Together We Go

So this is what it feels like when doves cry. I again submitted to Three Minute Fiction and, yet again, I failed. I forgot about this little contest until the day before it was due, and typed this out rather quickly. The gimmick this time was something in the story had to be found. So here it is, my failed masterpiece:

Together We Go

Sister said if they find us, we’ll never see each other again. She said they’ll enslave us, either in the factories, or worse, at the pleasure houses.

“Young girls like you and me,” she said. “We’re daisies men can’t help but pick.”

I know where the gun is, and I know how to use it. If I ever see a Black Coat, I’m to get the gun and shoot her first, then turn it on myself, and she’ll do the same. “It’s better to be in Heaven together, than alone and in pain,” Sister said.

The dreams have come back recently. The Black Coats come in the rain and catch us sitting by the fire. I can smell the wood burning, it’s sweet and lingers as the doors burst open. The gun is in my hands, and I’m pulling the trigger, but what comes is nothing but misfire after misfire and Sister is gone out into the murky darkness and I’m alone, sitting in my nightgown from the time I was a child.

In the morning we take out one can of kidney beans and one can of peas. The beans we decide to share for breakfast and the peas will be our dinner. Until then, we go about our chores. I hunt for morels the way my father taught me before he died. He said they grow near decaying Elms and showed me how to identify them. What I remember is that they have a narrow leaf, so that’s what I look for. I take my time combing the forest floor, pushing away old leaves and broken twigs until I stumble upon a small patch of about a dozen. I pluck them, but leave the base so they’ll maintain their root and  return next year.

Sister and I found the cabin six months ago. We waited three days and three nights before deeming it safe to enter, but even then we only allowed ourselves to sleep in it. The cold was too much. It drove us to shelter. The moment sunlight touched our eyelids, we rose and tiptoed back into the woods and waited for the owners to return. But they never came and at first snowfall, we claimed the cabin as our own, assuming that they too, whoever they were, had been taken by the war.

In the kitchen, I soaked the morels in a bath of salt water to rid them of insects. Sister entered with her usual greeting of “It’s me.” And I answered in kind. She entered the kitchen and rinsed her hands and dried them on a towel.

“Did you think I wouldn’t notice?” she asked.

“Notice what?”

“The peas are missing,” she said.

“Are you sure? Did we put them away?”

“You took them.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Then who—”

But she turned and moved into the living room. Sister grabbed the drawer on the end table, pulled it open, and removed the gun.

“You have to do it.” she said. “I can’t.”

“We’re not doing anything.”

“We have to. Someone’s been here.”

“And they’re gone.”

There was silence then, thick and haunting. We went into the kitchen and grabbed what we could, then cautiously moved into the woods. Our feet had learned how to make little sound and fell back easily into their habit. We kept watch, moving like seasoned foresters, both knowing our strength was in being together, but fearing the day, if it ever were to come, we had to go alone.

Letter to the Editor

Last week you wrote an opinion based on facts that I don’t believe because it made me feel bad and didn’t fit within my paradigm. I have a number of fallacious, subjective arguments as to why I’m correct, and I want everyone to abide by my moral and ethical code, except when I don’t. I’m writing this letter to inform you that I have an opinion, just like everyone, but mine matters because it’s mine. Also, I felt really good while writing this letter because it gave me the sense that I matter more than I do. But I do matter because I believe that I do. It’s ludicrous to base your actions on facts, evidence, and sound reasoning when emotions can tell you all you need to believe in the time it takes to inhale and exhale the same breath. I expect you and everyone else to act like my opinion matters by talking about it.

-John S., New York City


Note: My story wasn’t selected for NPR’s Three Minute Fiction again, so here it is. If there’s one thing I’m certain of it’s this: if a story hasn’t enough merit to be published, then I should release it anyway because you know, I’m like, awesome. So the rule this time was that it had to center on a president, real or fictional. I went the fictional route and wrote an excerpt from said fictional president’s autobiography.

Dad and I pulled the deer carcass, its neck drooping under the weight of death, from the back of our truck and dragged it toward the skinning shed. I was twelve and this had been my first hunting trip. A dusting of snow had fallen the preceding night and the body carved a trail, revealing dried leaves and semi-frozen soil. My sight connected the sporadic drops of blood that fell from the still fresh wound and landed noiselessly on the snowy path. One, two, three, and finally the fourth fell just as we reached the door.

We entered and switched on the light which brought a low electric hum. I thought about what the deer had been doing this morning, before the arrow pierced its lung and we tracked it nearly a mile across the plain. As my father hauled the deer onto the slaughtering table, I doubted my ability to complete what lay ahead. Then, in the warm yellow glow of a burning sixty watt bulb, my father held out a long blade and looked me in the eye. He said, “Nobody likes doing the dirty work. But it’s got to be done.”

During my eight years in office, there were but two occasions in which my father offered advice. Shortly after my inauguration he hugged me and said, “You’re still one of the people. Listen to them.” And the second was in my now infamous third year. “Sometimes you have to listen. And sometimes you have to lead.”

In times of crisis, we imagine ourselves stronger than we truly are, while at the same time completely doubting our ability to accomplish the task. Sitting with my cabinet, in the moments leading up to our final decision, I was that little boy, opening the dilapidated wooden door to our shed, moving toward a mission that I didn’t want to do. As a child, I imagined myself fearlessly slicing through the animal’s flesh, the skin peeling away from the muscle the way plastic wrap does from a casserole dish. I pictured myself making perfect cuts and my father clapping me on the back in congratulation. But as he handed me the knife, the fantasy faded and a harsh, grizzly reality stared up at me.

It’s political suicide for politicians to act on or say what they truly believe. They’ll come off as extreme or out of touch. So when my administration had to act, we asked ourselves: Do we do what’s best for our political careers or what’s best for this nation? What followed was a silence that stretched seconds into hours. I stared at the skin of my palms and thought about the over three hundred million others who, just like me, had gotten up, had breakfast, and carried on with their daily duties. What about them? History judges us not by the immediacy of our actions, but by their lasting impact.

Of course, we all know what happened next. I took the knife and held it, sensing its weight. It was heavier than I had imagined and in the crevice where the handle met the blade, I saw a line of crusted blood. I pressed the point against the animal’s pale golden fur, its thick bristles whispering to the steel, and knew, without a doubt, that I could not do it.

Danger Triangle

First, check out my flash fiction piece, INVASION, on Magnificent Nose! It’s under 500 words so it’ll take literally two and a half minutes for you to get through it. Don’t be a twonk. Click the link and read it.

Second, I’ve been making all sorts of sweetened condensed milk ice cream. My latest was a shnazzy little mint chip creation, and once I get some recipes perfected, I’ll post them. Because I’m sure the 5 people who’ve made it this far care.

Last, I bought myself some “garden in a bag” herbs. Tomorrow I plant some basil and some mint. All sorts of crazy is gonna happen when those hip cats sprout.

And as promised in the title, I leave you with the danger triangle:


For your viewing displeasure, I present to you another failed attempt at NPR’s Three Minute Fiction. This time, the story had to start with, “She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.” This one is based on a novel I’m working on.

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. Upon her entry, there existed only whiteness. Her pupils constricted and gradually she saw green, and then blue, until the entirety of the spectrum adjusted into focus. What she saw was not what she expected. It looked so much like home yet maintained an eerie surrealism, as if too flawless, too precise. It was a collage of green grass and prairie daisies, oak trees, dandelions, and creeks with wooden bridges. Houses had picket fences and peony bushes, while others sat in the shadows of tall pines. Vicki saw the familiar red orbs of an apple tree and there, leaning against its trunk, was her husband wearing a smile like the sunrise. She ran to him and they embraced and kissed and cried. He held her and she looked at his face and ran her hand across his forehead.

The accident, she said, it —

Shhh, Rick replied. Let’s get you settled in.

Vicki looked at the tree and touched the bark. It looks just like the one we had, she said.

I planted it after I arrived. Do you like it?

I love it, she replied. But then she looked through him, past him, into a distance she did not comprehend. Rick, she said, after the accident, I —

Later, he said.

He took her hand and showed her their home. Everything was the same as it had been before. The patio had the chipped stone where Rick dropped a hammer. Behind the ferns was a bird bath, given up, it would seem, to antiquity.

But how did you do this? she asked.

Her husband smiled and kissed her on the cheek. I got bored.

They went inside and sat at the kitchen table. Rick started the coffee and toasted some English muffins and spread them with butter and strawberry jam. The two of them sat together and ate. Occasionally she glanced out the window, faintly aware of the splinter that sat entombed but aching in her mind. When Rick caught her in reverie, he rubbed the skin between her fingers and pinched at her fingertips.

Not everyone chooses to come through, he said.

She nodded.

Did you read it? he asked.

She nodded again.

I didn’t. I thought about it. I sat for a long time in that chair considering it, but in the end I just didn’t want to know.

Vicki wiped away a tear. I need to tell you, she said.

No you don’t.

She continued, After the accident, I — I met someone else. I was with him. For a long time. He was awful to me, but I stayed. He was everything you weren’t. But I was so angry at you after the accident. You left me. It wasn’t your fault, but I hated you for being gone. For leaving me.

Her husband pulled a soft pack of cigarettes from his breast pocket. He removed one and tapped it on the heel of his hand and he looked at her and didn’t blink or look away.

Did you love him? he asked.

She put her face in her hands. I thought I did.

Do you love me?

Yes, she said, barely above a whisper.

He leaned in close to her and she breathed in the familiar aroma of earth and sandalwood.  He cupped her chin in his hand and waited for her to open her eyes. A tear fell.

This was after I died? he asked.


Then what does it matter, now that we’re together?