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‘Bite-size Fiction’ Category

  1. The Jesus Chair

    December 25, 2016 by Diane

    Vintage beige color chair with carved legs

    This flash fiction piece from July 2013 seems appropriate for this time of year. It’s about the power of love, divine or otherwise. Merry Christmas!

    I put that chair out at night. You know the one, the Jesus chair? The straight-backed chair from mama’s set of four that I kept after she passed? The only good chair left in the bunch? That one. I set it out next to the bed for Jesus to sit in. I read about that somewhere. Norman Vincent Peale, I think. Some woman put a chair next to the bed and asked Jesus to sit in it and watch over her at night. So that’s what I did. When things got so bad, when anxiety had me by the throat because I was waiting for those test results, those results to find out if my heart was going to keep on beating another fifty years, or ten, or five, or one, one year, maybe six months. Maybe a week. Maybe a week was all I had left, and that chair with Jesus in it would keep me safe so I could sleep through the night and leave off worrying. I was choking with the worry.

    So I put out that chair, and when I woke up in the morning, Manny was sitting in it. He was sitting there in his ratty old bathrobe, snoring. My heart swelled, it overflowed seeing my man sitting there watching over me all night in case Jesus didn’t show up. That’s the kind of man he is. He’d sit in that Jesus chair all night if that’s what it took to make me happy. You can see why I married the lug.

    It did my heart good, seeing Manny sitting there. All that worry just flew away, like those dark crows that gather in the tall pines and shadow the lawn when they flap over. All that worry just disappeared, and I knew that whatever the doctor told me, my heart was strong. I would be fine, just fine, no matter what those results said.

  2. A Triumphant Tale of Time Management

    December 21, 2015 by Diane

    Time is money

    Jack Cash was a big-spender when it came to time. He spent the whole 24 on one thing: sleep.

    When he was all caught up on sleep, he spent the next 24 on social media. He became a cyber voyeur, reading his Twitter feed without tweeting, hanging out on Facebook; he couldn’t get enough. He watched YouTube videos of cats boxing stuffed animals, and dogs barking Jingle Bells.

    When he was all caught up on who was doing what, he spent the next 24 watching television.

    Day in and day out, Jack Cash spent like he had all the time in the world.

    But it wasn’t enough. He wanted more. He wanted 25 hours to spend  every day, or 30. But every day he got the same 24 because long ago someone had set the limit at 24. That’s all anyone could get, no matter how much they thought otherwise. Twenty-four measly hours a day.

    And since time was money, it added up to 24 measly dollars a day.

    After awhile, Jack grew bored with all that TV watching and online spying. He became restless. He couldn’t even sleep through the night; he’d wake up in the darkness, his heart flooded with adrenaline. He wanted to get out of the house.

    So Jack landed a job as a security guard at a bank. That cost him eight dollars in time. And another dollar getting there and back. It cost 50 cents every morning to shower and shave and brush his teeth. All told, it added up to nine-fifty in total hours spent.

    The remaining funds he spent online.

    He’d been a security guard before, at See’s Candies where they gave out free samples of dark raspberry truffles. The bank didn’t give out free anything. Not even pens. He could have been home sleeping, or catching up on the Kardashians. But one thing the bank did give Jack was the opportunity to observe people from his corner. He overheard conversations, which to Jack was like a real live Twitter feed. So he kept spending that nine-fifty every weekday. A good investment.

    Now, all that standing in the corner made Jack hungry. He started spending 50 cents before work drinking coffee and eating powdered donuts, and another 50 cents scarfing down a bologna sandwich at lunch. After work he’d spend a whole dollar microwaving a frozen chicken pot pie and eating it in front of the television.

    That left him with twelve dollars and 50 cents to play with.

    If he was a gambler, he would have played it all streaming Netflix. But he wanted to look good in his uniform. There was a certain teller at the bank.

    So Jack spent one dollar lifting weights in his basement and 50 cents running around the block ten times until his heart felt alive again.

    All that lifting and running and standing in the corner of the bank, all that grooming and driving to and fro made him sleepy. He had to sleep, there was no getting around it. And he loved to sleep. He loved that feeling when his body felt recharged, when his brain had rebooted, when his soul had romped around on the astral plane. He decided to spend eight dollars sleeping. Eight was just the right amount; not too much, not too little.

    That left him with three dollars.

    Jack was energized now. His brain, his body, his spirit were raring to go. He was a part of the world again. He wanted to learn to paint, something he’d done as a kid. He wanted to unwind in front of the TV after work, and he wanted to check out Facebook and Twitter and catch up on the newsletters he subscribed to—newsletters about how to eat healthy and how to build muscle fast. He wanted to start reading books again, and he wanted to sit in Starbucks drinking coffee and keeping an eye out for that teller from the bank who, he’d heard, drank Cinnamon Dolce Lattes after work.

    He wanted to do it all but he only had three dollars, and all of those things together cost much, much more. He had to choose what he would spend his precious remaining funds on.

    So he bought a planner from Walgreens and sat down at the kitchen table and budgeted his tasks. The essentials.

    One dollar for an art class, 50 cents to get there and back.

    One dollar for reading time.

    Fifty cents online.

    The planner helped, but sometimes Jack spent the whole wad, the whole three dollars, on Twitter, and then realized he was broke. He had to borrow funds from sleep. In the morning he’d kick himself for overspending, for having to drag himself from bed because his body wasn’t done sleeping and his brain was still fuzzy. After showering and shaving and gulping down his coffee he’d speed to the bank, arriving fifteen minutes late.

    He began to feel like a pauper. “There’s not enough time!” Jack lamented.

    Then he had an idea. Jack bought a kitchen timer at Walgreens, and when he got home he set it. Thirty minutes—fifty cents—for Twitter. When the dinger dinged he shut off the computer, even if he was in the middle of reading a tweet. Sometimes he kept reading, knowing he was borrowing money from the next activity. That was okay, so long as he knew it, so long as he re-budgeted.

    And then something magical happened.

    Having the timer allowed Jack to stick to his budget and focus on what he was doing. The more Jack focused on what he was doing, the more it seemed that time expanded.

    Fifty cents spent like seventy-five.

    A dollar spent like two.

    So long as Jack kept his awareness in the moment and not on all he needed to do or wanted to do, he experienced every second of that moment.

    Ten pennies instead of one thin dime.

    Those pennies added up. Instead of 24 measly dollars, he had 2400 shiny pennies each and every day. He was flush with time. He was flush with living, investing his moments in the things that brought him joy.

    And for the first time in his life, Jack Cash knew what it was to be truly wealthy.

  3. Marriage and Other Questionable Institutions

    May 5, 2014 by Diane

    Just married

    They marry…Arthur and Ivy. They raise a couple of kids. They’re living the American Dream. Throw in a two-car garage, a double income, a mortgage, and a few rounds of “I hate the way you…” (fill in the blank), and they’re edging closer to the American Nightmare.

    Eventually the kids grow up, and leave, and it’s just the two of them again. She’s gazing at their wedding photos, sucking in her paunch. He’s plucking his nose hairs and coloring what’s left on the top of his head. They’re hanging onto their youth, because the road from their vantage points could use some work, maybe some federal funds.

    Then Ivy remembers what it was like before the marriage. Before the kids and the two-car garage and double income and mortgage. She remembers what it was like back in the day when she was dating, pretending to be someone else. Before Arthur.

    And suddenly the road doesn’t look so bad anymore.

    * * *

    It’s Saturday afternoon and she sits at the lunch counter spooning up a strawberry sundae, when a gentleman two stools down sipping coffee strikes up a conversation. He’s got movie-star teeth. Omar Sharif eyes. Wow, she thinks; he’s talking to me. After exchanging pleasantries for thirty minutes he invites her to a foreign film. A matinee. She accepts. He drives.

    At the movie house, as the lights dim and the music swells, he places a damp palm on her thigh. She holds still. He breathes hot air into her ear. She giggles, lightheaded. Before the subtitles have a chance to roll he’s worked his way around to her nostrils, her eyeballs, her mouth–searching every available orifice from the neck up–leaving a slimy trail. She excuses herself and dashes to the restroom and wipes her face with a handkerchief and blows her nose with a tissue and tries to still the shaking in her fingers. From the payphone in the lobby she calls her older sister, Jane, to come get her.

    There, in the phone booth, she swears she’ll never date again. Ever.

    But that’s before she meets the taxi driver–a burly Irishman who takes her home. Arthur. He shoos away the coins Ivy shakes from her purse to cover the fare, and delivers her to the front door–but no farther–on the crook of his arm. That’s before they marry, and raise red-headed kids; before they acquire the two-car garage, double income, mortgage, and middle-age spread. That’s before she hangs up and dials Yellow Cab because Jane isn’t answering the telephone on that Saturday afternoon.

    Because Jane is out on her own date. She’s dragged her husband to an x-rated movie to breathe some hot air back into their marriage, and the two of them don’t touch at all.

    But she makes him sit through it twice.