Flash and Micro Fiction

Popularity Contest

“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”.

Fait Accompli

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?”

The Curtainless

The following story was published originally in Turkish on April 11th, 2020.
Oggito Öykü (https://oggito.com/icerikler/perdesizler/65201)

The truck parked in the middle of the street looks like it’s been blocking traffic for quite a while. You are taking sips from your tiny tea glass as slowly as taking deep breaths and wondering if the number of your sips can be equal to the number of stuff coming out of the truck. One. You start counting, but decide not to continue after you see several boxes quickly carried inside the building. Your eyes go swiftly to the windows of the apartment. You try to remember how many tenants have moved before. Must be many. That’s not the question, though, that your mind focuses on. Want to know how the new tenants will turn out to be. Are they like you, just a tiny bit, or are they completely different from you? “It’s not good to be curious”, another voice speaks in your head. That’s when your cat hops on the window sill and you ask: “Are you curious, too?”

The following morning, the facing windows are calling you but you prefer not to look, not even once. You don’t want to seem nosey if there happens to be someone by the window. You decide to wait couple of weeks. After a very long one week is finally over and you take a quick glance, it’s not that difficult to spot the apartment right away. It still looks like it’s not rented. The curtainless apartment. Now you are curious. You wait for the night. When the sun sets, your impatience rises. The darkness encourages you like never before as you approach your windows and befriend your curtains, slowly peeking your face behind them. The facing building’s floors are mostly dark. You can only see thin specks of light trying to leak through tightly closed lives. Their curtains look like dark clouds blocking the sun. On the contrary, that apartment is bursting with an emancipated orange light and warming you inside out. You take a more attentive look to only see the source of the light at a distant corner of the living room. As you are filled with outlandish joy, you start to smell the food being cooked in the kitchen, your ears can hear the music playing inside.

The next morning you head to your living room and stop at the threshold. There is a wide opening between your two brownish curtains. Almost a meter long. Haven’t you closed them the night before? You can’t recall. The opening invites you to look at the apartment again. You can see the reflection of numerous things on the windows of the curtainless apartment. Your gaze turns into a brief daydream until a window gets opened. You can’t see the kind of person who opens it as you are now acting to be facing another direction all along.

As the night approaches, all your lights are on, there are even a few scented candles burning delicately. Your TV screen joins in with a blue light to this razzle-dazzle color show which yearns to spread outside. You go to the window and open your curtains all the way. The sheer curtains under the heavy thick ones exist only barely, and that’s why you decide not to touch them. The sheerness also gives you a feeling of false protection and allows you to stand there taking a new look at the apartment. A shameless but valid opportunity. You now think that the new tenants are not late at hanging curtains, but rather committed to not doing so. The curtainless, you mutter to yourself. You repeat immediately, out loud this time, “the curtainless”. You feel as if the ferocious vibration of your voice hits the glass and returns right back at you. You gasp for couple of seconds and close your eyes, standing there. You think you can stand there forever, but instead you say “I will open the sheer ones, too”. Your courage outweighs your vulnerability even if you feel like you are naked. You stand there just as you are. In front of it. You first notice a moving shadow and realize it is a cat. Very similar to yours, but in opposite color. Then you see the tenant of the curtainless apartment coming right next to the cat. Your cat comes next to you at your window. Standing at facing windows with your cats, you look at each other for a while. It feels like you are looking at a mirror but not exactly. Your clothes, your hair, your eyes. Everything looks so similar yet so different. You kiss the top of your cat as you see the same kiss from the corner of your eye. If you continue to look all night long, you feel like at one moment when you blink you will find yourself in that apartment.  You can’t run away from this feeling growing fast inside you. It’s the first time you feel this way. One with everyone and everything.

You are running to your living room the next morning. Your curtains are now on the floor as a big brown pile. You smile, your whole body smiles when you realize you are not dreaming. All your cells are smiling. You take a few steps and open one of the windows of your curtainless heart. Then you hold your arms like branches up high out of the window with love and look at the street below with your curtainless eyes. You scream what is overflowing from you. “Good morning to us all”. The echoing good mornings are heard by all your cells, the whole world.

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!”.

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