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

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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

Flash fiction (a hundred words or fewer) #3: Slimepit

When I found myself watching the latest camera-phone video showing that latest pop strumpet’s latest drunken altercation at the latest hot L.A. nightspot, I knew I’d grown old, knew I’d aged out of the snarky pop-cultural slimepit due to my having exerted actual effort to avoid aging out—and worse, due to my showing actual sympathy for that spoiled, vacuous strumpet, who would likely enter rehab and spend the rest of her career starring in cheap, purposely-campy, sci-fi cable movies that reference her past debauchery, permitting her to continue earning far more that I, the more-or-less lifelong teatotaller, do.

* * * * *

(Written on the spot)

Copyright © 2015 David V. Matthews

The Faux-Scruffiness

I dated a white man for two years and never told my family.  Of course, this was during the early Nineties, before the arrival of the Internet—before a stray picture on Facebook or wherever could destroy your privacy.  Also, I spoke very rarely with my family back then, maybe a few phone calls a year, for reasons I still don’t understand.

Anyway, I met him in a coffeehouse in 1991, right after the Gulf War had begun.  As I sipped my double cappuccino, I overheard someone at the table behind me call the war “corporate welfare for the bad guys in G.I. Joe.”  I turned around to say “Amen, brother!”  (I’d heard of G.I. Joe but had never seen it.  I still haven’t.)  He sat by himself, scribbling something into a spiral-bound notebook, the type with holes and blue-lined pages.  He had short, dark blond hair, almost like a mullet; and he wore the most neatly-pressed flannel shirt I’d ever seen. He smiled at me a little nervously.

“Sorry—sometimes I what I’ve written aloud to hear if it works,” he explained.

“Did that line work?” I asked.

“Do you think it works?”

“Uh-huh.  It’s funny, but it makes an important political point.”

“Yup, it sure does, but I still don’t think it works.  Dropping the ‘corporate welfare’ part and saying that ‘the bad guys in G.I. Joe’ are running the war would, like, make the comment more accessible.”

“Accessible to whom?”

“Why—people who don’t converse with me, that’s whom.”

I laughed.

In retrospect, that inaugural conversation featured a few things I would increasingly find problematic about him: the faux-scruffiness (that mullet), the fussy appearance (that crisp flannel shirt), the barely-jovial superciliousness (that comment about not associating with presumed idiots).  But at the moment, I found him captivating, much more captivating that the pretentious creeps in my poetry classes.  Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I never shared my poetry with my family, either.

* * * * *

(Fiction written mostly on the spot)

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews

Doonesbury Meets Cabaret

I think most people knew President Reagan had Alzheimer’s as early as his first term. He couldn’t remember anything, couldn’t string two words together without a script, and couldn’t distinguish between fantasy and reality.  Yet in 1984, the Democrats never made an issue of his mental fitness, thus helping him win reelection that year in a landslide.  My mother, a lifelong liberal, compared him that year to a community crafts project: an ugly, garish, Popsicle-stick-and-Elmer’s-glue ashtray everyone—Democrat and Republican, male and female, rich and poor (well, mostly rich)—had helped build and had to pretend represented something worthwhile, otherwise someone’s self-esteem would suffer.  My mother died of a heart attack in 1987 at age fifty-eight; I still miss her, but I particularly miss the political talks we’d have at her apartment, during which I’d feel a little guilty about knowing I’d use her observations, often word-for-word, for the comic strip (think Doonesbury meets Cabaret) I drew for the local weekly queer paper, a pretty radical rag, complete with socialist politics and gay porn reviews.  I never told her about the comic strip, nor did I ever tell her my sexual orientation, though she had probably inferred the latter due to my lifelong bachelorhood; most of my male classmates from high school (class of ’70) had already married, divorced, and remarried.  After her death, I abandoned cartooning and went into real estate. I haven’t drawn since, not that I’ve denied the world much in the way of artistic talent, though I suppose flipping houses in this economy takes talent of a sort.

(Fiction written on the spot this afternoon)

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews

Flash fiction (a hundred words or fewer) #2: Ornithology Versus Etymology

“Hey, an Eastern bluebird,” I announced as I sat alone on my patio.  My first wife was an amateur ornithologist.  Whenever we saw a bird, she’d go into detail about it sweetly but a little pedantically.  She knew almost everything about almost every bird.  I could still remember some of what she’d told me.  The bluebird walking near my patio was female—grayish-blue on top, orangish-brown on the chest.  I hadn’t seen my ex since the divorce twelve years ago.  “Hey, ‘bird’ is old British slang for ‘girl,’ ” I added, wishing my etymological knowledge could save me from loneliness.

Copyright © 2015 David V. Matthews