Saturday, May 29, 2010

Closed for the Holiday

There will be no flash fiction from me this week.  I was really pushing myself to get something posted this week but in the end I don't feel like what I've written is ready for any of you fine people to read it.  I got a little too carried away with voice to the point where I'm having a hard time understanding my own characters (who are hilarious, btw; but I could just be bias) when they speak.  Also, I've been running around getting ready to go to NY to visit my grandparents for the long weekend (it's Memorial Day Monday for those who may not be from the US). 

*Sigh* it'll just have to wait for next week.  I was really excited too, because mariblaser and I were going to do two different stories based on a wicked awesome theme.  Stop by next week to see what it is!  It's likely both our stories will be serialized (mine in 2 parts) so hope you will like it!


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Marie & George: Putting Out Fires

When Marie got home from work Thursday, there were scorch marks on the couch.  They were so fresh they were still smoking.  It was the third time that week and Marie wasn’t sure she had another box of baking soda in the pantry.  She felt a distinct snap somewhere in her chest.  That was it.


At the far end of the smoldering couch, Marie could see George’s snout poking out, smoke curling from his budding nostrils.  He still thought he was tiny and could fit behind the couch the way he use to.  He always forgot to account for his elongated snout.

“Get your spiny little dragon butt over here RIGHT now!” Marie demanded, pointing to the patch of rug by her feet.

The nostrils quivered; he had been spotted!  George tried to shimmy back further behind the couch, but it was a tight fit that was only becoming tighter.  At this rate Marie would have to come pull him out and George didn’t want that.  He didn’t like her face when she had to fish him out of trouble.  It was scary.

Gingerly, he wiggled forward, first pulling his shoulders out from the narrow space between the back of the couch and the wall followed by his long torso and narrower hips.  His tail came last, but it was a long, thin whip of a tail, so he had no trouble with it.  Once he was free, he shook out his disproportionately small wings that perched on the middle of his back right behind his shoulders.  He couldn’t fly very high, but high enough to get into trouble without intention.  With his head hung low, he waddled up to Marie and stopped precisely where she pointed.

“What have we discussed about setting furniture on fire?  A burning couch can lead to a burning house.  A burning house is bad,” she emphasized the word “bad,” though she probably didn’t need to.  To everyone’s surprise, George displayed an almost uncanny ability to understand human speech.  Therefore, Marie often talked to him as if he was Tommy.

Marie sighed, squatting down.  George looked up, hopefully; the base of his right wing was starting to itch.  But Marie wasn’t done.

“Look, I know being indoors all the time is hard on you, but soon enough the village idiots will see that you need space and Bill and Tommy will be able to finish the kennel for you.  So be good, okay?  No more burning things inside the house.”

George nodded to show he understood.  Marie knew it was very likely she would come home to another piece of charred furniture, but she’d let the issue slide for now.  She was ultimately more upset with the Department of Building and Zoning (referred to as “the village idiots” in the Finnegan household) than she was with George.  Soon after Bill had started building George’s kennel, an inspector had shown up to inform them that they couldn’t build a kennel for a dragon because it would be too close to their property line and put their neighbor’s houses at risk.  Marie and Bill were currently going back and forth with the town about building the kennel, so until then George was stick inside and confined to his fenced, ceramic tiled closet and asbestos lined doggy bed.  Not that he didn’t escape on a regular basis.

George wiggled his itchy wing, inviting Marie to scratch him.  She did so with her fingernails, causing George to hum happily.  His lidded eyes half closed, he curved into the scratch.  Marie couldn’t help but smile.  George always showed his appreciation when given attention.

The back door slammed open, followed by rushing footsteps and, “GEORGE!  MOMMY! I’M HOME!”

Marie stopped scratching and George started, as if awakened from a blissful dream.  He was instantly alert.  His tail wagged, snapping like a sail in the wind at every turn, and his short lizard tongue lolled between his jagged teeth.  His favorite playmate was home!

Tommy came rushing in, his backpack half off and shoes still on, and he threw himself at George.  George returned his enthusiasm by leaping into Tommy’s lap, his wings outstreatched as far as they would go.

“Tommy, shoes!” Bill called from the door.  Marie could hear him hopping to take his own shoes off and shut the door at the same time.

“I’m going outside with George!” Tommy called back.  “We can go, right, Mommy?” Tommy asked Marie, both his and George’s eyes pleading.

Marie smiled and nodded, “Just be back in for dinner in an hour.”

“Alright!” Tommy shouted, dropping his backpack on the living room floor and making a dash for the sliding glass door that lead to the backyard.  George bounded after him, gliding a foot or so off the ground with every leap.

Marie didn’t bother calling after Tommy about leaving his backpack on the floor.  There was no point.  Instead, she picked it up and went to check the pantry for baking powder.

[*Bill had named the dragon – a boy as far as they could tell - in the end.  Originally, Tommy had wanted to name him Sammy or Max as if he was a dog.  But then Bill told him the story of St. George and the Dragon and Tommy changed his mind.

“His name will be George,” he decided, stroking the humming dragon – now named George.  “Our George is much smaller than the dragon in the story.  I think St. George would have liked him,” he reasoned.]

 Hope you enjoyed this week's vignette from Marie & George.  For the first adventure, please read Marie & George: The beginning.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Marie & George: The Beginning

Marie didn’t object when her son brought home what he claimed was a dragon egg.

“That’s nice, sweetie.  Now go wash your hands.  Dinner will be in a few minutes,” was all she had said, patting Tommy on the head and sending him on his way with his egg shaped rock in tow.

It wasn’t until a week later, when the waft of lighting fluid and charcoal greeted her as she walked into the kitchen with a load of groceries, that she gave Tommy’s “dragon egg” a second thought.

Tommy was out on the porch squeezing a second bottle of lighting fluid onto the grill (the first lay discarded at his feet) with eager gusto.  Sitting on the grates was his “dragon egg,” its dark surface splattered with the flammable substance.

“Thomas Cassidy Finnegan!  What in the world do you think you are doing?!”

Tommy shook the bottle to get every last drop of fluid from the bottle before he looked up. “Oh, hi, Mommy,” he said and then reached for a third bottle of lighting fluid.

“Give me that!” his mother snatched the bottle away from him.  “Are you trying to set the house on fire?!”  She was livid.  In all her years as a mother, almost eight now, she had never been so angry or scared for Tommy’s safety.

“No, I’m going to hatch my egg,” he said calmly, like he was talking to a younger child who just couldn’t understand the simple facts of life, let alone dragon husbandry, yet.

“Why do you need the grill?”

“My book on dragons says that the egg won’t hatch unless its mother breaths fire on it, so I’m gonna set it on fire.  Our grill will be its surrogate mother!” Tommy was very proud of himself for knowing the word “surrogate.”  Between knowing a very big word and hatching his first dragon egg, he felt very grown up.

Marie sighed.  She’d been having a hard week at work and her son trying to light a rock on fire was the last thing she needed.  She hoped there was enough Tylenol in the house to alleviate the throbbing headache forming behind her temples.  At this point, Marie would say anything to get Tommy to end his harebrained plan.  “That’s fine, sweetie, but can’t this wait until Daddy gets home?”

“Good idea!  Daddy will love this!” he exclaimed, dropping the empty bottle of lighting fluid before running into the house.

“Hey!  What do we do with empty bottles?!” Marie called after him, but he was already gone.  Heaving another sigh, Marie stooped over to pick up the empty bottle and headed into the house herself.

When Bill got home, she pulled him aside and told him about Tommy’s “dragon egg” rock he’d found at school a week ago and his scheme to hatch it using their grill.  To her horror, her husband just smiled and said, “What’s the harm in letting him try, Marie?  If it’s a rock, nothing’s going to happen.  It’ll just char.”

She frowned, “You say that like there’s a chance it isn’t a rock.”

He shrugged nonchalantly, but there was a brightness to his eyes. “Who knows?”

“Alright, alright,” she gave in.  “So long as you supervise him.  I want nothing to do with this.” And with that, Marie went to heat up the freezer to oven lasagna she kept for those nights when she couldn’t do more than turn on the oven and set the table.

That evening, Marie watched Tommy and Bill flit around the grill, excitedly watching the rock and feeding the flames that now licked its surface.  Marie was certain she was just imagining that the rock’s surface had changed from flinty gray to shiny obsidian.  The boys covered the grill overnight, letting the dragon egg sit in the smoldering coals.

 *  *  *


Marie jerked awake.  The house was on fire.  She knew it.

“Marie!  You have to come see this!”

That was Bill.  He sounded more excited than alarmed.  Grumbling, Marie grabbed her bathrobe and shuffled downstairs to see what all the excitement was about.

Bill and Tommy were outside, hovering over the grill, giggling like giddy school girls.  Marie was about to give them a piece of her mind for waking her so suddenly over a charred rock until she saw what sat in the grill.  Her jaw dropped.

On the ashy remnants of charcoal and lighter fluid sat the rock, chipped open at the top and then split like a chicken egg.  But instead of a chicken a small, spindly dragon sat in the egg.  It was a dark, reddish brown, its spine lined with spiked scales.  It blinked at her and then coughed, emitting a puff of sulfury smoke.

“Can we keep it?” Tommy asked, his ash smeared face bright.  The dragon purred as Tommy stroked its nose.

“I need to sit down,” Marie said, plopping into the nearest plastic chair.

“reeeaaa,” screeched the dragon.  Then it settled down in the warm ash for a quick nap.

edit: I changed the name of this story from Marie's Dragon to Marie & George: The Beginning because I hope to write at least one other flash fiction based on this family and their unusual pet.  In case you haven't figured it out, George is what the dragon will eventually be named.  More details on that to come!

Marie and George (c) Lena S. 5/15/10

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Battle of Lexington

 This is for my hometown.

The stomping of many feet woke Benjamin Smith with a start.  With one eye open, he let his head rise up just enough so he could peer above the cool ground that was his soul’s final resting place.  Promptly, someone stepped on and through his ghostly head.  Now fully awake, he rose quickly and saw that his assailants were Colonials dressed in full militia gear, their muskets raised as they advanced in line up the gentle hills of what is now knows as Tower Park.

It was that time of year again.  A cool breeze damp with drizzle swept through him.  If he closed his eyes, he almost felt like he was back in his body on the day he died.  While it was a day he never would relish, it was the only time he could remember feeling truly alive.  He opened his eyes again, to remind himself of his reality.  He was not alive and time had marched on without him.  The only way anyone remembered the day that he still felt deep within his bones, though his true bones had decayed some two hundred years ago, was through these silly “reenactments.” He had heard the term some dozen years ago and it had stayed with him.  With nothing else to do, Benjamin followed the motley line of colonial minutemen, muttering quietly to himself all the way.

“Is their commander not blind?  Two of his men are one step behind while another is two steps ahead.  And you , sir, stop thy jabbering and pay attention!   You do the Colonies a disservice!” He scolded the minuteman who had stopped to chat with another colonial soldier who lay on the ground playing dead.

Benjamin’s line stopped abruptly, positioning to shot at the line of Regulars in front of them who were poised to do the same.  Benjamin swept in front of them, adjusting the position of each musket with his light touch to insure their musket balls shot true.  It wasn’t until they fired a volley right through him that he remembered that soldiers no longer used musket balls, just gunpowder.

“A waste of gunpowder,” he complained to the commander.  But the commander did not hear him and continued to issue orders that Benjamin thought poor.

His patience running thin, he turned away from the minute men and their inane “battle” and floated up towards the crowd that watched them as if they were a spectacle in some traveling show.  He frowned deeply at them and their brightly colored coats made of some slick material he couldn’t name.  His frown deepened further when he saw several farmers’ wives standing at the edge of the battle in their warm woolen cloaks and thin cotton skirts.  They should have been tending to the wounded – even if the wounded were only pretending to be so.  Instead, they chatted with bystanders, pointing at the battle as if they understood the proceedings.   As far as Benjamin was concerned, women never understood war and therefore should not be discussing it.

The crowd stood silent, almost as if bored, which infuriated Benjamin even more.  A revolution was not meant to be taken mildly, like one would take their morning meal.  It was meant to be riveting; both frightening and exciting at the same time.  A revolution was meant to bring change!  The Revolutionary War was fought to bring freedom!  Did these people standing here like they were watching cattle being herded – which they nearly were – understand that?  If they did, why were they not excited by it?  Why didn’t they pick up arms and join in the fray?!

“Dad!  Hey, Dad!” a boy’s voice doused Benjamin’s internal fervor like a bucket of iced water.  He looked down to see he was hovering next to a young boy, no older than ten.  He recognized the expression on the boy’s face: it was reverence.

“Dad!” he said again, louder.  He earned himself several glares from other on lookers.

“Yeah, Ben?” a man answered, startling Benjamin.  He thought for a moment the man was addressing him.  Instead, the man was looking down at his young son.  Benjamin though of his own son for a moment, but quickly pushed those painful memories away.

“The minute men were heroes, weren’t they?” It was a statement, but one looking for confirmation.

His father smiled.  “They were, Ben.  They were the first heroes of the United States.  Don’t forget that.”

“I won’t,” Ben said quietly, turning his attention back to the battle.

For several minutes Benjamin forgot about the mock battle behind him and observed Ben.  Watching his expressions change, both excited and respectful, Benjamin felt his mood soften.

“Well, mayhap there are worse ways to be remembered,” he said to himself, smiling a little.

And with that, he drifted up to sit on a nearby umbrella where he watched the rest of the reenactment without complaint.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bonus: Taxi Cab

Something I wrote ages ago based on a prompt.  Enjoy!

“You don’t have to go just yet.” I said. Damn, did that sound to needy?
She laughed, “No, I don’t, but I should.  I have a meeting first thing tomorrow.  What? It’s not like you won’t see me tomorrow anyway.”
“I know, it’s just…” I want you to stay.
“Besides, where would I sleep?  On the couch?”
“We could build a couch fort,” I replied, hopeful.
She shook her head, smiling, “No, I really can’t.  Nice try, though.”
The cab chose then to arrive.  Stupid cab.
“Well,” she hugged me, “Thanks for dinner.  It was great.” She kissed my cheek.
I hesitated a moment, standing on the edge between decision and indecision.  She opened the cab door.
She paused, one foot in the cab, and turned to look at me.  God, I love the way her hair just sweeps her shoulders.
“I…Goodnight, Grace.”
“Goodnight, John,” she smiled, her lips curving into cupid’s bow, and slid into the cab.  I closed the door for her. 
As the cab pulled away from the curb, I waved and smiled like the idiot I was.