A Big Fan
Longlisted story in the Retreat West Monthly Micro Fiction Writing Competition, July 2022.
Under my gigantic smile hid my static frown. Droplets of sweat, millions of them, covered my skin from head to toe, and each without the slighest chance to evaporate. Taking the cue from the band, I started to dance, slowly lifting one leg first, then the other. Both arms to the left, then to the right. Then I froze. Almost fainting, I lifted my pink furry arms up again in vain. So it started, the wave. Down on the court, the basketball was still hopping, so was I, but inside my faux head, there appeared a breeze, sweet and swift.
A Mothering Feast
(This story was born in Retreat West ‘s Fantastic Flashing course, November 2021.)
On a still February day, I ate my mum. Life was frozen with infinite frost and red hearts were scattered every which way. And me, I was hunting to reminisce her ungenerous hugs and smiles.
I first palmed the tomatoes, and halved them one by one, having a glimpse of my own yearning heart. Carrots wanted to be next, two of them were already eyeing me from over the cutting board. I paused to smell a marinated memory, and there it was. I was eight again, running around in the kitchen, pretending to be Pippi Longstocking with a pair of orange sticks over my ears. “Give me those carrots back, young man”, she said with dull eyes. How I wished to dulcify those words and keep them in a locket of heart.
I lightly touched the locket on my chest before I started to peel, chop and grate the bitter emotions of mine. Then I seasoned them with all the various rejections of my adolescent life. I roasted and boiled them, but most of all, I longed to bake them. The kitchen instantly felt warm but for a little while. I started chasing another token in my mind to recollect her hands. Her white hands soared and became vivid in front of my nervous eyes. I watched them measuring and mixing flour with sugar and yeast. There I was, in front of the oven, my heart melting and legs crossed on the floor, I was imagining beastly faces in the dough she was forming. “Are you still there? Don’t you have homework?”, she yelled and finished with all of my proper names. Even that could not make me move from the spot I was glued. Enveloped in an infinite feeling of love, I was feigning the numbness of my legs to still watch the rise of the bread, slowly filling the pits of my heart.
On a still February day, my life was frozen, and there were not enough ovens to warm my snow-covered house, nor my equally cold heart. I was sitting alone at a table with dozen breads as my Valentine, also some food I aged, browned, roasted and fried. I took the first bite from the sweet-smelling bread, one more, and another mouthful. The breads did smell like her, but did not cause more memories to surface up. I ate, and ate, and ate some more. I didn’t mind if I was turning into a glutton for a day. I knew I could only be one for her love.
“Do you believe in karma?”, he asked, taking a big bite from his sandwich. She was caught off guard. It was definitely not the kind of question she would expect from a colleague while they were on a lunch date, sitting side by side on a bench at a popular park. She had imagined they could talk about work in general, or better, just observe people passing by and talk about them. But no, he was instead talking about the trees, the birds, the flowers, and what a lovely day it was. And now, karma?
“I don’t think I do”, she said, trying to figure out how to support her position. “There was this girl in high school”, she continued, “And she was an extremely nice person. She would go out of her way to help everyone, in every possible way.”
“And? Did something bad happen to her?”
“Well, she ended up becoming a very lonely person. I am sure she is still in the habit of putting everyone else first before herself, but it looks like it hasn’t brought her happiness or the same kind of generosity in return. So, there you go, no karma at all”.
She nibbled her sandwich, taken aback from the statement she had just made. Would he agree with that? What would he think? As he started to talk, she felt queasy with the possibility of a disagreement between them.
“Maybe, her motive wasn’t really to help but to be liked. Did you ever think that way? I can imagine her as a total people pleaser. I bet she was.”
She didn’t answer right away as she was distracted by a lovely couple passing by. Then she agreed half-heartedly, and looked at the couple again. She tried to imagine how they looked to others as they sat on that bench. Did they look like colleagues, friends, or lovers? Could people feel any spark between them? Could she feel that spark herself? She felt a strange pull towards him, as if she was almost locked with his orbit. He continued to talk, even more aware of his dominant stance. She wasn’t quite sure if she would like to be in that orbit.
As he finished his sentence, his voice sounded content with the closure he reached. He looked at his watch, and promptly added, “We’d better get going”. She too looked at her watch, and was almost going to get up in agreement. At that very moment, though, she felt the pull of the bench, took a deep breath and said, “You go ahead, I will stay a little longer”.
Longlisted story in the Retreat West Monthly Micro Fiction Writing Competition, November 2021.
Looking at the zigzags on his woolen socks, he paused. His mother was saying something he couldn’t quite catch. “Okay!”, he replied nonetheless, his boots squeaking as he struggled to put them on. The snowy front yard was mirrored with a sky full of puffy clouds. A rabbit, a cowboy hat, and a dolphin later he was in front of their mailbox. There was an envelope with a dolphin stamp, bright and happy, but sadly addressed to their neighbour. He came back home with something but no letters. His mother asked, “Did you get the wool yarn from the neighbour?”
The Matchbox Generation
Maya’s right hand went to her jacket’s loose pocket and touched a small box. She took it out and put it on the table without first looking at it. The warmness of the jazz club, the music, and the people around all made a stunning entrance into her system. Her heart started savoring it all but soon was interrupted by a woman asking for the light.
“I’ll come outside with you”, Maya’s lips said as she grabbed the matchbox only to first take a close look at the tiny photograph on it. It was of a gasthaus at the Austrian Alps, probably near Innsbruck, she thought. There wasn’t snow surrounding the charming hotel but lots of green.
“You’re not smoking?”, the woman asked.
“I never did”, Maya said right after she blew off the match.
She looked at her hand but couldn’t recognize it. It went swiftly to the front of a red apron she was wearing and took out a matchbox to give to a customer. The man looked blindsided to see the matchbox.
“I think I’ve been to this jazz club, it looks so familiar. You’re from New York?”
She wasn’t sure. She was a waitress at the “Alpenhotel”, surrounded by the lush green and singing trees. One of the trees looked exactly like the one her father had pointed to her once at a demolished site. A very tall and loving tree. That was the time she had asked her father what to call a tree’s hands.
“No, I’ve never been to New York. You can keep it if you want”.
“My daughter will love it, she collects matchboxes…Danke schön.”
Maya smiled as she put her hand back in the pocket of the apron and touched a small box.
“I’m sorry, I have to take that call”.
There wasn’t any phone ringing but she left the table anyway.
“Don’t tell me you forgot it.”
It was her neighbor speaking really fast, and Maya only had to pay attention to certain words to understand what he was talking about. Early. Morning. Run. Central. Park. Overslept. She remembered how she hated jogging. She loved parks, though. They gave her hope. An hour later, as she sat on a bench, her eyes scanning the park, she saw a group of radiating trees being hugged by an equally vibrant group of people. She took out a matchbox resting over her heart. It was a blank one. All white. She held the matchbox in hand and started walking slowly. All of a sudden, her palm had a burning feeling as she noticed a little girl running towards her. Maya stood tall and still as the girl was approaching really fast.
“So sorry miss, we were just hugging a tree, I don’t know where she got the idea of hugging you”, said the little girl’s father.
“Don’t worry, it happens all the time”, Maya said to him, then turned to the litle girl.
“What do you call a tree’s hands?”
Love: More and Enough
It was time to blow the birthday candles, all three of them, but the little girl was eyeing the gifts instead. As she rushed to open a gift box with the help of her mother, she looked at the toy and carefully put it aside and said, “more please”. Her mother forced a smile and flushed a bit, while another gift was being handed to her. The little girl again tore the gift wrap and instantly said, “more please!”. Then a little boy appeared as if someone pushed him forward from behind. He was holding a box bigger than his little arms can hold onto.
The boy dropped the box on the coffee table. The girl, feeling puzzled, rose from her seat and opened it. She recognized the colored envelopes with cute stickers, her curly handwriting and hearts she had drawn. She looked at him with teary eyes and asked, “don’t you want more?”. The boy said “I had enough!”.
The waitress was startled with the voice of the young man, “enough, thank you!”. She looked at the table and saw the dripping water. As she apologized and handed him some napkins, he said, “more please!” and kept smiling at her while drying himself.
He was trying to dry himself with a rough towel while she was still in the shower. She was singing a song that was stuck in her head. She didn’t really know where it came from. Probably a song from her childhood, she thought, as she kept singing. He handed her a towel the second she stepped out of the tub, dripping water. She turned to him and said, “Do you remember your first gift to me, almost fifty years ago?”. He nodded and gave her a delicate kiss. She responded softly, “more please!”.