Tag Archives: flash fiction

A Miscarriage of Justice

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I post quite a bit of poetry on this blog, but I thought it time for something else. This is something else.

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 A Miscarriage of Justice by Sheila R. Pierson

 

Fluttering feelings tickled her belly, like flashes of a story that appeared momentarily, and then just as she reached for the words, they floated away as if on helium clouds. She passed the time between her writing efforts with wasted minutes on social networks, telling herself that she needed the distraction. The gnawing ate at her, little pieces at a time. Scratching, from inside, it clawed and grasped at her fascia and tendons and muscle, trying to reach the skin, to find a way out. Sometimes she found it comforting, the way the story pushed and pressed from within. At least she knew something was there. Seemed to be the only part of her that she could count on anymore.

She used to be different. She was eager to please those around her, to her own detriment.  People made demands and she conceded without question. Without warning, life turned on end. Isn’t that the way it always happens? Except for the occasional horoscope spam, it isn’t as if an e-mail arrives in one’s inbox saying, ‘Change is coming – prepare yourself.’ No, it just happens. Life alters. One day she was preparing a roast in the crock pot for her family, wondering if they’d be pleased with her cooking and the next she was in bed with a lover she never intended to have, wondering how and why, but not really caring.

Somewhere between the thrill of the newfound passion and the reality of her new truth, the aftermath of her choices descended upon her. The heaviness of her life threatened to suffocate her.

A new choice had to be made, one that didn’t include misleading her mind with her heart’s deceit. She couldn’t have imagined the pushback, the revolt her heart would stage. The rage of the world funneled its way into the shadows of her soul. Winter blanketed her body and settled into her bones. She could no longer tolerate the feel of her own skin, the way it pricked with heat, the way her soul smoldered under every layer of anguished flesh.

She awoke one Saturday morning to intense cramping pain. The need to sit up, get up, and hurry from the bed into the bathroom was hindered only by the torment in her abdomen. She didn’t move. She lay still, until the next wave grabbed at her from deep inside. What was happening to her? A bulging pressure forced her to hold her hands between her legs as she rose from the bed. Upon standing, gravity assisted the release of whatever was ushering forth.  The bathroom was only a few steps away but those steps may has well have been a mile. Loosening her sleep shorts, she pulled them down to reveal a small gray sac attached to a rather large blood clot. Grabbing some toilet tissue, she caught the bloody gray mass. More blood followed. She cried, hot tears that singed her face. She knew what this was, but couldn’t make herself believe it at first. She didn’t even know she was pregnant. She shouldn’t have been. Lying down on the floor, she allowed the cool tiles to soothe her face.

She knew as she stared at the tissue paper with the little gray sac on it that this was the only way things could be. The man whose love proffered this well-deserved loss was too much the coward to even begin to do the right thing, whatever that was. She wasn’t sure why she continued to cry on that hard floor. She was glad not be tied to such a life-changing event, glad that she would not be tied to him. Her freedom had faced a serious threat, but crossed a threshold to safety. She should be happy, not sad and pathetic and wallowing in her tears and her blood.

Time did what it does. It passed. There was no hurrying it along. She couldn’t escape the onslaught of emotions. They struck when they chose. A longing to put pen to paper woke her in the night. Gasping breaths pulled her from slumber, the desperation for air tormented her lungs. She was again suffocating, from the desire for a man she would never have, from the anger over his lies, her lies, and their loss. She was suffocating from the loss of her rose-colored glasses and life before…before him.

With dutiful ambition, she willed herself to be that woman from before, but that woman no longer existed. She made appearances from time to time, when necessity called for her, but she was more of a second personality pushed into the far recesses of her mind. The woman who was always willing to please others could not find an ounce of favor with herself. She was changed.

The story brews within her. She feels it, knowing it’s just under the surface, like the bubbles forming in a pot of water just before it boils. When she finds the words, when they come down from their helium clouds, she will write her story. She will take hold of those words and emblazon them onto the page. They will be as a brand upon her skin, as a red letter worn upon one’s cloak. They will be as that ill-mourned baby in the gray sac falling out of her body, hurried, silent, yet screaming. When they come, she will desecrate the paper with her purging, and then she will be free.

 

**photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/belljar/96776343/”>madamepsychosis</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>**

The Girdling Root – Flash Fiction

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I’m feeling a bit experimental in my writing. The following has no dialogue and the sentences are long. I see it more as an exercise for exploring a future character and perhaps using some of it for that purpose. What do you think? And, while we’re on the subject – do you jot out character sketches in an attempt to get to know your characters better?

The Girdling Root

Once root girdling takes hold of a tree, suffocation and death are imminent unless the extreme decision to remove the offending root takes place. The specimen may succumb to death even with the procedure, most assuredly if nothing is done.

At first, I thought I’d had a stroke or a heart attack. In a way, I suppose it was the latter. My limbs still functioned as normal. My brain still registered date and time with the ability to recall any detail it so wished within reason of a ‘normal’ 48-year-old female. The problem wasn’t the body or the mind. The problem was the heart. Pain, alternating with numbness, pushed through weakened spots between heartbeats, grabbing hold, suffocating the source of oxygen and nutrients required for proper health. A doctor was of no use; however, the damage begged for repair.

Heartbreak is a fickle disease; one that requires constant monitoring, else irreversible damage may lay waste to any individual who harbors the ailment. As with a heart attack, once a piece of the heart actually dies, there is no repair of the dead area. If no treatment is secured for what remains, hope for survival wanes with every passing day. What of a transplant? No such convenience for the heartbroken I’m afraid.

I chose the path of so many. I ignored the symptoms for as long as possible until my breath caught at my own stabbing foolishness. No other option but to open my chest for examination. Ugly, regrettable and useless pandering to the emotion of grief that served no purpose settled into a lifeless area of impending necrosis. It was do or die time.

Accepting the void left where another once held court daily proved a vicious exercise of my recovery, but a necessary one. Recognizing that the risk was worth the potential reward, I cut away the offending root of my grief that served no purpose but to strangle my happiness.

I am now like the grasping, growing, forward-seeking roots of a maple tree forcing their way through unyielding sod, seeking new ground to explore. If I should, once again, encounter the pain of a broken heart, I will seek out the girdling root and I will cut it off before it threatens my existence. I will cut it off, and I will thrive, for I will not be suffocated by grief ever again.

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—-The most I learned about this character came at the end of this writing exercise –  I thought she was guided by her need to heal and be whole, but that wasn’t the case after all. It seems she was guided by survival at any cost.—-

PhotoPin: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/wrathie/807388728/”>Antero Sivonen</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Writing, Publishing, Literacy!

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FINALLY! My book is ready and I’ve submitted it to Smashwords  and hopefully all will go smoothly from here. I’m also working to get this small collection of flash fiction, short stories and poetry on Amazon KDP.  This process has been a little challenging for me. I thought I would be able to read the Smashwords guidelines and figure it all out myself but that didn’t happen. Then, I thought I could do the cover myself but that didn’t happen either. So, I hired a formatter and someone to do the artwork for me and now, finally, it is done. I’m in awe of you authors who do the entire process yourselves. My brain is simply not wired for formatting. I write. I submit. That’s it. I don’t format. I don’t draw. I can barely take a picture without cutting off someone’s head in the photo. I write. That’s what I do.  I’m leaving the technical stuff to the technical people. I’m including the cover art to my book in this post. It’s simple and kind of funky and I like it.

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I will let you in on the meaning behind the title and the image of the letter ‘X’ on the front. I came up with “Marked: Collected Ramblings” for one main reason:  all the countless people in this world who are illiterate. People used to ‘make their mark’ on documents if they were unable to sign their names. Today, there is still a large population of functionally illiterate people who may be able to sign their names but they are unable to read a book for their own pleasure or to their children. They are unable to read the correct medication dosage on a bottle of medicine for themselves or those they care for. I encourage you, dear reader, if given the opportunity to teach an adult to read, take it! You will never regret that choice and the rewards are incalculable to yourself and the person you teach. Your life and theirs is forever changed. For information for literacy programs in your area, check out America’s Literacy Directory.

I have many more stories to tell, many waiting for me to re-write and submit for editing. Speaking of editing, I’d like to thank Scott Morgan at WriteHook for editing my stories. He is straightforward, professional and gives me a swift kick when I need it. Check Scott out if you’re in need of editing services. Yes, it is important, even for short stories to be edited professionally.

I realized once I submitted the book to Smashwords that I left some things out – like a real acknowledgements page and a follow-up at the end providing information on where to contact me and to see other work. We live and we learn. I’m learning a lot on this one.  Also, I am really grateful for all the support I’ve received from each of you, for reading the bits of things I put on this blog and providing me with feedback. It is so important for me to have that interaction and exchange of ideas with every one of you.

Do I dare call myself an author now?

If this works the way I think it will, here is the link to my book  “Marked: Collected Ramblings”

Blue Bird

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For those of you who follow this blog, you might have noticed a pattern. I usually offer rotating posts of poetry, flash fiction and short articles about writing. I’ve hesitated to offer my latest flash fiction piece because it’s a bit on the weird, morbid and tacky side. A while back  in a post called Bluebirds and Rock Gods, I admitted I had a story idea that I felt had to be written about a pestering bluebird. In the post I said I thought the story needed to be a bit creepy and dark. A fellow blogger, Joe Pineda, gave me a bit of advice. He said to try to keep a sense of humor in weaving a morbid tale. The story ended up going a place I never thought it would go. In fact, when I finished it, I had one of those “I didn’t know I had it in me” kind of moments. If you are easily offended or prefer not feel like you need a shower after reading a story, by all means pass this one up. I won’t be offended and we’ll both feel squeaky clean. Otherwise….

The doctor walked into the examination room, acknowledged his new patient with a nod, sat down and flipped through the chart of Neil Holcomb. He pushed his reading glasses up his bulbous nose, checked off a couple boxes on the chart and then looked at his patient, who seemed nervous, his armpits wet with sweat, even though the room was quite cool.

“Well, Neil, you weren’t very specific with your complaint today. You said you were having ‘guy’ problems. Could you tell me more?”

“Doctor, I was fine until two weeks ago. Ever since then, my mojo has been out of whack. My stick has been in park. I can’t get it up, and when I do, I can’t keep it up.”

“That’s not an unusual problem Neil.” The doctor glanced at the chart. “You’re 28 years old with a job in management?”

“Yes.”

“Have you been under a lot of stress lately? Have you and your … let’s see here – you’re not married. Have you and your partner noticed any symptoms prior to last week?”

“I don’t exactly have a partner.” He looked down at his hands and shifted in his chair, embarrassed and uncomfortable.

“Oh. I see.”

No you don’t doctor. The problem isn’t just me. It’s that damn blue bird.”

The doctor raised an eyebrow and with hesitance asked, “What bluebird?”

“The one that showed up pecking at my window right as I was about to shoot my load. It scared the hell out of me and it wouldn’t leave and well… ever since then I can’t get hard and if do I can’t stay hard.”

“You’re telling me that a bluebird is causing your erectile dysfunction?”

“It sounds crazy when you say it out loud like that. But it’s true. And the thing stares at me. As soon as I even think about trying again – there it is. At my living room window. At my kitchen window. At my bedroom window… day, night, afternoon. Doesn’t matter. I can’t even think about unzipping my pants and that bird shows up with those beady little eyes, cocking its head from side to side and then starts pecking at the window.”

“Neil, have you tried closing your blinds?”

“Yes, I’ve closed the blinds but I can see its shadow, and not only that, how does it even know what I’m doing when my blinds are closed? Explain that.”

“I don’t think the bird really cares what you’re doing. I think the bird interrupted you at an inopportune moment and now you’ve gotten too focused on the bird, and it’s caused you some temporary performance anxiety. There are some things we can do, and if you’ll follow my advice you’ll be back in business in no time.”

Neil did just as the good doctor suggested. He mounted a birdfeeder away from his house so that the bird would be drawn to it instead of his windows. He took the pill sample the doctor gave him for ‘encouragement.’  He made sure all the blinds and curtains were closed. Then he turned some music up in the house so he wouldn’t even hear the pecking if the bird did show up. The doc also suggested turning the lights down in the house and  relaxing.

He didn’t see or hear the bird. Perfect. He turned on one of his favorite porn sites and began to feel a stir. He hesitated for a moment and then unzipped his jeans. No bird. The good doc was right. He watched the images in front of him and began to enjoy the moment. He closed his eyes, allowing the fullness of the experience to take over. His mojo was back and he loved every second of it. He opened his eyes to take another glance at the naked beauties on the screen. He froze in terror. Perched on the top of his laptop were two of those blue birds, looking at him in curious wonder. Was he seeing things? Had he lost his mind?  He tried to move but he was too scared to, and dammit his erection wouldn’t go away after taking that medicine.

The birds seemed to be in conference with each other. With dread, Neil realized they weren’t bluebirds.

They were woodpeckers.

 

Image by Microsoft ClipArt

Please also check out Joe Pineda The Bard of Steel

 

Busy Hands, Idle Minds

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Meredith was all but giddy telling Doreen about what she’d heard at work the other day. “It seems that Dr. Ivers is going to fire his ‘perfect’ medical assistant after she was caught putting one his prescription pads in her bag the other night when they were closing up. I wish I’d been there to see it. I knew she wasn’t going to work out when he hired her. She seemed like a real go-getter but it was all for show. Tell your sister to be sure and get an application over to the clinic ASAP.”

“I’ll do it. By the way, did you hear about Ann and Bill?” Doreen asked, never looking up from slicing the cucumber in front of her.

Meredith shook her head, also busy with prepping vegetables for a salad. “Is it true then?”

“Oh yeah. She kicked his butt out last night. Seems he’s been carrying on with that girl in his office for a quite a while now. Of course she’s worked for him 10 years – no telling how long it’s been going on.”

“Well that’s nothing,” Meredith snickered. “The other night me and Brittney were watching some show about cheaters and you know how funny she is. She thought it would be a kick to make a chart of all the people in town cheating on each other. Then she entertained me and her dad and sister with her scientific report.”

“I’d like to see that. I saw Julie Benson having coffee with Lisa Wilson’s husband the other day. Tell Brit to be sure and put them on the chart. Julie can say they were talking real estate but we all know there’s more going on. And to meet in public – now that takes gall.”

Neither woman ever looked up from their cutting and slicing, just nodded their heads in agreement with each other as they continued.

“Doreen, you know some of these women get to losing weight and fixing themselves up and they think they can have any man they want. I may be a little thick around the middle but I’d rather be a little chubby than look like slut. It turns my stomach. We’re lucky we’re both married to solid men, though. Neither one of ours would ever think of straying – of course they know what we’d do to them if they did.”

“I keep a close eye on things at home. I check Steve’s pockets and look at his cell phone. And I’m not ashamed of doing it one bit. He knows I do it, too. I know how to keep my man in line.”

Both women laughed. Meredith looked at her watch. “Oh girl, we’ve got to get finished. I think I hear the crowd coming in.”

“They’re gonna love it – soup, salad, bread and iced tea. I’d say we’ve done a great job!”

Kitty Johnson, the women’s ministry leader, stepped into the kitchen. “Hi ladies. Everything looks so good! We are so blessed that two of our most faithful prayer warriors are also talents in the kitchen, as well. Are you about ready to start the prayer luncheon?”

“Sure thing…we’re all set.”

 communications,discussions,figurines,groups,talking,standing,people

Image courtesy of Microsoft Office ClipArt

A Passing Feeling

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Oftentimes, I write based on feelings and whims. I allow myself to ‘free think’ when I’m doing other things and tasks around the house. I may jot down some of those ideas and then when I sit down to write, I consider some of those and see what comes to me. Usually, I’m surprised because I don’t always know where the story will take me. I didn’t plan on writing the following story. I was filtering through my thoughts and this fella named Clarence popped into my mind. At first, I thought his life up to this point was insignificant to the story, but now I realize this isn’t true. Just like us all, past experiences have made him who he is, led him to make certain decisions that altered or directed the course of his life and the lives of others. The outcome isn’t always what we expect.

 

He didn’t like to feel this way, anxious and uneasy, feeling uncertain, feeling like he wasn’t sure where things were headed. Clarence tried to make it go away. He took to the television, immersing himself in standup comedians and sitcoms with laugh tracks, hoping they would remind him to smile. They didn’t.

He drank beer and tried to get drunk. When the beer didn’t work, he looked for something harder but he was out of everything. He didn’t feel like going out to buy any booze. He decided to go rummaging through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. Maybe he had some old cough medicine that would knock him out for the night. As luck would have it, a bottle of codeine cough syrup had been pushed to the back of the top shelf. He turned it up like it was a bottle of beer, realizing he might have drank too much after he’d already consumed it. Didn’t matter now. He shut the cabinet to face himself in the mirror. He looked tired and old and worn down.

Only a guilty conscience or desperation could do this to a man. In his case, it was desperation, the kind that comes from loving a woman too much. He wondered if she ever felt that kind of need, too. He wondered if she ever felt anything, sitting at home with her rich husband. She had the world by the balls. Slumming, that’s what she wanted. Highfalutin to her friends and a poor man’s whore for him. Well, he’d had enough of her and her game playing.

He would take care of this in the morning. He’d walk over to her fine house at the edge of town and tell her directly that he was through; he wasn’t going to be somebody she could toy with anymore. He didn’t care who saw him there. He didn’t care if her husband was home.

 

The next afternoon a woman stood outside Clarence’s apartment, knocking gently at the door. She shifted her weight, trying to balance the suitcases she carried. Finally, she set them down, calling out to Clarence, knocking a little harder. The next-door neighbor heard her calling for Clarence. He opened his door a crack. He’d seen her around before.

“Ma’am, Clarence ain’t there no more. They took him away this morning. He…well, he done drank himself to death.”

The woman leaned against the door of Clarence’s apartment, hands and face pressed against its cold exterior. She looked down at the bags by her feet. A knot formed in the pit of her stomach. Whenever life was especially difficult growing up, her mama used to say, “This, too, shall pass.” Until now, she always believed it was true.

 

 

Coping

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The whippoorwill’s prophetic melody echoed every night the week before Beth died. Evan hungered for one more moment, one more touch, one more of anything. In the midst of a bourbon escape, he called out her name. A desperate attempt by a longing heart. He listened – all he heard was the distant march of invading silence, to which he was defenseless. The mourners had gone. Family dispersed. Friends gave their hugs. The door shut behind each one, slowly emptying the house once shared by two, now one. Couldn’t he leave, too?

Would every night be so long? Would every moment be spent staring at a clock that mocked him with indifference? He caught a wisp of her fragrance as he stood to pour himself another glass of liquor. Her essence, like the light that was her life, was gone. Darkness remained and it could take what it wanted from him – he no longer cared. He stepped outside, onto the porch where they once shared slow dances and intimate whispers. “I love you,” she’d say, running delicate hands along his back. He wanted to be with her, wherever she was now. His eyes were sore and stinging from the endless crying. He leaned against one of the wooden porch posts for support.

A whippoorwill began to sing in the distance. Had it captured Beth’s soul? Was it returning for his?  His footing was unsteady as he made his way down the steps. The grassy earth accepted his knees as he dropped before a starless sky. He felt his body weakening as the song of the whippoorwill became louder. Morning would soon be making its appearance. Evan closed his eyes, his arms hanging in defeat at his side. His heart slowed as the singing of the bird lulled him into a false sense of peace. He fell forward, absent of consciousness, his body surrendering to the whiskey at last.

 

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Daily Writing

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I’m always on the hunt for places to submit work to. For one thing, I want to be read by others.  For another, in finding new and exciting opportunities, it keeps me encouraged and motivated. Another reason, and probably the best one, is that I think it’s important to write something everyday. It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, but I am amazed sometimes in how jotting down little bits of something today can unlock a world of creation tomorrow. Some of the places I’ve sought out have deadlines, which is even better because if I accept the challenge, then I must follow through and complete it. It puts a little added pressure on me that I admit I need from time to time.

One place I like to submit work to is Yahoo! Voices Contributor Network. They provide opportunities for both fiction pieces and non-fiction articles. I like taking advantage of the non-fiction articles because it’s the area I feel is my weakest. Assignments are offered and you choose to accept or decline them. Submission guidelines are given, along with the deadline date. An editor reviews your submission and chooses whether to decline or publish your article.

You can be paid for the writing you do for them, but it’s based on how many views you get to your articles and it takes quite a lot of views before even a token amount is paid out. Let’s just say, I haven’t even needed to be concerned about this particular aspect of the process.

If you’re looking for an outlet that allows you to accept assignments and write on a regular basis, this is a good one in my opinion. If you wanted to, you could literally write something for them every day – it’s pretty much unlimited.

I’ve had three of my four submissions published on Yahoo!Voices thus far, two of those being non-fiction articles. If you are interested in reading my latest submission you can find it here:

The Final Feast  – This is my first attempt at a sci-fi flash piece.  Feedback is always welcome 🙂

Once Broken by Sheila Pierson

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She slogged through each day, tripping over the pieces of her broken heart, scattered about every room, every open space, every corner of hidden darkness. She couldn’t turn away from the truth; she couldn’t run far enough. The fact is, he made his choice and it wasn’t her.

She sipped red wine after lunch and into the evening, an escape that was temporary at best. She wrote, dribblings of emotions, tangential arrangements of the discourse she felt. She sought further refuse in her drink. It did not come.

A friend’s words echoed through her mind, “Live your truth.”

Time forced itself upon her. Summer ended abruptly and autumn passed without her notice. As morning arrived on a snow-covered landscape she watched each uniquely beautiful swirling flake, realizing their very existence begins and ends with their fall. That was it – that was her truth – accepting the heartbreak, allowing herself to fall.

Without seeking it, without even a whisper of hope for it, another, the ‘one’ as it were, discovered the trail of her heart’s remnants and gathered them up in his pocket. His careful hands crafted each piece one back to the other, sealing the frayed edges with his love. With boldness, he presented his offering to her – she accepted, now restored.

Flash Fiction Addiction – A Good Read by Sheila Pierson

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Are you ready for a compilation of entertaining short stories that range in content and depth? Look no further than Flash Fiction Addiction: 22 Short Short Stories, Volume II  by Garden Summerland. Whether you’re a fan of romance, paranormal, blood sucking vampires or tragedy you will find something to enjoy in this grouping.

Miss Summerland is a joy to read and for those of us who like true flash fiction, she delivers – unleashing timely twists and revelations, some at the last minute while others are slip-stitched throughout, securing the story together succinctly by the end.

I’ve always been a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, including ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ that premiered in 1955.  This collection of Miss Summerland’s stories hearkens unto these Hitchcockian themes but with a modern approach.

One of her strengths is the ability to build a solid story with memorable characters in such short works – not easy. Some standout examples are The Tattoo, Displaced and A Golden Carriage. There are others, but these three especially show the depth of character she is able to imbue to her works of flash fiction.

To find out more about Garden Summerland and her work, please visit her website at http://www.gardensummerland.com/ or her blog http://gardensummerland.blogspot.com/