Duckin’ Cover

Before meeting my current fiancée, my last (as in probably final) one-night stand was last year with Vita, an Indian-American woman I’d met earlier that night at the newest, trendiest (and now no longer trendy) gallery downtown—not the first time I’d had sex with an Indian-American, though I don’t really have a preference for that or any other racial or ethnic group.

Anyway, the gallery was holding an art opening for a group photography show featuring mostly pretentious, atmospheric, black-and-white shots of crumbling urban infrastructure.  Vita walked up to me and asked “Wanna see something interesting?”

“Sure,” I said.

Whereupon she grabbed my hand and led me to her own photo, a full-color one of a shiny, pink, duck-shaped inner tube before an Army-style camouflage background.  The photo’s title was Duckin’ Cover.

“I like the kick-ass attitude,” I said.

“Whose—mine or the photo’s?”

“Heh, well, both, I suppose.  Actually, I’ve already seen the photo.  I liked it a lot, especially the title.  I’ve always liked fowl language.”

“Now that quacks me up.”

“And I—I—oh, no, I can’t think of a duck pun.  Waddle I do now?”

“Well, we can get some wine at the wine table.”


The next morning, at her apartment, I woke up naked and uncovered in her bed.  (Duckin’ cover–get it?)   She sat on the edge of the mattress, fully-clothed, loading film into her camera.

“I have a shoot in a few hours,” she told me.  “It’s for this new upscale fashion website.  I’m going to take pictures of models in an abandoned steel mill.”

“Yeah, economic devastation is chic.”

Vita frowned.

“Just a joke there,” I said.  “Though not entirely.  My grandfather worked in a steel mill for thirty years, until the industry collapsed in the early Eighties, and he lost his job.  For the next decade, he barely got by as a tow truck driver.  Then he blew his brains out.  Right in his truck.”

I stopped talking.

A few seconds later:

“I’m sorry about what happened to him,” Vita said.

“Thanks,” I said.

A few seconds after that:

“I have to go now,” Vita said.

“Oh, yeah, of course,” I said.

“You can have something from the fridge if you like.”

“Thanks.  And I know the drill.  I’ll let myself out.”

Neither of us tried to exchange numbers or kiss each other goodbye.


My grandfather had never worked in a steel mill.  He had worked as an insurance adjustor for thirty years, and he’d retired wealthy just a few years ago.  Plus he’d never even attempted suicide.  He was still alive, in fact.

I’d lied about his background because anyone with an upscale job or assignment makes me jealous, though maybe I wouldn’t have played such silly mind games on her if I’d liked the sex we’d had a little better.  Does that sound shallow?


Copyright © 2016 by David V. Matthews

revised April 15, 2016

Flash fiction (a hundred words or fewer) #8: The World’s Splendor

Several of my friends have vowed to move to Canada if Trump wins in November.  These same friends had vowed to move there if Dubya won reelection in 2004 (or should I say “election,” considering the Supreme-Court-aided coup four years earlier—gotta retain my lefty bona fides).  I tend to know wealthy progressives who enjoy living comfortable lives too much to Fight the Power, but in this economy, everyone needs a little financial security, plus government harassment can bankrupt you via legal bills, et cetera.  Plus activism can eat into the time you spend enjoying the world’s splendor, right?  Right?


written on the spot

Copyright © 2016 by David V. Matthews


On a whim, I Googled the name of the first white man I’d ever dated.  We’d dated for a few months during the mid-2000s.  According to Google, he’s now the lead singer for a retro-Nineties ska band called Hangout!, based in Chicago.  He’d been the lead singer for a punk-pop band called Glitterbutt during our relationship; I don’t really like any type of punk, though he did sing well.

Anyway, I downloaded Hangout!’s first and so far only album, A Real Live Political Par-TAY!, from their website. Not a bad album, I guess, though I don’t really like ska, either. (He used to call my taste in music “Starbucks decaf.” For a while, I’d convinced myself he hadn’t meant that disparagingly.)

I did like the band’s song “Too Big to Jail,” about the banks and their role in the 2008 financial meltdown. At least he still had an interest in progressive politics.

And at least he still looked good, judging from the website photos.  I like to think I’ve kept my body and mind in shape.

February 27, 2016

(revised March 6, 2016)

Copyright © 2016 by David V. Matthews


The Sloth

One morning, while sitting at home in my office, reading a surprisingly-weak essay one of my smartest and most talented students in Introduction to Essay Writing had written about mid-Twentieth Century European cartography, I heard a loud, anguished yowl.  Then I heard another one, then another.  I could recognize my cat Slothrop’s yowl anywhere.  (My future ex-husband, whose literary tastes differed from mine, to say the least, had bought him at the pet store and named him, in fact had already named him before permitting me to hold that fluffy gray kitten and thus melting my canine-loving heart.)

The cat’s yowling grew louder and more anguished.  I leaped from my chair and raced from room to room, trying to locate the Sloth (my name for him these past ten years since my marriage’s implosion).  Not finding him anywhere, but still hearing the yowling, I panicked; what if he had seriously hurt himself?  He had just turned twelve; though he’d slowed down somewhat, he could still on occasion jump great heights and race maniacally around the house; however, intense physical activity could have dire consequences for a geriatric furball like him.

My pre-ex had lost all interest in his dear Slothrop (but not in Tommy Pynchon, unfortunately) upon starting to indulge in what my parents would have called the sin of adultery.  I had concurrently started indulging in that so-called sin, too, but I never abandoned the cat, never stopped feeding him or refreshing his litter box or pressing him to my chest while gently purring.

Anyway, breathing heavily, my heart jackhammering, I ran down into the basement and could hear the yowling grow louder.  I spun myself around once, twice, attempting to locate the yowling’s source. I discovered the source: he had entered the laundry room, and the door had shut behind him.  Opening the door, I felt angry over not having closed it completely the previous night after removing my dirndls from the dryer; then I felt angrier that the Sloth showed his appreciation by hissing, then scampering off before I could scoop him up in my arms and embrace him.  Then I felt ashamed of my anger.  Despite my education and rationality (my pre-ex had often opined that my brain consists of a bloated left hemisphere and a submicroscopic right one, the latter giving me my doodling talent), I had forgotten that due to evolution, cats instinctively look out for themselves to avoid danger, tolerating humans for food and for aid in escaping cramped, frightening, lavender-detergent-scented spaces.

I trudged upstairs back to my office, sat down at my desk, and resumed reading the cartography essay, thinking my smart and talented—but also arrogant—student had written something so lifeless on purpose, daring me to give the paper a C-minus so she could tear apart my reasoning before the whole class.  My pre-ex’s mistresses had included a brilliant female undergraduate writing major, along with a somewhat less-brilliant one, neither of them a current or former student of his, meaning he had behaved morally in his opinion.  The Sloth slunk into my office and sat down under my chair.


Copyright © 2016 by David V. Matthews


Flash fiction (a hundred words or fewer) #7: The Free Market

I don’t think the government carried out 9/11 as a false-flag operation to establish a fascist state.  Rather than go to the trouble of destroying prime real-estate in downtown Manhattan, the feds could have quietly implemented authoritarian policies with no protest except from a few extreme left- and right-wingers, and who pays attention to the political fringe, anyway?  Yes, 9/11 did help soften up the public for even more extreme government repression, but since Reagan, the free market has ruled; any federal involvement in 9/11 would have counted as, yuck, socialist meddling.  (We could call the terrorists independent entrepreneurs.)


Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews

1’s and 0’s (fiction)


Going 10 miles above the posted 35 MPH speed limit that frigid February afternoon, the gray Nissan 370Z Roadster skids on black ice in Mt. Lebanon, PA, and smashes head-on into a utility pole.  As the 17-year-old driver lies in the inflated driver’s-side airbag uninjured (he hopes he has no injuries, at least no major ones requiring hospitalization; hospitals represent death factories to him in his death-dealing country) and waits to hear the wailing ambulance siren, he dreads the trouble he’ll probably get into, having borrowed the Roadster, his stepfather’s car, sans permission just to visit his favorite record store to purchase his copy of the released-that-day, limited-to-2,000-copies worldwide LP version of his all-time favorite album, Better Mutilate Than Never by Ze Gross Prophets—2 disks, 180g virgin vinyl, exclusive illustrated booklet with complete lyrics.  As an audiophile, he cannot abide listening any further to his downloaded copy; compressed, sterile, 1’s-and-0’s music makes his temples throb.  He plans, years from now as an art-school student, to regale cute girls and/or cute boys (he’s leaned toward the latter lately) about the time he almost died totaling an awesome car due to his awesome musical taste.  That story should impress plenty of hotties.  Oh, here comes the wailing siren.  Life as a discerning, unzombified consumer, regardless of sexual orientation, has a unique soundtrack.


written on the spot

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews

Flash fiction (a hundred words or fewer) #6: Watches

Today, I visited a high-class department store to buy a new watch.  The young, white, immaculately-coiffed saleswoman kept, well, watching me as I checked out what they had on display.  She didn’t say anything, but she didn’t have to, for she had a distrustful expression on her face, as if I would grab a couple of those expensive (and frankly ugly) watches, shove them into my purse, and run out of there.  Even wearing my most respectable dress couldn’t stave off the racial microaggressions.  Or maybe she just hated my dress?  American history consists of nothing but sartorial hate, right?


Written on the spot

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews

Flash fiction (a hundred words or fewer) #5: Turquoise Balls

My fifteen-year-old daughter Kelsey called me one night. “Mom? I’m at the police station. I got arrested for beating up some bitch who deserved it. Could you bail me out, please?”

No one in my family had ever been arrested for anything. I almost told Kelsey to enjoy rotting in jail, until I realized she’d overcome her timidity. Girls had walked all over her for years; she would cry in her bedroom about it.

After I’d bailed her out, she said “At least that bitch had nice earrings—like, turquoise balls?” I also realized Kelsey had developed some fashion sense.


Written on the spot

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews

Flash fiction (a hundred words or fewer) #4: Braces

I drank so much in college, I flunked out my junior year, but by then I’d somehow wangled a paper-pushing job at the company my roommate’s father worked for, Carson Construction.  My roommate’s father had a million-watt smile that could defuse the worst situation; I never smiled, due to my crooked teeth that looked like falling dominoes.  Saving money for braces would have helped (Carson didn’t offer dental insurance), but self-medicating, so to speak, made me popular.  Then I resigned because I felt confident I’d learned enough to succeed somewhere better, even with lousy teeth.  Ha.  Straight teeth rule.

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews

Pseudo (a short story)

One night, as my husband and I were lying in bed reading different novels:

“God, you’re lazy,” he suddenly said.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“You’ve done nothing but slack off these last four years.”  We’d gotten married five years earlier.  “Why don’t you do something worthwhile for a change?”

“What the hell brought this on?” I asked, feeling like a no-good punk kid.

“Reading this book.  The author wrote it when she was twenty-eight and won a Pulitzer.  She also wrote the movie version and won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.”

“Which proves that people love pseudo-literary shit.”

My husband and I used to write pseudo-literary shit.  He worked at a mortgage company; I blogged for whatever progressive website I could.

“Oh, please don’t use your so-called discriminating taste to justify your laziness,” he spat at me.

“Let me guess.  You got turned down for a raise again.”

“How much money do you earn?”

“Enough not to be an ass-kisser.”

He grabbed my novel out of my hands and tossed it at the wall facing us, narrowly missing the framed chinoiserie print we’d bought at the antique store.

“Happy reading!” he shouted before storming out of the bedroom and sleeping on the futon.

Later, after the divorce, I would write a somewhat-pervy story starring a thinly-disguised version of him.  I sold the story to my old literary magazine.  We haven’t spoken since our marriage ended, so I don’t know if he read the tale, nor do I care, though I should have told him that pseudo-literary was better than non-literary—you know, more accessible for most people, easier for them to handle, like watering down their liquor.

* * * * *

August 20, 2015 (revised August 21, 2015)

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews