The Would Be Novelist

“Sylvia, you chattering bore, how many times have I told you? If I’m sitting at the desk with a pen in my hand, I am trying to write, and the very last thing I want to hear is your snide remarks about other people’s flower gardens or the malicious tales, outright lies more likely, you collect as though they were the rarest of butterflies.

She looked at him as though he’d chipped her mother’s fine china, and left.

He thought he heard a muffled sob from the other room, as he tried to find his train of thought once more.

 

Prompt courtesy of the Friday Fictioneers. Read more stories here.

A Sojourn

The stranger came to the inn, and said he’d like to stay for a month. Being the off-season, pilgrims usually made their way through in the fall, the keeper had plenty of rooms, but only a skeleton staff, and said the meals would be simple but plentiful, to which the stranger only gave a short nod and looked expectantly at the other man, waiting for his room key.

While he lived there, he said no more than a hundred words, but would smile and nod politely if spoken to.

At the end of the month, he continued up the mountain.

 

Prompt courtesy of the Friday Fictioneers. Read more stories here.

Wendigo

They were huddled up close to the small fire. They’d lost the horses two nights before and were still three days away from the nearest settlement.

“It was Injuns, no doubt,” said one. “I don’t want to hear no more talk of midnight monsters swooping down from the skies. You’d think the both of you were halfway between pulling your momma’s titty from your mouth and fouling up your breeches.”

The other two looked at each other, wincing as they shifted their bruised bodies. The wind picked up, shaking the trees. Their mouths filled with the bitter taste of blood.

A Taste of the Unusual

“Well, you see,” my father said, pouring a beer from the bottle into the same glass he always used, “That’s the thing with hearts. They break pretty easy.”

My mother must have told him. I certainly didn’t. I stared at my soup, vegetable, homemade, with extra potatoes, just for me. He sat across from me, not in his usual spot at the head of the table.

“They heal well enough, though” he said, and then, after making sure my mother wasn’t around, slid a beer in front of me. “You just need to make sure they never set too hard.”

Just Making Small Talk

“Well, to be honest, I think…”

“Let me just stop you right there. You do realize when you say to be honest, it makes it sound like everyone else you’ve ever said is a lie, right?”

“That’s ridiculous, it’s just an expression.”

“Then it’s awful. Almost as bad as when people say I’m sorry before having an opinion. They are usually right to say it, because their opinions are often wrong, but still, they should own up to it. Embrace their shitty opinion, not apologize for it.”

“Ok. Well, I should be going. It was nice meeting you, I guess.”

Miles Away

They lay in the tall grasses of the field, staring up at the long white vapor trails drawn across the afternoon sky.

Raccoon, sat up, and leaning on his elbow and turned to Owl.

“Were you with Rabbit yesterday?” he asked.

“What?”

“Someone said they saw you two coming out of the library.”

Owl’s eyes flicked sideways, trying to get a read of the other boy’s face. He couldn’t tell. He knew Raccoon would never admit to having a crush on the girl. Staring up at the sky, he wondered whether he should lie or not.

Another plane traveled overhead.

 

Prompt courtesy of the Friday Fictioneers. Read more stories here.

Finding

Bear left years ago.

The town wasn’t big enough, fast enough or alive enough. He slipped out one summer’s night, fifty dollars in his pocket with a sweater and a few pairs of socks in his rucksack.

He walked along dirt roads and highways, hitched rides in wagons and cars, stowed away in freight cars and freighters, picked fruit, washed dishes, mopped floors, played a little piano, spent a few nights in jails, some curled up on benches, more in haylofts, and even more under the night’s starry sky.

When he found what he was looking for, he went home.

 

Prompt courtesy of Velvet Verbosity.

Another Night on the Canal

We were on the other side of the canal, and we couldn’t see the band playing, but we could hear the music all right. We drank beer and smoked and laughed. Then the girls got up and walked to the public bathroom, leaving me all alone in the dark.

The second time they left, I finished my beer and fished in the bag for a replacement, when I looked up, a woman I did not know was standing in front of me.

“Hello,” I said, seeing as she stood right in front of me.

“Hi. How are you?”

I opened the beer, shaking the foam from my fingers.

“I’m fine.”

“Fine?” she said, disappointment curling her mouth at the corners. “You should be more than fine. You should be fantastic.”

I lit a cigarette, exhaled to the side and said fine was just fine with me.

She pouted and stood there, digging her toe and twisting her leg.

“You look lonely,” she said.

“Do I?”

“You’re here all by yourself, of course you look lonely.”

I looked around, nine or ten empty tallboys, three full and upright, crumpled cigarette packs, a few sweatshirts, and two half-open bags surrounding me.

“Oh,” I said. “They’ll be right back.”

I looked down to my right, trying to find my beer, and then realizing it was where I left it, standing in my shoe. When I looked back up the woman was gone and I could hear the music but barely see the band.

Some Kind of Allegory

He had all the mannerisms of the well-practiced liar; leaning forward, easy smile, making sure to keep his hands away from his face, but this last was the tell, the one he hadn’t quite naturalized, and the one Dzinski caught on to right away.

In the half an hour they spoke in his office, Dzinski was sure the man, calling himself Christopher Fairburn, and having the business card to collaborate the story, made no less than five attempts to scratch his chin or nose, but stopped himself, noticeable only by a brief pause as he spoke.

Dzinski smoked and listened to the man talk, and took it for what is was, a fable, something with crows and foxes and rabbits each trying their best to outsmart the others.

These stories usually only ended one way, with each of the characters holding a handful of nothing.

But Fairburn knew his tale, and there was something to the story. It hit all the usual beats, hit them a little too easily, a little too practiced. The delivery was smooth, and he paused at the right moments, to light the small cigarillos he smoked, or to check his watch, or to see if his performance was still on schedule.

When he finished it all, he looked up and asked if he should repeat anything.

“No,” Dzinski said. “I believe I have most of it.”

What he couldn’t figure out was which of the animals this man across from him was supposed to be.

Dog Eared

For the last two weeks, whenever Coyote went out, the talk would turn to books and someone would bring up Davis Walleye and another person or people  would say who, and Coyote’s mood would split between groaning at their lack of knowledge, or getting excited at the possibility of experiencing these stories and their characters for the first time, and he tried to think back, but he couldn’t be sure, if he’d fallen in love with these books at the first words or if it grew, stronger with every turn of the page.

So he’d sip his beer and say nothing.