Saturday, March 27, 2010

Flash Fiction - "Father, Forgive Them"

He was a freshman in high school: boyishly good-looking with high cheekbones; tall, lanky, athletic, red-haired, and already 16 - not uncommon in Texas where boys are held back in Kindergarten to be more developed for football. The son of a Pastor, he bore the name Luke: a good, solid Biblical moniker.
One pristine summer afternoon, having recently acquired his license, Luke was taking full advantage of his new-found freedom, cruising around in the Red Dragon, a '96 Chevy truck, windows down and a grape popsicle in his mouth. He pulled up to a stoplight singing along to "All My Ex's Live in Texas," lost in a trance of youth, song, or summer.
A rapping at his window pulled him from his state. A large black woman of indiscernible age, twenties or thirties, was talking to him through the window.
"My car just broke down around the corner," she said. "I live down the street. Can you give me a ride? Please. It would really help me out."
With beads of sweat clinging to the corners of her eyes, forehead, and upper lip, she appeared innocent enough. George Straight crooned how Texas was a place he'd dearly love to be. Luke figured her to be harmless enough.
After all, she is a woman. Woman, not a man, he thought.

She gets into his car and they start driving. Out of the corner of his eye he notes her broad nose and round face. He doesn't know what to say to her. She rubs her thighs through jean shorts tight enough that they produce unflattering protrusions of fat. Assuming she's not a George Strait fan, he turns down the radio.
"It’s hot outside," she says, breaking the silence. "Can we roll up windows and turn on the air?" It comes out more command than request.
Luke, mildly put off, agrees.
At the next red light, she turns to him again.
"Man, I just lost twenty dollars, can you help me out?"
've made a mistake, he thinks. She wants money. They always want money.
In an amiable tone, he says, "I'm sorry, Ma'am. I don't have any money. I'm already doing you a favor. I'll just drive you to your destination and be on my way."
She looks down at her lap, thinks for a moment, then returns her gaze to him.
“I’ll suck your dick,” she says. "$15 and I'll suck you off real good."

Mortification. Yes, that would be the word to best describe Luke's reaction at that exact moment. During his short 16 years, nobody had ever spoken to him in such a way. He pulled off to the side of the road and demanded she get out. She might have continued to beg and offer but he was done listening. He couldn't even look at her. With the car stopped, staring at his thighs, he ordered her to be gone. His only refuge was to be found in a quote from the Gospel bearing his namesake: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’

Flash Fiction - "Heart Stopper"

It was dark outside and drizzling. I was on my way home from work, messenger bag draped over my shoulder – the modern man’s briefcase. It didn’t protect its contents very well, and considering there were some important reports inside and I’d left my umbrella at Jenny’s, I decided to pop into the nearest restaurant, one I always passed but never actually regarded until now.
The place was unassuming from the outside. Inside, it was a throwback burger joint with pink vinyl booths and a jukebox. A large grizzly bear of a man stood behind the counter tending to a sizzling grill. The lone patron was a brunette in a business suit sitting on a stool up at the counter reading Gulliver's Travels. She turned to look at me as I entered. Her face was pretty and mean-looking – just my type. I took a seat up on a stool near her but left an empty one between, far enough away to not seem needy.
The grizzly bear tossed me a menu, which was no more than a single page with three options: fries, regular burger, and The Heart Stopper Challenge, underneath which read “If you finish this burger it’s free.”
“What it’ll be, friend?” the grizzly bear asked.
I inquired about the last option.
“It’s four pounds of pure beef.”
“Ah,” I responded stupidly. My stomach was rumbling, but even if I hadn’t eaten for 40 days, I still don’t think The
Heart Stopper would be fathomable.
“I guess I’ll take the regular with fries, please.” Beat. “Does anybody ever go for The
Heart Stopper?”
“You’d be surprised,” he grunted.
And that’s when he plated the most brobdingnagian burger I’d ever seen and set it down in front of the brunette.
I gasped. She looked at me and all I could do was point at her meal. She flipped her hair, placed one napkin on her lap, one next to her place, then proceeded to neatly cut the cow in half…and then into quarters…and then into eighths.
I stared in awe. There were no feelings of inferiority or inadequacy, just unbridled, utter amazement. And she was proper about the whole matter, politely dabbing at her mouth with a napkin in between manageable bites.
I’m not sure how much time passed before my burger arrived, but its delivery was marked by the entrance of an older man with owl-eyed glasses. He took a seat up next to me at the counter and ordered a coffee, which wasn’t on the menu but grizzly bear served up anyway.
We finished our burgers simultaneously. Well, to be fair, I had one bite remaining and was still picking at fries. Her plate was clean – four pounds of beef down the hatch of a girl who didn’t weigh a hair over 110. She collected her Coach handbag and stood up to leave.
“Thanks, George.”
The grizzly bear nodded. “Pleasure as always, Suzy. You’re single-handedly going to put us out of business.”
She laughed. “See you tomorrow night.”
After she was gone, as I was paying my bill, I couldn’t help but ask George, “What the hell just happened there? With that girl and the burger?”
“What do you wanna know? She just ate a pound and a half burger. That’s all.”
“That’s all? What did she mean ‘See you tomorrow night’?”
“Just what she said – she comes in here every night and does what you saw her do tonight.”
“But how? How does a girl that small eat a burger that big and still look the way she does?”
“How the hell should I know?” George was getting annoyed, so I took the hint. I nodded at him, then owl-eyes, and proceeded on my way, mystified.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Eulogy - February 29th, 2010

My grandpa liked to say, “This is the hand that shook the hand that shook the world.” I never totally understood what it meant, but to me, it was his hand that shook the world. Lord knows it was big, his grip fierce enough to break my own hand. He had that grip to very end. “I still got it, kid!” You do, you do.
He was born while Central Park was still a flower pot. You’ve heard the story before: kid drops out of school in the 8th grade to support his family. Poppie always said it’d be scary what he could’ve done with an education; it’s scary what he did without one.
He was a man’s man, a woman’s kinda man, a real gentleman. He was cool and tough; handy and earnest. He boxed, played baseball, golfed. He was a marine, a butcher; he ran a luncheonette, spanned nearly a century, produced educated kids, and used to send pigeons home from Yankee stadium with a piece of paper bearing the score tied around their foot.
He was awesome. I felt awesome having the same blood as him coursing through my veins. He was Italian. He was American. He was vibrant. He was strong. He loved life. Sure, everyone says that, but from his lips to God’s ears: “If I had to do it all over again, kid, I’d do it the exact same.”
Well, Poppie - I wouldn’t have changed a hair on your head, full as it was till the end.

This is the hand that shook the hand that shook the world.