8-4

When I saw it, I nearly cried.

There it was. The thing that I had been working towards for days on end. The ultimate goal that I had been savoring all this time, for all my life, really:

The final screen of Super Mario Brothers.
When I saw it, I nearly cried. They were not tears of joy for slaving over the game for days and days. They were also not redemptive tears of satisfaction for the pain in my wrists and thumbs being worth it. And they weren’t tears that sprang forth upon seeing the beauty of a rewarding finale of a fantastic journey.

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Shot

 

There he sat at his table in the pathetic apartment that had become his living quarters. In front of him sat a shot glass, three-quarters full.

Nothing else.

A door opened and slammed shut, snapping him out of his daze.

He didn’t turn to look.

“Seriously?”

Behind him. A woman’s voice.

“That’s what I hate about you the most,” she continued, as if she owned this place too. “You put a shot in front of you and stare at it, making a whole big production out it. It’s pathetic, really.”

His wife. Ex-wife in progress. Still, he didn’t turn to face her. He hadn’t thought about what it would look like if someone walked in on him.

“You know that you’re going to start drinking again. So just do it.”

She came behind him and plopped a stack of papers on the table next to the shot.

Court papers. Bills. Things he had to pay for:

His house. Now hers.

Lawyer fees.

The tiny coffin.

On top of the papers, she placed a bottle of gin, which she had retrieved from the pantry. A cruel paperweight.

“So that you can finish what you started,” she said.

And then she left his pathetic apartment as cruelly as she had entered, making sure that she slammed the door.

Despite what she said, he stared at the shot glass for a few more minutes before he picked it up.

   “What does it taste like?” he had asked the guy.

   “No harsher than a shot of vodka.” he had told him.

He poured the clear liquid down his throat and gagged. The guy had lied to him. It tasted much harsher than a shot of vodka. But perhaps after five months he forgot how unkind alcohol could taste.

   “Will it hurt?”

   “Quite the opposite. You’ll feel euphoria and then you’ll lose consciousness.”

He felt a familiar tingling rush sweep over his body, his face, his brain. Then numbing.

The sweet numbness.

   “And then what happens?”

   “And then that’s it.”

With shaking hands, he unsteadily placed the shot glass back on the table, where it fell over.

After a moment, so did he.

-Youngman Brown

 

The Idea

Never one to turn down a dare, I clenched my eyes shut as I gripped the steering wheel.

Five seconds. That’s how long I had to keep them closed.

This sort of thing happens often. Usually at night, when I am on a straight road or highway. My mind will start thinking in this sort of way:

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On Top of His Work

If you’d told me two weeks ago that Jed’s work ethic would lead to his death … I totally would have believed you.

It’s just the way that his work ethic led to his death that was surprising.

I figured he would have had a heart attack from all of the stress from all of the projects that he took on.

See, Jed was always doing something.  You know, multitasking.

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Diablo

Diablo heard a trumpet sound, followed by a roaring cheer.  He had heard people out there all day, but this collective roar was something different, and it made him instinctively rise to his feet.  A heavy door slid open and the bright sunlight flooded into the small chamber that had held him for the past few hours.  Diablo was immediately on his feet as he lunged to his escape from the stifling room.  Sprinting to the sunlight, he quickly stopped, almost falling forward as his eyes adjusted to the light and he realized that he was surrounded by thousands of people, all elevated perfectly in a spectacular basin.  He could see all of their eyes.

“El Diaaaaaablo!” a voice echoed throughout the giant bowl, and then was drowned out by the crowd’s roar.

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Dale Dingle

Dale Dingle hated his job.

He spent his days dialing digits into a computer from the hours of seven in the morning until seven at night.  From dawn ‘til dusk, Dale wondered what he did to deserve such a boring life.  He didn’t know what the numbers even doll hairmeant.  For all he knew, he could have been entering nuclear arms codes for terrorists or social security numbers of his boss’s enemies.  Dale didn’t really care, though.

The only thing that made Dale relatively happy was designing dolls.  This, of course, was a secret hobby, as Dale was completely suspicious of his always-whispering coworkers.  So, during his lunch breaks, Dale snuck into a supply closet and neatly sewed smiling faces onto his happy dolls.

Sometimes he whispered to them.

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Hollow Words

“I brought you some cookies,” she said.

“Thanks,” is what he said, though it sounded more like, “Thanks?”

He pretended to examine the plate, dumbly lifting the pink cellophane to get a better look.

Her jaw still chattered faintly, though not due to the cold.

“Well, I guess I better get going,” she said, knowing it was what he wanted her to say.

They hugged.  It was a much different hug than they had shared many times before, and for some reason it reminded him of a middle school dance.  Emptiness lay between them.

He opened the door for her.

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Sign on the Dotted Line

Today’s piece of flash fiction is the story that I got published in a literary magazine.

My favorite part of this piece is the story behind it.  In one of my creative writing classes in college, we were each given an index card with a word or phrase.  This word or phrase, we were told, was to be the title of of the next piece of flash fiction that the person sitting to our left was going to write.

But before handing them their title, we got to write their first line.

I forget what title I had for the person sitting to my left, but I wrote an ambiguous first line, so that she could take the story in whatever direction she wanted.

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The Week Where I Make Stuff Up

I don’t know if I ever told you guys, but I didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving this past year.

As they did the past few years, my family went to Connecticut.  I, however, had to work at 5PM on Thanksgiving at my old job in Atlantic City.  Therefore, I stayed alone in the ghost town of Sea Isle City, with nothing but a bowl of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing from Wawa to warm my soul.

The salt from my tears made this Bowl of Sorrow taste better.

If that didn’t make you feel bad for me, consider the fact that I also had to work the 6:30AM shift on New Years Day, so I wasn’t able to go out for New Years Eve, or even stay awake to watch the ball drop for that matter.

I have since gotten a new, tremendously superior job, and am currently in the process of moving.  But I still feel the need to make up for the lost holidays that my former job stole from me.

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