An effort to stay afloat while determining which way is up

Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Separate Footing

This is my second time trying my hand at fiction.  I was thinking of a story by Hemmingway called “Hills Like White Elephants” and how during the most important moments of our lives, we still are compelled to hold the most mundane of conversations.  So I thought I’d try my hand at some dialogue. It’s not very long, but I’m new at this.

Additionally, you’re always told to write what you know, and if there’s one thing I know well, it’s having to say goodbye.  So here’s my story.  For now I’ll call it “Separate Footing.”



“Nice day.”

The stone bench and its immediate surroundings are inappropriately radiant and saturated in color.  Exotic potted plants border the boundary of the platform.  A light breeze settles the scents of the nearby medina gently on us.  Dried fruits and spices; leather and textiles; the salt of the Atlantic.


“Just said it’s a nice day today.”

“Oh.  Yeah.”

“How are you feeling?”


“Slept okay?”


“My neck hurts a little.  Hell, maybe that bed was too soft.”

“Anything I can do?”

“No.  I’ll be fine.”

In situations like these, shoes always seem to become disproportionately interesting.  I direct all my focus to the fifty-cent plastic flip-flops dangling from the balls of my feet as they involuntarily twitch and spasm back and forth.  The gaudy blue-and-red floral print of the soles flash in and out of view.  Most interesting are the markings on the tops of my feet left by a layer of dirt that a week of hot showers seems to have diminished only slightly.  My legs are outstretched on top of my overstuffed and mostly broken suitcase; my wrist is tangled in the handle of my duffle bag.  This is my insurance against the imagined riff-raff tampering with my last possessions.  I don’t have the energy to keep the world out any other way.

“Déjà vu”


“Just feels like we’ve been here before.”

“I’m pretty sure we haven’t”

“I know.  It just feels familiar.  Like we’ve been sitting here before.”

There’s a clock on the wall.  Five minutes give or take until the train arrives.  I wonder how I’ll carry the weight of the bags by myself across these continents.  I’ll find a way.  I always seem to figure something out.

“Five minutes left.”

“Looks like it.  You can never tell if these things will be on time though.”


“Do you ever stop moving?”


“Your feet.  It’s just funny.  You never stop fidgeting.”

“I know.  It’s a pain in the ass.  You’ll be able to sleep better.”

“Eh.  I don’t mind it that much.”

We spend our time watching the other people waiting for the 10:30.  The passengers here all look far too purposeful.  I feel much more like flotsam than anything with a specific trajectory.  I’m sure I look it, too.  I’m sure I look like hell.

“It doesn’t all happen in a line, you know.”


“The time.  It looks like a line to us, but that’s not how it really happens.  It’s like a great big 3D painting of everything, everywhere, all the time.  Every feeling, every color, every sound.  It all exists at once, constantly.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”

“So we’re still where we were.”

“In theory.”

“In theory.”

The train is approaching now, exuding all kinds of mechanical grunts and groans as it slows to pause on the platform.  The improper sun is gleaming off of its brilliant metallic shell.  We rise up as I fully slide my darkened feet back into the shoes.  After a brief struggle, I shoulder the weight of both bags.  I might as well start learning how to move with them now.

“Well, you’ve got a long way to go.”

It’s a short ten feet from the bench to the train, and one foot upwards as I rise into the threshold of the cabin, pulling my possessions behind me as they try to burst from the seams of my luggage.  I turn around.   We are on separate footing; there might as well be the entire gulf of time and space between us now.

“This was fun.  We should do it again sometime.”

The joke falls flat.  There is a whistle from the front of the train; everyone has boarded.  The train begins its slow heave forward to the tunnel north of the platform, and beyond that the shantytowns of this windswept city and whatever else lies on this vector.  All of it has to be said now.

“It’s all still happening.  We’re still there.”

“I know.”

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

“Don’t come after me.”

“I won’t.”


Short Fiction

I thought I’d take a stab at something a little out of my comfort zone today with some creative writing.  It is the first piece of fiction I’ve written since grade school, so try not to judge it too harshly.  I wanted to find a way to create a story that starts at the absolute beginning without any presupposed frame.




It’s the beginning of all stories, true or false.  The singular line impossibly regurgitated from nothingness, which by itself pulls into existence innumerable other things.  Possibly everything.  Whole worlds created accidentally by that irresponsible line, like the fresh new universes in soft little bodies that a washed-up guitar player and deadbeat-dad leaves to be untended when he tours the Midwest for naïve farmers’ daughters.

All stories hinge on an “I”, and it is indeed an irresponsible place to start, but we all start exactly there.  We think the “I” will affect only us, but little do we realize that our existence necessitates the simultaneous creation of somewhere to exist and someone to exist at.  Well, I guess that second one would be you.  I do apologize for the inconvenience, but now that I’ve created us, I suppose we should know a little more about what that means.

Similar to 99% of the people I know (you see, I am already creating too much collateral damage, implying the existence of all these people I know, the places they live in, their families, etc.; truly irresponsible, this I), I am waiting, and you are waiting with me.  Rural Metro bus number 104 should be emerging from the haze of heat waves reflected off of the mid-day Dobson Road traffic any minute now, and I am waiting to perform an experiment of sorts.  I have created, and now I am hoping to see if I can un-create as well.

The day is scaldingly bright as I stand here next to this downright-useless mesh shade cover over the bus stop, with its metal painted an insincere teal.  I am considering what it is that brings me here.  It is the story of course; my acting it and your reading it.  I am both creator of and slave to the story.

It is a curious feeling to know you have come into existence only moments ago, and yet be able to call on memories dating back to childhood.  Doubtless, those memories were simply a part of my creation, but they are very convincing nonetheless.  You may also be in possession of some convincing memories, but rest assured, we both just got here and I’m sorry to say that’s my fault.  Hopefully this cumbersome nuisance won’t last long.

Looking westward, straining against the daggers of the sun, I can just make out the hulking rectangular prism of number 104.  The flat front.  That is what I am counting on here.

The memories this body holds tell me that I use this bus daily to get to work five miles down the road, stocking books in a retail bookstore with bright fluorescent lights and strangely patterned carpets; a bookstore whose other employees are, on average, thirty years my junior.  This is what the memories say, but it’s not what I say.  I say I was just created here and now, and I need to know if this story is a permanent mess I’ve gotten us into.  I need to know if something created can still be erased completely, or if a scar will always remain.  I need to know if I can undo this annoyance, for my sake and yours.  I can just make out the shape of the driver in the shimmering windshield now. The bus is moving closer.

The flat front of the Rural Metro transportation fleet is what I hope will be most effective about this method.  I can’t jump out in front of just any car.  At the speed traffic is moving, that would probably just cripple me, and then I would have to create even more MDs and RNs and EMTs and every single little piece of equipment stashed in the hospital I would have to go to.  That wouldn’t be fair at all; I’ve already done enough creative damage.  Jumping in front of the bus, however, with its towering flat front, would mean definite cranial impact and, I hope, almost certain termination of existence.  If we both stop existing simultaneously, we can call the un-creation experiment a success.  Actually, we won’t have to.  We won’t be here anymore.

It’ll only be a few seconds now.  The bus is nearly here.  Excuse me while I step out onto the blacktop.  The gleaming metal bike frame mounted to the front of number 104 has caught my eye.  That…. That is going to hurt.  I can’t believe I didn’t consider the bike frame.  Too late to go back now, I suppose.  Nothing to do but close my eyes and remain as loose as possible to aid in the impact.

Seconds slide past.  This is taking longer than I thought.  I can’t possibly have undone this creation already…

The soft, leisurely “kssshhh” of air brakes bringing the goliath bus to a slow, safe stop.  No screeching or swerving or shouts whatsoever.  That’s contrary to predictions.  Worst of all, everything is still in existence.  I open my eyes.

I am sometimes dumbfounded by my own absent-mindedness.  I’ll grant that we did just get to this plane of existence a few meager minutes ago, but I still should have known how a bus works.  Sitting a good twenty feet ahead of me where the passengers are clustered by the bus stop sign, number 104 idles contentedly.  I appear to be ill-positioned for this particular experiment; next time I should put myself before the stop, not after it.  I have made eye contact with the driver, a familiar woman who is looking a bit impatient at my casual stance blocking the rest of her endless route.

Well, what else can we do right now?  I think I have exact change in my front pocket.

As I file in after the last passenger has deposited his money, the driver greets me.

“How’s your day, John?”

“Honestly, I can’t say it’s all gone according to plan.”

“Well, keep your chin up.  There’s always tomorrow.”