of an angel and Charlie’s mother knew the moment she saw her that she would be the one to pick him up and that she would be good to him.

The only comfort she felt as she walked away into the tear-streaked, blurry-eyed night was a tiny voice in the back of her mind that insisted this was the right thing to do. Violet would give little Charlie things she never could. She would sing to him, read bedtime stories, and bandage scraped knees. Violet would raise him to be gentle, kind, and honest. She would always smile that lovely smile when she looked at him, the way mothers do.

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